A lecture given in 1969
by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada,
Thank you very much for participating with us in this Krsna consciousness movement. I understand that this society is known as the International Student Society. There are many other international societies, such as the United Nations. So the idea of an international society is very nice, but we must try to understand what the central idea of an international society should be.
If you throw a stone into the middle of a pool of water, a circle will expand to the limit of the bank. Similarly, radio waves expand in a circle, and when you capture the waves with your radio you can hear the message. In the same way, our loving feeling can also expand.
At the beginning of our life, we simply want to eat. Whatever a small child grabs, he wants to eat. He has only personal interest. Then, when the child grows a little, he tries to participate with his brothers and sisters: "All right. You also take a little." This is an increase in the feeling of fellowship. Then, as he grows up, he begins to feel some love for his parents, then for his community, then for his country, and at last for all nations. But unless the center is right, that expansion of feeling—even if it is national or international—is not perfect.
For example, the meaning of the word national is "one who has taken birth in a particular country." You feel for other Americans because they are born in this country. You may even sacrifice your life for your countrymen. But there is a defect: if the definition of national is "one who is born in a particular country," then why are the animals born in America not considered Americans? The problem is that we are not expanding our feelings beyond the human society. Because we don't think animals are our countrymen, we send them to the slaughterhouse.
So the center of our national feeling or our international feeling is not fixed on the proper object. If the center is right, then you can draw any number of circles around that center and they'll never overlap. They'll simply keep growing, growing, growing. They'll not intersect with one another if the center is all right. Unfortunately, although everyone is feeling nationally or internationally, the center is missing. Therefore your international feeling and my international feeling, your national feeling and my national feeling, are overlapping and conflicting. So we have to find the proper center for our loving feelings. Then you can expand your circle of feelings and it will not overlap or conflict with others'.
That center is Krsna.
Our society, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, is teaching the people of all countries that the center of their affection should be Krsna. In other words, we are teaching people to be mahatmas. You may have heard this word mahatma before. It is a Sanskrit word that is applied to a person whose mind is expanded, whose circle of feelings is very much expanded. This is a mahatma. Maha means "big" or "great," and atma means "soul." So he who has expanded his soul very wide is called a mahatma.
The Bhagavad-gita [7.19] gives a description of the person who has expanded his feelings very wide:
bahunam janmanam ante
The first idea in this verse is that one can become a mahatma only after many births (bahunam janmanam ante). The soul is transmigrating through many bodies, one after another. There are 8,400,000 different species of life, and we evolve through them until at last we come to the human form of life. Only then can we become a mahatma. This is why Krsna says bahunam janmanam ante: "After many, many births one may become a mahatma."
In the Srimad-Bhagavatam there is a similar verse. Labdhva sudurlabham idam bahu-sambhavante: "After many, many births you have achieved a human body, which is very difficult to get." This human form of life is not cheap. The bodies of cats and dogs and other animals are cheap, but this human form is not. After being born in at least 8,000,000 different species, we get this human form. So the Bhagavatam and the Bhagavad-gita say the same thing. All Vedic literatures corroborate one another, and the person who can understand them doesn't find any contradiction.
So the human form of life is obtained after many, many births in other-than-human forms of life. But even in this human form of life, many, many births are required for one who is cultivating knowledge of the central point of existence. If one is actually cultivating spiritual knowledge—not in one life but in many, many lives—one eventually comes to the highest platform of knowledge and is called jnanavan, "the possessor of true knowledge." Then, Krsna says, mam prapadyate: "He surrenders unto Me, Krsna, or God." (When I say "Krsna" I mean the Supreme Lord, the all-attractive Supreme Personality of Godhead.)
Now, why does a man in knowledge surrender to Krsna? Vasudevah sarvam iti: because he knows that Vasudeva, Krsna, is everything—that He is the central point of all loving feelings. Then, sa mahatma sudurlabhah. Here the word mahatma is used. After cultivating knowledge for many, many births, a person who expands his consciousness up to the point of loving God—he is a mahatma, a great soul. God is great, and His devotee is also great. But, Krsna says, sa mahatma sudurlabhah: that sort of great soul is very rarely to be seen. This is the description of a mahatma we get from the Bhagavad-gita.
Now we have expanded our feelings of love to various objects. We may love our country, we may love our community, we may love our family, we may love our cats and dogs. In any case, we have love, and we expand it according to our knowledge. And when our knowledge is perfect, we come to the point of loving Krsna. That is perfection. Love of Krsna is the aim of all activities, the aim of life.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam [1.2.8] confirms that the goal of life is Krsna:
dharmah svanusthitah pumsam
The first words in this verse are dharmah svanusthitah pumsam. This means that everyone is doing his duty according to his position. A householder has some duty, a sannyasi [renunciant] has some duty, a brahmacari [celibate student] has some duty. There are different types of duties according to different occupations or professions. But, the Bhagavatam says, if by performing your duties very nicely you still do not come to the understanding of Krsna, then whatever you have done is simply useless labor (srama eva hi kevalam). So if you want to come to the point of perfection, you should try to understand and love Krsna. Then your national or international feelings of love will actually expand to their limit.
Now, suppose a man says, "Yes, I have expanded my feelings of love very widely." That is all right, but he must show the symptoms of how his feelings of love are expanded. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita [5.18]:
If one is actually a pandita, someone who is elevated to the stage of perfect wisdom, then he must see everyone on an equal platform (sama-darsinah). Because the vision of a pandita is no longer absorbed simply with the body, he sees a learned brahmana as a spirit soul, he sees a dog as a spirit soul, he sees an elephant as a spirit soul, and he also sees a lowborn man as a spirit soul. From the highborn brahmana down to the candala [outcaste], there are many social classes in human society, but if a man is really learned he sees everyone, every living entity, on the same level. That is the stage of true learning.
We are trying to expand our feeling socially, communally, nationally, internationally, or universally. That is our natural function—to expand our consciousness. But my point is that if we actually want to expand our consciousness to the utmost, we must find out the real center of existence. That center is Krsna, or God. How do we know Krsna is God? Krsna declares Himself to be God in the Bhagavad-gita. Please always remember that the Krsna consciousness movement is based on understanding Bhagavad-gita as it is. Whatever I am speaking is in the Bhagavad-gita. Unfortunately, the Bhagavad-gita has been misinterpreted by so many commentators that people have misunderstood it. Actually, the purport of the Bhagavad-gita is to develop Krsna consciousness, love of Krsna, and we are trying to teach that.
In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna has given several descriptions of a mahatma. He says, mahatmanas tu mam partha daivim prakrtim asritah: "A mahatma, one who is actually wise and broadminded, is under the shelter of My spiritual energy." He is no longer under the spell of the material energy.
Whatever we see is made up of various energies of God. In the Upanisads it is said, parasya-saktir vividhaiva sruyate: "The Supreme Absolute Truth has many varieties of energies." And these energies are acting so nicely that it appears they are working automatically (svabhaviki jnana-bala-kriya ca). For example, we have all seen a blooming flower. We may think that it has automatically blossomed and become so beautiful. But no, the material energy of God is acting.
Similarly, Krsna has a spiritual energy. And a mahatma, one who is broad-minded, is under the protection of that spiritual energy; he is not under the spell of the material energy. These things are all explained in the Bhagavad-gita. There are many verses in the Bhagavad-gita that describe how Krsna's energies are working, and our mission is to present Bhagavad-gita as it is, without any nonsensical commentary. There is no need of nonsensical commentary. Bhagavad-gita is as clear as the sunlight. Just as you don't require a lamp to see the sun, you don't require the commentary of an ignorant, common man to study the Bhagavad-gita. You should study the Bhagavad-gita as it is. Then you will get all spiritual knowledge. You will become wise and will understand Krsna. Then you will surrender to Him and become a mahatma.
Now, what are the activities of a mahatma? A mahatma is under the protection of Krsna's spiritual energy, but what is the symptom of that protection? Krsna says, mam . . . bhajanty ananya-manasah: "A mahatma is always engaged in devotional service to Me." That is the main symptom of a mahatma: he is always serving Krsna. Does he engage in this devotional service blindly? No. Krsna says, jnatva bhutadim avyayam: "He knows perfectly that I am the source of everything."
So Krsna explains everything in the Bhagavad-gita. And our purpose in the Krsna consciousness movement is to spread the knowledge contained in the Bhagavad-gita, without adding any nonsensical commentary. Then the human society will profit from this knowledge. Now society is not in a sound condition, but if people understand the Bhagavad-gita, and if they actually broaden their outlook, all social, national, and international problems will be solved automatically. There will be no difficulty. But if we don't find out what the center of existence is, if we manufacture our own ways to expand our loving feelings, there will be only conflict—not only between individual persons but between the different nations of the world. The nations are trying to be united; in your country there is the United Nations. Unfortunately, instead of the nations becoming united, the flags are increasing. Similarly, India was once one country, Hindustan. Now there is also Pakistan. And some time in the future there will be Sikhistan and then some other "stan."
Instead of becoming united we are becoming disunited, because we are missing the center. Therefore, my request, since you are all international students, is that you please try to find out the real center of your international movement. Real international feeling will be possible when you understand that the center is Krsna. Then your international movement will be perfect.
In the fourteenth chapter of Bhagavad-gita [14.4], Krsna says,
Here Krsna says, "I am the father of all forms of life. The material nature is the mother, and I am the seed-giving father." Without a father and mother nobody can be born. The father gives the seed, and the mother supplies the body. In this material world the mother of every one of us—from Lord Brahma down to the ant—is the material nature. Our body is matter; therefore it is a gift of the material nature, our mother. But I, the spirit soul, am part and parcel of the Supreme Father, Krsna. Krsna says, mamaivamso . . . jiva-bhutah:
"All these living entities are part and parcel of Me."
So if you want to broaden your feelings of fellowship to the utmost limit, please try to understand the Bhagavad-gita. You'll get enlightenment; you'll become a real mahatma. You will feel affection even for the cats and dogs and reptiles. In the Seventh Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam you'll find a statement by Narada Muni that if there is a snake in your house you should give it something to eat. Just see how your feelings can expand! You'll care even for a snake, what to speak of other animals and human beings.
So we cannot become enlightened unless we come to the point of understanding God, or Krsna. Therefore we are preaching Krsna consciousness all over the world. The Krsna consciousness movement is not new. As I told you, it is based on the principles of the Bhagavad-gita, and the Bhagavad-gita is an ancient scripture. From the historical point of view it is five thousand years old. And from a pre-historical point of view it is millions of years old. Krsna says in the fourth chapter, imam vivasvate yogam proktavan aham avyayam: "I first spoke this ancient science of yoga to the sun-god." That means Krsna first spoke the Bhagavad-gita some millions of years ago. But simply from a historical point of view, Bhagavad-gita has existed since the days of the Battle of Kuruksetra, which was fought five thousand years ago. So it is older than any other scripture in the world.
