A lecture by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
tac chraddadhana munayo
"The seriously inquisitive student or sage, well equipped with knowledge and detachment, realizes the Absolute Truth by rendering devotional service in terms of what he has heard from the Vedic literature, Vedanta-sruti [Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.12]
People sometimes ask, "Have you seen God?" or "Can you show me God?" Sometimes we meet these questions. So the answer is "Yes, I am seeing God. You can also see God; everyone can see God. But you must have the qualification." Suppose something is wrong with a motorcar; it is not running. Everyone is seeing it, but a mechanic sees it differently. He's qualified to see it with greater understanding. So he replaces some missing part, and immediately the car runs. But although for seeing a machine we require so much qualification, we want to see God without any qualification. Just see the folly. People are such rascals, they are such fools, that they want to see God with their imagined qualifications.
Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, naham prakasah sarvasya yoga-maya-samavrtah: "I am not exposed to everyone. My energy, yogamaya, is covering Me from their vision." So how can you see God? But this rascaldom is going on—this "Can you show me God?" "Have you seen God?" God has become just like a plaything, so that cheaters advertise some ordinary man by saying, "Here is God. Here is an incarnation of God."
Na mam duskrtino mudhah prapadyante naradhamah. Sinful rascals, fools, the lowest of mankind—they inquire like that: "Can you show me God?" What qualification have you acquired by which you can see God? Here is the qualification: tac chraddadhana munayah. One must first of all be faithful (sraddadhana). One must actually be very much eager to see God. Not that one takes it as a frivolous thing—"Can you show me God?"—or as some magic. They think God is magic. No. One must be very serious and think, "Yes, I have been informed about God. So if there is a God, I must see Him."
There is a story in this connection. It is very instructive, so try to hear. One professional reciter was publicly reciting the Srimad-Bhagavatam, and he was describing that Krsna is very highly decorated with all kinds of jewels when He goes to tend the cows in the forest. So, there was a thief in that meeting, and he thought, "Why not go to Vrndavana and plunder this boy? He's in the forest with so many valuable jewels. I can go there and catch the child and take all the jewels." This was his intention. So he was serious. "I must find that boy," he thought. "Then in one night I shall become a millionaire."
The thief's qualification was his feeling: "I must see Krsna! I must see Krsna!" That anxiety, that eagerness, made it possible for him to actually see Krsna in Vrindavana. He saw Krsna in just the same way as the Bhagavatam reader had described. Then the thief said, "Oh, You are such a nice boy, Krsna." He began to flatter Him; he thought that by flattering Him he would easily take all the jewels. Then he proposed his real business: "May I take some of these ornaments? You are so rich."
"No, no, no," said Krsna. "My mother will be angry! I cannot give them away." Krsna was playing just like a child.
So the thief became more and more eager for Krsna to give Him the jewels, but by Krsna's association he was becoming purified. Then at last Krsna said, "All right, you can take them." Then the thief became a devotee immediately, because by Krsna's association he had been completely purified. So somehow or other you should come in contact with Krsna. Then you'll be purified.
The gopis are another example of great eagerness to see Krsna. The gopis came to Krsna, being captivated by His beautiful features. They were young girls, and Krsna was so beautiful. Actually they were lusty when they came to Krsna, but Krsna is so pure that they became first-class devotees. There is no comparison to the gopis' devotion, because they loved Krsna with heart and soul. That is the qualification. They loved Krsna so much that they didn't care for family or reputation when they went out in the dead of night. Krsna's flute was sounding, and they were all fleeing their homes. Their fathers, their brothers, their husbands all said, "Where are you going? Where are you going in this dead of night?" But the gopis didn't care. They neglected their children, their family, everything. Their only thought was "We must go to Krsna."
This eagerness is required. We must be very, very eager to see Krsna. Many gopis who were forcibly stopped from going to Krsna lost their lives because of their great feelings of separation. So this eagerness is wanted; then you can see God. Whether you are lusty or a thief or a murderer or whatever it may be—somehow or other you must develop this eagerness, this desire: "I must see Krsna." Then Krsna will be seen.
The first thing Krsna is looking for is how eager you are to see Him. Krsna will respond. If you are actually eager to see Krsna—whether you are lusty, or you want to steal His ornaments, or some way or other you have become attracted to Krsna—then it is sure your efforts will be successful. But you must desire Krsna only. In this connection, Rupa Gosvami has written a verse:
smeram bhangi-traya-paricitam saci-vistirna-drstim
The idea is that one gopi is advising another gopi, "My dear friend, there is one boy—His name is Govinda. He is standing on the bank of the Yamuna near the Kesi-ghata, and He is playing on His flute. He is so beautiful, especially during this full-moon night. If you have any intention to enjoy in this material world with your children, husband, or other family members, then please do not go there." Bhangi-traya: Krsna always stands in a three-curved way with His flute. That is Krsna's tri-bhanga form, bending in three places. So the one gopi says to the other, "If you think that you'll enjoy your life more in this material world, then do not go to see Krsna. Do not go there." The idea is that if you once see Krsna, then you'll forget all this nonsensical materialistic enjoyment. That is seeing Krsna.
When Dhruva Maharaja saw Krsna, he said, svamin krtartho 'smi varam na yace: "My dear Lord, I don't want anything else." Dhruva Maharaja went to see Krsna to get the kingdom of his father, and when he saw Krsna, Krsna offered, "Now, whatever benediction you want, you take." Dhruva said, "My dear Lord, I no longer have any desire." That is seeing Krsna.
So, if you're eager to see Krsna, regardless of whatever motive you have, somehow or other due to your eagerness you'll see Krsna. That is the only qualification.
In another verse, Rupa Gosvami says, krsna-bhakti-rasa-bhavita matih kriyatam yadi kuto 'pi labhyate. (I have translated the words Krsna consciousness from krsna-bhakti-rasa-bhavita.) So here Rupa Gosvami advises, "If Krsna consciousness is available, please purchase it immediately. Don't delay. It is a very nice thing." Yes, Krsna consciousness is available. You can purchase it from this Krsna consciousness movement. But what is the price? It is such a nice thing, but you have to pay the price. What is that? Tatra laulyam api mulyam ekalam: simply your eagerness. That is the price. You have to pay this price. Then you get Krsna, immediately. Krsna is not poor, and the Krsna-seller—the Krsna devotee—he's also not poor. He can distribute Krsna free. And he's doing that. You simply have to purchase Him by your eagerness.
Someone may say, "Oh, eagerness? I have eagerness." Ah-h-h . . . but it is not so easy. Janma-koti-sukrtair na labhyate: this eagerness cannot be achieved even by executing pious activities for millions of births. If you simply go on performing pious activities, still this eagerness is not available.
So, this eagerness is a very important thing, but it can be awakened only by the association of devotees. Therefore we are giving everyone a chance to invoke that eagerness; then you'll see God, face to face. This life is meant for seeing Krsna. It is not meant for becoming dogs and hogs. Unfortunately, the whole modern civilization is training people to become dogs and hogs. It is only this institution—this Krsna consciousness movement—that is teaching people how to see Krsna. It is so important.
Tac chraddadhana munayo jnana-vairagya-yuktaya. By eagerness, you'll automatically be enriched with knowledge and detachment. Knowledge does not mean "Now we have discovered this atomic bomb." That is not knowledge. What knowledge is that? People are already dying, and you have discovered something that will accelerate death. But we are giving knowledge to stop death. That is Krsna consciousness; that is knowledge. Jnana-vairagya-yuktaya. And as soon as you get this knowledge, automatically you become detached from all this nonsensical materialistic happiness.
Thank you very much.
By William Robbins (Reprinted from The New York Times)
Limestone, W. Va., Aug. 5—
The men in saffron robes, in denims and faded shirts, heads shaven and unshaven, the women in saris of many colors, the Hare Krishna devotees came in twos and threes and troops, afoot and in Jeeps and in panel trucks; and old cars.
And as they rounded a bend in the narrow mountain road they beheld, rising like a mirage above the trees here in rural West Virginia, the gold-leafed domes and spires of a vision of spectacular opulence, the Palace of Gold, whose construction they had come to celebrate.
From across the United States and from Canada, Mexico and India as well, many of these members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness were arriving to join a 300-member community of the faithful here for the second annual Prabhupada Summer Festival, which ends tomorrow.
It has also been proclaimed by some to be a grand opening of the palace, though their swami described it as only a preview for a grand opening scheduled for Labor Day weekend. The palace is the first of many religious shrines to be built here in a community the devotees have named New Vrindavan, for a sacred city of temples in India.
However they regarded the occasion, visitors stared with awe as if at a miracle of creation atop a ridge overlooking miles of forests and fields, foothills and valleys. But again their spiritual leader, Srila Kirtanananda Bhaktipada, was more restrained.
"This was not a very difficult thing to do," he said in an interview. "Nothing is very difficult when the Lord is in your heart. Without Him it would be impossible."
The rain showers marred opening festivities late yesterday when an opening address by the swami and a vegetarian feast, both scheduled for the grassy hillsides, were driven under shelter. But today, unperturbed, the devotees resumed, from before dawn till after dark, their three days of rituals and seminars, interspersed with strolls to the palace and visits to a bazaar under a multicolored canopy, much like a country fair, where they could buy refreshments and visit educational booths and stalls selling their literature.
This is the second of three celebrations of the construction of the palace. The first, last September, was a dedication. When the third occurs, on the occasion of a festival named Janmastami over the Labor Day weekend, the finishing work will still be continuing, with devotees bending and carefully brushing gold leaf onto intricate relief work of walls, columns and steps.
On a site that was once a garbage dump, the devotees were climbing broad steps to walled terraces looking down on development of a Garden of Time to be dotted with fountains symbolic of phases of human life and out over construction work on a restaurant and museum toward broad acres on the ridge top where still another garden is to be created. As they walked they chanted the names of deities.
Over all this rises the ornate palace, built as a memorial to A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the Indian scholar who brought his translations of ancient scriptures in 1965 and began the Hare Krishna movement in this country. Its black and gold leaf walls, inlaid with Italian onyx, are pierced through with intricately decorated stained glass windows, and they support gold and black domes, all an amalgam of Eastern and Renaissance architecture.
Inside, crossing marble floors in geometric mosaics under mirrored ceilings, the devotees finished two shrines to Prabhupada, who died a few years ago.
One is a suite in which sits a couch he once used, adjoining a study where a lifelike figure of the sainted Prabhupada bends over a marble table as if to work on a translation. Adjoining is an onyx, teak, marble and gold bathroom.
The other is a central court, a sacred room where the devotees in small groups knelt and prostrated themselves before another statue, a gold figure of Prabhupada seated on a gold throne under an ornately carved cupola. Overhead the domed ceiling is decorated with paintings depicting the life of their Lord Krishna, including one showing him casting out demons.
All the construction is the work of a small community living on 2,000 acres of the rural countryside and executed in their own craft shops. It has about 300 members now, who have raised by their own efforts the $500,000 spent on it thus far.
