Back to Godhead Magazine

Volume 16, Number 06, 1981


Devotion—The Highest Yoga
Sailing Back to Godhead
Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out
Every Town and Village
The Vedic Observer
Abortion and the Language of Unconsciousness
The Biography of a Pure Devotee
The Yoga Dictionary
Notes from the Editor

© 2005 The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International

Devotion—The Highest Yoga

A lecture by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.

The word yoga has become synonymous in Western vernacular with a lithe figure, radiant health, peace of mind, and other material benefits. But the original meaning of the Sanskrit term carries a different, higher import: linking with the Supreme. In this lecture from 1968, Srila Prabhupada distinguishes the true goal of yoga—loving devotion to the Supreme Lord—from the physical and psychological elements of yoga practice.

Yoginam api sarvesam
sraddhavan bhajate yo mam
sa me yuktatamo matah

"And of all yogis, he who always abides in Me with great faith, worshiping Me in transcendental loving service, is most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all." (Bhagavad-gita 6.47)

Here it is clearly stated that out of all the different kinds of yogis-—the astanga-yogi, the hatha-yogi, the jnana-yogi, the karma-yogi, and the bhakti-yogi—the bhakti-yogi is on the highest platform of yoga. Krsna directly says, "Of all yogis, he who abides in Me with great faith, worshiping Me in transcendental loving service, is most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all."

Since Krsna is speaking, the words in Me mean "in Krsna." In other words, if one wants to become a perfect yogi on the highest platform, one should keep oneself in Krsna consciousness.

In this regard, the word bhajate in this verse is significant. Bhajate has its root in the verb bhaj, which is used to indicate devotional service. The English word worship cannot be used in the same sense as bhaja. To worship means "to adore" or "to show respect and honor to a worthy one." But service with love and faith is especially meant for the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One can avoid worshiping a respectable man or a demigod and be called merely discourteous, but one cannot avoid serving the Supreme Lord without being thoroughly condemned.

So, worship is very different from devotional service. Worship involves some selfish motive. We may worship some very big businessman because we know that if we please him, he may give us some business and we'll derive some profit. The worship of the demigods is like that. People often worship one of the demigods for some particular purpose, but this is condemned in Bhagavad-gita [7.20]: ka-mais tais tair hrta-jnanah prapadyante 'nya-devatah—"Those who have lost their sense and are bewildered by lust worship demigods with a selfish motive."

Thus when we speak of worship, there is a selfish motive, but when we speak of devotional service, there is no motive except the desire to please the beloved. Devotional service is based on love. For example, when a mother renders service to her child, there is no personal motive; she serves only out of love. Everyone else may neglect the child, but the mother cannot, because she loves him. Similarly, when there is a question of service to God, there should be no question of a personal motive. That is perfect Krsna consciousness, and that is recommended in Srimad Bhagavatam [1.2.6] in the description of the first-class system of religious principles: sa vai pumsam paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhoksaje—"The first-class system of religious principles is that which enables one to develop one's God conciousness, or love of God." If one can develop one's love for God, one may follow any religious principle—it doesn't matter. But the test is how much one is developing one's love for God.

But if one has some personal motive and thinks, "By practicing this system of religion, my material necessities will be fulfilled," that is not first-class religion. That is third-class religion. First-class religion is that by which one can develop one's love for God, and that love must be without any personal motive and without any impediment (ahaituky apratihata). That is first-class religion, a recommended here by Krsna in this final verse of the Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita.

Krsna consciousness is the perfection of yoga, but even if one looks at it from a religious viewpoint it is first class—because it is performed with no personal motive. My disciples are not serving Krsna so that He will supply them with this or that. There may be this or that, but that doesn't matter. Of course, there is no scarcity; devotees get everything they need. We shouldn't think that by becoming Krsna conscious one becomes poor. No. If Krsna is there, everything is there, because Krsna is everything. But we shouldn't make any business with Krsna: "Krsna, give me this, give me that." Krsna knows what we require better than we do, just as a father knows the necessities of his child. Why should we ask? Since God is all-powerful, He knows our wants and He knows our necessities. This is confirmed in the Vedas: eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman—"God is supplying all the necessities of the innumerable living entities."

We should simply try to love God, without demanding anything. Our needs will be supplied. Even the cats and dogs are getting their necessities. They don't go to church and ask God for anything, but they are getting their necessities. So why should a devotee not get his necessities? If the cats and dogs can get their necessities of life without demanding anything from God, why should we demand from God, "Give me this, give me that"? No. We should simply try to love Him and serve Him. That will fulfill everything, and that is the highest platform of yoga.

Service to God is natural; since I am part and parcel of God, my natural duty is to serve Him. The example of the finger and the body is appropriate. The finger is part and parcel of the body. And what is the duty of the finger? To serve the whole body, that's all. If you are feeling some itch, immediately your finger is working. If you want to see, your eyes immediately work. If you want to go somewhere, your legs immediately take you there. So, the bodily parts and limbs are helping the whole body.

Similarly, we are all part and parcel of God, and we are all meant simply for rendering service to Him. When the limbs of the body serve the whole body, the energy automatically comes to the limbs. Similarly, when we serve Krsna, we get all our necessities automatically. Yatha taror mula-nisecanena. If one pours water on the root of a tree, the energy is immediately supplied to the leaves, the twigs, the branches, and so on. Similarly, simply by serving Krsna, or God, we serve all other parts of creation. There is no question of serving each living entity separately.

Another point is that by serving God, we will automatically have sympathy for all living beings—not only for human beings, but even for animals. Therefore God consciousness, Krsna consciousness, is the perfection of religion. Without Krsna consciousness our sympathy for other living entities is very limited, but with Krsna consciousness our sympathy for other living entities is full.

Every living entity is part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, and thus every living entity is intended to serve the Supreme Lord by his own constitution. Failing to do this, he falls down. Srimad-Bhagavatam [11.5.3] confirms this as follows:

ya esam purusam saksad
atma-prabhavam isvaram
na bhajanty avajananti
sthanad bhrastah patanty adhah

"Anyone who neglects his duty and does not render service unto the primeval Lord, who is the source of all living entities, will certainly fall down from his constitutional position."

How do we fall down from our constitutional position? Once again, the example of the finger and the body is appropriate. If one's finger becomes diseased and cannot render service to the whole body, it simply gives one pain. Similarly, any person who is not rendering service to the Supreme Lord is simply disturbing Him, giving Him pain and trouble. Therefore, such a person has to suffer, just like a man who is not abiding by the laws of the state. Such a criminal simply gives pain to the government, and he's liable to be punished. He may think, "I'm a very good man," but because he's violating the laws of the state, he's simply torturing the government. This is easy to understand.

So, any living entity who is not serving Krsna is causing Him a kind of pain. And that is sinful—to make Krsna feel pain. Just as the government collects all the painful citizens and keeps them in the prison house—"You criminals must live here so you can't disturb people in the open state"—so God puts all the criminals who have violated His laws, who have simply given Him pain, into this material world. Sthanad bhrastah patanty adhah: they fall down from their constitutional position in the spiritual world. Again we may cite the example of the finger. If your finger is extremely painful, the doctor may advise, "Mr. So-and-so, your finger has to be amputated. Otherwise, it will pollute your whole body." Sthanad bhrastah patanty adhah: the finger then falls down from its constitutional position as part of the body.

Having rebelled against the principles of God consciousness, we have all fallen down to this material world. If we want to revive our original position, we must again establish ourselves in the service attitude. That is the perfect cure. Otherwise, we shall suffer pain, and God will be suffering pain on account of us. We are just like bad sons of God. If a son is not good. he suffers, and the father suffers along with the son. Similarly, when we are suffering, God is also suffering. Therefore, the best thing is to revive our original Krsna consciousness and engage in the service of the Lord.

The word avajananti used in the verse cited from Srimad-Bhagavatam is also used by Krsna in Bhagavad-gita [9.11]:

avajananti mam mudha
manusia tanum asritam
param bhavam ajananto
mama bhuta-mahesvaram

"Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature and Mv supreme dominion over all that be." Only the fools and rascals deride the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna. The word mudha means "fool" or "rascal." Only a rascal does not care for Krsna. Not knowing that he will suffer for this attitude, he dares neglect Him. Without knowing the supreme position of the Lord, the rascals worship some cheap "God." God has become so cheap that many people say, "I am God, you are God." But what is the meaning of the word God'' If everyone is God, then what is the meaning of God?

So, the word avajananti is very appropriate. Avajananti means "neglectful," and it perfectly describes the person who says, "What is God? I am God. Why should I serve God?" This is avajananti—neglecting God's real position. A criminal may have the same attitude toward the government-: "Oh, what is the government? I can do whatever I like. I don't care for the government." This is avajananti. But even if we say, "I don't care for the government," the police department is there. It will give us pain; it will punish us. Similarly, even if we don't care for God, the material nature will punish us with birth, old age, disease, and death. To get out of this suffering, we must take to the practice of yoga.

The culmination of all kinds of yoga practice lies in bhakti-yoga. All other yogas are but means to come to the point of bhakti-yoga. Yoga actually means bhakti-yoga; all other yogas are progressions toward this destination. From the beginning of karma-yoga to the end of bhakti-yoga is a long way to self-realization. Karma-yoga, executed without fruitive desires, is the beginning of this path. (Fruitive activities, or karma, include sinful activities also. But karma-yoga does not include sinful activities but only good, pious activities, or prescribed activities. This is karma-yoga.) Then, when karma-yoga increases in knowledge and renunciation, the stage is called jnana-yoga. When jnana-yoga increases in meditation on the Supersoul by various physical processes, and when the mind is on Him, one has reached the stage called astanga-yoga. And when one surpasses astanga-yoga and comes to the point of serving the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, one has reached bhakti-yoga, the culmination.

