During the summer of 1975, in Hawaii, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada received a visit from a well-known yogi who professes the Sikh tradition. Their conversation follows.
Yogi: Will you be in a position to come to the conference?
Srila Prabhupada: Which conference?
Yogi: This "Unity of Man" conference, in New Mexico. We have confirmation of leaders coming from all around the world.
Srila Prabhupada: They have not invited me, I don't think.
Yogi: An invitation must have gone to you.
Srila Prabhupada: Hmm?
Yogi: We invited everybody. Your invitation may be on the way. We have decided that this is a time for everybody to get together and get their scene together and merge together.
Srila Prabhupada: They will never. [Laughs.] You may hold unity conferences—hundreds and thousands. But the leaders will never unite, because they have no common platform.
Yogi: A common platform. That's what we're trying to provide.
Srila Prabhupada: You are trying that's nice. But it will never be successful. You can write it down in your notebook.
Yogi: Well, the question is very simple. Somebody has to break the ice.
Srila Prabhupada: Hmm?
Yogi: Somebody has to break the ice. Somebody. It doesn't matter who. Somebody has to go out and say, "You are welcome. Come in." So we are carrying that spirit.
Srila Prabhupada: The thing is, everyone is trying to be "united." The United Nations started in 1945, and for thirty years, what have they done? The best men of the whole world—and no unity. Simply disunity. They have no common platform; they are not agreeable. They do not accept God—that is the difficulty. No central point. "You have got your own philosophy, I have got my own philosophy, he has got his own philosophy . . . " Now, how will we agree?
Yogi: Oh, I may not agree with your philosophy, and you may not agree with my philosophy, but one thing we both have agreed: that you are you and I am I, and both can have respect and love for each other. And there has to be a place where everybody can
Srila Prabhupada: That is going on.... When I meet you I say, "Yes, sir." And you say, "Yes, sir." That is all right. That is social etiquette. But real unity is on the platform of spirit soul:
"The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees a learned scholar , a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater all on an equal level." [Bhagavad-gita 5.18]
Now, how can you see a learned scholar and a dog on an equal level? But you can see in that way. Panditah sama-darsinah. If you see on the spiritual platform, then you can see that every one of us is spirit soul. It is just that because of our different karma, our different past activities, we are now covered with different kinds of material dress. The dog is actually a soul, and a learned scholar is also a soul, but they are covered with different bodies. So one who sees the soul—he can see all living beings on the same level. But one who sees only their different bodies—he cannot see properly. Spiritual vision is the basic principle of equality and unity. Otherwise, I am seeing you are Sikh, you are seeing I am Hindu, someone else is seeing "He is Christian," "Muhammadan," and so on and so on ... But nobody is seeing that nobody is Sikh, nobody is Hindu, nobody is Christian—that everyone is pure soul. So unless people attain that vision, how can they have equality and unity? There is no possibility.
Yogi: That's agreed, but—
Srila Prabhupada: So that requires education. Brahma-bhutah prasannatma na socati na kanksati samah sarvesu bhutesu [Bg. 18.54]: When one is spiritually realized, then he can see equally. But that requires training in how to attain the spiritual platform. At the present moment everyone is on the bodily platform. Everyone is thinking, "I am this body." So how can you have unity? We may attempt, but it is not possible.
Yogi: There are a lot of misunderstandings and misconceptions given against each other.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Misconceptions.... For instance, you have got a different kind of body from mine, and I have got a different kind of body from yours. So I may say, "No, I don't like you. .. ." Naturally, when we see superficially, then this tendency will go on. But when we see inside—introspectively—then there will be unity. That requires education. So ...
Yogi: All right. Come and educate.
Srila Prabhupada: [Laughs.] That education is already there in the Bhagavad-gita. In the beginning Krsna immediately says, dehino 'smin yatha dehe kaumaram yauvanam jara tatha dehantara-praptih [Bg. 2.13]. Asmin dehe: each of us is actually a soul—this is the beginning of education. But there are many "learned scholars" who do not believe in the soul. They don't agree on anything else, but they agree that there is no soul.... Big, big professors. In Moscow I met one Professor Kotovsky, and he said, "No, there is no soul. After the body is finished, everything is finished."
Yogi: But they don't have any experience of the soul.
Srila Prabhupada: That is their position. So if you assemble some spiritually inexperienced men, then how will they come to the point of unity?
Yogi: What we are trying to do is ... we are giving out a call to all ... the learned, the unlearned. The basic fact is, there is a desire somewhere in the ether ... that everybody wants to feel each other. And they have not done anything good by negating each other, talking negatively. They have not gained anything ... they are realizing now. Otherwise
Srila Prabhupada: What will be the basic principle of unity? That is the point.
Yogi: The point of basic unity is respect for each other.
Srila Prabhupada: That is going on. Suppose you come here-I welcome you. If I go to your place, you welcome me. That respect is going on.
Yogi: Yes ... that's right ... That is between two individuals.
Srila Prabhupada: Similarly, whenever people come together in a big assembly, they show one another respect. That is no problem. But how will you unite them?
Yogi: Gradually ... one by one, one by one ... they will understand. Love is the main point. That's what they don't understand. But when they find love from you and they find love from me ... love from people, love from everybody else ... You know. You can take a mango stick and beat somebody, but you can take mango pulp and eat.... I'm a member of an interreligious council, and finally ... after two years ... the president admitted, "I was a fanatic. I could never understand how my God and anyone else's God could be the same. But now I understand that God is one."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, you see. So if God is one, and if every one of us is concerned with God, then why is there disagreement?
Yogi: Well, everyone has a limited ego. So we understand that.
Srila Prabhupada: No. The conference should ask the question, If there is a God, and if God is one, then who is that God-what are His characteristics? That should be discussed.
Yogi: That's what I say ... that what we are trying to do is provide a platform. The fundamental idea is, What you are doing is God's will. These people who are following you ... this is God's will. And those who will receive it ... that is God's will.... But it is not that everybody sees God's will.
Srila Prabhupada: Why not? God's will is open. Krsna says, mana-mana bhava mad-bhakto mad-yaji mam namaskuru [Bg. 9.34]. God says, "Always think of Me. Just become My devotee. Worship Me and offer your respect to Me." This is God's will. And, "If you do this, you are coming back to Me." God's will is not secret; it is open. He declares it. But the thing is that everyone has got his different God.
Yogi: Well, the question is very fundamental. Everybody has his own God, so let everybody bring their own God and understanding
Srila Prabhupada: No! God's understanding is that He is one—one God for everybody. So we should come to that understanding and just do what God requests. For instance, He says man-mana: "Always think of Me."
Yogi: Mm-hmm. That's true.
Srila Prabhupada: So people should think of Him. Mad-yaji mam namaskuru: "You become My devotee, and worship Me, and offer respect to Me." That's all. So we are teaching our students, "Here is God: Krsna. You chant Hare Krsna; always think of Him. Just offer your respect and worship Him. In this way become a devotee . We do not teach any thing else. That's all. And they are doing that, and they are getting the result. We do not say, "Sit down, press your nose, and meditate on this, or . . ." No. It's a simple thing. We say, "Chant Hare Krsna. Here is God, so please think of Him." As soon as you chant "Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna..." everyone has got the beat. That means you are thinking of Krsna.... And then we are offering respect. We go to the temple and offer obeisances.... It is a very simple thing. So we accept Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Now, if you don't accept, then you must be concocting your own idea of God. Do that, if you like. But I think Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism—he accepted Krsna as the Supreme. Is it a fact?
Yogi: We have in our main scripture the Grantha-sahib a lot of things about Lord Krsna.
Srila Prabhupada: How is Krsna accepted? Is He accepted as the Supreme Lord?
Yogi: Krsna is accepted as an incarnation of God.
Srila Prabhupada: An incarnation of God and God—there is no difference.
Yogi: Also there is a fundamental message in that, that as God created everyone ... God created all of us ... so God (whatever we want to call it ... "ultimate reality," "beyond ... .. the truth") ... What our problem at this time is ... is that humanity is divided in many forms, and it is the inner hatred which people Want to expel out.
Srila Prabhupada: So if Guru Nanak has accepted that Krsna is God and we have accepted that Krsna is God, then why not put forward this God—one God?
Yogi: "One God" is all right. That everybody will agree on.
Srila Prabhupada: That one God—Krsna—says, "I am the one Supreme Lord":
mattah parataram nanyat
"There is no truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread." [Bg. 7.7] And all the great spiritual masters—Ramanujacarya, Madhvacarya, Visnusvami, Sankaracarya, Guru Nanak—they have accepted that God is Krsna. So why not present this God all over the world?
Yogi: But the question is very simple. Present it along with the other Gods. The time has come for a mutual presentation.
Srila Prabhupada: No. A "mutual presentation"—simply talking—will not do. If Krsna is God, why not present, "Here is God—His name is Krsna"?
Yogi: Yes, but understand one thing. Everybody here in this world ... four billion people ... everybody does not have that spirit.
Srila Prabhupada: I mean to say that every religious sect believes in God. If we present, "Here is God-, you are seeking after God—here is God," now, what will they say?
Yogi: Well, some will say, "Yes, it is." Some will say no.
Srila Prabhupada: If they say no, then we have to ask, "Why do you say no? What is your conception of God?"
Yogi: Well, that is what we want to understand, basically. That is what we are talking about ... this one thing. Your realization about God is a very universal realization. Somebody else on this human level may be very imperfect. But after all, the imperfect and the perfect have to be brought together
Srila Prabhupada: No. The imperfect are imperfect. Unless one has a perfect understanding, he cannot understand God. God is perfect. So you have to come to that platform to understand. Those who are imperfect—they cannot understand. That is not possible. God says,
Siddha means one who has become perfect, spiritually realized. So Krsna says, manusyanam sahasresu: "Out of many millions of persons. . ." kascid yatati siddhaye: ". . . perhaps only one is trying to become perfect." And yatatam api siddhanam: "Out of millions of those who have become perfect, perhaps one can understand Me—Krsna."
