A lecture given in 1972 by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, at the University of Auckland.
The Krsna consciousness movement is also known as the sankirtana movement, the movement for spreading the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra. Superficially, this chanting may appear to be the repetition of some ordinary words, but it is not. We simply require to practice it a little to experience its effect.
The effect of chanting Hare Krsna is stated by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu: ceto-darpana-marjanam. "It will cleanse your heart." If we go on chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, gradually the dirty things accumulated within our heart will be cleansed away. This is Lord Caitanya's promise. The dirtiest thing within our heart is the bodily concept of life. Actually, the whole modern world is suffering from this misconception. If one is in the bodily concept of life, thinking "I am my body," then the basic principle of his life is false. So this bodily identification is the dirtiest thing within our heart.
Now, if we chant the Hare Krsna mantra, gradually we shall understand, "I am not my body; I am a spirit soul (aham brahmasmi)." And if we come to the point of understanding that we are not the body but a spirit soul, then other things will follow.
As the Bhagavad-gita states, brahma-bhutah prasannatma na socati na kanksati:
"When a person becomes Brahman realized, when he understands he is a spirit soul, the first benefit is that he becomes free from all kinds of hankering and lamentation." In this material world two things are going on: hankering and lamentation. Things we do not possess we hanker after, and things we do possess and somehow or other lose, we lament over. Actually, the whole situation is full of lamentation, because we are constantly losing. Take. for example, our body, which we have received from our father and mother on a certain date. Gradually we are losing it. Suppose you are twenty years old. That means you have already lost twenty years of your life. I am now seventy-six years old. That means I have lost seventy-six years of my life.
So, the duration of our life is limited, and its end is already destined. According to our past activities, we have received a body whose duration of life is already fixed. And the standard of our happiness and distress is also fixed. You cannot change it. You are all students here at the University of Auckland. Is there any science being taught here that can increase the duration of life or stop death? No. That is not possible.
Birth, old age, disease, and death—these are the main problems of life. Nobody wants to die, but death is sure. We must die. Nobody wants to take birth, but there is birth. Now there are so many contraceptive methods for checking birth, but the population of the world is still increasing. Nobody wants to become old; everyone wants to remain young and fresh. But old age overcomes everyone. Similarly, disease is inevitable. There have been many advances in scientific knowledge, but there is no science to stop disease or to stop death.
So birth, old age, disease, and death are our actual problems. But these problems pertain to the body. The soul is different from the body. I am a soul, you are a soul, but somehow or other we have become entrapped in these material bodies and are experiencing the changes of the body. You can all understand that your body is changing while you, the soul, remain unchanged. Once you had the body of a baby, then you had the body of a child, and now you have a youthful body. And some days from now you will have a body like mine, an old body.
So the body is changing, but I, the soul, am remaining the same. Therefore our real identity is that we are eternal souls in changing bodies. Lord Krsna explains this in Bhagavad-gita [2.13]:
dehino 'smin yatha dehe
In this verse of Bhagavad-gita Krsna explains how the soul transmigrates from one body to another. If we simply study this one verse, our life will become different. We will understand that the soul is eternal, and that it is transmigrating from one type of body to another. There are 8,400,000 species, or types of bodies, and we have been transmigrating from one to another of them since time immemorial, entrapped in the cycle of birth, old age, disease, and death. This is our real problem.
But in the universities and other educational institutions there is no department to find out what that thing is which is entrapped within the body. To get this information we must turn to the Bhagavad-gita: dehino 'smin yatha dehe. Dehe means "in the body"; and dehinah. "the possessor of the body." The body is just like a shirt and coat. You are the possessor of the shirt and coat, but the shirt and coat are not you. You are different from the shirt and coat. Similarly, we have two kinds of bodies: the gross body and the subtle body. The gross body is made of earth, water, fire, air, and ether. And the subtle body is made of mind, intelligence, and ego. So when we quit the gross body, the subtle body carries us to another gross body. This is the process of transmigration of the soul.
Transmigration is not a question of belief. It is a fact. If we neglect to study this scientific knowledge, we will miss a great opportunity, because only in this human form of life do we have the developed intelligence to be able to understand what is within the body that is so important.
So the Krsna consciousness movement is teaching the importance of the soul, What is the soul? What are the needs of the soul? Why is the soul entrapped within the material body? How can the soul be liberated? And after liberation, what is the function of the soul? These are the questions we are dealing with. And they are very nicely answered in the preliminary spiritual study, Bhagavad-gita. For higher study, graduate study, we have the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Our only request is that you do not neglect this subject matter, this science. Try to understand the soul.
At the present moment no science professor can explain that thing which is present in a living body but missing from a dead body. Actually, according to the Vedic literature, the body is always dead. But as long as the soul is in the body, the body appears to be living. As long as you are wearing your coat, it apppears to be alive—it moves. The coat has no life, but because your body moves, the coat also moves and seems alive. Similarly, the body itself is moving because the soul within it is moving. As soon as the soul goes out of the body, the body does not move, and we call it "dead." But actually the body is always dead.
So the science of Krsna consciousness is very important, and its basic principle is to understand the soul. One may believe in the existence of the soul, or one may not believe. But fact is fact. Two plus two equals four, whether we believe it or not. If somebody does not believe it and says two plus two equals five or three, that does not change the fact. Similarly, we may not believe in the existence of the soul, but the existence of the soul is nevertheless a fact. And if we study the subject matter very seriously and scientifically, it will be possible for us to understand the soul.
The simple method for understanding the soul, the one recommended in the Vedic literature, is to chant the Hare Krsna mantra. Then gradually your intelligence, or consciousness, will be cleansed, and you will be able to understand that you are not the body but a spirit soul. And if you understand that you are a spirit soul, that you are brahman [spirit], you will become free from the blazing fire of material existence (bhava-maha-davagni-nirvapanam).
This morning one of our sannyasis [advanced disciples] told me that more and more young people are committing suicide. Why? Why are young people feeling such frustration and confusion in spite of so much education? In the Western countries there is no question of poverty. You are all well-to-do. I have traveled in Australia and come to your country. New Zealand, and as far as material necessities are concerned you are all well-to-do. So why this frustration, as our sannyasi reported to me?
Actually, there is no cause for frustration—there is very good cause for jubilation. Why? Because of the Krsna consciousness movement. Don't be frustrated. Try to understand the Krsna consciousness movement: how it is scientific; how it is authorized; how it is accepted by great acharyas, stalwart learned scholars; and how it is highly regarded by leading men all over the world.
So our request is that you young people not feel confused and frustrated. Those who are taking to Krsna consciousness are mostly young people. Ask them how hopeful they are now, how jubilant they are. So I ask all you young boys and girls, the flowers of your country: Please don't feel frustrated and confused. There is nice hope in Krsna consciousness. My only request is that you try to understand this philosophy and science and become happy. That is my request.
Thank you very much, Hare Krsna.
An interview with
Srila Bhavananda Goswami Visnupada is one of the leaders of the Hare Krsna movement. He oversees the movement's projects in the Indian pilgrimage cities of Mayapur and Vrndavana. And he is the spiritual master of hundreds of Hare Krsna devotees in Australia and New Zealand, which he visits three times a year. BACK TO GODHEAD interviewed him in New York City during a recent visit to the United States.
Bhavananda Goswami: My first impression was that New Zealand had all the makings for an idyllic society. It's so green, there's so much grass, there are gentle rolling hills, and the weather's very mild. I thought, "This is a perfect place for dairies and agriculture. It's just wonderful!" And the people are very gentle and peaceful. At least they appeared that way to me.
BTG: And honest also.
