A talk between John Lennon, Yoko Ono,
Summer, 1969: The setting is Tittenhurst Park, John Lennon's sixty-acre estate in Ascot, a London suburb. John had invited the dozen or so devotees then living in London to stay at the estate, and they had decorated a small recital hall there as a temple. A few weeks previously, the devotees had recorded the Hare Krsna mantra on Apple Records. Now, on September 8, Srila Prabhupada was arriving, and John offered to have him picked up in his Rolls Royce at Heathrow Airport and brought to stay with the devotees at Tittenhurst. It was during Srila Prabhupada's stay there that this conversation took place.
Srila Prabhupada [to John Lennon]: You are anxious to bring about peace in the world. I've read some of your statements, and they show me that you're anxious to do something Actually, every saintly person should be anxious to bring peace to the world. But we must know the process. In Bhagavad-gita [5.29], Lord Krsna explains how to achieve peace:
People can become peaceful by knowing three things. If people perfectly understand only three things, then they'll become peaceful. What are they? First of all, Lord Krsna says that He is the real enjoyer of all the sacrifices, austerities, and penances that people undertake to perfect their lives. For instance, your own musical activities are also a form of austerity. Your songs have become popular because you have undergone some austerities. You have come to perfection, but that required some penances and austerities. Scientific discoveries also require austerities. In fact, anything valuable requires austerity. If one works very devoutly and painstakingly, one becomes successful.
That is called yajna, or sacrifice. It is also called tapasya, or penance. So Krsna says that He is the enjoyer of the results of your tapasya. He claims, "The result of your tapasya should come to Me. Then you'll be satisfied."
The second thing people should remember is that Krsna is the supreme proprietor. People are claiming, "This is my England," "This is my India," "This is my Germany," "This is my China." No! Everything belongs to God, Krsna. Not only this planet belongs to Krsna, but all other planets in the universe.
Still, we have divided even this planet into so many nations. Originally, this planet was not divided. From the historical accounts in the Mahabharata, we understand that the whole planet was once ruled by a single emperor who resided in India, in the place called Hastinapura, the site of modern Delhi. Even up to five thousand years ago there was only one king, Maharaja Pariksit. The whole planet was under one flag and was called Bharata-varsa. But gradually Bharata-varsa has become smaller and smaller and smaller. For instance, very recently, just twenty years ago, the remaining portion of Bharata-varsa, now called India, was divided into Pakistan and Hindustan. Actually, India was one, but now it has been reduced by the partition. This dividing is going on.
But actually this whole planet is God's place. It is nobody else's place. How can we claim possession? For example, you have given me this place to stay in. If I stay for one week and then claim, "Oh, this is my room," is that a very nice thing? There will immediately be some disagreement, some trouble. Rather, I should recognize the actual fact, namely, that you have kindly spared this room. By your permission I am living here comfortably. And when it is necessary for me to leave, I shall go.
Similarly, we all came here into the kingdom of God empty-handed, and we go empty-handed. So how can we claim that this is my property, this is my country, this is my world, this is my planet? Why do we make such claims? Is it not insanity? So Lord Krsna says, sarva-loka-mahesvaram: "I am the Supreme Lord of every place."
Thirdly, we should always remember that Krsna is the real friend of every living entity and that He is sitting as a friend within everyone's heart. He's such a nice friend. In this material world, we make friendships, but they break up. Or my friend lives somewhere, and I live somewhere else. But Krsna is such a nice friend that He is living within-within me and within my heart. He is the best friend of all living beings. He's not just the friend of a select few, but He is dwelling even within the heart of the most insignificant creature as Paramatma, or Supersoul.
So if these three things are understood clearly, then one becomes peaceful. This is the real peace formula . . . .
In Bhagavad-gita the Lord also says, "Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues." [Bhagavad-gita 3.21] The idea is that if something is accepted by the leading persons, the ordinary persons follow. If the leading persons say it is all right, then others also accept it. So by the grace of God, Krsna, you are leaders. Thousands of young people follow you. They like you. And if you give them something actually spiritual, the face of the world will change.
The Krsna consciousness movement is not newly manufactured. From the historical point of view, it is at least five thousand years old. The Bhagavad-gita, which is the basis of Krsna consciousness, was spoken by Lord Krsna five thousand years ago. Of course, Bhagavad-gita is generally regarded as an Indian religious book. But it isn't—it's not simply Indian or Hindu. The Bhagavad-gita is meant for all people of the world, and not even just for human beings but for all other living creatures as well. In Chapter Fourteen the Lord says, "It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kunti, are made possible by birth in this material nature and that I am the seed-giving father." [Bg. 14.4]
This indicates that the eternal living entity appears in varieties of temporary, material forms, just like we here now have the forms of ladies, gentlemen, and young men. We all have different forms. This whole world is full of varieties of life, but Krsna says, aham bija-pradah pita: "I am the father of all of them." Pita mans "father." So the Lord claims all living entities as His sons.
Some people may say that Krsna is Indian, Krsna is Hindu, or Krsna is something else. But no—Krsna is actually the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the seed-giving father of all living things on this planet. This Krsna consciousness movement was started by Krsna Himself. Therefore, it isn't sectarian; it's meant for everyone.
And in Bhagavad-gita [9.34] Krsna describes the universal process for worshiping Him:
man-mana bhava mad-bhakto
"Engage your mind always in thinking of Me and become My devotee. Offer obeisances to Me and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me."
Krsna says, You should always think of Me: let your mind always be engaged in Me, Krsna. Just become My devotee. If you want to worship, just worship Me. If you want to offer respects, offer them to Me. And if you do this, then without a doubt you'll come to Me.
This is a very simple method. Always think of Krsna. There is no loss, and the gain is very great.
So if one chants Hare Krsna, one undergoes no material loss, but gains spiritually. So why not try it? There is no expenditure. Everything has some price, but the Hare Krsna mantra is different. Lord Krsna and His followers in disciplic succession do not sell it—rather, they distribute it freely. We simply say to everyone, "Chant Hare Krsna. Dance in ecstasy." It is a very nice thing.
So, I have come to your country, England, and especially here to your home to explain this Krsna consciousness movement. It is very beneficial. You are intelligent boys. So my request to you is that you try to understand this Krsna consciousness philosophy with all your powers of reason and argument. Krsnadasa Kaviraja, the author of Caitanya-caritamrta, says, sri-krsna-caitanya-daya karaha vicara, vicara karile citte pabe camatkara: "If you are indeed interested in logic and argument, kindly apply it to the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.* If you do so, you will find it strikingly wonderful." [Cc. Adi 8.15] So just apply your powers of judgment to the mercy of Lord Caitanya. If you scrutinize His mercy, you'll find it sublime.
We are not forcing people to accept the Krsna consciousness movement. Rather, we are putting it before them for their judgment. Let them judge it. We are not a sectarian religious movement—Krsna consciousness is a science. So we ask you to judge it scrutinizingly with all your intellect. And we are sure you will find it sublime. And if you find it sublime, then why not help put it before the world?
Have you read our book Bhagavad-gita As It Is?
John Lennon: I've read bits of Bhagavad-gita. I don't know which version it was. There are so many different translations.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, there are different translations, in which the authors have given their own interpretations of the text. Therefore I have prepared our Bhagavad-gita As It Is. Even Indian authors sometimes misrepresent Bhagavad-gita. For instance, one prominent Indian politician tried to give his own interpretation of the Bhagavad-gita. Say you have a box for a fountain pen. Everyone knows it is a fountain pen box. But someone might say, "No, it is something else. That is my Interpretation." Is that very good?
Interpretation is required only when things are not understood clearly. If everybody can understand that this box is a fountain pen box, where is the necessity for interpretation? Bhagavad-gita is clear; it is just like sunlight, and sunlight does not require the aid of a lamp.
Dhrtarastra uvaca means that King Dhrtarastra, the father of Duryodhana, is asking his secretary, Sanjaya, about his sons, who are facing the Pandavas on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra. Mamakah means "my sons." Pandavah refers to the sons of King Pandu, the younger brother of Dhrtarastra. Yuyutsavah means "with fighting spirit." So Dhrtarastra is saying, "My sons and the sons of my younger brother Pandu are assembled on the battlefield, ready to fight each other." The place where the battle will be fought is called kuruksetra, which is also dharmaksetra, a place of pilgrimage. Kim akurvata. "Now that they have assembled at Kuruksetra," asks Dhrtarastra, "what will they do?" This place, Kuruksetra, still exists in India. Have you been to India?
John Lennon: Yes. But not to that place. We went to Hrsikesa.
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, Hrsikesa. Hrsikesa is also a famous place of pilgrimage. Similarly, Kuruksetra is a place of pilgrimage, near Delhi. It has been known as a place of pilgrimage since the Vedic times. In the Vedas it is stated, kuruksetre dharmam yajayet: "If you want to perform a religious ceremony, you should go to Kuruksetra." Therefore Kuruksetra is called dharmaksetra, a place of pilgrimage.
Let me give you an example. The first verse of Bhagavad-gita is ...
In other words, Kuruksetra is an actual historical location. And the Pandavas and the sons of Dhrtarastra are actual historical personalities. Their history is recorded in the Mahabharata. But in spite of these facts, some people interpret kuruksetra as "the body," and the Pandavas as "the senses." These things are going on, but we object. Why should anyone interpret Bhagavad-gita like that when the facts are there, presented so clearly?
Bhagavad-gita is a very authoritative and popular book, so unscrupulous authors try to put forward their own half-baked philosophies in the guise of commentaries on Bhagavad-gita. Therefore, there are so many false and misleading interpretations of Bhagavad-gita—six hundred and sixty-four or so. Everyone thinks he can interpret the Bhagavad-gita in his own way. But why? Why should this be allowed? We say, No, you cannot interpret Bhagavad-gita. Otherwise, what is the authority of Bhagavad-gita? The author of Bhagavad-gita did not leave it to be interpreted by third-class men. The author is Krsna, the Supreme Lord. He said everything clearly. Why should an ordinary man interpret His words? That is our objection.
Therefore, we are presenting Bhagavad-gita As It Is. In Bhagavad-gita you'll find very elevated philosophy and theology as well as sociology, politics, and science. Everything is there, and everything is clearly explained by Krsna. So this Krsna consciousness movement means to present Bhagavad-gita as it is. That's all. We have not manufactured anything.
[Srila Prabhupada pauses a moment and sips some water.]
Be happy and make all others happy. This is Krsna consciousness. Sarve sukhena bhavantu. That is the Vedic idea: everyone be happy. Caitanya Mahaprabhu said the same thing. He wanted this Krsna consciousness movement to be preached in every village and in every town of the world. It will make people happy. He foretold this. The purpose of any great mission, or of any high ideals, should be to make people happy, because in this material existence there is no happiness. That is a fact. There cannot be any happiness here.
This place is not meant for happiness. In Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna Himself says that this world is duhkhalayam asasvatam. Duhkhalayam means it is a place of miseries, and asasvatam means it is temporary. Everything here is temporary. So you might accept that this material world is a miserable place and say, "All right, it's miserable, but I accept it." But that attitude has no value, because the material nature will not even allow you to stay here and accept the misery. This world is asasvatam, temporary. You have to leave.
But Krsna says there is a way to end this miserable existence: "After attaining Me, the great souls, who are yogis in devotion, never return to this temporary world, which is full of miseries, because they have attained the highest perfection." [Bg. 8.15] If somebody comes to Me, says Krsna, then he doesn't have to return to the miserable conditions of life in the material world.
