August 1973 at the Bhaktivedanta Manor, in the countryside near London. Several thousand guests (including the Indian High Commissioner) listen to His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada speak about the day Lord Krsna made His appearance on earth.
Your Excellency the High Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I thank you very much for your coming here and participating in this ceremony -Janmastami, the advent of Krsna. In the Bhagavad-gita [4.9] Krsna says,
janma karma ca me divyam
"One who knows the transcendental nature of My advent and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode."
It is a fact that we can stop our repeated births and deaths and achieve the state of immortality. But the modern civilization—our great philosophers, great politicians, and great scientists—they have no idea that it is possible to attain the stage of amrtatvam, immortality. We are all amrta, deathless, immortal. In the Bhagavad-gita [2.20] it is said, na jayate na mriyate va kadacit: we living entities—we never die and never take birth. Ajo nityah sasvato yam purano na hanyate hanyamane sarire. Every one of us—we are primeval and eternal, without beginning and without end. And after the annihilation of this body, we do not die. But when the body is finished, we will have to accept another body.
dehino 'smin yatha dehe
"As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change:" [Bg. 2.13]
At the present moment, all over the world people are lacking knowledge of this simple thing: that all of us living entities are part and parcel of Lord Krsna—that like Krsna, we are eternal, we are blissful, and we are cognizant. Krsna is described in the Vedic literatures:
isvarah paramah krsnah
"The supreme controller, the uncaused cause of all causes, is Krsna, whose transcendental form is full with eternity, knowledge, and bliss." [Brahma-samhita 5.1]
Krsna—when I say Krsna, that means "God." It is sometimes said, "God has no name:" That's a fact. But God's name is given by His activities, For instance, Krsna accepted sonship to Maharaja Nanda and Yasodamayi and also to Vasudeva and Devaki. Of course, no one is actually the father or mother of Krsna, because Krsna is the original father of everyone. But when Krsna comes here, when He makes His advent, He accepts certain exalted devotees as His father, as His mother. Krsna is adi-purusam, the original. Adyam purana purusam nava-yauvanam ca: He is the original person.
Then must Krsna be very old? No. Nava-yauvanam ca: always a fresh youth. That is Krsna. When Krsna was on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra—you have seen the picture—He was just like d boy of twenty years or, at most, twenty-four years. But at that time He had great-grandchildren. So Krsna is always a youth. These are the statements of the Vedic literatures.
But if we simply read the Vedic literatures as a formality, it will be very difficult to understand what Krsna isalthough all the Vedas are meant for understanding Krsna. In the Bhagavad-gita [15.15] Krsna says, vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyah: "By all the Vedas it is I who am to be known:" What is the use of studying the Vedas if you do not understand Krsna? The ultimate goal of education is to understand the Supreme Lord, the supreme father, the supreme cause. As it is said in the Vedanta-sutra, athato brahma jijnasa "Now—in the human form of life—is the time to discuss the Supreme Absolute Truth, Brahman:"
And what is this Brahman? Janmady asya yatah. Brahman is the one from whom everything emanates. So science and philosophy mean finding out the ultimate cause of everything. And this we are getting from the Vedic literature—that Krsna is sarva-karana-karanam, the cause of all causes.
Just try to understand. For instance, I am caused by my father; my father is caused by his father; he is caused by his father, who is caused by his father . . . In this way if you go on searching, then you'll ultimately come to someone who is the cause that has no cause. Anadir adir govindah: the cause that has no cause is Govinda—Krsna. I may be the cause of my son, but at the same time I am the result of another cause (my father). But the Vedic literatures say that Krsna is the original person; He has no cause. That is Krsna.
Therefore Krsna says, "Just try to learn about the transcendental nature of My advent and activities." The advent of Krsna—it is a very important thing. We should try to understand Krsna, why He makes His advent, why He comes down to this material world, what His business is, what His activities are. If we simply try to understand Krsna, then what will be the result? The result will be tyaktva deham punar janma naiti mam eti so'rjuna: we will get immortality.
The aim of life is amrtatvaya kalpate, to achieve immortality. So today, on the advent of Krsna, we shall try to understand the philosophy of Krsna.
If we are anxious for peace . . ."
His Excellency was speaking of peace. The peace formula is there in the Bhagavad-gita—spoken by Krsna. What is that?
"The sages, knowing Me as the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attain peace from the pangs of material miseries." [Bg 5.29] The politicians and diplomats are trying to establish peace in the world. We have the United Nations and many other organizations. They are working to establish real peace and tranquility, to eliminate misunderstanding between man and man and nation and nation. But that is not happening. That is not happening. The defect is that the root is wrong. Everyone is thinking, "It is my country," "It is my family," "It is my society," "It is my property." This "my" is illusion. In the Vedic literatures it is said, janasya moho 'yam aham mameti: this "I-and-my" philosophy is maya—illusion.
So if you want to get out of this maya, this illusion, then you have to accept Krsna's formula. Mam eva ye prapadyante mayam etam taranti te: whoever surrenders to Krsna can easily cross beyond all illusion. Everything is there in the Bhagavad-gita, for our guidance, If we accept the philosophy of the Bhagavad-gita—as it is—everything is there. Peace is there, prosperity is there. That is a fact.
Unfortunately, we do not accept it; or we misinterpret it. This is our misfortune. In the Bhagavad-gita [9.34] Krsna says, man-mana bhava mad-bhakto mad-yaji mam namaskuru. Krsna says, "Always think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me, and offer obeisances unto Me." Is it a very difficult task? Here is Krsna's Deity. If you think of this Deity, is it very difficult?
You come into the temple, and just as a devotee would do, you offer your respect to the Deity. As far as possible, try to worship the Deity.
Krsna does not want your property. Krsna is open to the poorest man for being worshiped. What is He asking? He says, patram puspam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayacchati: "With devotion, if a person offers Me a little leaf, a little fruit, a little water, I accept it." [Bg. 9.26] Krsna is not hungry, but Krsna wants to make you a devotee. That is the main point. Yo me bhaktya prayacchati: "Offer something to Me—with devotion." That is the main principle. Offer Krsna some little thing. Krsna is not hungry; Krsna is providing food for everyone. But Krsna wants your love, your devotion. Therefore He is begging a little water or fruit or a flower. In this way man-mana bhava mad-bhakto: you can think of Krsna and become His devotee.
There is no difficulty in understanding Krsna and accepting Krsna consciousness. But we'll not do it—that is our disease. Otherwise, it is not difficult at all. And as soon as we become a devotee of Krsna, we understand the whole universal situation. Our bhagavata philosophy, our God conscious philosophy, is also a kind of spiritual communism, because we regard Krsna as the supreme father and all living entities as sons of Krsna. And Krsna says, sarva-loka-mahesvaram: He is the proprietor of all planets. Therefore whatever there is, either in the sky or in the water or on the land, it is all Krsna's property. And because we are all sons of Krsna, every one of us has the right to use our father's property. But we should not encroach upon others. This is the formula for peace. Isavasyam idam sarvam . . . and ma grdhah kasyasvid dhanam: "Everything belongs to God, and since you are sons of God, you have the right to use your father's property. But do not take more than you need. This is punishable." [Isopanisad 1] If anyone takes more than he needs, then he's a thief. Yajnarthat karmano 'nyatra loko 'yam karma-bandhanah [Bg. 3.9]: whatever we do, we should do it for the satisfaction of Krsna. We should act for Krsna; we should do everything for Krsna.
That is what we are teaching here. In this temple we are all residing happily. Americans, Indians, Englishmen, Canadians, Africans—people from all different parts of the world. You know that. It is like that not only in this temple, but wherever people are Krsna conscious, throughout the world. Krsna makes His advent to teach this lesson.
When we forget this philosophy—that Krsna is the supreme father, Krsna is the supreme proprietor, Krsna is the supreme enjoyer, and Krsna is the supreme friend of everyone—when we forget this, then we come into this material world and struggle for existence, fight with one another. This is material life.
Nor can we get any relief through our politicians, diplomats, philosophers. They have tried so much, but actually nothing they have tried has become fruitful. Take the United Nations. It was organized after the second great war, and they wanted, "We shall now settle everything peacefully." But there is no such thing. The fighting is going on, between Pakistan and India or between Vietnam and America or this and that. Mundane politics and diplomacy and philosophy—this is not the process. The process is Krsna consciousness. Everyone has to understand this point—that we are not proprietors. The actual proprietor is Krsna. That's a fact. Take America, for example. Say two hundred years ago, the European immigrants were not the proprietors, Somebody else was the proprietor, and before that somebody else was the proprietor, or it was vacant land. But the actual proprietor is Krsna. Artificially we are claiming, "It is my property." This is called maya, illusion. So Krsna makes His advent to give us this lesson. Krsna says, yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati bharata: "My dear Arjuna. I come when there are discrepancies in the process of religious life:" [Bg. 4.7]
And what is real dharma, real religious life? The simple definition of dharma is dharmam tu saksad bhagavat-pranitam: "Real religious life is that which is enunciated directly by the Supreme Personality of Godhead." [Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.3.19] For instance, what do you mean by civil law? Civil law means the word given by the state. You cannot make civil law at home. That is not possible. Whatever the government gives you—"You should act like this"—that is law. Similarly dharma, religious life, means the direction given by God. That is dharma. Simple definition. If you create some dharma or I create some dharma or another man creates another dharma, these are not dharma.
Therefore Krsna ends the Bhagavad-gita by saying, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: "Just give up all your concocted ideas about dharma and surrender to Me." [Bg. 18.66] This is dharma—surrender to Krsna. Any other "dharma" is not dharma. Otherwise why does Krsna ask, sarva-dharman parityajya—give it all up"? He has already said. In every age I make My advent to establish the principles of religion." And at last He says that we should give up all the so-called religious principles that we have manufactured. All these man-made principles are not actually religious principles. Real dharma, real religious life, means what is given by God. But we have no understanding of what God is and what His word is. That is modern civilization's defect.
