Back to Godhead Magazine

Volume 14, Number 10, 1979


The Unseen Controller
A Test from Krsna
The Seige on the Kingdom of Puranjana
Varied Talents Varied Training
The Vedic Observer
Every Town and Village
How to Begin Devotional Yoga
Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out
Krsna Consciousness in Historical Perspective
Notes from the Editor

© 2005 The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International

The Unseen Controller

"We see in the street that the cars are moving at high speed but they're within their 'orbits,' their white or yellow lines of demarcation—because there is some brain, some management. So, similarly, with all these planets."

A talk by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in Tokyo.

asatyam apratistham te
jagad ahur anisvaram
kim anyat kama-haitukam

"The demoniac say that this world is unreal, that there is no foundation and that there is no God in control—it is produced of sex desire, and has no cause other than lust." [Bhagavad-gita 16.8]

This is the traditional atheistic theory. Asatyam: they say that this material world is false. And jagan mithya: jagat means this cosmic manifestation—which the atheists call false because it is always moving, always changing. In the material world it's true that everything is changing—just as in your city you see that the cars are moving from here to there. Very busy. Similarly the whole planetary system is moving, changing. Every planet is going around in its orbit. Even the sun. It has got its orbit. Do you follow what I am saying? The sun is moving many thousands of miles per minute. So this is called jagat—everything in the universe is moving, or changing. But it is moving, changing in a certain way.

For instance, the cars we hear now outside our window are moving at high speed, but they are very careful to pass within the passing lane; otherwise there will be a collision. Similarly, all these planets—they have got their own speed for orbiting. And there are hundreds and thousands and millions—they are orbiting but there is no collision. How have these patterns been made? Who has made these freeway lanes and universal lanes?

The cars are moving at sixty or seventy miles per hour, but they are ordered just to remain within the markings of their own lane. Who has made this arrangement? Hmm? The police department, the government. So how can you say there is no control? Ah. This is called upama, an analogy. "Analogy" means that by noting points of similarity, you can conclude some idea. Now, just as we see in the street that the cars are moving at high speed but they're within their "orbits" (their white or yellow lines of demarcation)—because there is some brain, some management—so, similarly, all these planets are traveling at high speed but staying in their orbit because there is some universal management.

Take this planet. It is moving very, very rapidly, is it not? Now, a car may be moving at seventy miles per hour, which may appear to be a very high speed, but the earth is moving much, much faster, though you cannot understand. The arrangement is so nice—it is perfection. We cannot even understand how perfect it is. We can see that morning—day coming—means the earth is moving. Of course, airplanes move, also—but there are so many jerkings, so many noises. Airplanes are imperfect. But here we see that such perfection has been made: the earth is moving so many thousands of miles per hour, and yet there is no jerking, there is nothing of the sort—you are thinking that you are sitting in the same place. And there is no brain behind all this?

Here on this one planet it requires so much brainwork to move the car in an orderly way on the street—so much police arrangement, so much government, so many scientists, this and that. And the universe has not only one planet but many millions. Yasya prabha prabhavato jagadanda-koti. First of all, there are many millions of universes. And in each universe there are so many planets that you cannot count them. And each planet has got a different climate—different varieties. Not that every planet is of the same nature. You will find that every planet has a different atmospheric condition from those of the other planets. Take the sun. It is so fiery; it is full of fire. The temperature is so high that 93 million miles away from the sun we are feeling excessive, scorching heat. Similarly, the moon is very cold. So all the planets have different atmospheric conditions, and they are moving in their orbits—for all these things there is a good arrangement. And are we going to look at all these arrangements and say there is no good brain behind them? How could that be possible?

But raksasas, demons—they will say, asatyam apratistham te jagad ahur anisvaram: "There is no controller, and it is all false." False? So minute—all these rules and regulations that are being followed. The sun is rotating in its orbit in such a perfect way that if the sun became a little inclined to this side or that side, the whole world would be frozen or engulfed in a blazing fire. Even the scientists admit this. So the sun must move according to the diagram given by some controller. That is stated in Bhagavatam. The sun is moving by the order of the Supreme. Yasyajnaya. It is stated also in the Brahma-samhita: yasyajnaya bhramati sambhrta-kala-cakro. Ajnaya means "by the order."

Now, when there is the question of an order, then there must be an order giver. Otherwise, what is the meaning of order? Yasya ajnaya means "by whose order." "Whose" refers to somebody bigger who is giving the order, and the sun is carrying out the order. So there is an order giver; there is a controller—the Supreme Lord. How can you say there is no controller? Where is your logic? Can anybody give any logical reason for saying there is no controller in the universe? These raksasas say there is no God, there is no controller—but where is their logic? I ask them, "How can you say this? What is your logic? What is the logic that allows you to say there is no God? Let us discuss." Can anybody explain their logic? Hmm? What is their idea?

I may be a foreigner, but when I see in the street that the cars are moving in order and the police are on duty, I know there must be a government. I may know or not know, but—this is a common-sense affair—there must be a government. And there is a government. Similarly, when I see that the cosmic order is working so nicely, systematically, and reasonably, how can I say there is no controller? What kind of logic is that? Tell me, anyone. Hmm? Can you say, anyone? The scientists will say there is no isa no controller: jagad ahur anisvaram. But what is their logic? [To a devotee] You can tell us—you sometimes argue on their side. [Laughter.] What is their logic?

Devotee: Well, no controller is ever seen.

Srila Prabhupada: But you have not seen who is the Japanese governmental head. So how can you conclude there is a governmental head? You have not seen the president or the supreme head—how can you say there is one? But you conclude that there must be a governmental head—otherwise, how is everything going on so nicely? You may or may not see so many things, but this is not good logic, that "I have not seen:' I have not seen the car passing outside our window, but the sound is coming, and so I know the car is there. There must be somebody there—even if you do not see, you have to conclude like that. The sound tells us there must be a car, and the car—there must be a driver. But you have not seen all this. How can you conclude there is a driver?

You stress your seeing power. What is the power of your seeing? You cannot see. Now you cannot see the car. It is beyond your seeing range, beyond the wall. Then how will you conclude that there is a car and, if there is a car, that there is a driver? If there is a driver, there may be passengers, also. So how can you conclude all this? This is a childish reason: "I cannot see." You cannot see; therefore the driver and passengers don't exist. That is not good logic.

Devotee: They say that it all happened by chance, that ...

Srila Prabhupada: More foolishness—"chance."

Devotee: If given enough time, then everything—all these natural patterns—will work out like this.

Srila Prabhupada: No. Everything in the universe is already working very nicely. There is no question of giving time. Everything is already working.

Devotee: Well, you point to the fact that the earth isn't too hot or too cold, but they say that just by chance it came into existence this way.

Srila Prabhupada: No, no. A child will say, "By chance it has come." That is childish. You must give a solid reason. Take anything, and you can say, "It's chance." Anybody can talk like that. That is not reason. When you bring in "chance," that is not logic. That is not knowledge. If somebody says, "By chance I've come into this world," that is not logic. I must have my father, I must have my mother, and on account of my father and mother being united, I have come. This is scientific. "By chance I have dropped here from the sky"—this is not logic. This kind of "logic" has no value. Do you give any value to this nonsensical logic? No sane man will accept "by chance'"

When you are caught in a crime and convicted, can you say, "By chance I was convicted"? "By chance"? No. If you commit theft, you are arrested and the judge gives you a punishment—you must suffer. This is not "chance." You may say, "By chance I was convicted," but that is not chance. There is no question of chance. That is false logic. Nothing takes place by chance—this is sound reasoning. "Chance" means ignorance. One who does not know—he says "chance." This is ignorance, not knowledge. Knowledge is different.

So the scientists are rascals, you can say. This kind of logic—"I have not seen it," "It has come about by chance," "There was a chunk"—these are all nonsensical propositions. There is a controller: this is sound knowledge. Just as you conclude by seeing the arrangement in the city of Tokyo that there is a government, similarly, if you are intelligent enough, then you can understand there must be a supreme controller. That is theism. That is knowledge.

Now, these foolish so-called scientists are simply studying—they want "time to find out." But actually, if someone is wise, if he's searching out the answers earnestly, even if it takes him many lifetimes of research he'll at last come to this conclusion that there is a God. Vasudevah sarvam iti sa mahatma sudurlabhah. Then he becomes a first-class man, a mahatma. But that is very rare.

Most people are duratma—cripple-minded. Anisvaram—"There is no controller; this is a false manifestation." It is not false. You study everything—you study even one leaf—and you can see so many arrangements, so many fine fibers and veins that are so minutely interworking, one with another. Even in a small vegetable or piece of fruit, you will find there is so much craftsmanship. You cannot say it is "chance." You cannot do it. That means there is a brain behind it. And who is the brain behind that brain? And who is the brain behind that one, behind that one, behind that one, behind that one? Bahunam janmanam ante: after searching out the ultimate brain for many, many births, then you come to the conclusion that vasudevah sarvam iti. You come to the conclusion that Krsna is the cause of everything. Of course, that is already concluded: Isvarah paramah krsnah—"The Supreme Controller is Krsna." [Brahma-samhita 5.1]

There are so many subordinate controllers. For instance, this city is being controlled by the police commissioner or somebody else. So above him, above him, above him there is a controller—and above all, the supreme controller is Krsna. That is the conclusion.

isvarah paramah krsnah
anadir adir govindah

"Krsna is the cause of all causes. He is the primal cause, and He is the very form of eternal being, knowledge, and bliss." [Brahma-samhita 5.1] Krsna is the cause. And He is not alone. Krsna has got so many energies.

Even a tiny person like me—here, Bhaktivedanta Swami—I am not alone. I've got so many assistants. So many, all over the world. So even if you take the founder of the Krsna consciousness movement, he is not alone. Similarly, as I've expanded through disciples in so many ways and so many places, then just imagine how Krsna can expand—just imagine. He's the Supreme Lord. Advaitam acyutam anadim ananta-rupam. Ananta-rupam: although He's only one person, He can expand Himself in unlimited numbers of forms. And that is how He's doing everything. Just as I am dictating answers to dozens of letters from all over the world and my assistants are typing and mailing out my replies, similarly, Krsna is also managing alone through ananta-rupam, through unlimited assistants. Parasya saktir vividhaiva sruyate: the Supreme Lord has innumerable potencies. You have to understand that. Although He's alone, He has ananta-rupam—unlimited expanded forms.

For instance, Krsna is giving direction to everyone. Isvarah sarva-bhutanam hrd-dese 'rjuna tisthati: there are millions and trillions of living entities, and in each one's heart He is sitting and providing remembrance, knowledge, and forgetfulness. He is managing like that. So if we think that He's a controller like us, that is our misconception. He is a controller—but a controller with unlimited knowledge, with unlimited assistants, with unlimited potencies. That is how He's managing.

