His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Srila Prabhupada: When we speak of Krsna, we mean God. Everyone has some vague idea of God, hut no clear idea. Therefore God descends to show what He is. If we speculate on God, someone will think one thing and another person will think another. This is the result of speculation. But if God Himself comes and shows Himself as He is and speaks about Himself, that is perfect knowledge. This Krsna consciousness movement is spreading that message.
In Bhagavad-gita, God Himself is speaking about Himself: I am like this; My form is like this; My activities are like this; My address is this and that. If you like, you can come back to Me. There is no restriction-everyone can come to Me." All this information is there in Bhagavad-gita, where God speaks about Himself and presents Himself as He is. We have simply to take that information; then we can understand Him. And when we understand God. Krsna, we can go back to Him. It is a very simple thing. Krsna says.
janma karma ca me divyam
"One who knows the transcendental nature of My .appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body. take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode. O Arjuna." [Bhagavad-gita 4.9]
So God is there; that's a fact. Anyone can go back to Him and live an eternal life full of bliss and knowledge simply by knowing about it. When God Himself comes, all great acaryas, stalwart men, accept Him: "Yes, He is God." If we simply understand God, we make a solution to all our problems.
Because we are part and parcel of God, we are qualitatively equal with Him. God is eternal, and we are eternal. God is blissful, and we are blissful. God is full of knowledge; we are also full of knowledge. Unfortunately, we are hampered by this material body. Therefore our problem is how to get out of this material body and come to our spiritual body. The spiritual body is there, just as our real body is present underneath our shirt and coat. I, you. and every one of us is a spiritual spark, part and parcel of God, and we are placed within gross body and a subtle body. When this particular gross body is finished. we are carried by the subtle body into another gross body. That is called transmigration of the soul. And when we finally set free from the subtle body also, we go back home, back to Godhead, It is that easy.
A human being should therefore endeavor to get out of the gross and subtle bodies, attain a spiritual body, and go back home. That should be the aim of human endeavor. Not that we should simply live like animals. Animals cannot get out of the gross and subtle bodies, because to extricate oneself one must know in fact what God is. An animal cannot know what God is, but a human being can That is the opportunity afforded by this body. Nature gives us this human body Just to understand Krsna, but if we simply use it for animal propensities. we will again go down to the animal kingdom. That is a form of punishment.
Mr. Nordheimer: What problems do you have in making your words, your instructions, reach the ears of everyone in the world?
Srila Prabhupada: We are not preaching our own words; we are preaching Krsna's words. Now it is up to you to make your choice. Krsna says to give up all other engagements and just surrender unto Him.
How? He says in Bhagavad-gita [9.34],
man-mana bhava mad-bhakto
"Engage your mind always in thinking of Me and become My devotee. Offer your obeisances to Me and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me."
Suppose I am a member of a political party and am always thinking of Mr. Such-and-Such, my leader. I become a staunch follower of that leader. People are sacrificing their lives simply to follow a political leader, and for party superiority they are doing so many things—always thinking of the party's activities. always glorifying the party's principles. If all these activities are transferred to Krsna, they become good. Krsna says, "Think of Me, become my devotee, worship Me, and offer obeisances unto Me" If we perform these activities for Krsna, we become Krsna conscious. That is what we are teaching.
We advise that you keep doing what you are doing-but do it for Krsna. That is Krsna consciousness. It is not difficult. But if you want to love a dog and become a dog in your next life instead of loving God and becoming like God in the next life, that is your choice. The prison and the university are open to everyone, and by making your choice you make your future destiny. My disciples are worshiping God, and people criticize them, but when a man worships a dog he is not criticized. In this way society has progressed. So it is folly to be wise where ignorance is bliss.
Mr. Nordheimer: What about the future? Is it possible to bring more people into Krsna consciousness? To expand?
Srila Prabhupada: Of course, there are good men and bad men, and good men are taking to this movement, because it is a good movement. "Good" means not having illicit sex, not eating meat, not indulging in intoxication, and not indulging in gambling. If anyone observes these four principles, he is considered a good man, and if he does not observe them, he is a bad man. So good men will take to this Krsna consciousness movement, and bad men will not.
We give distinct rules on how to become good, for if one does not become good, how can he understand God, who is all good? First we must become good men; then we can understand God. It's up to us to make the choice.
The future is open for everyone. There is no restriction; no one says, "This class of men shall be good, and this class of men shall be bad." Anyone can become good. If we educate a child nicely, he becomes good. but if we train him foolishly, he becomes a rascal. It is the duty of the government, the father, and the teachers to make everyone good. If the government is bad, the father is bad, and the teachers are bad, how can the child be good? Everywhere the government, the father, and the teachers are bad; therefore we are producing bad men, and there is no peace and prosperity.
Mr. Nordheimer: What about the men who surround you?
Srila Prabhupada: They're all good men.
Mr. Nordheimer: They are good men who were raised in a bad society.
Srila Prabhupada: They were raised in a bad society, but they have chosen to become good.
Mr. Nordheimer: Is that preordained, or is it by free choice?
Srila Prabhupada: Free choice. What is "preordained"? You are here of your free choice. If you like, you can sit down and talk with me, and if you don't like, you can go. That is your free choice. Free choice makes destiny: if I act in goodness, then my future is good, and if I act badly, my future is bad. That is destiny.
Man is the architect of his own destiny. In other words, our future destiny depends on our present action. This life is an opportunity to improve our next life, and if we behave like human beings, then in our next life we will go back home, back to Godhead. But if we behave like animals, then in our next life we will take animal bodies. That's all. All this is very nicely described in Bhagavad-gita.
The conclusion is that human beings are meant for understanding God, but if you waste your time understanding dog, that is your choice. If you try to understand dog instead of God, and if you become too attached to dog, then you will become a dog in your next life. But if you are attached to God, you become like God in your next life. The choice is yours.
Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita [4.11],
ye yatha mam prapadyante
"As living beings surrender unto Me, I reward them accordingly. Everyone follows My path in all respects, O Arjuna."
God is available. and we can associate with Him according to our choice. The ability to choose, or our conscience, is given to us in the human form so we can utilize it. All the ingredients are there for us to cross the ocean of birth and death. This human body is a very nice boat, and we have a very good navigator, the spiritual master. We also have a very favorable wind—the instructions of God. So we should take our chance and cross the ocean of birth and death. But if we don't take this opportunity and solve the problems of life, we are cutting our own throat. If you cut your own throat, who can save you? We can say, "Now here is an opportunity. Take it and be saved from birth, old age, disease, and death." but if you don't take advantage, what can we do?
Mr. Nordheimer: Why does all this exist? Why the challenge in the first place? Why maya?
Srila Prabhupada: Maya means illusion, darkness. If I tell you to come from the darkness into the light and if you don't come, that is your misfortune. Maya is there, and God is there. If you want to remain in maya, then how can you be saved? I can help you by saying, "Don't remain in darkness. Please come out into the light." But if you say, "No, I shall remain here," then how can I save you? You have your choice. God is there, and maya is there. If you take to maya, you remain in darkness. What can I do, and what can God do? That is your choice.
In the Hills of West Virginia
The Appalachian hills provide the setting for an ornate palace dedicated tot he great spiritual master who brought love of Krishna to the West.
by Yogesvara dasa
Just around a bend in the road, crowning a lush green hill surrounded by valleys and forests in the West Virginia panhandle, stands Prabhupada's Palace of Gold, a handcrafted seven-years-in-the-making miracle of inlaid marble walls and floors, stained-glass windows, crystal chandeliers, and a three-hundred-ton gold-leafed dome that glitters like a second sun. In the words of one commentator for The Today Show, "You won't believe your eyes."