But the order is there, God is there—it is simply that we won't accept. So where is the possibility of peace? Everything is there, ready-made. But we won't accept. So what is the remedy for our disease? We are searching after peace, but we won't accept the very thing that will actually give us peace. This is our disease. Therefore, this Krsna consciousness movement is trying to awaken the dormant Krsna consciousness in everyone's heart. Just consider: four or five years ago, these Europeans and Americans had never even heard of Krsna—so how are they now taking Krsna consciousness so seriously? Krsna consciousness is already there in everyone's heart. It simply has to be awakened. And this awakening process is described in the Caitanya-caritamrta [Madhya 22.107]:
nitya siddha krsna-prema 'sadhya 'kabhu naya
Love for Krsna, devotion for Krsna is within everyone's heart, but we have forgotten. So this Krsna consciousness movement is simply meant for awakening that dormant love by giving everyone the chance to hear about Krsna. This is the process.
For instance, when you are sleeping. I have to call you loudly. "Mr. Such-and-such! Such-and-such! Get up! You have to tend to this business:" No other senses will act when you are sleeping. But the ear will act. Therefore in this age, when people are so fallen that they will not listen to anything, if we chant this Hare Krsna maha-mantra they'll be awakened to Krsna consciousness. This is practical. So if we are actually anxious for peace and tranquility in society, then we must be very serious about understanding Krsna. That is my request. Don't take the Krsna consciousness movement lightly.
This movement can solve all the problems of life, all the problems in the world. Social, political, philosophical, religious, economic—everything can be solved by Krsna consciousness. Therefore, we request those who are leaders—like His Excellency, who is present here—"You should try to understand this Krsna consciousness movement." It is very scientific and authorized. It is not a mental concoction or a sentimental movement. It is a most scientific movement. So we are inviting all leaders from all countries. "Try to understand." If you are sober, if you are actually reasonable, you'll understand that this Krsna consciousness movement is the most sublime movement for the welfare of the whole human society.
The Unlimited, Endless Pleasure
Anyone may come—we are prepared to discuss this subject matter. The ultimate goal of human life is to achieve immortality. Tyaktva deham punar janma naiti. This is our mission, but we have forgotten this. We are simply leading the life of cats and dogs, without any knowledge that we can achieve that perfection of life where there will be no more birth, no more death. We do not even understand that there is the possibility of amrtatvam, immortality. But it is totally possible. Nobody wants to die. Nobody wants to become an old man; nobody wants to become diseased. This is our natural inclination. Why? Because originally, in our spiritual form, there is no birth, no death, no old age, no disease. So after moving through the evolutionary process, up through the aquatics, plants, trees, birds, when at last we come to this human form of body—then we should know what the goal of life is. The goal of life is amrtatvam, to become immortal.
Immortal you can become—simply by becoming Krsna conscious. Krsna says it. It is a fact. We simply have to understand. Janma karma ca me divyam evam yo vetti tattvatah. If you try to understand Krsna in truth, then tyaktva deham punar janma naiti: after giving up this body, you won't have to accept any more material bodies. And as soon as you don't accept any more material bodies, that means you have become immortal. The thing is, by nature we are immortal. So Krsna makes His advent, Krsna comes to teach us this lesson:
"You are immortal by nature. As spirit soul, you are part and parcel of Me. I am immortal, and so you are also immortal. Unnecessarily, you are trying to be happy in this material world." [Bg. 15.7]
You have already tried and tried to find happiness in sensuous life, through so many bodies—as cats, as dogs, as demigods, as trees, as plants, as insects. So now that you have a human body, with its higher intelligence, don't be captivated by sensuous life. Just try to understand Krsna. That is the verdict of the Vedic literatures. Nayam deho deha-bhajam nrloke kastan kaman arhate vid-bhujam ye [Bhag. 5.5.1]: to work very hard like dogs and hogs for sense gratification is not the ambition of human life; human life is meant for a little austerity. Tapo divyam putraka yena sattvam suddhyet: we have to purify our existence; that is the mission of human life. Why shall I purify my existence? Brahma-saukhyam tv anantam: because then you will get spiritual realization, the unlimited, endless pleasure and happiness. That is real pleasure, real happiness.
ramante yogino 'nante
"The mystics derive unlimited transcendental pleasures from the Absolute Truth, and therefore the Supreme Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead, is also known as Rama." [Padma Purana]
All the great saintly persons of India have cultivated this spiritual knowledge so nicely and fully. Formerly, people used to go to India to find out about spiritual life. Even Jesus Christ went there. And yet we are not taking advantage of it. It is not that these literatures and directions are meant only for the Indians or for the Hindus or for the brahmanas. No. They are meant for everyone, because Krsna claims, aham bija-pradah pita: "I am everyone's father." Therefore, He is very anxious to make us peaceful, happy. Just as an ordinary father wants to see that his son is well situated and happy, similarly Krsna wants to see every one of us well situated and happy. Therefore He comes sometimes. This is the purpose of Krsna's advent. Thank you very much.
Lord Krsna's Advent
"Our dear Lord, You have appeared in Your original unalloyed form, the eternal form of goodness, for the welfare of all living entities within this material world. Taking advantage of Your appearance, all of them can now very easily understand the nature and form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead:"
by Jayadvaita Swami
The Supreme Lord is not formless or impersonal. When we speak of Krsna, we speak of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. What this means, essentially, is that the Godhead, the Supreme Truth, the source of everything, is ultimately the supreme individual person. According to the Vedic literatures, God has three features. First, He has His all-pervading, impersonal aspect. In this feature, He is the great light from which everything shines forth, the great primordial truth from which all other truths arise. Beyond this, however, He also has His aspect of Paramatma, the supreme knower who lives within the heart of everyone and gives everyone knowledge, memory, or forgetfulness. And ultimately God also has an independent personal aspect, His original eternal form of bliss and knowledge.
In this personal aspect, the Lord has not only a form but also a name, an abode, personal qualities, an eternal entourage, and spiritual activities.
Yet all these are beyond our direct sensory perception. Through sensory perception we can neither confirm nor deny God's existence; all we can say is that He is not within the reach of our senses. Nor can we know God merely by speculation. The mind and intelligence are limited. So if God is unlimited, our minds and intelligence will prove too small to grasp Him.
But the unlimited, if He is truly unlimited, can reveal Himself and His unlimited nature, even in this material world. This is the purpose of Krsna's appearance. As Bhagavad-gita explains, Krsna appears in this world from time to time (to favor His devotees, subdue the ungodly, and reestablish universal religious principles for the benefit of all living beings).
So although Krsna is the supreme absolute, the ultimate existence, the Supreme Lord of all creation, He also appears within this mundane world as a visible, historical person. When He does so, He enlightens us by showing us His eternal nature and His eternal transcendental form.
Janmastami is what could be called Krsna's birthday. But it's not called that, because Krsna never takes birth like an ordinary man. An ordinary man takes birth in this world because he is forced to by the laws of nature. But Krsna's "birth" is a transcendental drama staged by the Lord Himself. In this drama, the Lord allows certain exalted devotees to play the roles of His father and mother, and others appear as His friends and other associates.
From the very beginning, Krsna's activities on earth were extraordinary. At the time of His so-called birth, He appeared before His parents as the majestic four-armed Lord Narayana. While still a child on his mother's lap, He slew the great demon Putana. Throughout His 125 years on earth, Krsna performed wonderful superhuman activities. He exhibited the unlimited strength, beauty, wealth, fame, knowledge, and renunciation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In particular, He imparted sublime spiritual knowledge to His friend and devotee Arjuna, knowledge that endures in the sacred text Bhagavad-gita.
According to Bhagavad-gita, we can achieve freedom from the pangs of material suffering and return to the kingdom of God simply by understanding the transcendental birth and activities Lord Krsna enacts when He appears in this material world.
Yet, the Gita goes on to say, hardly anyone knows God as He is. In the absence of a clear understanding, we describe God negatively, in terms of what He is not, or in terms vague, enigmatic, and intangible. But when God personally descends to earth. He reveals His eternal form and His eternal transcendental qualities.
But even though God personally appears, one cannot understand Him merely by blunt materialistic vision. Even when Krsna was present, less intelligent men, unable to appreciate His transcendental superexcellence, thought Him an ordinary person of this material world. Similarly, unintelligent men in the present age think Krsna nothing more than a mythological hero. Yet great saints and sages throughout history have consistently accepted Lord Krsna as the Supreme Godhead. The sage Vyasadeva was the compiler of the Vedic literature and the author of Vedanta-sutra, perhaps the most demandingly logical treatise on spiritual inquiry ever written. Yet after completing Vedanta-sutra Vyasadeva felt that his life's work would be incomplete if he failed to write one book devoted exclusively to describing the transcendental form, qualities, and pastimes of Lord Krsna. Would such a sage have suddenly abandoned his rigorous pursuit of truth to indulge in spinning whimsical mythological tales?
Lord Krsna is neither mundane nor mythological, but one can understand Him only by pure devotion. Indeed, this is the central theme of Bhagavad-gita, for this is the supreme principle of religion that Lord Krsna appears in this world to teach: that one should abandon all other forms of religion and simply surrender to Him in devotion. Pure devotion to God, pure love for God, is the ultimate goal of all religious principles.
From a historical point of view, Krsna appeared within this material world for 125 years and then left. But from a broader philosophical viewpoint we can understand that Krsna is always present everywhere, although sometimes He is visible and sometimes not.
When Krsna descended on earth five thousand years ago, He briefly made Himself visible to all. And from the Vedic literature it is understood that those whose eyes have been anointed with the ointment of pure devotion can see Lord Krsna in their hearts perpetually. Such exalted souls, however, are very rare.
How then are the rest of us to know God and develop our love for Him'? The Vedic authorities have conclusively decided that in the present age the most effective means for developing our love for God is to chant His holy names, especially as found in the Hare Krsna mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Because God is absolute, there is no difference between God and God's name. So when we chant the holy name of the Lord, the Lord Himself is dancing on our tongue. As we continue to chant—sincerely, we associate directly with the Lord, and thus we advance in spiritual life.
Just as there is no difference between the Lord and His holy name, so also we cannot separate Krsna from His transcendental form. When Krsna's form is present. Krsna Himself is present. The Vedic scriptures therefore recommend that one worship Krsna's murti, His transcendental form in the temple. Although the murti appears to mundane eyes to be a mere statue, to the eyes of a pure devotee He appears as Krsna Himself. Of course, metal and stone and wood are material elements, but Krsna is present in these elements, for He is present everywhere. And when these elements are molded into Krsna's form, the same Krsna who was present all along becomes visible to our eyes.
