A talk given in November 1968
by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada,
"One who is transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman and becomes fully joyful. He never laments or desires to have anything; he is equally disposed toward every living entity. In that state he achieves pure devotional service unto Me [Krsna]" (Bhagavad-gita 18.54).
Krsna consciousness is simply full of bliss, because it is the stage one reaches after attaining liberation from all material miseries. This is called the brahma-bhuta stage. One feels just like a person who has been suffering in prison for many years and is suddenly given his freedom. How much delight he feels! Similarly, one who attains the brahma-bhuta stage immediately becomes joyful.
And what is the nature of that joyfulness? Na socati: even if one suffers great loss, one does not lament. And na kanksati: one feels no hankering for big profit. Also, in that stage one sees all living entities on the same platform of spiritual identity. In another place Bhagavad-gita says, panditah sama-darsinah: "When a person is learned he sees everyone on the same level of spiritual identity." At this stage, Krsna consciousness actually begins (mad-bhaktim labhate param). So Krsna consciousness is the activity of the living entity in the liberated stage.
Everyone is trying to get liberation from material pangs. Those who follow Buddhist philosophy are trying to get liberation from material miseries by reaching nirvana. Nirvana means "the stage when everything is extinguished." The Buddhists want to make everything void; they want to make all material varieties zero. That is the sum and substance of Buddhist philosophy. And mayavada [impersonalistic] philosophy is more or less similar. It is a second edition of Buddhist philosophy. The Buddhists want to make everything zero without life, and the mayavadi philosophers say, "Yes, we should make the material varieties zero, but keep life." That is their mistake. Where there is life, there must be variety; life without variety is not possible. This is the defect of mayavada philosophy.
Suppose a patient is very much disturbed and he asks his physician, "Please stop my disturbance! Kill me! Kill me!" Sometimes people who are suffering speak like that. "Give me some poison! Kill me! I cannot tolerate the pain."
The physician says, "There is no need to kill you. I shall give you a good, healthy life."
But the diseased man is so impatient: "No, I cannot tolerate. Please kill me!"
So Buddhist and mayavadi philosophers are like this. They think, "I want to die; I want to become zero, void." They are feeling so much frustration, so much disturbance from the material miseries, that they want to make their life zero.
Krsna consciousness is not like that. Krsna consciousness brings you to real life—a life of devotional activity in the liberated stage.
But it is often difficult to understand the philosophy of Krsna consciousness. Why? That is explained in Srimad-Bhagavatam [7.5.30]: matir na krsne paratah svato va mitho 'bhipadyeta grha-vratanam. Grha means "house," and vrata means "vow." So the Bhagavatam says, "One who is too interested in maintaining a comfortable family life cannot understand the philosophy of Krsna consciousness." Everywhere the common man is interested in attaining bodily comforts, a nice wife, a nice apartment, a nice bank balance. These things are his aspirations, and nothing more.
First of all a person is interested in his body. Grha means "house" or "living place." I am a soul, a living being, and my body is my first living place. The body is also a grha. But I am not the body. I may live in an apartment, but I am not the apartment. Similarly, I am living in a body, but I am not the body. This understanding is the beginning of spiritual education. Unless a person understands that he is not his body—that he is a spirit soul living in his body—there is no question of spiritual education, because such a person does not know how to distinguish what is spiritual from what is material.
So it is a misunderstanding to think, "I am my body. I belong to my apartment. I belong to my society. I belong to my nation. I belong to my world. I belong to my universe." You may expand the idea of grha, but it is all a misunderstanding, whether you are a big leader who says, "My life is for my nation," or some ordinary, common man who says, "My life is for my family," or some childlike person who says, "I am interested only in my body." People very much appreciate it when we expand our conception of self-interest from bodily welfare to family welfare, or from family welfare to community welfare, or from community welfare to national welfare, or from national welfare to the idea of universal brotherhood. But these are all bogus ideas, misconceptions.
However you may expand the grha, the defect will remain. For example, the so-called nationalists in America are packed up within the boundary of human beings: they do not expand their affection to other living entities. They believe that the human beings living in America should be given protection but that the animals need no protection. Why? The cows and other animals in America are also nationals; they should also be protected. But the nationalists have no such idea, because nationalism and all such ideas are defective and limited.
So the Bhagavatam says that as long as a person is interested in keeping himself within the boundary of some limited conception of life, he cannot understand Krsna consciousness, or God consciousness. Matir na krsne paratah svato va. Svatah means "by one's personal mental speculation." Many philosophers are thinking they will reach the Absolute Truth by mental speculation. And paratah. Paratah means "from authorities"—from the spiritual master, the scriptures, or other authoritative sources of knowledge. Our principle is to receive knowledge from the spiritual master. But suppose somebody thinks, "I am American. Why should I hear from a spiritual master who is Hindu?" Such a person will not be able to understand the teachings of Krsna consciousness. So those who are grha-vratanam, determined to remain within a limited conception of life, cannot understand Krsna consciousness—neither by their own mental efforts nor by taking help from authorities.
Next the Bhagavatam uses the word mithah, which means "taking part in a great assembly." A good example is the United Nations. The United Nations has been trying to bring world peace for the last twenty, twenty-five years. So why has it not been possible? Because the representatives at the United Nations have a limited conception of life. They think, "I am my body, which was born in such-and-such a nation." The basic principle is wrong, the conception of life is wrong, and therefore the United Nations has failed to bring peace in the world.
Now, why are people limited by a poor conception of life? The Bhagavatam says, adanta-gobhih. The limited conception of life is caused by unbridled senses. Everyone wants to satisfy his senses, or the senses of his countrymen. So although a man may go to the assembly of the United Nations, he keeps his identity as American or German or Russian or Indian, and he thinks, "My nation shall be happy in such-and-such a way." The Indian is thinking like this, the American is thinking like this, the Russian is thinking like this. But if they keep themselves in that limited conception of life, what benefit will they derive? They will simply talk and waste time. That's all. Only when one goes outside these limited conceptions of life and reaches the brahma-bhuta stage can one have real peace.
Next the Bhagavatam describes the position of someone with uncontrolled senses: punah punas carvita-carvananam. Carvita-carvana means "chewing the chewed." Suppose something is chewed and then thrown away in the street. If somebody comes and again chews that thrown-away article, he cannot get any juice out of it. Similarly, we may try repeatedly to enjoy our senses in this material world, but all our efforts must end in frustration.
We may make so many plans, but because all our plans are on the platform of sense gratification, our whole existence is limited to the four activities of animal life: eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. That's all. Animals and men have these four activities in common. The only extra qualification of man is that he can come to understand Krsna, or God. That is his special qualification. But because people keep themselves within the limits of sense gratification, they come again and again to the same platform of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. Therefore they remain without Krsna consciousness.
So, the secret of how to become Krsna conscious is that we should not limit ourselves to a narrow conception of life. How is that possible? We must understand, "I am an eternal servant of Krsna, or God." That is Krsna consciousness.
Now, one may ask, "If understanding Krsna is the goal of life, why do people keep themselves within the limit of sense gratification?" That question is answered in the Srimad-Bhagavatam [7.5.31]: na te viduh svartha-gatim hi visnum durasaya ye bahir-artha-maninah. This is a very important verse. It says that foolish persons do not know that Visnu, or Krsna, is the ultimate goal of their life because they are entrapped by the consciousness of enjoying material nature. Everyone is eager to look after his self-interest, but foolish people do not know what their real self-interest is. They are thinking, "Working hard in the material way of life will give me ultimate pleasure, ultimate satisfaction. That is my ultimate goal." The scientist, the politician—everyone is making his own plan to reach ultimate satisfaction. And how will they fulfill that plan? By manipulating nature, Krsna's external energy (bahir-artha-maninah).
We are preaching Krsna consciousness, but most people are not interested. Had I been an expert in a new kind of technology, or in teaching an improvement in electronics, thousands of people would be coming to hear me. Because I would have been dealing with the ingredients of the external energy, people would have thought, "This technological knowledge will give me happiness." That is durasaya, a useless hope. The Bhagavatam says this kind of material advancement is useless. It will not give you any happiness. But people are foolishly hoping it will.
Now the Bhagavatam says, andha yathandhair upaniyamanah. This means that those people who are hoping for happiness through material advancement are spiritually blind. They do not know the goal of life, and their leaders also do not know the goal of life. People are thinking that with the change of some politician something new will be done and they will be happy. Now there is an advertisement:
"America needs Nixon now." People are thinking, "When Nixon will be president instead of Johnson, we shall be happy." [Laughter.] But from which stock are this Johnson and Nixon coming? The source of supply is the same. If the source of supply is the same, what is the use of replacing Johnson with Nixon or Nixon with Johnson?
The leaders are spiritually blind: they do not know the ultimate goal of life. If the people are blind and their leaders are also blind, what will be the result? If a blind man leads one hundred other blind men across the street, certainly there will be some accident. But if the leader can see, he can lead hundreds and thousands of men safely.
Now the Bhagavatam explains, te 'pisa-tantryam uru-damni baddhah: "Both the blind leaders and their blind followers are very tightly bound by the strong ropes of material nature." The leaders promise, "My dear citizens, my dear countrymen, the country needs me at the present moment. If you give me your vote, I shall give you all comforts, all solutions." But all these leaders are tightly bound up by the laws of God, the laws of nature. You see? If your hands and legs are tightly bound, how can you work? The leaders do not know that they are under the stringent control of the laws of nature. Suppose there is a heavy earthquake, or suppose the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean mix together? (There is some suggestion like that from the scientists.) Then how can you check the laws of nature? Your hands and legs are tightly bound by nature's laws. You cannot check them. So how can blind leaders, who are so tightly bound up by the laws of nature, lead people to the ultimate goal of life? The ultimate goal of life is God, or Krsna, but the leaders are enamored by the glitter of this material nature. So they cannot lead us to Krsna.
Then what is the solution to our problem? If it is not possible to attain Krsna consciousness by speculation, by assembly meetings, or by deriving knowledge from authoritative sources, then how is it to be attained? How can the goal of life be reached?