How did it get there? Who built it? And why? Such questions never fail to cross the minds of the half million visitors who come from all over the world each year to see 'The Taj Mahal of the West." The Palace was built by the devotees of New Vrindaban. the West Virginia farm community of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). as a memorial to ISKCON's founder and spiritual guide. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Apart from its architectural and artistic appeal, the Palace is also a place of worship where devotees of Lord Krsna honor their spiritual master, a lifelong devotee of God, for his work of establishing Krsna consciousness—love of God—around the world.
How much is the Palace worth? Some experts have guessed 10 to 15 million dollars, but they're quick to add that such work just isn't done any more, so an accurate estimate is difficult. So far, the devotees have actually invested only $600,000 for construction materials and equipment. And they did the work themselves.
Where did the money come from? During the seven years of construction more than 200 community members and supporters raised it through private donations and from the Palace's thriving tourism. Also helpful were contributions from the Hindu community (who see Krsna temples as their "home away from home") and income from commissioned work by devotee artists, such as the mural in Wheeling's Civic Center, painted by New Vrindaban resident Muralidhara dasa.
The New Vrindaban community was started in 1968 by Srila Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada, one of Srila Prabhupada's first disciples. Srila Bhaktipada came to West Virginia to set up a farm that would demonstrate the principles of Krsna conscious life: simple living, based on nature and the cows, balanced by ''high thinking''—in short, a life dedicated to the service of God, free from the dependencies of consumer civilization. Such a palace, he hoped, would also be a pilgrimage site, a Western version of Vrndavana, the village in India where Lord Krsna appeared five thousand years ago.
But how does an elaborate royal palace fit in with such nonmaterialistic aspirations? Devotees explain that simplicity in their own lives does not rule out opulence in the worship of God or His representatives. They also view the Palace as a mark of Krsna culture, where interested people can learn the basic principle spiritual life. And the Palace also serves a place of celebration. Annual festivals draw tens of thousands of pilgrims to attend ceremonies, plays, and feasts cooked in huge kitchens behind the Palace.
In its design the Palace is unique. While most churches and cathedrals reflect orthodox motifs of their culture, the ace is a blending of Eastern and Western styles, as if to say that service to God is the universal principle of all religions. While the Eastern roots of the Krsna consciousness movement can be seen in the intricate latticework, peacock windows, and traditional marble patterns, the movement's presence in the West is reflected castlelike railings, cathedral-inspired arches, and bright color combinations.
The Palace actually started out in 1973 to be a simple home for Srila Prabhupada who had come to America eight years earlier, at age sixty-nine, to spread teachings of Lord Krsna. When Prabhupada passed away in 1977, Bhaktipada decided to make it into a memorial, and the residents of New Vrindaban set out to transform a home palace.
Without any prior training in construction, masonry, or the other skills for such a task, the devotees set to work. Acquiring advice and help along the way, they learned architecture, bricklaying, carpentry, plumbing, electrical work, casting, marble cutting and polishing, stained-glass making, and landscaping. Mothers with their children, men young and old friends and neighbors—each person worked in the spirit of Bhagavad-gita, the main text of Krsna devotees:
All that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as any sacrifice that you may perform, should be done as an offering to Me.
The winters were often bitter cold. Earth turned to mud ankle-deep, and some of the less hardy left the farm in defeat. The work went on, however, fired by Srila Bhaktipada's vision of a holy place in the hills of West Virginia, and the dream slowly became a reality.
A Tour of the Palace
What makes the Palace shine so brightly is its outer covering of 22-karat gold leaf—8,000 square feet of sheets one thousandth of an inch thick, protected by four layers of shellac. Entering the Palace through one of two main doors, we find ourselves beneath an arched ceiling painted as a Himalayan landscape. Devotee artists airbrushed the large areas and then added details by hand. They assembled 11,000 pieces of Austrian crystal to make the forty-two chandeliers that illuminate the main hallway. Each chandelier is color-coordinated to match the stained-glass windows.
For the walls and floors of the Palace, devotees imported forty different kinds of marble and onyx from Italy, France, Turkey, and Brazil. They cut the large raw slabs into more than 20,000 smaller pieces, polished them all, and shaped them into delicate inlaid designs. Then each ensemble was polished and fitted into place. In all, the 35,000 square feet of the Palace display 254 tons of marble.
The first room we see down the left hallway is the reception room, with furnishings handcrafted at New Vrindaban's marble shop. Here we see photo displays of Srila Prabhupada's worldwide missionary activities. The door is fitted with sand-blasted glass, designed and shaped pieces of glass. Stones from Czechoslovakia further decorate each window. In India, peacocks are regarded as creatures of good fortune, and Lord Krsna is easily recognized by the peacock feather in His hair.
Continuing down the left hallway, we see the kitchen, where devotees cook vegetarian foods according to ancient recipes. The food is prepared six times daily and offered to Srila Prabhupada in the main temple as an act of devotion.
Once we reach the back hallway, we look out onto twenty acres of sculpted gardens and a terrace that serves as a stage for devotional plays and concerts. The terrace is the roof of an underground mall that houses a restaurant, a museum, a library, and a display area where devotees demonstrate their crafts. Beyond the gardens is a guest pavilion, with a large meeting hall and sixty rooms.
As we continue around the hallway, we come to the study, where devotees have installed a lifelike form of Srila Prabhupada posed at his work of translating the Sanskrit scriptures of Krsna consciousness into English. In his lifetime Srila Prabhupada published seventy volumes of devotional literature, which universities across the country have acquired as standard reference works. (Srila Prabhupada's disciples have translated his writings into sixteen languages.) It took devotees more than two years to complete the walls of the study. The teakwood furniture was carved by a devotee family in Bombay. The vases, of ancient Chinese origin, were donated by one of Srila Prabhupada's disciples, Alfred Ford, the great-grandson of Henry Ford.
In the next room, Srila Prabhupada's bedroom, we see walls made of Italian Botticino marble inlaid with onyx. The ceiling was painted by devotees lying on their backs, Michelangelo-style. The nine hundred flowers decorating the walls took a devotee artist four months to paint.
In the center of the Palace is the main temple. Here daily classes and ceremonies take place, lit by a 150-year-old French chandelier gold-plated by New Vrindaban craftspeople. Paintings on the ceiling depict scenes from the pastimes Lord Krsna performed when He was present on this planet five thousand years ago. The two central paintings show Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu chanting God's holy names in India five hundred years ago and Lord Krsna dancing with His most intimate devotees, the cowherd damsels of Vrndavana.
Adorning the walls of the temple are paintings of the saintly teachers who in recent generations have transmitted the ancient science of Krsna consciousness for the benefit of mankind. Srila Prabhupada, thirty-second in the disciplic line of teachers from Lord Krsna, presides over the temple from a gilded throne beneath a dome of cast gypsum and 4,200 pieces of cut glass.
Some Often-Asked Questions
When people tour the Palace, they usually have lots of questions about the ideas and practices of the devotees and about their international Society.
What is the meaning of the shaved head and robes?
Devotees of Lord Krsna have traditionally shaved their heads as a sign of renunciation, an indication that their concern is for the eternal beauty of the soul and not the temporary appearance of the body. The robes are the devotees' traditional uniform, orange and saffron for celibate students, white for married students.
What is the mark the devotees wear on their foreheads?
Devotees anoint their bodies with sacred clay from the original Vrndavana in India as a reminder that the body is a temple of God. The mark, called tilaka, is also a reminder that the mission of human life is service to the Supreme Lord.
What are the vows of a devotee?
To receive initiation into Krsna consciousness a person must abstain from meat, fish, and eggs; from intoxicants, including coffee, tea, and cigarettes; from illicit sex; and from gambling. Initiated devotees also chant the Hare Krsna mantra on prayer beads and attend temple ceremonies that begin at 4:15 A.M.
Do devotees accept Jesus Christ?
Devotees who worship Krsna as God accept Jesus Christ as the son of God and sincerely try to put his teachings to work in their daily lives.
How is Krsna consciousness different from Christianity?