Try to understand Bhagavad-gita as it is, without any unnecessary commentary. The words of the Bhagavad-gita are sufficient to give you enlightenment, but unfortunately people have taken advantage of the popularity of the Bhagavad-gita and have tried to express their own philosophy under the shelter of the Bhagavad-gita. That is useless. Try to understand the Bhagavad-gita as it is. Then you will get enlightenment; you will understand that Krsna is the center of all activities. And if you become Krsna conscious, everything will be perfect and all problems will be solved.
Thank you very much. Are there any questions?
Indian student: I don't know the exact Sanskrit from the Gita, but somewhere Krsna says, "All roads lead to Me. No matter what one does, no matter what one thinks, no matter what one is involved with, eventually he will evolve toward Me." So is enlightenment a natural evolution?
Srila Prabhupada: No, Krsna never says that whatever you do, whatever you think, you will naturally evolve toward Him. To become enlightened in Krsna consciousness is not natural for the conditioned soul. You require instruction from a spiritual master. Otherwise, why did Krsna instruct Arjuna? You have to get knowledge from a superior person and follow his instructions.
Arjuna was perplexed. He could not understand whether he should fight or not. Similarly, everyone in the material world is perplexed. So we require guidance from Krsna or his bona fide representative. Then we can become enlightened.
Evolution is natural up through the animal species. But when we come to the human form of life, we can use our own discretion. As you like, you make your choice of which path to follow. If you like Krsna, you can go to Krsna; if you like something else, you can go there. That depends on your discretion.
Everyone has a little bit of independence. At the end of the Bhagavad-gita [18.66] Krsna says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: "Just give up everything and surrender unto Me." If this surrender is natural, why would Krsna say, "You should do this"? No. Surrendering to Krsna is not natural in our materially conditioned state. We have to learn it. Therefore we must hear from a bona fide spiritual master—Krsna or His authorized representative—and follow his instructions. This will bring us to the stage of full enlightenment in Krsna consciousness.
Many of my friends thought life was just a huge meaningless game.
by Brahma-muhurta Dasa
I was born near Boston in 1958. My father had a Masters in architecture from Harvard, my mother a B.A. in literature from Smith. They were well-to-do, yet they instilled in me the understanding that money wasn't the ultimate cause of happiness. Before I was born they had moved out of Boston to the country, to bring up their family in a place where they felt moral values could flourish.
My parents would often host large gatherings of well-known writers and artists from the neighboring McDowell Colony. (Margaret Mead, a good friend of the family, was often there.) I would listen as they went on hour after hour, throwing ideas about life and art back and forth.
At seventeen I graduated from the Cambridge School of Weston, Massachusetts (a prestigious prep school), but I decided not to go on to college right away. Growing up in a hyperintellectual atmosphere had given me the desire to find out the meaning of life, but I wasn't learning that at school, nor at the endless parties where my friends and I would go from one pill or joint to the next, rapping aimlessly far into the night. To put it mildly, my perception of truth and reality was becoming duller, not more vivid.
So I decided to take a year off instead of plunging into college. My parents encouraged me to look around for the most fulfilling answers to my questions. They bought me a plane ticket to Europe, and I brashly promised them I wouldn't return until I'd found the meaning of life.
I traveled first to England, then down to France, over to Holland and Germany, then through Scandinavia, Yugoslavia, and Italy. I had some money, but mostly I hitched rides and stayed at youth hostels. Yet through all these travels I didn't find what I was looking for. Sure, I saw people of many nationalities, heard many languages, ate many different kinds of food. But behind all the differences, I saw that people were doing the same thing everywhere: trying to earn money and enjoy themselves. I felt there had to be some higher purpose to life than this.
Then I heard that a lot of young people in search of spiritual values were heading toward the Greek island of Mykonos. I decided to find a cave there and seclude myself until I was free of all desire, at peace with myself and the world around me. Then I would be able to realize my true nature. I would fully understand myself and know just what to do next—if a self-realized person does anything.
On Mykonos I found hundreds of young people like myself, each with his own philosophy and his own method of reaching "self-realization." Some, like me, had just arrived on the island. Others had been practicing some austerity (such as drinking only fruit juice and sun-bathing all day) but were now heading back to their families or schools, or looking for work.
I found a cave, sat down, and started listening intently to my boggled mind. After a few days of this, it became clear that I had to find some guidance. I needed a teacher. But who? Although some of the seekers on Mykonos claimed to have found The Answer, everyone I met was indulging in sensual pleasure in the name of meditation, yoga, self-realization, and so on. Superficially they might have appeared more peaceful and satisfied than ordinary people, but their philosophy was always full of flaws, and their actions proved how empty their so-called spiritual life really was.
I felt completely helpless. I had found no one who could really give me a clue about the purpose of life. Was life just a huge meaningless game, as many of my fellow seekers thought? If so, I didn't want to play. But I still felt there was something more to life. I had to do something to find it—but what?
In deep distress I prayed out loud: "If there is someone behind all this, I want to know You. Please guide me so I may come to know You. I will be obedient to Your will." I prayed from my heart, with every bit of sincerity I could muster. At the time, I thought that if there actually was a God, a controller who directs everything, He must have heard me.
A short time later I was impelled by a strange desire to travel. I say "strange" because I had already traveled all over Europe and had now come to Mykonos, which seemed the most likely place to find self-realization. Still, I left by boat for the heel of Italy, took a train north, and then hitchhiked through the Swiss Alps. As I stood looking down at smog-filled Zurich, with cars zooming back and forth, I wondered, "What did I come here for? This is exactly what I've been trying to get away from." Yet something was spurring me on.
I arrived in Zurich late at night. After searching everywhere for a place to stay, I finally found a youth hostel just before it closed. I got the last vacant space. In the room next to mine were a group of Hare Krsna devotees dressed in traditional Indian robes.
One devotee introduced himself as Jaya Gurudeva and then frankly told me I looked like I was really suffering in the material world. Another, named Rohini-suta, was very eager to talk to me about Krsna consciousness—but he barely spoke English, and I barely spoke German. He gave me a German BACK TO GODHEAD. A third devotee gave me an English edition of Bhagavad-gita As It Is, by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Then the devotees said they had to get to sleep, since they were all going out early the next day to sell books.
When I woke the next morning I looked at the Bhagavad-gita and thought, "Oh, here's another one of the millions of books people have told me I should read." But then I thought how happy the devotees had looked, how enthusiastic and confident they had been about what they were doing. I decided to read the Bhagavad-gita, and having nothing else to do, I sat down all day and read the whole book. I found answers to many questions I'd been struggling with for years. By the time the devotees arrived back at the hostel late that night, I felt I'd found a real guru: Srila Prabhupada.
Still, it all seemed too good to be true, and I began firing away with questions, trying to pick out some flaw in the Krsna conscious philosophy.
"It says here that we are all spirit souls, not these material bodies, and that we were all originally with Krsna in the spiritual world. If it was really so nice there, why did we leave and come to this place of birth, old age, disease, and death?"
"Because we have minute independence," the devotees answered. "The spiritual world is for those who love God. But without free will there is no question of love. Because we misused our free will and chose not to love God, we have been put here in this material world, which is like a prison for everyone who chooses to forget Krsna."
"So because we wouldn't love Him, God has just left us here to suffer. Sounds pretty cruel to me."
"No, Krsna is our eternal loving father, so He wants us to return to Him in the spiritual world. Therefore He comes here Himself to teach us Krsna consciousness (as in the Bhagavad-gita), or He sends His representative, the spiritual master. In this way Krsna gives us all the chance to reawaken our loving relationship with Him."
"This sounds a lot like Christianity."
"Yes, the purpose of every true religion is to develop your original loving relationship with God."
"Well, a lot of people say they love God."
"Then they have to prove it by their actions. If you really love a person, you will try to please him by serving him. God is also a person—the Supreme Person—and if we truly love Him we must find out what He wants and try to satisfy Him. Only if we serve God according to His desires will He choose to reveal Himself to us."
"So . . . I'm doing what I think God wants me to do."
"No, you can't concoct your own process; you have to accept His process. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, 'Always think of Me. Become My devotee.' And when Krsna appeared more recently as Lord Caitanya, He taught that the best way to think of Him and develop devotion to Him is to chant His name. That's why we are chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna,' Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The Sanskrit word krsna is a name for God that means 'the all-attractive Supreme Person.' Because Krsna is absolute, His name and He Himself are nondifferent. So by chanting Hare Krsna we are coming in touch with Krsna personally. From this contact our consciousness becomes purified more and more, until one day we will realize God's presence in our heart and reawaken our loving relationship with Him. This is the goal of human life. Why don't you try the chanting? The proof of the pudding is in the eating."
I decided to give the chanting a try. I had tried almost everything else, so what did I have to lose? After chanting Hare Krsna and living with the devotees for a few days, I thought, "This is really a nice life." But the devotees were pressuring me to become more serious about spiritual life. They wanted me to live in a temple and practice Krsna consciousness full time. But I had become accustomed to resisting all pressure, so I decided to leave. As I packed my things, Jaya Gurudeva asked me where I was going. I said I was taking a break. "Do whatever you want," he said casually.
It was then that I understood that Krsna consciousness was completely voluntary. Sure there were austerities, but they were for the highest purpose—becoming God conscious. I knew from experience that it was impossible to avoid austerity and difficulty in any case. So why not undergo some trouble for a worthwhile goal? I decided to give Krsna consciousness an honest try.
A year went by in the Hare Krsna temple in Amsterdam. After my father and I had exchanged many letters back and forth, he came to visit me for two weeks at the temple, and later my mother stayed at the temple in southern France while I was there. By getting the inside story of my life as a devotee, my parents gradually began to appreciate Krsna consciousness more and more. And when I left Europe and came to live at the temple in Boston, my brothers and sisters also began to discover Krsna consciousness. Now my whole family is well acquainted with the Hare Krsna movement, and they feel they have benefited in many ways.
As for me, one thing I can say to my family with all humility is that I kept the promise I made so naively some seven years ago: I've returned home to Boston, but not before finding the ultimate meaning of life—developing love for God.
