Mother Nature and the Glance of the Supreme
Where do nature's gifts come from? Not from factories or power plants.
by His Divine Grace Ac. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Fifty centuries ago, the people of India enjoyed boundless natural prosperity. Queen Kunti was always mindful of the gifts and their source.
ime jana-padah svrddhah
Queen Kunti said: "All these cities and villages are flourishing in all respects because the herbs and grains are in abundance, the trees are full of fruits, the rivers are flowing, the hills are full of minerals, and the oceans full of wealth. And this is all due to Your glancing over them." [Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.8.40]
Human prosperity flourishes by natural gifts and not by gigantic industrial enterprises. The gigantic industrial enterprises are products of a godless civilization, and they cause the destruction of the noble aims of human life. The more we increase such troublesome industries to squeeze out the vital energy of the human being, the more there will be dissatisfaction of the people in general, although a select few can live lavishly by exploitation.
The natural gifts such as grains and vegetables, fruits, rivers, the hills of jewels and minerals, and the seas full of pearls are supplied by the order of the Supreme, and as He desires, material nature produces them in abundance or restricts them at times. The natural law is that the human being may take advantage of these godly gifts by nature and satisfactorily flourish on them without being captivated by the exploitative motive of lording it over material nature.
The more we attempt to exploit material nature according to our whims, the more we shall become entrapped by the reaction of such exploitative attempts. If we have sufficient grains, fruits, vegetables, and herbs, then what is the necessity of running a slaughterhouse and killing poor animals?
A man need not kill an animal if he has sufficient grains and vegetables to eat. The flow of river waters fertilizes the fields, and there is more than what we need. Minerals are produced in the hills, and the jewels in the ocean. If the human civilization has sufficient grains, minerals, jewels, water, milk, etc., then why should we hanker after terrible industrial enterprises at the cost of the labor of some unfortunate men?
But all these natural gifts are dependent on the mercy of the Lord. What we need, therefore, is to be obedient to the laws of the Lord and achieve the perfection of human life by devotional service. The indications by Kuntidevi are just to the point. She desires that God's mercy be bestowed upon her and her sons so that natural prosperity be maintained by His grace.
Pregnancy by Seeing
Kuntidevi mentions that the grains are abundant, the trees full of fruits, the rivers flowing nicely, the hills full of minerals, and the oceans full of wealth, but she never mentions that industry and slaughterhouses are flourishing, for such things are nonsense that men have developed to create problems.
If we depend on God's creation, there will be no scarcity, but simply ananda, bliss. God's creation provides sufficient grains and grass, and while we eat the grains and fruits, the animals like the cows will eat the grass. The bulls will help us produce grains, and they will take only a little, being satisfied with what we throw away. If we take fruit and throw away the skin, the animal will be satisfied with the skin. In this way, with Krsna in the center, there can be full cooperation between the. trees, animals, human beings, and all living entities. This is Vedic civilization, a civilization of Krsna consciousness.
Kuntidevi prays to the Lord, "This prosperity is due to Your glance." When we sit in the temple of Krsna, Krsna glances over us, and everything is nice. When sincere souls try to become Krsna's devotees, Krsna very kindly comes before them in His full opulence and glances upon them, and they become happy and beautiful.
Similarly, the whole material creation is due to Krsna's glance (sa aiksata). In the Vedas it is said that He glanced over matter, thus agitating it. A woman in touch with a man becomes agitated and becomes pregnant and then gives birth to children. The whole creation follows a similar process. Simply by Krsna's glance, matter becomes agitated and then becomes pregnant and gives birth to the living entities. It is simply by His glance that plants, trees, animals, and all other living beings come forth. How is this possible? None of us can say, "Simply by glancing over my wife, I can make her pregnant." But although this is impossible for us, it is not impossible for Krsna. The Brahma-samhita (5.32) says, angani yasya sakalendriya-vrttimanti: every part of Krsna's body has all the capabilities of the other parts. With our eyes we can only see, but Krsna, merely by seeing, can make others pregnant. There is no need of sex, for simply by glancing, Krsna can create pregnancy.
In Bhagavad-gita (9.10) Lord Krsna says, mayadhyaksena prakrtih suyate sa-caracaram: "By My supervision, material nature gives birth to all moving and nonmoving beings." The word aksa means "eyes," so aksena indicates that all living entities take birth because of the Lord's glance. There are two kinds of living entities-the moving beings, like insects, animals, and human beings, and the nonmoving beings, like trees and plants. In Sanskrit these two kinds of living entities are called sthavara-jangama, and they both come forth from material nature.
Of course, what comes from material nature is not the life, but the body. The living entities accept particular types of bodies from material nature, just as a child takes its body from its mother. For ten months the child's body develops from the blood and nutrients of the mother's body, but the child is a living entity, not matter. It is the living entity that has taken shelter in the womb of the mother, who then supplies the ingredients for that living entity's body. This is nature's way. The mother may not know how from her body another body has been created, but when the body of the child is fit, the child takes birth.
It is not that the living entity takes birth. As stated in Bhagavad-gita (2.20), na jayate mriyate va: the living entity neither takes birth nor dies. That which does not take birth does not die; death is meant for that which has been created, and that which is not created has no death. The Gita says, na jayate mriyate va kadacit. The word kadacit means "at any time." At no time does the living entity actually take birth. Although we may see that a child is born, actually it is not born. Nityah sasvato 'yam puranah. The living entity is eternal (sasvata), always existing, and very, very old (purana). Na hanyate hanyamane sarire: don't think that when the body is destroyed the living entity will be destroyed; no, the living entity will continue to exist.
A scientist friend was asking me. "What is the proof of eternity?" Krsna says, na hanyate hanyamane sarire: "The soul is not killed when the body is killed." This statement in itself is proof. This type of proof is called sruti, the proof established by that which is heard through the disciplic succession from the Supreme. One form of proof is proof by logic (nyaya-prasthana). One can get knowledge by logic, arguments, and philosophical research. But another form of proof is sruti, proof established by hearing from authorities. A third form of proof is smrti, proof established by statements derived from the sruti. The Bhagavad-gita and the Puranas are smrti, the Upanisads are sruti, and the Vedanta is nyaya. Of these three the sruti-prasthana, or the evidence from the sruti, is especially important.
Pratyaksa, the process of receiving knowledge through direct perception, has no value, because our senses are all imperfect. For example, every day we see the sun to be just like a small disc, perhaps twelve inches in diameter, but in fact it is many times larger than the earth. So what is the value of our direct perception through our eyes? We have so many senses through which we can experience knowledge—the eyes, the ears, the nose, and so on-but because these senses are imperfect, whatever knowledge we get by exercising these senses is also imperfect. Because scientists try to understand things by exercising their imperfect senses, their conclusions are always imperfect. Svarupa Damodara, a scientist among our disciples, inquired from a fellow scientist who says that life comes from matter, "If I give you the chemicals with which to produce life, will you be able to produce it?" The scientist replied, "That I do not know." This is imperfect knowledge. If you do not know, then your knowledge is imperfect. Why then have you become a teacher? That is cheating. Our contention is that to become perfect one must take lessons from the perfect.
Krsna is perfect, so we take knowledge from Him. Krsna says, na hanyate hanyamane sarire: "The soul does not die when the body dies." Therefore this understanding that the soul is eternal is perfect.
Kuntidevi says, ime jana-padah svrddhah supakvausadhi-virudhah: "The grains are abundant, the trees full fruits, the rivers flowing, the hills full minerals, and the ocean full of wealth: What more should one want? The oyster produces pearls, and formerly people decorated their bodies with pearls, valuable stones, silk, gold, and silver. But where are those things now? Now, with the advancement of civilization there are so many beautiful girls who have no ornaments of gold, pearls, or jewels, but only plastic bangles. So what is the use of industry and slaughterhouses?
By God's arrangement one can have enough food grains, enough milk, enough fruits and vegetables, and nice clear river water. But now I have seen, while traveling in Europe, that all the rivers there have become nasty. In Germany, in France, and also in Russia and America I have seen that the rivers are nasty. By nature's way the water in the ocean is kept clear like crystal, and the same water is transferred to the rivers, but without salt, so that one may take nice water from the river. This is nature's way, and nature's way means Krsna's way. So what is the use of constructing huge waterworks to supply water?
Food for the Tiger
Nature has already given us everything. If we want wealth we may collect pearls and become rich; there is no need to become rich by starting some huge factory to produce auto bodies. By such industrial enterprises we have simply created troubles. Otherwise, we need only depend on Krsna and Krsna's mercy, because by Krsna's glance (tava viksitaih), everything is set right. So if simply plead for Krsna's glance, there will be no question of scarcity or need. Everything will be complete. The idea of the Krsna consciousness movement, therefore, is to depend on nature's gifts and the grace of Krsna.
People say that the population is increasing, and therefore they are checking this by artificial means. Why? The birds and bees are increasing their populations and have no contraceptives, but are they in need of food? Do we ever see birds or animals dying for want of food? Perhaps in the city, although not very often. But if we go to the jungle we shall see that all the elephants, lions, tigers, and other animals are very stout and strong. Who is supplying them food? Some of them are vegetarians, and some of them are nonvegetarians, but none of them are in want of food.
Of course, by nature's way the tiger, being a nonvegetarian, does not get food every day. After all, who will face a tiger to become its food? Who will say to the tiger, "Sir, I am an altruist and have come to you to give you food, so take my body"? No one. Therefore the tiger has difficulty finding food. And as soon as the tiger is out, there is an animal that follows it and makes a sound like 'fayo, fayo, " so that the other animals will know, "Now the tiger is out." So by nature's way the tiger has difficulty, but still Krsna supplies it food. After about a week, the tiger will get the chance to catch an animal, and because it does not get fresh food daily, it will keep the carcass in some bush and eat a little at a time. Since the tiger is very powerful, people want to become like a lion or a tiger. But that is not a very good proposition, because if one actually becomes like a tiger one won't get food daily, but will have to search for food with great labor. If one becomes a vegetarian, however, one will get food every day. The food for a vegetarian is available everywhere.