These atheists, these so-called scientists—they cannot conceive that a person can be so unlimitedly powerful; therefore they become impersonalists. They imagine that if the controller is a person, "He's a person like me:' "I cannot do this. Therefore He cannot do it." And so Bhagavad-gita calls them mudha—fools. Avajananti mam mudha: these fools and rascals cannot understand Krsna, because they are comparing Krsna with themselves. They suppose that Krsna is a person like them. The Vedas inform us that although He is a person, He's maintaining unlimited numbers of persons. But this point the impersonalistic scientists don't know—eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman—that one single person is maintaining many trillions of persons.

Each and every one of us is a person. I am a person, you are a person, the insect is a person, the trees are persons—everyone is a person. Everyone is a person. And there is another person—that is God, Krsna. Nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman [Katha Upanisad]: one person is maintaining all these millions and trillions of varieties of other persons. This is Vedic information. And Krsna also says in the Bhagavad-gita [10.8], aham sarvasya prabhavo mattah sarvam pravartate: "I am the source of all beings; from Me everyone and everything emanates." Therefore when someone understands thoroughly that "here is one Supreme Person and He is the leader, He is the controller, He is the maintainer of everything," then that someone surrenders unto Him and becomes His devotee, you see?

We, Krsna's devotees, are not fools and rascals. We have got our reason. We have got our philosophy. When we know that Krsna is actually the Supreme Controller, the Supreme Person, the Supreme Maintainer—then we surrender, then we become Krsna's devotees. It is not blind. We are strongly convinced that this one person is the Supreme Person. Therefore we surrender. We are not blind followers.

aham sarvasya prabhavo
sarvam pravartate
iti matva bhajante mam
budha bhava-samanvitah

As Krsna says, "I am the source of everything; from Me everything and everyone emanates. One becomes My devotee when he understands this thoroughly." Budha means one who has understood thoroughly.

The atheistic scientists' theory is aparaspara-sambhutam: everything has taken place by mechanical attraction. Kim anyat kama-haitukam. Kama means lust. A man and a woman become lusty, and there is sex and production of offspring. So the scientists talk like this. They say that the production of the universe is causeless lust, mechanical attraction—that there is no other plan. But there is a big plan they don't know. In fact, part of the plan is ...

yada yada hi dharmasya
glanir bhavati bharata
abhyutthanam adharmasya
tadatmanam srjamy aham

"Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice and a predominant rise of atheism, at that time I descend Myself." [Bg. 4.7] There—that is the plan. These rascals—this atheist class—they say, kim anyat kama-haitukam: "Lusty desires are the only reason, the only cause for the universe:' "This infant is going to take birth due to our lusty desires, but we do not want to take the responsibility. Then kill him—what is wrong with that?" Therefore they are making abortion—murdering the child—legal. Kama: "We had some lusty desire, we got a child, but we don't want him—kill him." This is going on; this is atheism.

But these are all foolish theories—"by chance," "by causeless lust." No. There is a great arrangement. It is just like the traffic control—there is a very great arrangement behind all of this. It is not by chance. By chance have we gotten traffic lanes? No, it is not by chance. How can you say "chance"? So these theories are made by the demons. These demoniac conclusions will not help us. We shall remain in ignorance, with no knowledge.

Any question? Any of our Japanese friends here?

Guest: Yes, I have one question. You mentioned that we can hear a car outside, but that we can't see the car ...

Srila Prabhupada: No—we can see the car, except that we are sitting here. So we do not see the car. But the sound is there, and you conclude that there is a car. Therefore, relying on seeing is not always solid reasoning. Even without seeing, we can conclude there is a car. That is my point.

Guest: I don't know if I have ever seen God or not ...

Srila Prabhupada: No. You have not seen Him, but what is your desire? You want to see Him?

Guest: I want to at least hear God in this world, and I was wondering what is ...

Srila Prabhupada: So God is speaking Bhagavad-gita. You are reading and Krsna is speaking. So here it is—God is speaking. And you can also chant Hare Krsna. That is God. Sabda-brahma, spiritual sound vibration—the sound is God. This is the way.

And if you want to see God, you can see Him also. That is prescribed here in Bhagavad-gita. For instance Krsna says, prabhasmi sasi-suryayoh "I am the sunlight and moonlight." Is it very difficult? It is not a bogus thing that Krsna says, "I am the sunlight." He is. And He asks you to see. If you see minutely, then you will see Krsna.

You want to see Krsna. Then you should see Krsna as Krsna advises. Krsna says, raso 'ham apsu kaunteya: "I am the taste of the water or any liquid substance. The taste I am." Now, whenever you drink water or milk or any other liquid thing—everything has got a different taste—if you think, as Krsna advises you, "This taste is Krsna," then in that taste you'll find Krsna. Begin as Krsna says, and then you will see Krsna. It is not difficult. There are so many examples given by Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita.

raso 'ham apsu kaunteya
prabhasmi sasi-suryayoh
pranavah sarva-vedesu
sabdah khe paurusam nrsu

"O son of Kunti [Arjuna], I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man." [Bg. 7.8]

Don't try to see Krsna in your own way; then you will never find Him. Why do you say, "We have not seen God," when God is represented in so many ways? You take God's advice and try to see Him as He advises, and then you'll see God. That's a fact. I do not understand—why do they say, "We have not seen God"? You are always seeing God. You are seeing the sunlight, you are seeing the moonlight, you are smelling the good fragrance of a flower. If you are a scholar you are reading the Vedas: pranavah sarva-vedesu—"In the Vedic mantras, "Krsna says, "I am the sound of om." And paurusam nrsu: any wonderful, intelligent work somebody has done—that is Krsna.

So you have to see Krsna in this way, as Krsna advises. Then very soon you will see Krsna. There is no question of not seeing. You will see Krsna at every moment. Premanjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena santah sadaiva: you will see Him twenty-four hours a day. Those who are actually Krsna's devotees are seeing Krsna; they are seeing nothing but Krsna. There is no question of not seeing Him. But you have to adopt the method for seeing Him.

If you study this Bhagavad-gita minutely—this is the science of God—you will see God, you will see Krsna and understand everything. Therefore we have presented it. But if you misinterpret—if you pollute it by your own interpretation—then you'll not see Him. These rascals, these scientists and bogus yogis, they are simply polluting. Because they have not linked themselves with the authorized disciplic succession that comes from Krsna, even though they may try to become very learned scholars and very learned leaders, they are simply rascals. Actually they are rascals, because they cannot see Krsna in the things around them. But all the acaryas, the great spiritual masters—they have accepted Krsna. In the Gita Arjuna accepted Krsna as the Supreme Person: sarvam etad rtam manye yan mam vadasi kesava—"I totally accept as truth all that you have told me, O Krsna. Only the demoniac cannot comprehend Your personality."

Use back button to return.

Return to top

A Test from Krsna

The Biography of a Pure Devotee

by Srila Satsvarupa dasa Goswami

By the summer of 1966, a fair number of people were making their way to Srila Prabhupada's Bowery loft to chant Hare Krsna with him and hear him lecture on Bhagavad-gita. But his potential supporters in India remained less than helpful, and soon something tragic happened to his roommate.

Sitting cross-legged, his back to the shelf with its assortment of potted plants, a whitish chada wrapped in wide, loose folds across his body, Prabhupada looked grave, almost sorrowful. The picture and an accompanying article appeared in a June 1966 issue of the Village Voice. The article read:

The meeting of the mystical East and practical West comes alive in the curious contrast between A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami and his American disciples. The Swami, a cultivated man of 70 with a distinguished education, is here for a year to preach his gospel of peace, good will, nearness to God, and more practically, to raise money for his American church.... Like his teachings, the Swami is sensible and direct. His main teaching is that mankind may come closer to God by reciting His holy name.

Despite the fact that the Swami came to America to seek out the roots of godless materialism—a disease, he says, that has already enveloped India—he is a realistic man. "If there is any place on Earth with money to build a temple, it is here.". . The Swami wishes to found in America an International Society for Krishna Consciousness, which will be open for anyone—including women.

"His American church"—yes, Srila Prabhupada had hope and determination. There was life in his lectures and kirtanas (chantings), his morning and evening gatherings in the loft. At least he was acquiring a small, regular following. But from India there was no hope. He had continued corresponding with Sumati Morarji (his patron in India), his Godbrothers, and the Indian Central Government, but their replies had not been encouraging.

In the faith that Padmapat Singhania, the Indian industrialist, would agree to his plans for a Krsna temple in Manhattan and finance its construction, Srila Prabhupada had petitioned New Delhi to sanction the release of foreign exchange. He had written to the Reserve Bank of India, New Delhi, "I want to establish this cultural center, and for this I wish to get some exchange from India. I think there are good prospects all over the world for propagating the culture of how to love God in these days of forgetfulness." A month later the Indian bank had advised him to resubmit his request through the Indian Embassy in Washington, to the Finance Minister of the Indian Central Government. Prabhupada had complied. And another month had passed, with no word from the Government.

One of his Godbrothers had written that Swamiji should come back to India and work personally to get government sanction. But Prabhupada didn't want to leave America now. He wrote to Sumati Morarji, "I'm trying to avoid the journey to India and again coming back. Especially for the reason that I am holding at the above address classes thrice a week and training some American youth in the matter of sankirtana and devotional service to the Lord. Some of them are taking the lessons very sincerely and in the future they may be very good Vaisnavas according to the rigid standards."

One day a curious, unsolicited correspondent wrote to Prabhupada from India. His name was Mangalniloy Brahmacari. Introducing himself as a disciple of one of Srila Prabhupada's Godbrothers, Madhava Maharaja, and reminding Prabhupada of their past, slight acquaintance, Mangalniloy wrote of his eagerness to join Srila Prabhupada in America. Certainly Prabhupada still had hopes for getting assistance from his Godbrothers in India—"This mission is not simply one man's job:' Therefore, he invited Mangalniloy to come to America and asked him to request Madhava Maharaja to cooperate by working personally to secure government sanction for the release of foreign exchange. Mangalniloy wrote back, reaffirming his eagerness but expressing doubts that his spiritual master would give him permission. Mangalniloy thought he should first come to the United States and then request his spiritual master's help. Prabhupada was annoyed. He sent an immediate reply:

Is preaching in America my private business? Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati wanted to construct some temples in foreign countries as preaching centers of the message of Srila Rupa-Raghunatha, and I am trying to do this in this part of the world. The money is ready and the opportunity is open. If by seeing the Finance Minister this work can be facilitated, why should we wait because you cannot talk with your Guru Maharaja about cooperation because you are afraid your journey may be canceled? Please do not think in that way. Take everything as Srila [Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati] Prabhupada's work and try to do the needful. Do not think for a moment that my interest is different from that of your Guru Maharaja.