Dr. Harvey Cox leads a group of scholars and theology students in an examination of Krsna consciousness: How can what is apparently an Indian cultural package claim to represent a universal religion?
This past summer, a group of graduate students from Harvard Divinity School and local West Virginia universities visited New Vrindaban, the Hare Krsna rural community near Wheeling, West Virginia. There the students, led by Professor Harvey Cox of Harvard and Professor Mary Lee Daugherty of the West Virginia College for Graduate Studies, met with Srila Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada, the community's spiritual leader
Dr. Cox: I first met Kirtanananda Swami in 1970, when I invited him and a group of devotees to come to Harvard Divinity School to do some chanting and make a presentation in the newly opened Rockefeller Hall. That was a memorable occasion. ... So we're very happy you're here with us this morning.
Srila Bhaktipada: I'm very happy you've been so kind as to come visit us here at New Vrindaban.
Student: I'd be interested to know how you felt about your reception in 1970 at Harvard and in general how you see things as changing. Have you seen more receptiveness to the Hare Krsna movement from educated people?
Srila Bhaktipada: Amongst educated people our reception has really always been quite good. People who are familiar with the tradition of Lord Caitanya, Vaisnavism—they immediately understand that we are an authentic, bona fide movement. And in general the further you get away from that position of knowledge, the more they're susceptible to suspicion. Even in this area [W. Virginia] the neighbors that know us, that have dealings with us, they all like us. And the ones that have never had anything to do with us have the typical reaction of one who doesn't know: "Something strange has come into our environment." But certainly if one understands the religious principle—from any religion—then immediately he recognizes that same religious principle here. The religious principle is love of God.
Student: Right. I don't think a lot of people see that.
Srila Bhaktipada: Because they don't recognize the religious principle in their own faith. We have to make a distinction between religious faith and religion. Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism—these are faiths. You can change your "faith." You may be born a Christian and then decide to become a Jew. But you cannot change your religion. The Sanskrit word is dharma, and that refers to inherent nature. The dharma of fire is to give off heat and light. You can't take that quality away. Our actual nature is that we are part and parcel of God. That cannot be changed. And to develop that relationship -that is the religious principle. So one may be born a Christian, and if he actually understands this principle, then he'll recognize it anywhere. And if he doesn't recognize it other places, that means he doesn't recognize it in his own religion. He is simply following rituals and dogma.
Dr. Daugherty: Would you be willing to share with us something of your own personal journey? I think you told us once before when I was here that you had been raised in a Christian tradition.
Srila Bhaktipada: Yes. My father was a Baptist minister.
Dr. Daugherty: How did you get from there to where you are now?
Srila Bhaktipada: Sometimes it's difficult to look back and see how you came. Except you know that by the grace of Krsna you came. But then again ... As a child, of course, I was always very much absorbed in God consciousness. I remember as a child I used to get my playmates together and I would preach to them. When you're a child, people are always asking what you want to be when you grow up. I always said I wanted to be a missionary. So I guess I am a missionary.
Dr. Cox: Still getting your friends together and preaching—here we are.
Srila Bhaktipada: But as a teenager I went through a period of doubt and disillusionment and agnosticism. But that also was not satisfying. In graduate school I was working on my doctorate in American history. Still, I couldn't get away from the religious aspect. I chose as my dissertation topic "Religious Revivalism in the Old South." So the same thing was still there. But I was simply approaching it from the academic point of view, like trying to know the taste of honey by licking the bottle on the outside. So in the end I decided that rather than simply recording religious history, I would make religious history.
Religion is something you participate in; it's not a spectator sport. Because it is based on faith, there's no question of understanding it from the outside. Of course, it is not blind faith. It is reasonable faith. I have faith that you had a father and a mother, although I've not met them. That's certainly not unreasonable. Similarly, to understand that God is the cause of all causes is not unreasonable. We can see that everything is based on a cause. So there must be an original cause. Govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami. Govinda, Krsna, is the cause of all causes. Adi-purusam—the original person.
Dr. Daugherty: Are we to understand that you perceive in Krsna consciousness, in the Vedic scriptures, a fuller revelation of what it means to be a devotee of God, a revelation that preceded the Judeo-Christian tradition, and that this is why you now find it more meaningful?
Srila Bhaktipada: It's a question of developing intensity of love. In the Bible also: "God is love." But how to develop that loving relationship? You see? How do individuals develop a loving relationship? By association. It's developed by getting to know each other. If a person's actually lovable, the more you know him the more you love him. God is the most lovable person, so naturally the more we know about Him the more we love Him.
And the Vedic revelation is the most complete. In the Vedic revelation you will find thousands of God's names, you'll find a description of God's form, you'll find knowledge of God's pastimes—you will find everything about Him. In the Bible you will find a synopsis. For instance: "In the beginning God created heaven and earth." That is a fact. But exactly how did He do it? In the Vedic scriptures you will find an exact scientific analysis—how the whole creation takes place. The knowledge is not contradictory. It's like the difference between a pocket dictionary and an unabridged dictionary. There is no conflict, but one presents the information completely.
Therefore, on the basis of this Vedic knowledge we can become free from all material entanglements. We can see God as He is, as the most lovable person, and when our love has fully developed, there's no problem in giving up this material world. Our attachment to this material world is simply due to our not knowing Krsna.
If a child is holding on to something and you want him to give it up, the best way is simply giving him something that he wants more. Then he drops what he was previously holding on to so tightly. This material world is not very relishable—birth, death, old age, and disease. Anything you have, it's only temporary, and as soon as you see its temporary nature, immediately you lose your attachment for it. You have to give it up anyway. So when we see the nature of Krsna, when we see the eternal beauty of Krsna, Krsna's eternal form, then we become attached to Krsna. There's no question of having both at the same time. Just like Christ said, you cannot love God and Mammon at the same time. Developing attachment to God means detachment from matter.
Student: I have a question. You had mentioned that within the Judaic and Christian traditions if one realizes that what it's all about is love of God, then that's a legitimate way of approaching God. But why was it that within your experience within the Baptist tradition you missed that sort of consciousness?
Srila Bhaktipada: Because there was no spiritual master in that tradition who could present it to me. You have to learn at the feet of one who knows. By Krsna's arrangement, I met a pure devotee. He is a devotee of Krsna. So I'm also a devotee of Krsna.
Student: Is reality in our perception or in things in themselves?
Srila Bhaktipada: Reality is defined in the Bhagavad-gita. Krsna says, "Those who are seers of the truth have concluded that of the nonexistent there is no endurance, and of the eternal there is no cessation." So reality means "that which is eternal." The happiness of sense perception is not eternal. But the happiness that is derived by serving Krsna—that is eternal.
Student: Then the reality is in the things in themselves?
Srila Bhaktipada: The reality is God. Everything that is in relationship to God has reality. Actions which are performed without relationship to God—they are material; they are unreal. Actions which are performed in loving relationship with God—they are real; they are eternal.
Student: What I'm trying to get at... Immanuel Kant says we can never know a thing in itself. And it seems that you're saying that perhaps we can.
Srila Bhaktipada: We can know everything if we know Krsna, because Krsna is the center of all existence. All things exist in Him; therefore in Him you will know all things. Suppose on this side of the room we have a mirror and on the other side of the room we have so many objects. When we look into the mirror, we see all of these objects, but they are not real; they're only real reflections, not the real thing. The real thing is over here, on the other side. In God we see the reality, but in material life we see the reflection.
Student: You spoke about knowing Krsna, knowing God. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you seemed to indicate before that you can know God completely? Is that what you said?
Srila Bhaktipada: Well, it's like knowing the ocean completely. You can take a sample of the ocean. So we can know God by His qualities, but we can never know the extent of God.
Student: All right, so in applying that to the way you lead your life, your everyday life . . . Recognizing the fact that while you are a creation of God you are not with God but are still apart from Him—this to me creates some sense of doubt about what the will of God is, and that leads me to a sense of faith and of doing the will of God, although never knowing completely what that will is.
Srila Bhaktipada: Therefore Krsna is very kind. He comes personally, He leaves His instructions in the form of scripture, and He is present as guru. Guru is also an incarnation of Krsna. He's not God, but he's a representative of God. After all, God is within your heart, within the heart of every living entity. But so long as we have material desires, we cannot perceive Him. In that stage, one must take instructions from the external manifestations of God—the guru and scripture.
Therefore Krsna says, tad viddhi pranipatena pariprasnena sevaya: "Approach a bona fide spiritual master and inquire from him. He will instruct you in the matter of the Absolute Truth." Truth is not a matter of speculation. There's no question of speculating about how to go to New York. Consult the road map. Not that I can set out anywhere, in any direction, and go to New York. I can't go to the airport and buy any ticket to any place and think I'll end up in New York. You pay your money to go to the right destination, and you get on the right plane and you go. So in spiritual life the same principle applies. The idea that you can do any old damn thing you want and you'll get the same result in the end—this is not logical. Nor is it confirmed by Krsna in Bhagavad-gita. If one has all kinds of material desires and he performs materially motivated worship he gets a material result. But if one becomes a pure devotee, he can go to the kingdom of God.
Student: What I still cannot really understand is the relationship between your theology and Indian culture, which obviously seems very important for your whole endeavor. I was talking to some Indian people who were recently here. They feel there isn't too much difference between what they have in India and what they find here, and I understand that this comes close to what you intend. Could you explain how you perceive the world of Indian culture and how you reconcile the emphasis on the cultural issue with what you previously said about the religious principle which is, so to say, underlying the different forms of faith?
Srila Bhaktipada: First of all, we're not trying to institute Indian culture. We're after Krsna conscious culture. We want culture that makes us think of Krsna. That's all. We don't care whether it's Indian or American or whatever. If we think of Krsna, that is what is important. Now, a policeman wears a uniform, but actually he's a policeman whether he has his uniform on or not. In one sense, the uniform's not at all important. But in another sense it is important. What is the importance? The importance is that he immediately identifies himself with a certain role, and other people can also identify him with that role. So it is important. A doctor is a doctor whether or not he has his white uniform on, but it is important. If you're looking for a doctor and it's an emergency, it's important—there he is. He's right there in the hall in the white suit. You see? A devotee is not a devotee because he wears this cloth. But it is helpful to a devotee to wear this cloth, because it helps him remain Krsna conscious. It helps him to understand, "I'm different." God's people are always a chosen people, a separate people"! have called you out from among them, saith the Lord." "Many are called, but few are chosen." Because only a few respond to the call. By the response they have been chosen.
So we're not at all attached to any national culture. But we're creating an atmosphere which makes it easy to remember Krsna. That is the injunction of Rupa Gosvami. "Things favorable to devotional service should be accepted, and things unfavorable should be rejected." Herein lie all the rules and regulations of Krsna consciousness.
Dr. Cox: Well, yes, but that doesn't quite answer the question, I think. I mean, it's not just vegetarian food that we're eating—it's Indian-style vegetarian food. It's not just a beautiful Krsna temple—it's an Indian architectural expression.
Srila Bhaktipada: Because this helps us to think of Krsna. When Krsna appeared five thousand years ago, Krsna actually did come to India.