Understanding God is for the perfect, not for the common man. Acaryopasanam: the common man should accept the perfect spiritual teachers. For instance, the Sikhs should follow Guru Nanak. Guru Nanak says, "Yes, Krsna is God." So they should accept, that's all. Not that every Sikh is expected to be as perfect as Guru Nanak. It is not expected that every Sikh will understand Krsna. But they should follow Guru Nanak—then they'll understand. Mahajano yena gatah sa panthah: the paths the great spiritual teachers have shown—these paths will show us the way. All the great spiritual teachers—they accept Krsna. So we have to follow-, otherwise, what will we understand? We must follow the great spiritual teachers.
Yogi: That doesn't solve the problems of the world.
Srila Prabhupada: First of all, if we accept, "Here is God," then it will solve our problems. But we have to accept.... A student accepts that his teacher has knowledge, and he solves his problems with that knowledge. But if we do not accept the great spiritual teachers ...
Yogi: No ... we may be perfect or imperfect. The question is very simple. There are four billion people on this earth
Srila Prabhupada: And therefore, not all four billion are expected to understand God. They should follow the leaders.
Yogi: That is what we are trying to do. We are going to get the leaders together.
Srila Prabhupada: The real leaders—the great spiritual teachers—are already there. Now, for instance, Guru Nanak says, "Krsna is God." So will you and your followers follow Guru Nanak or your own whims?
Yogi: No, no ... We will follow the instructions of ...
Srila Prabhupada: Guru Nanak. Guru Nanak says, "Krsna is God."
Yogi: That's very true. Krsna is God.
Srila Prabhupada: Then why don't you follow Krsna's instructions?
Yogi: We are not disobeying any instructions of God.
Srila Prabhupada: What Krsna—says that is written in Bhagavad-gita. Why don't you take that instruction? What is wrong there" Every problem is solved. For instance, to solve economic problems Krsna says, annad bhavanti bhutani: "if you simply grow enough food grains, then both animals and man will be happy and satisfied." [Bg. 3.14] So who will disagree with this point" Follow this.
To solve social problems Krsna says, catur-varnyam maya srstam guna-karma-vibhagasah: "Human society should be divided into four classes, according to their qualities and the different kinds of work ascribed to them." [Bg. 4.13] And everywhere you go, you'll find that four classes there are. Some people feel inclined to study and teach, others want to administrate and protect, another class does best in agriculture and trade, and others want to be workingmen and craftsmen. All this is already going on. "So," Krsna says, "make it systematic."
Now, how will you know who is in what group" By, their different qualities. For instance, in the Gad Krsna says,
samo damas tapah saucam
"Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, wisdom, knowledge, and religiousness—these are the qualities by which the intellectual class works." [Bg. 18.42] And from that information you can train a real intellectual class. They must be truthful, they must be self-controlled—controlling the mind, controlling the senses—they must have full knowledge of the world. And they must know how to apply their knowledge in practical situations.
So Krsna's instructions aren't sectarian. Where is the question of "I am Sikh," "I am Hindu," "I am Muslim"?
Yogi: No, no ... the question is very simple. People will ask you ... the caste system ... what it did to India.
Srila Prabhupada: Krsna doesn't recommend a "caste system"—classifying people by the families they're born in. No. That is a perversion of the real system, which is to classify people scientifically, by their qualities. Now, we are training these American boys as brahmanas, priests and scholars. Do you think they belong to "the brahmana caste"?
Yogi: No, but that is only
Srila Prabhupada: We are showing people how to acquire priestly and scholarly qualifications. It doesn't matter whether they are coming from Christian families or Muhammadan families. For instance, if you show someone how to become an engineer, it doesn't matter what family he's coming from. It doesn't matter. So anyone from any family can come and be trained in satyam—truthfulness, how to speak truthfully ... and in samah—controlling the mind ... and damah—controlling the senses. You may be Hindu, Muslim, Christian. Now, if I say, "Please come here, learn these things: how to control the mind, how to control the senses," who will object to it? So if anyone is trained—it doesn't matter which sect or which family he is coming from—if he has learned how to control the mind, how to control the senses, then he becomes a brahmana, a real scholar and spiritual leader.
So all the information we need—everything is already spoken by God. If you accept it, then there is unity. But you don't accept. You manufacture something. That is the difficulty.
Yogi: Yes. Well, there is another difficulty—
Srila Prabhupada: No. Our difficulty is that you don't accept. If I say, "Come here be educated," and if you don't accept—"No, no, I don't want to"—then how can you be educated? You must agree to what God says. But you say, "I believe ... We believe. . ." What is this, "I believe ... We believe"?
All the information we need is already there in the Bhagavad-gita. Perfect information—but people do not accept it. We don't require any conference. You imply accept Krsna's words, the standard knowledge—then everything will be all right. I am speaking to you because you are a leader. Now, if we take Bhagavad-gita very seriously and train people from all over the world—not that Bhagavad-gita is meant only for the Hindus or for the Indians, but for everyone—then everything will be all right. Otherwise it is not possible.
Yogi: No, I definitely agree that you must be successful in that mission, and you have practically and honestly taught what you believe in. My idea
Srila Prabhupada: I ''honestly believe." Why don't you "honestly believe"?
Yogi: I believe that you honestly believe—
Yogi: Then you also try in this way.
Yogi: That's what I am saying ... this is the time—
Srila Prabhupada: Accept the Bhagavad-gita as the standard knowledge and preach it.
Yogi: What I'm trying to say is that this concept which you honestly believe as an individual—
Srila Prabhupada: Again, why do you say I "honestly believe"? Why do you honestly disbelieve?
Yogi: Well, every honest, understanding person will believe what you are saying. There's no divergence on that. But still there is divergence.
Srila Prabhupada: No divergence. Now, you are the leader of a group. If you honestly believe, teach them—they will accept you. If we accept Krsna's instructions, if we try to convince people that we haven't got to research how to unite the whole world—"This information is already in the Bhagavad-gita. Accept it and follow it"—then everything will be taken care of.
Yogi: That requires a message.
Srila Prabhupada: The message is already there. I am giving you the message.
Yogi: Well, they are coming to the conference ... a lot of people ... and they would like to understand, and ... What, especially, will we—
Srila Prabhupada: No. Just carry this message to your followers. It is not my message; it is the message of Krsna. I am not manufacturing this message. I may be imperfect, but I am presenting the perfect message. That is my duty. I don't say I am perfect. I am simply a carrier, a peon. When a postal peon delivers some money, it is not his money—he simply carries it. So my duty is to carry Krsna's message, that's all. Whatever I've said, I'm quoting from Bhagavad-gita. You have seen it. I never say, "In my opinion ... I think ... No. We are not introducing anything new.
Yogi: It is very kind of you, and if you carry this message to New Mexico ... to all those guys ... it will be a great joy. That's what the whole event was ... to provide a platform where everyone
Srila Prabhupada: Now, first of all, you and all the other leaders should accept Krsna's message. Otherwise, everyone will simply come, and say something, and go away. That's all. There will be no understanding. I know that. There'll be no understanding. You can write it down in your notebook.
In this talk, His Divine Grace
HIS DIVINE GRACE RAMESVARA SWAMI is one of eleven spiritual masters that ISKCON's founder-acarya Srila Prabhupada selected to initiate new disciples. He is ISKCON's director for Japan, Hawaii, Colorado and Southern California. He is also a trustee of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
The original consciousness of the self cannot be awakened as long as it is contaminated by material affection. The soul in his pure state does not want anything material: he doesn't want a big home; he doesn't want a fancy car; he doesn't want the trappings of material life; he doesn't want to be surrounded by material possessions, absorbed in material thoughts, caring only for material friends and relatives. All this has nothing to do with the soul.
These are the aspirations of persons haunted by ghosts. Haunted—this is a very appropriate description. A man can sometimes become possessed. This is actually possible. The ghost will come at a time when the living entity's senses are not under his control—in a moment of intoxication or in a moment of deep sleep. At that time the ghost will cover the soul. And once the soul is covered, the ghost enters and possesses the material body. Under the possession of a ghost, a man behaves in a crazy way—not at all in the way he would normally behave. His body is now moving under the control of someone else. The soul is inside the body, but he's unable to control it. It's being directed by some other personality, the ghost, who has different motives and desires.
This is a suitable analogy. We know that the soul doesn't desire anything material, yet we see that everyone is actively trying to acquire material opulence—wealth, beauty, family, friends, society, home, education, fame, prestige, honor—as much as possible. So everyone is acting in a way which is completely contrary to the real self, the Soul. it's as if they were haunted by ghosts.
The "ghost" is the false ego—the conception that "I am this mind, I am this body." Everyone is under the spell of this false ego. Sometimes we say that everyone is under the spell of the witch called maya, illusion. Everyone is sitting on the lap of maya, and she's playing with them, Sometimes we say that everyone is being tossed about on the waves of the ocean of maya, or sometimes we say that everyone is just like a feather being tossed in the wind of maya.
Because our material desires, our material affections, are misguiding us, our real self is unable to feel satisfied. Thinking that this material body is the self, we are simply being misdirected at every moment. As soon as we feel a bodily urge—"Oh, I'M hungry. Oh, I'm sleepy"—we think, "Oh, my dear body, don't worry. Let me immediately make some arrangement for you." As soon as our mind wants to go to New York or London, "Oh, my dear mind, don't be in anxiety. I'll immediately make all arrangements. Please don't worry." In this way the living being becomes the servant of the body and mind.
As soon as the tongue wants to eat something nice or sweet, we say, "Oh, my dear tongue, immediately I'll serve you." We're serving a slab of flesh so faithfully Forgetting to serve God, Krsna, we have become a servant of this slab of flesh, the tongue, and also of the genitals. This is a haunted life. It's as if some other force were controlling everything we do. This is due to our false ego—the idea that "I am this body. "
We have to understand that there is more to life than the bodily activities of eating, sleeping, and mating. There's more to life than enjoying ordinary friendship, family, and society. There's more to life than just satisfying our animalistic urges. That's the symptom of a wise man—he has come to the conclusion that there is more to life than just living like an animal. A wise man can see that the animals have an ample supply of food, ample opportunity for sex, ample arrangement for sleeping. They have ample time for all these things, yet they are not happy.