Mangalniloy submitted the entire proposal before his spiritual master, and as predicted, Madhava Maharaja canceled the trip. Although Madhava Maharaja was Srila Prabhupada's Godbrother, he did not want to be involved, and he doubted that Prabhupada would actually get a donation from Mr. Singhania. And now Mangalniloy Brahmacari also doubted: "If your program is not bona fide, the approach to a big personality will be a ludicrous one no doubt."

On the same day that Srila Prabhupada received the "ludicrous" letter, he also received the final blow of noncooperation from the Indian government. Second Secretary Prakash Shah of the Indian Embassy in Washington, D.C., wrote, "Due to existing conditions of foreign exchange stringency, it is not possible for the government of India to accede to your request for release of foreign exchange. You may perhaps like to raise funds from residents in America:'

It was confirmed: Prabhupada would have to work without outside help. He would continue alone in New York City. His last letter to Mangalniloy Brahmacari reveals his deep faith and determination.

So the controversy is now closed, and there is no need of help from anyone else. We are not always successful in our attempts at preaching work, but such failures are certainly not ludicrous. In the absolute field both success and failure are glorious. Even Lord Nityananda pretended to be a failure at converting Jagai and Madhai in the first attempt. Rather, He was personally injured in such an attempt. But that was certainly not ludicrous. The whole thing was transcendental, and it was glorious for all parties concerned.

If Krsna consciousness were ever to take hold in America, it would have to be without assistance from the Indian government or Indian financiers. Not even a lone Indian brahmacari would join him. Krsna was revealing His plan to Prabhupada in a different way. With the Singhania-sanction schemes finished and behind him, Srila Prabhupada would turn all his energy toward the young men and women who were coming to him in his Bowery loft. "I have decided to struggle here in New York to the end of my life," he wrote to Sumati Morarji. "I am now trying to incorporate one corporation of the local friends and admirers under the name International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Incorporated."

Of all his friends and admirers, Srila Prabhupada gave his roommate, David Allen, the most personal attention and training. He felt he was giving David a special chance to become America's first genuine Vaisnava. Prabhupada would eventually return to India, and he wanted to take David to Vrndavana. He would show him temple worship and train him more fully for future preaching in the West.

He had requested Sumati Morarji to provide free passage for David as well as for himself. "You will be pleased to see this American boy," he wrote. "He is coming of a good family and is a sincere soul to this line of culture. There are others also in the class I am holding here, but I wish to take with me only one of them."

I am very glad to say [Prabhupada said one evening in his lecture] that our Mr. David says sometimes, "Swamiji, I want to increase my spiritual life immediately." [Prabhupada laughed as he imitated David's urgency.] "Take patience, take patience, "I tell him. "It will be done, of course. When you have got such desire, God will help you. He is within you. He is simply trying to see how sincere you are. Then He will give you all opportunities to increase your spiritual life."

At first David and Srila Prabhupada lived together peacefully in the large hall, Prabhupada working concentratedly on his side of the partition, David ranging throughout the large open space. David, however, continued taking marijuana, LSD, and amphetamines, and Prabhupada had no choice but to tolerate it. Several times he told David that drugs and hallucinations would not help his spiritual life, but David would look distracted. He was becoming estranged from the Swami. But Prabhupada had a plan to use the loft as a temple—to transform it into New York's first temple of Radha-Krsna—and he wanted David's cooperation. Although the neighborhood was one of the most miserable in the world, Prabhupada talked of bringing Deities from Jaipur or Vrndavana and starting temple worship, even on the Bowery. He thought David might help. After all, they were roommates, so there could be no question of David's not cooperating; but he would have to give up his bad habits.

Prabhupada was trying to help David. But David was too disturbed. He was headed for disaster, and so were Prabhupada's plans for the loft. Sometimes, even not under the influence of a drug, he would pace around the loft. Other times he appeared to be deep in thought. One day, on a dose of LSD, he went completely crazy. As Carl Yeargens put it, "He just flipped out, and the Swami had to deal with a crazyman." Things had been leading to this—"he was a crazy kid who always took too much"—but the real madness happened suddenly.

Prabhupada was working peacefully at his typewriter when David "freaked out." David started moaning and pacing around the large open area of the loft. Then he began yelling, howling, and running all around. He went back to where the Swami was. Suddenly Prabhupada found himself face to face not with David—nice David, whom he was going to take to India to show the brahmanas in Vrndavana—but a drugged, wild-eyed stranger, a madman.

Prabhupada tried to speak to him—"What is the matter?"—but David had nothing to say. There was no particular disagreement. Just madness....

Prabhupada moved quickly down the four flights of stairs. He had not stopped to gather up any of his belongings or even to decide where he would go or if he would return. There had been no time to consider anything. He had taken quite a shock, and now he was leaving the arena of David's madness. The usual group of bums were sitting in the doorway, and with their customary flourish of courtesy they allowed him to pass. They were used to the elderly Swami's coming in and out, going shopping and returning, and they didn't bother him. But he was not going shopping today. Where was he going? He didn't know. He had come onto the street without knowing where he would go....

He wasn't going back to the loft—that was for sure. But where could he go? The pigeons flew from roof to roof. Traffic rumbled by, and the ever-present bums loitered about, getting drunker on cheap poisonous alcohol. Although Prabhupada's home in the loft had suddenly become an insane terror, the street at its door was also a hellish, dangerous place. He was shaken. He could call Dr. Misra's, and they might take him in. But that chapter of his life was over, and he had gone on to something better. He had his own classes, young people chanting and hearing. Was it all over now? After nine months in America, he had finally gotten a good response to his preaching and kirtana. He couldn't just quit now.

A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja—whom everyone knew and respected in Vrndavana as a distinguished scholar and devotee, who had an open invitation to see the Vice President of India and many other notables—now had to face starkly that he had not one friend of stature in the United States. Suddenly he was as homeless as any derelict on the street. In fact many of them, with their long-time berths in flophouses, were more secure than he. They were ruined, but settled. The Bowery could be a chaotic hell if you weren't on a very purposeful errand—going directly to the store, or back to your place. It was no place to stand wondering where you would live or whether there were a friend you could turn to. But that was Srila Prabhupada's predicament. He wasn't on his way to Chinatown to shop, nor was he taking a stroll, soon to return to the shelter of the loft. If he couldn't go to the loft, he had no place.

How difficult it was becoming to preach in America amid these crazy people! He had written prophetically in his poem the day he had arrived in Boston Harbor, "My dear Lord, I do not know why You have brought me here. Now You can do with me whatever You like. But I guess You have some business here, otherwise why would You bring me to this terrible place?" What about his scheduled classes? What about David—should Prabhupada go back and try to talk with him? This had been David's first fit of violence, but there had been other tense moments. David had a habit of leaving the soap on the floor of the shower stall, and Prabhupada had asked him not to, because it was a hazard. But David wouldn't listen. Prabhupada had continued to remind him, and one day David had gotten very angry and shouted at him. But there was no real enmity. Even today's incident had not been a matter of personal differences—the boy was a victim.

Prabhupada walked quickly. He had free passage on the Scindia Line. He could go back to India. He could go home to Vrndavana. But his spiritual master had ordered him to come here. While crossing the Atlantic, Prabhupada had written a Bengali verse: "By the strong desire of Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, the holy name of Lord Gauranga, Lord Caitanya, will spread throughout all the countries of the Western world." Before nightfall he would have to find someplace to stay—a way to keep up the momentum of his preaching. This is what it meant to be working without government sponsorship, without the support of any religious organization, without a patron. It meant being vulnerable and insecure. Prabhupada faced the crisis as a test from Krsna. The instruction of Bhagavad-gita was to depend upon Krsna for protection: "In all activities just depend upon Me and work always under My protection. In such devotional service be fully conscious of Me.... You will pass over all the obstacles of conditional life by My grace."

Use back button to return.

Return to top

The Seige on the Kingdom of Puranjana

By Jayadvaita Swami

The illustration on this page depicts an allegory, the Story of King Puranjana, which was told ages ago by the great sage Narada to explain some of the perplexities of life in this material world.

King Puranjana, the ruler of the country known as Pancala, lived in an opulent city, full of gardens, parks, and palaces of dazzling beauty, There King Puranjana reigned for one hundred years in great comfort, surrounded by his servants, family, friends, and other citizens.

King Puranjana had a very beautiful wife, who was the center of his enjoyment, and of his very existence, Captivated by his wife's attractive features, the King became preoccupied with pleasing her and tasting the pleasures of sex, He became extremely attached to his children, his home, and his material possessions, Desires for enjoyment filled his mind, and pursuing their satisfaction became his main occupation.

Meanwhile, the King's youth quickly expired, and soon his kingdom was attacked by a powerful king named Candavega. Here we may note that the Sanskrit word puranjana signifies the living entity within the body," The Vedic teachings make a clear distinction between the body itself and the living force that dwells within the body, The body is a sort of mechanical vehicle formed of various inert elements, The structures of the body, although wondrously complex, have no life of their own. Rather, it is the conscious self within the body who gives the body life. And when that consciousness departs, the body becomes lifeless.

King Puranjana, therefore, represents the living entity, for each living entity may be said to be the king or master of his own body, The country of Pancala represents the atmosphere in which one can enjoy one's senses, and the capital city represents the body itself, The city's walls, parks, towers, gates, and so on represent the skin, hair, sensory organs, and other constituents of the body, The Sanskrit word candavega means "passing very swiftly," So King Candavega represents Time, King Candavega attacked the city of King Puranjana with 360 male and female soldiers, who represent the days and nights of the year, As each day and night pass, one has lost another day of one's life.

While King Candavega and his soldiers were attempting to plunder the city of King Puranjana, a five-headed serpent began to defend the city, This serpent represents the living entity's vital force, According to Vedic scriptures dealing with yoga, the vital force maintains the workings of the body through five kinds of air that move within the body, Thus the serpent is represented as having five hoods, As time attacks, one's vital force fights back to maintain the body, Gradually, however, the vital force weakens, Thus the five-hooded serpent began to lose his strength.

Because King Puranjana collected taxes within his kingdom, he was free to enjoy the pleasures of sex, By the nature of sexual affairs, he didn't realize that he was coming increasingly under the control of women, that his life was passing away, and that he was quickly approaching death.

A living entity tries to be happy by sexual enjoyment, but the more he tries to enjoy, the more he becomes entangled in material existence, By sexual enjoyment, one becomes even more firmly rooted in the illusion that the body is the self, and one increasingly forgets one's spiritual identity and the need for spiritual realization, As the influence of sexual attachment expands, one begins to cling not only to one's wife but also to home, land, and possessions. One begets children and must see to their welfare, and one becomes obliged to maintain one's prestige among relatives and friends, Consequently, for the sake of supposed enjoyment, one has to work very hard for money to support one's family and home, One forgets that one's body, family, and home are all temporary, and thus one's spiritual consciousness becomes overwhelmed by illusion.