So, we should understand what Krsna is saying here. Nature is so cruel. In America, President Kennedy thought he was the most fortunate man, the happiest man. He was young, he was elected President. He had a nice wife and children and was respected all over the world. But within a second [Srila Prabhupada snaps his fingers] it was all finished. His position was temporary. Now what is his condition? Where is he? If life is eternal, if the living entity is eternal, then where has he gone? What is he doing? Is he happy, or is he distressed? Has he been reborn in America, in China? No one can say.
But it is a fact that as a living entity he's eternal, he's existing. That is the beginning of Bhagavad-gita's philosophy. na hanyate hanyamane sarire. After the destruction of this body, the living entity is not destroyed: he is still there. Just like in your childhood you had a small body. That body is no more, but you are still existing. So it is natural that when this body ceases to exist, you will continue to exist in another body. It's not very difficult to understand. The soul is eternal, and the body is temporary. That's a fact.
Therefore, this present life is meant for manufacturing the next body. That is Vedic knowledge. In this life we are creating our next body. For instance, a boy may be studying very nicely in school. In this way he is creating his adult body. As a young man he will enjoy the results of his boyhood education. By education he can get a nice job, a nice house. So in this sense we can say that the young boy at school is creating his next body.
Similarly, we are all creating our next bodies according to our karma. By karma, most people will take another material body. But Krsna says it is possible to create a spiritual body so that you can come to Him. He says that those who worship Him go to His spiritual planet after death.
The whole Vedic philosophy teaches that if you want to go to a particular planet you must have a suitable body. You cannot go with this body. For instance, people are now trying to go to the moon planet. They are attempting to go with their material bodies, but they cannot stay there., But Krsna gives the process for going to other planets, and the highest planet is Krsna's planet. You can go there "Those who worship the demigods will take birth among the demigods; those who worship ghosts and spirits will take birth among such beings; those who worship ancestors go to the ancestors; and those who worship Me will live with Me." [Bg. 9.25]
One who worships Krsna does not come back again to this miserable material condition. Why? He has attained the highest perfection, to go back to Krsna. So this is the greatest benediction for human society, to train people to go back to Krsna's spiritual planet, where they can dance with Krsna in rasa-lila. Have you seen pictures of Krsna's rasa-lila dancing?
John Lennon: Which picture?
Disciple: The painting of Krsna dancing with Radha and the cowherd girls, the gopis.
John Lennon: Oh, you mean the one on the wall of the temple room?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. So, we can go to the spiritual world and join with Krsna and dance happily, with no anxiety. Living beings can have so many different connections with Krsna—as friend, as servant, as parent, as lover, whatever you like. Krsna says, ye yatha mam prapadyante tams tathaiva bhajamy aham: "All of them—as they surrender unto Me—I reward accordingly." [Bg. 4.11] Just cultivate the consciousness of the particular relationship you desire with Krsna. He is prepared to accept you in that capacity. And that makes a solution to all problems.
In this world, nothing is permanent, nothing is blissful, nothing is full of knowledge. So we are training Western boys and girls in the science of Krsna consciousness. Anyone can take advantage of it. It is very beneficial. You should also try to understand it, and if you find it valuable, then please take it up. You are looking for something very nice. Is my proposal unreasonable? You are intelligent boys. Try to understand it.
And you also have very good musical abilities. The Vedic mantras were all transmitted through music. The Sama-veda, in particular, is full of music:
yam brahma varunendra-rudra-marutah
"I offer my humble obeisances to the Supreme Lord, whom great demigods like Brahma, Varuna, Indra, Siva, and the Maruts praise with transcendental prayers. Those who know the Sama-veda sing about Him with different Vedic hymns." [Srimad-Bhagavatam 12.13.1] Sama-veda means the followers of the Sama-veda. Gayanti means that they are always engaged in music. Through musical vibrations they are approaching the Supreme. Gayanti means singing. So, Vedic mantras are meant to be sung. Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam can be sung very nicely. This is the proper way of chanting Vedic mantras. Simply by hearing the vibration, people will receive benefit, even if they do not understand the meaning. [Srila Prabhupada then chants some mantras from Srimad-Bhagavatam.]
Simply by transcendental sound vibration everything can be achieved. What kind of philosophy are you following? May I ask?
John Lennon: Following?
Yoko Ono: We don't follow anything. We are just living.
George Harrison: We've done meditation. Or I do my meditation—mantra meditation.
Srila Prabhupada: Hare Krsna is also mantra.
John Lennon: Ours is not a song, though.
George Harrison: No, no. It's chanting.
John Lennon: We heard it from Maharishi. A mantra each.
Srila Prabhupada: His mantras are not public.
George Harrison: Not out loud . . . no.
John Lennon: No—it's a secret.
Srila Prabhupada: There's a story about Ramanujacarya, a great Krsna conscious spiritual master. His spiritual master gave him a mantra and said, "My dear boy, you chant this mantra silently. Nobody else can hear it. It is very secret." Ramanujacarya asked his guru, "'What is the effect of this mantra?" The guru said, "By chanting this mantra in meditation, you'll get liberation."
So Ramanujacarya immediately went out to a big public meeting and said, "Everyone chant this mantra. You'll all be liberated." [Laughter.] Then he came back to his spiritual master, who was very angry, and said, "I told you that you should chant silently!" Ramanujacarya said, "Yes, I have committed an offense. So whatever punishment you like you can give me. But because you told me that this mantra will give liberation, I have given it to the public. Let everyone be liberated, and let me go to hell—I am prepared. But if by chanting this mantra everyone can be liberated, let it be publicly distributed."
His spiritual master then embraced him, saying, "You are greater than me."
You see? If a mantra has so much power, why should it be secret? It should be distributed. People are suffering. So Caitanya Mahaprabhu said to chant this Hare Krsna mantra loudly. Anyone who hears it, even the birds and beasts, will become liberated.
Yoko Ono: If Hare Krsna is such a strong, powerful mantra, is there any reason to chant anything else? For instance, you talked about songs and different mantras. Is there any point in the chanting of another song or mantra?
Srila Prabhupada: There are other mantras, but the Hare Krsna mantra is especially recommended for this age. But other Vedic mantras are also chanted. As I told you, the sages would sit with musical instruments, like the tamboura, and chant them. For instance, Narada Muni is always chanting mantras and playing his stringed instrument, the vina. So chanting out loud, with musical instruments, is not a new thing. It has been done since time immemorial But the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra is especially recommended for this age This is stated in many Vedic literatures, such as the Brahmanda Purana, the Kalisantarana Upanisad, the Agni Purana, and so forth.
And apart from the statements of the Vedic literature, Lord Krsna Himself, in the form of Lord Caitanya, preached that everyone should chant the Hare Krsna mantra. And many people followed Him. When a scientist discovers something, it becomes public property; people may take advantage of it. Similarly. if a mantra has potency, all people should be able to take advantage of it. Why should it remain secret? Why should it be for only a particular person?
John Lennon: If all mantras are just the name of God, then whether it's a secret mantra or an open mantra it's all the name of God. So it doesn't really make much difference, does it, which one you sing?
Srila Prabhupada: It does make a difference. For instance, in a drug shop they sell all types of medicines for curing different diseases. But still you have to get a doctor's prescription in order to get a particular type of medicine. Otherwise, the druggist won't supply you. You might go to the drug shop and say, "I'm diseased. Please give me any medicine you have." But the druggist will ask you, "Where is your prescription?"
Similarly, in this age of Kali [the Age of Quarrel and Hypocrisy] the Hare Krsna mantra is prescribed in the sastras, or scriptures. And the great teacher Caitanya Mahaprabhu, whom we consider to be an incarnation of God, also prescribed it. Therefore, our principle is that everyone should follow the prescription of the great authorities. Mahajano yena gatah sa panthah. We should follow in the footsteps of the great authorities. That is our business. The Mahabharata [Vana-parva, 313.117] states,
tarko 'pratisthah srutayo vibhinnah
This Vedic mantra says that if you simply try to argue and approach the Absolute Truth, it is very difficult. By argument and reason it is very difficult, because our arguments and reason are limited. And our senses are imperfect. There are many confusing varieties of scriptures, and every philosopher has a different opinion, and unless a philosopher defeats other philosophers. he cannot become recognized as a big philosopher. One theory replaces another, and therefore philosophical speculation will not help us arrive at the Absolute Truth. The Absolute Truth is very secret. So how can one achieve such a secret thing? You simply follow the great personalities who have already achieved success.
So our Krsna consciousness philosophical method is to follow the great personalities, such as Lord Krsna, Lord Caitanya, and the great spiritual masters in disciplic succession. Take shelter of bona fide authorities and follow them-that is recommended in the Vedas. That will take you to the ultimate goal.
In Bhagavad-gita [4.1], Lord Krsna also recommends this process. The Lord says, "I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Iksvaku." Krsna is saying, My dear Arjuna, don't think that this science of Krsna consciousness is something new. No. It is eternal, and I first spoke it to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan spoke it to his son Manu, and Manu also transferred this knowledge to his son, King Iksvaku.
The Lord further explains,
"This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time, the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost." [Bg. 4.2]
Evam parampara-praptam: In this way, by disciplic succession, the knowledge is coming down. Sa kaleneha mahata yogo nastah parantapa: But in the course of time the succession was broken. Therefore Krsna says, "I am speaking it to you again."
So a mantra should be received from the disciplic succession. The Vedic injunction is sampradaya-vihina ye mantras te nisphala matah. If your mantra does not come through the disciplic succession, it will not be effective. Mantras te nisphala. Nisphalah means that it will not produce the desired result. So the mantra must be received through the proper channel. or it will not act. A mantra cannot be manufactured. It must come from the original Supreme Absolute, coming down through the channel of disciplic succession. It has to be received in that way, and only then will it act.
According to our Krsna consciousness philosophy, the mantra is coming down through four channels of disciplic succession: one through Lord Siva, one through the goddess Laksmi, one through Lord Brahma, and one through the four Kumaras. The same thing comes down through different channels. These are called the four sampradayas, or disciplic successions.
So, one has to take his mantra from one of these four sampradayas; then only is that mantra active. If we receive the mantra in that way, it will be effective. And if one does not receive his mantra through one of these sampradaya channels, then it will not act; it will not give fruit.
Yoko Ono: If the mantra itself has such power, does it matter where you receive it, where you take it?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, it does matter. For instance, milk is nutritious. That's a fact; everyone. knows. But if milk is touched by the lips of a serpent, it is no longer nutritious. It becomes poisonous.
Yoko Ono: Well. milk is material.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, it is material. But since you are trying to understand spiritual topics through your material senses, we have to give material examples.
Yoko Ono: Well, no, I don't think you have to give me the material sense. I mean, the mantra is not material. It should be something spiritual; therefore, I don't think anybody should be able to spoil it. I wonder if anybody can actually spoil something that isn't material.
Srila Prabhupada: But if you don't receive the mantra through the proper channel, it may not really be spiritual.
John Lennon: How would you know, anyway? How are you able to tell? I mean, for any of your disciples or us or anybody else who goes to any spiritual master—how are we to tell if he's for real or not?
Srila Prabhupada: You shouldn't go to just any spiritual master.
John Lennon: Yes, we should go to a true master. But how are we to tell one from the other?
Srila Prabhupada: It is not that you can go to just any spiritual master. He must be a member of a recognized sampradaya, a particular line of disciplic succession.
John Lennon: But what if one of these masters who's not in the line says exactly the same thing as one who is? What if he says his mantra is coming from the Vedas, and he seems to speak with as much authority as you? He could probably be right. It's confusing—like having too many fruits on a plate.
Srila Prabhupada: If the mantra is actually coming through a bona fide disciplic succession, then it will have potency.
John Lennon: But the Hare Krsna mantra is the best one?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Yoko Ono: Well, if Hare Krsna is the best one, why should we bother to say anything else other than Hare Krsna?