But one who is intoxicated by materialistic illusion is so blind that he cannot see things as they are. Blinded by the intoxication of material opulence, people can't understand they are living like animals—simply eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. The dazzling material world intoxicates us. Material wealth, material prestige, material power, material beauty, material education, material family and reputation—these things intoxicate us into an illusion, and we forget the goal of life.
We're subjected to a dreamlike conception of who we really are. A crazy man might be thinking, "I've become Napoleon. I am the ruler of Europe." But there isn't any difference between the crazy man who thinks he's Napoleon and the so-called sane man who thinks, "I am very rich. I an, powerful I am the president of General Motors." What is the difference" Actually, there is no difference. He's dreaming just as much as the man who thinks he's Napoleon, because his bodily identification has nothing to do with his real sell', the soul. The more a man becomes preoccupied with these material conceptions and desires, the more intoxicated he becomes. He hallucinates about who he is and what he's doing.
So these material things are not assets. They are anarthas—unwanted things. Actually, they are disqualifications for spiritual life. A wise man sees all this. lie sees that there is more. There must be more. Obviously we can't ever be satisfied by the animalistic existence of eating, sleeping, sex, and fighting. No one is satisfied with that. There must be something else. So when we realize this, we begin to search for spiritual happiness, spiritual satisfaction. Then we have to take up following the codes of spiritual life.
The first thing we have to understand is that we cannot achieve our goal unless we first free ourselves from all material attachment. We have to be prepared to give up our selfish desires in order to become qualified spiritually. We have to give up the desires of our false, bodily ego for the desires of our real, spiritual ego. We cannot have both. Then arguing about it. There's no changing it.
If we are actually searching for spiritual perfection, spiritual knowledge, and spiritual satisfaction, then the first point is that we cannot achieve it until we give up our material hankering, our material attachment. That is why in the Krsna consciousness movement we follow four rules—no meat-eating, no gambling, no intoxication, no illicit sex. As we gradually give up these things, we can become more and more advanced in spiritual life. That is the key to Krsna consciousness.
We'll never experience ananda, spiritual bliss, if' we foolishly cling to our bodily desires, thinking, "I have just one more thing I want to experience. I have just one more thing I want to go through, just one more stage of' material life." We're fools for thinking like that. In our past lives we've already had all kinds of sex. We've had millions of years of family life. We've had millions of years of' eating all kinds of nonsense. We've had millions of years of serving our senses. Why do we say, "Just let me have one more thing, just one more chance to see if I can be happy by a material arrangement. Give me just one more chance to enjoy my genitals." You'll never put out the fire of material life by pouring on the gasoline of bodily sense gratification. Wake up to the truth. Become wise. There's no real happiness in animal pleasure, in animal indulgence. We've already gone through it.
Of course we might think, "Weil, just let me try once more, because I haven't gone through it in this type of body. Now I'm a human being." Or we might think, " A may have been a human before, but this is a different type of human body. It must be at least a slightly different experience." This is all foolishness, dreaming, hallucination—to think we're going to be happy in attempting to do the very things we've been doing for millions of' years, in millions of bodies. We may, have a human body now, but we've already tried to do all these things before, when we were royalty and when we were worms.
Give it all up. Krsna says. Come to the position of being wise. Realize that the goal is spiritual Satisfaction, spiritual enlightenment, and then take up the process to achieve this. But don't do it whimsically. The whimsical approach to spiritual life is nothing more than slavery to the mind. Actually, we will experience spiritual advancement only as much as we give up our material attachments. There's no way around it. We have to be prepared to give up all our false hopes that there's something for us to enjoy in this material world. There's not.
Krsna tells us in Bhagavad-gita, "From the highest planet to the lowest, everywhere you will find misery, repeated birth and death." We have to become convinced of this and give up our hope that there is anything in this material world that will make us happy, When we're enlightened in that way, we become satisfied. Then our original consciousness is reawakened. Then we enter fully into the loving network of Krsna's pastimes, Then we experience fully the spiritual pleasure energy of God.
But we cannot experience this unless we come up to the spiritual platform. We have to give up our illusory dreams once and for all. If we cling to our material plans, then Krsna sees that we are putting other desires before Him and He doesn't reveal Himself as much to us.
So this is what we have to work on. This is what we have to do. If we can give up our material plans we'll someday come to the position of the great devotee Yamunacarya, who said, "Since I have been engaged in the transcendental loving service of Krsna, realizing ever-new pleasure in Him, whenever I think of sex pleasure I spit at the thought, and my lips curl with distaste." Of course, Krsna does say in the Bhagavad-gita that there is such a thing as sex according to religious principles. But when we finally experience spiritual pleasure, we'll remember our former pleasures and see that they were nothing.
In other words, it's a question of our desire. Everything is resting on our desire. Now our desire is impure, but we can purify it by hearing this philosophy, and by chanting the holy names of God, the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. And when our desire is pure, then we'll fully experience ananda—unending, loving spiritual exchange between the soul and the Supreme Soul.
A nurse, an executive,
Before joining the Vancouver Hare Krsna temple, Sraddha dasi was a nurse. "I used to work all the time with people who were dying," she says, "and at the time of death you can almost see the spirit soul leaving the body—it's kind of like water pouring out of a cup. Especially when somebody dies very quickly. The hands and feet lose their consciousness, the extremities of the body get cold—you could stick a pin in them and they wouldn't even feel it—until gradually the only place that's really warm at all is around the heart. It's just like a wave. All the consciousness just goes out of the body.
"So I was wondering, 'Could we really be just these bodies—alive one minute and dead the next?' And I was realizing, 'We can't be these bodies. We're whatever it is that makes the difference between a live body and a dead body.' But I couldn't find anything that agreed with that until I read Prabhupada's books.
"One time this lady was dying. She wasn't a very old lady, either. But somehow she just started hemorrhaging internally. I knew she was, because of her symptoms. So I phoned up the doctor—it was Friday night—and I said, 'Hello, Dr. So-and-so?'
"He said, 'Oh, hello. I'm not here.'
"I said, 'Pardon me?'
"He said, 'I'm not here. I'm away for a week.'
"I said, 'What do you mean you're not here? I'm talking to you right now, and this person really needs a doctor.' As nurses, we can't do anything we're not authorized to do. We can't send a person to a hospital or give oxygen or anything, unless the doctor says we can do it. We just have to watch until we get authorization.
"But he said, 'Well, you'll just have to find someone else.'
"So I phoned another doctor, and he said, 'OK, I'll be in right away.' But he never came in. And so I just kind of sat by the lady's bed. And she said to me, 'Nurse, nurse, I'm dying! What am I supposed to do?'
"I said, 'I don't know.' And I just realized: 'Well, what is she supposed to do?' And actually I realized, 'Hey, I'm going to die, too.... I'm going to die, too.'
"I sat there holding her hand, and after she died I wrapped up her body and put it away, and I thought, 'Wow.... What could I have said to her?' You can't say, 'Oh, don't worry, dear. You have a thousand dollars in the bank, and you have a nice family.' It doesn't make any difference. Nothing makes any difference at that time.
"And so after a while I realized that there's no point to anything in the material world at all. There's no point at all. Actually, I couldn't find any reason for living the way people do. Because their death is just inevitable. They're all just going to die anyway. And it makes everything kind of useless. All these things people are so caught up in—but they could just die at any second."
Soon this understanding came even closer to home. "After I had been a devotee for a few months," Sraddha relates, "my sister—she was fifteen, she was going to be an Olympic swimmer, and she was so beautiful—she got hit by a car, and she became a vegetable.
"And so they decided to use her body. They hooked it up to machines, and they used it for a whole bunch of tests, and then they pulled the plug out. I was really upset. And I was thinking, 'How could she die? My sister. I grew up with her. That's amazing.' And then I started reading the second chapter of Bhagavad-gita, and I realized that death is coming at any minute. It's sitting right behind you all the time. So if you think like that, you don't waste any time."
Sraddha had first come in touch with Krsna consciousness while still in nursing training. "I used to work night shift and go to college in the daytime," she says. "Actually, I was always looking for something more. At that time I was reading some sutras by Patanjali. It's very impersonal, and I wasn't very satisfied with it. But I didn't have anything else to read, and I'd never heard of Hare Krsna.
"One time I had just got out of school, and I was at a shopping mall. A devotee approached me and said, 'I want you to have this book.'
"I said, 'Look, I don't want anything to do with you. I want you to just get out of here.'
"He said, 'You must have this book." and we went back and forth like that. So I said to him, 'I'm not going to give you any money for it, because I haven't got any money. I'm very poor.'
"So I didn't give him any money, but he made me take the book. It was The Nectar of Devotion. So I said, 'Oh, all right,' and I just tossed it in my bag. I remember thinking afterward, 'I wonder why I was so rude to him?'
"Anyway, I didn't even think about the book. But then a few nights later I was working. It was about one or two o'clock in the morning, and I didn't have anything to do—everybody was sleeping, dying.... We were sitting around reading. I finished reading Patanjali and threw it down, so I didn't have anything to read. And then I remembered that book, The Nectar of Devotion, and I started reading it. And I remember—as soon as I started reading it, it made so much sense. I remember I started chanting that very night. While I was getting people up, cleaning their beds, and so on, I started chanting Hare Krsna.
"I went home the next day, and met my boyfriend. (We're married now; his name's Bhakti-rasa.) I remember saying, 'Have you seen this book? Have you heard about Krsna?'
"He told me he had. He used to meet the devotees all the time in Toronto. 'I know the Hare Krsna people,' he said. 'They're really nice.. I don't like the way they force you to take things in the street, but they're really very nice people.' "
After that, Sraddha relates, she got married and moved to Calgary. Her husband would sometimes go to bookstores and get her books about Krsna consciousness, but they didn't see the Hare Krsna people again until four years later.
"Then we met some devotees, and we decided that we were going to join. I was at another hospital by that time. I'd finished my training. Also, I was enrolled in school again. I'd gotten a scholarship to go on and become a doctor. So I was taking some premed courses. But I wasn't satisfied with that, either.
"I was pretty well top of the class, but it all seemed so useless, And then I said, 'I'm quitting school.' And everyone said, 'Why?' And I said, 'Well, I'm going to go to Vancouver and join the Hare Krsna movement.'
"And they said, 'What? Are you crazy? What do you think you're doing?'