Attacked incessantly by the soldiers of Candavega for one hundred years, the five-hooded serpent began to lose his strength, and King Puranjana and his friends and citizens became extremely anxious. One may struggle against time for perhaps one hundred years, but eventually one's vitality weakens, and one's bodily limbs (Puranjana's citizens and friends) become feeble.

It is also significant to note that according to Vedic medical science, sexual activity saps one's physical energy, By abstaining from sex, yogis can increase their lifespans dramatically and develop extraordinary siddhis, or physical powers, On the other hand, by frequent sexual activity one weakens the body and hastens the arrival of old age and death. A young man seeks to enjoy sex as much as possible, not knowing that the more one has sex in youth, the more severely the body is attacked by weakness, pain, and disease in old age.

Old age is figuratively known as Kalakanya, the daughter of time. So while time's soldiers were attacking the city of King Puranjana, time's daughter, old age, joined the attack. Old age begins her attack imperceptibly, so much so that one fails to realize that old age will eventually overcome him. One plans for the future, working hard to be comfortable and enjoy, but as one grows old one loses one's vitality, and enjoyment slips away. Scientists conduct research to understand old age and overcome it, but are themselves overcome in the attempt.

Because a materialist lives for a dream of happiness and comfort in this world, it is better for him not to think about old age, disease, and death. But one who is serious about spiritual enlightenment should always be conscious of the miseries inherent in birth, death, disease, and old age. Understanding these miseries, an intelligent person avoids getting entangled in useless attempts to enjoy what appears to be happiness for the bodily senses, and instead tries to understand his spiritual identity and revive his spiritual life.

In attacking the city of King Puranjana, Kalakanya was guided by her brother, the King of the Yavanas, and accompanied by his brother Prajvara. The King of the Yavanas also had many soldiers, who combined in the attack. The King of the Yavanas is fear, and Prajvara is fever. The Yavana soldiers represent various diseases. These strong forces combined to attack the city.

Although the city of King Puranjana was full of paraphernalia for sense gratification, the serpent that protected the city was growing old and weak, and Kalakanya, with the help of the powerful soldiers, gradually attacked the city's inhabitants and rendered them useless. The Yavana soldiers entered the gates of the city and gave severe trouble to all citizens. The city of the body has nine gates—two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, the genitals, and the rectum. In old age, diseases appear at these gates of the body, the limbs lose their power to act, and the entire body begins to deteriorate.

Kalakanya embraced King Puranjana, and thus he gradually lost all his beauty. Having been too addicted to sex, he became very poor in intelligence and lost all his opulence. As the soldiers plundered his possessions, his ministers and family members and other citizens began opposing him, and his wife became cold and indifferent. Thus the King was full of anxiety, but he was helpless because he was overwhelmed by Kalakanya. By Kalakanya's influence, the objects of King Puranjana's enjoyment became stale. The King became confused and didn't know what to do.

This is the situation of the living entity at the time of death, especially in modern civilization. As one grows older one's body, mind, and intelligence grow weak, and one's subordinates and family members turn against him. Even one's own wife becomes unfaithful. Meanwhile, because one has had no training in spiritual understanding, one becomes bewildered. One has dedicated one's entire life to the pursuit of material happiness, and then one's very body, on which such happiness entirely depends, is overwhelmingly attacked, and one doesn't know what to do. Not having any spiritual understanding, one becomes entirely miserable, overcome by the forces of time.

The soldiers overran the city, and although the King had no desire to leave, he was being circumstantially forced to. Prajvara set the city on fire, terrorizing the citizens, and the King was overwhelmed by grief.

While the city was being devastated, King Puranjana began to think of his family, his home, his household paraphernalia, and whatever wealth he had. He remained affectionate toward his wife and children and worried about them. How would they live in his absence? Who would maintain them? He recalled his wife's affectionate dealings and lamented her fate.

While King Puranjana was lamenting in this way, the King of the Yavanas drew near to arrest him. The Yavanas bound King Puranjana like an animal to take him away and forced the serpent and the King's followers to go with him. When the King and the serpent left the city, it immediately turned to dust.

When nature forces the living entity to leave the body, that body, deprived of its living force, again turns to inert matter. While friends and relatives carry the body in procession to the crematorium or the grave, the living entity himself has already left the body, taking his desires for enjoyment with him. (It is these materialistic desires that have been figuratively described as the King's followers.)

While enjoying his youth, King Puranjana had killed many animals, and now these animals appeared again and began to pierce him with their horns. According to the laws of karma, one who kills animals for his own enjoyment (or who pays to have animals killed for the taste of meat) is subjected to consequent suffering after death.

King Puranjana had a powerful well-wisher and friend named Avijnata. Unfortunately, however, while the city was being devastated and King Puranjana was being dragged off, the King could not remember this intimate friend.

The Sanskrit word avijnata means "the unknown one." Every living being has an intimate friend in the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna. Unfortunately, however, a living being in materialistic life forgets his eternal relationship with Krsna and tries to be happy independently in the material world. Absorbed in trying to gratify his senses, he lives in a world of illusion, pursuing a happiness that doesn't exist, and not understanding that time is gradually taking away his life. If a living entity revives his relationship with Krsna, he can transcend the influence of illusion, escape the sufferings of materialistic life, and at the time of death return home to the kingdom of God in the spiritual world. Unfortunately, however, one who has spent his whole life for sense gratification cannot remember Krsna, and at the time of death he is dragged off to the next body, to continue in an endless cycle of repeated birth and death.

We have presented here only a portion of the story of King Puranjana, which is quite long. The allegory, which ends favorably for the King, appears in its entirety in Srimad-Bhagavatam, Fourth Canto, Volume Four.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Varied Talents Varied Training

Higher Education

How a spiritual school readies young people for adulthood.

Dhanurdhara dasa earned his philosophy degree at the State University of New York. After graduate work in education, he joined the Krsna consciousness movement in 1970 and eventually began teaching in Krsna conscious schools. For the past three years he has been on the staff of the Krsna conscious school in Vrnddvana, India, where some forty boys between ages eight and sixteen reside. On a recent visit to the subcontinent. a Philadelphia grade-school teacher named Joshua Greene taped this conversation.

Mr. Greene: What is it like teaching in India?

Dhanurdhara dasa: Vrndavana is unique. It's the place where Lord Krsna made His appearance five thousand years ago. So you don't really feel yourself a part of the material world here. Life is simple, the climate is right, and everywhere you turn there's something, some holy spot or temple, to remind you of Krsna. It's a perfect environment for spiritual training, spiritual growth.

Mr. Greene: What is a typical day like for students here at the Vrndavana school?

Dhanurdhara dasa: Well, there are seasonal adjustments, but usually the boys rise at 4 A.M., and at 4:30 they go to the temple to take part in chanting and dancing. First they sing prayers to the spiritual master, and then they sing the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. the names of the Lord. At 5 we all go for a walk, chanting Hare Krsna softly on our beads as we make our way to the sacred Yamuna River. After bathing we go through Vrndavana village, singing Hare Krsna in a festive mood with drums and cymbals.

Mr. Greene: Do people object at that hour of the day?

Dhanurdhara dasa: Everyone in Vrndavana is a devotee of Krsna, so by then practically everyone is awake and chanting Hare Krsna and performing their other morning devotional activities. They actually look forward to the boys' arrival each morning. Then we return to the school for a class on the Srimad-Bhagavatam, where we discuss the science of self-realization and God consciousness. At 9 A.M. we have breakfast. Next, academic classes begin: Hindi, Sanskrit, math, history, geography, English, philosophy. We have a light meal at 1:30, and afterward the boys wash their clothes and clean the asrama. Later they can nap if they like, or study. Between 4 and 5 P.M. they freshen up with a bath and have a song class where they sing songs about Krsna in Sanskrit, Hindi, and Bengali. This is followed by an evening meal, a discussion on the Bhagavad-gita, hot milk, and then rest by 8.

Mr. Greene: How does the Vrndavana school prepare the older boys for adulthood?

Dhanurdhara dasa: That depends on the individual student's propensities. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna describes natural divisions of livelihood according to ability and inclination. The more intelligent may continue their studies. But by the time they're twelve, some boys show more interest, for example, in things that let them work with their hands. It's a very impractical law that forces young people to remain in school longer than that. Not everyone has great intellectual capacity. We give everyone the opportunity to develop intellectually, but if a teacher sees that a boy doesn't want to sit in class, that he is happier doing other types of work—like managing, farming, tending the cows, or a craft—the teacher may recommend that the boy be trained accordingly. Srila Prabhupada wanted our schools to offer all types of training.

Mr. Greene: So the educational process varies in the Krsna schools according to the capacity of the child?

Dhanurdhara dasa: Yes. Of course, the spiritual program is the same for everyone. All the children learn to be clean, self-disciplined, respectful, and above all, Krsna conscious. The main idea behind Krsna conscious schooling is that human life is meant for developing love for God. But what may be the right livelihood for one student may not be so for another. We know from the Bhagavad-gita that one's abilities and inclinations toward a particular type of work are a result of karma, activities performed in previous lifetimes. Generally, the symptoms become manifest by the time the person reaches twelve or thirteen years.

Mr. Greene: Do the teachers push the boys to give up play and engage in more serious activities?

Dhanurdhara dasa: No. How can you force devotional service? Devotion to Krsna has to come voluntarily from the heart. All the boys have free time to do with as they like. We see, though, that some will choose, of their own accord, to use their spare time to learn scriptural verses or songs about Krsna or to listen to recorded lectures by their gurus. As their devotion grows, they naturally want to make the most of their time. They develop a taste for serving Krsna and chanting the Lord's names and discussing His pastimes.

Mr. Greene: I understand some of the boys are expert singers and musicians.

Dhanurdhara dasa: Oh, yes. Their chanting is famous all over India.

Mr. Greene: Do they perform professionally?

Dhanurdhara dasa: No. That would be exploitation. Their main purpose at school is to develop the qualities of pure devotees, not to become professionals. There are, unfortunately, some schools in India that do that—parade the children out before wealthy people in order to collect donations for the school. No. Rather, our students just want to enliven other people to become devotees of Krsna: Last year we traveled to Bangalore and chanted flare Krsna and gave discourses on self-realization. Whole neighborhoods came out and joined in the chanting. We couldn't get away. Hundreds followed us. Whole towns.

Mr. Greene: Why such a reaction?

Dhanurdhara dasa: Even though very few Indians strictly follow the principles of Krsna culture these days, they at least know the system and understand its importance. In the West few people understand the concept of a God-centered education. They think it's brainwashing. But in India, the people have a natural appreciation for it. The men from more aristocratic families usually received this kind of training themselves. And so wherever we go, people invite us into their homes and treat us royally. "It's wonderful to see that you are training these boys to be Vaisnavas, devotees of the Lord."

