A talk given in October 1968 by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, at the Hare Krsna center in Seattle.
We are worshiping Govinda, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the original person. And this song we were just singing—govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami—is reaching Him. He's hearing it. You cannot say He's not hearing it. Especially in this scientific age, when radio messages are broadcast thousands and thousands of miles so you can hear them, it is easy to understand how Govinda, Krsna, can hear your sincere prayer.
Similarly, just as you can see a television picture transmitted from thousands and thousands of miles away, you can always see Govinda in your heart if you prepare yourself properly. This is stated in Brahma-samhita [5.38]: premanjana-cchurita bhakti-vilocanena santah sadaiva hrdayesu vilokayanti. There is a television within your heart; it is not that you have to purchase the television set—it is there in your heart. And God is also there. You can see Him, you can hear Him, you can talk with Him, provided you repair the machine. And this repairing process is Krsna consciousness.
Now, to repair a television an expert technician is required. Similarly, you require the help of someone expert in the science of Krsna consciousness. Then the machine in your heart will work and you will be able to see Krsna. This is the perfection of yoga.
In the scriptures we hear how one can come to this perfection: sadhu-sastra-guru-vakya cittete kariya aikya. Spiritual realization can be perfected by following three parallel lines: sadhu (saintly persons who are realized souls), sastra (authoritative Vedic scriptures), and guru (the spiritual master). In the railway yard you see two parallel tracks, and if they're in order the railway carriages go very smoothly to their destination. In Krsna consciousness there are three parallel lines: association with saintly persons (sadhu), faith in the scriptures (sastra), and acceptance of a bona fide spiritual master (guru). If you place your vehicle on these three parallel lines, it will go directly to Krsna, without any disturbance.
Now, here in the Bhagavad-gita, Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is explaining Himself. But suppose you say, "How can I believe that Krsna said these words? Somebody may have written them in the name of Krsna." No. Because the Bhagavad-gita is accepted by saintly persons, we should also accept it. Beginning from Vyasadeva and Narada, down to many acaryas [spiritual exemplars] like Ramanujacarya, Madhvacarya, Visnu-svami, and Lord Caitanya, all have accepted Bhagavad-gita: "Yes, it is spoken by God, Krsna." So this is the proof that Bhagavad-gita is authentic. Saintly persons, sadhus, have accepted Bhagavad-gita as scripture; therefore it is scripture. That is the test.
This is a common-sense affair. If lawyers accept some book as a lawbook, then we should understand that it is an authoritative lawbook. You cannot say, "Why should I accept this lawbook?" The evidence is that the lawyers have accepted it. Similarly, if the medical practitioners accept a book as authoritative, then we should know that it is an authoritative medical book. In the same way, since saintly persons accept Bhagavad-gita as scripture, you cannot deny that it is scripture. So these are the two lines of sadhu and sastra, saintly persons and scripture.
And who is a guru, a spiritual master? He who follows and explains the scripture. The sadhu confirms the scripture, and the spiritual master follows and explains the scripture. So sadhu, sastra, and guru are always in agreement. What is spoken in the scripture is accepted by saintly persons, and what is spoken in the scripture is followed and explained by the spiritual master, and he explains only that. The via media is the scripture, just as in the law court the via media is the lawbook. So the saintly persons, the scriptures, and the spiritual master: when you follow these three parallel lines your life is successful.
Now, here in the beginning of the Seventh Chapter of Bhagavad-gita Krsna is speaking about yoga. In the first six chapters He has explained the constitutional position of the living entity. Until that is understood, your activities in yoga, in relation to Krsna, cannot actually begin. Suppose you are working in an office. If your post is not settled up—if you don't know what duties you have to execute—you cannot do anything very nicely. The typist, the clerk, the errand boy—they are executing their work very nicely because they understand their duties. Therefore, to practice yoga one first has to understand the constitutional position of the living entity, and that is explained in the first six chapters of Bhagavad-gita.
So yoga means to understand one's constitutional position and to act in that position. The first step is controlling the senses (yogam indriya-samyamah). Now everyone is busy gratifying the senses. When you stand on the street, you see that everybody is very busy. The storekeeper is busy, the motorcar driver is busy—everyone is very busy. How are they busy? If you minutely study their business, you will find that their only business is sense gratification. That's all. Everyone is busy trying to gratify his senses. This is material life. And spiritual life, or yoga, means to control the senses and understand our constitutional position as spirit souls.
One's spiritual life begins when one asks, What am I? Why have I come here? Why am I put into so many miserable conditions? Is there any remedy? When these questions arise, our spiritual life begins. And human life is meant for answering these questions. Animals do not know anything except sense gratification. They have no power of understanding; their consciousness is not developed. For example, in Green Lake Park there are many ducks. As soon as somebody goes there with a little food, they gather: "Kaa, kaa, kaa, kaa." And after eating, they enjoy sex. That's all. The life of cats and dogs is like that also, and human life is also like that if one never asks. What am I? If one is simply directed by the urges of the senses, one is no better than the ducks and dogs.
So in the first six chapters of Bhagavad-gita Krsna explains that the living entity is a spiritual spark. It is very difficult to find out where the spark is because it is so minute. No microscope can find it out. But it is there in your body. Because it is in your body, you are moving, you are talking, you are planning—you are doing so many things simply by the influence of that spiritual spark.
We are very minute sparks of the Supreme Spirit, just like particles of sunshine. The sun's rays are made up of shining particles, and when these shining particles mix together they form sunshine. Similarly, we are minute particles of God, and because we are part and parcel of God we have the same propensities as God: thinking, feeling, willing, creating—everything. Whatever you see in yourself is there in God also. Therefore, since we are all persons God cannot be impersonal. I have so many propensities in a very minute quantity, and the same propensities are there in Krsna, or God, in an unlimited quantity. This is the science of Krsna consciousness.
We are small, infinitesimal, yet we still have so many propensities, so many desires, so many activities, so much brainwork. Just imagine how much greater are God's desires and activities and brainwork! So qualitatively God and the living entity are one, but quantitatively we are different. He is great, we are small. He is infinite, we are infinitesimal.
Now, when sparks are in the fire they glow very nicely, but when they are out of the fire they are extinguished. Similarly, since we are sparks of Krsna, when we associate with Him our illuminating quality is manifested. Otherwise, we are practically extinguished, or covered. The living spark cannot be extinguished. If it were extinguished, how are we manifesting our living condition? No, it is not extinguished; it is covered. When a fire is covered you can feel heat on the cover, but you cannot see the fire directly. Similarly, when the spiritual spark is covered by the material dress, the body, you can see the effects of the spark—your activities of life—but you cannot see the spark directly. To see the spiritual spark directly, to uncover your original spiritual nature, you must practice yoga.
In the first verse of the Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita Krsna explains the yoga process: mayy asakta-manah partha yogam yunjan mad-asrayah. You have to constantly engage your mind in thoughts of Krsna. That is the yoga process we are presenting as Krsna consciousness. And it is not very difficult. Krsna is beautiful, all-attractive, and He has many activities. The Vedic literature is full of Krsna's activities. And the Bhagavad-gita is full of Krsna's teachings. Simply understanding that God is great is a neutral state of understanding. You have to elevate yourself more and more by understanding how great He is. Of course, it is not possible to fully understand how great He is, because our senses are always imperfect, but as far as possible we should try. You can hear about the activities of God, about the position of God, and you can put your argument and make your judgment. Then you will understand without any doubt what God is.
So real yoga is mayy asakta-manah, always thinking of Krsna. At the end of the Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita Krsna explains that one who is constantly absorbed in thoughts of Him is a first-class yogi. In your country yoga is very popular, but you do not know who is a first-class yogi. Krsna says, yoginam api sarvesam mad-gatenantaratmana. "Out of many thousands of yogis, he who is always seeing the form of Krsna within his heart is first class."
So you have to practice that first-class yoga system, which Krsna describes as mayy asakta-manah: "Make your mind attached to Me." The mind is the vehicle for attachment, and generally we become attached to a person—a boy, a girl, and so on. Impersonal attachment is bogus. So yoga begins by attaching the mind to Krsna, by always thinking of Krsna, and culminates in love of Krsna. For example [Pointing to a picture], here is a picture of Srimati Radharani loving Krsna and offering a garland to Him as He plays on His flute. So you can always think of this picture; then you will constantly be in samadhi [yogic trance]. Why try to think of something impersonal, some void? If you try to think of the void, you will start thinking of some light, some color—so many things will come into your mind. The mind must think of some form. How can we avoid form? It is not possible. Therefore, why not concentrate your mind on the supreme form, Krsna?
Isvarah paramah krsnah sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Supreme Controller, is Krsna, and He has a body. What sort of body? Sac-cid-ananda: an eternal body, full of bliss and full of knowledge. Not a body like ours. Our body is full of ignorance, full of miseries, and not eternal—just the opposite of Krsna's. His body is eternal, my body is not eternal. His body is full of bliss, my body is full of miseries. There is always something troubling us: headache, toothache, this ache, that ache. Somebody is giving us personal trouble, we are feeling severe heat, severe cold—so many things. But Krsna's form, Krsna's body, is eternally full of bliss and knowledge.