"But that's what we did."
The spiritual coordinator for all the Hare Krsna temples in Canada is a devotee named Gopala Krsna dasa. Born in Delhi in 1946, he is the son of a commander in the Indian navy. Gopala Krsna earned a B.A. at Delhi University and a postgraduate business degree at the Sorbonne, where he studied for two years on a French government scholarship. Later he studied at the University of Toronto and received his master's degree in business management from McGill University, in Montreal.
"My upbringing was not at all religious," Gopala Krsna says. "Actually, before I came to Krsna consciousness I was very materialistic. But by November of 1967, a great urge had developed in me to discover spiritual life. One day on my way home I threw away my cigarette packet, and a few days later I gave up eating meat. The last movie I saw was some time that month, and I also stopped visiting the discotheques. This was all about six months before I met Srila Prabhupada.
"I started visiting different churches and temples in Toronto, hoping to find some guidance about God. And then, after I had moved to Montreal, I received a card inviting me to come to a special program at the Hare Krsna temple on May 30, 1968.
"So I attended that program, and afterward I was informed Srila Prabhupada would be arriving in town the next day. The devotees asked me if I wanted to come to the airport to greet him, but I said no, that wouldn't be possible.
"Just out of formality, I asked them if there was anything I could do to help, and they said, 'Yes! There's plenty to do.' They guided me to the apartment where Srila Prabhupada was going to be staying, and the first assignment they gave me was to clean the windows and shelves of his apartment.
"Frankly, I didn't relish this assignment, but I felt I was stuck. So on that very first day I worked nonstop from two or three in the afternoon till about nine in the evening. After finishing my cleaning duties, I returned to the temple, which was about five minutes away, and the devotees were so pleased with me that they offered me a glass of banana-flavored milk."
After Srila Prabhupada arrived in Montreal, Gopala Krsna began attending classes in the temple and meetings with Srila Prabhupada and the devotees at Srila Prabhupada's apartment in the evenings. "While listening to Srila Prabhupada, I would say to myself, 'This man is not very original. All he's doing is quoting and repeating what the previous teachers have said.' To me, intelligence meant being original. But after a while I realized that an authentic spiritual master doesn't invent something new, but instead repeats the spiritual knowledge given in the scriptures and transmitted to him by his own spiritual master. This is the secret of spiritual understanding.
"I was coming to the temple regularly," Gopala Krsna says, "and just after the first two or three weeks I knew that this was what I was looking for."
After joining the Krsna consciousness movement, Gopala Krsna continued to work at his job as a senior market research analyst for Pepsi-cola, and later he worked in a similar capacity for a major pharmaceutical company. His work, however, was not for himself but for Krsna. He contributed his earnings for spreading Krsna consciousness. This, Srila Prabhupada explained, was the process of yoga—to work for Krsna's service, without being attached to enjoying the fruits of the work for oneself. While working at his regular job, he also organized the first publications about Krsna consciousness in French. (He speaks French, English, and Hindi fluently.)
After several years, Gopala Krsna left his job to dedicate his full time to the work of the Krsna consciousness movement. Now he divides his time between overseeing temples and book publication, in India and in Canada. "Canada has a very large Indian community," he remarks. "In fact, Toronto has more than 100,000 people of Indian origin—the largest Indian community in North America. Of course, when Indian people come to the West, they're primarily interested in material benefits, but when they see young Westerners taking part in this Krsna consciousness movement, they have second thoughts and start to realize the tremendous spiritual value of their own heritage."
One Indian devotee residing in Toronto is thirty-four-year-old Visnu-tattva dasa, a former Mr. Ontario, with a wall full of trophies and a black belt in karate. Visnu-tattva owns a health club in the suburb of Barrie, about an hour from the city. "I'm forty-five miles away from the temple," he says, "but we're doing our devotional service, my wife and I. We offer all our food to Krsna and follow the four regulative principles [no gambling, no intoxication, no meat-eating, and no illicit sex) very strictly."
Both Visnu-tattva and his wife were born in Fiji and come from Gujarati Indian families. In 1970 they moved to Canada and became Canadian citizens. In 1971 Visnu-tattva began managing the three-story health club, with its gymnasium, swimming pool, sauna, whirlpool, sun room, and dozens of exercise machines. Later he bought out the owner and took over the business himself.
Each month Visnu-tattva sets aside roughly a thousand dollars to cover his family's expenses, plus something extra to keep expanding the business. Beyond that, he gives everything to help spread Krsna consciousness (fifty percent goes to the Hare Krsna temple in Toronto and fifty percent to the temple in Delhi).
Visnu-tattva says that indirectly his body building helped him become Krsna conscious. "In my younger days, exercising was what kept me away from all kinds of degrading activities. Because of these exercises, I kept away from drinking and even the women. I just didn't have time for illicit activities. I mean, I knew that all those things were wrong, and that if I did them I would lose my body's shape. And so psychologically this kept me strong."
It was his wife who first brought him to the temple in Toronto. "My wife was always a devotee," Visnu-tattva says. "Even as a young girl she used to get up at six each morning and water the tulasi plant [a plant sacred to Lord Krsna]. Starting from age eleven—every morning at six o'clock.
"After she heard about the temple in Toronto, she said, 'Let's go to the temple.' And I said, 'I'm too busy today.' But she said, 'Let's go.' And she kept bugging me for six months in that way, until I said, 'OK, we'll go.' "
At the temple he met Visvakarma dasa, the temple president. "Visvakarma invited me to come in and have some prasada [food offered to Lord Krsna]. We left a donation and took some books, and I started reading the Bhagavatam."
Gradually, Visnu-tattva's Krsna consciousness began to revive. "Having been raised in Indian families," he says, "we knew about Krsna, but I had a Mayavadi [impersonal] conception, because I thought Brahma, Siva, and Visnu [Krsna] were one. But in his books Srila Prabhupada made it obvious that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the source of Brahma and Siva. So by reading the Bhagavatam we developed a solid, well-grounded trust in Prabhupada and in Lord Krsna. We understood that Krsna is the source of everything, that everything emanates from Him.
"Whenever I felt any anxiety about how my spiritual life was going," Visnu-tattva recalls, "I would call Visvakarma, and he'd clear things up for me. Then, too, with my wife already being a devotee of Krsna, we just carried on directly from there."
Tom Varadi is a process engineer at an oil refinery, and his wife Suzanne is an architect with a firm of consulting engineers. Tom and Suzanne began chanting Hare Krsna regularly a year ago. "We started with twenty minutes a day," Tom says, "and as more realizations kept coming to us, we kept chanting more each day.
"Before we got interested in Krsna consciousness, we had been involved in various types of yoga and meditation," says Tom. "We appreciated talking with devotees, but we always thought, you know, 'Here you have the mountain, and there are various ways to get to the top of the mountain.' We believed that each way was just as valid as any other way—until we realized some of the things that were going on with some of these yoga and meditation groups."
Tom and Suzanne had been practicing a popular form of meditation. "We'd been meditating for quite a while—seven years. First they had told me, 'You'll be a better businessman,' or a better ... you know, whatever you wanted to be. But I was a bit more serious than that. I didn't want to be just a better businessman. Of course, at the beginning it was all laid out in a pleasant format. And we were quite young, so we went along.
"When we started," says Tom, "they told us things like, 'We promise you'll have enlightenment in five to eight years. We guarantee it.' But after five years we thought, 'Well, where is it"
"We started to see how shallow the whole thing was. About that time they started introducing new tricks to try to get more people. . . . ."
The siddhi business—trying to sell us on levitation and mystic powers—that's what finally did it," says Suzanne, "We both looked at each other and said, 'You know, four thousand dollars is what they're charging to learn this siddhi program.' Slowly. They charge you maybe a hundred dollars a shot ... two or three hundred dollars. And you have to keep going from one course to the next to get to the siddhi.
Tom says, "I have an old acquaintance who started meditating at the same time I did. He even became a teacher, and he likes to show us pictures of people flying and all sorts of things. But we tell him, 'So what? Even if it were true, so what? What's the point?' "
Tom and Suzanne began investigating other methods of meditation, and gradually (it's a long story) they took to Krsna consciousness. Says Suzanne, "The more you chant, the more you realize about life ... and about yourself."
Tom says, "I feel like I'm being put into the right position, sort of put in my place, so to speak. Your outlook really changes—I guess according to your devotion in chanting—and you begin to find your relationship with God."
"I know that the world is completely controlled," says Suzanne. "You can see it. That's another thing from chanting Hare Krsna. You see the perfection in Krsna's arrangement of everything. You see the whole thing laid out before you. Things fit together like a puzzle—perfectly. By that process of chanting, the realizations follow, and you can just put the puzzle together. It's a slow process at first, and then it accelerates the more you chant."
A look at the worldwide activities of the
New Cultural Center For London
London—Just off Oxford Street, English devotees of Lord Krsna have opened a new cultural center that includes a temple, a theater, and a vegetarian restaurant.
The six-story building near Soho Square was already a minor landmark, and the government had ordered it preserved for its historical and architectural value. Now that its interior has been remodeled into a replica of an ancient Vedic temple, the building has become even more of an attraction. Says one leading British architect, "This is the first time I've seen an interior recreate with such a degree of authenticity one of the great art forms of the ancient world.' "
The grand opening took place on the anniversary of the day that Srila Prabhupada's spiritual master, His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura (1874-1936), made his appearance in this world. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was the first Krsna conscious spiritual master to send his disciples to teach in the Western countries, and he specifically wanted to maintain a cultural center in London. But though he sent several followers there in the 1930s, they returned to India unsuccessful.
At the opening ceremony His Divine Grace Jayatirtha Maharaja, ISKCON's initiating guru for the United Kingdom, noted with pleasure that the wishes of Srila Prabhupada and Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati are now being fulfilled.
ISKCON Guru Addresses World Hindu Conference
India-In late January more than one hundred thousand people, many of them yogis and monks, journeyed to the pilgrimage center of Allahabad, in southern Uttar Pradesh. The events that drew the crowds were Magh Mela (a yearly transcendental fair that dates back many centuries) and the Second World Hindu Conference. Guest speakers included the Dalai Lama, the current spiritual leaders of the Sankara and Madhva disciplic successions, and Srila Jayapataka Swami, coordinator for ISKCON in East India, Bangladesh, and Nepal and one of the eleven spiritual masters that ISKCON's founder-acarya Srila Prabhupada selected to initiate new disciples.