They appreciate spiritual purity. Srila Prabhupada told us to expect such a reaction. He used to say that a person may be a drunkard—but he doesn't want his child to be one. Indian people are amazed to see how our boys respect their teachers and call them prabhu ("master"), how they respect adults in general, and how they bathe often, chant mantras, and live such pure lives. The Indian people's children are becoming wild and Westernized, and here they see us doing with our children what they have been unable to do with their own.

Mr. Greene: Is Krsna conscious schooling as effective in Western countries as in India?

Dhanurdhara dasa: Why not? Spiritual development depends more on training than on environment. Besides that, wherever you have a community of devotees, that naturally provides a proper environment. It's not a question of Eastern or Western environment. The real point is that today's educational system—Eastern and Western—lacks spiritual direction, and that spiritual training should begin from childhood.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

The Vedic Observer

REVOLT!—Inflation, Taxes, and Other Axes to Grind

by Jagajivana dasa

Can you trust the government to fight inflation, cut taxes, trim waste, and balance the budget?

Can you trust a rabbit to guard a lettuce patch?

Let's think about it. How much can we trust a House and Senate who can spend $3.4 million on an ad campaign for the Postal Department—to get people to write more letters—and another three quarters of a million to find out whether the campaign worked? How much can we trust Washington's "inflation fighters" when their chauffeuring expenses (illegal to begin with) cost the taxpayers $4.8 million a year? As for the government's platoon of scientists and intellectuals, the "brain trust," how much can we trust them to research inflation when they're taking $500,000 to research why humans and monkeys sometimes grind their teeth, $40,000 to find out why spiders build webs near insects (the report is entitled "Spider Distribution Associated with Prey Density"), and $36,000 to study "Evolution of Song Learning in Parasitic Finches"?

Not to mention evolution of song and dance in parasitic humans. Economist Milton Friedman minces no words about where inflation comes from: "Government and government alone is the source of inflation. Nobody else is responsible for it." As economist John Kamin confirms,

Government started inflation—through deficit financing and removal of all currency backing. Not one in one thousand knows what's happening. The talk about "interest," "labor," "capital spending," "housing starts," etc., is smoke screen, inflation's trappings.

Congressman Bud Schuster of Pennsylvania details the government's tricks:

The Treasury does the only thing it can do, since the President and Congress made financial commitments in excess of their means.... The Treasury Department sells its bonds or notes to the Federal Reserve System, which ... controls the supply of money... And get this—the Federal Reserve literally prints up more money on the government printing presses and pays it to the Treasury. . . . The Treasury then takes this new money and pays the government's debts....

Three guesses where you'd end up if you tried to cover your family's bills this way. But our leaders do it legally. Then they vote themselves inflation-proof salary hikes (as Congress did in 1975 and 1977) and leave us holding the bag—of increasingly worthless money. Just recently, Congress's bipartisan Joint Economic Committee predicted that before 1990 a gallon of gas will cost us $5.60, and a loaf of bread will cost us $2.06.

Inflation is simply taxation. Sly, sneaky taxation. Afraid of increasing direct taxation (and spoiling their humanitarian image with the voters), our leaders spend at a deficit and slip their unbacked currency into the economy. And what's more, after they've slipped us their bad money and siphoned off our buying power, we have to pay even higher taxes—inflation forces us to accept "higher wages" that move us into higher tax brackets.

Just through taxes alone, the government is already snatching 43.5 cents out of every dollar we earn. As U.S. News & World Report explains, personal income tax "is not the full measure of the impact that taxes have on the family budget ... taxes levied on business are passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices:' Now, when you figure both direct and indirect ("passed-on") taxation, then the average American pays the government every penny he earns from January 1 to the sixth of June. And when you add double-digit inflation—that sneaky tax—it turns out that we pay the government considerably more than half our wages. Back in the Middle Ages, a serf had to fork over some thirty to forty percent of the fruit of his labor to the lord of the manor. Now we're forking over more than fifty percent to the government.

And here's perhaps the nastiest trick of all—Social Security. As an understandably anonymous Social Security official admitted in 1965, "Continued general support for the Social Security system hinges on continued public ignorance of how the system works:' At its inception, in 1935, the Social Security system bore the title "federal old age benefits," and ever since, we've heard about those glorious "trust funds" that were awaiting us upon our retirement. But in 1937 the system's own lawyers had to admit to the Supreme Court, "The [Social Security] Act creates no contractual obligation with respect to benefits." The lawyers disclosed that the payments American workers make into the system "are true taxes, their purpose being simply to raise revenue. The proceeds are paid unrestricted into the Treasury as internal revenue collections, available for the general support of the government." And do they use those proceeds. According to an official at the Bank for International Settlements, in Switzerland,

The U.S. government has borrowed every penny of the Social Security reserve and spent it. The workers' cash was replaced by government bonds, which are merely the government's IOU's. Like the public gold in Fort Knox, their money is gone with the wind.

As the Wall Street Journal noted in November of 1977,

There is now $4.1 trillion in unfunded Social Security liabilities, almost $1 trillion in unfunded federal government pensions, and a few hundred billion in unfunded state and local pensions....

The Journal went on to say that if federal, state, and local governments are going to pay off all these promises,

... they are going to do it by taxing.... Nor is this something that is going to happen in the next century. Observe the Congress piling on Social Security tax rates. The future is now!

And they were right. On December 20, 1977, President Carter announced what the media heralded as "a Christmas present to Americans"—Social Security "reforms" that raise our taxes by $227 billion over the next ten years. For more than half of American workers, the bite for Social Security this year is more than for income taxes. How many of these workers have a clue that the government isn't saving even a dime of their payments for them?

Consider our indebtedness. To start with, if Congress abolished Social Security right now, they would still have to come up with more than $4 trillion to pay the system's present obligations. If we add to this sum the current National Debt of more than $800 billion, that means each of us—every man, woman, and child—owes more than $22,000. The way our indebtedness is expanding, by 1985 it will reach a devastating $6 trillion. As economist Richard Russell has noted, ". . . the U.S. has simply used up its capital. Everything, and I mean everything, is awash in debt. The cities and municipalities, the citizens, the corporations, the banks—all of it is 'loaned out." And many notable American institutions—such as New York City and Cleveland, Chrysler Corporation, and Franklin National Bank—are overextended to the point of bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, mainly to keep social welfare programs rolling (for fear of losing votes) and to keep those bankrupt institutions afloat, our representatives in Washington are spending—taxing us—at the rate of $1.5 billion a day.

Where Will It All End?

If we could graph the National Debt's increasing cost to the taxpayers, it would look like a mountain climber's route up the side of Mt. Everest. By 1982, says U.S. News & World Report, the National Debt will have reached $1 trillion, and the mere interest on the government's spending spree will be $75 billion a year. Only the naive believe that the government is actually planning to pay its debts off. Either the debts will overwhelm us or our currency will become worthless. In 1974 Roy Ash, then Federal Budget Director, calculated that by the year 2000, combined federal-state-local "budget outlays"—taxes—will soak up 80 percent of our personal income. Of course, many people are hoping to solve our economic problems through "increased productivity." But if you're feeling bitter about keeping your shoulder to the wheel now—when the government is taking fifty percent—how will you feel when they're taking eighty percent?

Like any other family whose members are facing bankruptcy, the composite family we call America has to trim needless expenditures and save money to pay off its debt. In a moment we'll look at the mathematics of how we can get out of debt.

But first let's look at the philosophy that forces us into debt. Our political and cultural leaders have sold us on the idea that this is our world and we're here to enjoy it, that you only live once. Of course, it's their world, too, and they're here to enjoy it, too, because they only live once. Here's the rub. With this philosophy, it's only logical for the top dogs to tax us to death.

And as long as we go along with the philosophy of "It's our world, we're here to enjoy it, you only live once," we'll keep electing leaders who tax us to death. See, with this philosophy it becomes logical to cheat, and if we were the leaders, we'd quite possibly tax everybody else to death, too. It's only logical. So while we have lots of axes to grind with a government of rank cheaters, if we really want to elect better leaders we'd better start sharpening another tool, the tool of transcendental insight, or Krsna consciousness.

What we've got to see is that this is actually the Supreme Lord's world—it didn't just get hereby accident—and we're here simply to enjoy the reawakening of our long-forgotten relationship with Him. We don't live only once. We live forever. But we have to keep coming back here forever—or at least until we realize that we're not simply these material bodies, that we're actually spirit souls and we have a relationship with the Supreme Spirit.

If we ignore our relationship with Lord Krsna, we have to stay in this world and be taxed, lifetime after lifetime, not only by the House and Senate but by repeated birth, old age, disease, and death. But with the tool of transcendental insight we can whittle away our ignorance—the ignorance by which we elect leaders who let slaughterhouses, breweries, casinos, and deficit spending interfere both with our natural obligations toward the Supreme Lord and with His natural arrangements for us. By regularly chanting the Hare Krsna mantra (the Lord's holy names), we can finally start offering Him His due and gaining some small appreciation for His natural arrangements.

Speaking of arrangements: the economic mainstay of America (and the world) is the land, farming. Krsna made it that way. We can get food, clothing, and shelter from the products of the land, and we can use the rest of our time for discovering the science of self-realization and God conciousness. "Simple living, high thinking."

What's more, with Krsna's continued blessings in the form of rainfall, America can use farming to get out of debt. Says Washington economist Dr. Hans Bickel, "By expanding our production 10 percent during each of the next dozen crop years (just as we did in 1974-1975), we can pay off the $66 billion we now owe to foreign governments." Also, we can save the $750 million we pay farmers each year to let their land lie idle. (And we can feed many millions of the world's hungry) Already we're getting high yields in our major crops with large-scale machine farming, and U.S.D.A. experimental plots have proven that—again, with Krsna's blessing in the form of rainfall—we can increase yields as much as 20 percent or more with intensive small-scale farming.

And through Krsna conscious small-scale farming we can at last stop the inflation-taxation spiral. As we've seen, inflation starts with deficit spending. So how are we going to stop inflation as long as we're spending more than $250 billion—half the federal budget—to give a yearly feather-dusting to urban blight? If we really want to stop inflation, a good number of us will have to leave unproductive lives in urban centers for a new life in the country, in God conscious farming villages. And here's another thing. Once we establish these self-sufficient rural co-ops, we can also eliminate the debts we owe to Social Security and various pension schemes. Of course, to make all this happen we'll have to take it to heart that for people who are devoted to Him, the Supreme Lord guarantees all life's necessities.

With substantially increased farm production and substantially reduced spending, by 1985 we can actually start paying off the government's six-trillion-dollar debt. As Dr. Bickel confirms, "We can pay back $50 billion the first year and let our payments keep growing by $50 billion a year. That way, before the turn of the century we can be debt-free."