Bhavananda Goswami: Very honest. I was amazed at the honesty boxes—you just drive along the road and a man will leave out bushels of fruit, and you just stop and put the money in the box and take the fruit and go. To buy a newspaper in downtown Auckland, you can just take it from the rack, put in your change, and go. No one steals. It's honest. New Zealand is one of the last places that people are so honest.
BTG: Then what's the difficulty?
Bhavananda Goswami: The difficulty is that although originally it was a dairy place, now, due to economic pressure, they've turned to cow slaughter and sheep raising—and not for wool. They used to have a lot of sheep for wool—New Zealand wool is famous—but now they raise them for slaughter. Because they're not satisfied. No one is satisfied with the simple things in life. Even in New Zealand, where they can't get so much anyway, they still want more than is necessary.
The last time I was in Indonesia, the government—they're a very unusual government—banned all television commercials. They said, "Why agitate the people into wanting something they'll never be able to get? Let them be satisfied with the simple things." And they gave the example of shampoo. There were so many shampoo commercials; "Buy this shampoo. Buy that shampoo." But the country shampoo the village women have been using for centuries to wash their hair is perfectly nice—made from coconut oil and different things like that. Right? But suddenly everyone wanted this commercial shampoo, which was expensive. And the village people are poor, and they can't afford it. So they become frustrated and filled with anxiety: "Oh, I have to have . . ." And the result is you're going to have a revolution—over some shampoo. So the government said, "No more commercials on television." Why? "Why agitate them by holding up a standard which we cannot promise them they'll ever meet?" Very intelligent.
BTG: But in New Zealand . . .
Bhavananda Goswami: In New Zealand, of course, you have the Western-English-American mentality. "More and more and more." Originally they were farmers—wool merchants and dairy farmers.
BTG: So you'd keep it that way?
Bhavananda Goswami: Oh, definitely. New Zealand ghee [clarified butter] is famous as the very best ghee you can get. They're one of the biggest producers of ghee and dairy products.
BTG: So you think the people should capitalize on the advantages of the land.
Bhavananda Goswami: Oh, yes. Even in the commercial market, they should capitalize on their butter and their milk. When you live by the land and the cow, you can have everything. The residents of Vrndavana, like Nanda Maharaja and Mother Yasoda, had so much opulence. All the residents had gold and jewels and silk. They were simple cowherd people. But they got it all by trading their butter and milk products. By trading milk and butter you can have everything. There's a great need for butter. Russia wants butter. There's always a need for grains and butter and milk. Always. Big countries of the world want it. So New Zealand can actually be just like a big Vrndavana. You just need someone in charge who's very clever in your commercial market and can use all the natural opulences of the cows and the land to increase the prosperity of the citizens.
But now they're rapidly changing over to slaughter, to meat. Because there's quick money in it.
BTG: What will that do?
Bhavananda Goswami: That will completely distort people's minds. You know, even now the favorite pastime of the New Zealanders is reading. But that won't last as they become more and more implicated in the sinful activity of cow slaughter. And it will result in more and more prostitution, more and more perversity, more and more sex murders. All of these things come from this meat-eating.
BTG: Why? One wouldn't see, on the surface, a connection. Why should meat-eating result in more perversity or an increase in prostitution?
Bhavananda Goswami: Because meat-eating increases passion—passion and ignorance. Meat-eating, intoxication, and prostitution all go hand in hand. First you want to satisfy your tongue and your belly by eating meat. And to digest it you drink wine, alcohol. And then from alcohol you lose control over your senses. Then everything breaks down. You go out hunting for prostitutes. It's a famous thing that a man will go out and drink and then go searching for a prostitute to satisfy his genitals. And when you're very drunk, you're crazy. You may even kill someone and not even remember it.
So everyone should just cool off. Just stay on the land, chant Hare Krsna, eat a vegetarian diet, a diet of krsna-prasadam, and become peaceful. People are going here and there, flying all over the place, wasting so much money, wasting so much time—just for sense gratification. When I was in Hong Kong, there was a whole plane of geriatrics—eighty- and ninety-year-old people, taking their last world tour. You know, hobbling on crutches and wheelchairs in Hong Kong. What is the use of it?
Let everyone cool off. What does it matter if Britain and Argentina are having a battle over some crummy islands? Why does the whole world have to know about it immediately? Every action. Every blink of the eye. The anxiety level increases. Centuries ago, if one country had a war with another country, the war would be over before anyone in the world knew about it. And it wasn't very important, ultimately. But this modern communication has made everyone an armchair philosopher, an armchair politician, an armchair president. So everyone just has to cool off. Just stay on the land and become peaceful. The whole world is so fevered. Let them just cool off.
BTG: So this fever, you'd say, is the greatest problem facing the people of New Zealand.
Bhavananda Goswami: The greatest problem is that they are becoming more and more implicated in cow slaughter and this slaughterhouse mentality. That's the biggest problem. They don't understand it, but that is actually their biggest problem. And in Christchurch—note the name of the town. Christchurch, one of the biggest cities in New Zealand, is in the center of the slaughterhouses. Practically everyone you meet in Christchurch works in the slaughterhouse, killing. Everyone is implicated—in Christ Church, which has a big Christian community. They're very proud that they're Christians. But they all work in the slaughterhouses. That's the biggest problem. Not the economy. What economic problem do they have? They're so worried if they can't get a car or this or that. But they have so much ghee and butter and milk, wonderful land, fruits like anything—apples, strawberries, blueberries, plums, grapes, peaches. So many nice vegetables—cauliflowers, eggplants, tomatoes, broccoli. It all grows there splendidly. Our farm is right in the middle of it. And it's very enlivening to the heart when you can see all these orchards. Why do they have to—
BTG: Ruin everything?
Bhavananda Goswami: Yes. And because of this seventy thousand people leave New Zealand every year.
BTG: How's that?
Bhavananda Goswami: Because they're not happy. They're frustrated, and they can't understand why they're frustrated. Life in New Zealand is relatively peaceful. It has a quiet, country atmosphere. Even the biggest city, Auckland, is like a country town. So for reaching the perfection of life they have more facility, I think, than anywhere in the world. But although they have all the facility, they don't have the philosophy. People are becoming agitated, wanting more and more. So they're seeing the simplicity of New Zealand as detrimental, rather than seeing that it's the most wonderful place. Therefore they're all going to Australia, which is completely caught up in gross sense gratification. That standard of sense gratification is not so available yet in New Zealand, so they're all leaving—seventy thousand people a year leaving New Zealand.
BTG: For Australia and the United States.
Bhavananda Goswami: And that's out of a country of three million people. If a country is losing seventy thousand of its youth, that's not a good sign. The people who are leaving are not hippies. Mostly they're respectable young people, in their twenties and thirties. But they're leaving Why? Because somehow they've come to think that they'll have more advantages in Australia. And in terms of gross sense gratification they may be right. But in terms of reaching the perfection of life they're wrong. To achieve perfection, everything they need is in New Zealand.
BTG: If you could give advice to people in New Zealand—in a very simple message to sum up your feelings about New Zealand—what would you advise them?
Bhavananda Goswami: Of course, I could say the obvious—chant Hare Krsna. But also I would advise them to look to what Krsna, God, has given them, use it to its fullest advantage, and not be implicated in sinful activity. And hear the philosophy of Krsna consciousness. They will not be the losers. They have a perfect situation of simple living and lofty philosophy. And if they make the right use of this perfect situation, they'll become happy.
A while ago I went on holiday to Auckland, and outside a market I saw some people sitting on the grass singing and chanting. I sat down and listened until I had to go. A woman was handing out magazines called "Back to Godhead." I had heard of Hare Krishna consciousness, but that was all. I had no idea whatsoever of what the religion was all about. I read the magazine, and now I want to know more. I am genuinely interested. The devotees were chanting Hare Krishna Hare Rama, and I have never seen people's faces so happy and peaceful, as though they really loved living. I guess watching and listening made me realize that perhaps their happiness is every person's dream.
