An explanation of a song
Narottama dasa Thakura, who has written this song, is a famous acarya [spiritual master], and his compositions are accepted as Vedic truth. In this song he represents himself as a common man, as one of us. He laments, appealing to Hari, Lord Krsna, hari hari biphale janama gonainu: "My dear Lord, I have uselessly spoiled my life, because I have not worshiped You."
People do not know that they are spoiling their life. They are thinking, "I've got a very nice apartment, a very nice car, a very nice wife, a very nice income, a very nice social position." All these material attractions make us forget the purpose of our life—to worship Krsna.
In one verse [5.5.8], the Srimad-Bhagavatam summarizes the material attractions: pumsah striya mithuni-bhavam etam tayor mitho hrdaya-granthim ahuh/ ato grha-ksetra-sutapta-vittair janasya moho 'yam aham mameti. The basic principle of material attraction is sex: pumsah striya mithuni-bhavam etam. A man hankers after a woman, and a woman hankers after a man. And when they actually engage in sex, they become very much attracted to each other: tayor mitho hrdaya-granthim ahuh. Hrdaya means "heart," and granthim means "hard knot.'' So when a man and a woman engage in sex, the hard knot in the heart is tied. "I cannot leave you," he says. "You are my life and soul." And she says, "I cannot leave you. You are my life and soul."
For a few days. Then divorce.
But the beginning is sex. The basic principle of material attraction is sex. We have organized sex life in many social conventions. Marriage is a social convention that gives sex a nice finishing touch, that's all. Sometimes it is said that marriage is legalized prostitution. But for keeping up social relations one has to accept some regulative principles, some restrictions on sense gratification. Therefore civilized human beings recognize that there is a difference between sex in marriage and sex outside of marriage, which is just like sex between animals.
In any case, when two people unite some way or other, their next demand is a nice apartment (grha) and some land (ksetra). Then children (suta). When you have an apartment and a wife, the next requirement is to have children, because without children no home life is pleasant. Putra-hinam grham sunyam: "Home life without children is just like a desert." Children are the real pleasure of home life. Finally there is the circle of relatives, or society (apta). And all these paraphernalia have to be maintained with money (vittaih). So money is required.
In this way one becomes entangled in the material world and covered by illusion. Why illusion? Why are such important things—wife, children, money—illusion? Because although at the present moment you may think everything is all right—you have a nice arrangement of home life, apartment, wife, children, society, and position—as soon as your body is finished everything is finished. You're forced to leave everything and move on to your next platform. And you do not know what your next platform will be. Your next body may be that of a human being or a cat or a dog or a demigod or anything. You do not know. But whatever it is, as soon as you leave your present body you will forget everything. There will be no remembrance of who you were, who your wife was, what your home was like, how big your bank balance was, and so on. Everything will be finished.
Everything will be finished in a flash, just like a bubble bursting in the ocean. The thrashing of the waves in the ocean generates millions and billions of bubbles, but the next moment they are all finished. Finished.
In this way material life is going on. The living entity travels through many species of life, many planets, until he comes to the human form of life. Human life is an opportunity to understand how we are transmigrating from one place 10 another, from one life to another, and simply wasting our time, not understanding what our constitutional position is and why we are suffering so much distress.
These things are to be understood in this human form of life. But instead of inquiring about our real position, we are simply engaged with mithuni-bhavam and grha-ksetra-sutapta-vittaih—sex, wife, home, property, children, society, money, and position. We are captivated with these things, and we are spoiling our life.
So Narottama dasa Thakura, representing us, is lamenting, "My dear Lord, I have spoiled my life." Why? Manusya-janama paiya radha-krsna na bhajiya: "This human form of life is meant for understanding Radha-Krsna (the Lord and His energy) and worshiping Radha-Krsna. But instead of making contact with Radha-Krsna, I am simply spoiling my life in sense gratification."
Then his lament goes on. Golokera prema-dhana hari-nama-sankirtana rati na janmilo kene tay: "Alas, why have I no attraction for chanting Hare Krsna?" The chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra is a transcendental vibration; it is not a material thing. It is imported from the transcendental abode of Krsna. From there the transcendental sound of Hare Krsna has come. This sound is like the sunshine coming-from the sun. Although you cannot go to the sun—it is far, far beyond your reach—you can understand that the sunshine is coming from the sun globe. There is no doubt about it. Similarly, the vibration of the Hare Krsna mantra is coming from Krsna's planet, Goloka (golokera prema-dhana). And this chanting produces love of Krsna. (Prema-dhana means "the treasure of love for Krsna.")