There is no difference in essence, for the common platform of all religions is love of God. Devotees worship the same one God of all creation glorified in the Bible. The teachings of the Bible and those of Bhagavad-gita are essentially the same: worship the Lord of creation and do everything as an offering to Him. But there are differences also. For example, some Christians believe that animals have no souls. The Krsna conscious scriptures, however, say that since the life symptoms visible in humans are also visible in animals, the animals also have souls, and man's predominance over animals is not a sanction to slaughter them but a mandate to protect them. This is the philosophical basis of the cow protection program at New Vrindaban.
Why do you put a statue of your spiritual master on the altar?
The Krsna conscious scriptures explain that God's representative should be honored as highly as God Himself, because he is very dear to God. The spiritual master spreads God's word and has no selfish motive in his life. By honoring the spiritual master and following his teachings, devotees imbibe his elevated qualities and advance in their own spiritual lives.
How do you educate your children?
The Krsna consciousness movement has opened several primary and secondary schools for academic and religious instruction. Devotee children learn all the basics-reading, writing, arithmetic, history, geography—but also receive training in the principles of religion: cleanliness, honesty, compassion. and self-control. There is hardly any television, but devotee children have much to replace it. Every week they take hikes, go swimming. learn to play musical instruments, and take part in the feasts and festivals of the community. And most of them are academically on par with children two or three grade older.
What are your plans for the future?
That's a pretty big question. For the answer, please turn to page 27.
Swamiji In San Francisco
A New Frontier for Krsna Consciousness
January, 1967: San Francisco International Airport.
by Srila Satsvarupa dasa Goswami
With Krsna consciousness flourishing on New York's Lower East Side, Srila Prabhupada felt he could entrust the New York center to his followers and expand the movement west. His envoy, Mukunda dasa, had found a place for a temple in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district, and now Srila Prabhupada was on his way to new preaching adventures.
As the United Airlines jet descended on the San Francisco Bay area, Srila Prabhupada turned to his disciple Ranacora and said, "The buildings look like matchboxes. Just imagine how it looks from Krsna's viewpoint."
Srila Prabhupada was seventy-one years old, and this had been his first air trip. Ranacora, nineteen and dressed in a suit and tie, was supposed to be Srila Prabhupada's secretary. He was a new disciple but had raised some money and had asked to fly to San Francisco with Prabhupada.
During the trip Srila Prabhupada had spoken little. He had been chanting.
"Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare." His right hand in his cloth bead bag, he had been fingering one bead after another as he chanted silently to himself. When the plane had first risen over New York City, he had looked out the window at the buildings growing smaller. Then the plane had entered the clouds, which to Prabhupada had appeared like an ocean in the sky. He had been bothered by pressure blocking his ears and had mentioned it; otherwise he hadn't said much, but had only chanted Krsna's names over and over. Now, as the plane began its descent, he continued to chant, his voice slightly audible—"Krsna, Krsna, Krsna-and he looked out the window at the vista of thousands of matchbox houses and streets stretching in charted patterns in every direction.
When the announcement for United Airlines Flight 21 from New York came over the public-address system, the group of about fifty hippies gathered closer together in anticipation. For a moment they appeared almost apprehensive, unsure of what to expect or what the Swami would be like.
Roger Segal: We were quite an assorted lot, even for the San Francisco Airport. Mukunda was wearing a Merlin the Magician robe with paisley squares all around, Sam was wearing a Moroccan sheep robe with a hood—he even smelled like a sheep—and I was wearing a sort of blue, homemade Japanese samurai robe with small white dots. Long strings of beads were everywhere. Buckskins, boots, army fatigues, people wearing small, round sunglasses—the whole phantasmagoria of San Francisco at its height.
Only a few people in the crowd knew Swamiji: Mukunda and his wife, Janaki; Ravindra Svarupa; Raya Rama—all from New York. And Allen Ginsberg was there. (A week before, Allen had been one of the leaders of the Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park, where over two hundred thousand had come together—"A Gathering of the Tribes ... for a joyful pow-wow and Peace Dance.") Today Allen was on hand to greet Swami Bhaktivedanta, whom he had met and chanted with several months before on New York's Lower East Side.
Swamiji would be pleased, Mukunda reminded everyone, if they were all chanting Hare Krsna when he came through the gate. They were already familiar with the Hare Krsna mantra. They had heard about the Swami's chanting in the park in New York, or they had seen the article about Swamiji and the chanting in the local underground paper, The Oracle. Earlier today they had gathered in Golden Gate Park—most of them responding to a flyer Mukunda had distributed—and had chanted there for more than an hour before coming to the airport in a caravan of cars. Now many of them—also in response to Mukunda's flyer—stood with incense and flowers in their hands.
As the disembarking passengers entered the terminal gate and walked up the ramp, they looked in amazement at the reception party of flower-bearing chanters. The chanters, however, gazed past these ordinary, tired-looking travelers, searching for that special person who was supposed to be on the plane. Suddenly, strolling toward them was the Swami, golden-complexioned, dressed in bright saffron robes.
Prabhupada had heard the chanting even before he had entered the terminal, and he had begun to smile. He was happy and surprised. Glancing over the faces, he recognized only a few. Yet here were fifty people receiving him and chanting Hare Krsna without his having said a word!
Mukunda: We just had a look at Swamiji, and then we bowed down—myself, my wife, and the friends I had brought, Sam and Marjorie. And then all of the young men and women there followed suit and all bowed down to Swamiji, just feeling very confident that it was the right and proper thing to do.
The crowd of hippies had formed a line on either side of the narrow passage through which Swamiji would walk. As he passed among his new admirers, dozens of hands stretched out to offer him flowers and incense. He smiled, collecting the offerings in his hands while Ranacora looked on. Allen Ginsberg stepped forward with a large bouquet of flowers, and Srila Prabhupada graciously accepted it. Then Prabhupada began offering the gifts back to all who reached out to receive them. He proceeded through the terminal, the crowd of young people walking beside him, chanting.
At the baggage claim Srila Prabhupada waited for a moment, his eyes taking in everyone around him. Lifting his open palms, he beckoned everyone to chant louder, and the group burst into renewed chanting, with Prabhupada standing in their midst, softly clapping his hands and singing Hare Krsna. Gracefully, he then raised his arms above his head and began to dance, stepping and swaying from side to side.
To the mixed chagrin, amusement, and irresistible joy of the airport workers and passengers, the reception party stayed with Prabhupada until he got his luggage. Then they escorted him outside into the sunlight and into a waiting car, a black 1949 Cadillac Fleetwood; Prabhupada got into the back seat with Mukunda and Allen Ginsberg. Until the moment the car pulled away from the curb, Srila Prabhupada, still smiling, continued handing flowers to all those who had come to welcome him as he brought Krsna consciousness west.
The Cadillac belonged to Harvey Cohen, who almost a year before had allowed Prabhupada to stay in his Bowery loft. Harvey was driving, but because of his chaffeur's hat (picked up at a Salvation Army store) and his black suit and his beard, Prabhupada didn't recognize him.
"Where is Harvey?" Prabhupada asked.
"He's driving," Mukunda said.
"Oh, is that you? I didn't recognize you.
Harvey smiled. "Welcome to San Francisco, Swamiji.
(To be continued.)
From Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami. © 1981 by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
Plain Living, High Thinking
The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Srila Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada, and Kulasekhara dasa took place in New Vrindaban in June of 1976.
Srila Prabhupada: The Western civilization is a nasty civilization, artificially increasing the necessities of life. For example, take the electric light. The electric light requires a generator, and to run the generator you need petroleum. As soon as the petroleum supply is stopped, everything will stop. But to get petroleum you have to painstakingly search it out and bore deep into the earth, sometimes in the middle of the ocean. This is ugra-karma, horrible work. The same purpose can be served by growing some castor seeds, pressing out the oil, and putting the oil into a pot with a wick. We admit that you have improved the lighting system with electricity, but to improve from the castor-oil lamp to the electric lamp you have to work very hard. You have to go to the middle of the ocean and drill and then draw out the petroleum, and in this way the real goal of your life is missed. You are in a precarious position, constantly dying and taking birth in various species of life. How to get free of this cycle of birth and death—this is your problem. And this problem is meant to be solved in the human life. You have advanced intelligence for self-realization, but instead of using your advanced intelligence for self-realization, you are utilizing it to improve from the castor-oil lamp to the electric lamp. That's all.