The Srimad-Bhagavatam [7.5.32] answers this question:
naisam matis tavad urukramanghrim
One cannot fix his mind on the lotus feet of Krsna unless one has the opportunity of touching the dust of the lotus feet of a person who has given up all material hankerings (niskincananam) and who has dedicated his life cent percent to Krsna (mahiyasam). When one comes in touch with such a person, by his grace one can attain Krsna consciousness—not by any other method. One must approach a bona fide spiritual master and by his mercy, by his grace, receive Krsna consciousness. And as soon as a person receives initiation into Krsna consciousness, he feels spiritual satisfaction, and his liberation from material entanglement begins. Then, as he makes further and further progress, his life becomes sublime.
The first benefit of Krsna consciousness is that as soon as a person comes in touch with Krsna, he immediately gives up all the unwholesome activities of material existence . In fact, we can test if someone is in contact with Krsna by seeing how free he is from sinful activity. For example (not a very gigantic example—a very small one), take our students. As soon as they are initiated into Krsna consciousness, they immediately give up so many sinful activities. The basic activities of sinful life are illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating, and gambling. It is very difficult for people to give up all these habits, especially in the Western countries. But my students are giving them up very easily.
In 1935 one of my Godbrothers went to London and met the Marquis of Zetland, a man from Scotland. He was very interested in Indian philosophy. (He had previously been the governor of Bengal, and in my youth I had met him; he had come to my college.) So the marquis inquired from my Godbrother, Goswami Bannerjee: "Bannerjee, can you make me a brahmana?"
Bannerjee said, "Why not? Yes, we can make you a brahmana, but you have to follow four rules. You must give up illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating, and gambling. Then you can become a brahmana."
"Oh, that is impossible."
You see? The Marquis of Zetland was such a big personality—he was interested in philosophy, he held a high government position, he was a responsible man—yet he flatly denied that he could give up these four sinful habits. But our students, hundreds of boys and girls who are coming to Krsna consciousness, are giving up these habits very easily. And they don't feel any inconvenience. This is the first benefit of Krsna consciousness: In the very beginning one is finished with all sinful activity.
How can our students give up these things? Because they are feeling spiritual satisfaction in Krsna consciousness; Our students can sit down before the Deity and chant Hare Krsna for twenty-four hours. Bring any student of any other yoga society and ask him to sit down for five hours. He'll fail; he'll be so restless. These so-called yoga societies simply teach their students some official meditation: fifteen minutes to a half hour of closing the eyes and murmuring something. But our students are engaged in Krsna consciousness twenty-four hours a day. Anyone may come and ask them how they are feeling. Unless they feel some spiritual satisfaction, how can they give up everything and simply serve Krsna?
Now, one may ask, "Suppose a person takes up Krsna consciousness out of sentiment but he cannot complete the process. What is his position?" This question is also answered in Srimad-Bhagavatam [1.5.17]:
tyaktva sva-dharmam caranambujam harer
The word sva-dharma means "specific duty." Everyone has some specific duty or occupation. So somebody may give up his specific duty and begin practicing Krsna consciousness. All of my students were engaged in something else, but all of a sudden they gave it up and joined the Krsna consciousness movement. So, anyone may do this. After hearing some lectures on Krsna consciousness, someone may decide, "Now I shall begin Krsna consciousness." So he gives up his occupation and begins chanting Hare Krsna and following the other devotional principles. But all of a sudden he gives them up. For some reason, because of some unfortunate circumstances, he cannot prosecute Krsna consciousness nicely and he gives it up. So the Bhagavatam says that even if one gives up Krsna consciousness because of immaturity, still there is no loss, because he will take it up again in the next life.
But then the Bhagavatam says, ko vartha apto 'bhajatam sva-dharmatah: "What profit is there for someone who very steadily engages in his occupational duty but is without any Krsna consciousness?" He is simply a loser, because he does not know the aim of his life. But if a person takes to Krsna consciousness even for a few days, if he gets the injection of Krsna consciousness, in his next life he'll take it up again. So he's not a loser. That one injection will someday make him perfect in Krsna consciousness, and he's sure to go back to Godhead.
So go on executing Krsna consciousness, and try to spread Krsna consciousness as far as possible. Rest assured, your efforts will not go in vain. They will not go in vain. Krsna will reward you abundantly.
Thank you very much.
Srila Prabhupada's Initiation
For Srila Prabhupada (then Abhay Charan De), initiation meant the fulfillment of a
by Srila Satsvarupa dasa Goswami
(Excerpted from Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami. 1981 by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.)
Abhay considered Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura his spiritual master from the time of their first meeting in 1922, but business and family commitments kept Abhay from participating full-time in Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's mission to spread Krsna consciousness.
In 1923 Abhay moved from Calcutta to Allahabad and opened a dispensary. The pharmaceutical industry was just beginning in India, and Abhay had accepted an offer from Dr. K. C. Base, his employer in Calcutta, to become the agent for Base's Laboratory in northern India. Abhay traveled out of Allahabad, opening and maintaining accounts with doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies. Except for his business travels Abhay stayed in Allahabad, working at the dispensary and spending time with his family. He tended diligently to his business, and it prospered. Abhay thought that if he were to become successful, he could spend money to help support Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's mission.
In 1928 some of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's disciples came to Allahabad and soon opened a Rddha-Krsna temple near Abhay's home. After work, Abhay would visit the temple and join in the devotional singing and chanting. Sometimes he would bring important persons along. For Abhay, his reunion with Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's disciples brought new life.
Abhay's father, Gour Mohan, passed away in 1930 at Abhay's home in Allahabad. In accordance with religious custom Abhay and his brother shaved their heads; then they sat for a formal portrait with a picture of Gour Mohan. The photograph shows Abhay looking like the renounced sadhu his father had envisioned he would one day become.
In 1932 Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati conducted a month-long circumambulationflf Vrndavana, the rural village near New Delhi where Lord Krsna enacted His childhood pastimes five thousand years ago. As this month's episode begins, Abhay is traveling to Kosi, a town near Vrndavana, to meet up with the pilgrims led by his spiritual master.
Abhay arrived in Mathura by train from Allahabad and approached Kosi by ricksha. The countryside was full of charm for Abhay: Instead of factories and large buildings there were mostly forests, and aside from the main paved road on which he traveled, there were only dirt roads and soft sandy lanes. As a Vaisnava, a devotee of Krsna, Abhay felt sensations an ordinary man wouldn't. Now and then he sighted a peacock in the field, its exotic plumage proclaiming the glories of Vrndavana and Krsna. Even a nondevotee, however, could appreciate the many varieties of birds, their interesting cries and songs filling the air. Occasionally a tree would be filled with madly chirping sparrows making their urgent twilight clamor before resting for the night. Even one unaware of the special significance of Vrndavana could feel a relief of mind in this simple countryside, where people built fires from cow manure fuel and cooked their evening meals in the open, their fires adding rich, natural smells to the indefinable mixture which was the odor of the earth. There were many gnarled old trees and colorful stretches of flowers—bushes of bright violet camelia, trees abloom with delicate white parijata blossoms, and big yellow kadamba flowers, rarely seen outside Vrndavana.
On the road there was lively horse-drawn tanga traffic. The month of Karttika, October-November, was one of the several times of the year that drew many pilgrims to Vrndavana. The one-horse tangas carried large families, some coming from hundreds of miles away. Larger bands of pilgrims, grouped by village, walked together, the women dressed in bright-colored saris, brown-skinned men and women sometimes singing bhajanas, carrying but a few simple possessions as they headed for the town of thousands of temples, Vrndavana. And there were businessmen like Abhay, dressed more formally, coming from a city, maybe to spend the weekend. Most of them had at least some semblance of a religious motive—to see Krsna in the temple, to bathe in the holy Yamuna River, to visit the sites where Lord Krsna had performed His pastimes such as lifting Govardhana Hill, killing the Kesi demon, or dancing in the evening with the gopis (cowherd girls).
Abhay was sensitive to the atmosphere of Vrndavana, and he noted the activity along the road. But more than that, he cherished with anticipation the fulfillment of his journey—his meeting again, after a long separation, the saintly person he had always thought of within himself, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, who had convinced him in Calcutta of Lord Caitanya's mission to preach Krsna consciousness. Abhay would soon see him again, and this purpose filled his mind.
Upon reaching the lantern-illuminated camp of the Gaudiya Math and inquiring at the registration post, he was allowed to join the parikrama village. He was assigned to a tent of grhastha men and was given prasadam (food offered to Krsna.) The people were friendly and in good spirits, and Abhay talked of his activities with the matha members in Calcutta and Allahabad. Then there was a gathering—a sannyasi (a renounced, advanced, devotee) was making an announcement. This evening, he said, there would be a scheduled visit to a nearby temple to see the Deity of Sesasayi Visnu. Some of the pilgrims cheered, "Haribol! Hare Krsna!" The sannyasi also announced that His Divine Grace Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura would speak that evening for the last time and would be leaving the parikrama party the next day. So there was a choice of going on the parikrama or staying for the lecture.
Srila Prabhupada: So I met them in Kosi, and Kesava Maharaja was informing that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta is going to Mathura tomorrow morning and he will speak this evening. Anyone who wants to may remain. Or otherwise they may go to see Sesasayi Visnu. So at that time I think only ten or twelve men remained—Sridhara Maharaja was one of them. And I thought it wise, "What can I see at this Sesasayi? Let me hear what Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati will speak. Let me hear."
When Abhay arrived, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta was already speaking. He sat with his back erect, a shawl around his shoulders, not speaking like a professional lecturer giving a scheduled performance, but addressing a small gathering in his room. At last Abhay was in his presence again. Abhay marveled to see and hear him, this unique soul possessed of krsna-katha (words about Krsna) speaking uninterruptedly in his deep, low voice, in ecstasy and deep knowledge. Abhay sat and heard with rapt attention.
Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati had been speaking regularly about sambandha, abhidheya, and prayojana. Sambandha is the stage of devotional service in which awareness of God is awakened, abhidheya is rendering loving service to the Lord, and prayojana is the ultimate goal, pure love of God. He stressed that his explanations were in exact recapitulation of what had originally been spoken by Krsna and passed down through disciplic succession. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's particular utterance, mostly Bengali but sometimes English, with frequent quoting of Sanskrit from the sastras, was deep with erudition. "It is Krsna," said Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, "who is the only Superlord over the entire universe and, beyond it, of Vaikuntha, the transcendental region. As such, no one can raise any obstacle against His enjoyment."
