His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, read this statement at a press conference in Los Angeles, during December of 1968.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness is a movement aiming at the spiritual reorientation of mankind through the simple process of chanting the holy names of God. The human life is meant for ending the miseries of material existence. Our present-day society is trying to end these miseries by material progress. However, it is visible to all that in spite of extensive material progress, human society is not peaceful.
The reason is that the human being is essentially a spirit soul. It is the spirit soul which is the background of the development of the material body. However the materialistic scientist may deny the spiritual existence in the background of the living force, there is no better understanding than accepting this living force as ultimately the spirit soul within the body.
The body is changing—from one form to another—but the spirit soul is existing eternally, without change. This fact we can experience even in our own life. Since the beginning of our material body in the womb of our mother, our body has been changing from one shape to another, at every second and at every minute. This process is generally known as "growth;' but actually it is a change of body.
On this earth we see change of day and night and change of season. The more primitive mentality attributes this phenomenon to changes occurring in the sun. For example, in the winter primitive people think the sun is getting weaker, and at night they presume, sometimes, that the sun is dead. With more advanced knowledge we see that the sun is not changing at all in this way. Seasonal and diurnal changes are attributed to the change of the position of the earth.
Similarly, we experience bodily changes: from embryo to child to youth to maturity to old age and to death. The less intelligent mentality presumes that after death the spirit soul's existence is forever finished, just as primitive tribes believe that the sun dies at sunset. Actually, however, the sun is rising in another part of the world. Similarly, the soul is accepting another type of body. When the body gets old like an old garment and is no longer usable, the soul accepts another body, just as we accept a new suit of clothes. Modern civilization is practically unaware of this truth.
People do not care about the constitutional position of the soul. There are different departments of knowledge in different universities and many technological institutions, all to study and understand the subtle laws of material nature, and there are medical research laboratories to study the physiological condition of the material body, but there is no institution to study the constitutional position of the soul. This is the greatest drawback of materialistic civilization, which is simply an external manifestation of the soul.
People are enamored of the glittering manifestation of the cosmic body or the individual body, but they do not try to understand the basic principle of this glittering situation. The body looks very beautiful, working with full energy and exhibiting great traits of talent and wonderful brain work. But as soon as the soul is away from the body, this entire glittering situation of the body becomes useless. Even the great scientists who have offered many wonderful scientific contributions have been unable to trace out the personal self which is the cause of such wonderful discoveries.
The Krsna consciousness movement, therefore, is basically trying to teach this science of the soul, not in any dogmatic way, but through complete scientific and philosophical understanding. In the background of this body you can find the soul, whose presence is perceivable by dint of consciousness. Similarly, in the universal body of the cosmic manifestation, one can perceive the presence of the Supreme Lord, or the Absolute Truth, by virtue of the presence of Supersoul and Super consciousness.
The Absolute Truth is systematically experienced in the Vedanta-sutra (generally known as the Vedanta philosophy), which is elaborately explained by the Srimad-Bhagavatam, a commentary by the same author. The Bhagavad-gita is the preliminary study of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, for understanding the constitutional position of the Supreme Lord, or the Absolute Truth.
The Absolute Truth is realized in three phases of understanding, namely as Brahman (the impersonal universal soul), as Paramatma (the localized universal soul), and at the end as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. An individual soul is understood in three aspects: first as the consciousness pervading the entire body, then as the spirit soul within the heart, and ultimately as a person. Similarly, the Absolute Truth is first realized as impersonal Brahman, then as localized Supersoul (Paramatma), and at the end as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna. Krsna means "all-inclusive:" Or in other words, Krsna is simultaneously Brahman, Paramatma, and the Personality of Godhead, just as every one of us is simultaneously consciousness, soul, and person.
The individual person and the Supreme Person are qualitatively one but quantitatively different. Just like the drop of sea water and the vast mass of sea water—both are qualitatively one. The chemical composition of the drop of sea water and that of the mass of sea water are one and the same. But the quantity of salt and other minerals in the whole sea is many, many times greater than the quantity of salt and other minerals contained in the drop of sea water.
The Krsna consciousness movement upholds the individuality of the soul and the Supreme Soul. From the Vedic Upanisads we can understand that both the Supreme Person, or God, and the individual person are eternal living entities. The difference is that the Supreme Living Entity or Supreme Person maintains all the innumerable other living entities. In the Christian way of understanding, the same principle is admitted, because in the Bible it is taught that the contingent entities should pray to the Supreme Father so that He may supply means of maintenance and give pardon for their sinful activities.
So it is understood from any source of scriptural injunction that the Supreme Lord, or Krsna, is the maintainer of the contingent living entity, and that it is the duty of the contingent entity to feel obliged to the Supreme Lord. This is the whole background of religious principles. Without these acknowledgements there is chaos, as we find in our daily experience at the present moment.
Everyone is trying to become the Supreme Lord, either socially, politically, or individually. Therefore there is competition for this false lordship, and there is chaos all over the world—individually, nationally, socially, collectively. The Krsna consciousness movement is trying to establish the supremacy of the Absolute Personality of Godhead. One who has attained a human body and intelligence is meant for this understanding, because this consciousness makes his life successful.
This Krsna consciousness movement is not a new introduction by mental speculators. Actually, this movement was started by Krsna Himself. On the Battlefield of Kuruksetra, at least five thousand years ago, the movement was presented by Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita. From Bhagavad-gita we can understand that He had spoken this system of consciousness long, long before, when He had imparted it to the sun-god Vivasvan. That calculation goes to show that before Krsna spoke the Bhagavad-gita again on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra, He had once before explained it—at least forty million years ago.
So this movement is not at all new. It is coming down in disciplic succession and from all the great leaders of India's Vedic civilization, including Sankaracarya Ramanujacarya, Madhvacarya, Visnu Svami, Nimbarka, and lately, about 480 years ago, Lord Caitanya. The disciplic system is still being followed today. This Bhagavad-gita is also very widely used in all parts of the world by great scholars, philosophers, and religionists. But in most cases the principles are not followed as they are. The Krsna consciousness movement means to present the principles of the Bhagavad-gita as they are—without any misinterpretation.
From the Bhagavad-gita we can understand five main principles, namely God, the living entity, the material and spiritual nature, time, and activities. Out of these five items God, the living entity, nature (material or spiritual), and time are eternal. But activities are not eternal.
Activities in the material nature are different from activities in the spiritual nature. Though the spirit soul is eternal (as we have explained), the activities are temporary. The Krsna consciousness movement aims at placing the spirit soul in his eternal activities. We can practice eternal activities even when we are materially engaged. To act spiritually simply requires direction, but it is possible, under the prescribed rules and regulations.
The Krsna consciousness movement teaches these spiritual activities, and if one is trained in such spiritual activities, one is transferred to the spiritual world, of which we get ample evidence from the Vedic literatures, including the Bhagavad-gita. The spiritually trained person can be transferred to the spiritual world easily—by change of consciousness.
Consciousness is always present, because it is the symptom of the living spirit soul, but at the present moment our consciousness is materially contaminated. For instance, water pouring down from a cloud is pure, but as soon as the water comes in touch with the earth it becomes muddy—immediately. Yet if we filter the same water, the original clearness can be regained. Similarly, the Krsna consciousness movement is the process of clearing our consciousness. And as soon as our consciousness is clear and pure, we are eligible to be transferred to the spiritual world, for our eternal life of knowledge and bliss. This is what we are hankering for in this material world, but we are being frustrated at every step, on account of material contamination. Therefore, this Krsna consciousness movement should be taken very seriously by the leaders of human society.
At U. of M.'s recent commencement ceremony,
Members of the Board of Regents, President Toll, Chancellor Gluckstern, learned faculty, honored graduates, parents, and friends:
I would like to offer my humble respects to my teacher, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who has extensively introduced the spiritual heritage of India to the Western academic community over the past decade.
India's philosophy of acintya-bhedabheda-tattva, which explains the inconceivable oneness and diversity of God's creation, is the unique gift of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the great saint and scholar of medieval India.
We are all in the womb of the Age of Kali, a historical age in which the faults of society and the individual are like a great ocean. Who has not experienced this current phenomenon? To some extent we are all implicated.