Kulasekhara dasa: People would say that your suggestion is impractical. Besides, electricity does many other things besides produce light. Most of our modern comforts depend more or less on electricity.
Srila Prabhupada: In this life you may be living very comfortably, but in the next life you might become a dog.
Srila Kirtanananda Swami: People don't believe that.
Srila Prabhupada: Whether they believe it or not, it is a fact. For example, a boy does not know that he is going to grow into a young man, but his mother and father know. If the boy says, "No, I'm not going to become a young man," that is childish, The father and mother know that the boy will grow into a young man and that they should educate him so he can be properly situated. This is the guardians' duty. Similarly, when we talk of transmigration of the soul, a rascal may say, "I don't believe in it," but it is still a fact. A rascal, a mad-man, may say transmigration is not a fact, but the real fact is that he'll have to accept another body according to the quality of his endeavor in this life. (karanam guna-sango 'sya sad-asad-yoni-janmasu).
Srila Kirtanananda Swami: What if someone says, "This life of growing the castor seeds is very difficult, and farming in general is very difficult. It is easier to go to the factory for eight hours, come home with my money, and enjoy."
Srila Prabhupada: You may enjoy, but by enjoying you forget your real goal in life. Is that intelligent? You have been given the human body to improve your next life. Suppose you become a dog in your next life. Is that success? You must know the science of Krsna consciousness. Then, instead of becoming a dog, you will become like God.
Kulasekhara Dasa: Once, at John Lennon's estate in London, you said that the tractor is the cause of so much of the trouble today. It took all the work from the young men and forced them to go to the city for work, and they became entangled in sense gratification. I've noticed that life in. the country is simpler, more peaceful. It's easier to think of spiritual life.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The country is less disturbing, less taxing on the brain. Just work a little for your food, and the rest of the time engage yourself in Krsna consciousness. This is ideal life.
[Srila Prabhupada holds up a flower.] See the minute fibers in this flower. Can anyone manufacture this in a factory—such small fibers? And how brilliant the color is! If you study only one flower, you become God conscious. There is a machine that you call "nature," and from this machine everything is coming. But who has built this machine?
Kulasekhara Dasa: In London you said people don't know that the flowers are painted by Krsna—with thought.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Do you think that without an artist the flowers can come out so beautiful? This is foolish. What is nature? It is Krsna's machine. Everything is being done by the machine of Krsna.
So improve your mode of living at New Vrindaban. Live in an open place, produce your own food grains, produce your own milk, save time, chant Hare Krsna. Plain living, high thinking: ideal life. But if you increase the artificial necessities of your life—your so-called comforts—and forget your real work of Krsna consciousness, that is suicidal. We want to stop this suicidal policy. Of course, we don't insist that people stop the modern advancement of technology. We just present the simple formula given by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu: Chant Hare Krsna. Even in your technological factory you can chant. What is the difficulty? You can go on pushing the buttons on your machine and simultaneously chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Srila Kirtanananda Swami: And if people take up the chanting, gradually they will give up the technology?
Srila Prabhupada: Of course.
Srila Kirtanananda Swami: So you're sowing the seeds of their destruction.
Srila Prabhupada: No, not destruction; rather construction. The repetition of birth and death, the constant change of bodies-this is destruction. But by our method, you live forever—tyaktva deham punar janma naiti: you don't get another material body. But without Krsna consciousness, tatha dehantara-praptih: you have to accept another body, which means suffering. So, which is better? To accept material bodies, one after another, or to accept no more material bodies? If we finish our suffering with this body, that is intelligent, and if we create another body for further suffering, that is unintelligent. But unless you understand Krsna, you have to accept another body. There is no alternative.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Devotee Paints Mural for Civic Center
Wheeling, West Virginia—A 12-foot by 20-foot mural entitled "French Explorers" has been painted by Muralidhara dasa, a devotee at the New Vrindaban farm community, for the Wheeling Civic Center. Rejecting the undisciplined modern styles that often adorn public buildings today, Muralidhara painted the mural (the first of two he's doing for the Civic Center) in the classical style of old masters like Rembrandt, Rubens, and Michelangelo. The $5,000 Muralidhara received for his mural he donated for ornamenting Prabhupada's Palace.
For some ten years Muralidhara has been painting illustrations for the books of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Says Muralidhara of his art,—"I have a desire to paint as a pure instrument representing God, Krsna, and through art to bring His beauty out."
Chief Minister of Orissa Joins Devotees for Krsna's Appearance Fete
Bhuvanesvara, India—For two days in this capital city of the state of Orissa, more than two thousand devotees and guests celebrated Janmastami, the Appearance of Lord Krsna, with chanting, dancing, plays, readings from scripture, and feasting.
Noted stage director Sri Krishna Charan Pattanaik offered a performance of the life of the great devotee Prahlada, enacted by devotees and local supporters. The evening's festivities were inaugurated by the Honorable Janaki Ballava Pattanaik (no relation to Krishna Charan), the chief minister of Orissa and a life member of ISKCON. In his speech the chief minister emphasized the accomplishments of ISKCON's founder-acarya, Srila Prabhupada, who laid the cornerstone of the Bhuvanesvara temple in January 1977.
Mahabharata Times Debuts in Great Britain
London—The official debut of the Mahabharata Times, a publication sponsored by ISKCON for Indian people in Great Britain, recently took place at the home of Dr. S. K. Dutta, an ISKCON life member. Among the guests were several members of Parliament. Mr. David Lane, chairman of the British government's Commission for Racial Equality, came to express his gratitude to the Mahabharata Association of the United Kingdom for its successful work in race relations between England's British and Asian communities. The Mahabharata Association is the branch of ISKCON that deals with Indian community affairs.
With a circulation starting at 25,000 and projected to double within a few months, the Mahabharata Times is Britain's largest publication for Indians. It aims at preserving the cultural and spiritual traditions of the two million Indian people residing in Great Britain.
Advertisements purchased by the Indian community pay for the monthly magazine, and the Mahabharata Youth Clubs, which are part of the Mahabharata Association, distribute it nationwide.
An Offering of Love at Every Moment
by Dravida dasa
Ask anyone who lives near the New Vrindaban farm community, Who built Prabhupada's Palace? and chances are they'll say, "Oh, the Hare Krsnas built it." Ask the devotees, and they'll all say, "Srila Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada built the Palace. We just helped him." And ask Srila Bhaktipada himself, and he'll likely say, "Lord Krsna built it, working through the devotees."
These answers are all correct in their own way. First, the building of the Palace was indeed the work of the Krsna devotees at New Vrindaban. During the seven years it took to complete, everyone pitched in with whatever talents and energy he could bring to bear. Some spent day after day crouched on a scaffold, painstakingly applying gold leaf. Others poured and mixed concrete by hand, even in the bitter-cold West Virginia winters. Still others carved wood and glass, painted ceilings, cast architectural ornaments, landscaped the grounds, or cut and laid marble. Though modest in size compared to the great cathedrals of Europe and the magnificent temples of India, Prabhupada's Palace ranks beside them as an expression of collective devotion and sacrifice of the highest order.
But the Palace is first and foremost an expression of Srila Bhaktipada's devotion to his spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
It was Srila Bhaktipada who started the New Vrindaban community, at the request of Srila Prabhupada, back in 1968; it was Srila Bhaktipada who conceived and developed the idea of the Palace; and it was Srila Bhaktipada who personally guided, encouraged, and inspired the devotees through every step of the arduous construction. So, in an important sense, Srila Prabhupada's Palace is also Srila Bhaktipada's palace.