So Krsna consciousness means always thinking of Krsna's form, name, pastimes, and so on. How can we practice this yoga system, Krsna consciousness? Mayy asakta-manah partha yogam yunjan mad-asrayah. Mad-asrayah means "taking shelter of somebody who is in touch with Me." As soon as you think of Krsna you are in direct touch with Him. But unless you take shelter of a spiritual master who knows about Him, you cannot concentrate for a long time; your concentration will be temporary. Therefore, if you want to concentrate on Krsna continuously, you have to hear from a person who knows about Krsna, and you have to act according to his directions. Your life should be molded according to the directions of the spiritual master. Then you can practice yoga perfectly.
As mentioned before, Krsna explains the perfection of yoga in the last verse of the Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita. Yoginam api sarvesam mad-gatenantaratmana: "One who is always thinking of Me is a first-class yogi." So we have to place Krsna in our mind; we have to always think of Him. How? Krsna explains (Bg. 7.1],
mayy asakta-manah partha
"Under My protection, under the protection of My representative, always think of Me. Then you will understand Me perfectly well, without doubt, and your life will be successful." Asamsayam means "without any doubt." If you doubt that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, just put forward your questions and try to understand. It is undoubtedly a fact that He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but if you have some doubt, you can clear it up by placing questions before the spiritual master.
So if you practice Krsna consciousness, the topmost of all yoga systems, in this way, then without any doubt you'll understand Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, perfectly well. And your life will be successful.
Thank you very much.
Poland's Double Darkness
As we in the "free world" watch the Poles agonize under martial law,
by Suhotra dasa
Forty-three years ago, on September 1, 1939, World War II began in Europe with the invasion of Poland by Hitler's Wehrmacht. After a month of valiant resistance, the hopelessly outgunned and outnumbered Polish Army surrendered. On October 3 the Germans staged a victory march through the streets of Warsaw, a cynical celebration that marked the beginning of a five-year rampage of Nazi oppression, pillage, and genocide. In April 1940 Hitler's army invaded Denmark and Norway and brought them quickly to heel. Shortly thereafter, the Nazis conquered Belgium, France, and the Netherlands, and then Yugoslavia and Greece. A British news commentator anguished, "The lights are going out all over Europe."
Perhaps it was the recollection of that grim time, or simply the aptness of the metaphor, that a few months ago led the editors of Time magazine to headline their cover "Poland's Ordeal: The Darkness Descends." General Jaruzelski had just clamped down martial law on Poland, at the instigation and with the undercover help of his Soviet bosses. (There were even reports that some of the "Polish" troops we're actually Russians in Polish uniforms.) Solidarity was virtually crushed; its leader, Lech Walesa, arrested and silenced; the West forced to stand by helplessly. The darkness of totalitarian repression had indeed descended once more and snuffed out the glimmers of political freedom in Poland.
Viewed from the perspective of Vedic knowledge, however, the events in Poland carry a deeper meaning. The longings of the Polish people for political freedom and economic well-being are actually misguided expressions of the soul's longings for liberation from the miseries of life in the material world. Why misguided? Because even if—miracle of miracles—Solidarity had triumphed and the Polish people had won full political freedom and economic self-determination, the iron shackles of the fundamental material miseries would have remained. Every Pole would still have had to suffer old age, disease, death, and rebirth in another body. Ignorance of how to gain freedom from this bondage is the real darkness in Poland.
This darkness is not merely a Polish affliction, however. Human society East and West is suffering from ignorance of the real self, and this ignorance is a direct result of the predominant ideologies guiding the world's leaders. Capitalism and communism are simply two varieties of materialism, a philosophy that identifies the psychophysical body as the self. Materialism, defining reality as nothing more than the temporary embodied life of sensual perception and action, thus directs human endeavor toward the enjoyment of sense objects. This goal is the same as that of the animals, who also accept their sense perceptions as all in all. So it is not surprising that the philosophy of materialism results in people leading lives closely resembling, in essence, those of lower species—lives of hard struggle for physical survival, lives revolving around defense, eating, mating, and sleep.
The Vedic literatures assure us that the living being can attain a state of existence higher than this, and they urge each of us to try to reach this state by cultivating transcendental knowledge. Indeed, if a human being doesn't rise above the consciousness of animalistic sense pleasure, the Vedic scriptures judge his life a tragic waste. Says the Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.9.29), the foremost text for understanding the science of Krsna consciousness: "After many embodiments one attains a human form, which is difficult to achieve. Although mortal, it allows one to fulfill life's purpose. Having obtained this form, a sober person should quickly endeavor for God realization before death comes. He should not worry too much about his physical maintenance, for, after all, sense pleasure is available everywhere" (Bhag. 11.9.29).
The Bhagavad-gita, another basic Vedic text, teaches that the realm of sense perception is maya, or illusion, because it is temporary and always imperfect, no matter how hard we struggle to improve it. Reality lies beyond the flickering sensual realm, in the eternal, unchanging realm of the spirit. A person who perceives his existence in the light of transcendence knows he's not his temporary body—not a Pole, American, or Russian; not a capitalist, communist, or nationalist; not a Hindu, Moslem, or Jew. Such a knower of the truth sees himself as a soul (jivatma), an eternal particle of pure consciousness, whose only real duty is to serve Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
In this world of illusion we have misdirected our service because of maya's influence, and thus we foolishly serve our senses and their extensions: family, society, party, nation, and so on. Although we may sometimes achieve some apparent happiness or success in such service, its ultimate result is inevitably the destruction of the present body and the continuation of the soul's ignorance and suffering in future embodied lives under the law of karma, the law of action and reaction. Neither peace nor happiness is possible for the eternal soul as long as he remains in material consciousness. Therefore the Bhagavad-gita (2.71-2) advises, "A person who has given up all desires for sense pleasure, who lives free from desires, who has given up all sense of proprietorship, and who is devoid of false ego—he alone can attain real peace. If one is thus situated even at the hour of death, one can enter the kingdom of God."
Unfortunately, today's leaders are too enamored of the kingdoms of this world. Instead of imparting a sense of detachment to their people and leading them toward spiritual perfection, the leaders of both the capitalist and the communist nations strive to satisfy the demands of their people for ever greater material comfort and more consumer goods. But this is an impossible proposition that will always result in such miseries as those currently tormenting Poland and the rest of the world.
What society on this planet can claim to have solved the problems of birth, old age, disease, and death? Human reason pushes us to try to overcome these problems through medical technology, and any apparent headway we make is called progress. Indeed, we often measure the advancement of a nation by how far it has gone toward increasing longevity or eradicating such diseases as smallpox or tuberculosis. But despite all such achievements, humanity remains victimized by the same old miseries—birth, old age, disease, and death. We inevitably fail to conquer these intractable enemies because beneath it all we nurture their very sustenance: materialism, or the identification of the material body as the self.
In May 1981 President Reagan declared in a speech at Notre Dame University that the West would "transcend communism." Unhappily, Mr. Reagan's words and actions to date indicate that he simply meant the West would try to outproduce the communists economically, outmaneuver them diplomatically, and outflank them militarily. But the West cannot hope to avoid the same fate as the East if it does not transcend communism by implementing transcendental knowledge. In the Thirteenth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna explains that transcendental knowledge consists of understanding the ins and outs of the material world, the nature of the soul, and the position of the Supreme Soul, Lord Krsna Himself. And the result of such knowledge? "When one is enlightened with transcendental knowledge, by which nescience is destroyed, then this knowledge reveals everything, just as the sun lights up everything in the daytime" (Bg. 5.16).
At present, the West does seem to have a certain advantage over the Soviet Union, but that advantage is based only upon temporal, material wealth, which can at any time be destroyed by a sudden turn of international events. Any ideological system that defines reality as nothing more than the consumption of sense objects by the material body will be subject to the same fate as the body: destruction by the inexorable force of time. President Reagan's prophecy will come true only when the West transcends the bodily concept of life and bases its culture and civilization on the eternal platform of spiritual reality.
As long as the leaders of the Western world continue to preach the doctrine of materialism, they will remain blind to the real goal of human existence, devotional service to God. If blind men lead a blind populace in the West as well as the East, how can we expect anything good to come of it? The entire world is devoid of spiritual light, and only by the systematic introduction of genuine spiritual knowledge into human society can any light return anywhere.
Drawing Inspiration From a Rich Devotional Heritage
The lives and writings of two great Krsna conscious teachers
by Srila Satsvarupa dasa Goswami
(Excerpted from Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami. 1981 by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.)
Devotion to Lord Krsna had always been the main current in the life of Srila Prabhupada, born Abhay Charan De. His father had lovingly raised him as a devotee of the Lord and prayed that he would become a preacher of Krsna consciousness. But for Abhay the culmination of his father s training came in 1922, in his twenty-sixth year, when he met Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. Abhay felt strongly drawn to this powerful, scholarly preacher and accepted him in his heart as his spiritual master.