Srila Prabhupada: It's true, you don't have to bother with anything else. We say that the Hare Krsna mantra is sufficient for one's perfection, for liberation.
George Harrison: Isn't it like flowers? Somebody may prefer roses, and somebody may like carnations better. Isn't it really a matter for the individual devotee to decide? One person may find that Hare Krsna is more beneficial to his spiritual progress. and yet another person may find that some other mantra may be more beneficial for himself. Isn't it just a matter of taste, like choosing a flower? They're all flowers, but some people may like one better than another.
Srila Prabhupada: But still there is a distinction. A fragrant rose is considered better than a flower without any scent.
Yoko Ono: In that case, I can't—
Srila Prabhupada: Let's try to understand this flower example.
Yoko Ono: O.K.
Srila Prabhupada: You may be attracted by one flower, and I may be attracted by another flower. But among the flowers a distinction can be made. There are many flowers that have no fragrance and many that have fragrance.
Yoko Ono: Is that flower that has fragrance better?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Therefore your attraction for a particular flower is not the solution to the question of which is actually better. In the same way, personal attraction is not the solution to choosing the best spiritual process. In Bhagavad-gita [4.11]. Lord Krsna says. "As one surrenders unto Me, I reward him accordingly. Krsna is the Supreme Absolute. If someone wants to enjoy a particular relationship with Him, Krsna presents Himself in that way. It's just like the flower example. You may want a yellow flower, and that flower may not have any fragrance. That flower is there; it's for you, that's all. But if someone wants a rose, Krsna gives him a rose. You both get the flower of your choice, but when you make a comparative study of which is better, the rose will be considered better.
So Krsna reveals Himself in different ways to different types of seekers. Realization of Krsna, the Absolute Truth, is of three varieties: Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan. Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan are simply three different features of the Absolute Truth. The jnanis, or empiric philosophers, reach the impersonal Brahman. The yogis focus on the Supersoul, Paramatma. And the devotees aim at Bhagavan, or Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But Krsna and the Supersoul and the impersonal Brahman are not different. They are all like the light, which is opposed to darkness. But even in light there are varieties.
In the Vedas, the three features of the Absolute Truth are explained by the example of sunlight, sun globe, and sun-god. In the sunshine there is light, and in the sun globe there is also light. Within the sun globe dwells the predominating deity of the sun planet, and he must also be full of light. Otherwise, where does all the sun's light come from? Brahman God's impersonal aspect, is compared to the sun's rays, the Supersoul is like the sun globe, and Krsna is like the personality of the sun-god. But taken together they are all the sun.
Nevertheless, distinctions remain. For instance, just because the sunshine comes through the window into your room, you cannot say that the sun itself has come. That would be a mistake. The sun is many millions of miles away. In a sense, the sun is present in your room, but it is a question of degree. So the degrees of spiritual realization in Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan realization are different.
Yoko Ono: But you said that if the milk is touched by the lips of a serpent it will become poisonous. A lot of churches probably had good teachings in the beginning, but over time their messages have deteriorated. Now how can a person decide if the message of Brahman that you're talking about will always remain in its pure state? How can you be sure it won't be poisoned by serpents?
Srila Prabhupada: That's an individual matter. You have to become a serious student.
Yoko Ono: Well, what do you mean by "serious student"? I mean, we're born serious or born—you know—unserious.
Srila Prabhupada: Being a serious student means that you try to understand the distinction between Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan.
Yoko Ono: But does it depend on knowledge? I mean, the final judgment you make?
Srila Prabhupada: Everything depends on knowledge. Without knowledge, how can we make progress? To be a serious student means to acquire knowledge.
Yoko Ono: But its not always the knowledgeable ones who—
Srila Prabhupada: Yes; no one can know the Absolute Truth completely. That is because our knowledge is very imperfect. But still, as far as our knowledge allows, we should try to understand the Absolute Truth. The Vedas say, avan manasa gocara. The Absolute is so great and unlimited that it is not possible for us to know Him completely; our senses do not allow it. But we should try as far as possible. And it is possible, because, after all, we are part and parcel of the Absolute. Therefore, all of the qualities of the Absolute are there in us, but in minute quantity. But that minute quantity of the Absolute within us is very great when compared to material knowledge.
Material knowledge is practically no knowledge whatsoever. It is covered knowledge. But when one is liberated, and attains liberated knowledge, his knowledge is very much greater than the greatest material knowledge. So, as far as possible, we should try to understand Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan. The Srimad-Bhagavatam [1.2.11] states. "Learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth call this nondual substance Brahman, Paramatma, or Bhagavan." Now again, what is the distinction among these three degrees of knowledge? Actually, knowledge of Brahman, knowledge of Paramatma, and knowledge of Bhagavan are knowledge of the same thing.
There is another example in this connection. Imagine you are looking at a hill from a distant place. First of all you see a hazy form on the horizon like a cloud. Then if you proceed closer you'll see it as something green. And if you actually walk on the hill, you'll see so many varieties of life—animals, men, trees, and so forth. But from the distance you just see it vaguely like a cloud.
So although the Absolute Truth is always the same, it appears different from different angles of vision. From the Brahman point of view, it appears like a hill seen as a cloud. When viewed as Paramatma, the Absolute can be compared to the vision of the hill as something green. And when the Absolute is realized as the Supreme Person, Bhagavan, it is just like seeing the hill from up close. You see everything in complete detail.
Therefore, although the person who sees Brahman, the person who sees Paramatma, and the person who sees Krsna are all focusing on the same thing, their realization is different according to their respective positions.
These things are very nicely explained in Bhagavad-gita [10.8] wherein Lord Krsna says, "I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who know this perfectly engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts." Krsna says, I am the source of everything—Brahman, Paramatma, everything. Elsewhere in Bhagavad-gita [14.27] it is clearly stated that Krsna is the source of Brahman: brahmano hi pratisthaham.
So knowledge of Brahman and Paramatma are included within knowledge of Krsna. If one has knowledge of Krsna, he automatically has knowledge of Paramatma and Brahman. Such a person automatically achieves the result of the yogic principle of meditation, namely. realization of the Supersoul. Paramatma. And he also achieves the result of empirical philosophical speculation, namely, realization of Brahman. Beyond that, he is situated personally in the service of the Supreme Lord, Krsna.
So if you make a comparative study, you'll find that knowledge of Krsna includes all other knowledge. The Vedas confirm this: yasmin vijnate sarvam evam vijnatam bhavati: "If you understand the Supreme. then all knowledge becomes automatically revealed." And in Bhagavad-gita it is stated, "Knowing this we have nothing more to know." So, first of all we have to seriously study the Vedic knowledge. Therefore, I am asking you to become serious students. By understanding Krsna, you will understand everything.
N. D. Desai—Industrialist with a Mission
A successful Bombay engineer seeks to inspire purity
by Yogesvara dasa
Every evening at 6:00 Narendra Desai leaves his office in downtown Bombay. His chauffeur drives him home through Streets crowded with cars, trucks, ox-carts, rickshas, eight million people, and an occasional elephant. They pull up at a seven-story building overlooking parks, swimming pools, and the Arabian Sea. Upstairs, Dr. Desai bathes, changes into white silk robes, applies two lines of sacred clay to his forehead, and enters the marble temple in his apartment. He places three drops of water in his right hand, then three drops in the left, lights three sticks of incense, and begins reciting Sanskrit verses of prayer.
Soon his wife and three children join him. Tiny burning wicks of clarified butter throw soft light on the devotional paintings and tapestries. Everyone's attention is focused on the smiling Deities of Lord Krsna and His consort Radha. After the last prayer has been recited and the last flower offered, parents and children bow to the floor in submission to the Deities and then prepare for a dinner of vegetarian dishes first offered to the Lord.
The Desai family repeats the procedure each morning and evening, seven days a week, 365 a year. Brought up by pious, well-to-do parents, Dr. Desai has known the significance of the arati ceremony since childhood. In fact, so have most Hindus. The same elaborate offering to the Deity takes place in millions of homes across the subcontinent and around the world. Krsna, the ceremony proclaims, is the Supreme Lord and enjoyer of all works and sacrifices. He is the real master of the home, and His pleasure is the true goal of one's daily activities.
For Dr. Desai, however, the ceremony does not end with the last ablution. As an initiated devotee of ISKCON, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, he has dedicated his words, wealth, intelligence, and life to spreading the teachings of Lord Krsna. His spiritual name, Nathji dasa, means "servant of Lord Krsna, who is the master of all creation."
An ordinary day for Nathji begins at 4:00 A.M. After morning duties he takes a brisk walk around Seaface Park while chanting Hare Krsna on prayer beads and then joins his family in their temple room by 6:30 for ceremonies and a reading from Bhagavad-gita. At breakfast, father and children trade stories from the epic histories Ramayana and Mahabharata. At 8:00 Nathji brings his children to school and continues on to his office, where duties may include reviewing company accounts, evaluating new equipment, calling the minister of finance in Delhi about a new export factory, or visiting the refinery in Trombay, a Bombay suburb. Nathji returns home by 7:00 for evening temple ceremonies, an offering of foods to the Deity, and then dinner with his family. Before retiring at 10:00 he may read from scriptures or prepare notes for his Sunday lecture at ISKCON's Bombay temple and cultural center.
Nathji is the chairman of the board and managing director of several private companies, whose total combined sales exceed $40 million annually. Among his factories are India's largest producer of light bulbs, fluorescent tubes, and other lighting supplies and the country's second largest supplier of active electronic components. Despite the importance of his various enterprises, Nathji's real attention remains focused on his projects for spreading Krsna consciousness. In addition to providing financial backing for temples, cow protection centers (go-salas) like the one at the ISKCON asrama in Hyderabad, and the printing of Vaisnava literature, he has designed a traveling temple, built on a large Tata company truck chassis that will broadcast Bhagavad-gita to villages all over India. He sponsors gatherings as well—sometimes in tents holding fifteen thousand people, sometimes in the privacy of his own apartment—to teach bhakti (devotional service to Lord Krsna) and encourage membership in ISKCON. Nathji also serves as General Secretary to Bombay's Bhaktivedanta Institute, a branch of ISKCON dedicated to presenting Vedic scriptural conclusions in scientific terms.
At age twenty-one Nathji graduated with a masters' in engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. That same year he secured a contract from Sunoco to open a nonfuel oil refinery outside Bombay. and soon thereafter he finished his Ph.D. One evening in 1971 he met devotees for the first time at his parents' house. His father, a member of Indian Parliament and president of several Bombay factories, often received religious people at his home. He greatly appreciated Srila Prabhupada's purity and world preaching efforts and invited him to come with disciples for chanting and a lecture. That evening Nathji's father became one of ISKCON's first Life Members, but Nathji remained skeptical. He had read several editions of Bhagavad-gita commented upon by impersonalistic scholars, and the nondevotional, monistic school appealed to him more than the idea of a personal God.
Still, Nathji began to visit Srila Prabhupada whenever Prabhupada came to Bombay. "I would argue that the Vedas describe every living entity as brahman, spiritual energy, and that Krsna is just one expression of that spiritual energy. Srila Prabhupada would correct me immediately. 'You may be brahman, but Krsna is the Supreme Brahman. He is the source of everything, including the brahman energy. You are a tiny particle of brahman, and He is the complete whole. Where have you picked up this nonsense impersonalistic idea? You are God? Did you create the universe? What is your authority to speak? Krsna spoke Bhagavad-gita. Can you speak such wisdom?' In this way he would defeat me."
Despite philosophical differences with Srila Prabhupada, Nathji was attracted by his explanations and broad vision of theological matters. Studying the books of Krsna consciousness and attending classes at the Bombay temple led Nathji to adopt the chanting of Hare Krsna as a daily meditation. Eventually he even relinquished his impersonal conceptions of truth in favor of the Vaisnava explanation that the soul retains individuality eternally in loving service to the Supreme Person.
