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Volume 14, Number 06, 1979


The Physics of the Self
Toward Appropriate Living
The History of Krsna And the Kaliya Serpent
Every Town and Village
Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out
The Vedic Observer
America's Karma
The New Group
Notes from the Editor

© 2005 The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International

The Physics of the Self

During October of 1973, in the garden of the Los Angeles Krsna center, Gregory Benford, Ph.D., visited His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Dr. Benford is an associate professor of physics at the University of California, Irvine.

Srila Prabhupada: What is the current scientific knowledge about the spirit soul?

Dr. Benford: We have virtually no scientific knowledge about the soul.

Srila Prabhupada: Therefore you have actually made no advancement in scientific knowledge.

Dr. Benford: Well, scientific knowledge is a different class of knowledge.

Srila Prabhupada: Perhaps. There are so many departments of knowledge: the medical study of the body, the psychological study of the mind, and ultimately there is spiritual, transcendental knowledge. The body and mind are simply the coverings of the spirit soul, just as your body is covered by this shirt and coat. If you simply take care of the shirt and coat and neglect the person who is covered by this shirt and coat, do you think that this is advancement of knowledge?

Dr. Benford: I think that there is no category of knowledge that is useless.

Srila Prabhupada: We don't say that this scientific knowledge is useless. Mechanics, electronics—this is also knowledge. But different departments of knowledge differ in their comparative importance. For example, if someone wants to cook nicely, this is also a science. There are many different departments of knowledge, but the central point is atma-jnana-self-knowledge, the knowledge of the soul.

Dr. Benford: The only form of knowledge that is verifiable—that is, verifiable in the sense of getting everybody to agree with it—is that which can be proved logically or experimentally.

Srila Prabhupada: The science of the self can be verified logically.

Dr. Benford: How so?

Srila Prabhupada: Just consider your body. You once had the body of a child, but now you don't have that body anymore; you have a different body. Yet anyone can understand that you once had the body of a child. So your body has changed, but you are still remaining.

Dr. Benford: I am not so sure it is the same "I."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, you are the same "I." Just as the parents of a child will say, after he has grown up, "Oh, just see how our son has grown." He is the same person: his parents say so, his friends say so, his family says so—everyone says so. This is the evidence. You have to accept this point, because there is so much evidence. Your mother will deny that you are a different person, even though you have a different body.

Dr. Benford: But I may not be the same being that I was.

Srila Prabhupada: Correct. "Not the same" means, for example, that a young child may talk nonsense now, but when he gets an adult body he does not speak foolishly. Although he is the same person, along with his change in body he has developed different consciousness.

But the spirit soul, the person, is the same. He acts according to his body, that's all—according to his circumstances. A dog, for example, is also a spirit soul, but because he has a dog's body he lives and acts like a dog. Similarly the spirit soul, when he has a child's body, acts like a child. When he has a different body, the same soul acts like a man. According to circumstances his activities are changing, but he is the same. For example, now you are a scientist. In your childhood you were not a scientist, so your dealings at that time were not those of a scientist. One's dealings may change according to circumstances, but the person is the same.

Therefore, the conclusion is tatha dehantara-praptir dhiras tatra na muhyati: "When this body is finished, the soul gives it up and accepts another body."

[Bhagavad-gita 2.13] Tatha dehantara. Dehantara means "another body." This is our Sanskrit knowledge from the Bhagavad-gita. When the spirit soul is injected into the womb of a woman, it forms a little body. Gradually, through the emulsification of secretions, the body develops to the size of a pea, because of the presence of the spirit soul. Gradually the body develops nine holes-eyes, ears, mouth, nostrils, genital, and rectum. In this way the body is developed to completion in seven months. Then consciousness comes.

Dr. Benford: At seven months?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The child wants to come out. He feels uncomfortable; therefore he prays to God to kindly release him from this bondage. He promises that when he gets out, he will become a devotee of God. So after nine months he comes out of the womb. But unless his parents are devotees, due to circumstances he forgets God. Only if the father and mother are devotees does he continue his God consciousness. Therefore, it is a great fortune to take birth in a family of Vaisnavas, those who are God conscious. This God consciousness is real scientific knowledge.

Dr. Benford: Is it true that the children of all such parents are somewhat spiritually superior to the children of other parents?

Srila Prabhupada: Generally, yes. They get the opportunity of being trained by the mother and father. Fortunately, my father was a great devotee, so I received this training from the very beginning. Somehow or other I had this spark of Krsna consciousness, and my father detected it. Then I accepted my spiritual master. In this way I have come to this stage of sannyasa [the renounced, monastic order. I am very much indebted to my father, for he took care of me in such a way that I became perfectly Krsna conscious. My father used to receive many saintly persons at our home, and to every one of them he used to say, "Kindly bless my son so that he may become a servant of Radharani [Lord Krsna's eternal consort]." That was his only ambition. He taught me how to play the mrdanga drum, although sometimes my mother was not very satisfied. She would say, "Why are you teaching him to play mrdanga?" But my father would say, "No, no, he must learn a little mrdanga." My father was very affectionate to me. Therefore, if by his past pious activities one gets a good father and mother, that is a great chance for advancing in Krsna consciousness.

Dr. Benford: What will happen to you and your students next?

Srila Prabhupada: We are going back to Krsna. We have got everything: Krsna's name, Krsna's address, Krsna's form, Krsna's activities. We know everything, and we are 'going there. Krsna promises this in the Bhagavad-gita [4.9]:

janma karma ca me divyam
evam yo vetti tattvatah
tyaktva deham punar janma
naiti mam eti so 'rjuna

"One who knows Me in truth, scientifically,'' Krsna says, "is eligible to enter into the kingdom of God. Upon leaving the body, he does not take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode."

Dr. Benford: How do you know that people return in some other form?

Srila Prabhupada: We see that there are so many forms. Where do these different forms come from? The form of the dog, the form of the cat, the form of the tree, the form of the reptile, the forms of the insects, the forms of the fish? What is your explanation for all these different forms? That you do not know.

Dr. Benford: Evolution.

Srila Prabhupada: Not exactly. The different species are already existing. "Fish," "tiger," "man"—all of these are already existing. It is just like the different types of apartments here in Los Angeles. You may occupy one of them according to your ability to pay rent, but all types of apartments are nevertheless existing at the same time. Similarly, the living entity, according to his karma, is given facility to occupy one of these bodily forms. But there is evolution, also-spiritual evolution. From the fish, the soul evolves to plant life. From plant forms the living entity enters an insect body. From the insect body the next stage is bird, then beast, and finally the spirit soul may evolve to the human form of life. And from the human form, if one becomes qualified, he may evolve further. Otherwise, he must again enter the evolutionary cycle. Therefore, this human form of life is an important juncture in the evolutionary development of the living entity.

In the Bhagavad-gita [9.25] Krsna says,

yanti deva-vrata devan
pitrn yanti pitr-vratah
bhutani yanti bhutejya
yanti mad-yajino 'pi mam

In other words, whatever you like you can achieve. There are different lokas, or planetary systems, and you can go to the higher planetary systems where the demigods live and take a body there, or you can go where the Pitas, or ancestors, live. You can take a body here in Bhuloka, the earthly planetary system, or you can go to the planet of God, Krsnaloka. This method of transferring oneself at the time of death to whatever planet one chooses is called yoga. There is a physical process of yoga, a philosophical process of yoga, and a devotional process of yoga. The devotees can go directly to the planet where Krsna is.

Departments of Animal Knowledge

Dr. Benford: Undoubtedly you are aware that there are a few people, both in Eastern and Western society, who feel it a bit more intellectually justifiable to be completely agnostic about matters of theology. They feel, more or less, that if God had wanted us to know something more about Him, then He would have made it more easily apprehendable.

Srila Prabhupada: Then you don't believe in God?

Dr. Benford: I don't not believe in God; I'm just not forming an opinion until I have some evidence.

Srila Prabhupada: But do you think that there is a God or not?

Dr. Benford: I have a suspicion that there may be, but it is unverified.

Srila Prabhupada: But you think sometimes that there may be God, do you not?

Dr. Benford: Yes.

Srila Prabhupada: So you are in doubt, suspicion—you are not certain—but your inclination is that you think there is a God, is it not? Your knowledge being imperfect, you are in doubt, that's all. Otherwise you are inclined to think of God. But because you are a scientific man, unless you perceive it scientifically, you do not accept. That is your position. But from your side, you believe in God.

Dr. Benford: Sometimes.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Sometimes, or at all times—it doesn't matter. That is the position of everyone. As long as one is in the human form of life, he has a dormant consciousness of God. It simply has to be developed by proper training. It is just like anything else in life. For example, you have become a scientist by proper training, proper education. Similarly, the dormant consciousness of God, or Krsna, is there in everyone, It simply requires proper education to awaken it. However, this education is not given in the universities. That is the defect in modern education. Although the inclination to be Krsna conscious is there, the authorities are unfortunately not giving any education about God. Therefore people are becoming godless, and they are feeling baffled in obtaining the true joy and satisfaction of life.

In San Diego, some priestly orders are going to hold a meeting to investigate the reasons why people are becoming averse to religion and not coming to church. But the cause is simple. Because your government does not know that life, especially human life, is meant for understanding God, they are supporting all the departments of knowledge very nicely—except the principal department, God consciousness.

Dr. Benford: So, of course, the reason is separation of church and state.

Srila Prabhupada: Reasons there may be many, but the principal reason is that this age is the Kali-yuga [the age of quarrel and hypocrisy]. People are not very intelligent, therefore they are trying to avoid this department of knowledge, the most important department of knowledge. And they are simply busy in the departments of knowledge in which the animals are also busy. Your advancement of knowledge is comprised of four things -eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. For example, you are discovering so many lethal weapons, and the politicians are taking advantage of it for defending. You are discovering so many chemicals to check pregnancy, and they are using them to increase sex life.