What Srila Bhaktisiddhanta spoke at that first meeting was not new to Abhay: he had known from early childhood about Lord Caitanya and the philosophy of Krsna consciousness. But how Srila Bhaktisiddhanta preached—his purity, his uncompromising arguments, his broad knowledge of the scriptures—all impressed Abhay deeply. He saw that the message of Krsna was in the hands of an expert devotee. So Abhay, filled with inspiration, turned toward the books by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and others to learn more about the spiritual heritage which he knew he would dedicate himself.
Abhay began to associate more with the Gaudiya Math devotees after his first meeting with Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. They gave him books and told him the history of their spiritual master.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was one of ten children born to Bhaktivinoda Thakura, a great Vaisnava teacher in the disciplic line from Lord Caitanya Himself. Before the time of Bhaktivinoda, the teachings of Lord Caitanya had been obscured by teachers and sects falsely claiming to be followers of Lord Caitanya but deviating in various drastic ways from His pure teachings. The good reputation of Vaisnavism had been compromised. Bhaktivinoda Thakura, however, through his prolific writings and through his social position as a high government officer, reestablished the respectability of Vaisnavism. He preached that the teachings of Lord Caitanya were the highest form of theism and were intended not for a particular sect or religion or nation but for all the people of the world. He prophesied that Lord Caitanya's teachings would go worldwide, and he yearned for this.
The religion preached by [Chaitanya] Mahaprabhu is universal and not exclusive.... The principle of kirtan [congregational chanting of God's names] as the future church of the world invites all classes of men, without distinction of caste or clan, to the highest cultivation of the spirit. This church, it appears, will extend all over the world and take the place of all sectarian churches, which exclude outsiders from the precincts of the mosque, church, or temple.
Lord Chaitanya did not advent Himself to liberate only a few men of India. Rather, His main objective was to emancipate all living entities of all countries throughout the entire universe and preach the Eternal Religion. Lord Chaitanya says in the Chaitanya Bhagwat: "In every town, country, and village, My name will be sung." There is no doubt that this unquestionable order will come to pass. . . . Although there is still no pure society of Vaishnavas [devotees of Krsna] to be had, yet Lord Chaitanya's prophetic words will in a few days come true, I am sure. Why not? Nothing is absolutely pure in the beginning. From imperfection, purity will come about.
Oh, for that day when the fortunate English, French, Russian, German, and American people will take up banners, mridangas [drums] and kartals [cymbals] and raise kirtan through the streets and towns. When will that day come?
As a prominent magistrate, Bhaktivinoda Thakura was a responsible government officer. He served also as superintendent of the temple of Lord Jagannatha and was the father of ten children. Yet amidst all these responsibilities, he served the cause of Krsna with prodigious energy. After coming home from his office in the evening, taking his meals, and going to bed, he would sleep from eight until midnight and then get up and write until morning. He wrote more than one hundred books during his life, many of them in English.
One of his important contributions, with the cooperation of Jagannatha dasa Babaji and Gaurakisora dasa Babaji, was to locate the exact birthplace of Lord Caitanya in Mayapur, about sixty miles north of Calcutta.
While working to reform Gaudiya Vaisnavism in India, he prayed to Lord Caitanya, "Your teachings have much depreciated. It is not in my power to restore them." And he prayed for a son to help him in his preaching. When, on February 6, 1874, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was born to Bhaktivinoda Thakura in Jagannatha Puri, the Vaisnavas considered him the answer to his father's prayers. He was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and draped across his chest like the sacred thread worn by brahmanas. His parents gave him the name Bimala Prasada.
When Bimala Prasada was six months old, the carts of the Jagannatha festival stopped at the gate of Bhaktivinoda's residence and for three days could not be moved. Bhaktivinoda Thakura's wife brought the infant onto the cart and approached the Deity of Lord Jagannatha. Spontaneously, the infant extended his arms and touched the feet of Lord Jagannatha and was immediately blessed with a garland that fell from the body of the Lord. When Bhaktivinoda Thakura learned that the Lord's garland had fallen onto his son, he realized that this was the son for whom he had prayed.
One day, when Bimala Prasada was still a child of no more than four years, his father mildly rebuked him for eating a mango not yet duly offered to Lord Krsna. Bimala Prasada, although only a child, considered himself an offender to the Lord and vowed never to eat mangoes again. (This was a vow that he followed throughout his life.) By the time Bimala Prasada was seven years old, he had memorized the entire Bhagavad-gita and could even explain its verses. His father then began training him in proofreading and printing, in conjunction with the publishing of the Vaisnava magazine Sajjana-tosani. With his father, he visited many holy places and heard discourses from the learned panditas.
As a student, Bimala Prasada preferred to read the books written by his father instead of the school texts. By the time he was twenty-five he had become well-versed in Sanskrit, mathematics, and astronomy, and he had established himself as the author and publisher of many magazine articles and a commentary on one book, Surya-siddhanta, for which he received the epithet Siddhanta Sarasvati in recognition of his erudition. When he was twenty-six his father guided him to take initiation from a renounced Vaisnava saint, Gaurakisora dasa Babaji, who advised him "to preach the Absolute Truth and keep aside all other works." Receiving the blessings of Gaurakisora dasa Babaji, Bimala Prasada (now Siddhanta Sarasvati) firmly resolved to dedicate his body, mind, and words to the service of Lord Krsna.
In 1905 Siddhanta Sarasvati took a vow to chant the Hare Krsna mantra a billion times. Residing in Mayapur in a grass hut near the birthplace of Lord Caitanya, he chanted the Hare Krsna mantra day and night. He cooked rice once a day in an earthen pot and ate nothing more; he slept on the ground, and when the rainwater leaked through the grass ceiling, he sat beneath an umbrella, chanting.
In 1911, while his aging father was lying ill, Siddhanta Sarasvati took up a challenge against pseudo Vaisnavas who claimed that birth in their caste was the prerequisite for preaching Krsna consciousness. The caste-conscious brahmana community had become incensed by Bhaktivinoda Thakura's presentation of many scriptural proofs that anyone, regardless of birth, could become a brahmana-Vaisnava. These smarta-brahmanas, out to prove the inferiority of the Vaisnavas, arranged a discussion. On behalf of his indisposed father, young Siddhanta Sarasvati wrote an essay, "The Conclusive Difference Between the Brahmana and the Vaisnava," and submitted it before his father. Despite his poor health, Bhaktivinoda Thakura was elated to hear the arguments that would soundly defeat the challenge of the smartas.
Siddhanta Sarasvati then traveled to Midnapore, where panditas from all over India had gathered for a three-day discussion. Some of the smarta-panditas who spoke first claimed that anyone born in a family of sudras (manual laborers), even though initiated by a spiritual master, could never become purified and perform the brahminical duties of worshiping the Deity or initiating disciples. Finally, Siddhanta Sarasvati delivered his speech. He began quoting Vedic references glorifying the brahmanas, and at this the smarta scholars became very much pleased. But when he began discussing the actual qualifications for becoming a brahmana, the qualities of the Vaisnavas, the relationship between the two, and who, according to Vedic literature, is qualified to become a spiritual master and initiate disciples, then the joy of the Vaisnava-haters disappeared. Siddhanta Sarasvati conclusively proved from the scriptures that if one is born as a sudra but exhibits the qualities of a brahmana, then he should be honored as a brahmana, despite his birth. And if one is born in a brahmana family but acts like a Sudra, then he is not a brahmana. After his speech, Siddhanta Sarasvati was congratulated by the president of the conference, and thousands thronged around him. It was a victory for Vaisnavism.
With the passing away of his father in 1914 and his spiritual master in 1915, Siddhanta Sarasvati continued the mission of Lord Caitanya. He assumed the editorship of Sajjana-tosani and established the Bhagwat Press in Krishnanagar. Then in 1918, in Mayapur, he sat down before a picture of Gaurakisora dasa Babaji and initiated himself into the sannyasa order. At this time he assumed the sannyasa title Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Maharaja.
Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was dedicated to using the printing press as the best medium for large-scale distribution of Krsna consciousness. He thought of the printing press as a brhat mrdanga, a big mrdanga. Although the mrdanga drum had traditionally been used to accompany kirtana, even during the time of Lord Caitanya, and although Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati himself led kirtana parties and sent groups of devotees chanting in the streets and playing on the mrdangas, such kirtanas could be heard only for a block or two. But with the brhat mrdanga, the big mrdanga drum of the printing press, the message of Lord Caitanya could be spread all over the world.
Most of the literature Abhay began reading had been printed on the Bhagwat Press, which Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati had established in 1915. The Bhagwat Press had printed Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami's Caitanya-caritamrta, with commentary by Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, the Bhagavad-gita, with commentary by Visvanatha Cakravarti, and, one after another, the works of Bhaktivinoda Thakura. This literature was the spiritual heritage coming from Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who had appeared almost five hundred years before.