And even now we can be free to live like human beings—instead of mice on a treadmill—free to grasp our eternal, spiritual identity and our eternal loving link with the Supreme Person. Instead of living against nature and paying excessive taxes to an all-consuming government, we can be living close to nature and paying extra attention to an all-compassionate God.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Every Town and Village

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

250,000 Celebrate Krsna's Advent

Bombay—Recently, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness held a three-day festival in 115 cities worldwide. The celebration honored Janmastami (the day Lord Krsna made His advent in this world) and Vyasa-puja (the day ISKCON's founder-acarya His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada made his advent.) In Bombay, the scene of the festivities was Hare Krsna Land, ISKCON's temple-hotel complex at Juhu Beach. More than a quarter of a million people attended. Covering the event in Bombay were representatives from the Indian press and television industry, along with ABC-TV.

The festival's high point was Lord Krsna's advent day, which also happened to be India's independence day. The people who visited the complex witnessed a panorama of Krsna consciousness. In the temple they heard devotional songs and viewed the Krsna Deities on the altar. In the auditorium they took in devotional music and dance. Outdoors in the huge pandal tent they heard ISKCON members and leading citizens talk about the need for spiritual culture. Throughout the day, the guests enjoyed more than 150,000 free servings of prasada (spiritual food offered to Lord Krsna). The excitement reached a crescendo at midnight, when the Radha-Krsna Deities were bathed in an abhiseka ceremony. Afterward, more than one thousand guests partook of a full nine-course vegetarian feast. Among the many visitors from other countries was a delegation from Russia.

The next day, devotees and life members commemorated Srila Prabhupada's advent day (which was in 1896). The celebration saw offerings both of words and of flower garlands and spiritual food—again, more than one thousand guests took part in a full nine-course feast. A feature article in The Indian Express described Srila Prabhupada as "a cultural ambassador of India to the world." Dr. M. Vyasa, a former secretary of the Gujarat government, hailed Srila Prabhupada as "the greatest representative of Srila Vyasadeva because all of the knowledge that Srila Vyasadeva compiled in the Vedic literatures, Srila Prabhupada presented in the English language for modern man."

Two New Krsna Restaurants

The Hare Krsna movement has opened two new vegetarian restaurants, one in Austin, two blocks from the University of Texas, and the other in Washington, D.C. on Capitol Hill, just a short walk from the White House. Both restaurants are named "Govinda's" (Govinda is a name for Krsna that means "He who gives pleasure to the senses"), and both offer their patron opulent helpings—"all you can eat"—of krsna-prasada, food that is spiritually pure because it has first been offered to Lord Krsna.

Appeal for Biographical Information

To gather information for a biography now in progress, Srila Satsvarupa dasa Goswami would like to get in touch with anyone who had personal contact with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. If you can remember something about Srila Prabhupada from your own personal experience, or if you can provide copies of relevant letters, documents, tape recordings, films, or photographs, please write to

Bill Schlenz, Research Assistant ISKCON
340 W. 55th Street
New York, New York 10019
Or call collect: (212) 765-8610.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

How to Begin Devotional Yoga

by Brahmananda Swami

"My exposure to the young devotees and to Swami Bhaktivedanta as well as the chanting of Hare Krsna has brought me moments of inner peace and has enabled me to live a little more spiritually with my family and in my profession. My two older children also spent some beautiful moments with the Swamiji—times we will always treasure.
"It is not necessary to shave your head and to become fully absorbed in the teachings to absorb some of the spiritual vibrations which flow from the devotions and activities of the Krsna consciousness movement. Chanting and feasting in the woods behind my house here in White Plains has brought joy and bliss to our neighbors from all walks of life."
—from a letter by Stephen J. Goldsmith, attorney-at-law, White Plains, New York.

KRSNA CONSCIOUSNESS is also known as bhakti-yoga, which means attaching or linking oneself to the Supreme Lord through divine love. Love is the highest, most exalted state of consciousness, and of all kinds of love the most satisfying is love of God, or Krsna. When love is reposed in Krsna, that love will automatically extend to all His creatures. Krsna consciousness, therefore, is total love.

Krsna consciousness provides the enlightenment by which to understand who one is, what the world is, and who God is. One achieves this consciousness by performing various scientific spiritual disciplines recommended by great authorities in the past. These disciplines assure progress in spiritual life and result in happiness in both this life and the next. The various yoga practices of Krsna consciousness are natural, they cost nothing to learn, and one can perform them in one's own home. To begin Krsna consciousness one does not have to suddenly leave home, renounce everything, and become a brahmacari monk. Rather, while remaining at home, one can perform the recommended spiritual practices, preferably with the other members of one's family, and in this way advance very quickly in Krsna consciousness.

The idea is to make Krsna consciousness, or bhakti-yoga, the spiritual center of one's life. When the radio was first introduced, it became so popular that families all across America gathered around it in the evenings. Then came television, and that has now become central. But through Krsna consciousness, with its singing, dancing, feasting, and philosophy, spiritual life can become the spiritual center of one's home.

When Srila Prabhupada first began spreading Krsna consciousness in America, he gave specific instructions on how one can become Krsna conscious at home.

First, set up an altar in your home at some convenient place. The altar is a place where you can perform meditation, offer devotion to the Lord, and receive the Lord's love. The altar can be a small table (this is what Srila Prabhupada first used). Or you may even want to set aside an entire room as a "meditation room" for added sanctity and serenity.

On the altar, place a picture of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Krsna's incarnation as a perfect devotee. Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is one, but because He is unlimited He is also many. Krsna has incarnations and expansions as numerous as the waves in the ocean, yet Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is a very special manifestation. It is the special mercy of Krsna that He comes as His own devotee, just to show us how we can best worship Him. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, being Krsna, is all-perfect, and so He perfectly showed how to worship Lord Krsna—by chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra.

Also on the altar should be a photo of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual preceptor of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, who introduced Krsna consciousness to the West. Between 1965, when he came to America from India, and 1977, when he passed away from this world, Srila Prabhupada conveyed the fullness of spiritual life through his lectures, letters, books, recordings, and the example of his own life. (At this writing, Srila Prabhupada's extraordinary life is now being detailed in an authorized biography by his Divine Grace Satsvarupa dasa Goswami. See page 7.)

The altar should also have a photograph of one's own Krsna conscious spiritual master. To make substantial advancement in Krsna consciousness, it is essential to receive initiation from a bona fide spiritual master who is visibly present in the world and who can directly guide you in spiritual life. Srila Prabhupada therefore entrusted some of his senior disciples with the responsibility of becoming spiritual masters to offer this spiritual guidance. So it would be immensely helpful for you to come in touch with one of these spiritual masters and include his picture on your altar. (To find out more about these spiritual masters and how you can meet one of them, you can inquire from any ISKCON center.)

The altar is the focal point for expressing your love for God. God is everywhere, and because He is everywhere He is also in His picture on His altar. It is not that because He is everywhere He is not in His picture. Nor is God limited to being only in His picture. Rather, He is in His picture as well. So by looking at Krsna's picture on the altar you can see God, and God also sees you.

The best time to meditate before the altar is in the morning, if possible just before sunrise, and again in the evening, around sunset. These are the best times for spiritual advancement. In the early morning the mind is especially fresh and clear, and by beginning and ending the day with meditation you sandwich the activities of your day between spiritual practices.

In front of the altar, you can perform the purest, most joyful form of meditation, called kirtana. Kirtana means meditating on God by glorifying and praising Him with a mantra, a transcendental sound that cleanses and liberates the mind. The recommended mantra for the present age (the Iron Age of Quarrel) is the maha, or great, mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Chanting the Hare Krsna mantra will reveal to you the essence of all Vedic literatures and instructions. It is a transcendental vibration, nondifferent from Krsna Himself. Krsna is absolute, so He is the same as His name. To chant Hare Krsna, therefore, is to experience Krsna directly.

A yogi of the highest order will never meditate on anything impersonal or void. Only yogis who are stuck on the bodily platform do this. And even if such second-class transcendentalists achieve liberation from the material world, their achievement is temporary, because they fall again to materialistic life. But by chanting Hare Krsna faithfully and attentively, you will come in personal touch with Krsna and get that true transcendental experience you are looking for. While chanting, it is best to fix your mind on the chant by hearing the sound of each word, each syllable of the mantra. This will help pacify your mind and bring it under your constant control, and with a controlled mind you will be able to experience great spiritual pleasure.

There are two ways of chanting. First, you can chant quietly to yourself with the help of meditation beads. This quiet chanting is called japa. Using the beads helps engage your sense of touch in the meditation, as well as your speech and hearing. The second way to chant is aloud. With your family or a group of friends you can sing responsively and play hand cymbals, drums, or other musical instruments, or if you prefer you can just play a record or tape of the kirtana and sing along. It's really a joyous thing, especially with a group, so why not invite your friends? The more the merrier. And if you feel like getting up and dancing during the singing, well, just go ahead. Enjoy the chanting of Hare Krsna.

After the chanting, the mind and body are clear, and you are ready to give full attention to spiritual subject matters. Now you can read from the Bhagavad-gita As It Is. The Bhagavad-gita was spoken by Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, five thousand years ago in India. Within its pages you will find such diverse spiritual topics as the soul and proof of its existence, the difference between the body and the soul, the nature of God, the choice between work and renunciation, the nature of the world, how to live a godly life, reincarnation (transmigration of the soul), what yoga is, what karma is, how to prepare for death, what happens after death—all this and more, compressed within seven hundred verses. Srila Prabhupada's purports, his explanations of the verses, elucidate the meaning and guarantee clear understanding of exactly what Lord Krsna spoke. You can read the book little by little, so as to digest it carefully. Reading out loud, even if alone, sharpens the mind's attention.

When you finish the Gita you can begin reading the Srimad-Bhagavatam. This is a comprehensive thirty-volume work, complete with full-color illustrations and indexes. It is called the Encyclopedia of Spiritual Knowledge, because it can tell you everything you ever wanted to know about spiritual life. So just as you may have a book shelf reserved for the encyclopedia of the material world, you can also have one for the encyclopedia of the spiritual world.

After the chanting and philosophy, you will probably have quite an appetite. So refreshments follow. On the altar you can offer food to Lord Krsna with devotion, and He is so kind that He partakes of the offering, and what is left you can take as

His holy remnants, called prasada. You can offer Krsna simple fruits, whatever happens to be in season; or if you are more ambitious you can prepare and offer vegetarian dishes using milk, sugar, butter, vegetables, grains, and spices. The Lord will not accept nonvegetarian offerings, but a Hare Krsna Cookbook is available that gives recipes of wonderfully tasty dishes you can prepare for Krsna's satisfaction. In addition to offering food, you can also offer some flowers and incense on the altar, and this will make for a very nice atmosphere.

After placing the food on the altar, you can recite this prayer: "O Lord, this material body is a lump of ignorance, and the senses are a network of paths to death. Somehow I have fallen into this ocean of material sense enjoyment, and of all the senses the tongue is the most voracious and uncontrollable. It is very difficult to conquer the tongue in this world, but You, dear Krsna, are very kind to us, and You have given us this nice prasada, spiritual food, just to conquer the tongue. So we now take that prasada to our full satisfaction and glorify Your Lordships Sri Sri Radha and Krsna and in love call for the help of Lord Caitanya and His associate Lord Nityananda "

Now it's time to partake of the prasada—undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable aspects of Krsna consciousness.