Now we have all acquired the necessary knowledge to commence our work in this life, and we hear the wise men of ancient Greece begging, like echoes coming down through the ages, "Know thyself:"
We are perplexed as to what is of paramount importance—whether to get on with the work of expanding our fruitive activities, or to endeavor for only as much comfort as we require and address ourselves mainly to that ancient command.
"But we have not had the time until now" is our reply. "Then when will you make the time in this short life?" comes the curt response from within.
In this society of rapidly changing values, mass marketing, media propaganda, ecological disasters, and imminent atomic conflicts, what is that activity which is most pleasing to the soul? How can we receive the prime benediction that will make all of our activities successful? Just like the philosopher's touchstone, which can turn any substance to gold, what is that activity which can make all of our endeavors auspicious?
In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, says,
paras tasmat to bhavo 'nya
"Yet there is another nature, which is eternal and is transcendental to this manifested and unmanifested matter. It is supreme and is never annihilated. When all in this world is annihilated, that part remains as it is."
Democritus once called all existence just "atoms and the void:" Yet Plato rebutted, "This world came to be, in very truth, through the providence of God—a living being with soul and intelligence:' Through the eye of knowledge, Plato could perceive the antimaterial nature, where the soul thrives in its constitutional relationship with the Supreme Soul. And when one attains this knowledge of the soul, one reaches the apex of evolution. Socrates said that in the world in which we now live there is no equality, but that the idea of equality springs from the state of the soul. Presently, of course, we are embarrassed by the inequalities and contradictions of our modern civilization, notably man's inhumanity to man.
In this Age of Kali, we are like the man in the hospital bed who is encumbered by so many tubes, bottles. needles, and bandages. When his friends come and ask him, "How are you doing?" he replies, "Fine, thank you." Unlike such a person, we must recognize the real problems of life—old age, disease, death, and rebirth—and we must actually try to solve them. How well we do this will influence the future of this country and of humanity. In the Garga Upanisad it is said, yo va etad aksaram gargy aviditvasmal lokat praiti sa krpanah: "He is a miserly man who does not solve the problems of life as a human and who thus quits this world like the cats and dogs, without understanding the science of self-realization."
Therefore, this human form of life is itself the greatest asset and benediction; and to know the self is the real goal of education.
Thank you very much. Hare Krsna.
"This Other Kind Of Festival"
In all the world, the Festival of the Chariots has had the longest run ... several thousand years and getting more popular all the time.
by Jagajivana dasa
JAGAJIVANA DASA came to the Krsna consciousness movement in 1970. Before that he was a reviewer for Down Beat magazine.
About ten years ago, my work was reporting on the usual kind of festival, the kind that generally comes to mind when you hear the word.
Altamont, the West Coast version of Woodstock, pretty well tells the story. It was amazing how many hundreds of thousands of us came out for that festival, and how desperately we wanted to have a celebration. Yet from the start it was clear we were going to have some big disagreements over what we were celebrating. Up on stage, musicians and festival guards were punching one another out. And the moment the star of the festival got down from his helicopter and started making his way through the crowd to sing 'Gimme Shelter;' somebody reached out and gave him a fist in the face. We'd come there to celebrate and get ourselves together, and during that last set, one of us got himself knifed to death.
Sure, this was a somewhat special case, and yet it pretty much sums up that whole experience with festivals . . . big pilgrimages to watch somebody on stage act out the collective ego trip. He was a god, and you were a god, and if anybody crossed anybody else, it was a war of the gods.
Then this other kind of festival came into my life, in Golden Gate Park during July of 1970. The one-two-three, one-two-three of the hand cymbals could have been coming from hi-hat or ride cymbals, and the oblong Indian drums had a long-drawn-out mooing sound that might have made ordinary trap drummers feel like throwing their tom-toms away. But mainly. for the first time in my experience, everybody seemed to be appreciating someone else (and not just some stand-in for themselves). The someone else was round-eyed, smiling Jagannatha: Krsna, the Lord of the Universe. And at last everybody was celebrating together. We had finally found one song we could all sing—and sing and sing, for hours. Blacks, whites, yellows. browns, kids, old folks, profs, cops—family unity at last. Hare Krsna, Hare Rama. The words stayed with you like no others. We were singing to the Lord of the Universe, an old, very special, long-forgotten friend of the family.
It was an experience that was really moving, in many ways. We grabbed the chariot ropes and pulled Krsna, and He pulled us along with Him. Krsna's chariot rolled on and on, and the waves of chanting and feeling rolled in and in, deeper and deeper. Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare. Hare Ram a, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Two lines that held all the beauty imaginable. The more you chanted, the more you experienced it. There was actually someone named Krsna who somehow, some time ago, we let slip away. But now He was right here in His name, and smiling from His chariot, and everything was clearing and turning pure and lustrous and fresh.
We kept moving along together, pulling Krsna's chariot or playing drums or cymbals or clapping, and always chanting. Hare ... knowingly or unknowingly, we were calling on Hara (Krsna's eternal consort Radha) to help us back to the spiritual forest of Vrndavana, where everyone has pure devotion for Krsna. Krsna, the all-attractive one. Hare Krsna. We were calling on Hara to help us, here and now, back to our natural affection and devotion for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the all-pleasureful one. Hare Rama.
Then, too, there was the feast, all gratis. And you had to reflect. "When was the last time thousands and thousands of people feasted together'?" And what a feast it was. Spicy, tomatoey cauliflower-and-potato curry ... puffy, buttery wheat patties ... cold and creamy sweet rice ... whipped lemon-and-yogurt drink ... Anyone who asked the devotees about the recipes would invariably hear, "... and the most important ingredient is that you offer everything to Krsna:"
It seemed a lot of people, including some noted musicians who were there, were taking the idea to heart. Chanting Hare Krsna, playing music and staging dramas for Krsna, offering delicious vegetarian dishes to Krsna and feasting. The fool-proof formula for an instant festival, anywhere and everywhere. When we make things happen for Krsna on that kind of grand scale, then we've really got something to celebrate.
Why Our Schools Don't Have a Prayer
This exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and a divinity student took place in Los Angeles, during January of 1974.
Student: Many people are frightened about the way the schools are falling apart ... students not even learning how to read and write, many turning to drugs and robbing and raping their teachers.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. What is the value of this kind of schooling?
Student: Not an awful lot.
Srila Prabhupada: It is all cheating. You have left God out. That is the height of cheating. So naturally the rest of your socalled schooling must also be cheating. Suppose you are doing a mathematical calculation and you start by figuring, "2 + 2 = 3." After that you may use the most sophisticated techniques and formulas, but your whole calculation will be wrong.
Student: Now things have gotten to the point that we can't even have prayer in the public schools. We used to have a prayer at the beginning of each school day. But then one atheist lady (and no doubt other people behind the scenes) pushed and pushed until the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional. Now prayer in the schools is banned.
Srila Prabhupada: But even if prayer were allowed, that would not help. Prayer is still going on in the churches, and what is the benefit'! People are losing interest, because it has all become simply a ritualistic show—"Churchianity." The thing is, you have to become educated in the science of God. You must have direct, scientific experience of God. People aren't interested in dry words. They have become scientific-minded; they want results. Student: Well, most people Still have a sentimental attachment to God, so most likely they would like to see at least a semblance of prayer in the schools ...
Srila Prabhupada: No. Do something practical! "Prayer" means chanting the holy name of the Lord. If you don't know the holy name of the Lord we are giving it. You'll have no expenditure, and no loss. So why don't you try this? Chant Hare Krsna. And if you actually chant Hare Krsna, you will get scientific, realized knowledge of God—direct, personal experience of God. Then everything beneficial will follow for society.
Student: Yes. But, you see, right now you can't chant Hare Krsna in the schools. That law is still there on the books. You can't chant until somebody changes the law.
Srila Prabhupada: So my disciples can do that.
Student: They should try to fight the law?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Just recently I heard that the senators and congressmen have set aside one special day each year for public prayer. Just one day—but they still want prayer. So if they actually want prayer, why are they prohibiting it all the rest of the year? Just see the contradiction! They have banned prayer because of their inexperience. And now they are experiencing, "This does not help us:" Otherwise, what is the use of introducing prayer again? They have experienced that without prayer things have failed. That is a fact.
Student: You were saying earlier that fifty to sixty percent of the senators and congressmen are lawyers ...
