A talk given in September 1968 by
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada,
Govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami. Our program is to worship Govinda, the original person, with love and devotion. This is Krsna consciousness. We are teaching people to love Krsna. That's all. Our program is to direct your love toward the proper place. Everyone wants to love, but they're being frustrated because their love is being misplaced. People do not understand where to place their love. First of all you love your body. Then, a little extended, you love your father and mother. Then you love your community, then your country, then the whole human society. And at last you love all living entities. But all this extended love will not give you satisfaction—until you reach the point of loving Krsna. Then you'll be satisfied.
For example, when you throw a stone into a lake, a circle begins expanding. The circle keeps expanding, expanding, expanding ... And when the circle touches the shore, it stops. Until the circle reaches the shore of the lake, it must go on increasing. So we have to go on increasing and increasing our love until we love Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
There are two ways to increase your love. You can practice loving your society, loving your country, loving all humanity, all living entities, and on and on. Or you can directly love Krsna. Then everything is complete. It is so nice. Because Krsna is all-attractive, love for Him includes everything. Why? Because Krsna is the center of everything. In a family, if you love your father, then you love your brothers, your sisters, the servant of your father, the home of your father, the wife of your father (namely, your mother)—everyone. The central point is the father. Similarly, if you love Krsna, then your love will be expanded everywhere.
Another example: If you love a tree, you can simply pour water on the root. Then the leaves, the flowers, the branches, the trunk, the twigs—everything—will be nourished. Then your love for the tree will be properly expressed. Similarly, if you love your countrymen, if you want to see that they become educated, advanced economically and mentally and physically, then what do you do? You pay taxes to the government; you don't hide your income tax. You simply pay taxes to the central government, and your money will be distributed to the education department, to the defense department, to the hygiene department—everywhere.
These are crude examples, but they show that if you actually want to love everyone and everything, you should love Krsna. You'll not be frustrated, because loving Krsna is complete. When your love is complete, you'll be completely satisfied. It is just like when you eat food to your full satisfaction: you say, "I am satisfied; I don't want any more."
So, this Krsna consciousness movement is very simple. Very simple. Although it was inaugurated five hundred years ago by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, it is very old; it is spoken of in the Vedic scriptures. From the historical point of view, this Krsna consciousness movement has existed at least since Lord Krsna appeared on the surface of this planet five thousand years ago. And later, five hundred years ago. Lord Caitanya expanded the movement. His mission is aradhyo bhagavan, to propagate the worship of Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Everyone is subordinate to someone else. Everyone wants to be independent; but this is impossible. Nobody is independent; everyone is subordinate. Nobody can say, "I am completely independent." Can any one of you say that you are independent? Is there anyone who can say this? No. Everyone is subordinate. And when you love someone, you willingly become subordinate. A girl says to a boy, "I want to become your subordinate." Why? That is our nature. We want to be subordinate, because our nature is to be subordinate. But we do not know to whom we should be subordinate so that we will become completely satisfied. We reject one subordination and accept another subordination. For example, a worker becomes subordinate to his boss because the boss gives him wages, say six hundred dollars monthly. Therefore the worker must worship the boss; the worker must please him. And if the worker finds some better wages in another place, he goes there. But that does not mean he becomes independent. He's still subordinate.
So, Lord Caitanya teaches that since you must be subordinate to somebody, since you must worship somebody, you should worship Krsna. Then you'll be fully satisfied.
Then, tad-dhama vrndavanam. If you want to worship somebody, then worship Krsna, love Krsna. And if you want to worship some place, worship His place, Vrndavana. Everyone wants to love some place—some country or nation. Somebody says, "I love this American land." Somebody says, "I love this Chinese land." Somebody says, "I love this Russian tend." This is nationalism, bhauma-ijya-dhih. A person is naturally inclined to love some material land, generally where he's born. So Caitanya Mahaprabhu says that because you are inclined to love some person, love Krsna, and because you want to love some land, love Vrndavana. Aradhyo bhagavan vrajesa-tanayas tad-dhama vrndavanam.
But suppose someone says, "I can't see Krsna. How can I love Him?" Caitanya Mahaprabhu answers, ramya kacid upasana vraja-vadhu-vargena ya kalpita. If you want to learn the process of worshiping Krsna, of loving Krsna, just try to follow in the footsteps of the gopis, the cowherd girls of Vrndavana. The gopis' love for Krsna is the highest perfectional love of God. There are different kinds of worship of God. The beginning is "O God, give us our daily bread." This is the beginning. When we are taught to worship God, we are instructed, "Go to church and pray to God for your necessities." But although that is the beginning, that is not pure love. Pure love for God can be found among the gopis. Here is how they loved Krsna:
Krsna was a cowherd boy. With His friends, the other cowherd boys. He used to go with His cows to the pasturing ground for the whole day. (At that time people were satisfied with land and cows. That's all. That was the means of solving all economic problems. They did not work in big industries; they were not the servants of anyone. They simply took the production from the land and the milk from the cows, and their whole food problem was solved.) So, Krsna used to go to the pasturing ground, and the gopis stayed at home. Krsna was miles away, in the pasturing ground, and the gopis at home were thinking, "Oh, Krsna's feet are so soft! Now He's walking on the rough ground, and the particles of stone are pricking His soles. So He must be feeling some pain." Thinking in this way, the gopis used to cry. Just see. This is love.
When Krsna returned they did not ask Him," My dear Krsna, what have You brought us from Your pasturing ground? What is in Your pocket? Let us see." No. They were simply thinking of how Krsna could be satisfied. The gopis used to dress themselves very nicely and go before Krsna. While dressing they would think, "Oh, He'll be happy to see me." Generally, a boy or a man becomes happy to see his lover or wife nicely dressed. Therefore it is the nature of a woman to dress nicely just to satisfy her husband. If her husband is not at home, then she should not dress nicely. Women dress differently according to their positions, and by seeing a woman's dress one can immediately understand what she is. One can understand by seeing the dress that she is an unmarried girl, a married girl, a widow, or a prostitute. Dressing is so important.
So, we are not going to discuss the social customs of India. We are discussing the loving affairs of Krsna and the gopis. Their relationship was so intimate and so unalloyed that Krsna Himself admitted, "My dear gopis, it is not in My power to repay you for your love." Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, yet He became bankrupt—He could not repay His debt to the gopis. So the gopis possessed the highest perfection of love for Krsna.
I am describing the mission of Lord Caitanya. He is instructing us that the only lovable object is Krsna, the only lovable land is Vrndavana, and the process of loving Krsna is shown by the vivid example of the gopis. There are different stages of devotees, and the gopis are on the highest platform. And among the gopis, the supreme is Radharani. Therefore, nobody can surpass Radharani's love for Krsna.
Now, to learn this science of loving God, there must be some book, some authoritative literature. Yes, Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, that book is Srimad-Bhagavatam. Srimad-bhagavatam pramanam amalam. Srimad-Bhagavatam is the spotless description of how to love God. There is no better description. From the beginning it teaches how to love God.
Those who have studied Srimad-Bhagavatam know that the first verse in the First Canto is janmady asya yatah . . . satyam param dhimahi. In the beginning the author says, "I am offering my unalloyed devotion unto the Supreme, from whom everything has emanated." So, it is a great description. If you want to learn how to love God, or Krsna, then study Srimad-Bhagavatam. And for understanding Srimad-Bhagavatam, the preliminary study is Bhagavad-gita. Study Bhagavad-gita to understand the real nature or identity of God and yourself, and also to understand your relationship with God, and then when you are a little advanced, when you are fully convinced that Krsna is the only lovable object, then the next book you should study is Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Knowledge of Bhagavad-gita As It Is is the entrance examination. Just as students pass their high-school examination and then enter college, so you must pass your "high-school examination" in how to love God by studying Bhagavad-gita As It Is. Then you should study Srimad-Bhagavatam—that is the graduate course. And when you're still further advanced, on the postgraduate level, you should study Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. So there is no difficulty in learning the science of loving Krsna.
The fact is that we have to learn how to love Krsna. The instruction is there and the method is there, and we are trying to serve you as far as possible. We are sending our boys into the streets to invite you, and if you kindly take up this opportunity, then your life will be successful. Prema pumartho mahan. This human form of life is meant for developing love for God. In all other forms of life, we have loved something else—as birds we have loved our nests, as bees we have loved our hives, and so on. There is no necessity of teaching a bird or a bee how to love its offspring, because that is natural. To love your home, to love your country, to love your husband, to love your children, to love your wife, and on and on—all this love is more or less present in the animal kingdom. But that sort of love will not give you happiness. You'll be frustrated. Because the body is temporary, all these loving affairs are also temporary. And they're not pure; they are simply a perverted reflection of the pure love existing between you and Krsna. So if you really want peace, if you really want satisfaction, if you don't want to be confused, then try to love Krsna. Then your life will be successful.
The Krsna consciousness movement is not something manufactured to mislead or bluff people. It is the most authorized movement, based on the Vedic literature—Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, the Vedanta-sutra, the Puranas—and many, many great saintly persons have adopted the process of Krsna consciousness as the means of attaining perfection. The vivid example is Lord Caitanya. You see that in His picture He is chanting and dancing in ecstasy. So you have to learn this art; then your life will be successful. You don't have to practice something artificial and speculate and bother your brain and so on. You have the instinct for loving others; it is natural. You are simply misplacing your love, and therefore you are frustrated and confused. So if you don't want to be confused, if you don't want to be frustrated, then try to love Krsna. You will feel how you are making progress in peace, in happiness, in everything that you want. Thank you very much.
Are there any questions?
Guest: Is Krsna God?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Just try to understand what God is. Do you know the definition of God?
Guest: Yes, I know Him as love.
Srila Prabhupada: Love is not the definition of God. Love is our activity toward God. But there must be some definition of God. Now, some people give a definition of God in the phrase "God is great." So, the next question is. How do you test someone's greatness? If you say that a man is very great, there must be some understanding of how to estimate how great he is. So, how do you understand that God is great? One answer is in your Bible, where it is said, "God said, 'Let there be creation,' and there was creation." Here is greatness. He simply said, "Let there be creation," and there was creation. Therefore one of God's names is Satya-sankalpa. This word means that whatever He thinks is immediately manifest. Can you do that? Suppose you are a very good carpenter. Can you say, "Let there be a chair," and at once there will be a chair? Is it possible? No. So, any person who says "I am God" is a rascal. God is great. You cannot compare your powers with God's; there is no comparison'. But the rascaldom is going on: "Everyone is God. I am God. You are God." First show the power of God. Then you can say, "I am God." But what power do we have? We are always dependent. God is great, and we are dependent on Him. Therefore, the natural conclusion is that we have to serve God. This is the whole basis of Krsna consciousness.