Narottama dasa Thakura laments, hari-nama-sankirtana rati na janmilo kene tay: "Alas, why do I have no attachment for the chanting of Hare Krsna?" Why should one be attached to this chanting? That is explained in the next line. Samsara-bisanale diba-nisi hiya jwale juraite: "Chanting Hare Krsna is the only remedy to relieve the heart from the burning poison of sense gratification." Hiya means "heart." Our heart is always burning. Why? Because it is in touch with the sense-gratificatory process. No sense-gratificatory process can give me satisfaction, even though I try this way and that way, this way and that way. People are trying sense gratification in so many ways, and now they have come to the last point: the naked dance and . . . what is that called—that short skirt?
Srila Prabhupada: Miniskirt, yes. [Laughs.] So, because in the material world the basic principle is sex, everyone is inviting, "Yes, come on, enjoy sex. Come on, enjoy sex." But no matter how you try to enjoy sex, you cannot be satisfied. That is certain, because sense gratification is not your real platform of enjoyment. You are a spirit soul, and unless you come to the spiritual platform you will never be satisfied by any sense gratification. You'll simply go on hankering after pleasure, but you will find no satisfaction.
Therefore, Narottama dasa Thakura says we are suffering in samsara-bisanale. Samsara indicates our material demands for eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. These are just like fiery poison. Then he says, "My heart is burning from this poison, but I have not searched out the means of relief: the chanting of Hare Krsna. I have no attachment for this chanting, and therefore I have spoiled my life." Then he says, vrajendra-nandana jei saci-suta hoilo sei. The chanting of Hare Krsna was introduced by Krsna Himself, Vrajendra-nandana, in the form of Lord Caitanya, Saci-suta. Krsna took the part of the son of Maharaja Nanda, the king of Vrndavana. Therefore Krsna is called Vrajendra-nandana. And Lord Caitanya took the role of the son of Mother Saci; so He is known as Saci-suta. The Supreme Personality of Godhead takes pleasure when He is addressed with His devotee's name, with His energy's name. (His devotees are also His energy.) Although He has no father—He is the father of everyone—He accepts some devotee as His father when He appears on earth. When a pure devotee wants Krsna as his son, Krsna accepts the devotee as His parent.
So Narottama dasa Thakura says that Vrajendra-nandana (Krsna) has now appeared as Saci-suta (Lord Caitanya), and Balarama (Krsna's brother) has become Nitai. And what is Their business? Dina-hina-jata chilo hari-name uddharilo: saving all kinds of wretched, sinful, conditioned souls by teaching them the chanting of Hare Krsna. In this age, Kali-yuga, you cannot find a pious man or a saintly person. Everyone is addicted to sinful activities. But simply by distributing the chanting of Hare Krsna, Lord Caitanya saved everyone, however fallen he might have been. "Come on!" He said. "Chant Hare Krsna and be delivered."
What is the evidence that Lord Caitanya saved even the most fallen? Tara saksi jagai madhai. Jagai and Madhai were two brothers who engaged in all kinds of sinful affairs. They were born into a very high brahmana family, but by bad association they became sinful. Similarly, in the present age, although the people of the West are descending from Aryan families, very nice families, by association they have become fallen. Their environment is full of illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating, and gambling. So Jagai and Madhai are specimens of the modern population, and Lord Caitanya delivered them simply by inducing them to chant the Hare Krsna mantra.
So chanting Hare Krsna will actually deliver all fallen souls, without doubt. This is not bogus propaganda. Whatever his past life, anyone who takes to this chanting process will become saintly. He will become a pure, Krsna conscious person.
Chanting Hare Krsna will purify our heart, our burning heart. Then we will understand, "I am an eternal servant of the Supreme Lord, Krsna." Ordinarily we can come to this understanding only after many, many births, as Krsna confirms in the Bhagavad-gita [7.19]. Bahunam janmanam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate: "After many, many births, when a person becomes a man of wisdom, he surrenders unto Me." Why? Vasudevah sarvam iti: because he knows that Vasudeva, Krsna, is everything. But that kind of great soul is very rare (sa mahatma sudurlabhah).