Factually, bhakti-yoga is the ultimate goal, but to analyze bhakti-yoga minutely one has to understand these other, minor yogas. The yogi who is progressive is therefore on the true path of eternal auspi-ciousness, whereas one who sticks to a particular point and does not make further progress is called by that particular name: karma-yogi, jnana-yogi, or astanga-yogi. But if one is fortunate enough to come to the point of bhakti-yoga, it is to be understood that one has surpassed all the other yogas. Therefore, to become Krsna conscious is the highest stage of yoga, just as, 'when we speak of the Himalayas, we refer to the world's highest mountains, of which the highest peak, Mount Everest, is considered the culmination.

If someone practicing jnana-yoga thinks that he is finished, that is wrong. He has to make further progress. For example, suppose you want to go the highest floor of a building—say, the hundredth floor—by walking up a staircase. You will pass the thirtieth floor, the fiftieth floor, the eightieth floor, and so on. But suppose when you come to the fiftieth or eightieth floor you think, "I have reached my goal." Then you are unsuccessful. To reach your destination you have to go to the hundredth floor. Similarly, all the processes of yoga are connected like a staircase, but we shouldn't be satisfied to stop on the fiftieth floor or the eightieth floor. We should go to the highest platform, the hundredth floor—pure Krsna consciousness.

Now, if somebody who wants to reach the hundredth floor is given a chance to use the elevator, within a minute he will be able to come to the top. Of course, he may still say, "Why should 1 take advantage of this elevator? 1 shall go step by step." He can do this, but there is a chance he will not reach the top floor. Similarly, if one takes help from the "elevator" of bhakti-yoga, within a short time he can reach the "hundredth floor"—the perfection of yoga, Krsna consciousness.

Krsna consciousness is the direct process. You may go step by step, following all the other yoga systems, or you may may take directly to Krsna consciousness. Lord Caitanya has recommended that in this age, since people are very short-lived, disturbed, and full of anxiety, they should take up the direct process. And by His grace, by His causeless mercy, He has given us the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra, which lifts us immediately to the platform of bhakti-yoga. It is immediate; we don't have to wait. That is the special gift of Lord Caitanya. Therefore Srila Rupa Gosvami prayed, namo maha-vadanyaya krsna-prema-pradaya te: "O Lord Caitanya, You are the most munificent incarnation because You are directly giving love of Krsna." Ordinarily, to attain love for Krsna one has to pass through so many steps and stages of yoga, but Lord Caitanya gave it directly. Therefore He is most munificent incarnation. This is the position of Lord Caitanva.

The only way to know God in truth is through bhakti-yoga. In Bhagavad-gita [18.55] Krsna confirms this. Bhaktya abhijanati yavan yas casmi tattvatah: "Only by devotional service can one understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead as He is " The Vedas confirm that only through bhakti, or devotional service, can one attain the highest perfectional stage. If one practices other yoga systems, there must be a mixture of bhakti if one is to make progress. But because people don't have sufficient time to execute all the practices of any other yoga system, the direct process of bhakti-yoga, unadulterated devotion, is recommended for this age. Therefore, it is by great fortune that one comes to Krsna consciousness, the path of bhakti-yoga, and becomes well situated according to the Vedic directions.

The ideal yogi concentrates his attention on Krsna, who is as beautifully colored as a cloud, whose lotus like face is as effulgent as the sun, whose dress is brilliant with jewels, and whose body is garlanded. Illuminating all sides is His gorgeous luster, which is called the brahmajyoti. He incarnates in different forms such as Rama, Varaha, and Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He descends as a human being—as the son of Mother Yasoda—and He is known as Krsna, Govinda, and Vasudeva. He is the perfect child, husband, friend, and master, and He is full with all opulences and transcendental qualities. One who remains fully conscious of these features of the Lord is the highest yogi. This stage of perfection in yoga can be attained only by bhakti-yoga, as confirmed in all Vedic literature.

Use back button to return.

Return to top


A poem translated from Saranagati,
a book of Bengali poetry by
Bhaktivinoda Thakura (1838-1914)

I forsook You, O Lord,
And came to this world of pain and sorrow.
Now I submit my tale of woe
At Your lotus feet.

While still in the unbearable fetters
Of my mother's womb,
I saw You before me.
You revealed Yourself but briefly
And then abandoned this poor servant of Yours.

At that moment I swore to worship You
After taking birth.
But birth came, and with it
The network of worldly illusion,
Which robbed me of all good sense.
As a fondled son in the lap of relatives,
I passed my time smiling and laughing.
My parents' affection helped me forget
The pangs of birth,
And I thought the world a very pleasant place.

Day by day I grew
And soon began playing with other boys.
Before long my powers of intellect emerged,
And I studied my lessons incessantly.

Travelling from place to place,
Proud of my education,
I grew wealthy and maintained my family
With undivided attention.

O Lord Hari, O Krsna, I forgot You !

Now, in old age,
I, Bhaktivinoda, weep sadly.
I failed to worship You, O Lord,
And instead passed my life in vain.

What will my fate be now ?

Kedarnatha Datta Bhaktivinoda led a life of devotion to Sri Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He wrote nearly one hundred books on the science of bhakti-yoga (devotional service to the Supreme Lord), established several major places of pilgrimage, checked the rampant growth of unauthorized, pseudodevotional practices across India, and paved the way for the transmission of Krsna consciousness to Western shores.

Despite numerous titles and responsibilities—court magistrate in the city of Puri, manager of the huge Jagannatha temple, husband, and father of thirteen children—Bhaktivinoda Thakura remained throughout his life dedicated to reviving the movement of devotion to Sri Krsna begun in the late fifteenth century by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. In his poetry, the Thakura reveals this dedication through verses filled with the humility and philosophical insights of a pure devotee of God.

The word saranagati means "complete surrender to the Supreme Lord". In this poem Bhaktivinoda Thakura describes the journey of the conditioned soul from birth and entanglement in the false promises of material affection, to liberation in saranagati. He humble takes on the role of the subject of this journey, which begins with the decision to leave the eternal spiritual world and pursue the fleeting pleasures of material life. As a yet unborn child in the womb, the conditioned soul realizes his error and vows to again take up devotional practices. But the shock of birth wipes out all memory of this vow, and the should finds himself progressively entangled in family affairs, mundane education, marriage and wealth.

The poem ends with Bhaktivinoda lamenting the loss of his loving relationship with Lord Krsna and contemplating the consequences he must now face, namely rebirth in another material body.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Sailing Back to Godhead

A teakwood ketch and a devotee's determination help bring Lord Krsna's message to the Hawaiian Islands.

"I like all religions," Henry said as he drove along, "except the Hare Krsnas." Narahari was quiet. The two of them had recently met and were now on their way to Henry's home on a small island off the coast of California. Henry, a big, friendly man in his mid fifties, had a beautiful 53-foot teakwood ketch that he wanted to donate to a worthy charitable organization. He'd been intrigued by an ad in a sailing magazine: "ISKCON, a nonprofit, charitable organization, needs a boat to reach needy people in remote parts of the world." Henry had no idea that ISKCON stood for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness or that Narahari, the Society's likable representative sitting next to him, had been a devotee of Krsna for eight years and was president of the Krsna temple in Honolulu.

Before even meeting Henry, Narahari half-expected that he would have acquired a bad impression of "the Hare Krsnas." Inaccurate press coverage combined with some mistakes devotees had made in public relations had left many people with a bad impression. But Narahari was confident that Henry's opinion would change if he heard about Krsna without bias. And now, as Henry was cautiously deciding among several charitable groups interested in his $200,000 ketch, he was curious to learn what "ISKCON" was all about.

"We believe," Narahari explained as they drove down the scenic highway, "that among all species of life humans are unique in that they alone have the intelligence to inquire into the purpose of life."

"So, what is that purpose?" Henry asked, both surprised and amused at Narahari's profundity.

"To become self-realized," Narahari replied with thoughtful conviction. "To understand that this body we have is like a dress covering our real self—the soul within the body. Just as we wear some clothes for a while and then discard them when they're old, our soul is covered by the perishable body until the time of death, when the soul leaves the body. After leaving one body the soul enters another, just as after discarding one shirt we put on another."

Later, seated comfortably in Henry's warm, rustic living room, Narahari accepted a cup of warm milk graciously offered by Henry's wife. Henry was contemplating what Narahari had said in the car. Now that his children had their own families an were living away from his secluded home, he was accustomed to passing quiet evenings reading his favorite novels or watching TV. Serious philosophical talk was a refreshing change. Rarely did his friends or relatives venture into such probing topics.

Narahari next explained how the nature of the soul is service, how each living being consciously or unconsciously renders service to another : The trees serve by providing fruits, flowers, wood and shade; the cows serve by providing milk; parents serve their children; businessmen, their customers; and so on. He explained that all these services are temporary. At most they last until death. But the soul within the body is eternal, and the soul's desire to serve is also eternal. That desire can be fully gratified only when we serve the Supreme Soul, or God.

Narahari explained how ISKCON works to help people who are lost in life because they do not know their spiritual identity. "Our greatest need is to understand who we are, who God is, and what our relationship with Him is. If a man has everything money can buy but he lacks this knowledge, he will feel himself unfulfilled." Narahari sipped his milk and recalled an analogy he had often heard from Srila Prabhupada, his spiritual master. "Just as when my hand supplies this milk to my stomach the hand feeds itself and nourishes all the limbs of my body, so by pleasing God we become pleased and we please others. In ISKCON we have practical experience that the pleasure of serving God is greater than any mundane pleasure."

