A lecture by
bandhur atmatmanas tasya yenatmaivatmana jitah
"For him who has conquered his mind, it is the best of friends. But for one who has failed to do so, his very mind will be the greatest enemy." (Bhagavad-gita 6.6)
The whole purpose of the yoga system is to make the mind our friend. The mind in material contact is our enemy, just like the mind of a person in a drunken condition. In Caitanya caritamrta [Madhya 20.117], it is said, krsna bhuli' sei jiva anadi-bahirmukha ataeva maya tare deya samsara-duhkha. "Forgetting Krsna, the living entity has been attracted by the Lord's external feature from time immemorial. Therefore, the illusory energy [maya] gives him all kinds of misery in his material existence." I am a spiritual soul, part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, but as soon as my mind is contaminated I rebel, because I have a little independence. "Why shall I serve Krsna, or God? I am God." When this idea is dictated from the mind, my whole situation turns. I come under a false impression, an illusion, and my whole life is spoiled. So, we are trying to conquer so many things-empires, and so on-but if we fail to conquer our minds, then even if we conquer an empire we are failures. Our very mind will be our greatest enemy.
The purpose of practicing eightfold yoga is to control the mind in order to make it a friend in discharging the human mission. Unless the mind is controlled, the practice of yoga is simply a waste of time; it is simply for show. One who cannot control his mind lives always with the greatest enemy, and thus his life and its mission are spoiled. The constitutional position of the living entity is to carry out the order of the superior. As long as one's mind remains an unconquered enemy, one has to serve the dictations of lust, anger, avarice, illusion, and so on. But when the mind is conquered, one voluntarily agrees to abide by the dictation of the Personality of Godhead, who is situated within the heart of everyone as the Supersoul (Paramatma). Real yoga practice entails meeting the Paramatma within the heart and then following His dictation. For one who takes to Krsna consciousness directly, perfect surrender to the dictation of the Lord follows automatically.
"For one who has conquered the mind, the Supersoul is already reached, for he has attained tranquility. To such a man happiness and distress, heat and cold, honor and dishonor are all the same." [Bg. 6.7]
Actually, every living entity is intended to abide by the dictation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is seated in everyone's heart as Paramatma. When the mind is misled by the external energy, one becomes entangled in material activities. Therefore, as soon as one's mind is controlled through one of the yoga systems, one is to be considered as having already reached the destination. One has to abide by superior dictation. When one's mind is fixed on the superior nature, he has no other alternative but to follow the dictation of the Supreme. The mind must admit some superior dictation and follow it. The effect of controlling the mind is that one automatically follows the dictation of the Paramatma, or Supersoul. Because this transcendental position is at once achieved by one who is in Krsna consciousness, the devotee of the Lord is unaffected by the dualities of material existence like distress and happiness, cold and heat, and so on. This state is practical samadhi, or absorption in the Supreme.
"A person is said to be established in self-realization and is called a yogi, or mystic, when he is fully satisfied by virtue of acquired knowledge and realization. Such a person is situated in transcendence and is self-controlled. He sees everything—whether it be pebbles, stones, or gold—as the same." [Bg. 6.8]
Book knowledge without realization of the Supreme Truth is useless. In the Padma Purana this is stated as follows:
"No one can understand the transcendental nature of the name, form, qualities, and pastimes of Sri Krsna through his materially contaminated senses. Only when one becomes spiritually saturated by transcendental service to the Lord are the transcendental name, form, quality, and pastimes of the Lord revealed to him."
This is very important. Now, we accept Krsna as the Supreme Lord. And why do we accept that Krsna is the Supreme Lord? Because it is stated in the Vedic literature. The Brahma-samhita for example, says, isvarah paramah krsnah sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah: "The supreme controller is Krsna, who has an eternal, blissful, spiritual body." Those who are in the modes of passion and ignorance simply imagine the form of God. And when they are confused, they say, "Oh, there is no personal God. The Absolute is impersonal or void." This is frustration.
Actually, God has a form. Why not? The Vedanta-sutra says, janmady asya yatah: "The Supreme Absolute Truth is that from whom or from which everything emanates." Now, we have forms. And not only we but all the different kinds of living entities have forms. Wherefrom have they come? Wherefrom have these forms originated? These are very common-sense questions. If God is not a person, then how have His sons becomes persons? If my father is not a person, how have I become a person? If my father has no form, wherefrom did I get my form? Nonetheless, when people are frustrated, when they see that their bodily form is troublesome, they develop an opposite conception of form and imagine that God must be formless. But the Brahma-samhita says no. God has a form, but His form is eternal, full of knowledge and bliss (isvarah paramah krsnah sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah). Sat means "eternity," cit means "knowledge," and ananda means "pleasure." So God has a form, but His form is full of pleasure, full of knowledge, and eternal.
Now, let's compare our body to God's. Our body is neither eternal nor full of pleasure nor full of knowledge. So our form is clearly different from God's. But as soon as we think of form, we think the form must be like ours. Therefore, we think that since God must be the opposite of us, He must have no form. This is speculation, however, not knowledge. As it is said in the Padma Purana, atah sri-krsna-namadi na bhaved grahyam indriyaih: "One cannot understand the form, name, quality, or paraphernalia of God with one's material senses." Our senses are imperfect, so how can we speculate on the Supreme Perfect? It is not possible.
Then how is it possible to see Him? Sevonmukhe hi jihvadau: if we train our senses, if we purify our senses, those purified senses will help us see God. It is just as if we had cataracts on our eyes. Because our eyes are suffering from cataracts, we cannot see. But this does not mean that there is nothing to be seen-only that we cannot see. Similarly, now we cannot conceive of the form of God, but if our cataracts are removed, we can see Him. The Brahma-samhita says, premanjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanenanena santah sadaiva hrdayesu vilokayanti: "The devotees whose eyes are anointed with the love-of-God ointment see God, Krsna within their hearts twenty-four hours a day." So, we require to purify our senses. Then we'll be able to understand what the form of God is, what the name of God is, what the qualities of God are, and what the paraphernalia of God is, and we'll be able to see God in everything.
The Vedic literatures are full of references to God's form. For example, it is said that God has no hands or legs, but that He can accept anything you offer: apani-pado javano grhita. Also, it is said that God has no eyes or ears, but that He can see everything and hear everything. So, these are apparent contradictions, because whenever we think of someone seeing, we think he must have eyes like ours. This is our material conception. Factually, however, God does have eyes, but His eyes are different from ours. He can see even in the darkness, but we cannot. God can hear, also. God is in His kingdom, which is millions and millions of miles away, but if we are whispering something—conspiracy—He can hear it, because He is sitting within us.
So, we cannot avoid God's seeing or God's hearing or God's touching. In the Bhagavad-gita [9.26] Lord Krsna says,
patram puspam phalam toyam
"If somebody offers Me flowers, fruits, vegetables, or milk with devotional love, I accept and eat it." Now, how is He eating? We cannot see Him eat, but He is eating. We experience this daily: when we offer Krsna food according to the ritualistic process, we see that the taste of the food changes immediately. This is practical. So God eats, but because He is full in Himself, He does not eat like us. If someone offers me a plate of food, I may finish it, but God is not hungry, so when He eats He leaves the things as they are. Purnasya purnam adaya purnam evavasisyate: God is so full that He can eat all the food that we offer and still it remains as it is. He can eat with His eyes. This is stated in the Brahma-samhita. Angani yasya sakalendriya-vrttimanti: "Every limb of the body of God has all the potencies of the other limbs." For example, we can see with our eyes, but we cannot eat with our eyes. But if God, simply sees the food we have offered, that is His eating.
Of course, these things cannot be understood by us at the present moment. Therefore, the Padma Purana says that only when one becomes spiritually saturated by transcendental service to the Lord are the transcendental name, form, qualities, and pastimes of the Lord revealed to him. We cannot understand God by our own endeavor, but God can reveal Himself to us. Trying to see God by our own efforts is just like trying to see the sun when it is dark outside. If we say, "Oh, I have a very strong flashlight, and I shall search out the sun," we will not be able to see it. But in the morning, when the sun rises out of its own will, we can see it. Similarly, we cannot see God by our own endeavor, because our senses are all imperfect. We have to purify our senses and wait for the time when God will be pleased to reveal Himself before us. This is the process of Krsna consciousness. We cannot challenge, "Oh, my dear God, my dear Krsna, You must come before me. I shall see You." No, God is not our order supplier, our servant. When He is pleased with us, we'll see Him.
So, our yoga process tries to please God, so that He will be revealed to us. That is the real yoga process. Without this process, people are accepting so many nonsensical "Gods." Because people cannot see God, anybody who says "I am God" is accepted. No one knows who God is. Somebody may say, "I am searching after truth," but he must know what truth is. Otherwise, how will he search out truth? Suppose I want to purchase gold? I must know what gold is, or at least have some experience of it. Otherwise, people will cheat me. So, people are being cheated—accepting so many rascals as God—because they do not know what God is. Anyone can come and say, "I am God," and some rascal will accept him as God. The man who says "I am God" is a rascal, and the man who accepts him as God is also a rascal. God cannot be known like this. One has to qualify himself to see God, to understand God. That is Krsna consciousness. Sevonmukhe hi jihvadau svayam eva sphuraty adah: if we engage ourselves in the service of the Lord, then we'll become qualified to see God. Otherwise, it is not possible.
Now, this Bhagavad-gita is the science of Krsna consciousness. No one can become Krsna conscious simply by mundane scholarship. Simply because one has some titles—M.A., B.A., Ph.D.—that does not mean he'll understand the Bhagavad-gita. This is a transcendental science, and one requires different senses to understand it. So one has to purify his senses by rendering service to the Lord. Otherwise, even if one is a great scholar-a doctor or a Ph.D.—he will make mistakes in trying to find out what Krsna is. He will not understand—it is not possible. This is why Krsna appears in the material world as He is. Although He is unborn (ajo 'pi sann avyayatma), He comes to make us know who God is. But since He is not personally present now, to know Him one must be fortunate enough to associate with a person who is in pure Krsna consciousness. A Krsna conscious person has realized knowledge, by the grace of Krsna, because He is satisfied with pure devotional service. So we have to acquire the grace of Krsna. Then we can understand Krsna, then we can see Krsna, then we can talk with Krsna-then we can do everything.