Allahabad is the place where the sacred rivers Ganges, Yamuna, and Sarasvati come together, and for spiritual purification and upliftment, thousands bathed in the waters. Yet in his address, His Divine Grace Jayapataka Swami pointed out that the most powerful spiritual practice—the one the Vedic literatures recommend for this age—is chanting and hearing the glories of the Supreme Lord, Krsna. The crowd responded with cheering and applause, and all through the festivities devotees of Krsna chanted the Hare Krsna maha-mantra and distributed thousands of volumes of Srila Prabhupada's translations and commentaries on the Vedic literatures.
The "Secular State"
This conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and India's ambassador to Sweden took place in Stockholm, in the fall of 1973.
Srila Prabhupada: In America and India and so many countries all over the world, they have a "secular state." The government leaders say they don't want to favor any particular religion, but actually they are favoring irreligion.
Ambassador: Well, we have a problem, We have a multireligious society, so we people in government have to be careful . We can't take too strong a position on religion.
Srila Prabhupada: No, no. The government must take a strong position. Of course, the government should be neutral to all forms of bona fide religion. But it also has a duty to see that the people are genuinely religious. Not that in the name of a "secular state," the government should let the people go to hell.
Ambassador: Well, that's true.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, if you are a Muslim, then it is the duty of the government to see that you are really acting as a Muslim. If you are a Hindu, it is the government's duty to see that you are acting as a Hindu. If you are Christian, it is the government's duty to see that you are acting as a Christian. The government cannot give up religion. Dharmena hina pasubhih saman: if people become irreligious, then they are simply animals. So it is the government's duty to see that the citizens are not becoming animals. The people may profess different forms of religion. That doesn't matter. But they must be religious. "Secular state" doesn't mean that the government should be callous—"Let the people become cats and dogs, without religion." If the government doesn't care, then it isn't a good government.
Ambassador: I think there's a lot in what you say. But, you know, politics is the art of the possible.
Srila Prabhupada: No. Politics means seeing that the people become advanced, that the citizens become spiritually advanced. Not that they become degraded.
Ambassador: Yes, I agree. But I think the primary duty of the government is to provide the conditions in which gifted people, spiritual leaders like you, can function. If the government does any more than that, it might even corrupt the various religious groups. I think government should be like an umpire in a game—provide the conditions, provide the conditions for free speech.
Srila Prabhupada: No. Government must do more than that. For instance, you have a commerce department—the government sees that the trade and industrial enterprises are doing nicely, properly. The government issues licenses. They have supervisors and inspectors. Or, for instance, you have an educational department—educational inspectors who see that the students are being properly educated. Similarly, the government should have expert men who can check to see that the Hindus are really acting like Hindus, the Muslims are acting like Muslims, and the Christians are acting like Christians. The government should not be callous about religion. They may be neutral. "Whatever religion you profess, we have nothing to do with that." But it is the government's duty to see that you are doing nicely—that you are not bluffing.
Ambassador: Surely ... as far as moral conduct is concerned. But more than that, how is it possible, you know?
Srila Prabhupada: The thing is, unless you are actually following religious principles, you cannot possibly have good moral conduct.
yasyasti bhaktir bhagavaty akincana
"One who has unflinching devotion to God consistently manifests all godly qualities. But one who has no such devotion always must be concocting schemes for exploiting the Lord's material, external energy—and so he can have no good moral qualities whatsoever." [Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.18.12]
As long as you have faith in God, devotion to God, everything is all right. After all, God is one. God is neither Hindu nor Christian nor Muslim. God is one. And that is why the Vedic literatures tell us,
sa vai pumsam paro dharmo
"The supreme duty for all humanity is to achieve loving devotional service to the Supreme Lord. Only such devotional service—unmotivated and uninterrupted—can completely satisfy the self." [Bhag. 1.2.6] So one must be religious. Without being religious, no one can be satisfied. Why is there so much confusion and dissatisfaction all over the world? Because people have become irreligious.
Ambassador: In Moscow, so many people are hostile to religion, completely against it.
Srila Prabhupada: Why do you say Moscow? Everywhere. At least in Moscow they are honest. They honestly say, "We don't believe in God."
Ambassador: That's true. That's true.
Srila Prabhupada: But in other places they say, "I am Hindu," "I am Muslim," "I am Christian ... .. I believe in God." And still they don't know anything about religion. They don't follow God's laws.
Ambassador: I'm afraid most of us are like that. That's true.
Srila Prabhupada: [Laughs.] I should say that in Moscow at least they are gentlemen. They cannot understand religion, so they say, "We don't believe." But these other rascals say, "Yes, we're religious. In God we trust." And yet they are committing the most irreligious acts. Many times I have asked Christians, "Your Bible says, 'Thou shalt not kill.' Why are you killing" They cannot give any satisfactory answer. It is clearly said, "Thou shalt not kill"—and they are maintaining slaughterhouses. What is this?
The Biography of a Pure Devotee
by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami
Srila Prabhupada pursued his desire to purchase the two-storied structure at 143 West Seventy-second Street. The realtors had shown him the building, and he had already mentally arranged the interior for Deity worship and distribution of prasada [food offered to Lord Krsna].
On January 14 he wrote a letter to the building's owner, Mr. A. M. Hartman, explaining his problem in getting the government of India to sanction the release of money from the country. He requested Mr. Hartman to donate the building for the time being for use as a Krsna temple.
Srila Prabhupada related that he had expected to get personal sanction from the prime minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, who was due to visit America. "But now the prime minister is suddenly dead," wrote Srila Prabhupada, "and I'm greatly perplexed." (Prime Minister Shastri died of a heart attack on January 11, 1966, while visiting Russia.) So Srila Prabhupada suggested that if Mr. Hartman were to donate the building, at least he would not have to pay taxes. He also requested that Mr. Hartman become one of the directors of the proposed institution.
Mr. Hartman was not agreeable. But in January a reply to one of the letters to India gave Srila Prabhupada considerable hope. It came from Sri Padmapat Singhania, the director of a very large business in India known as the J. K. Organization. Srila Prabhupada had written him an appeal to help, since the members of his family were traditionally devotees of Lord Krsna.
On January 14, 1966, Mr. Singhania replied as follows:
"My dear Svamiji,
Srila Prabhupada and Mr. Singhania disagreed as to what kind of building should become the first Krsna temple in New York. To construct a magnificent Indian temple in New York would cost many millions of dollars, Srila Prabhupada had mentioned that they might not be able to buy suitable vacant land in Manhattan, and in that case they might even have to purchase a building, dismantle it, and then construct a temple. He knew that if Padmapat Singhania truly desired, he was rich enough to spend millions of dollars. But then again there was the critical situation regarding exchange. How would they be able to get such a huge amount of money out of India? Srila Prabhupada therefore again suggested his plan that they spend only seven lakhs. "After purchasing the house," he wrote, "we can build another story upon it with a temple dome, cakra [the disc of Lord Visnu], etc."
The members of Mr. Singhania's family were traditionally devotees of Lord Krsna in His opulent form known as Lord Dvaraka-natha. According to Srimad-Bhagavatam, when Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, made His appearance in the material world, He first appeared in the rural setting of Vrndavana, where in His childhood He sported with the cows and cowherd boys and girls. When He was sixteen years old He moved to Dvaraka, where He became a young prince and lived in fabulous opulence.
"Lord Dvarakadhisa," wrote Srila Prabhupada, "exhibited His opulence at Dvaraka with sixteen thousand queens, and it is understood that He built a palace for each and every queen, and the palaces were made with jewels and stones so that there was no necessity for artificial light in the palaces. So your conception of building a temple of Lord Krsna is in opulence. But we are residents of Vrndavana, and Vrndavana has no palaces like your Dvaraka. Vrndavana is full of forests and cows on the bank of the Yamuna, and Lord Krsna in His childhood played the part of a cowherd boy without any real opulence [like that of which] you people, the inhabitants of Dvaraka, think. So when the Dvaraka-valas meet the Vrndavana-valas there may be a via media [that is, a compromise]." With Mr. Singhania's Dvaraka-like wealth and Srila Prabhupada's Vrndavana-like devotion, Lord Krsna—the Lord of both Vrndavana and Dvaraka—could be properly worshiped.
With one apparently hot iron in the fire, Srila Prabhupada proceeded to add others. He wrote to another Godbrother, Bon Maharaja, the rector of the Institute of Oriental Philosophy, in Vrndavana, saying that he had found a place for a temple in New York City and that he wanted to install Deities of Radha and Krsna. Bon Maharaja wrote back on January 14 with price estimates for fourteen-inch brass Deities of Radha-Krsna, but he warned Srila Prabhupada that to start the Deity worship would be a heavy responsibility for the future.
Srila Prabhupada requested Bon Maharaja's assistance in getting the government to sanction the release of the money he felt Padmapat Singhania would donate. Srila Prabhupada mentioned that he had carried on an extensive personal correspondence with the vice-president of India, Dr. Radha-krishnan, who was also known to Bon Maharaja. "Tell him," Srila Prabhupada wrote Bon Maharaja, "that it is not an ordinary temple of worship but an international institution for God consciousness based on the Srimad-Bhagavatam." In reply to Bon Maharaja's question as to whether Srila Prabhupada could single-handedly manage a temple in New York, Srila Prabhupada replied, "I think that after the temple has started, some men, even from America, may be available, as I see they have in the Ramakrishna Mission as well as in so many yoga societies. So I am trying to open a temple here because Srila Prabhupada [meaning his own spiritual master, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura] wanted it."
On Saturday, January 22, while Srila Prabhupada prayed to receive Radha-Krsna in New York, a snow storm hit the city. That morning, Srila Prabhupada, who had never before seen snow, woke up and thought that someone had whitewashed the whole side of the adjoining building. When he went outside, he saw that everything was covered with snow. Now he had to walk through heavy snow with only a thin dhoti beneath his overcoat and his head covered with his "svami hat." The temperature was down to ten degrees.