An hour went by, two hours. . . . The already small gathering in Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's room gradually thinned. A few sannyasis left, excusing themselves to tend to duties connected with the parikrama camp. Only a few intimate leaders remained. Abhay was the only outsider. Of course, he was a devotee, not an outsider, but in the sense that he was not a sannyasi, was not handling any duties, was not even initiated, and was not traveling with the parikrama but had joined only for a day—in that sense he was an outsider. The philosophy Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was speaking, however, was democratically open to whoever would give an ardent hearing. And that Abhay was doing.
He was listening with wonder. Sometimes he would not even understand something, but he would go on listening intently, submissively, his intelligence drinking in the words. He felt Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati revealing to him the direct vision of the spiritual world, just as a person reveals something by opening a door or pushing aside a curtain. He was revealing the reality, and this reality was loving service to the lotus feet of Radha-Krsna, the supremely worshipable Personality of Godhead. How masterfully he spoke! And with utter conviction and boldness!
It was with such awe that Abhay listened with fastened attention. Of course, all Vaisnavas accepted Krsna as their worshipable Lord, but how conclusively and with what sound logic was the faith of the Vaisnavas established by this great teacher! After several hours, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati stopped speaking. Abhay felt prepared to go on listening without cessation, and yet he had no puzzling doubts or queries to place forward. He wanted only to hear more. As Srila Bhaktisiddhanta made his exit, Abhay bowed, offering his obeisances, and then left the intimate circle of tents, his mind surcharged with the words of his spiritual master.
Now their relationship seemed more tangible. He still treasured his original impression of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, the saintly person who had spoken to him on the rooftop in Calcutta; but tonight that single impression that had sustained him for years in Allahabad had been enriched and filled with new life. His spiritual master and the impression of his words were as much a reality as the stars in the sky and the moon over Vrndavana. That impression of hearing from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was filling him with its reality, and all other reality was forming itself around the absolute reality of Srila Gurudeva, just as all the planets circle around the sun.
The next morning, Abhay was up with the others more than an hour before dawn, bathed, and chanting mantras in congregation. Later in the morning the tall, stately figure of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, dressed in plain saffron, got into the back seat of a car and rode away from the camp. Thoughtful and grave, he looked back and waved, accepting the loving gestures of his followers. Abhay stood amongst them.
* * *
A little more than a month later, Abhay was again anticipating an imminent meeting with Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, this time at Allahabad. Abhay had only recently returned from Vrndavana to his work at Prayag Pharmacy when the devotees at the Allahabad Gaudiya Math informed him of the good news. They had secured land and funds for constructing a building, the Sri Rupa Gaudiya Math, and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta would be coming on November 21 to preside over the ceremony for the laying of the cornerstone. Sir William Malcolm Haily, governor of the United Provinces, would be the respected guest and, in a grand ceremony, would lay the foundation stone in the presence of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta. When Abhay learned that there would also be an initiation ceremony, he asked if he could be initiated. Atulananda, the matha's president, assured Abhay that he would introduce him to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati.
At home, Abhay discussed his initiation plans with his wife. She had no objection, but she did not want to take initiation herself. They were already worshiping the Deity at home and offering their food to the Deity. They believed in God and were living peacefully.
But for Abhay that was not enough. Although he would not force his wife, he knew that he must be initiated by a pure devotee. Avoiding sinful life, living piously—these things were necessary and good, but in themselves they did not constitute spiritual life and could not satisfy the yearning of the soul. Life's ultimate goal and the absolute necessity of the self was love of Krsna. That love of Krsna his father had already inculcated within him, and now he had to take the next step. His father would have been pleased to see him doit.
What he had learned from his father was now being solidified by someone capable of guiding all the fallen souls of the world to transcendental love of God. Abhay knew he should go forward and take complete shelter in the instructions of his spiritual master. And the scriptures enjoined, "He who is desirous of knowing the Absolute Truth must take shelter of a spiritual master who is in disciplic succession and who is fixed in Krsna consciousness." Even Lord Caitanya, who was Krsna Himself, had accepted a spiritual master, and only after initiation did He manifest the full symptoms of ecstatic love of Krsna while chanting the holy name.
As for the ritual initiation he had received at age twelve from a family priest, Abhay had never taken it seriously. It had been a religious formality. But a guru was not a mere officiating ritualistic priest; so Abhay rejected the idea that he already had a guru. He had never received instructions from him in devotional service, and his family guru had not linked him, through disciplic succession, with Krsna. But by taking initiation from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati he would be linked with Krsna. Bhaktisiddhanta, son of Bhaktivinoda Thakura and disciple of Gaurakisora dasa Babaji, was the guru in the twelfth disciplic generation from Lord Caitanya. He was the foremost Vedic scholar of the age, the expert Vaisnava who could guide one back to Godhead. He was empowered by .his predecessors to work for the highest welfare by giving everyone Krsna consciousness, the remedy for all sufferings. Abhay felt that he had already accepted Srila Bhaktisiddhanta as his spiritual master and that from their very first meeting he had already received his orders. Now if Srila Bhaktisiddhanta would accept him as his disciple, the relationship would be confirmed.
He was coming so soon after Abhay had seen and heard him in Vrndavana! That was how Krsna acted, through His representative. It was as if his spiritual master, in coming to where Abhay had his family and business, was coming to draw him further into spiritual life. Without Abhay's having attempted to bring it about, his relationship with Srila Bhaktisiddhanta was deepening. Now Srila Bhaktisiddhanta was coming to him, as if by a higher arrangement.
On the day of the ceremony, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati met with his disciples at the Allahabad Gaudiya Math on South Mallaca Street. While he was speaking of Krsna and taking questions, Atulananda Brahmacari took the opportunity to present several devotees, Abhay amongst them, as candidates for initiation. The Allahabad devotees were proud of Mr. De, who regularly attended the matha in the evening, and led bhajanas, listened to the teachings and spoke them himself, and often brought respectable guests. He had contributed money and had induced his business colleagues also to do so. With folded palms, Abhay looked up humbly at his spiritual master. He and Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati were now face to face, and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta recognized him and was visibly pleased to see him. He already knew him. "Yes," he said, exchanging looks with Abhay, "he likes to hear. He does not go away. I have marked him. I will accept him as my disciple."
As the moment and the words became impressed into his being, Abhay was in ecstasy. Atulananda was pleasantly surprised that his Gurudeva was already in approval of Mr. De. Other disciples in the room were also pleased to witness Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's immediate acceptance of Mr. De as a good listener. Some of them wondered when or where Srila Bhaktisiddhanta had arrived at such an estimation of the young pharmacist.
At the initiation, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was seated on a vyasasana, an elevated seat, and the room was filled with guests and members of the Gaudiya Math. Those to be initiated sat around a small mound of earth, where one of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's sannyasis prepared a fire and offered grains and fruits into the flames, while everyone chanted mantras for purification. Abhay's sister and brother were present, but not his wife.
Abhay had basked in the presence of his Gurudeva. "Yes, he likes to hear"—the words of his spiritual master and his glance of recognition had remained with Abhay. Abhay would continue pleasing his spiritual master by hearing well. "Then," he thought, "I will be able to speak well." The Vedic literature described nine processes of devotional service, the first of which was sravanam, hearing about Krsna; then came kirtanam, chanting about and glorifying Him. By sitting patiently and hearing at Kosi, he had pleased Krsna's representative, and when Krsna's representative was pleased, Krsna was pleased. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati had not praised him for donating money to the matha and hadn't advised him to forsake his family and business and travel with him, nor had he asked Abhay to perform great austerities, like the yogis who mortify their bodies with fasts and difficult vows. But "He likes to hear," he had said. "I have marked him." Abhay thought about it and, again, listened carefully as his spiritual master conducted the initiation.
Finally, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta called for Abhay to come forward and receive initiation by accepting his japa, or prayer, beads. After offering prostrated obeisances, Abhay extended his right hand and accepted the strand of japa beads from the hand of his spiritual master. At the same time, he also received the sacred brahminical thread, signifying second initiation. Usually Srila Bhaktisiddhanta gave the first initiation, hari-nama, and only after some time, when he was satisfied with the progress of the disciple, would he give the second initiation. But he offered Abhay both initiations at the same time. Now Abhay was a full-fledged disciple, a brahmana, who could perform sacrifices, such as this fire yajna for initiation; he could worship the Deity in the temple and would be expected to discourse widely. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta added aravinda, "lotus," to his name; now he was Abhay Charanaravinda.
After Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati left Allahabad for Calcutta, Abhay keenly felt the responsibility of working on behalf of his spiritual master. At the initiation Srila Bhaktisiddhanta had instructed Abhay to study Rupa Gosvami's Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, which outlined the loving exchanges between Krsna and His devotees and explained how a devotee can advance in spiritual life. Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu was a "lawbook" for devotional service, and Abhay would study it carefully. He was glad to increase his visits to the Allahabad center and to bring new people. Even at his first meeting with his spiritual master he had received the instruction to preach the mission of Lord Caitanya, and now he began steadily and carefully considering how to do so. Preaching was a responsibility at least as binding as that of home and business. Even in his home he wanted to engage as far as possible in preaching Krsna consciousness. He discussed with his wife about his plans for inviting people into their home, offering them prasadam, and holding discussions about Krsna. She didn't share his enthusiasm.
Srila Prabhupada: My wife was a devotee of Krsna, but she had some other idea. Her idea was just to worship the Deity at home and live peacefully. My idea was preaching.
The biography of Srila Prabhupada continues next month with an account of how his spiritual master gave him an essential instruction just days before passing away.