Just when Narendra Desai was feeling ready to take initiation into Krsna consciousness, Srila Prabhupada left this material world. Dr. Desai approached Giriraja Swami, the president of ISKCON Bombay, and asked where he was to find a bona fide spiritual master now that Srila Prabhupada was gone. Giriraja Swami handed him some cassette recordings of Srila Kirtanananda Swami, one of the disciples Srila Prabhupada had entrusted with the duty of initiating new devotees. Nathji listened and found Kirtanananda Swami's explanations nondifferent from those of Srila Prabhupada. Each point was clearly and authoritatively presented.
"That was when I knew I had found my guru. Just as the Ganges water is the same at Devaprayag, Hrsikesa, and Hardwar, so the teachings coming down in disciplic succession from Lord Krsna are the same, whether delivered by Srila Prabhupada or his faithful representative. I know that by hearing from Srila Kirtanananda Swami I receive the same wisdom passed down through the entire history of Vaisnava spiritual masters.
Relatives and acquaintances looked askance at the idea of a highborn Hindu taking initiation from an American. "I told them there was nothing American left in him, that he had completely dedicated himself to Krsna's transcendental loving service. But many of them remained socially offended. I had been in Bombay five years, accumulating 'friends' like sins, and after my initiation many of them at first shunned me."
The notion that only born Hindus can accept spiritual initiation or perform the initiatory rites is widespread in India yet erroneous. According to Vaisnava scriptures, offering initiation into spiritual life is the prerogative of anyone fully conversant with the science of Krsna consciousness, and any sincere person can be a candidate for initiation. Nonetheless, social custom has made guruship and discipleship the privileges of those born in brahmana, or high-caste, families. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who promulgated the Krsna consciousness movement in Bengal five hundred years ago. defied this artificial restriction and, on the authority of scripture, accepted disciples from middle-class, low-class, and even outcaste families. The spiritual masters in succession from Him have followed His example.
Nathji was not disturbed by the criticism ("I didn't become a devotee to win friends," he says), and he continued his devotional practices openly. Paintings of Lord Krsna and His many incarnations adorned the walls of his office and home. Holiday gifts to clients included posters of the Deities at New Vrindaban, his spiritual master's rural community in West Virginia. Many photos of Srila Prabhupada and Kirtanananda Swami graced the tops of his desks, tables, and dressers. Nathji even printed a special pocket edition of Bhagavad-gita, just to have on hand for visitors and friends.
Not long after Nathji's initiation, a young Communist union leader instigated a strike at one of Nathji's factories. Nathji rejected the strike leader's ambitious demands and instead handed him a copy of Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita.
"This has nothing to do with religion," the union organizer said. "We are talking worker-management relations."
"Then consult the real owner of the factory," Nathji replied. "My workers know I am a devotee of Lord Krsna. They know I manage this place on His behalf. They also know I try to encourage them by setting an example of fairness and concern for their well-being. These are qualities Lord Krsna praises in the Gita. But your demands are unreasonable by any standards except your own. If you want to negotiate successfully with me, I suggest you take this book home and read it."
Nathji noted that the workers were impressed by hearing him speak so strongly about the Gita's teachings, and after a few meetings they signed an agreement. Nathji later learned that the union leader, like many of his contemporaries, had received training in Bhagavad-gita as a boy and that the negotiations had rekindled his appreciation for its teachings. After the strike the union leader even commented that work, after all, "wasn't everything." Eventually he quit the Party and took to regularly studying the sacred text.
"I had never heard of a strike being argued in quite that way," Nathji says, "but one must have the strength of his convictions. Especially in business, where corruption is so widespread, Bhagavad-gita has been for me an important guiding force for knowing how to act in the right way."
Acting "in the right way" is a lesson Nathji imparts gently to his children, whom he feels have been "entrusted" to him. "Lord Krsna describes in the Gita that unsuccessful yogis take their birth in affluent or devotee families, a position from which they may easily complete their course of self-realization. By Krsna's arrangement, I am able to offer my children a favorable situation for becoming Krsna conscious, and I therefore take it that they are very elevated souls.
"When I talk to them about the eternality of the soul and our loving relationship with Krsna, they take it seriously. It's not that I impose the Gita's teachings on them; they actually understand and follow. Of course I still play the role of father, but they know that in a higher sense Krsna is their real Father and I am more like a guardian."
Nathji also teaches his children not to fall for what he calls "sweet talk, "—that is, the allurement of materialism—without carefully considering the consequences. "A classmate may invite them to smoke or drink or indulge in some other distraction, so we have an agreement. Before accepting any proposal they are not sure is truly beneficial, we discuss: What do the scriptures say? What will the effect be? What is the authority behind the suggestion, its motive? Naturally, the main thing is for them to see good examples in their father and mother. Children are so perceptive, they see even the slightest flaw. In that way they are forcing us to become Krsna conscious."
Nathji's mother, an elderly woman who has done much social service and received several requests to run for public office, was at first suspicious that such a large organization as ISKCON might have been infiltrated by the C.I.A. Her suspicions were allayed when Giriraja Swami reassured her that any agent capable of chanting Hare Krsna on beads for the two prescribed hours daily, following the rules of a devotee—no illicit sex, no meat-eating, no intoxicants (including coffee, tea, and cigarettes), and no gambling—would be a true agent of intelligence and a most welcome member of the community. Mrs. Desai has been a well-wisher of ISKCON ever since.
"Srila Prabhupada's message to the world was not one of artificial renunciation," Nathji says, "but of devotion. Whatever you may be—family man, businessman, professional—add Krsna to your life and be happy. Business, after all, is an essential element of society. But if you work for Krsna, your life becomes sublime."
Broadcasting Krsna's Glories
Handmade magazines and a unique recording
by Srila Satsvarupa dasa Goswami
For years Srila Prabhupada had pursued alone his mission to spread Krsna consciousness, first in India and then in America. Now the handful of early followers in New York began to assume duties in preaching on their own. He was not alone any more.
Prabhupada had begun BACK TO GODHEAD magazine in India. Although he had been writing articles since the 1930s, it was in 1944, in Calcutta, that he had singlehandedly begun the magazine, in response to his spiritual master's request that he preach Krsna consciousness in English. It had been with great difficulty that through his pharmaceutical business he had managed to gather the four hundred rupees a month for printing. And he had singlehandedly written, edited, published, financed, and distributed each issue. In those early years, BACK TO GODHEAD had been Srila Prabhupada's major literary work and preaching mission. He had envisioned widespread distribution of the magazine, and he had thought of plans for spreading the message of Lord Caitanya all over the world. He had drawn up a list of major countries and the number of copies of the magazine he wanted to send to each. He sought donations to finance this project, but help was scarce. Then in 1959 he had turned his energies toward writing and publishing Srimad-Bhagavatam.
But now he wanted to revive BACK TO GODHEAD, and this time it would not be done singlehandedly. This time he would give the responsibility to his disciples.
Greg Scharf, now Gargamuni since his recent initiation, found a press. A country club in Queens was trying to sell its small A.B. Dick press. Prabhupada was interested, and he rode out to Queens in a borrowed van with Gargamuni and Kirtanananda to see the machine. It was old, but in good condition. The manager of the country club wanted $250 for it. Prabhupada looked over the machine carefully and talked with the manager, telling him of his spiritual mission. The manager mentioned a second press he had on hand and explained that neither machine was actually of use to him. So Prabhupada said he would pay $250 for both machines; the country club did not really need them, and besides, the manager should help out, since Prabhupada had an important spiritual message to print for the benefit of all humanity. The man agreed. Prabhupada had Gargamuni and Kirtanananda load both machines into the van, and ISKCON had its printing press.
Srila Prabhupada gave over the editorship of BACK TO GODHEAD magazine to Hayagriva and Raya Rama. For so many years he had taken BACK TO GODHEAD as his personal service to his spiritual master, but now he would let young men like Hayagriva, the college English teacher, and Raya Rama, the professional writer, take up BACK TO GODHEAD magazine as their service to their spiritual master. In a short time, Hayagriva and Raya Rama had compiled the first issue and were ready to print.
It was an off night—no public kirtana and lecture—and Swamiji was up in his room working on his translation of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Downstairs, the printing of the first issue had been going on for hours. Raya Rama had typed the stencils, and during the printing he had stood nervously over the machine, examining the printing quality of each page, stroking his beard, and murmuring, "Hmmmmm." Now it was time to collate and staple each magazine. The stencils had lasted for one hundred copies, and one hundred copies of each of the twenty-eight pages and the front and back cover were now lined up along two of the unvarnished benches Raphael had made that summer. A few devotees collated and stapled the magazine in an assembly line, walking along the stacks of pages, taking one page under another until they reached the end of the bench and gave the assembled stack of pages to Gargamuni, who stood brushing his long hair out of his eyes, stapling each magazine with the stapler and staples Brahmananda had brought from his Board of Education office. Even Hayagriva, who usually didn't volunteer for menial duties, was there, walking down the line, collating. Suddenly the side door opened, and to their surprise they saw Swamiji looking in at them. Then he opened the door wide and entered the room. He had never come down like this on an off night before. They felt an unexpected flush of emotion and love for him, and they dropped down on their knees, bowing their heads to the floor. "No, no," he said, raising his hand to stop them as some were still bowing and others already rising to their feet. "Continue what you are doing." When they stood up and saw him standing with them, they weren't sure what to do. But obviously he had come down to see them producing his BACK TO GODHEAD magazine, so they continued working, silently and efficiently. Prabhupada walked down the row of pages, his hand and wrist extending gracefully from the folds of his shawl as he touched a stack of pages and then a finished magazine. "ISKCON Press," he said.
Jagannatha had designed the cover, using a pen-and-ink drawing of Radha and Krsna. It was a simple drawing within a pattern of concentric circles. The first page opened with the same motto Prabhupada had used for years on his BACK TO GODHEAD: "Godhead is light, nescience is darkness. Where there is Godhead there is no nescience." And on the same page, Hayagriva had not been able to resist giving a quotation from William Blake, approved by Swamiji, which substantiated the philosophy of Krsna consciousness:
God appears, and God is Light
Although the editorial spoke of Blake, Whitman, and Jesus Christ, it stressed:
. . . . it is to teach this science [of devotion to God] that Swami Bhaktivedanta has come to America. His message is simple: the chanting of the Holy Name of God: "Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare . . . ."
Prabhupada's first and main instruction to his editors had been that they should produce the magazine regularly—every month. Even if they didn't know how to sell the copies or even if they only turned out two pages, they had to continue bearing the standard.
He called Hayagriva to his room and presented him a complete three-volume set of his Srimad-Bhagavatam. On the front page of each volume he had written, "To Sriman Hayagriva das Brahmacari with my blessings, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami." Hayagriva was grateful and mentioned that he had not been able to afford them. "That's all right," Prabhupada said. "Now you compile this. BACK TO GODHEAD. Work sincerely, and make it as big as Time magazine."
Prabhupada wanted all his disciples to take part in it. "Don't be dull," he said. "Write something." He wanted to give his disciples BACK TO GODHEAD for their own preaching. Brahmananda and Gargamuni took the first issues out that same night on bicycles, riding to every head shop on the Lower East Side, all the way to Fourteenth Street and as far west as the West Village, until they had distributed all one hundred issues. This was an increase in the preaching. Now all his students could take part in the work-typing, editing, writing, assembling, selling. It was his preaching, of course, but he wasn't alone any more.
* * *
Alan Kallman was a record producer. He had read the article in The Fast Village Other about the swami from India and the mantra he had brought with him. When he had read the Hare Krsna mantra on the front page, he had become attracted. The article gave the idea that one could get a tremendous high or ecstasy from chanting. The Swami's Second Avenue address was given in the article, so one night in November, Alan and his wife visited the storefront.