Also, that service should be done with love. For example, these boys, my disciples, are serving me. Whatever I say, they immediately execute. Why? I am an Indian, a foreigner; two or three years ago I was not known to them, nor were they known to me. Why are they serving me? Out of love. Serving someone means developing love for him. So unless you develop your love for God you cannot serve Him. Wherever you give some service, it is based on love. A mother gives service to her helpless child. Why? Love. Similarly, our life will be perfect when our love is perfect for the perfect Supreme Personality of Godhead. You have to learn this. This is Krsna consciousness.
Guest: How and why did we lose our awareness of our true love for Krsna?
Srila Prabhupada: Forgetfulness is our nature, because we are very small, minute. For example, I cannot remember exactly what I was doing last night at this time. So forgetfulness is not unnatural for us. But if somebody revives our memory, that is also not unnatural. The object of our love is Krsna, but somehow or other we have forgotten this. Don't try to trace out the history of when you have forgotten. That is useless labor. Even if you knew, what is the use? You have forgotten Krsna; that is a fact. Now revive your love for Him. Here is a reminder—this Krsna consciousness movement. Don't waste your time trying to figure out why you have forgotten Krsna or what the date was when you forgot Him.
For example, if you become diseased and go to a physician, he never asks you how you got the disease—on what date, at what time you were infected. No. He simply feels your pulse, diagnoses your disease, and gives you the medicine:
"Here, take it." So, now you are all suffering. That is a fact; nobody can deny it. Why are you suffering? Because you have forgotten Krsna. That's all. So revive your memory of Krsna and become well. It is very simple: chant Hare Krsna, dance, take krsna-prasadam [food offered to Lord Krsna], and hear some philosophy. Even if you are not educated, if you are illiterate, you can hear. You have natural gifts: the ear and the tongue. So you can hear Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam from persons who are in knowledge, and you can chant Hare Krsna.
So there is no impediment. Krsna consciousness does not require any previous qualification. You simply have to use whatever assets you have in the service of Krsna. That's all. You must make a firm decision: "Yes, I shall take to Krsna consciousness." That depends on you, because you are minutely independent. If you disagree—"No, why shall I take to Krsna consciousness?"—nobody can give it to you. But if you agree—oh, it is here. Here it is. Take it.
The Lord of the Universe Comes to Haight-Ashbury
by Srila Satsvarupa dasa Goswami
(Excerpted from Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami. ©1981 by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.)
San Francisco, 1967. Srila Prabhupada's temple at 518 Frederick Street had become an integral part of the youth scene in the Haight-Ashbury district. His hour-long chanting sessions, thought-provoking talks on the philosophy of Krsna consciousness, and especially his free-lunch program were drawing many people every day. Now, unexpectedly, the Lord of the universe came to the temple through the agency of a local import store.
One day Malati hurried into Srila Prabhupada's apartment, took a small item out of her shopping bag, and placed it on Prabhupada's desk for his inspection. "What is this, Swamiji?"
Srila Prabhupada looked down and beheld a three-inch wooden doll with a flat head, a black smiling face, and big round eyes. The figure had stubby, forward-jutting arms, and a simple green and yellow torso with no visible feet. Srila Prabhupada immediately folded his palms and bowed his head, offering the little figure respects.
"You have brought Lord Jagannatha, the Lord of the universe," he said, smiling and bright-eyed. "He is Krsna. Thank you very much." Srila Prabhupada beamed with pleasure, while Malati and the others sat amazed at their good fortune of seeing Swamiji so pleased. Prabhupada explained that this was Lord Jagannatha, a Deity of Krsna worshiped all over India for thousands of years. Jagannatha, he said, is worshiped along with two other deities: His brother, Balarama, and His sister, Subhadra.
Excitedly, Malati confirmed that there were other, similar figures at Cost Plus, the import store where she had found the little Jagannatha, and Srila Prabhupada said she should go back and buy them. Malati told her husband, Syamasundara, and together they hurried back and bought the other two dolls in the set.
More than two thousand years ago, Srila Prabhupada told them, there was a king named Indradyumna, a devotee of Lord Krsna. Maharaja Indradyumna wanted a statue of the Lord as He had appeared when He and His brother and sister had traveled on chariots to the holy field of Kuruksetra during a solar eclipse. When the king requested a famous artist from the heavenly planets, Visvakarma, to sculpture the forms, Visvakarma agreed—on the condition that no one interrupt his work. The king waited for a long time, while Visvakarma worked behind locked doors. One day, however, the king felt that he could wait no longer, and he broke in to see the work in progress. Visvakarma, true to his word, vanished, leaving behind the uncompleted forms of the three deities. The king was nevertheless so pleased with the wonderful forms of Krsna. Balarama, and Subhadra that he decided to worship them as they were. He installed them in a temple and began worshiping them with great opulence.
Since that time, Srila Prabhupada continued, Lord Jagannatha has been worshiped all over India, especially in the province of Orissa. where there is a great temple of Lord Jagannatha at Puri. Each year at Puri, during the gigantic Ratha-yatra festival, millions of pilgrims come to worship Lord Jagannatha, Balarama, and Subhadra. as the deities ride in procession on three huge carts. Lord Caitanya, who spent the last eighteen years of His life at Puri, used to dance and chant in ecstasy before the Deity of Lord Jagannatha during the yearly Ratha-yatra festival.
Seeing this appearance of Lord Jagannatha in San Francisco as the will of Krsna, Prabhupada said that they should be careful to receive and worship Lord Jagannatha properly. If Syamasundara could carve the forms, Prabhupada said, he would personally install them in the temple, and the devotees could then begin worshiping the deities. San Francisco, he said, could be renamed New Jagannatha Puri. He chanted, jagannathah svami nayana-patha-gami bhavatu me. "This is a mantra for Lord Jagannatha," he said. "Jagannatha means 'Lord of the universe.' 'O Lord of the universe, kindly be visible unto me.' It is very auspicious that He has chosen to appear here."
Syamasundara bought three large blocks of hardwood, and Prabhupada made a sketch and pointed out a number of details. Using the small statues, Syamasundara calculated ratios and new dimensions and began carving on the balcony of his apartment. Meanwhile, the devotees bought the rest of the tiny Jagannathas from Cost Plus, and it became a fashion to glue a little Jagannatha to a simple necklace and wear Him around the neck. Because Lord Jagannatha was very liberal and merciful to the most fallen, Srila Prabhupada explained, the devotees would soon be able to worship Him in their temple. The worship of the forms of Radha and Krsna in the temple required very high, strict standards, which the devotees were not yet able to meet. But Lord Jagannatha was so merciful that He could be worshiped in a simple way (mostly by chanting Hare Krsna), even if the devotees weren't very much advanced.
Prabhupada set March 26, the appearance day of Lord Caitanya as the day for installing the deities. The devotees would have a big feast and begin worshiping Lord Jagannatha.
Prabhupada said that during the morning they would stay together in the temple, read about Lord Caitanya, and hold kirtana (congregational chanting), and in the evening they would have a ceremony for installing Lord Jagannatha. Having fasted until moonrise, they would then break fast with a feast of prasadam (food offered to Krsna).
That evening, devotees and hippie guests filled the room to capacity. Prabhupada was present, and the mood was reverential and festive. It was a special event. The just-finished deities sat on the altar, and everyone was glancing at them as they stood on their redwood shelf beneath a yellow canopy, their features illumined by spotlights. The deities wore no clothes or ornaments, but were freshly painted in bright black, red, white, green, yellow, and blue. They were smiling. Srila Prabhupada was also glancing at them, looking up to their high altar.
Prabhupada lectured about the four social and four spiritual orders described in the Vedic literatures. According to one's quality and work, he said, each person has a certain occupational duty. "But the ultimate goal of that duty," he explained, "is to satisfy the Supreme Lord. It doesn't matter if one is lowborn or poor. Material qualification has nothing to do with spiritual evolution. Spiritual evolution is that with your talent, with your capacity, with your work, you have to satisfy the Supreme Lord.
"Paying attention to Bhagavan, the Supreme Person, is practical," Srila Prabhupada said. "Here is Krsna. Krsna's form is there. Krsna's color is there. Krsna's helmet is there. Krsna's advice is there. Krsna's instruction is there. Krsna's sound is there. Everything Krsna. Everything Krsna. There is no difficulty.
"But if you turn your attention to the impersonal and to the Supersoul in the heart, as the yogis do, then it is very difficult. It is very difficult. You cannot fix your attention to the impersonal. In the Bhagavad-gita it is said that, kleso 'dhikataras tesam avyaktasakta-cetasam. 'Those who are attached to the impersonal feature of the Absolute Truth—their business is very troublesome.' It is not like chanting, dancing, and eating—this is very nice. But that is very troublesome. And even if you speculate on the impersonal, the result achieved by working hard for so many, many lives is that you will have to eventually come to Krsna."
Srila Prabhupada continued describing Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, citing evidence from scriptures like Bhagavad-gita and Brahma-samhita. The first step in spiritual life, he explained, was to hear from Krsna Himself. But Prabhupada warned that if one heard the class and then went outside and forgot, he could not improve. "Whatever you are hearing, you should say to others," Prabhupada said. And he gave the example of how disciples were writing in back to godhead what they had heard from their spiritual master. And to speak or write what one has heard, a person has to be thoughtful. . . .
"You are hearing about Krsna, and you have to think. Then you have to speak. Otherwise, it will not work. And you should worship. Therefore, you require this Deity for worshiping. And we should do this occasionally? No. Nityada: regularly. Regularly. This is the process. So anyone who adopts this process—he can understand the Absolute Truth. This is the clear declaration of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Thank you very much. Any question?"
A young boy raised his hand and began earnestly: "Well, you mentioned about how we should follow the supreme law, how we should be like what your spirit tells you? Or what you ... I mean . . . if you meditate a lot, you feel you should do ... something..."
Prabhupada: "It is not something. It must be actual fact."