Abhay had been a devotee of Lord Caitanya since childhood, and he was familiar with the life of Lord Caitanya through the well-known scriptures Caitanya-caritamrta and Caitanya-bhagavata. He had learned of Lord Caitanya not only as the most ecstatic form of a pure devotee who had spread the chanting of the holy name to all parts of India, but also as the direct appearance of Sri Krsna Himself in the form of Radha and Krsna combined. But now, for the first time, Abhay was in touch with the great wealth of literature compiled by the Lord's immediate associates and followers, passed down in disciplic succession, and expounded on by great authorities Lord Caitanya's immediate followers—Srila Rupa Gosvami, Srila Sanatana Gosvami, Srila Jiva Gosvami, and others—had compiled many volumes based on the Vedic scriptures and proving conclusively that Lord Caitanya's teachings were the essence of Vedic wisdom. There were many books not yet published, but Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was intent on establishing many presses, just to release the sound of the brhat mrdanga for the benefit of all people.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was teaching the conclusion of Lord Caitanya's teachings, that Lord Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and that chanting of His holy name should be stressed above all other religious practices. In former ages, other methods of attaining to God had been available, but in the present Age of Kali only the chanting of Hare Krsna would be effective. On the authority of the scriptures such as the Brhan-naradiya Purana and the Upanisads, Bhaktivinoda Thakura had specifically cited the maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Lord Krsna Himself had confirmed in Bhagavad-gita that the only method of attaining Him was devotional service: "Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. 1 shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear."
Abhay knew these verses, he knew the chanting, and he knew the conclusions of the Bhagavad-gita. But now, as he eagerly read the writings of the great acaryas, he had fresh realizations of the scope of Lord Caitanya's mission. Now he was discovering the depth of his own Vaisnava heritage and its efficacy for bringing about the highest welfare for people in an age destined to be full of troubles.
The biography of Srila Prabhupada continues next month with an account of his formal initiation by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura.
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I'm a fifth-grader from Saudi Arabia. I was born in New Jersey, U.S.A. My parents are Hindu. I am Hindu too. I would like to know how man was made and how the earth was made too. I would love it if you wrote me a letter and told me how they were created.
Miss Anjna Nain
Modern scientists invent many theories about creation, but because material scientists are limited and defective in so many ways, none of their accounts are trustworthy. In the West people are attracted to such speculative theories because the description of creation in the Bible is so skimpy that it doesn't satisfy their curiosity. But if we turn to the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the foremost of the ancient Vedic literatures of India, we find an account of creation that is both complete and trustworthy, because it is delivered by the Creator Himself, who is in the best position to know.
The material cosmos is much older and much vaster than we could ever discover from our own observations. The universe in which we live is now about 155 ½ trillion years old and has about the same amount of time left before it will be destroyed. But the creation of our universe was not the first creation, nor will it be the last. Nor is ours the only universe.
In fact, material universes are created and destroyed in regular cycles, and these cycles have been going on endlessly, since time immemorial. During each cycle of creation, hundreds of billions of universes come into being. Yet this whole material creation is only a tiny part of God's kingdom. Because this part is material, it is created and destroyed, but beyond this is the eternal, spiritual world, where there is no creation or destruction. There the liberated souls eternally live on spiritual planets in direct association with the Personality of Godhead. This material creation, like a prison house in God's kingdom, is the place for conditioned souls who want to forget God and be independent of Him. But here they can also be reformed and learn how to return to their forgotten, eternal homeland. God's personal abode.
At the beginning of creation there forms in one corner of the limitless spiritual sky a kind of cloud called the mahat-tattva, God's material energy, where all the material elements and forces are merged together. Later they are separated out one by one (this is described in detail in Srimad-Bhagavatam), just as cream, whey, curds, butter, ghee, and so on can be separated from milk. Within this cloud a gigantic expansion of Krsna called Maha-Visnu lies down in mystic slumber. Whenever He breathes out, billions of seedling universes come gushing out of His nostrils and skin pores. These universes develop into hollow balls that float on the mahat-tattva ocean like clusters of soap bubbles. They last for many trillions of years, until Maha-Visnu breathes in and draws them back into Himself. After many more trillions of years He breathes out again, and there is a new creation as before.
After the universes come out of Maha-Visnu, an expansion of His called Garbhodakasayi Visnu enters into the hollow interior of each one and fills it half full of water. Garbhodakasayi Visnu then lies down on this water, floating on a bed made by an expansion of His called Ananta Sesa, who appears like a many-headed serpent. From the navel of Garbhodakasayi Visnu a lotus grows; the bud opens, and in the center sits Lord Brahma, the first created being. He is the engineer of the universe.
After eons of severe penance, Brahma becomes inspired by Krsna with the knowledge to complete the creation. Krsna also provides the seeds of the creation as well as the ingredients, and Brahma then creates all the planetary systems, controlling deities, and species of life. (Thus the acts of creation described in the beginning of the Bible are performed not by God Himself but by His deputed agent, Brahma.) Brahma produces offspring from his own body, and these multiply and go forth to become the human races on the various planets in our universe. Brahma also helps the Lord reclaim fallen souls from the material world by forming a spiritual party for preaching Krsna consciousness throughout the universe. This party, called the Brahma-sampradaya, is still active today in the form of the Krsna consciousness movement.
Of course, this is just a brief summary of the creation. We hope you will go on to read more about it in the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
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In your magazine you recommend that Bhakti Yoga [devotional service to Krsna] is most applicable for self-realization in Kali-yuga [the present age]. But what about Lord Shiva? Has Shiva gained self-realization? What is his position as far as knowledge of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is concerned? Can we say that Shiva is one with the Father? How did Shiva come to be the ruler of a planet in which there is no occurrence of birth and death? Is he ever in misery?
Yes, Lord Siva is certainly self-realized—in fact, he is more than self-realized, because he is a pure devotee of Lord Visnu (Krsna), the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Sometimes he is even described as the most exalted devotee of Lord Visnu (vaisnavanam yatha sambhuh).
The position of Lord Siva is unique. He is not the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, so he is not on an equal level with Visnu. But he is also not an ordinary living being like you and me. He is in an exalted position all his own.
The Brahma-samhita describes that Lord Siva is almost on the same level as Lord Visnu, the Supreme Lord. The difference is that Lord Visnu never comes in touch with the material energy. When He sets the material creation in motion at the beginning of the universal creation. He does so merely by His glance, from a distance, and He Himself remains in a completely transcendental position, in the company of His spiritual energy, represented by Sri Laksmi. Lord Siva, however, by Lord Visnu's desire, comes directly in touch with the material energy. In fact, his consort—known as Devi, Durga, Parvati, or by many other names—personifies the material energy.
The Brahma-samhita explains the relationship between Lord Visnu and Lord Siva by giving an example. When milk comes in touch with something sour, its quality changes, and it becomes yogurt. Yogurt is actually nothing but milk, but it is not quite the same. Similarly, Lord Siva is identical with Lord Visnu Himself, but because Lord Siva comes in touch with the material energy, his identity is associated with material qualities. So he is not in a position as exalted as that of Lord Visnu, the supreme transcendental Lord.
Lord Visnu is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, and Lord Siva is one of the demigods. They are never to be considered equal in all respects. Lord Visnu is the supreme master of all, and Lord Siva is His eternal servant.
Because Lord Siva is a great devotee of Lord Visnu, he has intimate knowledge of Lord Visnu, and he is also free from all material miseries. He has a special abode, between the material world and the spiritual world, that is free from the birth and death of material existence.
Popular wisdom said, "A brahmana is someone born in a brahmana family."
By Vasu-Ghosa Dasa
Back in 1966, sometime in September, Allen Ginsberg dropped by a little Hare Krsna temple in a storefront on New York's Lower East Side. He had come to meet His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, a seventy-year-old Indian svami who had come to America to fulfill his spiritual master's order that he bring Krsna consciousness to the English- speaking people of the world. At the end of their meeting, Mr. Ginsberg asked Srila Prabhupada, "Do you really intend to make these Americans into Vaisnavas [devotees of Visnu or Krsna]?"
"Yes," Srila Prabhupada replied, "and I will make them all brahmanas."
This conviction of Srila Prabhupada's—that he could turn Westerners into qualified brahmanas—astonished Allen Ginsberg, and in the years that followed it would also astonish many people in India and around the world who had preconceived notions about who could and who could not be a brahmana. The Vedic scriptures clearly direct us to look at person's qualities and activities to determine whether or not he is a brahmana, but in India this direction is generally either unknown or ignored. Instead, most people there believe that the sole criterion for being a brahmana is birth in a family of brahmanas. In the early part of this century Srila Prabhupada's spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, saw the great need for reviving pure brahminical culture in the modern world and strove to train a class of genuine brahmanas in India. And Srila Prabhupada followed his spiritual master's example when he came to the West.