Alan: There were about thirty pairs of shoes in the back of the room—people in the front and shoes in the back. We took off our shoes and sat down. Everyone was seated and very quiet. Front and center was a chair, and everyone was staring at this chair. Even then we felt a certain energy in the room. No one was saying anything, and everyone was staring at the chair. The next thing was our first sight of the Swami. He came in and sat down on the chair, and there was a tremendous surge of energy. The Swami began chanting, and it was a very beautiful sound. Swamiji had this little drum he was hitting—very penetrating and exciting. One of the devotees was holding up a sign with the chant written on it so everyone could follow. Then the devotees got up and danced in a circle, a special dance with steps to it. The Swami was looking around the room, and he seemed to smile as he looked at you, as if to encourage you to join.
The next day, Alan phoned Prabhupada to propose that he make a record of the chanting. But it was Brahmananda who answered the phone, and he gave Alan an appointment with the Swami that evening. So again Alan and his wife went down to the East Village, which to them was the neighborhood where things were happening. If you wanted to have some excitement, you went down to the East Village.
When they entered the Swami's room, he was seated at his typewriter, working. As soon as Alan mentioned his idea about making a record, Prabhupada was interested. "Yes," he said, "we must record. If it will help us distribute the chanting of Hare Krsna, then it is our duty." They scheduled the recording for two weeks later, in December, at the Adelphi Recording Studio near Times Square. Alan's wife was impressed by how enthusiastically the Swami had gotten to the point of making the record: "He had so much energy and ambition in his plans."
It was the night before the recording date. A boy walked into the storefront for the evening kirtana carrying a large, two-headed Indian drum. This was not unusual, as guests often brought drums, flutes, and other instruments, yet this time Swamiji seemed particularly interested. The boy sat down and was preparing to play when Prabhupada motioned for the boy to bring him the drum.
Brahmananda: Swamiji began to play, and his hands were just dancing on the drum. Everyone was stunned that Swamiji knew how to do this. All we had seen was the bongo drum, so I thought it was the proper Indian drum. But when this two-headed drum came out of nowhere and Swamiji started playing it like a master musician, it created an ecstasy a hundred times more than the bongo drum had.
After the kirtana, Prabhupada asked the boy if he could borrow the drum for the recording session the next night. The boy at first was reluctant, but the devotees promised to return his drum the next day, so he agreed and said he would bring the drum the next evening. When he left the storefront that night with his drum under his arm, the devotees thought they would never see the boy or his drum again, but the next day, a few hours before Swamiji was to leave for the studio, the boy returned with his drum.
It was a cold December night. The Swami, dressed in his usual saffron dhoti, a tweed overcoat, and a pair of gray shoes, got into Rupanuga's VW van with about fifteen of his followers and their instruments and started out for the recording studio.
Brahmananda: We didn't start recording right away, because there was a group ahead of us. So we went out for a walk in Times Square. We were just standing there with Swamiji, seeing all the flashing lights and all the sense gratification, when a woman came up to Swamiji and said, "Oh hello. Where do you come from?" in a very loud, matronly way. Swamiji said, "I am a monk from India." And she said, "Oh, that's wonderful. Glad to meet you." And then she shook Swamiji's hand and left.
At the studio, everyone accepted the devotees as a regular music group. One of the rock musicians asked them what the name of their group was, and Hayagriva laughed and replied, "The Hare Krsna Chanters." Of course most of the devotees weren't actually musicians, and yet the instruments they brought with them—a tamboura, a large harmonium (loaned by Allen Ginsberg), and rhythm instruments—were ones they had played during kirtanas for months. So as they entered the studio they felt confident that they could produce their own sound. They just followed their Swami. He knew how to play, and they knew how to follow him. They weren't just another music group. It was music, but it was also chanting, meditation, worship.
Prabhupada sat on a mat in the center of the studio, while the engineers arranged the microphones and assigned each devotee a place to sit according to his instrument. When the engineers were satisfied, they cued the devotees, and Swamiji began chanting and playing his drum.
The first sound was the tamboura, with its plucked, reverberating twang. An instant later Swamiji began beating the drum and singing, Vande 'ham sri-guroh . . . .
Then the whole ensemble put out to sea-the tamboura, the harmonium, the clackers, the cymbals, Rupanuga's bells, Swamiji's solo singing-pushing off from their moorings, out into a fair-weather sea of chanting. . . . lalita-sri-visakhanvitams ca . . . .
Swamiji's voice in the studio was very sweet. His boys were feeling love, not just making a record. There was a feeling of success and union, a crowning evening to all their months together.
. . . . sri-krsna-caitanya, prabhu-nityananda . . . .
After a few minutes of singing prayers alone, Swamiji paused briefly while the instruments continued pulsing, and then began the mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare. It was pure Bhaktivedanta Swami—expert, just like his cooking in the kitchen, like his lectures. The engineers liked what they heard—it would be a good take if nothing went wrong. The instruments were all right, the drum, the singing. The harmony was rough. But this was a special record—a happening. The Hare Krsna Chanters were doing their thing, and they were doing it all right. Alan Kallman was excited. Here was an authentic sound. Maybe it would sell.
After a few rounds of the mantra, the devotees began to feel relaxed, as though they were back in the temple, and they were able to forget about making mistakes on the record. They just chanted, and the beat steadied into a slightly faster pace. The word hare would come sometimes with a little shout in it, but there were no emotional theatrics in the chorus, just the straight response to the Swami's melody. Ten minutes went by. The chanting went faster, louder and faster-Swamiji doing more fancy things on the drum, until suddenly . . . everything stopped, with the droning note of the harmonium lingering.
Alan came out of the studio: "It was great, Swami. Great. Would you like to just go right ahead and read the address now? Or are you too tired?" With polite concern, pale, befreckled Alan Kallman peered through his thick glasses at the Swami. Swamiji appeared tired, but he replied, "No, I am not tired." Then the devotees sat back in the studio to watch and listen as Prabhupada read his prepared statement.
"As explained on the cover of the record album The sympathetic devotees thought that Swamiji, despite his accent, sounded perfectly clear, reading from his script like an elocutionist. ". . . this transcendental vibration by chanting of Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare is the sublime method for reviving our Krsna consciousness." The language was philosophic, and the kind of people who usually walked out of the temple as soon as the kirtana ended, before the Swami could even speak a word, would also not appreciate this speech on their record album. "As living spiritual souls," Swamiji preached, "we are all originally Krsna conscious entities. But due to our association with matter from time immemorial, our consciousness is now polluted by material atmosphere." The devotees listened submissively to the words of their spiritual master, while at the same time trying to comprehend the effect this would have on the audience. Certainly some people would turn it off at the very mention of a spiritual nature. Swamiji continued reading, explaining that the chanting would deliver one from the sensual, mental, and intellectual planes and bring one to the spiritual realm.
"We have seen it practically," he continued. "Even a child can take part in the chanting, or even a dog can take part in it. . . . The chanting should be heard, however, from the lips of a pure devotee of the Lord." And he continued reading on to the end. ". . . No other means, therefore, of spiritual realization is as effective in this age as chanting the maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare."
Alan again came rushing out of the studio. It was fine, he said. He explained that they had recorded a little echo into the speech, to make it special for the listener. "Now," he pushed back his glasses with his finger. "We've got about ten minutes left on the side with the speech. Would you like to chant again? Or is it too late, Swamiji?" Prabhupada smiled. No, it was not too late. He would chant the prayers to his spiritual master.
While his disciples lounged around the studio, watching their spiritual master and the technical activity of the engineers behind the glass, Prabhupada began singing. Again the harmonium's drone began, then the tamboura and drum, but with a much smaller rhythm group than before. He sang through, without any retakes, and then ended the song (and the evening) with a fortissimo drumming as the hand-pumped organ notes faded.
Again, Alan came out and thanked the Swami for being so patient and such a good studio musician. Prabhupada was still sitting. "Now we are tired," he admitted.
Suddenly, over the studio sound system came a playback of the Hare Krsna chanting, complete with echo. When Prabhupada heard the successful recording of his chanting, he became happy and stood and began dancing, swaying back and forth, dipping slightly from the waist, his arms upraised in the style of Lord Caitanya, dancing in ecstasy. The scheduled performance was over, but now Swamiji was making the best performance of the evening from his spontaneous feelings. As he danced, his half-asleep disciples became startled and also rose to their feet and joined him, dancing in the same style. And in the recording booth behind the glass, the engineers also raised their hands and began dancing and chanting.
"Now you have made your best record," Swamiji told Mr. Kallman as he left the studio for the freezing Manhattan evening. Swamiji got into the front seat of the Volkswagen bus while "The Hare Krsna Chanters" climbed into the back with their instruments, and Rupanuga drove them back home, back to the Lower East Side.
(To be continued.)
A look at the worldwide activities of the
ISKCON Cinema Releases Documentary Film
New York—ISKCON Cinema, the motion picture division of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, has released a new 16mm film entitled The World of Hare Krsna. The 33-minute color documentary was conceived and produced by Yadubara dasa and his wife, Visakha devi dasi, who spent two years traveling the world to shoot the footage and another six months to edit the film and the script. The World of Hare Krsna opens with a short historical account of how Lord Krsna's teachings have come down to us through the ages and how His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada introduced these teachings to Westerners through his Krsna consciousness Society.
Then the film takes us on a world tour of the activities of the devotees today: publishing, illustrating, and distributing Krsna conscious literature in Paris; congregationally chanting the names of God in London; portraying Krsna's pastimes through art, dance, music, drama, and sculpture in Bombay; cooking and distributing prasadam (food offered to Krsna) in Fiji; learning Sanskrit in the gurukula school in Los Angeles; and farming in the Spanish countryside. We also see some special projects, like the temple-on-wheels in England, the 54-foot sailboat-temple in Hawaii, and Prabhupada's Palace in the hills of West Virginia.
For anyone who's wondering, "What do those Hare Krsna devotees believe in? What do they do? How did it all start?" The World of Hare Krsna offers some illuminating answers.
"Illuminations from the Bhagavad-gita" Published
New York—Harper and Row recently published Illuminations from the Bhagavad-gita, a collaborative effort by Kim and Chris Murray of Washington, D.C. Kim Murray had worked diligently for five years on the book's forty color plates and fifty black-and-white drawings, which illustrate verses her husband Chris selected from Bhagavad-gita As It Is, by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Reviewing the book, the Washington Star called the paintings "extraordinary. . . an accretion of thousands of details portraying the paradisical landscape of transcendent knowledge . . . remarkable additions to the art of book illustration: sweet, innocent, beautiful." Harper and Row printed 30,000 copies, of which more than 10,000 have been sold in less than two months.
Movement Expands in Northeastern U.S.
New York—While hundreds of regulars from the old Hare Krsna temple on Fifty-fifth Street will still enjoy weekly programs at the new center three blocks away, thousands more outside midtown finally have temples to call their own.
Proceeds from the sale of the old Fifty-fifth Street building enabled the Hare Krsna movement to establish four new center: a sixty-five-acre farm in upstate New York, a three-acre retreat in northern New Jersey, a meeting hall in the New York borough of Queens, and a three-story cultural center and restaurant on Seventh Avenue in Manhattan.
"Each center has its particular appeal," says Laksmi-Nrsimha dasa, regional secretary for the movement in the New York metropolitan area. "The farm upstate gives an excellent setting for our gurukula children's school, and it's a place where we can have our own self-sufficient community. In Queens we're right in the middle of fifty thousand Indian people who've been wanting us there for years. In New Jersey we have a peaceful spiritual retreat where interested people can come stay with us for a weekend or however long they'd like. And we still have everything we need in Manhattan, but in an even better location."