Dr. Cox: So the fact that Krsna came to India and that His tradition is an Indian tradition makes it important to make this an Indian cultural package.
Srila Bhaktipada: The importance is the relationship to Krsna, not the relationship to India. For example, we read in Bhagavad-gita about the Battle of Kuruksetra. We're not interested in Kuruksetra because it's a battlefield—we're interested in Kuruksetra because on that battlefield Krsna was personally present driving His devotee's chariot.
Dr. Cox: Would you say that the Indian flavor and quality here is a means of—
Srila Bhaktipada: Of remembering Krsna. If you go and look at our temple, it is not strictly Indian architecture at all. You'll also find a lot of Renaissance architecture in it. But it creates this atmosphere of remembering Krsna. Therefore we accept it. We use so many modern things We use tape recorders, movie projectors. Why? Because they're useful for serving Krsna, for remembering Krsna. So you can't say that we're simply trying to create an Indian environment or Indian culture. It is selective, to produce a Krsna conscious atmosphere.
Student: You distinguish between the Indian culture and the Vedic culture.
Srila Bhaktipada: Yes. Vedic culture means the culture arising out of this transcendental knowledge.
Student: Could you discuss that?
Srila Bhaktipada: After all, you'll find so many things in Indian culture that we don't have anything to do with. The whole realm of demigod worship and all the holidays connected with that—we don't have anything to do with it. The Indian system of caste is not at all our system of varnasrama-dharma, the Vedic social system. The Vedic system is not at all based on birth; it is based on qualification.
Dr. Cox: So it's a selective use of those elements in Indian culture which help in—
Srila Bhaktipada: In remembering Krsna.
Dr. Cox: And if there are elements in the cultural ambiance or environment here that would be helpful, you would—
Srila Bhaktipada: We'd incorporate those, yes. Over and over in Bhagavad-gita, Krsna says, man-mana bhava mad-bhaktah: "Always think of Me." So whatever is useful for thinking of Krsna, that we want.
Dr. Cox: I'd like to raise one point. It's a point that keeps coming up when I find myself in philosophical discussions with members of ISKCON. From what I've seen, it seems to me that the Krsna consciousness movement generally focuses upon the need for the individual to attain a form of purity or transcendental status and doesn't hold out very much hope for the transformation of social or corporate structures in the historical world. But I think there are many of us here who think of ourselves as representing a tradition in the Jewish and Christian perspectives in which we would hold out more hope for the action and presence of God in the redemption of corporate, historical structures of human existence, rather than a more individual notion of deliverance. I think that reflects an attitude toward the material which is in some ways different.
Let me illustrate by going back to a point you quoted from Jesus on not being able to love God and Mammon at the same time and your interpretation of that, which was that you can't love God and material at the same time. The more accurate translations of the New Testament, the more recent ones, put it very bluntly and say you can't love God and money at the same time—which is really what Mammon is supposed to mean. Now, money and matter are not the same. A very, very important point. Money and matter are not the same. Money is in fact in some ways a denial of and a rejection of the possibilities and beauty and significance of the earth, of matter, of the material, the flesh. It's an abstraction. Money is an abstraction. It's a paper or, say, a piece of silver or gold that has no significance whatever except as it's used for exchange purposes, usually for one's own selfish profit, although not always. And the idea that money is a diversion from our love and care for the material world, our devotion to—our affection for—the material world, I think, is more what Jesus was driving at when he talked about God and Mammon. Especially in view of the constant use of material things as the central focus of devotion—bread, wine, the human body. Now, I don't want to provoke an argument here, but I wondered if that resonated in any way with your perspective on things. I'm one of those people who believe it's most useful in an interfaith discussion not to avoid differences of opinion.
Srila Bhaktipada: No, of course not. I think that you've put us a little too much in a niche, though, because factually we don't say that society cannot be redeemed in a corporate way also. But it has to come by changing the heart. There's no question of having a changed society without changed hearts. So therefore our movement is a movement for congregational chanting. This is actually meant to be a very wide movement to affect the whole of society. And in that way we are very optimistic, because it is Lord Caitanya's prediction that for ten thousand years this congregational chanting will become dominant all over the world and usher in a social change that is worldwide and will affect all areas of corporate society.
Dr. Cox: That will come at the end of the Age of Kali?
Srila Bhaktipada: No, that comes now.
Dr. Cox: During the Age of Kali?
Srila Bhaktipada: During the Age of Kali, for ten thousand years. Then, after that, Kali resumes its dark feature.
And I'd like to make just one point about the passage about Mammon and money. It seems to me the meaning of money is control. Money is the means by which one lords it over matter. And if you take out this idea of controlling matter then matter can be used in God's service Now that is perfect. Therefore the Lord is correct in saying you cannot love God and Mammon.
Money means control. It is the mean by which-the whole world is controlled. So it is this idea in the heart of the conditioned soul—"Let me be the controller"—that alienates him from God, because God is the only controller. And when we surrender our control to Him, then we use the so called matter in His service, in which case it is no longer matter; it is spirit. The only difference between matter and spirit is its relationship to God. Our proposition—ISKCON, Krsna consciousness—is to spiritualize this whole material world. Then we will have the kingdom of God. The definition of kingdom of God is "the place where God is king." If we make God king here, then why isn't this the kingdom of God? And if God is not king, whatever you want to do here, it won't be the kingdom of God. So first of all we have to recognize that God is king. That means a change of heart. One has to give up the personal tendency to want to be controller to think, "I'm the king. I'm the lord of all I survey."
Student: But money doesn't always mean control, doesn't always mean power.
Srila Bhaktipada: Certainly, money can be used in God's service also. We go out and collect money.
Student: That's right, you do.
Srila Bhaktipada: But we are not using it for ourselves. I'm not saying that money can't be used in God's service. Anything can be used in God's service. All right?
Dr. Cox: Yes. I liked this exegesis better than the one I'd heard first. I very much liked your elaborate interpretation.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
A Summer of Festivals
Devotees of Lord Krsna organized public gatherings in several major cities this summer to celebrate traditional Krsna conscious festivals.
In Natal, South Africa, home of the largest Hindu community outside India, a crowd of twenty thousand turned out to follow three fifty-foot-high chariots down the city's main streets in a three-mile procession celebrating Ratha-yatra, the "Festival of the Chariots." Organized by the more than five thousand Krsna devotees of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in South Africa, the festival appeared on local television and ended with a lecture by Srila Jayatirtha Goswami, the Society's coordinator for South Africa and the U.K.
In Vancouver, Canada, Mayor Jack Volrich was guest speaker at the Chariot Festival organized by the Hare Krsna temple and local Hindu organizations. Mayor Volrich said, "I hope this Festival of the Chariots, one of the greatest historic festivals in the world, will become an annual event in Vancouver ... so we will be able to share some of the very important, sincere, and deep principles of morality that you espouse. ... I think it is very appropriate that the city proclaim one day of the year as Ratha-yatra Day."
Ratha-yatra, a festival for the pleasure of Lord Krsna, has been celebrated in Pune, India, for the last two thousand years. It annually attracts some twenty million to thirty million pilgrims. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness sponsored Ratha-yatra festivals this year in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Toronto, Calcutta, and other major cities.
French Govt Endorses Hare Krsna Schools
Lucay-le-Male, France—The Regional Inspector for the French Minister of Education recently awarded glowing appreciations and a certificate of authorization to the primary and secondary schools of the Hare Krsna movement in France.
The schools occupy five buildings and two of the 180 acres of the movement's farm in the fertile Indre region of central France. M. Conte, Regional Academic Inspector for the Education Ministry, commented after his visit, "I find here hard work and seriousness of purpose. This has been a very encouraging visit for me.
The primary school, covering instruction for children up to eleven years old, offers classes in reading, writing, mathematics, English, French, and Krsna conscious devotional subjects. The older children attend additional classes in science, history, geography, and Sanskrit. Mahabhagavata dasa, headmaster, directs a staff of seven in balancing academic training with spiritual instruction. He received his M.A. in mathematics and taught three years of public school before joining the movement
A young American svami sets out to find an ancient pilgrimage site of his spiritual tradition.
Hyderabad, India—Leaving the airport in a taxi headed for the local Hare Krsna temple, I was struck by familiar smells in the air. Fragrant flowers, pungent spices, a variety of incense and fruits all merged in the robust morning wind. Though not my first trip to India, this one was to take me to a place I had never known, a place, in fact, where few Westerners had ever gone. My destination was Ahovalam, a place of pilgrimage for devotees of Lord Krsna, a holy place high in the mountains of south India.
Ahovalam could not be found on official maps. I would need help to make the journey. With this in mind, I sought the advice of an old friend, Anandamaya dasa, with whom I had often traveled in the past. He was excited by the idea of seeing Ahovalam, and for my part I was glad to have him come along. He took me to meet local brahmana priests, who expressed concern for our safety. It would be an arduous journey, they said. Ahovalam lay three days to the south, perched high in the mountains amid rough terrain. The monsoon rains had just ended, and there was every chance that flood waters had damaged the roads.
None of these apparent hardships could dissuade us, but one other obstacle almost ended our journey before it began: language. Neither I nor Anandamaya, who was French, spoke the regional dialect, Telegu, and without the possibility of verbal communication the trip seemed hopeless. Then, to our great relief, a friend of the Hare Krsna temple in Hyderabad, Mr. T.N. Srinivas, stepped forward and offered to act as our interpreter. He was director of the largest public school in the city and shared our excitement over visiting this ancient shrine of the Vaisnava (Krsna conscious) tradition. We secured provisions and started off early the next morning.
A Jungle Crossing
At dawn we boarded the first train heading south. There were no first-class places available, so we rode second class—that is, fifth class, since we ended up sharing our eight-seat compartment with twelve passengers, three chickens, and a stowaway goat. Time passed, and the Indian sun rose, bringing heat fatigue that nearly paralyzed us in our seats, until we made the obligatory connections to trains and finally a bus. As we went higher and higher into the mountainous region surrounding Ahovalam, the countryside rapidly changed. Soon everything was green and lush, the air easier to breathe. And then the jungle was upon us, thick and overpowering. Giant banyan trees towered over our heads, and huge palm leaves blocked the sky. It was another world, another age and dimension of nature. The further we advanced, the thicker the jungle grew. From my window I could see birds with exotic plumage and dozens of curious monkeys watching from the treetops. Here and there a deer, frightened by the sound of the motor, lept to safety.
"There are tigers also," Mr. Srinivas noted, laughing. I didn't see the humor. Finally the bus stopped. There was no more road. We got down and continued on foot. An hour later we arrived at Lower Ahovalam, a small village at the foot of the mountains. The villagers greeted us with enthusiasm. Although hundreds of thousands of pilgrims assemble each year at Benares and Allahabad to bathe in the sacred Ganges during important religious festivals, few brave the road to Ahovalam. The village brahmana invited us to his home and fed us an exquisitely simple yet delicious meal of krsna-prasada (vegetarian foods that have first been offered to Lord Krsna). Then he began relating the history of the sacred city Ahovalam. Night settled in around us with its sounds of nocturnal birds and animals. We sat back to hear his narration
A Formidable Atheist
"Several million years ago," he began, "there lived an extraordinary being named Hiranyakasipu. The Puranas, the scriptural histories, describe that by executing severe austerities, he gained immense power, by which he tyrannized the universe. Vain and malevolent, he never hesitated to kill anyone who got in the way of his plans for wealth and material pleasures. No one could challenge him.