Krsna is a person. He is the supreme person. That is the Vedic injunction: nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam—"We are all eternal persons, and God is the supreme eternal person." Now, being encaged within this body, we are meeting birth and death. But actually, we have no birth and death at all, because we are eternal spiritual souls. According to our work, according to our desire, we are transmigrating from one kind of body to another, another, and another. Yet actually, we have no birth and death. As explained in the Bhagavad-gita [2.20], na jayate mriyate va: "The living entity never takes birth, nor does he ever die." Similarly, God is also eternal. Nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam: "God is the supreme living entity among all living entities, and He is the supreme eternal person among eternal persons." So, by practicing Krsna consciousness, by purifying our senses, we can reestablish our eternal relationship with the supreme eternal person, the complete eternal person. Then we will see God.
Through realized knowledge, one becomes perfect. Through transcendental knowledge one can remain steady in his convictions, but with mere academic knowledge one can be easily deluded and confused by apparent contradictions. It is the realized soul who is actually self-controlled, because he is surrendered to Krsna. And he is transcendental, because he has nothing to do with mundane scholarship. For him, mundane scholarship and mental speculation (which may be as good as gold to others) are of no greater value than pebbles or stones.
Even if one is illiterate, even if he does not know the ABC's, he can realize God—provided he engages himself in submissive, transcendental loving service to God. On the other hand, although one is a very learned scholar, he may not be able to realize God. God is not subject to any material condition, because He is the Supreme Spirit. Similarly, the process of realizing God is also not subject to any material condition. It is not true that because one is a poor man, he cannot realize God, or because one is a very rich man, he shall realize God. No. God is beyond our material conditions (apratihata). In the Srimad- Bhagavatam [1.2.6] it is said, sa vai pumsam paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhoksaje: "That religion is first-class which helps one advance his devotional service and love of God."
The Bhagavatam does not mention that the Hindu religion is first-class or the Christian religion is first-class or the Muhammadan religion is first-class or some other religion is first-class. The Bhagavatam says that that religion is first-class which helps one advance his devotional service and love of God. That's all. This is the definition of a first-class religion. We do not analyze that one religion is first-class or that another religion is last-class. Of course, there are three qualities in the material world (goodness, passion, and ignorance), and religious conceptions are created according to these qualities. But the purpose of religion is to understand God, and to learn how to love God. Any religious system, if it teaches one how to love God, is first-class. Otherwise, it is useless. One may prosecute his religious principles very rigidly and very nicely, but if his love of God is nil, if his love of matter is simply enhanced, then his religion is no religion.
In the same verse, the Bhagavatam says that real religion must be ahaituki and apratihata: without selfish motivation and without any impediment. If we can practice such a system of religious principles, then we'll find that we are happy in all respects. Otherwise there is no possibility of happiness. Sa vai pumsam paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhoksaje. One of God's names is Adhoksaja. Adhoksaja means "one who conquers all materialistic attempts to be seen." Aksaja means "direct perception by experimental knowledge," and adhah means "unreachable." So, we cannot understand God by experimental knowledge. No. We have to learn of Him in a different way—by submissive aural reception of transcendental sound and by the rendering of transcendental loving service. Then we can understand God.
So, a religious principle is perfect if it teaches us how to develop our love for the Godhead. But our love must be without selfish motive. If I say, "I love God because He supplies me very nice things for my sense gratification," that is not love. Real love is without any selfish motive (ahaituki) . We must simply think, "God is great; God is my father. It is my duty to love Him." That's all. No exchange—"Oh, God gives me my daily bread; therefore I love God." No. God gives daily bread even to the animal—the cats and dogs. God is the father of everyone, and He supplies food to everyone. So, appreciating God because He gives me bread-that is not love. Love is without motive. I must think, "Even if God does not supply me daily bread, I'll love Him." This is real love. As Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, aslisya va pada-ratam pinastu mam adarsanan marma-hatam karotu va: "O Lord, You may embrace me, or You may trample me down with Your feet. Or You may never come before me, so that I become brokenhearted without seeing You. Still, I love You." This is pure love of God. When we come to this stage of loving God, then we'll find ourselves full of pleasure. Just as God is full of pleasure, we'll also be full of pleasure. This is perfection.
Scientific Views/ The Bhaktivedanta Institute
by Richard L. Thompson, Ph.D.
Dr. Richard L. Thompson studied at the State University of New York and Syracuse University and later received a National Science Fellowship. He went on to complete his Ph.D. in mathematics at Cornell, specializing in probability theory and statistical mechanics. His dissertation "Equilibrium States on Thin Energy Shells"—has been published as memoir number 150 of the American Mathematical Society. Dr. Thompson is a disciple of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and a charter member of the Bhaktivedanta Institute.
One of the most fundamental ideas in modern evolutionary biology is that the physical structures of living organisms can transform from one into another through a series of small modifications, without departing from the realm of potentially useful forms. For example, the foreleg of a lizard can, according to this principle, gradually transform into the wing of a bird, and the lizard's scales can gradually convert into feathers. In the course of these transformations, each successive stage must serve a useful function for the organism in some possible environment. Thus each intermediate form between leg and wing must be able to act as a serviceable limb under some appropriate circumstances.
Darwin's theory is based on the hypothesis that, without exception, all the organisms in the world today came about by transformations of this kind, starting with some primitive ancestral form. If such transformations are always possible, then the problem of evolutionary theory is to determine what events in nature might cause them to take place. However, if there exist any significant structures in living organisms that cannot have developed in this way, then for these structures, at least, the hypothesis of evolution is ruled out, and some other explanation of their origin must be sought. Charles Darwin, the founder of the modern theory of evolution, clearly recognized this point: "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down." ** (Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1898), p. 229.)
Although Darwin admitted he could not imagine the intermediate, transitional forms leading to many different organs, he assumed that they might later be revealed by a deeper understanding of the organs' structure and function, and he proceeded to base his theory on their presumed existence. However, in the nearly 120 years since the publication of his On the Origin of Species, practically no significant advance has been made in the understanding of intermediate forms. While evolutionists often speak of changes in the size and shape of existing organs, they still can do very little but make vague suggestions about the origin of the organs themselves.
The geneticist Richard Goldschmidt once gave a list of seventeen organs and systems of organs for which he could not even conceive of the required transitional forms. These included hair in mammals, feathers in birds, the segmented structure of vertebrates, teeth, the external skeletons and compound eyes of insects, blood circulation, and the organs of balance. ** (Richard Goldschmidt,The Material Basis of Evolution (New Haven: Yale Urtiv. Press, 1940), pp. 6-7.) These organs, and many others, present a fundamental question: How can we explain the origin of a complex system depending on the action of many interdependent parts?
We would like to suggest here that for many organs, the reason why the required chains of useful intermediate forms are unimaginable is simply that they do not exist. Let us try to visualize this in mathematical terms. The class of all possible forms made from organic chemicals can be thought of as a multidimensional space in which each point corresponds to a particular form. We propose that in this space the potentially useful structures will appear as isolated islands surrounded by a, vast ocean of disjointed forms that could not be useful in any circumstances. Within these islands some freedom of movement will exist, corresponding to simple variations in characteristics such as size and shape. But going from island to island-that is, evolving from one particular type of useful organ to another-will require a long and accurate jump across the ocean.
Leaping the Gap
Figure 1 on the previous page depicts these ideas by a mechanical example. Here we consider the space of all possible combinations of mechanical parts, such as shafts, levers, and gears. These mechanical parts are comparable to the molecules making up the organs in the bodies of living beings. Since mechanical parts and molecules alike fit together in very limited and specific ways, a study of mechanical combinations should throw some light on the nature of organic forms.
If we visualize the space of mechanical forms, we can see that some regions in this space will correspond to wristwatches and other familiar devices, and some regions will correspond to machines that are unfamiliar, but that might function usefully in some situation. However, the space will consist mostly of combinations of parts that are useful as paperweights at best.
Since a machine can operate smoothly only if many variables are simultaneously adjusted within precise limits, the useful machines will occupy isolated islands, surrounded by an ocean of machines that are either jammed or broken. If we started from a point on the shore representing a very rudimentary machine, or no machine at all, then we would have to leap over this vast ocean in order to reach, say, a functional wristwatch. As we were making this leap, we could not obtain any guidance by testing the relative usefulness of the forms beneath, for all of them would be equally useless.
Since the bodies of living organisms are built of molecular components and are very complicated, they are not nearly as easy to visualize as the machines in our illustration. However, there are examples of organs that are simple enough to be comparable to man-made mechanisms. One such example is found in the one-celled bacterium Escherichia coli.
Each Escherichia coli cell possesses several long, curved fibers (called flagella) that enable it to swim. ** (Howard C. Berg, "How Bacteria Swim," Scientific American (Vol. 233, No. 2, 1975), pp. 36-44.) Each flagellum is connected at one end to a kind of motor built into the bacterial cell wall, and when these motors rotate in a certain direction, the flagella rotate in unison and act as propellers to drive the bacterium forward through the water. When the motors rotate in the opposite direction, the flagella separate and change the orientation of the bacterium by pulling in various ways. By systematically alternating between these two modes of operation, the bacterium is able to swim from undesirable to desirable regions of its environment.
The motors are presently thought to be driven by a flux of protons flowing into the cell. Each motor is thought to consist of a ring of sixteen protein molecules attached to an axle, along with a stationary ring of sixteen proteins built into the cell wall. ** (Peter C. Hinkel and Richard E. McCarty, "How Cells Make ATP," Scientific American (Vol. 238, No. 3, 1978), p. 116.) Protons are steadily pumped out of the cell by its normal metabolic processes. As some of these protons flow back into the cell through the pairs of rings, they impart a rotary motion to the movable ring. Since the motor can operate in forward or reverse, there must be some mechanism that adjusts the molecules in the rings so as to reverse the direction of rotation.
Although the exact details of the Escherichia coli's molecular motors have not been worked out, we can see that they depend on the precise and simultaneous adjustment of many variables. In the space of possible molecular structures, the functional motors will I represent a tiny, isolated island.
To have a continuum of useful forms spanning the gap between "no motor" and "motor," we would have to postulate useful organs that do not function as motors but are very similar to motors in structure. For the selective processes of evolutionary theory to eventually choose a working motor, these non-motors would have to be progressively more useful to the bacterium the more motorlike they became. Apart from this very unlikely possibility, evolutionists can suggest no guiding process that can cross the gap.