Boy: "Yeah, I mean like ..."
Prabhupada: "So, there is no question of something."
Boy: "Well, I see ..."
Prabhupada: "Something is vague. You must speak what is that something."
Boy: "Well, let's say, be ... uh ..."
Prabhupada: "That you cannot express. That means you have no idea. So you have to learn. This is the process. I am speaking of the process. If you want to have knowledge of the Absolute Truth, the first thing is faith. Then you must be thoughtful. Then you must be devoted, and you must hear from authentic sources. These are the different methods. And when you come to the ultimate knowledge—from Brahman platform to Paramatma platform, then to the Supreme Personality of Godhead—then your duty shall be to satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is the perfection of your active life.
"And how can we satisfy? We have to hear about Him, we have to speak about Him, we have to think about Him, we have to worship Him—and that is regularly. This will help you. But if you have no worship, if you have no thought, if you have no hearing, if you have no speaking, and you are simply thinking of something, something, something—that something something is not God."
Boy: "I mean, well, you know, I'm so young. I didn't know what I meant. I didn't know what..."
Prabhupada: "Don't know. That I am speaking—that you have to know by these processes. We are all 'don't knows.' So we have to know. This is the process."
Young woman: "Since we don't yet understand the supreme law, because we are young and just new to this, then how can we speak about it?"
Prabhupada: "Therefore you have to hear! The first thing is srotavyah, hearing. Unless you hear, how can you speak?"
Upendra: "Srila Prabhupada ... so we have to hear, I understand. But do we speak, or do we first listen for a long time and then speak?"
Prabhupada: "No. Why a long time? Suppose you hear two lines. You repeat that two lines. And aside from everything else, you hear Hare Krsna. So you can chant Hare Krsna. What is the difficulty there? If you cannot remember all the topics which we are speaking from the Bhagavad-gita or Srimad-Bhagavatam, you can at least remember this: Hare Krsna. Therefore it is the easiest process. You simply hear Hare Krsna and then chant Hare Krsna. The other things will come automatically."
Srila Prabhupada paused. The philosophical talk had been rigorous, lasting about forty-five minutes. He wasn't tired—he could have gone on—but now he wanted to conduct the Deity installation. Everything necessary for spiritual life was here: the temple, the devotees, the books, the Deity, prasadam. He wanted these young people to take advantage of it. Why should they remain living like animals and thinking of spiritual life as a vague groping for "something"? They should take advantage of Krsna's mercy and be successful and happy. And for this, Prabhupada was their tireless servant.
Prabhupada: "So, Hayagriva? Come here." Prabhupada had had devotees arrange for a large candle on a plate. The ceremony he had planned would be simple, with devotees and guests, one by one, coming up and offering the flame in circles before the Jagannatha deities.
Srila Prabhupada. from his seat, guided Hayagriva in approaching the deities with the lit candle. Prabhupada began playing karatalas and singing the Hare Krsna mantra to the popular melody he had introduced in America. Devotees and guests began rising to their feet and dancing, arms raised, bodies swaying rhythmically as they faced the bright, personal forms of the deities and chanted. Colored lights within the canopy began flashing intermittently blue, red, and yellow, highlighting the extraordinary eyes of Lord Jagannatha, Subhadra, and Balarama. Mukunda, who had arranged the lights, smiled and looked to Prabhupada, hoping for approval. Prabhupada nodded and continued forcefully singing Hare Krsna.
The young hippies were enthusiastic in singing and dancing, knowing that the kirtana usually lasted an hour. Some had grasped the Swami's words when he had spoken of fixing the mind on the personal form of the Supreme Lord; and they had understood when he had looked up at the deities and said, "Here is Krsna." Others hadn't followed, but thought that it was just great and blissful to sing Hare Krsna and look at the grinning, big-eyed deities up on the altar, amid the flowers and billowing incense.
Prabhupada watched with pleasure as one person after another took a turn at offering the candle before Lord Jagannatha. This was a simple procedure for installing the Deity. Although in big temples in India the installation of the Deity was a complex procedure, requiring several days of continuous rituals directed by highly paid priests, in San Francisco there were no brahmana priests to pay, and many other standards would be impossible to maintain.
For non-Hindus to handle Lord Jagannatha and conduct His worship would be considered heresy by the caste-conscious brahmanas of India. Except for Prabhupada, none of the persons present would have been allowed even to enter the temple at Jagannatha Puri. The white man, the Westerner, was not allowed to see Lord Jagannatha except once a year as He rode on His cart during the Ratha-yatra festival. But these restrictions were social customs, not scriptural injunctions. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati had introduced Deity worship and initiation for anyone, regardless of caste, race, or nationality. And Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's father, had longed for the day when the people of the West would mingle with their Indian brothers and chant Hare Krsna.
Srila Prabhupada had come to the West to fulfill the desires and the vision of his spiritual master and of Bhaktivinoda Thakura by creating Vaisnavas among the Westerners. Now, if the Westerners were to become actual devotees, they would have to be given the Deity worship. Otherwise it would be more difficult for them to become purified. Srila Prabhupada was confident in his spiritual master's direction and in the scriptures. He had faith that Lord Jagannatha was especially merciful to the fallen. He prayed that the Lord of the universe would not be offended by His reception at New Jagannatha Puri.
When the kirtana ended, Srila Prabhupada explained further: "This process which we just now introduced on the advent of Lord Jagannatha Svami means that now this temple is completely fixed. So this is the worshiping process. And this simple process, if you follow, you just see how you realize the Absolute Truth.
"Another thing I request you: All the devotees—when you come to the temple, you bring one fruit and one flower. If you can bring more, it is very good. If not, it is not very expensive to bring one fruit and one flower—whatever you can afford—and offer it to the Deity."
He paused, looking around the room: "Yes, now you can distribute prasadam."
The guests sat in rows on the floor, and the devotees began serving prasadam, offering the first plate to Prabhupada. The food preparations were those Prabhupada had personally taught the devotees in his kitchen: samosas, halavah, puris, rice, several cooked vegetables, fruit chutney, sweets—all the Sunday specials. The guests loved the prasadam and ate as much as they could get. While the devotees served prasadam, the guests relaxed and enjoyed an evening of feasting and convivial conversation. After Prabhupada tasted all the preparations, he looked up with raised eyebrows: "Very nice preparations. All glories to the cookers."
When Prabhupada noticed an older, respectably dressed man leaving the room without receiving a feast plate, Prabhupada became concerned: "Oh, why is he going away? Ask him to come."
A boy ran after him, opening the temple door, and calling, "Please don't leave. Swamiji requests ..."
As the man reentered the storefront, Prabhupada requested, "Please, please, take prasadam." And turning to the servers, he instructed, "Give him first." And so the feasting continued beneath the altar of Lord Jagannatha and under the auspices of His servant, Srila Prabhupada.
As Prabhupada had requested, devotees and guests began bringing offerings before the altar of Lord Jagannatha. Hippies would come by and leave whatever they could: a stalk of wheat, half a loaf of bread, a box of Saltines, a piece of fudge, candles, flowers, or fruit. Hearing that before using something for yourself you should first offer it to God, some hippies began bringing their new clothes and offering them with a prayer to Lord Jagannatha before wearing them. These hippies didn't follow Lord Jagannatha's instructions, but they wanted His blessings.
Each night, the devotees performed the ceremony Prabhupada had taught them, taking turns offering a candle before Lord Jagannatha. When the devotees asked whether they could add anything to the ceremony, Prabhupada said yes, they could also offer incense. He said there were many more details of Deity worship, numerous enough to keep the devotees busy all day; but if he were to tell them everything at once, they would faint.
Speaking privately in his room to one of his disciples, Prabhupada said that during kirtana in the temple he thought of Lord Caitanya dancing before Lord Jagannatha. He told how Lord Caitanya had traveled to Puri and danced before Lord Jagannatha in such ecstasy that He had been unable to say anything more than "Jaga—. . . Jaga—." Lord Caitanya had been thinking, "Krsna, for so long I wanted to see You. And now I am seeing You." When Lord Caitanya had lived in Puri, as many as five hundred men at a time would visit Him, and every evening there would be a huge kirtana with four parties, each with four mrdanga players and eight karatala players. "They would all dance, and the four parties would chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna. . . . That was going on every evening so long He stayed at Jagannatha Puri."
The devotees understood that there was a great difference between themselves and Srila Prabhupada. He had never been a hippie. He wasn't at home amid the illusion of Haight-Ashbury's LSD, psychedelic posters, rock musicians, hippie jargon and street people. They knew he was different, though sometimes they forgot. He spent so much time with them every day—eating with them, joking with them, depending on them. But then sometimes they would remember his special identity. When they chanted with him in the temple before Lord Jagannatha, he, unlike them, would be thinking of Lord Caitanya's kirtana before Lord Jagannatha in Puri. When Lord Caitanya had seen Jagannatha, He had seen Krsna, and His love for Krsna had been so great that He had gone mad. Prabhupada thought of these things to a degree far beyond what his disciples could understand—and yet he remained with them as their dear friend and spiritual instructor. He was their servant, teaching them to pray, like him, to be able to serve Krsna: "O Lord of the universe, kindly be visible unto me." (To be continued.)
Bhakti Yoga—A Method of Nonmechanistic Science
How can we study nonmaterial aspects of reality when we're living in a world of matter?
By Sadaputa Dasa
SADAPUTA DASA studied at the State University of New York and Syracuse University and later received a National Science Fellowship. He went on to complete his Ph. D. in mathematics at Cornell, specializing in probability theory and statistical mechanics.
Modern mechanistic science rests on the premise that reality is ultimately reducible to a simple set of mathematical equations. In a forthcoming book entitled Mechanistic and Nonmechanistic Science, Sadaputa dasa shows that such a view fails to account for two important aspects of reality: consciousness, and complex biological form. (He has raised these points in Back to Godhead, Vol. 15, Nos. 9 and 10, and Vol. 16, Nos. 1 and 5.) Here, in the first of a series of articles excerpted from the conclusion of the book, Sadaputa describes how an alternative, nonmechanistic model can be verified through the science of bhakti-yoga. He begins with a summary of the essential features of this model.