"But Prahlada, his youngest son, did not share this demon's atheistic views. A great devotee of the Lord since birth, Prahlada had no taste for child's play or the pursuit of material pleasures. Rather, he bathed constantly in the ecstasy of divine consciousness and shared his spiritual wisdom with school friends whenever the occasion permitted. But Prahlada's preaching greatly displeased Hiranyakasipu, who finally decided to destroy the child. Such devotion could not be allowed to survive. Nonetheless, despite all his efforts to kill the small boy, he was unable to do so. Prahlada was protected by the hand of God and hence invulnerable.
"'Where is this God of yours?' Hiranyakasipu demanded of the boy Prahlada. 'Is He in my palace?' he mocked, waving his sword towards a pillar. 'Is he in this pillar?'
"'Yes, father,' the boy replied, 'God is everywhere.'
Hiranyakasipu, his eyes red with rage then struck the pillar with his fist. From the pillar sprang instantly a terrible form of the Lord, half-man half-lion, to protect the small, devoted child. This form was called Nrsimhadeva, and He quickly killed the demonic king with His nails.
"The Supreme Lord is omnipresent," the brahmana said, "and is capable of manifesting Himself wherever He wishes in whatever form He desires. It is therefore possible for Him to appear in such a marvelous form as Nrsimhadeva to annihilate the demonic and protect His devotees."
Here the brahmana ended his narration. Now more eager than ever to begin our journey, we looked forward to actual seeing Ahovalam, renowned as the place where Lord Nrsimhadeva had emerged from the pillar to destroy the evil King Hiranyakasipu and protect the devoted Prahlada.
Temples in Caves
Rising the next morning before sunrise, we bathed and chanted our morning rounds of prayer beads. After a breakfast of rice and spiced vegetables, we took to the road. Our guide, a small man approaching sixty, led us through a tangled wilderness as though it were his backyard. As we penetrated the thick jungle, I noticed a small hatchet suspended from his belt. I was about to ask him what it was for when someone yelled to me from behind.
"Look out! A cobra! A cobra! "Before I could even react, the guide pushed me violently to the side of the thin trail and in one motion drew his hatchet and cut off the cobra's head. I almost decided to turn back then and there. The day before, the guide said as we continued, he had dispatched a python more than twelve feet long. From that moment on, I was never more than two feet behind our hatchet-bearing guide. After a short climb, we came upon the first of nine temples dedicated to Lord Nrsimhadeva. Thick foliage covered the entrance. At first glance, the temple itself was indistinguishable from its surroundings, except for a few vague sculptures jutting out here and there.
After cutting away the overgrowth, we entered the main room of the temple, which devotees thousands of years ago had carved completely out of the stone wall of the mountain. As we progressed, the light faded, until only an eerie green aura let us discern the ground under our feet. Dozens of bats, disturbed by our visit, flew furiously out over our heads. We lit our electric lamps and beheld the sanctuary's beauty. Despite its incontestable antiquity, the original carvings and sculpted ceiling remained intact, protected by nature throughout the ages. As with most of the other temples we would visit that day, neither time nor the rampant vegetation had succeeded in erasing the extremely detailed craftsmanship that had gone into its creation.
On a raised stone platform before us stood majestically the Deity of Varaha-Nrsimha. Varaha, the boar incarnation of Lord Krsna, had killed Hiranyakasipu's nefarious younger brother Hiranyaksa, and thus the two incarnations Varaha and Nrsimha had been installed together in this temple and worshiped for thousands of years. But gradually the inaccessibility of the place and the ever-growing wall of vegetation had discouraged pilgrims. Now only an occasional visitor still came to offer the Deities wild fruits or kunkuma powder.
All day long we progressed from one temple to another, crossing rope bridges suspended over deep ravines and rivers. At places where no path existed, we cut our way through the foliage and scaled high rocks. In each temple-cave a different Deity of Nrsimha awaited us: Karenca-Nrsimha, holding a bow: Chatravarta-Nrsimha, smiling broadly; Mahalola-Nrsimha, seated in the company of His eternal companion the goddess of fortune. At each temple, we paused to catch our breath and read from Srimad-Bhagavatam, an important Vedic scripture that recounts the history of Lord Nrsimhadeva.
At last, just over a ridge of high boulders, we arrived at a plateau formed by the debris of history. Here was an immense plain, said to be the site of Hiranyakasipu's gigantic palace, its ruins exposed to the erosion of weather for hundreds and thousands of years. Dominating the landscape, poised fifteen stories high, was the famous ugra-stambha, described as the pillar from which Lord Nrsimhadeva had sprung to rid the earth of the formidable demon Hiranyakasipu. We stood transfixed by the sheer size of what lay before us. When whole, the palace must have stretched fifteen miles, judging by the pillar, which lay in two halves: one intact, the other fallen to the side.
Standing atop the ridge overlooking the relics of Ahovalam, I began to understand for the first time the meaning of antiquity. For many years my realization of Krsna consciousness as an ancient spiritual culture had been abstract and philosophical. Now that realization took a tangible form as I surveyed a scene described thousands of years ago in the sacred Vedic scriptures.
By dusk we had returned to Lower Ahovalam. Temple attendants completed their daily ceremonies as night slowly settled over the village. Families scurried home before dark, and we sorted our gear for the long ride back.
In Nature There Are No Mistakes
This exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, his disciple Dr. Thoudam D. Singh, and guests occured in December 1973 during a walk at Venice Beach, in Los Angeles.
Dr. Singh: Now scientists have organized a whole department called gerontology, in which they study how to prolong life.
Srila Prabhupada: Their real aim should be to stop the suffering. Suppose an old man is in great pain, suffering from many diseases, and suddenly the doctors increase his life-span. What is the profit?
Dr. Singh: That is what they do with heart transplants.
Srila Prabhupada: It is nonsense! Let them stop death; that would be an achievement. Let them stop all disease: ah, that would be an achievement. They cannot do these things! Therefore, all their research is simply a struggle for existence. Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita [15.7], "The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal, fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind."
Student: Now there is a shortage of oil.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, we have built a civilization that is dependent on oil. This is against nature's law, and therefore there is now an oil shortage. By nature's law, winter is now coming. Scientists cannot stop it and turn it into summer. They wrongly think they control nature. In Bhagavad-gita Krsna says that the living being thinks himself to be the doer of activities that are in actuality carried out by nature. The sun is now rising. Can they make it dark? And when it is dark, can they command the sun, "Get up!"? They do not realize that if they really want to conquer nature, they should try to conquer birth, death, old age, and disease. In Bhagavad-gita [7.14] Krsna says, This divine nature of Mine, consisting of the three modes* of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.
Dr. Singh: So, is it very hard to overcome nature's laws?
Srila Prabhupada : For the materialists, it is impossible. But if one surrenders to Krsna it becomes easy.
Dr. Singh: To explain why there are so many varieties of living entities, the scientists say that at a certain time during evolution, the cells' genes, which normally reproduce themselves perfectly for the next generation, sometimes make a mistake in copying—something like the printing press that sometimes makes mistakes. In some circumstances these mistakes, or mutations, have stood, and different species of living entities have been formed because of the difference in the genes.
Srila Prabhupada: But that "mistake" has been continuing since time immemorial, for you will find that all varieties of living entities have always existed. Therefore the "mistake" is eternal. But when a "mistake" is permanent, it is not a mistake; it is intelligence!
Dr. Singh: But scientists say that without mutations there would be only one kind of living entity in the whole universe.
Srila Prabhupada; No. Every living entity has a different mind, and therefore there are so many different species of life to accommodate the different mentality For example, we are walking here, but most people are not coming to join us, because they have different mentalities than we do. Why does this difference exist?
Dr. Singh: Maybe it is a mistake.
Srila Prabhupada: It is not a mistake. It is their desire, and at the time of death everyone will get a body exactly according to his desire. Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita 18.61, "Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail." What you are thinking of at the time of death exactly determines your next body. Nature will give you the body; the decision is not in your hands, but in nature's, and she is working under the direction of God.
Dr. Singh: But science seems to have evidence that different species of life do arise by mistakes.
Srila Prabhupada: That is their mistake! In the laws of nature there are no mistakes. In railway cars there are first-class, second-class, and third-class sections. If you purchase a third-class ticket but by mistake go to the first-class section, you will not be allowed to stay there. It is not a mistake that there are sections: that is the arrangement. But it is your mistake that you have gone to the wrong section. So, God is so thorough that He knows all the mistakes that will be made. Therefore, according to the mistakes you commit, you enter a particular body: "Here, come here. The body is ready." There are 8,400,000 species of life, and nature works, assigning different bodies, with mathematical precision. When the government builds a city, it builds a prison even before the city is complete, because the government knows that there will be many criminals who will have to go to prison. This is not the government's mistake; it is the criminals'. Because they become criminals, they have to go there. It is their mistake.
In nature there are no mistakes. Krsna says, "This material nature is working under My direction, O son of Kunti, and producing all moving and nonmoving beings." [Bg. 9.10] Nature works under the supervision of God, Krsna, so how can nature make mistakes? But we commit mistakes, we are illusioned, our senses are imperfect, and we cheat. That is the difference between God and man. God does not have imperfect senses; His senses are perfect.
Dr. Wolf-Rottkay: Because our senses are defective, the technological enlargements of our senses, like microscopes and telescopes, must also be defective.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Material existence means defective existence. If you construct something with defective knowledge and imperfect senses, whatever you construct must be defective. Therefore we conclude that whatever the scientists say is defective.
Dr. Singh: But they seem quite satisfied.
Srila Prabhupada: The ass is also satisfied to carry the load of the washerman. In some parts of India one may sometimes see a dog starving to death. But as soon as it gets a female dog, it is satisfied with haying sex. Is that satisfaction? The dog is starving, but still it is satisfied with sex. Everyone is satisfied, even the worm in the stool. That is nature's law.
The Peace Vigil
"If people will take to this chanting, peace will automatically come."
by Srila Satsvarupa dasa Goswami
New York's Lower East Side in the late '60s had proved a fertile field for Srila Prabhupada's planting the first seeds of Krsna consciousness in the West. Now the intensifying war in Vietnam, bringing forth a widespread clamor for peace, provided him an opportunity to present Krsna consciousness as the real peace formula.
The United States' recently increased involvement in Vietnam was creating an increase of opposition to the war. On July 29, American planes had bombed North Vietnam's two major population centers, Hanoi and Haiphong—an escalation which brought expressions of regret from several allied countries, including Canada, France, and Japan. United Nations Secretary General U Thant openly criticized America's policy in Vietnam. Further opposition to the war ranged from the U.S. Senate down to newly formed pacifist groups, and dissenters held peace marches, sit-ins, and rallies in protest of the war and draft.