In a poetic stanza of seven metaphors, God Himself tells us the benefits we can enjoy by chanting the Hare Krsna mantra.
by Dravida dasa
"Hare Krsna!" You've probably heard these two words at least once in the last few years, either by themselves or as part of the longer Hare Krsna mantra. But chances are you had only a vague idea of what they meant or why the Hare Krsna devotees chant them over and over again for hours at a time. No, the devotees aren't practicing autohypnosis at the behest of some demoniacal cult leader; they're practicing the chanting of the holy names of God, a method of self-realization taught five hundred years ago in India by an incarnation of God named Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Lord Caitanya chose to teach this process of self-realization primarily through oral instruction and personal example. Yet He did write eight seminal Sanskrit verses describing the glories of chanting the holy names of God, especially in congregation. In a series of seven metaphors, the first of these verses sets forth the inestimable benefits we can attain through this sublime process: "All glories to the chanting of the holy names of Lord Krsna, which cleanses the mirror of the mind and extinguishes the blazing fire of material existence. That chanting is the waxing moon that causes the white lotus of universal good fortune to blossom. It is the life and soul of all transcendental knowledge, and it expands the ocean of spiritual bliss. It enables one to taste full nectar at every step and gives a cooling effect to everyone" (Siksastaka 1).
The first metaphor is ceto-darpana-marjanam: "The chanting of the holy name of God polishes the mirror of the mind." Krsna consciousness is technically known as bhakti-yoga, and as in any yoga system, the mind is the crucial element. If our mind is absorbed in thoughts of family, money, personal pleasures or safety, mundane philosophy, science, or literature, or our own salvation—in short, in any subject other than God and service to God—then our mind will bind us to the world of matter, with all its limitations and suffering. Such thoughts constitute dirt on the mirror of the mind, because they prevent us from seeing our true identity as fully God conscious servants of the Supreme Lord.
The chanting of God's holy names quickly polishes the mirror of the mind and reveals both Him and ourselves. "The face is the index of the mind," Srila Prabhupada was fond of pointing out. And then he would often call attention to the uniquely bright faces of his Krsna conscious disciples. God is by nature full of happiness, and when we become God conscious by chanting His names, we also become full of joy and free from anxiety.
The second of Lord Caitanya's metaphors is bhava-mahadavagni-nirvapanam: "The chanting of God's holy names extinguishes the blazing fire of material existence." The Sanskrit word bhava means "becoming," and it often indicates the series of severe miseries that unavoidably accompany material life: birth, old age, disease, and death. If we're caught in a raging forest fire, our position is hopeless. Similarly, without transcendental knowledge our position in the blazing forest fire of birth, old age, disease, and death is also hopeless.
And what's more, death provides no release from these four miseries. The primary teaching of all Vedic literatures, beginning with the Bhagavad-gita, is that we are not our ever-changing bodies but eternal, immutable spiritual souls within the body. At the time of death, the soul whose mind is full of material thoughts enters a new body to undergo another term of birth, old age, disease, and death. This painful process, extended over countless lifetimes in millions of species (both human and nonhuman), makes being caught in a forest fire seem pleasant.
But there is a way to end this suffering once and for all: by chanting God's holy names. And the Brhan-naradiya Purana, an authoritative Vedic scripture, says this is the only way: "In this Age of Kali [the present Age of Quarrel and Confusion], the only way to attain liberation from the cycle of birth and death is to chant the holy name of God. There is no other way; there is no other way; there is no other way." Our minds are too disturbed and our bodies too frail for us to practice any process of self-realization other than the easy, blissful congregational chanting of Hare Krsna. By absorbing the mind in the names of God, we become attracted to Him and lose our affinity for mundane things—an affinity, as mentioned before, that keeps us trapped in the cycle of birth and death. Krsna literally lifts us out of the conflagration of the material world and takes us back to the kingdom of God.
That is why Lord Caitanya says, sreyah-kairava-candrika-vitaranam: "The chanting of Hare Krsna is the waxing moon that causes the white lotus of universal good fortune to blossom." Just by hearing the devotees chant Krsna's holy names, we begin our spiritual life. The names of God enter into the heart of even the most diffident listener and strike a chord of remembrance. However fleeting, this remembrance of God through the sound of His holy names will never be totally lost and will eventually develop into full God consciousness.
Of course, now we may not think of this as such good fortune. Maybe we think good fortune, "good luck," means that we have plenty of money and the capacity to enjoy it. Perhaps for us good luck means winning the state lottery, finding a roomy, affordable apartment in a safe neighborhood, or meeting an attractive mate. Yet all these things are simply ephemeral flashes of light in the overwhelmingly dark and tragic world of material life. They all end, at the latest, at the time of death. They yield no permanent benefit but simply lull us into believing there is some hope for happiness outside the service of the Lord. Genuine good fortune, on the other hand, is to see and hear the devotees of Krsna chanting His names and have our mind turned toward God.
Next Lord Caitanya says, vidya-vadhu-jivanam: "The chanting of God's holy names is the life and soul of all transcendental knowledge." In the Bhagavad-gita (13.3) Lord Krsna says that real knowledge means to know matter, the individual spiritual soul, and the Supreme Soul, God. One who fully understands the nature of these three subjects and the relationships among them possesses transcendental knowledge.
This knowledge is not something that has to be brought from outside; it already exists within us, deep within our subconsciousness. Like amnesiacs, we have simply forgotten who we are. who our father is, and how we should use everything we have in His service. The chanting of the Lord's holy names acts as a powerful reminder. As mentioned before, the holy name "cleanses the mirror of the mind" and reveals the truth about God. the soul, and matter. So when the devotees shout "Haribol!" they are calling upon all of us to chant God's names and awaken our innate transcendental knowledge.
Anandambudhi-vardhanam, says Lord Caitanya next: "The chanting of Hare Krsna expands the ocean of transcendental bliss." We are all searching for pleasure; that is our nature. But where to find unlimited, unending, ever-increasing pleasure—that we do not know. The chanting of Hare Krsna reveals that source of unlimited pleasure to us because it reveals Krsna Himself. This is the great mystery of the holy names of God: they are identical with Him in every respect. In other words, by chanting and hearing Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, one associates directly with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the source of infinite pleasure. The pleasures of sex, drugs, mundane music, and so on are like drops of water compared to the ocean of bliss we can enjoy by chanting the names of God.
The chief characteristic of spiritual pleasure is that, unlike material pleasure, it is constant. So Lord Caitanya now says pratipadam purnamrtasvadanam: "Chanting Hare Krsna enables one to taste full nectar at every step." Anyone who witnesses devotees chanting on the street will be struck by their sustained exuberance over two, three, or more hours. What keeps their spirits so high? The distinctive quality of the holy name as a reservoir of ever-fresh transcendental pleasure. "Sensual pleasures have a beginning and an end, so wise men do not seek them," says Lord Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita (5.16). He also declares that "the self-realized person enjoys unlimited happiness, for He concentrates on the Supreme" (Bg. 5.15). The devotees fully absorbed in chanting and hearing Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare are tapping the source of unending pleasure that lies beyond the limitations of body and mind. On this platform one can enjoy constantly, in any condition of life.
Finally, Lord Caitanya describes the chanting of the holy name as sarvatma-snapanam: "It gives a cooling effect to everyone." The Vedic literature often describes life without spiritual awareness as beset by tapa-trayi, "threefold burning miseries." These are the miseries caused by one's own body and mind, such as cancer or insanity; the miseries caused by others, such as war or pestilence; and the miseries caused by natural disasters, such as earthquakes or floods. Everyone in the material world is constantly being burned to some extent by one or more of these miseries, and most of our energy is spent trying to counteract them.
But we can never find real relief from the scorching heat of material misery until we chant the holy names of God. Since all misery affects only the body and mind. if we can transcend these and enter into the spiritual realm of existence, we can also transcend misery. This is precisely the effect of chanting the Hare Krsna mantra. Like material pleasures, material pains become insignificant for one who bathes his consciousness in the cooling river of sound called hari-nama-sankirtana, the congregational chanting of Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna. Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
So the next time you hear the words Hare Krsna, you'll know a little more about the tradition behind them and the wonderful benefits they can give you—and maybe you'll even feel inspired to join in the chanting yourself.
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.)
Brahmana—one who knows Brahman, the Absolute. The Vedic social system assigns an occupation to each person according to his personal qualities and the work he is capable of performing. The brahmanas are the intellectuals, those whose work calls for the most keenly developed intelligence. They form the brain of the society, while those who pursue other occupations—the government leaders, soldiers, businessmen, farmers, artists, workers, and so on—form the arms, stomach, and legs of the social body.
A brahmana is an intellectual. But not your confused, angst-torn intellectual. Nor your technological whiz kid or your tweedy speculating professor. A brahmana is one whose intellect has been sharpened and refined by cultivation of spiritual knowledge.
According to the Vedic ideal, it's not enough merely to have a quick and subtle mind. The Vedic conception is that an intellectual—a brahmana—should be a man of fine spiritual character and deep spiritual insight.
A brahmana, first of all, must have his mind and senses under his control. He's not just someone who plays games with his mind, caters to his senses, floats about in a nebulous ether of speculative ideas, or uses his brain power merely to make a good living.
On the contrary, he uses his intelligence to try to understand the ultimate meaning and purpose of life—and tries to enlighten others.
A brahmana must be austere, not self-indulgent. He must be willing to undergo personal troubles for a higher realization. And he must be a man of principle, one who lives for the truth and can't be swayed or bought off by position or pleasures.
A brahmana must be a man of cleanliness—clean physically and clean at heart—and he must be tolerant and simple. He must also have faith in the Supreme, the Personality of Godhead, and be willing to live in harmony with God's laws.
Above all, a brahmana must have true knowledge—not just psychological insight, technological know-how, or a command of facts and figures, but a true understanding of who he is and what his life is for. In short, he must be a man of spiritual realization, one who understands the difference between matter and spirit, between the temporary and the eternal. And his realization must be more than theoretical—he must be able to use his spiritual understanding to resolve the problems of his own life, and the lives of others.
A brahmana with these qualifications is the true intellectual leader of society. He is a man of vision, one who clearly sees what is what and can make it clear to others.
According to the Vedic system, the brahmana lives simply, modestly, yet he is the most respected, exalted member of society. It is he whom kings and statesmen must approach for guidance, both in their personal lives and in the momentous affairs of state.
It should be obvious that no one is "born a brahmana." Wise parents may give birth to a fool, or fools to a child of wisdom. A real brahmana is one who knows Brahman, the supreme Absolute Truth.
Throughout the world there are men of brahminical inclinations, but they must be trained so that these qualities grow and flourish. A man may have the potential to be a great doctor, but first he must be trained. And so it is with brahmanas.