The pictures on these pages, therefore, are pictures of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who appears in this world for our benefit. And if we devote ourselves to Krsna and chant Lord Krsna's holy name, under the direction of a bona fide spiritual master, our consciousness will be purified, and we will be able to perceive Krsna's presence directly—while chanting Hare Krsna, while seeing the form of Krsna, and ultimately at every moment.
The Biography of a Pure Devotee
by Srila Satsvarupa dasa Goswami
Now that Srila Prabhupada had left Seventy-second Street and had moved downtown, it wasn't long before new people were coming to see him. 'After a few minutes ... the sound of the cymbals and the incense . . . we weren't in the Bowery any longer. We started chanting Hare Krsna.. . . I remember it was relaxing and very interesting to be able to chant, and I found Swamiji very fascinating. . . ."
One of the first women to take an interest in Srila Prabhupada was twenty-year-old Carol Bekar. She came from an immigrant Catholic background, and she immediately associated Catholicism with the philosophy of bhakti-yoga. She was divorced and was now living with the brother of Carl Yeargens.
I had just come out of a marriage that failed [Carol relates], and I was trying to make some kind of a life for myself. Then I met Carl, and the Swami came. I think I was the first woman who approached his movement. The Swami's attitude toward women was not difficult, but his teachings were difficult for some women. It wasn't easy, especially in that era when things were so confused and highly political in this country. I think the major problem for the small group that went to see him on the Bowery was how we were going to translate his ideas into the context of New York City, 1966. He didn't seem to think there needed to be much adjustment.
One time there was discussion of Arjuna deciding to go to war. It was difficult for Arjuna to decide, because war meant taking life. But Krsna convinced him that if it is in the service of God it is allowed. People found that idea very difficult to accept, because the controversy in Vietnam was beginning to heat up. People wanted to know the political ramifications of his religious doctrines. But he wasn't interested in that. Of course, everyone was very reverential to him, but none of us had the background in the scriptures and the philosophy.
It was a very interracial, music-oriented scene. There were a few professional musicians, and a lot of people who enjoyed playing or just listening. Some people were painting in some of the lofts, and that's basically what was going on. We had memorable kirtanas. One time there was a very beautiful ceremony: Some of us went over early to prepare for it. There must have been a hundred people who came that day.
Whenever he had the chanting, the people were fairly in awe of the Swami. On the Bowery, a kind of transcendence came out of the ringing of the cymbals. He used the harmonium, and many people played hand cymbals. Sometimes he played the drum. From the very beginning, he stressed the importance of sound and the realization of Godhead through sound. That was, I suppose, the attraction that these musicians found in him—the emphasis on sound as a means for attaining transcendence and the Godhead. But he wanted a serious thing. He was interested in discipleship.
Chanting and Cooking
Almost all of Prabhupada's Bowery friends were musicians or friends of musicians. They were into music—music, drugs, women, and spiritual meditation. Because Prabhupada's presentation of the Hare Krsna mantra was both musical and meditative, they were automatically interested. But they were interested in it more as Indian meditation music than as a way of worshiping God as the Supreme Person by chanting His name. Prabhupada stressed that all the Vedic mantras (or hymns) were sung—in fact, the words Bhagavad-gita meant "the Song of God." But the Vedic songs had words, and these words were sound incarnations of God in the form of His name. The musical accompaniment of hand cymbals, drum, and harmonium was just that—an accompaniment—and had no spiritual purpose independent of the chanting of the name of God. Prabhupada allowed any instrument to be used, as long as it did not detract from the chanting.
For the Bowery musicians, sound was spirit and spirit was sound, in a merging of music and meditation. But for Prabhupada music without the name of God wasn't meditation at all; it was sense gratification, or at most a kind of stylized impersonal meditation. But he was glad to see the musicians coming to play along in his kirtanas, to hear him, and to chant responsively. Some, having stayed up all night playing somewhere on their instruments. would come by in the morning and sing with the Swami. He did not dissuade them from their focus on sound; rather, he gave them sound. In the Vedas, sound is said to be the first element of material creation; the source of sound is God, and God is eternally a person. Prabhupada's whole emphasis was on getting people to chant God's personal, transcendental name. Whether they took it as jazz, folk music, rock, or Indian meditation made no difference, as long as they began to chant Hare Krsna.
Sometimes Carol Bekar would go shopping with Srila Prabhupada in nearby Chinatown, where he would purchase ingredients for his cooking. He would cook and at the same time teach and supervise others.
He used to cook with us in the kitchen [Carol Bekar continues], and he was always aware of everyone else's activities in addition to his own cooking. He knew exactly how things should be. He washed everything and made sure everyone did everything correctly. He was a teacher. We used to make capatis by hand, but then one day he asked me to get him a rolling pin. I brought my rolling pin, and he appropriated it. He put some men on rolling capatis and supervised them very carefully
I made a chutney for him at home. He always accepted our gifts graciously, although I don't think he ever ate them. Perhaps he was worried we might put something that wasn't allowed in his diet. He used to take things from me and put them in the cupboard. I don't know what he finally did with them, but I am sure he didn't throw them away. I never saw him eat anything that I had prepared, but he accepted everything.
Most of the Swami's visitors would call in the evening. The loft was quite out of the way, and it was on the Bowery. A cluster of sleeping derelicts regularly blocked the street-level entrance, and visitors would find as many as half a dozen bums to step over before climbing the four flights of stairs. But it was something new; you could go and sit with a group of hip people and watch the Swami lead kirtana. The room was dimly lit, strange, and impressive; and Prabhupada would burn incense. Many casual visitors came and went. One of them—Gunthar—had vivid impressions.
You walked right off the Bowery into a room filled with incense [Gunthar relates]. It was quiet. Everyone was talking in hushed tones, not really talking at all. Swamiji was sitting in front of the room, in meditation. There was a tremendous feeling of peace which I had never had before in this context. I d happened to have studied for two years to become a minister and was into meditation, study, and prayer. But this was my first time to do anything Eastern or Hindu. There were lots of pillows around and mats on the floor for people to sit on. I don't think there were any pictures or statues. It was just Swamiji, incense, and mats, and obviously the respect of the people in the room for him.
Before we went up, Carl was laughing and saying how Swami wanted everyone to use the hand cymbals just correctly. I had never played the cymbals before, but when it began I just tried to follow Swamiji, who was doing it in a certain way. Things were building up, the sound was building up, but then someone was doing it wrong. And Swamiji just very, very calmly shook a finger at someone, and they looked, and then everything stopped. He instructed this person from a distance, and this fellow got the right idea, and they started up again. After a few minutes... the sound of the cymbals and the incense ... we weren't in the Bowery any longer. We started chanting Hare Krsna. That was my first experience in chanting—I'd never chanted before. There's nothing in Protestant religion that comes even close to that. Maybe Catholics with their Hail Mary's, but it's not quite the same thing. I remember that it was relaxing and very interesting to be able to chant, and I found Swamiji very fascinating.
The loft in the Bowery was more open than Prabhupada's previous quarters and Prabhupada had lost some of his privacy. Now some of the visitors were skeptical and even challenging, but everyone found the Swami confident and joyful. Some of them could see that he had a far-reaching plan for spreading Krsna consciousness. He knew what he wanted to do and was singlehandedly carrying it out. "It is not one man's job," he would say. But Prabhupada went on doing all he could, depending on Krsna for the results. David was beginning to help, and more people were coming to visit him.
One of the most serious newcomers was a boy named Michael Grant. Mike was twenty-four. His father, who was Jewish, owned a record shop in Portland, Oregon, where Mike grew up. After studying music at Portland's Reed College and at San Francisco State, Mike, who played the piano and many other instruments, moved to New York City, along with his girlfriend, hoping to get into music professionally. But he quickly became disenchanted with the commercial music scene. Playing in nightclubs and pandering to commercial demands seemed particularly unappealing. In New York he joined the musicians' union and worked as a music arranger and as an agent for several local groups.
"He Wasn't in a Hurry"
Mike lived on the Bowery in an A.I.R. loft on Grand Street. It was a large loft where musicians often congregated for jam sessions. But as he turned more and more to serious composing, he found himself retiring from the social side of the music scene. His interests ran more to the spiritual, quasi-spiritual, and mystical books he had been reading. He had encountered several svamis, yogis, and self-styled spiritualists in the city and had taken up the regular practice of hatha-yoga asanas (sitting postures). From his first meeting with the Swami, Mike was interested and quite open, as he was with all religious persons. He thought all genuinely religious people were good, although he did not care to identify with any particular group.
There was a little bit of familiarity [Michael Grant relates] because I had seen other svamis. The way he was dressed, the way he looked—older and swarthy—weren't new to me. But at the same time there was an element of novelty. I was very curious. I didn't hear him talk when I first came in—he was just chanting—but I mainly was waiting to hear what he was going to say. I had heard people chant before. I thought, why else would he put himself in such a place, without any comforts, unless the message he's trying to get across is more important than his comfort? I think the thing that struck me most was the poverty that was all around him. This was curious, because the places that I had been before had been just the opposite—very opulent. There was the Vedanta center in upper Manhattan and others. They were filled with staid, older men with their leather chairs and pipe tobacco-that kind of environment. But this was real poverty. The whole thing was curious.
Prabhupada looked very refined, which was also curious—that he was in this place. When he talked, I immediately saw that he was a scholar and that he spoke with great conviction. Some statements he made were very daring. He was talking about God, and this was all new—to hear someone talk about God. I always wanted to hear someone I could respect talk about God. I always liked to hear religious speakers, but I measured them very carefully. So when he spoke, I began to think, "Well, here is someone talking about God who may really have some realization of God." He was the first one I had come across who might be a person of God, who could feel really deeply.
I went up to him afterwards. I had the same feeling I'd had on other occasions when I d been to hear famous people in concerts. I was always interested in going by after concerts to see musicians and singers just to meet them and see what they were like. I had a similar feeling after Prabhupada spoke, so I went up and started talking. But the experience was different from the others in that he wasn't in a hurry. He could talk to me, whereas with others all you could do was get in a few words. They were always more interested in something else. But he was a person who was actually showing some interest in me as a person, and I was so overwhelmed that I ran out of things to say very quickly. I was surprised. Our meeting broke off on the basis of my not having anything further to say. It was just the opposite of so many other experiences, where some performer would be hurrying off to do something else. This time, I was the one who couldn't continue.