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, and nowadays "lawyer" means cheater. One who can tactfully break the law—he is a good lawyer. They will find some flaw in the letter of the law so that they can avoid the spirit of the law.
Student: Actually, to ban prayer in the schools they had to avoid the whole point of the First Amendment—that "Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion." They said a prayer might trample an atheist's right not to pray.
Srila Prabhupada: So now the children cannot have a prayer in their schools. These government men are mostly lawyers, cheaters. Like Nixon. What is Nixon's situation now?
Student: Well, he couldn't get any less popular; so now he's getting more popular. People forget.
Srila Prabhupada: People have become cheaters, and that is why they elect such cheaters as their representatives. You Americans can make all the propaganda you want, but you will not be happy without offering prayer to God.
Student: That's right.
Srila Prabhupada: But be scientific. To begin with, follow God's laws and lead a pure life: no illicit sex, no meat-eating, no intoxication, no gambling. If you reinstate prayer in the schools, that is not bad; but unless you first become pure, your prayer will have no practical effect. You yourselves must be free from all these impure activities. Then from among yourselves you can elect a good leader. If you really want a good leader, then you yourselves must become good. And you can become good by offering prayer to God.
Student: Forgive me, but this sounds like we're getting into some sort of vicious circle. A moment ago you said we have to become pure or good first ... otherwise our prayer will have no effect. So now how can you say we can become good by offering prayer?
Srila Prabhupada: Not just any kind of prayer. "Prayer" means that you chant the name of God. If you simply' chant Hare Krsna, you will be in touch with God—the all-good. And then naturally you will become good. Why don't you try it?
Student: We have little more to lose.
Srila Prabhupada: But if you chant Hare Krsna, you will be the gainer. Just chant and see the result.
An Open Letter To A Writer
". . . You have written, 'When in recent memory has it been less a privilege to be young in America?". . . But when has it been less a privilege to be anything in America?"
by Hrdayananda dasa Goswami
Harper's magazine recently published an article called "Childhood's End," in which Scott Spencer, a novelist, argues that the postwar "golden age "of childhood has given way to a new era. Today's child feels unwelcome in a society of economic instability, where parents view their children as financial burdens and as intruders on their present standard of living. Parental ambivalence and abuse are becoming commonplace, even in affluent families. And many public schools have closed on the plea of insufficient funds. These are symptoms. Mr. Spencer points out, of America's new attitude toward her children, and the result is childhood alcoholism, drug addiction, prostitution, illiteracy. criminality, and, most alarmingly suicide. In the following letter, His Divine Grace Hrdayananda dasa Goswami responds to Mr. Spencer's article.
Mr. Scott Spencer
c/o Harper's Magazine Company Two Park Avenue
New York, New York 10016
Dear Mr. Spencer,
I sincerely commend you for your article "Childhood's End;" in which you have stated, "History's fair-haired flower children have passed ... and in their place comes a changeling generation that may be the most disturbed and demoralized in this century." I admit that being myself a former "fair-haired flower child" from Berkeley, and having spent the last five years doing missionary work in Latin America, I did not comprehend, till now, the sorrowful condition of America's youth. Upon returning to the States, I find a number of excellent thinkers, yourself certainly included, pointing to the "deep steady undertow of the times:"
Throughout your discussion you apparently accept a clear distinction between man's higher and lower nature, and call for a return to virtuous, meaningful life. Yet for those bereft of any tangible spiritual understanding, virtuous life is difficult to achieve, harder yet to maintain. We seem to lack a deeper awareness that might sustain us as a nation.
You have written, "When in recent memory has it been less a privilege to be young in America?" Granted. But might we not add, "When has it been less a privilege to be old in America?" Old age has been stripped of its last remnant of grace and wisdom. Again, when has it been less a privilege to be a white male in America, scorned by minorities, jilted by women? Is anything comparable to the constant pain of someone whose wife is unfaithful? For that matter, when has the status of the American woman been so bizarre as today? She sacrifices her innocence, her beauty, her chastity, and her security in exchange for the lofty reward of driving police cars and garbage trucks, punching computers, and laboring in impersonal factories and offices, precisely the things which have long alienated and depressed sensitive men.
In short, when in recent memory has it been less a privilege to be anything in America? Your expose of the growing crisis of youth is not at all unwelcome, nor does it lack special importance in the midst of many "crises," yet if our main focus shifts from the infection itself to an admittedly painful symptom, the disease may not be cured. You state, "it is false—even wicked—to speak of the family in isolation ... blame should not be isolated when the whole of society is withdrawing its commitment to children." Yet "society;" en masse, is also not the real target. Egalitarian rhetoric aside, we are still a nation of sheep, though we be electronic sheep, retrenching sheep, or whatever. The mass of people cannot initiate or even conceive of the "good society" without the guidance of the strong and the intelligent.
In fact, it is precisely the so-called "guardians" of society, the learned, who have unleashed a withering two-hundred-year barrage on the people's simple adherence to God's law. A flood of Western "thinkers" have urged us to see ourselves as combinations of molecules pushing and pulling their way to consciousness. Thus, moral and spiritual issues are reduced to molecular interactions. Can we really expect ordinary men and women to withstand the combined onslaught of the biologists, physicists, sociologists, anthropologists, geneticists, psychologists, and so on, backed by the full weight of government support?
After innumerable Western thinkers have taken their best shot at the "myth" of God and religion, it is, rather, remarkable testimony to our piety that the least trace of decency remains. As we cry for virtue, the seraphic scientists, lusting after the Scandinavian "prize of prizes," fall over each other, vying to explain the universe: without the nuisance of a "God."
Meanwhile, ostensibly pious gentlemen beg out of the whole issue of life's ultimate meaning with easy slogans like "There are so many ways;" Everyone thinks he's got the answer," "No one can know these things," and so forth. How odd that educated Americans, the great exponents of the scientific method, are so unscientific in spiritual matters. Perhaps we are overawed or overbored by the prospects of extracting enlightenment from conflicting spiritual claims.
The proud, befuddled West might well take assistance in this regard from the Sanskrit Vedic literatures, perhaps the oldest on earth. Bhagavad-gita, the most popular Vedic text, assures us that pure consciousness, different from the mechanical body, can be distilled from our worldly mind, much as pure water is distilled from muddy water. Caught in the nightmare of modern life, we seek a peaceful dream. But the Gita urges that we wake up entirely.
For example, Mr. Spencer, you have described adult consumer madness. However, the desire to exploit the material world extends beyond gross consumption. Identification with material designations like nationality, family, and sex are also subtly rooted in the illusory physical concept of the self. Thus the voracious body and the body-centered mind coalesce in material illusion.
Despite popular versions of Eastern thought, pure consciousness—beyond body and mind—is not impersonal or egoless. As the Gita points out, ego-loss is simply an attempt to negate or eliminate the perplexities of material desire, whereas retention of pure ego entitles us to enjoy personal existence without the pain of illusion. The idea that "I am the greatest; everything is for my consumption" is surely false ego, but the conviction that "I am an eternal servant of God [Krsna]" is pure ego. Thus our ego should not be amputated but cleansed.
In recent centuries, both East and West have also subjected God to a strange type of inverse logic. Based on his tiny experience, man declares, "All forms are limiting; thus God, being unlimited, is formless." Wearied with finite integers, man seeks infinity in zero. This peculiar logic has drained spiritual life of a personal sense of the Supreme. Reassuringly, the Gita describes superior and unrestricted categories of form and personality, beyond material experience. So one need not concoct a formless, impersonal God to transcend the chafing boundaries of material form and ego.
Thus, by recognizing the personal spiritual status of all life forms and simultaneously by recognizing the unlimitable Personality of Godhead, the Bhagavad-gita provides a clue for revamping and reunifying our aching society on firm spiritual ground. If we can comprehend that all bodies—whether of poets or insects, politicians or trees—house individual souls, and that all souls are spiritually identical in their potential knowledge and beatitude as eternal servants of God, then we've accomplished something. Such all-encompassing and realizable spirituality is the foundation upon which noble conduct can be molded. Bromidic appeals for decency for decency's sake, or even for sanity, are already anachronisms.
Perhaps because Christianity and Islam sought so violently to reveal to the "barbarians" the "only way," we tend to fear that all systematic appeals for enlightenment or love of God are blindly sectarian. It is platitudinous to state that we see our own faults in others. Yet we would do well to consider the vast monotheistic wisdom of the Sanskrit Vedas of India, especially the corollary Vedic literatures, known as smrti (including Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam), which are especially intended for this fallen age.