But although the world has so many colleges and universities, where can one go to be trained in brahminical culture? We teach our young men to waste their intelligence in matters of no ultimate consequence. And the whole world suffers for want of spiritual vision. A social body without brahmanas is like a body without a head. There's no way it can survive. The need to train intelligent young men as brahmanas is therefore urgent beyond out power to express.
Buddhi-yoga—intelligence in Krsna consciousness. Buddhi means "intelligence," and yoga indicates a relationship with the Supreme, or Krsna. So to act in devotional service to Krsna is buddhi-yoga. Lord Krsna confirms in Bhagavad-gita (10.10) that when one engages steadily in His loving devotional service. He gives one the spiritual intelligence by which one can come to Him.
Yesterday I was leafing through back to godhead, Vol. 16, No. 9, when this statement in the Book Section struck me: "A father is affectionate to his son because there is some relationship of nearness between the son and the father. But that sort of affection in the material world is full of inebriety." That doesn't seem to be a fair way to describe one of the deepest, most meaningful relationships two people can share. I know it doesn't describe my relationship with my son. What does Mr. Prabhupada mean by "inebriety"? Sean O'Connell Boston, Massachusetts
Our reply: Consulting Webster's Third International, we find that a synonym for inebriety is intoxication, which means "poisoning or the abnormal state induced by a chemical agent (as a drug, serum, or toxin)." Now let's consider how this definition applies to affectionate relationships in the material world.
From the Bhagavad-gita we learn that each living being—each of us—is not the gross body made of matter but rather a spark of consciousness within the body. This spiritual soul has an innate capacity for affection, which is fully realized in relationship to the Supreme Soul, Lord Krsna. But when the spiritual soul falls into illusion he cuts off his relationship with Krsna, comes to the material world, and becomes conditioned, or contaminated, by matter. Then the spiritual soul begins his painful sojourn of repeated birth and death in myriad bodies—human, animal, and so on—all the time misdirecting his affection toward members of his own family or his own kind.
This abnormal state is brought about by two factors, or, if you will, "toxins": the ignorance that covers our knowledge of Krsna; and the material body itself, which makes us think we belong to a certain species, family, community, nation, or race and provides us with the means to express our perverted affection for other members of these groups. We can recover from this stupefying inebriety only by reawakening our original affection for Krsna through the process of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. So a father who has genuine affection for his son will give him every opportunity to become Krsna conscious from his earliest childhood.
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A look at the worldwide activities of the
Five New Transcendental Books Published
If there's one thing His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada taught his disciples, it was to publish as many books as possible on the science of Krsna consciousness and to distribute them profusely. It seems they've taken his instruction to heart. Not only did they distribute a total of more than ten million pieces of transcendental literature last year, but in an end-of-year flurry of publishing they also came out with five new important books.
Foremost among these are two new translations of Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is. In Calcutta, the East Indian division of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT), under the direction of Srila Jayapataka Swami, published a unique Bengali edition. It comprises Srila Prabhupada's Gita-gana, a poetic Bengali rendition of the Bhagavad-gita originally published in 1962, along with his unabridged commentary, translated from English into Bengali by His Holiness Bhakti-caru Swami.
In Los Angeles, the Spanish division of the BBT, under the direction of His Holiness Radha-Krsna Swami, has begun publishing a three-volume Spanish Bhagavad-gita As It. Is. Rendered into Spanish by Virabahu dasa and ornately designed by Rohini-priya dasa, Volume One contains the first four of the Bhagavad-gita's eighteen chapters. So well has the new book been received in Mexico and South America that the first printing of 115,000 is nearly sold out.
In the Far East, the Hong Kong division of the BBT has published a Chinese version of Srila Prabhupada's Easy Journey to Other Planets. This book, originally published in India in 1960, was one of the first books Srila Prabhupada wrote and the first to appear in print. Written as the space race was starting to heat up, it presents Krsna consciousness from an angle that reflects the breaking scientific news of the day. In addition to an all-Chinese edition, the Hong Kong BBT published a bilingual edition for the libraries that serve the growing number of Chinese-speaking people who are studying English.
The fourth new book is not by Srila Prabhupada but about him. This is Only He Could Lead Them, the third volume in the ongoing Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, the biography of Srila Prabhupada by Srila Satsvarupa dasa Goswami. Published by the English division of the BBT, Only He Could Lead Them relates Srila Prabhupada's activities during 1967, the year he opened a temple in the middle of San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district, suffered a near-fatal heart attack in New York, and returned to India to recuperate. Full of endearing and heroic episodes, the new book chronicles a critical period in the development of the Krsna consciousness Society and of Srila Prabhupada's loving relationships with his disciples.
Recently, the Journal of the American Academy of Religion favorably reviewed the first two volumes of Srila Prabhupada's biography, noting that the author's admitted attachment as one of the early disciples initiated by Prabhupada is the work's chief strength, enabling him to present the careful reader with a true picture of Srila Prabhupada. "It was the view of Swami Bhaktivedanta, shared by the author of his biography, that a purely academic study would miss the subtle and esoteric meanings contained in the life of a pure devotee," the review said.
The last of the new books is Mechanistic and Nonmechanistic Science, by Dr. Richard Thompson (Sadaputa dasa). Published by Bala Books under the direction of Yogesvara dasa. Mechanistic and Non-mechanistic Science makes a carefully reasoned and well documented case that the prevailing theories of physics and biology have grave shortcomings, which can be traced to their reliance on an underlying mechanistic framework. Arguing that valid scientific theory does not have to be mechanistic, Dr. Thompson outlines the non-mechanistic science of Krsna consciousness and shows how it complements mechanistic science and completes our understanding of reality.
Readers interested in any of the new publications may address their inquiries to the BACK TO GODHEAD editorial offices.
Historic Chateau Now Krsna Temple
Ermenonville, France—In the Ninth Century, a French priest named Irminon made this medieval village fifteen miles north of Paris the site for his retreat. In the Tenth Century his property passed into the hands of the Bouteiller family, descendants of Charlemagne, and from them to successive generations of French aristocracy. In 1351 Guillaume IV Ie Bouteiller sold the estate to a member of King Philippe VI's retinue, who expanded the premises and added a protective moat. Successive owners added their particular contribution to the Ermenonville chateau, which served as a summer resort for French nobility until it was replaced in popularity by the famous Versailles Palace. Guests of the chateau included Jean Jacques Rousseau (who made it his final meditative retreat) in 1778; Marie Antoinette in 1783; and Napoleon Bonaparte in 1800. Other notables to have lived at Ermenonville were Joan of Arc, Louis XI, Henry IV, and Benjamin Franklin.
In 1981 the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) completed negotiations for the acquisition of the Ermenonville Chateau, which now serves as ISKCON headquarters in France, complementing its rural asrama in Valencay and its reception center and restaurant in central Paris.
Sensitive to the property's historic value, ISKCON administrators have decided to retain the traditional French decor. Devotee artists and craftspeople have begun renovating the sculptured walls and parquet interiors of the chateau's eighty rooms. In its finished form the chateau will house a museum of traditional Indian bas relief work, devotional crafts displays, an art and photographic gallery, a vegetarian restaurant, and a radio station.
The village itself is a busy tourist attraction, receiving upwards of twenty thousand visitors each weekend in warm weather. Devotees have planned to accommodate the crowds with picnic baskets full of prasadam (vegetarian food offered to Krsna), concerts of devotional music, multimedia presentations on Krsna conscious themes, and boating on the property's fifteen-acre lake.
Prince Charles Gets Radha-Krsna Painting,
During a visit to the Hindu Cultural Centre in Preston, England, His Royal Highness Prince Charles received a painting of Lord Krsna and His consort Srimati Radharani from Mr. Chotu Pattni, a leading member of the Krsna consciousness Society in Great Britain. Madhavendra Puri dasa explained the painting to the prince and later presented him with Volume One of Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, the biography of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Head of UN Labor Organization Becomes a Krsna Devotee
New Vrindaban, West Virginia—The director of the United Nations' International Labor Organization (ILO) is now a formally initiated devotee in the Krsna consciousness Society. At the Society's farm community here, Pierre Adossama recently received spiritual initiation (and the spiritual name Ananta dasa) from Srila Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada, the community's leader. Mr. Adossama hails from the west African nation of Togo.
He told TV newsmen, "Many leaders today lack moral and spiritual qualities because they do not know the subtle laws of nature by which God governs the world. I hope that my initiation will help me increase my knowledge of God and improve my spiritual qualities so I can give moral support to the people I work with and help them work together effectively."
Before heading up the ILO Mr. Adossama was that organization's regional director for fifty African nations, and before coming to the U.N. he served as the prime minister of Togo, where he had previously held the posts of Minister of Education, Minister of Labor, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Minister of Finance.
On Truth, Belief, and Science
The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place in March 1974 on an early-morning walk in Perth, Australia.
Devotee: [Taking the part of a materialistic scientist] Why do you call Krsna consciousness a science? It seems like it's only a belief.
Srila Prabhupada: Your so-called science is also belief. If you call your way science, then our way is also science.
Devotee: But with our science we can prove our beliefs.
Srila Prabhupada: Then prove that chemicals make life. Your belief is that life is made from chemicals. So prove it; then it is science. But you cannot prove it; therefore it remains a belief.
Devotee: Well, you believe in the soul, but you can't prove that it exists. Since we cannot see the soul, we have to conclude that life comes from matter.
Srila Prabhupada: You cannot see the soul with your gross senses, but it can be perceived. Consciousness can be perceived, and consciousness is the symptom of the soul. But if, as you say, life comes from matter, then you must demonstrate it by supplying the missing chemicals to make a dead body live again. This is my challenge.
Devotee: We will require some time to find the right chemicals.
Srila Prabhupada: That is nonsense. Your belief is that life comes from chemicals, but you cannot prove it. Therefore you prove yourself to be a rascal.
Devotee: But you accept the Bhagavad-gita on faith. How is that scientific? It's only your belief, isn't that correct?
Srila Prabhupada: Why isn't the Bhagavad-gita scientific? The Bhagavad-gita says, annad bhavanti bhutani parjanyad anna-sambhavah: "All living entities subsist by eating food grains, and grains are produced from rain." Is that belief?
Devotee: That must be true.