I am a practicing Catholic and for the last five years have chosen to be very involved in our church. I've also for the last four years been involved in the Catholic charismatic renewal, which no doubt you've heard of. Although I've been very interested in other religious sects and cults to the extent that I've read a lot of literature on them, I've never felt compelled or "threatened" enough to question my own faith. Well, what a shock I received at Sweetwaters! Especially there since I wasn't too keen to spend much time listening to the bands and really had only two other options: to join in with the Christian activities or to interest myself with the Hare Krishna movement. Well, I opted for the second of those choices for various reasons.
To get to the point, when I saw the devotion that the Hare Krishnas had for God I was really amazed. And not only that but frightened too. In my own church I'm constantly with people who love God, people who are honestly seeking the Father, and through this are aiming to loosen the bonds of material existence. Seldom, though, have I come across the kind of love I witnessed at Sweetwaters. So you see in a way it scared me and I hope that you can understand that. . . . I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm interested from a distance. I have a hundred questions that would really be neat to discuss, but before there's any point in asking them, there are two fairly basic ones that I need answered.
In the Bible, Jesus states many times that the only way to the Father is through him. How is it then that you believe God speaks only through your divine master when He should be sought through one another, where Jesus Christ abides?
Secondly, throughout the New Testament it is stated that God lives within us, He dwells amongst us. Therefore to truly love God, it is not enough to appear to honor Him, but we must show it through our actions. Jesus said love one's neighbor, our brother, as he loves us! So please tell me what emphasis you place on seeking God in one another through Christ, and also where does love for another come into your beliefs? Please do not feel that I am getting either respect or passion mixed up in this. I'm referring to the type of love Jesus preached.
It's obvious that you're very learned and I needn't quote scripture to you, as you probably know it better than me. I hope that one day I might discuss these things with the devotees. I have no doubt that your knowledge far surpasses mine. In spite of my eagerness to learn I have to constantly remind myself that although knowledge is a good thing, it is only a human achievement. However, true wisdom is a gift of the Holy Spirit. I always have and always will pray for wisdom. God Bless You.
Our reply: It is not true that the only way to God is through our divine master. It is true that the only way to God is through a pure devotee of God, who becomes the spiritual master of a sincere soul in order to lead him back to Godhead. The principle is that to serve God favorably you must seek out God's pure servant and become that servant's servant. Such pure servants act as God's representatives in this world. Of course. God is omnipresent, being situated in the heart of each of us as the indwelling Supersoul. When He sees that we are ready to reestablish our loving relationship with Him, He arranges for us to encounter one of His bonafide representatives, the spiritual master, who acts as the external manifestation of the Supersoul. If one is so proud as to think he can directly serve God, God will not accept his service. But if one humbly strives to please the beloved servant of God, God becomes very pleased. Indeed, only through the mercy of a pure servant is God available to us. Therefore Jesus Christ emphasized the necessity of surrendering to him. God's pure son. "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father" (John 14:9).
In the most advanced spiritual literature revealed by God, "postgraduate" scriptures like the Upadesamrta and Srimad-Bhagavatam, you will find careful directions by which you can recognize one who is a true representative of God and distinguish him from pretenders, hypocrites, and cheaters. During his missionary work, Jesus found it circumstantially not possible to deliver such advanced instruction: "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now" (John 16:12). Consequently, he simply emphasized that he was the only way. Since the word of God is one and is manifest identically through every pure devotee, Jesus told the truth. Anyone who serves any of God's pure devotees also serves Jesus, and keeps his commandments. It seems that you have recognized this spiritual stature in the ISKCON devotees you met at Sweetwaters. It is wise to remember that Jesus remarked, "Not everyone that sayeth unto me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).
In the Bhagavad-gita, Krsna, God the Father, claims all living beings as His children, for all emanate from Him and are maintained by Him; all souls are part and parcel of Him. Therefore, if we obey the first great commandment of Jesus and love his Father with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37), we will naturally follow the second great commandment and love our neighbor as ourself. It is just like pouring water on the root of a tree, or giving food to the stomach of the body. Only in this way are the branches and leaves watered, the other limbs and organs nourished. If we tried to water the leaves while ignoring the root, or to feed the hand independently of the stomach, nothing would be accomplished. Similarly, we cannot really love or serve anyone independently of God. But when we love and serve God our love and service automatically spreads to embrace all God's children. Thus you will discover that the real servants of God do not needlessly kill and eat innocent animals, who are, after all, our brothers, our neighbors. And among human beings such servants of God engage in the highest welfare work—freeing their brothers from the bondage of material existence and leading them back to Godhead.
There is no reason to be frightened by any of this. It is no betrayal of Christian principles to serve the devotees of Krsna, and it is no betrayal of Krsna to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. True religion is service to God. The only necessity is to find a devotee who is serving God purely, without any motivation and without any interruption. That is the one you should serve. If you find such devotees in the Krsna consciousness movement, it will not be because we have come to abolish the teachings of Jesus, but because we have come to fulfill them.
The Hare Krsna Movement In New Zealand
By Yasomatinandana Dasa
I used to run a citrus orchard down on the Coromandel Peninsula," says Narayana dasa, the manager of New Varshan, the ninety-acre Hare Krsna farm in Riverhead, about twenty miles north of Auckland. "It was nice living out in the country, but I always felt the lack of any real purpose in my life. But since I have been farming here in New Varshan, things have changed. I still get satisfaction from seeing the crops grow and from living a healthy country life with my family. But more important, I see myself and my family growing in spiritual consciousness."
With New Zealand's moderate climate, Narayana and his crew of devotee-farmers can grow crops all year round. The bounty includes potatoes, pumpkins, beans, carrots, squash, eggplant, cauliflower, cabbages, lettuce, zucchini, corn, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, spinach, and a wide variety of nuts, fruits, and flowers. And since New Zealand is often likened to the Biblical "land of milk and honey," naturally there are lots of cows and bees. The devotees wondered what to do with all that food.
The answer soon came with the arrival of Jaya Sila dasa from Melbourne. It was October 1980, and his new assignment was to head up the Auckland Krsna center. In Melbourne he had been managing a most successful Krsna conscious vegetarian restaurant, and he at once saw the potential for a similar restaurant in Auckland. It wasn't going to be just a money-making venture, either. Here was a chance to use the excess produce of New Varshan to benefit the people of Auckland spiritually. Turned into succulent vegetarian dishes and then offered to Krsna, the fruits, vegetables, and milk products of New Varshan would become spiritualized by Krsna's inconceivable potency. And anyone partaking of such prasadam (literally "the Lord's mercy") would get great spiritual benefit.
So in June 1981, Gopal's restaurant was born.
Jaya Sila: "Krsna provided a perfect situation for the restaurant. At 291 Queen Street, it's right in the center of Auckland's main entertainment area. We've gone to great pains to decorate the restaurant nicely, and people like the view of Queen Street. Also, the food is delicious;it's prepared with the finest vegetarian ingredients, using all the arts of Vedic cooking. Of course, what we're offering is much more than just good food and a pleasant atmosphere. Because everything we serve here is krsna-prasadam, when people come to Gopal's they get a unique transcendental experience."
The restaurant has become so popular that on Friday nights the devotees can hardly keep up with the orders. The menu includes four or five different kinds of salad, two or three vegetable preparations, fried rice with cashews, spicy fried vegetable patties, several varieties of buttery cakes and cookies, and traditional Indian sweets like halava, gulabjamuns, and sandesa.
Several of Gopal's regular patrons have become more deeply involved in Krsna consciousness, and a few have become full-time devotees. Two of these are Bhava dasa and his wife, Kamalaya-devi dasi. Formerly high-school teachers in New Zealand, they now live at New Varshan, where they're busy establishing a traditional Vedic gurukula school. Like the other Hare Krsna gurukulas throughout the world. New Zealand's gurukula will teach the standard academic subjects along with the philosophy and practice of Krsna consciousness.