But Lord Caitanya has made it easy to become such a great soul. How? Simply by chanting Hare Krsna. Therefore at the end of his song Narottama dasa Thakura says, ha ha prabhu nanda-suta vrsabhanu-suta-juta koruna karoho ei-baro: "My dear Lord Krsna, You are now present before me with Your internal potency, Your pleasure potency, Radharani. Please be merciful to me. Don't neglect me because I am so sinful. My past life is so black, but don't neglect me. Please accept me. Don't kick me away. I surrender unto You."
So, all of us should follow in the footsteps of Narottama dasa Thakura. The purificatory process is chanting Hare Krsna. And as soon as our heart is purified, we will become completely convinced that Krsna is the Supreme Lord and that we are His eternal servants. We have forgotten this. We are serving, but instead of serving the Lord we are serving our senses. We have never become the master. We are not the masters of our senses; we are the servants of our senses. That is our position.
So why not become the servant of the Supreme Lord instead of remaining the servant of your senses? Actually, you can become the master of your senses only when you become the servant of Krsna. Otherwise, it is not possible. Either godasa or gosvami: that is your choice. A person who is the servant of his senses is called godasa, and a person who is the master of his senses is called gosvami. He controls his senses. When his tongue wants to eat something not offered to Krsna, he thinks, "O tongue, you cannot taste this thing. It is not krsna-prasadam [food offered to Krsna]." In this way one becomes a gosvami, a master of his senses.
When a person does not allow his senses to do anything for sense gratification but acts only for the service of Krsna, that is called devotional service. Hrsikena hrsikesa-sevanam bhaktir ucyate: devotional service means to engage your senses in satisfying the master of the senses. The supreme master of the senses is Krsna. Now we are trying to use our senses for our personal service. This is called maya, illusion. But when we engage the same senses in the service of Krsna, that is perfection. We don't stop the activities of the senses, but we purify the senses by engaging them in the service of the Lord. This is Krsna consciousness.
Thank you very much. Any questions?
Devotee: Srila Prabhupada, how is it that Lord Jesus is called the son of God? If Krsna is usually the son, how is Jesus—
Srila Prabhupada: Not usually. Krsna is the Supreme Father, but He becomes His devotee's son out of His love. Being a son is not Krsna's constitutional position; being the father is His constitutional position (aham bija-pradah pita). But sometimes He voluntarily becomes a son to taste His devotee's fatherly or motherly love for Him.
When a pure devotee prays, "My dear Lord, I want You for my son," Krsna accepts his prayer. Vasudeva and Devaki become Krsna's parents in this way. In a previous life they underwent severe austerities. They were married, but they had no sex. They were determined that unless they could get the Lord as their son they would not have a child. So they performed severe austerities for many thousands of years. Then the Lord appeared to them and asked, "What do you want?"
"Sir, we want a son like You."
"How can you get a son like Me? I'll become your son!"
So Krsna, the Lord, is the father of everyone, but He voluntarily becomes the son of His devotee. Otherwise, His position is always the Supreme Father.
Devotee: Srila Prabhupada, I read in the Srimad-Bhagavatam that when one becomes a liberated soul he attains perfect freedom and that sometimes his freedom is on the same level as Krsna's or even more than Krsna's. Can you explain this?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Take Vasudeva, for example. He's more than Krsna. Or Mother Yasoda. You have seen the picture of Yasoda binding Krsna?
Devotee: Krsna looks like a little baby?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is feared by everyone, but He becomes fearful of Mother Yasoda: "My dear mother, kindly do not bind Me. I shall obey your orders."
So Mother Yasoda has become more than God, more than Krsna. The mayavadi [impersonalistic] philosophers want to become one with the Lord, but our philosophy is to become more than Krsna. Why one with Krsna? More than Krsna. And, actually, Krsna does make His devotee more than Himself. Another example is Arjuna. Krsna took the part of his chariot driver. Krsna was actually the hero of the Battle of Kuruksetra, but He gave that position to His devotee: "Arjuna, you become the hero. I shall be your charioteer."
Krsna is just like a father who wants to see his son become more than himself. If the father has an M.A., he wants to see his son get a Ph.D. Then the father is satisfied. He'll not tolerate an outsider's becoming more than him, but he's glad if his son becomes more than him. Similarly, Krsna, the Supreme Lord, wants to see His devotee become more than Himself. That is His pleasure.