The world view of Bhagavad-gita is based on the postulate that conscious personality is the ultimate basis of reality. In this view there are two fundamental categories of conscious beings. The first category has a single member: the unique Supreme Person, Krsna, who is the primordial cause of all causes and who is directly conscious of all phenomena. The second category consists of the innumerable localized conscious beings, or jivatmas. The jivatmas are irreducible conscious persons, qualitatively the same as the Supreme Person. Yet they differ from the Supreme in that they are minute and dependent whereas He is unlimited and fully independent.
We find a consistent picture of the phenomena of life in the philosophy of Bhagavad-gita. This philosophy accounts for the origin and maintenance of the complex forms of living organisms, it clarifies the nature of individual consciousness, and it explains the relationship between the conscious self and the body. The objection may be raised, however, that even though this philosophy may provide interesting speculative solutions to certain fundamental scientific problems, it cannot be proved by the standard empirical methods of investigation.
We agree with this statement. The two categories of conscious beings mentioned in Bhagavad-gita lie almost entirely outside the purview of empirical investigation, which is based on reason and ordinary sense perception. Our conscious awareness does include direct perception of itself, but apart from this our ordinary senses provide us information only about the configuration of material bodies. Through reason, introspection, and ordinary sense perception, we can infer that consciousness must arise from some entity distinct from matter as we know it, but these means cannot bring us to a truly satisfactory understanding of what this entity is.
One could make similar remarks about the problem of proving the existence of a supreme conscious being. Many philosophers and scientists have argued that the physical complexity of living organisms is evidence for the existence of an intelligent creator. This is indeed a reasonable explanation of biological form—far more reasonable than that put forth by scientists of the evolutionary persuasion, who are still groping for a workable mechanistic explanation. Yet observations of biological form convey by themselves no clear picture of the creator, and it is indeed hard to see how a finite number of observations made within a limited region of space and time could prove very much about the nature of an unlimited eternal being.
Arguments for the existence of God that rely on the evidence of nature usually rest indirectly on a preconceived idea of God derived from other sources. These arguments may show that such a conception of God is consistent with the facts of nature, but what these facts actually entail is at best an idea of God so vague and general as to be practically useless.
So, if we cannot establish our alternative model of reality by standard empirical methods, how can we establish it?
The key to verifying our model is provided by the unique nonmechanistic features of the model itself. According to Bhagavad-gita, the natural senses of the jivatma are not limited merely to picking up information from the sensory apparatus of a particular material body. Indeed, when a jivatma is so limited he is considered to be in an abnormal condition. He is like a person who has become so engrossed in watching a television program that he has forgotten about his own existence and has accepted the flickering, two-dimensional image on the screen as the all in all. Thus preoccupied with the fascinating show presented by the bodily senses, the embodied jivatma becomes oblivious of his higher cognitive faculties, which normally enable him to directly perceive both other jivatmas and the Supreme Person.
It follows that if we are to verify our alternative model of reality, we must find a way to reawaken the full cognitive capacity of the conscious self. Here we shall outline a practical method for doing this, known as the process of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. We shall present this process as a method of obtaining reliable knowledge about aspects of reality inaccessible by traditional methods of scientific research. We should note, however, that bhakti-yoga is not simply a method of obtaining knowledge. Rather, it is a means whereby each individual conscious self can attain the ultimate goal of his existence.
The Process of Bhakti-yoga
The process of bhakti-yoga involves reawakening the relationship between the individual conscious self (the jivatma) and the Supreme Person, Krsna. Krsna accompanies each embodied jivatma as the Supersoul, and He directs the material body of the jivatma in accordance with the jivatma's desires and past fruitive activities, or karma. This means that a relationship always exists between the jivatma and the Supreme Person, but the jivatma in the materially embodied state is not conscious of this relationship, which is consequently one-sided. Not being directly aware of the Lord, the embodied jivatma either ignores Him or appeals to Him as a vaguely conceived supplier of material needs.
The fundamental postulate of bhakti-yoga is that this is a stunted relationship, an abnormal state of affairs. Since the jivatma and Krsna are qualitatively the same, there is a natural symmetry between their respective personal characteristics and tendencies. In Bhagavad-gita (5.29) Krsna states that He is constitutionally the dearmost friend of all other conscious beings, and that He is always concerned for their welfare. Similarly, the jivatma has a natural tendency to care for the happiness and well-being of Krsna, and in a state of pure consciousness the jivatma serves Krsna without desire for personal profit. In this state a reciprocal loving relationship develops between the jivatma and Krsna. One secondary consequence of this relationship is that the jivatma, by directly coming in contact with the Supreme Person, also comes in touch with the source of all knowledge.
As previously mentioned, the goal of bhakti-yoga is to purify a person's consciousness so that he reawakens his natural relationship with the Supreme. One can do this by performing practical devotional service to Krsna. Just as a lame person can regain his ability to walk by practicing walking, a person in material consciousness can revive his relationship of loving service to Krsna by actually practicing such service. A person can do this by establishing an initial link that enables him to serve Krsna through his physical and mental activities. Establishing this link involves a number of important considerations, which we shall discuss briefly.
First let's consider how a person's inner attitudes bear on his chances for success in the search for knowledge. The world view of modern science rests on the idea that nature is a product of impersonal processes lying within the reach of human understanding. Following this idea, many scientists look upon nature as a passive object of conquest and exploitation, and they use the power of their minds and senses to try to forcibly extract nature's secrets. The theories of modern science are consonant with a domineering and aggressive attitude, and one could argue that the development of these theories has been strongly influenced by a desire to accommodate such an attitude.
In contrast, bhakti-yoga is based on the idea that nature is the product of a supreme intelligence lying beyond the understanding of the human mind. A bhakti-yogi does not try to dominate this intelligence; rather, he cooperates with it. He knows it is not possible for him to acquire real knowledge about Krsna by the power of his limited mind. The key to bhakti-yoga is that by the mercy of Krsna such knowledge is readily available to a person who approaches Krsna with a sincerely favorable attitude.
The quality of this attitude is indicated in the following statement, spoken by Krsna to Arjuna in Bhagavad-gita (18.65):
Always think of Me and become My devotee. Worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend.
If a person maintains an inimical or aggressive attitude toward the Absolute Truth and regards it as a field of conquest for his mind, he will have to depend completely on his ordinary sensory and mental powers in his search for knowledge. But if one adopts a genuinely agreeable and favorable attitude toward the Absolute, then, by the mercy of the Absolute, one's internal and external circumstances will gradually be adjusted so that absolute knowledge becomes accessible" to him. The essential element is the change in attitude. In the beginning a person may have only the vaguest conception of the Absolute Truth, but if he adopts a truly favorable attitude toward the Absolute he will eventually be able to reciprocate personally with the Absolute in a relationship of love and trust.
This brings us to our second consideration. If a person is initially limited to his ordinary bodily senses as sources of information, how can he take the first step toward obtaining transcendental knowledge? Also, if one's ultimate objective is to serve the transcendental Supreme Person, how can he do this when his activities are limited to the manipulation of matter? The answer to these questions is that Krsna can reciprocate with an embodied jivatma in two important ways: internally as the all-pervading Supersoul, and externally through the agency of another embodied person who is already connected with Krsna in a transcendental relationship.
Such a person is known as a guru, or spiritual master. In Bhagavad-gita (4.34) Krsna describes the guru as follows:
Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth.
Since the guru is in direct contact with Krsna. he can act as Krsna's representative. Through the medium of the spoken and written word, the guru can make information about Krsna available, and he can also accept service on behalf of Krsna. The system of bhakti-yoga teaches that one can begin to serve Krsna by accepting a genuine guru, hearing from him about Krsna, and rendering service to him. Krsna accepts service to the guru as direct service to Himself, and He reciprocates by enlightening the servitor with the knowledge he needs to advance further on the path of bhakti-yoga.
The process of bhakti-yoga is summed up in the following statement from the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, the most authoritative book dealing with the life and teachings of the great saint and incarnation Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu:
Krsna is situated in everyone's heart as caitya-guru, the spiritual master within. When He is kind to some fortunate conditioned soul. He personally gives that person lessons in how to progress in devotional service, instructing the person as the Supersoul within and the spiritual master without. [Cc. Madhya-lila 22.48]
At first the aspiring candidate depends almost entirely on the guidance supplied to him externally through the spiritual master. By serving the spiritual master, however, the candidate establishes his link with Krsna and gradually awakens his own natural relationship with Him.
Faith, Subjectivity, and Verifiability
At this point we should make a few observations about the role of faith in bhakti-yoga. It is often said that religion is based either on subjective experiences that cannot be verified by others or on received doctrines that cannot be verified at all. Therefore, the charge goes, religion is a matter of blind faith. But this charge does not apply to the process of bhakti-yoga, for bhakti-yoga is based on verifiable observation. True, a person using ordinary sense perception cannot verify the realizations attained by someone practicing bhakti-yoga. But these realizations can be verified by other persons who are also able to exercise their higher sensory capacities.
We can establish this point with the analogy of two seeing persons observing a sunset in the presence of a congenitally blind person. The seeing persons are able to discuss what they see, and each feels confident that both he and the other person really are witnessing a sunset. If necessary, they can confirm this conclusion by consulting other seeing persons. In contrast, the congenitally blind person cannot verify the existence of the sunset, and he is probably unable to form a realistic conception of what it would be like to see it. He can either accept the existence of sunsets on blind faith, reject their existence with equal blindness, or declare himself an agnostic.
One might say that it is unfair for a few people to lay claim to knowledge that can be obtained only by methods unavailable to people in general. But this charge is actually more applicable to certain fields of modern science than to bhakti-yoga. For example, physicists use multimillion-dollar particle accelerators and elaborate techniques of mathematical analysis to demonstrate the existence of certain "fundamental" particles. The common man has neither access to such expensive equipment nor the knowledge needed to use it properly. Since these assets are difficult to acquire, the common man has no choice but to accept the physicists' findings on faith. Nonetheless, the physicists are confident that they can verify one another's observations, and they would not accept the charge that their conclusions are invalid because they cannot be checked by laymen.