Bhava dasa explains why he thinks the gurukula will provide a significant educational alternative in New Zealand:
"You've got to have a deep understanding of what the actual goal of education is—to develop a loving relationship with God and break free from the painful cycle of birth and death. Western education completely ignores this essential aspect of knowledge. You may know so much about how to operate computers or manipulate the financial markets, but if you don't know who you are, who God is, and what your relationship is with Him, whatever other knowledge you have will only get you deeper into material entanglement. Gurukula students learn the science of God as well as the three R's, so they get a truly balanced education. And because the teachers have a high moral character, they can teach the children the qualities of self-control, peacefulness, cleanliness, compassion, and austerity—and all in an atmosphere of love. I think that when the parents in New Zealand learn of our gurukula here, they'll be very interested in visiting and maybe even enrolling their children. I've seen both kinds of education, and I know where I want my children to go."
Kamalaya dasi adds, "Many people who visit us here at New Varshan are surprised at how happy and secure the children are. We often get comments like, 'Your children's faces glow with a joy that we never see on other children. What's the secret?'
"Of course, the main reason our children are so happy is that they're Krsna conscious. Krsna is the reservoir of all happiness, and when you come in touch with Him by practicing Krsna consciousness, naturally you become joyful. Another reason is that Krsna conscious marriages are based on devotion to krsna, not on mutual exploitation. Like all members of the Hare Krsna movement married devotees follow four regulative principles: They don't eat meat, fish eggs. They don't take any kind of intoxicant. They don't gamble. And they don't have illicit sex. For single men and women this means complete abstinence, and for married devotees it means sex no more than once a month, for the purpose of having a child. The point is, from the very beginning of their lives our children are wanted. So there's no question of abortion, child abuse, abandoned children, or abandoned wives. Husbands, wives, and children alike are all seen as devotees of Krsna, not as objects to enjoy."
In the Vedic social system, the training for such a controlled and God-centered household life is called the brahmacari asrama (celibate student life). This gives both men and women the freedom from distraction and the peace of mind to concentrate on their spiritual development. New Varshan gives full scope to such serious students of Krsna consciousness by providing a calm atmosphere and a rich program of spiritual guidance and activities. Devakinandana dasa describes his experiences as a brahmacari at New Varshan.
"Before I came to Krsna consciousness I could never have imagined giving up sex. I thought that by repressing my desires I would become neurotic. But the devotees showed me a book called the Bhagavad-gita, where Lord Krsna explains that you can conquer the desire for sense gratification by getting a higher taste. By rising early and bathing, chanting Hare Krsna meditatively during the quiet predawn hours, worshiping the Deity of the Lord, studying the Vedic scriptures, and performing all my other duties in Krsna consciousness, I got that higher taste here at New Varshan. Now, although I'm not having any sex, instead of becoming neurotic I'm becoming ecstatic!"
Narayana, Jaya Sila, Bhava and his wife, Alalanatha, and Devakinandana are just a few of the many devotees of Krsna in New Zealand. You could hardly find people whose background, character, and work are more different. Yet what ties them together is much more important. They're all serious about self-realization, and they've all taken vows to follow the rules Kamalaya talked about and to chant Hare Krsna regularly every day. They've all promised to follow the instructions of their guru, who comes in a long line of God-realized souls and who has promised, in his turn, to guide them to perfection. They all worship the Deity of Krsna, eat only krsna-prasadam, study scriptures like Bhagavad-gita every day, and, in short, do all the things that make them part of Krsna's family.
And this is the family we invite you to join.
Christchurch Hare Krsna leader Alalanatha dasa
When I first came to New Zealand in 1972, the farthest thing from my mind was opening a Hare Krsna temple. I was on a world surfing safari that ranged from the beaches of South America to South Africa, from Europe to Australia, and the closest idea I had to spiritual life was finding "the perfect wave." After eight months of looking for it on the Mahia Peninsula and at Raglan Beach, I returned home to Margaret River on the west coast of Australia to build surfboards and compete professionally.
I won my share of prizes and had my share of admirers, but after some time I realized that I couldn't compete forever. As my powers began to ebb, I had to face the fact that younger surfers would replace me. But surfing was the only life I knew, and my anxiety increased day by day as I watched the force of time taking it all away from me.
I'd been using yoga and meditational techniques to help my balance and concentration while surfing. Now I turned to them to try to find some balance in my life. About this time, I met a Hare Krsna devotee who gave me Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is. As I read about bhakti-yoga, it became clear that the real purpose of yoga was much different than I had thought. The life of professional competition had meant a constant effort at building up a false ego—an image of myself as the supreme enjoyer. Now I saw my real identity as just a servant of the actual Supreme Enjoyer—God. By the time I finished the Bhagavad-gita in early 1976, I was a full-time devotee of Krsna in the Melbourne temple.
Three years later I moved to Auckland, and two years after that I was asked to head up the newly acquired temple in Christchurch, where I live today with my wife and our infant daughter. The location of the temple is ideal—just two blocks from the center of town, in Latimer Square. It has quickly become the focal point in the spiritual lives of many South Islanders and a base from which the devotees travel to all parts of the island holding Krsna conscious festivals. At one recent festival in Nelson, the sunshine and agricultural capital of the South Island, people responded so favorably that the devotees have begun making plans to start a farm community there modeled after New Varshan on the North Island. We're looking for interested people to ' take part in this project.
We're often invited to lecture at high school and college classes. And at Canterbury University in Christchurch the Hare Krsna Vegetarian Cooking Club teaches the classic art of Vedic cuisine and scientifically looks at the nutritional, economic, ethical, and spiritual advantages of a diet of krsna-prasadam. Because of the club, many students have become sensitive to the cruelty and waste of a meat-centered diet. One result: meatless meals are now available in the cafeteria.
But things don't always run so smoothly. At Christ's College, the oldest private secondary school for boys in New Zealand, a group of young men had taken an interest in Krsna consciousness and were regularly visiting the temple after classes. This created some controversy, and finally their dorm master forbade them from coming. Then one day in Cathedral Square, the dorm master himself received a free copy of the biography of the founder of the Hare Krsna movement, Srila Prabhupada. After staying up all night to finish the book, he woke the boys early next morning to ask them questions about Krsna consciousness and rescind the prohibition. Later, at their graduation ceremonies, he also assured the boys' parents about the sincerity of our Society.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Bhaktivedanta Hilltop School Enrolls 425
Guwahati, Assam, India—Here in the northeasternmost province of India, the devotees of the Hare Krsna movement have opened a gurukula school that has won a warm response from local parents. More than 425 children have enrolled in Bhaktivedanta Hilltop School and are studying the usual academic subjects side by side with Krsna conscious philosophy and practice. Residents pitched in to help build the school, along with a temple and guesthouse.
Srimati Ulupee Devi Dasi, the school principal, comments, "The real need of the hour in India is for the people to walk up to their eternal position of serving Krsna. This will prevent them from falling prey to the godlessness that pervades the western countries. If we teach children from the youngest age about their eternal relationship with Lord Krsna, their living will always remain centered on God."
Auckland Mayor Hosts Top New Zealand Devotees
Last April Mr. Colin Kay, the mayor of Auckland, New Zealand, hosted several of New Zealand's leading Krsna devotees in council chambers. His Holiness Prabhupada-krpa Goswami oversees the activities of the Hare Krsna movement in Australia. Jaya Sila dasa, is the president of Auckland's Krsna center. The mayor holds a tray of prasadam (sanctified food), which he later found "fantastic." He was also pleased to receive the literature the devotees gave him: the first volume of Srila Prabhupada's biography, and a brochure called "The Wonderful World of Hare Krishna in Australia and New Zealand".