Real Problems, Real Questions

Dr. Benford: What do you think about the moon mission?

Srila Prabhupada: That is also sleeping. You have spent so much money to go there and sleep, that's all. Otherwise, what can you do there?

Dr. Benford: You can go there and learn.

Srila Prabhupada: You go there and sleep, that's all. Sleeping. You are spending billions and getting nothing in return.

Dr. Benford: It's worth more than that.

Srila Prabhupada: No, nothing more, because these four principles—eating, sleeping, mating, and defending—are the background. If you have no knowledge beyond this body, you cannot go beyond this bodily jurisdiction. You may have very gorgeous, polished bodily knowledge, but your whole range of activities is within these four principles of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. This knowledge is prevalent among the lower animals, also. They know how to eat, how to sleep, how to have sexual intercourse, and how to defend.

Dr. Benford: But they don't know anything about nuclear physics!

Srila Prabhupada: That does not mean that you are improved over the animals. It is the same thing—only polished. You are improving from the bullock cart to the car, that's all—simply a transformation of material knowledge.

Dr. Benford: There is knowledge about the structure of the physical world.

Srila Prabhupada: But it is a waste of energy, because in your activities you cannot go beyond this bodily jurisdiction of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. The dog may sleep on the ground, and you may sleep in a very nice apartment, but when you sleep your enjoyment and the dog's enjoyment are the same. You may have so many electrical appliances and other material conveniences, but when you sleep you forget everything. Therefore this gorgeous sleeping accommodation is simply a waste of time.

Dr. Benford: You seem to place emphasis on what knowledge does for you. What about the sheer joy of discovering how nature works? For example, now we think that we understand matter like this [pointing to the grass]. We think that we know from experiments, theory, and analysis that it is made up of particles that we cannot see, and we can analyze the properties of it through experiment. We know that it is made up of molecules. We understand some of the forces that hold it together, and this is the first time we knew this. We didn't know it before.

Srila Prabhupada: But what is the benefit? Even if you knew every particle of this grass, what would be the benefit? The grass is growing. It will grow with or without your knowledge. You may know it or not know it, but it will not make any difference. Anything you like you may study from a material, analytical point of view. Any nonsense thing you take you can study and study and compile a voluminous book. But what will be the use of it?

Dr. Benford: I seem to view the world as the sum of its component parts.

Srila Prabhupada: Suppose I take this grass. I can write volumes of books—when it came into existence, when it died, what the fibers are, what the molecules are. In so many ways I can describe this insignificant foliage. But what is the use of it?

Dr. Benford: If it has no use, why did God put it there? Isn't it worthwhile studying?

Srila Prabhupada: Our point is that you would rather study the insignificant grass than the God who has created everything. If you could understand Him, then automatically you would understand the grass. But you want to separate His grass from Him, to study it separately. In this way you can compile volumes and volumes on the subject, but why waste your intelligence in that way? The branch of a tree is beautiful as long as it is attached to the main trunk, but as soon as you cut it off it will dry up. Therefore, what is the use of studying the dried-up branch? It is a waste of intelligence.

Dr. Benford: But why is it a waste?

Srila Prabhupada: Certainly it is a waste, because the result is not useful.

Dr. Benford: Well, what is "useful"?

Srila Prabhupada: It is useful to know yourself—what you are.

Dr. Benford. Why is knowledge of myself better than knowledge of a plant?

Srila Prabhupada: If you understand what you are, then you understand other things. That is called atma-tattva, atma-jnana, self-knowledge. That is important. I am a spirit soul, and I am passing through so many species of life. But what is my position? I don't wish to die, because I am afraid to change bodies. Therefore, I am afraid of death. This question should be raised first: I don't want unhappiness, but unhappiness comes. I don't want death, but death comes. I don't want disease, but disease comes. I don't want to become an old man, but old age comes anyway. What is the reason that these things are coming by force? Who is enforcing these things? These things I do not know, but these are the real problems. I don't want excessive heat, but there is excessive heat. Why? Who is enforcing these things? Why are they being enforced? I don't want this heat; what have I done? These are real questions, not just studying foliage and writing volumes of books. That is a waste of energy. Study yourself.

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Toward Appropriate Living

In the Vedic Tradition

The beginnings of New Talavan,
ISKCON's farming community in Southern Mississippi.

When Nico Kuyt was growing up, he lived in small towns in Canada and the northern United States. "I never lived on a farm, though," he recalls. "My father did engineering for big mining companies. But I always liked the woods, the country."

In 1968, while studying at the State University of New York (at Buffalo), Nico attended a philosophy course taught by Rupanuga dasa, a leader of the Hare Krsna movement. Rupanuga lectured from the Bhagavad-gita and hearing him, Nico became intrigued enough to visit the Buffalo Hare Krsna center a number of times.

During summer vacation, Nico went to Boulder, Colorado, to spend some time in the mountains. As the sun rose each morning over the Rocky Mountain peaks, he would meditate on the Hare Krsna mantra and study the Bhagavad-gita. I just wanted to see if there was anything to it," he says.

Apparently there was. When Nico returned to the East Coast, he joined the Hare Krsna movement in Buffalo and soon received the name Nityananda dasa. From Buffalo, Nityananda dasa traveled south to New Orleans, where he spent the next few years establishing a thriving Krsna conscious center,

Then, in March 1974, Nityananda traveled to India for the yearly Hare Krsna International Festival, in Mayapur, West Bengal. (Mayapur is famous as the birthplace of the Hare Krsna movement. Five centuries ago, Lord Caitanya (an incarnation of Krsna) appeared there and taught everyone to chant the Hare Krsna mantra.)

Early each morning Srila Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual preceptor of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, would take a walk with some of his leading disciples and answer their questions about spiritual life and the practicalities of managing a worldwide society.

Using his 8mm movie camera as an excuse, Nityananda got permission to go along. As the group strolled on the bank of the Ganges in the predawn mists, he filmed them and listened intently to his spiritual master's words.

On these walks Srila Prabhupada told his disciples that he wanted to start farm projects all over the world. For many years the devotees had been trying to get people to accept the concepts of Krsna consciousness, as they appear in books like Bhagavad-gita. "But," Srila Prabhupada said, "if the people are in chaos, how will they be able to accept this great philosophy?" He told them that urban-industrial civilization left little scope for spiritual growth. Life in the country would be more favorable.

Beyond this, he pointed to the likelihood of a nuclear war that would clear away the mad civilization of cities and machines. Afterward, millions would be looking for a new way to live.

To Nityananda these ideas were a revelation. "Now we were to purchase land in the country and start farms! All of a sudden, I could see that we could bring the lost Vedic civilization back if we simply started Krsna conscious farming villages all over the countryside. People would live simply and peacefully again and cultivate spiritual awareness. My mind was running with excitement."

From Bengal to Mississippi

As soon as Nityananda got back from India, he began studying books on agriculture, animal husbandry, and village crafts. Then he decided to go out and find a piece of land. It wasn't easy. To the east, west, and south, New Orleans was bordered by swamps. To the north there was farmland, but it was too crowded. The only area left north of New Orleans was in southern Mississippi, around a town called Picayune.

On July 8, 1974, after much hunting, Nityananda signed the papers for a two-hundred-acre farm. "As we stood out in the yard watching the sun set behind the pine forests, we wondered what we were going to do next."

"At first we got off onto some side trips," he recalls. They went heavily into machinery and established a modern dairy, hoping to sell the milk commercially. "Before long we realized we were just increasing our headaches. We had come out to the farm to live simply, but we wound up worrying all the time about our big shiny red tractors, wagons, choppers, blowers, grinders, loaders, and unloaders.

At one point, I became very discouraged, Nityananda says. "Then I saw that I had to get a broader vision of what the farm was all about. I started meditating on what we were trying to accomplish."

Also, he consulted with other devotees who were developing farms in other parts of the country.

"But the biggest inspiration was Srila Prabhupada," he remembers. In March 1975, Srila Prabhupada was traveling through America, and Nityananda flew to Dallas to meet with him. Late one evening, he showed his spiritual master some 8mm films he'd taken at the farm. During the showing, Srila Prabhupada remained pensive and quiet, but afterward he eagerly questioned Nityananda about the farm and offered many practical suggestions.

"Srila Prabhupada emphasized the need for self-sufficiency," says Nityananda. "He said that we should obtain everything locally rather than from distant factories and cities. Srila Prabhupada wasn't looking toward the modern machine civilization for his ideas." Instead, he was taking them from India's ancient, agriculturally-based spiritual civilization (remnants of which still exist in Bengal and Orissa).

The novice farmers should grow their own grain, fruit, and vegetables, said Srila Prabhupada. They should keep cows for milk-which they could then turn into yogurt, butter, and curd. They should use oxen to plow the fields. They should grow sugar cane for sweetener. They should grow castor beans and use their oil to burn in lamps; that way they would be able to get along without electric lights. They should grow cotton, spin it into thread, and weave their own cloth on handlooms. For building materials they should use logs and bricks. "Become self-sufficient," Srila Prabhupada said again and again. "There is no need to go thirty or fifty miles to work." Finally, he encouraged Nityananda to build a magnificent temple as the center of the community. "Be patient, determined, and always enthusiastic," Srila Prabhupada told his disciple. "Be convinced of success; then Krsna will surely help you."

Later that year, in July, Srila Prabhupada visited the farm. "It's just like Bengal," he said, looking out over the fields. Earlier, Srila Prabhupada had spoken mainly of self-sufficiency, but now he gave Nityananda practical instructions about organizing the community. "Avoid machines. Keep everyone employed as a brahmana [priestly teacher], ksatriya [administrator], vaisya [farmer], or sudra (laborer]. Nobody should sit idle." He was explaining India's ancient social system, natural divisions that allow people to make the most of their special aptitudes and inclinations.