While the city went into a state of emergency, Srila Prabhupada continued his daily walks. The main roads were cleared, but many sidewalks were covered with snow. Along the strip of park dividing Broadway, the gusting winds piled snowbanks up to shoulder height and totally buried the benches. The Broadway kiosks, plastered with layer upon layer of posters and notices, were now plastered with additional layers of snow and ice. But despite the snow, people were still walking their dogs, although the dogs now wore raincoats and mackinaws. (The pampering behavior of the American dog owners always left Prabhupada with a feeling of surprised amusement.) As he approached West End Avenue, he found the doormen blowing whistles as usual to signal the taxis, and scattering salt to create safe walkways in front of the buildings. In Riverside Park the benches, paths, and trees were glazed with ice and gave off a shimmering reflection from the sky.
In the newspapers that week, Selective Service officials announced that for the first time since the Korean War, substantial numbers of young people would be drafted. In Vietnam a month-long peace ended, and the U.S. Air Force raided North Vietnam. The transit strike ended after three weeks, and subsequently the transit labor leader, who had been arrested, died of a heart attack.
On January 30 the whole East Coast was hit by severe blizzards, and seven inches of snow fell on the city, with winds up to fifty miles an hour. The City of New York offered free warm rooms and board for people living in tenements without heat. J.F.K. Airport was temporarily closed, as were train lines and roadways into the city. For the second time within eight days, a state of emergency was called on account of snow.
Srila Prabhupada was struggling, but he remained convinced that the world's suffering could be solved only by Krsna consciousness. As a lone individual , he could not do anything about the snow emergency or the international warfare, which he saw as mere symptoms of the age of Kali. There would always be misery in the material world, but if he could bring Radha and Krsna to a building in New York, it would be possible for the Supreme Lord to do anything. Even in the midst of Kali-yuga, a golden age could appear, and people could get relief from all the anomalies of the present age. If Americans could take to Krsna consciousness, its potency for peace and prosperity based on genuine God consciousness could spread all over the world. Seeing through the eyes of the scriptures, Srila Prabhupada pushed himself through the city blizzard and pursued the thin trail for support of his project.
On February 4, Srila Prabhupada wrote a letter in answer to his Godbrother Tirtha Maharaja. His Godbrother had said that he would try for the government sanction only after he had gotten a letter from a responsible donor who promised to purchase a temple for Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada informed him that the donor would be Sri Padmapat Singhania of the J. K. Organization, and he enclosed Mr. Singhania's letter of the fourteenth expressing a favorable attitude toward building a Krsna temple in New York. Srila Prabhupada reminded his Godbrother, "Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta wanted such temples in foreign countries such as New York, London, Tokyo, etc., and I had personal talks with him when I first met him at Ulta Danga in 1922. Now here is a chance for me to carry out his personal order.... I am just seeking your favor and mercy in making this attempt successful."
Srila Prabhupada's attempt to nourish all these plans around the promise of support by Padmapat Singhania met discouragement when the Dvaraka-vala wrote a letter (dated Janaury 27) expressing his disinterest in the Seventy-second Street building.
"I am afraid that I cannot agree with your suggestion that you should buy a small house and erect something on top of it," said Mr. Singhania. "Unfortunately, such a kind of proposal will not suit me. The temple must be a small one, but it must be constructed properly. I quite agree that you cannot spend a lot of money at present, but within the amount the government may sanction, you should build something according to the architecture of Indian temples. Then only will we be able to create some impression on the American people. This is all that I can write to you in this connection. I am very grateful for your taking the trouble of writing me."
Somehow Srila Prabhupada did not take this letter as final; he still maintained hopes that Sri Padmapat Singhania would give money for the temple, if only the transfer of money could be arranged from India. He continued writing his Godbrothers and other devotees, asking them to approach the government to arrange sanction for release of money. He continued desiring the building, even though his one likely donor had gone sour on the idea of a cakra and dome placed atop a converted two-story structure.
In the beginning of February, 1966, Srila Prabhupada changed his room from 501 to 307 in the same building on Seventy-second Street. In one of his letters to a Godbrother in India, he wrote, "I have changed my room to Room 307 in the same building as above mentioned, for better air and light, and on the roadside junction of two roads, the Columbus Avenue and Seventy-second Street." According to Dr. Misra, Srila Prabhupada moved in order to have his own place, independent of the Misra Yoga Society.
Room 307 was a very small office space with a toilet and sink but no facilities for bathing or cooking. It clearly was not intended for use as a residence, asrama, or lecture hall. The door to 307 had a glass transom above it, and it held a large pane of frosted white glass, the kind common in old office doors. Usually, the name of the firm renting the office would have been printed on the lower left-hand corner of the pane. The room was very narrow. It had no furniture and no phone.
Srila Prabhupada set out his blankets on the floor, next to a makeshift desk he had arranged for his typewriter and books. Although in that room he was now independent to preach as he liked, his material standards had been reduced. Whoever found him there saw that he was very poor. He could not even eat or bathe at home. He simply worked at his writing there and slept on the floor. He still had to walk to Seventy-fifth Street to cook at Dr. Misra's residence.
While Srila Prabhupada had stayed at Dr. Misra's yoga asrama, Dr. Misra had personally financed his needs, but now that Dr. Misra was leaving for Europe, Srila Prabhupada was financially on his own. Whatever money he could raise by sales of his books he had to use for the monthly rent of seventy-two dollars. He was also spending a few dollars a day for maintenance. He noted that for a little chili powder the West End Superette charged twenty-five cents, many times what he would have paid for the same thing in India. Although he had no income, his expenses had increased. But at least this was his own place, and he began his own preaching to the few guests who began to attend his talks.
Srila Prabhupada pursued his plans to purchase the building, and he also continued his writing and his local speaking and book selling. But in February he suffered reverses in most of these projects.
On February 16 he wrote to the proprietors of the Universal Book House of Bombay, giving some hints for selling his Srimad-Bhagavatam in the Bombay area. Srila Prabhupada informed them that he was trying to establish a Radha-Krsna temple and that "a big industrialist of India has promised to pay for the cost." Since it seemed he might stay in the United States "for many more days," Srila Prabhupada wanted the Book House to take increased charge of selling his books throughout India. The Book House was the agent for selling his books in the province of Maharastra, but now Srila Prabhupada recommended that they take the responsibility for selling his three volumes of Srimad-Bhagavatam in all the other provinces and introducing them in colleges and universities throughout the country. He also requested that they credit his bank account there for the books sold so far.
Within ten days a letter from the Universal Book House arrived at Room 307. "I cannot give you very happy news on the progress of the sale of Srimad-Bhagavatam," wrote Mr. A. P. Dharwadkar, "because the subject is religious and (only) a small sect of the society may be personally interested in the books." The book agent explained that their line of business rarely brought them in contact with colleges and universities. The few booksellers who had taken the books had returned them after some time, for want of response. "As such," the agent wrote, "we are not only unenthusiastic to greet your proposal to take up sales for all India, but we were just thinking to ask you to nominate some other people to represent your sales program in Maharastra." So far, they had sold only six sets of his books, for which they were about to transfer 172 rupees to his account. This was hardly encouraging to the author. Again, India was not interested. Even in "the land of religion," religious subjects were only for "a small sect. "
Another reverse came directly from the head of the Indian government. On February 8 Srila Prabhupada had addressed a letter to the new prime minister, Indira Gandhi, requesting her to give him permission to release money from India to invest in the Krsna temple in New York. His reply came from the prime minister's official secretary, Mr. L K. Gha. It was dated February 25 from New Delhi.
Once again the message was a clear no, but Srila Prabhupada wouldn't take no for an answer, at least not until he had pursued the matter to its furthest limit. Even after receiving this letter, he continued trying to get governmental sanction for the release of money.
Srila Prabhupada's visa, which he had extended several times, was to run out again by March 1966. To get an extension, he would have to apply a few weeks beforehand. He wrote to his Godbrothers that he needed definite encouragement from them to continue in America, because it was so expensive. He informed them that he was spending the equivalent of a thousand rupees a month. "And as such, I am counting every day to receive your favorable replies."
In a letter dated February 16, he again requested Tirtha Maharaja to approach Dr. Radhakrishnan on his behalf, to try to persuade the government to release funds, but this time the Godbrothers let his letter go unanswered. Apparently they felt little obligation toward preaching in America; they didn't even bother to write him regular replies.
On March 18 Srila Prabhupada wrote another letter to Sri Padmapat Singhania, requesting a man from India to work on the temple in New York, as Mr. Singhania had previously suggested. Srila Prabhupada again wrote to Sumati Morarjee, requesting her to please send him a mrdanga, a drum to accompany his chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra. And he requested that in the future, when he would send many men from India, she oblige by giving them free passage on Scindia Steamship Lines. There is no record of any reply to these inquiries. As his financial situation became more urgent and his hopes more strained, his support from India withdrew in silence. His unanswered correspondence was itself a kind a message, loud and clear: "We cannot help you."
Although no one encouraged him, Srila Prabhupada trusted in the order of his spiritual master and the will of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna. He extended his visa to stay on in New York. Although the word from the prime minister was a definite no, Srila Prabhupada still hoped that Padmapat Singhania was influential enough to send him money if he wanted to. Mr. Singhania had already written that he was not interested in Prabhupada's building, but Srila Prabhupada had written him further, suggesting different ways the money could be released from India and a temple built according to Mr. Singhania's satisfaction.
The one light in all these maneuvers was the slight hope that Mr. Singhania would still make a big donation. But this hope was thoroughly discouraged by a letter of March 28 from the J. K. Organization. This time Mr. Singhania did not write personally. The reply came from his secretary, Mr. Easwara Iyer.
"I regret to write that Sri Padmapatji is not interested in the scheme of building a Radha-Krsna temple in New York at present. In regard to the inquiry contained in the last paragraph of your letter, Sri Padmapatji duly received your books of Srimad-Bhagavatam from your Delhi offices. Yours sincerely."
Had Srila Prabhupada given up, as would most persons his age, there would be nothing further to tell about the Hare Krsna movement. But he persisted, and there is more to our story of one pure devotee's singlehanded effort to introduce Krsna consciousness in the West.