Reigning cats and dogs.
by Srila Hridayananda Dasa Goswami
In the course of researching my next book, I traveled last July to the all-American town of Fort Meyers, Florida, located just off the Gulf of Mexico a few miles up the Caloosahatchee River. I stayed at a Holiday Inn overlooking the river, and while browsing about the hotel's recreation area I met a nice family from Scotland who regularly take their summer vacation in Florida. The war over the Falkland Islands had just ended, and out of politeness I mentioned the British victory to the young Scottish couple and their son. The man immediately became excited and exclaimed, "Yes, we showed them, all right! We beat them. We had to beat them, because we were fighting for a true cause and they didn't know what they were fighting for." The man's son tugged at his father's shirt, trying to get him back to their Ping-Pong match, but the Scotsman continued glorifying the British victory, emphasizing the high ideals that had motivated the British soldiers.
The underlying psychological cause of such nationalism is simple: human beings (and, indeed, animals, birds, fish, and insects as well) are naturally inclined to live together and seek their fortune as a united group. A united ant colony quickly rebuilds its anthill metropolis after a rude foot has kicked it down. A united herd of elephants can defend itself against a lion's attack. A united human city works harmoniously and becomes prosperous. And a united country presents a strong and influential image to the world.
If a spirit of unity binds together most species of life, what distinguishes the human spirit of unity? Human beings stand out for their ability to perceive the greater oneness of all life forms and, indeed, of life itself. Ultimately, a human being's sense of unity can extend beyond the material platform to the transcendental realm of God consciousness. By recognizing everything to be part of God, a human being can see the oneness of all existence and the dependence of everything on the Supreme Being.
But the way modern nationalism unites people is by dividing them into superficial, temporary, conflicting political units. Nationalism demands that we abandon our real spiritual identity and unity and instead fight like dogs and cats. Since conflicts of interest between nations are endless, nationalism can never be the basis of lasting peace, which must stand on a superior awareness of the oneness of all life.
Krsna consciousness teaches that all life is one because all living beings are part and parcel of Krsna, or God. The social system that grows out of this understanding is called the varnasrama system, and it organizes people into efficient and enlightened communities and societies with the Supreme Personality of Godhead at the center. The Krsna consciousness movement seeks to establish such social units, in which everyone can learn to love Krsna without conflict of interest. Whereas nationalism flourishes by whipping up hatred for "the national enemy," varnasrama flourishes by cultivating love of God and compassion toward all creatures.
In my travels through Latin America I have seen that a corrupt government will sometimes create frenzied anti-American feeling so that the local people won't discover and lynch the corrupt local leaders themselves. On the other hand, Americans often maintain an idiotic stereotyped impression of Latin America that serves only to gratify false North American pride. Thus nationalism easily becomes a tool for political exploitation and indeed creates spiritual darkness, hatred, and violence among those it supposedly inspires.
Still, one may argue, political organization is a necessary evil, since power exists and must be exerted in a rational and orderly way. Civilizations must have a common identity to function efficiently. Different groups of human beings, despite their ultimate spiritual oneness, have distinct cultural and psychological patterns and thus will naturally group themselves together as separate peoples, nations, states, and communities.
We agree that although God consciousness is necessary for man—and, indeed, is the goal of life—we cannot abolish the natural tendency of people to organize themselves into political and cultural units and to rule themselves or to allow themselves to be ruled by various political systems. But in every politcal system God consciousness must always be central. Only then can we avoid the conflicts that arise when mere political or national pride is vulgarly substituted for genuine God consciousness as the ultimate process for uniting people.
* * *
Recently Psychology Today ran an article called "Our Pets, Ourselves," which reported the latest scientific findings on human-animal relationships. Psychologist Randall Lockwood of the State University of New York at Stonybrook has shown that most people consider a person walking a dog more sympathetic and friendly than a person who is not. Apparently, Americans love their pets, and they actually recover from dangerous heart conditions and live longer when they confide in their pets and, indeed, pet their pets.
The love Americans have for their pets certainly contradicts Western theology's ghastly contention that animals have no soul. Is it actually possible that tens of millions of Americans are hugging, coddling, petting, kissing, and confiding in furry bags of molecules and atoms? Is the affection a pet shows for its master merely a chemical reaction? And if so, why don't people hug and kiss bottles of chemicals instead of pets? Why do we consider someone a good person because he protects a pet?
On the other hand, if animals do have souls and certain animals are lovable, why then do we brutally slaughter billions of other animals simply to satisfy our demoniac desire to eat meat? Why do we tolerate the blatant hypocrisy of a huge American cattle industry side by side with an American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals?
In the first segment of this column we explained how nationalism is based on the hypocrisy of loving one's own countrymen and looking upon others as enemies. There is certainly a similar hypocrisy in our mindless coddling of certain animals and our heartless slaughter of others.
The lack of a scientific understanding of life, the soul, God, and God's laws has created an unbearably hypocritical and demoniac culture in our country. Perfect knowledge of Krsna consciousness can clear up our ignorance of spiritual matters and help us build a more consistent and enlightened society. Unless Americans begin to appreciate and understand Krsna consciousness, which teaches scientific knowledge of the soul and God, the stunning and immoral contradictions of our society will ultimately destroy us.
The Lord of the Universe Comes to Washington
by Dravida dasa
It wasn't a protest. It wasn't a vigil. It wasn't a political demonstration. Instead of "Down with ..." or "Hell no ..." or "We want ..." they chanted "Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna ..." Said one policeman to a visitor, "You know, most groups who come here, they come to complain about something. It's nice to see a celebration for a change."
It was the first annual Ratha-yatra chariot festival in Washington, D.C. By the hundreds, the Hare Krsna devotees came from around the country, and some from as far away as India, and at the foot of the Washington Monument thousands of well-wishers, friends, and onlookers joined them for the parade to the Capitol.
The devotees came to Washington to raise their voices in praise of Jagannatha, Lord of the Universe; they came to give out thousands of plates of delicious, sanctified vegetarian food; and they came to display the rich culture of Krsna consciousness through music, drama, literature, art, photos, and a full-fledged Vedic museum.
Marion Barry, Jr., mayor of the District of Columbia, declared August 21 Ratha-yatra Day. He called the two-day festival "exciting, impressive, and colorful." And noting the presence of "more than 20,000 people of East Indian origin in the metropolitan area, who have made impressive contributions to the life of the city," Mayor Barry declared "that the Ratha-yatra Festival not only encourages understanding and cooperation and promotes peace, but it also adds considerably to the international character of our city." The mayor said, "I therefore call upon all people of goodwill to support this worthy endeavor."
Srila Satsvarupa dasa Goswami, one of the present spiritual masters in the Hare Krsna movement and the chief coordinator of the event, explained its significance: "By the grace of our spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, we have brought this Ratha-yatra festival, this occasion for remembering God, to Washington, D.C. In Jagannatha Puri, India, devotees have celebrated Ratha-yatra annually for thousands of years. But five hundred years ago Ratha-yatra was given a great impetus by a divine incarnation named Lord Caitanya, who appeared in Bengal.
"Lord Caitanya took the role of a pure devotee of Krsna, and He personally took part in the ecstatic chanting and dancing of the Ratha-yatra procession at Puri. By His own example and His teachings, Lord Caitanya emphasized the chanting of the holy names of God as the easiest method for reaching spiritual perfection in this age. Chanting Hare Krsna reveals to us the nature of transcendental bliss, the unlimited, unending pleasure we each have dormant within us.
"Now, the process of chanting God's names taught by Lord Caitanya is not meant for a limited group of people. It is not a sectarian religious practice but the pure dynamic principle of devotional love of God, and it can be practiced by any person of any religious background anywhere in the world. As Lord Caitanya said, 'O My Lord, You have thousands and millions of names, and all of them are full of Your transcendental potencies.' So you may chant any bona fide name of God you find in your own scripture, and in this way you can associate directly with Him and become purified.
"So let us hope that today's Ratha-yatra in Washington, D. C., is the beginning of a spiritual transformation of this country, and the world. America should not be the world leader simply in weapons production. She should be the leader in God consciousness.
A Duty Made Divine
Cooking for Krsna turns "something to get over with" into a pleasure you'll want to get into.
by Visakha-devi dasi
While browsing through the Cooking section of one of Philadelphia's largest bookstores, I came across a startling passage in the introduction to a popular vegetarian cookbook: "It hadn't occurred to me that there could be much direct connection between kitchen work and meditation until one evening when our teacher was reading some verses from Bhagavad-gita, in which Lord Krsna tells His disciple, 'If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, fruit, flower, or water, these I will accept. All that you do as well as all that you eat should be offered unto Me. Thus you will be freed from all reactions to both good and evil deeds, and you will be liberated and come to Me.'
"Our teacher talked all evening about how work without thought of profit is actually a form of prayer," the book continued. "Even the smallest task can be thought of as an offering to the Lord, and when it is, it follows that it will be performed in the best possible way, with the greatest care and attention. Looked at in this light, every action becomes, potentially, an act of love—a work of art ..."
I guess I found this passage startling because after many years the same book—Bhagavad-gita—had brought me to a similar understanding about kitchen "chores." My mother cooked for my father, my brother, and me only because she felt it was her duty. She thought kitchen work drudgery (she used the then well-known I Hate to Cook Book), so she never encouraged me to cook, but to do things more "creative" and "fulfilling." I survived college on cafeteria fare and snacks. So the first twenty-seven years of my life I managed to avoid cooking. It wasn't till I'd been a devotee of Krsna for six years that I entered the kitchen as a cook for the first time.
It was then that it gradually dawned on me that my attitude toward cooking was a combination of Madison Avenue hype, the women's lib movement, and a profound lack of God consciousness. The ads get across that although eating is a most pleasurable affair—a time of warm family reunion, of intimacy with those we love—preparing food is a drag. After all, everyone knows that you do have much more important things to do, so naturally meals should be as quick and easy to assemble as possible. How can a twentieth-century woman simply stand there cutting a cauliflower, with the Middle East in crisis, millions going hungry, and the national economy tottering? Besides that, what about your undeveloped creative flair, that super-savings sale in the store just fifteen miles away, and last Sunday's paper lying yet unread? And anyway, after a busy day you're just a little too tired to cook. So manufacturers, out of their kindness, have produced a vast array of machines to save time and work and prepare food of every description.
