A lecture given in October 1968
"I offer my respectful obeisances unto my spiritual master, who has opened my eyes, which were blinded by the darkness of ignorance, with the torchlight of knowledge."
Everyone in this material world is born into ignorance, or darkness. Actually, the nature of this material world is that it is dark. It may be lighted with sunlight, moonlight, fire, or electricity, but its nature is dark. That is a scientific fact. So everyone born in this material world—from Brahma, the chief personality in the topmost planet of this universe, down to the ant—is born into the darkness of ignorance.
Now, the Vedic injunction is tamasi ma jyotir gama: "Don't remain in darkness: come to the light." And for this, a spiritual master is needed. It is the duty of the spiritual master to open the eyes of the person in darkness with the torch of knowledge, and one should offer one's respectful obeisances unto such a spiritual master.
People should not he kepi in darkness; they should he brought into the light. Therefore, in every human society there is a religious institution of some sort. What is the purpose of Hinduism, Mohammedanism. Christianity, or Buddhism? The purpose is to bring people to the light. That is the purpose of religion.
And what is that light? That light is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Srimad-Bhagavatam states, dharmam tu saksad bhagavat-pranitam: "The codes of religion are directly given by the Supreme Personality of Godhead." In the state there are laws that you must follow. The head of the state gives some laws, and if you are a good citizen you obey those laws and live peacefully. These laws may be different according to time. circumstances, or people—the state laws of India may not agree cent percent with the laws of the United Slates—but in every state there are laws that you must obey. One has to abide by the law. Otherwise one is considered the lowest in society, a criminal, and is subject to punishment. That is the general principle.
Similarly, religion means to obey the laws of God. That's all. And if a human being does not obey the laws of God, he is no better than an animal. All scriptures, all religious principles are meant to elevate man from the animal platform to the human platform. Therefore, a person without religious principles, without God consciousness, is no better than an animal. That is the verdict of the Vedic literature:
Eating, sleeping, sex, and defense—these four principles are common to both human beings and animals. The distinction between human life and animal life is that a man can search after God but an animal cannot. That is the difference. Therefore a man without that urge for searching after God is no better than an animal.
Unfortunately, at the present moment in every state and every society people are trying to forget God. Some people publicly say there is no God; others say that if there is a God, He is dead; and so on. They have built such a so-called advanced civilization, with so many skyscraper buildings, but they are forgetting that all of their advancement is dependent on God, on Krsna. This is a very precarious condition for the human society.
There is a very nice story that describes what happens to a society that forgets the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Once a rat was being troubled by a cat. So the rat went to a saintly person who had mystic powers and said, "My dear sir, I am very much troubled."
"What is the difficulty?"
The rat said, "A cat always chases me, so I have no peace of mind."
"Then what do you want?"
"Please make me into a cat."
"All right, become a cat."
After a few days, the cat came to the saintly person and said, "My dear sir, again I am in trouble."
"What is that trouble?"
"The dogs are chasing me."
"Then what do you want?"
"Make me a dog."
"All right, become a dog."
Then after a few days the dog came and said, "Sir, again I am in trouble."
"What is the trouble?"
"The foxes are chasing me."
"Then, what do you want?"
"To become a fox."
"All right, become a fox."
Then the fox came and said, "Oh, tigers are chasing me."
"Then, what do you want?"
"I want to become a tiger."
"All right, become a tiger."
Now the tiger began to stare at the saintly person. "I shall eat you," the tiger said.
"Oh, you shall eat me? I have made you a tiger, and you want to eat me!"
"Yes. I am a tiger, and now I shall eat you."
Then the saintly person cursed him, "Again become a rat!"
And the tiger became a rat.
So, our human civilization is like this. The other day I was reading the World Almanac. It said that within the next hundred years people will be living underground—like rats. Scientific advancement has created the atomic bomb to kill men, and when it will be used people will have to go underground and become like rats. From tiger to rat. That is going to happen; it is nature's law.
If you defy the laws of your state, you will be put into difficulty. Similarly, if you continue to defy the authority, the supremacy of the Supreme Lord, you will suffer. Again you will become rats. As soon as the atomic bombs explode, all civilization on the surface of the globe will be finished. You may not like to think of these things—they may be very unpalatable—but these are the facts.
Satyam grhyat priyam grhyan ma priyah satyam apriyam. It is a social convention that if you want to speak the truth you should speak it very palatably. But we are not meant for social convention. We are preachers, servants of God, and we must speak the real truth, whether you like it or not.
A godless civilization cannot be happy. That is a fact. So we have started the Krsna consciousness movement to awaken this godless civilization. Just try to love God; this is our simple request. You have love within you—you want to love somebody. A young boy tries to love a young girl; a young girl tries to love a young boy. This is natural, because the loving propensity is within everybody. But we have created circumstances in which our love is being frustrated. Everyone is frustrated—husbands, wives, boys, girls. Everywhere there is frustration, because our loving propensity is not being utilized properly. Why? Because we have forgotten to love the Supreme Person. That is our disease.
So the purpose of religion is to train people how to love God. That is the purpose of all religion. Whether your religion is Christianity or Hinduism or Mohammedanism, the purpose of your religion is to train you how to love God, because that is your constitutional position.
In the Srimad-Bhagavatam [1.2.6] it is said, sa vai pumsam paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhoksaje. Now, in English dictionaries this word dharma is generally translated as "religion," a kind of faith, but the actual meaning of dharma is "essential characteristic." For example, sugar's dharma, or essential characteristic, is sweetness. If you are given some white powder and you find that it is not sweet, you will at once say, "Oh, this is not sugar; it is something else." So sweetness is the dharma of sugar. Similarly, a salty taste is the essential characteristic of salt, and pungency is the essential characteristic of chili.
Now, what is your essential characteristic? You are a living entity, and you have to understand your essental characteristic. That characteristic is your dharma, or religion—not the Christian religion, the Hindu religion, this religion, that religion. Your eternal, essential characteristic—that is your religion.
And what is that characteristic? Your essential characteristic is that you want to love somebody, and therefore you want to serve him. That is your essential characteristic. You love your family, you love your society, you love your community, you love your country. And because you love them, you want to serve them. That tendency to engage in loving service is your essential characteristic, your dharma. Whether you are a Christian, a Mohammedan, or a Hindu, this characteristic will remain. Suppose today you are a Christian. Tomorrow you may become a Hindu, but your serving mood, that loving spirit, will stay with you. Therefore, the tendency to love and serve others is your dharma, or your religion. This is the universal form of religion.
Now, you have to apply your loving service in such a way that you will be completely satisfied. Because your loving spirit is now misplaced, you are not happy. You are frustrated and confused. The Srimad-Bhagavatam tells us how to apply our spirit of loving devotion perfectly:
sa vai pumsam paro dharmo
That religion is first class which trains you to love God. And by this religion you will become completely satisfied.
If you develop your love of God to the fullest extent, you will become a perfect person. You will feel perfection within yourself. You are hankering after satisfaction, full satisfaction, but that full satisfaction can be obtained only when you love God. Loving God is the natural function of every living entity. It doesn't matter whether you are a Christian or a Hindu or a Mohammedan. Just try to develop your love of God. Then your religion is very nice. Otherwise it is simply a waste of time (srama eva hi kevalam). If after executing rituals in a particular type of religion throughout your whole life you have no love for God, then you have simply wasted your time.
The Krsna consciousness movement is the postgraduate movement of all kinds of religion. We are inviting all Christians, Muslims, and Hindus—everyone—to please come associate with us and try to love God. And the method is very simple: just chant His holy names—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
All my students are Americans, and they have come from either Christian or Jewish families. None of them have come from Hindu families. So the process I have given them—the process of chanting the Hare Krsna mantra—is universal. It is not Hindu, or Indian.
The Sanskrit word mantra is a combination of two syllables, man and tra. Man means "mind," and tra means "deliverance." Therefore a mantra is that which delivers you from mental concoction, from hovering on the mental plane. So if you chant this mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—very soon you'll find that you are coming from the darkness to the light.
I do not wish to take much of your time, but I simply want to impress upon you the importance of chanting Hare Krsna. Try an experiment: Chant Hare Krsna for one week, and see how much spiritual progress you make. We don't charge anything, so there is no loss. But there is great profit; that is guaranteed. Therefore please chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Thank you very much.
Exploding The Myth Of The Innocent Citizen
East and West, bad karma is building to a critical mass, and catastrophe.
by Drutakarma dasa
Catching many political leaders unawares, nuclear disarmament has once more surfaced as a major public issue. From Vermont to California, a dozen state legislatures have sponsored nuclear freeze resolutions; the latest New York Times/CBS poll shows that more than 70% of all Americans favor an immediate halt in the production of nuclear weapons; and antinuke demonstrations in Europe threaten the NATO alliance. Even the communist countries are not immune to the upheaval.
So what's new about all this? Haven't the dire predictions of nuclear holocaust and the patient, reasoned pleadings for peace been echoing ever since the nuclear age dawned with ghastly suddenness at Hiroshima? Can we really expect that another UN conference, another summit meeting, another round of grass-roots demonstrations will cause nuclear weapons to vanish?
A lot of people seem to think so, and one thing they're very good at is educating the public about the details of nuclear war. Official-looking maps with neatly drawn concentric circles, appearing lately in local newspapers and national news magazines, show the effects emanating from ground zero of a 20-megaton air-burst over Your Home Town. (Twenty megatons means a blast equivalent to the explosion of twenty million tons of TNT.) Both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. have thousands of such weapons in their nuclear stockpiles. There are some 50,000 nuclear warheads on earth, with an explosive yield 1.6 million times that of the antique bomb dropped on Hiroshima. If a 20-megaton bomb exploded above a major U.S. city, it would:
• produce a fireball with temperatures of 20 to 30 million degrees Fahrenheit that would vaporize everything within a 1.5 mile radius, leaving a crater several hundred feet deep;
• create a silent heat flash traveling at the speed of light that would instantly kill anyone within a 6-mile radius;
• emanate supersonic shock waves and 300-mph winds that would knock down all structures within a 6-mile radius;
• kill 50% of the population within a 10-mile radius by direct thermal radiation and blast pressures;
• ignite a firestorm that would turn bomb shelters into crematoriums, asphyxiating and dry-roasting anyone inside them;
• disperse lethal doses of fallout that within 24 hours would kill most survivors downwind from the blast.
That's the basic holocaust scenario most everyone's protesting about. That's why young people in skull masks are out in the streets of New York, Paris, Bonn, Rome, Washington, Boston, etc.—out there demonstrating against their governments.
The world's religious leaders are out there, too—the Pope, Catholic bishops, Methodist ministers, Buddhist monks. And astute politicians, picking up their constituents' vibes, are scrambling onto the antinuke bandwagon. And the doctors. And the scientists. And the lawyers. And the movie stars. And the rock musicians.