For a given class of observations to be considered objective, the general rule is that a group of responsible people must be able to verify them. These people must agree on a clear theoretical understanding of what observations are to be expected and how they are to be interpreted. Modern physics is based on such a group of experts, and the same can be said of the process of bhakti-yoga. The system of bhakti-yoga is maintained and propagated by a disciplic succession of teachers, or gurus, who have reached a high platform of personal realization. These teachers adhere to a standard body of knowledge contained in books such as Bhagavad-gita, and their conclusions and conduct can be checked by the larger community of realized persons, or sadhus. Qualified sadhus can discuss and evaluate the higher realizations of bhakti-yoga just as readily as expert physicists can discuss and evaluate the findings of experimental physics.
Since bhakti-yoga is based on verifiable observation, it is dependent neither on blind faith nor on speculative arguments. Yet any difficult undertaking requires faith, and the process of bhakti-yoga is no exception. For example, before studying modern chemistry the prospective student must have faith that the many experiments on which the subject is based, actually work. He cannot know in advance that they will work, but without faith that they will he would not be motivated to carry out the arduous labor needed to master the subject. Normally, the student will begin with a certain amount of initial faith, and this faith will grow as he acquires more and more practical experience. The same gradual development of faith occurs in bhakti-yoga.
(Next month we shall continue by discussing why control of the senses is a necessary experimental condition in the science of bhakti-yoga.)
We welcome your letters. Write to
Please accept my thanks for your wonderful magazine. My daughter and I love every issue. Also, there is a Govinda's restaurant in town, and the food is great! We have nothing but praise for what you are doing.
* * *
In the entry for Astanga-yoga in your "Yoga Dictionary" [BTG Vol. 16, No. 8] you list the steps for the eight-stage practice of yoga, but I only count seven.
A typist slipped up, so we left out pranayama (control of the breath), which is the next step after pratyahara (withdrawal from sense objects).
* * *
The graphics in your magazine are indeed superb, and must be envied by many other publications.
I have known and loved Sri Krishna's devotees for many years, and though I am a Buddhist and not a member of ISKCON, I am in close touch via letters with one of your sisters here in Adelaide. What a happy family you seem to be!
* * *
I would be grateful for an explanation of fasting on Ekadasi. How should the fasting be observed? What is its significance? Jagdish Patel Newark, New Jersey
The word ekadasi (literally, "the eleventh day") refers to two days a month: the eleventh day after the new moon and the eleventh day after the full moon. On these days, devotees strive to deepen their attitude of loving service to Krsna by using even more of their time to chant Hare Krsna, read books like Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam, and discuss topics of devotional service.
To observe ekadasi, devotees also simplify their diet by fasting from grains and beans. (Since Krsna's devotees don't eat meat, fish, or eggs, on ekadasi they eat only fruits, nuts, milk products, non-bean vegetables, and so on.) People today follow all sorts of harsh or complicated diets to improve their health or enhance their spirituality, but simply by observing this ekadasi diet twice a month one can easily improve one's health and enrich one's spiritual life.
You can easily observe ekadasi to advance in Krsna consciousness, even at home, and this is recommended in Vedic literature. And if you don't gel a chance to visit a Krsna temple frequently, ekadasi is an excellent day to come to the temple, see the beautiful form of Krsna, and associate with His devotees.
You'll find the ekadasi days listed every month in Back to Godhead in our "Hare Krsna Calendar," which appears as part of our regular feature "Every Town and Village." This month it's on page 19.
* * *
I am so overjoyed that I couldn't resist writing a letter to you and letting you know about my pleasure. So far I have received four issues of Back to Godhead magazine. But I thought I must write you a letter for thanking you for such a wonderful magazine. I am deeply moved by the Hare Krishna movement. I realize that Krishna is everything. Herewith I am sending money for a one-year's subscription to Back to Godhead. Here in South Africa I am trying my best that more and more people read this magazine. Thank you.
On Education and The Good Life
The following exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the mother of a new devotee, and a Jesuit priest took place in July 1973 at the Radha-Krsna temple in London.
Srila Prabhupada: [To the mother} According to our Vedic understanding, there are four pillars of sinful life: illicit sex, unnecessary killing of animals, intoxication, and gambling. Our students have been trained to give these up. And as you can see from your son, they are happy and satisfied by eating nice foods made from vegetables and milk and by chanting Hare Krsna, the holy name of God.
Mother: I see he's happy. But, you know, he came from a very happy home, so he should be happy, shouldn't he?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. But now he's still happier. He was happy, but now he's happier.
Mother: I'm happy for Michael's happiness, but I'm very disappointed that he's not continuing his university education.
Srila Prabhupada: Our Krsna consciousness movement is not depriving people of their education. We say, "Go on with your university education, but side by side become competent to know God and to love Him. Then your life is perfect."
But in any case, what is the purpose of education? Our Vedic culture teaches that the culmination of education is to understand God. That is education. Otherwise, the education for learning how to eat nicely; how to sleep nicely, how to have sex and defend nicely—this education is there even among the animals. The animals also know how to eat, how to sleep, how to have sex, and how to defend. These four branches of education are not sufficient for human beings. A human being must know how to love God—that is perfection.
Mother: Yes. I agree with you completely; I could mention a lot of brilliant men in science who are still very close to God. Where would we be without our scientists, without our doctors—
Srila Prabhupada: But simply to become a doctor in medical science will not save one. Unfortunately, most doctors do not believe in the next life.
Mother: Oh, yes they do. I know a doctor who comes to church every Sunday—and Michael knows him too. He believes in the next life; he's a very good man.
Srila Prabhupada: Generally people in the West who believe in the next life do not believe in it very seriously. If they actually believed in the next life, they would be more concerned about what kind of next life they were going to have. There are 8,400,000 forms of life. The trees are a form of life, the cats and dogs are also forms of life, and the worm in the stool is also a form of life. So, all together there are 8,400,000 species. Since we are going to have a next life, since we have to leave our present body and take another body, our main concern should be what kind of body we are going to get next. But where is that university which educates its students to prepare for the next life?
Jesuit Priest: Catholic universities all over the world are doing that, and that's our main purpose—to teach the young man or the young girl success in this world but, above all, success in the next, which means union with God for eternity. That's top priority.
Srila Prabhupada: So, how can we know what kind of body we are going to have in our next life?
Priest: All I know is that there's no annihilation. I'm going to be joined with God.
Mother: We're going to be joined with Almighty God, that's all. We're going to Almighty God when we die. We don't have to worry.
Srila Prabhupada: But what is the qualification for going to God? Does everyone go to God?
Mother and Priest: Yes. Yes.
Priest: Everybody who believes in God and who leads a good life and does his best in this world—
Srila Prabhupada: Then the next question is, What is the good life?
Priest: Obeying the commandments of God.
Srila Prabhupada: One commandment is, Thou shall not kill. So if somebody kills innocent animals and eats them, is he leading the good life?
Priest: Father, you're being a bit unfair, Thou shall not kill means "Thou shalt not unnecessarily take away life." How would we be able to live if we didn't eat meat?
Srila Prabhupada: How are we living? We are eating nice foods prepared from vegetables, grains, fruits, and milk. We don't need meat.
Priest: Look at it this way. You just said a few minutes ago that there are eight million or so different kinds of life. Would you agree that the potato, the cabbage, and other vegetables also have life?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Priest: So when you boil those vegetables, you're taking away their life.
Srila Prabhupada: What is your philosophy—that killing a potato and killing an innocent animal are equal?
Priest: You said, "Thou shalt not kill," but you kill the potato.
Srila Prabhupada: We all have to live by eating other living entities: jivo jivasya jivanam. But eating a potato and eating some animal are not the same. Do you think they are equal?
Srila Prabhupada: Then why don't you kill a child and eat it?
Priest: I wouldn't for a second think of killing a child.
Srila Prabhupada: But animals and children are alike in that they both are helpless and ignorant; Because a child is ignorant, that does not mean we can kill him. Similarly, although animals may be ignorant or unintelligent, we should not kill them unnecessarily. A reasonable man, a religious man, should discriminate. He should think, "If I can get my food from vegetables, fruits, and milk, why should I kill and eat animals?" Besides, when you get a fruit from a tree, there is no killing. Similarly, when we take milk from a cow, we don't kill the cow. So, if we can live in such a way without killing, why should we kill animals?
Priest: Would you say that because I eat meat and bacon and so on—does that make me sinful? If I didn't eat those, I would be less sinful?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Priest: So if I give up eating meat and bacon and sausages, I would become a different person?
Srila Prabhupada: You would become purified.
Priest: That's very interesting.
Srila Prabhupada: Animal killers cannot understand God. I have seen this; it is a fact. They do not have the brain to understand God.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Hare Krsna Among the Eskimos
Yellowknife, Canada—Two women recently traveled 850 miles from Edmonton to this lonely outpost in Canada's Northwest Territories to spread the message of Krsna consciousness. Radhika-devi dasi and Krsnangi-devi dasi braved daily temperatures of -30 to -40 °F to bring Krsna conscious books and Back to Godhead magazines to Yellowknife's 10,000 residents, a good many of whom are native Eskimos and Indians. When Radhika and Krsnangi headed home after the month-long expedition, they had distributed 5,000 Back to Godheads, several hundred hardbound volumes, and, to the Yellowknife Public Library, a full set of books by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Bombay Magazine Lauds Govinda's
Bombay—Bombay magazine has this to say about the Hare Krsna restaurant in Juhu Beach.
"Tucked away in the Juhu retreat of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) is a restaurant which serves Indian food that would meet the approval of even those who have never found anything quite like mother's cooking. Called Govinda's, the restaurant is run with a mixture of religious fervour and occidental thoroughness. Pure vegetarian Indian thalis [dishes] are served by polite, English-speaking waiters, and the bhajans chanting the praises of Ram and Krishna are interspersed with an English commentary, adding a quaint charm to the dichotomous ambiance.
"The softly lit restaurant exudes a sense of peace, and for those who like a little bit of quiet with their food, Govinda's is definitely the place to go.
"So particular is the management about its vegetarianism that not even onions or garlic are used in the preparations. Nor is anything that could possibly be considered harmful to human health.
"The prices are extremely reasonable, and the atmosphere is relaxed and cozy without giving you the feeling that you are being lulled into a stupor before being fleeced.
"So you can eat all you like at Govinda's without having to think that you'll have to empty out your wallet. You can take your fussy old aunt to eat there or even your delicately disposed child. Or you can go on your own, and watch the rain bouncing off the paved ground and the wind swaying the trees in the ISKCON compound. Only remember, as you pick up the roasted variyali [after-dinner spice] that appears with the bill, that you have to say your thanksgiving before you leave—Hare Krishna, Hare Rama."