As I slowly tried to grasp the principles of Vedic cookery, my mind sometimes went back a few years to a lecture on Bhagavad-gita I'd heard Srila Prabhupada deliver to a crowd of twenty thousand Indians in New Delhi. He'd spoken emphatically, leaning forward in his seat, and raising and lowering his voice as he asked and answered his own questions:
"The businessman says, 'I have my duty.' The student says, 'I have my duty.' The housewife says, 'I have my duty.' But what is your duty, my dear sir, my good woman? Ah, that they do not know. They think of duty towards their boss, their teacher, their family. But these are temporary duties. They come and go with the body. Our real duty is to learn how to love God, to perfect that love and go back home, back to Godhead, at the end of this life. That they do not know."
I was learning to cook from Yamuna-devi dasi, the expert devotee-cook who has written the recipes we're presenting each month on these pages. And as her classes went on, they shed a new light on the culture I'd seen for the few years I'd lived in India. There people spend hours sorting and grinding dal, kneading, rolling and cooking unleavened breads, cleaning spices, and drying herbs. There they've got no qualms about cooking down a pot of milk for an hour and a half to make milk sweets, and they don't hesitate to embark on a complicated dish that will take a good part of the morning to complete. So for a devotee, cooking is not something to get over with so I can get on to something really important. Cooking is a way to please Krsna. It is an end in itself.
Generally, for one who's not a devotee, the pleasure is in the result—eating, and leasing the senses of others. Cooking is something you have to go through to get the result. But for a devotee the end (accepting prasadam, food that's been offered to Krsna), the beginning (cooking it), and the middle (offering it to Krsna) are all equally relishable, because they're all devotional service to the Lord.
With this attitude, the Krsna conscious cook in his or her kitchen has a place in spiritual life just as much as the Krsna conscious lecturer on his podium, the Krsna conscious judge on his bench, the Krsna conscious typist, the Krsna conscious writer, and the Krsna conscious businessman. So, I reasoned, if I'm becoming eligible to go back to Godhead by this kitchen work, what's the big rush to get out of the kitchen to do something else?
Of course, it's not necessary to bury your blender and spend sunrise to sunset at the stove. All we need is a change in the focus of our cooking, so that we collect the ingredients that Krsna will accept (no meat, fish, or eggs), remember Him as we cook, offer the dishes to Him with love and devotion, and distribute and relish the prasadam to our full satisfaction. It may not seem like much, but the effect is startling, as the vegetarian cookery book I was reading confirmed in the next paragraph:
"You aren't just slapping together a meal; you're preparing food for the Lord."
(Recipes by Yamuna-devi dasi)
The Grand Milk Cake
Proper equipment will help cut the time you spend stirring this large quantity of milk as it condenses and solidifies. If you have a heavy 8-quart saucepan, that's the best; otherwise, condense the milk in two phases in a standard 5- or 6-quart saucepan. The finished result is an extraordinarily rich, stately cake with a divine flavor and texture. Cut it in small wedges for serving. Makes a cake about five inches in diameter and three inches high. It is especially respected by those who know the time that goes into the condensing and stirring.
Preparation time: 2 hours
12 cups fresh whole milk
1. Condense the milk by following either procedure A or B:
(A) Pour all the milk into a heavy 8-quart saucepan (nonstick cookware is ideal) and place it over a high flame. Stirring constantly with a wide wooden spatula, bring the milk to a full boil. Stir and boil the milk vigorously until it comes down to about 6 cups.
(B) Pour 6 cups of the milk into a heavy 5- or 6-quart saucepan and place it over a high flame. Stirring constantly with a wide wooden spatula, bring the milk to a full boil. Stir and boil the milk vigorously until it comes down to 3 cups. Put aside the 3 cups of condensed milk. Pour the remaining 6 cups of milk into the saucepan and cook until it comes down to about 3 cups. Pour in the other 3 cups of condensed milk.
2. Place the condensed milk over a moderate to medium-high flame and boil while stirring constantly. Very slowly, at about 3-minute intervals, sprinkle in dry, separate crystals of citric acid, adding from 1/8 to 1/3 teaspoon at a time until small granules form in the milk. If the grains of citric acid fall into the milk in clumps or become moist and stick together, there is every chance that undesirable small lumps of cheese will form. Continue to stir, boil, and condense the milk until it reaches the consistency of heavy cream. Then reduce the flame to medium to prevent the bottom of the pan from scorching.
3. Add the sugar, and while stirring rhythmically, methodically, and vigorously, condense the milk until it becomes a thick paste. Regulate the flame so that you can condense the milk as quickly as possible without scorching or burning it. When the milk is somewhat dry and almost thick enough to pull into a mass, remove the pan from the flame and pour the milk into the buttered bowl or mold. Cover securely. Allow the preparation to sit for about 12 hours.
4. To remove the cake from the mold, first loosen the cake by partially submerging the mold in a container of boiling water. Then gently run a spatula or butter knife down the walls of the mold. Now invert the cake onto a small decorative serving tray or platter.
5. Garnish the surface of the cake with edible gold or silver foil or a sprinkle of slivered pistachio nuts. Cut the cake into small delicate wedges before offering to Krsna.
Creme de la Creme (Rabri)
This creamy, moist milk dish is always served chilled. Whether taken as is or mixed with diced fruits such as ripe mangoes, papayas, or bananas, it is served in individual shallow bowls or cups. It may be sipped or eaten with a spoon.
Preparation time: 1 ½ hours
4 cups fresh whole milk
10-inch to 14-inch karhai or wok (bowl-shaped pan)
1. Pour the milk into a clean bowl-shaped pan and place it over a high flame. While stirring the milk constantly, bring it to a full boil. Boil briskly for about five minutes.
2. Reduce the flame to medium, and, without stirring, allow the milk to boil gently. While fanning the surface of the milk with the left hand, pull a wooden spoon across the surface to collect the thin "skins" of cream that form from time to time. Pull them up the side of the pan above the surface of the milk and collect them all around the top sloping edges of the pan. Stir the bottom of the pan occassionally to keep the milk from sticking. As the milk condenses, the stirring is more frequent. Continue fanning and collecting the "skins" of cream until only about ¼ of the milk remains. Add the sweetener and cardamom seeds and let the milk simmer for about 4 or 5 minutes more.
3. Remove the pan from the heat, cool, and scrape all the layers of cream from the sides of the pan into the sweetened condensed milk. Mix well. Cool the mixture to room temperature, stir in the essences, and refrigerate until cold. Before offering to Krsna, garnish the servings with sprinkles of almonds and pistachios.
The Soul in Matter: A Fish out of Water
This conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, one of his disciples, and an Indian lawyer took place in August 1976 on an early-morning walk in Hyderabad, India.
Srila Prabhupada: At the present moment nearly everyone is in darkness. Na te viduh svartha-gatim hi visnum: they do not know that the goal of life is to know Visnu, or Krsna. Out of ignorance they are accepting this material life as everything. But they are forgetting about the problems of birth and death. These are their real problems. They are making plans to solve so many problems, but they have no plan to solve these problems.
Lawyer: Is it possible, then, for us to conquer death?
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes—by becoming fully Krsna conscious.
Lawyer: And in that case there would be no death and no rebirth?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. You are eternal, and your original home is in the spiritual world. But by karma you are put into this material world. Then you must struggle, like a fish out of water. If somehow or other a fish is taken from the water and put onto the land, his life is simply a struggle. And if he is again put into the water, his life is in its natural condition.
Lawyer: So for us the natural condition is back to Godhead?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Lawyer: It's a mystery, though, how we came from the divine life to this life.
Srila Prabhupada: What is the mystery? Is there a mystery how one is brought into the criminal court? What is the mystery?
Devotee: It is simply our karma.
Lawyer: But we must start somewhere.
Srila Prabhupada: What is the starting point of a criminal? He wants to violate the law, and he commits his first crime and becomes a criminal. You are a gentleman, but you can also become a criminal if you like. It depends on you. If you violate the law, you become a criminal. If you don't violate the law, you remain in your lawful position.
Similarly, as soon as you defy God and try to become independent, you start your karma and immediately come to the material world. And when you again surrender to God, you stop your karma. So stopping and starting your karma is in your hands. You start your own life in the material world, and you can stop it also.
Lawyer: But if the soul was once a gentleman—
Srila Prabhupada: The soul is eternally a gentleman.
Lawyer: Ahh. But is the soul who takes birth as an animal also a gentleman?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. He is a gentleman by nature, but a criminal by artificial means. As soon as—
Lawyer: But suppose you attain moksa [liberation]. Is that the same as returning to the spiritual world?
Srila Prabhupada: There are two kinds of moksa. In the first kind one tries to remain in the impersonal Brahman effulgence. But one cannot remain there eternally. The Brahman effulgence is like the sky. You may go up into the sky, but you cannot remain there. If you don't get any shelter, you have to come down again. You are a living entity and you want enjoyment, but what enjoyment will you find in the sky? You require society, friends, love—everything. But none of these are there in the Brahman effulgence.
So, the moksa of the impersonalists is temporary because although they think that by merging into the impersonal Brahman they will be happy, they cannot be happy there. Aruhya krcchrena param padam tatah patanty adhah: although they go up to the impersonal Brahman effulgence, because there is no ananda [spiritual pleasure] they come down again to find pleasure in the material world. By nature the living entity seeks pleasure (anandamayo 'bhyasat). But you do not get any ananda in the Brahman effulgence.
Lawyer: Isn't merging into Brahman itself ananda?
Srila Prabhupada: No. It is eternal existence, but no ananda. Can you remain eternally without pleasure? No, so you have to come back down again to this material world, because here there is something like ananda, although the pleasure here is temporary. So unless you go to God and dance with Him, you'll have to come back to this world. But the impersonalists cannot reconcile how God can be a person and not have to suffer birth and death like them. Because they have had a very bad experience of being a person here, they think the Absolute must be impersonal in order to be perfect. They are mudhas, fools; they are not intelligent.
Lawyer: But what is the stage at which the atma [the soul] merges with the paramatma [the Supersoul]?
Srila Prabhupada: That I have already explained: you cannot merge. You may simply imagine you are merging. You can enter into the spiritual atmosphere, but without ananda you cannot stay there. Therefore you have to come back again to this material world. Suppose you are put in some place where you cannot practice law. How long will you remain there? If I say, "Please remain here happily without any law practice," how long could you remain? You will want some activity, some pleasure. That is your nature.