No Question of Scarcity
Now in every city there are slaughterhouses, but does this, mean that the slaughterhouses can supply enough so that one can live by eating only meat? No, there will not be an adequate supply. Even meat-eaters have to eat grains, fruits, and vegetables along with their slice of meat. Still, for that daily slice of meat they kill so many poor animals. How sinful this is. If people commit such sinful activities, how can they be happy? This killing should not be done, and therefore people are unhappy. But if one becomes Krsna conscious and simply depends on Krsna's glance (tava viksitaih), Krsna will supply everything, and there will be no question of scarcity.
Sometimes there appears to be scarcity, and sometimes we find that grains and fruits are produced in such a huge quantity that people cannot finish eating them. So this is a question of Krsna's glance. If Krsna likes, He can produce a huge quantity of grains, fruits, and vegetables, but if Krsna desires to restrict the supply, what good will meat do? You may eat me, or I may eat you, but that will not solve the problem.
The Account Is Squared
For real peace and tranquillity and a sufficient supply of milk, water, and everything else we need, we simply have to depend on Krsna. This is what Bhaktivinoda Thakura teaches us when he says, marabi rakhabi—yo iccha tohara: "My dear Lord, I simply surrender unto You and depend on You. Now if You like You may kill me, or else You may give me protection." And Krsna says in reply, "Yes. Sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: simply surrender exclusively unto Me." He does not say, "Yes, depend on Me, and also depend on your slaughterhouses and factories." No. He says, "Depend only on Me. Aham tvam sarva-papebhyo moksayisyami: I will rescue you from the results of your sinful activities."
Because we have lived so many years without being Krsna conscious, we have lived only a sinful life, but Krsna assures us that as soon as one surrenders to Him He immediately squares all accounts and puts an end to all one's sinful activities so that one may begin a new life. When we initiate disciples we therefore tell them, "Now the account is squared. Now don't commit sinful activities any more."
One should not think that because the holy name of Krsna can nullify sinful activities, one may commit a little sinful activity and chant Hare Krsna to nullify it. That is the greatest offense (namno balad yasya hi papa-buddhih). The members of some religious orders go to church and confess their sins, but then they again commit the same sinful activities. What, then, is the value of their confession? One may confess, "My Lord, out of my ignorance I committed this sin." But one should not plan, "I shall commit sinful activities and then go to church and confess them, and then the sins will be nullified, and I can begin a new chapter of sinful life." Similarly, one should not knowingly take advantage of the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra to nullify sinful activities so that one may then begin sinful acts again. We should be very careful. Before taking initiation, one promises to have no illicit sex, no intoxicants, no gambling, and no meat-eating, and this vow one should strictly follow. Then one will be clean. If one keeps oneself clean in this way and always engages in devotional service, his life will be a success, and there will be no scarcity of anything he wants.
The Biography of a Pure Devotee
by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami
The pure devotee's first month in the West. "Who would expect to meet a svami in someone's living room in Butler, Pennsylvania? It was just really tremendous. In the middle of middle-class America. "
Srila Prabhupada was met at the dockside by a man from Travelers Aid who escorted him to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. New York's midtown streets were far more intense than the Boston pier. Assisted by the guide, Srila Prabhupada got on the "Pittsburgh" bus. Travelers Aid paid the fare and was reimbursed by Mr. Gopal Agarwal.
The bus came swinging out of the terminal and rode in the shadows of skyscrapers through asphalt streets crowded with people, trucks, and automobiles. Then it entered the Lincoln Tunnel under the Hudson River and emerged on the Jersey side. Then down the Jersey Turnpike, past fields of huge oil drums, the Manhattan skyline visible on the left, while six lanes of traffic sped sixty miles an hour in each direction. Newark Airport came up close by on the right, with jets visible on the ground. Electric power lines spanned aloft between steel towers into the horizon.
Srila Prabhupada had never seen anything like this in India. He could now understand by direct perception that America was a passionate culture. As described in Bhagavad-gita, "The mode of passion is born of unlimited desires and longings, and because of this one is bound to material fruitive activity." For Srila Prabhupada it was a scene of madness. What was the important business for which people were rushing north and south at breakneck speed? It was not for service to Krsna, but for material sense gratification. He could see the goals of the people advertised on their billboards.
On the highway from Delhi to Vrndavana, there are comparatively few signs. One sees mostly the land, roadside streams, temples, and farmers working in the fields. Most people on the road travel by ox cart or on foot, and in Vrndavana even the ordinary passers-by greet each other by calling, "Jaya Radhe," "Hare Krsna." But here on the Jersey Turnpike there were fields full of factories and huge oil drums, and billboards everywhere. Of course, by 1965 there were already plenty of factories outside Delhi, but the cumulative effect did not pack anywhere near the materialistic punch of the route from New York to Pittsburgh.
We should not think that Srila Prabhupada was simply an Indian citizen suffering from cultural shock. Coming from Vrndavana, which is virtually the spiritual world, he was immersed in Krsna consciousness. By his spiritual standards, these factories of the American Northeast were places of ugra-karma—bitter, unnecessary work that entangled passionate human beings and produced only hellish conditions. What Srila Prabhupada saw proudly glamorized on mile after mile of billboards were the basic pillars of sinful life he had come to preach against—meat-eating, illicit sex, intoxication, and gambling. The signs promoted dozens of brands of liquor and cigarettes, roadside restaurants offered slaughtered cows in the form of hamburgers, and no matter what the product, it was usually advertised by the form of a woman to appeal to the appetite for sex. Srila Prabhupada, however, had come to teach the opposite, to teach that happiness is not found in passionate endeavors, and that only when one becomes detached from the mode of passion, which leads to sinful acts, can one become eligible for the happiness the soul enjoys in relation to Krsna.
Looking out the window of the bus, Srila Prabhupada saw the advancement of degradation and ignorance of life's real purpose. Since he was a preacher of the Bhagavatam, his thoughts while encountering these American scenes must have resembled those expressed thousands of years ago by the pure devotee Prahlada Maharaja, who prayed to the Lord, "I see that there are many saintly persons indeed, but they are interested only in their own deliverance. Not caring for the big cities and towns, they go to the Himalayas or the forests to meditate with vows of silence. They are not interested in delivering others. As for me, however, I do not wish to be liberated alone, leaving aside all these poor fools and rascals. I know that without Krsna consciousness, without taking shelter of Your lotus feet, one cannot be happy. Therefore I wish to bring them back to shelter at Your lotus feet."
After an hour or so, the scenery changed to the mountainous countryside of Pennsylvania, and the bus went through long tunnels in the mountains. After night arrived, the bus suddenly entered the heavily industrialized Pittsburgh area, on the shore of the Allegheny River. Srila Prabhupada couldn't clearly see the structures or activity of the steel mills, but he could see their lights and occasionally their industrial fires or smokestacks. Millions of lights shone throughout the city's prevailing dinginess.
When Srila Prabhupada's bus arrived at the terminal, it was past midnight. Mr. Gopal Agarwal, his sponsor, was waiting with the family's Volkswagen bus to drive him to Butler, about an hour north. To host Srila Prabhupada in his home was not Gopal's idea; he had been requested to do so by his father, a businessman who lived in Mathura, India, and who had a fondness for sadhus (saintly persons) and religious causes.
To visit America without assured employment, an Indian had to have proof of financial sponsorship in the United States. Accommodating different sadhu acquaintances, the senior Mr. Agarwal had a number of times sent sponsorship papers for Gopal's signature, and Gopal had obediently signed them—but nothing had ever come of them. Srila Prabhupada's friendship with Mr. Agarwal of Mathura was not very involved. They had met briefly, and when Srila Prabhupada spoke of going to America, Mr. Agarwal said he would write his son about it. Later, he produced for Srila Prabhupada the sponsorship letter.
The unsuspecting Agarwals of Butler were "simple American people," according to Mrs. Sally Agarwal, who had met her Indian husband while he was working as an engineer in Pennsylvania. They sent back the sponsorship letter for A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami thinking that this was the last they would hear of it; they had no idea he would travel across the ocean and enter the country on the strength of their sponsorship.
About a week before Srila Prabhupada was to reach Butler, a letter arrived. Mrs. Agarwal opened it and then, in alarm, called her husband. "Honey, sit down. Listen to this: the svami is coming." Srila Prabhupada had sent his picture so that they would not mistake him when he came in. They thought the picture was frightening. "There'll be no mistake there," Gopal had said.
The whole event was quite a shock for the Agarwals. What would they do with an Indian svami in their home? But there was no question of not accepting him; they were bound by the request of Gopal's father. So Gopal had dutifully purchased Srila Prabhupada's ticket from New York to Pittsburgh and arranged for the agent from Travelers Aid to meet him at the dock in New York. Later he drove to meet the strange sadhu at the Pittsburgh bus terminal.
Gopal's first impression of Srila Prabhupada, he later recalled, was that he was not unusual. Although perhaps he had never met a Vaisnava sadhu quite like this, Gopal had seen many, many sadhus before in India. But in any case he had certainly never received one in his home in America. It was about three in the morning when they started from Pittsburgh to Butler.
In 1965 the population of Butler was about twenty thousand. Butler is an industrial city located amid hills in an area rich with oil, coal, gas, and limestone. At the time, its industry consisted mainly of the manufacture of plate glass, railroad cars, refrigerators, oil equipment, and rubber goods. (Butler is also famous as the town where the U.S. Army Jeep was invented in 1940. A granite memorial in the park bears the inscription "Butler, Pennsylvania, Home of the Jeep.") Ninety percent of the people in the local industries were native Americans. The nominal religion had always been Christian, mostly Protestant with some Catholic, and in later years a few synagogues had appeared. There was surely no Hindu community at that time. In fact, Gopal asserts he was the first Indian to move to Butler.