In the case of very simple organs, such as the bacterial motor, it should be possible to carry out a completely rigorous study of the possibilities of form. Such a study would definitely resolve the question of whether the intermediate forms required by the theory of evolution do or do not exist. Of course, for the highly complicated organs of higher plants and animals, this kind of study may not be practical, but there are still many cases where the combinatorial logic of an organ strongly suggests the impossibility of useful intermediate forms.
One interesting example of this impossibility is found in the statocyst of a certain species of shrimp. ** (W. von Buddenbrock, The Senses (Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press, 1958), pp. 138-141.) The statocyst is a hollow, fluid-filled sphere built into the shrimp's shell. It is lined with cells bearing pressure-sensitive hairs and contains a small weight. The weight tends to sink and press against the downward portion of the sphere, thus enabling the shrimp to tell up from down. Curiously, the weight is a small grain of sand that the shrimp picks up with its claws and inserts into the statocyst through a small hole in its shell. The shrimp has to do this every time it moults its shell.
Now, the question is this: By what intermediate stages did the arrangement of the shrimp's statocyst come about? Both the statocyst and the behavioral pattern involved in picking up the grain of sand are quite complex, and neither is of any use without the other. Even if a statocyst evolved with a built-in weight and then lost this feature by a mutation, the appearance of the insertion behavior would require a leap involving the coordination of many variables.
A Personal Avenue of Approach
At this point, let us try to find an alternative explanation of how such a leap might come about. One natural process in which such leaps are commonly seen is the process of human invention. The products of human creativity, from watches to poetic compositions, are generated with the aid of spontaneous insight, which sometimes enables one to
proceed directly to the solution of a problem without groping laboriously through many false attempts. In fact, it is often the case that after experiencing great frustration in a totally futile trial-and-error search, an inventor will see the complete solution to his problem in a sudden flash. One example of this is the experience of the mathematician Carl Gauss in solving a problem that had thwarted his efforts for years: "Like a sudden flash of lightning," he wrote, "the riddle happened to be solved. I myself cannot say what ... connected what I previously knew with what made my success possible." ** (Jacques Hadamard, The Psychology of invention in the Mathematical Field (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1949), p. 15.) It is significant that the solution did not exhibit even a hint of a connection with Gauss's previous attempts. Here again we find a structure-this time a structure of abstract thought-that is not linked by any discernible chain of intermediate, forms to other, existing structures.
If it is the nature of biological form and the forms of human invention to exist as isolated islands in the sea of possible forms, then some causal agency must exist that can select such forms directly. The experience of inventors indicates that this agency lies outside the realm of human consciousness or control, and that it is capable of acting very quickly.
In Bhagavad-gita a unified description is given of an agency that accounts for the origin of both biological form and human creativity. There it is explained that the ultimate cause underlying the world of our perceptions is not a blind, impersonal process, but a primordial, absolute personality—a personality possessing eternal form, qualities, and activities. Thus in Bhagavad-gita Sri Krsna affirms, "I am the father of all living entities" (Bg. 14.4) and also "I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge, and forgetfulness" (Bg. 15.15).
Of course, even though the nonexistence of intermediate biological forms implies some kind of absolute information or guidance that transcends the categories of ordinary science, this is not sufficient in itself to bring us to the conclusion that the transcendental source must be the Supreme Person. However, this hypothesis opens up very interesting opportunities for further scientific investigation. If the information for the manifestations of form and order in this world is existing in a transcendental state, then this information might be directly accessible in some way. And if the transcendental source is indeed the Supreme Person, as described in the Bhagavad-gita, then it is reasonable to expect that a personal avenue of approach is possible.
In fact, such an avenue does exist. It consists of an elaborate scientific method for establishing a personal relationship with the Supreme. This method, called bhakti-yoga, is quite similar to modern science, in that it depends on clearly specified procedures leading to reproducible results. It is experimentally verifiable, for it is based on direct personal experience attainable by anyone who carries out the procedures correctly.
On the other hand, bhakti-yoga differs from modern science in its method of acquiring basic information. In modern science the hypotheses to be tested, as well as the methods for testing them, are obtained in a haphazard way from the poorly understood sources of "inspiration" or "creative imagination." In the science of bhakti-yoga, experimental procedures and philosophical principles are both explicitly obtained from the Supreme Person. In other words, although the source of knowledge in both modern science and bhakti-yoga is the Supreme Person, in bhakti-yoga this is fully recognized, and thus there is direct access to the transcendental knowledge available from this source. A good example of this direct access is Bhagavad-gita itself, which, far from being a product of gradual cultural evolution, was directly spoken by Sri Krsna some five thousand years ago at Kuruksetra, in India.
It would be worthwhile for scientists to consider this direct method of attaining knowledge. Even though history has shown that "revealed knowledge" may become corrupted, the basic principle is still valid, and fruitful scientific investigation in this area should be possible. The value of seeking such a rigorous approach is especially apparent if, as we have seen, there is reason to suppose that organized form in both the biological and cultural spheres must originate from a transcendental source.
The Biography of a Pure Devotee
by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami
On arriving in New York, Srila Prabhupada had nowhere to stay but the asrama of an impersonalist svami. To see students submissively listening to a speaker who denied the Personality of Godhead was painful for the pure devotee. But was he to go homeless and beg in the streets? A holy man might have been able to do that in India, but not in Manhattan.
Srila Prabhupada knew no one in New York City, but at least he had a contact. In India he had met a publisher of religious books, Paramananda Mehra of Bombay, who had, written a note introducing him to a guru based in New York City, Dr. Rammurti Misra, While still in Butler, Pennsylvania, Srila Prabhupada had sent Mr. Mehra's note and one of his own to Dr. Misra. He had also phoned Dr. Misra, who had told him he was welcome to come join him in New York.
A student of Dr. Misra's met Srila Prabhupada on his arrival, from Butler and brought him directly to an Indian festival in the city. There he was introduced to Dr. Misra, as well as to Ravi Shankar and his brother, the dancer Uddhar Shankar. Srila Prabhupada then accompanied Dr. Misra to his apartment at 33 Riverside Drive, beside the Hudson River, The apartment was on the fourteenth floor and had large windows facing the river. Dr. Misra gave Srila Prabhupada a room to himself,
Dr. Misra was perhaps the first Hindu svami Srila Prabhupada met in America. Like Srila Prabhupada, he wore the traditional saffron dhoti At forty-four, he was young enough to be Prabhupada's son. His complexion was darker than Prabhupada's, and his black hair hung down to his shoulders. He was a dramatic, showy personality, given to flashing glances and frequent gestures with his hands and he regularly used words like "lovely" and "beautiful." Presenting an artfully polished image of what a guru should be, he was what some New Yorkers in the 1960's referred to as "an uptown swami." Before coming to America, Dr. Misra had been a Sanskrit scholar and guru, as well as a doctor. He had written a number of books, such as The Textbook of Yoga Psychology and Self-Analysis and Self-Knowledge, a work based on the teachings of the monistic philosopher Sankara. When he came to the United States, he continued to practice neurology, psychology, and acupuncture, but after he began to take on disciples, he gradually dropped his medical practice.
When Srila Prabhupada came into his life, Dr. Misra had been suffering from bad health. Srila Prabhupada seemed the perfect medicine. "His Holiness Prabhupada Bhaktivedanta Gosvamiji really knocked me down with love," Dr. Misra says. '"He was really an incarnation of love: My body had become a skeleton, and he really brought me back to life. His cooking, and especially his love and devotion to Lord Krsna. I was very lazy in the matter of cooking, but he would get up and have ready."
Dr. Misra liked the fact that Prabhupada, cooking with the precision of a chemist, would prepare many dishes, and that he had a gusto for eating. "It was not bread he gave me," Dr. Misra remembers. "He gave me prasada (the mercy of Krsna]. This was life, and he saved my life. At that time I was not sure I would live, but his to eat on time, whether I was hungry or-not—that I very much liked, He'd get up and say, 'All right, this is bhagavat-prasada [the mercy of the Supreme Lord],' and I would say, 'All right.'
Joan Suval, an old student of Dr. Misra's, remembers seeing Srila Prabhupada and her teacher together at the Riverside Drive apartment.
I have a memory of Svamiji as a "child" in the sense of his being very innocent, a very simple person, very pure. The impression I have from Dr. Misra is that he (Dr. Misra) regarded him as a father figure who was kindly and good. But basically the words most often used referring to Svamiji were "like a child," meaning that he was simple in a classical, beautiful sense. Dr. Misra mentioned to me when I was first introduced to Svamiji that he was a very holy man, very religious, rapt in God consciousness.
Svamiji was very sweet, I myself remember him as a very, very good man, even in the practical details of living in New York, which involved him very much because he was a practical man and was looking for the best place to begin his work. I remember very well that he was very careful about washing his clothes out every night. I would come in and find a group of students in the living area of Dr. Misra's apartment, but in the bathroom were hung Svamiji's orange robes, which he carefully prepared every night.
When Dr. Misra asked Srila Prabhupada about the aim of his visit to America, Srila Prabhupada expressed his spiritual master's vision of preaching Krsna consciousness in the West, and he requested Dr. Misra to help him. But Dr. Misra replied that he was very busy with his own teaching and that in fact he was planning to leave the country. After a few weeks, when it became inconvenient for Dr. Misra to maintain Srila Prabhupada at the apartment, he shifted Srila Prabhupada to his hatha yoga studio on the fifth floor at 100 West Seventy-second Street, near Columbus Avenue. Located in the center of the building, with no windows, this large studio included an office and an adjoining private room, which is where Srila Prabhupada stayed.
Philosophically, Dr. Misra was at complete odds with Srila Prabhupada. According to the Vedic literatures, the Absolute Truth is known in three aspects—as the impersonal Brahman, as the Paramatma (the form of the Lord seen in the heart by mystic yogis), and as Sri Bhagavan (the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna). As a devotee of Lord Krsna, Prabhupada accepted the Bhagavad-gita's statement that Bhagavan is the highest aspect of the Absolute Truth. The Gita (14.27) declares that the impersonal, all-pervading Brahman is subordinate to Bhagavan and is an emanation from Him, just as the sunshine is an emanation from the sun.