Finally, devotees of Krsna understand that ultimately it is Krsna Himself who built Prabhupada's Palace. When Krsna sees that His devotees have a strong desire to perform a certain service for Him—especially one that glorifies His most exalted servitor—He empowers them to do it and provides all necessities in abundance. So it was Lord Krsna, through His various energies, who supplied the marble, the cement, the gold, and even the muscle and intelligence the devotees used to build the Palace. But the devotion, the love, and the strong determination to push through all difficulties and create something wonderful to glorify Srila Prabhupada—these the devotees themselves brought to the task. And it is these qualities that glow from every inch of the Palace.
On the following pages we meet a few of the many devotees whom Krsna especially empowered to build Srila Prabhupada's Palace of Gold.
If we were to try to single out one person responsible for Prabhupada's Palace, the only possible choice would be His Divine Grace Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada. One of the first and most intimate disciples of Srila Prabhupada, Srila Bhaktipada began the New Vrindaban farm community in 1968 at his request and nurtured it through its first few difficult years.
In 1971 he left New Vrindaban for some time to travel around the United States by bus, teaching the message of Krsna consciousness in colleges and universities and through the media.
By 1972 Srila Bhaktipada had returned to New Vrindaban, and in 1973 he began to contemplate how to fulfill a desire Srila Prabhupada had for the community: the construction of a temple on each of seven of the farm's hills. Srila Bhaktipada explains how the Palace grew out of this project: "In 1973 we were getting ready to start a temple for Krsna at the Govindaji site down at Bahulabana [the principal farm at New Vrindaban]. We had already done the preliminary excavation work and dug a little footer. But I began to think, 'This is not very proper. We are building a home for Krsna, but actually in our community there is no home for Srila Prabhupada.' So I thought, 'Let us build a home for Srila Prabhupada, because that is the proper way to approach Krsna.' If we want to render service to Krsna, we first have to render service to His devotee.
"So we began. But as we worked on Prabhupada's home, it began to take on the shape of a palace. So the Palace gradually developed."
During the first years of the Palace construction, men and money were scarce, and the seemingly impossible task of building an elaborate Vedic temple in the hilly backwoods of West Virginia would have stopped an ordinary man cold. Not Srila Bhaktipada. His intense devotion and love for Srila Prabhupada, and his equally intense desire to see him glorified royally, kept the devotees enthusiastic to complete the project.
"Srila Bhaktipada was everywhere," relates one devotee who worked on the Palace from the beginning. "He was ferrying devotees and supplies up and down the three-mile road from the main farm to the Palace; he was making sure we all had prasadam [sanctified food] during those long marathon nights before the grand opening two years ago; he was observing our work to make sure we did it as he wanted it done—perfect for Prabhupada. He was always encouraging us, inspiring us, and, when necessary chastising us."
As Srila Bhaktipada said in a recent interview with Professor Harvey Cox of Harvard Divinity School: "In graduate school I was simply approaching [religion]from the academic point of view, like trying to know the taste of honey by licking the bottle on the outside. So in the end I decided that rather than simply record religious history, I would make religious history." Srila Bhaktipada has certainly made religious history by building Prabhupada's Palace of Gold, and by all indications this is only the beginning.
Art for Bhagavatananda dasa, structural engineer and sculptor for the Palace, found its meaning in a Sanskrit scripture praising the Supreme Lord, Krsna. "There Krsna is described as vidagdha," he explains, "meaning 'He who lives wonderfully at the height of beautiful artistic craftsmanship.' That same book explains how, since each of us is part and parcel of Krsna, we each possess the qualities of Krsna in minute degree. I happen to have a little artistic ability, so I've made it my purpose in life to glorify Krsna with my craft—to create a beautiful place for Krsna and His pure devotee Srila Prabhupada to live in and be worshiped."
Bhagavatananda (formerly Joseph Cappelletti of Norristown, Pennsylvania) came to New Vrindaban from New York City in 1970 and helped Srila Bhaktipada construct the first few houses in the fledgling community. By 1972 they were planning out Srila Prabhupada's residence, which gradually grew into the Palace.
Over the past six years, Bhagavatananda has assumed a variety of duties in the Palace construction, from engineering the massive 300-ton dome to sculpting the peacocks, elephants, and ornamental pieces that adorn the walls and columns. His present assignment is the design and execution of The Garden of Time, which will include a revolving circular fountain that traces in four-foot-high figurines the soul's journey from birth to death to reincarnation.
Bhagavatananda sees the significance of the Palace in cultural as well as devotional terms. "Architecture reflects the stability and historicity of a people or tradition," he explains. "The Palace is a monument to the Lord's pure devotee Srila Prabhupada; but it is not a mere memorial to someone no longer present. It is a living tribute to the greatness of his work. It is a place of daily worship, and proof that his mission of establishing Krsna culture around the world is being fulfilled."
Nityodita dasa (formerly Carlos Ordonuz of Buffalo, New York) did construction work on the Palace almost from its inception eight years ago. Like nearly all the devotees who built the Palace, he learned his skills on the job, mixing and laying cement by hand and using pick and shovel for excavation during the many months before the acquisition of machinery.
He recalls how the plans for the Palace changed over the years: "When we first started work on the Palace, it wasn't going to be a Palace at all. It was simply planned as a modest yet comfortable country home for Srila Prabhupada. But as the project developed, Srila Bhaktipada kept making the plans more and more elaborate—all for the pleasure of Srila Prabhupada. We all felt that actually we weren't building the Palace so much as the Palace was building us into better devotees. Our devotion to Krsna was developing by our helping Srila Bhaktipada offer something wonderful to Srila Prabhupada. This is the real secret of how the Palace was built: It didn't depend on any one worker or group of workers or on money or machinery, but on the strength of Srila Bhaktipada's love for Srila Prabhupada. This was the inspiration for all of us to keep going through the greatest difficulties.
"Before I came to New Vrindaban I worked in a food co-op in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I had high hopes then for living an ideal life in the country and doing good for people. But there was little cooperation in the co-op, and all the people I worked with were basically materialistic and self-centered. Now I know that real cooperation can come only when we agree to work for Lord Krsna under the guidance of a pure spiritual authority. Then amazing things like Prabhupada's Palace become possible."
Nityodita's latest construction project consists of helping to lay the marble floors of the new restaurant at the Palace.
Of all the people who took part in the Palace construction, few are as familiar with the details as Sanatha-devi dasi (formerly Susanne Parmelle of Washington, D.C.), who shared in the research and design and supervised much of the labor. A graduate in structural engineering from Pratt Institute in New York City, she was responsible for drawing up working blueprints for approval by state and county officials, and for coordinating the efforts of the other workers—marble layers, stained-glass fitters, plumbers, electricians, casters, cement layers, and many others. Sometimes only Sanatha knew how to do sonic special task, like pouring five thousand square feet of concrete for the restaurant roof and tying the reinforcing rods, and then she would have to spend days with the construction crews.
"One especially wonderful thing about the Palace is that it is actually a simple, basic design—like the whole life of a devotee: a simple design made beautiful by devotion.
"That's how I came to Krsna consciousness. I was looking for an uncomplicated way to structure my life. In architectural school I could see that both the students and the teachers were motivated only by the desire for sense gratification and fame. They didn't care at all how the buildings they built affected people's consciousness.
"But the Palace is not like modern architecture, where everything is designed complex and expensive. Here in the Palace a window is just two columns and a beam; but the workmanship—stained glass, relief carving, sculpted enclosure—makes it something special, because it has been done with love for Krsna."
Sanatha explains that in the Palace a pattern often repeats itself many times. For example, the doors, windows, and terrace railings have all been cast from one original design and then finished in various ways, proving that simplicity doesn't have to be dull.