"The brahmanas," said Srila Prabhupada, "study transcendental literature, such as Bhagavad-gita and the Upanisads. And they lecture and instruct, as well as worship the Deity in the temple. They should have ideal character," he said, "and the other classes provide food and shelter out of appreciation for their guidance." The ksatriyas, taking advice from the brahmanas, manage and govern the village; also, they apportion land to the vaisyas. The vaisyas use the land to produce grains, fruits, and vegetables and to raise cows for milk. They give twenty-five percent of their produce or earnings to the ksatriyas, who spend it for village projects. The sudras, the artisans and craftsmen, assist the other three classes.

"This is an ideal society,'' Srila Prabhupada affirmed. To begin with, everyone works in an area that perfectly Suits his psychophysical nature. If someone likes intellectual activities, he works as a brahmana. If someone likes managing and organizing, he works as a ksatriya. If someone likes business and agriculture, he works as a vaisya. And if someone likes the arts and crafts, he works as a sudra.

All four classes are needed. Like the human body, the social body requires a brain (the brahman, as) to give guidance, arms (the ksatriyas) to organize and defend, a stomach (the vaisyas) to produce energy, and legs (the sudras) to offer support. When all four classes cooperate, everyone is employed and the society runs smoothly.

Closer to Self-sufficiency

"We are not against machines, "Srila Prabhupada told Nityananda as they walked around the farm. "If we can use machines, that is good-but not at the risk of keeping men unemployed. These modern administrators are rascals-they do not realize that by using so many machines they are keeping millions of men unemployed. And the welfare department is paying them. The government is paying them to become hippies, criminals, and prostitutes. A boy keeps a girl friend; the girl is getting welfare; and he is using the money to buy drugs."

"It was obvious he wasn't talking about some vague, theoretical philosophy," says Nityananda. "He was showing us that we could take the insights of the Vedic culture and put them to practical use on this farm in southern Mississippi. After that visit, my vision for developing the farm became strong and clear."

Right after Srila Prabhupada left, Nityananda started getting rid of most of the machines. And now, three years later, he's brought the farm many steps closer to the goal of self-sufficiency. "For heat and hot water we use wood stoves," he says. "We cut oak and pine in our woodlands. We're growing our own vegetables. Last summer we had more eggplants than we could eat and good crops of potatoes, spinach, and squash. We have lots of pecan trees. We produce all our own milk, butter, and yogurt-we haven't bought any in five years, and usually we have enough extra to send to the temple in New Orleans. We grow all our own hay for the cows, and we milk them by hand. We're not dependent on milking machines; that's another step we've taken.

"We don't buy any chemical fertilizers, herbicides, or insecticides," he continues. "All our farming is completely natural. For fertilizer we use cow manure. Instead of putting up barbed wire fences, we plant thorny hedges. We wash all our clothes by hand. We still have an electric pump for our well, but this year we'll replace it with a windmill.

"We'll gladly give two to five acres to families who will use it for growing crops or carrying on a craft or trade," Nityananda adds. "And we'll give them free materials and help them build a house. We have a first-rate school for the children, and the parents can come to the temple and learn about the science of self-realization.

"We're getting ready for the day when thousands of people will come here," he says. "Civilization as we know it will be finished some day soon-by economic disaster or war. People won't be listening to their former leaders; they'll be looking for a better way to live. And when that happens, we'll be ready with Krsna conscious farming villages like this one."

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The History of Krsna And the Kaliya Serpent

After fifty centuries,
the encounter between Lord Krsna and
His hundred-headed adversary is still celebrated.

by Drutakarma dasa

Last summer I went to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to see "The Sensuous Immortals," a sculpture exhibit from the Pan Asian Collection. Among the pieces were many Visnu and Krsna Deities. Some came from Angkor Wat, the great ruined temple complex in Cambodia. Others were from as far away as Indonesia. At one time, the archaeological record shows, the culture extended. in a huge arc: from Java to Indochina, throughout India (of course), and west to the Iranian border.

A little girl was surveying a bronze figure—Krsna playing His flute and dancing on the head of a huge serpent.

"Is that God ?" she inquired of her well-attired mother.

Perhaps remembering a college art history course, the lady said, "Yes, dear, that's God."

"What's His name?" the girl persisted.

Casting a glance at the identifying card, she said, "Krsna. Its a form of Krsna."

"Why is He dancing on the snake's head?"

"It doesn't say."

"The Sensuous Immortals." I liked the title. (Of course, Lord Krsna isn't sensuous, but He is sentient.) Many people believe that after death we all merge into the Supreme and lose our individuality and sensation. A more careful reading of the Vedas, however, reveals that the individual self is immortal and after "death" acts through spiritual senses. And among all the immortals, one is supreme. Krsna, the Supreme Lord, pervades the entire universe and simultaneously exists in a humanlike form with transcendental senses.

Periodically, Krsna descends to earth to display His lila, or pastimes, and invites us to take part in them. Somehow, we have come to this less-than-ideal world to enact our own "pastimes" (getting old, getting sick, dying and taking new bodies, sometimes even animal bodies). But by meditating on Krsna's pastimes, we prepare ourselves for reentering them.

Fifty centuries ago, Lord Krsna made His appearance in Mathura, a district about ninety miles south of New Delhi, on the way to Agra (the site of the Taj Mahal). The Greek geographer Ptolemy called it Modoura, the city of the gods. The historian Arrian referred to it as Methoras, the capital of the Souraseni, the descendants of King Surasena (Krsna's grandfather). As soon as Krsna appeared there, however, His father Vasudeva carried Him across the river Yamuna to Vrndavana to save Him from King Kamsa, who wanted to kill Him.

In his Ancient Geography of India (1871), a British major general named Alexander Cunningham relates, "Vrndavana means the 'grove of basil [tulasi] trees,' but the earlier name of the place was Kaliyavarta, or Kaliya's whirlpool, because the serpent Kaliya was fabled to have been taken up his abode just above the town . . . [near] . . . a kadamba tree overhanging the Jumna. Here he was attacked by Krsna." The spot is still there. This past spring I happened to visit it while on pilgrimage.

Things haven't changed so very much since the time Krsna played in Vrndavana as a cowherd boy. On the outskirts, in Ramana Reti, peacocks still dance beneath the trees. If you're not careful, monkeys will steal fruit from your room. Cowherd boys lead white cows along dusty paths to graze for the afternoon in the shade of tall trees. Everywhere you can hear songbirds. And beyond the wheat fields, flower gardens, and orchards, the river Yamuna shimmers invitingly.

Ptolemy knew this river as Diamouna; Pliny's Latin name for her was Jomanes. Over the centuries the course of the Yamuna has shifted somewhat. Now the old riverbed is part of a pilgrimage path that encircles Vrndavana village. Along the path you walk past many small temples that mark the places of Krsna's adventures. One cool evening late in March, before the onset of the hot season, I was walking the path with other Western devotees, passing village women who balanced brass water jugs on their heads, old farmers who drove bullock carts, and Indian pilgrims who greeted us with Krsna's names.

With the sun just setting, we came upon the place called Kaliya-ghata. In the shade of ancient trees stood a modest stone temple. As we peered into a small shrine, we could see the Krsna Deity playing His flute and dancing on the hoods of a many-headed serpent. The Deity was not at all unlike the one in Los Angeles, except that here the temple priests were performing age-old rites of worship. Patita-pavana dasa, an American devotee who had lived on the subcontinent for several years, began recounting the battle between Lord Krsna and the great serpent Kaliya.

While tending the cows, Krsna and His friends sometimes came to the bank of the Yamuna. One summer's day the boys and cows felt exceptionally thirsty and started drinking the water. But the river was tainted with Kaliya's venom, and the boys and cows fell to the ground, apparently dead. The venomous vapors had even dried up the nearby trees and grasses, and when birds flew overhead they fell into the water and died. But Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, restored everyone and everything to life by His mere glance. I couldn't help thinking that environmentalists would appreciate this. The Supreme fights water pollution.

In any case, now Krsna turned His gaze on Kaliya. First Krsna climbed up into a huge, yellow-flowered kadamba tree (the one mentioned by Major General Cunningham). Then He jumped out of the tree and into the water. Kaliya surfaced and angrily grabbed Krsna in his coils. Seeing their beloved friend in such danger, the cowherd boys became overwhelmed with anxiety. They wanted to help Krsna, but they could only stand on the bank and cry.

Meanwhile, the earth trembled and meteors fell from the sky. Looking on from a distance, Krsna's foster father Nanda Maharaja and the other cowherd men of Vrndavana were horrified. "Krsna is in danger!"

Ordinarily, we think of God as our all-provident father and approach Him in a mood of supplication. But the residents of Vrndavana saw Krsna as their friend and child and so approached Him with unalloyed devotion. This is life's highest attainment—pure love of God.

All the residents of Vrndavana—men, women, children, and even animals—rushed to the bank of the Yamuna to see Krsna. But Krsna's older brother Balarama simply stood there smiling. He knew that Krsna was supremely powerful and that He could easily defeat the serpent. Balarama could tell that Krsna was just allowing the residents of Vrndavana to increase their love for Him. (In the Vedic tradition, God is seen as the central object of love, because all other love—for friends, family, or country—is temporary.)

When Krsna's mother Yasoda arrived, she wanted to jump into the river, but her friends stopped her. So she stood and watched, transfixed with grief for her beloved child. (Of course, in the strict sense the Lord has no mother, but He allows a devotee who loves Him with motherly affection to act in that capacity. In much the same way, one can approach Krsna in the mood of friendship or conjugal love.)