That the realization of Bhagavan is the supreme conclusion of the Vedas is accepted by all the leading acaryas (saintly teachers) of ancient India, such as Ramanuja and Madhva, and Srila Prabhupada was coming in disciplic succession from them. Dr. Misra, on the other hand, followed Sankara, who taught that the impersonal presence of the Absolute Truth is the all in all and that the Personality of Godhead is ultimately an illusion. According to this view, the spiritual self (atma) is not individual. Rather, each person is identical with God, the Supreme Brahman, and there is no need of worshiping the Supreme Lord, as do bhakti-yogis. In other words, as Dr. Misra would put it, "Everything is one."
Srila Prabhupada, however, challenged this idea. "If each of us is actually the same Supreme," he would say, "then why is this 'Supreme' now struggling in the material world?" When Dr. Misra would answer that the Supreme is temporarily covered by illusion but can become enlightened by hatha-yoga and meditation and some day come to know that "it is all Supreme," Srila Prabhupada would again challenge him. "If we are nondifferent from the Supreme," he would say, "then how can we be covered, even temporarily, by illusion? If the Supreme were covered by maya, this would mean that illusion is greater than God, greater than the Supreme—and that is absurd." Srila Prabhupada considered Dr. Misra a "Mayavadi," a name the Vaisnavas use to refer to impersonalists and at the same time point out the flaw in their philosophy. Because the impersonalist philosophers deny the supremacy of Bhagavan Sri Krsna and inadvertently assert that maya, illusion, is greater than the Absolute, the Vaisnavas refer to them as Mayavadis (followers of maya, spokesmen of illusion).
Srila Prabhupada pointed out that in Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna clearly refutes the Mayavadi conclusion. "Unintelligent men who know Me not," Krsna says, "think that I have assumed this form and personality. Due to their small knowledge, they do not know My higher nature, which is changeless and supreme.... Fools deride Me when I appear in this human form. They do not know My transcendental nature and My supreme dominion over all that be." (Bg. 7.24, 9.11) Lord Caitanya also strongly refuted the Mayavadis. He said, "Everything about the Supreme Personality of Godhead is spiritual, including His body, opulence, and paraphernalia. Mayavadi philosophy, however, covers His spiritual opulence and advocates the theory of impersonalism."
By 1965 Srila Prabhupada had already written volumes of commentary on Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam in which he had thoroughly discussed the distinction between the Vaisnava and Mayavadi philosophies. In his purports to Srimad-Bhagavatam he had written, "The ambitious Mayavadi philosophers desire to merge into the existence of the Lord. This form of mukti (liberation) means denying one's individual existence. In other words it is a kind of spiritual suicide. This is absolutely opposed to the philosophy of bhakti-yoga. Bhakti-yoga offers immortality to the individual conditioned soul. If one follows the Mayavadi philosophy he misses his opportunity to become immortal after giving up the material body." In the words of Lord Caitanya, mayavadi krsne aparadhi "Mayavadi impersonalists are great offenders unto Lord Krsna." Thus Lord Caitanya had concluded that if one hears the commentary of Sankara, one's entire spiritual life is spoiled.
As a mendicant with no followers or residence, Srila Prabhupada was temporarily dependent on the good will of his Mayavadi acquaintance, with whom he regularly ate and conversed and from whom he accepted his shelter. But what a great inconvenience it was to the pure Vaisnava! He who had come to America to speak purely and boldly about Krsna found himself again in a situation in which he could not really discourse. Whereas in Butler, Pennsylvania, he had been confined by his hosts' middle-class materialistic sensibilities, now he was silenced in a different way: though treated kindly, he was considered a threat. Dr. Misra could not allow his students to hear the exclusive praise of Lord Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
According to Dr. Misra, Srila Prabhupada was busy most of the time typing in his room, but would sometimes come out and give a lecture or lead kirtana (congregational chanting). A boy named Robert Nelson, perhaps the first young sympathizer Srila Prabhupada met in New York, had his own impression of Srila Prabhupada's presence in Dr. Misra's yoga society.
I first went to Dr. Misra's service, and Dr. Misra talked. Prabhupada was sitting on a bench, and then all of a sudden Dr. Misra stops the service and gets a big smile and says, "Svamiji will sing us a song. "But I think Misra wouldn't let him speak. Somebody told me Dr. Misra didn't want him to preach.
Srila Prabhupada had his own reminiscences. "I used to sit in the back and listen to his meetings silently. He was speaking all impersonal nonsense, but I kept my silence. Then one day he asked if I would like to speak, and I spoke about Krsna consciousness. I challenged that he was speaking manufactured philosophy and all nonsense from Sankaracarya. He tried to back out and said it was not him who was speaking but Sankaracarya. I said, 'You are representing him. That is the same thing.' He then said to me, Svamiji, I like you very much, but you cannot speak here.' But although our philosophies differed and he would not let me speak, he was kind, and I was nice to him."
Lord Caitanya warned Vaisnavas never to hear from an impersonalist, yet there was no danger of Srila Prabhupada's being converted or contaminated by impersonalistic thought. Rather, it was the impersonalist who would be affected by tasting krsna-prasada.
To see students submissively listening to a speaker who denied the Personality of Godhead was certainly painful to the pure devotee. Still, what was the alternative? Was he to go homeless and beg for food in the streets? This might have been acceptable behavior for wandering sannyasis in Indian villages, but it was impossible in Manhattan. So for the time being, Srila Prabhupada accepted the arrangement provided by Krsna. He carried America's future Krsna consciousness within himself, a baby yet to be born, a bomb about to go off. The Bhagavad-gita had been read for thousands of years in India and hundreds of years in the West (it had been admired by Emerson and Thoreau), and now it was being preached in New York (by Mayavadis, who didn't believe in Krsna), but the real Gita had yet to be spoken. Americans had not heard the real message of Krsna—as it is—and Srila Prabhupada fervently desired to speak it, as ordered by his spiritual master. But he had to struggle and wait.
On weekends Srila Prabhupada would accompany Dr. Misra to his Ananda Ashram in Monroe, New York, an hour's drive north. Joan Suval, who used to drive them, remembers the two sannyasis holding animated conversations in the back seat of her car. Although she could not understand their Hindi, she could hear their discussions turn into loud, shouting arguments.
But afterwards, she said, they would again become friends.
On many occasions, Prabhupada would ask Dr. Misra to take part in spreading Lord Caitanya's movement, but Dr. Misra would sidestep Prabhupada by saying that he considered him an incarnation of Caitanya Mahaprabhu and therefore not in need of help. Srila Prabhupada, however, would say that since Misra was the name of Lord Caitanya's father, Dr. Misra should help spread Lord Caitanya's movement. Srila Prabhupada offered to engage him in checking the Sanskrit to his translations of Srimad-Bhagavatam, and Dr. Misra now says he repents that he did not take up the offer.
The Ananda Ashram lies in a peaceful wooded setting of sixty acres in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains. The place includes a lake with an island. Whenever Srila Prabhupada would go to the asrama, he would hold kirtana, and the yoga students would join him in chanting and even dancing. Dr. Misra was particularly fond of Srila Prabhupada's chanting. "I have never seen or met any devotee who sang so much," Dr. Misra says. "And his kirtana was just ambrosial. If you pay attention and become relaxed, that voice has very electrical vibrations on your heart. You cannot avoid it. Ninety-nine percent of the students, whether they liked it or not, they got up and danced and chanted. And I felt very pleased to meet such a great soul." Naturally Dr. Misra would give lectures carrying the impersonal interpretation of Bhagavad-gita according to Sankara. When allowed to speak before Dr. Misra and his students, Srila Prabhupada would criticize the impersonal interpretation, although in a tactful way, describing it as "the beginning step in appreciating the Supreme Person." Hurta Lurch, a woman who attended the Ananda Ashram when Srila Prabhupada was visiting, recalls his presence there.
My direct encounter with him was in the kitchen. He was very particular and very definite that he would only eat what he cooked himself. He would come and say, "Give me pots. " So when I brought him a pot, he'd say, "No, bigger. " And so I brought a bigger pot, and he'd say, "No, smaller. " Than he would say, "Give me potato, " so I would bring a potato. He prepared food very, very quietly. He never spoke very much. He prepared potatoes and then some vegetables and then capatis. He used the pots at the asrama. After cooking, he would eat outside when the weather was warm. He would usually cook enough to go around for Dr. Misra and about five or six other people. Every day he would cook that much when he was there. I learned to make capatis from him. He usually stayed only for the weekends. Perhaps during the warm weather he may have stayed for a whole week, but most of the time he went back to the city. I think he felt that was where his main work was to be done.
Srila Prabhupada's work was certainly in the city, but what could he do there with no money or support? He was thinking of staying for only a few weeks and then going back to India. In the meantime, he spent most of his hours working on his Srimad-Bhagavatam manuscripts, writing letters, and walking in Manhattan.
Since Dr. Misra's studio had no cooking facilities, Srila Prabhupada had to walk daily about seven blocks to cook in the kitchen of Dr. Misra's Riverside Drive apartment. He would walk north on Columbus Avenue amid a steady flow of pedestrians. As he stopped at each intersection, he could feel the sweeping breeze from the Hudson. Instead of the small-town scenery of Butler, Pennsylvania, he first passed by a section of thirty-story office buildings on Columbus Avenue. On the street level were shoe repair shops, candy stores, laundries, and continental restaurants. The upper stories held the professional suites of doctors, dentists, and lawyers. At Seventy-fifth Street, Srila Prabhupada would turn west and walk through a neighborhood of brownstone apartments whose entranceways were three or four steps below street level. Then he would cross Amsterdam and come to Broadway. Here a thin strip of park area where old men sat on benches separated Broadway's northbound and southbound traffic. The greenery in this area could more accurately be described as "blackery," since it was covered with soot and city grime. Here Broadway displayed produce shops and butcher shops whose stands extended onto the sidewalk. The last block toward Riverside Drive held high-rises with doormen standing at the entrances. Thirty-three Riverside Drive also had a doorman.
Sometimes Srila Prabhupada would walk in Riverside Park. He was still concerned about the condition of his heart, and he liked the long stretches of flat walking area in that park. Besides the daily walk to and from Dr. Misra's apartment, Srila Prabhupada frequently walked from Dr. Misra's studio down Seventy-second Street to Amsterdam Avenue, where the West End Superette is located. There, with what little money he had gathered, Srila Prabhupada would sometimes buy produce and spices for his cooking. On other occasions he would wander through the streets of Manhattan without any set direction or sometimes take buses to different areas of the city.