Everyone's wailing about the irrationality of the national leaders, the big bad guys with their grubby fingers on the buttons, who for the sake of national pride and prestige are ready to invoke the full horrors of nuclear Armageddon upon millions of innocent citizens.
At last we arrive at the central myth of the whole nuclear disarmament movement—the myth of the innocent citizen. These hordes of "innocent citizens" surmise that if they can just get Ronnie and Leonid to sit down together, these two could sign some papers, shake hands, and solve the whole thing. The U.S. and the Soviet Union could bury the nuclear hatchet. It all sounds quite sane and rational. But it's based on a faulty analysis of the whole problem.
The truth is, neither the U.S. nor the U.S.S.R. is a free agent. They are both acting under the influence of the inescapable law of karma.
An example from the Vedic literatures, the timeless books of knowledge from ancient India, may help us understand. The sages explain that although two bamboo trees rubbing together sometimes ignite a forest fire, the real cause of the fire is not the trees themselves but the wind that brings them together. The trees are only instruments. In the same way, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. are not the real causes of the friction between them—the friction that may well result in the forest fire of nuclear war. The real cause is the invisible wind of karma. And that karma is being generated by none other than allegedly innocent John Q. Public.
Karma is a force of nature, like time or gravity. And the law of karma states that for every action we perform there must be a reaction. No one can escape the law of karma. A major axiom of the law of karma is that if we cause pain and suffering to other living beings, we must experience an equivalent amount of pain and suffering in return, both individually and collectively.
When we properly understand the law of karma, we can see just how the neighborhood McDonald's hamburger stand has much more to do with nuclear war than Reagan and Brezhnev. If you think the descriptions of nuclear war are terrifying, you should read the descriptions of what goes on inside the world's heavily automated slaughterhouses. Millions of animals are butchered daily on modern, cost-effective, computerized production lines.
When challenged, the person who eats the meat will often say, "Well, I haven't killed anything." But by purchasing the neatly packaged meat in the supermarket, he's paying those who do the actual dirty work. And he's just as guilty.
It's the height of hypocrisy for someone to march for peace and then go to McDonald's for a hamburger or home to grill a steak, roast a chicken, or fry some fish. This mentality prompted George Bernard Shaw, one of the world's famous vegetarians, to write,
We pray on Sundays that we may have light
The hypocrisy of the "peace-loving" meat-eater has been even more thoroughly condemned by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the great spiritual leader who is the founder and spiritual guide of the Hare Krsna movement:
"Those who kill animals and give them unnecessary pain—as people do in slaughterhouses—will be killed in a similar way in the next life and in many lives to come. One can never be excused from such an offense. . . . There are many rascals who violate their own religious principles. Judaeo-Christian scriptures clearly say, 'Thou shall not kill.' Nonetheless, even the heads of religion, giving all kinds of excuses, indulge in killing animals while trying to pass as saintly persons. This mockery and hypocrisy in human society bring about unlimited calamities; therefore occasionally there are great wars. Masses of people go out onto battlefields and kill each other. Now they have discovered the atomic bomb, which is simply waiting to be used for wholesale destruction."
For those who understand the laws of karma, the cause of nuclear war is very clear. They realize the utter futility of protest marches, signatures on nuclear freeze initiatives, and peace negotiations between heads of state. The real problem is that the Americans, Russians, Europeans, and practically everyone else on the planet are building up a huge debt of bad karma, which can result only in disasters of the most terrible kind.
Just consider the 50 million abortions performed each year throughout the world. Again, the terrifying descriptions of nuclear war are easily matched by the descriptions of the atrocities committed against unborn children. They are ripped into pieces by vacuum suction devices, sliced and diced by surgical knives, and scalded by saline solutions. The karmic reaction for these abortion deaths is incalculable. And when it's combined with the karma from animal killing, the total karma awaiting the world's people is multiplying so rapidly that unless drastic action is soon taken nuclear war is inevitable.
What's needed to prevent a full-scale global holocaust is not a broad campaign of marches and petitions, but rather a broad campaign to educate people about the laws of karma and to convince them of the consequences of murdering millions of innocent animals and unborn children. Such a campaign will go a long way toward preventing any increase in the world's enormous burden of karma.
But what about the mountain of bad karma that has already piled up?
The Vedic literatures describe that the subtle, destructive energies of karma can be counteracted only by even more powerful energies—transcendental, or spiritual, energies. Vastly more powerful than even nuclear energy, spiritual energies are stored within certain mantras. When properly chanted, these combinations of sounds release their potencies and produce a tremendous effect.
The most powerful force on earth is the Hare Krsna mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—which is composed entirely of the holy names of God. The Vedic literatures teach us that God's name, being nondifferent from God Himself, is supremely potent. So if a person chants the holy name of Krsna even once, he can be freed from the karmic reactions of more sins than he could ever imagine committing.
The chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra is now going on all over the world. It is going on openly in the major cities of the West, a fact almost everyone knows. And, though few in the West know about it, it is going on underground in the Soviet Union, where the Hare Krsna movement has attracted thousands of followers.
It is this powerful chanting alone, on both sides of the Iron Curtain, that is the greatest hope for world peace—a peace that will never be achieved by people who have failed to understand the problem of violence in their own hearts.
Carrying Krsna's Message to the West
by Srila Satsvarupa dasa Goswami
(Condensed from Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami. © 1981 by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
In October of 1952, Abhay Charan De, as Srila Prabhupada was then known, began preaching Krsna consciousness in Jhansi, India, about 150 miles west of Allahabad. With the support of local doctors and businessmen, he began an organization—the League of Devotees—dedicated to spreading Krsna consciousness in India and abroad.
The organization failed, but Srila Prabhupada persevered. He retired from his business and family life, and on September 17, 1959, he accepted sannyasa, the order of renunciation. Thus he became known as A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami.
He continued working to spread Krsna consciousness—in Delhi, Vrndavana, Bombay, and elsewhere. He published several issues of his newspaper, Back to Godhead. But then a librarian suggested that he write books, since books were permanent where-as newspapers would be read once and then thrown away. Srila Prabhupada took this suggestion most seriously, considering it to have come to him by the grace of his spiritual master.
As a dependent servant constantly meditating on the desires of his transcendental master and seeking his guidance, Bhaktivedanta Swami felt his spiritual master's reciprocal blessings and personal presence. More and more he was feeling confidential contact with Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, and now he was feeling an inspiration to write books.
He considered Srimad-Bhagavatam, because it was the most important and authoritative Vaisnava scripture. Although Bhagavad-gita was the essence of all Vedic knowledge, presented in a brief ABC fashion, Srimad-Bhagavatam was elaborate. An English translation and commentary for this book could one day change the hearts of the entire world. And if he could publish even a few books, his preaching would be enhanced; he could go abroad with confidence and not appear empty-handed.
In presenting the literary incarnation of God, Srimad-Bhagavatam, for the benefit of the Western world, Bhaktivedanta Swami realized that he was performing an important task, following in the footsteps of the book's original author, Srila Vyasadeva. As Srila Vyasadeva had had a vision of Krsna and had received direction from his spiritual master before beginning his literary mission, Bhaktivedanta Swami had his vision and had received instructions from his spiritual master. Bhaktivedanta Swami envisioned distributing in mass the book of Srila Vyasadeva. He would not merely translate it; he would personally take it to the West, present it, and teach people in the West—through the book and in person—how to develop pure love of God.
While residing in the holy city Vrndavana, Bhaktivedanta Swami immersed himself in his work of translation and commentary.
But writing was only half the battle; the other half was publishing. Bhaktivedanta Swami personally had to shoulder all the responsibility for raising funds, printing the books, and getting the copies sold.
Moving back and forth between Vrndavana and Delhi, he managed to write and publish the first two volumes of what he aspired to present as a sixty-volume set.
To raise funds for Volume Three, Bhaktivedanta Swami decided to try Bombay. He traveled there in July and stayed at the Premkutir Dharmashala, a free asrama. He made his rounds of the institutions and booksellers in Bombay. He now had an advertisement showing himself with Prime Minister Shastri, and he also had the prime minister's letter recommending the book to government libraries, and the Ministry of Education's purchase order for fifty volumes. Still, he was getting only small orders.
Then he decided to visit Sumati Morarji, head of the Scindia Steamship Company. He had heard from his God-brothers in Bombay that she was known for helping sadhus, saintly persons, and had donated to the Bombay Gaudiya Math. He had never met her, but he well remembered the 1958 promise by one of her officers to arrange half-fare passage for him to America. Now he wanted her help for printing Srimad-Bhagavatam.
But his first attempts to arrange a meeting were unsuccessful. Frustrated at being put off by Mrs. Morarji's officers, he sat down on the front steps of her office building, determined to catch her attention as she left for the day. The lone sadhu certainly caused some attention as he sat quietly chanting for five hours on the steps of the Scindia Steamship Company building. Finally, late that afternoon, Mrs. Morarji emerged in a flurry of business talk with her secretary, Mr. Choksi. Upon seeing Bhaktivedanta Swami, she stopped. "Who is this gentleman sitting here?" she asked Mr. Choksi.
"He's been here for five hours," the secretary said.
"All right, I'll come," she said and walked up to where Bhaktivedanta Swami was sitting. He smiled and stood, offering namaskaras with his folded palms. "Swamiji, what can I do for you?" she said.
Bhaktivedanta Swami told her briefly of his intentions to print the third volume of his Srimad-Bhagavatam. "I want you to help me," he said.
"All right," Mrs. Morarji replied. "We can meet tomorrow, because it is getting late. Tomorrow you can come, and we will discuss."
The next day, Bhaktivedanta Swami met with Mrs. Morarji in her office, where she looked at the typed manuscript and the published volumes. "All right," she said, "if you want to print it, I will give you the aid. Whatever you want. You can get it printed."
With Mrs. Morarji's guarantee, Bhaktivedanta Swami was free to return to Vrndavana to finish writing the manuscript. As with the previous volumes, he set a demanding schedule for writing and publishing. The third volume would complete the First Canto. Then, with a supply of impressive literature, he would be ready to go to the West.
With the manuscript for Volume Three complete and with the money to print it, Bhaktivedanta Swami once again entered the printing world, purchasing paper, correcting proofs, and keeping the printer on schedule so that the book would be finished by January 1965. Thus, by his persistence, he who had almost no money of his own managed to publish his third large hardbound volume within a little more than two years.
At this rate, with his respect in the scholarly world increasing, he might soon become a recognized figure amongst his countrymen. But he had his vision set on the West. And with the third volume now printed, he felt he was at last prepared. He was sixty-eight and would have to go soon. It had been more than forty years since Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati had first asked a young householder in Calcutta to preach Krsna consciousness in the West. At first it had seemed impossible to Abhay Charan, who had so recently entered family responsibilities. That obstacle, however, had long ago been removed, and for more than ten years he had been free to travel. But he had been penniless (and still was). And he had wanted first to publish some volumes of Srimad-Bhagavatam to take with him; it had seemed necessary if he were to do something solid. Now, by Krsna's grace, three volumes were on hand.