Prabhupada liked to take walks. Directly across the street from his doorway at 94 Bowery was the Fulton Hotel, a five-story flophouse. Surrounding him were other lower Manhattan lodging houses, whose tenants wandered the sidewalks from dawn till dark. An occasional flock of pigeons would stir and fly from one rooftop to the next or down to the street. Traffic was heavy. The Bowery was part of a truck route to and from Brooklyn by way of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges.
The Bowery sloped gently downhill toward the north, and Prabhupada could see the street lights and traffic signals as far up as Fourth Street. He could see Con Edison with its prominent clock tower, and—on a clear day—the top of the Empire State Building on Thirty-fourth. There were signboards and a few scraggly Manhattan trees.
Prabhupada would walk alone in the morning through the neighborhood. May 1966 saw more rain than normal, and he carried an umbrella. Sometimes he walked in the rain. He was not always alone; at times he walked with one of his new friends and talked. Sometimes he shopped. Bitter melon, dal, hing, chick-pea flour, and other "specialty foods" common in Indian vegetarian cuisine were available in Chinatown's nearby markets.
On leaving the loft, Srila Prabhupada would walk south a few steps to the corner of Bowery and Hester Street. Turning right on Hester he would immediately be in Chinatown, where the shops, markets, and even the Manhattan Savings Bank were identified by signs lettered in Chinese. Sometimes he would walk one block further south to Canal Street, with its Central Asian Food Market and many other streetside fruit and vegetable markets. In the early morning the sidewalks were almost deserted, but as the shops began to open for business the streets became crowded with local workers. shopkeepers, tourists, and aimless derelicts. Parked cars lined both sides of the street; the crowds of pedestrians and lanes of traffic passed tightly; the winding side streets of Chinatown were lined with hundreds of small stores. A brass Confucius, discolored with age and suffering from neglect, stood on Chatham Square.
Srila Prabhupada's walks on Hester would sometimes take him into Little Italy. which overlaps Chinatown at Mulberry Street. In this neighborhood, places like Chinese Pork Products and the Mee Jung Mee Supermarket stood alongside Umberto's Clam House and the Puglia Restaurant, advertising capucino a la puglia, coffee from Puglia.
His walks west of Bowery, in Chinatown and Little Italy, were mainly for shopping. Yet on occasions he walked in the opposite direction as far as the East River and the Brooklyn Bridge. It was a dangerous neighborhood, however, and when a friend warned him about a sniper who had been firing at strollers along the river, Srila Prabhupada stopped going there.
Despite the bad neighborhood where Srila Prabhupada lived and walked, he was rarely disturbed. Often he would find several Bowery bums asleep or unconscious at his door, and he would have to step over them. Sometimes a drunk, simply out of inability to maneuver, would bump into him, or a derelict would mutter something unintelligible or laugh at him. The more sober ones would stand and gesture courteously, ushering Prabhupada into or out of his door at 94 Bowery. Prabhupada would pass among them, acknowledging their good manners as they cleared his path.
Certainly few of the Bowery men and others who saw him on his walks knew much about the small, elderly Indian sadhu, dressed in saffron and carrying an umbrella and a brown grocery sack.
Sometimes Srila Prabhupada would meet one of his new friends on the street. He met Janet, Michael Grant's wife, on several occasions.
I would see him [Janet relates] in the midst of this potpourri of people down there, walking down the street. He always had an umbrella, and he would always have such a serene look on his face. He would just be taking his afternoon jaunts, walking along, sometimes stepping over the drunks. And I would always get sort of nervous when I would meet him on the sidewalk. He would say, "Are you chanting?" And I would say, "Sometimes. And then he would say; "That's a good girl."
The Absurd Dialectic
This exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and an existentialist-socialist priest took place in Los Angeles during December of 1973.
Priest: Now, finally, we're beginning to grasp the real, inner meaning of Christianity and of religion generally: God sharing in the sufferings of man; man learning to live with the inevitability of his pain.
Srila Prabhupada: That is rascaldom—why should God have to share the sufferings of man?
Priest: That way man can more readily accept suffering as an inseparable part of reality.
Srila Prabhupada: Very good priest. People are trying to become happy, and your theory is that they should accept suffering. The very proposition is rascaldom. As spirit souls, part and parcel of the Supreme Spirit, we are naturally trying to minimize suffering and reach His spiritual abode, where suffering is nil. Everyone is trying to be perfectly happy. That is our struggle; that is the meaning of human civilization. We are not submitting to suffering. We don't want suffering. So if you actually believe in God, if you are actually a theist, then why are you talking like a rascal and saying that we must suffer—that even God must suffer?
Priest: Well, I'm what you might call an "atheist-theist."
Srila Prabhupada: Hmmm?
Priest: An atheist-theist.
Srila Prabhupada: Atheist-theist? What is this?
Priest: My thinking is that God is essentially our own invention ... an idea.
Srila Prabhupada: You think God is an "idea"?
Priest: Yes, though quite a necessary one. The idea of a supreme being or a supreme authority is something we have imposed upon ourselves, apparently because we find it consoling, comforting. Most people are ignorant. And so they need God, like Marx said, as their opiate . . . their assurance of a happy ending, their cure-all and cover-up for hopelessness and frustration.
Srila Prabhupada: You say God is just an idea. I say God is not just an idea—God is a fact. Can you prove otherwise?
Priest: Well, as I see it there's no absolute necessity for a supreme being.
Srila Prabhupada: But even your Lenin accepted the necessity of a supreme authority. The only thing was, he wanted to become that supreme authority. Lenin wanted to become God.
Priest: Yes, and he was. For a time he was.
Srila Prabhupada: No, he could not become God. He was under the laws of God—he died. He died. He could not save himself from death. Therefore, he was not the supreme authority. Lenin was forced to die, so that means there must be some other supreme authority.
Priest: Well, everything is ultimately meaningless, anyway. So ultimately death is meaningless.
Srila Prabhupada: Why do you say "meaningless"? If death is meaningless, then why are you so afraid of it? If right now I were coming to kill you, you would be afraid. Why?
Priest: Well, that it's meaningless doesn't mean I can't place some value on it at any given point.
Srila Prabhupada: But still, why do you say "meaningless"? Earlier you said you are fighting for "the revolution" and "social change:" Why are you fighting so hard to spread your meaning if ultimately everything has no meaning?
Priest: Take numbers. They can be useful, but they have no meaning except what we put into them. Actually they're meaningless.
Srila Prabhupada: If everything is actually meaningless, then what you are doing is meaningless.
Priest: Yes, because ultimately everything is meaningless.
Srila Prabhupada: Then you are less than a rascal. If I called you a rascal I would be giving you some honor. You are working for meaningless things.
Priest: I'm saying everyone can introduce their own meaning ... whatever they want.
Srila Prabhupada: Then why are you trying to recruit so many followers? Why not let people do whatever they want?
Priest: Well, doing whatever you want may include proliferating your own meaning.
Srila Prabhupada: No, no, no. You've got your own meaning—be satisfied with your own meaning. Don't bother me.
Priest: Part of my meaning may be to bother you.
Srila Prabhupada: Then my meaning may be to beat you over the head with my shoes!
Priest: But take Lenin. No one ever beat him. He simply was not beaten.
Srila Prabhupada: No, no. Lenin was also beaten. By death. He was beaten, but he would not admit it. He was such a rascal that even though he was being beaten at every moment—even though he was becoming old and diseased, even though he was dying—still he felt, "I am not being beaten:" That means he was Rascal Number One. A sane man admits, "Yes, I am being beaten:" And a rascal will not admit it.
Priest: Well, we have to look at things existentially. As long as something exists, we can place value on it, but when it ceases to exist there is no remorse, nothing to lament.
Srila Prabhupada: If there is nothing to lament, why are you struggling so hard to live a long life and exist as long as possible? Why not simply let yourself die?
Priest: It's like ... if you have some money in your hand, then as long as you have it you can utilize it, but if you lose it, don't worry. Nothing to worry about. That's how I feel about death.
Srila Prabhupada: You may talk big words like that, but in practice you worry. You cry.
Priest: Well, I may just fall short of my philosophy. But the philosophy is ideal.
Srila Prabhupada: These are no arguments. No sane man will accept this philosophy. It is not philosophy—it is simply frustration. But frustration is not life. Frustration is frustration.
Priest: Perhaps frustration is the only reality. That's what Albert Camus felt. He made it one of the main themes in his writings. Frustration, no meaning. And one night he was driving along in his car and reportedly just drove over a cliff. He may have been thinking that if life has no meaning, why not just drive my car over a cliff. Finished himself off.
Srila Prabhupada: Madman. He had to be mad, because he did not know who he is—an eternal soul, part and parcel of God. He went mad because he didn't know what is to be known.
Priest: Well, millions and millions of people accept his books as practically gospel!
Srila Prabhupada: What is the subject matter?
Priest: The subject matter of his books is that life is ultimately absurd. There is no real meaning to it. We place our own meanings on it.
Srila Prabhupada: Then why was he trying to make sense out of the absurdity'? If everything is absurd, why write books?
Priest: Yes, that's what Camus seems to have realized ... that if everything's absurd, there is no use speaking or writing or even living.
Srila Prabhupada: The thing is, you are saying that life is absurd, and I am saying that life is not absurd. Who will settle this? Who will settle it—whether you are right or I am right'?
Priest: I don't think it can ever be settled.
Srila Prabhupada: It will be settled at death. That's all. A rascal may think foolishly that life is absurd—but death will not be absurd. Mrtyuh sarva-haras caham: Lord Krsna says, "Everyone must finally accept Me—as death" Both of us will have to accept death. You don't want to die, and I don't want to die; but both of us have to accept that supreme authority. That is God.
Priest: But speaking of Camus ... he didn't care. He died willingly. He wanted to die.
Srila Prabhupada: He did not want to die, but he may have let himself die in that way just to keep his prestige, that's all.
Priest: I think he wanted to die.
Srila Prabhupada: If you also want to die, then let me kill you now and you'll be happy.
Sometimes, but it hardly ever is.
by Srila Jayatirtha Maharaja
Our modern society, with its emphasis on science and technology, would certainly seek to view itself as being rooted in reason rather than in faith. Faith, after all, connotes unquestioning belief and seems at variance with the "scientific method." If we are to be sure about our conclusions, it would seem wise to base them only on that which we can observe, measure, and verify by our own sensory perception.