"If You Ever Get Money, Print Books !"
With World War II raging in Europe and the Far East, Srila Prabhupada launches BACK TO GODHEAD magazine and addresses the issues of the day from a Krsna conscious viewpoint.
by Srila Satsvarupa dasa Goswami
In November 1935 Srila Prabhupada had traveled from Bombay to Vrndavana, near Delhi, to see his spiritual master. As they had walked on the bank of the sacred pond Radha-kunda, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati had suddenly turned to his disciple and given him an essential instruction: "I had a desire to print some books. If you ever get money, print books." Now, nearly a decade later, Srila Prabhupada was still without substantial funds. But his Krsna conscious message was too urgent to wait. So he began BACK TO GODHEAD magazine.
Abhay felt more than ever the need to propagate Krsna consciousness. He had something to say to the war-weary citizens of the world, and he longed for a more effective forum—a publication of some kind, a way to present the world's crises through the eyes of scripture in the same bold style as had his spiritual master. There was no shortage of ideas, and he had been saving money from his business for this very purpose.
From his front room at 6 Sita Kanta Banerjee, Abhay conceived, wrote, edited, and typed the manuscript for a magazine. He designed a logo, a long rectangle across the top of the page. In the upper left-hand corner was a figure of Lord Caitanya, effulgent with rays of light like rays from the sun. In the lower right were silhouettes of a crowd of people, in darkness but groping to receive light from Lord Caitanya. And between Lord Caitanya and the people, the title unfurled like a banner—BACK TO GODHEAD. In the lower right corner was a picture of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati seated at his writing, looking up thoughtfully as he composed. Above the logo ran the motto "Godhead is Light, Nescience is darkness. Where there is Godhead there is no Nescience." Below the logo were the following lines:
EDITED & FOUNDED
Abhay had already gained some printing experience in connection with his business, and after completing the manuscript he brought it to Saraswaty Press, the best printers in Bengal. He also hired an agent, Calcutta's prestigious booksellers Thacker, Spink, and Company, who would take responsibility for distributing the journal to bookstores and libraries, including outlets in several foreign countries.
But when he went to buy paper, he met government restrictions. Because of the war and the subsequent paper shortage, the government wanted to assay what he had written in terms of the national needs; during this time of world crisis, an ordinary citizen's religious newspaper was hardly top priority.
Abhay's request for paper was perfunctorily denied, but he persisted. He appealed that using paper to print the teachings of the Personality of Godhead was not a waste and not untimely in the present troubled atmosphere. Finally he obtained permission to print his first edition.
Abhay Charan greeted his readers by defining his motto: "Godhead is Light, Nescience is darkness." When man forgets that he is the son of Godhead and identifies himself with the body, then he's in ignorance. He's like a man who's very concerned with the automobile's mechanism yet has no knowledge of the driver.
The defect of the present day civilisation is just like that. This is actually the civilisation of Nescience or illusion and therefore civilisation has been turned into militarisation. Everyone is fully concerned with the comforts of the body and everything related with the body and no one is concerned with the Spirit that moves the body, although even a little boy can realize that the motor-car mechanism has little value if there is no driver of the car. "BACK TO GODHEAD" is a feeble attempt by the undersigned under the direction of His Divine Grace Sri Srimad Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupada, the celebrated founder and organiser of the Gaudiya Math—just to bring up a real relation of humanity with central relation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
It was 1944, and Abhay specifically addressed the crisis of world war. The world's political leaders were expressing their disgust at their people's suffering and scarcity. After four years of fighting, costing millions of human lives, the Second World War within twenty years was still scourging the earth. Although the end was in sight, leaders expressed not so much happiness and hope as weariness and uncertainty. Even if this war ended, would there be yet another war? Had man not yet grasped the vital lesson of how to live in peace?
Abhay quoted the Archbishop of India: "India guided by God can lead the world back to sanity." He quoted the President of the United States: "A programme, therefore, of moral re-armament for the world cannot fail to lessen the dangers of armed conflict." He quoted the Archbishop of Canterbury:
In every quarter of earth men long to be delivered from the curse of War and to find in a world which has regained its peace, respite from the harshness and bitterness of the world they have known till now. But so often they want the Kingdom of Heaven without its King. The kingdom of God without God. And they cannot have it.
He also quoted Sir Francis Youngblood of Britain: "Now that religion is everywhere attacked brutally, we look to India, the very home of religion, for a sign. " And finally he quoted Sir Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan:
This war, when it would be won, would prove to be the breeding ground of other wars if the peace was not saved. It could happen only if powerful nations ceased to take pride and glory in their possessions which were based on labour and tribute of other weaker nations. This perhaps was what Sir Harcourt Butler meant when he said that the principles of Hinduism contained the essential elements for the saving of world civilisations.
And in another quote from Dr. Radhakrishnan, Abhay offered a statement he also used as one of the mottoes of the magazine:
We have to defeat tyranny in the realm of thought and create a will for world peace. Instruments for training the mind and educating human nature should be used to develop a proper social outlook without which institutional machinery is of little use.
Abhay expressed his confidence that the spiritual resources of India could be used by everyone, not only to enhance the glory of India but to benefit the whole world.
Next he told how he had come to begin Back to Godhead magazine—how he had written a letter two weeks before the disappearance of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, and how his spiritual master had instructed him to preach in English.
Abhay stated that his paper would contain only the transcendental messages of the great sages of India, especially Lord Caitanya, and that his duty would be simply to repeat them, just like a translator. He would not manufacture anything, and so his words would descend as transcendental sound for guiding people back to Godhead. He admitted that the subject matters of Back to Godhead, being from a totally different sphere of consciousness, might seem dry to his readers, but he held that anyone who actually gave attention to his message would benefit.
Abhay focused on presenting the timeless message of the Vedas, but in the context of current crises. In his essay "Godhead and His Potentialities," he presented Vedic evidence and logical arguments to explain the transcendental nature of Godhead and the individual souls, both being deathless, blissful, and full of knowledge. Because men have forgotten and neglected their vital connection with God, they can never be satisfied in the material world, which is temporary and beset with unavoidable miseries. As spiritual souls, everyone is eternal by nature, and therefore everyone tries to avoid the onslaught of distresses and dangers, which come one after another. But the material body is meant for suffering and ultimately for destruction.
Abhay wrote that never by their own devices could men escape the conditions of destruction. So many world leaders were seeking relief from the war, but all were useless, because their attempts for peace were within the material conception of life. Their attempts were like attempts to alleviate darkness with darkness; but darkness can be removed only by light.
Abhay did not deal exclusively with the war. In "Theosophy Ends in Vaishnavism," he criticized the shortcomings of the fashionable ideas of Theosophy, which the followers of Madame Blavatsky had popularized in India.
In "Congregational Chanting," he upheld the scriptural prediction that the sankirtana movement of Lord Caitanya would spread to every town and village on the surface of the earth.
The central theme of Back to Godhead was clearly the order of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. In its cover with its picture of a thoughtful Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, in its "Dedication," in its statement of the magazine's purpose, in its handling of issues, its analysis of Theosophy, its prediction of the spread of sankirtana—in its every aspect, the theme of Back to Godhead was the order of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati.
In attempting to print the second issue of Back to Godhead, Abhay encountered the same difficulty as before. Twice he requested permission to purchase newsprint, and twice the government denied his request. Paper was restricted on account of the war. On July 10, 1944, Abhay wrote a third letter.
He remarked that the editorial board of Back to Godhead felt that there was not so much a scarcity of paper as a scarcity of education. Taking the opportunity to preach, Abhay explained that although the ultimate supplier was the Personality of Godhead, godless men consider themselves the proprietors of all things.