The spiritual leader of the Hare Krsna movement in Great Britain
One of the highlights of last summer's Festival of India in Britain was an ecumenical dialogue at Westminster Abbey, where British clergymen gathered to learn more about the Hare Krsna movement and its role in English society. Leading members of the movement and The Very Reverend Dr. Edward Carpenter, Dean of the Abbey, sponsored the dialogue. Representing the Hare Krsna movement was Srila Bhagavan Goswami, one of the movement's present spiritual masters. Here is his address.
I would like to thank all of you for coming today and giving us an opportunity to explain a little of the history and purpose of the Krsna consciousness movement.
The founder and spiritual master of our movement, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, traveled from India to America in 1965. So, many people may not be aware that Krsna consciousness is actually a very great historical movement. Five hundred years ago, according to our scriptures, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, appeared in His form as Caitanya Mahaprabhu in Mayapur, India, in the area that is now called West Bengal. In the Bhagavad-gita [4.7], which many of you may be familiar with, the Lord describes His appearance within this world:
yada yada hi dharmasya
"From time to time, when the principles of religion diminish, I descend in order to rectify the situation."
We understand from the Vedic scriptures that the incarnations of the Lord in various forms are as numerous as the waves in the ocean. But the specific purpose of the Lord's appearance as Caitanya Mahaprabhu was to teach us how a devotee of the Lord can develop his love of God by chanting God's holy name.
All great scriptures of the world glorify the name of God. God's name is not an ordinary sound vibration; it is actually as glorious as God Himself. In Sanskrit we say, nama cintamanih krsnas caitanya-rasa-vigrahah: "The name of God is made of spiritual energy. So in all aspects it is absolute and thus nondifferent from the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself."
Caitanya Mahaprabhu came five hundred years ago to teach how the whole world could be united in the church of the chanting of the holy name of God. Since that time, the disciplic succession, or chain of spiritual masters, has produced an immense philosophy explaining the perfection that a living entity can achieve by chanting the holy name, purifying his existence, and deepening his faith in God.
Faith in God is actually the driving force that sustains human society. When faith in God is not at the center of society, there can be no real progress. Externally there may seem to be a type of progress, but this progress is like the progress of a decaying body.
Without becoming God conscious, there is no way for one to develop good qualities. Actually, human beings are meant to become saintly persons. Like no other species, human beings can receive a very important type of education: education concerning the soul and its relationship to God and the world. Yet we see that although there are many universities for cultivating knowledge and providing education, and although in one sense we are very advanced in technology and science, there is a great lack in our educational institutions. Where is that education and that technology and that science that can make someone into a saintly person? Our universities may graduate so many Ph.D.'s, but if these scholars simply remain attached to material life, if they do not know what happens at the time of death, if they do not know that they have an eternal relationship with God, then their education is like the decorations on a dead body. We may decorate a dead body with flowers and precious cloth and jewels, but these won't bring the body back to life. Similarly, unless human society turns out persons of good quality who are fixed in morality, nonviolence, austerity, cleanliness, truthfulness, and mercy—and who know the science of God—then human society has a great shortcoming.
So there is a great need in the world to increase people's faith in God, and that faith must be based on a scientific understanding of Him. Understanding God is not a matter of sentiment. As Krsna says in -the Bhagavad-gita [10.32], adhyatma-vidya vidyanam: "Of all sciences, I am the spiritual science of the Self." This is the science the Krsna consciousness movement is propagating all over the world.
From the external point of view our devotees seem to be simply singing on the street and playing some drums and cymbals. But there is a great philosophy behind the Krsna consciousness movement. Up till the most recent years the Sanskrit Vedic teachings have been hidden from the West by the language barrier. So our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, considered his translations of these teachings his most important contribution. The scientific presentation of who God is and who we are, what our spiritual nature is, what our relationship with one another on the eternal platform is, how to act in that relationship, and how, ultimately, to experience the perfection of human feeling and emotion in the form of pure, unadulterated love of God—all of this is explained in Srila Prabhupada's books, which are a great gift to the whole of mankind. Since Srila Prabhupada began our movement in 1965, we have distributed close to one hundred million pieces of literature throughout the world. We now have translations in thirty languages and centers in more than one hundred cities on six continents.
Of course, you have no doubt heard many things about "the Hare Krsnas"—that we are brainwashing people or this and that. But the actual fact is that many brains need to be washed [Laughter], because in general people—not all people, of course—but in general there is a weakening of faith and people have turned to materialistic alternatives in life. However, according to Krsna's teachings in the Bhagavad-gita [2.13], dehino 'smin yatha dehe: we are not the external body; rather, we are the consciousness within the body. Therefore a society that is simply concerned with satisfying the needs and desires of the body is somewhat like a man who simply polishes a birdcage but never feeds the bird inside.