He had been in New York for a month and a half, without money or any support but Dr. Misra's. Cooking and distributing prasada to the Mayavadis was surely a kind of preaching, but he could not regard it as an engagement serious enough to keep him in America. Time was passing, with no great result, and his return to India seemed inevitable. But although he did not have a home or headquarters, he did have an impressive-sounding New York City address—"Studio 51, 100 West 72nd St., New York City." He began writing letters to India.
On November 8 he wrote Tirtha Maharaja, his Godbrother, who had become president of the Gaudiya Matha, the institution formed by Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. Typing on a small manual machine while the city roared around him, he reminded his Godbrother that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, their spiritual master, had cherished a strong desire to open preaching centers in the Western countries. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta had several times attempted to do this by sending sannyasis to England and other countries in Europe, but, Prabhupada noted, "without any tangible results."
"I have come to this country with the same purpose in view," he wrote, "and as far as I can see it, here in America there is good scope for preaching the message of Lord Caitanya." Srila Prabhupada pointed out that Mayavadi groups like the Ramakrishna Mission had buildings but were really not attracting many followers. He reported that he had talked with Swami Nikhilananda of the Ramakrishna Mission, who had given the opinion that the Americans were suitable for bhakti-yoga.
"I am here and see a good field for work," Srila Prabhupada wrote, "but I am alone, without men and money. To start a center here, we must have our own building." If the leaders of the Gaudiya Matha would consider opening their own branch in New York, Srila Prabhupada offered, he himself would be willing to manage it. Speaking from his own experience, he reported that without their own house they could not conduct a mission in the city. Srila Prabhupada wrote to convince them, citing his confidence that they could open many centers in cities throughout the country if they agreed to cooperate. He repeatedly pointed out that although other groups did not have the genuine spiritual philosophy of India, they were buying many buildings, whereas the Gaudiya Matha had nothing. "if you agree to cooperate with me," he wrote, "as I have suggested above, then I shall extend my visa period. My present visa period ends by the end of this November. But if I receive your confirmation immediately, then I shall extend my visa period. Otherwise I shall return to India."
Although there were many reasons why Srila Prabhupada could expect disappointment in approaching his Godbrothers for support, he thought it was their duty to help him. But if he did not get a favorable response soon, it seemed he would have to give up trying to introduce Krsna consciousness in America. He could not go on struggling alone indefinitely.
"There must be some way to verify—before one dedicates oneself—that one is not wasting his time and money, or perhaps even risking his life."
Guyana in Retrospect—"We're Easy Targets for Cheaters"
by Jayadvaita Svami
The bizarre mass suicide-murder of 913 members of the Peoples Temple in Guyana has raised serious questions about unscrupulous religious leaders who exploit their followers, stripping their souls and pockets bare and sometimes leading them into sexual perversion, mental slavery, and even death.
Many citizens have cried out that the government must do something to stop these groups from manipulating and enslaving their followers. Pointing out that the most easy prey for such groups are naive, idealistic youth in the midst of personal or social perplexity, they urge that the government do something to protect vulnerable young people from ruthless psychological manipulation by quasi-religious cults.
The government replies that its hands are tied. We can't discriminate between a religion and a cult, between a bona fide religion and a bogus one, the Justice Department says, without trampling on the First Amendment's guarantees of religious liberty.
There are those who maintain that if we accept one religion as valid, we have to accept them all. If someone believes he's God, or the Messiah, or the mouthpiece for all the Great Masters of eternity, or that taking drugs or having sexual intercourse with disciples is the highest form of religious expression, who are we, to say he's wrong?
But the members of the Hare Krsna movement disagree. We say that while many forms of religion are legitimate, some are just out-and-out frauds.
But the essential question is, how—without falling into narrow sectarianism—are we to draw the line between spirituality and shysterism, between ecstasy and exploitation, between religion and rip-off?
What we are looking for here is an objective standard—a definite set of criteria—not something any holyman who comes to town can melt and bend and shift. The criteria must be broad enough to account for different religious practices, yet precise enough to exclude the cheats and charlatans.
What we propose is that every legitimate religious process must be governed by an authentic body of scripture. Now, which scripture one follows is less important. One may follow the Bible, the Koran, the Bhagavad-gita, or any other authentic scriptural authority. (To insist on anything more exclusive would be needlessly sectarian.) But, to be truly religious, one must actually follow the scriptural path of the religion one professes.
Of course, the scripture one follows must be a standard scripture recognized by saintly teachers from the past, not a recent concoction. A contemporary religious leader may express his own spiritual realizations, but these expressions, to be of spiritual value, must agree with the eternal truths revealed in the great traditional scriptures of the world.
At this point one may protest, why be so dogmatic? Why not admit new scriptures, new religions, new paths? In answer we say that religion is neither new nor old—it is eternal, just as God and our relationship with Him are eternal. To follow some self-proclaimed prophet on a newly discovered path is to invite oneself to be led into the woods and plundered. Of course, one is always free to gamble. But if one sincerely wants to reach God, one is best advised to follow a path traversed by the great souls of history who followed a reliable process of God realization and actually achieved success.
A further criterion is that the scripture must be followed without needless interpretation. To use a traditional scripture merely as a vehicle for one's own recently manufactured doctrines or speculations is dishonest, and any philosopher or evangelist who does so should immediately be rejected. Let them at least have the honesty to write their own ideas in their own books. Scripture—to be meaningful—should be accepted as it is.
If we accept this simple standard—that traditional scripture, accepted as it is, should define the path of every legitimate religious process—we can immediately see past the corrupt legions of gurus, svamis, yogis, messiahs, Gods, and self-appointed masters who have invaded the modern world.
Apply this standard, and see how quickly the cheaters fail the test. The pudgy little boy from India who claimed he was God. The science-fiction writer who rigged up an electric meter to track down bad karma and give you liberation (for maybe five or ten thousand dollars). The Korean businessman who declares that he has succeeded where Jesus Christ failed. The innumerable svamis and yogis who proclaim that God is everyone and everyone is God. All hit the dust immediately, as soon as you apply this test.
The scriptures of the world describe the qualities of an actual saintly person. The Bhagavad-gita for example, explains that a spiritual leader must have control of his mind and senses, he must be austere, tolerant and simple, he must be conversant with scriptural knowledge and be able to apply this knowledge in his own life, and he must have firm faith in the Supreme Lord, the Personality of Godhead. Anyone lacking these qualifications is unfit to be a spiritual leader.
Unfortunately, however, in modern life we are afflicted by a poor fund of knowledge about spiritual affairs, and therefore we are easy targets for cheaters.
It is the duty of the responsible leaders of society—the teachers, government officials, authors, psychologists, journalists, and others—to protect the citizens from spiritual frauds, as much as from frauds in other spheres of life.
But lamentably our modern social and political leaders seem no more enlightened than anyone else. We can't depend on such leaders even to balance the budget or contain inflation or crime, what to speak of aiding people in their spiritual welfare. In this sense, such leaders themselves are frauds too. And our religious leaders—are they truly qualified? Can we confidently turn to them for guidance? Do they actually practice what they preach? The Vedic literature calls our present era the Age of Hypocrisy. Further elaboration on this point hardly seems necessary.
But although some leaders, or even a majority of leaders, both spiritual and secular, may be frauds, this doesn't mean that no spiritual teacher can be genuine.
If one is lacking in spiritual knowledge but desires to understand higher truth, one must approach a bona fide teacher. This is true in every religion—or, for that matter, in science, music, art, and any other field of human endeavor. And the way to avoid being taken for a ride is not to insist that the teacher demand only a minimal commitment. After all, a cheater may ask only a small offering—a few dollars, perhaps—whereas great teachers throughout history have called upon their followers to dedicate their entire lives.
Religion is necessary for human life. Animals have no other concern than eating, sleeping, defending, and mating—in animal society there is no religion—but a human being can inquire about who he is and who God is. As the Vedic authorities say, only when one asks these questions has he truly become a human being. In other words, human life without religion is animal life.
But there must be some way to verify—before one dedicates oneself—that one is not wasting his time and money, or perhaps even risking his life.
We suggest this criterion: don't trust any teacher unless you find that his words never deviate from the teachings of reliable scripture, and that his actions match up to his words. Had those who died in Jonestown applied this test, they might still be alive today.
A Suicidal Civilization
This exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples and guests took place during a morning walk on the Berkeley campus of the University of California, in July of 1975.
Guest: About a month ago, Srila Prabhupada, there was a crazy story in the newspaper. It seems a young student went through the archives in the Washington, D.C., public library, and he compiled enough information to construct an atom bomb. So now many leaders are afraid that within a few years, any terrorist group will be able to make their own atom bomb.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that may be....
Guest: Oh, do you see that tower? Students here have been known to jump from it. Actually, at schools all over the country, a growing number of students are committing suicide.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. They are openly committing suicide, and the rest of the people are covertly committing suicide. This man who found out how to construct an atom bomb—he's thinking that now his life is successful. But if he doesn't use his human life for trying to become spiritually realized, he is committing suicide.
Guest: How's that?
Srila Prabhupada: Because he won't be able to save himself from his own death and rebirth.
Guest: Interestingly enough, the scientists originally developed the atom bomb to prevent death—to end the Second World War as soon as possible.
Srila Prabhupada: How can they prevent death? They do not know how to prevent it. They can accelerate it, that's all. Here is your problem, Mr. Scientist: janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi—the cycle of birth, death, old age, and disease. Solve it! Where is the scientist who can do that? instead they take some childish problem and try to avoid the real problem. But they cannot avoid it, because Krsna puts it openly before everyone: janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi-duhkha-dosanudarsanam—"The real seer will see to this problem of birth, death, old age, and disease." But the scientists have no answer, no solution to this problem. Where is the biochemist or the psychologist or the nuclear physicist who can solve this problem?
Disciple: They have a theory nowadays that by the proliferation of atomic weapons—Russia has so many weapons, China has so many weapons, the United States has so many weapons—everyone will be afraid of using them.
Srila Prabhupada: They will inevitably use them! That is nature's arrangement. "You all die"—that is nature's arrangement. For instance, in your country you have so many cars that even a poor man goes almost everywhere by car and hardly an inch on foot—because there are so many cars. So, because there are so many weapons now, they must be used. That is the natural sequence.