For two hours Krsna remained in the grip of Kaliya's coils. But when all the inhabitants of Vrndavana were practically at the point of death out of affection for Him, Krsna broke free. Then He jumped atop the serpent's hoods and danced on them. Kaliya tried to knock Krsna down with the rest of his hoods (he had a hundred), but Krsna eluded them all, Krsna danced with sublime aesthetic grace, all the while striking Kaliya harder and harder. Soon the enraged serpent spewed poison and fire. He was struggling for his very life.

When Kaliya raised a hood in one last attempt to kill Krsna, Krsna kicked it down. Finally Kaliya began to realize who Krsna was, and the serpent's wives begged Him to spare their husband's life. The Lord agreed, but ordered Kaliya to leave the Yamuna for the ocean. (Based on geographical descriptions in the Vedas, it is sometimes said that he went to Fiji, where to this day the natives tell of a black serpent inhabiting a lake in the mountainous interior.)

Sitting underneath the kadamba tree at Kaliya-ghata at twilight, I meditated on this pastime, as cows wandered over the spot where it had taken place. That's what's so attractive about Vrndavana—it's easy to think of Krsna. As the authors of the British Imperial Gazetteer noted in the nineteenth century, "The western side of the district [of Mathura] is celebrated as Braj Mandala [Vrndavana] or the country of Krsna, and almost every grove, mound, and tank is associated with some episode in His life."

Suddenly I remembered the little girl in Los Angeles asking, "Why is Krsna dancing on the snake's head?" This article is, in a sense, an answer to the question her mother couldn't answer.

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Every Town and Village

A look at the worldwide activities of the
International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)

City Hails Krishna Restaurant

Cleveland—The City Council recently passed a resolution congratulating ISKCON for opening a budget vegetarian restaurant in the heart of a deprived section of the inner city.

The resolution affirmed that Govinda's Restaurant, where patrons receive all the nourishing vegetarian food they can eat for 99c, is 'a benefit for the poor, for the elderly, men and women, black and white."

Lonnie L. Burten, Councilman for the 12th Ward, where the restaurant is located, said he was happy to see the Hare Krsna members helping to restore vitality to a dying area of the city. The City Council's resolution characterized Govinda's as "a launch pad for positive inner action in the presence of previous negativism."

In the past few years, ISKCON has opened two other Govinda's Restaurants in suburban Cleveland. All three feature a delicious menu of prasada-vegetarian foods offered to Krsna. Dishes include sabji (spiced vegetables), dahl (protein-rich mung bean soup), capatis (flat, round, whole wheat breads), rice, fruit drinks, and traditional Indian sweets.

But food is only part of the attraction at Govinda's. Patrons frequently discuss topics such as karma, reincarnation, and mantra meditation with their hosts.

Noted Archaeologist
Applauds Translation
Of Sanskrit Classic

Recently Dr. H. D. Sankalia, one of India's leading archaeologists, had this to say about His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's English translation of Srimad-Bhagavatam:

"People all over the world, particularly in the West, show increasing dissatisfaction with their lives in spite of increasing and unimaginable material comforts, they do not feel happy. They have begun to understand that true happiness comes only from within. How to achieve this inner happiness is best taught by the Srimad-Bhagavatam.

"Hence it has been described, for the last five thousand years at least, as the ripened fruit of Vedantic philosophy. All the early teachings found in the Vedas, the Upanisads, and the Brahma-sutras of Vyasadeva are as dry as dust, whereas the teachings of the Bhagavatam are as sweet as nectar. That is why it has become popular all over India.

"I am indeed glad, in fact overjoyed, to see that this ripe fruit of the wish-fulfilling tree of Vedic knowledge-this essence of all philosophy, which hitherto was available only in Indian languages and Sanskrit-is now rendered into English by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. This is not merely a simple translation. The original text is printed in beautiful Sanskrit letters and is accompanied by Roman transliteration, synonyms, translation, and elaborate explanation by Srila Prabhupada. Thus for the first time this sweet fruit can be tasted by people all over the world. For this great service to humanity we should ever remain grateful to Srila Prabhupada, the founder-acarya of the Krsna consciousness movement and Lord Krsna's pure devotee. His encyclopedic and useful Srimad-Bhagavatam should find a place in every home and library."

New York
New Home for BTG

BACK TO GODHEAD has moved its principal editorial and production offices from Los Angeles to the fourth floor of the Hare Krishna Building, on West Fifty-fifth Street in New York City.

It was in New York City, in 1966, that His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada began publishing BACK TO GODHEAD in the West. He had founded the magazine in India in 1944, and after coming to America he continued the publication with the help of his first American disciples.

The magazine's offices have moved back to New York so that the staff members may work more closely with the editor-in-chief, His Divine Grace Satsvarupa dasa Goswami, whose work keeps him mostly on the East Coast.

BACK TO GODHEAD'S subscription offices will remain in Los Angeles.

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Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out

"This Material World Is Zero"

This exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and a graduate student took place in Los Angeles, near the shore of the Pacific Ocean, during January of 1974.

Student: Today's scientists and philosophers and psychologists—they say the only authority they can accept is their own mind.

Srila Prabhupada: In Sanskrit they are called mano-dharmi—mental speculators.

Student: But don't we have to experiment with different mental perspectives if we're going to understand the world?

Srila Prabhupada: Actually, mental speculators have been condemned—Mano-rathenasati dhavato bahih [Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.18.12]—because they are simply carried away by the chariot of the mind. The mind is flickering, always changing. Sankalpa-vikalpa: the mind's business is to accept something and again reject it. All these mental speculators are doing just that. Somebody's putting forward some theory, and after a few years he will himself reject it, or somebody else will reject it. So by mental speculation you will remain on the material, changing platform. You cannot get any lasting idea.

Student: But the scientists feel strongly about their research. They're convinced they've done some real good for the world.

Srila Prabhupada: They think, "This is bad; that is good." But they do not know that in this material world, saying, "This is bad" and "That is good" is all mental speculation, all a mistake. They do not know that in this material world, "bad" and 'good" are the same thing-because both are simply matter.

Student: How can you say that "bad" and "good" are the same thing?

Srila Prabhupada: For instance, when we are walking on this road, sometimes we say, "This is very good," and sometimes we say, "This is very bad." But the road is the same. So how is it both "good" and "bad"? This is simply speculation. Today we may say, "This road is dry; it is dusty. Bad." Tomorrow we may say, "This road is dry; it is not at all muddy. Good." It is simply mental speculation.

Student: It's still a bit hard to understand what you're saying.

Srila Prabhupada: Here is another example. In India the villagers pass stool out in the open fields. By the end of the day, the sun has left the top part of the stool dry. So when some fool sees the dry part of the stool, he may say, "Oh, this part is very nice." He forgets that after all, it is stool-so what is the difference whether it is dry or moist? In the same way, the scientists are making great advancement, but death is still there. So we have to ask, "What is the difference whether you make advancement or no advancement? One who has not advanced in science will die, and you so-called advanced people will also die. Then what is the use?" Neither the scientist nor the ordinary person can protect himself from death. Then what is the meaning of "good"-"This is good," "This is advancement"—or "This is not advancement"?

Student: But I think the distinction between "good" and "bad" depends on the consciousness of the individual.

Srila Prabhupada: "Relativity"—the "law of relativity": "One man's food is another man's poison." So how can you distinguish whether this is "food" or "poison"? One man will say, "No, it is food!" Another man will say, "It is poison!" So how will you distinguish? You see? This "good" and "bad" is simply mental speculation. Because it is on the material platform, there is nothing good. All that the scientists and philosophers are doing is cheating. They say, "We are advancing." In what way are you advancing? The problem of birth and death is still there—so what is the meaning of your advancement?

Student: So we have to get off the chariot of the mind?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. If you remain on the chariot of the mind, then whatever you accept you'll have to reject again. And that is just what they are doing. The so-called scientists and philosophers—they are putting forward some theory, and after some time they reject it. So if you remain on the mental platform, then this business of accepting and rejecting will go on. You'll never come to a lasting conclusion. One has to rise to the spiritual platform. That is nityah sasvato 'yam—eternal, everlasting.

Student: Are you saying everything in this world is worthless?

Srila Prabhupada: Just try to understand. It can have value and meaning. For instance, you can add thousands of O's together, one after another, but the value will still be O. It will never become 1. But by the side of O, if you bring 1, immediately that becomes O. Add another O, immediately you have 100. You have increased it ten times. But that 1 must be there—that is ekam brahma, the one Supreme Spirit. Then O increases in its value. Similarly, this material world is zero. Bad. But if there is Krsna consciousness, then it has value. Then it has value.

Student: Doesn't the chariot of the mind have any value at all?

Srila Prabhupada: No. It has no value.

Student: But the whole Western philosophical—

Srila Prabhupada: Mano-rathenasati dhavato bahih: by mental speculation you'll remain in this temporary field. Asat means "that which does not exist." You take anything in this material world-some day it will not exist. Anyone knows it. A skyscraper is constructed, but everyone knows that it will not exist; some day it will fall down. Everyone knows. It will not endure. Therefore Prahlada Maharaja says, maya-sukhaya bharam udvahato vimudhan: for illusory happiness people are making huge, gorgeous arrangements and working day and night. For something that will be zero. It has begun as zero, and it will end as zero; in the middle they're busy. Just see'. Therefore they're vimudhan—fools and rascals.

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The Vedic Observer

Abortion and the Hypocritic Oath

by Jagajivana dasa

My sister was just back from Europe and just hearing for the first time about a Southern California obstetrician named William Waddill. I told her that after an unsuccessful abortion, Dr. Waddill had allegedly strangled the baby.

"What? Oh, how awful?."

''The amazing thing," I told my sister, "was that Newsweek asked, 'Was it abortion or murder?' As if there were any difference.

"Well, that's a matter of opinion.''

"No, it's not," I said, a bit stunned at the way the media can persuade.