She says that state officials were skeptical at first as to whether devotees could do such challenging work. "I remember inspectors from the environment board making regular visits because they doubted that we could build an adequate sewage system. But the devotees did such a professional job that the inspectors were amazed. The septic pond is literally sculpted out of the land—a work of art."
Apart from the superior quality of the work, Sanatha appreciates the spirit of the Palace as well. "This structure was built first to glorify God. Architecturally, therefore, it has the highest functional use. Anyone who comes to the Palace will be inspired, and he will go away a little bit better spiritually. The way the landscaping is done, you can see God's creation on all sides."
Sanatha looks forward to working on other New Vrindaban construction projects: six temples (including one the size of two football fields), a school. four guest pavilions and summer festival halls, and a crafts center for the many workshops run by devotees.
When Mark Missman left Northwest Missouri State college in 1969 after three years as an art major, he thought he was leaving behind his brushes and easel for good. He was looking for self-realization, and his art career just seemed to be an impediment. But after a short time in the San Francisco Hare Krsna temple, Mark (now Muralidhara dasa) happily discovered that he could have both his art and his self-realization.
Explains Muralidhara: "I had sketched a picture of Krsna, and the devotees showed it to Srila Prabhupada. He asked to see me, and when I came into his room he said, Just as Arjuna used his fighting ability to serve Krsna, you should use your artistic talent. Just use this talent in Krsna's service, and your life will be glorious."'
Since then Muralidhara has executed dozens of exquisite paintings depicting the pastimes of Lord Krsna, His incarnations, and His devotees. The originals grace the walls of Krsna temples around the world, while full-color reproductions illustrate Srila Prabhupada's books and the pages of BACK TO GODHEAD magazine.
In 1978 Muralidhara came to New Vrindaban to help decorate Srila Prabhupada's Palace. The two large oval murals on the temple's vaulted ceiling are his work. The one nearest the altar portrays Krsna's rasa dance, a pastime glorified in Vedic scriptures as the epitome of loving exchange between the Lord and His most intimate devotees. The other mural shows Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the incarnation of Lord Krsna who propagated love of God through the chanting of Hare Krsna, dancing and chanting with His close associates.
Today Muralidhara is busier than ever using his artistic skill in Krsna's service. Besides designing a series of murals for the new restaurant at the Palace, he has recently completed two murals for the Civic Center Auditorium in Wheeling (please see news story, page 19). In addition, Muralidhara is the coordinator of design, placement, and subject matter for all the paintings at the Palace. And with a museum and a new temple in the works at New Vrindaban, it looks like Muralidhara has a full lifetime of transcendental painting ahead of him.
Sudhanu dasa (formerly George Weisner of Newark, New Jersey) always had a practical bent. Whatever was necessary, he would do or learn how to do. So, when the plans for Prabhupada's Palace began to take shape back in 1975 and it became clear that a lot of fine decorative work would be needed, he went to India to learn how to carve.
His first stop was Bombay, where he spent two months with a family noted for the excellence of their carved wooden pieces. Next he traveled north about five hundred miles to Jaipur, India's center for decorative temple arts, where he studied how to carve in stone. Finally he visited a town near Jaipur called Makrana to learn the art of how to use carved marble in architecture.
On returning to New Vrindaban, Sudhanu helped devotee-artist Bhagavatananda dasa set up a marble-cutting shop. But then they contemplated the design of the Palace, which was eventually to encompass hundreds of decorative balusters, richly ornamented capitals and roof brackets, and scores of delicately embellished arches, spires, and pillars. It was obvious that they wouldn't be able to carve everything. So Sudhanu set out to learn the art of molding . . .
He recently outlined the procedure he used in constructing the Palace: "First Srila Bhaktipada and I would consult on an idea for an architectural mold. Then I'd carve a model from clay, wood, glass, or marble—we even used plastic sometimes—and from the model I'd design a production mold out of rubber or fiberglass Then the casting could begin. mostly in concrete for the palace. On the average the whole process took from three to five weeks. Of course, a piece with many components would take longer. The central ornament inside the main dome, with 4,200 separate cast pieces. took months to create."
Many people who come to the Palace say that Sudhanu's work is so expertly done that they can't tell the difference between his cast pieces and those laboriously carved by hand. And now that the Palace hosts yearly festivals for devotees and guests, Sudhanu's work has attracted orders from all over the world. Krsna centers in Montreal, Vancouver, Washington D.C., New York, and Zurich will soon boast castings by Sudhanu. And he's still learning new techniques. like the art of casting synthetic marble, which will be essential for constructing the huge new Krsna temple now in planning. With this technique he can faithfully reproduce the texture, colors, and patterns of the finest marbles in the world.
For Sudhanu, who regarded the construction of the Palace as "not just the building of a beautiful structure but an offering of love at every moment," there will always be plenty to do. and more to learn.
The Palace is lit with chandeliers hand-crafted and designed by Isani devi dasi (formerly Ellen Schramm of Williamsburg, Virginia), who has been a devotee of Lord Krsna for nine years. She also created the jewelry and crowns worn by the Deities of Krsna and His consort, Srimati Radharani, and by the molded form of Srila Prabhupada at the Palace.
For her creations Isani used fine crystal imported from Austria and Czechoslovakia. She cut and reshaped each piece and then colored each crystal "drop" so that the chandeliers complemented the stained-glass windows facing them. Next she gold-leafed the structural pieces of each chandelier to reflect the Palace motif. And all this without any previous training.
"Since I had to learn everything as I worked," she explains, "I also had to develop extreme patience. Along with learning a new skill, I learned that there is as much pleasure in working for Krsna as in seeing the result. In other words, the work taught me a lot about devotion to God."
For her jewelry Isani borrowed ideas from books on classical Indian and European designs. Additional instruction came from visits to the largest jewelry workshops in the United States, where she learned the intricate techniques of electroplating and electroforming (a process of producing molded objects by electrolysis). "The real problem in doing the Deity's jewelry," she says, "was that nobody makes such pieces anymore. Crowns, scepters—any structural problems with these had to be solved by me alone. The professional jewelers just couldn't relate to processes like chasing, repoussee, and filigree. I had to solve the problems myself."
But solve them she did, to the amazement of jewelry makers and distributors who have seen her work. A representative from Tiffany's declared that much of the work surpassed his own abilities, and several suppliers of jewelry-making equipment and stones now display photographs of her work in their showrooms.
What is the secret of Isani's expertise? "If you know whom you are making something for," she says, "you can know how to make it best. My work is an offering of love to Lord Krsna. It's an effort to please Him. After all, if you want to make the most beautiful thing, you should do it for the most beautiful person—God."
Isani says her work for the Palace was just the beginning. Not only are more temples already under construction at New Vrindaban, but she receives orders daily from visitors who have admired her pieces and want to buy reproductions. Favorites are the forty portico chandeliers, uniquely designed to hang so that light is beautifully reflected from the mirrored ceiling of the Palace hallways.
Isani is married to another Krsna devotee, Samba dasa, who's in charge of the crew that hauls heavy equipment and supplies for construction work at New Vrindaban. They have one son, four years old.
As a child in Morristown, New Jersey, Jack Mowen was more interested in spiritual things than his friends were. He spontaneously gave up eating meat at age seven and began asking probing questions about God that even his Presbyterian minister couldn't answer to his satisfaction. Later, as a religion major at St. Andrews College in North Carolina, he still couldn't get satisfying answers to such questions as What is God? Who am I? What is my relationship to Him, and to this world?
In 1973, after a spiritual odyssey that took him from one end of the United States to the other, Jack met some Krsna devotees in New York who could answer his questions. He soon joined the Krsna temple there and became Kasyapa dasa. Being a country boy at heart, though, he found the lure of New Vrindaban irresistible and headed for the hills of West Virginia.
Kasyapa (pointing in picture at left) had always had a way with animals, so Srila Bhaktipada put him in charge of New Vrindaban's most obstreperous team of workhorses. When the massive job of clearing land for the Palace began back in 1974, Kasyapa handled the team that hauled logs and yanked stumps out of the ground. Then it was Kasyapa who headed up the workmen who used dynamite, bulldozers, and trucks to blast, level, and terrace the rough terrain at the Palace site.