Now that you have had spiritual food that has first been offered to Krsna, you're ready for your daily work. Whatever it is, you will perform it more efficiently and with definite satisfaction. Naturally, the benefits of bhakti-yoga performed at home will accompany you throughout the day, at your work. Because your consciousness has been cleared, you will be alert about what to do and what not to do. Also, you can directly spiritualize your work by using a portion of its fruits—your wages—for spiritual life, either by purchasing Krsna conscious books and paraphernalia or by donating a portion to spread Krsna consciousness. I, for instance, worked as a teacher for two years while learning Krsna consciousness, and I donated my wages. Often people can dovetail their work with the service of Krsna and do something that assists the Krsna consciousness movement. Take Mr. Goldsmith, for example, who wrote the letter quoted at the beginning of this article. Back in 1966 he used his ability as an attorney to draw up ISKCON's constitution and formally register ISKCON as a religious organization. Surely that alone has endeared him to Lord Krsna and Srila Prabhupada eternally, making his life as a human being a success. So you see, it's very easy to begin Krsna consciousness.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out

Colleges for curing the Social Body

This exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place in Vrndavana, India, during March of 1974.

Srila Prabhupada: In this age the politicians' business will be to exploit the poor citizens, and the citizens will be embarrassed and harassed so much. On one side there will be insufficient rain and therefore scarcity of food, and on the other side there will be excessive taxation by the government. In this way the people will be so much harassed that they will give up their homes and go to the forest.

Atreya Rsi dasa: Nowadays the government simply collects money and does nothing.

Srila Prabhupada: The government's duty is to see that every person is employed according to his capacity. There should be no unemployment—that is a very dangerous situation in society. But the government has drawn people off the land and into the cities. They have made the consideration, "What is the use of so many people working on the land? Instead we can kill animals and eat them." It's all very easy—because they don't care about the law of karma, the inevitable results of sinful activities. "If we can eat the cows, why should we take so much trouble to till the land?" This is going on all over the world.

Atreya Rsi dasa: Yes, the farmers' sons are giving up farming and going to the city.

Srila Prabhupada: You know this nonsense of "topless, bottomless"? The leaders want that. They want the hotels to pick up college girls and let them be enjoyed by the guests. All over the world the whole population is becoming polluted. So how can people expect good government? Some of the people will take charge of the government, but they are polluted. So wherever we have a Hare Krsna center we should immediately establish a college for training people—first, according to their natural talents (intellectual, administrative, productive, and laboring). And everyone will be elevated to spiritual awareness by performing the spiritual activities we prescribe—chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, hearing the science of self-realization from Bhagavad-gita, and doing everything as an offering to Krsna. Everyone's life will become devotional service to the Supreme Lord.

At the same time, for the management of practical affairs we have to organize and train the different social divisions, because there are different kinds of brains. Those who have very intellectual brains should become brahmanas—priests, teachers, advisors. Those who are fit for management and protection of others should become ksatriyas, administrators and military men. Those who are fit for producing food and taking care of the cows should become vaisyas, mercantile men. And those who can assist the others and take up trades and crafts should be sudras, workingmen.

In the social body, just as in your own body, there must be divisions of work. If everyone wants to be the brain (the intellectuals) or the arms (the administrators), then who is going to act as the belly (the farmers) or the legs (the workingmen)? Every kind of occupation is needed. The brain is needed; the arms are needed; the belly is needed; the legs are needed. So you will have to make the social body organized. You have to help people understand the Supreme Lord's natural social divisions: some people will work as the brain, others as the arms, others as the belly, and still others as the legs. The main aim is to keep the social body perfectly fit.

You must make sure that everyone can engage in the kind of occupation he is suited for. That is important. The thing is, every kind of work can be devotional service to the Lord—the main point is to see that people are engaged in that spirit in their natural work. For instance, when you are walking, your brain is working—"Go this way; go that way; a car is coming"—and your brain says to your legs, "Come to this side." Now, the work of the brain and the work of the legs are different, but the central point is one—to get you safely across the street. Similarly, the central point of the social body should be one—everyone should help in serving Krsna.

Srila Satsvarupa dasa Goswami: Will this kind of college be for the general public?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, for anyone. For instance, an engineering college is open for everyone; the only requirement is that people must be ready to take up the training. This is our most important program now, because people all over the world have been misguided by these so=called leaders. Children can attend a Krsna conscious primary school, and then, when they are grown up, they can attend a Krsna conscious college for further development in their occupational work and their devotional life.

Atreya Rsi dasa: Will we teach business, also?

Srila Prabhupada: Not this modern business—no. That is rascaldom. "Business" means that you produce enough grain and other crops so that you can eat sumptuously and distribute to everyone—men and animals (especially the cows)—so that they will become stout and strong. That way the cows can supply milk and the human community can work hard, without suffering from disease. We are not going to open mills and factories. No.

Yadubara dasa: Srila Prabhupada, what class do the arts and crafts come under? In our society today artists and musicians are accepted as philosophers.

Srila Prabhupada: No, an artist is a workingman. At the present moment your colleges and universities are giving too much stress on the arts and crafts. Therefore the whole population is workingmen. No real philosophers, no wisdom. That is the difficulty. Everyone is being drawn by the attraction of getting a high salary. They take a so-called technical or scientific education and end up working in a factory. Of course, they won't work in the field to produce crops. Such people are not philosophers. A philosopher is one who is searching out the Absolute Truth.

In your Western countries the rascals are writing about the philosophy of sex, which is known to the dog. This kind of philosophy can be appreciated by rascals, but we do not appreciate it. Someone who is searching after the Absolute Truth—he is a philosopher. Not this rascal Freud—elaborating on how to have sex. In the Western countries the people have all become low-class, and Freud has become their philosopher. "In the jungle, the jackal becomes the king." That's all.

What is the actual knowledge in this so-called Western philosophy? The whole Western world is struggling along for industry, for making money—"Eat, drink, and be merry." wine and women. That's all. They are less than low class. This is the first time the attempt is being made to make them human beings. Don't mind that I am using very strong words—it is a fact. They are animals, two-legged animals. Rejected men. Vedic civilization rejects them as the lowest of the low. But they can be reclaimed.

Westerners can be reclaimed, just as you Westerners—my students—have been reclaimed. Although you come from the lowest situation, by training you are becoming more than brahmanas. There is no bar to anyone. But unfortunately, these rascals do not agree to accept this opportunity. As soon as you say, "No more illicit sex:" "no more meat-eating," they become angry. Rascals and fools. As soon as you give them good lessons—education—they become angry. If you give a snake nice milk and banana, the result is that he will simply increase his poison. But somehow, by Krsna's grace, you are becoming trained. You become trained and revise the whole pattern of Western civilization, especially in America. Then a new chapter will come in. This is the program. Therefore Krsna conscious colleges are required.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Krsna Consciousness in Historical Perspective

by Dr. Diana L. Eck

Dr. Diana L. Eck is Assistant Professor of Hindu Religion in the Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies and the Comparative Study of Religion at Harvard University.

The Krsna consciousness movement is part of an important and distinctive tradition of devotional faith, the Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition, which began in the sixteenth century with the great saint Sri Caitanya, but which participates in a much older movement of devotion dating back to at least the second century B.C.

This devotional faith is called bhakti, which means devotion to God or the love of God. The word bhakti comes from a Sanskrit root which means "to love, to be devoted, to share." Bhakti expresses the relationship between human beings and the Lord. It is a relationship of shared being and of mutual love.

The bhakti tradition found a full expression in the ancient Bhagavad-gita, "The Song of the Lord." The Lord is Krsna, the Supreme Lord, who manifested Himself as the charioteer of the warrior Arjuna in the ancient era of the Mahabharata war. The Bhagavad-gita is the dialogue of Krsna and Arjuna at the edge of the Battlefield of Dharma (Right; Duty; Sacred Order) just as the battle is about to begin. It is an existential dialogue on some of the most deeply significant human questions, raised in this dramatic limit-situation: What is human life? What is transcendence? How can one be actively engaged in the world without being ensnared by it?

Krsna gradually reveals Himself to Arjuna as teacher, as friend, and finally as Lord. The Gita has been heard and told and cherished by generations of Hindus, who have seen Krsna as the Supreme Godhead: one who is utterly and awesomely transcendent and who is, at the same time, personal, loving, and intimately related to human beings.

Like the New Testament, the Bhagavad-gita is a gently revolutionary treatise. It picks up and redefines many of the major terms of the ancient Vedic ritual tradition, making religious life accessible and meaningful not only to the elite few—the brahmana priests, the gurus, yogis, and monks—but also to the common people in the context of their ordinary lives of relationships and duties.

What is sacrifice? It is not the complicated and expensive ritual fire sacrifice described at length in the ancient scriptures and performed infrequently by dozens of priests. Rather, all of one's ordinary actions, done in an attitude of surrender to God, can be called "sacrifice:'

What is renunciation? It is not leaving the world behind to become a wandering monk or a hermit. Rather, it is active participation in the affairs of the world, renouncing only what is hardest to renounce: egotistical attachment to the fruits of one's labors.

What is worship? It is not elaborate ritual which only a few can afford, but simple offerings to God, made with a pure heart. As Krsna explains to Arjuna: "Whoever offers to Me a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water with devotion [bhakti], that person's offering of love made with a pure heart do I accept." (Bg. 9.26)

What is yoga? It is discipline. That to which one "yokes" oneself is one's yoga. It is not only the spiritual discipline of those adepts who seek liberating wisdom (jnana-yoga). It is also the discipline of action without attachment to the personal rewards of action (karma-yoga). And it is also the discipline of devotion to the Lord in all one's activities (bhakti-yoga).

Who is the yogi? Who is the priest? Not just the privileged few may follow the path of yoga or make acceptable offerings in the temple. Everyone, men and women, high caste and low, may be a yogi of devotion or may offer the simple fruits of action to the Lord.

Among the many religious ideas which the Gita shapes for the later tradition, bhakti is one of the most significant: the love of God which gives life and meaning to all one does—ritual, spiritual discipline, the search for truth, and ethical action.

The tradition of devotional piety that began in India with the Gita is long, varied, and rich. The life of the incarnate' Lord Krsna is told in some of the great scriptures, particularly the Bhagavata Purana. He was born of a royal family—and rescued at birth from His uncle, the wicked king Kamsa, who wanted to kill the baby Krsna.