In the practical everyday sense, of course, abortion surely is a matter of opinion. And the powers that be surely know how to sidestep and manipulate that opinion. With public opinion at its most sensitive, during the era of the Nuremburg trails, members of the United Nations' World Health Organization vowed in their Geneva Declaration, "I will maintain the utmost respect for human life from the time of conception; even under threat I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity." And in 1959, in their declaration of human rights, the U.N. gave us this assuring message: "The child, by reason of its physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection before as well as after birth."

Yet despite these avowals, in 1948 Julian Huxley, the first Director General of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) had already taken a different kind of oath in UNESCO: Its Purpose and Its Philosophy:

. . . even though it is quite true that any radical eugenic policy will be for many years politically and psychologically impossible, it will be important for UNESCO to see that the eugenic problem is examined with the greatest care, and that the public mind is informed of the issues at stake, so that much that is now unthinkable may at last become thinkable.

Later, in the essay "Too Many People!" (Our Crowded Planet, Essays on the Pressures of Population), Huxley asserted,

[It is] the duty of the United Nations, supported by the technologically developed nations, to carry out research on human reproduction and its control....
Already a few countries have an official policy of population control . . . but they need world encouragement and their policies should be integrated into a general and official world policy.
Public opinion is ready for this.

Ah, but we're not quite ready—yet—to see this survival-of-the-fittest policy in the hands of Dr. Waddill. So Newsweek had to ask, "Was it abortion or murder?" (to keep us thinking there just might be some kind of difference).

Time and Newspeak

Nonetheless, public opinion is fast getting "ready." Remember than in May of 1973, four months after the landmark Supreme Court ruling, Time raised a few eyebrows when it quoted Nobel Prize winner James D. Watson as saying, "If a child were not declared alive until three days after birth, then . . . the doctor could allow the child to die if the parents so choose and save a lot of misery and suffering. I believe this view is the only rational, compassionate attitude to have."

One university's chief of pediatrics had the nerve to suggest a system whereby "well-born or minorly defective children can be exterminated before the twelfth month of post-gestational life without causing concern to the society as a whole." Scarcely anyone complained.

Back in September of 1970, in their not-really-for-public-consumption journal, the California Medical Association leaked the game plan:

The traditional Western ethic has always placed great emphasis on the intrinsic worth and value of every human life. This ethic has had the blessing of the Judeo-Christian heritage and has been the basis for most of our laws and much of our social policy and has also been a keystone of Western medicine. This traditional ethic is still clearly dominant, but there is much to suggest that it is being eroded at its core and may eventually be abandoned.
Since the old ethic has not yet been fully displaced, it has been necessary to separate the idea of abortion from the idea of killing, which continues to be socially abhorrent. The result has been a curious avoidance of the scientific fact, which everyone really knows, that human life begins at conception and is continuous whether intra- or extra-uterine until death. The very considerable semantic gymnastics which are required to rationalize abortion as anything but taking a human life would be ludicrous if they were not often put forth under socially impeccable auspices. It is suggested that this schizophrenic sort of subterfuge is necessary, because while a new ethic is being accepted, the old one has not yet been rejected.
Medicine's role with respect to changing attitudes toward abortion may well be a prototype of what is to occur. One may anticipate further development of these roles as the problems of birth control and birth selection are extended inevitably' to death selection and death control whether by the individual or by society. It is not too early for our profession to examine the new ethic, and prepare to apply it in a rational development for the fulfillment and betterment of mankind in what is almost certain to be a biologically oriented world society.

So here's what the people in high places are accomplishing with all those "very considerable semantic gymnastics which are required to rationalize abortion as anything but taking a human life." They're making. us "biologically oriented'' (as opposed to spiritually oriented). They're making us see a living human being and a dead body as practically the same thing-just two different phases of one biochemical process. They'll have a tough time bringing it off, though, because anyone who can think a little logically can see that there's no way you can reverse the process-no chemical you can add to change a dead body back into a living human being. Something's missing, and that is the spiritual element, the soul. What's more, the soul who is now giving life to an "intrauterine" body is the same soul who will some day give life to a big "extra-uterine" body. So whether we destroy his extra-uterine body or his tiny intrauterine body, it's not just some biochemical phenomenon. It's murder. We're ripping another person's body away from him. But once we forget the inner soul and become "biologically oriented," we can murder people we find inconsequential or inconvenient and call it the "new ethic."

In fact, once we submerge our spirituality and become ''biologically oriented," we'll see that killing babies is our "new ethic" at its summit the only compassionate attitude to have." As American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Herman Schwartz pointed out in The Humanist, ". . . abortion proponents seek only to permit those who feel it necessary to destroy unborn organisms . . . with no discernible personality at all, in order to reduce human suffering." Biologically, what's wrong with that? Babies, of course, are not as biologically "viable" or "capable of meaningful life" as we are. So their suffering isn't really as "meaningful" or as "human."

Biologically, this is surely "the only attitude to have," but let us suggest that our scientists and doctors and public policy-makers stop calling it "compassionate." Why not just say that once you've become "biologically oriented," you won't have to feel guilty about being selfish? Why lead a double life? Come out and shout it: "I'm a selfish animal."

No one expects an animal to be compassionate anyway, so at least be honest about it. All you scientific and sociopolitical movers and shakers who've so often told us how much we need to get in touch with our essential animality, why not unabashedly show us the way? Why go through all the strain and drain of wearing suits and ties and holding huge conferences on compassion and concern? Compassion is a human quality. If you have no compassion for human babies, then why persist in calling yourselves "humanists"? If you can't live with the name "animalists," perhaps it's because your God-given human intelligence is trying to tell you something. Something about your own essential spirituality, and that of the babies you've chalked off to your "biologically oriented world society."

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America's Karma

"A Little Negative"

His Divine Grace Hrdayananda dasa Goswami talks with guests at the New Orleans Krsna center.

HIS DIVINE GRACE HRDAYANANDA DASA GOSWAMI is one of the spiritual masters that ISKCON's founder-acarya Srila Prabhupada selected to initiate new disciples. He came to the Krsna consciousness movement in 1969, and in 1972 he received sannyasa (the renounced order). He has lectured extensively at colleges and universities throughout the United States. Also, he speaks fluent Spanish and Portuguese and played a pioneering role in bringing Krsna consciousness to Latin America. Currently he directs ISKCON projects in Brazil.

They say all roads lead to Rome, but right now all roads lead to America. I've been traveling all over South America, all over Europe and Asia also, and frankly, everyone just imitates the Americans. Whatever we do, people think, "Oh, this must be what we should do." And that's why everyone is having so much trouble. "Follow the leader." The leader goes this way, touches the tree, so you touch the tree. Then he goes here and jumps over the stone, so you jump over the stone. Then the next thing you know he accidentally falls over a cliff.......

Or it's like the lemmings. As soon as one gets brave enough to jump into the sea, thousands of others simply follow him. Yes, so at the present time we Americans-we are the head lemming. Of course, it's not the ordinary people but the bigshots—the political, industrial, and scientific leaders—they're doing so many crazy, horrible things. They're simply dragging the whole country and the whole world down. Why don't they stop harassing people?

For instance, the last time I drove to the Gainesville airport, I saw one sign that said, ''Don't Drink.'' A nice government billboard: "Don't Drink Alcohol. Please Don't Drink." And then as soon as you passed that one you saw fifteen billboards for whiskey companies (who, of course, pay the government lots of taxes). Now, if ten thousand times a day you see "Drink This," 'Smoke That," "Eat This," "Buy That," then you're going to go crazy. If someone is always whispering into your ear, "Do this, do this, do this,"' finally you'll say, " Yes—I'll do it." So the government allows all this vicious propaganda, and the government—employed scientists come along and tell us, "Yes, you can do it. It's all right. Don't worry. It's all approved by us. It's authorized. You can slaughter animals and kill unborn babies. You can do anything you like. Don't worry about it. Just give us your tax money."

These rascals are very flagrantly and openly rejecting God—"God is dead," "God is useless," "He is the opiate of the people"—just kicking Him out. And everything is science, technology, sex, drugs. "We can do whatever we like." Yes, that's all right. So you build everything up very nicely, and then God—Krsna—will come and in ten seconds He will kick it all down. Yes, that's already being prepared. All these bombs they're stocking. The government thinks they are making them! Actually Krsna is making them. By His deluding potency He is ordering, "Make these nice bombs. They're good for you." "Oh, yes! They're good for us!"

So they make all the bombs, stock them up, and then Krsna will just use these bombs and these other nasty things they've made, and He will simply kick everything down and break it all to pieces. Ah, then everyone will cry. Just like a child doing so many crazy things in the basement—lighting fires, torturing insects—until finally his father comes and just kicks everything down. So that's the modern civilization, that's all. The time is coming when everything is going to simply be broken to pieces. So if we don't want this to happen, we should voluntarily stop all of this nonsensical materialistic life.

Of course, everyone will remain an eternal soul, even after everything around them is broken. People will get another chance, another body. But for sure they'll get kicked out of their present body. So if we want to do things peacefully, then we have to stop this foolishness of "I can do whatever I like," "I'm independent," "There is no authority over me," "I feel like doing it." People have become so arrogant. "I feel like doing this." "It feels good to me; therefore I can do it." "No, you can't tell me." This is such a childish attitude. It has to be broken. Madness, arrogance. You can't think like this—that you're independent. If the sun doesn't come up in the morning, then will you be independent? If there is no air, if there is no water. . . All these things are being given so kindly by God, and people have become so arrogant that they insult Him. They can't go on like this. It's not possible. It has to be stopped. It's come to the point where the father tells the child, "Either you stop this voluntarily or I'll stop it."