Yet although this course would certainly seem rational, it has one inherent and major defect: our sensory perception is limited and imperfect, so even if we take the maximum care to reduce the errors we make in our observations, we will ultimately be able to observe only a most limited range of phenomena. Furthermore, even at this level we are forced to admit dependency on belief—or, to make things more clear, on faith.
As inquisitive persons, we seek to discover more about ourselves and the world around us. We decide that we shall accept as evidence only that which we can perceive directly with our senses. But the question arises, how much can we believe our senses? How much faith can we place in them? For example, we hear the phrase "I could scarcely believe my eyes" or "I could scarcely believe my ears." Our decision to accept sense perception as evidence is therefore in itself a kind of faith.
The failings of this kind of faith are twofold. First of all, as we have already pointed out, our senses are imperfect. Out observations will never be exactly correct, a point that has been upheld scientifically in Heisenberg's famous uncertainty principle. And conclusions drawn from such imperfect perceptions will necessarily be imperfect in the same way. The second failing, however, is much more serious: there is a vast range of things that we cannot perceive with our senses at all. For example, we can hear sounds only within a limited range. Even with sophisticated instruments we are unable to perceive the full range of sounds, although to assume that beyond that range no sound can exist would be the greatest conceit.
A more striking example of something we are not able to perceive (and never will be) is "the past." Whatever occurred before our birth or before our observations began cannot possibly become known to us through direct sensory perception. Yet to presume that there was no history—simply because we did not perceive it—would be absurd. We firmly believe that there was a past, even though we never experienced it. So necessity forces us to expand the basis of our "search after the nature of things" to encompass certain things, at least, which are beyond our own sensory perception. Here we naturally become a little less sure of things, because we are now being asked not only to have faith in our own sensory perception but also to hear and believe evidence given by others. For example, to gain knowledge about ancient Grecian civilization we can turn to no contemporary source. All we can examine is a few ruined buildings. So to find out about the events of two millennia ago, we have to look into the writings of someone who lived at that time and had the foresight to write things down. Then we shall have to decide whether these writings are factual or fictional. So here we see that we have strayed onto difficult ground. Yet still we are prepared to accept such evidence. We even compile it into "history books" and spend our valuable time studying it and trying perhaps to learn some lessons from it.
To better understand the limits of our sensory perception, let us consider the hypothetical case of an aboriginal man landing in New York City. On first examining the huge, complex metropolis, the aboriginal man will naturally marvel at how it has come to be. But he will hardly be able to answer this question through direct sensory perception. He may well believe that such a place could not have been constructed by mere men, and so he may assume that it was the direct creation of some powerful spirit, or that it has always been there, like some mountain range. Or he may simply become bewildered and frightened.
On the other hand, a European man landing in New York on a first visit will have no difficulty in understanding that the city was constructed over several hundred years by countless architects and craftsmen. Although our cultured visitor did not see the city being constructed and has not met any of the architects or craftsmen involved, no one will be able to convince him that the city has come about in any other way. His belief will be entirely reasonable, but he will have to admit that, strictly speaking, it is a type of faith, albeit an entirely reasonable faith. The conclusion of the aborigine, however, must be termed unreasonable faith.
Thus we see that the two words "faith" and "reason" are not opposites, as we sometimes suppose, but rather are interrelated concepts. We may be safe in having reasonable faiths, such as the faith that New York City has been built by intelligent craftsmen, but we must be wary of unreasonable faiths or faiths based only on superstitions.
Now let us suppose further that upon landing at John F. Kennedy Airport, our European meets a wild-eyed man who hands him a book propounding the doctrine that New York City was not constructed in any of the aforementioned ways; rather, some one hundred years ago there was an explosion in the Hudson Bay region, and after the smoke cleared, the entire city (complete with skyscrapers, subways, and telephone system) was standing in place. Although by direct sensory perception the European will not be able to prove this doctrine false (since he has not personally observed the construction of the city), nonetheless he will conclude that the young man is a nut.
Now, from scientific observation we learn that the physical structure of a living cell is more complex than that of the entire city of New York (complete with telephone lines, electrical circuits, and plumbing, and what have you) and that the human body has more than thirty trillion of these cells. Furthermore, unlike New York City, the human body works smoothly and with amazing precision. Even more amazing, these complex cells have the ability to regenerate themselves—a concept that the city's planning commissioners could not even begin to conceive of (though understandably they could envy it).
Now, if we were to conclude that the human body has also been planned and constructed by some highly intelligent person or persons, then we would be possessed of what might be called reasonable faith. But so-called scientific people who propose that the human body arose from a chance combination of molecules originally set into action by some tremendous explosion—these people can only be compared to the wild-eyed fanatic claiming that New York City came from an explosion in Hudson Bay. It will not even do to call such a hypothesis "unreasonable faith." It is nothing short of insanity.
Therefore, the basic conclusion of theism, namely that this highly complex universe has been conceived of and constructed by a highly intelligent being—in fact by a being possessed of genius beyond our imagination—is altogether reasonable. Although we may label it a conclusion based on faith, it is based on an altogether reasonable faith.
Someone may object at this point that although we may verify beyond reasonable doubt that the city of New York was designed and fashioned by intelligent men, we cannot use the same method to verify our conclusion that the universe has been designed and fashioned by a Supreme Being. But we may reply that in the first place, no one will take the trouble to verify that the city was built in that way, because it is a self-evident fact that does not really require verification. Yet if someone is moved for some reason to seek verification, he can inquire from city records, from older citizens who have themselves witnessed parts of the construction, and so on. If he agrees to have faith in the authenticity of these people's words or the city's records, then he may surely satisfy himself beyond a reasonable doubt.
In much the same way, God's existence is not at all without a means for verification. It is simply that no one takes the trouble to seek verification. We choose instead, it seems, to accept the pseudo-rationality of modern scientists and philosophers who reject faith in God as unreasonable. Yet by the scientific practice of yoga (especially bhakti yoga) we can verify the existence of God, just as by experimentation we can verify physical laws. The difficulty is simply our unwillingness to conduct the experiment.
Our modern society has drifted toward the assumption that God does not exist, or that if He does exist, His existence is of no fundamental importance in developing our civilization. As so-called rationalists, we have found it impossible to take seriously a Being we cannot perceive directly with our senses, because to accept such a Being would require a commitment of faith. But in fact every conclusion we come to requires faith, even if it is the simple faith that our sensory perceptions are accurate. So the real task is to discriminate between reasonable faith and unreasonable faith.
Since we can have reasonable faith that this universe and its contents, including ourselves, are the creation of an eminently intelligent, powerful, and expert Being, it is a rather foolish if not outright dangerous assumption that this Being no longer has any relevance to our existence and to our civilization. Instead, it would seem clear that we should apply considerable thought to the task of better understanding who this Being is, what the nature of His existence is, how He has come to create this universe (and ourselves), what continuing interest He may have in His creations, what our relationship with Him is, what our residual obligations to Him are, and a host of other relevant inquiries that His existence naturally raises.
Space does not permit us to examine the answers to the questions posed above: However, we can recommend to our readers that they undertake a serious study of the works on scientific theism that have been left to us by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. These works comprise exacting translations and authoritative commentaries on great classics of ancient wisdom—Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, and others. Altogether, more than fifty full volumes are available, and with impeccable logic and clarity each volume answers questions about God and the origin and duties of man. These books bring the subjects of religion and faith out of the cloudy region of dogma and superstition and clearly into a realm of supramundane rationality. Men who are thoughtful and who seek to obey the ancient command "Know thyself" will find the greatest delight in these works. We will consider our purpose in attempting this short article completely fulfilled if it moves our readers to make a further investigation of this literature.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Acclaim for Neo-Vedic Exhibition
New York—Recently gallery owners and art agents, writers, and publishers converged on the Indian consulate for the first exhibit of the Bhaktivedanta Trust Collection of paintings, photos, and sculpture.
Attracting the most attention on opening night was Yadurani -devi dasi's Bad Karma, a canvas that shows human beings degrading themselves toward future lives as animals or plants. (For instance, someone is stuffing his face and transforming it into that of a pig.)
Notable as well was a life-size diorama called Changing Bodies. The piece shows the inner, spiritual self remaining unchanged as the outer, material body passes through the stages of infancy, childhood, youth, adulthood, old age, death, and rebirth.
Photos of the Hare Krsna movement's new Bombay cultural center highlighted its synthesis of Indian styling and Western technology, a form that some have called neo-Vedic. The designer of the Bombay cultural center is Surabhir-abhipalayantam Swami.
Also on view was a photographic collection by Bhargava dasa, of BACK TO GODHEAD. The product of four years in the field, the collection pointed up the treasures of India's spiritual culture, specifically her many Krsna temples. Additionally, guests watched showings of Vrndavana: The Land of Krsna, a feature film by Yadubara dasa, that had just placed as a finalist at the New York Film Festival.
The eminent Indian artist Sri S.N. Swamy made this assessment of the paintings of the Bhaktivedanta Trust Collection:
"In my opinion, the young artists of the Trust are exceeding our own best Indian artists in their mastery of painting. Their canvases are full of freshness and sensitivity. Spatially, the paintings are excellently conceived and executed, and when it is required, they are full of dynamic movement. As devotees of Krsna, these artists are able to use their talents, creativity, and devotion in such a way as to inspire similar feelings of devotion in whoever views their work. This surely is the proper role of the artist in society.
"I am certain that this new and vital school of painting will reaffirm the highest ideals of great art at a time when art, being influenced by materialism, has largely been reduced to varieties of senseless abstraction. These works of art must surely spark a great revival in realistic and God conscious art throughout the world."
At the end of the exhibit's one-week run, Consul General K. Srinivasan requested the organizer, Kirtika-devi dasi of the Neo-Vedic Arts Association, to extend it for an additional week.
From Bhagavad-gita As It Is:
"Just try to learn the truth by approachinga spiritual master.
An appreciation by Brahmananda Swami
For the disciple the advent of the spiritual master is the most blessed event in the world. It is even more important than Krsna's advent, because the spiritual master gives us Krsna. Without the spiritual master there would not be any Krsna consciousness or love of God for the disciple. With this understanding, the disciple worships the spiritual master as a representative of God who appears in this world and lives among us to bring us to a factual appreciation of the Supreme Lord. And although the spiritual master may disappear from our sight, he leaves behind a great body of teachings and literature that through philosophy, logic, and devotion authoritatively establishes God's existence and offers the serious student an opportunity to experience that existence, both in this life and in the next.