Most of the other charities Henry had encountered aimed at helping the needy with food, shelter, clothing, or medical care. A few of them trained people to cultivate land and treat their ailments so they could help themselves. But ISKCON was different. It was distributing God's instructions; His holy name. His service, His food, His happiness—in short, love of God, a treasure for this lifetime and beyond.

But why did ISKCON need a boat?

"The founders of this movement wanted to distribute love of God to every town and village in the world," Narahari said. "In other areas our members go by foot, car, train, bus, and in India by bullock cart. But in the Hawaiian Islands the most practical way to travel is by boat. Not by motorboat, since fuel is short, but by sailboat. We can dock at remote ports, conduct seminars, hold festivals, present educational programs, and in that way introduce this very ancient science of God consciousness to people who would otherwise never hear of it."

It was growing late now, and after talking for a few more minutes, Narahari finished his milk and excused himself to Henry's guest room. He felt tired from his recent journey but happy that Henry was proving receptive to the mission of ISKCON.

In the days that followed, Narahari and Henry toured the island together, photographed its wildlife, examined Henry's boat (it was the nicest Narahari had ever seen), and continued discussing the philosophy and activities of ISKCON. Henry liked what he heard, and he liked Narahari. Finally, Henry and his wife decided to give ISKCON not only the boat but also a ten-thousand-dollar donation to make it shipshape!

Henry and Narahari arranged to meet again in two weeks to sign the papers for the donation. Narahari returned to Honolulu and his regular morning schedule: rising before 2 a.m. to chant the Hare Krsna mantra, study the scriptures, and attend the devotional programs in the temple. He also resumed his managerial duties, including his pet projects: importing and grafting the world's best fruit-bearing and flower-bearing trees and caring for twenty-five beehives. (A graduate of the University of Maryland, Narahari had maintained a longstanding interest in the natural sciences.) After six weeks, though, with no word from Henry, Narahari began to wonder if he'd changed his mind about the boat.

Finally Henry set a date for their second meeting, and Narahari returned to the coastal island at the appointed time. They had a warm reunion, but this time when the subject of religion came up. Henry turned to Narahari and said in a very neutral way, "You're a Hare Krsna, aren't you." Narahari had to admit that he was. "That's all right," Henry said meditatively. "If you'd told me in the beginning, I never would have listened to what you had to say. I'd been deceived by the propaganda against you. I've learned a lot—I think you're good people and you're doing a good thing. I may not understand everything yet, but I know you and I've come to like you."

The two of them worked together to repair the boat. Then Henry transferred the title to ISKCON, and Narahari picked four hardy devotees to sail it to Hawaii with him.

Months earlier, when Narahari had first realized that Hawaii ISKCON needed a boat to expand its mission, he'd taken a four-month course in ocean sailing and celestial navigation at the University of Hawaii. (He'd been boating since he was five, but in the relatively calm waters of Chesapeake Bay near Baltimore, not on the high seas.) Now he and the others who were also new to ocean sailing, embarked on an eighteen-day voyage across the Pacific Ocean. Waves twenty and thirty feet high sometimes dwarfed the boat, thrashing its decks and turning it into a roller-coaster. But Narahari, drawing on every bit of his schooling, kept the boat sailing safely and navigated with pinpoint accuracy, using the sun as a guide.

Narahari's shifts at the helm were in the early morning before daybreak and again at dusk, and when the ocean was calm he reflected on Henry's generous donation. Feeling deeply grateful, he redoubled his determination to use the boat fully for spreading Krsna consciousness. He planned how he and the other devotees would transform the aft cabin into an authentic Krsna temple, complete with an altar. There the devotees could hold classes in the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagvatam and have chanting of Hare Krsna. The fore cabin would serve as the library, study room, kitchen, and, at night, living quarters. On deck, guests could enjoy Hawaii's clear skies, open seas, and breathtaking views of tropical coastline while hearing discussions about Lord Krsna, the supreme creator of the unequaled panorama.

One particular morning, as the stars receded in the brightening dawn sky, an analogy from the Vedas vividly struck Narahari: The entire material world is a vast ocean, an ocean of birth and death. and the human form of life is a sturdy boat, a vessel suitable for crossing the dangerous ocean. The bona fide spiritual master is the ship's captain, and the instructions of the scriptures are favorable breezes. One who crosses the ocean of birth and death can go back home, back to Godhead, and need never return to this material world. Narahari felt most fortunate to be gradually crossing that ocean.

At the journey's end in the Honolulu harbor, the five devotee-sailors received a warm reception from more than a hundred devotees from the local temple. Newspaper, magazine, and television reporters covered the event. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported that the devotees "plan to sail from island to island, dispensing the Vedic culture through music, art, philosophy, and the distribution of sumptuous feasts of a delicious vegetarian cuisine. . . . The transformed temple boat will be one of a kind in the Western Hemisphere. . . . They christened the boat Sri Jaladuta II, after the Indian steamship Jaladuta that carried ISKCON's founder, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, from Bombay [sic] to Boston in 1965."

While some devotees will travel on the Sri Jaladuta II staging Hare Krsna festivals, others will continue expanding the temple in Honolulu. "These festival programs," Narahari said, "along with our Honolulu temple, are meant to give everyone an opportunity to serve the Lord in association with the Lord's devotees. Srila Prabhupada explained that just as materialistic persons form various clubs and associations to enhance their endeavors, we also have our festivals and centers to invite people—without discrimination as to caste, creed, or color—to have the company of devotees and to hear about Krsna. One who hears receptively will become enthusiastic to progress in spiritual life. If one accepts this opportunity, the path back home, back to Godhead, immediately opens.

"This process of Krsna consciousness isn't confining for the soul. The soul is inherently free and joyful, but that free joyful nature is covered when one is in material consciousness—in other words, when one forgets Krsna and His service. But when a person comes to the spiritual platform, he sees that everything is coming from Krsna and that Krsna is in everything, and he uses whatever he has in Krsna's service. Krsna consciousness is not idle meditation but practical action in spiritual life. Although the devotees' activities may seem like ordinary, mundane chores, they're not; they're actually transcendental, because they're done for the pleasure of Krsna."

Since coming to Hawaii in 1970, Krsna consciousness has attracted a sizable congregation. One member is Dr. Joseph Mueller, who commented, "When you've thrown all the parties you want to throw and you've bought all the things you want to buy and you've impressed all the people you want to impress, one day you have to sit down and ask yourself. What's it all for? Is this what life is all about? Then you're bound to take a spiritual look at life. Otherwise, life becomes just a bad, meaningless joke.

"In the temple, I've found a spiritual home. Devotees are eager to talk about God and religion. Krsna consciousness is the only established religion I know of that openly respects all other bonafide religions. My wife and I chant Hare Krsna and read Srila Prabhupada's books daily. It's added a dimension to my life that I feel is essential. "

Narahari's next project is a farming community. He's already chosen the land : one hundred acres, laced with four year-round natural streams, on Hawaii Island. "It will be a spiritual paradise, " Narahari says, " with devotees fully engaged in Krsna's service, supplied with an abundance of fresh milk from our own cows, as well as with fruits, flowers, vegetables, and grains for offering to the Lord and distributing on a wide scale.

"These three dynamic preaching programs—the boat, the temple, and the new farm—make us confident that Krsna consciousness will continue to blossom in Hawaii—especially since the atmosphere here is conducive to spiritual life. The climate is reminiscent of the spiritual world, and the natural beauty and opulence of the land help us remember Krsna, the source of all beauty and opulence. We want to show practically what Srila Prabhupada told us , that 'peace of mind, tranquility, and friendly relations between men are possible when Krsna is in center."

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out

The Vision to See Life in Stone

The following conversation between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and several of his disciples took place in June 1974 in Paris.

Devotees: A man came to the temple a couple of days ago and argued that we really can't say for sure that there's life after death, so why worry about it? Better to build a more prosperous society. At least this we can understand, and it would be a meaningful accomplishment.

Srila Prabhupada: He may not understand that the soul takes another body after death, but he can understand that he'll be kicked out of his present body. Didn't he understand this?

Devotee: He thought it was more important to engage in economic development.

Srila Prabhupada: Therefore he's a fool. Suppose I am visiting here in Paris, and you say, "As soon as your visa expires you'll be kicked out." Shall I be interested in creating anything elaborate? I shall be kicked out after two months, so why should I construct a big building? Only a foolish rascal would do that. The rascal knows that he will be kicked out, but still he works day and night to collect bricks and stones, and he becomes a "big man." A foolish rascal is considered a big man. Therefore Srimad-Bhagavatam [2.3.19] says, sva-vid-vara-hostra-kharaih samstutah purusah pasuh:

"Men who are like dogs, hogs, camels, and asses praise foolish rascals, the non-devotees."

Devotee: Sometimes people argue that God has given us our senses, so we should enjoy them.

Srila Prabhupada: The dog is also enjoying his senses. I say to such people, What are you enjoying that the dog doesn't enjoy? You eat; the dog also eats. You sleep; the dog also sleeps. You enjoy sex; the dog also enjoys sex. You are afraid of your enemy; the dog is also afraid of its enemy. So what is the difference between the dog's mentality and your mentality?

God has given you the intelligence to understand that you are nothing and He is everything. Just realize it—that is intelligence. When you understand, "God is great; I am His servant," that is real intelligence. Otherwise, you'll be exactly like the dogs.

Devotee: People today have reasoned that God is dead.