So don't think this modern so-called culture is going to go on—that we can just spend the next thousand years driving around in our vans, listening to our stereos and smoking hashish and eating slaughtered animals and doing whatever we like. It can't go on like that. It's not possible. It's not possible. So Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita [18.66], sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja:

"You've done so many nonsensical things that your karma is a little negative at the present time, and therefore in the future you're going to have to suffer in so many ways. . . .'' (For instance, America's karma is a little bit on the dark side right now-every day killing millions of animals and babies. Yes, these things are all registered. So our karma is becoming a little negative. We're going to have to suffer the reaction.) But Krsna says, "It doesn't matter. Whatever you've done—it doesn't matter. Just surrender to Me. Accept what you really are—a spiritual being, eternally related to Me. Don't pretend that you are something else," Krsna says. "Just chant Hare Krsna. Just start serving again and relating to Me. And then it will all be rectified peacefully."

After all, why is someone born in Vietnam underneath some bomb, or why is someone born in Siberia? Why do these things happen? That's karma. If you think we're just threatening people—"Oh, you're going to go to hell"—no, you don't have to look to some other place for hell. Krsna is so kind that just to convince you, He shows you hell while you're on this planet. He let's you see it even on this planet. Why do you think that someone has taken birth in a hellish condition on earth and you, for example, have beauty, money, and a leisurely life? These things are all good karma—to have personal beauty, to have money, to be born in a country where the government is not always breaking your head. So, why are you born here in these conditions while someone else is born in a horrible situation? That's karma.

So next time you'll switch places. Say you're a child and you've behaved nicely—your mother is embracing you—and yet because your brother or sister has done some crazy thing, your mother is just smashing him or her. That doesn't mean your mother loves you more. But because you have acted nicely, you are being rewarded and the other one is being punished. So if you've been born in America and some other soul has been born in some crazy country, it doesn't mean that God loves you more, but that the other one is being punished. And if you also act crazy, you'll also be punished.

So it is not a matter of simply frightening people, but these things are frightening. We shouldn't be just idiots, like an ostrich that puts his head in the sand . . . or like a rabbit. If some fox comes to eat the rabbit, the rabbit tries to get away, and when he's finally cornered, when there's nowhere else to go, then his ultimate weapon-he closes his eyes. 'There's no more fox! No more fox!"

On the one hand, we don't want to surrender to God just out of fear-because we have to love Him. But on the other hand, we can't just be like dumb animals and close our eyes to the disaster that is around the corner. We see the American leaders—you've read that perhaps drugs have even found their way into the White House. And in Russia, or course, who knows how much vodka they drink every day. So you have all these intoxicated people, these people who are very openly rotten. They're drinking their vodka and smoking whatever they're smoking and playing with all these buttons and lights and colors and maps, and it's all going to blow up. Unless the leaders become God conscious, it's going to blow up. And this is all karma, also . . . because at the present time you can hardly find any country in the world where people are actually serious about God. You cannot. Therefore it's all going to be kicked over.

Guest: Could I ask a question? You were saying that your karma can make you "switch places" in your next life?

Srila Hrdayananda dasa Goswami: That's a fact.

Guest: Then if you're connected with animal slaughter, in your next life you'll be an animal and you'll be slaughtered?

Srila Hrdayananda dasa Goswami: That's right. Yesterday's ranchers are today's beef cattle.

Guest: But so many people kill animals or butcher or sell them or at least buy and eat them. Then they'll have to be cows?

Srila Hrdayananda dasa Goswami: You just drive down the road in the rural areas, and all you see is one beef farm after the other. They're just killing cows—big business.

Guest: So all these beef cattle are, like, the truckers who ship the meat, and the people who prepare the meat?

Srila Hrdayananda dasa Goswami: Yes. If someone is a little advanced in spiritual awareness, he doesn't just see a cow and a tree and a barn. No. He can see who's who-who has done what. I mean, how could people think that God will permit this? . . . that you build a big slaughterhouse, you drag in millions and millions of poor innocent animals that are crying and screaming, and you simply take big knives and kill them? How can you think that this is going to go unpunished? These fools, these so-called government leaders, may be fond of thinking that they can simply pass some law—"Yes, we approve." Boom—they stamp it, everyone signs, they give out the fountain pens. "Yes, it is now legal to do this." No. These fools can say whatever they want, but God is not a fool like them. They may be very proud—"I am a U.S. senator. I am a congressman." But God will simply take this rascal, and when he dies, He'll stick him on a beef farm, too. "You think it's so nice. Now you try it." This is only fair, isn't it?

For example, if a mother comes and sees that her big child is simply harassing her small child and slapping him, she'll say, "Oh! Then I will slap you!" That's only fair. If one child is much bigger and he's simply slapping the smaller child, then the father or mother comes and . . . Slap! . . . protects the smaller child. "Stop!" Isn't that natural? Is that unfair? Is there something wrong in that? Of course, a mother may slap her child and make him feel pain to punish him, but she will never actually do him any harm. So in the same way, even when you're "killed" you are not being killed. You just have to give up one body and accept another body. You're just being slapped.

Guest: You sound as though you know what God looks like and what He does, but how can anybody know these things?

Srila Hrdayananda dasa Goswami: How can anyone not know? That's even harder to understand. God is your father. If you take a poll in America, how many people will know what their father looks like and how many people won't know? Who will be the majority? If someone says, "Oh, I know what my father looks like," that's not a big thing. So why should I care about that? But if someone says, "Oh, I've never seen my father,"' that's actually unusual. So if you say that you've never seen God, that's actually unusual. Because He's your father. To say that you can see God—so what? God is your father. But if you say that you haven 't seen God, that's actually hard to understand. Actually the Vedic scriptures are so elevated and so exalted that you'll never find a guru or saint in Vedic culture asking, "How is it possible to see God?" But Pariksit Maharaja asked, "How is it possible that people don't see God?" He's not that hard to understand. Just like if someone says to you, "I've never seen my father." Oh, really? How is that? How is it you've never seen your father? So what do you think God is? He's not simply playing hide-and-seek.

What do people think God is doing? Do people think that He's simply up in the ionosphere or something, and He's sitting on a big throne and just watching the play-by-play on the earth, and there are some angels hovering there, floating or playing trumpets, and God is just operating a big universal scoreboard? "Ah, one sin—click. Ah, one pious activity—click." Do they think that God has nothing else to do, that He just sits there for billions of years and keeps score? It's a crazy idea, isn't it?

And even more crazy, when people come before God (I've actually seen so-called religious tracts about this), they come before a throne and a huge faceless figure, and "God" demands, "Why didn't you serve Me?! Now I am going to throw you into a lake of fire for all eternity."

"No!" Then the person surrenders. "I'm sorry, God. Now I want to serve You. I'm sorry for what I did. Please accept me."

"No. I'm sorry. It's too late. I'm going to make you suffer forever. Ha, ha, ha!"

This is not actually how God is. There must be lakes of fire somewhere in the universe; that's a fact. But anyone who will sincerely surrender to God-he'll be liberated from his negative karma. And God—He's not like some neurotic parent who says, "I've given My whole life for My children," and who just Sits there fretting over what we're doing. God has His own activities, His own friends, His own life, just as ordinary parents sometimes say- "I've given my life for my children, but now I must have my own life."

So Krsna has His own life. He has His own planet and He has millions and billions of girl friends and boyfriends. They're all young, they're all eternal, they're all very beautiful . . . gorgeous. Everything there is conscious and eternal. Yes, and God never grows old. Actually He is very young. Young Krsna.

So the point is that you're related to God—you can see Him and you can go back to His spiritual world to live with Him. But you have to love Him. That's all. The only requirement. You just have to stop being a rascal and a fool and thinking that you can do whatever you like. You have to become sincere.

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The New Group

An Excerpt from the Biography of a Pure Devotee

by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami

One of the first American young people to take an interest in Prabhupada was Robert Nelson. Although he had grown up in New York City, he was more like a slow, simple country boy with a lumbering, homespun manner. At that time he was about twenty years old and was receiving unemployment checks. Robert (or, as Prabhupada called him, Mr. Nelson) was a loner. He was not part of the growing hippy youth movement, he did not take marijuana or other drugs, nor did he socialize much. He'd had some technical education at Staten Island Community College and had tried his hand at a record manufacturing business, but without much success. He was interested in God and would attend various spiritual meetings around the city. In this way he had wandered several times into Dr. Misra's Yoga Society and had heard lectures. He remembers the night he first saw Srila Prabhupada.

Svamiji [Srila Prabhupada] was sitting cross-legged on a bench. There was a meeting, and Dr. Misra was standing up before a group of people. There were about fifty people coming there, and he talked on "I am consciousness." Dr. Misra talked and then gave Prabhupada a grand introduction with a big smile. "Svamiji is here, "he said. And he swings around and waves his hood for a big introduction. It was beautiful. This was after Dr. Misra spoke for about an hour. Prabhupada didn't speak; he sang a song.

I went up to Prabhupada. He had a big smile and said, "Yes." Then he said that he likes young people to take to Krsna consciousness. He was very serious about it. He wanted all young people. So I thought that was very nice. It made sense. He said the young people are different. When they get older it is like a waste of time. Prabhupada said when he meets someone young it becomes entirely different. So I wanted to help.

We stood there about an hour. Misra had a library in the back, and we looked at certain books—Arjuna, Krsna, chariots, and things. And then we walked around. We looked at some of the pictures of svamis on the wall. By that time it was getting very late, and Prabhupada said to come back the next day at ten to his office downstairs.

The next day, Robert Nelson went to Room 307 and knocked on Prabhupada's door. He remembers the Svami inviting him in and handing him a small piece of paper with the Hare Krsna mantra printed on it. "While Swamiji was handing it to me he had this big smile like he was handing me the world." Srila Prabhupada showed Robert three volumes of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, which Robert purchased for $16.50. Robert remembers that the walls of the room were painted "a dark, dismal color." The place was clearly not intended to serve as a living quarters—there was no toilet, shower, chair, bed, or telephone.