Limited programs such as ecology, disarmament, and social harmony are reactions to problems and, thus, defensive. To return to a more enlightened attitude toward children is difficult, since former relationships were based on a now-shattered Christian world view. With our very understanding of our selves and our world in shambles, our actions will continue to drift into the dark seas of irrationality. In our buckling condition, a piecemeal and defensive approach will bring little result. The logic of watering the root of the tree, not the branches and leaves, dictates that we build a free and God-centered society, one utilizing all available information.
Surrender to an unknown God is a chilling act of faith. Surrender to the partially known is also fraught with dangers. The Gita presents a unique alternative. We may learn, through primeval Vedic knowledge, the nature of the Absolute, His sublime transcendental personality, His energies, and His opulences. When our attraction becomes mature, surrender is spontaneous and ecstatic. Surrender to the Supreme does not entail neglect of worldly affairs. The parent, the scholar, the student, the businessman, the administrator can all effectively execute their duties while learning the art of surrendering to God. The result, in all spheres, will be wonderful.
Religious freedom, historically, meant the right to choose a meaningful way to worship God. If we redefine it as the freedom to defy God, then the deplorable condition of the young is only one of the many agonies we will bear in the breast of our nation.
Hrdayananda dasa Goswami
HIS DIVINE GRACE HADAYANANDA 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.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
A New Farming Village in the Rockies
Recently, Hare Krsna devotees from Denver started ISKCON's fifteenth farm community, a 340-acre spread atop Sunshine Mesa and overlooking the Peonia-Hotchkiss fruit valley, on the western slope of the Colorado Rockies. The community is called New Varsana, after the birthplace of Lord Krsna's eternal consort, Srimati Radharani, in Vrndavana, India.
Fourteen devotees, including two married couples and four young children, are hard at work transforming the site into a Krsna conscious farm community. They will establish a gurukula, or spiritual primary and secondary school, as soon as possible.
This past January Prana-vallabha dasa, coordinator of the project, decided to provide financial support by starting a company called Govinda's Goodies. In their Denver kitchens devotees make "Bliss Bars;" a candy that is both wholesome and holy (the devotees offer all the bars to Lord Krsna). As of June 1, Denver's natural food stores had sold some sixty thousand Bliss Bars, and the devotees are planning to produce from eighty to one hundred thousand per month. Eventually Govinda's Goodies will move to New Varsana. Most of the ingredients for Bliss Bars will come from the farm.
New Varsana has both wooded and agricultural terrain (including a ninety acre tract planted with alfalfa), along with two streams and five ponds, part of an irrigation system fed by the local reservoir. So far, the devotees have cultivated a two acre vegetable garden, and they have stocked the ponds with geese, ducks, and swans. A number of peacocks are strutting around the barnyard, and a flock of twenty doves is feeling quite at home. A cow and its calf arrived with Nirguna dasa. a devotee from San Diego who now oversees the farm's agriculture and livestock. The devotees plan to have a full herd of cows and to grow all sorts of grain, fruit, and vegetables.
The first new building the devotees propose to build is an all-purpose structure that will include residential quarters, offices, guest rooms, and a temple. The basement will have a giant kitchen, to accommodate the anticipated growth of both the New Varsana community and Govinda's Goodies.
Surabhir-abhipalayantam Swami, the architect who designed ISKCON's Bombay temple, is drawing up a master plan for New Varsana that melds traditional Vedic styling and modern alternative-energy technology.
On a visit to New Varsdna in early May. His Divine Grace Srila Ramesvara Swami (director and spiritual guide for the Hare Krsna centers in Colorado, Utah, Nevada. Hawaii, and southern California) said he wants the community to stick to the simple yet sublime farming-and-village life of ancient India's Vedic civilization.
The Queen, the Duke, and the
by Mukunda dasa and Ken Shouler
Krsna's devotees well know that He is. His name says, "the all-attractive one." It is the uninitiated who are generally slow in acknowledging this fact. Buy recently in London's Hyde Park a distinguished group of uninitiates were reawakened yo Krsna's universal beauty. There, during a celebration of the united Nations' International Year of the Child. Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh humbly received garlands from two eight-year-old Hare Krsna devotees Varsha Patel and Bhaktimati dasi, of London's Bhaktivedanta Manor. (The Manor is the largest center for Indian culture in Great Britain.)
"Hare Krsna," said Bhaktimati, greeting the Queen and the Duke with palms pressed together in the traditional pranama gesture.
"What did you say?" the Queen asked. "Hare Krsna," Bhaktimati answered, nodding respectfully.
The Queen gave a gracious smile and bowed slightly to help the garland over the brim of her hat. Then Varsha offered a garland to the Duke.
Later, six-year-old Yamuna dasi presented a garland to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Yamuna was attired as Lord Krsna, complete with bluish hue, peacock feather, glistening silk dhoti, and necklaces and bangles. The Prime Minister caught sight of Yamuna at a distance and walked directly up to her with hands folded in a gracious exchange of pranamas.
"Who are you?" the Prime Minister asked Yamuna.
"I am Krsna"
"Then why are you blue'?" "Because Krsna is blue."
The Prime Minister smiled and kindly accepted Lord Krsna's garland. Then she gave Yamuna a big hug. (The next day the two were pictured together in the Sun, Britain's largest daily newspaper.)
The Biography of a Pure Devotee
by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami
After he arrived in America, in September of 1965, Srila Prabhupada stayed at a family's apartment in Butler, Pennsylvania, nest at an impersonalist yogi's asrama in uptown Manhattan, and then in a tint room on Seventy-second Street. By March of 1966, a few young people were coming to hear him speak, but his circumstances were still humble: he had seen no real breakthrough in his work to spread Krsna consciousness. When a thief made off with what little he had, Srila Prabhupada reconsidered his students' requests that he move downtown.
One day in April, 1966, someone broke into Srila Prabhupada's room on Seventy-second Street and stole his typewriter and tape recorder. As Prabhupada returned to the building, the janitor informed him of the theft. An unknown burglar had broken the transom glass above the door, climbed through, taken the valuables, and escaped. As Prabhupada heard the details of the crime, he became convinced that it was the janitor himself who had broken in and stolen his things, and that the man was now offering a fictitious account of a thief who had gone through the transom. Knowing there was no way he could prove this, Srila Prabhupada simply accepted his loss with disappointment. In a letter to India, he described the theft as a loss of more than one thousand rupees ($125.00).
It is understood [he wrote] that such crime as has been committed in my room is very common in New York. This is the way of material nature. American people have everything in ample, and the worker gets about Rs. 100 as daily wages. And still there are thieves for want of character. The social condition is not very good.
Before long, acquaintances were offering Srila Prabhupada replacements for his old typewriter and tape recorder. But he had lost his spirit for living in Room 307. What would prevent the janitor from stealing again whenever he desired? Srila Prabhupada began to reconsider the requests of young men like Bill Epstein and Harvey Cohen that he relocate downtown, where he would find a more interested following among the younger people. Then Harvey Cohen offered Srila Prabhupada residence in his art studio on the Bowery.
Harvey Cohen had been working as a commercial artist for a Madison Avenue advertising firm when a recently acquired inheritance spurred him to move into a loft on the Bowery to pursue his own career as a painter. But he was becoming disillusioned with New York. A group of acquaintances addicted to heroin had been coming around and taking advantage of his generosity, and his loft had recently been burglarized. He decided to leave the city for California, but before leaving, he directly offered his loft for Prabhupada to share with a boy named David Allen. Prabhupada considered it a timely offer—his mission, Harvey Cohen had advised, would be more successful near the downtown area. So Prabhupada accepted the Bowery loft as his new residence.