Sometimes we consider the spiritual master more merciful than God Himself, because he so kindly comes to this world of countless inconveniences and problems. He comes just to preach the glories of God, a mission that in this "God-is-dead" age is not without its risks and tribulations. Of course, in deferring to his spiritual master, the disciple does not minimize the importance of God. Rather, he is always thankful to Lord Krsna for mercifully sending His selfless representative with the message of Godhead, and he is ever thankful to Krsna that he himself has had the good fortune to meet his spiritual master, to surrender to him, and to enter into the blissful association of Krsna conscious souls.
The disciple is ever mindful of the well-known Vedic statement, "By the mercy of Krsna one gets a bona fide spiritual master." The spiritual master increases the disciple's devotion for Krsna, the all-merciful Lord. And this, of course, is the very meaning of being a spiritual master; it is he who awakens and continually increases, our love for God. Thus the second half of the Vedic statement is realized: "And by the mercy of the spiritual master, one gets Krsna." It is significant that Srila Prabhupada appeared in this world on the day after Janmastami, the birthday of Lord Krsna. Thus Krsna and Krsna's devotee are always side by side, together.
The spiritual master is the center of the disciple's life. No one is more important; not his wife, his friend, his teacher, the leader of his country, his mother, his father, or even his own self. Sometimes it is considered that the mother and father are the most important persons in our life, because they have given us birth; without them we would not have a body in which to live. But the spiritual master is considered the most significant father, and the knowledge he presents is considered the most significant mother, because they give the disciple spiritual life. Our physical father and mother provide us with a body for living and all the requirements for maintaining the body, such as food, shelter, clothing, education, protection, and a religion to follow. But the spiritual master and spiritual mother show us how to live happily. Our physical mother and father give us life, but the spiritual master and spiritual mother teach us how to live.
Furthermore, the body that our physical mother and father give us is subject to birth, disease, old age, and death. Thus they have given us a situation that is fraught with difficulties and problems. But the spiritual father and spiritual mother relieve these fourfold miseries. The spiritual master teaches the disciple how to get out of bodily existence, so that this material body will be his last.
Liberation is the real goal of human life and is what the human body is meant for. We can see that the human body is not meant for sense gratification, because the animal body is much better suited for this. Animals can variously eat all day without stopping or sleep for six months or have sex several times an hour, and they carry their own bodily facilities for instant fighting and defense. The human body alone has a developed consciousness, manifested by philosophical introspection and religious inclination. Although a human being can't do everything an animal can do, he alone has philosophy and religion. So successful human life means developing our God consciousness. And it is the spiritual master who gives us this God consciousness; it is he who makes us into human beings.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, has done more than anyone else in the world, at least since the time of his own spiritual master, to awaken within all people pure devotion to the Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krsna. Srila Prabhupada's mission goes beyond that of a religious worker who opens a home for unwed mothers or a svami who opens an eye clinic or a priest or minister who holds a high post in a church.
There is a great difference between the transcendental self-knowledge taught by Srila Prabhupada and the pious formularies spoken by the world's religious dignitaries. Generally, the highest principle we hear of is love of our fellow man. But sublime as it may sound, this philosophy is not effective—because as long as we see others on the gross bodily platform, we cannot completely love them. Why? Because others' bodily designations will prove either attractive or repulsive. Black, white, young, old, healthy, sick, rich, poor, male, female, child, adult ... sad to say, most religious representatives convey the false notion that we are our bodies. "You are Christian" means that you are a Christian body, and "You are Jewish" means that you are a Jewish body. And so, because of the influence of the false ego it becomes difficult, if not impossible to love people with bodies different from our own. Bodily designations mean there must be some distinction, some preference, even some value judgment—and finally some aversion.
But Krsna consciousness means to identify all living entities as spirit souls, distinct from the body, which is just an outer covering like a shirt or coat. The person is the soul, not the body. Despite bodily differences, as spirit souls we are all equal. And further, we are all equal emanations from the one same Supreme Lord. Our common identity is based on our common Lord, and therefore a Krsna conscious person sees himself and others spiritually, in relation to God. Since God is our father, we are His inseparable sons, and therefore we are all brothers. The natural result of such consciousness is brotherhood, but this brotherhood can come about only because of the fatherhood of God. In a natural way Krsna consciousness brings us to love humanity: one who loves the father will easily come to love the brother.
If we water the root of a tree, then we automatically water all the branches and buds. But if we try to water each and every bud separately, that will make the whole tree dry up and die. Sentimental humanism—mere love for fellow man—doesn't work, but Godism, Krsna-ism, Krsna consciousness, does. This is what Srila Prabhupada taught—how to water the root of the universal tree.
Srila Prabhupada often exposed so-called humanism as deficient in another way. We cannot expect love and harmony and good will toward men if we human beings exploit and destroy other beings. Just because we human beings are superior, what right do we have to kill the inferior? For example, if a child is deaf and dumb and his brothers tell his father, "We want to kill our useless brother," will the father be pleased? He'll warn the stronger sons that if they harm their weaker brother he'll punish them. Naturally the father has special affection for his weaker son.
Furthermore, not only will the brothers suffer the father's punishment, but once having killed a brother who was weaker, the stronger brothers will become bloodthirsty and start making plans to kill one another. It is not difficult to apply this analogy to the world situation. In a planned and organized way, human beings are slaughtering many thousands of animals daily, and all the religious denominations say it isn't a sin because "the animals have no souls. "All this despite God's commandment that man shall not kill. No wonder we have no relief from strife, crime, and war.
Srila Prabhupada never compromised the truth. He exposed the sham of the politicians, the sham of the scientists, the sham of so-called religious leaders, and the sham of materialistic society, friendship, and love. No one that his disciples had ever met was as forthright as Srila Prabhupada, the Lord's pure devotee. No one could both expose the problems and offer real solutions. His utter humility and dedication to the mission of his spiritual master, even in his old age, was what attracted us to him. To fulfill that mission he was prepared to undergo any hardship and take any risk, even to journey alone by freighter from Vrndavana, India's most sacred and serene village and the site of Lord Krsna's pastimes, all the way to New York City, the iron city of the Age of Quarrel and Hypocrisy. A mendicant, he did not have anything to take with him but his faith, his translations of the Vedic literatures, and a pair of hand cymbals. This was his greatness, and we cynical sixties rebels (with and without causes) could not help but be attracted.
Srila Prabhupada was dignified and scholarly, humble and serene, an artist and a scientist, a true teacher, and yet he was totally without any means. So how could we be blamed for offering whatever we had to him? First we purchased his books and read them, then we gave some service (the first service I did was to wash his dishes). Then we gave some things that were needed (I gave him my typewriter and my desk lamp). Then we gave money (I put a hundred-dollar bill into the collection basket he used to pass around after class, just to get the pleasure of seeing his face light up with appreciation). By that time he had taken possession of our hearts. We loved him sincerely, and he loved us in return and devoted every ounce of energy within his frail frame to one thing only—seeing to it that we became fixed in spiritual life, Krsna consciousness.
This love just grew and grew as we worked together with him—trying to keep up with his energy, enthusiasm, and intelligence—until we surrendered and became loving instruments to be used by him in his mission of saving the world from godlessness, sense gratification, and mental speculation.
In his final days Srila Prabhupada made a heroic effort to return from India to the West and see us, although he could journey only as far as London. He actually was our servant, even though it was we who bowed our heads at his feet and did anything he told us.
Now the responsibility for this mission lies with us. And we who are nothing compared to him will fulfill that mission, rest assured, because each of us has vowed this in his heart. We shall do it by working together as a spiritual family, because although we all know what we are separately, together we are strong. Together we are him and we will do as he did. "He lives forever by his divine instructions, and the follower lives with him" is how Srila Prabhupada dedicated his first book to his spiritual master. Srila Prabhupada is not dead. You can see him in us, because we are trying to follow his instructions. On his birthday anniversary we can rejoice, because Srila Prabhupada lives. All the world can take heart in this. This is the mercy of Krsna.
A historical and personal view by Dr. J. Stillson Judah.
Dr. J. Stillson Judah recently retired from the faculty of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, where for many years he was Professor of the History of Religions and Director of the Library. After an exhaustive study of the Krsna consciousness movement in the late 1960's and early 1970's he published Hare Krishna and the Counterculture, still considered the definitive scholarly study of the Krsna consciousness movement. In the course of his research, Dr. Judah several times met and conversed informally with the Hare Krsna movement's founder and spiritual preceptor, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. In the following discussion between Professor Judah and Subhananda dasa Brahmacari, a member of the Hare Krsna movement, Dr. Judah speaks in a personal and revealing way about Srila Prabhupada the scholar, the religious leader, and the saintly person.
Subhananda dasa: When did you first meet Srila Prabhupada?
Dr. Judah: Well, the first time I met him was in Berkeley, in 1969, when the ISKCON temple was on Durant Street. This was right after I'd decided to write a book on the Hare Krsna movement. I'd been attending kirtanas regularly for quite some time, and when Prabhupada came there for a visit I was, of course, quite anxious to meet him. There were various theological and philosophical questions that I was concerned about. I don't recall at present precisely what questions I had, but we talked principally on the philosophy of the great sixteenth-century Bengali saint Sri Caitanya, and that of Sankaracarya, who taught Advaita Vedanta, nondevotional monism. And I was rather impressed with Prabhupada at that particular time, impressed by the comprehensive philosophical knowledge which he obviously had. I was particularly impressed by his knowledge of Sanskrit, since I had studied Sanskrit myself for about six years in college. I was rather awed by the fact that about half of his part of the conversation was in Sanskrit, followed, always, by his English translation, which was something I wasn't able to do. Although I was able to read Sanskrit, I certainly had never been able to memorize great quantities of Sanskrit and call it up at will to punctuate particular philosophical or theological points appropriately the way he did.
Subhananda dasa: You're referring to his citation of scriptural texts?
Dr. Judah: Yes. This certainly impressed me very greatly. I was impressed not only by his Sanskrit scholarship, but by his exhaustive knowledge of Indian philosophy, particularly the philosophy of Gaudiya Vaisnavism, about which we talked quite extensively. And so I had a very favorable impression, certainly, of his knowledge at that particular time.
Subhananda dasa: What impressions did you have, during that first encounter, of Srila Prabhupada as a person?