The fundamentals of brahminical culture are outlined in the Bhagavad-gita, a book widely revered as the essence of Vedic wisdom. Early in that work Lord Krsna, who is God Himself, explains that He has created four natural divisions in society according to work and quality. These are the brahmanas (intellectuals), the ksatriyas (military and political leaders), the vaisyas (farmers and merchants), and the sudras (servants of the higher classes, or manual laborers). Later in the Bhagavad-gita Krsna explains the qualities of the brahmanas: "Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, wisdom, knowledge, and religiousness—these are the qualities that brahmanas display in their activities" (Bg. 18.42).
At present the world lacks the guidance of such persons. Instead, we are led by people motivated by greed, lust for power, or perverted ideologies. The basic principle, of course, is the overweening desire for sense pleasure. Lord Krsna explains in Bhagavad-gita that this desire destroys one's intelligence and brings hellish punishment both in this life and the next. But because such leaders either disbelieve in God outright or else have no systematic knowledge of His instructions or His powers, they feel they can do anything with impunity. Thus they insure a dark future for themselves and those they lead.
The Vedic literatures contain that systematic knowledge our present leaders lack. Vedic knowledge teaches that we are not our material bodies but rather spiritual souls, part and parcel of the Supreme Soul, Krsna, or the Absolute Truth. And one who knows the Absolute Truth, or the Supreme Brahman, is a brahmana (brahma janatiti brahmana). The need today is to train a class of genuine brahmanas who possess the aforementioned qualities and who know the relationship between matter, spirit, and the controller of both. With these qualities and this knowledge they will truly be able to guide people to the ultimate goal of life—liberation from the painful cycle of birth and death and entrance into the eternal, blissful kingdom of God.
But, you may say, such guidance seems impractical. How can it help us in our everyday lives? The answer is that although the ultimate goal of brahminical culture is liberation from the material world, it is not in any sense quixotic. Genuine brahmanas provide invaluable guidance in the day-to-day affairs of society. It is this dual approach that Srila Prabhupada offered: spiritual ideals based on broad scriptural knowledge along with practical instruction in everyday life. By his teachings and his own example of impeccable brahminical behavior, Srila Prabhupada inspired his Western followers to rise to the brahminical standard and take on the duties of qualified brahmanas.
Unfortunately, many people in India still cling to the idea that only a person born in a brahmana family can be a brahmana—an idea completely antithetical to the Vedic scriptures. A son of a Justice of the Supreme Court is not automatically entitled to sit on the bench when he comes of age. He must qualify himself by earning a law degree, passing the bar examination, and distinguishing himself in legal affairs. Similarly, one who claims to be a brahmana must back up his claim by acting like one.
Today many Indians born in brahmana families are earning their livelihood doing menial service. According to Bhagavad-gita, this makes them sudras. Of course, such work is respectable if done sincerely and honestly, but a person who works in this way cannot claim to be a brahmana. A brahmana is also known as a dvija, "one who is twice-born." This indicates that a true brahmana takes a second birth by virtue of his knowledge of the Absolute Truth and his dedication to purity of mind, body, and words. Only then is he fit to wear the traditional sacred thread.
Now however, people are simply paying a few cents for a brahminical thread and wearing it as a status symbol, ignoring the responsibilities it entails. We see many sons of brahmanas doing abominable things—eating meat, drinking liquor, associating with loose women—yet insisting they are brahmanas. Many such so-called brahmanas are atheists, in direct contradiction to Lord Krsna's injunction in the Bhagavad-gita that a brahmana must be religious. Most important, these pseudo-brahmanas perform none of the activities of genuine brahmanas.
In the Seventh Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the chief of the traditional Vedic texts known as the Puranas, the sage Narada prescribes six basic duties for a brahmana: studying the Vedas, teaching the Vedas, worshiping the Deity form of Krsna in the temple, teaching others how to worship the Deity, accepting charity on behalf of the Lord, and giving charity. The vast majority of today's brahmanas in India practice hardly any of these activities regularly. And we do not have to search far to find out why. India proclaims itself a secular state, and in a secular state public schools cannot teach religion. Therefore few schools are teaching the Vedic knowledge, let alone the Vedic mantras necessary to perform brahminical duties. Modern children are taught right from first grade that there is no God and that India has to deny its own religious tradition so that it can enter the modern technological world. The result of all this atheistic propaganda is the mess we find our youngsters in today.
So the urgent need is for qualified brahmanas who will teach the science of God in institutions of learning and provide brahminical guidance in institutions of government. Making this ideal a reality is the mission of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). As Srila Prabhupada writes in his commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.11.14): "Sometimes [Indian] brahmanas protest against our Krsna consciousness movement for creating brahmanas from Europeans and Americans, or in other words from mlecchas and yavanas [meat-eaters and low-class people]. This movement, however, is supported in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. At the present moment society is in a chaotic condition, and practically everyone has given up the cultivation of spiritual life, which is especially meant for the brahmanas. Because spiritual culture has been stopped all over the world, there is now an emergency, and therefore it is now time to train those who are considered lower and condemned so that they may become brahmanas and take up the work of spiritual progress."
Despite all criticism and in the face of severe difficulties, Srila Prabhupada succeeded in training genuine brahmanas—brahmanas who actually meet the standards of brahminical behavior set forth in Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. The brahmanas in ISKCON are studying these and other books of Vedic knowledge every day, and they are teaching millions of people the importance of this knowledge through widespread book distribution and by other means. They are chanting Vedic mantras, especially the maha-mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—and teaching others to do so. (Chanting Hare Krsna is the most highly recommended means for attaining spiritual perfection in the present Age of Quarrel.) They are regularly worshiping the Deity of Lord Krsna according to the strictest Vedic standards in nearly two hundred temples worldwide, and they are teaching these standards to newly initiated brahmanas. They are accepting charity from those who receive the transcendental literature they distribute, from friends of ISKCON, and from people who are simply interested in reviving brahminical culture. And they are giving charity by freely distributing prasadam (food offered to Krsna), by renovating holy places, by often giving out literature free, and in general by sacrificing their own comfort and safety to spread the science of Krsna consciousness.
These are just a few of the ways the Krsna consciousness movement is reviving brahminical culture, which is so sorely needed in the world today. We encourage everyone to help in this great task by following the simple principles of Krsna consciousness taught by Srila Prabhupada and his successors, by becoming a qualified brahmana oneself, and by teaching others to become brahmanas. In this way we shall all one day attain our real birthright—a place in the spiritual world as eternal servants of Lord Krsna.
On the Crucial Choice: To Be Controlled by Force—or by Love
The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place in January 1974 on an early-morning walk in Hawaii.
Devotee: Materialists think that everything in nature is meant for man, for his exploitation and enjoyment.
Srila Prabhupada: But when there is an arrangement there must be some higher supervision. You call it nature, and we accept that. In Bhagavad-gita [3.27] Krsna says, prakrteh kriyamanani gunaih karmani sarvasah: "Everything is being done by the direction of prakrti, nature." So nature is superior to you. You have to accept this, because you are being directed by nature.
Devotee: The materialists hope to become superior to nature.
Srila Prabhupada: That is rascaldom, foolishness. Krsna says,
The rascal's actions are all being dictated by nature, but he is thinking, "I am the lord." By self-conceit, he's falsely thinking, "I am controlling nature" or "I shall be able to to control nature in the future." This is foolishness. This is rascaldom.
Devotee: The scientists can give so much evidence that they have already achieved partial control over nature. Now we can fly all over the world—
Srila Prabhupada: Partial control means no control. We are controlled by nature; that you cannot deny. Now, the next question should be. How is nature working? That Krsna also explains in Bhagavad-gita [9.10]: mayadhyaksena prakrtih suyate sa-caracaram. "The material nature is working under My supervision." To a small degree, we are also supervising material nature. For example, here is some earth. We can take this earth and make it into bricks and build a skyscraper. It is not that the earth is going to become a skyscraper by itself. A living entity must utilize the earth to build the skyscraper. Another example is an airplane. It is simply a combination of various kinds of matter, but it has to be worked out by the manufacturer and flown by the pilot. Therefore the pilot of the airplane, or the manufacturer, is superior to the airplane itself.
Now, the elements of material nature (earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence, and ego) are working together so nicely, just like a big machine, that anyone can see they are being manipulated by some living entity. And that entity is God, or Krsna. So our position is that we are controlled by the material nature, and the material nature is controlled by Krsna. One who is at all sensible will think, "After all, the Supreme Controller is Krsna, so why not directly come under His control? Why not serve Him directly?" This is good sense.
Devotee: The difference between Krsna's control and that of the material nature seems to be that Krsna is benevolent but the material nature is not.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Material nature is just like a jail superintendent. If you don't care for the laws of the government, the laws of God, then you'll be controlled by the jail superintendent. That's all. You will be controlled; you cannot be free. This is your constitutional position.
Devotee: We have the choice of being controlled either by love or by force.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. When we decide to be controlled by Krsna, it is out of love for Him. Similarly, you are being controlled by me, but there is no force. You serve me voluntarily, out of love. I am not paying you; still, when I ask you to do something you immediately do it. Why? There is love between us.