Amidst these changes, the movement has also expanded its center in Freeport, Long Island, a New York suburb.
On Technology and Unemployment
This exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and one of his disciples took place some seven years ago in Geneva.
Devotee: In a recent speech a politician in India said that eighty percent of the Indian people live in rural villages. His proposal was to increase the technology on the farms. Instead of people having to harvest the wheat by hand, they would have motorized harvesters, and instead of having to use bullocks to pull the plow, they'd use a tractor.
Srila Prabhupada: In India many men are already unemployed, so to introduce more machinery there is a not a very good proposal. One hundred men's work can be done by one man working a machine. But why should there be so many men unemployed? Why not engage one hundred men instead of engaging one? Here in the West, also, there is much unemployment. Because in your Western countries everything is done by machine, you are creating many hippies, frustrated young people with nothing to do. That is another kind of unemployment. So in many cases machines create unemployment.
Everyone should be employed; otherwise there will be trouble. "An idle brain is a devil's workshop." When there are so many people without any engagement, why should we introduce machinery t6 create more unemployment? The best policy is that nobody should be unemployed; every-one should be busy.
Devotee: But someone might argue, "The machine is freeing us from so much time-consuming labor."
Srila Prabhupada: Free for what? For drinking and doing all kinds of nonsense. What is the meaning of this freedom? If you make people free to cultivate Krsna consciousness, that is another thing. Of course, when someone comes to our Krsna consciousness movement, he should also be fully engaged. This movement is not meant for eating and sleeping, but for working for Krsna. So whether here in Krsna consciousness or there in the outer society, the policy should be that everyone should be employed and busy. Then there will be a good civilization.
In the Vedic civilization, it was the duty of the head of society to see that everyone was working, either as a brahmana [an intellectual or teacher], a ksatriya [a military or political leader], a vaisya [a farmer or merchant], or a sudra [a laborer]. Everyone must work; then there will be peace. At the present moment we can see that on account of so much technology, there are unemployment and many lazy fellows. The hippies are lazy, that's all. They don't want to do anything.
Devotee: Another argument might be that with technology we can work so much better, so much more efficiently, so the productivity of those who do work goes way up.
Srila Prabhupada: Better that more men be employed doing the work less efficiently. In Bhagavad-gita [18.48] Krsna says,
saha-jam karma kaunteya
"Every endeavor is covered by some sort of fault, just as fire is covered by smoke. Therefore one should not give up the work which is born of his nature, O son of Kunti, even if such work is full of fault." And a Hindi proverb says, "Bekari se begari acchi hai." Bekari means "without employment." And begari means "to work without salary." In India, we have seen many villagers come and request a shopkeeper, or any gentleman, "Please give me some work. I don't want a salary. If you like, you can give me something to eat. Otherwise, I don't even want that." So, what gentleman, if you work at his place, will not give you something to eat? Immediately the worker gets some occupation, along with food and shelter. Then, when he's working, if the gentleman sees that he's working very nicely, he will say, "All right, take some salary." Therefore it is better to work without any remuneration than to remain lazy, without any work. That is a very dangerous position. But in the modern civilization, on account of too many machines, there are so many unemployed people, and so many lazies also. It is not good.
Devotee: Most people would say these ideas are very old-fashioned. They'd rather have their technology, even if it creates a high unemployment rate, because they see it as a means of freedom from drudgery, and also as a means of freedom to enjoy television, movies, automobiles—
Srila Prabhupada: Technology is not freedom. Rather, it is a free way to hell. It is not freedom. Everyone should be engaged in work according to his ability. If you have good intelligence, you may do the work of a brahmana—studying scriptures and writing books, giving knowledge to others. That is the brahmana's work. You don't have to bother about your subsistence. The society will supply it. In the Vedic civilization brahmanas did not work for a salary. They were busy studying the Vedic literature and teaching others, and the society gave them food.
As for the ksatriyas, they must give protection to the other members of society. There will be danger, there will be attack, and the ksatriyas should protect the people. For that purpose, they may levy taxes. Then, those who are less intelligent than the ksatriyas are the vaisyas, the mercantile community, who engage in producing food and giving protection to the cows. These things are required. And finally there are the sudras, who help the three higher classes.
This is the natural division of society, and it is very good, because it was created by Krsna Himself (catur-varnyam maya srstam). Everyone is employed. The intelligent class is employed, the martial class is employed, the mercantile class is employed, and the rest, the sudras, are also employed. There is no need to form political parties and fight. In Vedic times there was no such thing. The king was the supervisor who saw that everyone was engaged in his respective duty. So people had no time to form false political parties and make agitation and fight one another. There was no such chance.
But the beginning of everything is to understand, "I am not this body," and this is stressed again and again by Krsna in Bhagavad-gita.
By Sadaputa Dasa
"All reputable evolutionary biologists now agree that the evolution of life is directed by the process of natural selection, and by nothing else." ** (S. Tax and C. Callender, eds., Evolution After Darwin, Vol. III, Issues in Evolution (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960), pp. 265-266.) With these words Sir Julian Huxley summed up the consensus of learned opinion at the Darwin Centennial Celebration in 1959.
Among the eminent biologists and evolutionists attending the celebration, great confidence prevailed that the origin of living species was now almost fully understood. Evolutionists had clearly established that all living organisms had gradually evolved through small variations in form and function, slowly accumulating, generation by generation, over a vast span of geological time. Geneticists had shown that all biological variations arose from random genetic accidents called mutations. Evolutionary theorists, building on this finding, had clearly identified Darwinian natural selection as the sole guiding force that sorted out these variations and thereby molded the diverse forms of living beings. Although many minute details certainly remained to be worked out, scientists believed they had arrived at an essentially complete understanding of life and its historical development.
With this striking unanimity of established scientific opinion reached little more than two decades ago, perhaps we are surprised to hear that the theory of evolution has recently become the focus of a great controversy among evolutionists themselves. The last few years have seen the established theory of mutation and natural selection increasingly challenged by critical studies and dissenting interpretations of the evidence. The theory has clearly shown itself unsound, although scientists have thus far been unable to devise an acceptable new theory to replace it.
A few months ago this controversy became a near battle as some 150 prominent evolutionists gathered at Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History to thrash out various conflicting hypotheses about the nature of evolution. After four days of heated discussions (closed to all but a few outside observers), the evolutionists remained convinced that evolution is a fact. Unfortunately, however, they could not reach a clear understanding of just what this fact is. The New York Times reported that the assembled scientists were unable either to specify the mechanism of evolution or to agree on "how anyone could establish with some certainty that it happened one way and not another." ** (B. Rensberger "Recent Studies Spark Revolution in Interpretation of Evolution," The New York Times (November 4, 1980), p. C3.)
Why this shift from unanimity and certainty to controversy and indecision? In this article we shall try to answer this question by examining some basic features of the modern theory of evolution. We shall try to identify the reasons why many scientists have sought an evolutionary explanation of life, and we shall also point out some of the problems that have impeded their efforts. We shall argue that the theory of evolution has been motivated more by philosophical misunderstanding than by the strength of empirical evidence and that the current confusion among evolutionary theorists has come about because factual evidence has persistently refused to conform to the patterns imposed by an inconsistent and inadequate philosophical system. Finally, we shall present for these philosophical problems a solution that can lead to a more satisfactory understanding of the nature and origin of life.
Evolution Is Invisible
When Charles Darwin originally set forth his evolutionary theory, he maintained that the forms of living organisms change slowly and continuously from generation to generation and that over many millions of years these changes bring about new species and higher categories of organisms. One immediate implication of this theory was that the fossil record of ancient plant and animal life should display a continuum of fossilized life forms ranging from the most primitive to the most advanced. Given that organisms tend to leave occasional fossilized remains, scientists naturally expected to find a petrified motion picture of evolutionary history entombed in the earth's sedimentary rocks.
But in Darwin's time it was well known that the fossil record did not actually reveal such a picture. On the contrary, paleontologists had observed that distinct plant and animal species tended to appear abruptly in the fossil strata without recognizable antecedents. Each species remained essentially unchanged throughout the strata bearing its fossilized remains. Fossils yielded practically no evidence of gradual change from one species to another.
Darwin admitted that the fossil evidence, far from supporting his theory, seemed directly to contradict it. He responded by proposing that the fossil record was drastically incomplete. The innumerable intermediate life forms required by his theory must have existed, but they had left no recognizable traces in the fossil deposits known in his time. Darwin suggested that further research would undoubtedly uncover many of these missing forms, and their discovery would vindicate his theory.
For many years orthodox evolutionary opinion has adhered to Darwin's basic views. But dissenting voices have increasingly been heard. At the recent meeting of evolutionists in Chicago, Niles Eldridge, a paleontologist from the American Museum of Natural History in New York, declared, "The pattern we were told to find for the last 120 years does not exist." ** (Ibid.) Despite intense effort, several generations of paleontologists have found few examples in which one fossil species seems to transform gradually into another, and some researchers say none at all have been found.
As a result, Eldridge, Gould, and several other prominent paleontologists now propose that species have not actually arisen by a slow process of transformation As an alternative, they have devised what they call the theory of "punctuated equilibrium." ** (S.J. Gould and N. Eldridge, "Punctuated Equilibria The Tempo and Mode of Evolution Reconsidered," Paleobiology, Vol. 3(1977) pp.115-151.) According to this theory, evolutionary changes take place in short bursts separated by long periods during which the forms of living organisms remain static. A typical species will arise from an earlier species in a "geological microsecond"—a period of a few thousand years that appears like an instant from the multimillion-year perspective of geological time. Also, a species will not arise through a gradual modification of its parent population. Rather, it will arise when a tiny group that has been isolated from the main population, perhaps by a geographical barrier, is rapidly transformed.
One consequence of the theory of punctuated equilibrium is that it makes the process of large-scale evolution officially invisible. On one hand, we cannot expect the fossil record to show how a new species evolved, for the evolution takes place in a tiny population during a geological "microsecond." On the other hand, we cannot expect to see a new species evolve within the recorded span of human history, for a geological microsecond of 10,000 to 50,000 years is still immensely long when measured in human lifetimes.
Of course, we may possibly observe small-scale changes in organisms, like those produced through controlled breeding, or like the famous change in color exhibited by the peppered moths of industrial England. Yet such changes are known to be reversible, and at most they result in only minor variations within a species. For example, settlers introduced domesticated rabbits into Australia in 1788, and some escaped and flourished in the wild. Yet despite the effects of breeding by humans, these domesticated rabbits were still classed as rabbits, and today their descendants have reverted to their ancestral form: they look exactly like wild rabbits. ** (P. Grasse, Evolution of Living Organisms (New York: Academic Press, 1977), p.124.)
But explaining superficial variations of this kind is not the real problem confronting evolutionists. The real problem is explaining how higher forms of plants and animals have arisen from lower forms, and how these in turn have arisen from inanimate matter. No large-scale transformations of this kind have ever been observed within the brief span of human history. The orthodox Darwinian theory maintained that such transformations should be directly visible in the fossil record. But the theory of punctuated equilibrium says we should not expect even the fossil record to show these transformations. In fact, the actual process that brings about new species of life has always been invisible. Now, in the new theory propounded by Eldridge and Gould, this process is held to be invisible even in principle.
The Enigma of Biological Form
If we cannot hope to find direct evidence delineating the development of major new forms of life, we might at least expect the theory of evolution to provide us a convincing explanation of how, in principle, such developments might take place. Since the Darwinian theory asserts that small variations in organic form gradually accumulate, we might expect evolutionary theorists to provide us with plausible evolutionary sequences leading from lower to higher forms of life. In such evolutionary sequences, each organism should be fit to live in its particular environment, and the differences between successive Organisms in the chain should be of the kind we would expect from random mutation.