So we spent the whole day together [Robert Nelson relates]. At one point Prabhupada said, "We are going to take a sleep." So he laid down there by his little desk, and so I said, "I am tired too." So I laid down at the other end of the room and we rested. I just laid on the floor. It was the only place to do it. But he didn't rest that long-an hour and a half I think—and then we spent the rest of the day together. He was talking about Lord Caitanya and the Lord's pastimes, and he showed me a small picture of Lord Caitanya, and then he started talking about the disciples of Lord Caitanya, Nityananda, and Advaita. He had a picture of the five of them [Lord Krsna's incarnation as Lord Caitanya, with His four principal associates] and a picture of his spiritual master. It wasn't much of a room, though. You'd really be disappointed if you saw it.

Presents and Presentations

Robert Nelson couldn't give Prabhupada the kind of assistance he needed. Lord Caitanya has stated that a person has at his command four things, of which he should give at least one to the service of God: he can give his whole life; or if he cannot do that, he can give his money; if he cannot give his money, he can give his intelligence; and if he does not have intelligence, he can at least give his words, by telling others about the glories of God. Robert Nelson did not seem able to give his whole life to Krsna consciousness, and as for money, he had very little. His intelligence was also limited, he spoke unimpressively, and he did not have a wide range of friends or contacts with whom to speak. But he was affectionate toward Srila Prabhupada, and out of the eight million people in the city, he was at this time almost the only one who showed personal interest and offered what little help he could.

Robert, with his experience in manufacturing records, had a scheme that he could make a record of Prabhupada singing, so he tried to convince Prabhupada to put out an album of devotional songs. One could put out an album with almost anything on it, he told Prabhupada, and it would make money, or at least break even. An album that costs only thirty-five cents to make could always be put in an assortment and sell for sixty cents, so it would be almost impossible to lose money. Robert thought this was a way he could help make Prabhupada known, and he convinced Prabhupada that it was worth making a presentation to a record manufacturer.

Me and Prabhupada went around to this record company on Forty-sixth Street. We went in there, and I started talking, and the man was all business. He was all business and mean—they go together. So me and Prabhupada went in there with the tape, and we tried talking to the man. Prabhupada was talking, but the man said he couldn't put the tape out. I think he listened to the tape, but he wouldn't put it out. So we felt discouraged. Prabhupada was discouraged, but he didn't say much about it. He wanted to have an album put out. It would have been so nice if that man had put out the album.

Robert Nelson and Srila Prabhupada made an odd combination. Srila Prabhupada was elderly and dignified and was a deep scholar of the Bhagavatam and the Sanskrit language, whereas Robert was artless in both Eastern and Western culture and inept in worldly ways. They walked together, uptown on various adventures—Srila Prabhupada wearing his winter coat (with its collar of imitation fur) along with his Indian dhoti and white pointed shoes, Robert wearing old khaki pants and an old coat. Srila Prabhupada walked with rapid, determined strides, outpacing the lumbering, rambling, heavyset boy who had befriended him.

Robert was supposed to help Srila Prabhupada in making presentations to businessmen and real estate men, but he himself was hardly a slick fellow. He was quite innocent.

Once we went over to this big office building on Forty-second Street, and we went in there. The rent was thousands of dollars for a whole floor. So I was standing there talking to the man, but I didn't understand how all this money would come, because Prabhupada wanted a big place and I didn't know what to tell the man. The man was asking some big price just for the rent. That was between Sixth and Broadway on Forty-second Street. Some place to open Krsna's temple! We went in and up to the second floor and saw the renting agent, and then we left. I think it was $5,000 a month or $10,000. We got to a certain point, and the money was too much. And then we left. When he brought up the prices. I figured we had better not, we had to stop. Previously I had seen a sign, and it was my idea to take Prabhupada there.

Another time Robert took Srila Prabhupada to the Hotel Columbia, at 70 West Forty-sixth Street. The hotel had a suite that Srila Prabhupada looked at for possible use as a temple, but again he found it too expensive.

Sometimes Robert would make purchases for Srila Prabhupada with money from his unemployment checks. One time he bought orange-colored T-shirts. Another time he went to Woolworth's at Fiftieth Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues and bought frying pans and picture frames for Prabhupada's pictures of Lord Caitanya and his spiritual master.

"One time I wanted to know how to make capati cakes," Robert said, "so Prabhupada says, 'A hundred dollars, please, for the recipe. A hundred dollars, please.' So I went and got some money, but I couldn't get a hundred dollars. But he showed me anyway. He taught me to cook and would always repeat, 'Wash hands, wash hands,' 'You should only eat with your right hand.'

Whoever met Srila Prabhupada was almost always impressed, Robert remembers. "They would start smiling back to him, and sometimes they would say funny things to each other that were nice. Prabhupada's English was very technical always. I mean, he had a big vocabulary. But sometimes people had a little trouble understanding him, and you had to help sometimes."

Robert Nelson's observation that Prabhupada liked young people to take to Krsna consciousness is significant. Srila Prabhupada was already seriously considering that his message would be appreciated especially by the youth of America. In Bengal, Lord Caitanya had started His movement of sankirtana, congregational chanting, when He was fifteen or sixteen years old, and many of His followers were also teenagers. In the Bhagavatam a young boy devotee, Prahlada, preaches to his schoolmates that they should take to spiritual life while very young, because as one grows older he becomes entangled in household life, and then spiritual life becomes impossible. Of course, Srila Prabhupada was not discriminating, or thinking that only people of a certain age group should receive Krsna consciousness. Indeed, it was mostly older people who had so far given him a hearing.

A man by the name of Harvey Cohen, who was then in his thirties, proved an important link with the young people of New York City. A commercial artist who lived on the Lower East Side, Harvey had seen Prabhupada one evening at Dr. Misra's yoga studio, and he began to describe Srila Prabhupada to some of his friends at the Paradox restaurant, at 64 East Seventh Street. It was Dr. Misra who had given Srila Prabhupada shelter uptown, where he had at least survived, but it was through Harvey Cohen and then others from the Paradox that a whole new phase of Prabhupada's life in America began. Young seekers began to be attracted to him. A young friend of Harvey's named Bill Epstein, who was then in his early twenties, says his own coming to see Prabhupada was due to Harvey Cohen and the Paradox restaurant: "Harvey Cohen came to me and said, 'I went to visit Misra, and there's a new svami there, and he's really fantastic!'

The Paradox, a macrobiotic establishment, was a center for spiritual-cultural interests in the 1960s. Run by a man named Richard O'Kane, the Paradox served natural food based on the philosophy of George Osawa and the macrobiotic diet. It was a kind of meeting place reminiscent of Parisian cafes or Greenwich Village in the 1920s. In this storefront, one flight down from the sidewalk, small dining tables were placed around a room which was generally lit by candlelight. There was also a courtyard in the back, where people could sit at tables under trees. The food was inexpensive and well reputed. Tea was served free, as much as you liked. A person could spend the whole day at the Paradox without buying anything, and no one would chase him out.

For some, the people at the Paradox were like a mystical congregation. It was not merely a New York scene, but was frequented by people traveling from Europe and other parts of the world. The people at the Paradox were always interested in teachers from India or the East. The Paradox culture was originally not oriented toward LSD or other drugs, but was centered on internationalism, spiritual inquiry, and the Osawa diet. It gradually turned out, however, that people who had taken LSD were attracted to the restaurant, because of its atmosphere of mind expansion and mystical interest. "Even the mystics have to eat," said James Greene, who was then a thirty-year-old freelance carpenter teaching at Cooper Union and reading his way into Eastern philosophy. He was another who heard about Srila Prabhupada while regularly taking his evening meal at the Paradox in the spring of 1966.

Bill Epstein was an employee at the Paradox, and once he became interested in Prabhupada, he made Prabhupada an ongoing topic of conversation. Quite in contrast to Robert Nelson, Bill Epstein was a dashing, romantic person with long, wavy dark hair and a beard. He was good-looking and effervescent and took upon himself a social role of informing people of the city's spiritual news. It was through Harvey Cohen that he first met Srila Prabhupada.

When Harvey Cohen came down to the Paradox [Bill Epstein relates], at first I couldn't care less. I was involved in macrobiotics and Buddhism, but Harvey was a winning and warm personality, and he seemed interested in this. He said, "Why don 't you come uptown? I would like you to see this. "So I went to one of the lectures on Seventy-second Street. I walked in there, and I could feel a certain presence from the Svami. He had a certain very concentrated intense appearance. He looked pale and kind of weak; I guess he had just come here and he had been through a lot of things. He was sitting there chanting on his beads, which he carried in a little bag. One of Dr. Misra '5 students was talking, and he finally got around to introducing the Svami. He said, "We are the moons to the Svami's sun." He introduced him in that way. The Svami got up and talked. I didn't know what to think about it.

So I went back to the Paradox and said, "Well, Harvey, I went to see the Svami. " He said, "What did you think?" I said, "Well, you know, it is interesting. "At that time the only steps I had taken in regard to Indian teaching was through Rama-krishna, but this was the first time that bhakti religion had come to America.

Then another time Harvey came to the Paradox, and I asked, "How is the Svami living? Where is he getting his money from?"

He said, "I don't know."

I asked, "Does he have food?"

He said, "I don't know if he's got anything up there."

I asked, "Have you gone to see him where he's living?"

He said, "Yes. He lives now on the third floor, in Room 307."

I said, "Well, you know what I think I'm going to do? I'm going to take him some food from here and bring it up there and see f he could use it."

He said, "Yes, that sounds like a good idea. I don't know how he's getting his food."

So I went in the back, and I asked Richard, the manager, "I'm going to take some food to the Svami You don't mind, do you?" He said, "No. Take anything you want. "So I took some brown rice and other stuff and I brought it up there.