As Prabhupada was preparing to leave his Seventy-second Street address, an acquaintance, an electrician who worked in the building, came to warn him. The Bowery was no place for a gentleman, he protested. It was the most corrupt place in the world. Prabhupada's things had been stolen from Room 307, but moving to the Bowery was not the answer. The electrician urged Prabhupada to take his friendly advice: "No, Swamiji, you cannot go there!" But Prabhupada had decided that an auspicious offer was being made. Now he wanted to go forward, and he disregarded warnings of the Bowery's dangers. As he would later say, "I couldn't understand the difference between friends and enemies. My friend was shocked to hear that I was moving to the Bowery, but although I passed through many dangers, I never thought that 'this is danger: Everywhere I thought, 'This is my home.' "
Between Harold's and the Half Moon
Srila Prabhupada's new home, the Bowery, had a long history. In the early 1600's, when Manhattan was known as New Amsterdam and was controlled by the Dutch West Indies Company, Peter Minuit, the Governor of New Netherland, staked out a north-south road, which was called "the Bowery" because a number of boweries, or farms, lay on either side. It was a dusty country road, lined with quaint Dutch cottages and bordered by the peach orchards growing on the estate of Peter Stuyvesant. It became part of the high road to Boston and was of strategic importance during the American Revolution as the only land entrance to New York City.
In the early 1800's, the Bowery was predominated by German immigrants, later in the century it became predominantly Jewish, and gradually it became the city's center of theatrical life. However, as a history of Lower Manhattan describes, 'After 1870 came the period of the Bowery's celebrated degeneration. Fake auction rooms, saloons specializing in five-cent whiskey and knock-out drops, sensational dime museums, filthy and rat-ridden stale beer dives, together with Charles M. Hoyte's song, 'The Bowery! The Bowery!—I'll Never Go There Any More!', fixed it forever in the nation's consciousness as a place of unspeakable corruption."
The reaction of Srila Prabhupada's electrician friend was not unusual. The Bowery is still known all over the world as a skid row, a place of ruined and homeless alcoholics. Perhaps the uptown electrician had done business in the Bowery and had seen the derelicts who at various times sat and passed a bottle or lay unconscious in the gutter or staggered up to passersby, drunkenly bumping into them and asking for money.
Most of the Bowery's 7,600 homeless men slept in lodging houses that required them to vacate the rooms during the day. Having nowhere else to go and nothing else to do, they would loiter on the street—standing silently on the sidewalks, leaning against walls, or shuffling slowly along, alone or in groups. In cold weather they would wear two coats and several suits of clothes at once and would sometimes warm themselves around a fire they would keep going in a city garbage can. At night those without lodging crawled into discarded boxes, slept on the sidewalks, on doorsteps, and street corners, or sprawled side by side next to the bars. Thefts were commonplace; a man's pockets might be searched ten or twenty times while he slept. The rates of hospitalization and death in the Bowery were five times higher than the national average, and many of the homeless men bore marks of recent injuries or violence.
Prabhupada's loft, at 94 Bowery, was six blocks south of Houston Street. At Houston and Bowery, derelicts converged in the heavy cross-town traffic. When cars stopped for the light, bums would come up and wash the windshields and ask for money. South of Houston, the first blocks held mostly restaurant supply stores, lamp stores, taverns, and luncheonettes. The buildings were of three and four stories—old, narrow, crowded tenements, their faces covered with heavy fire escapes. Traffic on the Bowery ran uptown and downtown. Cars parked on both sides of the street, and the constant traffic passed tightly. During the business day, working people passed briskly among the slow-moving derelicts. Many of the store windows were covered with protective iron gates, but behind the gates the store owners lit their varieties of lamps and arrayed their other merchandise to attract prospective wholesale and retail customers.
Ninety-four Bowery was just two doors north of Hester Street. The corner was occupied by the spacious Half Moon Tavern, which was frequented mostly by neighborhood alcoholics. Above the tavern sat a four-story Bowery flophouse marked by a neon sign—"Palma House" which was covered by a protective metal cage and hung from the second floor on large chains. The hotel's entrance at 92 Bowery (which had no lobby, but only a desolate hallway covered with dirty white tiles) was no more than six feet from the entrance to 94.
Ninety-four Bowery was a narrow, four-story building. It had long ago been painted gray and bore the usual facing of massive black fire escapes. A well-worn black double door, its glass panels reinforced with chicken wire, opened onto the street. The sign above the door read "A.I.R. third and fourth floors," indicating that artists-in-residence occupied those floors.
The first floor of the next building north, 96 Bowery, was used for storage, and its front entrance was covered with a rusty iron gate. At 98 Bowery was another tavern—Harold's—smaller and dingier than the Half Moon. Thus the block consisted of two saloons, a flophouse, and two buildings with lofts.
Temple in a Loft
In the 1960's, loft living was just beginning in that area of New York. The city had given permission for painters, musicians, sculptors, and other artists (who required more space than available in most apartments) to live in buildings that had been constructed in the nineteenth century as factories. After these abandoned factories had been fitted with fireproof doors, bathtubs, shower stalls, and heating, an artist could inexpensively use a large space. These were the A.I.R. lofts.
Harvey Cohen's loft, on the top floor of 94 Bowery, was an open space almost a hundred feet long (from east to west) and twenty-five feet wide. It received a good amount of sunlight on the east, the Bowery side, and it also had windows at the west end, as well as a skylight. The exposed rafters of the ceiling were twelve feet above the floor.
Harvey Cohen had used the loft as an art studio, and racks for paintings still lined the walls. A kitchen and shower area were partitioned off in the northwest corner, and a room divider stood parallel with the Bowery about fifteen feet from the Bowery-side windows. This divider did not run from wall to wall, but was open at both ends, and it was several feet short of the ceiling.
It was behind that partition that Srila Prabhupada had his personal living area. A bed and a few chairs stood near the window, and Prabhupada had set his typewriter on his metal trunk, next to the small table where he kept his stacks of Bhagavatam manuscripts. He had also strung a clothesline for drying his dhotis.
On the other side of the partition was a dais, about ten feet wide and five feet deep, on which Prabhupada sat during his kirtanas and lectures. The dais faced west, toward the loft's large open space. In that open area were a couple of rugs and an old-fashioned solid wood table. Before leaving for California, Harvey had painted a canvas depicting Lord Caitanya dancing with His associates, and this stood on an easel in the open area.
The loft was a four-flight walk up, and the only entrance, usually heavily bolted, was a door in the rear, at the west end. This door opened into a hallway, which led to the right for a few steps and finally into the open area. If a guest entered during a kirtana or lecture, he would see Srila Prabhupada about thirty feet from the entrance, seated on his dais. At other times, a guest might enter and find the whole loft dark, with a light visible only on the other side of the partition, where Prabhupada was working.
Srila Prabhupada was living on the Bowery, sitting under a small light, while hundreds of derelicts also sat under hundreds of naked lights on the same city block. He had no more fixed income than any derelict in the area, nor any greater surety of a permanent residence. Yet his consciousness was entirely different. He was translating Srimad-Bhagavatam into English, speaking to the world through his Bhaktivedanta purports. His duty, whether in a fourteenth-floor apartment on Riverside Drive or in a corner of a Bowery loft, was to establish Krsna consciousness as the prime necessity for all humanity. He went on with his translating and with his constant planning and dreaming of a temple for Krsna in New York City. Because his consciousness was absorbed in Krsna's universal mission, he did not depend on his surroundings for shelter. Home for him was not a matter of bricks and wood, but of taking shelter of Krsna in every circumstance. As Prabhupada had said to his friends uptown, "Everywhere is my home," whereas without Krsna's shelter the whole world would be a dangerous place.
Often, Srila Prabhupada would refer to a scriptural statement that people in the material world live in three different modes: goodness, passion, and ignorance. Life in the forest is in the mode of goodness, life in the city is in passion, and life in a degraded place like a liquor shop, a brothel, or the Bowery is in the mode of ignorance. But to live in a temple of Visnu is to live in the spiritual world, Vaikuntha, which is transcendental to all three material modes.
But is a Bowery loft a temple? At least this loft, when Prabhupada was holding his meetings and performing kirtana there, unquestionably was. And when he was behind the partition, working in his corner before the open pages of Srimad- Bhagavatam, that room was as good as his room back at Radha-Damodara temple in Vrndavana, India.
"The Energy of Being Close to Him"
News of the Swami's presence in the Bowery loft spread, mostly by word of mouth at the Paradox restaurant, and people began to come by in the evening to hear and chant with him. The musical kirtanas were especially popular on the Bowery, since the Swami's new congregation consisted mostly of local musicians and artists, many of whom responded more to the transcendental music than to the philosophy. Every morning he would hold a class on Srimad-Bhagavatam, attended usually by David Allen, Robert Nelson, and another boy, and he would 'still occasionally teach cooking to whoever was interested. He was almost always available for personal talks with any inquiring visitors or with his new roommate David.