Srila Prabhupada: To them I reply, God is not dead; your intelligence is dead. You have a dead body, and you're proud of it. The body is just like a motorcar. A motor car is dead, and if there is no driver it does not work. Similarly, the body is dead, and as soon as you, the soul, leave the body, it stops working. That means you are occupying a dead body. It is working only as long as you are there, but actually the body is dead. And you are decorating a dead body. All your acquisitions are simply decorations on a dead body. Apranasya hi dehasya mandanam loka-ranjanam. Some rascal may applaud, "Oh, you are so intelligent; you are decorating your body so nicely." But an intelligent man will say, "What a fool he is, that he's decorating a dead body."

Devotee: Someone might ask why we decorate the Deity in the temple.

Srila Prabhupada: Because it is not dead. It is living. One who puts forward this argument does not know that we are decorating the real, living body.

Devotee: You say the Deity is the real body, but it appears to be stone. There are no symptoms of life in the Deity.

Srila Prabhupada: There is life—the supreme life—but you have no eyes to see it. Premanjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena. A devotee—he can see that the Deity is alive. Are we fools, rascals, that we are worshiping a dead body? You think that after reading so many scriptures we are worshiping stone? You have no eyes to see the truth. You have to purify your vision to see that Krsna is personally present in the Deity.

Devotee: Most people can't even understand the existence of the soul. So how can they understand the Deity?

Srila Prabhupada: Therefore they have to become our students, our disciples, to understand this science. Then they will see that the stone Deity is also Krsna.

Devotee: Is my body also Krsna, since it is made of earth, like the Deity?

Srila Prabhupada: No, but it is Krsna's energy. Therefore the body should be engaged in Krsna's service. That is Krsna consciousness. As soon as you understand the body is Krsna's energy, you will not employ it for any purpose other than His vice. But people do not have this realization. They think the body is theirs, or that they are the body. This is illusion.

Devotee: When impersonalistic philosophers read in Bhagavad-gita [18.61] that Supreme Lord is situated in everyone's heart," they argue that since Krsna is in heart of every living entity, every living entity is Krsna.

Srila Prabhupada: Why? If I am in a room have I become the room? Is that argument very sound? Krsna is within my body, and I am also within my body, but does that mean I am the body or that Krsna is the body? Krsna is everything, and yet, Krsna is apart from everything. In Bhagavad-gita [9.4] Krsna says, maya tatam idam sarvam jagad avyakta-murtina: "I am spread all over the universe in My impersonal feature." Mat-sthani sarva-bhutani: "Everything is in Me." Na caham tesv avasthitah: "But I separate from everything." This is the philosophy of simultaneous oneness and difference (acintya-bhedabheda-tattva).

Devotee: Other religions do not give information—

Srila Prabhupada: We are not talking religion; we are talking of science. Don't bring in "religion." There are so many religions where people are doing things blindly. Such "religion" is not our concern;

We are talking of science.

Devotee: The science of how God's energies are working ?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. For example, say that heat is fire, is that wrong?

Devotee: No, because it comes from fire.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Heat is the energy of fire. Therefore one can say that heat is fire, but at the same time it is not fire. It is simultaneously one with fire and different from fire.

Devotee: Someone might say, "If stone is also Krsna, then why aren't you worship all stones?"

Srila Prabhupada: When we make the form of Krsna in stone, then we worship stone. Not that we worship any stone. Because Krsna is everything by the expansion of His energies, that does not mean we have to worship the dog. No. Our business is to worship the form of Krsna.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Every Town and Village

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

Govinda's Restaurant in Tehran:

"Down to Earth and Up to God"

Under the direction of Atreya Rsi dasa, who oversees the activities of the Krsna consciousness movement in the Middle East, devotees of Lord Krsna have for several years maintained a temple in Tehran. Two years before the 1979 revolution they opened a vegetarian restaurant in downtown Tehran, and later they purchased a five-acre farm outside the city. The farm provides fruits, grains, and vegetables for the restaurant and also for a food cart that every day serves hundreds of customers the popular Iranian lunch of bread and lubia (a native bean preparation).

Through months of political turmoil, the devotees continued their distribution of sanctified food 'prasadam' and their work of propagating love of God according to the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita. Under the guidance of Sivananda Sena dasa, the Iranian branch of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust published several books, including Sri Isopanisad, in Farsi.

What follows is a condensation of an article that appeared recently in the Tehran Times, Iran's leading English-language newspaper.

The fundamental principle of living well in God's faith underlies the activity of a truly unique restaurant in Tehran, where the material offerings are as fine as they can be found anywhere, yet with an extra goodness provided by the content of spiritual devotion which is placed in them.

As the devout Moslem prepares his or her food with a "bismillah," and eats equally with the same reflection that one's action is a service to keep the body going in order to serve God more fully, so the cuisine of Govinda, the Vedic vegetarian restaurant, is prepared with faith and love and "zekr" (remembrance of the Divine) and dished out with the same devotion.

The restaurant is called "Vedic" because its food is chosen and cooked according to the scripture, the rules of devotional cleanliness, of the path of the Vedas. Thus it is vegetarian not in the modern faddish way, to please a fashionable fancy, but as an article of faith. That not even an egg is broken in this totally meatless diet is due to attention to the profoundest laws of human health—and eating pleasure!

The meal is called "prasadam," meaning "an offering to God," food which has been prepared as a devotional service to the one who provided the materials from which the succulent recipes are put together. And since the spiritual content is in order, you can be sure that the material substance is eminently satisfying as well!

It goes without saying that the breads, along with everything else, are prepared on the premises of this down-to-earth and up-to-God institution. No stimulants are served, so that the tea of recent custom is replaced by the healthy drinks which Iranians used to savor before foreigners commercialized them into becoming customers for imported tea.

Much of the fresh fruits and vegetables used at Govinda restaurant is home-grown on a 2-acre farm near Karaj which belongs to and is tended by the community that runs Govinda, adherents to the Krishna Consciousness spiritual path, focused on a life in God.

Just as the cooking and maintenance of the restaurant form devotional services, so working the farm, with all its complexities and responsibilities, is part of the daily living requirement of cultivating nearness to God. "Those who do not unfairly take advantage of nature," said one devotee, "and who depend on God, will enjoy the food He provides."

For the efforts, not only physical but devotional, which the believer puts into his work, the response—as the Qoran, the Bible, the Vedas and all the other great scriptures of the world state—will be many-fold. "Nature will respond," said another, devotee, "with its treasure of crops."

Apples, plums and pears all grace the trees of the orchard at the farm, while the fields in season abound with tomatoes, lettuce, beets, carrots and everything the earth produces in profusion when hard work and faith are brought to bear.

"If God is satisfied," said a third devotee, "we will automatically be satisfied, since He is the source of everything and we are part and parcel of Him."

Another devotee added, "Everything existing on earth belongs to God, so it should be used only to satisfy God. Our gratitude for his fruits only makes us want to worship Him more. God is real, and when you revive your relationship with Him, He reciprocates and responds."

This understanding of the reality of God is the vital motivating force behind the miracle of Govinda, the restaurant which seems always to provide, because it is, as the devotees see it, no less than an instrument of faith in action.

While the restaurant is in its fifth year, the farm is only in its second. It was acquired and developed after the Revolution, and the process of developing it has been, as it were, a "spiritually revolutionary" one, where numbers of dead and unproductive old trees were rooted out to make room for the burgeoning new orchards and fields.

A further revolution which the community has wrought on its modest few acres is to change the production relations. "Before," says Bharga, the devotee who is responsible for financial and managerial matters, "the farm was run by an owner who was boss of a team of workers. It was run on material terms, the products being marketed for profit to the owner. Now the workers are the owners . . . or, should we say, it is God who is the owner, and all which is produced is for His sake—and hence for the community of all who have faith in Him"

This is the very principle of the OM-MAT, the charismatic community of Islam, as it was in the days of the Prophet and as it has existed as a cherished ideal down through the ages in Islam up to the time of the present Revolution, forming the material basis of the spiritual ideal. "If we seek to satisfy God, if what we do is for His satisfaction," says Bharga, referring to both the individual's role and to the ideal of the community, "then we shall reap the fruits which He provides in being satisfied with us. Spiritual life is an exact science. Just as you consult a doctor for your ills, you can go to a 'spiritual specialist' to learn how to love God."

The ardent young Iranians at Govinda restaurant have chosen to seek that consultation, sharing together because, as Bharga puts it, "we are spiritually all the same." The peaceful—nay, the blissful—looks on the faces of the devotees who serve the restaurant customer express like nothing else the aim of their faith. In Bharga's words, "The closer we get to God, the happier we are."

Chinese Bhagavad-gita Published

Hong Kong—The Hong Kong branch of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust has announced the publication of a Chinese edition of Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad gita As It Is. This being the first translation of the Gita into that language, the one billion people who live on mainland China (nearly a fourth of the world's population) will now begin to have access to the science of Krsna consciousness.

It took Yasomati-suta dasa, a devotee based in Hong Kong, more than five years to render the Gita into the intricate Chinese script. He remarked, "Although China and India are neighbors, very little of the rich spiritual tradition of India has penetrated China, largely because of the language barrier. Now that impediment has been removed—and the significance for the spiritual development of China cannot be overestimated."

Devotees Initiate Bullock Cart Traveling Party

Maharastra, India—Even from a distance the two fifteen-foot-long bullock carts, covered by bright thatched roofs and each pulled by two white long-horn Khilari bulls, caused quite a stir. Most of the villages in this mountainous region of central India contain at least five thousand people, and everyone gathered in the main square when the traveling bullock carts came to visit.

The idea for bringing the message of Lord Krsna to the villages of rural India by bullock cart was suggested by Srila Prabhupada before he passed away in 1977. In August of last year, a team of devotees completed work on the carts and set out from the Hare Krsna temple in Bombay. Their tour took them through most of southern Maharastra.