"Sometimes, during the big push before the grand opening of the Palace in 1979, I'd be riding the bulldozer eighteen hours a day and longer. It was Srila Bhaktipada's inspiration—his pure desire to glorify Srila Prabhupada by building something wonderful—that kept me going despite being bone-tired. I could never think of a better way to offer something to Srila Prabhupada for all he's done for us. Of course, it's not possible to ever repay him, but I feel very fortunate to have been able to work on Prabhupada's Palace."
The spiritual leader of New Vrindaban
Prabhupada's Palace is the inspiration of His Divine Grace Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada, one of Srila Prabhupada's first and most intimate disciples. It was he who started the New Vrindaban farm community in 1968, and he who guided the devotees at every step of the seven-year Palace project. Here are his answers to some questions concerning Prabhupada's Palace and the future of New Vrindaban.
BACK TO GODHEAD: Now that you've completed Prabhupada's Palace, how will you further develop New Vrindaban?
Srila Bhaktipada: In a letter Srila Prabhupada wrote to me in 1974 or '75, he told me to develop New Vrindaban like Tirupati in south India. But at that time I didn't know anything about Tirupati; I'd never been there. Last fall I visited the place, which is a whole city located on top of a mountain. It is centered on the temple of Venkatesvara [a form of Krsna] and provides food and shelter for millions of pilgrims who come each year. There are thousands and thousands of cabins and dormitories, all provided for the pilgrims according to their means.
Srila Prabhupada wanted New Vrindaban to be as spiritually opulent and attractive as Tirupati. He wanted our community to be a place of pilgrimage in the Western world, a place where people can come and see spiritual life in action.
BTG: Already thousands of people are coming to New Vrindaban every month to see Prabhupada's Palace. Do you expect many of them to settle here?
Srila Bhaktipada: No, we're more concerned that they come and then go away with a change of heart. The real solution to the modern predicament is not that they all settle here and live in New Vrindaban. The solution is that they tune in to Krsna consciousness and take spiritual life back home with them. We want to see that people everywhere put Krsna in the center of their lives. That is the primary characteristic of New Vrindaban, as it is of the original Vrndavana in India, where Krsna appeared five thousand years ago. Vrndavana is the place where everyone is always thinking of Krsna. So Vrndavana is for everyone, everywhere.
BTG: How will you engage those people who do want to live in New Vrindaban?
Srila Bhaktipada: People will naturally be engaged according to their propensities. Whatever you want to do, you can come and do it for Krsna. If you want to paint, paint for Krsna. If you want to sew, sew for Krsna. If you want to write, write for Krsna. Whatever you want to do, do it for Krsna. New Vrindaban is a very broad project; there are all kinds of talents required.
Krsna consciousness is very practical, because Krsna is very practical. He is the creator of everything; therefore He is the most practical. So the real system of Krsna conscious living is a very simple, practical way of life. Living on the land need not be very complicated. Srila Prabhupada said that if you maintain cows, there will be bulls, and you can use them to till the soil, without needing to employ any artificial source of energy. Full utilization of the cow and the bull is part of the natural system that we think will manifest gradually here at New Vrindaban.
BTG: Srila Bhaktipada, how do you introduce Krsna consciousness to visitors who come to New Vrindaban?
Srila Bhaktipada: By presenting Krsna and Krsna's pure devotee, Srila Prabhupada, in the most attractive way we can. That's why we've built the Palace. People may come with some motive-either to see a unique place or to enjoy a vacation or for some other reason—but if they become convinced of the value of Krsna consciousness by appreciating its beauty, that is our success. Prabhupada's Palace is to Prabhupada what a beautiful setting is to a diamond. The Palace is a means of drawing attention to Srila Prabhupada. That will benefit all humanity.
BTG: How is that so?
Srila Bhaktipada: Because no matter how people become acquainted with Srila Prabhupada, they'll want to know more about him. His books have been distributed for the last twelve years, but sometimes we wonder how many people are reading them. The books may be sitting on the shelves. But if people come to Prabhupada's Palace and see the beauty of the work and the devotion of those who have worked here, they may take the books down off the shelf and read them. Then Prabhupada can deliver them his mercy.
We have to give people a setting in which they will feel the importance of hearing from Srila Prabhupada. Otherwise they may take him to be just an ordinary man—just some swami, or just some man who started a movement or cult. If they actually see the Palace, they will feel, "This is unique." And when someone is in a very opulent position, naturally people will listen, because people are attracted by opulence.
BTG: Might one not argue that this is a contrivance, that you could glorify an ordinary man and people would think him important?
Srila Bhaktipada: The difference is this. Prabhupada always said that you can dress a fool up to look like a king, but when he opens his mouth anyone can understand, "Oh, he is a fool." So if someone is a fool, then there is no use in dressing him up as a king. But if someone is actually a king and you dress him like a king, that is proper. So because Prabhupada actually should be worshiped like this—because he actually deserves this position, because he actually looks right in this position—when he opens his mouth and speaks, it sounds exactly right too. Therefore it is perfect.
BTG: When people visit the Palace, what is it you want them to come away with?
Srila Bhaktipada: At the lowest level, they can come away with some appreciation of the building: "Oh, this is a beautiful building." Actually, that is Krsna consciousness also. The building is related to Krsna, so simply by appreciating the building they make advancement in Krsna consciousness. Almost all of them go away with one of Prabhupada's books. Almost all of them say, "We want to come back."
Actually, that is the whole idea—that this will become a place of pilgrimage, where people can come, relax, and make spiritual advancement simply by being here. That is very important. Instead of taking a vacation and going to some useless place, take your vacation and go visit Srila Prabhupada and the Palace, get the world's best prasadam [spiritual food], and experience real spiritual life.
BTG: Srila Prabhupada visited the Palace when it was under construction and said that it is an expression of the love of the disciple for the spiritual master. Could you explain what this love is, what it means?
Srila Bhaktipada: That is the spiritual master's mercy, of course. Whatever his son or his young child does, he accepts in that way. Actually I have no love for Prabhupada—but I wish I did, I am simply praying to Prabhupada that if I continue to worship him he will kindly bless me with a little pure love. But certainly these devotees who have built the Palace have great love for Prabhupada. They have sacrificed so much. They've been working for years now, winter and summer.
BTG: What is the benefit for them?
Srila Bhaktipada: That is the nature of love. When you serve your beloved, your service itself is the benefit. When you speak of a "labor of love," for the lover it is not work. It is all joy. Therefore Prabhupada said, "In Krsna consciousness there is no work." Actually that is a fact—it is all love. Therefore it is all joy. There is only singing, dancing, and feasting in Krsna consciousness. Whatever a devotee speaks, that is poetry. Whatever a devotee eats, it is a feast, because Krsna has first tasted it. So there is singing, there is feasting, and there is dancing. Simply vibrate the Hare Krsna mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—and you will dance your whole life through.
BTG: In many rural communes, people are searching for alternative sources of energy. Do you plan to use such things as solar or wind power in New Vrindaban?
Srila Bhaktipada: We have no energy shortage, because we are using all our energy to serve Krsna. God is the Supreme Energetic. In Him there has been no decrease in energy since time immemorial. If there is any energy shortage in the world, it is simply due to a lack of Krsna consciousness. We are showing people how to make contact with the source of all energies, Krsna, the Supreme Lord. If they get that idea, it will solve all their problems. After all, whether you burn coal or use wind power, there is basically no difference. The real question is, What is the source of the coal power and the wind power? When you make contact with the source, then all your energy problems are solved. We have no faith that this so-called ecological movement is going to solve the problems of the world. The problems brought about by a complicated technological society are automatically solved when there is Krsna consciousness, because Krsna consciousness means plain living and high thinking. But without Krsna consciousness, no one will agree to live simply; by some means or other one will try to exploit nature.