I went upstairs and I knocked on the door, and there was no answer. I knocked again, and I saw that the light was on—because it had a glass panel—and finally he answered. I was really scared, because I had never really accepted any teacher. He said, "Come in! Come in! Sit down." We started talking, and he said to me, "The first thing that people do when they meet is to show each other love. They exchange names; they exchange something to eat." So he gave me a slice of apple, and he showed me the tape recorder he had, which probably Harvey Cohen gave him so he could record his chants. Then he said, "Have you ever chanted?" I said, "No, I haven't chanted before." So he played a chant, and then he spoke to me some more. He said, "You must come back." I said, "Well, or I come back I'll bring you some more food."

Almost all the people going up to see Srila Prabhupada at this time were coming from the Paradox. People taking their dinner in the restaurant would be approached by Bill Epstein or others with the proposal, "Let's go up to the Svami's." Whenever Bill Epstein went he would bring food and sit and chant. Some of the people who went thought that Prabhupada was being too exclusive by saying that the only way to reach God was to sing Hare Krsna. But because most of them were people who were open to experimenting with new things, they began chanting, and then they would like it. Those who had experienced the visit uptown to the Svami talked favorably about it at the restaurant to those who had never gone.

Coming Downtown

Another sympathizer who met Srila Prabhupada through the restaurant was James Greene. Older and more responsible, he had been living for eight years on the same block as the Paradox.

Initially we had gone to attend one of Dr. Misra's lectures [James Greene relates.] It was really Harvey and Bill Epstein who got things going. I remember one meeting at Misra's. Svami was only a presence; he didn't speak. Misra's students seemed more into the bodily aspect of yoga. This seemed to be one of Svamji's complaints.

His room on Seventy-second Street was quite small. He was living in a fairly narrow room. It must have been ten feet by fifteen feet. It had a door on one end, and Svamiji had set himself up along one side, and we were rather closely packed. It may have been no more than eight feet wide, and it was rather dim. He sat on his thin mattress, and then we sat on the floor.

At that time we didn't chant. We would just come, and he would lecture. There was no direction other than the lecture on Bhagavad-gita. I had read a lot of literature, and in my own shy way I was looking for a master, I think. I have no aggression in me or go-getting quality. I was really just a listener, and this seemed right—hearing the Bhagavad-gita—so I kept coming. It just seemed as if things would grow from there. More and more people began coming. Then it got crowded, and he had to find another place.

Another of the first seekers who came to see Prabhupada uptown was Paul Murray. Eighteen years old, he had just moved to the city, optimistically attracted by what he had read about experimentation with drugs. Paul remembers a clash between the Paradox group and the more conservative, older guests who had been attending Prabhupada's classes. The young men, he says, found "a kind of fussbudgety group of older women on the West Side" listening to Prabhupada's lectures. At that time it was unusual for people to have long hair and beards, and when such people started coming to the West Side to visit Prabhupada, some of the older people were alarmed. "Swami Bhaktivedanta began to pick up another kind of people," one of them says. "He picked them up at the Bowery or some attics. And they came with funny hats and grey blankets around themselves, and they startled me."

We weren't known as hippies then [Paul Murray relates]. But it was strange for the people who had originally been attracted to him. It was difficult for them to relate to this new group. I think most of the teachers from India up to that time had older followers, and sometimes wealthy widows would provide a source of income. But Svamiji changed right away to the younger, poorer group of people.

The next thing that happened was that Bill Epstein and others began talking about how it would be better for the Svami to come downtown to the Lower East Side. Things were really happening down there, and somehow they weren't happening uptown. People downtown really needed him. Downtown was right and it was ripe. There was life down there. There was a lot of energy going around.

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Notes from the Editor

Anthropomorphism Revisited: God as Obstetrician

Astronomer Carl Sagan's theory of why man believes in God ("The Amniotic Universe," Atlantic Monthly, April 1979) is a rather old-fashioned speculation, but with a few new twists. Sagan says our ideas of God and the afterlife are no more than remembrances of states we experienced as infants emerging from our mother's womb.

Before elaborating on his birth theory, Sagan is quick to admit that anthropomorphism (which commonly means the idea that God was invented by man) is often simply a "desperate rationalist attempt to avoid a serious encounter with the mystical." He also rejects as implausible the idea that religious experience is a mere evolutionary "wiring defect in the brain," touched off in altered states of consciousness such as "near-death" and LSD experiences.

But Sagan's own "new" anthropomorphic theory is weak and implausible in the extreme. He says he got his idea from a psychotherapist named Stanislav Grof. Grof asked patients undergoing LSD therapy to recollect memories of their birth, and subsequently he broke the birth experience down into four stages: initial restfulness and complacency, intense pain during the womb's contractions, gradual passage into the light, and ultimate comfort, when the infant arrives in affectionate arms. Accepting Grof's analysis, Sagan offers us his anthropomorphic guess: the relief experienced by the infant as he leaves the womb and passes into the light has created man's notion of the kingdom of God, and the first figure who meets the newborn's eyes, the midwife or the obstetrician or the father, forms man's notion of God.

Has the astronomer, then, with one deft stroke invalidated the spiritual knowledge of Krsna, Buddha, Christ, Muhammad, and all other great religious thinkers? Not likely. Sagan's attempt to explain it 'all away as purely physiological phenomena may please the atheistically predisposed, but it leaves the more objective observer a bit less than satisfied.

Why does Sagan attempt to explain man's noblest impulse—love of God—as no more than a remembrance of physical birth? Sagan admits to a frailty: he cannot reconcile belief in God with his belief in his own supremacy. "I would be delighted if there were life after death . . . but I am also a scientist . . ." Apparently he thinks that as a scientist, he has a right to demand that the Supreme Being come under his scrutiny, much as a butterfly comes under the microscope or a planet appears in the lens of a telescope.

But clearly the Supreme Personality of Godhead cannot be approached by such a mundane, materialistic method. So Sagan—rather than turn to standard transcendental processes for approaching God, as taught by the great religious thinkers—has created his own explanation. Sagan cannot accept that God exists in truth, and so he seeks an alternative, a reason why so many "good and great people" believe in Him. He thinks he's found it in his birth theory, "thc only alternative, as far as I can see." Is Lord Krsna, the speaker of the Bhagavad-gita; no more than a memory of an obstetrician? Are Jesus Christ's prayers to God the Father just an inadvertent expression of thanks to the many midwives who deliver babies? Or perhaps it's just Sagan who's in illusion . . . forgetting God, creating vain "alternatives."

Similar antireligious theories of God are discussed in the ancient Vedic scriptures. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna states, "I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent. For them I am covered by My deluding potency; and so the deluded world knows Me not, who am unborn and infallible....... Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature and My supreme dominion over all that be." How can an ordinary human being make independent research into the nature of God? We are all beset with human limitations such as imperfect sensory perception and the tendency to make mistakes, to cheat, and to be illusioned. Because the existence of the Absolute is beyond our material vision, it is impossible for us to understand Him unless we take to one of the standard paths of spiritual purification.

When the atheist attempts to mock the Supreme—saying He is no more than the friendly father or obstetrician who welcomes the baby out of the womb—it is not actually the Supreme who is being described (and mocked and rejected), but an imagination of the Supreme created by the mental speculator. The transcendental position of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is not perceivable by the conditioned souls, who are accustomed to judging everything according to material vision and who cannot understand that the Supreme exists in His own abode, which is beyond that vision. Even if a scientist could count all the atoms in the universe, he would still not be able to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Even if one tried to understand the Supreme for billions of years through the mental speculative process or by traveling at the speed of mind or the wind, still the Absolute Truth would remain inconceivable to him, because a materialistic person cannot measure the length and breadth of the Supreme Personality of Godhead's unlimited existence.

We have to approach God by inquiring from realized saints and from the scriptures. This devotional method, bhakti-yoga, has its own scientific standards, its own theoretical and practical aspects of perception, and only if one takes to them can he come to realize his relationship with the Supreme. For example, in this age the Vedic literatures strongly recommend the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. If one chooses not to take to the bona fide process of understanding that which is spiritual, then he can never realize God. But whether one understands Him or not, nonetheless He is existing in His own spiritual potency, beyond the dabblings of the psychotherapist or the astronomer.

Carl Sagan is well known for his belief that superior life forms exist on other planets. He ends the exposition of his "birth theory" of God by predicting that "sooner or later [through space travel] we will find other intelligent beings." Sagan believes that most of the creatures we will find in outer space will be more advanced than present humanity. "In some very real sense they will appear to us as godlike." He concludes that perhaps these superior beings will give us superior knowledge of God and science. The Vedic sources also inform us that there is superior life on other planets within this material universe. At any rate, the astronomer's concession that his own theory is human speculation and may one day be improved by knowledge from higher beings has a seeming modesty. But why isn't Sagan modest enough to see that beyond the advanced intelligence that we may find in beings in outer space, there must be higher and higher stages of intelligence and ultimately the intelligence from which all intelligence is coming? This fundamental principle—that God is the original cause—is expressed in the Vedanta aphorism, "The Supreme is that from which everything is emanating." Even the small fragment of the universe we see around us is so complex and highly organized that we must conclude there is a great intelligence or brain behind it. We may speculate on which theory—"big bang," "steady state," "oscillation"—best explains the universe, but whatever way it has come about, it has come about and is evolving due to a supreme will and intelligence.

Nor do we have to wait for millions of years in the vain hope that ultimate knowledge will come to us only through a chance encounter with higher beings. For thousands of years compassionate, ultimate wisdom has been coming from the Supreme Being to the suffering beings in this material world, and even today the transmission continues. Unfortunately, a scientist like Sagan is too busy straining his own imperfect brain and senses and mouthing "alternatives" to God—too busy to be a little humble and give his ears a chance.

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