So, here in the material world we are all trying to get some pleasure, but that pleasure is temporary. It is not satisfying us. Therefore, being disgusted, we want to stop material life and merge into Brahman. But that life is also temporary. Unless you go back home, back to Godhead, there is no complete life. Therefore Krsna comes and shows by His spiritual activities how to enjoy real ananda. He plays with the cowherd boys, He dances with the cowherd girls, He kills the demons—He performs so many activities. This is ananda. You have read our Krsna Book? [Krsna Book, or Krsna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, is Srila Prabhupada's summary study of the Tenth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, India's greatest spiritual classic.] Krsna's activities are described there in detail. We are trying to give people real knowledge from the sastra [scriptures]. Now it is up to them to take advantage of it.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Hare Krsna Leaders Meet India's President
New Delhi—Recently the president of India, His Excellency Sri Giani Zail Singh, cordially received three leaders of the Hare Krsna movement. They are Srila Gopala Krsna Goswami, who oversees the affairs of the movement in western India and Canada and who is one of the movement's present spiritual masters; His Holiness Lokanatha Swami, president of the Hare Krsna center in New Delhi; and His Holiness Nava-yogendra Swami, president of the center in Chandigarh, India. They gave President Singh a set of Srila Prabhupada's books in Hindi and a painting of Lord Krsna, both of which he gladly accepted.
President Singh commended the Hare Krsna movement for its work in India and abroad, and he especially applauded the movement's scriptural basis. "Whereas modern-day Indians are turning to materialistic philosophers of the West," he said, "your people are sticking to the ancient scriptures of the Vedic tradition. I think this is a source of strength for your movement."
Two New Hare Krsna Schools Open in India
Manipur, India—Two new gurukula schools have been opened in India by Srila Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami, one of the Hare Krsna movement's present spiritual masters and the director of the Bhaktivedanta Institute, a group of devotees with academic degrees who investigate the nature and origin of life and consciousness from the Vedic perspective.
Christian missionaries in Imphal, Manipur, are concerned because many parents are preparing to withdraw their children from mission schools and enroll them in the new gurukula there. For 188 positions, the school has already received applications for more than four hundred students. When construction on the three-story school is completed in January, all the applicants will be admitted.
In Tirupati, a pilgrimage site in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, Srila Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja has opened a gurukula with an initial enrollment of two hundred. Within a decade he plans to expand the school to include a multifaceted college program. A 22-member panel that includes Tirupati's leading citizens oversees the school's affairs.
"There is nothing wrong with becoming a scientist, but you must be a Krsna conscious scientist," says Srila Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja. "There is nothing wrong with earning the Nobel Prize, but you must be a Krsna conscious Nobel-Prize-winner. There is a need for lawyers, but they must be Krsna conscious. We plan to make facilities available for training such Krsna conscious professionals."
Hare Krsna Guru At Westminster Abbey
Westminster, Great Britain—Westminster Abbey was recently the site of an ecumenical dialogue featuring an address by Srila Bhagavan Goswami, one of the present spiritual masters in the Hare Krsna movement. He officially represented England's two million Hindus.
Leading life members of the movement and The Very Reverend Dr. Edward Carpenter, Dean of Westminster Abbey, sponsored the dialogue to give British clergymen a broader understanding of Krsna consciousness and its role in English society. The theological assembly was part of Britain's summer-long Festival of India, a series of events co-patroned by Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi.
Dean Carpenter warmly praised Srila Bhagavan Maharaja, expressing deep appreciation for his presentation of Vedic philosophy and commenting on his "superb handling of all questions raised."
After Srila Bhagavan spoke, the ninety conferees enjoyed a sumptuous feast of prasadam (food offered to Krsna) and performances of devotional Indian dance and song—all arranged by the devotees. Finally, the devotees led the congregational chanting of Hare Krsna.
Book on Reincarnation, Two Others Published
Los Angeles—The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust here has published a book on the science of reincarnation. Based on the ancient Vedic scriptures as taught by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Coming Back contains several discussions on reincarnation from Srila Prabhupada's books, a clear explanation of what reincarnation is, and a historical overview of belief in reincarnation in the West.
In Brazil, the Portugese BBT has published two new books: O Livro de Solucoes (A Book of Solutions), featuring a conversation between Srila Hridayananda dasa Goswami and the Dom Elder Camara, Archbishop of Recife, Brazil, and Illumincao pelo Camino Natural (Enlightenment from the Natural Path), which consists of excerpts from Srila Hridayananda Maharaja's English translation of the Eleventh Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Tattva means "truth."
When you catch a ride with me, that's what I try to drive home.
by Puru Dasa
During business hours the population of New York City expands to more than fifteen million people. Many New Yorkers ride in yellow taxicabs for business, shopping, sightseeing, and the many other goings-on offered by the phantasmagoria called Manhattan. Occasionally some of these travelers get a different taxicab experience, when they hail the yellow Checker driven by a disciple of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
I am that disciple, and my name is Puru dasa Adhikari. I joined the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in December of 1970. Because I am a member of the grhastha (householder) order, I must support my family as well as meet the spiritual responsibilities I have to my spiritual master and his mission. I've found that driving a cab in New York helps me fulfill both obligations.
Everyone in New York City thinks he's a philosopher. And who do they talk with about politics, religion, traffic, and the weather? Not their psychiatrists, business associates, or even their families as much as the New York cabbie. It's his function to hear their ideas and respond appropriately. So every day as I drive through the streets of New York I have a marvelous Opportunity to speak with people—and it provides me a modest livelihood.
* * *
As I cruise north on Madison Avenue in the four-degree weather of January, an older woman in a fur coat feebly hails my cab. She's so cold and weak she can hardly raise her hand to stop me. When I stop she has trouble with the back door, so I get out in the cold to help her. But even after the door is open she can't get up on the seat, so I tell her she can ride with me in front, since it's easier to get in that way.
Her name is Molly Rosen, and she's a retired New York City schoolteacher. When she gets in, the first thing she sees is a book about Srila Prabhupada's discussions with John Lennon called Search for Liberation. I keep a copy propped up on the dashboard so I can see my spiritual master's photo and perhaps spark someone's interest in Krsna consciousness.
She hears the Hare Krsna maha-mantra playing on my tape recorder and smells the garland of carnations draping the taxi meter. The garland comes from our temple, and it improves the otherwise stale smell of a yellow cab. "Search for Liberation," she says. And our conversation goes like this:
Puru: Oh, yes, it's a fascinating book. Would you like a copy? I have extras.
Molly: Why, thank you. I'm interested. I'm always looking for something that will help me. Perhaps some day I'll find a cure.
Puru: You have some disease?
Molly: Very bad arthritis. Every bone in my body hurts. It's almost like they were hollow.
Puru: That's too bad. Must be hard to deal with. My next-door neighbor's got arthritis too. She complains about it, but what can she do? What can any of us do? You can't stop the body from aging.
Molly: That's true enough.
Puru: But you know, let me give you an example for a simple philosophical point. If you tear your dress, you are not actually hurt—it's only the garment you're wearing. So if you can see your body that way—that it's just a garment covering the eternal soul—then you think of it like the torn dress. You try to repair the damage if you can, but you don't identify yourself with that hurting body, that torn dress. After all, you're not that dress. You're an eternal soul. And your arthritis is only temporary.
Molly: It may be temporary, but I certainly am suffering. I don't have any faith in anything spiritual anymore. Not after what I've seen. How could God let so many people be killed and tortured in Europe during the war? How can I believe in the soul and God when things like that are allowed to happen?
Puru: Ma'am, don't blame God because people ignore His instructions. After all, every day thousands of animals are slaughtered. The reaction for that kind of killing is that people are killed in wars. That's called the law of karma. Every action brings a reaction, just like in Newtonian physics but applied more broadly.
Molly: Well, I studied Hinduism, I know all about that, but it seems callous to me. How can you be so glib about so much suffering?
Puru: If you have a spiritual outlook you aren't insensitive to suffering—but you understand it for what it is. Suffering can help us to understand our spiritual nature. We're all eternal servants of God. This material world is not our real home, so how can we ever really be happy here? All the scriptures teach this—that we should rise to a higher understanding of our identity. The Hebrew prophets, the Koran, Lord Jesus, and the Vedas, the scriptures from India—they all teach this point.
Molly: It must be wonderful to have so much faith and be able to believe as strongly as you do.
Puru: I wasn't so sure of what I believed before I read Bhagavad-gita As It Is. That's the book I've been studying. That's where Lord Krsna explains all about the soul, and how we can understand that we're eternal spiritual persons. His friend Arjuna was suffering and lamenting because his friends and relatives were going to be killed in a fratricidal war. You've lost friends and relatives, so you must know how he felt.
Molly: I just went to a funeral last week. He was only 53 years old.
Puru: You see what I mean? Anyway, Krsna explained to Arjuna that he had no reason to lament. Only the perishable body is slain but not the imperishable soul. The soul lives on after the death of the temporary body.
Molly: I must admit it's amazing to be speaking to a taxi driver about these kinds of things.
Puru: Ma'am, it's not by accident that you got into my cab. In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says that He is directing the wanderings of all living entities. Since you have some sincere desire to understand the reasons for your pain, now you've come in touch with the real cure. Listen to the words on the tape that's playing:
"Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare." That's called the maha-mantra, or the great chant for deliverance. If you try chanting it you can get free from your arthritis pain. Chanting will free you from misidentifying with the body, and you won't take your bodily pains so seriously. Just like the torn dress.
Molly: I'll certainly think about it. Well, here's where I get off.
As Molly struggled out of the taxi I knew that her life had been changed, by contact with Srila Prabhupada's books, the holy name of the Lord, and some conversation with a devotee. She was appreciating that association, and I felt fortunate to have been able to give her some real information that could help her find some relief.
* * *
The Metro Cab Company now has about five drivers reading Bhagavad-gita As It Is, and at least two drivers distribute them.
In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says, "Never was there a time when you did not exist, nor in the future shall you ever cease to be." But the body comes and goes quickly, so we must exist before its birth and after its death.
This brings us the idea of reincarnation, or "transmigration of the soul." And I've found that many people are ready to accept it—especially when I drive them to funerals.
Puru: When you get there the people will be saying, "He's gone," even though his body is right there in the coffin. So who went? Who was he? He wasn't that body but something else. He's an eternal spirit soul, part and parcel of God, and now he has moved on.
Passenger 1: I suppose you're right.
Puru: You know, the most amazing thing is that everyone's body will die but no one admits that to himself. Everyone wants to think he'll live forever, even though they know that the body will die.
Passenger 2: Well, no one likes to think about it.
Puru: But that won't stop the influence of time.
Passenger 1: I guess not. Anyway, thanks for you words. They've given us a lot to think about.
Puru: Thank you very much. Hare Krsna.
Passenger 2: Have a nice day.
* * *
Eating out is a major pastime of native New Yorkers and tourists. One time I picked up a family from Columbus, Ohio.