Religious protest was led by Pope Paul VI. And the World Council of Churches decried America's involvement in Vietnam and called for a halt in the fighting as "the most effective step" toward negotiation. On August 6 (the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima) there were demonstrations in many major American cities, including a peace vigil at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
On August 31, there would begin an other two-week-long peace vigil before the United Nations General Assembly Building and Mr. Larry Bogart had invited Prabhupada and his followers to open the vigil of "praying for peace." Larry Bogart, who worked at the United Nations Headquarters, had become friends with the Swami and had volunteered his help by arranging to print stationery for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. The letterhead was designed by James Greene with a sketch of Radha and Krsna, and Mr. Bogart's name also appeared on the stationery at the head of the list of ISKCON trustees.
Prabhupada accepted Mr. Bogart's invitation to the peace vigil. Prabhupada saw it as an opportunity to publicly chant Hare Krsna, so he was glad to attend. He announced to his congregation that Monday the thirty-first, instead of the usual morning class at 6:30, everyone should meet at the United Nations Headquarters for a special kirtana.
Some met at the storefront and went by bus, carrying karatalas, a tambourine, and the Swami's bongo. Swamiji rode with a few of his followers in a taxi. The typical dress of his followers consisted of well-worn sneakers, black pants or blue jeans, and T-shirts or button-down sport shirts. Traveling uptown in the early morning put the boys in a lighthearted spirit, and when they saw Swamiji at the U.N. in his flowing saffron robes they became inspired. Swamiji began the chanting, but right away the peace vigil organizers stepped in and asked him to stop. This was a "silent vigil," they said, and it should have prayerful, non-violent silence. The boys were crushed, but Swamiji accepted the restriction and began silently chanting on his beads.
A dignitary stood up before the assembly and made a short speech in which he mentioned Gandhi, and then he turned to Prabhupada and indicated that he could now speak about peace. Standing erectly, the U.N. skyscraper looming behind him, Swamiji spoke in a soft voice. The world must accept that God is the proprietor of everything and the friend of everyone, he said. Only then can we have real peace. Mr. Bogart had scheduled the Swami for two hours of silent prayer. Prabhupada had the devotees sit together and softly chant japa until their two scheduled hours were up. Then they left.
As Prabhupada rode back downtown in the heavy morning traffic, he said New York reminded him of Calcutta. Amid the start-and-stop motion and noise of the traffic he explained, "We have nothing to do with peace vigils. We simply want to spread this chanting of Hare Krsna, that's all. If people take to this chanting, peace will automatically come. Then they won't have to artificially try for peace."
The New York Post ran a picture of Swamiji's group at the United Nations Building. Steve-brought the clipping in to Prabhupada: "Swamiji, look. They have referred to you here as 'Sami Krishna'!"
Prabhupada: "'Sami Krishna'? That's all right."
In the picture, some of the boys were sitting with their heads resting on their arms. "Where are you?" Prabhupada asked. Steve pointed. "Oh, you chant like this, with your head down?" Prabhupada had participated in the peace vigil to oblige his contact, Mr. Bogart. Now Mr. Bogart was phoning to offer his appreciation and agreeing to visit the storefront. He wanted to help, and he would discuss how the Swami could solicit help from important people for his movement of Indian culture and peace.
Prabhupada regarded Mr. Bogart's imminent visit as very important, and he wanted to cook for him personally and receive him in his apartment with the best hospitality. When the day arrived, Prabhupada and Keith cooked together in the small kitchen for several hours, making the best Indian delicacies. Prabhupada posted Stanley downstairs and told him not to allow anyone to come up while he was cooking the feast for Mr. Bogart. Stanley assented, blinking his eyes with his far-off "saintly" look.
Stanley stationed himself downstairs in the storefront. A few of the boys were there, and he told them, "You can't go up to see the Swami—no one can." About twelve noon, Larry Bogart arrived, pale, elderly, and well dressed, by Lower East Side standards. He said he wanted to see Swami Bhaktivedanta. "Sorry," Stanley informed him, his boyish face trying to impress the stranger with the seriousness of the order, "the Swami is busy now, and he said no one can see him." Mr. Bogart decided he would wait. There was no chair in the storefront, but Stanley brought him a folding chair. It was a hot day. Mr. Bogart looked at his watch several times. A half hour passed. Stanley sat chanting and sometimes staring off blankly. After an hour, Mr. Bogart asked if he could see the Swami now. Stanley assured him that he could not, and Mr. Bogart left in a huff.
Upstairs, Swamiji had become anxious, wondering why Mr. Bogart had not arrived. Finally, he sent Keith downstairs, and Stanley told him about the man whom he had turned away. "What?" Keith exploded. "But that was . . ."
Within moments, Swamiji heard what had happened. He became furious. He came down to the storefront: "You fool! You silly fool!" He turned and angrily rebuked everyone in the room, but mostly Stanley. No one had ever seen the Swami so angry. Then Swamiji walked away in disgust and returned to his apartment.
Stanley had been going off the deep end for some time, and now he became even more abstracted in his behavior. Stanley's mother knew her son had been troubled for years, and she had therefore requested Prabhupada to keep a very close watch on him. But now the boy deteriorated in his responsibilities and stopped cleaning the kitchen and storefront. He would stand alone looking at something. He was gloomy and sometimes spoke of suicide. And he stopped chanting regularly. The boys didn't know what to do, but they thought perhaps he should be sent home to his mother.
One day, Stanley went up to see the Swami. He came in and sat down.
Stanley: "May I have fifty dollars?"
Prabhupada used to handle all the money himself, so when his boys needed something, even if it were only twenty-five cents for the bus, they had to see Swamiji. He was never wasteful. He was so frugal that whenever he received a letter, he would carefully tear the envelope apart and use the reverse side as writing paper. So he wanted to know why Stanley wanted fifty dollars. Stanley replied in a small voice, "I want to purchase some gasoline and set myself on fire." Prabhupada saw Chuck at the doorway and told him to call Bruce at once. Bruce quickly came up and sat with Prabhupada and Stanley. Prabhupada told Bruce—whom he had recently appointed to handle petty cash—to give Stanley fifty dollars, and he had Stanley repeat why he wanted the money.
"But Swamiji," Bruce protested, "we don't have that much money."
"There, you see, Stanley," Prabhupada spoke very calmly. "Bruce says we don't have the money." Then they phoned Stanley's mother. Later Prabhupada said that because Stanley had asked for fifty dollars for gasoline, which cost only thirty-five cents, he could therefore understand Stanley was crazy. (To be continued)
The Hard Rain of Karma
The systematic cultivation of greed can lead only to violence and worldwide disaster.
by Srila Ramesvara Swami
The whole world has come under the spell of economic development, which, in a simpler sense, means greed. And our leaders themselves openly admit it—they actually want us to become greedy. At an international conference in the 1930s, John Maynard Keynes, the founding father of our modern economic system, declared, "We must pretend to ourselves and to others that vice is a virtue and that virtue is a vice, because vice is useful and virtue is not. For a little while longer usury, avarice, and precaution must be our gods, for they alone can lead us through the tunnel of economic necessity into daylight." Words of enlightenment from the twentieth century's leading economist.
Everyone knows that the basic charm for selling any product is advertising. And the basic principle of advertising is to be able to convince even a person who doesn't want your product that yes, somehow he wants your product. Society, we are told, must therefore systematically awaken in its members—individually and collectively—greed, the desire to own and control as many material possessions as possible. This will make for economic development, which our leaders proclaim can solve the world's problems.
But by awakening greed, they will never be able to realize their desire for a more peaceful world. How will increasing selfishness reduce political and ideological tensions? How will it reduce international competition for wealth and resources? How will it solve the energy crisis? How will it reduce social tensions and the breakdown of the family?
Every one of these crises can be traced to greed and selfishness. Why else does one out of every three pregnancies end in abortion? Why else does one out of every two marriages end in divorce? It's all due to the same root cause—greed and selfishness.
We may ask, Why have we become so violent? Why are we competing with nature? Why are we destroying other life forms? Why are we fighting so fiercely with one another? There is a root cause. If we want to see why a person acts the way he does, we have to look at how he answers the question "Who am I?" In our era, so-called scientists have persuaded us to accept a materialistic, and basically atheistic, concept of self. For years and years we've been bombarded with this kind of materialistic propaganda, and so we have formulated our goals from the concept that "I am this body—I am simply a collection of chemicals." So naturally our purpose in life is to enjoy physical pleasures derived from physical objects. Progress means material progress. Happiness means happiness for my body. Or, to put it simply, happiness means selfishness and greed.
Man has formulated his goals on the basis of this materialistic philosophy. If we examine any nation's goals (it doesn't matter what ideology it professes), we'll find that the real goal is economic development. Eastern bloc, Western bloc, developed or developing nations—it doesn't matter. They all embrace the same goals, because their basic philosophy of life is the same.
And what happens after the death of the body? That doesn't matter. Even many of today's religionists think they'll automatically go to heaven just because they profess a certain faith. So they're NOT worried about what happens after death. And, of course, to the atheist it hardly matters. So believer and nonbeliever follow the same path, the path of greed.
Unless we're willing to go deep and change our definition of ourselves, we won't be able to solve the problems caused by greed and selfishness. After we change this definition, then we can redefine the purpose and goal of our lives, and this will change our course of action. Granted, it's not so easy to redefine ourselves and our life's purpose. Most people are wary of blindly accepting a religious doctrine. But the Vedas of India offer much more than some creationist theory based only on faith. The hundreds of volumes of Vedic lierature contain a very rational, logical, and scientific explanation of life, an explanation not to be found in any other philosophical or religious literature in the world. The sages who compiled the Vedic literatures took great care to define life in terms at once spiritual and scientific.
The first thing the Vedas teach us is that we are not just combinations of chemicals. Anyone can see this fact. When you analyze the different parts of the body, you cannot find life. You just find hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, and so on. And none of these elements has consciousness, the primary symptom of life. The source of consciousness is not atoms but the soul. If so-called scientists disagree, let them mix some chemicals in their test tubes and produce a conscious living being.
And more, the Vedas give a simple process that enables us to perceive our higher, spiritual identity. In this age, the Vedas recommend that we meditate on the Hare Krsna mantra. This transcendental sound vibration comes from the spiritual platform of existence; it penetrates the sensory and mental levels of perception and directly acts upon the soul, gradually awakening it to full self-realization. The Hare Krsna mantra is composed of Sanskrit names of God. In fact, this mantra is considered to be the Supreme Lord's sound incarnation. Becoming self-realized reduces automatically the selfishness and greed our society cultivates, because the satisfaction of realizing the higher self surpasses and reduces the importance of material pleasures.