As Gopal Agarwal pulled into town with Srila Prabhupada on the warm, humid morning of September 21, it was long before sunrise. The morning edition of the Butler Eagle was getting ready to go to the stands. The front page would carry three stories on India: "Red Chinese Fire on India," "Prime Minister Shastri Declares Chinese Communists Out to Dominate World," and "United Nations Council Demands Pakistan and India Cease Fire in 48 Hours."
Srila Prabhupada arrived at 4:00 A.M., and the Agarwals invited him to sleep on the couch in their living room. The Agarwals, who had lived in Butler a few years, had two very young children and now felt established in a good social circle. They were living in a townhouse known as Sterling Apartments, and their place consisted of a small living room, a dining room, a kitchenette, two upstairs bedrooms, and a bathroom. They decided that since their apartment had so little space, it would be better if the svami slept at a room at the Y.M.C.A. and came to visit them during the day. But living space wasn't the real difficulty—it was him. How would he fit into the Butler atmosphere? He was their guest, so they would have to explain him to their friends and neighbors.
It was a fact that Srila Prabhupada was immediately a great curiosity for whoever saw him. In anxiety, Mrs. Agarwal decided that instead of having people speculate about the strange man in orange robes who was living at their house, it would be better to let everybody know about him from the newspapers. Mrs. Agarwal says that she openly related her plan to Srila Prabhupada, who laughed with good humor, understanding that he didn't quite fit in.
So Sally Agarwal hurried Srila Prabhupada off to a Pittsburgh newspaper office, but unfortunately the first woman who interviewed him simply wasn't able to comprehend why Mrs. Agarwal thought this person would make an interesting story. Mrs. Agarwal then took Srila Prabhupada to the local Butler Eagle, where he was interviewed more avidly. On September 22 a feature article ran in the Butler Eagle. "In Fluent English," the headline read, "Devotee of Hindu Cult Explains Commission to Visit the West." A photographer had come to the Agarwals' apartment and taken a picture in the living room, showing Srila Prabhupada standing in front of a wall plaque decorated with Chinese lanterns. In this first news photo in America he is holding an open volume of Srimad-Bhagavatam, and the caption reads, "Ambassador of Bhakti-yoga."
The article begins, "A slight brown man in faded orange drapes wearing white bathing shoes stepped out of a compact car yesterday and into the Butler Y.M.C.A to attend a meeting. He is A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swamiji, a messenger from India to the peoples of the West." The reporter refers to Srimad-Bhagavatam as "Biblical literature" and quotes Srila Prabhupada as saying, "My mission is to revive people's God consciousness. God is the Father of all living beings, in thousands of different forms. Human life is a stage of perfection in evolution; if we miss the message, back we go through the process again."
The reporter describes Srila Prabhupada's personal habits in some detail: "Bhaktivedanta lives as a monk, and permits no woman to touch his food. On a six-week ocean voyage and at the Agarwal apartment in Butler he prepares his meals in a brass pan with separate levels for steaming rice, vegetables and making 'bread' at the same time. He is a strict vegetarian, and is permitted to drink only milk, the 'miracle food for babies and old men,' he noted."
The article continues, "The Swamiji is equally philosophical about physical discomforts or wars: 'It's man's nature to fight,' he shrugs. 'We have to adjust to these things; currents come and go in life just as in an ocean.' " The article ends, "If Americans would give more attention to their spiritual life, they would be much happier, he says."
The Agarwals had their own opinion of why Srila Prabhupada had come to America. They thought that it was just to finance his books, and that was all. They did not think he wanted to draw any devotees. He had no idea of starting a world movement and creating followers who would chant Hare Krsna in public, they felt. They never saw him with karatalas (hand cymbals) or a drum, and they maintained the impression that he was hoping only to meet someone who could help him with the publication of his Srimad-Bhagavatam. At least they hoped he wouldn't do anything to attract attention, and they felt that this was his mentality also. "He didn't create waves," Sally Agarwal says. "He didn't want any crowd. He didn't want anything. He only wanted to finance his books." Perhaps Srila Prabhupada, seeing their nervousness, agreed to keep a low profile just out of consideration for his hosts.
At Srila Prabhupada's request, however, Mr. Agarwal allowed an open house in his apartment every night from six to nine.
It was quite an intellectual group that we were in (Sally Agarwal relates), and they were fascinated by him. They hardly knew what to ask him. They didn't know enough. This was just like a dream out of a book. Who would expect to meet a svami in someone's living room in Butler, Pennsylvania? It was just really tremendous. In the middle of middle-class America. My parents came from quite a distance to see him. We knew a lot of people in Pittsburgh, and they came up. This was a very unusual thing, having this man here. But the real interest shown in him was only as a curiosity.
He had a typewriter, which was one of his few possessions, and an umbrella. That was one of the things that caused a sensation, that he always carried an umbrella. And it was a little chilly and he was balding, so he always wore this hat someone had made for him, like a swimming cap. It was a kind of sensation. And he was so brilliant that when he saw someone in a car twice, he knew who they were—he remembered. He was a brilliant man. Or if he met them in our apartment and saw them in a car, he would remember their name, and he would wave and say their name. He was a brilliant man. All the people, they liked him. They were amazed at how intelligent he was. The thing that got them was the way he remembered their name. And his humorous way. He looked so serious all the time, but he was a very humorous person.... He was forbidding in his looks, but he was very charming.
He was the easiest guest I have had in my life, because when I couldn't spend time with him he chanted and I knew he was perfectly happy. When I couldn't talk to him he'd chant. He was so easy, though, because I knew he was never bored. I never felt any pressure or tension about having him there. He was so easy that when I had to take care of the children he would just chant. It was so great. When I had to do things, he would just be happy chanting. He was a very good guest. When the people would come, they were also smoking cigarettes, but he would say, "Pay no attention. Think nothing of it. " That's what he said. "Think nothing of it. " Because he knew we were different. I didn't smoke in front of him, because I knew I wasn't supposed to smoke in front of Gopal's father so I sort of considered him the same. He didn't make any problems for anybody.
Gopal remembers that at one evening meeting a guest asked Srila Prabhupada, "What do you think of Jesus Christ?" And Srila Prabhupada replied, "He is the son of God." Then he added that he himself was also a son of God. Everyone was interested to hear that he did not disagree that Jesus Christ was the son of God. "His intent was not to have you change your way of life," Gopal says. "He wasn't telling anybody they should be vegetarian or anything. All he wanted you to do was to follow what you are but be better. He didn't stress that we should give up many things."
Mrs. Agarwal remembers that in speaking, Srila Prabhupada would often tell funny stories, using animals like goats and pigs to illustrate philosophical points. She gradually developed a real friendship and admiration.
While Srila Prabhupada was in Butler he followed a regulated daily schedule. Every morning he would walk the six or seven blocks from the Y.M.C.A to the Sterling Apartments and arrive there about 7:00 A.M. (The Agarwals remember that when he first arrived from India he was carrying a large bundle of dried cereal that appeared like rolled oats. This supply was intended to last him for some time, and every day he would take some with milk for his breakfast.) About 7:45, Gopal would leave for work, and then Srila Prabhupada would start to prepare his lunch in the kitchen. Without using a rolling pin, he would make capatis (a kind of bread) by clapping the kneaded dough in his hands. He worked alone for two hours while Mrs. Agarwal did housework and took care of her children. Srila Prabhupada took his prasada at 11:30.
When he cooked he used only one burner (Mrs. Agarwal relates), and I asked him why he was cooking that way. He said, "Well, when one becomes a svami he gives up any contact with women. " Since he was only cooking for himself he only needed to use one fire. The bottom-level pot created the steam; he had the dal [a kind of soup] on the bottom, and it created the steam to cook many other vegetables. So for about a week he was cooking this great big lunch, which was ready about 11:30, and Gopal always came home for lunch about twelve. I used to serve Gopal a sandwich, and then he would go back to work. But it didn't take me long to realize that the food the svami was cooking we'd enjoy too, so he started cooking that noon meal for all of us. Oh, and we enjoyed it so much.
Our fun with him was to show him what we knew of America, and he had never seen such things. It was such fun to take him to the supermarket. He loved opening the package of okra or frozen beans and he didn't have to clean them and cut them and do all those things. He opened the freezer every day and just chose his items. It was fun to watch him. He sat on the couch while I swept with the vacuum, and he was so interested in that, and we talked for a long time about that. He was so interesting. So every day he'd have this big feast, and everything was great fun. We really enjoyed it. I would help him cut the things. He would spice it, and we would laugh. He was the most enjoyable man, most enjoyable man. I really felt like a sort of daughter to him, even in such a short time. Like he was my father-in-law. He was a friend of my father-in-law, but I really felt very close to the man. He enjoyed everything. I liked the man. I thought he was tremendous.
After his lunch Srila Prabhupada would leave the house about 1:00 P.M. and walk to the Y.M.C.A., where the Agarwals figured he must have worked at his writing from one until five. He would come back to their apartment in the early evening, about six o'clock, after they had taken their meal. Since they ate meat, Mrs. Agarwal was careful to have it cleared away before he came. One night he came early, and she said to him, "Oh, Swamiji, we have just cooked meat, and the smell will be very disagreeable to you." But he said, "Oh, think nothing of it. Think nothing of it." In the evening Srila Prabhupada would meet any guests who came to speak with him, and he would ask the Agarwals to prepare warm milk with sugar for him at 9:00 P.M. Even if the guests were taking coffee and other things, he would request a glass of warm milk. He would speak until nine thirty or ten, and then Mr. Agarwal would drive him back to the Y.M.C.A. So every day Srila Prabhupada would walk between the Y.M.C.A. and the Agarwal home three times and ride back in their car in the evening.
Srila Prabhupada would also do his own laundry every day, washing his clothes in the Agarwals' bathroom and hanging them up outside. He sometimes also went with the Agarwals to the laundromat and was interested to see how the people washed and dried their clothes there. "He was very interested in the American ways and the people," Mrs. Agarwal says.