Wife: Can you recommend a good restaurant? We want to have lunch.
Puru: Well, ma'am, I'm very sorry, but I'm a vegetarian. I don't eat meat, fish, or eggs, so it's hard for me to recommend any place.
Wife; That's interesting. You're probably very healthy. You see, George, he'll never get stomach cancer. Listen, convince my husband to become a vegetarian. He has an intestinal disease.
Husband: Yeah, I've got some kind of colitis. I have to have a really bland diet.
Puru: Well, meat-eating is certainly harmful physically. But beyond that the spiritual detriment is even more severe.
Wife: What religion are you? Muslim?
Puru: No, I belong to the Hare Krsna movement.
Husband: Oh, yeah, they don't eat meat.
Puru: We offer all our food to Krsna before we eat it, so we're not even pushing just vegetarianism. Listen, here's one of our books.
Husband: Well, gee. Thanks a lot.
Puru: Hare Krsna.
Family: Yeah—uh—Hare Krsna.
* * *
People in New York often have to travel to the many hospitals and clinics in the city. Such trips are usually not happy ones, but one such trip had a unique outcome. Estelle flagged down my cab on 70th Street and York Avenue.
Estelle: Please take me to the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital—the side entrance for the eye clinic.
Puru: All right. Straightaway. Some kind of eye trouble?
Estelle: Oh yes, I've had glaucoma for years. But they have a good doctor, and he's been treating it very nicely.
Puru: That's good karma and bad karma in the same breath.
Estelle: What do you mean?
Puru: It's bad karma to have glaucoma and good karma to have a doctor who can treat you.
Estelle: Yes, I think you're right: You know, I've been looking for someone to teach me how to meditate.
Puru: You got in the right cab, lady. Let me introduce you to an important book. Have you ever heard of the Bhagavad-gita?
Estelle: I read a small paperback copy a long time ago. It's a poem spoken by Krsna, isn't it?
Puru: Yes. And much more. My spiritual master. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, has written the most authorized translation, Bhagavad-gita As It Is. That paperback you mentioned doesn't compare. It's very important to get a bona fide translation of the original Sanskrit.
Estelle: Yes, I've heard of the Sanskrit language before.
Puru: The Gita explains all about meditation, the yoga systems, karma, the living entities, the Supreme Being, and how they all relate.
[She wanted a copy, so I checked the book bag I keep on the front seat, but it was empty. I'd already passed out every book I'd taken for that day.]
Puru: I don't have any with me right now, but if you give me a one-dollar donation and your address I'll get one to you.
Estelle: Oh, that's fine. Here's the dollar. You know, I need something like this. I've had a very bad time lately. My daughter died last year at 43. I know if I learn to meditate I could cope with her death more easily.
Puru: I think the Gita is just what you need. In the Second Chapter, Krsna explains to His friend and devotee Arjuna all about the eternality of the soul.
[I told her a little bit more about it and then dropped her off at the clinic.]
A week or two later my wife and child and I visited Estelle at her apartment and personally delivered her copy of Bhagavad-gita As It Is. She received us warmly, and we spoke about the Gita for more than three hours. Estelle's bookshelves now have several of Srila Prabhupada's books.
* * *
Estelle, Molly, and the tourist family are typical of the people you-meet in New York City. Their backgrounds vary from the poor to the rich, the uneducated to the Ph.D., and the common laborer to the professional.
Occasionally celebrities get in my cab. I gave a BACK TO GODHEAD to Anthony Quinn, and I managed to preach a little to Rosemary Cloonie, Zubin Mehta, and Cicely Tyson. Richard, the doorman at the Mayflower Hotel on Central Park West, gave some books to Anne Miller for me. She's currently starring in a musical on Broadway. Richard now has a Gita too. He offers respects with folded palms and bows his head slightly when he sees me drive up in my taxi. Sometimes I give prasadam (food offered to Krsna) to the boys at the gas pumps at the garage. Cookie prasadam is the next thing on my list for Richard.
"Wherever you go, whoever you meet, tell people about Me," Krsna told us five hundred years ago in His form as Lord Caitanya. And that's what I do while driving my cab in the busiest city in the world.
We welcome your letters. Write to
Coming into contact with the Krsna movement is an attractive proposition for anyone with an interest in spiritual (God) realization. One of the things an aspirant would become aware of is the mantra Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Among the letters of the Krsna mantra are Ram . . . Ha . . . Ksa . . . These Arthur Avalon [a writer on yoga] places as: Ram the mantra of the Manipura cakra (around the navel) and Ha . . . Ksa . . . for the petals of the Ajna cakra (between your eyebrows). The logic of making the references is that through chanting the Hare Krsna mantra the two areas respond to the vibrations of those letter combinations.
New South Wales, Australia
Our reply: Though seemingly logical enough, Mr. Avalon's comments about the effect of the Hare Krsna mantra are unnecessary. Although the various cakras, or centers of energy within the body, may indeed respond to the chanting, these energy centers are material, just as one's entire body is ultimately material and temporary. The chanting of Hare Krsna, however, goes directly to the eternal spiritual soul within the body. The transcendental sound of the Hare Krsna mantra is identical with Krsna Himself. So by hearing and chanting the mantra the soul comes directly in touch with Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In this way the soul is freed of all material contamination and comes at once to the spiritual platform of eternity, knowledge, and bliss. And by continued chanting one gradually attains the highest perfection of yoga—pure, unalloyed love of Godhead.
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I've just subscribed to your magazine, BACK TO GODHEAD. I was very surprised to find that you no longer include a worldwide list of your centers, restaurants, and farms. I feel that this is a very important part of your magazine, since I know a lot of people from other countries who are interested in your movement, and I often send them copies of your magazine and indicate on the address list where the nearest centers to them are. Would you please include the complete list in your future issues?
I found the article "Exploding the Myth of the Innocent Citizen" (Vol. 17, No. 8) very interesting. I am a lifelong vegetarian and an activist in the vegetarian movement and the movement for animal welfare. I am often faced with the hypocrisy of people who are working to improve human conditions but who eat meat or commit other acts of cruelty toward animals. They tell me that it's O.K. to abuse animals—that the important thing is to be good to people and love them. I feel that one must show mercy and compassion not only to people but to all living things.
I also found the article "A Great Fortune for the People of Trinidad" very interesting. I have a deep interest in geography and the development of local Hare Krsna centers, and this article satisfied both my interests.
Langley Park, Maryland
Our reply: Starting in this issue, we will again provide a complete list of Hare Krsna centers around the world. Sorry for the inconvenience.
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Hare Krsna! I have been reading BACK TO GODHEAD for some two years now, and I cherish each copy, reading and rereading, or just feeling very happy with your happiness as I look at the pictures.
I wonder if I might ask you two questions. They are not theological but of general interest. Here goes.
Why are devotees not allowed to drink tea or cocoa, or to eat chocolate, onions, or mushrooms? I can understand the ban on alcohol and cigarettes, to say nothing of drugs. Who wants them, anyway? The other things, though, I would like you to explain, as I do enjoy a cup of tea.
Your Society seems peopled by young, strong, healthy devotees. Is there any place among you for older people, not to say the really elderly and not-too-strong?
Brighton, South Australia
Our reply: As you know, stimulants of all kinds are out for Hare Krsna devotees. Tea contains caffeine, while chocolate and cocoa contain the stimulant the obromine as well. (Good substitutes are herbal teas and drinks made with carob powder, both of which are offerable to Krsna—and thus drinkable for devotees). As for onions and mushrooms, our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, advised us that because these foods are rajasic—they increase passion in whoever eats them—we shouldn't offer or eat them.
Older persons are certainly welcome in our Society. After all, we expect our young members to become elderly members themselves one day. And many of our members are elderly now.
But few of our centers are now physically equipped to care for the needs of the elderly and disabled. So in most places elderly people will prefer to practice Krsna consciousness while living at home rather than in our temple asramas.
Elderly people have an important role to play in the Krsna conscious social system. Also, for one's own spiritual realization old age is a warning that to make the best use of one's life one should wrap up his worldly affairs and focus on Krsna consciousness in the precious time he has left.
Krsna consciousness is the perfect spiritual science for meeting the spiritual needs of elderly persons—and of everyone else. And as our Society matures, we're sure its ability to meet the material needs of older people will mature along with it.
For information about those Hare Krsna centers best equipped to accommodate older persons—and to get in touch with older persons who are practicing Krsna consciousness—you can write to our Secretary at 3764 Watseka Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90034.
Any other readers with thoughts about this subject? We'd be interested in hearing from you.
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In one of your recent issues—in the "Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out" section—your leader says that contraception "is the most sinful activity." Frankly, this shocked me. I can understand your condemnation of abortion—I share your sentiments 100%. But why is contraception wrong? It seems like the only humanitarian way to avoid unwanted children. Please explain.
Palo Alto, California
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Our reply: The main reason contraception is sinful is that it encourages unrestrained sexual indulgence. The Vedas tell us that human life is meant for restraining sensual impulses—such as the sex drive—and using our vital energy for self-realization. Of course, sex does have its place in spiritual life: within marriage, only for having Krsna conscious children. But free sex is the worst enemy of spiritual culture. It saps the energy we need for practicing spiritual disciplines, deludes us into thinking physical pleasure is the goal of life, and absorbs our consciousness totally in the false idea that our body is our self. So the one truly sinless and humanitarian way to avoid unwanted children is to abstain from sex.
Some parents of Krsna devotees say their son or daughter can no longer think.
"People Are Talking"
Two Jewish mothers respond in opposite ways when their sons join the Hare Krsna movement.
When Steven Eisenberg left the Hare Krsna movement in 1979, it wasn't by plan—at least not a plan of his own.
He had joined the movement in 1975 at the age of 22, and when he phoned his parents to tell them about it, their reaction, his mother says, was "hysteria."
"We cried a lot. And we tried to find out about the Krsnas."
Where did they go to learn more?
A Jewish rabbi sent them to a meeting about "cults" to hear someone who had been "deprogrammed."
At this and other meetings, they were told that their son had been "brainwashed" and, as his mother puts it, "he would not have the capability of thinking for himself."
"It was horrendous for us to comprehend it," she says.
So they hired "deprogrammers" and after a few days captive with them in a hotel room Mr. Eisenberg was miraculously free of "mind control" and "able to think again."
(An alternative explanation, more acceptable to impartial observers, is that "brainwashing" is a plea a family can use to explain why their son or daughter chooses a "deviant" way of life. And "deprogramming" is method, usually brutal, of putting pressure on a young person to get him to change his mind. After he gives in, speaking the party line lets him avoid responsibility for what he did and play the role his family now expects.)