Because we are by nature spiritual living entities, we require spiritual knowledge, spiritual association, spiritual food, spiritual friendship. These are what will satisfy our heart. No matter what you give a hungry man, he will remain unsatisfied until you give him some food. Similarly, we may create a United Nations or SALT talks or this or that, but we will really begin to solve world problems only when we start to give people genuine spiritual knowledge and spiritual experience, which are not only our birthright but our necessity from time immemorial.
Although there are many threats of impending war (Britain has also recently gotten disturbed in the South Atlantic), there is another type of war that we are waging all the time. This is the war against the material energy, which comes when we forget our relationship with God. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita [15.7], manah sasthanindriyani prakrti-sthani karsati:
"The living entity in the material world is constantly struggling with his mind and senses." The result is that he must take birth again and again in this material world in various species of life. Actually, we are all waging a war against time, because whether we are atheistic, theistic, black, white, old, or young, ultimately we all have to face the time of death, which the Vedic teachings describe as the most momentous time of life.
As Krsna explains in the Bhagavad-gita [8.6], sada tad-bhava-bhavitah: "What your mind is attached to at the time of death determines your next state of existence." So although the West has made tremendous progress in technology (our spiritual master has said India is at least one hundred years behind), the West has lagged far behind India in spiritual knowledge. People in the West are largely ignorant of the Vedic science of how one can leave his material body at the time of death and go back home, back to Godhead, never to take another birth in this material world. This Vedic science has been known and practiced to perfection by Indian saints, sadhus, and yogis for countless millennia.
The Krsna consciousness movement is presenting the essential truths of the Vedic science of self-realization. We had our humble beginnings, just as the early Christians had their humble beginnings. Srila Prabhupada established our movement sixteen years ago in a tiny storefront in New York City's Lower East Side, which at the time was the seat of the youth revolution. Somehow Krsna led him to a small storefront that had previously been called "Matchless Gifts," and from this storefront our whole movement has expanded. Of course, Srila Prabhupada didn't see the storefront as a tiny shack in New York; he saw it as the base for spreading a movement he once said will go down in history as having saved the world in its darkest hour.
We live in an age of instant communication. The news can come out from any part of the world very quickly. Technology in this aspect is practically mystical. But the end result, in the form of the newspaper or magazine story or the television broadcast, does not generally bring too much ecstasy to anyone. No one is becoming joyful or getting new hope.
So despite our great advances in technology, something is essentially wrong in society, and this is that God is not in the center. When we speak of God, or Krsna, we must understand that God cannot be two or three or four or five. God must be one. Unfortunately, not only between different religions but within the same religion—whether Hinduism or Judaism or Christianity or Mohammedanism—there is so much conflict. So there is a great need for scientific understanding of God. Once we begin to understand God—His supreme personality. His form, His teachings—there will certainly be great hope for the world.
In my travels throughout Europe and the world I have found that many people want genuine spiritual experience very much. But they don't know where to look for it, or what it really is. In the Bhagavad-gita [14.26] Krsna says, sa gunan sama-tityaitan brahma-bhuyaya kalpate: the spiritual platform is above the material modes of nature. The modes of nature are ignorance, passion, and goodness, and generally people in this age are very much influenced by the modes of ignorance and passion. Genuine spiritual experience takes us above the lower modes of nature, which are characterized by lust and greed. Objectively and frankly speaking, we can see that lust and greed are increasing all over the world, whatever political party is in power. What does this mean? It means that there is an urgent need for a spiritual change within society.
Now, when it comes to bringing about a spiritual change in society, who could possibly know how to do this better than the source of all spirit, God? No one can know this better than He. So in all scriptures—in our Bhagavad-gita and in other literatures also—God or His representatives say the same thing: "Serve God and try to love God."
But this requires that people undergo a change of heart. In the present age, only the congregational chanting of the holy name of God can change people's hearts. You cannot tell someone to be a saintly person by enacting a political formula or raising another flag in the United Nations or passing this doctrine or that doctrine. The Bhagavad-gita explains that you must have the genuine spiritual experience of associating directly with God, and this comes by chanting His name, which is nondifferent from Him.