The Vedas purify and transform not only the way we see ourselves but also the way we see nature and the universe. Already, scientists are making our lives more comfortable through an understanding of nature's laws. So we know that acting in harmony with nature's laws will naturally lead us to more profitable, successful, and happy lives. And correspondingly, if out of ignorance we violate these laws, then there must be some reaction. As Sir Isaac Newton observed, for every action there is a corresponding reaction. Newton was talking about the law of karma, a fundamental operating principle of the universe that acts not only on the chemical and biochemical planes but on the mental and psychological planes. In other words, for every action we perform, there must be a reaction. This is the law of karma.
Now let us consider the karmic status of our modern civilization. Let's consider man's actions toward nature and his fellow man, and the resultant reactions. First of all, man is violent toward his environment. He exploits nature's resources. Of course, sometimes he tries to repair the damage with a bit of environmental concern. He can sense that polluting the air, land, and water isn't exactly the right thing to do, but in the end, economic considerations always seem to win out. Basically, man has become an exploiter of nature.
Now what about man's actions toward other life forms? Even more obviously, the actions of modern man can be summed up in one word—violent. For instance, man is violent toward the trees. One may have never thought of that before. But just consider how many hundreds of millions of trees we're cutting down just so that we can print rubbish novels and pornographic literature. Don't the trees have a right to live? Who has given man the right to kill trees so that he can produce pornography? This is bad karma. We're setting ourselves up for violent reactions. And man's actions toward animals—incredibly violent. Every year we're killing hundreds of millions of animals. This is even worse than killing trees, because the animals have a highly sensitive nervous system and so they can feel the pain more excruciatingly. We know we can get our protein from other sources—cheese, milk, butter, nuts, and grains, just to name a few. So why kill? Again, this is bad karma. So if the human race acts violently, then by the law of karma, nature will react violently—with energy shortages, drought, famine, racial conflict, social disintegration, moral decline, and finally, war. Each year the world's governments spend $500 billion on armaments. Why is that? As we become more and more violent toward nature, so by nature's law of karma, we are being forced to become more and more violent toward one another. We're headed for a most destructive karmic reaction.
Just imagine you're a judge and you see a human civilization killing hundreds of millions of trees and animals—and even its own children (every year some fifty million unborn children are killed by abortion)—year after year after year. You realize that you're dealing with a society of murderers. So what is your sentence going to be? In the same way, nature is going to judge us very harshly. This is the real crisis—that the karma coming down on this modern civilization is going to be very violent.
And we're seeing the warning signs now, in the heating up of the cold war. This is a clear indication of future karma. Just read the predictions of the effects of a thermonuclear war between America and the Soviet Union. A full-scale war would do away with 150 to 175 million Americans ' out of a population of 220 million. Is there even one person in this whole country who thinks this is impossible? People sense it's going to happen. Violent karma is awaiting us, in one form or another, unless we change society's present course.
As the singer said, "It's a hard rain that's gonna fall." So the Krsna consciousness movement wants to stop this rain of karma. Even if we can't stop the rain (although that's our ultimate goal), at least we're holding out an umbrella for people who have the courage to take shelter. This is the umbrella of knowledge, the knowledge of our individual and collective purpose in life, the knowledge of the spiritual nature of the life force and the universe. So we're asking everyone please to consider the path we are pointing out. If you feel it is correct, then try to apply the principles of Krsna consciousness in your own life and try to give this knowledge to others. This is the duty of a person who has knowledge. A doctor gives medicine to the sick—he doesn't keep it for himself. So please consider this request. If you find in the Vedic literature some enlightenment, don't just keep it to yourself. Help people who are trying to spread it.
Can a machine be conscious?
By Sadaputa Dasa
SADAPUTA DASA studied at the State University of New York and Syracuse University and later received a National Science Fellowship. He went on to complete his Ph.D. in mathematics at Cornell, specializing in probability theory and statistical mechanics
Science fiction writers often try to solve the problems of old age and death by taking advantage of the idea that a human being is essentially a complex machine. In a typical scene, doctors and technicians scan the head of the dying Samuel Jones with a "cerebroscope," a highly sensitive instrument that records in full detail the synaptic connections of the neurons in his brain. A computer then systematically transforms this information into a computer program that faithfully simulates that brain's particular pattern of internal activity.
When this program is run on a suitable computer, the actual personality of Mr. Jones seems to come to life through the medium of the machine. "I've escaped death!" the computer exults through its electronic phone me generator. Scanning about the room with stereoscopically mounted TV cameras, the computerized "Mr. Jones" appears somewhat disoriented in his new embodiment. But when interviewed by old friends, "he" displays Mr. Jones's personal traits in complete detail. In the story, Mr. Jones lives again in the form of the computer. Now his only problem is figuring out how to avoid being erased from the computer's memory.
Although this story may seem fantastic, some of the most influential thinkers in the world of modern science take very seriously the basic principles behind it. In fact, researchers in the life sciences now almost universally assume that a living being is nothing more than a highly complex machine built from molecular components. In the fields of philosophy and psychology, this assumption leads to the inevitable conclusion that the mind involves nothing more than the biophysical functioning of the brain. According to this viewpoint, we can define in entirely mechanistic terms the words we normally apply to human personality—words like consciousness, perception, meaning, purpose, and intelligence.
Along with this line of thinking have always gone idle speculations about the construction of machines that can exhibit these traits of personality. But now things have gone beyond mere speculation. The advent of modern electronic computers has given us a new field of scientific investigation dedicated to actually building such machines. This is the field of artificial intelligence research, or "cognitive engineering," in which scientists proceed on the assumption that digital computers of sufficient speed and complexity can in fact produce all aspects of conscious personality. Thus we learn in the 1979 M.I.T. college catalogue that cognitive engineering involves an approach to the subjects of mind and intelligence which is "quite different from that of philosophers and psychologists, in that the cognitive engineer tries to produce intelligence."
In this article we shall examine the question of whether it is possible for a machine to possess a conscious self that perceives itself as seer and doer. Our thesis will be that while computers may in principle generate complex sequences of behavior comparable to those produced by human beings, computers cannot possess conscious awareness without the intervention of principles of nature higher than those known to modern science. Ironically, we can base strong arguments in support of this thesis on some of the very concepts that form the foundation of artificial intelligence research. As far as computers are concerned, the most reasonable inference we can draw from these arguments is that computers cannot be conscious. When applied to the machine of the human brain, these arguments support an alternative, nonmechanistic understanding of the conscious self.
To begin, let us raise some questions about a hypothetical computer possessing intelligence and conscious self-awareness on a human level. This computer need not duplicate the mind of a particular human being, such as our Mr. Jones, but must simply experience an awareness of thoughts, feelings, and sensory perceptions comparable to our own.
First, let us briefly examine the internal organization of our sentient computer. Since it belongs to the species of digital computers, it consists of an information storehouse, or memory, an apparatus called the central processing unit (CPU), and various devices for exchanging information with the environment.
The memory is simply a passive medium used to record large amounts of information in the form of numbers. We can visualize a typical computer memory as a series of labeled boxes, each of which can store a number. Some of these boxes normally contain numerically coded instructions specifying the computer's program of activity. Others contain data of various kinds, and still others store the intermediate steps of calculations. These numbers can be represented physically in the memory as patterns of charges on microminiature capacitors, patterns of magnetization on small magnets, or in many other ways.
The CPU performs all the computer's active operations, which consist of a fixed number of simple operations of symbol manipulation. These operations typically involve the following steps: First, from a specified location (or "address") in the memory, the CPU obtains a coded instruction identifying the operation to be performed. According to this instruction, the CPU may obtain additional data from the memory. Then the CPU performs the operation itself. This may involve input (reading a number into the memory from an external device) or output (transmitting a number from the memory to an external device). Or the operation may involve transforming a number according to some simple rule, or shifting a number from one memory location to another. In any case, the final step of the operation will always involve the selection of a memory address where the next coded instruction is to be sought.
A computer's activity consists of nothing more than steps of this kind, performed one after another. The instruction codes stored in the passive memory specify the operations the CPU is to execute. The function of the CPU is simply to carry them out sequentially. The CPU's physical construction, like that of the memory, may include many kinds of components, ranging from microminiature semiconducter junctions to electromechanical relays. It is only the logical arrangement of these components, and not their particular physical constitution, that determines the functioning of the CPU.
We can most easily understand the operation of a computer by considering a simple example. Figure 1 illustrates a program of computer instructions for calculating the square root of a number.' The thirteen numbered statements correspond to the list of coded instructions stored in the computer's memory. (Here, for clarity's sake, we have written them out in English.) The five boxes correspond to areas in the memory that store data and intermediate computational steps. To simulate the operation of the computer, place a number, such as 9, in box (1). Then simply follow the instructions. When you have completed the last instruction, the square root of your original number will be in box (2). In a computer, each of these instructions would be carried out by the CPU. They illustrate the kind of elementary operations used by present-day computers (although the operations do not correspond exactly to those of any particular computer).
The method of finding a square root given in our example may seem cumbersome and obscure, but it is typical of how computers operate. In fact, the practical applicability of computers rests on the observation that every fixed scheme of computation ever formulated can be reduced to a list of simple operations like the one in our example. This observation, first made by several mathematicians in the 1930s and '40s, is commonly known as Church's thesis. It implies that, in principle, any scheme of symbol manipulation we can precisely define can be carried out by a modern digital computer.
At this point, let us consider our hypothetical sentient computer. According to the exponents of artificial intelligence, the intricate behavior characteristic of a human being is nothing more than a highly complex scheme of symbol manipulation. Using Church's thesis, we can break down this scheme into a program of instructions comparable to our example in the Figure. The only difference is that this program will be exceedingly long and complex—it may run to millions of steps. Of course, up till now no one has even come close to actually producing a formal symbolic description of human behavior. But for the sake of argument let's suppose such a description could be written and expressed as a computer program.
Now, assuming a computer is executing such a highly complex program, let us see what we can understand about the computer's possible states of consciousness. When executing the program, the computer's CPU will be carrying out only one instruction at any given time, and the millions of instructions comprising the rest of the program will exist only as an inactive record in the computer's memory. Now, intuitively it seems doubtful that a mere inactive record could have anything to do with consciousness. Where, then, does, the computer's consciousness reside? At any given moment the CPU is simply performing some elementary operation, such as "Copy the number in box (1687002) into box (9994563)." In what way can we correlate this activity with the conscious perception of thoughts and feelings?
The researchers of artificial intelligence have an answer to this question, which they base on the idea of levels of organization in a computer program. We shall take a few paragraphs here to briefly explain and investigate this answer. First we shall need to know what is meant by "levels of organization." Therefore let us once again consider the simple computer program of above Figure. Then we shall apply the concept of levels of organization to the program of our "sentient" computer and see what light this concept can shed on the relation between consciousness and the computer's internal physical states.
Levels of Organization
Although the square-root program of Figure 1 may appear to be a formless list of instructions, it actually possesses a definite structure, which is outlined in Figure 2 below. This structure consists of four levels of organization. On the highest level, the function of the program is described in a single sentence that uses the symbol square root. On the next level, the meaning of this symbol is defined by a description of the method the program uses to find square roots. This description makes use of the symbol squared, which is similarly defined on the next lower level in terms of another symbol, sum. Finally, the symbol sum defined on the lowest level in terms of the combination of elementary operations actually used to compute sums in the program. Although for the sake of clarity we have used English sentences in Figure 2, the description on each level would normally use only symbols for elementary operations, or higher-order symbols defined on the next level down.