On August 17, the rehabilitated Mr. Eisenberg and his mother appeared on a Philadelphia TV show. People Are Talking, to tell their story.
In the audience were Hare Krsna devotees and both supporters and opponents of the Hare Krsna movement.
Among the supporters was Mrs. Nannette Hoffman, artist, teacher, and mother of a Hare Krsna devotee.
When Mrs. Hoffman spoke her mind, a dramatic—and revealing—confrontation took place.
Mrs. Hoffman: I'm Nannette Hoffman, the mother of a Hare Krsna devotee. I also have a reformed Jewish background, like Mrs. Eisenberg. I mention this because my experiences have been in great contrast to the ones you've heard expressed this morning by Mrs. Eisenberg. My son is a devotee, although he lives outside the temple right now. He dresses as any student at the University of Chicago dresses. He's getting a Ph.D. He has a family. But he is a Hare Krsna devotee. When he goes to the temple he puts on the robes because he wishes to. He doesn't shave his head, because he doesn't choose to right now. It's not required for devotees to do that. It doesn't mean that he's covering up anything. On the contrary, he's very outspoken about who he is. He's very proud of it.
Moderator: And you've accepted it.
Mrs. Hoffman: I've more than accepted it—I've found that it's been an enrichment to me to learn more about what he's into. First of all, I feel that it's—
Moderator: Do you see him often?
Mrs. Hoffman: Yes. Very often.
Moderator: Can you see him any time you want to?
Mrs. Hoffman: He stays at my house with his whole family for days at a time.
Moderator: Do his eyes look glazed?
Mrs. Hoffman: Oh, on the contrary! He is a bright, with-it human being, and I'm very, very proud of him.
Moderator: I'm sure Steve Eisenberg is a bright kid, too.
Mrs. Hoffman: Of course. He's a bright human being, I'm sure, who really should not have been a Hare Krsna devotee, obviously.
Moderator: I think one of the biggest problems is that we in this country, if we allow freedom of religion to exist—and we do ... It is not the Krsnas that we object to. We basically say in this country, "Try it. You might like it." The problem comes, I think—and Mrs. Eisenberg and her son feel—that if you don't like it you can't get out. Is that right?
Mrs. Eisenberg: That's absolutely correct.
Mrs. Hoffman: Oh, that is absolutely incorrect. Anybody who wishes to can leave at any time. I have never had the feeling my son is staying because he must stay. Never. Absolutely never.
Mrs. Eisenberg: I feel very sorry for you. You don't have your son with his own power of thinking.
Mrs. Hoffman: Oh, my son has every bit of his own power of thinking. He's just gotten degrees from Harvard and the University of Chicago, and believe me if you can't think in these institutions you certainly can't survive there. [Applause.}
Mrs. Eisenberg: And when he graduates he will turn all of his earnings—his beautiful earning power—over to Krsna, and they will become the benefactors.
Mrs. Hoffman: He's earning right now, and he is not turning all of his earnings over to Krsna.
Mrs. Eisenberg: Oh, they don't permit that. They must have your earnings.
Mrs. Hoffman: That's not true. Positively not true. He's been earning money intermittently while he's been going to school. He's in India now on a research grant, and he is not turning the money over to Krsna. He's living on it.
Mrs. Eisenberg: And he goes around and does research for them. When Krsna sent my son to India, he bathed in the Ganges with corpses and dreadful things. [Titters from the audience.}
Mrs. Hoffman: Excuse me. The Hare Krsna movement did not send my son to India. He's there on a private research project—
Mrs. Eisenberg: Oh, I see. Which you're paying for.
Mrs. Hoffman: No. I'm not paying for it.
Moderator: What happens to your son's—
Mrs. Hoffman: I'd like to point out that the program this morning could be valuable if we realize where our positions are coming from. Exactly what is it that we want to accomplish? Do we want to obliterate the Hare Krsnas from the face of the earth?
Mrs. Eisenberg: Yes!
Mrs. Hoffman: Would you feel better?
Mrs. Eisenberg: Yes! [Her sympathizers in the audience applaud vigorously.] Absolutely. You would too if you had your son thinking on his own.
Mrs. Hoffman: I don't want you to tell me, Mrs. Eisenberg, what I would think, because that's absolutely not true.
Moderator [taking each mother by the arm]: See, I think this is valuable. I mean, I think the two of you talking about this is very valuable because a lot of positive and a lot of negative feelings come out. You represent the feelings of a lot of people—both of you. So I think this is valuable.
Mrs. Eisenberg: No, I think she's the exception, because most of the parents will not subject their child to being in slavery. They raise their child to be a free-thinking person.
Mrs. Hoffman: Excuse me, but I'd just like to say that I feel that's an insult to me—that you're saying that I am enjoying my son's being a slave. Mrs. Eisenberg; You probably do.
Mrs. Hoffman: If you ever knew my son, he is far from ever being the sort of person who would ever be a slave. He is very, very outspoken, very determined, very bright, very with it. And one of the things that I feel upset about is: I don't feel that we have to agree with everything that goes on in the Hare Krsna movement. I don't agree with everything. But the reason why I got up at five this morning to come here from Washington, D.C., is because I am terrified of what's happening to our country, which is supposed to be a country that is ...
Mrs. Hoffman: Yes. Permitting religious freedom. And not only that, but we have a lot to gain in terms of enrichment from differences. But what's happening is that as soon as anyone is different, we're frightened. We rush off to toss their minds around like a tennis ball. I mean, the thought of parents hiring, at the expense of, I've heard, fifteen thousand dollars some of these deprogrammers get—which is a great business—
Mrs. Eisenberg: It's worth every penny.
Moderator [to Mrs. Eisenberg]: What?
Mrs. Eisenberg: Worth every penny. [Applause.] I worked for two years to pay off the debt, and enjoyed every penny that I had to pay for this.
Mrs. Hoffman: Mrs. Eisenberg, I don't mean to be disrespectful, but I don't think you have any respect for your child if you feel that his mind can just be tossed back and forth this way. I don't feel that my son's mind could be. In fact, I know it couldn't.
[At this point the show broke for a commercial, bringing the dialogue to an end.]
Thinking it Over
by Nannette Hoffman
After interviews or debates, one invariably focuses on all that was not included. I wish I had responded more strongly, for example, to Mrs. Eisenberg's enthusiasm for the idea of ridding the earth of all Hare Krsna devotees. I find it difficult to understand how a person of Jewish background, especially, could favor such an outrageous position.
Of course, as a parent I too have fear of the unknown. When my son first told me he wanted to join a strange religious group that I knew nothing about, I felt torn apart. Why had my tradition, the Jewish tradition, not been sufficient for him?
Back in 1973 the words Hare Krsna had no meaning for me. Somehow my education had seemed to omit mention in any s detail of India or Hinduism, all the way a through to an M.A. in literature.
But the saving aspect of the situation was that I sincerely respect my son. I saw his determination, and, believing in his fine qualities as a human being, I assumed that anything that captured his interest so fully must have value. It followed that I had to do something about my own ignorance.
Instead of telling my son "I'm right, and you must listen to me," I decided to educate myself about the religious tradition of India. A lot of questions had to be answered. My son and I had many long talks, often lasting way into the night. He was eager to explain anything I wished to understand about the religion and the philosophy that excited him so much. I never hesitated to object or to question any ideas or to express my true feelings. These discussions brought us even closer.
Next I visited the Hare Krsna temple in Washington, D.C., then on Q St. NW. The chanting and singing initially made me feel strange and out of place. But the food served at the Sunday feast was always a treat. The devotees explained that all the food had been offered to God; therefore it would be of special benefit to all who ate it. Each Sunday it is prepared by devotees and given to all free of charge. I was impressed, not only by the sharing of food but by the beautiful thought behind it.
Since those early days I have come a long way. In the fall of 1980 I lived for eight weeks among the devotees at the temple in Bombay. The religious life they lead became part of my own experience. When they felt joy, I too became part of it. When there were problems, I listened and joined their sadness. My respect for them grew as I watched many who could be leading more comfortable lives in America work long hours for a cause in which they believe—the striving to become more spiritual, more devoted to God.
Back in America, I am shocked that a lovely young woman, Kim Perrine, has recently been kidnapped and tormented by outlaws hired by her parents, all for the "crime" of being a devotee. Ms. Perrine tells of the horrors of her imprisonment for an entire month. No young person in a free society should ever be subjected to such an ordeal!
As an American, I hope that during my lifetime the Krsna religion is permitted to take its place among other major religions here, that it is given the respect to which it is legally entitled, and which it unquestionably deserves.
"Deprogramming": A Personal Experience
by Krsna-devi dasi
This is a condensed form of a statement made by Kim Perrine at a press conference on August 3. The conference took place at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.
My name is Krsna-devi dasi. (My legal name is Kim Perrine.) I am 22 years old. I became a member of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness a year ago, and for a year prior to joining I studied the philosophy and practices of the Society. I found it to be based on the core of Hindu philosophy and culture, bhakti-yoga—the science of linking up with God through devotional service.
On June 23, 1982, I was in Baltimore, walking south on Charles Street near 30th Street, when a van pulled up to the curb in front of me. Two large, rough-looking men burst out of the doors and ran toward me. I turned to run north, but the car behind them pulled up on the curb, almost hitting me. I screamed. They grabbed me and pulled me back to the van, scraping my ankles and bruising my ribs. They threw me in the van, lay on top of me, and gagged me. From the back of the van my mother and stepfather came forward and said, "It's all right, Kim, you've been brainwashed by the Hare Krsnas, and these men are going to help you return to normal life."
After we crossed state lines the two thugs sat me up and then sat down on either side of me, practically on top of me. We drove straight to Ohio—about a ten-hour drive. They wouldn't even stop to let me go to the bathroom. They made me use a bucket in the van.
In Ohio I was locked in a room so small that the bed practically filled it, and all the windows were boarded up. The room was in a small run-down cabin in an old camp near Lake Milton. The front door was locked, and a security guard sat next to it at all times. They kept me in that cabin more than two weeks—in 90-degree weather with no ventilation.
During that time I couldn't wear my religious clothes or pray (they took everything from me the first night and burned it: clothes, neck beads, prayer beads, etc.). They made me change all my personal habits—how I ate, how I went to the bathroom, how I spoke, even how I sat and walked—in an effort to destroy the person I'd been before they'd kidnapped me. They constantly blasphemed my religious doctrines twelve to fourteen hours a day, reducing me to tears and depression. They even threatened to commit me to a mental institution. They deprived me of sleep and repeatedly threatened to keep me locked up. They verbally abused me, calling me things such as "slave," "selfish arrogant bitch," and "whore." They even tried sexual aggression to dehumanize me and destroy my religious beliefs and lifestyle.