Srila Prabhupada: Similarly, everything in the Bhagavad-gita is true. If you think carefully about what Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, you will find that it is all true. For example, Krsna says that in society there must be an intelligent class of men, the brahmanas, who know the soul and God. They are civilized men. But where is such a class of men in today's society?
Devotee: Throughout the world there are many priests, ministers, and rabbis.
Srila Prabhupada: But what do they actually know about God? They speculate about God as much as the scientists speculate about material nature.
Just try to see this one point clearly: You are not independent; therefore, there must be some authority over you. And ultimately you have to accept that a supreme authority exists. So if you claim to have knowledge of the supreme truth but you do not know the supreme authority, what is the value of your knowledge?
Suppose a man does not know about the government of his country. What kind of man is he? He is simply a third-class man, a rascal. A civilized man knows about his country's government. Similarly, there is a government of the whole universe, but it" you do not know it you are a third-class, uncivilized man. That is why Krsna teaches in the Bhagavad-gita that there must be an intelligent class of men who know God and who understand the whole universal management—how it is running under the order of God. Krsna devotees know these things. Therefore they are the real brahmanas and the real scientists.
Devotee: But the Bhagavad-gita is five thousand years old, so it doesn't pertain to our modern world.
Srila Prabhupada: The Bhagavad-gita is not five thousand years old; it has always existed. Have you read the Bhagavad-gita?
Devotee: Yes, several times.
Srila Prabhupada: Then where do you find in the Bhagavad-gita that it is five thousand years old? Krsna says, imam vivasvate yogam proktavan aham avyayam:
"I spoke this imperishable science of Bhagavad-gita to Vivasvan more than 120 million years ago." You do not know this? What kind of reader of the Bhagavad-gita are you? The Bhagavad-gita is avyayam, eternal. So how can you say it is five thousand years old?
[Pointing to the rising sun with his cane] Here we see the sun just rising. But it is always there, in space. The Bhagavad-gita is like that: it is eternal truth. When the sun rises we don't say, "Oh, the sun is just now coming into existence." It is always there, but we can't see it until it rises. Men used to think that at night the sun died and in the morning a new sun was created. They also used to believe the earth was flat. This is your scientific knowledge: every day a new opinion.
Devotee: This means that we are discovering the truth.
Srila Prabhupada: No. It means you do not know what the truth is. You are only speculating. Now you accept something as true, but after a few days you say it is not true. And you call this science!
Devotee: Yes, you're right. Many of the scientific textbooks that were written just a few years ago are outdated now.
Srila Prabhupada: And the scientific books you are now using will be useless in a few years. This is your science.
Devotee: But at least what we know now is more true than what we knew before, and if we keep trying we will know more.
Srila Prabhupada: This means you are always in ignorance. But the Bhagavad-gita is not like that. Krsna says to Arjuna, "I first instructed this science 120 million years ago, and today I am teaching you the same thing." That is scientific knowledge: the truth is always the same. But you scientists are always changing—"discovering the truth," you call it. That means you do not know what the truth is.
Devotee: [As himself] The problem is, everyone is a cheater. Everyone is speculating and presenting his own knowledge as the truth.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Therefore we accept Krsna, who does not cheat. And since I am presenting only what Krsna has said, I am also not a cheater. That is the difference between the scientists and us.
The Capati: Bread Fit for the Lord
Simple, wholesome, delicious: The qualities that made this
by Visakha-devi dasi
Madhavendra Puri awoke and lamented, "I saw the Lord directly, but I could not even recognize Him!"
The previous day, while Madhavendra Puri had been fasting and meditating beneath a tree in the holy land of Vrndavana a beautiful cowherd boy had appeared before him and, smiling enchantingly, offered him a pot of milk. Madhavendra Puri had accepted the milk, but although the boy had promised to return for the empty pot, He never had. The whole night Madhavendra Puri had chanted Hare Krsna, waiting for that beautiful boy to return, until towards morning he had dozed a little and dreamt that the boy was clasping his hand and taking him to a bush in the jungle.
"I reside in this bush," the boy said, "and because of this I suffer very much from rain. winds, severe cold, and scorching heat. Please bring the people of the village and get them to take Me out of this bush. Then have them situate Me nicely on the hilltop.
"My name is Gopala," the boy said. (Gopala is a name for Krsna that means "cowherd boy.") "When soldiers attacked Vrndavana, the priest who was serving Me hid Me here. Then he ran away in fear. Since then I have been staying in this bush. It is very good that you've come here. Now just remove Me with care." With this, the boy disappeared.
Upon awakening, Madhavendra Puri felt sorry because he had not recognized the boy in his dream as Gopala, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But Madhavendra Puri had full faith in the words Gopala had spoken in the dream. So he entered the village and explained the situation to the people. Together they went to the exact spot in the jungle that Gopala had indicated, excavated the carved stone Deity form of the Lord, and carried Him to the hilltop.
Madhavendra Puri never thought that the Gopala Deity was simply a stone statue representing the Lord. He saw the Deity as directly the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself in all His fullness and opulence. Madhavendra Puri knew that although God is present everywhere, He personally comes as the Deity to accept and reciprocate His devotees' loving service. To those with materialistic vision the form of the Deity may appear like inert matter, but a pure devotee realizes that there is no difference between the Deity of the Lord and the Lord Himself. Such a devotee serves the Deity just as he would serve the Lord directly. So the Deity of Lord Gopala, by His own transcendental desire, engaged Madhavendra Puri and hundreds of local people in His service, thus increasing their love for Him. After all, if the Lord wants to come among us as a Deity like Gopala, who in this world can stop Him?
The villagers welcomed Gopala with the melodious sounds of bugles, drums, chanting, and singing, while Madhavendra Puri washed the Lord's transcendental body with hundreds of pots of water, and with pots of yogurt, milk, honey, sugar, and ghee (purified butter). He massaged the Lord with fine oils, bathed Him again, and dressed Him in new garments.
Then the villagers offered Lord Gopala prayers, obeisances, and their entire stocks of rice, wheat flour, and dal (see BTG Vol. 17, No. 4.) They brought so much food that it covered the entire surface of the hill. Expert cooks prepared dozens of varieties of vegetables, soups, cakes, rices, and capatis (the subject of this month's recipe). They placed the rice on leaves and surrounded it with stacks of capatis, each amply covered with ghee. Then they placed all the vegetable dishes in pots and put them around the capatis. Finally, they placed pots of yogurt, milk, buttermilk, yogurt-cheese, sweet rice, cream, and solid cream alongside the vegetables. Thus they celebrated the lavish festival called annakuta, and Madhavendra Puri personally offered everything to the Deity of Gopala with great devotion.
Having been hungry for many days, Gopala happily ate all the food and told Madhavendra Puri, "I have accepted your service because of your intense love for Me." Although Gopala ate all the food, leaving not a morsel. He again restored it all by His transcendental potency. Such are the pastimes of the Deity of the Lord.
After the Lord was satisfied, Madhavendra Puri gathered all the cooks and said, "Now feed everyone sumptuously, from the children up to the aged!" Local and neighboring villagers feasted side by side on the lavish spread of prasadam (food offered to Krsna). Everyone was astonished to see the influence of Madhavendra Puri.
As the entire region gradually heard of the appearance of Gopala, people from more distant villages began coming to visit Him. Each group of villagers wanted to perform the annakuta ceremony, so day after day they brought rice, dal, flour, vegetables, ghee, milk, sweets, flowers, and various other offerings for the Deity. The cooks again and again prepared and offered dishes to Gopala and distributed prasadam to all. Lord Gopala was very pleased, as was His devotee Madhavendra Puri.
* * *
Madhavendra Puri offered capatis to Lord Gopala in the fifteenth century, when this pastime took place. Similarly, 4500 years before, when Lord Krsna resided in Vrndavana, He also enjoyed capatis. If you're inclined to, you can make capatis in your own kitchen, offer them to Krsna, and partake of this simple yet delicious and nourishing bread.
There is a specific, formal process for offering food to Krsna that devotees follow in Krsna's temples. For your offering at home, however, you can begin with a few simple procedures. First, while preparing the dish, try to remember that it is for Krsna's pleasure. Second, never taste the preparation before offering it: Krsna should enjoy it first. Third, when the preparation is done, place a portion before a picture of Krsna; then chant Hare Krsna and pray for the Lord to accept the offering.
(Recipe by Yamuna-devi dasi)
Basic Unleavened Whole-wheat Bread (Capati)
The most popular of all unleavened breads, capatis are traditionally made with stone-ground whole-wheat flour. Thus they're rich in fiber, vitamins B and E, protein, iron, unsaturated fats, and carbohydrates. Like all whole-wheat breads, capatis also contain phytic acid, a chemical that regulates the amount of calcium and other minerals the body absorbs. So while connoisseurs can relish capatis for their refined taste, texture, and aroma, natural food fans can enjoy them for their varied nutritional content as well.
Note concerning flour:
Most Vedic breads are made with a kind of stone-ground whole-wheat flour called atta, or capati flour. This flour, available in Indian grocery stores, is quite different from the kinds available in supermarkets and health-food stores. Capati flour consists of whole grains of wheat finely milled to a near powder. (Cooks in India usually make it even finer by sieving it through a very fine screen in a utensil called a chalni.) Capati flour is tan or buff in color and bursting with nutrition. Doughs made with it are velvety smooth, knead readily, and respond easily to shaping.
If capati flour is unavailable, you can use regular whole-wheat flour. You should either sieve this flour to reduce its coarse texture or replace a portion of it with unbleached or regular all-purpose flour. How much all-purpose flour you should add depends on the quality of your whole-wheat flour, but generally two parts whole wheat to one part all-purpose gives good results. (For best results, use freshly milled flours.)
To measure the flour, first sieve it and then lightly spoon it into a measuring cup until it overflows the rim. Finally, level it off gently with a knife. If you pack the flour into the measuring cup or shake the cup, you'll get an inaccurate measurement because of compression or settling of the flour.
In following this recipe, begin with the least amount of water suggested. If the dough turns out too soft, add additional flour. Remember:
Flours vary according to the type of wheat they're milled from, the processing they undergo, and the amount of moisture they absorb during storage. So even the most accurate measurements may need small adjustments.