These graded symbolic descriptions actually define the program, in the sense that if we begin with level 1 and expand each higher-order symbol in terms of its definition on a lower level, we will wind up writing the list of elementary operations in Figure 1. The descriptions are useful in that they provide an intelligible account of what happens in the program. Thus on one level we can say that numbers are being squared, on another level that they are being added, and on yet another that they are being incremented and decremented. But the levels of organization of the program are only abstract properties of the list of operations given in Figure 1. When a computer executes this program, these levels do not exist in any real sense, for the computer actually performs only the elementary operations in the list.
In fact, we can go further and point out that even this last statement is not strictly true, because what we call "the elementary operations" are themselves symbols, such as Increment (3), that refer to abstract properties of the computer's underlying machinery. When a computer operates, all that really happens is that matter and energy undergo certain transformations according to a pattern determined by the computer's physical structure.
In general, any computer program that performs some complex task can be resolved into a hierarchy of levels of description similar to the one given above. Researchers in artificial intelligence generally visualize their projected "intelligent" or "sentient" programs in terms of a hierarchy such as the following: On the bottom level they propose to describe the program in terms of elementary operations. Then come several successive levels involving mathematical procedures of greater and greater intricacy and sophistication. After this comes a level in which they hope to define symbols that refer to basic constituents of thoughts, feelings, and sensory perceptions. Next comes a series of levels involving more and more sophisticated mental features, culminating in the level of the ego, or self.
Here, then, is how artificial intelligence researchers understand the relation between computer operations and consciousness: Consciousness is associated with a "sentient" program's higher levels of operation—levels on which symbolic transformations take place that directly correspond to higher sensory processes and the transformations of thoughts. On the other hand, the lower levels are not associated with consciousness. Their structure can be changed without affecting the consciousness of the computer, as long as the higher level symbols are still given equivalent definitions. Referring again to our square-root program, we see that this idea is confirmed by the fact that the process of finding a square root given on level 2 in Figure 2 will remain esentially the same even if we define the operation of squaring on level 3 in some different but equivalent way.
If we were to adopt a strictly behavioristic use of the word consciousness, then this understanding of computerized consciousness might be satisfactory—granting, of course, that someone could indeed create a program with the required higher-order organization. Using such a criterion, we would designate certain patterns of behavior as conscious and others as not. Generally, a sequence of behavioral events would have to be quite long to qualify as "conscious." For example, a long speech may exhibit certain complex features that identify it as "conscious," but none of the words or short phrases that make it up would be long enough to display such features. Using such a criterion, one might want to designate a certain sequence of computer operations as "conscious" because it possesses certain abstract higher-order properties. Then one might analyze the overall behavior of the computer as "conscious" in terms of these properties, whereas any single elementary operation would be too short to qualify.
We are interested, however, not in categorizing patterns of behavior as conscious or unconscious but rather in understanding the actual subjective experience of conscious awareness. To clearly distinguish this conception of consciousness from the behavioral one, we shall briefly pause here to describe it and establish its status as a subject of serious inquiry. By consciousness we mean the awareness of thoughts and sensations that we directly perceive and know that we perceive. Since other persons are similar to us, it is natural to suppose that they are similarly conscious. If this is accepted, then it follows that consciousness is an objectively existing feature of reality that tends to be associated with certain material structures, such as the bodies of living human beings.
Now, when a common person hears that a computer can be conscious, he naturally tends to interpret this statement in the sense we have just described. Thus he will imagine that a computer can have subjective, conscious experiences similar to his own. Certainly this is the idea behind such stories as the one with which we began this piece. One imagines the computerized "Mr. Jones," as he looks about the room through the computer's TV cameras, actually feeling astonishment at his strange transformation.
If the computerized Mr. Jones could indeed have such a subjective experience, then we would face the situation depicted in Figure 3 below. On the one hand, the conscious experience of the computer would exist—its subjective experience of colors, sounds, thoughts, and feelings would be an actual reality. On the other hand, the physical structures of the computer would exist. However, we cannot directly correlate consciousness with the actual physical processes of the computer, nor can we relate consciousness to the execution of individual elementary operations, such as those in Figure 1. According to the artificial-intelligence researchers, consciousness should correspond to higher-order abstract properties of the computer's physical states—properties described by symbols such as thought and feeling, which stand at the top of a lofty pyramid of abstract definitions. Indeed, these abstract properties are the only conceivable features of our sentient computer that could have any direct correlation with the contents of consciousness.
Since consciousness is real, however, and these abstract properties are not, we can conclude only that something must exist in nature that can somehow "read" these properties from the computer's physical states. This entity is represented in Figure 3 by the arrow connecting the real contents of consciousness with higher levels in the hierarchy of abstract symbolic descriptions of the sentient computer. The entity must have the following characteristics:
(1) It must possess sufficient powers of discrimination to recognize certain highly abstract patterns of organization in arrangements of matter.
(2) It must be able to establish a link between consciousness and such arrangements of matter. In particular, it must modify the contents of conscious experience in accordance with the changes these abstract properties undergo as time passes and the arrangements of matter are transformed.
There is clearly no place for an entity of this kind in our current picture of what is going on in a computer. Indeed, we can conclude only that this entity must correspond to a feature of nature completely unknown to modern science. This, then, is the conclusion forced upon us if we assume that a computer can be conscious. Of course, we can easily avoid this conclusion by supposing that no computer will ever be conscious, and this may indeed be the case. Aside from computers, however, what can we say about the relation between consciousness and the physical body in a human being? On one hand we know human beings possess consciousness, and on the other modern science teaches us that the human body is an extremely complex machine composed of molecular components. Can we arrive at an understanding of human consciousness that does not require the introduction of an entity of the kind described by statements (1) and (2)?
Ironically, if we try to base our understanding on modern scientific theory, then the answer is no. The reason is that all modern scientific attempts to understand human consciousness depend, directly or indirectly, on an analogy between the human brain and a computer. In fact, the scientific model for human consciousness is machine consciousness!
The Mechanical Brain
Modern scientists regard the brain as the seat of consciousness. They understand the brain to consist of many different kinds of cells, each a molecular machine. Of these, the nerve cells, or neurons, are known to exhibit electrochemical activities roughly analogous to those of the logical switching elements used in computer circuitry. Although scientists at present understand the brain's operation only vaguely, they generally conjecture that these neurons form an information-processing network equivalent to a computer's.
This conjecture naturally leads to the picture of the brain shown in Figure 4. Here thoughts, sensations, and feelings must correspond to higher levels of brain activity, which resemble the higher organizational levels of a complex computer program. Just as the higher levels of such a program are abstract, these higher levels of brain activity must also be abstract. They can have no actual existence, for all that actually happens in the brain is that certain physical processes take place, such as the pumping of sodium ions through neural cell walls. If we try to account for the existence of human consciousness in the context of this picture of the brain, we must conclude (by the same reasoning as before) that some entity described by statements (1) and (2) must exist to account for the connection between consciousness and abstract properties of brain states.
Furthermore, if we closely examine the current scientific world view, we can see that its conception of the brain as a computer does not depend merely on some superficial details of our understanding of the brain. Rather, on a deeper level, the conception follows necessarily from a mechanistic view of the world. Mechanistic explanations of phenomena are, by definition, based on systems of calculation. By Church's thesis, all systems of calculation can in principle be represented in terms of computer operations. In effect, all explanations of phenomena in the current scientific world view can be expressed in terms of either computer operations or some equivalent symbolic scheme.
This implies that all attempts to describe human consciousness within the basic framework of modern science must lead to the same problems we have encountered in our analysis of machine consciousness. To account for consciousness, we shall inevitably require some entity like the one described in statements (1) and (2). Yet in the present theoretical system of science we find nothing, either in the brain or in a digital computer, that corresponds to this entity. Indeed, the present theoretical system could never provide for such an entity, for any mechanistic addition to the current picture of, say, the brain would simply constitute another part of that mechanistic system, and the need for an entity satisfying (1) and (2) would still arise.
Clearly, then, we must revise the basic theoretical approach of modern science if we are adequately to account for the nature of conscious beings. If we cannot do this in mechanistic terms, then we must adopt some other mode of scientific explanation. This brings us to the question of just what constitutes a scientific explanation.
A Nonmechanistic Explanation
Any theory intended to explain a phenomenon must make use of a variety of descriptive terms. We may define some of these terms by combining other terms of the theory, but there must inevitably be some terms, called primitive or fundamental, that we cannot so define. In a mechanistic theory, all the primitive terms correspond to numbers or arrangements of numbers, and scientists at present generally try to cast all their theories into this form. But a theory does not have to be mechanistic to qualify as scientific. It is perfectly valid to adopt the view that a theoretical explanation is scientific if it is logically consistent and if it enables us to deal practically with the phenomenon in question and enlarge our knowledge of it through direct experience. Such a scientific explanation may contain primitive terms that cannot be made to correspond to arrangements of numbers.
In our remaining space, we shall outline an alternative approach to the understanding of consciousness—an approach that is scientific in the sense we have described, but that is not mechanistic. Known as sanatana-dharma, this approach is expounded in India's ancient Vedic literatures, such as Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. We shall give a short description of sanatana-dharma and show how it satisfactorily accounts for the connection between consciousness and mechanism. This account is, in fact, based on the kind of entities described in statements (1) and (2), and sanatana-dharma very clearly and precisely describes the nature of these entities, Finally, we shall briefly indicate how this system of thought can enlarge our understanding of consciousness by opening up new realms of practical experience.
By accepting conscious personality as the irreducible basis of reality, sanatana-dharma departs radically from the mechanistic viewpoint. For those who subscribe to this viewpoint, all descriptions of reality ultimately boil down to combinations of simple, numerically representable entities, such as the particles and fields of physics. Sanatana-dharma, on the other hand, teaches that the ultimate foundation of reality is an Absolute Personality, who can be referred to by many personal names, such as Krsna and Govinda. This primordial person fully possesses consciousness, senses, intelligence, will, and all other personal faculties. According to sanatana-dharma, all of these attributes are absolute, and it is not possible to reduce them to patterns of transformation of some impersonal substrate. Rather, all phenomena, both personal and impersonal, are manifestations of the energy of the Supreme Person, and we cannot fully understand these phenomena without referring to this original source.
The Supreme Person has two basic energies, the internal energy and the external energy. The external energy includes what is commonly known as matter and energy. It is the basis for all the forms and phenomena we perceive through our bodily senses, but it is insentient.
The internal energy, on the other hand, includes innumerable sentient beings called atmas. Each atma is conscious and possesses all the attributes of a person, including senses, mind, and intelligence. These attributes are inherent features of the atma, and they are of the same irreducible nature as the corresponding attributes of the Supreme Person. The atmas are atomic, individual personalities who cannot lose their identities, either through amalgamation into a larger whole or by division into parts.