So we in the Krsna consciousness movement are dedicating our life and soul to encouraging everyone to chant the name of God, to understand God scientifically through the Vedic literature (especially Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam), and to make life perfect by becoming a devotee of the Lord. It is not that someone becomes a saintly person because of chemical evolution. There is no "saint-producing gene." No. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita [15.7],
"All living entities are eternally part and parcel of Me. But because they have come in contact with the material energy, their original divine nature has become covered."
Now, the process of Krsna consciousness removes this covering. It is a process of purification. So when we say "Krsna consciousness," we mean our original consciousness. Rainwater or distilled water has its original nature, but when it comes in contact with soil it takes on the qualities of soil and becomes mud. To get pure water again, you have to use some kind of purificatory process—filtering or distillation.
Similarly, in our pure, original state we are all loving servants of the Lord, and the whole point of education and work is to bring out that nature. Otherwise, our scriptures declare, everything that one does is simply a useless waste of time (srama eva hi kevalam). One may be a big this or a big that, but if one does not come to the point of loving God and ultimately thinking of God at the time of death, all one's work, education, civilization, society, are all for nothing.
God has created everything, including the perfect way to organize human society. The goal of society must be to teach from the very beginning of life that this material world is not our real home, that our business here is not to work hard and try to claim everything as our own, and that we are nonmaterial beings whose real home is with God in the spiritual world. Our Krsna consciousness movement is propagating this philosophy. Of course, I cannot explain all the teachings within a half hour, but we hope that you will feel free to ask anything you like. You don't have to feel any inhibition. If you would like to know some of our brainwashing techniques . . . [Laughter]
But seriously, there is an urgent need for the propagation of spiritual science. The leaders of each country have a solemn responsibility to their citizens not only to engage them in material advancement but also to make sure every citizen is making genuine spiritual advancement.
Would someone like to ask a question at this point?
Lady: At the beginning of your talk you said that it was essential for the individual to call out the name of God—"Hare Krsna"—and as you were saying that, I thought of the beginning of the Gospel of Saint John: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." I have been told that the word God can be translated as "creative love," and I wonder if you would agree that perhaps we do all believe the same thing, perhaps we are all reaching the same goal in our individual services, and that it's just a matter of using different words to describe the same thing. Would you agree?
Srila Bhagavan Maharaja: In one sense, in a romantic sense, it's very nice that we are hopeful we are all on the same path. But in the practical sense we must evaluate in another way.
The destination we are aiming for is nothing short of our association, our direct association, with God. Now, in our practical experience we know by certain signs whether or not we are approaching a given destination. It's not that everyone can go in ten different directions and arrive at London. Similarly, although the goal of human existence is love of God, some of us are getting closer to that goal and others are moving farther away from it.
One of our scriptures, the Srimad-Bhagavatam [1.2.8], says,
dharmah svanusthitah pumsam
In Sanskrit, the word dharma is more or less equivalent to our word religion. So, roughly, this verse says, "If the religion you are following doesn't bring you attachment to God, and by that attachment allow you to give up the attachment to the illusory material world, then that path is not proper. It is a useless waste of time."
So we must understand, as Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, that all of us are born into ignorance and that we require spiritual training. And when we follow some path, we have to see how we are passing out of the state of ignorance and passion and reviving our divine nature, just as we might pass out of a heavy fever and revive our health.
Today the whole world is in a very heavy feverish condition: "This is mine," "This is mine," "This is mine." The world may go to war now on account of two little stones in the ocean, and all because of this feverish condition of "This is mine," "This is mine." So we need some good medicine to bring the fever down. It doesn't matter which bottle it comes in. If it can bring down that fever and bring one at least to the point of peacefulness, it is good medicine. Up until now, nothing has provided that medicine. Although the United Nations is based on the principle of peace, we may humbly submit that increasing the number of flags does not necessarily mean increasing peace. Actually, peace will come when there is one nation under God.
So although the goal of all religions may be the same—serving and loving God—we should not sentimentally say that everyone is making equal progress toward that goal. Religion must give us that experience which actually diminishes our attachment to this material world, makes us attached to our loving relationship with God, and thereby allows us to see the equality of all living beings. This is the business of religion—to train us to see that equality. That is its job.
And when our religion allows us to see that not just all human beings but all living beings are equal, being part and parcel of God, we can know that we are heading toward the proper destination. If you are going to India, you should expect that the weather will get warmer. If you start seeing icebergs going by, you should understand you're going in the wrong direction.