Seeing him from a long distance, a tiny figure walking Manhattan's streets and avenues among many other tiny figures; hearing of his daily survival, an Indian immigrant, old and poor, whose visa had almost run out—in this way we come upon only the external appearance of Srila Prabhupada. He would always acknowledge that those days were real enough and very difficult, but the other level, his transcendental consciousness, was always there and predominant. Formerly, when he had suffered his heart attacks aboard the Jaladuta, his reading of Caitanya-caritamrta had supplied him the nectar of life. And now he was not really living in Manhattan consciousness, but was absorbed in dependence upon Krsna, and thus he was situated in the soul's original, constitutional nature in relation to God.
Certainly Srila Prabhupada wanted very much to open Lord Krsna's temple in New York. But whether or not the world would recognize him and provide him with a building, he had already succeeded, because he was remembering Krsna, even in New York City in the winter of 1965-66. Not a day went by when he did not work on Krsna's book, Srimad-Bhagavatam, which fully declares the glories of Krsna. And not a day went by when he did not offer prasada to Krsna and speak on Krsna's philosophy, of Bhagavad-gita.
Lord Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita, "For one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, I am never lost to him, and he is never lost to Me." Krsna makes this promise to His devotee and assures him that there need be no doubt. "My devotee will never be vanquished." There was never any doubt about this for Srila Prabhupada. The only question was whether Americans would succeed in taking notice of the pure devotee in their midst. At this point it certainly didn't seem that anyone was going to take him seriously.
Years later, Srila Prabhupada would describe his change of fortune in New York as no less than a miracle performed by Krsna. "When I was alone in New York," he would say, "I was thinking, 'Who will listen to me in this horrible, sinful place? All right, I shall stay a little longer. At least I can distribute a few of my books. That is something.' Now I can see that it is a miracle. Otherwise, your city, New York, one single old man, with only a few books to sell for barely getting eatables—how can he survive, what to speak of introducing a God conscious movement for saving humankind? That is Krsna's miracle."
Reflections on Krsna consciousness,
My first impression of the Hare Krsna temple was, "Here is something that is very beautiful and lovely." As far as the worship was concerned, it was the happiness of it, the joy of it, that I noticed. I observed it in all the faces of the devotees. And, of course, there was the dancing, which in the Christian church you don't have at all. I also was very impressed with the way the, children were enjoying themselves in worship and really taking part in it. So it was an experience of great joy, an experience that made me think, "This is what religion is all about."
Having stayed with the devotees, I was able to appreciate some of the discipline involved in their way of living. It isn't an easy life. Indeed, it is a hard life in many ways—rising early, abstaining from meat and intoxicants and sex outside marriage. But it has always been my belief that religious life must be a disciplined life. Maybe that's where so many Christian churches have failed: they do not expect or ask for a disciplined, ordered life.
* * *
I have read several of Srila Prabhupada's books and commentaries and find them a tremendous help. I've also found that chanting Hare Krsna has helped me a great deal in my general time given to prayer and meditation. Some Christians do use this kind of prayer. The rosary is chiefly associated with Roman Catholics, but many members of the Church of England also use it. And there are many Russian orthodox Christians who chant the name of Jesus several hundred or thousand times every day. It's a great help to many people to meditate on the names of God. In the book of Psalms there are biddings to praise the name of the Lord and to sing.
Srila Prabhupada once wrote to us in England that the Sanskrit word Krsna and the Greek word Christos have a common root. I remember that during the Second World War, I was in Greece for Easter, and it was a wonderful thing to hear all the people chanting and singing Christos anesthe—Christ is risen, Christ is risen. I get the same feeling hearing the devotees chant Hare Krsna.
* * *
I have read most of the writings of Thomas Merton. He felt that there was much in India's tradition that could help Christians understand the purpose of religion. For many people today, the teachings of their Bible do not, for some reason or another, seem to fulfill the deepest needs.
* * *
I'm sorry to see that the members of the Hare Krsna movement are sometimes being harassed by the police and that some commentators are giving out false ideas about their way of life and, their worship in their temples. And, of course, they are being wrongly labeled as a "cult." There are in fact many undesirable groups about today, but it's really not proper to number the Hare Krsna movement among them. Very often I think this is done through simple lack of information. Then again, some people see in this movement something that's going to hurt their way of life, and they do all they can to stop it. They're so satisfied with their materialistic way of life that they wouldn't want a religion that really practices what it preaches. So they try to suppress it. They feel it's a threat to them. . . .
* * *
The Bible, like, the Bhagavad-gita, makes a distinction between the soul and the material body. Jesus said that we are spirit, that God is a spirit, and that we should worship God in spirit and in truth. But it also says in the Bible that when God made man's earthly body, it was not alive until God breathed into it. And then the body became alive—the soul gave life to the body. And you and I are souls living in such bodies Oust as the Hare Krsna movement teaches). Yet many Christian people believe that the body that is buried in the earth will somehow arise again on the last day and go to heaven. They appear to forget that the body is, after all, only clothing for life. That's a great tragedy, and that's why I think that cemeteries and churchyards are all such dreadful places. A woman will go there and say, "I'm going to visit John," speaking of her late husband. But we shall have another body after death—a spiritual body. It's the kind of body that Jesus had when he appeared to Mary Magdalene on Easter morning, the kind of body he had when he came to his disciples—the Bible purposely says that the doors were locked and yet Jesus appeared in the midst of them. So it's a spiritual body we shall have. The teaching of the Vedas is very strong on this point. You learn from the very start that "I am not this material body." I think that Christians are giving perhaps a too materialistic conception of who we are.
* * *
There is an ancient tradition that Jesus was a vegetarian. Whether this is actually true I do not know. But I would go as far as to say that St. John the Baptist was a vegetarian, and those who belonged to the same sect as he. And, of course, in the Old Testament we have the example of Daniel, who lived as a vegetarian and refused to eat the meat (or drink the wine) that King Nebuchadnezzar ordered his stewards to give him while he was imprisoned. The stewards insisted he take it, so that he would not lose his health. But Daniel made a bargain and said, "Look, give me vegetarian food just for ten days, and then see what I'm like." At the end of the ten days, Daniel was in a better state of health than those that had been eating the meat and drinking the wine provided by the king. So the Christians are many times bidden to be vegetarian. Adam and Eve, before they fell, lived a simple life by eating those things that God provided for them. They didn't kill animals for food. We should all try to get back to that way of life by eating grains and vegetables and drinking milk. Not only will we be better off physically, but our mental powers for understanding spiritual subjects will be strengthened if we eat and drink in the way prescribed in the Hare Krsna diet.
* * *
I've thought of Jesus Christ as a guru. He said that he was the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the Father but through him. In this way he was speaking as a guru to his disciples. And in the same way, a Krsna conscious devotee receives instructions through his guru.
* * *
We are living in days when Christians of various traditions are trying to get together and find unity. But more important still, many Christians are looking beyond their immediate traditions and realizing a transcendent unity of all religions.
We must get beyond the external rituals, forms, and terminologies. The Vedas teach that there is a sense in which all religions are the same: we should all be living our lives in love and service to God. I'm quite sure that Christian people can accept this as a principle to live by.
The Transcendental Pastimes of Lord Krsna
Western poets and philosophers have long lamented the power of time. Shakespeare's King Richard despairs, "I wasted time, and now doth time waste me." But in Srimad-Bhagavatam and other Vedic literatures we find portraits not only of time's victims but also of persons who conquered time and death. One was Gajendra.
Ages ago, on a celestial planet in this universe, there was a mountain named Trikuta. In the valleys surrounding this mountain were many lakes and streams, whose water was clear as crystal and whose banks and beaches were covered not with sand but with trillions of tiny jewels. Sometimes lovely young demigoddesses would come to the lakes and streams to bathe, and their bodies (quite unlike those of earthly women, who must smear themselves with deodorants) lent a pleasing fragrance to the water and the breeze.
In one valley of Trikuta Mountain was a garden called Atumat. Many tropical fruits—including mangoes, coconuts, dates, pomegranates, and bananas grew luxuriantly all year long. There was a lake filled with golden lotuses and other rare flowers. Intoxicated bumblebees drank the nectar of the flowers and hummed along with the chirping of the birds. And graceful swans glided across the lake's surface.
Deep in the mountain forest lived Gajendra, the king of the elephants. On one occasion Gajendra and his male and female companions wandered to the lake, overrunning all sorts of plants, creepers, thickets, and trees in their path. As soon as Gajendra's scent reached the rival elephants and other ferocious animals like lions and rhinoceroses, they fled in fear. The smaller and less dangerous animals like the porcupines, rabbits, foxes, and wolves remained in the forest. But out of respect for Gajendra, they did not come before him.
The weight of Gajendra's body made Trikuta Mountain tremble. As Gajendra walked he perspired, his mouth dripping with liquor and his eyes clouded with intoxication. From a distance he smelled the lotus flowers' sweet pollen. Now he led his herd to the lake, where they could satisfy their thirst.
In a moment the king of the elephants plunged in, bathed, and drank the cold, clear, nectarean water. Feeling utterly satisfied and refreshed, he invited his wives and children to bathe and drink as he had done. And with great endeavor he drew water in through his trunk and sprayed it over them.
Then, suddenly, a huge crocodile attacked the mighty elephant's leg. Gajendra was uncommonly strong, but though he tried and tried, he could not get free. His wives felt aggrieved and began to cry. The other elephants wanted to rescue Gajendra by grasping him from behind, but because of the crocodile's great strength they could not do anything. So the crocodile and the king of the elephants fought and pulled each other in and out of the water, for one thousand years.
Eventually, the elephant became weakened. At the same time the crocodile, being an animal of the water, increased in enthusiasm, physical strength, and sensory power. When Gajendra saw that he could not save himself, he became terrified of being killed.
"The other male elephants, my friends and relatives, cannot help me," he thought. "What, then, to speak of my wives? It must be the will of providence that I have been attacked by this crocodile.
"The serpent of eternal time endlessly chases everyone," said Gajendra, "but if one who fears this serpent seeks the shelter of the Supreme Lord, the Lord gives him protection. Even death runs away in fear of the Lord. I therefore surrender unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna."