Preparation time: 1 to 2 minutes per capati
2 ½ to 2 2/3 cups sieved capati or whole-wheat flour
A flat surface near the stove
To prepare the dough:
First put aside ½ cup of flour for rolling the capatis. Then add the salt to the remaining flour. Now fill a receptacle with about 1 cup of lukewarm water. Holding the receptacle in one hand, add about 2/3 cup of water to the flour and work it with your other hand until it begins to hold together. Mix vigorously, adding enough water to make a pliable, soft dough. (The look and feel of the dough will determine how much water you need.) Fold and knead the dough by pressing it with your knuckles or palms until it is silky smooth, or for about ten minutes. Now gather the dough into a compact, smooth ball, place it in a bow], rub it with water until a thin film forms, and drape it with a damp towel. Allow the dough to sit for at least ½ hour at room temperature. If the dough is covered well, you may let it sit as long as 6 to 8 hours while the water and gluten in the wheat form an elastic, weblike framework.
To shape and cook the capatis:
Prepare the cooking area by collecting the necessary ingredients and equipment. (If you don't plan to serve the capatis one after another right off the stove, place each cooked capati between the folds of the towel in the cake tin or pie tin. But remember the capatis must have breathing space, so don't cover them so tightly that they become soggy from the steam inside them.) Place a bowl with the melted butter or ghee nearby, along with the pastry brush or teaspoon. Preheat the flat iron griddle over medium heat for about three minutes. Take the ½ cup of wholewheat flour you saved and place it in a small, shallow dish.
Knead the dough, adding more flour if it's too sticky. Divide the dough into about a dozen equal pieces. Then take the pieces one at a time, coat them with a little flour, and roll them between your palms to shape round, smooth balls. Place the balls on a plate and drape them with a damp towel.
Now take the first ball and immerse it in enough flour to prevent sticking. Then flatten the ball into a two-inch patty, dip the patty into the flour on both sides, and, using a rolling pin, roll it out from the center to make a disk about 3 ½ inches across. Dip the disk into the flour on both sides and then roll it in all directions until the dough is evenly thick all around. The circle of dough should be as thin and as round as possible, and it should measure about 5 to 6 inches across. While rolling the capati, use just enough flour to prevent it from sticking.
Lift up the flat disk of dough, slap it back and forth from one palm to the other to shake off any excess flour, and then slip it onto the preheated griddle. Cook for about 40 to 50 seconds, or until you see small white blisters appear on the surface of the dough. Now turn the capati over and cook for another 35 to 45 seconds, or until small brown spots form on the underside and the surface blisters with air pockets.
Lift the capati off the griddle and carefully place it directly on a high gas flame or a cake rack placed over an electric burner set on "high." Within ten seconds the capati will swell, fill with hot steam, and puff up. Use the pair of tongs to turn the capati over, and then toast it until the puffed surface is marked with tiny black spots.
Remove the capati from the heat and slap out the hot air so the capati collapses. Brush one side with melted butter or ghee and offer to Krsna immediately or place between the folds of a thick clean kitchen towel for offering later.
Try to establish a rhythm in your movements so you're rolling one capati while another is baking. This way you can make a capati every two minutes or so.
Jean Claude Halliche
A Spiritual Presence at 3M
When a rising young business executive gets involved with Krsna consciousness,
by Yogesvara dasa
Jean Claude Halliche is something of a legend at 3M Company, one of the world's hundred largest corporations. At twenty-nine he is the youngest of forty-five directors in France, responsible for more than ten thousand clients in the Paris region and credited with having trained the most effective sales team in the company's history. And even though he wouldn't want people to mistakenly think that Krsna consciousness is some kind of good-luck mumbo jumbo, in his own words, "Everything started happening for me when I began chanting Hare Krsna."
Jean Claude's ambitions before he met devotees of Lord Krsna had little to do with chanting and spiritual dedication. A Catholic by family upbringing, he watched with amused skepticism as devotees chanted and danced their way along the crowded Paris thoroughfares and through tiny streets at Saturday flea markets. No, he hardly saw himself as one of the chosen.
He was preoccupied with a different vision, one of la bonne vie, the "good life" that blares out from billboards and magazine covers and comes wrapped in ermine with million-franc price tags. And why shouldn't he have dreamed of success and wealth? A handsome young man with a winning smile and demeanor could go far if he just applied himself.
So his first visit to a Hare Krsna temple had little to do with interest in life's mysteries, That would come later. For now, in the summer of 1974, he was concerned only with seeing his brother Alain again after more than seven years. Alain had been in India all that time and was now returning to Paris. In his letter, which had arrived the week before, he had invited his family to meet him at the airport and then accompany him to the Paris Krsna temple. As a child Jean Claude had always looked up to his older brother, but Alain's recent involvement with Krsna consciousness was an unexpected change that Jean Claude hoped would not sour their relationship.
The reunion was warm. In the temple Adi-sekhara dasa (Alain had received this name at his formal initiation into Krsna consciousness) told his family why he had adopted the life of a devotee. In India, he said, he had found an understanding of life vastly different from what he had known as a young man in Paris. Even an uneducated person in India knew that within the body dwells the eternal soul, part and parcel of Krsna, or God, and that the soul's material attachments entrap him in a painful cycle of repeated birth and death. In this conditioned state the soul undergoes karma, the reactions to past deeds. No one can surpass these laws, Adi-sekhara said, except a devotee of God. A person who leads a life of purity and devotion to Lord Krsna transcends karma and breaks out of the cycle of birth and death. And this boon is open to everyone. Anyone can become purified and happy by dedicating his activities to Krsna.
Although the strange dress and temple environment still rubbed Jean Claude the wrong way, Adi-sekhara's explanations opened his eyes. There was much more to Krsna consciousness than he had suspected. He learned that the public chanting the devotees did was an ancient practice inaugurated five hundred years ago in India by Caitanya Mahaprabhu, a great saint revered by devotees as Krsna Himself, and that the scriptures and culture followed by devotees were among the oldest and most distinguished in the world. Looking around at the beautifully decorated temple and the devotees in traditional robes, Jean Claude questioned his brother on everything, and Adi-sekhara patiently answered him. "Why did you give up eating meat?" "Because killing innocent animals is cruel and sinful, and because Krsna has provided sufficient nutrition in vegetarian foods. Also, devotees eat only food that has been offered to Lord Krsna. and He does not accept meat, fish, or eggs."
"Why do you shave your head?"
"A shaven head is clean and shows others that we're devotees of Krsna. It's also a symbol of renunciation. It shows that the devotees are more concerned with the eternal beauty of the soul than the temporary appearance of the material body."
"What would happen if everyone became a devotee? How would society go on?"
"Becoming a devotee doesn't require giving up work or family," Adi-sekhara explained. "In the region of India known as West Bengal I visited the village of Mayapur, where devotees are building a model Krsna conscious community. There are farmers, family people, a school, cottage industries—everything needed for a complete social structure, but with Krsna at the center. Even if you can't live in or near a temple, you can still be Krsna conscious. Family people can practice spiritual life at home by chanting Hare Krsna, studying the scriptures, worshiping a small Deity form of Krsna on an altar, and offering Him their food."
Jean Claude listened attentively. It all made enough sense for him to begin visiting his brother regularly and attending classes at the temple. "My faith grew from religious as well as philosophical conviction-," he recalls. "I remember as a child how lines of people with cleanly scrubbed faces and starched collars would wait patiently to attend Sunday Mass. Even four services could hardly accommodate all the church-goers. Now there is hardly need for one. God has no meaning for most people anymore.
"But I rediscovered that meaning among the devotees of Krsna. For them devotion wasn't a mere ritual: it was a dynamic energy. It gave purpose to everything they did, from preparing meals to raising a family to doing their work as well as they could. Because the devotees were working for Krsna, they wanted everything they did to be as perfect as possible. That made sense to me."
Jean Claude started attending Sunday festivals at the Paris temple and took up chanting Hare Krsna as a daily meditation. Still, he was reluctant to make a full commitment. Devotional life seemed so total and uncompromising. On the other hand, the devotees' dedication to their work inspired him in his job.
By 1977 Jean Claude was married and working as a dispatcher at 3M. He decided to apply to his own work the enthusiasm he had learned from the devotees. Concentrating on refining the delivery methods at 3M, he often worked late, and his dedication soon drew the attention of his superiors. So the Paris bureau chief offered Jean Claude a six-month training program in management, and less than a year later he became customer services agent.
"Attending classes in the Bhagavad-gita and chanting the holy names of Krsna gave me a certain edge in my work," he says, "namely greater dedication and a sense of purpose. I wasn't just working for myself or 3M anymore: I was working for Krsna. In addition, I acquired a better understanding of human psychology, which is what business is all about anyway: knowing how to motivate a staff, how to recognize a person's capacities and respond to his or her emotional level."
Six months into his new post Jean Claude earned a promotion to sales inspector. By the end of his first year, at age twenty-three, he became the company's best salesman and received the annual award for outstanding achievement. He repeated that feat the following year and again the next. In 1980 he became director of operations and moved into a new home close to the Hare Krsna chateau fifteen miles north of Paris.
Although by now Jean Claude had become deeply involved in Krsna consciousness, he still hesitated to make a lifetime commitment by taking initiation. At the time of initiation, a devotee must vow to chant the Hare Krsna mantra a minimum of 1,728 times a day and to follow four regulative principles. He must give up meat, fish, and eggs; gambling; intoxicants (including coffee, tea, and cigarettes); and illicit sex (sex with someone other than one's wife or for reasons other than procreation). That Krsna consciousness had brought Jean Claude many welcome changes in his life was beyond question. That he would be able to adjust to the strict rules of initiation was less so.
"I never met Srila Prabhupada, the founder of the Krsna consciousness Society," Jean Claude explains. "By the time I was ready to consider initiation seriously, he had passed away. Without him, I wasn't sure I could find competent personal guidance in moments of difficulty. But fortunately for me—and for many others—Srila Prabhupada had delegated responsibility for initiating new devotees to his seniormost disciples. In France, Srila Bhagavan Goswami was fulfilling that duty as well as guiding the management of temples across southern Europe. Adi-sekhara brought me to meet him. We talked, and I expressed my doubts about being able to adjust to the rigors of temple life. Still, I wanted initiation and also a chance to tell others about Krsna consciousness."