When arriving in a new village, the devotees would begin chanting Hare Krsna as the villagers gathered. Then the devotees distributed literature on Krsna consciousness and dished out large helpings of vegetarian foods offered first to Lord Krsna. The leader of the traveling party,

His Holiness Aksayananda Swami addresses Indian villagers in Hindi from bullock cart.

His Holiness Aksayananda Swami, lectured in Hindi from the Bhagavad-gita, and afterward the devotees showed a film on the activities of the Hare Krsna movement worldwide.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

The Vedic Observer

A Small Step for Mankind

Assessing the real value of America's new $10 billion space shuttle.

by Prahladananda dasa

With a resounding roar "like sustained thunder," the most advanced spacecraft ever built, the orbiter Columbia, rose from the launching pad at Cape Canaveral last April 12 and propelled the United States back into the space race. Its main engines are so powerful that they could generate enough electricity to light up all of New York State. Its miles of pipes and wires could equip a small skyscraper. Its "nervous system"—five computers, each able to perform 325,000 operations a second—protect the shuttle and its crew by instantly reporting to the astronauts even the slightest equipment malfunction. Said astronaut John Young, commander of the Columbia, "If there is a vehicle we can have confidence in, it is this one."

The Columbia is certainly an amazing vehicle, but there's one that's even more' amazing—the human body. U.S. space engineers hope to send the shuttle aloft as many as one hundred times, with a week's layoff in between for maintenance and repair. But with the proper health regimen, John Young can expect to use his bodily "vehicle" every day for as long as eighty to one hundred years. His body is also unique in that it can repair itself and produce offspring. (Imagine how many billions of dollars would be saved if a "male" and a "female" space shuttle could create a third spacecraft.)

Still, even more remarkable than the human body are the human mind and intelligence, which can conceive and direct the manufacture of wondrous machines like the Columbia. And as for speed, no spacecraft can compete with the ship of the mind and intelligence. They can transport a person's consciousness thousands of miles in less than a second.

Yet even more marvelous than the human mind and intelligence is the soul. Without the soul, the mind, intelligence, and physical body become inoperative, lifeless. Why hasn't science discovered the soul? The Vedic literature tells us that the size of the soul is one ten-thousandth part of the tip of a hair, too small for even the most powerful electron microscope to detect. The Vedas define the soul as the actual self within the body, the source of consciousness, which, while remaining unchanged, animates the body and mind and perceives their activities. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna explains that the soul exists within a physical body that changes continuously from childhood to youth to old age. At the time of death the soul leaves the old body and enters a new one, unless the soul has achieved liberation from the cycle of birth and death.

The Vedas explain that a person can attain scientific understanding of the physical body, the mind, and the intelligence through yoga practice and thereby achieve extraordinary powers. Such yogis can perform feats of travel that would make the Columbia look like the Wright brothers' biplane. Leaving his physical body at will, an advanced yogi can travel instantly to distant planets in the vehicle of his mind and intelligence.

But such powers are not the ultimate achievement. The Vedas further describe that the topmost yogis, the devotees of God, can at the time of death travel beyond the material universe and reach the spiritual planets. There such fortunate souls live eternal lives of unlimited happiness and complete knowledge. Even if the most advanced spacecraft traveled at the speed of the mind for many thousands of years, it could not reach the spiritual planets. Only by practicing the yoga of devotion, Krsna consciousness, can one become qualified to go there.

Space exploration undoubtedly yields fascinating information about our universe. But the Vedas encourage us to look inward to discover what is more immediately relevant—our eternal, spiritual nature. Great saints and sages have made this inward journey throughout history, and their experiences are recorded in the revealed Vedic scriptures. Such exploration promises greater rewards, with smaller economic sacrifice, than a space program of dubious merit.

We do not decry scientific advancement; we welcome it. But we urge that it be directed toward the proper goal. The science of bhakti-yoga, devotional service to the Supreme Lord, reveals information not only about the phenomenal universe but also about the supremely intelligent person who conceives, creates, and maintains it. The Vedanta-sutra, which contains the essence of all spiritual knowledge, declares, athato brahma-jijnasa: "Human life is meant for inquiring about the Absolute Truth, the origin of everything." That is the proper function of scientific inquiry. The Columbia may help us discover the mysteries of space, but our real success will come when we discover the mysteries of our relationship to God.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Abortion and the Language of Unconsciousness

A shrewd choice of words can make barbarism seem like social utility.

by Ravindra-svarupa dasa

In Politics and the English Language, an essay published in 1946, George Orwell showed how political writing and speech, which, he said, are "largely the defense of the indefensible," corrupt language through wordiness, hackneyed expressions, vagueness, ambiguity, and euphemisms. The intent of the writer or speaker, Orwell said, is to conceal what he is actually saying—even from himself. For example: "Defense-less villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them."

Orwell's essay has become famous, but that did not inhibit American officials from using these very euphemisms during the Vietnam War.

More recently, the American public was given a dramatization of Orwell's lesson in the widely-viewed television show Holocaust. A leading character in the story was one Eric Dorf, a bright young lawyer who rose to prominence in the S.S. chiefly because of his talent for manufacturing euphemisms. Dorf named the ghettos in which Jews were confined "Autonomous Jewish Territories"; the removal of Jews to death camps he called "resettlement" and "relocation"; the murder of Jews en masse he named "special handling." Thus Dorf provided the S.S. a way to talk about their activities without making themselves and their listeners unduly conscious of what they were actually doing.

"Political language," wrote Orwell, "is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable." But neither Orwell's essay nor the popularization of his lesson in Holocaust seems to have deterred people from using political language. It continues to fulfill a great need. One particular contemporary American instance is very revealing.

The political issue here is abortion. But abortion is an ugly and brutal word because what it names is ugly and brutal. A billboard advertising ABORTION in yard-high letters would shock our sensibilities. But we are not made needlessly conscious of the service offered when we read PREGNANCY TERMINATION. Here is political language at its finest. A clumsy cluster of polysyllables is substituted for a short, direct word. The new expression slyly sidesteps the fact that a life is ended by suggesting only that a pregnancy is. The phrase, to use Orwell's words, "falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outlines and covering up all the details."

Moreover, when the mother comes to have her pregnancy terminated—that is, her fetus aborted—she never hears that anything so crude and offensive as the killing of a child will take place. Rather, she hears that the tissue will be removed, an expression that puts the operation comfortably on the level of the cutting out of an ingrown toenail or the lifting off of a wart.

Obviously some anonymous Eric Dorf has been diligently at work, doing a necessary service.

The very fact that proabortionists take refuge in political language is itself a strong argument against their case. There would be no need for euphemism if there were nothing to hide. The transparency of the deception only shows how desperate people are to become unconscious of their acts. Although at heart they recognize the self-deception, they carry on the ruse, for the clarity of consciousness would be unbearable.

Orwell saw that when language is corrupted, thought is corrupted, consciousness is corrupted—people are corrupted. To improve language is to improve human beings. Yet the appearance of political language among abortion advocates especially shows how difficult the problem is. For most proabortionists are liberals and, as such, claim to be sensitive to the kind of language needed for the totalitarian bureaucratization of evil. They, above all, listened to Orwell. Yet they are sadly susceptible to the same corruption. Pregnancy termination and removal of the tissue must be added to pacification, elimination of unreliable elements, and special handling as part of the particular contribution of our time to the corruption of human life.

I suspect, however, that an advocate of abortion would charge that my case is question-begging and assert that I must deal with tissues more substantive than language. Pregnancy termination and removal of the tissue, the proabortionist might say, are somewhat euphemistic, but they are more than that. The mother seeking an abortion has made a difficult choice, and much of her difficulty is due to her conditioning by a specious outlook that regards the fetus as a person and its destruction as homicide. This view is based on the unscientific idea that the fetus is a person by virtue of a "soul." Calling the fetus "tissue" only emphasizes that tissue is all the fetus, in fact, is, and tissue is all that is destroyed. My argument presupposes that the fetus is a person, but that assumption is precisely what is in question.

Here, then, abortion is justified by a view of the world that (appealing to the authority of science) sees everything in existence, human beings included, as arising out of ultimately accidental combinations of blind and lifeless matter. Everyone is familiar with this position. As a justification for abortion, however, it has problems. According to this view, a fertilized ovum becomes a human being through a gradually increasing complexity in organic structure. Yet the point in this process at which the entity is complex enough to be called "human" is acknowledged to be arbitrary. Any number of different criteria can be picked for any number of reasons. Granting the principle that reduces human beings to complexities of matter, a strong case has been made that a child becomes human only well after birth—for example, when it has developed the neural connections associated with language. The point is that we decide, arbitrarily, whether or not we want to recognize some being as human. After all, the same reductionistic philosophy that decrees a fetus to be tissue also decrees you and I to be tissue. We are, all of us, nothing but tissue. But because we have chosen to kill the unborn child, we now make a point of calling it "tissue." If we chose to kill others, we could classify them as "tissue" well. Are the mentally retarded "tissue Are the old and infirm "tissue"? Of course they are, and if we decide that it is too expensive and bothersome to take care them (or, in political language, that it involves "too high a social cost"), we will start calling them "tissue" and beg "terminating" them.

We are back to language. It makes easier for us to kill people if we don't think of them as such. By word magic, we make them less than human: "scum," "gooks "pigs," and, in this case, "tissue." That we have a philosophical justification for this procedure only makes it worse. Certain Eric Dorf's language was based on the philosophy that Jews were not human and killing them not murder—but only "special handling," like disposing of unwanted warehouse stock.