Our boy was six or seven months old when the Svami came (Mrs. Agarwal relates). And the Indians love boys. The Svami liked Brij. He was there when Brij first stood. The first time Brij made the attempt and actually succeeded, the svami stood up and clapped and clapped. It was a celebration. Another time our baby teethed on the svami's shoes. I thought, "Oh, those shoes. They have been all over India, and my kid is chewing on them. " You know how a mother would feel.
Almost every night he used to sit in the next-door neighbor's back yard. We sat out there sometimes with him. Or we stayed in the living room. In October the air got cool. (He arrived about the twentieth of September and stayed with us until the middle of October.) One time something happened with our little girl, Pamela, who was only three years old. I used to take her to Sunday school, and she learned about Jesus in Sunday school. Then when she would see Svamiji with his robes on and everything, she called him Svami Jesus. And this one time when it first dawned on us what she was saying, she called him Svami Jesus, and Swami smiled and said, "And a little child shall lead them. " It was so funny.
While in Butler, Srila Prabhupada spoke on Krsna consciousness to various groups in the community. He addressed the Lions International, and the group presented him with a formal document dated October 6, 1965: "Be it known that A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami was a guest at the Lions Club of Butler, Pa., and as an expression of appreciation for services rendered the Club tenders this acknowledgement." He also gave a talk at the Y and at a small college in Herman, Pennsylvania, and he was always ready to speak to guests who came to visit him at the Agarwal home.
There are no available recordings of any of the Butler talks, but we know what Srila Prabhupada spoke. He spoke the same eternal message of Bhagavad-gita that has come down in disciplic succession from Krsna. As he had already informed the people of Butler through the Butler Eagle, "My mission is to revive people's God consciousness. God is the Father of all living beings in thousands of different forms. Human life is a stage of perfection in evolution; if we miss the message, back we go through the process again."
The lectures in Butler were valuable for Srila Prabhupada because they gave him his first indication of how his message would be received in America. In his poem written at the Boston pier he had stated the principle by which he would become successful: "I am sure that when this transcendental message penetrates their hearts they will certainly feel gladdened and thus become liberated from all unhappy conditions of life." But now the principle was actually being tested in the field. Was it possible—would they be able to understand? Were they really interested? Would they surrender?
From all available evidence it appears Srila Prabhupada was quite pleased with the results of his talks in Butler. It is difficult to know his thoughts, since he made no diary entries and as yet had no intimate disciples to share his meditations on preaching. The Agarwals, for all their kindness, did not share in his plans to create a worldwide Krsna consciousness movement. Rather, they were convinced that Srila Prabhupada had no intention of making followers.
A letter written by Srila Prabhupada a month after he left Butler reveals some of his thoughts about his stay in the Pennsylvania town. He wrote to Sumati Morarjee, who had provided his passage to America, "By the grace of Lord Krsna the Americans are prosperous in every respect. They are not poverty-stricken like the Indians. The people in general are satisfied so far as their material needs are concerned, and they are spiritually inclined. When I was in Butler, Pennsylvania, about five hundred miles from New York City, I saw there many churches, and they were attending regularly. This shows that they are spiritually inclined. I was also invited by some churches, church-governed schools and colleges, and I spoke there, and they appreciated it and presented me some token rewards. When I was speaking to the students, they were very much eagerly hearing me about the principles of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Rather, the clergymen were cautious to allow [that is, about allowing] the students to hear me so patiently. They thought that (they should be careful so that] the students may not be converted into Hindu ideas, as it is quite natural for any religious sect. But they do not know that devotional service of the Lord (Sri Krsna) is the common religion of everyone, including the aborigines and cannibals in the jungle."
This letter indicates that Srila Prabhupada was quite hopeful. He had spoken, and the young people, especially, were receptive. The American people were not so impoverished as to think only of economic development, and in fact they had an attitude of spiritual inquiry. "I give you my frank admission," Srila Prabhupada wrote, "that when I was in India I was thinking the Americans may be a different type of people or they may be thinking in other ways. They may be different in so many ways. But here I see there is no difference at all. Only some bodily features. Your people are fair complexioned, your bodies are white, and they are also colored. In India also you will find varieties of color, beginning from the American, European color down to the black Negro color. Even when I study the pigeons, I see, 'Oh, these same pigeons are playing just like Indian pigeons.' Even I see the sparrow—there is no difference." The Americans, for all their advertised opulence and advancement, were the same materially conditioned souls found anywhere else in the universe. This Srila Prabhupada discovered firsthand in Butler. If for nothing else, Butler was important to Srila Prabhupada because it was the first testing ground for the Hare Krsna movement.
Near the end of his stay in Butler, Srila Prabhupada received a letter from Sumati Morarjee. Dated October 9 from "Scindia House" in Bombay, the letter read as follows:
"Poojye [Respected] Swamiji,
Srila Prabhupada regarded the last recommendation in this letter as being especially significant: his well-wisher was urging him to stay in America until he had completed his mission. When Srila Prabhupada had first entered America and the immigration officials had asked him how long he intended to stay, Srila Prabhupada had not yet made firm plans. "I have one month's sponsorship in Butler," he thought, "and then I have no support. So perhaps I can stay another month." So he had told the immigration officials he would stay in America for two months. Sumati Morarjee, however, was urging him to stay on, and it was a fact that the prospects of preaching to the Americans seemed good, although if he were to stay he would need support from India, from persons like Sumati Morarjee. There was no question of staying simply to sightsee; he wanted to do something wonderful. He had many plans. But now it was time to leave Butler.
Srila Prabhupada decided to move to New York City, although he wanted first to visit Philadelphia, where a meeting had been arranged for him with a Sanskrit professor, Dr. Norman Brown, at the University of Pennsylvania.
Mrs. Agarwal was sorry to see him go.
After a month I really loved the svami (Mrs. Agarwal relates). I felt kind of protective in a way, and he wanted to go to Philadelphia. But I couldn't imagine—I told him—I could not imagine this man going to Philadelphia for two days. He was going to speak there, and then to New York. But he knew no one in New York. If the thing didn't pan out in Philadelphia, he was just going to New York, and then there was no one. I just could not imagine that man ... it made me sick. I remember the night he was leaving, about two in the morning. I remember sitting there as long as he could wait before Gopal took him to Pittsburgh to get on that bus. Gopal got a handful of change, and I remember telling him how to put the money in the slot so that he could go up to the bus station to take a bath, because he was supposed to take a bath a few times a day. And Gopal told him how to do that, and told him about the automat in New York. He told him what he could eat and what he could not eat, and he gave these coins in a sock, and that's all the man left us with.
Praying to be the puppet of Krsna, Srila Prabhupada was now moving on, not exactly under his own direction. Why had he gone to Butler? Why was he going to New York? He could see it was not merely his own decision; it was happening by Krsna's grace. As Krsna's pure devotee, he wished to be merely an instrument, in the Lord's hands, for distributing Krsna consciousness. As a sannyasi, of course, he was quite accustomed to picking up and leaving one place for another. As a mendicant preacher he had no remorse about leaving behind the quiet life of walking to and from the Butler Y.M.C.A., nor any attachment for the domestic habitat where he would cook and talk with Sally Agarwal about vacuum cleaners, frozen foods, and American ways.
Now it was necessary that he go more on his own and try to preach in one of the biggest cities in the world. His stay in Butler helped him get his first idea of America and gave him confidence that his health was strong and his message communicable. He was glad to see that America had practically everything necessary for his Indian vegetarian diet, and that people could understand his English. He had learned that the program of giving casual one-time lectures here and there was very limited, and he had also found that although there would be opposition from the established religions, people individually were very interested in what he had to say. Now he had to go and find out more of what Krsna had in mind for him.
"He was a very happy man," Mrs. Agarwal remembers. "Very happy. If he'd had any idea of what the future was, he would not have believed it. That's what I think. He was a very humble, modest man. I think he had no idea."
How to Make It Take You Where You Really Want to Go
This grim scene is just an illustration, but it points up something that happens to all of us all too often. It shows how we set out for satisfaction and yet arrive at just the opposite.
Our material body is a lot like a chariot. It has five horses (the senses of hearing, touch, sight, taste, and smell). Each of us is a spiritual soul riding within-we're the passenger. And to keep the horses on course, we have the reins (our mind) and the driver (our intelligence).
As we've all experienced, our sensory horses are always ready to bolt off after this or that, and their pulling creates anxiety in our mind. The problem is that we have no permanent goal to keep our mind on. Our body, our family, our community, our nation-all these things are changing and so not fully satisfying objects for our attention and affection.
Sometimes, out of frustration, we try to quiet our mind by stopping our senses and engaging in silent meditation. This may bring us some relief, but it doesn't last, because sooner or later our senses have to act. So the solution is to find a goal that's permanent and fully satisfying to our senses, mind, and intelligence. And that's why Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, recommends, "Dedicate your activities to Me, absorb your senses, mind, and intelligence in Me-and you will attain Me" (Krsna's very name means "the highest satisfaction").
In this age the easiest and most effective way to absorb our senses, mind, and intelligence in Krsna is to chant
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna
We Cannot Remain in Tiger Consciousness
This exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and guests took place in December, 1968, at the Los Angeles Krsna center.
Guest: If man didn't eat animals, they'd probably just die of starvation or something.
Srila Prabhupada: Why are you so anxious about the animals' dying of starvation? You take care of yourself. Don't be altruistic—"Oh, they will starve. Let me eat them." What is this altruism? Krsna is supplying food. If an animal dies of starvation, it is Krsna's responsibility. Nobody dies of starvation. That is a false theory. Have you seen any animal dying of starvation? Have you got any experience? Have you seen any bird dying of starvation? There is no question of starvation in the kingdom of God. We are manufacturing these theories for our own sense satisfaction.... There are millions of elephants in the African jungle and Indian jungle. They require one hundred pounds at a time to eat. Who is supplying food? So there is no question of starvation in the kingdom of God. Starvation is for the so-called civilized man.