Guest: But every country knows that an atomic war would mean total destruction.
Srila Prabhupada: Well, total or partial—that we shall see. But the weapons will be used.... Everything can be solved by understanding these three items: God is the proprietor, He is the enjoyer, He is the friend of everyone. But the scientists and philosophers and politicians are acting with just the opposite understanding: "I am the proprietor, I am the enjoyer, I am the friend—because I am God." You see? And everyone who says he's the people's friend ultimately proves to be their enemy. President Nixon collected votes by pretending to be a friend, and later on he proved an enemy.... Everyone.... Gandhi pretended to be a friend, but he proved to be an enemy. Otherwise, why was he shot down? Unless some people regarded him as an enemy, why was he shot down? So nobody can be your actual friend, except Krsna.
Disciple: But the Lord's pure devotee—he's also a friend to all....
Srila Prabhupada: Because he carries the message of Krsna. Krsna is everyone's friend, and the pure devotee is carrying the friend's message. Therefore he is a friend. if there is a nice friend, and if somebody gives information about that nice friend, he is also a friend. Therefore, nobody can be an actual friend except Krsna and Krsna's representative. Materialistic life means, "I am your enemy, and you are my enemy." Envy and enmity—this is the whole construction of the material world. So how can the enemy become a friend? This is pretension, cheating.
Disciple: When we go out to distribute your books, we're letting people know that your disciples are actually their friends, also.
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes. That is real friendship. You are giving people the message of Lord Caitanya [Krsna's most recent incarnation, who appeared in India five centuries ago]: kota nidra yao maya-pisacira kole ... enechi ausadhi maya nasibara lagi'/ hari-nama maha-mantra lao tumi magi: "People everywhere, you are sleeping under the spell of maya, illusion. How long will you sleep and suffer in this world of death and rebirth? I've brought you this eternal, spiritual medicine. Take it and sleep no more." Hari-nama maha-mantra lao tumi magi: "Now take the Hare Krsna mantra—this is your medicine."
Guest: So all the relationships within this material world are based on enmity? But the scientists and philosophers and politicians often speak highly of love.
Srila Prabhupada: That is not love. That is lust—"As soon as my lusty desire is not fulfilled, then you are my enemy."
Guest: Sometimes, though, it seems these people really have our best interests at heart.
Srila Prabhupada: Sometimes we see a dog swimming in the water, and we may think, "Oh, let me capture his tail and I shall cross." Similarly, those who are thinking the so-called scientists and philosophers or any other materialistic person will solve their problems—it is exactly like trying to cross the Pacific Ocean by capturing the tail of a dog.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
India Citizenship for ISKCON Guru
Since India won her independence in 1947, a mere 952 foreigners have received citizenship, and of those only a small percentage have been Westerners. But not long ago India's Home Ministry granted citizenship to American-born Jayapataka Swami.
His Holiness Jayapataka Swami is one of eleven elder devotees chosen by ISKCON's founder-acarya, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, to initiate new disciples. A resident of India since 1972, he is in charge of ISKCON's projects in East India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. He speaks fluent Bengali and often addresses civic, cultural, and religious gatherings. In addition, Jayapataka Swami supervises ISKCON's food relief projects on the subcontinent. During last October's severe flooding in West Bengal, he organized a program that fed twenty thousand people a day. He is also one of the directors of the Sri Gaura-mandala-bhumi Trust, established by Srila Prabhupada to renovate important places of pilgrimage.
When Jayapataka Swami applied for citizenship, more than ten thousand residents of Bengal and Orissa, including members of the leading bar association, petitioned the government on his behalf.
When he is not traveling, Jayapataka Swami resides at ISKCON's world headquarters, in Mayapur, West Bengal, where he is co-director. At present, he is overseeing the first stages in the construction of a Krsna conscious city that will accommodate fifty thousand.
"Changing Bodies" Photo a Winner
Last year, Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Eddie Adams took a picture of a diorama called "Changing Bodies." The picture appeared in more than a hundred newspapers throughout America and won numerous awards. Representatives from the National Press Photographers Association and Popular Photography magazine selected it for the 1978 APA (Advertising Photographers Association) International Exhibition of Photography. It also appeared in 1977 In Pictures, the yearbook of the Associated Press.
As millions of Americans have read in their newspapers, the "Changing Bodies" diorama illustrates a verse from the ancient Bhagavad-gita: "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."
The diorama is the work of devotee artists at FATE (First American Transcendental Exhibition). It is now on display in the FATE Museum at the Los Angeles Hare Krsna center.
by Bahudaka dasa (as told to Jayadvaita Svami)
Bahudaka dasa has been the president of the Vancouver ISKCON center for six years. When he first joined, in 1970, the center had only four full-time devotees. It is now a community of more than ninety. The community has recently moved to a woodsy eight-acre estate in Burnaby, a Vancouver suburb. Like all other ISKCON centers, it is open to the public.
I guess I'm a kind of model Canadian citizen. My father was always active in the community. He was mayor of Saanich, Victoria, the city that I grew up in. He was chairman of the school board, and all sorts of things like that, and then he was a member of Parliament for eight years.
When I was in grade eight we moved to Ottawa, the national capital. I went to high school there and was president of my graduating class.
I had a scholarship to McGill University, the country's most prestigious school. But halfway through my studies I got married, so I came back to Victoria. My father gave me a house there.
By the time I was fifteen or sixteen, I had completely rejected God. Previous to that I'd gone to church every week, so it was like a big traumatic thing for me. I just gave it all up and actually became very inimical to religion. In fact, I remember that when I was in grade thirteen (that's like the first year of college) I used to be the chief cynic. We'd look around during the Lord's Prayer, and anyone who was saying the Lord's Prayer, we'd harass him afterwards.
But then, in the university, I was studying psychology and philosophy, and I became interested in consciousness. I read a book by Eric Fromm—it might have been The Art of Loving—and I really became interested in man's inner activities. I was reading other books also, and they just kind of stimulated my interest. And I wanted to pursue this interest in my studies. My mother had always wanted me to be a doctor, so I figured I'd become a psychiatrist.
But at the university I found it very frustrating, because the professors had no actual knowledge. Gradually I could see that. All they had were speculative theories, which were just like fiction, practically. They didn't give you any solid information. And every year that went by, I just became more and more disgusted with the whole process. In my final year I just hated it, but I stayed in to get my degree.
Anyway, by the time I finished my studies I was very disillusioned with university and that whole style of life. I'd become more interested in the Western self-realizing or self-actualizing psychologists, and that got me more interested in Eastern philosophy. I was reading Carl Jung and Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, and then I started to read Eastern books. Gradually I was getting more and more interested in the spiritual side of psychology and philosophy.
It was right in my last year of university that I first came into contact with some chanting. A friend of mine was chanting, and I was a little interested. And at the same time I was very interested in music. That was my biggest side interest—I used to play instruments and sing. I was into folk music, and sometimes I'd play in coffee houses. Every day I would spend hours in music, but gradually I was getting tired of it all. I'd go through so many different styles and get tired of them. I was looking for some new form of music, something really satisfying. So because of my interest in music and psychology, I kind of put the two together and started chanting Hare Krsna.
By the time I finished university, I was married and had a child. Then I went through a real period of decision-making, and I decided that I wasn't going to go on in what I considered materialistic life.
Up until that time, I was still pretty much a golden-haired Canadian boy, doing everything my parents wanted me to, sort of leading a double life. So I decided to give it up, and I moved to a commune in Bella Coola, which is up north in British Columbia.
It was very simple. There was no electricity and no running water—you had to get the water out of the well. It was a very simple life, and you could think more. And at that time we became much more interested—seriously interested—in spiritual life. It was no longer just a hobby, but was really starting to mean something to me.
Also, right at that time there was a girl there who knew something about Krsna consciousness and really liked chanting Hare Krsna. I had heard the chanting before and had done a little bit, but it was very superficial. But this girl was so enthusiastic about Krsna consciousness that she would even make sure that we offered all our food to Krsna.
The funny thing is that at that time I was so opposed to the idea of God being a person that if I'd known what the chanting meant, I wouldn't have done it. In fact, one of my friends gave me the Bhagavad-gita, and after I read one page of it, I wouldn't read it any more. "Krsna—the Supreme Personality of Godhead." I didn't like that. I wouldn't read the Gita or the Srimad-Bhagavatam I looked at some of the Back to Godhead magazines, and I thought that they were kind of like Bible stuff, so I looked down on it. I didn't like the philosophy.
But every evening in this commune we used to get together for about an hour and a half of music, and I was like the musical leader. At first we would chant Hare Krsna just as a small part of our routine, but gradually we got more and more interested in chanting Hare Krsna. It kind of took over. Also, we were growing our own food, and we were mostly vegetarian, although once in a while we'd eat fish, because there's a lot of fish out there. Anyway, the women were offering the food to Krsna, which I didn't know at the time. I couldn't understand why we liked the food so much. We were just going nuts over this food.
So actually Krsna had already tricked me, because I was eating prasada, spiritual food offered to Him, and I was chanting His names—and I didn't know what I was doing, but I liked it.
Actually, after coming out of the university I was very cynical, very puffed up; plus my thinking about God was very impersonal because of the books I was reading. But the prasada and the chanting—they just softened me up. In fact, I can remember very distinctly: I had one experience just at the end of summer, when I was chanting, that just came from within—because I wouldn't have accepted it if anyone had told me.
I was chanting as usual, and all of a sudden I had this distinct idea ... it was like a realization: Why not chant like you're chanting to Krsna, instead of like you are Krsna? It just came to me, that it should be like worshiping. Actually, I had thought I was Krsna. I never had any concept of devotion to God, because I couldn't think of God as being outside of myself. But the moment I thought this other way, I felt so much ecstasy that tears came to my eyes—as soon as I thought like that, as soon as I changed the attitude of the chanting.
At the end of the summer I went down to Vancouver with some other members of the commune. Actually, we went way over to Victoria, but then we made a special trip to Vancouver to visit the Krsna temple, because one of the members of the commune had been there before. At that time the temple was on Raymur Street, which is a little street in the midst of industrial Vancouver, right across from the B.C. Sugar Refinery. You'd go through this horrible part of town, with smells and junk yards, and then you'd reach this beautiful temple right in the middle of it. It was like a lotus flower in the midst of a garbage dump. Quite dramatic. And as soon as I walked into the temple it was an incredible experience. I had already done a lot of chanting, so I was very sensitive to the spiritual atmosphere. I was immediately attracted. It was like being a kid in a candy shop, I felt so attracted.