BTG: Throughout American history there have been many rural communities set up along more or less socialistic or communistic lines. Is New Vrindaban something like them?
Srila Bhaktipada: We are not communists, nor are we capitalists: we are Krsna's servants. The capitalists are claiming, "This land is ours," and the communists are claiming, "No, it is ours." So there is no difference; they are simply opposite sides of the same coin. They both want to exploit the resources of material nature for sense gratification. But a Krsna conscious person says, "No, the land is not yours to exploit; it is Krsna's." Everything is meant for Krsna's enjoyment, because He is the creator, the maintainer, and the proprietor of everything. We are all eternally His servants. This is Krsna consciousness.
BTG: What are some of the future plans for New Vrindaban?
Srila Bhaktipada: At the old Vrindaban farm, we are planning to construct a scaled-down replica of the original Vrndavana in India. It will have many gardens, about twenty dioramas depicting Krsna's pastimes, replicas of the holy ponds Radha-kunda and Syama-kunda, and other holy places. As I mentioned before, we also plan to build residential quarters for tourists and pilgrims, as well as recreation facilities and shops.
But our main project for the immediate future is Radha-Vrndavanacandra's Palace, a huge temple for the presiding Deities here at New Vrindaban. We will construct it in the central area of New Vrindaban, near Prabhupada's Palace.
BTG: What will the new palace be like?
Srila Bhaktipada: It will be 140 feet high and 600 feet long-three times as high and seven times as long as Prabhupada's Palace. Altogether, the new temple will have four floors. The first floor will contain Radha-Vrndavanacandra's temple room, bedroom, greeting room, and dining room. On the second floor (but not directly above Radha-Vrndavanacandra's altar) there will be a men's dormitory and a rooftop restaurant. The basement will house a Radha-Vrndavanacandra museum, and the sub-basement will contain a gymnasium. We're going to landscape the temple grounds with a lake and formal gardens. Sometimes Their Lordships will tour the grounds on a chariot thirty feet high.
BTG: When will the cornerstone be laid?
Srila Bhaktipada: In the spring of 1982.
BTG: You advertise New Vrindaban as being a spiritual Disneyland. Does that mean it will encompass some of the features of Disneyland, such as rides?
Srila Bhaktipada: Yes, we may have some rides—perhaps pony rides or ox-cart rides. If they help people remember Krsna, they are good. The difference is that Disneyland is meant for sense gratification and Krsnaland is meant for learning about Krsna.
BTG: Twelve years ago New Vrindaban was just one small house and a lot of mud. Now it is lakes, gardens, and Prabhupada's Palace. How amazing! Will New Vrindaban's growth in the next twelve years be even more amazing?
Srila Bhaktipada: Why not!
Ideology for an Ideal Community
Historically, men have chosen to sacrifice individual autonomy for the benefits of life within human society. Nations, communities, tribes, communes—all attest to the truth of John Donne's famous adage: "No man is an island."
But history also attests that communities often weaken and dissolve. This is true for many reasons, but one of the most common is that the people in a given community lose faith in the basic principle of sacrificing their own interests for the collective good. And without a strong spirit of sacrifice among its members, no community can endure. America's short-lived communities—Brook Farm, New Harmony, Oneida—bear this out. These communities grew up around a charismatic leader and an idealistic philosophy, but when the demands for self-sacrifice became too great, the members gave up striving for utopia, and their "ideal community" collapsed.
A cynic might predict the same fate for New Vrindaban, the Krsna Society's farm community in West Virginia. But there is an important difference between New Vrindaban and communities based on some indefinite idealistic principles. New Vrindaban is successful and productive because its members are spiritually satisfied by serving the Supreme Lord, Krsna. Why is serving Krsna so spiritually satisfying? Because each of us is eternally part and parcel of Krsna, and serving Him means linking up with the source of unlimited transcendental pleasure. No one can be truly satisfied by working for the pleasures of the body, but when the soul is spiritually satisfied, sacrificing material pleasures for a common cause is not at all difficult. For a devotee, the reward for his service is the pleasure of the service itself.
The construction of Prabhupada's Palace at New Vrindaban is a perfect example of how the transcendental pleasure of serving Krsna enables devotees to work hard without thought of material reward. By hard work and self-sacrifice, the devotees created a wonderful architectural tribute to God and His representative, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
In the preface to The Nectar of Devotion, a guidebook for Krsna consciousness, Srila Prabhupada writes,
Every one of us in this material world is perpetually engaged in some sort of service, and the impetus for such service is the pleasure we derive from it. Driven by affection for his wife and children, a man works day and night. A philanthropist works in the same way for love of a greater family, a nationalist for the love of his country and countrymen. But the relish or taste for the mundane does not long endure.
The Vedic literature explains that because Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and we are all meant to serve Him eternally, natural happiness and harmony within society can easily be achieved when Krsna is the center and everyone engages in His service. A community founded on this ideology can weather storms of discord and settle all controversies-on the transcendental level.
But a society or community based on service to God must strictly follow revealed scriptures. Western theistic ideologies are often too vague to help their followers stay linked with the Supreme Lord while they work in community life. But in a Krsna conscious community, the members serve God in all their activities, not simply in their morning and evening prayers or weekly religious ceremonies.
In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says to His devotee Arjuna, "You should always think of Me, and at the same time you should carry out your prescribed duty of fighting. With your activities dedicated to Me and your mind and intelligence fixed on Me, you will attain Me without doubt." This is true yoga, "the art of all work."
So, for a community or society to be successful, it must be based on pure devotional service to God, and that service must permeate the life of the society. Otherwise, the members will not be fully satisfied, and they will be unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices for the common goals.
The United States is supposedly a society based on faith in God. The founding fathers of American democracy recognized the Creator as the source of their "inalienable rights." The phrase "one nation under God" in the "Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag" and the motto "In God we trust" on all currency also evince America's theistic leanings. Yet in America today, as in Europe, God consciousness is lacking, among both the government leaders and the people in general. Americans may say, 'In God we trust," but they have little genuine knowledge of God—what to speak of trust in Him.
Today's ideologies for social happiness are more hedonistic than theistic; noble, inspired doctrines have given way to the paltry and the mundane. The present generation—often called "the me generation"—is a selfish one. Ignorant of how to execute their natural activities in their eternal relationship with God, people have rejected whatever theism there was in the conception of Western democracy and have become engrossed in the pursuit of materialistic pleasure. When people take the body to be the self and sense gratification to be the goal of civilization, they see service to God as far removed from the needs of society.
The history of communist societies also demonstrates that no ideology short of pure devotional service to the Supreme Lord can satisfy people for long. Marxist philosophy is based on the misconception that people can be happy simply by working collectively for economic well-being. "Religion is the opium of the people," declared Marx, and today more than 90% of the people in Russia under thirty are atheists, according to a mid-1979 report in Pravda. A recent article in Harper's magazine, however, reports that most people in the Soviet Union have lost their taste for communist ideology and their faith in Soviet leadership. Sixty-five years of communism in Russia has left a spiritual void among the people, and it has also failed to provide economic security, communism's avowed goal.
Thus the two most powerful societies on earth have no ideology to inspire their people. Leaders may promise more and more sense gratification, but whatever a nation's economic advancement, and however selfish a generation may be, the quest for material pleasure will never produce a successful society. There may be years or even decades of apparent prosperity and peace, but mass disillusionment and social dissolution inevitably await a society that pays only lip service to God, or that ignores Him entirely. The illusory quest for material happiness and the resultant dissatisfaction of the soul are eating away at the heart of materialistic society. And now the frustrated nations of the world stand ready to destroy one another with nuclear weapons.
The leaders of the world's confused societies would do well to investigate the ideological basis of Krsna conscious communities like New Vrindaban, where spiritual satisfaction and economic prosperity result naturally from sacrificing all for the glorification of God.—SDG