Chariot Festival In New Delhi
New Delhi—For the first time, India's capital has witnessed Ratha-yatra (The Festival of the Chariots) on a grand scale. Members of the Hare Krsna movement organized the celebration, in which throngs of Delhians helped pull through the streets a 50-foot-high chariot bearing carved wooden forms of Lord Jagannatha, Lord Balarama, and Srimati Subhadra (Lord Krsna, His brother, and His sister). It was a royal procession, complete with gaily decorated elephants and horses and several bands to accompany the chanting and dancing celebrants.
The Ratha-yatra procession led off a four-day festival of Hare Krsna chanting, Bhagavad-gita discourses, plays about Lord Krsna and Lord Rama, films, and free prasadam (sanctified vegetarian food). The devotees of Krsna in India held similar festivals last spring and summer in Bombay, Poona, Surat, and Calcutta.
Hare Krsna Land—Bombay
Bombay's most popular cultural center inspires a renaissance in India's arts and sciences.
by Yogesvara dasa
Constantly blending old with new, Bombay, the world's seventh largest city and India's headquarters for business and industry, is a place of contrasts: high-rise luxury apartment buildings dwarfing ramshackle ghettos; women laborers balancing hundred-pound stacks of bricks gingerly on their heads; marble temples surrounded by rickety billboards announcing the latest romance film; traffic jams of cars, trucks, buffalos, and elephants; a nuclear reactor encircled by bamboo scaffolding that sways precariously in the hot, dusty breeze.
There is another, unexpected contrast in Bombay. Leaving the heat and, noise of center city on a Sunday afternoon, as many as 30,000 pilgrims journey forty-five minutes by train or bus to prestigious Juhu Beach, where breezes from the Arabian Sea offer welcome relief, and where the skyline of concrete and glass gives way to palm trees and the multidomed outline of the Radha-Rasavihari temple, the central structure of Hare Krsna Land.
Built by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (1SKCON) as a place of pilgrimage and culture. Hare Krsna Land receives two to three thousand guests daily, ten times that many on Sundays, and as many as 100,000 for its major festivals. Visitors include Bombay residents attracted to the opulent worship of Lord Krsna and discourses on Bhagavad-gita, tourists from abroad who come for the four-star hotel service offered at the Juhu center, and local children who assemble out back for games organized by devotee teachers. In the evening, people assemble in the auditorium for the science seminar sponsored by the Bhaktivedanta Institute, or the classical drama, dance, or musical performance organized by ISKCON's Center for the Devotional Arts (Bhakti Kala Kshetra). Other guests have dinner at Govinda's, Bombay's most popular vegetarian restaurant.
The 1SKCON cultural complex resides on four acres of verdant land two minutes from the beach. Also on the property is a two-story book depot. Here devotees load buses and bullock carts for traveling from village to village, distributing the message of Lord Krsna in books and magazines they have translated into Hindi, Gujarati, Telugu, Sindhi, and other local languages. The publishing is supervised by His Holiness Gopala-Krsna Goswami, the director for ISKCON's affairs in western India.
Toward the rear of Hare Krsna Land stand the foundations of the Gurukula, a school for children, financed in part by G.D. Birla, octogenarian head of India's leading industrial family. "For doing this work," he told Giriraja Swami, "may God bless you."
Giriraja Swami, an American-born sannyasi (devotee in the renounced order of spiritual life), heads the Juhu project. Under his direction it has grown to include an active membership of 8,000 (more than Bombay's popular Lions or Rotary clubs), an advisory committee of industrialists and influential civic leaders, and a congregation numbering in the hundreds of thousands. Intact, in this city of six million people it is hard to find anyone who has not at least once visited the famous Hare Krsna Land at Juhu.
Giriraja Swami explains, "Srila Prabhupada, ISKCON's founder and spiritual guide, envisioned such a project twenty years ago, when he was preparing to bring the teachings of Lord Krsna to the West. He knew that many Westerners coming to India formed bad impressions, that India by Western standards appeared a poverty-stricken nation. He also knew that few Westerners know where or how to look to discover India's spiritual wealth. So after establishing Krsna consciousness in America and Europe, he returned with his disciples and built Hare Krsna Land."
For months after the devotees arrived, they held public festivals that drew as many as 40,000 people at a time and raised millions of rupees for construction. More than half the funds needed to build Hare Krsna Land came from abroad, from devotees and sympathizers who shared Srila Prabhupada's vision of a holy place in Bombay. When the center opened, in 1978, twenty thousand visitors attended, along with media from four continents and a host of dignitaries. Indian Health Minister Raj Narain remarked, "It is amazing to me that you Westerners have taken to the Indian culture just now when we are losing it."
Many Bombay residents believe that beauty, dignity, and divinity were sacrificed when India's political leaders chose the path of Westernization, and that Hare Krsna Land safeguards important elements of that waning spiritual heritage: classical arts and architecture, consummate vegetarian cuisine, temple worship, and scriptural instruction to the highest Vaisnava standard.
Sadajiwatlal Chandulal, Bombay businessman and former president of the Hindu Vishwa Parishad (an international religious organization), knew Srila Prabhupada before his departure for the West. He says, "There was little appreciation in India for his efforts to revive Krsna consciousness, and therefore he went to the West to launch his movement. After independence in 1947, rather than return to her own spiritual traditions, India diverted herself to materialism and the pursuit of personal wealth. It was a gloomy picture, but upon his return Prabhupada injected new life with his vigorous preaching and projects like Juhu."
Since the 1940s, scholarly misinterpretations of Bhagavad-gita have attempted to deny Krsna's divinity and minimize the value of devotional culture. Slogans like "Factories are our temples" became harbingers of a bright new future, while religious customs and beliefs fell to the status of antiquated and empty rites.
"By going abroad and proving the universality of Krsna consciousness," Sadajiwatlal says, "Prabhupada permitted people to feel pride in their own spiritual convictions. He showed that true devotional life was not the cause of India's social problems but rather her only hope."
Part of India's Westernization included importing foreign modes of dress, conduct, and entertainment. Today India produces more commercial songs and films than any other country in the world, much to the regret of even some artists who have made fortunes for commercial cinema in India.
Hema Malini is to Indian cinema what curry is to rice: an all-pervasive influence. Her beauty and stardom are known across the subcontinent. But of her seventy-five films in the past thirteen years, only one—Meera, the story of India's greatest devotional poetess—stressed a spiritual message.
"Nobody went to see it," she acknowledges with a sigh. "I would be happy to play more devotional parts, but the public has lost all interest. One of the few consolations I have is the ISKCON center at Juhu. The devotees and the spiritual programs they sponsor have increased devotion in the arts. Not just any temple can do that. I think it is because ISKCON always stresses Krsna in its programs, whereas other places may encourage worship but without any personal, devotional quality to the gestures."
Hema Malini demonstrated her appreciation by becoming a Life Member of the Society and offering a benefit classical dance performance at the ISKCON auditorium last year.
Every evening crowds gather at the auditorium for programs organized by ISKCON's Center for the Devotional Arts. Some evenings the devotees perform plays in Hindi or Bengali from the Vedic scriptures, but usually guests are treated to music or dance by one of India's top artists—singers such as M.S. Subhalaksmi and Hari Om Sharan and dancers like Vyjayanthimala Bali and the Jhaveri Sisters.
"Dance and music have always been integral to India's devotional life," explains Nayana Jhaveri, head of the renowned family of Manipuri dancers. "Previously, saintly kings were patronizing these things, and through public performances even common people learned about Krsna's pastimes and our eternal relationship with Him. Spirituality was the essence of art. Now western education has changed that, and with the loss of devotion has come aggressivity and crassness in the arts.
The Jhaveri Sisters have given benefit performances at ISKCON temples in Mayapur, Vrndavana, and Bombay. Recently they also danced at the ISKCON Ratha-yatra festivals in Italy and France.
"The best opportunity for artists to make devotional offerings to Lord Krsna," says Nayana Jahveri, "is at ISKCON festivals."
Devotees sponsor spiritual festivals monthly, not only in India's big cities but also in the small villages that are home for seventy percent of the population. Sometimes 10,000 villagers join the devotees in chanting Hare Krsna. Distribution of prasadam (sanctified vegetarian foods) plays an important part in these gatherings, as do the discourses given by devotees in native languages. A European or American devotee speaking Lord Krsna's message in a local dialect triggers dozens of "aachas," India's universal expression of surprise.
"It's not just the novelty of Western devotees that impresses people," says Brijrattan Mohatta, director of several engineering and chemical-manufacturing companies in Bombay, "what attracts people is also the purity of their message. Indians have grown accustomed to self-appointed 'Gods' who promise moksa [liberation] in exchange for money. But Prabhupada taught his disciples to speak according to sastra [scripture] and to live their lives by strict brahminical standards. Today ISKCON is one of India's best known and best supported institutions for that one reason alone."
Outside India, Krsna temples rely on the proceeds from literature distribution and devotee-run businesses for their maintenance. In it's country of origin, however, ISKCON rests on solid popular support that crosses all barriers of caste and creed—a phenomenon that sets it apart from the numerous temples of India where non-Hindus are denied participation. At Hare Krsna Land, for example, the manager is from a Hindu family, the bookkeeper is a Jain, one of the project coordinators is Muslim, another Christian, the secretary comes from a Jewish family, and the initiating guru is the son of a Baptist minister.
"The rest of India reflects whatever is done here," says R.K. Maheshwari, a lawyer and initiated ISKCON devotee. "Inject something good into Bombay, and the whole country benefits. So Krsna consciousness has been a unifying force in this country, not by making converts but by demonstrating how people, whatever their caste or background, can be happy by directing their energies to the service of God."
Encouraging Self-sufficiency Through Self-realization
What they do essentially is take a failing farm and make it work. The unique part is that they do it without spending any money. So effective is the work of ISKCON Rural Development (IRD) that farm owners across Maharashtra Province have extended offers of free land in exchange for an IRD project in their area. One such offer included an entire village,
Citrakara dasa, a thirty-two-year-old Swiss devotee whose interest in communal village life brought him to India in 1974, heads the IRD office at Hare Krsna Land in Bombay,
To begin the IRD project, Citrakara and his team leased farmland near Nasrapur (two hours from Bombay), organized renovation and construction work, and then invited neighboring villages to participate, only to find that competition for the jobs exacerbated already strained village relations.