Then Bhaktivedanta Swami met Mr. Agarwal, a Mathura businessman, and mentioned to him in passing, as he did to almost everyone he met, that he wanted to go to the West. Although Mr. Agarwal had known Bhaktivedanta Swami for only a few minutes, he volunteered to try to get him a sponsor in America. It was something Mr. Agarwal had done a number of times; when he met a sadhu who mentioned something about going abroad to teach Hindu culture, he would ask his son Gopal, an engineer in Pennsylvania, to send back a sponsorship form. When Mr. Agarwal offered to help in this way, Bhaktivedanta Swami urged him to please do so.
Srila Prabhupada: I did not say anything seriously to Mr. Agarwal, but perhaps he took it very seriously. I asked him, "Well, why don't you ask your son Gopal to sponsor so that I can go there? I want to preach there."
To Bhaktivedanta Swami's surprise, he was soon contacted by the Ministry of External Affairs and informed that his No Objection certificate for going to the U.S. was ready. Since he had not instigated any proceedings for leaving the country, Bhaktivedanta Swami had to inquire from the ministry about what had happened. They showed him the Statutory Declaration Form signed by Mr. Gopal Agarwal of Butler, Pennsylvania; Mr. Agarwal solemnly declared that he would bear the expenses of Bhaktivedanta Swami during his stay in the U.S.
Now Bhaktivedanta Swami had a sponsor. But he still needed a passport, visa, P-form, and travel fare. After securing his passport without much difficulty, he went to Bombay, not to sell books or raise funds for printing; he wanted a ticket for America. Again he tried approaching Sumati Morarji. He showed his sponsorship papers to her secretary, Mr. Choksi, who was impressed and who went to Mrs. Morarji on his behalf. "The Swamiji from Vrndavana is back," he told her. "He has published his book on your donation. He has a sponsor, and he wants to go to America. He wants you to send him on a Scindia ship." Mrs. Morarji said no, the Swami was too old to go to the United States and expect to accomplish anything. As Mr. Choksi conveyed to him Mrs. Morarji's words, Bhaktivedanta Swami listened disapprovingly. She wanted him to stay in India and complete the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Why go to the States? Finish the job here.
But Bhaktivedanta Swami was fixed on going. He told Mr. Choksi that he should convince Mrs. Morarji. He coached Mr. Choksi on what he should say: "I find this gentleman very inspired to go to the United States and preach something to the people there. . . ." But when he told Mrs. Morarji, she again said no. The Swami was not healthy. It would be too cold there. He might not be able to come back, and she doubted whether he would be able to accomplish much there. People in America were not so cooperative, and they would probably not listen to him.
Exasperated with Mr. Choksi's ineffectiveness, Bhaktivedanta Swami demanded a personal interview. It was granted, and a grey-haired, determined Bhaktivedanta Swami presented his emphatic request: "Please give me one ticket."
Sumati Morarji was concerned. "Swamiji, you are so old—you are taking this responsibility. Do you think it is all right?"
"No," he reassured her, lifting his hand as if to reassure a doubting daughter, "it is all right."
"But do you know what my secretaries think? They say, 'Swamiji is going to die there.'"
Bhaktivedanta made a face as if to dismiss a foolish rumor. Again he insisted that she give him a ticket. "All right," she said. "Get your P-form, and I will make an arrangement to send you by our ship." Bhaktivedanta Swami smiled brilliantly and happily left her offices, past her amazed and skeptical clerks.
A "P-form"—another necessity for an Indian national who wants to leave the country—is a certificate given by the State Bank of India, certifying that the person has no excessive debts in India and is cleared by the banks. That would take a while to obtain. And he also did not yet have a U.S. visa. He needed to pursue these government permissions in Bombay, but he had no place to stay. So Mrs. Morarji agreed to let him reside at the Scindia Colony, a compound of apartments for employees of the Scindia Company.
He stayed in a small, unfurnished apartment with only his trunk and typewriter. The resident Scindia employees all knew that Mrs. Morarji was sending him to the West, and some of them became interested in his cause. They were impressed, for although he was so old, he was going abroad to preach. He was a special sadhu, a scholar. They heard from him how he was taking hundreds of copies of his books with him, but no money. He became a celebrity at the Scindia Colony. Various families brought him rice, vegetables, and fruit. They brought so much that he could not eat it all, and he mentioned this to Mr. Choksi. Just accept it and distribute it, Mr. Choksi advised. Bhaktivedanta Swami then began giving remnants of his food to the children. Some of the older residents gathered to hear him as he read and spoke from Srimad-Bhagavatam. Mr. Vasavada, the chief cashier of Scindia, was particularly impressed and came regularly to learn from the sadhu. Mr. Vasavada obtained copies of Bhaktivedanta Swami's books and read them in his home.
The Swami's backing by Scindia and his sponsorship in the U.S. were a strong presentation, and with the help of the people at Scindia he obtained his visa on July 28, 1965. But the P-form proceedings went slowly and even threatened to be a last, insurmountable obstacle.
Srila Prabhupada: I had so much difficulty obtaining the government permission to go out. I had applied for the P-form sanction, but no sanction was coming. Then I went to the State Bank of India. The officer was Mr. Martarchari. He told me, "Swamiji, you are sponsored by a private man. So we cannot accept. If you were invited by some institution, then we could consider. But you are invited by a private man for one month. And after one month, if you are in difficulty, there will be so many obstacles." But I had already prepared everything to go. So I said, "What have you done?" He said, "I have decided not to sanction your P-form." I said, "No, no, don't do this. You better send me to your superior. It should not be like that."
So he took my request, and he sent the file to the chief official of foreign exchange—something like that. So he was the supreme man in the State Bank of India. I went to see him. I asked his secretary, "Do you have such-and-such a file. You kindly put it to Mr. Rao. I want to see him. " So the secretary agreed, and he put the file, and he put my name down to see him. I was waiting. So Mr. Rao came personally. He said, "Swamiji, I passed your case. Don't worry."
Following Mrs. Morarji's instruction, her secretary, Mr. Choksi, made final arrangements for Bhaktivedanta Swami. Since he had no warm clothes, Mr. Choksi took him to buy a wool jacket and other woolen clothes. Mr. Choksi spent about 250 rupees on new clothes, including some new dhotis. At Bhaktivedanta Swami's request, Mr. Choksi printed five hundred copies of a small pamphlet containing the eight verses written by Lord Caitanya and an advertisement for Srimad-Bhagavatam, in the context of an advertisement for the Scindia Steamship Company.
Mr. Choksi: I asked him, "Why couldn't you go earlier? Why do you want to go to the States, at this age?" He replied that, "I will be able to do something good, I am sure." His idea was that someone should be there who would be able to go near people who were lost in life and teach them and tell them what the correct thing is. I asked him so many times, "Why do you want to go to the States? Why don't you start something in Bombay or Delhi or Vrndavana?" I was teasing him also: "You are interested in seeing the States. All Swamijis want to go to the States, and you want to enjoy there." He said, "What have I got to see? I have finished my life."
Finally Mrs. Morarji scheduled a place for him on one of her ships, the Jaladuta, which was sailing from Calcutta on August 13. She had made certain that he would travel on a ship whose captain understood the needs of a vegetarian and a brahmana. Mrs. Morarji told the Jaladuta's captain, Arun Pandia, to carry extra vegetables and fruits for the Swami. Mr. Choksi spent the last two days with Bhaktivedanta Swami in Bombay, picking up the pamphlets at the press, purchasing clothes, and driving him to the station to catch the train for Calcutta.
He arrived in Calcutta only a few days before the Jaladuta's departure. Although he had lived much of his life in the city, he now had nowhere to stay. Although in this city he had been so carefully nurtured as a child, those early days were also gone forever. As he had written in a poem, "Vrndavana-bhajana," "Where have my loving mother and father gone to now? And where are all my elders, who were my own folk? Who will give me news of them, tell me who? All that is left of this family life is a list of names."
Out of the hundreds of people in Calcutta whom Bhaktivedanta Swami knew, he chose to call on Mr. Sisir Bhattacarya, the flamboyant kirtana singer he had met a year before at the governor's house in Lucknow. Mr. Bhattacarya was not a relative, not a disciple, nor even a close friend; but he was willing to help. Bhaktivedanta Swami called at his place and informed him that he would be leaving on a cargo ship in a few days; he needed a place to stay, and he would like to give some lectures. Mr. Bhattacarya immediately began to arrange a few private meetings at friends' homes, where he would sing and Bhaktivedanta Swami would then speak.
The day before his departure, Bhaktivedanta Swami traveled to nearby Mayapur to visit the samadhi tomb of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. Then he returned to Calcutta. He was ready.
He had only a suitcase, an umbrella, and a supply of dry cereal. He did not know what he would find to eat in America; perhaps there would be only meat. If so, he was prepared to live on boiled potatoes and the cereal. His main baggage, several trunks of his books, was being handled separately by Scindia Cargo. Two hundred three-volume sets—the very thought of the books gave him confidence.
When the day came for him to leave, he needed that confidence. He was making a momentous break with his previous life, and he was dangerously old and not in strong health. And he was going to an unknown and probably unwelcoming country. To be poor and unknown in India was one thing. Even in these Kali-yuga days. when India's leaders were rejecting Vedic culture and imitating the West, it was still India; it was still the remains of Vedic civilization. He had been able to see millionaires, governors, the prime minister, simply by showing up at their doors and waiting. A sannyasi was respected; the Srimad-Bhagavatam was respected. But in America it would be different. He would be no one, a foreigner, and there were no temples, no free asramas, and no tradition of sadhus. But when he thought of the books he was bringing—transcendental knowledge in English—he became confident. When he met someone in the States he would give them a flyer: "'Srimad-Bhagavatam,' India's Message of Peace and Goodwill."
It was August 13, just a few days before Janmastami, the appearance day anniversary of Lord Krsna—the next day would be his own sixty-ninth birthday. During these years, he had been in Vrndavana for Janmastami. Many Vrndavana residents would never leave there; they were old and at peace in Vrndavana. Bhaktivedanta Swami was also concerned that he might die away from Vrndavana. That was why all the Vaisnava sadhus and widows had taken vows not to leave, even for Mathura—because to die in Vrndavana was the perfection of life. And the Hindu tradition was that a sannyasi should not cross the ocean and go to the land of the mlecchas (meat-eaters). But beyond all that was the desire of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, and his desire was nondifferent from that of Lord Krsna. And Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu had predicted that the chanting of Hare Krsna would be known in every town and village of the world.
Mr. Bhattacarya and Bhaktivedanta Swami took a taxi down to the Calcutta port. Bhaktivedanta Swami was carrying a Bengali copy of Caitanya-caritamrta, which he intended to read during the crossing. Somehow he would be able to cook on board. Or if not, he could starve—whatever Krsna desired. He checked his essentials: passenger ticket, passport, visa, P-form, sponsor's address. Finally it was happening.