Guest: If man wasn't meant to eat meat, why in nature do the other animals kill meat?
Srila Prabhupada: Are you "another animal"?
Guest: Well, we're all animals.
Srila Prabhupada: You count yourself among the animals? You classify yourself with the animals?
Guest: Well, we're all animals ...
Srila Prabhupada: No, not all. You may be, but we are not. Do you like to be classified with the animals?
Guest: I don't feel that I am better than the animals. I have respect for all God's creatures.
Srila Prabhupada: You have respect for all, and you kill animals?
Guest: Well, why is it—if man is not meant to eat meat—that in nature the animals eat each other?
Srila Prabhupada: When animals eat meat, they are following nature's law. When you eat meat, you are breaking nature's law.
Srila Prabhupada: For instance, a tiger will never come to claim the grain—"Oh, you've got so much grain—give me some." No. Even if there are hundreds of bags of grain, he doesn't care. But he'll pounce upon an animal. That is his natural instinct. But why do you take grain, fruit, milk, meat, and whatever you get? What is this? You are neither animal nor human being. You are misusing your humanity! You should think, "What is eatable for me?" A tiger may eat meat-he is a tiger. But I am not a tiger; I am a human. If I've got enough grain, fruit, vegetables, and other things God has given, why should I go to kill a poor animal? This is humanity.
You are animal plus human. If you forget your humanity, then you are an animal. [A brief silence.] So we are not simply animals. We are animal plus human. If we increase our quality of humanity, then our life is perfect. But if we remain in animality, then our life is imperfect. So we have to increase our human consciousness—that is Krsna consciousness. If you can live very peacefully, very nicely, in good health by eating so many varieties of foodstuffs given by Krsna, why should you kill an animal?
Besides that, scientifically, your teeth are meant for eating vegetables. The tiger has teeth for eating meat. Nature has made it like that. He has to kill another animal; therefore he has nails, he has teeth, he has strength. But you have no such strength. You cannot kill a cow like that—pouncing like a tiger. You have to make a slaughterhouse and sit down at your home.... If somebody else slaughters the cow, you can eat very nicely.... What is this? Do like the tiger! Pounce upon a cow and eat! ... You cannot do that.
Guest: So you don't believe in nature's law. I believe nature's law applies equally to everybody.
Srila Prabhupada: The tiger is made by nature's law in that way, so therefore he can do that. You cannot do it—your nature is different. You have discrimination, you have conscience, you are claiming to be a civilized human being—so you should utilize all this. That is Krsna consciousness, perfect consciousness. Human life is meant for raising oneself to the perfection of consciousness, and that is Krsna consciousness. We cannot remain in tiger consciousness. That is not humanity.
Another Guest: Have we fallen from higher to lower, or have we come up from plants and animals?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, naturally you have fallen from higher to lower—from the spiritual world to this material world, and then down to the lower species. Then you make progress, and you again come to this human form. If you utilize your higher consciousness, then you go still higher: you go to God. But if you don't use your higher consciousness, you again go down. So don't be misguided. Take to God consciousness, Krsna consciousness, and that will be proper use of this human form of life. Otherwise, if we indulge in meat-eating, like a tiger, we may get the body of tiger in our next life, but what is the use? Suppose I become a very strong tiger my next life. Is that a very good promotion? Do you know the life of a tiger They cannot even eat daily. They pounce upon one animal and keep it secretly, and for a month they eat the decomposed flesh—because they don't always get the chance to kill an animal. God will not give that chance. It is natural: in the jungle wherever there is a tiger the other animals flee. Self-defense. So on rare occasions, when the tiger is too hungry, then God gives him a chance to pounce upon another animal. A tiger cannot get so many palatable dishes daily. It is in the human form of life that we have all these facilities. But if we misuse them, then . . . go to the tiger life. Be very strong, with full pouncing capacity.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Health Minister Inaugurates ISKCON Free Clinic
Bombay, India—Not long ago Dr. Premila Tople, Minister for Health and Family Welfare in Maharashtra state, presided at the inaugural ceremonies for ISKCON's new free clinic and dispensary, the Bhaktivedanta Institute.
Primarily, the facility will serve the health needs of the area's low-income people. It's staff includes two eminent Bombay physicians, Dr. Kumari R. Manusukhani and Dr. Sureshchandra Chaturvedi.
New Demand for Srila Prabhupada's Books
Thousands of Americans are purchasing complete sets of Srila Prabhupada's books, reports the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust's home sales office in Dallas.
For many years the academic world had supplied most of the customers for Srimad-Bhagavatam (a five-thousand year-old Sanskrit classic about the pastimes of Lord Krsna) and Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (a five-hundred-year-old biography of Lord Caitanya, the greatest teacher of Krsna consciousness). More than twenty-five hundred college professors and university and public libraries have ordered full sets thus far.
But now, with the new interest in reincarnation, karma, and self-realization, the books are appealing to an everwidening audience. Here's a sampling of the response from people who have ordered recently:
"I enjoy the books very much. I am pleased, honored, and blessed that I have the opportunity to share the sacred teachings of a great spiritual master. Again, thank you."
"I am enjoying the books very much. I just wish I had more time to read them. I'll just have to make more time, because these books are very informative and very enlightening. I thank you for leading me to such wonderful reading."
In 1977 Srila Prabhupada said, "I want that every respectable person have a full set of Srimad-Bhagavatam and Sri Caitanya-caritamrta in his home."
For full details readers may write the Bhaktivedanta Book Distribution office at 5430 Gurley Avenue, Dallas, Texas 75223.
Sanskrit Scholar Reviews Bhagavatam
Dr. D. Arkasomayaji, one of India's leading Sanskrit scholars, said this about His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's English translation of Srimad-Bhagavatam (the narrative of Lord Krsna's pastimes):
"What is most thrilling about this particular edition is that His Divine Grace (whom I look upon as an avatara of Godhead born into this world to cleanse it of its profane subhuman outlook) wields a pen which seems as though monitored by Bhagavan Vyasa, the Bhagavatam's ancient author. This monumental work will surely survive millenniums, just as the very Sanskrit Bhagavatam has survived to this day, overcoming all ravages of time. What thrills me further is that His Divine Grace puts fire into his pen and writes as if to pour molten lead over the heads of the nations of the world, which are doomed to disaster if they do not heed the message contained in these volumes. Schools, colleges, and universities of the world should not fail to acquire these volumes, since they are capable of floodlighting the dark caves of the hearts of present-day students. Students are coming for bread and are being treated with stones in the ecuational institutes nowadays. Be they of science or humanities, there are no books comparable with this edition of Srimad-Bhagavatam."
I am very confused about the pronunciation of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. If you could properly instruct me on the correct pronunciation, I would very much appreciate that. Also, I am curious about the importance of correct pronunciation.
Daniel R. Eastwood
In the Hare Krsna maha-mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—the three seeds are the names Hare, Krsna, and Rama. The word Hare is pronounced huh-ray. The word Krsna is pronounced krish-na. And Rama rhymes with "comma."
Success in chanting the maha-mantra doesn't depend on the "correctness" of one's pronunciation. Rather, it depends on one's sincerity and devotion. The chanting of a Sanskrit scholar who can pronounce each word with perfect correctness will not be effective without devotion, whereas even though one's chanting may be faulty to the ear of a scholar, it will be accepted by the Supreme Lord Himself if one chants with sincere devotion. Sincere chanting and hearing is the essence of the process. As Srila Prabhupada once instructed a disciple, "Just try to hear yourself chanting sincerely."
Also, to taste the mature fruit of love of God that is available by chanting Hare Krsna, it is necessary that one receive initiation from a spiritual master in the disciplic succession that comes from the Lord Himself. In the Padma Purana it is said that unless one receives initiation from such a bona fide spiritual master, one will not be able to obtain the desired result from chanting the mantra.
To get the full benefit of chanting Hare Krsna, one should hear the chanting from the lips of a pure devotee of the Lord. The insincere chanting of nondevotees should be avoided; it is compared to milk touched by the lips of a serpent, because it has a poisonous effect on one's spiritual life.
Authorities confirm that the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra is the most recommended method for spiritual realization in the present age. If one searches through the entire Vedic literature, one will find no method of spiritual advancement superior to the chanting of the maha-mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
* * *
In an old copy of The World Book Encyclopedia there are approximately 170 different religions listed in the United States. (There are many more today, I would imagine.) I have often wondered why we find such division within Christianity, since the Bible is the basis of the Christian religion. How is one to know which religion is the true religion?
(Mrs.) Margaret Knight
Not only among Christians but also among Hindus, Muslims, Jains, and adherents to all the other religious sects of the world, we find so many differences of opinion. Here is Srila Prabhupada's explanation of why this is so and what true religion is:
"Unless one comes to the Absolute Truth, there is no possibility of agreement. Nasav rsir yasya matam na bhinnam: it is said that a great learned scholar or sage cannot be exalted unless he disagrees. On the material platform, there is no possibility of agreement; therefore there are different kinds of religious systems. However, the Absolute Truth is one, and when one is situated in the Absolute Truth, there is no disagreement. On that absolute platform the Supreme Personality of Godhead is worshipable, as stated in Bhagavad-gita (bhaktya mam abhijanati yavan yas casmi tattvatah). On the absolute platform, the worshipable Deity is one, and the process of worship is also one. That process is bhakti (devotional service).
"There are many different religions throughout the world because they are not all on the absolute platform of devotional service. As confirmed in Bhagavad-gita (18.66), sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja. The word ekam means 'one,' Krsna. On this platform [the platform of devotional service to the Supreme Lord, or Krsna], there are no different religious systems. According to Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.1.2), dharmah projjhita-kaitavo 'tra. On the material platform, religious systems are different. Srimad-Bhagavatam describes them from the very beginning as dharmah kaitavah, cheating religions. None of these religions are actually genuine. The genuine religious system is that which enables one to become a lover of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In the words of Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.6):
sa vai pumsam paro dharmo
'The supreme occupation [or religious principle] for all humanity is that by which men can attain to loving devotional service unto the transcendent Lord. Such devotional service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted in order to completely satisfy the self.'