I was forced to eat nonvegetarian foods, gamble, and drink wine, all of which are against my religious principles. One of my captors tried several times to seduce me. That was "an important part of the rehabilitation," he said.
They made me write letters, sign papers, and confess to things I had never done. When they forced me to read a book on brainwashing, I found that the methods I was reading about were the things they were doing to me!
The thugs said they wouldn't release me until they were satisfied I had completely severed my involvement with Krsna consciousness. They said they would keep me locked up until I made a "free" decision to leave Krsna. Although I refused to give up struggling for my rights and beliefs, I decided the only way out would be to play along with them until I could get away.
After about seventeen days they began to trust me (actually, another case came in and they needed the "deprogramming cabin" for her). So they moved me to another cabin, with chains on the windows, where I was either closely guarded or locked in. All together I spent one month in captivity before I was able to escape.
I have never been treated in such a demeaning way in my entire life. Except for others who are victims of these same criminals, I know of no one who has been treated like this. Even animals receive better treatment.
Since I returned to Baltimore, law enforcement officials have been incredibly slow to respond to my complaints. Indeed, they've advised me just to forget about the whole episode. A city police officer and even an FBI agent said if they had a child like me they would also kidnap and deprogram him. But they have no idea what a horrible experience it was, and still is. I still wake up crying from nightmares brought on by that hellish month. I'm filled with fear that what happened then may happen again. It will take a long time before the mental scars are healed.
My parents were exploited and misinformed by these men, who induced them to pay more than $15,000 for my kidnapping and abortive "deprogramming." I have asked my parents for their cooperation in bringing these criminals to justice, but they have refused. I don't want to prosecute my parents, but I have to in order to get to the deprogrammers.
I appeal to the parents of Hare Krsna devotees all over the world: Don't ruin a cherished relationship with your son or daughter by putting them through an experience like mine. And I also appeal to law agencies to act decisively to bring these criminals to justice.
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.
Cit—We learn from the Upanisads that the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, has a multitude of varied potencies at His command.
Basically, we can understand His potencies under three headings—material, spiritual, and marginal. Through His material potency, the Lord manifests the material world. Through the spiritual potency He manifests the spiritual world. And through the marginal potency He manifests you, me, and all other living beings, who are called marginal because we may live in either world, according to what we desire.
Of these three, the spiritual potency is also called the cit potency.
This spiritual potency has three further divisions—the Lord's potency of eternality, His potency of knowledge, and His potency of bliss. The word cit is used again as the name for the potency of knowledge.
In this context, we often hear the Absolute Truth described as sac-cid-ananda, meaning eternal (sat), full of knowledge (cit), and full of bliss (ananda). The Supreme Personality of Godhead is the supreme form of eternity, knowledge, and bliss. And since all living beings are part of Him, they are meant to share in these qualities. But to do so they must revive their natural relationship with the Lord, and this is the ultimate goal of all yoga.
Cosmic consciousness—This is a vague term that generally refers to supernatural or expanded awareness.
From the ancient Vedic literature we get a much more precise terminology and understanding of expanded consciousness. The Vedas teach that in expanded consciousness one realizes the Absolute Truth in three phases. First one realizes Brahman, or the impersonal, all-pervasive aspect of God. Thus one sees that He permeates the cosmos by His energy.
In the second stage of awareness, one comes to know the Paramatma, or the localized feature of God in one's own heart and the hearts of all creatures.
And in the final stage one knows Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Bhagavan realization includes the awareness of Brahman and Paramatma. So one who realizes Bhagavan, or Krsna, achieves the ultimate stage of awareness, the ultimate cosmic consciousness.
Cow—The Vedic culture esteems the cow because she provides milk, necessary to nourish human beings. Children, after being weaned from their mother's breast, are given cow's milk, and they grow up depending on mother cow for nourishment. Man can more than amply meet his nutritional needs by eating such harmless foods as fruits, nuts, grains, beans, vegetables, and milk. Therefore one who kills cows to eat their flesh commits an unwarranted act of violence. According to the law of karma, the cosmic law of cause and effect, many of the present problems of society come from abuse of the cow and other innocent animals.
The bull also is important to a Krsna conscious culture. In an agrarian society aloof from the "advancement" of technology, oxen labor to help produce grains. And the manure of the cow and bull fertilize the fields. So in an era of exorbitant oil prices, the cow provides a solid economic alternative to gas-guzzling farm machinery and oil-based fertilizers.
Because of the cow's good qualities, the followers of the Vedic culture protect her and regard her as a symbol of religion. When the cow and bull are properly protected, human society naturally flourishes—both materially and spiritually.
The idea that India could solve her food problems if only the Indian people would eat cow meat is an ignorant superstition. Fattening cows with grain to eat meat is wasteful—you get more on your plate by eating the grain directly. And now even the American government is saying that beefeating may be bad for your health.
The scorn for Indians who supposedly worship the "sacred cow" is a Western prejudice, typical of those who deride what they don't understand. Supposedly, Indians worship the cow because they think it might be one of their ancestors reincarnated. In fact, the scriptures of India teach respect for every form of life. The doctrine of reincarnation holds that every creature is a spiritual soul that lives in one material body after another. And all life is sacred, not just the life of the cow. Yet even Westerners who pay to kill their own human children in the womb mock the "primitive" Indians for honoring the cow.
The milk-giving cows sacred to the Indians are far more valuable than the sacred cows of Western prejudice.
Sin, Karma, and Survival in the Nuclear Age
Many people today are urgently calling for action to avert a global nuclear holocaust. Nuclear war, they say, threatens to end all life on earth, and the most urgent task before us is to save the human race and all other forms of life from extinction. God, for most survivalists, is at best only a secondary or peripheral figure, and precious little antinuclear talk reveals any genuine understanding of the Supreme Being's role in world affairs.
Ironically, some survivalists charge that religionists are unjustifiably bringing God into the picture. In The Fate of the Earth, Jonathan Schell says, "Extinction by nuclear arms would not be the day of judgement in which God destroys the world but raises the dead and then metes out perfect justice to everyone who has ever lived. ... To imagine that God is guiding our hand in this action would quite literally be the ultimate evasion of our responsibility as human beings—a responsibility that is ours because ... we possess a free will that was implanted in us by God."
On the one hand, it is true that we should not sit by complacently, knowing that the end of the world may be at hand but thinking we have no social responsibility in the matter. Yet, on the other hand, we should not rule out the possibility that a global nuclear holocaust may well be the collective karmic reaction God will impose upon the disobedient masses of a godless age.
The Vedic teachings point out that there is a correlation between sin and suffering. Every day, people throughout the world are violating the laws of God on a huge scale by performing or condoning such acts as abortion and animal slaughter. And for those implicated in such sins, punishment awaits, ordained by God through the laws of karma, the laws of action and reaction.
So God's role in preventing a nuclear holocaust is not peripheral—it is crucial. Humankind, having created such a disastrous situation, should study God's instructions in the revealed scriptures and try to understand how to rectify their mistakes.
In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says that just as the movements of the atmosphere are contained within the vastness of space, all living beings' activities are contained within the will of the Supreme. Even when people think they are acting independently—as the wielders of nuclear power must—they are in fact only puppets of the divine will. Of course, every human being has the freedom either to obey or disobey the will of the Supreme Controller. But in choosing to disobey, we sin, and the more we sin the more we suffer.
Although to many people the strategies of nuclear deterrence employed by the nuclear superpowers may seem a brilliant solution to the problem of how to maintain peace in the nuclear age, such a "solution" leaves us all at peril. At any moment a human or mechanical error could engulf the world in nuclear war.
Nor can disarmament conferences or antinuclear rallies save us. Through disobedience to the laws of God, we have summoned the imminent destruction of ourselves and our godless civilization, and the aggregate volume of sin continues to grow.
Thoughtful men should understand that we have to change the quality of our lives and become attuned to the desires of the Supreme Person. The desire of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is that people live in God consciousness, free from such forbidden activities as illicit sex and animal slaughter. At least those survivalists who acknowledge the existence of God should pursue logic to its right conclusion and understand that only God can save us from nuclear annihilation As people align their activities with the laws of God, their efforts to avert the threatening disaster will become successful.
The responsibility is ours. Let there be a movement to restore obedience to the laws of God and to glorify His activities. This alone can clear the atmosphere of the ominous cloud of accumulating karma that threatens to innundate the globe with rains of nuclear destruction. To imagine that our grossly sinful acts have nothing to do with the impending nuclear disaster would be to completely evade our human responsibility, both religious and social.
We should not, however, exaggerate the powers of man in his rebellion against God. Many survivalists fear that an all-out nuclear war would destroy not only humanity but all forms of life on earth. We have not created life, they argue, and therefore we have no right to destroy it. This is true: we have no right. Nor do we have the power.
The fact is that no living being can ever become extinct, since every living being is an eternal spiritual soul. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, "The living being is never born and never dies. He is not slain when the body is slain." When the eternal living entity leaves his mortal body at death, he transmigrates to another body according to his karma. Even if the entire earth were destroyed (and that also could not be done independently of God), there would still be innumerable planets within the material universe where the spirit souls would be reborn according to their karma.
That the soul is immortal does not diminish the evil of nuclear war, but it should lead us to graver considerations, since even if we were to rid the earth of all nuclear weapons we would nevertheless be stuck with the inescapable fact of our mortality. If we are real survivalists, we will face this inescapable fact: Physically, no one survives. No one wants to die, but everyone dies. Why not consider this problem? Why are there no protest rallies or political programs to overcome death? Let the survival movement be taken to its ultimate conclusion: survival is possible not by nuclear disarmament but only when people realize their eternal spiritual nature. Only then can we overcome death.
In time not only the earth but the whole material universe will be destroyed—not by the whims of political or military leaders, but by the supreme will. But the spiritual world will remain unscathed. In the Bhagavad-gita (8.20, 21) Lord Krsna says, "There is another nature, which is eternal and is transcendental to this manifested and unmanifested matter. It is supreme and is never annihilated. When all in this world is annihilated, that part remains as it is. That supreme abode is unmanifested and infallible, and it is the supreme destination. When one goes there, he never comes back. That is My supreme abode."
Only those who awaken their dormant spiritual consciousness will be fit to survive by escaping this world of death and karma and returning home to the eternal, spiritual world.—SDG