The black cargo ship, small and weathered, was moored at dockside, a gangway leading from the dock to the ship's deck. Indian merchant sailors curiously eyed the elderly saffron-dressed sadhu as he spoke last words to his companion in the taxi and then left him and walked determinedly towards the boat.
Mr. Bhattacarya: He was alone. A lone fighter. When he left, there was no one to bid him good-bye. No friends, no supporter, no disciple, nobody. So, I was the only person standing on the shore to say him good-bye. I could not know that it was such an important thing.
For thousands of years, krsna-bhakti had been known only in India, not outside, except in twisted, faithless reports by foreigners. And the only swamis to have reached America had been nondevotees, Mayavadi impersonalists. But now Krsna was sending Bhaktivedanta Swami as His emissary.
This installment from Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, the biography of a pure devotee, brings us to the end of Volume One. It also ends our BACK TO GODHEAD series of excerpts from this multivolume work. The first three volumes are now in print, and the fourth is soon going to press. We expect the work to be complete in six or seven volumes.
To keep reading this story of Srila Prabhupada's life, ask for the books in this series from your local ISKCON center. Or write to ISKCON Educational Services, 3764 Watseka Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90034.
Devotion, hard work, and Krsna's mercy produce a fine new center
by Dravida dasa
The growth of the Krsna consciousness movement in Trinidad, West Indies, helps fulfill a prediction made five hundred years ago by Lord Caitanya, a divine incarnation who appeared in Bengal and spread love of God throughout India. Lord Caitanya said, "In every town and village of the world, the chanting of Hare Krsna will be heard." Since Lord Caitanya's time many generations of His followers (known as Gaudiya Vaisnavas) have come and gone, and though they all believed His prediction would one day be fulfilled, they wondered how this miracle would happen. It seemed that the rest of the world was too remote, the language barrier too impenetrable, and the Vedic knowledge too spiritually refined for Krsna consciousness ever to leave India.
It was not until His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada came to the West in 1965 and began the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) that Lord Caitanya's prophecy began to become a reality.
Just before Srila Prabhupada left India, as he was considering where to begin his worldwide preaching, he received an invitation to Trinidad from a Mr. Ramacharitan Rickhai, who had received a copy of Srila Prabhupada's magazine, BACK TO GODHEAD. Srila Prabhupada replied, "I am glad to learn that a number of noble gentlemen of Trinidad promise to cooperate with me. It is very kind of you that you have already invited me to become your guest when I go to your shore. If through your good organization you can secure a no-objection certificate from the Indian embassy of your place, then I can arrange for my passport and visa, and I shall at once start. I am looking forward to your cooperation."
Although several letters were exchanged, Mr. Rickhai never followed through on his invitation, and Srila Prabhupada eventually got free passage to New York City, where he began the Krsna consciousness movement.
But Srila Prabhupada did not forget Trinidad, and in 1968 he sent some of his disciples there to start a center. As Srila Prabhupada had taught by his own example, the disciples began by chanting Hare Krsna and distributing BACK TO GODHEAD in the streets. The people of Trinidad were attracted. They appreciated the Hare Krsna chanters and showed interest in reading Krsna conscious literature.
Among the first Trinidadians to take up Krsna consciousness in earnest was Trevor Worrell, an intense young man with a political bent who soon received spiritual initiation and the name Tarksya dasa from Srila Prabhupada. Tarksya proved to be a very enthusiastic student of Vaisnava philosophy, and he decided to dedicate himself to preaching Krsna consciousness to the people of Trinidad.
Trinidad's Hindus (40% of the population) received the devotees warmly and invited them to chant and speak in their temples. When they saw Americans and the local boys taking up genuine Vedic culture, they appreciated the youngsters' enthusiasm, but some of them doubted that the young Westerners could actually become brahmanas (priests). In India Lord Caitanya had strongly opposed the sectarian notion that only a person born in a Hindu family could become a brahmana. On the authority of the Vedic scriptures, He declared that love of God is dormant in everyone and that anyone who associates with a pure devotee and accepts the process of Krsna consciousness can become a pure devotee himself and thus earn the right to perform all religious functions connected with the worship of Krsna. As time passed the people of Trinidad could see that Lord Caitanya was right: The ISKCON devotees proved themselves to be qualified brahmanas.
By tradition, many Hindus in Trinidad worshiped various demigods and considered the Absolute Truth ultimately impersonal. Srila Prabhupada's followers opposed these practices and ideas. On the authority of the Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic scriptures, they established that although worshiping the demigods may secure the worshiper some temporary, material benefits, it cannot elevate him to the eternal, spiritual world. Only by worshiping Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, can one become free of all material desires, attain pure love of God in this life, and go back to Godhead in the next.
These purifying and revolutionary concepts soon began to impress the people of Trinidad.
At first it was mostly young people who joined Tarksya in chanting Hare Krsna and studying Srila Prabhupada's books. The older generation didn't know whether to take the devotees seriously, although it was clear that they were achieving remarkable racial harmony among themselves by bringing Hindus, blacks, and whites together in peaceful spiritual congregation.
Gradually, by distributing Krsna conscious literature, speaking in Hindu temples, and sponsoring public festivals, the devotees won over the people of Trinidad. Observing that the young men and women practicing Krsna consciousness were actually austere—they never took intoxicants, ate meat, or indulged in gambling or illicit sex—people began to see them in a new light. Even nondevotees got into the spirit and would sometimes greet each other by saying, "Haribol!" ("Chant Hare Krsna!"). Older, established members of the community began attending the temple functions regularly. Businessmen, government officers, and priests from local Hindu temples began joining the young, full-time devotees at the temple for Sunday feast programs.
Several years ago Tarksya dasa realized that the best way to firmly establish ISKCON in Trinidad would be to erect a large Krsna temple. Determined to raise the necessary funds, he organized a retail clothing business with the devotees as salesmen, and after years of hard work they were able to purchase a piece of land and begin construction. The Hindu community also pitched in, and by February 1982 the temple was ready for the grand opening.
The two days of festivities for the temple opening culminated with the installation of the Deities of Sri Sri Radha-Krsna. A thousand guests took part in chanting and feasting. Attending the program was Srila Satsvarupa dasa Goswami, who has been initiating disciples in Trinidad since Srila Prabhupada passed away in 1977 and who oversees ISKCON's affairs in the Caribbean. In his address he said, "I would like to acknowledge all the hard devotional work and austerity that have been done here. And I'm sure all of you responsible for this temple will say, 'Whatever we did was simply due to the mercy of Srila Prabhupada.' Yes, Srila Prabhupada has certainly given his mercy to you—and to all your countrymen. This temple is a place where all the people of Trinidad can come and worship Krsna and learn about Krsna consciousness."
Satsvarupa dasa Goswami was not alone in his praise of the new temple and those who built it. Said one Indian gentleman who is the head of a chain of department stores in Trinidad and a long-time supporter of the Hare Krsna movement: "The construction of this temple is a great triumph for sanatana-dharma [Krsna consciousness]. I have witnessed the Hare Krsna movement grow in Trinidad from a few struggling devotees to a flourishing and influential spiritual force. I think we all owe the devotees a lot—not just for the magnificent new temple, but also for their wonderful example of how devotion to Krsna can break down all class and race barriers and inspire people to do the impossible." And Mr. Ramaharry Garbdass, another leading business figure in Trinidad, summed up the mood of the temple inauguration like this: "This temple is a great credit for the devotees of the Hare Krsna movement, and a great fortune for the people of Trinidad."
Although Lord Caitanya never personally went to the West, and although Srila Prabhupada never set foot in Trinidad, the chanting of Hare Krsna is nonetheless resounding today throughout this Caribbean island. No one need wonder any longer how Lord Caitanya's miracle will come to pass: At least for Trinidad, the miracle has become a reality.
A Stroll Through the Tuileries Gardens
The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place in June 1974 during an early-morning walk in the Tuileries Gardens in Paris.
Srila Prabhupada: What do you understand the word maya to mean?
Devotee: Placing value on something without seeing its relation to Krsna.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Maya is explained very nicely in the Srimad-Bhagavatam [2.9.34]:
rte 'rtham yat pratiyeta
Seeing something to be disconnected from Krsna is maya, or illusion, because we are forgetting the original reality while taking the reflection to be very important. For example, suppose the sun is reflected in the water and then shines on the wall. If we take the light on the wall to be very important and forget the sun, the original reality, that is maya.
[Srila Prabhupada points to some nearby buildings} These buildings were constructed without any thought of Krsna. but people regarded them with great enthusiasm. Now all that remains are relics. So, the energy expended for manufacturing these buildings is maya, and the enthusiasm people now have for visiting these relics—that is also maya. All these things are expansions of maya, illusion.
Devotee: Parisians might complain that you don't appreciate the architectural skill that went into—
Srila Prabhupada: No, we appreciate very much the intelligence of the architect, but if you forget Krsna while constructing a big building, then it is maya. Otherwise, it is reality. If the people of Paris would have installed the Deity of Krsna in these buildings, how nice that would have been! People chanting, dancing, and taking prasadam [food offered to Krsna] every day. Then there would have been no maya. These big buildings should have been places for people to worship Krsna, but instead they're worshiping bones, some dead bones.
Devotee: People must be taught that everything belongs to Krsna.
Srila Prabhupada: It is a fact that everything belongs to Krsna. Why do they not understand?
Devotee: When we say, "Everything belongs to Krsna," they say, "We don't know Krsna."
Srila Prabhupada: That is nonsense. You may not know that everything belongs to Krsna. but you know that it belongs to somebody besides you. He may be called Krsna or something else—that doesn't matter—but nothing belongs to you. How can you deny it? Suppose I come here to Paris and stay for one week. Does that mean Paris is mine? Similarly, you come from the womb of your mother and stay in the world for, say, eighty years. Does that mean the world belongs to you?
So why are you claiming, "This is France," "This is Europe," "This is America," "This is my country"? Before your birth the land was here, and when you go it will remain here. So how can you claim that it is yours? What is the answer?
Devotee: The land belongs to the person who created it.
Srila Prabhupada: And who created it?
Srila Prabhupada: What is that nature?
Devotee: The life force working behind—
Srila Prabhupada: Nature is Krsna's energy (mayadhyaksena prakrtih suyate sa-caracaram). So everything is created by Krsna, and everything belongs to Krsna.
Devotee: Srila Prabhupada, the scriptures teach that we are actually tiny spirit souls—one ten-thousandth the tip of a hair—and yet we become so puffed up that we think, "I am God" or "I am the controller of the material nature." How is this illusion possible?
Srila Prabhupada: Because you are in the bodily concept of life. You do not know that you are a tiny spirit soul, a particle of consciousness. You are thinking, "I am this big fatty body," just as a dog is thinking, "I am a strong bulldog." It is the same illusion.