Devotee: If a person actually understands the distinction between control by Krsna and control by the material nature, is it possible that he will still choose to be controlled by the material nature?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. He has already made that choice. But he's so foolish that he thinks, "I am now independent of the Supreme Lord." Because he's foolish he cannot understand that he is simply being controlled by an agent of God, the material nature. Although he is controlled at every moment, he is thinking, "I am free." Therefore he is in illusion. Illusion means "believing something that is not a fact." So the materialists and so-called scientists who are thinking, "There is no God; we are independent" are simply foolish, childish rascals. That is why Krsna uses the word vimudhatma to describe them. Vimudhatma means befooled rascal."
Devotee: Most people don't think life in the material nature is so bad. They think it's pleasurable. They think they're having fun.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. That is another illusion. Unless one thinks material life is pleasurable, how could he tolerate it? When we see a pig eating stool, we say, "Ughhh!" But unless the pig thinks, "This is pleasurable," how could he eat stool? He is eating the most abominable thing, but he is thinking, "I am enjoying." This is maya, illusion.
Devotee: Sometimes when we tell people this life is full of miseries, they say, "What do you mean?"
Srila Prabhupada: That is their foolishness. They cannot distinguish misery from happiness. They are being kicked by material nature, the agent of Krsna. Because they are desiring in various ways to become controllers or enjoyers, they are being offered various types of bodies and suffering repeated birth and death. But because people have no sense, they think this material life is pleasurable. Now, as Americans, you may have so many nice facilities, but you cannot enjoy them. By nature's force you have to change your position. What can you do? Today you may be living in a nice apartment on the twenty-fourth floor of a skyscraper, and tomorrow you may become a rat in that apartment. It is not in your power to change the laws of nature.
Actually, everyone is being controlled by the material nature at every moment. So an intelligent person asks how to get out of this material nature, how to end the suffering of repeated birth, old age, disease, and death. And Krsna explains how to end this suffering in Bhagavad-gita [7.14]: mam eva ye prapadyante mayam etam taranti te: "As soon as the rascal surrenders to Me, he is out of the control of My material nature." Surrendering to Krsna is real intelligence.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Radio ATMA on the Air in Paris
Paris—The International Society for Krishna Consciousness now broadcasts music and discussions on spiritual themes to the Paris area. Taking advantage of President Mitterand's policy of open access to the airwaves for private groups, devotees have mounted an 8,000-watt transmitter on the roof of their temple annex in the suburb of Suresnes and begun beaming Krsna conscious programs around the clock to fifteen million people in and around Paris.
While permission for a permanent station is pending. Radio ATMA 95 has initiated an ambitious broadcast schedule of devotional music, vegetarian cooking classes, yoga lessons, Krsna conscious news commentary, and poetry readings. A popular feature of the programs is a series of debates on such topics as abortion, animal slaughter, social reform, and the origins of life and the universe.
Indriya-damana dasa, director of operations for the programs, receives dozens of calls each week from satisfied listeners. "One woman called today," he recently related, "to tell us we are the only station that speaks personally and directly to its listeners, and that she recommends us to all her friends."
"Terrible Demon" Recommended for Children
New York—When Lord Krsna conquered the giant serpent Agha five thousand years ago. He rescued His childhood friends from the jaws of the cruel demon. Now the National Council of Teachers of English has chosen Agha, the Terrible Demon, a children's adaptation of the original Sanskrit story, as recommended reading. The Council has placed Agha on its booklist for parents, teachers, and librarians.
Bala Books, children's publishers for the Hare Krsna movement, first printed the full-color storybook three and a half years ago. Since then, more than 15,000 copies have been sold. French, Italian, Spanish, and Hindi editions are now in production.
Festival in New Orleans
New Orleans—The devotees of four Hare Krsna centers worked together to hold Ratha-yatra, "The Festival of the Chariots," in New Orleans. Joining in the two days of festivities were devotees from Atlanta, New Orleans, and the Hare Krsna farms in Mississippi and Tennessee. Guest speakers were Srila Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada and Srila Jayapataka Swami Acaryapada, who are among the spiritual masters now initiating disciples in the Hare Krsna movement.
Dal: An Answer To the Protein Question
Beef-, fish-, and chicken-lovers take note:
by Visakha-devi dasi
About a year ago my husband and I took an international flight that afforded us a one-day stopover in Prague. "What do you have for vegetarians?" my husband asked the headwaiter in the restaurant of the five-hundred-room hotel where we spent the night. He replied with a thick Czech accent and an astonished look: "I don't know what you people eat. We have nothing for vegetarians." Then he sauntered to another table, obviously amazed that human beings could exist without eating meat.
An example of east European backwardness? Not at all. A noted American nutritionist and agriculturalist has said, "All vegetarian diets are rated as monotonous. There is a paucity of form and flavor." And a subscriber to BACK TO GODHEAD magazine recently inquired, "I know you people don't eat meat, fish, or eggs, but what do you eat?"
So a vegetarian diet, a way of life for millions in India and other Eastern countries, is for many Westerners practically the eighth wonder of the world. It conjures up images of boiled green beans and mashed potatoes on an otherwise empty plate; of boney, slightly wild-eyed young men who busy themselves in the steamy kitchens of vegetarian restaurants and look upon non-vegetarians with disdain; of monks and yogis who have renounced worldly pleasures and subsist in Himalayan caves on a palmful of rice per day.
But these ideas are simply cultural myths spawned by a society addicted to hamburgers, roast beef, and medium-rare steaks. In truth, a vegetarian diet is anything but limiting. There are forty to fifty kinds of commonly eaten vegetables, twenty-four kinds of dried peas and beans, twenty kinds of fruits, twelve kinds of nuts, nine kinds of grains, and eleven kinds of milk products. The possible combinations are limitless. Our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, often pointed out that one can prepare hundreds of thousands of palatable dishes with vegetables, fruits, grains, and milk products.
But Srila Prabhupada was not in favor of vegetarianism per se. He would challenge the proud vegetarian: "The monkeys are vegetarians. The pigeons are vegetarians. So to become vegetarian is not a very good credit. We are neither vegetarian nor nonvegetarian. We are transcendental. We are concerned with krsna-prasadam [food cooked for Krsna], and the nutrition provided by krsna-prasadam has no comparison in any other food." Take dal (legumes) for instance, the subject of this month's recipes and a staple in Krsna's cuisine. (If you groaned "Oh no, not beans!" it means there are a lot of wonderful dishes that haven't met your tongue yet.) Dal, besides being a good source of iron and B vitamins, is an excellent source of vegetable protein. When you combine dal with a food that has complementary protein, like grains, seeds, nuts, or milk products, a synergistic reaction occurs, and the usable protein in dal increases by as much as 40%. In other words, if you eat ¾ cup of dal with 2 cups of rice, you get the protein equivalent of a 9 ½-ounce steak. Eaten separately, the dal and rice provide the equivalent of a 6 ½-ounce steak.
And if you eat dal and rice today instead of a steak or hamburger, you won't have to worry about cholesterol or calories. You won't be having a dinner that was once an innocent steer who suffered in filthy, overcrowded pens, was injected with antibiotics and tranquilizers, and was forced to eat an unnatural diet so he would gain weight quickly and cheaply. Nor need you concern yourself about the fear poisons steers release into their blood at the time of slaughter. Nor about the bacteria from putrefactive decomposition (they're not all killed by cooking). You won't have to worry about the dozens of diseases and parasites that a meat-bearing animal suffers from, nor how its life was utterly miserable from birth to death. (Maybe you don't think about these things—perhaps you should.) Nor will you have paid exorbitant prices for your food. (We all think about that.) Yet you will receive all the protein your body requires for good health. As Frances Moore Lappe concludes in her bestseller Diet for a Small Planet, "We could completely eliminate meat, fish, and poultry from our national diet and still ingest our recommended daily protein in all the other high-protein foods we eat regularly."
As for variety, there are eleven kinds of dal in Lord Krsna's cuisine: aduki, arhar, chana, chickpea, kala chana, kidney bean, mung, mutha, urad, and yellow and green split pea. You can make these into soups, thick puree sauces, stews, gravies, fried savories, moist chutney, crispy pancakes, sprouted salads, and all sorts of sweets.
The knowledgeable cook can select a dal dish to suit any meal, from breakfast to late dinner. You can also serve different dal dishes according to season: warm, hearty dishes for cold winter months; light, refreshing dishes for the hot summer.
But the best thing about dal is that, unlike beef, fish, or chicken, it is perfectly offerable to Krsna. One who regularly prepares dal and other vegetarian dishes for Krsna and then eats the remnants of such offerings gains in many ways. He gains materially, with improved health, a lower food budget, a higher standard of morality, and a variety of tasty dishes to choose from. But most important, he gains spiritually. In the words of Srila Prabhupada, "If someone partakes of prasadam, sooner or later he is sure to go back home, back to Godhead."