"On this platform there is nothing but the service of the Lord. When a person has no ulterior motive, there is certainly oneness and agreement of principles. Since everyone has a different body and mind, different types of religions are needed. But when one is situated on the spiritual platform, there are no bodily and mental differences. So on the absolute platform there is oneness in religion."
West Bengal, India
By Nandarani Devi Dasi
The flood last fall was devastating. One of the districts hardest hit was Nadia, where ISKCON's center stands. Here one of the devotees relates how she and the others survived, and how they worked to bring relief to the villagers.
The rain began last night. This morning the gardens were flooded and the unsheltered animals were running nervously up and down the high road. We didn't know how long the rains would last, but we let the older boys out of class. They yoked the oxen sad began to move the wood and grain surplus to the big buildings. Others built rafts from toppled banana trees and carried passengers from one building to other. Bhavananda Maharaja began to move around the land, checking the kitchen, the handlooms, the dispensary and the school—arranging for everyone move to the upper floors of the new buildings. By nightfall, the high road was under 2 feet of water.
This morning the water on the road measured 5 feet. The rain and winds are destroying everything around us. From the roof of the guesthouse we watched cowherd men as they moved our herd through the rushing floodwaters to higher land. The frightened animals battled the strong currents and tremendous winds for hours before reaching shelter.
We built an emergency rooftop kitchen and began cooking huge pots of kichari [a soup of lentils and rice]. Throughout the day the villagers arrived, begging shelter. As their straw houses floated past, they unloaded their salvaged possessions and their families on the first floors of our biggest buildings.
The rain has not stopped; the water on the road is 10 feet deep. As we look from our roof we see only water and destruction in all directions. The villages to the north and east are demolished. Last night we rescued two cows, some buffaloes and a mongoose from the flood. The villagers are still arriving by boatload. They speak about whole settlements that have been swept away, along with their residents and livestock.
The most amazing phenomenon is that on every side of us there are calamities, but we never see an anxious look on the face of a devotee nor hear a nervous word. From Bhagavad-gita we learn that this material world has three types of miseries—those caused by other living entities, those caused by nature, and those caused by one's own mind and body. For the people of Bengal this flood has certainly intensified all their miseries, but the devotees remain untouched by it. Because they know something of the plan of the Lord they can easily tolerate all miseries.
The rain stopped early this morning but the water is steadily rising. The flood basement and first floors on the buildings are submerged and everyone has moved to the top floor and roof. The biggest danger is snakes, but the village boys keep guard on the verandas.
After surveying the flood damage, Bhavananda Maharaja began to speak: "Human life means plain living and high thinking. Therefore, we should not be excessively attached to our land, buildings or families. They can all be taken away in a moment. Because we are devotees we work hard to maintain these buildings for Krishna, knowing that everything belongs to Him. As long as we have a kitchen, we will cook prasada, offer it to Krishna and give it out to the people. As long as we have buildings we will give shelter. But if these buildings are swept away by this flood, does that mean we will not be able to give relief? No. At that time we will all board boats and go out to preach. Practicing service to Krishna and teaching that same service to others brings permanent relief from all the miseries of life."
Nitai Chand and a group of Bengali men left early this morning for Navadvipa (a small city across the Ganges], in hopes of getting supplies from the district government. After 14 hours they returned on a tiny wooden country boat with 4000 kilos of rice and a fantastic report of how they fought off looters, maneuvered their overladen boat through the narrow streets and finally battled the raging Ganges for 8 hours in order to bring the rice to Mayapur. By a special arrangement Nitai Chand got enough rice to feed the people sheltered in our buildings and to begin our relief work in the surrounding areas.
The skies have been clear for two days. Everyone seems lighthearted, despite the ocean on all sides of us. Shortly after lunch we heard the unmistakable voice of Jayapataka Maharaja on a megaphone: HARE KRISHNA, HARE KRISHNA, KRISHNA KRISHNA, HARE HARE/ HARE RAMA, HARE RAMA, RAMA RAMA, HARE HARE. We ran to the south side of the building. He was there—coming through the floodwaters on a country boat laden with rice, wheat, chickpeas, vegetables, milk powder and fuel. A great cheer rang out from the devotees and villagers in all the buildings. After inspecting the conditions of the land and the devotees, Maharaja began to outline his emergency flood relief program. He said, "We should understand that we cannot actually give relief to anyone. A man suffers in this life because of sins committed in his previous life. We can fill his belly today, but tomorrow he will be hungry again. Similarly, we can alleviate one misery now, but if a man is sinful he will immediately get some other misery. Therefore, we should go to every village and give prasada [food purified by being offered to Lord Krishna]. Krishna promises in Bhagavad-gita that those who eat prasada are freed from all of their sins. Therefore, our prasada food relief program will have a double impact: it will fill the bellies of the hungry village people and simultaneously begin to alleviate the miseries each man bears because of his sins."
Some people approached Maharaja and tried to discourage him from the flood relief project. Their points were valid. The floodwaters were 30 feet deep, and the swift currents could not be challenged by our 15-foot motor launch nor by the country boats. In addition, just below the surface of the waters lay hidden dangers—fallen poles with electric wires, trees, walls and fences, etc. Not only that, but we had all heard stories of looting and even murder for food. After weighing the pros and cons, Maharaja selected his crew and set the flood relief program into action.
By 8:00 this morning the small launch was loaded with 400 kilos of flat rice mixed with soy oil, roasted chickpeas, salt and spices (a favorite village preparation). A loudspeaker was mounted on the top of the boat and connected to a tape recorder and microphone inside. With great faith we boarded the boat and headed south to Phukitala, a large settlement across the Sarasvati River. As we approached the high land we turned on the tape recorder and loudspeaker. The sound of the Hare Krishna mantra filled the air, and hundreds of villagers ran to the edge of the floodwater. It was just the sound they wanted to hear—the sound of relief.
Jayapataka Maharaja's voice boomed out on the megaphone, calling for the village leaders and instructing the people to sit in lines with their bowls. Strong organization was imperative to avoid a frantic upheaval by the hungry people. At last they were seated, but the desperate latecomers lined up almost on top of them. Chaos broke loose, and again Maharaja called for the leaders to organize and control the crowd. At last the distribution began. Every child, woman and man got a full bowl of prasada. Some laughed, some cried and all chanted Hare Krishna, Hare Rama along with the loudspeaker.
By 8:00 our boatful of prasada was heading north across an ocean of devastated houses, fields and roads. The heavy southeast current made our progress slow. Meanwhile, another team of devotees loaded fuel, uncooked rice, and lentils on a country boat and returned to Phukitala to set up a free kitchen for the stranded villagers.
Not more than 2 miles north of our temple we approached a half-submerged forest. Through his binoculars Jayapataka Maharaja spotted some rooftops, so at a snail's pace we began to make our way through the trees and lush overgrowth. In a small clearing in the center there was enough high land to shelter about 100 people. They were completely cut off from the world outside their island of safety and had not seen any boats, planes, people or relief food since the flood began. The village was Muslim, and three-fourths of the people were women and children. The men had built temporary shelters for their families and cows. When they heard the sound of the Hare Krishna mantra they ran to the water's edge. Some waded out and helped us maneuver the launch through the trees. Maharaja spoke briefly to them, saying that we had brought prasada, and that we would distribute it freely as soon as everyone was seated. To our surprise, all the children got their bowls and formed orderly rows with their mothers standing behind. The village men helped us unload the boat and everyone ate well.
The launch was heavily loaded this morning and we set out north again. From the beginning we were slowed by cross-current and loose vines and wires in the water. One mile out we cut a course between two submerged jute fields. Yesterday we had passed the same way successfully, but today the current baffled us. The boat was heavy and there was every chance of getting bound up in the jute. By some fortune we skirted the jute field and gave the engine full power to head straight out. In a moment we hit a high road lying just beneath the water. The rudder stuck fast in the sand, the engine died, and the current swung the launch to the side and tipped it up at an 80 degree angle. Maharaja and Mayesvara (the photographer) jumped off to level the boat, while the other men assisted in freeing the rudder from the sand. Once we were off the road, the current swept us south—back toward the jute field. Rasaparayana tried to start the engine, but it was damaged. We grabbed the bamboo poles and sunk them deep in the mud, forcing the boat into open waters. At last we anchored. For two hours afterwards we floated in the flood waters, chanting Hare Krishna softly on our beads while Rasaparayana repaired the engine.
By 12:00 we were heading east toward Mayapur. We swung around and approached the village on the south side. There were no trees, but we cut our way through the ruins of what had been a prosperous village. We turned on the Hare Krishna loudspeaker, and Maharaja announced our program to the men on the shore. Suddenly people began to emerge from every corner of what remained of the village. They came toward us like a tidal wave, surrounding the boat, begging for food. Small children stuck their bowls in the boat windows and older boys tried to climb on board. The shoreline was jammed with women and babies, and faces peered out from each hut. Maharaja called for the village leader while our men held the crowd away from the boat. How could six of us organize and feed such an uncontrolled mass? Finally we came up with a plan. The village leader called for the head of each family by name. Each received 2 kilos of rice. The names were recorded, and each man waited his turn as we distributed from the front of the boat.
The water level has dropped to about 10 feet in most areas. As the water recedes, our boat travel becomes more difficult. Every morning now we load three country boats with rice, lentils, wheat and fuel. One goes to Phukitala for the free kitchen. The others go to Balaudigi and Bamanpukar, two other settlements where the devotees run flood relief kitchens. They build a fire, cook 200 kilos of kichari, offer it to Krishna and distribute freely.