The linguistic issue and the substantial issue really come to the same point: depersonalization. Historically, depersonalization began with nature. Before nature could be conquered and exploited, it had to be depersonalized. As long as nature was thought to be controlled by person forces, one had to placate and satisfy the through propitiation and sacrifice. The powers were stronger than men and easily offended; one had to be careful and subservient; at best, control was indirect and precarious. But the mechanistic view the world as nothing but structures of dead matter shoved about by unvarying impersonal forces made possible a technology for the direct human domination and control over nature.

This depersonalization, however, has already begun with Christianity, which banished the pagan gods and the myriad local spirits of woods and streams and mountains. Christianity recognized a single transcendent Deity entirely separate from His creation. Thus nature lost both its personal and its sacred character. In fact, with Christianity, the nonhuman part of creation became something of an anomaly; it had no significance in itself but was merely the backdrop for the central human drama of redemption. Humans alone had immortal souls, and all the excess of furious and intricate life that otherwise fills the world was an unintelligible addendum, meaningful only when it serve some human end. The world, thus depersonalized and desacralized, could now be regarded entirely as a thing, as a object for detached study and the mechanical manipulations of an impersonal, science.

There was some success in this endeavour, and naturally the question arose, Why should humanity itself be unique, categorically different from the rest of creation? If laws are universal and nature a unity, why shouldn't human beings be subject to the same categories of explanation that cover everything else? And as for God—God was already seen as essentially disconnected from the creation, so transcendent that we can properly form no positive idea of Him at all, and the vision of the world as a field of impersonal forces operating according to unchangeable laws made Him even more remote and finally irrelevant. God went into eclipse, and humanity was no longer unique.

That human life itself is now becoming more and more impersonal and mechanistic is simply-the latest stage in this historical development. We depersonalized nature; we depersonalized God; now we are busy depersonalizing ourselves. The domination of the mechanistic and reductionistic view of the world in our culture insures that the process will continue. Although people continually complain about being treated as things, these same people fully accept a view of the world that makes them into things. This is why the nightmare vision of society turned into a numbered robotized collective enslaved to mindless routines by an inscrutable bureaucracy or a remote, omnipotent leader haunts us with such persistent force. It is genuinely prophetic, for the future is already in us. We have accepted all the conditions for it, and now we fearfully await the manifestation.

The establishment of abortion brings the nightmare closer to reality. We may fear the growing depersonalization of life, but to justify the killing of an unborn child because it is nothing but tissue is to advance that depersonalization one terrifying step further.

Depersonalization means the deadening of life, the transformation of what is vital into something inert and mechanical. It signifies a loss of consciousness. This is important to realize, because it brings to light the fact that no one can depersonalize others without at the same time depersonalizing himself. The people who make an unborn child less than human thereby make themselves less than human, and they unwittingly reveal this by adopting language that is designed to foster unconsciousness. Orwell himself particularly observed that a speaker of political language is more like a "dummy" than a live human being: he "has gone some distance toward turning himself into a machine" and entered into "a reduced state of consciousness." Reduction of consciousness precisely defines the regression of the human race.

A progressive human life is a continuing struggle against unconsciousness. Unconsciousness characterizes the dead, the inert to be fully alive is to be fully conscious. The enhancement of consciousness is the triumph of life over death, of spirit over matter. Depersonalization, unconsciousness, threatens everything of value human life can achieve. Yet we have for some time already been reduced in consciousness. The depersonalization of God and of nature were significant steps toward our own depersonalization; seeing God and nature as insentient is a function of our own reduced sentience.

Before we can do anything about depersonalization, we have to understand its cause. Depersonalization is necessary for us to dominate and enjoy others. When I, a conscious subject, recognize another as a conscious subject like myself, the kinds of relationships we have are what we call personal, based on a mutual respect for each other's subjectivity. If, however, I set out to dominate another in order to use that person as an instrument for my own enjoyment, then I change him or her into an object, a mere means. The person becomes merely a tool to be manipulated and controlled. I do not consider that the other has significance for himself, and thus I lose the consciousness of the other as a person. For example, a factory owner interested only in profit will not really consider his employees humans as such; they are merely tools of labor, factors in an economic equation, usable commodities. In a similar way, women are exploited by men when men regard them only as objects for enjoyment, mere instruments. The exploiter of workers or of women depersonalizes them, but in the process he has depersonalized himself, for he has become unconscious. Thus incapacitated, he is unable to experience personal relations and has emptied his own life of significance.

Thus, the drive to satisfy human appetites causes depersonalization and unconsciousness. All human relations in which this drive is a factor are to that extent corrupted, and the would-be enjoyer, his consciousness diminished, becomes deprived of the only real source of happiness: genuinely personal relations, which alone enhance consciousness and life itself.

For this reason, we must accept the hard but unavoidable conclusion that depersonalization and unconsciousness can be eliminated only by eliminating the desire to enjoy others. Since this desire is so deeply rooted, its eradication would seem to require a very fundamental kind of human reformation. This may seem radical but it should not be surprising. We have seen how the steady encroachment of depersonalization and unconsciousness into our lives—exemplified in our acceptance of abortion—is a function of a long-established, fundamental view of the world. Constitutional amendments, legislation, and similar superficial measures are not going to change that. Rather, the impersonal, mechanistic view of the world must be abandoned. But that will happen only if we can become free from the desire to make others instruments to our own enjoyment.

The only vision of the world I know of that is fully personal, that sees both God and all fellow living beings as irreducibly conscious and personal, is taught by Lord Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita and elaborated further in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. According to this view, not just humans—and human fetuses—are souls: all living beings are souls: The soul is a minute but eternal spiritual entity with consciousness as its essential characteristic. Souls animate bodies of matter; they are the living force. Thus, there is no living creature without significance for itself. A person who has become fully conscious by following the directions of the Bhagavad-gita sees this, and he will not exploit any creature for his enjoyment. His love is unrestricted and unimpeded.

A conscious person will not kill even animals (much less very young humans) for his pleasure or convenience. Certainly the unconsciousness and brutality that allows us to erect factories of death for animals lay the groundwork for our treating humans in the same way.

The idea that life is the property of souls is derisively referred to by mechanistic thinkers as "vitalism" or "animism." They assert that there is no evidence for souls. Yet it has been a singular failure of materialistic science to demonstrate how out of a world composed of nothing but matter something arises that experiences matter. Moreover, the ability to apprehend souls is not possessed by everyone—it is not, in particular, possessed by those who have become unconscious because of their exploitative mentality. A society whose ideal is to reduce everything to exploitable objects will not produce many people conscious enough to see what is living and personal. That society will advance only into the increasing obscurity of unconsciousness and impersonality.

Yet it is possible to counteract this corruption of our experience, this brutalization of consciousness that annihilates our ability to enter into personal relations and condemns us to an absurd, insipid existence in a lifeless, soulless world. We do not have to be victims of the politics of unconsciousness.

According to the Bhagavad-gita, the desire to control and enjoy others is not natural in us. Desire itself is the symptom of life; desire is natural, but in its original state that desire is manifest as unrestricted love for God, Krsna, the Supreme Person—and through Him, for all other persons that come from Him and are part of Him. Only in our unconscious state have we forgotten the real object of our love and allowed our love to be transformed into lust, into the desire to exploit others for our selfish purposes. This transformation can be reversed.

The practical method that reconverts lust into love, unconsciousness into consciousness, is called bhakti-yoga. This yoga redirects the use of the senses from dominating and enjoying others to serving Krsna, who is the natural master of the senses. In the course of that devotional service, all the potentialities of the soul become manifest. We experience the true pleasure of full consciousness, of life without limitation or qualification. This advancement into complete consciousness and unimpeded personal relations is aim of human life.

Even though consciousness is a live option, the future for human society still looks bleak. The acceptance of abortion is a great victory for the politics of unconsciousness. Still, unlike the millions innocent children it has ruthlessly destroyed, we do not have to become its hapless victims. We do not have to succumb this monstrous negation of life. We still accept the invitation of Krsna and rejoin the world of the living.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

The Biography of a Pure Devotee

The Departure—1967: The Lower East Side, New York.

Srila Prabhupada leaves his small storefront temple to open a center in the heart of San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district.

by Srila Satsvarupa dasa Goswami

The temple at 26 Second Avenue was thriving, but now it was time to break new ground. And the most fertile field was San Francisco's Haight-Ashhurv district, where the cultural revolution that had begun on the Lower East Side was about to explode with a mass migration of searching, frustrated young people.

Kirtanananda, Brahmananda, Acyuta-nanda, Girgamuni, Satsvarupa, Hayagriva, Umapati, Jadurani, Rupanuga, Damodara—their lives had all been transformed. Over the months they had transferred the center of their lives to Swamiji, and everything revolved around the daily routine of classes and kirtana and prasadam and coming and going to and from the storefront.

Brahmananda and Gargamuni had given up their apartment several months ago and moved into the storefront. The ceiling of Acyutananda's apartment had caved in one day, just minutes after he had left the room, and he had decided to move to the storefront also. Hayagriva and Umapati had cleaned up their Mott Street place and were using it only for chanting, sleeping, or reading Swamiji's Bhagavatam. Satsvarupa had announced one day that the devotees could use his apartment, just around the corner from the temple, for taking showers, and the next day Raya Rama had moved in, and the others began using the apartment as a temple annex. Jadurani kept making her early-morning treks from the Bronx. (Swamiji had said that he had no objection to her living in the second room of his apartment, but that people would talk.) Even Rupanuga and Damodara, whose backgrounds and tastes were different, were also positively dependent on the daily morning class and the evening class three nights a week and in knowing that Swamiji was always there in his apartment whenever they needed him.