Devotee: But the materialist will insist that he is acting independently of God.
Srila Prabhupada: How is he independent of God? Napoleon wanted to finish his task, to conquer Europe, but he was kicked out of his position. Such a strong person, but he was not allowed to finish the task. How could he think that he was independent of God? That is foolishness. He was subject to being kicked out of his body at any moment, yet he was still thinking, "I am independent." Where was his independence? He was simply falsely puffed up. And now, after being kicked out, if he has taken the body of a cat or dog, what was the benefit of all his previous activities? In the Bhagavad-gita [3.27] Krsna says, prakrteh kriyamanani gunaih karmani sarvasah: "Everything is going on under the stringent laws of nature." But we are such fools that we think we are independent.
Devotee: Srila Prabhupada, in Bhagavad-gita Krsna says that whatever we think of when we die will determine our next birth. So is it true that a materialist's accumulated mental impressions force him to take another body?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Devotee: And a devotee doesn't accumulate any mental impressions?
Srila Prabhupada: No. He has mental impressions; his mental impressions are of Krsna. He's always thinking of Krsna. For example, we may have some propensity to create a beautiful place like this park. We have creative energies. Therefore it is advised, nirbandhah krsna-sambandhe: create for Krsna. In India people have also created big fortlike buildings, but they are temples for worshiping Krsna. If the people who built this park had spent their energy for creating it in relationship to Krsna. they would have been purified. But because this park is simply meant for sense gratification, we know that the people who built it were under the laws of nature. So they increased their material contamination. You may create so many things, but if you become contaminated by the modes of material nature and have to accept the body of a cat or dog, then what is your benefit?
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Hare Krsna Guru Visits Pakistan, Africa
Karachi, Pakistan—For the first time, a spiritual master in the Hare Krsna movement has visited this nearly all-Muslim nation.
Recently Srila Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada stepped from a jetliner's ramp onto the tarmac at the international airport here and was engulfed by hundreds of joyous Pakistani Hindus chanting "Jaya Bhaktipada! Jaya Prabhupada!" As his car neared the temple in downtown Karachi, throngs of people filled the streets, chanting Hare Krsna to the accompaniment of homemade cymbals and gongs. Flags, festoons, colored lights, and huge banners proclaiming "The People of Karachi Welcome Srila Bhaktipada" added to the festive atmosphere.
Amogha-lila dasa, director of the Hare Krsna movement's activities in Pakistan, explained the big turnout: "The Hindus of Pakistan are starving for Krsna consciousness. As an isolated community in a nation of Muslims, they are deeply grateful for ISKCON's programs and publications, which lift their spirits and rejuvenate their faith." (ISKCON is the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.)
Kirtanananda Swami spoke to an audience of thousands from a stage erected in the street outside the temple. He enjoined them to attend to their spiritual needs and beware of the entanglement of materialistic life. Before leaving for Africa he held ISKCON's first initiation in Pakistan and met with many local residents, Hindu and Muslim alike.
Kirtanananda Swami's first stop in Africa was Ghana, where he made a guest appearance on national television and explained that spiritual knowledge is the key to a developing country's real progress. Later he met with several prominent Ghanians, including a supreme court justice who studies Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is and wears the devotional clay tilaka marks to court. At the temple, Kirtanananda Swami initiated L. Ankira, the son of one of Ghana's former presidents.
In Lagos, Nigeria, a police escort was waiting to take Kirtanananda Swami from the airport to the temple, where he initiated the chief of police and gave him the name Arjuna dasa. To news reporters Kirtanananda Swami said, "It is crucial for Nigeria to take up Krsna consciousness before the Western materialistic influence becomes too prominent."
French Police, Supreme Court Affirm Devotees' Rights
Paris—In a surprise reversal, the newly elected Paris police prefect has affirmed that the members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) have the right to chant Hare Krsna publicly in the streets of Paris. The previous administration had banned the street chanting, saying that it violated public assembly guidelines.
The same day, the French Supreme Court reversed yet another decision against the devotees. Under anti-Krishna pressure, the previous Paris prefect had issued an order restraining the devotees from performing the traditional devotional ceremonies in their temple, a historic building in central Paris. Now, after a long legal battle, the Supreme Court has overruled that order.
Pitavasa dasa, ISKCON's director of legal affairs in France, said the reversals show that the French administration now recognizes ISKCON to be a bona fide religious organization. "There used to be many attacks on our Society," he said. "Our former Paris temple was located two blocks from City Hall, so we were surrounded by political interest groups. 'Get the Krsnas' had become a cause celebre. These decisions prove that France is still a country where freedom of religion is more than a slogan."
Professor Lauds Book by Devotee-Scientist
Atlanta—Mechanistic and Nonmechanistic Science, a recent book by Dr. Richard Thompson (Sadaputa dasa), is stimulating some favorable response from the scientific community. Here are some comments from F. M. Menger, a professor at Atlanta's Emory University.
"Each chapter of this well written book can be divided into two sections. The first part deals with an area of science or technology (computers, quantum mechanics, information theory, statistics, evolution, etc.). The author obviously has a broad appreciation of these areas and discusses them with an appealing clarity.
"The thrust of the scientific or 'mechanistic' portion of the chapters pertains to the limitations of science. It is here where I feel the book has its major strength. The incredible successes of science tend to obscure certain of its assumptions, weaknesses, and inadequacies. For example, the author makes a special point of the fact that science has not satisfactorily described such enormously complex but real elements of life as creativity, inspiration, hope, love, and consciousness. This reviewer feels that it never hurts a scientist to be humbled, and at times the book will do exactly that.
"Once having accomplished this, the author presents a 'nonmechanistic' system for handling aspects of life that science has not yet treated. This is based strongly on Eastern philosophy derived from the Bhagavad-gita and other literatures from the Vedic tradition of India. Thus, science gives way to religion, the appeal of which will undoubtedly vary from reader to reader.
"In summary, Mechanistic and Non-mechanistic Science treats the two cultures while professing the power of 'non-mechanistic' aspects of nature. The topic has been written about many times before, of course, but the wide perspective of the author gives this book a special touch."
New Books in Thai and Indonesian
Bangkok—The Bangkok branch of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT) has published two new books in Thai: Beyond Birth and Death and The Perfection of Yoga. Both books were originally written in English by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and translated into Thai by Sammohini-devi dasi.
Meanwhile, fifteen hundred miles to the south, the Indonesian BBT has released three new titles: Search for Liberation, Raja-vidya, and Easy Journey to Other Planets. The three new books, all translated by Gaura-mandala-bhumi dasa, bring to seven the number of Indonesian books offered by the BBT.
Bombay Ratha-yatra Draws 200,000
Bombay—The people of this city, the film capital of India, are used to grandly staged spectacles shining from the silver screen. But they witnessed a different kind of spectacle recently when the devotees of the Bombay Hare Krsna temple mounted a week-long Ratha-yatra festival.
Thousands lined the street to watch the najestic fifty-foot-high chariot carrying Deity forms of Jagannatha, Balarama, and Subhadra make its way from Sivaji Park to Chowpatty Park on the beach. Many did more than watch, however. The ring of cymbals, the boom of drums, the devotees' nonstop chanting of Hare Krsna, the stately chariot itself—all created a spiritual excitement that drew many bystanders from the sidelines into the street, where they joined the devotees in chanting Hare Krsna and pulling the chariot.
For seven days at Chowpatty Park people chanted Hare Krsna and danced, heard devotional music, saw Krsna conscious plays and movies, relished delicious krsna-prasadam (food offered to Krsna), and listened to talks by Srila Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada and Srila Pancadravida Swami, two spiritual masters in the Hare Krsna movement. By the time the return procession had brought the chariot back to the temple, more than 200,000 people had taken part in Bombay Ratha-yatra '82.
Hare Krsna Chant Unsettles Soviet
By Theodore Shabad (reprinted from The New York Times)
The Hare Krishna movement, whose saffron-robed devotees have long been familiar in the United States, has begun making inroads in the Soviet Union, and the Kremlin does not appear to be pleased.
According to a published Soviet account, the group has won disciples among educated people such as engineers and technicians who were thought to be toughened against what the Kremlin regards as Western ideological subversion but who found themselves poorly prepared to cope with mantra-reciting youngsters.
Their chanting and meditation appear to have found fertile ground in the Soviet Union, a country where the practice of yoga to achieve a higher level of consciousness has long had a following among intellectuals. The Hare Krishna group teaches a kind of devotional yoga known as bhakti, calling for selfless dedication to Krishna, a Hindu god.
The Soviet newspaper Sotsialisticheskaya Industriya, a national daily read by industrial managers, conceded that the beliefs and precepts of yoga appealed to knowledgeable people because some of its avowed objectives were close to those of Communism.
"It has become fashionable in the Soviet Union to fast for health reasons and to follow all sorts of diets, and yoga advocates vegetarianism," the paper said. "We are fighting against drunkenness and condemn smoking, and yoga prohibits the use of both alcohol and nicotine. We are trying to put crass materialism to shame, and yoga calls for asceticism and for renouncing the attributes of well-being."
But the newspaper, intent on portraying the Hare Krishna movement as a subversive device imported from the West, pointed out that while teaching ancient Indian philosophy, the movement had in fact had an American base and received most of its financial support from Americans.
The movement, known formally as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, was founded in the United States in July 1966 by an Indian-born ascetic named A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. He died in 1977 at age 81.
What makes the movement unacceptable in the Soviet Union, the newspaper said, is that its emphasis on simple living and meditation diverts devotees from problems of everyday life and useful work and slows social and economic progress.
The industrial daily, which is published by the Communist Party's Central Committee, conceded that the Soviet authorities themselves had in effect opened the doors to the Hare Krishna movement by admitting its publishing arm, the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust of Los Angeles, to the Moscow International Book Fair in 1979.
While refusing visas to leading American publishing executives such as Robert L. Bernstein, chairman of Random House, and weeding out undesirable titles from displays, the authorities appear to have given virtually free rein to the Krishna publishing house to exhibit books on India's ancient Vedic philosophy and other religious and philosophical literature.
The 1979 book fair was attended by thousands of Russians, predominantly young and with the dress and bearing of the better educated. Some of them, apparently predisposed to the discipline of yoga, readily found their way to the exhibit.
By the fall of 1980, according to Sotsialisticheskaya Industriya, the movement had spread as far as 2,000 miles east of Moscow, to the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, where a Hare Krishna chapter installed itself at the local House of Culture, the community center, under the guise of a health club.
The young Russian who had helped prepare sweets at the book exhibit, a man named Yevgeny Tretyakov, appeared at the first meeting in saffron garb, recited mantras and explained that the way to health was through Krishna consciousness. In the end, the law caught up with Mr. Tretyakov. He was sentenced to an unspecified term as a "social parasite."