(Dal recipes by Yamuna-devi dasi)
How to Clean and Wash Dal
Since imported dais undergo minimal processing before you buy them, you should pick through the dal for foreign matter, such as dried leaves, stems, stones, or overly hardened kernels. You can participate in the time-honored ritual of cleaning dal by following these easy steps:
1. Pour the beans onto a large cookie sheet or round metal plate. Place them at one end and slowly move them from one side to the other, a few at a time, carefully picking out the stones and other foreign matter. Any remaining particles of dust or chaff will float away when you wash the dal.
2. To wash the dal, put only as much as you will use right away into a metal strainer and lower the strainer into a large bowl two-thirds full of fresh water. Rub the beans between your hands for about 30 seconds. Then lift the strainer, pour off the water, and fill the bowl again. Repeat the rubbing and rinsing 3 or 4 times, or until the water is practically clean. Drain or soak, as each recipe requires.
Split Mung Dal Soup
Smooth and liquidy, this soup is garnished with a simple fried seasoning known as a chaunk. It is simple to prepare and easy to digest, and its light consistency makes it appealing in any season. (The seasonings needed for this and the following recipe are available at Indian and Middle Eastern groceries.)
Servings: 4 to 6
1 2/3 cup split mung beans without skins 6 to 6 ½ cups water (5 ¼ to 5 ¾ cups if you're using a pressure cooker)
1. Sort, wash, and drain the mung beans.
2. Combine the mung beans, water, turmeric, coriander, fresh ginger, and seeded chilies in a heavy 2 ½-3-quart saucepan and, stirring occasionally, bring to a full boil over a high flame. Reduce the flame to medium low, cover the saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, and gently boil for 1 to 1 ¼ hours, or until the dal is soft and fully cooked. (For pressure cooking, combine the ingredients in a 6-quart pressure cooker, cover, and cook for 20 to 25 minutes under pressure, using 5 ¼ to 5 ¾ cups of water.) Add the salt.
3. Remove the dal soup from the flame (reduce pressure if necessary), uncover, and beat with a wire whisk or rotary beater until it is creamy smooth.
4. Pour the ghee or vegetable oil into a small saucepan and heat 30 to 60 seconds over a medium to medium-high flame. Toss in the cumin seeds and fry for about 30 to 45 seconds, or until the seeds turn golden brown, and pour the ghee and seeds into the dal soup. Immediately cover and allow the seasonings to soak into the hot dal for 1 to 2 minutes. Then add the minced herbs, stir, and offer to Krsna
Quick, Creamy Split-Pea Soup with Carrots
(Gajar Malar-Ki Dal)
This elegant, mildly seasoned dal soup has a light and pleasant texture and is good the whole year round.
Servings: 6 to 8
1 cup green or yellow split peas 7 ½ cups water (6 ¾ cups if you're using a pressure cooker)
1. Soak the split peas for 1 hour; then wash and drain.
2. Combine the split peas, water, minced ginger, seeded green chilies, turmeric, ground coriander, and a dab of ghee or vegetable oil in a heavy 3-quart saucepan and bring to a boil over a high flame.
3. Reduce the flame to medium-low, cover the saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, and gently boil for about 45 to 60 minutes. Add the carrots, cover again, and continue to cook for 30 minutes, or until the split peas are soft and fully cooked. (For pressure cooking, combine the ingredients, including the carrots, in a 6-quart pressure cooker, cover, and cook for 25 to 30 minutes under pressure.)
4. Remove saucepan from flame (reduce pressure if necessary), uncover, and stir in the salt and the parsley or coriander leaves.
5. Pour the ghee or vegetable oil into a small saucepan and heat 30 to 60 seconds over a medium to medium-high flame. Fry the cumin seeds 30 to 45 seconds, or until they're golden brown; then sprinkle in the asafetida and fry for 1 or 2 more seconds. Pour the fried seasonings into the dal, immediately cover, and let the spices soak into the dal for 1 or 2 minutes. Stir and offer to Krsna.
O Krsna, O master of all mystics, please show me Your universal form!" This appeal by Lord Krsna's devotee, spoken fifty centuries ago on the field of battle, heralds a divine manifestation never seen before.
by Dravida dasa
The scene is the vast Kuruksetra plain, five thousand years ago. At that holy place, one hundred miles northwest of present-day New Delhi, a devastating fratricidal war of royal succession is about to begin. Suddenly a lone chariot enters the no-man's-land between the two poised armies. Upon it ride Arjuna, the hero of the battle, and his charioteer, Lord Krsna. Arjuna, paralyzed with indecision at the prospect of slaying his own friends, relatives, and teachers in the opposing army, accepts his friend Krsna as his guru and appeals to Him for guidance. The Lord then speaks the timeless teachings of the Bhagavad-gita, "The Song of God."
The Bhagavad-gita is profoundly revelatory. Not only does Krsna reveal the details of the transcendental science of devotional service, by which the soul suffering in the world of matter can gain release and reach a state of eternal bliss, but He also reveals Himself to be the goal of that service, the object of all worship, the source of all that exists, and, indeed, the Supreme Absolute Truth Himself. Among all Krsna's revelations, however, none is so awesome, so magnificent as the never-before-seen universal form . . .
The Bhagavad-gita relates: If hundreds of thousands of suns were to rise into the sky at once, their effulgence might resemble that of the Lord in His universal form. That wondrous form possessed unlimited mouths, unlimited eyes, unlimited faces, legs, and arms, and He wore countless divine, dazzling ornaments and garments. All the infinite expansions of the cosmos had manifested in one place, although divided into many thousands.
"Arjuna prayed, 'O almighty one, everyone is disturbed at seeing Your universal form, and so am I. I can no longer maintain my equilibrium. Beholding Your radiant colors filling the skies and Your many mouths with their terrible teeth, I am afraid. O all-pervading Lord, I see You devouring everyone with Your flaming mouths, scorching everything with Your fiery glare. O Lord of lords, please be gracious to me and tell me who You are' "
The Lord spoke: "Time I am, destroyer of worlds, and I have come forth to annihilate all people. Except for you and your brothers, all the soldiers on this battlefield will perish in the war. So get up and prepare to fight, O Arjuna! Your enemies have already been slain by Me. Simply be My instrument, and after conquering them you shall enjoy a flourishing kingdom."
Then Arjuna, awestruck and trembling, addressed the Lord: "O Krsna, O refuge of the universe, You are the imperishable source of all, the cause of all causes, transcendental to this creation. O limitlesss form, You pervade this entire universe! I bow before You thousands of times, from in front, from behind, from all sides! O Almighty Lord, O abode of the cosmos, having seen Your magnificent universal form for the first time, I am joyful, yet I am also filled with fear. Please, therefore, reveal to me once again Your original form as Krsna. I long to see You in that form."
Full of compassion for His devotee, Krsna replied, "My dear Arjuna, gladly have I shown you My universal form, but I see that this horrifying feature of Mine has disturbed you. Now, My friend, be done with fear; let your mind become peaceful. Behold My previous form, as you desire."
The Lord then displayed His four-armed form, and at last His two-armed form, thus encouraging Arjuna.
"My dear Arjuna," said Krsna, "the form you are now seeing is very difficult to behold. Even the demigods are ever seeking the opportunity to see this two-armed form of Mine, which is so dear to all. Neither by dry academic study of the Vedas, nor by self-punishment, nor by mundane charity, nor by ritualistic worship can one see Me as you are seeing Me. Only by pure devotional service, O Arjuna, can one see Me as I am, standing before you. Only in this way can one enter into the mysteries of My understanding."
We learn of the significance of Krsna's universal form in Bhagavad-gita As It Is, the translation and commentary by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada: "The universal form, with its thousands and thousands of heads and hands, is manifest just to draw the attention of those who have no love for God. It is not God's original form." For those who have no faith that Krsna is God, and who thus deride devotional service to Krsna as a pitiable delusion, Krsna's revelation of the universal form may shock them out of their skepticism with its awesome majesty. Then, if out of fear they obey the laws of what they conceive as a "vengeful" God, they can gradually be drawn to the path of loving devotional service through proper guidance.
Arjuna, being Krsna's pure devotee, had no real need or desire to see the universal form. But he requested Krsna to display it for our sake—to convince us of Krsna's divinity and to provide us with a foolproof test of anyone claiming to be an incarnation of God. If an "incarnation" can't show us the universal form, he's not God, and we should dismiss him at once as a fraud.
As for those of us who are open to the idea that Krsna is in fact the Supreme Personality of Godhead, we should try to follow in Arjuna's footsteps. We may marvel at the wondrous universal form—"magnificent, all-expanding, unlimited"—as Krsna reveals it in the Bhagavad-gita, But we shouldn't desire to see it. Rather, we should want to see Krsna's original, all-attractive, humanlike form. To be blessed with a revelation of this form is the real goal of all yoga and all religion, and we can earn that blessing only by learning to love Krsna through the practice of pure devotional service.