There were, however, some threats to this security. Prabhupada would sometimes say that unless he got permanent residency from the government he would have to leave the country. But he had gone to a lawyer, and after the initial alarm it seemed that Swamiji would stay indefinitely. There was also the threat that he might go to San Francisco. He said he was going, but then sometimes he said he wasn't.

But at least in the morning sessions, as his disciples listened to him speak on Caitanya-caritamrta, these threats were all put out of mind, and the timeless, intimate teachings took up their full attention. Krsna consciousness was a hard struggle, keeping yourself strictly following Swamiji's code against mya—"No illicit sex, no intoxication, no gambling, no meat-eating." But it was possible as long as they could hear him singing and reading and speaking from Caitanya-caritmrta. They counted on his presence for their Krsna consciousness. He was the center of their newly spiritualized lives, and he was all they knew of Krsna consciousness. As long as they could keep coming and seeing him, Krsna consciousness was a sure thing—as long as he was there.

One of Prabhupada's main concerns was to finish and publish as soon as possible his translation and commentary of Bhagavad-gita, and one day something happened that enabled him to increase his work on the manuscript. Unexpectedly, a boy named Neal arrived. He was a student from Anti-och College on a special work-study program, and he had the school's approval to work one term within the asrama of Swami Bhaktivedanta, which he had heard about through the newspapers. Neal mentioned that he was a good typist, if that could be of any help to the Swami. Prabhupada considered this to be Krsna's blessing. Immediately he rented a dictaphone and began dictating tapes, Hayagriva donated his electric typewriter, and Neal set up his work area in Swamiji's front room and began typing eight hours a day. This inspired Prabhupada and obliged him to produce more. He worked quickly, sometimes day and night, on his Bhagavad-gita As It Is. He had founded ISKCON five months ago, yet in his classes he was still reading the Bhagavad-gita translation of Dr. Radhakrishnan. But when Bhagavad-gita As It Is would be published, he told his disciples, it would be of major importance for the Krsna consciousness movement. At last there would be a bonafide edition of the Gita.

Whatever Swamiji said or did, his disciples wanted to hear about it. Gradually, they had increased their faith and devotion to Swamiji, whom they accepted as God's representative, and they took his actions and words to be absolute. After one of the disciples had been alone with him, the others would gather around to find out every detail of what had happened. It was Krsna consciousness. Jadurani was especially guileless in relating what Swamiji had said or done. One day, Prabhupada had stepped on a tack that Jadurani had dropped on the floor, and although she knew it was a serious offense to her spiritual master, the major importance of the event seemed to be how Prabhupada had displayed his transcendental consciousness. He silently and emotionlessly reached down and pulled the tack from his foot, without so much as a cry. And once, when she was fixing a painting over his head behind the desk, she had accidentally stepped on his sitting mat. "Is that an offense?" she had asked. And Swamiji had replied, "No. For service you could even stand on my head."

Sometimes Brahmananda would say that Swamiji had told him something very intimate about Krsna consciousness in private. But when he would tell what Swamiji had said, someone else would recall reading the same thing in Srimad-Bhagavatam. Prabhupada had said that the spiritual master is present in his instructions and that he had tried to put everything into those three volumes of the Bhagavatam, and the devotees were finding this to be true.

There were no secrets in Swamiji's family of devotees. Everyone knew that Umapati had left for a few days, disappointed with the Swami's severe criticism of the Buddhists, but had come back, and in a heavy, sincere exchange with Prabhupada, he had decided to take to Krsna consciousness again. And everyone knew that Satsvarupa had quit his job and that when he went to tell Swamiji about it, Swamiji had told him he could not quit but should go on earning money for Krsna and donating it to the Society and that this would be his best service. And everyone knew that Swamiji wanted Gargamuni to cut his hair—Swamiji called it "Gargamuni's Shakespearean locks"—but that he would not do so.

The year ended, and Swamiji was still working on his manuscript of Bhagavad-gita, still lecturing in the mornings from Caitanya-caritamrta and Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings from Bhagavad-gita, and still talking of going to San Francisco. Then New Year's Eve came, and the devotees suggested that since this was a holiday when people celebrate, maybe they should hold a Krsna conscious festival.

Rupanuga: So we had a big feast, and a lot of people came, although it wasn't as crowded as the Sunday feasts. We were all taking prasadam, and Swamiji was sitting up on his dais, and he was also taking prasadam. He was demanding that we eat lots of prasadam. And then he was saying,

"Chant! Chant!" So we were eating, chanting Hare Krsna between bites, and was insisting on more and more prasadam. I was amazed. He stayed with us until around eleven o'clock, and then he became drowsy. And the party was over.

Sometimes, during the evening gatherings in his room, Swamiji would ask whether Mukunda was ready on the West Coast. For months, Prabhupada's going to West Coast had been one of a number of alternatives. But then, during the first week of the New Year, a letter arrived from Mukunda: he had rented a storefront in heart of the Haight-Ashbury district, Frederick Street. "We are busy converting into a temple now," he wrote. And Prabhupada announced: "I shall go immediately." Mukunda had told of a "Gathering of Tribes" in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury. Thousands of hippies were migrating from all over the country to the very neighbourhood where Mukunda had rented storefront. It was a youth renaissance much bigger than what was going on in New York City. In a scheme to raise funds for the temple, Mukunda was planning a "Mantra Rock Dance," and famous rock bands were going to appear. And Swami Bhaktivedanta and the chanting of Hare Krishna were to be the center of attraction!

Although in his letter Mukunda had closed a plane ticket, some of Swamiji's followers refused to accept that Swamiji would use it. Those who knew they could not leave New York began to criticize idea of Swamiji's going to San Francisco. They didn't think that people out on West Coast could take care of Swamiji properly. Swamiji appearing with rock musicians? Those people out there didn't seem to have the proper respect. Anyway, there was no suitable temple there. There was no printing press, no back TO godhead magazine. Why should Swamiji leave New York to attend a function like that with strangers in California? How could he leave them behind in New York? Timidly, one or two dissenters indirectly expressed some of these feelings to Prabhupada, almost wishing to admonish him for thinking of leaving them, and even hinting things would not go well, either in San Francisco or New York, if 'he departed. But they found Prabhupada quite confident and determined. He did not belong to New York, he belonged to Krsna, and he has to go wherever Krsna desired him to preach. Prabhupada showed a spirit of complete detachment, eager to travel and expand the chanting of Hare Krsna.

In the last days of the second week of January, final plane reservations were made, and the devotees began packing Swamiji's manuscripts away in trunks. Ranacora, a new devotee recruited from the Tompkins Square Park, had collected enough money for a plane ticket, and the devotees decided that he should accompany Prabhupada as his personal assistant. Prabhupada explained that he would only be gone a few weeks, and that he wanted all the programs to go on in his absence.

He waited in his room while the boys arranged for a car to take him to the airport. The day was gray and cold, and steam hissed in the radiators. He would take only a suitcase—mostly clothes and some books. He checked the closet to see that his manuscripts were in order. Kirtanananda would take care of his things in his apartment. He sat down at his desk where, for more than six months, he had sat so many times, working for hours at the typewriter preparing his Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam, and where he had sat talking to so many guests and followers. But today he would not be talking with friends or typing a manuscript, but waiting a last few minutes alone before his departure.

This was his second winter in New York. He had launched a movement of Krsna consciousness. A few sincere boys and girls had joined. They were already well known on the Lower East Side—many notices in the newspapers. And it was only the beginning.

He had left Vrndavana for this. At first he had not been certain whether he would stay in America more than two months. In Butler he had presented his books. But then in New York he had seen how Dr. Mishra had developed things and the Mayavadis had a big building. They were taking money and not even delivering the real message of the Gita. But American people were looking.

It had been a difficult year. His God-brothers hadn't been interested in helping, although this is what their Guru Maharaja, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, wanted, and what Lord Caitanya wanted. Because Lord Caitanya wanted it, His blessings would come, and it would happen.

This was a nice place. 26 Second Avenue. He had started here. The boys would keep it up. Some of them were donating their salaries. It was a start.

Prabhupada looked at his watch. He put on his tweed winter coat and his hat and shoes, put his right hand in his bead bag, and continued chanting. He walked out of the apartment, down the stairs, and through the courtyard, which was now frozen and still, its trees starkly bare without a single leaf remaining. And he left the storefront behind.

He left, even while Brahmananda, Rupanuga, and Satsvarupa were at their office jobs. There was not even a farewell scene or a farewell address. (To be continued.)

Use back button to return.

Return to top

The Yoga Dictionary

The Sanskrit language is rich in words to communicate ideas about spiritual life, yoga, and God realization. This dictionary, appearing by installments in back to godhead, will focus upon the most important of these words (and, occasionally, upon relevant English terms) and explain what they mean. (For a guide to proper pronunciation, please see page 1.)

Ananda. Transcendental bliss. The Vedanta-sutra says that the Supreme is by nature all-blissful. Therefore when one links oneself with the Supreme through devotional service one becomes naturally blissful also.

According to the Vedic analysis, there are three kinds of happiness: material, spiritual, and devotional. The senses of our material bodies bring us feelings of happiness from what we hear, see, touch, taste, or smell, but these sensations are unsatisfying because they are limited and temporary, and they ultimately make us miserable by entangling us in the complexities of the material world and the cycle of birth and death. Ordinary mental and intellectual happiness are but subtle forms of the same material entanglement.

When we realize that our material bodies are not our real selves and we awaken to our eternal nature as spiritual souls, we naturally become spiritually happy.

But when we realize our eternal loving relationship with the Supreme Absolute—with Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead—we taste a happiness that makes even the happiness of self-realization seem insignificant. Even self-realized souls who are immersed in the happiness of self-realization and have lost all taste for material enjoyment become attracted to the transcendental taste of rendering devotional service to Krsna.