This morning the launch was loaded with a huge drum of cooked wheat and towed a country boat behind it with another 8 drums. We headed northeast toward the Muslim settlement of Needaya. When the course was too difficult for the launch, we anchored and went slowly through the trees and overgrowth on the country boat. By the time we got to the main settlement, 1000 people were gathered on the water's edge. Jayapataka Maharaja called for the village leaders and once again we distributed prasada from the boat. Afterwards we inspected the temporary huts, the sanitation arrangement, and the livestock facility. We talked with the leaders about the needs of the settlement, and the number of homeless people. When the water subsides we will begin village redevelopment.
This is the tenth day of the emergency food relief program. We have been working day and night. While some devotees cook, others load boats, and others remain in the village to staff the free kitchen. Supplies are coming daily from Calcutta, and donations are coming in from the West.
This morning a representative from CARE and newsmen from NBC, ABC, BBC and the local media came with us to the launch. We headed west to Indrakpur, a spread-out settlement of more than 3000 cowherds and their livestock. We anchored the launch at a distance from the village and tried to proceed in the wooden boat. The flood had subsided there and we moved slowly through the thick mud and water, struggling with the fallen trees and overgrowth. Several boys spotted us and came close. We sent them to call the people from all sides of the settlement because the boat could go no further. Soon they came—wading through the swampy fields with their children and their bowls. "Hare Krishna! Hare Rama!" they shouted as we distributed hundreds of kilos of wheat. With their help we pushed the boat back to deep water and then we returned to the temple.
The temple grounds are still flooded but most of the northern villages are dry. The free kitchens are running successfully, but our village-to-village emergency work can no longer be done by boat. Now we will change to jeep or buffalo cart. The roads and railways are destroyed. The stagnant floodwaters breed cholera, smallpox and typhoid. The homeless people lie on the bare ground, completely dependent on God and His servants. Their crops are destroyed, their livestock drowned.
Now we will turn our attention toward rebuilding the villages. First there must be houses, then there must be looms. The weavers will work in co-ops and the village men will join to reconstruct the residences and the places of worship. At last the land must be cleared and planted. With Lord Krsna's help, the devastated land of Bengal will again produce food for its people.
The Transcendental Pastimes of Lord Krsna
With the sudden disappearance of the cowherd boys and calves, Lord Krsna made sure no one—not even their parents—would know they were missing.
Fifty centuries ago Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, appeared on earth in the village of Vrndavana, in northern India, and displayed His transcendental pastimes as a cowherd boy.
One day Lord Krsna brought His friends to the Yamuna River and said, "Just see how this riverbank is extremely beautiful because of its pleasing atmosphere. And just see how the blooming lotuses are attracting bees and birds by their aroma. The humming and chirping of the bees and birds is echoing throughout the beautiful trees in the forest. Also, here the sands are clean and soft. Therefore, this must be considered the best place for our sporting and pastimes."
This description of Vrndavana forest was spoken by Krsna five thousand years ago, and the same sounds and atmosphere still prevail. Vrndavana forest is always filled with the chirping and cooing of birds like cuckoos, ducks, cranes, and peacocks, and everyone who visits there is pleased to hear these sounds.
Krsna then said, "I think we should take our lunch here, since we are already hungry because the time is very late. Here the calves may drink water and go slowly here and there and eat the grass."
Accepting Lord Krsna's proposal, the cowherd boys allowed the calves to drink water from the river and then tied them to trees where there was green, tender grass. Then the boys opened their baskets of food and began eating with Krsna in great transcendental pleasure.
Like the whorl of a lotus flower surrounded by petals and leaves, Krsna sat in the center, encircled by His friends, who all looked very beautiful. Every one of them was trying to look toward Krsna, thinking that Krsna might look toward him. In this way they all enjoyed their lunch in the forest. If we, too, can keep Krsna in the center, all our activities will automatically become beautiful and blissful.
Among the cowherd boys, some placed their lunch on flowers; some on leaves, fruits, or bunches of leaves, some actually in their baskets; some on the bark of trees; and some on rocks.
Sometimes one friend would say, "Krsna, see how relishable my food is," and Krsna would take some and laugh. In this way the friends very jubilantly began to eat.
Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is yajna-bhuk—that is, He eats only offerings of yajna (sacrifice)—but to exhibit His childhood pastimes, He now sat with His flute tucked between His waist and His tight cloth on His right side and with His horn bugle and cow-driving stick on His left. Holding in His hand a very nice preparation of yogurt and rice, with pieces of suitable fruit between His fingers, He sat like the whorl of a lotus flower, looking forward toward all His friends, personally joking with them, and creating jubilant laughter among them as He ate. The inhabitants of the higher planets were astonished at how the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who eats only when yajna is offered, was now eating like an ordinary child with His friends in the forest.
While the cowherd boys, who knew nothing within the core of their hearts but Krsna, were thus engaged in eating their lunch, the calves went far away, deep into the forest, being allured by green grass.
When Krsna saw that His friends the cowherd boys were frightened, He (the fierce controller of fear itself) said, just to mitigate their fear, "My dear friends, do not stop eating. I shall bring your calves back to this spot by personally going after them Myself."
In the presence of Krsna's friendship, a devotee cannot have any fear. Krsna is the supreme controller, the controller even of death, which is supposed to be the ultimate fear in this material world. Therefore, everyone should take shelter of the Supreme Person, who is the source of fearlessness, and thus be secure.
"Let Me go and search for the calves," Krsna said. "Don't disturb your enjoyment." Then, carrying His yogurt and rice in His hand, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, immediately went out to search for the calves. To please His friends, He began searching through all the mountains, mountain caves, bushes, and narrow passages.
The Vedas assert that the Supreme Personality of Godhead has nothing to do personally, because He is doing everything—creating, maintaining, and destroying millions of universes—through His energies and potencies. Nonetheless, here we see that He took personal care to find the calves of His friends. This was Krsna's causeless mercy.
All this time the great demigod Brahma, the appointed supervisor of this particular universe, had been watching Krsna. Brahma decided to show some of his own power and test the power of Krsna, who was engaged in His childhood pastimes. Therefore, in Krsna's absence Brahma took all the boys and calves to another place. Thus he became entangled, for in the very near future he would see how powerful Krsna was. Even the demigods cannot understand Krsna. Everyone, from Brahma down to the small insect, must take lessons from Krsna.
Thereafter, when Krsna was unable to find the calves, He returned to the bank of the river, but there He was also unable to see the cowherd boys. Krsna could immediately understand that Brahma had taken away both the calves and the boys, but as an innocent child He searched here and there, so that Brahma could not understand His mind. This was all a dramatic performance. A player knows everything, but still he plays on the stage in such a way that others do not understand him. Brahma was already bewildered by Krsna's activities as an innocent child, and now he would be further bewildered. This pastime is thus called brahma-vimohana, the bewilderment of Brahma.
Thereafter, just to create pleasure both for Brahma and for the mothers of the calves and cowherd boys, Krsna, the creator of the entire cosmic manifestation, expanded Himself as calves and boys. Thus Krsna reestablished the lunch pastimes in the forest, replacing all the calves and boys just as they had appeared before. According to the Vedas, the Personality of Godhead can become many, many millions upon millions of calves and cowherd boys, as He did to bewilder Brahma more and more.
At once Krsna expanded Himself into the exact number of missing cowherd boys and calves, with their exact bodily features, their particular types of hands, legs and other limbs, their sticks, bugles and flutes, their lunch bags, their particular types of dress and ornaments placed in various ways, their names, ages and forms, and their special activities and qualities. By expanding Himself in this way, beautiful Krsna proved the statement samagra jagat visnu-maya, "Lord Visnu is all-pervading."
Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is the beginning of everything. He is the ever-youthful original person. He can expand Himself in more forms than one can imagine, yet He does not fall down from His original form as Krsna. Krsna thus proved that He is everything, that He can become everything, but that still He is personally different from everything. This is explained by different Krsna conscious spiritual masters (acaryas). Therefore one must learn about Krsna from the acaryas. Acaryavan puruso veda: one who follows the path of the acaryas knows things as they are. Such a person can know Krsna as He is, at least to some extent, and as soon as one understands Krsna, one is liberated from material bondage.
Now expanding Himself so as to appear as all the calves and cowherd boys, all of them as they were, and at the same time appearing as their leader, Krsna entered the land of Vrndavana, just as He usually did. He was ordering His friends to do this and that, and He was controlling the calves and going into the forest to search for them when they went astray, allured by new grass. But these calves and boys were He Himself. This was Krsna's inconceivable potency.
Krsna, who had divided Himself as different calves and also as different cowherd boys, entered different cow sheds as the calves and then different homes as different boys. Krsna had many friends, of whom Sridama, Sudama, and Subala were prominent. Thus Krsna Himself became Sridama, Sudama, and Subala and entered their respective houses with their respective calves.
The mothers of the boys, upon hearing the sounds of the flutes and bugles being played by their sons, immediately rose from their household tasks, lifted their boys onto their laps, embraced them with both arms, and began to feed them with their breast milk, which flowed forth because of extreme love specifically for Krsna. Although the elderly cowherd women (gopis) knew that Krsna was the son of mother Yasoda, they still desired, "If Krsna had become my son, I would also have taken care of Him like mother Yasoda." This was their inner ambition. Now, in order to please them, Krsna personally took the role of their sons and fulfilled their desire. They enhanced their special love for Krsna by embracing Him and feeding Him, and Krsna tasted their breast milk to be just like a nectarean beverage. While thus bewildering Brahma, He enjoyed the special transcendental pleasure created between all the mothers and Himself. The mothers took care of the boys by massaging them with oil, bathing them, smearing their bodies with sandalwood pulp, decorating them with ornaments, chanting protective mantras, and giving them food. In this way, the mothers enjoyed serving Krsna personally.
Thereafter, all the cows entered their different sheds and began mooing loudly, calling for their respective calves. When the calves arrived, the mothers began licking the calves' bodies again and again and profusely feeding them with the milk flowing from their milk bags. All the dealings between the calves and their respective mothers taking care of them were enacted by Krsna Himself.