"We gathered laborers together from five villages," Citrakara explains, "and showed them how there would be no scarcity of work in service to Lord Krsna. Some villagers cleaned the grounds, others whitewashed the temple, cooked, collected firewood, farmed, or helped in the dispensary. For the first time since independence those five villages worked together and sat as a community for a meal, prepared and served by the devotees. Now there is a spiritual bond where just months before there were gang wars and murders."
Devotees anticipate that the project, named Gokula Dhama after the village in north India where Lord Krsna displayed His childhood pastimes five thousand years ago, will be a prototype for village reconstruction across the country. Under the guidance of an ISKCON advisory board, villagers in and around Nasrapur have already formed cooperatives that benefit more than four thousand residents of the area. IRD is also providing villagers with common-lift irrigation systems, agricultural training, warehousing, and marketing facilities.
"Our first concern is that villages become Krsna conscious and organize for complete self-sufficiency," Citrakara says. "So establishing the temple is the first order of business. Then we begin cottage industries such as weaving, pottery, gobar gas units, and workshops for household items such as soap and incense." (Gobar gas is methane generated from cow dung. It is used for heating, cooking, and lighting.)
As news of ISKCON's strategy for rural development spread, the project was able to assemble an advisory committee of fifty-four members, including government officials, retired businessmen, engineers, veterinarians, and MDs, ready to dedicate time and money to the effort.
"With all our good motives, none of us could have done anything of this importance and scale independently," says Vasudev Pandya, an economist. Dr. Pandya, who works with the All-India Khadi and Village Commission, now heads an IRD committee responsible for the production and sale of cottage industry items.
Dr. Pandya says, "The industrialists and businessmen of Bombay themselves come from small villages—only a small fraction of the city is actually indigenous—and dozens of these people have already come forward offering to donate land for similar ISKCON development projects. They see that devotees are not mercenary, that they are honestly motivated to spiritualize the society and have no political axes to grind."
From among the various offers of land, the IRD committee has selected twenty projects for Maharashtra Province based on the Gokula Dhama prototype.
Questions at Harvard Divinity School
Recently Professor Harvey Cox of Harvard University invited Subhananda dasa, a Hare Krsna devotee, to give three talks on the traditional role of the guru. Later the talking went on, between Professor Cox and his divinity students and their guest. The previous issue of Back to Godhead carried part of this discussion. Here we present the conclusion.
Student: You've been speaking at some length about the notion of the guru. According to your tradition, what is the role of the disciple? How does he deal with the guru?
Subhananda dasa: In the Fourth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita, Krsna says, "Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him." So these are fundamental duties of the disciple: service and inquiry. To submit oneself as the guru's servant teaches one humility and obedience. Due to false pride, we may instinctively dislike the idea of obedience, but it is an important element of spiritual life. In Catholicism, for instance, obedience (along with poverty and chastity) is recommended as an ideal characteristic of a monk. Obedience to spiritual authority—God, scripture, spiritual guides, and so on—decreases false pride and egoism, which are obstacles on the spiritual path, and brings one into harmony with divine providence. And the other point here is inquiry. The disciple must be a genuine spiritual seeker—he must have a burning desire to know the Truth and the path by which he can realize the Truth and escape illusion and suffering. The guru naturally responds most strongly to the disciple who renders sincere and loving service and who has a sincere desire for knowledge and liberation.
The other Gita verse that comes to mind is in the Eighteenth Chapter. Krsna tells Arjuna, his disciple, that gaining spiritual knowledge is difficult for those who lack austerity and devotion. If the disciple is not austere—that is, if he is a sensualist—he will have a hard time comprehending transcendental knowledge in all its subtleties. In other words, mere intellectual ability is not enough. There must be purity of heart, purity of purpose. And that purity develops through certain moral and ethical practices, including sexual restraint, nonviolence to all living beings (which naturally includes ethical vegetarianism), and the avoidance of intoxication. A simple and pure life brings about nobility of purpose and receptivity to higher, spiritual pursuits. And in addition to service, inquiry, and austerity, the disciple must have devotion to his spiritual master. This devotion may take many forms, and it is understood that it takes time to develop. When this devotion is mature, the disciple accepts his guru's instructions as his very life and soul.
Student: Would you like to tell us about your own experience in relation to your own guru?
Subhananda dasa: If you'd like me to. My spiritual master is His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who, as you probably know, is the founder of the Krsna consciousness movement. I met him, you might say, through his disciples. In the course of various philosophical explorations, I happened to visit one of ISKCON's. I'd been looking for a spiritual or meditational discipline and for a communal way of living, and the asrama seemed to have the best of both. By living with the devotees, all of whom were actual or aspiring disciples of Srila Prabhupada, I naturally heard a lot about him. Some of the devotees who had seen him in person exhibited a devotion to him that impressed and moved me. But even more than the enthusiastic devotion of his disciples, it was his books—reading his books—that convinced me he was a formidable spiritual authority. It wasn't until I had been a member of the movement for one year that I met him. In the course of that year I had developed a very real and deep faith in him as my spiritual master. Over the next few years my relationship with Srila Prabhupada developed and deepened, both through numerous contacts and occasional personal discussions, but also, more importantly, through studying his books and serving him in separation while residing in Krsna consciousness asramas throughout the United States.
Student: My idea of the guru-disciple relationship is that the disciple lives with the guru in his constant association, the disciple literally sitting at his guru's feet. Is that only a stereotypical view?
Subhananda dasa: The disciple need not always be in the physical presence of his guru. In fact, this kind of bodily association is not even necessary. The disciple's relationship with the guru doesn't depend upon physical proximity. This may be difficult to comprehend from the material point of view. but the guru-disciple relationship is not material. It works not under material laws but spiritual ones. Even materially, you can understand that when you're separated from one who is very dear to you, your mental recollection of that person can provide some degree of solace. In a sense, you feel your beloved within your heart. So this fact hints that the guru-disciple relationship is noncorporeal—and in fact it goes much further than any common familial or romantic relationship.
Vedic texts speak of two ways to associate with the guru. Vapuh means to associate with him through physical presence, and vani, which literally means "words" or "instructions," points out that the disciple associates with his guru by hearing, assimilating, and acting upon his instructions. That association is not metaphorical. It is real. To the degree that the disciple humbly and sincerely submits himself to the instructions of his guru—to that extent he feels the sublime, transcendental presence of his guru. This may be materially inexplicable, but it is a spiritual fact.
Student: Can you say something more about the nature of that relationship?
Subhananda dasa: The point is that it is a relationship. a two-way relationship. A relationship between two people, a sublime reciprocation of love—through inquiry and service, and guidance and blessings. The disciple is not serving a mere concept, but an actual person. But no ordinary person and no ordinary service. The disciple knows that his guru has the ability to carry him to lofty spiritual heights, and the disciple actually experiences the profound compassion and power of his teacher. He cannot help feeling grateful and devoted, even worshipful.
Yet this guru-bhakti, love for one's guru, is not generated merely by a sense of gratitude, thankfulness for his benedictions. The disciple loves his guru because the guru is lovable! A genuine suddha-bhakta, a pure devotee of Krsna, is decorated with all saintly attributes. Without getting into an elaborate list of saintly characteristics, suffice it to say that when a person has attained full Krsna consciousness, God consciousness, when his consciousness is situated in such a pure, refined, and exalted state, then his personality, his actions, his words—all things about him—become filled with transcendental sublimity.
One cannot help but become moved by such a rare, spiritually surcharged soul, at least if one is not callous or cynical. Simply being in the presence of such a person inspires humility and prayerfulness. Naturally one feels a desire to associate with and serve such an exalted soul. At first one may render service to such a guru because one understands that there is spiritual benefit in doing so. One may serve out of a feeling of obligation, or simply out of habit. But as the relationship develops, one serves more and more out of spontaneous devotion. The relationship becomes increasingly personal and loving. Love for a pure soul exalts the mind and the spirit. There is no mundane love that can compare with it. This love for the guru is of the same transcendental quality as love for God, krsna-bhakti, because it is the guru's godly qualities that inspire it. Guru-bhakti is, in that sense, an expression of love for God. And as one's relationship with the guru develops and expands, so does one's relationship with Krsna. It is a sublime transcendental arrangement.
Student: A few moments ago you were saying that the disciple can feel that his guru is with him even when not in the the guru's immediate presence. Are you speaking of a general sense of contact with the guru, or of something more like an intense mystical experience?
Subhananda dasa: Both. Of course, the stress is on the first, less dramatic idea. It's not necessary for a disciple to have intense mystical experiences of his guru, although some certainly do have such experiences. What is important is that one establishes a legitimate and sincere relationship with his guru, that he hears from the guru and serves him steadily. An authentic guru-disciple relationship does not need to be validated, so to speak, by intense mystical experiences.
I should point out that in our tradition we tend to emphasize gradual, steady spiritual authority over sudden mystical experiences and spontaneous revelations. Not that Krsna consciousness doesn't lead to sublime states of revelation and ecstasy. It does. But if mystical experience per se is overemphasized, some people might take these experiences cheaply and even contrive them. They may interpret any unusual mental sensation as mystical.
Student: One hears stories of gurus "zapping" their disciples with sudden spiritual experiences, and that sort of thing. Is there any validity to that?
Subhananda dasa: A spiritual master can, certainly, elicit deep feelings and experiences in his disciples, but that is not the real test of the guru's authenticity. There are individuals who, through yogic disciplines, have developed certain kinds of mental or psychic powers and can exert strong psychic influence on others. Various affective or cognitive experiences can be intense, and one may easily misjudge them to be spiritual. But one cannot judge by feelings—even intense or unusual feelings—alone. The real test of a guru is whether, by following him, you are actually becoming free from material illusion and material desires and are making spiritual advancement. The guru is not a drug but a great soul who can lead a sincere seeker to God.
Student: When your guru, Srila Prabhupada, passed away, did you accept another guru?
Subhananda dasa: No. The relationship with one's guru does not end with the physical demise of either the guru or the disciple. It continues eternally as a tangible spiritual fact.
Student: What about people who have joined the Krsna consciousness movement since your guru passed away?