Catastrophe that is now in vogue in the present war of supremacy is guided by this false sense of proprietorship and therefore there is need of making propaganda amongst all human beings, in order to bring them back to the sense of the ultimate proprietorship of Godhead.
Abhay conceded that there might indeed be a paper shortage in India. But in ancient times, he wrote, enlightened Indians had regularly sacrificed tons of ghee (clarified butter) and grains in the fire during religious sacrifices, and in those times there had not been any scarcity. People, however, having abandoned all sacrifices to the Supreme Lord, were producing only scarcity.
Can we not therefore sacrifice a few reams of paper in the midst of many wastages, for the same purpose in order to derive greater benefit for the humankind? Let there be a page only if not more for the publication of "Back to Godhead." My earnest request is that the Government should at least let there be a ventilation of the atmosphere for which my paper "Back to Godhead" [is] meant.
The letter was successful. Now, with veiled sarcasm, he headlined his second issue, "Thanks to the Government of India." He informed his readers, many of whom had been disappointed to learn that the government had curtailed his printing, that he would be able to continue his magazine every month. Abhay printed his letter to the government paper officer and also the reply granting him permission.
His articles were shorter, this time displaying the flair of a news columnist, as with philosophical criticism, verve, and a touch of ironic humor he commented on world leaders and crises. "Gandhi-Jinnah Talks," "Mr. Churchill's Humane World," "Mr. Bernard Shaw's Wishful Desire," and "Spontaneous Love of Godhead" comprised the issue.
"Gandhi-Jinnah Talks": "We are sorry to learn that Gandhi-Jinnah talks about unity of the Indian people have failed for the present." Abhay was not very optimistic about the results of such "occasional talks between several heads of communities." Even if they made a successful solution, it would break up and take the shape of another problem. They were looking for unity between Muslims and Hindus, but in Europe the fighting parties were Christians, and in Asia they were mostly Buddhists—but still they were fighting. "So fighting will go on between Hindu and Mohammedan, between Hindus and Hindus or between Mohammedan and Mohammedan, between Christians and Christians and between Buddhist and Buddhist till the day of annihilation." As long as there was the contaminated self-interest of sense gratification, there would be fighting between brother and brother, father and son, and nation and nation. Real unity would stand only on a plane of transcendental service to the Supreme.
"Mr. Churchill's 'Humane World' ":
We are pleased to find that leaders of world politics such as Mr. Churchill have nowadays begun to think of a humane world and trying to get rid of the terrible national frenzy of hate. The frenzy of hatred is another side of the frenzy of love. The frenzy of love of Hitler's own countrymen has produced the concomitant frenzy of hatred for others and the present war is the result of such dual side of a frenzy called love and hatred. So when we wish to get rid of the frenzy of hate, we must be prepared to get rid of the frenzy of so-called love. This position of equilibrium tree from love and hatred is attained only when men are sufficiently educated.
Until men were educated to see the soul within the body, the dual frenzy of love and hate would continue, and a humane world would not be possible. "This introspection," Abhay concluded, "is . . . easily attained by the service of Godhead. So Mr. Churchill's Humane World implies that we must go 'Back to Godhead.' "
"Mr. Bernard Shaw's Wishful Desire":
Mr. Bernard Shaw has congratulated Mahatma Gandhi on the occasion of the latter's 76th birthday in the following words: "I can only wish this were Gandhi's 35th birthday instead of his 76th." We heartily join with Mr. Shaw in his attempt to subtract 41 years from the present age of Mahatma Gandhi.
But death does not respect our "wishful desire." Neither Mr. Shaw nor Mahatma Gandhi, nor any other great personality, had ever been able to solve the problem of death.
The leaders of nations have . . . opened many factories for manufacturing weapons for the art of killing, but none has opened a factory to manufacture weapons for protecting man from the cruel hands of death, although our wishful desire is always not to die.
Men were preoccupied with the problem of how to get bread, although this problem was actually solved by nature. Man should try to solve the problem of death.
Bhagavad-gita tells that the problem of death can be solved. Although death is everywhere in the material world, "One who attains to Me," says Krsna, "never has to take his birth again in the material world." There is a spiritual world, non-destructible, and one who goes there does not come back to the region of death. Why should the leaders of nations cling to the planet of their birth, where death is inevitable? Abhay concluded, "We wish that in their ripe old age Mr. Shaw and Mahatma Gandhi will make combined effort to educate men to learn how to go back home, back to Godhead."
After two issues of Back to Godhead, Abhay had to stop. Printing was costly. But he kept writing regularly, working at his Bhagavad-gita manuscript, turning out new articles and philosophical purports on the scriptures—even in the same book in which he wrote his pharmaceutical formulas.
The biography of Srila Prabhupada continues next month with an account of how he began the League of Devotees in Jhansi, a town about 150 miles west of Allahabad.
Beneath the Hare Krsna banner,
by Amogha Dasa
While the Northern Hemisphere froze last January, seventy thousand young people were basking in perfect weather at the annual Sweetwaters Rock Festival—New Zealand's Woodstock.
Overnight, several square miles of idyllic pastureland next to the Waikato River (south of Auckland) were transformed into a bustling tent-and-caravan metropolis. Hastily constructed booths supplying all manner of food, drink, and handicrafts flanked a mall extending from the main camping area to the stage and natural amphitheater half a mile away.
On a ridge overlooking the valley mall, tents offered everything from "Coffee and a Chat about Christ" to Tai Chi and Swedish massage.
Below the ridge, at the main entrance to the mall, something else was happening. There a seventy-five-foot banner atop two forty-foot masts announced HARE KRISHNA in eight-foot letters visible throughout the entire expanse of the festival. And all night colorful flashing lights kept these holy names of the Lord uppermost in people's thoughts.
Lined up in formation were four tents: one to explain it in books and picture displays, one to show it in video movies, one to cook it up, and a big one (six thousand square feet) in which to sing and dance about it. What was "it"? Krsna's mercy!
In the first tent, a statue of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual guide of the Hare Krsna movement, sat on a massive gold-and-velvet throne. As people crowded in to see who he was. they exclaimed, "He looks so real'." "Is he meditating?" At the tables displaying his books, they learned who he was and what it is he taught. Day and night people clustered around the book tables lining the tent, asking questions, taking and reading the free books—the devotees passed out twenty thousand in all.
The video tent next door played Krsna conscious shows nonstop to packed houses. The most popular was the illusion-dispelling tour of Hollywood with a spiritual teacher who was once a director and actor himself—His Divine Grace Bhavananda Goswami Visnupada, who has served as the spiritual master for new disciples in New Zealand since Srila Prabhupada passed away some five years ago.
In the main tent. His Holiness Dhrstadyumna Swami Maharaja would kick off the daily program at 6 a.m. with a class in the Vedic scriptures. Then at 7, the Maharaja would hold a mantra meditation class. "Now I'm going to teach everybody how to chant Hare Krsna on these beads. It's a very nice way of meditating on God, so whoever wants to learn this meditation come sit up front here close." About one hundred people would crowd forward and get a set of beads. You could see people everywhere wearing their beads around their necks and chanting.
After the meditation, Dhrstadyumna Maharaja would thoughtfully and patiently answer questions from the audience: sometimes deeply personal, sometimes challenging, sometimes humorous.
"If you don't believe in material things, then why do you have so much equipment—tents, trucks, amplifiers?"
"We have to understand the difference between material and spiritual. Originally everything is spiritual, because everything emanates from the Supreme Spirit, God. But when we selfishly use something—whatever it may be—for our own sense gratification, that thing becomes material, because we've forgotten its relationship to God. And when we take that same thing and use it for the pleasure and service of God, then it regains its spiritual nature. So Krsna consciousness doesn't involve giving up material things. It means giving up the perverted mentality of trying to enjoy these things apart from our relationship to God. If we came here today to sing and play about sex, violence, and drugs—well, that would be material. But instead we've come to glorify God and remind everyone of our eternal loving relationship with Him. So even our tents, trucks, and amplifiers are spiritual."