Bhagavan Goswami agreed to initiate Jean Claude and gave him the name Janardana dasa, which means "servant of Krsna, the conqueror of the atheists."
"Bhagavan Goswami never asked me for any money, but I wanted to express my gratitude, so I started giving donations from my salary. That same week I received a large raise. It was practically mystical! And the more service I did—acting as chauffeur for Bhagavan Goswami or helping with festivals and feasts—the more confidence I felt in my devotional life and my life at the office."
Janardana enthusiastically recalls the encouragement he received from Bhagavan Goswami. "Whenever I told him of some success I had had in business, he shared my celebration and repeated the news to guests and devotees. Once the Indian ambassador to France visited him and Bhagavan Goswami mentioned that one of his disciples had recently been promoted to head of operations for 3M. The ambassador was surprised to learn that people from the mainstream were taking up devotional life, and the following day I received an invitation to join him for lunch at the embassy." Janardana had found his mission: meeting people in positions of responsibility and showing them by his own example how Krsna consciousness was meant for everyone.
Today Jean Claude's supervisor describes him as "a fearless worker who commands the respect of his colleagues." His colleagues describe him as a "worker-priest" with 3M stamped across his forehead, a combination of meditation and moxy. Every Monday he gathers his eight-man sales team in his office. Good work is commended, but there is no room for sentiment. Incomplete or illegible order forms are returned with a peremptory flourish "Sloppy" written across the margin says it all. Each salesman steps forward and shows his presentation book. "Where is your brochure on the new photocopier? I don't want to see this until you've done it right." Never mind that some of those he reprimands are twice his age. Jean Claude runs a tight ship.
At home Jean Claude's drive translates into enthusiasm for centering his family life on Krsna and introducing others to Krsna consciousness. He often invites friends and business acquaintances over for prasadam (vegetarian food offered to Krsna) and talks about his new-found spirituality. His twenty-three-year-old wife, Sylvia, shares his memories of a religious childhood. "Our families objected at first to our involvement in Krsna consciousness. People generally have such a superficial idea of what it means. But now they see that I'm still a responsible mother and Jean Claude is still a successful businessman, and that has allayed their fears."
But life is not without its shocks. A recent incident brought home to Jean Claude the precariousness of life in the material world and the great value of Krsna consciousness in a calamity.
Saturday, January 9, 1982, a treacherous ice slick formed on the roads across northern France. It was the worst cold wave in nearly a century. Jean Claude, who lived next door to Adi-sekhara and his wife Mahima-bhusana, had left for a weekend company gathering. Upon his return Monday morning he learned the news: Mahima-bhusana had died in a car crash that weekend. She had gone out to shop and had left her three children in the care of the temple nursery. Janardana, his wife, and everyone at the temple was devastated. Mahima-bhusana had been a beloved senior devotee whose dedication was admired by all who knew her.
Jean Claude reflects on the incident. "Here is a clear example of the difference between a devotee's life and that of a non-devotee. Everyone loved her. and her passing was a great loss, especially for the children. But it was not tragic. The devotees gathered in the temple and chanted in her honor. Those who knew her best eulogized her advanced spiritual qualities, and a feast in her honor was offered to Krsna and served to everyone. She had been called back to the spiritual world by Krsna, and that was a cause for celebration. A nondevotee, without training in the meaning of death or the soul's passage into a new life, has nothing but his own misery to think about when someone he loves passes away. Some people never recover from such things, but devotees become inspired."
What about the children? How could Mahima-bhusana's death be anything but tragic for them? Jean Claude answers, "One of my relatives argued like that. 'Where is your Krsna now!' she screamed. She was shaking with rage that God would do such a thing to the children. But these are not ordinary children. To be born to devotee parents is a sign of great spiritual advancement in previous lives, and the reactions of the children bore that out. They're young, yet they grasped that their mother had left and returned to Krsna, and that made them happy. In a temple community children are surrounded by sensitive, loving adults and many young friends. There is great emotional as well as spiritual support at such moments. And throughout their lives these children will always see themselves as the offspring of an advanced devotee who has gone on to perform even more wonderful service to Krsna elsewhere. That vision will be a source of great strength for them. For children who don't have that background or the support of a spiritual community, such an event is certainly much harder to bear.
"I've had people tell me, 'You're trying to escape reality by becoming a devotee of Krsna.' Well, there's nothing realer than death, and how the devotees dealt with Mahima-bhusana's death has convinced me that they're the only people who don't try to escape reality. A nondevotee family would have been crippled by the event, but Adi-sekhara and the children saw it with such mature Krsna conscious understanding that they weathered the storm and have become even more committed to serving Krsna. To me, this is facing reality head on."
But what about Jean Claude himself? What about having sacrificed the prospects for greater career advancement by dedicating so much of himself to spiritual pursuits? He quietly studies his long, thin hands for several moments. "True," he says "I've become less concerned with gaining wealth, honor, and position for myself. But there's an important reason for this. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam, one of the basic books of transcendental knowledge all devotees study, there is an instruction that explains why I've changed the focus of my life."
Jean Claude picks up Volume One of the Bhagavatam's First Canto and leafs through it. Then he reads, "'People who are actually intelligent should endeavor only for that which is not obtainable even by wandering from the topmost planet (Brahmaloka) down to the lowest planet (Patala). As for happiness derived from sense enjoyment, it can be obtained automatically in the course of time, just as in the course of time we obtain miseries even though we do not desire them.
"Do you see? Sure I struggled hard to rise to the top at 3M. But I know now that all my success came because of Krsna's blessings. My task now is to maintain what I've achieved and use it for His service, and to work toward perfecting my spiritual life. So there's nothing inconsistent in a businessman's forgoing material profit for spiritual profit. In the long run, that's just good business."
Is This Trip Really Necessary?
The recent crash of a Boeing 737 jetliner in Washington, D.C., in which 78 people died, raises the perennial question of why people feel compelled to travel so much. Domestically, Americans travel more than a trillion miles every year by air, rail, car, and bus, at a cost of $250 billion. Automobile deaths alone claim more than 50,000 lives annually in the U.S., nearly as many Americans as died in Vietnam. With the cost and risk of traveling so high, one may well ask the prospective traveler, "Is this trip really necessary?"
"Yes," is the usual reply. Business demands it, or ties of family affection and friendship demand it, or our tastes for vacationing and sightseeing demand it.
But think about it: Wouldn't we be a lot happier if all our needs could be satisfied at home? The political philosopher and moralist Canakya once said, "A happy man is he who is not in debt and who does not have to leave home." Canakya, who lived in the fourth century B.C., would certainly have had no trouble understanding the unhappiness of our modern commuter, battling heavy traffic daily as he travels in and out of a big city, struggling to make enough money to pay off the mortgage.
Srila Prabhupada, seeing the plight of the modern commuters and travelers, was compassionate and criticized the deadening treadmill of their frantic lives: "People rush about in cars going seventy and eighty miles an hour [this was written before OPEC], constantly coming and going, and this sets the scene for the great struggle for existence. One has to rise early in the morning and travel in a car at breakneck speed. There is always the danger of an accident, and one has to take great care. In his automobile, the living entity is full of anxieties, and his struggle is not at all auspicious."
The salesman travels. But what is the ultimate benefit of his traveling? Money. As Wordsworth said, "Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers. Little we have in nature that is ours." Certainly making money has its place, but if in making money a person forgets the purpose of his life, that is the greatest tragedy.
Hopping the globe in search of the perfect vacation is also a vain dream. Airline posters in New York City show a young man and a beautiful woman in swimsuits enjoying a special moment in the sun on a Florida beach. In Florida, the ads show a model couple enjoying the sights, restaurants, and night life of Manhattan. But in reality, the trip from Florida to New York or New York to Florida is dangerous, expensive, troublesome, and ultimately disappointing.
Yet, on we travel—down the road, through the air, under the earth, across the sea, and into outer space, racing toward the mirage of adventure, happiness, and economic opportunity.
Amid all the hustle and bustle, it is rare indeed to find a person thoughtful enough to inquire into the ultimate purpose of life. Everyone is too busy making travel arrangements. A chance moment of introspection is sure to be shattered by the advertisers' shouts that Budget Rent-a-Car will fly you above the congested airport crowds in no time at all and hand you the keys to a painlessly inexpensive automobile. Meanwhile, the hotel advertisers are advising you where to go to eat and sleep like a prince, and the entertainment advertisers are promising you something wonderful to see and hear, until finally you are spent—of money and energy and patience—and forced to catch another ride to the next place.
For one who can gather his thoughts enough to ask why he is being forced to go from place to place, the Vedic literature offers valuable insight, and ultimate relief.
First, the Vedic literature informs us that our forced travels do not actually end with the end of the body. Within the body is the soul—the actual person—who has to travel from body to body, life after life. Human travel in this lifetime is symbolic of the travel of the soul as he transmigrates from one body to another. And the advertisements that allure the traveler are representative of all the illusions of the material nature that induce us to develop various material desires. At the end of life, our accumulated material desires lead us to our next body, where we can try again to fulfill them while we receive the punishments and rewards of our previous karma, or selfish actions.
Sometimes, when a person's karma is not good, his next body is inferior to his present one. A poor person cannot afford to fly from New York to Orlando's Disney World but has to settle for the pleasures of a local park. Similarly, if a person sins and thus incurs bad karma, he may get the body of an animal and be forced to evolve from one species to another, life after life.
But even the best karma or the best birth does not free a person from the miserable trials of mortal life. Regardless of karma, everyone has to die, whether sitting in the first-class section of a 737 or standing in a crowded, last-class bus. And at death, the soul sojourns to his next body, whether human, animal, or plant, to continue his traveling and suffering in the material world.
The sufferings of the wanderer end when he realizes that his real nature is not to struggle in this world but to enjoy his eternal relationship with Krsna in the spiritual world. In other words, the traveler becomes happy when he reaches his ultimate destination—the kingdom of God.
The Vedic literature explains that although the living entity may travel all over the universe, birth after birth, he will never find rest, never find his permanent home. So he should stop looking for happiness in the material realm. Having through great good fortune come to the human form of life, he should break free from the control of illusion and travel back home, back to Godhead, where he will find eternal happiness. This, truly, is the only trip that is really necessary.—SDG