David Allen had heard that Harvey Cohen was moving to San Francisco if he could sublet his A.I.R. loft. Harvey hadn't known David very long, but on the night before Harvey was to leave, he coincidentally met David three different times in three different sections of the Lower East Side. Harvey took this as a sign that he should rent the loft to David—but he specifically stipulated that Srila Prabhupada should move in with him.
Srila Prabhupada and David Allen got on well together. Although each had his own designated living area in the large loft, the whole place soon became dominated by Srila Prabhupada's preaching activities. At first, Srila Prabhupada considered David an aspiring disciple. Writing to his friends in India, he described his relationship with the American boy.
He was attending my class at 72nd Street along with others [Prabhupada wrote], and when I experienced this theft case in my room, he invited me to his residence. So I am with him and training him. He has good prospects because already he has given up all bad habits. In this country, illicit connection with women, smoking, drinking, and eating of meats are common affairs. Besides that, there are other bad habits, like using [only] toilet paper [and not bathing] after evacuating etc. But by my request he has given up ninety percent of his old habits, and he is chanting maha-mantra regularly. So I am giving him the chance, and I think he is improving. Tomorrow I have arranged for some prasadam distribution, and he has gone to purchase some things from the market.
When David had first come to the Bowery, he appeared like a clean-cut college student. He was eighteen years old, about six feet tall, blue-eyed, handsome, and intelligent-looking. Most of his new friends in New York were older and considered him a "kid." David's family lived in the Midwest, and his mother was paying one hundred dollars monthly to sublease the loft. Although David did not have much experience, he had read that a new realm of mind expansion was available through psychedelic drugs, and he was heading fast into the hazardous world of LSD. His meeting with Srila Prabhupada came at a time of radical change and profoundly affected his life.
It was a really good relationship I had with the Swami [David relates], although I was overwhelmed by the tremendous energy of being that close to him. It spurred my consciousness very fast. Even my dreams at night would be so vivid of Krsna consciousness. I was often sleeping when the Swami was up, because he was up late in the night working on his translations. That's possibly where a lot of the consciousness and dreams just flowed in, because of that deep relationship. It also had to do with studying Sanskrit. There was a lot of immediate impact with the language. The language seemed to have such a strong mystical quality, the way he translated it word for word.
Prabhupada's old friend from uptown, Robert Nelson, continued to visit him on the Bowery. Robert was impressed by Prabhupada's friendly relationship with David, who he saw was learning many things from the Swami. Robert bought a small American-made hand organ, similar to an Indian harmonium, and donated it to David for chanting with Prabhupada. At seven in the morning, Robert would come by, and after Bhagavatam class he would talk informally with Srila Prabhupada, telling his ideas for making records and selling books. He wanted to continue helping Srila Prabhupada as he had done uptown. They would sit in chairs near the front window, and Robert would listen while Prabhupada talked for hours about Krsna and Lord Caitanya.
Saffron in a Dingy Alcove
New people began coming to see Prabhupada on the Bowery. Carl Yeargens, a thirty-year-old black man from the Bronx, had attended Cornell University and was now independently studying Indian religion and Zen Buddhism. He had experimented with drugs as "psychedelic tools," and he had an interest in the music and poetry of India. He was influential among his friends and tried to interest them in meditation. He had even been dabbling in Sanskrit.
I had just finished reading a book [he relates] called The Wonder That Was India. I had gotten the definition of a sannyasi and a brahmacari and so forth. There was a vivid description in that particular book of how you could see a sannyasi coming down the road with his saffron robe. It must have made more than just a superficial impression on me, because it came to me this one winterish evening. I was going to visit Michael Grant—probably going to smoke some marijuana and sit around, maybe play some music—and I was coming down Hester Street. If you made a left on Bowery, you could go up to Mike's place on Grand Street. But it's funny that I chose to go that way, because the shorter way would have been to go down Grand Street and then make a right on Bowery. Anyway, I decided to go down Hester and then make a left, and all of a sudden I saw in this dingy alcove a brilliant saffron robe. As I passed I saw it was Swamiji knocking on the door, trying to gain entrance. There were two bums hunched up against the door. It was like a two-part door—one door was sealed, and the other was locked. The two bums were lying on either side of Swamiji. One of these men had actually expired—which often happened, and you had to call the police or health department to get them.
I don't think I saw the men lying in the doorway until I walked up to Swamiji and asked him, 'Are you a sannyasi?" And he answered yes. We started this conversation about how he was starting a temple, and he mentioned Lord Caitanya and the whole thing. He just came out with this flow of strange things to me, right there in the street. But I knew what he was talking about somehow. I had the familiarity of having just read this book and delved into Indian religion. So I knew that this was a momentous occasion for me, and I wanted to help him. We banged on the door, and eventually we got into the loft. He invited me to come to a kirtana, and I came back later that night for my first kirtana. From that point on, it was a fairly regular thing—three times a week. At one point Swamiji asked me to stay with him, and I stayed for about two weeks.
It was perhaps because of Carl's interest in Sanskrit that Prabhupada began holding a Sanskrit class in the loft. Every day he taught a few students how to form the letters of the alphabet and pronounce the Sanskrit sounds. He used a chalkboard he had found in the loft, and his students wrote their exercises in notebooks. Carl and a few others would spend hours working on Sanskrit with Prabhupada, who would look over their shoulders to see if they were writing correctly and would review their pronunciation. The boys were learning not only Sanskrit but the instructions from Bhagavad-gita. Each day Prabhupada would give them a different verse to write down in the Sanskrit alphabet (devanagari), transliterate into the Roman alphabet, and then translate word for word into English. But their interest in Sanskrit waned, and Srila Prabhupada gradually gave up the daily classes to spend time working on his own translations of Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Prabhupada's new friends may have regarded these lessons as Sanskrit classes, but actually, of course, they were bhakti classes. Srila Prabhupada had not come to America as an ambassador of Sanskrit; his Guru Maharaja, his spiritual master, had ordered him to teach Krsna consciousness. But he had found in Carl and some of his friends a desire to investigate Sanskrit, so he encouraged it. As a youth, Lord Caitanya also had started a Sanskrit school, with the real purpose of teaching love of Krsna. He would teach in such a way that every word meant Krsna, and when His students objected He closed the school. Similarly, Prabhupada had no mission to perform on behalf of Sanskrit linguistics, and when he found that the interest of the A.I.R. bohemians in Sanskrit was transitory, he gave up holding these classes.
By the standard of classical Vedic scholars, it takes ten years to master Sanskrit grammar. And if one does not start until his late twenties or thirties, it is usually too late. Certainly none of Prabhupada's students were thinking of entering a ten-year concentration in Sanskrit grammar, and even if they were, they would not have realized spiritual truth simply by becoming grammarians. Prabhupada thought it better to use his Sanskrit background to follow the Sanskrit commentaries of the previous authorities and translate the verses of Srimad Bhagavatam into English. Otherwise, the secrets of Krsna consciousness would remain locked away in the Sanskrit. Teaching Carl Yeargens devanagari, sandhi, verb conjugations, and noun declensions was not going to give the people of America transcendental Vedic knowledge. It was better, Prabhupada thought, to use his proficiency in Sanskrit for translating many volumes of the Bhagavatam into English for millions of potential readers.
An Astronomer Who Says
By Jayadvaita Swami
We inhabitants of earth are quite likely the only civilized beings in our galaxy. So contends a scientific study that recently won front-page attention in the "Science" section of the New York Times. Dr. Michael H. Hart, an astronomer at Trinity University (San Antonio, Texas), assembled data about the conditions under which life apparently arose and evolved on earth. He fed this data into a computer and ran through a series of mathematical calculations: If the earth, he wanted to know, had been closer to or farther from the sun, what would the earth's atmosphere have been like, and what would have been the chance that life could have arisen and developed?
According to the Times, Dr. Hart's studies assumed that two basic planetary conditions are necessary for the creation of life and the evolution of an advanced civilization.
"The first condition;' the Times reported, "is that prevailing temperatures must be moderate, and the second is that they must remain so continuously for at least 3.7 billion years—the time that elapsed on this earth between the origin of life and our present level of evolution:"
Dr. Hart discovered that if the earth had been five percent closer to the sun, a runaway "greenhouse effect" would have taken place, broiling the atmosphere at temperatures close to 900 degrees. And had the earth been even one percent farther away, it would have been a cold, barren desert. In either case, the origin and development of life as we know it would have been impossible.