Now Gajendra fixed his mind on a prayer he had learned in his previous life, and he chanted it with all his heart. "The Supreme Lord is the platform on which everything rests and the ingredient from which everything is produced," Gajendra prayed. "The Lord is the person who has created this cosmic manifestation. By expanding His energy He keeps it sometimes visible and sometimes invisible.
"The identity of an actor on stage is covered by attractive costuming and dancing and cannot be understood by his audience. Similarly, the activities and features of the supreme actor cannot be understood even by the demigods and great sages, and certainly not by those men who are unintelligent like animals. But may that Supreme Personality of Godhead give protection to an animal like me."
Gajendra did not want simply to be saved from his present predicament. He further prayed, "After I am rescued from the attack of the crocodile, I do not wish to live in this material world any more. What is the use of living in this elephant's body, covered by ignorance? Now, fully desiring release from material life, I offer my respectful obeisances unto that Supreme Person who is the creator of the universe."
In Bhagavad-gita we learn that all living beings are actually spirit souls, part and parcel of the Supreme Personality of Godhead—that they are like spiritual sparks emanating from the fire of the Absolute Truth. Unfortunately, some souls desire to forget their eternal connection with the Supreme Lord. As a result, they take birth in the material world, in the bodies of demigods, humans, animals, birds, plants, and insects.
These bodies—subject to birth, death, old age, and disease—cover the eternal soul. And so, ignorant of his real identity, the soul remains in the material world lifetime after lifetime. Forgetful of his spiritual selfhood, he remains attracted to material life (to house, country, society, family, bank balance, and so on). Continually he thinks, "I am this body, and everything related to this body is mine." This conception of life is extremely difficult to surmount, unless (like Gajendra) the soul realizes, aham brahmasmi—"I am a spirit"—and surrenders to the Supreme Spirit, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. At that moment he regains his spiritual enlightenment.
Seeing Gajendra's awkward position, the Supreme Lord (in His four-armed form as Visnu) flew toward the mountain lake on the back of His great winged carrier, Garuda. Gajendra was still caught in the jaws of the crocodile and was feeling acute pain. But he was relieved to see the Lord wielding His disc and other weapons and coming in the sky to rescue him. So with great difficulty due to his painful condition, he took a lotus flower in his trunk, raised it high, and prayed, "O my Lord, O Supreme Personality of Godhead, I offer my respectful obeisances unto You."
The Lord got down from Garuda's back and pulled Gajendra and the crocodile out of the water. Then He released His disc and cut the crocodile's head from his body. All the demigods and sages who had gathered there praised this act and showered flowers upon the Lord and Gajendra.
In their previous lives, both Gajendra and the crocodile had been kings. The crocodile had been King Huhu, of the Gandharva planet. But once, while reveling in the water with a group of celestial women, he had somehow pulled the leg of the sage Devala. At this the sage became furious and cursed King Huhu to become a crocodile. Despondent, the king begged pardon from the sage, who gave him the benediction that he would be freed at the very moment when the Supreme Lord delivered Gajendra. So as soon as the Lord cut off the crocodile's head, the soul left that body and regained the beautiful form of the demigod King Huhu. After offering prayers to Krsna, King Huhu returned at once to the Gandharva planet.
In his previous life Gajendra had been Indradyumna, a great devotee of Lord Krsna and the king of a South Indian region called Pandya. When Indradyumna retired from his kingdom and family life, he went to the Malaya Hills, where he lived in a small cottage asrama and practiced spiritual disciplines. He let his hair grow in matted locks and engaged in continual austerities. Once, while observing a vow of silence, he became fully absorbed in the ecstasy of love of Godhead.
Just then the great sage Agastya arrived, along with his disciples. But King Indradyumna was so absorbed in meditation that he did not even notice the sage, what to speak of offering him a proper reception. Angered at this breach of etiquette, Agastya cursed the king.
"This King Indradyumna is not at all gentle," said Agastya. "Being low and uneducated, he has insulted me. May he therefore enter the region of darkness and receive the dull, dumb body of an elephant."
Because Indradyumna was a devotee, he humbly accepted the sage's curse as the desire of the Lord. He lost his royal position and got the body of an elephant, but he retained his devotional mentality. And because he remembered how to offer prayers to the Lord, he received spiritual liberation. In fact, after the Lord saved His dear devotee from the crocodile's jaws, He promised, "Anyone who offers Me the prayers you have offered and who meditates upon My form, this lake, this mountain, the gardens, the celestial trees, and My unlimited, all-auspicious activities—he will at last receive eternal residence in the spiritual world."
As we have seen, time—death—takes everything away. No one can say that he is unafraid of death. Now, we might well ask, "Doesn't Krsna's devotee also die?" The answer is that a devotee still has to give up his material body, but the present body is his last. In Bhagavad-gita Krsna assures us that after a devotee gives up his present body, he does not accept another. He returns home, back to Godhead.
[Adapted by Drutakarma dasa from Srimad-Bhagavatam, translation and commentary by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.]
Strictly Speaking, the Language Reform Movement Is Useless
There is a movement afoot to correct the worldwide abuse of the English language. Reformers claim that our abuse of words is crucially linked with the moral decline of our society. One of the leaders is Edwin Newman, author of the best-selling Strictly Speaking, and there have been others. "Bad language ultimately is immoral," says Professor Richard Mitchell, who wages a war against linguistic abuse by publishing a monthly newspaper called The Underground Grammarian.
It was during the Vietnam war that the U.S. military used the phrase "hamlet pacification' 'to describe the annihilation of entire villages, and termed bombed-out areas "sanitized." (Remember the torture agents of Orwell's "Ministry of Love"?) And during Watergate, Mr. Newman recalls, the Nixon administration used evasive and desensitizing phrases like "excess of zeal" and "higher national interests" for what Congress finally decided was cheating in the White House.
Most of us are sick of hearing pompous double talk from politicians, TV announcers, and other self-styled authorities. We would welcome the triumph of clear, honest expression over verbal camouflage. But we should note where the movement for linguistic reform lacks substance. The reformers have exposed lamentable (and sometimes laughable) abuses of language, but they have not give us a vision of how language can best serve humanity.
"Our politics would be improved if our English were," says' Newman, "and so would other parts of our national life.... those for whom words have lost their value are likely to find that ideas have also lost their value."
So, what if the reformers were to have their way? Let's say large numbers of people give up their bad habits and start communicating clearly and eloquently. Still the question remains, What will people say to each other that will solve life's problems? The language reformers can only talk vaguely about a liberating quality in language itself. Good language, Newman says, "is a treasure trove of wit, charm, and inspiration." But how will this save us from the problems of existence? Even a dog communicates directly and honestly, through barking; nonetheless, he lives a dog's life. Will added eloquence bring us relief from misery?
Let's extend this discussion toward a philosophical inquiry into language's ultimate purpose. According to the Vedic logical treatise Vedanta-sutra, life is meant for inquiring into the Absolute Truth. So language must help fulfill this basic human need. The Vedanta begins with the Sanskrit expression athato, which means "now"—now that we've transmigrated up from the animal species and graduated to the human form. "Now"—now that we've learned that temporary, material pleasures can't satisfy the soul, the self—let us inquire beyond. The Vedanta declares, athato brahma-jijnasa—now let us go beyond the material into spiritual or absolute inquiry: Where does everything come from? What is the highest truth ? What is the ultimate happiness? If we make this ultimate inquiry (Vedanta literally means "the goal of knowledge"), then we are putting language to its best use.
We have to direct language toward solving life's problems, notably the cycle of birth, old age, disease, and death. And further, we have to direct language toward a practical understanding of eternity. Otherwise, saying "hurry" instead of "delay should not be allowed to take place" may be an improvement, but does this take away the problem of death? If we say "I hope" instead of "hopefully," does this stop disease and old age? If not, then what is our ultimate gain? Linguistic reform becomes only a kind of parlor game. Despite their claims that bad language is immoral and a killer of ideas, the reformers don't have a grasp of what constitutes actual morality and knowledge.
Language, then, has to relay the Absolute Truth. Many philosophers believe that beyond this temporary, material existence there is only void or impersonal existence, and so they say that language cannot go further than the temporary and the relative. ("That which can be spoken cannot be truth.") But when properly used, language can convey absolute spiritual knowledge. In essence Vedanta is declaring, "Let us stop talking falsely. Now let us begin real talking."
But is it possible to use language so perfectly and profoundly that it will unlock the mysteries of existence? Yes, if we pattern our words strictly after the scriptural statements in which the Supreme Personality of Godhead has conveyed knowledge of Himself to man. In these eternal statements we find no human flaws, speculations, or camouflages, or even any literary inconsistencies. The Vedic teachers do not expect us to accept such claims blindly. Instead, they invite us to inquire thoroughly.
In one Vedic verse, the human tongue is compared to a desert. Although the tongue may endlessly try to derive pleasure from mundane art, politics, sociology, philosophy, poetry, and such, these will not satisfy our taste for the water of immortality. However well articulated, these transient topics do not satisfy the urge of the soul. The soul's ultimate solace is to attain knowledge and realization and love of God. And we can enter into this transcendental stage by absorbing ourselves in the perfect language recorded in scripture and repeated by the great spiritual teachers.
On the other hand, as the ancient Srimad-Bhagavatam informs us, "Those words which do not describe the glories of the Lord, who alone can sanctify the atmosphere of the whole universe, are considered by saintly persons to be like unto a place of pilgrimage for crows. Since the all-perfect persons are inhabitants of the transcendental abode, they do not derive any pleasure there." According to this transcendental criterion, the mundane linguistic crusade is just a kind of highbrow bewilderment (as opposed to the lowbrow kind). A whole population is lost admist the babblings and rumblings of an abused language, and the reformers have made an accurate expose. But their remedy—their attempt to correct the grammar and syntax of the lost souls—brings to mind the fellow who polished a bird's cage but forgot to feed the bird.
The real self is the soul, and he wants freedom from death—and knowledge of this freedom comes to him in the language of Srimad-Bhagavatam: "That literature which is full of descriptions of the transcendental glories of the name, fame, forms, and pastimes of the unlimited Supreme Lord is a different creation, full of transcendental words that will bring about a revolution in the impious lives of this world's misdirected civilization."—SDG