When the tent was filled to overflowing, the Maharaja led the Hare Krsna Band on stage for a three-hour concert of transcendental music. Between songs, he explained the philosophical concepts behind the lyrics—karma, reincarnation, eternal life. The Maharaja explained, "Music is an expression of love. People try to love one another, but in the end they're frustrated. Everyone's singing, 'Oh, give me a love that lasts forever'—but in the material world it never does. The ultimate love is the soul's love for Krsna and His love for all souls. The highest form of music expresses love for God. That music is a transmission of Krsna's tangible presence and loving pastimes."
At the peak of the performance, Dhrstadyumna Swami jumped up and got the whole tent of onlookers on their feet to chant Hare Krsna and dance. Everyone enthusiastically chanted, clapped, twirled, and reached high in the air with upraised hands—the "liberated" position, free from all the anxieties of material life. Then the Maharaja began throwing the marigolds decorating the stage. The devotees manifested huge baskets of flowers and suddenly there were flowers flying everywhere. It was a flower riot! The band rocked on for a solid hour. You could never forget it if you were there.
Then it was time. Twenty devotees were ready. Thousands of plates, cups, and spoons were ready. Huge buckets of vegetable, rice, sweets, juice nectar, puris, and poppers were ready. And thousands of hungry guests were really ready for the free lunch of delicious krsna-prasadam, food offered to God.
Serving spoons flew in and out of pots almost faster than you could see. And plateful after plateful went down into waiting mouths. After lunch: more music, plays, and an evening dinner to rival lunch.
For three days the kids kept coming and staying late into the night. They had tasted the ecstasy! One girl said, "I don't want to go anywhere else. This is the only thing happening at the festival." Others would ask, "What do you get out of this? It's all free. Free books, free food. Someone has to pay. What do you get?"
And the answer: "Well it's our ecstasy to serve you with Krsna, and Krsna provides. What's more, the whole world could run like this. That's right—a constant festival of Krsna consciousness.
"If we simply used the land to grow grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts instead of for useless industries, we could produce more than enough for every New Zealander. Protect the cows, milk them, and distribute the milk. Chant Hare Krsna and dance joyfully, glorifying the Supreme Lord. This way of life solves all economic problems.
"After all, prosperity means having plenty of food, fresh air, clean water, a comfortable place to live, but above all, inner happiness—happiness that beams from your face. Why live a concocted life apart from God in concrete jungles where people hoarding big piles of paper are misunderstood to be wealthy?"
A lot of people agreed. As one man put it, "I could see the devotees were happier than all the other people at Sweetwaters, who were high on drugs and booze—the devotees were naturally high on their love of God."
Dhrstadyumna Swami explained, "Krsna consciousness is the real sweet water. Ordinary water can put out an ordinary fire. But the nectar of Krsna consciousness is so sweet that as soon as you taste it, the whole blazing fire of material existence is immediately extinguished ".
From Haute Couture To Hare Krsna
How an "ugly duckling" became a swanlike devotee of God
When Vicki Overton was growing up in Auckland in the 1950's, duly attentive to her studies at St. Cuthbert's College for girls, no one would have imagined she would one day be among the most sought-after fashion models in the world. ("My friends and I both thought I was an ugly duckling.") But her admission to the University of Auckland at age seventeen proved to be the unlikely start of a meteoric modeling career that would take her to Europe and finally bring her, most amazingly of all, to the Hare Krsna movement. Recently we talked to Vicki, now thirty-three and renamed Jayasri-devi dasi, to get the story of her odyssey to Krsna.
Jayasri-devi dasi: Before we begin I would like to thank Srila Bhagavan Goswami, my gurudeva, with all my heart and all my soul. Without his mercy I simply could not exist, and without him my life would have absolutely no meaning at all.
BTG: Jayasri, maybe you could start by telling us a little about how you first got into modeling.
Jayasri: Well, I entered the University of Auckland when I was seventeen, and my first year I spent in America—on scholarship in a school in Louisiana. I was staying with a photographer and his family. He took some pictures of me and sent them in to Seventeen magazine—they were running a competition—and somehow I won. So I flew up to Mississippi and did a whole series of advertisements for a big clothing firm. All of this got into the newspapers in New Zealand, and when I went back there a photographer for Vogue rang me up and asked if I would like to do some modeling. I started combining modeling with my university career. That went on for two years. Then, through my contacts at Australian Vogue, the biggest model agent in the world—Eileen Ford—got in touch with me and I left for New York.
BTG: And how did your career go from there? Did you stay in New York?
Jayasri: I stayed in New York from '69 till '73, and during that time I did covers for some of the biggest magazines: Seventeen, Mademoiselle, Glamour, Harpers Bazaar, Vogue of course. Then I went to Europe and did covers for Marie Claire, Jardin de Mode, Elle magazine. I worked for most of the big magazines.
BTG: What was it that first stimulated your interest in Krsna consciousness?
Jayasri: I'd always been looking for some sort of spiritual life. I remember when I was about ten years old I made a promise to God that I would be a teacher and a nun. But I didn't want to be a nun in a convent, and I didn't want to be a teacher in a school. I prayed to Him that if He would show me the way to do it, I would dedicate my life to Him.
And so for many years this interest continued. My studies at the university were tied up with my search for God. I used to read everything I could about spiritual life. When I arrived in New York in '69, the era of the flower children was just ending, and I became very interested in several schools there—esoteric schools, schools that taught yoga and philosophy.
BTG: Did you attend yoga classes?
Jayasri: Yes. I did kundalini-yoga for two years. I studied Buddhism, Zen. I studied at the Gurdjieff-Ouspensky Institute. I got into various philosophical and psychological groups and practiced mind control and all sorts of things. But I never found any satisfaction or developed any attachment for these things. They were all very interesting and some of them contained a grain of truth. But nothing that I thought could give me the complete answer.
So when I came to Europe in '73 I continued this interest in spiritual life. But it diminished I think because the Europeans are very much straighter, generally speaking, than the Americans. In any case, after some years in Europe I entered a time in my life that was full of great distress. The man I had been living with for the previous seven years became very sick with spinal meningitis and almost died. He recovered reasonably well, physically, but he became disturbed emotionally and mentally, and because of this I was feeling a lot of distress. We'd been very close, and I didn't know how to cope with it. The doctors couldn't help us, either.
So, this man's son had met Srila Gurudeva, Srila Bhagavan Goswami—
BTG: How old was the son at the time ?
Jayasri: He was about nineteen. He had met Srila Gurudeva , and he suggested that his father and I go see him. The boy's father refused, but I said, "Yes, all right." Actually, my reply was, " Oh, there are so many "gurus". They're all bogus. But I guess it won't hurt to go and see another one." At that time I had no idea Srila Gurudeva was connected with the Hare Krsna movement.
So I went to see him. I asked him a few questions, and he gave me the first complete answers I 'd ever heard. They were simple answers that I could understand, but they seemed to embrace everything, answer every question I'd ever had about spiritual philosophy. I remember thinking as I listened to him speak, "It's no accident that I'm here today. This is what I've been looking for all my life." I saw that Krsna consciousness was a way for me to serve God in my life—something I had never been able to find before. All the other schools emphasized self-development, and perhaps helping mankind, but they didn't explain the whole purpose of human life, what we are doing here, how we're servants of God, and how we can practically serve God with love and devotion.