But what of life on planets orbiting other suns? Dr. Hart ran more variations through the computer and calculated, for stars of varying size and brilliance, the inner and outer boundaries of a "continuously habitable zone" within which a planet would have to orbit—for at least 3 or 4 billion years—to provide an atmosphere suitable for life's origin and evolution to the advanced living forms we know.
His results show these zones to be surprisingly narrow. And since few if any planets are likely to have orbited continuously within these narrow corridors for the aeons required, Dr. Hart suggests that civilized life on other planets must be exceedingly rare. At least in our galaxy, he suggests, we are indeed quite likely alone.
With scientific acumen, Dr. Hart acknowledges that his calculations may need adjustment or revision. But he has assiduously tried to take into account all known and relevant variables, and he presents his findings with the confidence of a professional who has done his best to cover all the angles. Still, Dr. Hart's scientific findings are not nearly as well-grounded as they would seem. Despite all the mathematical rigor to which he has subjected his computerized simulations, his theories rest upon certain fundamental postulates that just don't stand up to a close look.
To be specific: Dr. Hart has built into his theories two broad but utterly unnecessary assumptions.
First, he has assumed (but not demonstrated) that life can, in his words, "spontaneously arise" from a combination of material elements.
Second, he has apparently assumed (but again failed to demonstrate) that the only conditions under which life can "spontaneously arise and evolve" are conditions the same as, or at least closely resembling, the conditions under which this process supposedly took place on earth.
These notions, we submit, are not facts, nor even reasonable assumptions. Rather, they are the researcher's own biases or beliefs. Indeed, they are part of a modern scientific mythology; they peek out at us from amidst Dr. Hart's algorithms and equations like curious unicorns and centaurs.
Elsewhere in his writings Dr. Hart has insisted, "Any scientific theory must be based upon evidence:" So let us subject Dr. Hart's assumptions to his own test. First, what about the assumption that life can "spontaneously arise' from matter? Is there any justification for such a claim? If we were to propose the opposite—that life arises from life—our evidence would be abundant. We directly perceive that living beings take birth from other living beings. Living trees come from living seeds, living seeds from living trees. Living babies come from living mothers. Since the beginning of history, reliable observers have reported that life comes from life.
But where is the example of a living being that has spontaneously arisen from matter? No such being has yet come forward. Why not?
If Dr. Hart can bring forward even one such spontaneously manifested creature, we will gratefully offer our apologies, and the entire scientific world will undoubtedly offer its highest acclaim. But until that time, we feel obliged to regard Dr. Hart's first assumption—that life can spontaneously arise from matter—as humbug. Evidence refuses to support it.
What about Dr. Hart's second assumption—that life could arise and evolve only in an atmosphere the same, or very nearly the same, as that in which it arose and evolved on earth?
Of course, to begin with, if there is no convincing evidence that life did in fact "spontaneously arise" on earth, the rest of the proposition is more or less meaningless. And did life on earth, however it arose, gradually evolve from one-celled forms to civilized human beings? Archaeological, geological, and mathematical evidence—or lack of evidence—makes even this venerable theoretical assumption seem increasingly doubtful.
But beyond all this, why, should we at all assume that life—whether civilized or primitive—could exist only under conditions similar to those on earth? This may be true of life as we know it—but then again there may be forms of life about which we know absolutely nothing. May there not be forms of life that thrive under conditions we ourselves would find unbearable? Why must all forms of life—even all forms of civilized life—be like the life found here on earth?
A scientific theory, Dr. Hart says, must be based upon evidence. But surely scientists have no evidence that living beings can't live in the universe unless they live like us. We may be able to say how we are living, and we may honestly admit that we have seen no beings elsewhere living otherwise—but that is a statement about the limits of what we have seen, not about the limits of what may or may not exist. To say that what we haven't seen cannot exist is arbitrary, arrogant, and closed-minded. What we should say, if we are to be honest, is that we don't know.
And that's just what an honest scientist does say. "You ask me whether there's extraterrestrial intelligence," says an astronomer who asked the Times that he not be identified. "My reply is that maybe there's something out there and maybe not. Your guess is as good as mine—and don't let any astronomer tell you otherwise."
This is where Krsna comes in. While scientists can do little more than guess and speculate about whether or not there's life on other planets, the devotees of Krsna already know in detail what's out there.
The Vedic literatures—the writings that form the basis of the Krsna consciousness movement—give explicit information about the prevailing atmospheres on other planets and about the living beings who reside on planets other than our own.
Closer to home, the Vedic literatures give us a clear and reasonable explanation of what the phenomenon we call life actually is.
According to the Bhagavad gita, which presents the fundamental principles of Vedic knowledge, the living being is in essence an infinitesimal but extremely powerful spark of consciousness. By its very nature, that spark of conscious energy is permanent; it has no beginning and no end, although it resides within a body that is temporary. While present within the body, the conscious spark animates the body with intelligent vitality, and after the spark dwells within the body for some time, the laws of nature force it to leave the body, bringing about the phenomenon we call death.
At death the spark of consciousness—the actual living entity—doesn't actually die, but travels to a newly created body, which it then inhabits and invests with life, until death again takes place. So birth, death, and rebirth follow one another in a continuous cycle.
The living being travels not only from one body to another but from one species to another, although by nature's laws he forgets, each time he is reborn, what he felt, did, and learned in his previous body.
The Gita is careful to point out that although the bodies in which consciousness lives are repeatedly created and destroyed, the consciousness itself never takes birth or dies. In the Gita's words, consciousness is "unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying, and primeval."
In other words, according to the Gita, life doesn't have to wait three or four billion years, until it can cook into existence in some tepid chemical stew. Nor can life be scorched, frozen, burned, or exploded out of existence. The living spark can live anywhere, under any conditions.
Indeed, the Gita tells us that there are countless numbers of conscious living entities and that they live everywhere, throughout the entire universe.
Even on earth, with its varied environmental extremes, living creatures live virtually everywhere, in bodies properly suited to their surroundings. The jellyfish couldn't change places with the aardvark or the eagle, nor the penguin with the butterfly, the salamander, or the rainbow trout. Yet each lives comfortably in its natural home. There are living beings on the land, in the sky, in the water, and from Vedic literature we learn that there are also living entities in fire, in bodies suitable for a fiery environment. A human being, when properly suited up, can survive even underwater, amidst fire, or in outer space. So why shouldn't other living beings be able to live anywhere in the creation, clothed by nature in bodies matched to their environment?
Certainly it is reasonable that they should, and the Vedic literatures tell u that in fact living beings reside everywhere throughout the creation.
Of course, one may not wish to accept the statements of the Vedic literatures as facts. That is one's prerogative. But it India, at least, self-realized sages of extraordinary erudition and perceptivity have for countless generations accepted the Vedic writings as thoroughly reliable sources of knowledge. Vedic sociological predictions made thousands of years ago have proved true in recent days in precise detail. And the great Indian botanist Sit Jagadis Chandra Bose won scientific acclaim primarily by empirically verifying botanical information given in the Vedas and presenting it to his European colleagues in conventional scientific form.
Quite possibly a time will come when the Vedic information about extraterrestrial life will also come to be verified empirically—but we may have to wait decades, centuries, or even thousands or millions of years. Meanwhile, the Vedic literatures offer a shortcut: if one accepts the Vedic statements on their own authority, one immediately gets detailed information infinitely more reliable than Dr. Hart's computerized simulations and more extensive than we could ever hope to gather by imperfect scientific research.
According to the Vedic literatures, all the planets in the universe are inhabited, many of them by civilizations far more advanced than our own.
But then, argues the astronomer, by now we should certainly have seen these other beings. To which we counter that until the mid-1800's we had not even seen the common gorrilla, although it lives in great numbers right here on earth, well within reach of our universities and scientific institutes.
We ought to admit, then, that our vision is limited, our senses feeble and imperfect.
Yet even if we were somehow able to visit all the various planets of the universe and shake hands with our extraterrestrial neighbors, we would still not have solved—any more than they—the basic problem of our existence, the problem of repeated birth and death. From Bhagavad-Gita we learn that even if we could live on the highest planet, known as Brahmaloka, whose inhabitants enjoy a duration of life practically inconceivable to the residents of earth, we would still have to die, and then come back in another body.