The Soviet press tends to seize on specific examples to make a more general point, and the publication of the Hare Krishna expose in a major newspaper with a national circulation suggested that the devotional movement had won followers not only in Krasnoyarsk.
"Most of them understand by now," the paper said, "that they have allowed themselves to succumb to alien influence, swallowing the lure cast out by our ideological foes. But there are others," it went on pointedly, "who have yet to understand." [The preceding article also appeared on the front page of The Times of India.]
Hare Krsna Temple Wins Gandhi Community Award
Chicago's India Tribune (circulation 15,000) gave its annual Gandhi Communty Award to the Chicago Hare Krsna Temple—represented by His Holiness Tripurari Swami—and to eight other leaders among America's Asian Indian community. Those shown here are Dr. Ricardo Melo (on Tripurari Swami's left), who received the award on behalf of Swami Rama of the Himalayan International Institute of Yoga; Dr. Ghanashyam Pandey, president of the Illinois chapter of the Association of Indians in America; Sushila Gidwani, president of the Association of Asian Indian Women of America; and Kanak Dutta, Democratic candidate for the Maryland state assembly.
It could happen to you . . .
by Agrahya Dasa
As the train speeds on through the grey light of early morning, I think of my destination and make plans; my mission is most important.
Suddenly the train begins screeching a halt. "Your stop," the conductor says. I protest, "But—but—I don't want to get off here. I'm going to . . ."
"No arguments! You must get off!" He pushes me out of the train onto the platform, without even a chance to collect my luggage from the rack.
Here I am in an unknown place, with no friends, no possessions, and all my plans ruined. What am I to do?
Now the alarm saves me, ringing opportunely to bring me back awake. What a horrible dream! It hits on one aspect of our existence so dismal we usually prefer to ignore it.
Yet when we view death objectively, it's not such a difficult thing to understand. At one time or another, by disease, by accident, or by providence, every one of us will be forced out of our body for what seems an unknown destination. Death's stroke doesn't wait for us to resolve our unfinished business, nor does it heed our careful moves to stave it off. When it's time to go, you go.
What actually goes on at the time of death? Bhagavad-gita explains that just as we take off old garments and put on new ones, each of us must leave our present body and accept another. It's not so difficult to understand.
Still, though we're not able to escape the harsh reality of death, we're scarcely ready to face it when it comes. Every person reading this article will come face to face with death. How many of us will be prepared for it?
We all fear death. Witness how carefully we protect our bodies against unknown enemies. We spend millions for medicine, billions for defense, practically every home has some kind of weapon. We've invested everything in this body—to lose it would mean to lose our facility to enjoy. Only an insane man would want harm to come to his body. Especially for one who knows nothing of the eternal self within the body, death means the end of everything. But the Vedic literatures explain that one who is self-realized, who has understood himself to be a spiritual entity, is not bewildered by the changing of bodies that takes place at death.
Man is proud of his achievements in science and technology, yet he has failed to come to a scientific understanding of death. Recently we have been trying harder, but more often than not we simply try to ignore that death is approaching. Our technological sophistication insulates us. In the Western countries, we never see a dead body: someone covers the corpse with a clean white sheet and whisks it away. Birth and death are things that happen to other people, off in a hospital somewhere. It's easy to forget that this will happen to us some day.
A great saintly king named Yudhisthira was once asked, "What is the most wonderful thing within this world?" He replied, "Everyone is seeing his family and friends die one by one, yet he is thinking, 'I will not die.' That is the most wonderful thing."
Our fear of death arises from this duality: on the one hand we want to enjoy bodily pleasures, but on the other we never seem to have enough time. This duality is explained in the Vedic literatures. Every living entity is pleasure-seeking by nature (ananda-mayo 'bhyasat). He doesn't want death and suffering. But they are forced on him for his foolishness in accepting the material body as a source of pleasure. Instead of getting pleasure from this body, however, we experience constant frustration. There is a story of a man on his deathbed who asked the doctor to prolong his life another four years. "Sir," the doctor said, "I can't give you another four minutes."
Modern scientific research doesn't aim at understanding this dilemma, but ancient Vedic literatures describe it clearly:
bhayam dvitiyabhinivesatah syad
"Fear arises from the duality of material existence [dvitiya]. When one is attracted by material illusion, his conception of life is reversed. Instead of being the eternal servant of Krsna, he becomes Krsna's competitor." In other words, we accept an illusory existence because of our rebelling against the Supreme Lord. Material nature then awards us a temporary body so that we can try to fulfill our plans for independence, but along with the body comes suffering. The material body is made in such a way that it will give us trouble and eventually break down. Planned obsolescence.
We are all eternal spiritual beings, meant to serve the Supreme Lord, but we have forgotten this connection with Krsna and have accepted bodies that grow old and die. This is what puts us in duality and fear. I am eternal, I am not meant to die, but I have to undergo death because I have identified myself with the temporary. When we come to understand that we are eternal—when we no longer identify with the body—we have nothing more to fear.
The soul in the material world continually changes from one body to the next, just as in one lifetime we change from boyhood to youth to old age. Death simply means that the spirit soul changes from his residence in one body to a residence in another. So if one has realized his eternal relationship as a servant of Krsna, he cannot be frightened or bewildered by this change.
This is the real solution to the problems of life. We must awaken to our forgotten relationship with Krsna before we are forced out of the body:
tan mayayato budha abhajet tam
"To nullify the mistake of duality, one who is actually learned and advanced worships the Supreme Personality of Godhead under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master, whom he should regard as his worshipful deity and as his very source of life. He thus worships the Lord by unalloyed devotional service."
Anyone can take to this process of Krsna consciousness, or pure devotional service, and become completely fearless. We have made the mistake of identifying ourselves with the temporary body, and therefore we must always live in fear of its demise. But by practice of Krsna consciousness we take up our eternal identity as servants of Krsna, and this fear of material existence is nullified.
Bhakti-yoga, or Krsna consciousness, is the process for establishing our long-forgotten relationship with Krsna. It is not an artificial practice; it is the reawakening of our dormant consciousness of Krsna. As soon as we awaken our Krsna consciousness even slightly, all fear departs, and we begin to relish the pleasure we are seeking—on the eternal, spiritual platform. We begin this process easily by chanting the maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Not only do the Vedic scriptures analyze the problems of life; they also give us the perfect solution. The centers of the Krsna consciousness movement have been established so that anyone can take up this process and become fearless. We invite everyone to come and experience an atmosphere free from fear and anxiety.
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, focuses upon the most important of these words (and, occasionally, upon relevant English terms) and explains what they mean.
Cakra—The word cakra (literally, "wheel" or "circle") refers to various centers of energy within the body. These cakras, six in all, are situated one above another, beginning from the pelvic region and proceeding to the stomach, the heart, and the head. In hatha-yoga or astanga-yoga, the yogi focuses his attention on these cakras, one by one, and so raises his life force gradually to the head. He is then supposed to become perfect in yoga and thus attain liberation.
This yoga system trains one to master the gross and subtle aspects of the physical, material body. And in fact it is meant for those not yet free from the mistake of identifying the body with the self, those too attached to the body. In any case, the physical disciplines of such yoga are long, rigorous, and troublesome. The bhakti-yoga system is much to be preferred.
Another type of cakra is the discus or wheel that Lord Sri Krsna, or Lord Visnu, carries in His hand. This cakra, known as the Sudarsana cakra, is a kind of supernatural weapon, glowing with effulgence and spinning with a thousand spokes. The Lord uses this weapon to kill demons such as Sisupala and Salva and to protect His devotees such as Arjuna and Maharaja Ambarisa. When the great devotee Maharaja Ambarisa was threatened by the yogi Durvasa, Lord Krsna's Sudarsana cakra chased Durvasa throughout the universe. It was only when Durvasa surrendered at the feet of Maharaja Ambarisa and begged his pardon that Durvasa's life was spared.
Candraloka—According to Vedic terminology, the moon is known as Candraloka.
But the moon the Vedic writings describe is far different from the moon described by modern science.
According to the Vedic writings, the moon is not barren, desolate, and hostile to life. If you go to the moon, the Vedas say, you'll find pious, intelligent living beings. They look like the people of earth, but far greater in beauty. And they live for ten thousand years, in a luxuriant atmosphere of refined enjoyment. Since time is relative, for each day that passes here on earth the people on Candraloka have a full year to enjoy.
You can get there, the Vedas say, only by performing unusually pious acts. If you're mean, nasty, or sinful, the moon will be far beyond your reach. But exalted yogis who fail to attain liberation can go there, in compensation for giving mystic yoga a good try.
On the moon, you can also enjoy a celestial beverage called soma-rasa. But the pleasure it gives you isn't like the chemically induced highs of earth: it's not a mere intoxicant, and has no ill effects.
Unfortunately, even going to the moon won't free you from nature's handcuffs. After ten thousand years of enjoyment, you have to die. And then you must be born again on earth and continue in the perpetual cycle of birth and death. You can't escape.
The Vedic description, obviously, is quite at odds with modern scientific ideas about the moon. According to the Vedic account, you can't go there merely by flying through space in a capsule. And if you're a smoking, drinking meat-eater, you can't go there at all.
But can we disbelieve what science tells us and what we see on our own TVs? The Vedas point out that when we try to know the universe by exploring it on our own, we often get everything wrong, because we are plagued by four perennial bugs:
We tend to make mistakes (like the scientists who thought the earth was flat). We fall into illusion (that's what makes hoaxes fun). We have weak, imperfect senses (our eyes can't even see our own eyelids). And on top of all that, we have a tendency to lie and cheat.
On a visit to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., the author of this "Yoga Dictionary" saw a vivid exhibit dramatizing man's first steps on the moon. Among the lunar artifacts on display was a small silver plaque. In July 1969, the plaque said, "We came in peace for all mankind." The plaque was signed by American astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr. And below their signatures was a third:
Richard M. Nixon, President of the United States.
Whether or not you believe this man might lie to you, the followers of the Vedas say that rather than spending 24 billion dollars to go walking on the moon and fetch 47 pounds of rocks, you're better off seeking self-realization and going back to Godhead for a life of eternity, knowledge, and bliss.
Remembering How My Spiritual Master Cooked
Like everything about Srila Prabhupada, his cooking was
by Visakha-devi dasi
On August 13th we will celebrate the eighty-seventh anniversary of the appearance of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. An important part of the celebration will be the preparation and partaking of a sumptuous vegetarian feast. This is entirely appropriate, for along with introducing the Hare Krsna movement to the world, Srila Prabhupada introduced krsna-prasadam, delicious vegetarian dishes that have been prepared for and offered to Lord Krsna.
In memory of Srila Prabhupada, we shall relate how, from a young age, he expertly prepared and distributed prasadam, and how he taught this devotional art to us, his grateful disciples.