Sanatana-dharma teaches that a living organism consists of an atma in association with a physical body composed of the external energy. Bhagavad-gita describes the physical body as a machine, or yantra, and the atma as a passenger riding in this machine. When the atma is embodied, his natural senses are linked up with the physical information-processing system of the body, and thus he perceives the world through the bodily senses. The atma is the actual conscious self of the living being, and the body is simply an insentient vehicle-like mechanism.
If we refer back to our arguments involving machine consciousness, we can see that in the body the atma plays the role specified by statements (1) and (2). The atma is inherently conscious, and he possesses the sensory faculties and intelligence needed to interpret abstract properties of complex brain states. In fact, if we examine statements (1) and (2) we can see that they are not merely satisfied by the atma; they actually call for some similar kind of sentient, intelligent entity.
We can better understand the position of the atma as the conscious perceiver of the body by considering what happens when a person reads a book. When a person reads, he becomes aware of various thoughts and ideas corresponding to higher-order abstract properties of the arrangement of ink on the pages. Yet none of these abstract properties actually exists in the book itself, nor would we imagine that the book is conscious of what it records. To establish a correlation between the book on the one hand and conscious awareness of its contents on the other, there must be a conscious person with intelligence and senses who can read the book. Similarly, for conscious awareness to be associated with the abstract properties of states of a machine, there must be some sentient entity to read these states.
At this point one might object that if we try to explain a conscious person by positing the existence of another conscious person within his body, then we have actually explained nothing at all. One can then ask how the consciousness of this person is to be explained, and this leads to an infinite regress.
In response, we point out that this objection presupposes that an explanation of consciousness must be mechanistic. But our arguments about machine consciousness actually boil down to the observation that conscious personality cannot be explained mechanistically. An infinite regress of this kind is in fact unavoidable unless we either give up the effort to understand consciousness or posit the existence of a sentient entity that cannot be reduced to a combination of insentient parts. Sanatana-dharma regards conscious personality as fundamental and irreducible, and thus the "infinite regress" stops with the atma.
The real value of the concept of the atma as an explanation of consciousness is that it leads directly to further avenues of study and exploration. The very idea that the conscious self possesses its own inherent senses suggests that these senses should be able to function independently of the physical apparatus of the body. In fact, according to sanatana-dharma the natural senses of the atma are indeed not limited to interpreting the physical states of the material brain. The atma can attain much higher levels of perception, and sanatana-dharma primarily deals with effective means whereby a person can realize these capacities in practice.
The Science of Consciousness
Since neither the Supreme Person nor the individual atmas are combinations of material elements, it is not possible to scrutinize them directly through the material sensory apparatus. On the basis of material sensory information, we can only infer their existence by indirect arguments, such as the ones presented in this article. According to sanatana-dharma, however, we can directly observe and understand both the Supreme Person and the atmas by taking advantage of the natural sensory faculties of the atma. Thus sanatana-dharma provides the basis for a true science of consciousness.
Since this science deals with the full potentialities of the atma, it necessarily ranges far beyond the realm of mechanistic thinking. When the atma is restricted to the physically embodied state, it can participate in personal activities only through the medium of machines, such as the brain, that generate behavior by the concatenation of impersonal operations. In this stultifying situation, the atma cannot manifest his full potential.
But the atma can achieve a higher state of activity, in which it participates directly in a relation of loving reciprocation with the Supreme Person, Krsna. Since both the atma and Krsna are by nature sentient and personal, this relationship involves the full use of all the faculties of perception, thought, feeling, and action. In fact, the direct reciprocal exchange between the atma and Krsna defines the ultimate function and meaning of conscious personality, just as the interaction of an electron with an electric field might be said to define the ultimate meaning of electric charge. Sanatana-dharma teaches that the actual nature of consciousness can be understood by the atma. only on this level of conscious activity.
Thus, sanatana-dharma provides us with an account of the nature of the conscious being that takes us far beyond the conceptions of the mechanistic world view. While supporting the idea that the body is a machine, this account maintains that the essence of conscious personality is to be found in an entity that interacts with this machine but is wholly distinct from it. Furthermore, one can know the true nature of this entity only in an absolute context completely transcending the domain of machines.
We have argued that the strictly mechanistic approach to life cannot satisfactorily explain consciousness. If we are to progress in this area, we clearly need some radically different approach, and we have briefly indicated how sanatana-dharma provides such an alternative. Sanatana-dharma explains the relationship between consciousness and machines by boldly positing that conscious personality is irreducible. It then goes on to elucidate the fundamental meaning of personal existence by opening up a higher realm of conscious activity—a realm that can be explored by direct experience. In contrast, the mechanistic world view can at best provide us with the sterile, behavioristic caricature of conscious personality epitomized by the computerized Mr. Jones.
In actual computer applications, much more sophisticated methods of calculating square roots would be used. The method presented in Figure 1 is intended to provide a simple example of the nature of computer programs
For the sake of clarity, let us briefly indicate why this is so. Suppose one could describe a model of a sentient entity by means of a computer program. Then a certain level of organization of the program would correspond to the elementary constituents of the model. For example, in a quantum mechanical model these might be quantum wave functions. The level of the program corresponding to "thoughts" and "feelings" would be much higher than this level. Hence we conclude that this "cognitive" level would not in any sense exist in the actual system being modeled. It would correspond only to abstract properties of the states of this system, and thus an entity of the kind described in (1) and (2) would be needed to establish the association between the system and the contents of consciousness.
Guidance for Pilgrims: Hare Krsna and the Jesus Prayer
I was with His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada in Australia in 1974 when he spoke on several occasions to church leaders and audiences of seminarians." While telling about Lord Caitanya's universal sankirtana movement of chanting God's holy names, Srila Prabhupada would explain that Christians could also take part by chanting the name of Jesus Christ. He pointed out that the word christ, coming from the Greek word christos, is philologically related to the name Krsna. He also said that if, along with chanting Christos, Christians would give up slaughtering animals and eating meat, they would advance in spiritual realization. Srila Prabhupada has written about the universality of chanting the names of God:
The Lord is the proprietor of all the universe, and therefore He may be known in different places by different names, but that does not in any way qualify the fullness of the Lord. Any nomenclature which is meant for the Supreme Lord is as holy as the others because they are all meant for the Lord. Such holy names are as powerful as the Lord, and there is nothing to bar anyone in any part of the creation from chanting and glorifying the Lord by the particular name of the Lord as it is locally understood. They are all auspicious, and one should not distinguish such names of the Lord as material commodities.
There is an old Christian tradition that; stresses the chanting of the holy names of God. The Philokalia, a collection from eleven centuries, of early Christian writings, documents that certain early fathers -of Eastern Christianity gave exclusive importance to the recitation of the Jesus Prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me" These early fathers lived in solitary, eating, only a little bread and water. In their practice of constant prayer, they used breathing exercises and concentration on the heart, reminiscent of hatha-yoga techniques from India. Yet although the severe austerities and divine insights of these fathers are inspiring, hardly anyone now can expect to adopt such a life of constant solitude.
The practice of chanting the Jesus Prayer was also current in nineteenth century Russia, as described by the wandering renunciant-author of The Way of a Pilgrim. This book is an autobiographical. account of a pilgrim who, having discovered the virtues of the Jesus Prayer, wandered homeless through the forests and towns of Russia, requesting whomever he met to recite the prayer constantly.
But how many Christians today would follow the pilgrim's example of denying himself earthly pleasures and simply wandering with a backpack and a little bread, chanting the name of Jesus Christ? Today we are accustomed more to seeing "born-again" Christians justify a life of subdued hedonism in the name of religion. Popular evangelists urge their followers to send them money and pray to God for wealth and material blessings. These extreme constrasts—on one hand the life of austerity and detachment from the material world and on the other hand , the life of materialistic Christianity in which God wants us to enjoy the world—are too often the only alternatives open to Christians. For sincere Christians, this presents a serious problem. A modern reference that touches on the same problem is J.D. Salinger's book, Franny and Zooey. I had never read this book, but I had heard that it mentions the chanting of japa. Zooey says,
It's nothing new, for God's sake. It didn't just start with the little pilgrim's crowd, I mean. In India, for God knows how many centuries, it's been known as japam. Japam is just the repetition of any of the human names of God. Or the names of his incarnations—his avatars, if you want to get technical. The idea being that if you call out the name long enough and regularly enough and literally from the heart, you'll get an answer. . Not exactly an answer. A response.
As the story goes, Franny, sickened with the phonies in the world and with a college system that teaches knowledge but not wisdom, takes up chanting the Jesus Prayer. While in a restaurant with her shallow boy friend, she faints in desperation and is taken home, where she emotionally withdraws, cries, and continuously chants the Jesus Prayer. Her concerned parents and her brother Zooey try to persuade her to become her old self, again, and finally Zooey brings her out of her isolation by advising her not to hate the phony people of the world but to remain detached. Since Franny is an actress, she should not retreat from the, world but work as an actress in service to God.
Yet Zooey's philosophy is sentimental. His advice leaves much to be desired, as he himself admits:
When you first felt the urge, the call, to say the prayer, you didn't immediately start searching the four corners of the world for a master. You came home.... So if you look at it in a certain way, by rights you're only entitled to the low grade spiritual counsel we're able to give you around here, and no more.
A genuine spiritual master would have been able to give Franny much more practical help in spiritual life, for he would , have been able to explain the art of precisely how to render service to the Lord by chanting His name and at the same time offering the results of one's work to Him in devotion.
The name of God is identical with the Supreme Lord Himself; therefore, by chanting God's names a devotee comes in direct touch with the Lord. One need not cut himself off from the world, because the whole material world is the energy of God and can be used in His service. Without expert guidance, however, one's philosophy is bound to be incomplete, and he will either want to renounce the world or enjoy for himself. A devotee can become an actress, or for that matter a lawyer, a welfare worker, a humanitarian, or a family person in the service of God. But one has to learn the art of performing all activities as service to Him.
The process, of Krsna consciousness offers many facilities to help pilgrims, whether Christian, Hindu, Muslim, or whatever. There's the worship of God in His Deity form in the temple. There the process of offering food to Krsna and accepting the remnants as His mercy. These spiritual practices are pleasant, easy, and powerful. A materialist cannot, understand how God and His name can. be the same or how God's Deity form can be nondifferent from His original form. But these absolute facts are stated in the Vedic scriptures and understood by pure devotees.
If a pilgrim does not, know how to worship the Deity form of God or how to offer Krsna delicious food and then eat the spiritual remnants—if his only choices, therefore, are either to reject; this world and chant in solitude or, on the contrary, to think that God sanctions a. life of materialistic enjoyment including even animal slaughter and illicit sex—then he is at a great disadvantage, despite his prayers or his professing the name of God. Only by following the guidance of a genuine spiritual master can a devotee of God, a chanter of God's names, pass through all the difficulties of living in the material world and attain the pure and eternal devotion to Krsna that is the ultimate fruit of chanting.—SDG