Actually they were having a kind of festival. The devotees from Seattle had come up. So there were about fifteen devotees, instead of the usual four, and they were all chanting.
At first I felt ill at ease. The room was brightly lit, and I'd never seen devotees dressed in their robes before. They were dancing, and my mind was saying, "Oh, they're just phony. They're putting it on." But then I looked over, and I saw that the guy playing the drum had this big grin on his face—it was so ecstatic, and it just immediately made me enthusiastic. And I started to dance, and I felt real ecstasy, which was a completely new experience.
It was natural, this feeling of joy that was coming from within, without any intoxication or anything. It was a more powerful happiness than any I had ever felt before—my first real religious experience, I would say. I was very affected by it. And I stayed at the temple for a day and a half. The atmosphere was just so pleasing, so spiritually pleasing. It was a very powerful experience.
But, then, of course, I wasn't willing to surrender right at that point. My friends and I had a little business going in Shawnigan Lake, in the country, about forty miles from Victoria. We were trying to sell wood and things. But after this visit we became very interested in Krsna consciousness.
We invited the devotees over to see us at the house where we were living, and when they came we practically surrendered to them—we just did everything they said. They taught us how to do everything in Krsna consciousness, and we kind of set up our own temple—we actually did. After that we offered our food on our altar, we had classes, we cooked for Krsna, and we would visit the temple in Vancouver once in a while. So in this way we very quickly became absorbed in Krsna consciousness.
Now, in retrospect, I can see that I didn't understand anything about the philosophy for at least a year. I was such an atheist that it took me months and months to even begin to comprehend what "God" meant. I was so deep into my own mental ramblings that I just could not understand the philosophy. But I liked to chant, and I liked the devotees, and I liked the prasada. I couldn't deny the way I was feeling.
But I was very much averse to coming into the city, and that was one of the reasons I hadn't become a devotee right away. I remember the first or second time I went to the Vancouver temple. I had been living in the country, so I was very unhappy about being in the city. From Bella Coola I had come down the coast by boat, and when we got into Vancouver I just couldn't believe it. I'd been way up north, and all of a sudden everything started to change—all the plants started to lose their color, and the city was covered with a pall of smoke. I'd been away in the country, and the city was so ugly it was terrifying—and the horrible way of life people had condemned themselves to. But I remember that when we went out chanting, right downtown in the middle of Vancouver, I could see we weren't in the city at all—we were completely in a different atmosphere, a spiritual atmosphere, by chanting the holy names.
After that my friends and I used to go out chanting ourselves. Sometimes we'd go down to the University of Victoria, right into where everyone was having lunch, and we'd chant. We were pretty bold. And Krsna must have liked that, because He helped us surrender to Him, more and more.
There was something else, also, that happened right around this time, when I was first becoming a devotee. I was becoming much more open to the idea that God is a person, and so my mother convinced me to go back to church—because she was a bit afraid I was going to become a "Hare Krsna." So I went to communion.
Of course, I'd been doing this all my life, but it never meant anything to me. But when I went to the service after chanting Hare Krsna, it was a different story. I was very attracted and interested. When I said the prayers, they meant something to me. I felt moved. In fact, when I took communion I felt much more spiritually conscious than ever before. I actually felt ecstatic.
So I could see that the potency of chanting Hare Krsna actually cleanses your heart and makes you more receptive to God. I had these experiences a couple of times. Still, I wasn't interested in cultivating Christianity, because I realized ... When I was living up in the country I had totally given up cigarettes, but when I came back to the city I began smoking again, on account of the bad influence. And even though I'd had this wonderful experience in church, fifteen minutes later I was smoking a cigarette. I knew it was wrong.
So I realized that just having a wonderful experience wasn't enough. To actually become pure, one has to change his consciousness so he can have that experience all the time. And I could see that the devotees were doing that.
Then, after a few months, my friends decided to go to Vancouver and move into the temple, and I went down to Victoria, where we rented a house and invited a devotee to come up from Seattle to get things organized. So in that way we started a temple in Victoria. I stayed there about a year, and then my family and I moved to the temple in Vancouver, where we've been ever since.
Reprinted from the Wheeling (West Virginia) News-Register
by Ed Kozel
Something of a minor marvel is taking shape in the hills of Marshall County, where members of the Hare Krishna religious community have sacrificed over the past four years to complete a "labor of love"—a temple in honor of their spiritual master.
Formally named Prabhupada's Palace, after His Divine Grace Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the temple will be known to those who visit it as the Marble Temple, complete with formal gardens and incorporating more than 50 kinds of imported marble.
The temple sits atop a hill near the rural community of Limestone, midway between Cameron and Moundsville. The site was a garbage dump four years ago when members of the sect began their project. Today, with yet another year of work remaining before completion, the temple and grounds afford a striking view of the surrounding hills and valleys.
Visually, the temple is stunning. Designed in the Jaipur style of Indian architecture, it features arched doorways, brass and copper balustrades, and marble inlays in intricate and delicate patterns, all constructed by Hare Krishna devotees.
According to Swami Kirtanananda, a leader of the religious sect, the temple and grounds occupy about 50 acres of the 1,500-acre community. Landscaping will begin this fall, he said, with a final goal of including several fountains and a reflecting pool into the design of the grounds.
As much as the architectural style differs from the local style, so do the construction workers themselves. Absent are the hardhats and salty language commonly associated with any construction site, and in their stead are the quiet attitudes and robed figures of Hare Krishna devotees.
Every aspect of construction and design was undertaken by the devotees, some traveling to India to learn the detail of Jaipur architecture from some of the finest craftsmen. Others traveled the world in search of the finest marbles from Italy, Iran, Canada, and other spots.
The time invested on the temple can best be realized by Kirtanananda's example that it takes two months to complete one of the marble-inlaid panels used on the temple interior. Ten panels are needed for one room alone. The plaster casts for the temple doors are intricately hand-carved and take over one month to prepare.
Windows combine stained glass and joli screens carved out of teakwood. Teak also comprises the main arches, a delicate pattern of animals and flowers.
The temple is crowned with towers and spires; the dome to the highest tower will be capped with gold, Kirtanananda said.
The temple is the only one of its kind in the United States, Kirtanananda said, and already nearly 50 people visit the temple daily. Members of the sect hold worship services there twice daily, in keeping with the regimens of their faith.
In addition to work at the temple grounds, devotees have begun work on a new access road to the temple, one that provides several beautiful views, prompting some visiters to comment that the temple looks as though it had "descended" from above, Kirtanananda said.
Perched on a hilltop with the blue skies of the Ohio Valley as a background, the temple is reminiscent of the residences of kings and deities told of in old mythologies.
The image of ancient grandeurs is continued in the marble inlays, as colors of red, blue, green, and gold mix and play in a man-made design that compares adequately with the grandiose veining in the marble provided by nature.
This exotic beauty will be continued in the main sanctuary ceilings, whereupon will be hand-painted pastimes of Krishna, according to Kirtanananda.
Only a handful of the community's 200 members work on the temple at any one time. The remaining members are involved in ensuring the continued self-sustenance of the community, which was founded in 1968.
Because of the community's standing as a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization, the cost of the project has been greatly reduced. However, Kirtanananda confided that several million dollars would have been invested had the temple been built by a commercial interest.
The community is primarily supported through the sale of its books, although some support does come from residents of surrounding communities and several area businessmen. However, in the community, Kirtanananda said, the concentration is on personal fulfillment through love, although he said the community is very much like any secular community in other aspects.
Visitors are welcome to visit the grounds, located near U.S. 250, from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. daily. Kirtanananda expects the number of visitors to grow following the temple's completion sometime next summer.
Meanwhile, the Marble Temple is still something at which to marvel.
On August 16, 1979, the devotees will dedicate the completed temple (artist's rendering below) and commemorate the day, in 1896, when Srila Prabhupada made his appearance in the world.
The Transcendental Pastimes of Lord Krsna
When the powerful demigod Brahma tried to bewilder Lord Krsna by stealing His friends and calves, Krsna completely mystified him.
One morning Lord Krsna and His cowherd friends went with their calves into the forest. While the boys were enjoying a picnic lunch on the bank of the river Yamuna, the calves started looking for fresh grass and wandered away. When Krsna noticed that the calves were gone, He left His friends and went searching after them. All this time the great demigod Brahma had been watching, and now he decided to test Krsna's power. He took all the calves and boys and hid them in a cave.
When Krsna was unable to find the calves, He returned to the bank of the river and discovered that the cowherd boys, too, were gone. Immediately Krsna understood that Brahma had taken them away. To hide the loss from their mothers, Lord Krsna expanded Himself and exactly duplicated the missing boys and calves. These expansions were nondifferent from Krsna Himself.
Lord Brahma went away for what he thought was a moment (by our calculation it was a solar year). Then he came back to see the fun he'd caused by stealing Krsna's calves and friends. But to his great surprise, Brahma saw that they were playing with Krsna in exactly the same way as before he'd stolen them.
Brahma began to think, "The original boys and calves are still sleeping in the cave under the spell of my mystic power, but another set is here playing with Krsna. How has this happened?" Brahma couldn't grasp what was going on. Which boys were real, and which were not real? He pondered over the matter for a long while, but was unable to come to any definite conclusion. "How can there be two sets of calves and boys at the same time? Have the boys and calves here been created by Krsna, or has Krsna created the ones lying asleep? Or are both merely creations of Krsna?" Brahma thought about the mystery in many different ways.
"After I go to the cave and see that the boys and calves are still there, does Krsna go and take them and put them here so that I come here and see them, and does Krsna then take them from here and put them there?" Brahma could not figure out how there could be two sets of calves and cowherd boys exactly alike. Although he thought and thought, he could not understand at all.
Brahma had wanted to bewilder Krsna, but the result was that Brahma himself was bewildered. During the darkness of night, a glowworm can show some glittering power, but in the daytime it is hardly noticeable. In the same way, Brahma's limited mystic power became insignificant in the presence of Krsna's unlimited mystic power.