When discussing the expertise of a pure devotee of the Lord, it is irrelevant in one sense to ask how, when, where, or from whom he learned an art, because ultimately it is the Lord Himself who directly gives a devotee expertise. So it is with Srila Prabhupada. Where he learned to speak and write with the eloquence, profundity, and authority that has changed the lives of thousands of people and has been eulogized by scholars worldwide, why he could evoke the most sincere religious feelings from those around him, when he mastered Sanskrit, how he became a consummate cook . . . While these skills may be explained in terms of time, place, and circumstance, ultimately they are Krsna's gifts to His pure servant, as are all of Srila Prabhupada's qualities.
Yet, for our instruction and encouragement, Srila Prabhupada sometimes told us about his background and training. In regard to preparing and distributing krsna-prasadam, he said that when he was a small boy (this was in Calcutta around the turn of the century), he led his playmates in Ratha-yatra, a traditional eight-day parade and festival held yearly in commemoration of one of Krsna's eternal pastimes. At Srila Prabhupada's entreaty, his mother and the other women in the neighborhood cooked special dishes so that he could distribute prasadam during the celebration.
When he was six, Srila Prabhupada asked his father for Radha-Krsna Deities to worship. His father complied, and Srila Prabhupada and his sister began offering their food to the little Deities, imitating their father and the priests they'd seen in a nearby temple.
"I learned to cook by watching others—my mother, my aunt, and even the 'walas' [restaurant and street-stand cooks] in Calcutta," Srila Prabhupada said. Later on, in his householder days, he occasionally joined his wife in the kitchen. Together they would quickly and masterfully cook large quantities of food for Krsna conscious gatherings in their home.
Many years later, when Srila Prabhupada began the first Hare Krsna center at 26 Second Avenue in New York, he again cooked large quantities of sumptuous prasadam for Krsna conscious gatherings. On Sundays and festival days, Srila Prabhupada would cook special sweet and savory dishes and serve them himself with pleasure. Even after the devotees had taken full plates, Srila Prabhupada would come back and ask them to take more.
To help him make a lavish feast for the first Krsna conscious wedding ceremony in America, Srila Prabhupada enlisted Joan Campanella, the bride's sister. For six hours on the afternoon before the wedding, Joan sat in Srila Prabhupada's front room preparing potato kachoris, deep-fried pastries stuffed with a spiced potato filling. Meanwhile Srila Prabhupada was in the kitchen single-handedly making fifteen other special vegetarian dishes, each in a large enough quantity for forty people. Periodically he would come in to guide Joan in making the kachoris, gently explaining the standards of purity and cleanliness necessary for cooking in Krsna consciousness. (Later, Joan was initiated by Srila Prabhupada and received the spiritual name Yamuna-devi dasi. She has recently written a Krsna conscious cookbook with 650 recipes, some of which we are presenting on these pages.)
The wedding feast turned out to be a great success. Both guests and devotees ate with gusto, asked for more, and raved about the sensational tastes. The consensus was, in the words of the bride, "God, he's a great cook!" One young man, after tasting the kachoris, resolved on the spot to dedicate himself to Krsna consciousness and become one of Srila Prabhupada's disciples as soon as possible.
Soon after this, Srila Prabhupada started the Sunday Love Feast. Every Sunday he and his disciples would cook special dishes and invite the public to attend, free of charge. Srila Satsvarupa dasa Goswami remembers, "Eating the feast was an intense experience. We were supposed to be subduing our senses all week, following strict regulations, controlling the tongue. And the feast was a kind of reward. Swamiji and Krsna were giving us a taste of full spiritual ecstasy, even though we were still beginners."
In 1967 San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district became the home of the second Hare Krsna temple. There Srila Prabhupada gave his disciples cooking classes and instructed them that besides the morning and evening chanting and classes, cooking and distributing prasadam should be their main activity. Needless to say, this program of delicious free food made the temple very popular in the community.
That summer, under Srila Prabhupada's direction, the devotees in San Francisco held America's first Ratha-yatra festival. They distributed prasadam during and after the parade, just as Srila Prabhupada had done as a boy and as millions of Krsna's devotees had done in India for many centuries. Srila Prabhupada explained that just by eating prasadam one makes spiritual advancement and that when Lord Krsna appeared five hundred years ago as Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu He simply requested everyone to chant the Lord's holy names, dance in ecstasy, and take sumptuous krsna-prasadam.
Through the years, besides writing, preaching, traveling extensively, and managing the Hare Krsna movement, Srila Prabhupada continued to teach his disciples how to cook for Krsna.
In May 1977, just six months before Srila Prabhupada departed from this world, he visited the famous pilgrimage city of Hrsikesa with a few disciples. There he vigorously explained the personal nature of the Supreme Lord to the impersonalists who visited him, and he gave his followers cooking classes. My husband, Yadubara dasa, wrote this in his diary:
"May 9. Yesterday we arrived in Rishikesh. Srila Prabhupada said we should not eat outside but should cook ourselves. This morning he came into the kitchen to teach us how to cook.
"May 11. Yesterday I assisted Gopinatha with the lunch prasadam and today Gopinatha assisted me. Srila Prabhupada said everything was very nice. It was so good to see him eat. He had three chapaties, three vegetables, shukta, dal, rice, chutney, and lassi. He said everyone should learn to cook—it is a great art. He wanted me to cook for several days and then let others do it. Later Prabhupada said to me, 'A person who is expert in one thing becomes expert in other things. Now become expert in all aspects of devotional service.'"
To His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who showed that devotional expertise at every second—and who lovingly taught it to his disciples—we express our most heartfelt, eternal gratitude.
(Recipes by Yamuna-devi dasi)
Srila Prabhupada's Simple Tomato Chutney
Srila Prabhupada gave the instructions and ingredients for this classic variation of cooked tomato chutney in the spring of 1977, in Hrsikesa. You may adjust the sweetener, chili, and salt to taste.
1 ½ tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
1. Heat the ghee or vegetable oil in a 2 ½- to 3-quart saucepan (nonstick cookware is ideal) over a medium flame until it is hot. Toss in the chili pod bits, ginger root, and black mustard seeds, and fry until the seeds crackle, sputter, and pop.
2. Immediately drop in the tomatoes and stir-fry for 4 or 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, reduce the flame to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 40 to 60 minutes, or until the chutney has thickened to the desired texture.
3. Remove the saucepan from the flame and allow the chutney to cool to room temperature before offering to Krsna.
Srila Prabhupada's Creamy Fruit-and-Rice Salad
In 1967, to the delight of all present, Srila Prabhupada whipped up this ambrosial, creamy-sweet chilled fruit salad in his kitchen in San Francisco. The impetus for the creation came when one of his personal attendants offered him a large bowl of farm-fresh whipped cream. This preparation is a proven favorite on any special menu, and it can be served at any time of the day.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
11/3 cups Bhasmati rice or any other superior quality long-grain white rice
1. Cook the rice (it should yield about 3 cups) and then mix it well with the ghee or oil and spread it on a large plate. Cool to room temperature.
2. Whip the cream into soft peaks, and then fold in the sugar, powdered spices, raisins or currants, and pineapple.
3. Combine the rice and whipped cream, and blend well. Place the salad on a decorative tray or platter and chill for 1 to 3 hours. Before offering to Krsna, garnish with almonds and decorative, freshly cut pineapple pieces.
by Ravindra-Svarupa Dasa
The forest of Vrndavana is lush with tropical fecundity; an exuberant nature has spilled out life in more abundance and variety than bush, treetop, glade, and stream could seem to hold. Myriads of varicolored birds, their bright plumes flashing in the foliage, fill the air with their musical calls, to which the monkeys tumbling in the treetops add a chattering counterpoint. The vagrant breezes gather scents from a multitude of flowers, stirring them together into a heady perfume that enchants the deer and leaves the leopards languorous and tame.
Then the forest creatures smell a far richer fragrance—a delectable, ambrosial musk that diffuses through the thickets. Breathing deeply, they shiver with joy. The enthralled animals begin to move into the wind, helplessly following the irresistible lure. As the intoxicating aroma intensifies, the creatures glimpse its source moving among the dense flower-burdened shrubs. It is Krsna, the ultimate object of all vision, wandering through the Vrndavana forest. The animals all follow, completely captivated by the unparalleled beauty of His exquisitely formed body with its bluish-black luster. Ecstatic love fills their hearts, overflows, and pours out of their throats in sounds of delight. Surrounded by their songs, Krsna moves through a chorus of creaturely praise that extends from the bass lowing of the cows to the soprano trilling of the birds. And then Krsna answers, calling back to each kind in its own language.
* * *
Among the sixty-four outstanding transcendental qualities of Krsna that Srila Rupa Gosvami enumerated half a millennium ago in his Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, one is the quality of being "a wonderful linguist." Witnesses heard Krsna conversing with the demigods in pure Sanskrit, but He would also speak with the residents of Vrndavana and the inhabitants of Kashmir in their own native languages. And He was observed addressing various species of animals, also in their own tongues.
Thus when Krsna descended onto our planet five thousand years ago to exhibit Himself to the souls ensnared in matter as the ultimate delectable object for all the senses—indeed, precisely as Krsna, "the all-attractive"—He did not exclude the subhuman species. In His dealings with the animals of Vrndavana, Krsna confirms the statement He makes to Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita (14.4), namely, that it is He who impregnates material nature with all living souls, and that although they may be born in the diverse forms of demigods, humans, animals, or plants, He remains the "seed-giving father" (bija-pradah pita) of all of them. Krsna acknowledges all living beings to be His children.
The material body of every living being is animated by a spiritual soul, who is the eternal offspring of Krsna. Each soul's individual history of good or bad deeds causes him to become fastened into a higher or a lower body, yet all souls remain in essence equal as children of God. God never forgets them, and a godly person, Krsna tells us, sees all animate beings as spiritually equal sparks of the divine (Bg. 5.18).
But if we forget God and consequently develop eclipsed material vision, the transcendental unity of life eludes us. Once we have become estranged from Krsna, we become estranged from all other living beings—even those of our own kind. The symptom of our divorce from God is our inability to sustain peaceful, harmonious, loving relations with others. We incessantly make war upon our fellow humans, and we wantonly prey upon innocent animals, needlessly slaughtering them for food. At the same time we feel a need to rectify all our relationships—within our own families and communities, among races and nations, and between humans and subhumans.
Yet the disorder that has invaded all our relations is a symptom of one central enduring dislocation—our severance from God. Only when that is repaired will the disruption between ourselves and all other beings be healed.
There is no use in crying "Peace! Peace!" unless one makes peace with God. And no professed peacemaker, no matter how religious he appears, can be at peace with God until he stops preying upon His fellow beings in animal forms.
In a world where a fragile, so-called peace is maintained by the chief belligerents' keeping each other paralyzed with terror, we long for the true repose of the real peaceable kingdom. That kingdom can indeed be restored. But there will never be the peaceable kingdom of God without God, the all-attractive.