When we examine the literature of evolutionary theory, we do indeed encounter many explanations of this kind, but in every case they are disappointingly vague and incomplete. Typical is this statement by the prominent evolutionist Ernst Mayr: "The evolution of the eye ultimately hinges on one particular property of certain types of protoplasm—photosensitivity.... Once one admits that the possession of such photosensitivity may have selective value, all else follows by necessity." ** (E. Mayr, "The Emergence of Evolutionary Novelties," Evolution After Darwin, Vol. I, The Evolution of Life, S. Tax, ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960), p.359.) Mayr does not, and indeed can not, specify the particular steps leading from a photosensitive speck to a fully developed eye. His account of the evolution of the eye is typical of theoretical evolutionary explanations, for it relies on an abiding faith in the power of natural selection and mutation to effect large-scale transformations in organic form that evolutionists themselves cannot even imagine, much less observe.
Although evolutionists have adhered to this mode of explanation for many years, there is now evidence that its appeal is beginning to wane. According to a report in Science, the predominant view among the evolutionists assembled at the recent meeting in Chicago was that the gradual selective accumulation of small variations cannot account for the appearance of new species. ** (R. Lewin, "Evolutionary Theory Under Fire," Science, Vol. 210 (November 21, 1980), p.883.)
What has happened is that many evolutionists are now openly acknowledging one of the fundamental problems confronting evolutionary theory—the problem posed by the complex networks of structure and function that are characteristic of living organisms. Generally, each component of such a network is essential for the proper functioning of the whole. How, then, could the complete arrangement have arisen through a finely graded series of functional intermediate forms? In the past many evolutionists have been content to accept on faith that such sequences of intermediate stages must always be possible. But now a number of prominent evolutionists are openly admitting that in many significant cases the required intermediate stages simply may not exist.
To illustrate this problem in evolutionary theory, we shall consider a simple example provided by a type of flatworm called the microstomum ** (W.A. Kepner, W.C. Gregory, and R.J. Porter, "The Manipulation of the Nematocysts of Chlorohydra by Microstomum," ZoologischerAnseiger, Vol.121 (Jan.-June 1938), pp. 114424.). This flatworm is equipped with a kind of defensive cell called a nematocyst, which can fire a poisonous barbed thread. When the flatworm is attacked by a predator, the nematocysts, situated just beneath the surface of the worm's back, are discharged, thereby stinging the assailant and driving it away.
The most interesting aspect of this arrangement is that the nematocysts are not produced from the tissues of the flatworm itself. Rather, they are stolen from the hydra, an aquatic organism on which the flatworm preys. The hydra has tentacles armed with several kinds of nematocysts, which it uses to subdue and capture the small animals on which it feeds. Some of these cells fire poisonous barbs, and others discharge various types of coiled and sticky threads that enable the hydra to hold on to its prey.
The flatworms generally avoid hydras. But biologists have observed that when the flatworms need more nematocysts, they will eat hydras and digest all of their tissues except these particular cells. The nematocysts are neither damaged nor discharged, but are enclosed within certain cells, which carry them toward the flatworm's back. The nematocysts that fire coiled or sticky threads are then digested, but those that fire poisonous barbs are transported to sites just beneath the outer layer of the worm's back.
There the nematocysts are oriented so that their stings will fire upward. The epithelial cells, which form the worm's outer layer, become very thin just above the newly positioned nematocysts, thus providing portholes for the firing of the stings. Finally, the cells that have encapsulated the nematocysts undergo extensive changes that enable these cells to act as trigger mechanisms. (The hydra's original trigger mechanism is contained in a type of cell called a cnidoblast, which the flatworm digests.)
Let us consider whether or not these defensive arrangements of the flatworm could have evolved step by step. An evolutionary scenario would have to begin with an ancestral flatworm that ate hydras but did not make use of their nematocysts.
In such a worm, what would be the first evolutionary step leading to the eventual exploitation of the nematocysts as defensive weapons? Unless the nematocysts were actually used as weapons, for the worm to manipulate them internally would be useless. Indeed, it would be dangerous, since the flatworm can easily be killed by the discharge of the hydra's stings.
Yet each step in the internal processing of the nematocysts is essential for their eventual use as weapons. If they were not transported to the flatworm's back, they could not be usefully deployed. If transported to the back but oriented incorrectly, they would be useless or even dangerous. If they were oriented beneath epithelial cells of normal thickness, the discharged sting would lose its momentum while passing through the epithelium, and the worm would sting itself.
There is also a further problem. Evidently the nematocysts are not triggered simply by pressure applied to the worm's back. Rather, their firing is governed by a complex control mechanism within the worm. Without this trigger mechanism the whole arrangement would be useless, even if the nematocysts were properly oriented beneath epithelial "portholes."
When examined closely, each step in the internal manipulation of the nematocysts resolves into a complex of substeps. For example, for a nematocyst to be transported to the back of the flatworm, one of the worm's cells must first recognize it, and then the cell must initiate a process of motion that specifically carries the nematocyst to the worm's dorsal region. These are both complex procedures. Yet for the flatworm to take advantage of the hydra's nematocysts, it would seem that many complex arrangements of this kind must be present simultaneously.
We can conclude that the standard Darwinian or neo-Darwinian theory of evolution cannot readily explain the origin of complicated interlocking arrangements such as the flatworm's defensive system. Yet such systems are by no means rare in nature. Indeed, it might be argued that nearly all complex organs and systems of organs in living beings involve many essential interdependent elements and that they are therefore not amenable to explanation by traditional evolutionary concepts.
The Return Of the Hopeful Monster
We have seen that the standard mechanism of evolutionary theory is inadequate to explain the development of complex living forms. How, then, can the origin of species be explained? At the conference in Chicago there were signs that at least some evolutionists are trying to resurrect a theory that was greeted with almost universal scorn and derision when first proposed in the 1940s. ** (J. Adler, "Is Man a Subtle Accident?" Newsweek (November 3, 1980), pp. 95-96.) This is the theory of "the hopeful monster," devised by the geneticist Richard Goldschmidt.
The key to this theory is the idea that the genetic systems of organisms must be so arranged that a single mutation can produce, in one stroke, an elaborate systematic change in biological structure and function. Almost all known mutations result in gross defects, and a few result in small modifications that can be useful for the organism under suitable environmental conditions. According to Goldschmidt, however, there must exist a special type of mutation capable of generating new complex structures, such as functional legs, wings, or lungs. Most of these macromutations, as he called them, would result in bizarre monstrosities completely unfit for survival. But a few macromutations would produce "hopeful monsters," novel creatures that just happened to be adapted to a totally new mode of existence. ** (R. Goldschmidt, The Material Basis of Evolution (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1940).)
This theory is now at a very tentative and speculative stage, and many evolutionists still view it with suspicion. Nonetheless, it represents an important trend in current evolutionary thought, and it illustrates the desperate extremes to which evolutionists have been forced to go in their efforts to construct a workable evolutionary theory. We shall therefore briefly consider some of the reasoning underlying the theory of the hopeful monster.
In its present recension, this theory relies on the concepts of regulative and structural genes." ** (S.J. Gould, "Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes," Natural History (July 1980).) Biologists define a structural gene as a sequence of DNA coding that defines a specific structural element of a living organism. An example is the gene for hemoglobin, the oxygen carrying pigment of the red blood cells. In contrast, a regulative gene is a sequence of DNA coding that controls the timing and order of expression of other genes. We can envision an interacting system of regulative and structural genes that acts as a kind of genetic computer program. Such a program might be capable of expressing and repressing various combinations of structural genes in a complex and systematic way. The hopeful monster theory proposes that small changes in such genetic programs might result in the systematic large-scale changes in biological organization that evolutionary theorists need.
Biologists cite certain kinds of mutations as evidence for the existence of regulatory genes. For example, sometimes horses are born with three-toed feet. One might tentatively explain this variation by saying that although the genetic system of the horse always has the structural information for a multitoed foot, in normal horses a regulatory gene suppresses the genes for all the toes but one. When a mutation disables this regulatory gene, the latent genetic information is expressed, and a multitoed horse is born.
A certain mutation of fruit flies provides another possible example of the interaction of regulative and structural genes. In this mutation, known as aristapedia, a fully developed leg grows from the head of the fly in the position where the antenna normally grows. Scientists explain this anomaly by proposing that the regulative and structural genes for the leg comprise a kind of "subroutine" that is set in motion under the control of other regulatory genes. These regulatory genes may store information specifying the location of the leg, and if this information is disrupted by a mutation, the leg may form in an abnormal place.
Although the theory of regulative genes is still highly speculative, it does not seem unreasonable as a way of explaining certain types of mutation. But how this theory can account for Goldschmidt's hypothetical "macromutations" that produce complex, finely coordinated organs in a single stroke is not at all clear.
We shall try to illustrate the potentialities and limitations of systems of regulatory genes by constructing a simple artificial example. We can regard the following array of symbols as a "genetic" system for a series of English sentences.
I am in (2); the orthodox (1) in (3). I believe I am in (9) as an (8) would be in if set to learn (5). The (8) (1) it was (7); () yet I cannot keep out of (4).
1-would say; 2-thick mud; 3-fetid abominable mud; 4-the question; 5-the first book of Euclid; 6-and tam in much the same mind; 7-no manner of use; 8-old gorilla; 9-much the same frame of mind.
The code used in this genetic system is almost self-explanatory. To produce the encoded English statements, simply replace each number in parentheses with the corresponding numbered phrase. The result is the following statement made by Charles Darwin about the mechanism of large-scale evolution.
I am in thick mud; the orthodox would say in fetid abominable mud. I believe I am in much the same frame of mind as an old gorilla would be in if Set to learn the first book of Euclid. The old gorilla would say it was no manner of use; yet I cannot keep out of the question. ** (Cited in N.C. Gillespie, Charles Darwin and the Problem of Creation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), p.87.)
In our artificial genetic system, the numbers in parentheses play the role of regulatory genes, and the phrases play the role of structural genes. If we mutate the regulatory gene (4), changing it to (3), we shall observe a change in Darwin's statements similar to the aristapedia mutation of fruit flies. (We invite the reader to try this and observe the effects.) Also, when we examine the genetic system closely, we find that a mutation has changed one regulatory gene to (). If we convert this gene to (6), Darwin's statement apparently acquires an entirely new sentence, although all that has actually happened is that the complete text of the original has been restored.
We can thus see that various kinds of large-scale effects result from mutations in the regulatory genes of our artificial system. Yet all of these effects have one thing in common. They all involve the manipulation of material already present in the genetic system. To induce the system to produce something entirely new is a different matter.
For example, we invite the reader to try to find mutations that will expand Darwin's remarks to include the following statement from his Origin of Species.
I can see no difficulty in a race of hears being rendered, by natural selection, more and more aquatic in their habits, with larger and larger mouths, till a creature was produced as monstrous as a whale. ** (C. Darwin, On the Origin of Species (London: John Murray, 1959).)
We find ourselves in a quandary. We can gradually build up this additional statement by many small mutations, each of which might occur by "chance" with a reasonably high probability. But the intermediate states will all entail nonsensical sentence fragments that correspond in our analogy to useless or harmful mutant organs; We can also introduce the entire statement by a single random mutation; but then we are confronted by the problem that such a mutation must be exceedingly improbable. The more numerous the letters involved, the more improbable it is that they will fall into place the way you want them. The probability goes down exponentially with the number of variables, and the same can be said in general about the multifeatured biological mutations.
Of course, we could devise a genetic system in which a mutation in a single regulatory gene would cause our new statement suddenly to manifest itself. But could we do this without, in effect, building the statement into the system? If not, one might naturally ask how such complex latent information got into the genetic system in the first place.