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.)
Brahmajyoti—the spiritual effulgence of God. The Vedic scriptures tell us that God's person is effulgent. Just as the sun gives off dazzling light in all directions, so too does the personal form of God. But whereas sunlight is material and temporary, the shining glow from the body of the Supreme Lord is spiritual and eternal. Just as sunlight shines throughout our solar system, the brilliant effulgence of the Lord shines throughout the entire spiritual world. The material world is by nature dark—only the sun lights it up. But the spiritual world, because of the presence of God, is always full of light. Those who think of the Supreme as an all-pervading spiritual light are in essence thinking of the brahmajyoti. But only by going beyond the brahmajyoti can one know the Supreme Lord in His ultimate personal feature.
Brahman—the ultimate, the Supreme, the Absolute Truth. The Vedic scriptures teach that human life is meant for inquiry about the Absolute Truth, the ultimate reality. And what is that ultimate reality? It is the cause of all causes, the ultimate source of all creation, maintenance, and dissolution of everything that exists.
There are many varied ways of trying to understand this Absolute Truth, and many ideas of what it is. But in essence we may look toward the Absolute Truth in either of two ways: as impersonal or as personal.
The Upanisads stress the impersonal approach to the Absolute. The Absolute, they say, has no form, no qualities, no divisions or categories. It is beyond the power of the senses to perceive and the mind to understand. It is the supreme One, beyond the dualities of material existence.
But even beyond this undivided oneness, the Upanisads ultimately point to a personal Absolute, an eternal, all-blissful, all-knowing Godhead. This supreme personal Godhead is the ultimate spiritual substance, the ultimate abode, in whom both unity and diversity come to perfect balance. When one goes beyond the unsatisfying varieties of material illusion and the unbearable monotony of impersonal spiritual truth, one realizes this Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The Bhagavad-gita identifies this Supreme Personality of Godhead as Krsna. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu therefore taught that whenever we see the word Brahman we should understand that it means Krsna.
Every living being is a part of Krsna and shares in His spiritual qualities, just as every ray of sunshine shares in the heat and light of the sun. So the word Brahman may also sometimes refer to every living being. But Krsna is infinite, whereas all other living beings are infinitesimal. To keep this distinction clear, Krsna alone is known as param brahman—the supreme Brahman.
Brahma-samhita—a treatise on transcendental understanding composed by Lord Brahma, the first created being. It originally had one hundred chapters, of which only the fifth chapter is still extant. A copy of this book was discovered by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in the south Indian temple of Adi-kesava, and He had it copied and distributed for the benefit of His followers. Lord Caitanya requested His followers to read this book regularly, since it contains the essential truths of the Krsna consciousness philosophy. The Brahma-samhita has been translated into English, with commentary, by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Maharaja.
Brahmastra—a particular kind of weapon, resembling the nuclear weapon of the modern age. It is mentioned in the Mahabharata, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and other Vedic writings, and this indicates that it was used by experts in the Vedic military arts more than five thousand years ago.
The brahmastra was more subtle and powerful than modern nuclear weapons. It was released not by complex machinery but by the vibration of a specific mantra. And it could be deployed with far greater precision, against a specific, limited target—even against only one person—without harming anything else.
The military commanders in Vedic society thousands of years ago had varied sophisticated weapons at their disposal, but the techniques necessary for unleashing them have been lost.
Brahma-Sutras—another name for the Vedanta-sutras, the philosophical aphorisms that yield the essence of Vedic wisdom.
Liberation Through Free Will
Critics sometimes charge that Krsna consciousness is "brainwashing," a dogmatic, authoritarian power that denies the individual his personal integrity and free will. Supposedly, this authoritarian control forces an otherwise free-thinking person to conform to such a degree that he loses his identity and becomes a "mindless robot"; he loses his capacity for free thought and self-actualization. But such criticism is unfounded, for only by great inner resolve and personal volition can someone succeed in Krsna consciousness.
A perfect example is Brahma, the first being in the universe, who attained spiritual realization eons ago, before there were any teachers, books, or institutions. In fact, according to the Vedic literatures, when Brahma first came to consciousness before the dawn of creation, he looked around and beheld only darkness pervading everywhere. He then sat in meditation for one hundred years, until Krsna revealed to him within his heart the essence of all spiritual and material knowledge. Later, Brahma presented this knowledge as the original Vedic scriptures.
Like Brahma, each of us is a unique, individual person. And each of us must discover his own spiritual identity by unique effort and unique reciprocation with the Supreme. Unfortunately, the widespread influence of materialism nowadays has practically destroyed people's capacity for deep introspection. We cannot meditate for even a hundred minutes, what to speak of a hundred years. On the other hand, we have several great advantages over Brahma in our quest for self-realization: We have recorded knowledge of the Absolute Truth in the form of the Vedic literatures, and we have the guidance and example of perfected spiritual masters coming in a line of disciplic succession beginning with Lord Krsna Himself.
Another example of strong determination in seeking self-realization is Sanatana Gosvami, a highly advanced devotee and scholar who lived in India five hundred years ago. Sacrificing the great wealth, power, and prestige that went along with his position as a high government minister, Sanatana underwent severe hardships to submit himself before the most exalted spiritual authority and master. Lord Caitanya. Sanatana said, "Although I have a reputation as a learned man and a sophisticated politician, I must admit to You that I do not know the real meaning of my life. Like every creature, I am suffering, but I do not know why I suffer or how to end my suffering. Please instruct me." These are the statements of an instrospective individual breaking free from the complacent conformity of the masses and seeking an ultimate solution to life's problems. And Sanatana, by taking advantage of his spiritual master's instructions and the Vedic literature, attained enlightenment as surely as had the original Vedic sage, Brahma.
Now, that Brahma, Sanatana, and many other persons in the past have succeeded in Krsna consciousness does not mean anyone in the present can become self-realized simply through blind conformity to a religious authority. Spiritual realization must always be a matter of personal search, surrender, and growth. Each of us is an individual spirit soul, a part of the Supreme Being, and as such we have each been endowed with all the qualities of the Supreme, including free will. This is why Lord Krsna concludes his teachings to Arjuna in Bhagavad-gita with these words: "Thus I have explained to you the most confidential of all knowledge. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do." (Emphasis added.) So God will send His representative, the spiritual master, to teach us spiritual science, He will make transcendental knowledge available to us in the Vedic literatures, and sometimes He will even instruct us personally, as He did Arjuna in Bhagavad-gita—but He will never interfere with our free will and independence.
You may ask, "If God is merciful and He sees us suffering here for lack of self-realization, why doesn't He force that realization upon us? Why doesn't He drag us back to the spiritual world?" The answer is that true self-realization, the kind that leads one back to the spiritual world, depends on attaining love of God. And without freedom, how can there be love? So the tiny soul must surrender to God, but that surrender must be voluntary.
Still, although it is not true that Krsna consciousness robs a person of his individuality and then forces upon him an unnatural conformity, it is true that an aspiring devotee can find much assistance by associating with others on the path back to Godhead. Far from "brainwashing" a person or robbing him of his individual integrity, such association prepares a spiritual aspirant for the difficult tests and temptations of spiritual life, which he must meet and overcome on his own. Srila Prabhupada explains this point with the analogy of a jet pilot. In flight school a pilot receives many hours of instruction and help from teachers and other pilots, but when he takes his first solo flight none of his instructors can help him if he runs into trouble. Similarly, during our lifetime we can avail ourselves of the valuable instructions of the spiritual master and the scriptures, and we can associate with other devotees of the Lord, but we must face death alone.
So attaining Krsna consciousness is not a matter of nominally joining a sect or blindly repeating a mantra or a doctrine. Pure Krsna consciousness is attainable only by one who sincerely approaches Krsna and Krsna's representatives and realizes within himself his higher nature as an eternal soul with an eternal relationship to God.
Those who criticize Krsna consciousness as "brainwashing" or as "tyranny over the will" are ill informed, and often malicious. Under the sway of a materialistic misconception of their own identity, they are usually motivated by a desire to avoid surrendering to God. Thus when they see genuine surrender to God, they decry it. The influence of materialistic philosophy has largely obliterated genuine spiritual life from modern society, and there is great pressure for us to conform to the life of materialistic values. There are even materialistic brands of religion. With all this materialism in the air, it's not surprising that when an individual, thinking for himself, decides seriously to seek spiritual life, he meets criticism from his family, friends, teachers, priest, psychiatrist, and so on. Only the rare, genuine individualist has the courage to embark on the path of real spiritual life.
Although criticism of Krsna conscious devotees as "brainwashed robots" may make effective propaganda for the cause of materialistic conformity, it is a lie nonetheless. Krsna consciousness is actually the best method for liberating the self from the miseries of repeated birth and death. Ultimately the Krsna conscious devotee achieves the stage of eternal freedom from material miseries by realizing his eternal loving relationship with Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. And this freedom is attainable only for one who chooses it of his own free will and works for it in earnest.—SDG