He grew up in the care of foster parents in the village of Vrndavana in rural north India. In. His life among these simple villagers, Krsna's devotees have discovered meaningful paradigms for the human-divine relationship. Krsna was the child who grew up in their midst, and people loved the child Krsna with the spontaneous love of parents who delight in the playful exuberance of their children. Krsna was the heroic youth who conquered many a demon and protected the people of the land of Vraja. His companions loved Him—with the trusting, admiring love of friend for friend. To the young women of Vrndavana Krsna was the enchanting lover. Here one sees one of the most dramatic paradigms of human-divine love: the risking, serving, fervent, and sometimes anguished love of lover for beloved. Krsna and Radha are the divine pair, lover and beloved.

One of the most vigorous and vibrant periods of devotional piety on the Indian subcontinent began about five hundred years ago, when a new wave of this ancient bhakti tradition broke across north India as virtually a Protestant Reformation of the Hindu tradition. The love of Krsna was an important part of this movement, which produced a burst of devotional poetry, not in the Sanskrit of the elite, but in the vernacular languages of the people. In their songs and hymns these poets repeated many of the themes of the Gita: the supremacy of devotional faith rather than ritual; the affirmation of human equality rather than hierarchy; the importance of simple acts of praise—making offerings of flowers or singing the name of the Lord.

There were many poets, saints, and theologians who contributed to this era of exuberant devotion. Among them was the Bengali spiritual leader Sri Caitanya, who may be called the founder of the Hare Krsna movement. He was born in Bengal in 1486 and at a young age became an adept Sanskrit scholar. In 1508 on a pilgrimage to Gaya, he encountered a teacher of the devotional Vaisnava school named Isvara Puri. From this time on, he gave himself fully to the devotional worship of Krsna, popularizing and developing a form of worship called kirtana, the chanting and singing of the holy names of the Lord to the accompaniment of small brass hand cymbals and long cylindrical drums.

Sri Caitanya traveled throughout India and attracted many followers. He made one pilgrimage to the heart of the Vaisnava South, and according to his biographers he left the entire South chanting the name of Krsna. More important to the Caitanya movement, however, were his travels in the North, where he is said to have converted great nondualist philosophers as well as some of the world-renouncing sannyasis of Banaras to the love of Krsna.

Caitanya's devotion to Krsna was both intense and magnetic. According to his immediate followers, Caitanya revealed himself as Krsna and Krsna's beloved Radha manifest together in one body.

Sri Caitanya himself left only eight written verses. After he passed away, however, he was followed by a group of six inspired disciples and scholars called Gosvamis who settled in Krsna's ancient homeland of Vrndavana and contributed a tremendously rich body of literature to the emerging Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition. Among them, Sanatana Gosvami wrote the famous Hari-bhakti-vilasa, a manual of ritual still utilized by the Hare Krsna movement. His brother Rupa Gosvami wrote one of the principal theological works of the movement, the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, translated into English by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada as The Nectar of Devotion. Rupa Gosvami, the author of Sat-sandarbha; was the chief philosopher of the movement. A somewhat younger contemporary was Krsnadasa Kaviraja, who, at the request of the Gosvamis, wrote the biography of Sri Caitanya, the Caitanya-caritamrta, in Bengali.

From this first generation of disciples both in Vrndavana and in Bengal, the great teachers of this devotional tradition emerged, one after another, passing their insight from one generation to the next. They have followed in succession to the present day, and Vrndavana continues to be the spiritual heart of this bhakti tradition.

In 1933 one of the leaders of the Gaudiya Vaisnava movement, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami, initiated a new disciple: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, whose special task was to bring the message of krsna-bhakti to the English-speaking world. In 1944, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami began to publish in Calcutta an English semimonthly magazine called Back to Godhead, which is published in the United States today under the same name. During the fifties he retired to Vrndavana, where he lived a very simple life in the temple of Radha-Damodara and began to translate into English the voluminous Bhagavata Purana. In 1965, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami came to the United States, arriving by freighter, with little money and no contacts. In time, with difficulty, he established the first Krsna temple in the United States, a Second Avenue storefront on the Lower East Side in New York. Before long, one could hear the name of Krsna in Tompkins Square Park or on Fifth Avenue. Within a decade the International Society for Krishna Consciousness—the American strand of the Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition—spread to most major American cities. It became known by the very words with which the saint Caitanya praised the Lord some five hundred years ago: "Hare Krsna!" "Praise Krsna!"

Among the recent projects of those who have devoted themselves to Krsna is the establishment of a farming community in the hills of West Virginia named after the homeland of Krsna—New Vrndavana. Meanwhile, in the original Vrndavana, the worship of Krsna flourishes, and the new Krsna-Balarama temple, built by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, has become one of the favorites of Hindu pilgrims to the holy land of Krsna.

In the summer of 1978 while I was doing my own research in north India, I was approached by a number of Hindus who assumed, because I wore a sari and spoke Hindi, that I was a Hare Krsna devotee. Without exception they praised the work of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in India, both in Vrndavana and in the birthplace of Caitanya at Mayapur in Bengal. I remember especially one old woman who came up to me in a temple in Banaras, and touched my feet in a gesture of respect, and said to me in Hindi, "The temple you have built to Lord Krsna in Vrndavana is splendid, so splendid, and I want to thank you."

Surely the greatest affirmation of the authenticity and significance of the Hare Krsna movement has come from Hindus themselves. In Boston the ISKCON temple has become a gathering place for many of the Indians who live here as professional people or as students. There on Commonwealth Avenue, together with American devotees, they worship Krsna and celebrate the great festivals of the Hindu year. And in Vrndavana, Hindus crowd into the new Krsna-Balarama temple and sing "Hare Krsna" with those young Americans who have become new participants in their ancient tradition.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Notes from the Editor

Do You Need a Guru?

Most people think they have no need for a spiritual master. In a sense, they are right. People interested only in an animal-like existence do not need a spiritual master. A spiritual master is required for a person who is inquisitive about transcendental knowledge. Often, even people who claim to be interested in the spiritual path say they do not need a spiritual master. They say, "Let each man be his own guru," or "Let God Himself (who is in everyone's heart) be your guru."

The difficulty with each man's being his own guru is painfully obvious. A genuine guru can free his disciple from the perplexities of life. Since we are all suffering from birth, death, old age, and disease, and since we are unable to stop these miseries, how can we be our own guru? Admitting his own frailty, Arjuna approached Lord Krsna and submitted himself: "Now I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure because of weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me clearly what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple, and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me." The Bhagavad-gita informs us that each person's real identity is eternal spirit soul, free from suffering. But as long as he continues to identify himself with his body, thinking himself an American or a black man or a white man or a woman or a cat or a dog, then he will continue to suffer repeated birth and death. We may invent different philosophies to suit our individual tastes, but as long as we are forgetful of our eternal relationship with God, we will continue to lament. As soon as Krsna accepted Arjuna as His disciple, He exposed this mistake: "While speaking learned words, you are lamenting for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor for the dead." We admit that we need help in repairing our auto, in fixing our teeth, in arranging our finances, but often we think that in spiritual matters every man is his own best guide. The spiritual science is in fact the most subtle and difficult to comprehend—and therefore one in which we certainly need help from a person who knows the truth. It is ignorant pride that prevents us from admitting we need the help of a spiritual master.

Once I spoke with a Quaker who was very glad when he heard me say that the guru is in the heart: the Supreme Lord is the guru within. Lord Krsna as the original guru confirms this: "I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come intelligence, memory, and forgetfulness.... I, dwelling within the heart, destroy the darkness of ignorance with the torchlight of knowledge." But out of His compassion the Supreme Lord not only manifests Himself as the guru within, but also appears externally in the world as the pure devotee of God or the spiritual master in disciplic succession. Krsna as the Supersoul is within a person's heart, and when one is serious, the Lord directs him to take shelter of His representative, a genuine spiritual master. Directed from within and guided externally by the self-realized spiritual master, one attains the path of Krsna consciousness, the way out of material suffering.

"O my Lord! Transcendental poets and experts in spiritual science could not fully express their indebtedness to You, even if they were endowed with a prolonged lifetime, for You appear in two features—externally as the spiritual master and internally as the Supersoul [the Lord in the heart]—to deliver the embodied living being by directing him how to come to You." (Sri Caitanya-caritamrta) The Lord in the heart and the guru, the spiritual master, are needed together, just as a train needs two rails to run on.

So who is the spiritual master? The real master is one who does not invent anything. This is the point. He repeats what has gone before. And this is the whole fault of bogus teachers. They are not in line with the standard teachings of the scriptures and the recognized spiritual masters.

The spiritual master can be likened to a pharmacist who is authorized to give a certain medicine. There are plenty of medicines in a drug store, but one cannot simply go in and say, "It's all medicine—just give me anything." No, only the authorized pharmacist can point to the medicine required for your illness. So spiritual knowledge already exists fully in the scriptures, but one needs an expert advisor.

And what is his authorization? "To learn transcendental subject matter one must approach the spiritual master. The symptom of such a spiritual master is that he is expert in understanding the Vedic conclusion, and therefore he constantly engages in the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead." (Mundaka Upanisad) The genuine guru is God's representative, and he speaks about God and nothing else. He represents the Supreme Lord, just as a viceroy represents a king. The guru will not manufacture anything.

Everything he says is in accordance with the scriptures and the previous spiritual masters. He will not give you a mantra and tell you that you will become God or that you can do anything you like. A real guru's mission is to appeal to everyone to become a devotee of God. Because the Supreme Lord Himself sends the pure devotees to appeal on His behalf, one cannot please God without pleasing His servant. "By the grace of the spiritual master, one gets the mercy of Krsna; unless one pleases the spiritual master, one's location is unknown."

Often, people shy away from thinking they need a spiritual master, because they are afraid they will be cheated. Our spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, commented on this: "If you are sincere, you will find a sincere guru. Because people want everything very cheaply, they are cheated. We ask our students to refrain from illicit sex, meat-eating, gambling, and intoxication. People think that this is all very difficult—a botheration. If someone else says, 'You may do whatever nonsense you like—simply take my mantra and worship me, then people will like him. The point is that people want to be cheated and therefore cheaters come." One has to be sincere, and also intelligent. Just as when someone is considering attending a school he must at least have a preliminary knowledge of what a school is, so also, unless one has a preliminary knowledge of transcendental matters, how can he inquire from his spiritual master? Books like Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam give us education in spiritual life, which will help us understand the necessity for a spiritual master and help us distinguish between the real thing and the false.

The great opportunity of human life is that one can use the elevated human consciousness to understand himself and God in an eternal loving relationship. To miss this opportunity is the greatest tragedy. Unless one is enlightened in his lifetime, then at death he has to face an ocean of nescience: taking repeated birth and death. But every person hag a very efficient boat in the human body, and he has an expert captain when he finds a genuine spiritual master; and the scriptural injunctions are like favorable winds. If we do not cross the ocean of the nescience of material existence, in spite of all these favorable facilities, then we are intentionally committing suicide.

Use back button to return.

Return to top