Although the inhabitants of Vrndavana, the cowherd men and cowherd women, previously had more affection for Krsna than for their own children, now, for one year, their affection for their own sons continuously increased, for Krsna had now become their sons. Every day they found new inspiration for loving their children as much as they loved Krsna. In this way Lord Sri Krsna, having Himself become the cowherd boys and groups of calves, maintained Himself by Himself. Thus He continued His pastimes, both in Vrndavana and in the forest, for one year.
One day, five or six nights before the completion of the year, Krsna, tending the calves, entered the forest along with His brother Balarama. Up to this time even Balarama was captivated by the bewilderment that covered Brahma. Even Balarama did not know that all the calves and cowherd boys were expansions of Krsna or that He Himself was also an expansion of Krsna.
While pasturing atop Govardhana Hill, the cows looked down to find some green grass and saw their calves pasturing near Vrndavana, not very far away. Generally, the calves and cows are pastured separately. The elderly men take care of the cows, and the small children see to the calves. This time, however, the cows immediately forgot their position as soon as they saw the calves below Govardhana Hill, and they ran with great force, their tails erect and their front and hind legs joined, until they reached their calves.
The cows had given birth to new calves, but while coming down from Govardhana Hill, the cows, because of increased affection for their older calves, allowed the older calves to drink milk from their milk bags and then began licking the calves' bodies in anxiety, as if wanting to swallow them.
The cowherd men, having been unable to check the cows from going to their older calves, felt simultaneously ashamed and angry. They crossed the rough road with great difficulty, but when they came down and saw their own sons, they were overwhelmed by great affection. Their anger completely disappearing, they lifted their sons and embraced them in their arms. Because the boys were actually Krsna's expansions, the cowherd men were especially attracted to them. Thereafter, the elderly cowherd men, having obtained great feeling from embracing their sons, gradually and with great difficulty and reluctance ceased embracing them and returned to the forest. But as the men remembered their sons, tears began to roll down from their eyes.
These surprising events were taking place by the manipulation of Krsna's spiritual energy, yogamaya. There are two mayas, or energies, working under the direction of Krsna—mahamaya, the energy of the material world, and yogamaya, the energy of the spiritual world. These uncommon events were taking place because of the influence of yogamaya. From the very day on which Brahma stole the calves and boys, yogamaya acted in such a way that the residents of Vrndavana, including even Lord Balarama, could not understand how yogamaya was working and causing such uncommon things to happen. But as yogamaya gradually acted, Balarama in particular was able to understand what was happening, and therefore He began to consider as follows.
"What is this wonderful phenomenon? The affection of all the inhabitants of Vraja, including Me, toward these boys and calves is now increasing as never before, just like our affection for Lord Krsna, the Supersoul of all living entities."
Balarama was astonished to see all the residents of Vrndavana so affectionate for their own children, exactly as they had been for Krsna. Similarly, the cows had grown affectionate for their calvesas much as for Krsna. Balarama was surprised to see the actions of yogamaya. Therefore He inquired from Krsna, "What is happening here? What is this mystery?"
Balarama was surprised. This extraordinary show of affection, He thought, was something mystical, performed either by the demigods or by some wonderful man. Otherwise, how could this wonderful change take place? "This maya might be some raksasi-maya [illusory energy of a demoness]," He thought, "but how can raksasi-maya have any influence upon Me? This is not possible. [Lord Balarama is as powerful as Lord Krsna.] Therefore it must be the maya of Krsna." Thus Balarama understood that all these boys and calves were only expansions of Krsna.
Thinking in this way, Lord Balarama was able to see, with the eye of transcendental knowledge, that all these calves and Krsna's friends were expansions of the form of Sri Krsna. In daily life we see that every individual is different. There are even differences between twin brothers. Yet when Krsna expanded Himself as the boys and calves, each boy and each calf appeared in his own original feature, with the same individual way of acting, the same tendencies, the same color, the same dress, and so on, for Krsna manifested Himself with all these differences. This was Krsna's opulence.
Inquiring from Krsna about the actual situation, Lord Balarama said, "My dear Krsna, in the beginning I thought that all these cows, calves, and cowherd boys were either great sages and saintly persons or demigods, but at the present it appears that they are actually Your expansions. They are all You; You Yourself are playing as the calves and cows and boys. What is the mystery of this situation? Where have those other calves and cows and boys gone? And why are You expanding Yourself as the cows, calves, and boys? Will You kindly tell Me what is the cause?"
At the request of Balarama, Krsna briefly explained the whole situation: how the calves and boys were stolen by Brahma and how He was concealing the incident by expanding Himself so that people would not know that the original cows, calves, and boys were missing. Balarama understood, therefore, that this was not maya but Krsna's opulence. Krsna has all opulences, and this was but another opulence of Krsna. According to the Vedic version, eko bahu syama: Krsna can expand Himself into many thousands and millions but still remain one.
To Be Continued Next Issue
[Adapted from the Tenth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, translation and commentary by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.]
Plastic Surgery: Facing the Facts
"Across the nation last week," Time noted recently, "surgery offices were under siege by callers who had seen the results of a notable example of cosmetic surgery, evident in before-and-after pictures of the former First Lady in the Sunday newspapers.... There is a growing national tendency to regard cosmetic surgery as a badge of sophistication rather than of vanity."
Yet we can't help being reminded of the words of Ecclesiastes: "Vanity of vanities. All is vanity." We are also struck that Americans are so willing to undergo great hardships for temporary, material happiness. A materialist may argue, "If a face-lift makes someone happy, then what's the objection?" Here's the objection—no one can find real happiness in a face-lift.
Both the materialist and the Krsna devotee claim that their goal is happiness. But they disagree totally on how to obtain it. For the devotee, face-lifting is an utter waste of time. "But," the materialist points out, "it works!" "The woman looks absolutely spectacular!" said newsmen who saw Betty Ford after her operation. Yet they admitted, "If all goes well, the face-lift will last from four to eight years." That means her "absolutely spectacular" face is an illusion. The wrinkles will reappear; the chin and neck will sag again. Time waits for no plastic surgeon. Before-and-after photos may convince fools to get face-lifts, but it's only sleight of hand, an illusion.
Besides, even normal, nonsurgically-simulated youth is temporary, another deception. Does youth really give people happiness? It doesn't seem so. Happiness lies much deeper than skin-deep. It means much more than becoming "youth-oriented." In fact, people who run after temporary solutions are indirectly admitting that material life is not a natural state of happiness. But if they can just hold off this ever-present feeling of frustration, at least momentarily-either by surgery or by drugs, alcohol, music, clothes, travel, anything—then they look upon this temporary holding action as happiness.
So? Where is the proof that happiness has ever been anything but temporary? That proof is available for whoever will sincerely inquire. Since time immemorial, whoever has taken the authorized path of self-realization has found the bliss that the spirit soul enjoys in relation to Krsna. Unfortunately, though, many people never take up the path of self-realization; without any serious examination, they discount the importance of the soul.
The reason people don't inquire into spiritual life is that they have already taken a vow to pursue the path of material sense gratification. Thousands of years ago the great devotee Prahlada Maharaja analyzed the situation: "Because of their uncontrolled senses, persons too addicted to materialistic life make progress toward hellish conditions and repeatedly chew that which has already been chewed. Their inclinations toward Krsna are never aroused, either by the instructions of others, by their own efforts, or by a combination of both." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.5.30)
Although champions of cosmetic surgery would like to ignore the laws of nature and the Supreme, they have inadvertently reached some of the same conclusions. For example, Lord Krsna declares, "As a person puts on new garmets, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones." (Bhagavad-gita 2.22) And there is a similar meaning in Betty Ford's statement, "I'm sixty years old and I wanted a nice new face to go with my beautiful new life." Both Lord Krsna and Betty Ford understand that although the body is changing, the self remains the same. The assumption in plastic surgery is that the body should be treated just like clothing: if your clothing wears out, there's nothing wrong with replacing it. But the surgeons don't have the knowledge or power to bring their clients any lasting bodily improvement.
As Krsna goes on to explain, not just the face but the entire body will be lifted at the time of death, by a delicate operation which is ultimately in His hands. "As the embodied soul continually passes in this body from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change." (Bg. 2.13) Those who are flocking to the surgeons seem to have some small awareness that their real self is different from their body. They seem to know that however they may change their face, their inner identity will remain. But precisely because cosmetic surgery is no more than a superficial meddling, it brings no real happiness to the permanent inner self. A prominent plastic surgeon, Dr. Lawrence Robbins, has admitted, "We can't change what they are."
At the time of death, karma—nature's reactions to the actions we perform in this body—will carry the inner self to another body. This is transmigration, the ultimate face-lift. And just as the plastic surgeons admit "some faces are changed for the worse," so by nature's way if we misuse our present body, our next one may be a change for the worse. We all want to be happy and youthful, but if we go counter to the codes of God, especially by neglecting self-realization and committing sinful acts, then the law of karma will force us to take our next body in a lower species.
A plastic surgeon named Dr. Peter McKinney partially recognized this fact when he warned that face-lifting has its risks: "If you buy a bum toaster, you can take it back. You can't take your face back." He might have added that if you waste your human body (with its refined facial features), in your next life you may have to make do with the face of a dog or a mouse, with no chance of going to the plastic surgeon. A person who has gotten himself into an animal body has to live millions of lives in lower species, until he can fully evolve again to the human form of life. So the human form of life is not meant to be wasted in vanities. It has a relatively short duration, and it's intended for developing self-realization, culminating in love of God. If someone fails to achieve love of God in his human lifetime, this is the greatest tragedy.
Behind the fad of face-lifting is the inner desire to be permanently happy and youthful. This is the soul's constitutional nature, and it's quite normal for us to want these things, but people are going about it in the wrong way. We have to investigate how we can revive our spiritual knowledge. The Krsna conscious process of chanting the holy names of God (the Hare Krsna maha-mantra) involves no loss or risk. Saintly persons and scriptures have recommended this treatment for thousands of years. By chanting the names of God we can purify our hearts and attain to the eternally youthful and blissful spiritual existence.—SDG