Dr. Judah: I have to say that I was struck by his humility. Although I wasn't a devotee, I did not at all get the feeling that he was speaking down to me. Although he certainly was worthy of my reverence, not only for his scholarship, of course, but for his obvious holiness, he treated me, you might say, on an equal level, with gentlemanly respect. Although I had had a relatively extensive education in Indian philosophy, I came, eventually, to understand that it is ultimately only through the eyes of faith produced by serious and prolonged spiritual discipline that spiritual philosophy can be clearly discerned. In spite of my academic training, therefore, I was not really a proficient conversation partner for Srila Prabhupada. In spite of this, however, he treated me with brotherly respect and affection. His humility was very apparent.
Subhananda dasa: Any other impressions?
Dr. Judah: I was also very much impressed, even at that first meeting, and have been subsequently impressed, that he lived his life in the same way that he expected his disciples to. This is quite different from so many other gurus who come to the West and take up drinking a few cocktails and the like. Prabhupada really lived a strict life. He was the perfect example for his disciples. And I think this is certainly part of the great power of the man—that he did preach a very severe disciplined life, but he followed it himself, right down to the letter. His popularity among his disciples owes much to the fact that his own life was so truly exemplary, to the highest degree of the holy and disciplined life he demanded of them.
Subhananda dasa: Could you elaborate?
Dr. Judah: Although he certainly was exalted by his disciples, he did not put himself on a plane above them. He ate what they ate, lived in the same kind of building. He didn't want a palace to live in. He followed the same life as his disciples, strictly. The example he gave was a very good one, one that certainly impressed the devotees. I too was very impressed.
Subhananda dasa: Those disciples who, for brief or long periods, were in proximity to Srila Prabhupada consistently vouch for the fact that he was very strict in his personal habits and practices, that he fully practiced what he preached. Even dedicated skeptics could not detect any hypocrisy.
Dr. Judah: That's very true.
Subhananda dasa: How would you view Srila Prabhupada's achievements from a historical point of view? What was his unique contribution?
Dr. Judah: In reality, he was the first to bring devotional, theistic Hinduism—Vaisnavism—to the Western world. Until that time, the West had become acquainted with Hindu philosophy mainly through Emerson and Thoreau and the other nineteenth-century Transcendentalists, whose reading of the Vedic literatures had been limited to nondevotional translations and commentaries representing the nondualistic, pantheistic interpretation. This limited, one-sided Western view of Vedic culture was further solidified by Swami Vivekananda when he visited America in 1893 and spoke at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago. Since that time, there have been countless gurus that have come to the West representing the pantheistic, nondevotional side of the Indian tradition.
In studying the history of Indian philosophy and religion, one has to distinguish between this Advaita ["no-difference-between-God-and-man"] philosophy and the religion practiced by the mass of people. One of the things that one is impressed with when one goes to India is the extraordinary number of temples there. And these temples are not built to an impersonal God. They're constructed for the glorification and worship of a personal God. So the theistic side of worship is very important in India, predominantly so. But you never get that impression from the teachings of Vivekananda and other impersonalist teachers. In this context, I recently came across an interesting reference to an article published in a popular religious journal in India in the 1890's, in which the author said that it was a shame that Vivekananda is bringing to America this Advaita philosophy, instead of the actual religion that India itself believes and practices. The writer of this article goes on to suggest that Vivekananda should be teaching the Americans the religion of Sri Caitanya—devotional service to the Supreme Lord—and that that would be a real contribution to the American people.
Actually, it's interesting . . . when I interviewed one of Srila Prabhupada's Godbrothers, he told me that he had visited America in the 1930's.
Subhananda dasa: Where did you interview him?
Dr. Judah: In Vrndavana, India. He told me that he had been here in the 30's and had traveled around the United States, but he spoke only to the university crowd, in university classes. He never got down, you might say, to the grassroots, to the people themselves. So his attempts at spreading Krsna consciousness, the teachings of Sri Caitanya, had absolutely no impact at all. It was just a lecture, and then he was gone. He was not able to start any actual movement. When Srila Prabhupada came to America he went directly among the people, especially the people who needed him the most—the countercultural protesters on the Lower East Side of New York and in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. And from there the movement grew and expanded all over the world. So, in effect, Srila Prabhupada introduced theistic Hinduism, Vaisnavism, which has always been very popular in India, to the West for the first time.
Subhananda dasa: I appreciate what you said about Srila Prabhupada's liberality in going among the people, as you put it, to teach Krsna consciousness. Ultraconservative, caste-conscious brahmanas in India have sometimes criticized Srila Prabhupada's transplantation of traditional Vedic culture to the West, whose inhabitants they feel are unfit for brahminical life.
Dr. Judah: This is an important point. This is another important achievement of Srila Prabhupada's from the historical point of view: he introduced Sri Caitanya's highly liberal view of varnasrama, the so-called caste system. While recognizing natural distinctions between people on the basis of social occupation, it cuts through discriminatory distinctions based on birth. In Sri Caitanya's teaching, anyone, regardless of his station by birth, is not only capable of reaching the highest spiritual position—even to that of a spiritual master—but also can practice his faith with all others in one community, regardless of birth, social position, creed, or color. Krsna calls all alike, without distinction, to seek Him.
Subhananda dasa: Dr. Judah, in the context of your comments concerning Srila Prabhupada's scholarship and his introduction of theistic Hinduism to the West, could you comment on the significance of his writings?
Dr. Judah: I certainly honor Srila Prabhupada as one of India's pre-eminent scholars. As a translator of many of India's important religious texts, he gave special attention to the spirit and beauty of the texts. I have seen, of course, many selfconsciously literal translations of Indian philosophical and religious classics. These very literal translations are generally very barren—void of the intended religious sense of the text. But Srila Prabhupada, in his translations, really captured their essential spirituality. A literal translation which lacks sympathetic reverence for the text itself can obscure rather than elucidate its profound inner meaning. I find that Srila Prabhupada's translations bring these works to life.
The Bhagavad-gita is widely acknowledged as essentially a devotional, theistic work. The Gita has, unfortunately, been commented upon almost exclusively by advocates of the nontheistic school who have obscured the deeply devotional nature of the work. So I feel that Srila Prabhupada's translation and interpretation represent the true meaning and intention of the Gita. Due to his unstinting and diligent labors, the whole world now has been made aware of the devotional essence of the Indian spiritual tradition, as well as of one of India's great saints, Sri Caitanya, and of Gaudiya Vaisnavism, whereas before they were scarcely known outside India except by specialists in Hindu religious traditions.
Subhananda dasa: Besides that first encounter with Srila Prabhupada that you've already spoken about, did you have any subsequent meetings?
Dr. Judah: I met Prabhupada again in Berkeley at the time of the Ratha-yatra festival in 1971. I had a brief interview with him at that time. Our discussion was more in connection with the book I was working on, Hare Krishna and the Counterculture. I had some questions, but it was a brief meeting. The third encounter, which took place in 1974, was perhaps the most significant. This was after my book was published and I'd sent him a copy of it.
Subhananda dasa: Wasn't this the same occasion as when I accompanied you to see Srila Prabhupada in his private quarters at the L.A. temple?
Dr. Judah: Yes, I believe it was. He had written me a very nice letter about my book, praising it very highly. And I thought it rather amazing that he would feel this strongly about the book, because although it turned out sympathetic to the movement, it was written not from a devotional but from a critical-objective historical and sociological viewpoint.
Subhananda dasa: I vaguely recall the dialogue, but perhaps you remember better than I.
Dr. Judah: Well, we just talked mostly about the book at that time. But the more significant thing is that the next morning he invited me to go for a walk with him on Venice Beach at around 6 a.m. During our conversation, while strolling on the beach, he revealed something very important to me—something that clarified a confusion I had had. In my research on the Hare Krsna movement, I could not understand at first the answers some devotees had given to one question in my questionnaire. It concerned the age at which they felt their natal religions had lost their meaning for them. Although some gave precise years when that had occurred, many others answered that they had not given up their Christianity and still considered themselves to be Christians. Needless to say, this seemed rather strange to me. As we were walking together by the seashore with the tide rushing in, he was speaking of Christianity and of its belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. He said this was a belief which he also held. Mindful of the orthodox Christian belief in the Trinity, he questioned me: "If Jesus Christ is the Son of God, then who is the Father?" And of course he was referring to Krsna, God, the Father.
Then it dawned on me. Of course! Being unable to identify with the mainline churches because of their association with a culture they had opposed as materialistic, Prabhupada's disciples had been given by him instead a culture and way of life that were consonant with their protests. He taught them the Vedic tradition of India, which underscored their antimaterialistic views and confirmed that material pleasures are fleeting and illusory. Prabhupada taught his disciples to adopt the view of the sixteenth-century saint Sri Krsna Caitanya, whose message has roots in the Bhagavad-gita and thus predates Christianity. For those devotees who still profess their Christianity, this meant not only acceptance of the Vedic culture as taught by Prabhupada, but also the identification anew of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, while God the Father was revealed to them as having the personal name of Krsna. According to their view, the Holy Spirit is identical with the Paramatma, the Supersoul, the form of Krsna that resides in each person as the divine witness and guide.
Subhananda dasa: Do you see the devotees' transfer of interest from Christianity to Krsna consciousness as a negative step, that is, one of mere rejection of the apparent materialism they find in modern Christianity, or as a positive step, one of spontaneous attraction to the teachings and the life-style of Krsna consciousness?
Dr. Judah: Both, of course, but I'd say the move was motivated by mainly a positive interest in Krsna consciousness. Srila Prabhupada taught a pure Vaisnava philosophy which emphasizes so many things that Jesus taught, but which so many of us Christians have either forgotten or ceased to practice in our search for materialistic pleasures. Certainly few Christians today would be willing to really take up the cross of Jesus, to follow Him in a sacrificial life that places the love of God and His service above material pleasures rather than to lay up impermanent the injunction of Jesus to the rich young ruler in Matthew 9:21—to give up all one's possessions and to follow Him. Nor would many care to abide by Christ's command in Matthew 6:19-21—to seek spiritual treasures rather than to lay up impermanent material ones. In their search for a tangible, vital spiritual life-style, many devotees came to reject the hypocrisy of much of contemporary Christianity and search further and eventually find Krsna consciousness, where they felt they discovered a life of genuine renunciation and spiritual discipline.