Questions such as these cannot be avoided in the study of bears, whales, and living beings in general. The point of our artificial example is that the concepts of regulative and structural genes, although suggesting possible ways to explain several kinds of mutations, do not automatically answer these questions. The real problem of evolutionary theory—how to account for the origin of completely new organs and functions—remains as baffling as before. And until evolutionists can provide a convincing solution to this problem, we must conclude that their evolutionary speculations have no sound basis.
Once again we stress the importance of the problem faced by evolutionary theory: Evolutionists have traditionally declared that mutation and natural selection can fully account for the origin of species, yet suitable sequences of mutations leading to the formation of new organs and systems of organs have never been shown to exist. Until they are, it is pointless even to discuss natural selection, and the origin of species remains shrouded in utter mystery.
Evolution and Negative Theology
We have seen that there is no direct evidence for the evolution of complex organic forms and that some prominent paleontologists maintain that such evidence may never be found. We have also seen that evolutionists do not have an adequate theory of evolutionary change and that they are still groping for such a theory in the realms of speculation and vague conjecture. We are therefore led to ask, In the absence of both observation and theory, what has convinced scientists to accept what we can only call the doctrine of evolution?
One important line of reasoning that has led many persons to adopt an evolutionary point of view could be called the argument by negative theology. Darwin himself used this argument extensively, and since his time it has been a mainstay of evolutionary thought.
In a recent popular book, paleontologist Steven J. Gould sums up the negative theological argument in these words:
"Odd arrangements and funny solutions are the proof of evolution—paths that a sensible God would never tread but that a natural process, constrained by history, follows perforce." ** (S.J. Gould, The Panda 's Thumb (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1980), pp. 2O~21.) The basic form of the argument can be outlined as follows: "God must have certain characteristics, and He would have created a certain sort of world. Since the world as we see it is very different from this, it must be that there is no God. Since the only alternative to divine creation that we can think of is evolution, life must have arisen by some kind of evolutionary process."
This argument breaks down into two basic parts. One of these is the traditional argument from evil against the existence of God. According to this argument, the existence of many kinds of suffering, both in the human species and in the plant and animal kingdoms, is inconsistent with the idea that the world was created by an all-powerful benevolent being. In contrast, such suffering seems to fit naturally into the evolutionary world view.
The second part of the argument is that many features of living organisms would not, as Gould says, be designed by a "sensible God" and must therefore be due to evolution. The extra toes that sometimes appear on the feet of horses are an example of such a feature. Evolutionists argue that God would surely not produce such aberrations but that they can be explained by the hypothesis that horses evolved from a many-toed ancestor.
Another example in support of this argument is provided by Darwin's work with orchids. Darwin observed that the petals of these flowers are deployed in many remarkable arrangements, which insure that visiting insects will carry pollen from one flower to another. Yet since modified petals, rather than a completely novel kind of structure, are used in these arrangements, Darwin argued that divine creation was ruled out and that the orchids must therefore be products of evolution. In the words of Gould, "If God had designed a beautiful machine to reflect his wisdom and power, surely he would not have used a collection of parts generally fashioned for other purposes." ** (Ibid.)
What can we say about these arguments? We can observe immediately that they grow from a very much limited and stereotyped understanding of God that is never clearly formulated and that never draws on any specific source of spiritual knowledge. As such, these arguments are certainly unscientific, and when we consider the importance of the theory they are used to support, we can conclude that they are thoroughly irresponsible.
When we consider such negative theological arguments together with the observational and theoretical weaknesses of evolutionary thought, the "theory" of evolution seems little more than a poorly reasoned intellectual reaction against a spiritual tradition that was perceived as inadequate. Moreover, it is an entirely futile reaction, for it has succeeded neither in providing a genuine alternative source of spiritual knowledge nor in establishing a workable material explanation of the origin of life.
Natural Theology: A Dead End
The role the negative theological argument plays in the theory of evolution becomes clear when we consider the historical context in which this theory arose. When Darwin published his Origin of Species in 1859, European thought had been dominated for many years by an approach to spiritual knowledge known as natural theology. According to this approach, one can deduce from observations of natural phenomena that the world has been created by a supremely intelligent, benevolent, and all-powerful being. Pointing to the highly organized structural plans of living beings, the proponents of natural theology maintained that these plans imply the existence of an intelligent creator.
Before Darwin's time the British philosopher David Hume had pointed out that no amount of finite observation of the things of this world could possibly justify conclusions about an infinite transcendental being. He and many other critics also stressed that the standard conceptions of the nature of this being were inconsistent with some of the most obvious features of the world, for why indeed would a benevolent being create a world of suffering and death? To many scientists, however, the most disheartening aspect of natural theology was that it provided no really satisfying explanation of the origin of life, and it offered no new avenues of exploration. Thus many perceived natural theology as a dead end.
In this context we can understand the initial appeal of Darwin's theory of evolution. Darwin explicitly rejected the sterile conceptions of natural theology and introduced an approach to the origin of life through entirely physical principles. This approach seemed to bring the question of origins into the familiar realms of physics and chemistry, where scientists had had so much success using the experimental method, and thus it held forth the promise of similar success.
Yet we have seen that this promise has never been fulfilled. Although the theory of evolution has become institutionalized as the standard explanation for the origin of species, it has not out grown its original status as a reaction against an imperfect and restrictive system of theological thought. As such, it is no more valid than the system of natural theology it historically displaced. If speculative reasoning has given rise to an imperfect conception of God, then we certainly cannot expect negative arguments based on this conception to yield a true understanding of life's origins.
How, then, can we obtain a genuine understanding? Here we shall suggest that we can reach such an understanding only through a valid spiritual science. Speculation resting on a finite set of material observations is indeed inadequate to provide valid knowledge about a supreme transcendental being. But the answer to this problem is not to deny the existence of such a being and to seek explanations solely in familiar physical principles. This is the fallacy of the drunk who lost his keys near the doorstep of his house but would search for them only under a streetlamp because the light was better there.
A Broader Perspective
Here we shall introduce an alternative approach to spiritual knowledge, one that is able to provide a satisfactory understanding of the nature and origin of life. This approach is the spiritual science of sanatana-dharma expounded in the Vedic literatures of India, such as Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. As we shall briefly indicate, the unique advantage of sanatana-dharma is that it offers practical procedures that bring the individual into direct contact with transcendence. Sanatana-dharma agrees with the conclusion of natural theology that the world has been produced by a supremely intelligent being. But since sanatana-dharma actually has the kind of sound observational basis that the evolutionists had hoped to attain, it is able to provide a genuine understanding of both the Supreme Being and the relation between the Supreme Being and the material world.
The Bhagavad-gita identifies the ultimate, absolute cause underlying all phenomena as an eternal, transcendental person. This person is known in the Vedic tradition by many names, such as Krsna and Govinda, and is also known as Allah in Islam and as God in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Krsna is the celebrated Supreme Being who is the center of worship in many different religions, and who is also the object of speculative inquiry in diverse schools of philosophy.
According to sanatana-dharma, Krsna is fully endowed with all the essential characteristics of personality, such as mind, senses, emotions, and intelligence. These personal qualities cannot be reduced to transformations of interactions of some impersonal substrate. Sanatana-dharma accepts transcendental personality as the irreducible basis of reality, and all phenomena, whether personal or impersonal, as manifestations of the energy of the Supreme Person.
The concept of personality makes little sense when divorced from the idea of interpersonal relationships. Thus, sanatana-dharma teaches that the Supreme Person is not alone. Krsna is always accompanied by innumerable sentient beings called atmas, who share His inherent personal qualities. These are all eternal, irreducible individuals, but they are qualitatively one with Krsna, and their constitutional nature is to reciprocate with Him in loving personal relationships.
Modern science generally regards concepts such as these as subjects for either blind faith or unverifiable speculation. But in sanatana-dharma the concept of the eternal constitutional nature of the atma provides the key to a practical method whereby the individual person can obtain direct knowledge of transcendental subject matter.
According to sanatana-dharma, each living being in the material world consists of an atma—in association with a body composed of material elements. The atma is bound to this temporary body through false ego, or the illusion that the body is the self. When the atma is in this materially conditioned state, his natural spiritual senses are linked with the sensory apparatus of the body, and he sees himself as a temporary, physical being.
Thus embodied, the atma is oblivious of his original relationship with Krsna and thus unaware of his true potential as a spiritual being. But, according to sanatana-dharma, this is a temporary stare of affairs. Sanatana-dharma provides a practical method, known as bhakti-yoga, whereby the atma can revive his spiritual senses and reestablish direct contact with Krsna. Thus the key to attaining reliable transcendental knowledge is to recognize that each individual person is actually a spiritual being and that his powers of observation are not limited to the sensory machinery of the material body.
The Role of Faith
The subject of bhakti-yoga involves many detailed considerations that lie beyond the scope of this article. Here we shall simply conclude by making a few observations about the role of faith in sanatana-dharma, in modern science, and in the theory of evolution. Since sanatana-dharma is based on verifiable observations, it does not depend on either blind faith or speculative argumentation. But faith is required in any difficult undertaking, and sanatana-dharma is no exception.
For example, before studying modern chemistry the prospective student must have faith that the many experiments upon which the subject is based actually work. He cannot know this in advance, and without such faith he would not be motivated to carry out the arduous work needed to master the subject. Normally, the student will begin with a certain amount of initial faith, and this faith will grow as he acquires more and more practical experience. The same process works in sanatana-dharma.
This brings us back to the theory of evolution. We have observed that this view of life first became prominent as a response to a loss of faith in a particular spiritual tradition. In the beginning of this article we briefly indicated that evolutionists possess neither a substantial body of direct observational evidence nor a workable theory of evolutionary transformation. Thus the theory's appeal still rests on the power of the negative theological arguments that formed its original basis-arguments that writers on evolution still repeatedly emphasize.
We suggest that these negative arguments appear insubstantial when carefully examined in the light of sanatana-dharma. The traditional "argument from evil" is directly answered by the understanding given in sanatana-dharma of the transcendental nature of the atma and the position of the conditioned atma in the material world. Most of the other negative theological arguments rest on flimsy reasoning and can hold up only until faced by a reasonable alternative.
We have noted that evolutionists cite certain similarities between the bodily parts of various organisms as evidence of a common ancestor. Yet we can also readily, Interpret these similarities as evidence of a common designer. Furthermore, there is no reason to suppose that a "sensible God" would not take advantage of expedient engineering techniques. It might well be quite sensible for God to produce a one-toed horse's hoof by working from a basic multitoed plan and throwing genetic switches to suppress the development of the other toes. One can deny this possibility only in the absence of a sensible conception of God and a valid understanding of the purpose of the material world.
According to sanatana-dharma, one can understand the purpose of the material creation through the concept of free will. The natural relationship between the atma and Krsna is one of loving service, and love can exist only for one who has freedom. The atma is free to turn away from his relationship with the Supreme Person and seek to be independent, and Krsna creates the material world as a place where the atma can do this. Here the atma becomes temporarily forgetful of his true nature and transmigrates from body to body in various species of life. Therefore, the material world is certainly a place of suffering. The conditioned living beings, deprived of their central object of devotion, inevitably have clashing interests and become sources of intense misery for one another. But should the Supreme Person be held at fault for allowing the living beings to have free will? The evolutionists' insistence on the "argument from evil" has led nowhere-and it has certainly not alleviated any of the suffering of this world. In sanatana-dharma, however, a genuine solution to the problem of suffering is available. Each individual person, by reawakening his original relationship with Krsna, can remove the root cause of his suffering and attain both unlimited happiness and substantial knowledge about the nature and origin of life.
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.