Arca-vigraha. In temples of Krsna consciousness, the Supreme Lord is the center of attention in the form called arca-vigraha. The arca-vigraha is apparently a painting or statue fashioned of material elements, but an enlightened devotee sees no difference between the arca-vigraha in the temple and the Lord's eternal form in the spiritual world. The worship of the arca-vigraha is quite distinct from idolatry; far from being an icon carved from the worshiper's imagination, the arca-vigraha corresponds precisely to the eternal form of the Personality of Godhead described in the Vedic scriptures, which originate from the Lord Himself.

Although Western traditions generally offer either a vague, invisible God or a God made visible only through artistic speculations, the Vedic literature describes in detail and with authority what God looks like. And the Vedic scriptures tell us that because God's form is absolute, God's form and God Himself are non-different. So when the form of the Lord is present, the Lord Himself is present also. Of course, the Lord is present everywhere, even in the material world, in every atom and between all the atoms of creation, but the arca-vigraha—the Lord's form in the temple—enables us to realize the Lord's presence by seeing His transcendental form even in the material world.

Aryan. The word aryan refers to a civilization based on spiritual knowledge and culture. The members of such a civilization are called aryans. Apart from this original meaning, the term aryan has suffered a long history of misuse. Various groups in India have taken pride in calling themselves aryans, using the word to assert national or racial superiority. With the rise of the Third Reich, the Nazis appropriated the title and claimed national and racial superiority for themselves.

To use the word aryan in such a way is to give evidence that in fact one is not an aryan at all. One identifies himself with his material body—and thereby with a particular race and nation—only when one has forgotten who he really is. Despite material power or aristocracy, such a person, far from being an aryan, is a spiritual cripple.

Asana. Literally meaning "seat," the word asana may refer either to one's sitting place or to the posture in which one sits. In the ancient eightfold yoga system, one had to observe complete celibacy and strictly control one's mind and senses. Having left one's home and retired to a sacred and solitary place, one would sit in the classic yoga posture, regulate one's breath, and meditate until one attained realization of the Supreme in a perfect state of trance. In this way one would achieve liberation from the cycle of birth and death.

But although this is an authentic yoga system and is described in Bhagavad-gita, it is unsuitable for the present age because it requires one to undergo disciplines that are now almost impossible.

As a mechanical part has no value without the rest of the machine to which it belongs, the sitting postures by themselves are virtually useless for spiritual realization. The postures may be good for physical health—but, then, so are jumping jacks. One cannot attain self-realization merely by Indian gymnastics.

Asrama. 1. A place of spiritual culture. The residence or monastery where a guru instructs and enlightens his disciples.

2. One of the four "spiritual orders" of the Vedic way of life. According to the Vedic plan, one progresses through four asramas, or stages for spiritual development—student life (brahmacarya), married life (grhastha), retired life (vanaprastha), and renounced life (sannyasa).

In student life (brahmacarya-asrama), one observes a vow of celibacy and receives training in self-realization from a spiritual master. When the student becomes a young man, he may marry and continue his spiritual life as a responsible householder. He is then said to be in the grhastha-asrama. (One whose householder life centers on sexual enjoyment rather than spiritual enlightenment is considered to have left the grhastha-asrama for life as a grha-medhi, a materialist.) When the householder reaches the age of fifty, he should detach himself from the complex entanglements of householder life by resuming a life of celibacy and handing over his family responsibilities to his heirs. In this retired stage of life (the vanaprastha-asrama), a man and his wife may travel to holy places of pilgrimage and focus their lives more intently on attaining self-realization. Finally, the wife should return home to the care of her family to mature to full spiritual realization, and the husband should accept a life of full renunciation (the sannyasa-asrama) in which he dedicates himself to achieving perfect realization and imparting spiritual understanding to the members of the other three asramas.

By defining one's duties throughout life in terms of these four asramas, the Vedic culture sets forth a plan by which every stage of one's life has meaning and value for the attainment of spiritual enlightenment and for the welfare of the whole society.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Notes from the Editor

"All Problems Can Be Solved by Krsna Consciousness"

Our spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, used to say, "All problems can be solved by Krsna consciousness." We, his disciples, believed him, followed his instructions, and saw our problems solved individually and collectively in the Krsna consciousness movement.

But nondevotees don't believe Krsna consciousness can solve the seemingly intractable problems facing the world today. How could the chanting of the names of God—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—possibly solve such problems as widespread violent crime, rampant inflation, or the threat of nuclear war? Except to devotees, the idea that "all problems can be solved by Krsna consciousness" seems too simple and Utopian.

Nonetheless, the practical success of the Krsna consciousness movement in alleviating the problems of its own members cannot be discounted. It is a scientific principle that if one can build a successful model, there is a good possibility that one could expand the model and have it succeed on a larger scale. And now in the 1980s, when all the old "solutions" seem to have been tried and have failed, any successful alternative, however unusual, is worth serious study.

What is the Krsna conscious method of solving problems, and how does it work? That can best be seen by following the activities of ISKCON's founder and spiritual guide, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada came to America in 1965 at age sixty-nine and began preaching about the science of Krsna, as taught in Vedic scriptures such as Bhagavad-gita. According to the Vedas, everything in the universe belongs to God, and a person should take only what is allotted to him as his quota, "but he should not take more than that, knowing well to whom it belongs." This means that human society should be God-centered. Srila Prabhupada writes, "If we become God conscious, Krsna conscious, the fighting in the world will come to an end. 'I am American,' 'I am Indian,' 'I am Russian,' 'I am Chinese'—all these nonsensical,designations will be finished. The Krsna consciousness movement is so purifying that as soon as people become Krsna conscious, political and national fighting will immediately be over, because they will come to their real consciousness and understand that everything belongs to God."

The philosophy of God consciousness is the basis of all genuine morality, but in the West the established religions have been unable to inculcate moral principles into society at large. In fact, crime in the United States has gotten so bad that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Warren Burger, recently felt compelled to decry "the reign of terror in American cities."

Realizing the urgent need for practical spiritual knowledge, Srila Prabhupada conceived and began a society in which all the members agreed to factually give up sinful, antisocial activities and perform all their works for the pleasure of God, Krsna. Because he strictly forbade the taking of intoxicants (even tea or cigarettes) and indulgence in illicit sex, gambling, and meat-eating, many people were put off. But many joined as well, once they began participating in the sublime practices of chanting Hare Krsna and engaging in Krsna's service. Gaining a higher spiritual taste, devotees of Krsna, under Srila Prabhupada's guidance, were able to reject the lower modes of life for the transcendental. Although most of the devotees had no prior training in austerities or advanced spiritual knowledge, they quickly developed to a point where they willingly rejected all socially disruptive and self-destructive activities. "If one is pressured by the law or obligations to give up sinful activity," Srila Prabhupada writes, "one cannot do so. However, if someone takes to Krsna consciousness, he can very easily give up all sinful activity." Thus, among the members of the Krsna consciousness movement there is no drug addiction of any kind; crime is almost nonexistent; marriage ties are strong; there is no unemployment; abortion is unheard of; the educational system is harmonious; interracial dealings are no problem at all—in short, the average devotee is hard-working, peaceful, happy, and secure.

The Krsna conscious way of life, aside from solving its followers basic social and personal problems, also overcomes the greatest problem of all—the problem of repeated birth and death. The Vedic scriptures teach that each person is actually an eternal living being, a spiritual soul. When the body dies, the soul, the real self, lives on. But as long as we have not developed self-realization, as long as we remain ignorant of our connection with God, then at the time of death the eternal spiritual soul has to enter another temporary material body, only to suffer once again the agony of death when that body dies.

The process of the soul's transmigration from one body to another goes on under the strict laws of karma. By these laws, the actions we perform and the desires we cultivate in our present life determine our destiny in the next. But in whatever situation we are born, whether in a wealthy human family or a family of cats or dogs, we shall always face the multiple miseries of birth, old age, disease, and death. Therefore the Vedic culture teaches that while we have the intelligence and the good opportunity to cultivate spiritual knowledge—in other words, before our time in this human body runs out—we must solve this most fundamental problem, the problem of repeated birth and death.

That problem can be solved only by Krsna consciousness, because only Krsna consciousness can eradicate all karma. As Lord Krsna Himself says in the Bhagavad gita (2.50), "A person engaged in devotional service rids himself of both good and bad karma even in this life." Eventually the devotee develops pure love for Krsna. Then, at the time of death, he is not forced to transmigrate to another material body; he attains a spiritual body and goes to join Krsna in the eternal, spiritual world. Only then are all his problems solved.

Srila Prabhupada did not invent the Krsna conscious method of solving problems, nor is this the first time in history that people have become peaceful and satisfied by practicing Krsna consciousness. According to the Vedic scriptural histories, in past millenniums the whole world was God conscious, living under the authority of enlightened kings who were themselves pure devotees of the Lord. Thus Srimad Bhagavatam (1.10.4,6) states, "During the reign of King Yudhisthira, the clouds showered all the water that people needed and the earth produced all the necessity of man in profusion. ... At no time were the living beings disturbed by mental agonies, diseases, or excessive heat or cold. So, historically Krsna consciousness has worked to solve problems not just on small communal scale but among the entire world's population.

It may be some time before the world nations give up trying to solve their problems with patchwork solutions and take up the all-encompassing solution of Krsna consciousness. But even now, because of the existence of the Krsna consciousness movement, any individual in any nation or culture of the world can join the society of devotees and immediately solve his problems. All he needs is the good intelligence to see Krsna consciousness as the invaluable gift it actually is.

Use back button to return.

Return to top