Subhananda dasa: Several of Srila Prabhupada's senior disciples have now accepted the role of spiritual master, and they are initiating disciples.
Student: Are new members told which among these new gurus they must accept as their own, or is that voluntary?
Subhananda dasa: It's purely voluntary. The new devotee accepts as his spiritual master the person who most inspires his faith and whom he feels he can trust with his spiritual life.
Student: Although he is physically absent, do you still feel your guru's presence with you?
Subhananda dasa: Yes, definitely. I am far from a perfect disciple, but somehow I continue to feel his guidance and blessings, and the feeling is the principal sustaining force of my life.
Professor Cox: Subhananda, I'd like to thank you very much for giving so freely of your time and speaking with us in such an informative as well as personal way.
Subhananda dasa: Thank you for inviting me. Hare Krsna.
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.)
Bad Karma. According to the law of karma, for everything we do nature responds, giving us some reaction, whether good or bad. If we act in accord with nature's laws, nature will respond to us favorably; and if we act discordantly, rubbing nature the wrong way or trying to assault or exploit her, mother nature may pinch us—or kick us in the face.
Nature's kicks are called bad karma.
If one is suffering from some chronic disease, if one is ugly or unintelligent, or if one is entangled in some legal troubles, he's suffering from bad karma. And our other sufferings, large and small, are also what are due us in the karmic cycle.
When we break nature's laws, the reactions may hit us in this lifetime, or they may come later, in a future life. So we're suffering now the results of our past mistakes, and we'll suffer in the future for the ones we're making now.
Nature's laws are complicated, subtle, mysterious, and inflexible. If we try to beat them, we ourselves shall take the beating. But even when we try to live simply and naturally and make nature our friend, it isn't so simple—friendly old nature still makes us suffer the miseries of repeated birth and death, disease and old age. So even "good karma" really isn't very good.
A transcendentalist, therefore, strives to get entirely free from the forces of material nature. The Bhagavad-gita explains how.
Baladeva Vidyabhusana. A great spiritual master who appeared in the 18th century in the disciplic succession of devotees. He is the author of Govinda-bhasya, a commentary on the Vedanta-sutra.
Balarama. Balarama (also known as Baladeva) is the first expansion of Lord Krsna, the original Personality of Godhead. The Supreme Lord has the ability to appear simultaneously in an unlimited number of forms, each fully powerful and identical with Him yet each distinctly and uniquely individual. Lord Balarama is the first of these forms, or "expansions," and all other expansions of the Lord proceed from Him.
In the pastimes of Lord Krsna, Lord Balarama appears as Lord Krsna's elder brother.
Bali Maharaja. One of twelve famed mahajanas, or great devotees of the Lord, described in the ancient Vedic literature. He is outstanding for having surrendered everything to the Lord. When Bali Maharaja was reigning as king of the three worlds. Lord Krsna appeared to him in the form of Vamana, a beautiful dwarf brahmana boy. Lord Vamana begged Bali Maharaja for three paces of land, and King Bali felt duty-bound to grant this request for charity. Sukracarya, the king's spiritual master, recognized that the dwarf brahmana, being Krsna Himself, could respond by taking away everything the king had. So he urged King Bali not to grant Vamana's request. But Bali Maharaja rejected even his own spiritual master and agreed to grant Lord Vamana the boon for which He had asked. Lord Vamana then assumed a gigantic form and covered the entire earth with one step, and with His second step He covered the entire universe. Bali Maharaja, challenged to make good his promise, then offered his own head as the place for the Lord's third footstep.
Bhagavad-gita. An ancient Sanskrit text, seven hundred verses long, consisting of a dialogue between Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and His friend and disciple Arjuna. In the course of this dialogue. Lord Krsna enlightens the perplexed Arjuna, leading him from confusion and despondency to the highest understanding and joy.
Bhagavad-gita is the basic text of Krsna consciousness. In India it is the most cherished of scriptures, and for its luminous philosophical wisdom it is honored throughout the world.
Bhagavan. The word bhagavan refers to one who is complete in six opulences—beauty, wealth, fame, strength, knowledge, and renunciation. There are many people who are beautiful, famous, wealthy, and so on, but bhagavan refers to the person who has all these opulences to the greatest possible extent. It is therefore a name of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Supreme Lord.
That the Supreme Personality of Godhead is Krsna is confirmed throughout the Vedic literature. In Bhagavad-gita, whenever Lord Krsna speaks, the text begins with the words sri bhagavan uvaca, meaning "The Supreme Personality of Godhead spoke as follows."
The Absolute Truth may be understood in three features—as Brahman, as Paramatma, and as Bhagavan. Brahman refers to the Absolute Truth in its aspect of impersonal oneness. Paramatma refers to the same Absolute, realized as the Lord in everyone's heart. And Bhagavan also refers to the same Absolute, understood in His aspect as the Supreme Person. The Vedic teachings conclude that realization of Bhagavan constitutes the highest perfection.
The Search for Self-fulfillment
"There is no 'real' me—a tiny homunculus hidden beneath layers of frozen feelings. ... It is not an isolated 'object,' a ghost locked in a machine or a mere consciousness located within the body. ... You are inextricably enmeshed in the web of meanings shaped by the psychoculture that you helped to form and that, in turn, helps to form you." (Daniel Yankelovich, in New Rules: Searching for Self-fulfillment in a World Turned Upside Down)
What is the self? Is it something shaped and shared by our surroundings, as Dr. Yankelovich believes, or something private, autonomous, internal? Since everyone, no matter how he chooses to define the self, is interested in self-fulfillment, it is of paramount importance to know what the self is. Generally our concepts of the self are vague and speculative; so we often feel unfulfilled, even after attaining our goals. At a time when we are finding material goals more and more difficult to attain and when we are at a loss to find deep self-satisfaction, the Vedic literature's unique statements can provide us with invaluable information about the self and self-fulfillment.
In Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna describes the self as a permanent individual, an eternal conscious entity who interrelates with other selves. Bhagavad-gita gives us exact information of the self as an imperishable, nonmaterial particle, a spiritual soul (atma), who gives consciousness to the otherwise dead body.
People often deny the existence of the atma simply because the concept of the spiritual soul is rejected by modern science. Since with empirical methods one cannot detect or measure the spiritual soul, many people conclude—dogmatically—that no soul exists and that whoever believes in such a thing is only imagining a "ghost in the machine." But from the perspective of Bhagavad-gita, to think of life in mechanistic terms, as mere chemical combinations and electrical impulses, is at best misguided, and at worst demonic.
Many people who scoff at religious explanations for the self embrace the theories of science as their new religion. Yet after hundreds of years of scientific philosophizing and experimentation, there is still no empirical explanation for consciousness, which the Bhagavad-gita explains to be the symptom of the self. Even the simple fact of individual conscious perception—everyone's awareness that he is alive—remains totally inexplicable in material terms. Although the common man is in awe of advanced research in computer science ("artificial intelligence") and other technologies, no scientist has been able to duplicate anything like a conscious living being.
The reason mechanistic science has failed to explain or create consciousness is easy to grasp. As Bhagavad-gita explains, the atma, the source of consciousness, lies entirely beyond the body and mind, so methods of perception that depend on the sensory apparatus of the body and mind can never detect the atma. Still, we can readily see the difference between the atma and the body by reflecting a little on our common everyday discourse. We think of the body as "ours," and we say "my hand" or "my foot," even "my mind." Since the "I," the self, is the owner of the body, it must be different from the body.
Bhagavad-gita describes that above the body is the mind, above the mind is the intelligence, and above the intelligence is the spiritual soul. It is because of a case of mistaken identity, false ego, that the deathless spiritual soul takes up residence in the perishable material body. The self's identification with the body is like a person's taking his body in a dream to be real. And a society that accepts the theories of mechanistic science as the absolute truth reinforces this misidentification.
Vedic knowledge confirms the sociologists' claim that the beliefs of a society greatly influence the self. From birth, parents assure a child that he or she is a boy or a girl, a member of a certain family, a certain society, and so on. Except in a rare case in which a family or society imparts transcendental knowledge to the conditioned soul, one grows up with concocted, socialized conceptions of the self. Therefore one is bound to meet frustration in one's search for self-fulfillment. Since one is actually eternal, one cannot be satisfied with temporary material goals.
The self can truly be satisfied only by gaining enlightenment concerning his relationship with the Supreme. Lord Krsna describes this enlightenment in Bhagavad-gita (6.21-23):
In that joyous state, one is situated in boundless transcendental happiness and enjoys himself through transcendental senses. Established thus, one never departs from the truth, and upon gaining this he thinks there is no greater gain. Being situated in such a position, one is never shaken, even in the midst of the greatest difficulty. This indeed is actual freedom from all miseries arising from material contact.
And what about social responsibility? If the soul is spiritual, different from the material body, doesn't that mean that a self-realized soul is antisocial, uninterested in helping others? No. Rather, when a human being comes to understand his real identity as atma, an eternal spiritual soul, a servant of God, then for the first time he realizes his loving connection with all living beings. Such a self-realized person becomes automatically nonviolent, even toward animals. And being self-satisfied and therefore not overly dependent on material things, he does not conflict with others in vicious competition. Moreover, his universal vision, in which he sees all living entities as spiritual souls or sons of God, enables him to take a nonsectarian view and give up envious distinctions of race, sex, religion, and nationality.
Paradoxically, one who becomes spiritually self-realized ceases to be selfish. The materialist, on the other hand, is always selfish. One who regards the self as isolated and private will selfishly try to experience as much sense pleasure as possible and minimize his concern for others. Or if he chooses to see the self in terms of shared meanings with society, he usually pursues the selfish interests of a particular social class or nation over all others. Only he who sees all selves on the spiritual basis can act in a way that will actually benefit others in their self-fulfillment.
Bhagavad-gita teaches that the real purpose of human life is to transcend death by liberating the atma from his bondage to material life. The soul who does not understand the self's relationship to Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, has to transmigrate and return again to the material life of miseries: repeated birth, old age, disease, and death. Self-fulfillment conceived only in terms of one's body, family, occupation, or nation is ignorance. Real self-fulfillment never ends, even with death. Since people are becoming increasingly concerned about self-fulfillment in an age full of uncertainties and great dangers, I would suggest that they not overlook the treasure of information about the eternal self and its fulfillment that has been presented by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in Bhagavad-gita As It Is.—SDG