We must invite Krsna back as the central object of all our senses. He is as available to us today as He was when He wandered at will in the Vrndavana forest, charming all beings. We need only chant His holy names. If we chant the Hare Krsna mantra, the veil of material vision will lift, our estrangement from God will be healed, and He will move before us always, just as He moves eternally in Vrndavana, the kingdom of God. In fact, Krsna never leaves that kingdom; so if He comes to us. His kingdom will come with Him. Only in this way can we establish that peaceable kingdom here and now.
I read with interest some of the books sold by your vendors, and I would like to ask the following questions:
(1) Who am I?
(2) Where do I come from?
(3) What is the purpose of my existence?
(4) How can I get out of the cycle of repeated birth and death?
Inasmuch as I have a keen interest in knowing the science of self-realization, I would be grateful if my questions are considered and answered at your earliest convenience.
Abraham Dick-Ab Isiotu
OUR reply: According to the ancient Vedic scripture Bhagavad-gita, the answers to your questions are as follows:
(1) You are an eternal spirit soul, and your physical body is merely a temporary vehicle in which you are riding. The soul can be in either the materially conditioned state or the liberated state. In the conditioned state the soul transmigrates from one material body to another. In the liberated state the soul can return to the eternal kingdom of God.
(2) You come originally from God. God is the eternal Supreme Person, the creator of all things, and the cause of all causes. He is known in the Bhagavad-gita as Krsna, and He is known by many other names in other religions. The spirit souls are of the same spiritual nature as Krsna, but they are minute and dependent, whereas He is infinite and completely independent. Since God is an eternal person and the spirit souls are of the same nature as God, they are also eternal persons. The spirit souls, however, are always subordinate to God.
(3) The real purpose of your existence is to serve Krsna. The nature of the soul is to render service, but because people are bewildered by material illusion they wind up serving many false masters. In the liberated state, the soul becomes completely free from material entanglement, serves Krsna directly, and achieves unlimited happiness.
(4) The most effective way to get out of the cycle of birth and death is to take up the process of bhakti-yoga, devotional service to Krsna. The basic idea of this process is that you can come to the stage of directly serving and associating with Krsna by beginning to serve Him in a practical way here and now.
You can obtain more information about bhakti-yoga from any of the centers of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
* * *
I have just finished reading the latest issue of Back to Godhead magazine. It is hard to describe how it makes me feel to find it in the mailbox. It makes my day. I found the Book Section about "The Cosmic Manifestation" so good to read. It's so full of knowledge and wisdom, along with the answers to many questions that I have. I want to thank you and every one in the Hare Krishna movement for the great work you are doing and for having mercy on me and other fallen souls like me. Thank you. Thank you.
Steve D. Harold
* * *
Your magazine is a great blessing, especially to those who desire more knowledge of Christ!
John J. Bryant
* * *
Over the past few years I have had an ever-increasing interest in Krishna consciousness, and during the course of this past year Lord Krishna has provided several opportunities to associate with His devotees. The most memorable of these occasions was hearing Bhavananda Vishnupada Goswami speak in Auckland early in the year. This has demonstrated that those situated in spiritual life are much better off than those in the material world.
For myself, I have never been really satisfied with life, no matter what position or employment I have taken. I have, however, seen the happiness and peace of mind that devotees have, and feel that devotional service to Lord Krishna is the best path to tread.
Here in Wellington, I have no chance to associate with devotees and can but chant and read about Krishna.
I think the time has come for me to do something about my position. I would like to join your movement, as this would allow me to serve Krishna much more effectively than I can at present.
If I might be permitted to join your movement and accept a spiritual master, I would be very happy.
Challenge to the Anti-Cult Community
Back to godhead's Senior Editor recently sent the following letter to several leaders of "anti-cult" groups.
Despite our desire that the work of the Hare Krsna movement in the Soviet Union continue unpublicized, the article Hare Krishna Chant Unsettles Soviet recently appeared in the New York Times (see page 20). It reveals that the Hare Krsna movement, to the disgruntlement of Soviet authorities, has for several years been vigorously working to spread Lord Krsna's teachings of God consciousness among the people of the Soviet Union.
As leading scholars in Indian religion and culture have repeatedly and unequivocally affirmed, the Hare Krsna movement authentically embodies a devotional tradition that some 700 million people have honored as part of their religious and cultural mainstream for hundreds if not thousands of years. But you and others devoted to a self-styled "anti-cult" crusade have for several years publicized your view that the Hare Krsna movement, on the contrary, is a "cult," an evil, wicked enterprise meant to enslave and exploit the young and innocent so that the movement's leaders can live in luxury and power.
Now, our question is this: how in the world can you reconcile such a view with the facts reported in this article from the Times? Why do you suppose that self-serving money-grabbers (as you believe us to be) would waste time and money printing ancient Sanskrit religious books in Russian? And why should we risk our necks to travel about the Soviet Union and teach people to chant the holy names of God? Are we merely robots whose programs have run amuck and sent us blindly marching into Moscow? Maybe we hope to form an army of brainwashed Russians to help us recruit gullible Christian and Jewish kids from Beverly Hills and Scarsdale. Or maybe you think we're just in it for the rubles.
In all seriousness, I humbly suggest that the reasonable explanation is that we're just what we and those professors who study us say we are—members of a genuine, traditional religious movement, sincerely trying to spread love of God all over the world.
If you feel you have an explanation that makes more sense, I humbly request that you let me know what it is at your earliest opportunity.
Can War Have God's Sanction?
The news reports of the Falkland Islands War revealed one fact that went unrecognized by most commentators: both Britain and Argentina were confident that God was on their side. During Pope John Paul II's visit to England, millions of Britons cheered him and prayed with him for peace. The United Kingdom felt united with God—confident of His blessings in peace and war. On the other side, Argentina's then leader. General Leopoldo Galtieri, stood before TV cameras and vowed, "We will never surrender to Britain, for it is only before God that Argentines kneel." And, of course, the Argentines greeted the Pope with as much fervor as did the Britons.
For warring nations to claim divine sanction is nothing new. Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition was a hit song in America during World War II, while Nazi stormtroopers wore the slogan "Gott Mit Uns" imprinted on their belt buckles. In the recent war between Iran and Iraq, soldiers on both sides shouted "Allah-U-Akbar!" ("God is great!") as they flung themselves into battle. No, claiming divine sanction for war is nothing new. It's as old as religion, as old as war itself.
But claiming divine sanction is a far cry from actually having it. Since God is all-powerful, there is no question of defeat for the side He favors. Yet history is full of military campaigns launched, fought, and lost under the banner of divine sanction. One may well ask, "Does God ever approve of war?"
The answer is yes, but only in special cases. Perhaps the most famous of these is told of in the Bhagavad-gita, a part of the world's longest epic, the Mahabharata. The war in question was fought in India five thousand years ago on a sacred plain called Kuruksetra. In this great struggle for world rule, God (Lord Krsna) actually did takes sides—the side of Arjuna, His devotee. What's more, God ordered the reluctant Arjuna to fight and even took a role in the battle itself.
That Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, was present during the fighting sharply distinguishes the. War of Kuruksetra from today's wars. Unlike modern combatants, the five Pandavas (Arjuna and his brothers) were neither pietistic generals, religious fanatics, nor misguided victims. They were pure servants of Lord Krsna, totally devoted to carrying out His will. As such, they could count on his protection in every difficulty.
Here is a brief account of what led to the War of Kuruksetra:
Yudhisthira, the eldest of the five Pandavas, was cheated out of his rightful claim to the throne by his envious cousin Duryodhana. Duryodhana exiled the Pandavas for fourteen years, and when they returned to claim their kingdom he refused them even so much as a village to rule. "If they want as much land as fits under a pin," he sneered, "they will have to fight for it."
Despite such insults, the Pandavas still wanted to maintain peace. On their behalf Lord Krsna went to Duryodhana to seek a peaceful settlement, but Duryodhana was totally bent on war. Only as a last resort did Krsna direct Arjuna to fight.
Although Lord Krsna was Arjuna's benefactor, He wanted to remain neutral in the actual combat. After declaring that He would wield no weapons on the battlefield, He proposed that one side could have His army and the other side could have Him personally. Naturally Duryodhana, thinking to strengthen his forces, chose Krsna's army. But Arjuna chose His dearmost friend and master, Krsna Himself. Lord Krsna took the role of Arjuna's chariot driver.
The Kuruksetra War was a religious war in the true sense, for it pitted the pious devotees against the impious demons. In his commentary on the Gita, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains: "As in the paddy field the unnecessary plants are taken out, so it is expected from the very beginning of these topics [Bhagavad-gita] that in the religious field of Kuruksetra, where the father of religion, Sri Krsna, was present, the unwanted plants like Dhrtarastra's son Duryodhana and the other Kurus would be wiped out and the thoroughly religious persons, headed by Yudhisthira, would be established by the Lord."
Men today wage war not for principles of religion but for selfish, national interests. The Vedic scriptures condemn such base motives. Indeed, they declare that a person who considers his country worthy of worship is no better than an animal. Nationalism is simply an extension of our basic misidentification: thinking the body to be the self. The body is a fleshy bag of bones, muscle, blood, mucus, and various other ingredients; it is an outer covering of the eternal spiritual soul, the real self. When the spiritual soul leaves the body, the body becomes valueless. And the nation to which we pledge our allegiance is dear only because the body, which we are mistaking for our real self, was born there.
One's homeland has no real connection with the eternal soul. That a person takes birth in England or Argentina does not mean his eternal identity is English or Argentine. One may be an Englishman in this life and an Argentine in the next, depending on the actions one performs and the desires one cultivates. The law of karma knows no nationality.
Having obtained the human form of life, we should move beyond bodily self-identification and its expansions, such as nationalism. A self-realized person sees that all other beings are of the same spiritual nature as himself; therefore such an enlightened soul never acts on the false basis of body or nation.
Those who fight for selfish and nationalistic interests forfeit any claim to God's sanction, despite their sanctimonious rhetoric. Such sectarian parties may claim God's sanction, but their claim is as meaningless as the goals for which they fight. God, the father of everyone, is equal to all; He doesn't favor a certain nation, group, or person. But to accomplish His mission of establishing the principles of God consciousness, protecting His devotees, and punishing the sinful atheists. He may have His surrendered devotees fight on His behalf. The War of Kuruksetra was one among many such instances related in the Vedic literature.
Devotees of God are by nature non-violent in the deepest sense: in the normal course of events they refrain from hurting any other living entity, and they strive to propagate the knowledge that can release one from the painful cycle of birth and death. Yet devotees also understand that war, when fought for the right cause—the cause of God—has its place in the world.
For a nation actually to have God on its side, its leaders must govern according to the instructions given in the revealed scriptures and imparted by great spiritual teachers. In the Gita Lord Krsna promises that the God conscious citizens of such a nation are never vanquished. Not only do they conquer the enemies of God, as the Pandavas did, but by breaking free of material entanglement and returning to God's kingdom, they conquer even death.—SDG