Then, to convince Brahma that all the calves and boys playing with Krsna were not the original ones, they all transformed into four-armed Visnu forms. (Visnu is Krsna's expansion for the creation and maintenance of the material universes.) Actually, the original boys and calves were still sleeping under the spell of Brahma's mystic power, and the present ones were all direct expansions of Krsna, or Visnu. All the Visnu forms were bluish in color and dressed in yellow garments. In Their four hands They held conchshell, disc, mace, and lotus flower. On Their heads They wore glittering, jeweled helmets. All the Visnu forms were bedecked with pearls and garlanded with beautiful flowers. On Their chests was the mark of Srivatsa (a curl of whitish hair), the emblem of the goddess of fortune. Their arms were decorated with armlets, Their legs with bells, and Their fingers with rings. All the Visnu forms were transcendentally beautiful. Their smiling resembled the moonlight, and Their glancing resembled the rising of the sun.
Then Brahma saw that many living entities-from the demigods down to the ants-were dancing around the Visnu forms, accompanied by various kinds of music. And all the living entities were worshiping Lord Visnu. Brahma saw that the Visnu forms possessed all mystic powers, from that of becoming small like an atom to that of becoming infinite like the cosmic manifestation. He saw that the Visnu forms were reservoirs of eternity, knowledge, and bliss.
What's more, Brahma could see that the calves and boys that had become Visnu forms were Visnu Himself. How was it possible that they weren't merely reflections? An ordinary material object like the sun may reflect into many water-pots, but we know that the reflections in the pots are not actually the sun. Within the pots we find little of the sun's heat and light, although the reflection looks like the sun. But each and every one of the Visnu forms was fully Visnu.
His senses jolted by astonishment, Brahma became silent. From the first, he had not understood what he was seeing, and now he was unable to see at all. Although Brahma has full control over the goddess of learning, he was totally bewildered. He couldn't understand the extraordinary power of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Brahma was mystified about Krsna's opulence, because it was inconceivable. With our limited senses we cannot grasp that which is beyond our conception. Therefore the inconceivable is called acintya—that which is beyond cintya, our thoughts and arguments. Unless we accept the Supreme Lord as acintya, we have not understood what "God" means. Actually, the only way we can have knowledge of God is to accept the words of sastra, scripture. And we should take these words as they are, unchanged. Generally people like to argue and theorize about the nature of God, but they would do better to accept the Vedic knowledge as it is.
This path of acceptance is called avaroha-pantha. The word avaroha is related to the word avatara, which means "that which descends." The materialist, on the other hand, wants to understand everything by the aroha-pantha-the ascending path of argument and reason. But no one can understand Krsna in this way. One must follow the avaroha-pantha, the descending path of knowledge. Avaroha-pantha means knowledge that comes down to us through parampara, through a disciplic succession of spiritual masters. And the best parampara is that which extends from Krsna, for what the Supreme Lord says we can accept as perfect.
Brahma, however, adopted the aroha-pantha. He wanted to understand Krsna's mystic power by his own limited intelligence, and therefore he was baffled. Everyone wants to take pleasure in his own knowledge and think, "I know something." But no one can bring
Krsna within the limits of his tiny mental powers.
Seeing Brahma so bewildered, Krsna took compassion upon him. Suddenly the Lord pulled the curtain of His spiritual potency (yogamaya) over the Visnu forms, so that Brahma would not become still more perplexed.
Quickly, Brahma's external consciousness revived, and he stood up just like a dead man coming back to life. Opening his eyes with great difficulty, Brahma saw all around him the peaceful land of Vrndavana, filled with trees.
Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, was again playing the part of a small cowherd boy. The Visnu forms were gone, and under the spell of yogamaya, Brahma saw Krsna as a little child with a lump of food in His hand, searching out His friends and calves, just as He had been doing one year before.
Astonished, Brahma hastily got down from his huge swan carrier and let his body fall to the earth. Usually, the demigods never touch the ground, but voluntarily giving up his prestige, Brahma bowed down before Krsna. Brahma has four heads, and he brought all of them to the ground and let the tips of his helmets touch Krsna's feet. Although Brahma's intelligence works in every direction, he surrendered himself before the boy Krsna. Even though Krsna was not demonstrating His power, Brahma could understand that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Overjoyed, Brahma washed the Lord's lotus feet with his tears. Again and again he fell at Krsna's feet, remembering the manifestation of the Lord's greatness that he had just witnessed.
Brahma had considered himself absolute. He had thought himself the most powerful being in the universe. But now his pride was subdued, and again he became merely one of the demigods-an important demigod, to be sure, but a demigod and nothing more.
Now Brahma could see that he was simply a creation of Krsna's material energy. He was just like a puppet. A puppet has no independent power to dance, but dances according to the direction of the puppet master. And in the same way, the demigods and all other living entities are subordinate to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As Sri Caitanya-caritamrta informs us, the only master is Krsna, and all others—even Lord Brahma—are His servants.
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.]
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
In Sanskrit, man means "mind" and tra means "freeing." So a mantra is a combination of transcendental, spiritual sounds that frees our minds from the anxieties of life in the material world.
Ancient India's Vedic literatures single out one mantra as the maha (supreme) mantra. The Kali-santarana Upanisad explains, "These sixteen words—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—are especially meant for counteracting the ill effects of the present age of quarrel and anxiety."
The Narada-pancaratra adds, "All mantras and all processes for self-realization are compressed into the Hare Krsna maha-mantra." Five centuries ago, while spreading the maha-mantra throughout the Indian subcontinent, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu prayed, "O Supreme Personality of Godhead, in Your holy name You have invested all Your transcendental energies."
The name Krsna means "the all-attractive one," the name Rama means "the all-pleasing one," and the name Hare is an address to the Lord's devotional energy. So the maha-mantra means, "O all-attractive, all-pleasing Lord, O energy of the Lord, please engage me in Your devotional service." Chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, and your life will be sublime.
More on Faith Healing
Recently we received this comment from a reader:
"I read with much dismay your reflections ("Healer, Heal Thyself") in Vol. 13, No. 9. What gives you the right to criticize faith healers and charismatics? Most of them that I know have never killed anything in their life.... As for me, I serve a God that is concerned about my body and my pains as well as my soul. I would hate to think that I served a God who would want me to suffer pain for some past sin when I had confessed it and asked forgiveness....
In "Healer, Heal Thyself" we made two criticisms that we may further clarify for Mr. Fisler. We pointed out that calling on God to remove physical distress is far short of pure love of God. The scriptures teach us to love God and have faith in Him unconditionally; our devotion should not be dependent on His adjusting our material situation as we may desire. As we also pointed out, suffering is an inevitable part of life in the material world. The only way to get ultimate relief is to get out of the cycle of birth and death and return to the spiritual world. Turning to God as the order supplier for our material desires is at least recognition of the Supreme and may therefore be considered religious, but it is more like religious business than pure devotion. Even if God blesses our family with health and prosperity, that does not mean we have attained to the kingdom of God. Rather, before we can attain to the spiritual world, we must give up all material attachments, whether our attachments are impious or pious. Even attachment for a good, wholesome material life will be the cause of our taking birth again in the material world and inevitably suffering its miseries.
The kingdom of God is attained by one who has exclusive devotion for Him and never asks for anything but to be engaged in His eternal devotional service. Such a devotee of the Lord takes even material distress as a manifestation of God's mercy, since it reminds him that his only shelter is in the eternal world and that there is no permanent abode of peace in this material world. In the ancient Srimad-Bhagavatam a devotee expresses these higher sentiments of pure devotional service: "My dear Lord, one who constantly waits for Your causeless mercy and goes on suffering the reactions for his past misdeeds, offering You respectful obeisances from the core of his heart, is surely eligible for spiritual liberation."
Mr. Fisler says he would hate to think he served a God who would allow us to suffer after we have confessed and asked for forgiveness. By definition, God is merciful, and He never wants us to suffer. He wants us to be with Him in the spiritual world, but when by misuse of our independence we fall into the material world, suffering is inevitable. Sincere confession will certainly gain us Krsna's mercy, but if we are actually sincere, then we have to reform our activities. Otherwise, such repeated "confessions" become a mockery of His mercy. If we repeatedly confess our sins and praise the Lord but claim we are too weak to follow His commandments, then we are attempting to cheat God. But because Krsna is the most intelligent and no one can cheat Him, it is we who have to be cheated and suffer. And we cannot blame Him for sufferings that we have brought upon ourselves. Even an ordinary civil magistrate would not be fooled if a repeated offender asked to be let off with a few words of confession. And the Bible affirms,
Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord" shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my father, who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21) On this point the Christian and Vedic scriptures are in agreement, although the Vedic scriptures contain a more developed description of how the soul transmigrates and how the law of karma acts upon him.
We also stated that the healers who claim mystic intimacy with the Supreme should demonstrate their confidential love of God by at least following His commandments, such as the commandment "Thou shalt not kill." Mr. Fisler has objected to our implication that some healers are not following this commandment. "Most of them that I know have never killed anything in their life." But aren't faith healers among those who pay to have thousands of cows slaughtered daily for meat?
The Vedic literatures acknowledge that in this material world one living being is food for another, but this does not allow for unrestricted violence or cannibalism or murder. Each living being has a quota allowed by God, and he should not go beyond that. For example, if a tiger attacks a deer and kills it with his own claws, that is not considered a transgression of God's laws, but all the great scriptures of the world insist upon nonviolence as standard for the human being. (Even if a human being takes his own life, that is a great sin, and he has to suffer for it in his next life.) Humans should spare not only the lives of their fellow human beings but also the lives of animals.
Even a vegetable is a form of life (though a lower one). So while complete nonviolence may be impossible, violence should be kept to a minimum. The Vedic scriptures prescribe that a human being should avoid animal slaughter and eat only simple foods such as grain, fruit, milk products, and vegetables. Although the vegetarian is also taking life, if he makes an offering of his food to God, he's relieved from the karma. Otherwise, as Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita (3.13), "Those who eat food for personal sense enjoyment verily eat only sin."
We certainly do not intend to insult the sincere follower of any authentic scripture. But those who pursue the path of religion must be exemplary in their behavior and must thoroughly understand the science of God. A person who really wants to follow God's will does not try to make Him his private "healer" or order supplier for material advantage; his sincere desire should be to serve and praise God, no matter what material position he is in. And acknowledging that all living creatures are sons of God, he should obey the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" and avoid the slaughter of innocent creatures, animals as well as human beings.