So Srila Gurudeva suggested that I start coming to the temple, which I did. Actually, I remember thinking when I left his room: "Well, God has brought me here." The night before I had been on my knees for hours and hours, praying to Jesus Christ to please show me the way. I had felt I was losing the desire to be pure and to do good. It was just slipping out of my fingers as I grew older. It was leaving me—the desire to serve God. So for maybe eight hours I'd been meditating and crying on my knees, praying. And when I left Srila Gurudeva I realized that somebody had heard me and had brought me to him the very next morning.
So I decided I would give Krsna consciousness a try. I would do everything I was told to do, and I was sure the results would come. And they did.
BTG: What happened in your life from that point?
Jayasri: I felt like I was completely transformed. I had been battling vices—you know, smoking, drinking. I was smoking a pack and a half a day. But I just gave it up in a week.
Jayasri: Actually, overnight. Before I met Srila Gurudeva I was eating meat and so on. Of course I'd been interested in natural foods for many years, but I'd never made a serious commitment to vegetarianism. But when I learned that eating meat was an act of violence, when the philosophy was explained to me, I easily gave it up. Then there were those things that my parents had tried to teach me through their own religion—you know, chastity and all that kind of thing. But there was no reason behind anything. No philosophy. No substance.
Before I started practicing Krsna consciousness I always felt a little dirty and contaminated by all these vices, and then suddenly I stopped them. I felt suddenly transformed. I'd tried for so many years to stop smoking, but you can't take something away from someone unless you give him something better. I found that just by starting to chant Hare Krsna and do devotional service, I felt such a tremendous feeling of ecstasy that I didn't want any of those things. Krsna consciousness immediately had that effect.
BTG: What about modeling? How did that fit in with Krsna consciousness?
Jayasri: As far as my career was concerned, Srila Gurudeva suggested that I continue to model, that this should become my devotional service. He explained that beauty, fame, wealth, etc., don't have to be renounced in the ordinary sense. They should be used in devotional service. Everything can be used for Krsna. And you know, my career as a model suddenly blossomed. Tremendously. I made more money in my first year as a devotee than I had in any single previous year. And for the first time modeling became a pleasant experience for me. I had never actually enjoyed mixing with people in that very artificial, superficial world. It would just bring me to tears.
BTG: Modeling is usually thought of as very glamorous, exciting—
Jayasri: Well, I always found it terribly boring. Of course, I don't put modeling down completely, since it was a wonderful way to travel, to see the world, to expose myself to various experiences. And finally, of course, it brought me to the understanding that although I had all the things I could possibly want in the material world, happiness doesn't lie in those things but in a higher truth.
But during my career I always felt that there was something lacking. Modeling provided the vehicle for me to see the whole world, but I never found anything that satisfied me in all those experiences I had and all those people I met.
And now suddenly modeling took on a completely new light, because it was my devotional service. It became a joyous occupation. It was a tremendous opportunity to preach to people, especially in the modeling business, where they're pretty rocky. I mean, they're pretty wobbly, these models. Often, when a model becomes successful, she becomes quite unbalanced; she has this terrible insecurity, because all her success is based on the beauty of the body and it can be taken away at any second. So they're tremendously insecure people, even though they have all this money.
BTG: How did all your friends react when they saw you'd become a devotee?
Jayasri: Just by seeing me chanting Hare Krsna on my beads in between shots, the other models would become curious and ask me what I was doing. Also, it wasn't just models I was meeting. I was mixing with some of the richest and most influential people in Europe: talented musicians and artists, cinema people, a lot of nobility, industrialists, bankers, politicians. I felt it was Krsna's mercy that I knew all these people so I could tell them about Krsna consciousness.
They could see I was happy, and they were curious, because they themselves were so unhappy. Especially those people who have everything according to the material standard—they're some of the most unhappy people I've ever met, because they have nothing to hold on to. Their lives are meaningless, and the more they have, the more they want. I found that those very elite groups are taking refuge in drugs and very liberated sex lives, and this is just making them more unhappy. Their families are breaking down, their human relations are messed up, because they're getting farther and farther away from reality. It's a very sad situation.
Even before I became a devotee, I always felt that the satisfaction that came with success—riches, fame, etc.—was very empty, because it had no depth, no profundity. It had no relation to my actual search. I always felt that my thing in life was my spiritual search, my search for God. That was also part of the reason I left New Zealand in the first place.
BTG: But now you've come full circle—you've returned to New Zealand. Why?
Jayasri: After I had modeled for some time as a devotee, I felt the need to live in a temple for some time and experience a regulated program of devotional service. Srila Gurudeva agreed with my request and sent me here to New Zealand. I want to learn Krsna conscious philosophy thoroughly and then go back out again and, by Krsna's mercy and the mercy of my spiritual master, be able to really preach to all the people I know.
I may not go as a model. Perhaps I will just get back into contact with all those people I know. And I feel that all these years Krsna has somehow or other been guiding me, preparing me for this. Although I was certainly not a devotee, I felt there was some plan. Perhaps now that He's brought me to the point of being a devotee, I can use all those contacts, all that experience, to help other people in the same position I was in myself.
1982. Another year passing us by with its tidings of yet more disturbances and suffering. The headlines jump out at us . . . CRISIS! FLASHPOINT! RIOT! WAR! . . . and our anxiety increases. Even if tucked away in the most insignificant, isolated place in the world, we won't be left at peace. As the elected and unelected leaders of the world battle it out for political supremacy, innocent citizens wonder, "Will we ever have happiness and peace in our lifetime?" Millions now worry about devastations that could transform whole countries into slaughterhouses at the flick of a few switches. Antinuclear demonstrations gather momentum across the globe.
That people are actively seeking a lasting solution to these seemingly insurmountable problems is good. But the prospects of success are not. Since the two world wars, nothing seems to have come along that could stop us from having a third. In fact, the old adage "history repeats itself seems certain soon to prove itself again.
But despite all the gloom, the devotees of Lord Krsna are optimistic, unfazed. Indeed, they're positively joyful. Why? And if they are, can others be? Yes—if people are willing to make a few simple adjustments in their lives.
History repeats itself because human behavior repeats itself. According to the Vedic literature, the natural laws of karma guarantee that every act we perform will bring us a precise reaction. If we perform good acts that help others, good results will follow. But if, for example, we maim and slaughter innocent living beings, the world will be transformed into a giant slaughterhouse for human beings also.
Changing the course of the world is not a matter of politics—moving parties in and out of power does little to change people's lives. No. There has to be a change in consciousness—a change big enough to inspire people to give up meat-eating, intoxicants, illicit sex, and gambling, for the reactions of these are the causes of the mess we're in today. For peace and harmony, we must replace these with a life that is spiritual and pure.
Impossible? No. And the Hare Krsna devotees are living testimony to the benefits of living purely and simply, in obedience to God's laws. Their bright eyes and clear faces shine with the inner pleasure of bhakti-yoga, the process of attaining God through love and devotion.
To give everyone a chance to share in this joyful process, the devotees are building transcendental villages like New Varshan, which is situated in the lush New Zealand countryside in Riverhead, near Auckland.
This community of Krsna conscious families is showing how people, regardless of background, race, and religion, can live together in sweet harmony, working for the pleasure of the Supreme Lord. Anyone who wishes to learn the secrets of successful, blissful life can come for a day, a week, a month, or even a lifetime.
We invite you to come and inquire about this spiritual way of life. You may even want to join us as we build this genuine positive alternative to today's materialistic chaos. We can show the leaders of the world that the way to peace and harmony is not through diplomacy and military might but through a pure and selfless life of glorifying the real, eternal leader of all living beings, Lord Krsna, by chanting His holy names—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—and living according to His plan.
We'd like to share with you the peace and happiness we've found. And you have nothing to lose but your anxieties. So please take advantage of this wonderful opportunity and give us a call or visit. We know you won't be sorry.