Subhananda dasa: Why did Srila Prabhupada's teachings appeal primarily to young people, as evinced by the relative youth of most of his disciples?
Dr. Judah: Srila Prabhupada gave meaning to many whose lives had become meaningless during the countercultural revolution. In a time of prosperity, many American youth have felt a disdain for the materialistic goals of the established culture. They have not felt that earning more money to spend on sensual pleasures has given an abiding happiness to their parents. They have come to believe that there must be a more valuable transcendental reality which they have yet to find. Therefore, they have not found direction toward a goal in our established culture, nor have they found meaning in the mainline religions that have supported this culture. For these people, Srila Prabhupada has provided a meaningful place which bears witness to quite different objectives, and he has provided a strict discipline by means of which one may achieve them. So this, I think, was one of his greatest contributions.
Subhananda dasa: Some commentators, especially those speaking from a sociological perspective, have suggested that Srila Prabhupada performed something near a miracle in extricating large numbers of young people from the drug culture and violence of the 60's and 70's.
Dr. Judah: Yes, this is very true. In periods of rapid cultural change, as we say especially in the 60's, we have great periods of violence and turmoil, because people are desperate to find something that's meaningful to them and tend to want to break down what appears to them as meaningless or corrupt. They hadn't found direction in their lives, and so Prabhupada gave them tangible direction, and as a result they were able and willing to accept radical changes in their personal life-style. And I think not enough appreciation has come from those who are against the so-called "cults" in America, for what Prabhupada gave these young people. He transformed these individuals in the most positive way. He took them away from their drugs; he took them away from crime. You know, I've talked to a number of devotees—like Dharma, for example, who was in SDS—who had been involved in all kinds of, you might say, violent demonstrations. You yourself had been involved in those days, as you've mentioned. A lot of devotees had been. So many of the violent elements of our country in periods of cultural change are due to these very factors, and when they find something that is healing, such as what Prabhupada gave them, then their whole lives are transformed. He transformed them through a discipline of strict morality. They gave up the drug abuse, the crime, and they made great changes in their personal lives. I think this is very important, and I think this is one of the great contributions he made, just from the sociological point of view. This is very important and something that, as I say, the critics rarely recognize. It was Prabhupada who changed the hearts of many from hatred of society to love—to a love of God and a love of all people through the deep spiritual recognition of God within each one of us as the Supersoul. Unfortunately the world is slow to recognize such contributions.
Subhananda dasa: Is there anything else that comes to mind about Srila Prabhupada, either about Prabhupada personally or his achievements?
Dr. Judah: Yes ... I was always impressed by the great sacrifices he made. Here was a man who had been raised and educated in India, who had been a householder, had raised a family, had managed a chemical company and who finally decided to give his full time and energy to the religious mission which his guru, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami, had asked him to execute—to teach the message of Sri Krsna Caitanya in the West. True to the highest tradition of India's holy men, he forsook the material comforts of retiring to his own beloved personal family. Instead, like the Galilean master before him, he was willing to abandon his personal family for a greater mission. He came penniless to America to begin a new life of sacrificial work at an advanced age. And I think that not enough attention has been given to the difficulty that this must have entailed—to come over here without any money at all. This is a tremendous thing, a tremendous sacrifice. Instead of retiring and living with the family and just enjoying life, he gave all that up. You know, that takes an awful lot. And he did this just because he'd been requested to by his spiritual master. As one thinks about this—meditates on it—one sees what a tremendous sacrifice that really is. Without ever going back, without ever retiring and saying, "I've done everything I can do now, the thing is going now; so I'm going to retire and go back to my family," he carried on that sacrifice right to his dying day.
Subhananda dasa: Those of us who were with Srila Prabhupada in India in the last days preceding his departure were witness to his unyieldingly sacrificial spirit. Even when he had become so physically weak that he was virtually unable to move his own body without assistance, he continued to dictate his translation and commentary on the Srimad-Bhagavatam practically up until his last breath, and with perfect clarity of thought and expression.
Dr. Judah: Perhaps he would have lived even longer had he not traveled as extensively as he did. He came to the U.S. every year, to San Francisco for the Ratha-yatra festival and to many other cities, looking after the management of the movement, traveling back and forth around the world, at his age. Of course, this has to be very tiring and has to take an awful lot of energy out of a person, and yet he still did this right up until the very last, and that's just remarkable.
Subhananda dasa: Generally at that age a person is taking it easy.
Dr. Judah: Yes, taking it easy, that's right, instead of rising early in the morning, working, and doing that prodigious amount of translating. We can see that Srila Prabhupada sacrificed all personal comfort for teaching Krsna consciousness. Leaving India, alone and penniless, he came to America, where he established a new family consisting of thousands whom he loved as his own. To them he gave the commission of spreading Krsna consciousness throughout the world. Through his own example they learned of that transcendental love that extends to God, to plants and animals, and to all humanity.
Subhananda dasa: Professor Judah, I want to thank you very much for being so generous with your time and speaking so feelingly and eloquently about Srila Prabhupada.
Dr. Judah: You're quite welcome.
Sri Krsna's feet are tinged with pink
Further up, graceful ankles turn
Sri Krsna's chest is Fortune's rest,
"If This Were My Last Column..."
On sitting down to write this column, I am suddenly struck by the question: "What if I were to die tomorrow and these were my last words—what would I say?" And a similar question: "What if the world were to end soon and this were my last column—what would be the most urgent and relevant message I could deliver?" If this were my final editorial, should I perhaps analyze the gasoline shortage? Criticize the advertising industry? Or should I devote my last lines to naming a favorite for president of the United States in 1980? Surely I should speak the most helpful and essential message I could possibly utter:
Please chant these names of God: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Now I can almost hear some of my readers responding, "Is that all you have to say—just that we recite the prayer of your religious sect?" So I must explain that the Hare Krsna chant is not a sectarian practice but a mantra, which delivers to the chanter life's highest perfection. There are so many problems in the world today, and ultimately all come from our lack of God consciousness. Stopgap political, social, and economic measures are just that; they don't reach the underlying disease. But if we chant God's name and obey His laws, that will be a practical therapy for civilization in this era when God consciousness is neglected by the leaders of nations. Our leaders will attempt anything in the way of diplomacy or force to achieve their short-sighted materialistic ends, but they have no vision for actually solving the world's problems. A solution is possible only through the education and unification of all people on the spiritual—and nonsectarian—platform of chanting God's name and obeying His laws. Although our atheistic planmakers would have us think that turning to God is unrealistic or impractical, it's not so. Even Napoleon, as worldly-minded a leader as he was, admitted, "The sword will always be conquered by the spirit."
We don't advertise it much, but in times of distress most of us, even avowed atheists, turn to God. A few years ago in Atlanta, when a Krsna devotee ran for mayor on a platform of God consciousness, the editor of a noted newspaper carped that chanting God's names couldn't solve man's problems. Then one day it happened that the editor was kidnapped, locked into a car trunk, and held for ransom. When finally he had been freed and reporters asked him what he'd been thinking about during his confinement, he said, "I prayed to God."
And this is natural. If a man at all believes in the Supreme Lord (and a Gallup poll says 94 percent of us do), then he will call upon Him at least in a crisis. But why wait until the last gasp? Sometimes a person near death prays to God to let him go on living for just a few more years ... in defiance of God's laws. But this is not God consciousness. A Hindi proverb says man prays to God in difficulty, but if he would only pray to God when he is well situated, then he wouldn't fall into difficulty. Of course, in this material world we're always in difficulty, whether during this present life or the next. But the Vedic literatures (for that matter, all the scriptures of the world) explain that in both this life and the next, we can solve our problems by becoming devotees of the Supreme Lord.
So all devotees, regardless of their particular religious faith, have to teach people about glorifying God and obeying His commandments. Granted, gross materialists may be absorbed in their material, patchwork solutions; but at least professed men of God have to teach the authorized principles of God consciousness. They should never abandon the simple method of pure devotional service to the Supreme. Yet they are doing exactly that.
Once I was invited to a symposium on a Dallas TV show. About thirty priests, ministers, rabbis, and monks spoke, successively, and almost uniformly about the glories of welfare work. I suggested that the highest kind of welfare work is to tell people about glorifying God and obeying His laws, and that spiritual leaders should urge people specifically to avoid killing, adultery, gambling, and intoxication. Once people start glorifying God and obeying His laws, they won't be so much in need of ordinary, mundane welfare work. The Supreme Lord will more than provide for our necessities, if only we'll recognize our relationship with Him. Even when people don't strictly follow spiritual codes, still their spiritual leaders have to engage them in chanting God's names. This is the essence of religion. One can choose to chant Hare Krsna or Allah or Jehovah; but calling upon God's names is recommended in all the world's scriptures.
The Vedic scriptures say that all of us are spiritual souls, originally God conscious entities; but due to our association with matter since time immemorial, our consciousness is now adulterated. And the Hare Krsna mantra is a sublime method for reviving our transcendental consciousness. We are living in illusion, trying to master nature, although actually we are under the grip of her stringent laws. By working to exploit the resources of nature, we have become more and more entangled in her complexities. Despite our hard struggle to conquer nature, we are ever more dependent on her. This illusory struggle against material nature can at once be stopped when we revive our eternal Krsna consciousness; and the Hare Krsna chant is the transcendental process for reviving this original, pure consciousness. By chanting the transcendental vibration, we cleanse our hearts of the false mentality "I am the lord of all I survey."
Because Krsna consciousness is the original, natural energy of the living being, when we hear the transcendental vibration of Krsna's names, our original consciousness is revived. Of all forms of religious meditation or study, chanting God's name is both the simplest and most effective. Even in the beginning, we can feel transcendental ecstasy beyond the material concept of life. Calling on the names of God does not require that we change our religion or nationality or social status. Anyone can take it up, provided he is properly guided.
With proper guidance, we can live in accord with the proverb "simple living and high thinking," satisfying our material needs without artificial industries and complicated urbanized life, saving time and energy for understanding our eternal relationship with God; and at the time of death we can return to the spiritual world.
So this is my message: Please chant Hare Krsna. I hope I'll live quite a few more years to write more Krsna conscious messages. But even if not, I have delivered the most urgent message. We should always give the world our best, most helpful contribution, and we should live each day in the shelter of the Absolute Truth, as if it were our last day. So why wait for the deathbed or doomsday? Please chant these names of God:
Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.