This ultimate problem, the problem of birth and death, can be solved—but only by purification of consciousness, and not by any amount of speculative scientific research. Human life is meant for solving this problem, and one should seriously try to understand how to do so, before another lifetime comes to an end.
Meat-eating: the West's Sacred Cow
Americans tend to scorn India's recent national ban on cow slaughter. We have difficulty appreciating the Hindus' view that the cows are holy, and most Americans have little knowledge of how a rural economy like India's is dependent on the life of the cow and her by-products. But a more basic tenet we all hold dear—the right to live—is one we should consider in its relevance to the mass slaughter of cows and other animals.
In the U.S. there is still strong support of the commandment "Thou shalt not kill." Our federal constitution guarantees everyone the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." The protests against nuclear energy and the lobbying of the environmentalists put human survival above other priorities. Our reluctance to take part in wars is also based on strong desires to protect American lives as well as the lives of others. The U.S. government's objections to executions in Iran as well as our other strong stands on human rights around the world are examples of our tendency not to take cheaply the elimination of human life. Although we in this country commit a million abortions yearly, a very significant percentage of Americans abhor this practice as equal to murder and so have launched a vigorous right to life" movement. And when a convicted murderer was recently given the death penalty, opponents of capital punishment protested that to take the life even of a habitual criminal was cruel and inhuman.
But although millions of harmless cows are slaughtered daily, hardly a single cry of objection is raised anywhere in the land. Indeed, almost everyone affirms the killing of animals by daily eating their flesh. But there are good reasons to think that the ethic "Thou shalt not kill" should also be applied to animals, and especially the cow.
Many of us rarely even see a live cow. We see the cartoon figures of Elsie the Cow and Elmer the Bull on the cartons of milk, yogurt, and cheese that we get from the freezer of the supermarket. And we also see a version of a happy Elsie on many restaurant signboards. One restaurant in New York bears the sign "The Sacred Cow—Fabulous Steaks:" Another place, "The Happy Cow Restaurant—Beef Steaks;" is advertised by a blissful-looking cow standing in a blazing-hot frying pan..
Another, "The Jolly Cow;" shows a Disneyesque cow happily licking her lips and inviting us to steaks and hamburgers.
But does anyone really believe that the cow likes to be killed, dances happily in the frying pan, or relishes the thought of her flesh being served to casual diners? If you have ever seen the cows peacefully grazing or heard their pitiful screams as they are executed in the slaughterhouse, you know very well that they have the same "gut feelings" as humans do regarding their own right to live. Yet slaughtering cows does not disturb the consciences of billions of meat-eaters, because they choose not to apply the ethics of the sacredness of life to animals. But we should reconsider this double standard.
Our American ethic draws much from the Judeo-Christian commandment "Thou shalt not kill," as well as from the humanistic Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." But we choose to take the commandment to mean that although thou shalt not kill the human, thou shalt kill the animal. Members of the Krsna consciousness movement, which is based on the Vedic scriptures, have basically the same monotheistic theology as Christianity: There is a Supreme Being by whose intelligence and will everything is created, maintained, and annihilated—and man can be happy in this life and the next only by adhering to the codes of religion as given by God in holy scriptures. "Thou shalt not kill" is also a tenet of Krsna consciousness, and it is for this reason that the followers of Krsna do not kill the cow or other animals. Krsna devotees have not taken the protection of the cow as an all-in-all conclusion of religion, but rather as a natural consequence of following God's order not to kill.
Theologically, the reason a God conscious person cannot take another's life is that he recognizes every person as having an individual spiritual nature or soul and thus as being a son of God. The Vedas cite six symptoms by which we can understand the presence of the soul in a living being: birth, growth, production of by-products, duration, dwindling, and death. These symptoms signify the difference between dead matter and a living being. It is indefensible, therefore, to say that the human has a soul but an animal like the cow does not.
"But," we may say, "the animals cannot understand philosophy or science." Still, this is no reason to kill them. A small child cannot understand philosophy either, but that does not mean we can kill him. If an elderly, successful son approaches his father and advises him to kill a younger son because he is only a baby or simply because he is foolish and less successful, the father will not agree. Nor does the Supreme Father approve of the so-called Christian son who kills the cows and claims that this is sanctioned by God the Father.
The Vedic scriptures admit, "One living being survives by eating another." Nevertheless, they also advocate nonviolence. This means that in order to live, one should keep violence to a minimum. Vegetables are also a lower form of life, and so, strictly speaking, being a vegetarian does not in itself free one from the impiety of violence and killing. In Krsna consciousness the taking of life for eating becomes sanctified, because the devotees eat only food first offered to God. This act of devotion transforms eating into taking prasada, Krsna's mercy.
But Krsna does not ask for the cow in such offerings unto Him. When He appeared on this earth some five thousand years ago, Krsna Himself showed affection and favor to the cow. In fact, He personally took to cowherding. The Bible, Koran, and Buddhist teachings also stress that nonviolence is applicable to the animals, and that their lives should be protected. Only in dire necessity can one justify the taking of a life; and selfish indulgence of the tongue is not a dire necessity.
But meat-eating is truly "a sacred cow" in America. The beef industry is so extremely powerful that when President Carter held a token meatless luncheon at the White House in 1977, he was sent all sorts of threatening telegrams. For most Americans, giving up meat-eating is as unthinkable as giving up driving. We think we cannot live without it. And because of greed and attachment to a standard of living that allows us to eat meat three times a day, we refuse to recognize that "Thou shalt not kill" should, according to logic, scripture, and common decency, apply to the animals as well as to men.
There are subreligious arguments, also, in favor of sparing the life of the cow. Huge amounts of farming land in America are taken up to grow corn and other feed for fattening up doomed cattle. Much of the same land could be used to grow grains for human consumption, and because grains yield many times greater food value when consumed directly than when transformed into meat, this would alleviate world hunger. At any rate, what with the pressures of inflation, Americans may eventually find it impossible to maintain their "high standard" of meat-eating.
The biggest superstition of the meat-eater is that without meat he cannot be healthy. But proteins and vitamins that are available in meat are also amply provided in nature's diet of grain, nuts, beans, and milk products. The Krsna conscious diet provides ample protein in preparations such as capatis (whole-wheat bread patties) and dahl (split-pea or mungbean soup). As the New York Times noted recently, new discoveries about the habits of early men on this planet show that man is actually intended to be a fruit-eater, and that his present diet of meat is harmful to him.
Even among animals, the cow is considered special, and this is based not on myth but on reason. The magnanimous cow requires only a little grass, which is available naturally in the pasture, and in return she gives abundant milk, not only for her calves but also for the human family. And thus she supplies mankind with food rich in vitamins. In the original Vedic culture, life was rural and agrarian, and each man kept several cows and grew his own produce on his own land. He also used bulls to plow the fields. We may think that a life based on drawing milk from the cow and crops from the bull is primitive and peculiar, but the artificiality of our present mechanized, urbanized way of life is becoming obvious, even to the die-hard champions of technological progress, and the day may not be far off when man will actually be forced to return to these natural ways of life. Reverence for mother cow is not useless but practical, and therefore Lord Krsna advises in the Bhagavad-gita that a section of humanity, the agriculturalists, should take protection of the cow as part of their social duty.
What is at stake is America's role of world leadership. Our leadership does not consist merely in maintaining the highest material standard or the biggest military power. It is a leadership that has always been essentially spiritual. This is the meaning of the U.S. stand on human rights. Commentators who recognize our moral decay offer various suggestions about "moral rearmament." We suggest that those who are interested in a spiritually vital America give unprejudiced deliberation to the points we have made regarding the sin of animal slaughter. Although our moral deficiencies are multiple, the bad reactions resulting from the single anomaly of animal slaughter are enough to offset all humanitarian or religious improvements that may otherwise appear in our American way of life. Reaction to sinful activities is known in Vedic philosophy as karma, and the slaughterhouse is bringing severe reactions (bad karma) upon our society. Cow killing is killing America. And to halt this bad effect, we need not adopt artificial ideas, but just turn sincerely to the unavoidable meanings of the Golden Rule and "Thou shalt not kill."—SDG