So we must be humble enough to change our spiritual direction if we are not going toward the goal of love of God. This humility is the first qualification for acquiring genuine spiritual knowledge. Therefore, while in principle all religions are the same in essence, I leave it up to you to see by practical experience how you are approaching the destination of love of God and equal vision toward all living beings.
Tikkis or Tiny Taters?
Store-bought food is small potatoes when you can cook at home for Krsna with devotion.
by Visakha-devi dasi
Suppose you've decided to serve potatoes with your supper tonight. What kind of potatoes will you serve? There are dozens of choices. You could, for instance, go to the neighborhood supermarket and for 79 cents get a one-pound package of Bird's-Eye Tiny Taters. Then all you'd have to do is spread the frozen, pre-fried potatoes on a baking sheet and pop them into the oven for 15 to 20 minutes (stirring once after 7 minutes). Or, for 19 cents, you could get a pound of fresh potatoes instead and make tikkis (pronounced "teekees"), pan-fried potato patties.
Just as you see cooks making pizzas in pizza-parlor windows, if you ever go to India or even to a quaint Indian restaurant in a Western city you'll probably see a cook making tikkis. He'll make them just as cooks before him have made them for centuries. First he'll spice and shape a two-inch round potato patty. Then he'll place the patty near the center of a large, flat, heavy iron griddle and let it cook ever-so-slowly while he shapes more. When the frying tikki forms a paper-thin brown crust on the bottom, he'll turn it over so a crust forms on the other side. Finally, he'll scoot it to the edge of the griddle, where it will stay thoroughly soft and warm—a delightful addition to any supper.
It's not difficult to make tikkis at home, and if you think of Lord Krsna while you're making them and offer them to Him when they're done, He will surely appreciate your sincere endeavor, and so will your family. (The Bird's-Eye people, of course, may not.)
No doubt shaping and frying tikkis is going to take you more time than baking what's inside some frozen package. But at least you won't have to eat the disodium dihydrogen pyrophosphate that the frozen food manufacturers add to preserve the color of their product. You also won't be eating their hydrogenated soybean or palm oil and a few other curious ingredients.
What you will get from eating fresh cooked potatoes is quite amazing. After years of scorn and neglect, the common potato today is winning plaudits for being an excellent source of nutrition. Six ounces will give you almost half the vitamin C you need each day, and potato protein contains all the amino acids essential to nutrition. Potatoes provide thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, iron, calcium, and phosphorous—all for only one hundred calories (and no fat). The potato is also one of the cheapest vegetables available; it's a staple for the needy and, in the case of tikkis, a delicacy for the gourmet.
Tikkis are just one of the options you have in preparing fresh potatoes. For tikkis, first you mash the potatoes, but you can also cook potatoes whole or shred, cube, slice, or dice them. Tikkis are pan-fried, but you can also bake, steam, saute, or stew potatoes. You can stuff them. You can combine them with one—or more—of fifty other vegetables. You can spice them so they're hot, pungent, salty, bitter, sour, or slightly sweet. You can cook them with grains like rice or semolina. You can garnish them with milk products like butter, cheese, yogurt, or sour cream. And you can serve them along with any number of other foods. That's just a few of the alternatives you have for just one vegetable! Devotees are not exaggerating when they say that an expert cook can prepare hundreds of thousands of dishes without using meat, fish, or eggs. And, like tikkis, each dish is both tasty and nutritious.
If you're a Westerner, chances are you've eaten meat all your life and you think it's necessary—if not for its protein (amply available from nonmeat sources), then at least for its taste. But if you try cooking and eating a varied vegetarian diet—dishes prepared with fresh vegetables, whole grains, milk products, and fruits—I'm sure you'll find what we've found: nonvegetarian food isn't even missed.
What's more, if you prepare pure vegetarian dishes and offer them to Krsna, you'll find that your spiritual life begins to blossom, and along with it your peaceful life. As Srila Prabhupada explains in his purports to the Srimad-Bhagavatam: "The human being is meant for self-realization, and for that purpose he is not to eat anything which is not first offered to the Lord. The Lord accepts from His devotee all kinds of food preparations made of vegetables, fruits, milk products, and grains, and after the Lord accepts the food the devotee can partake of the prasadam, by which all suffering in the struggle for existence will be gradually mitigated. The spiritual regulative principles do not allow a man to slaughter weaker animals on one side and teach peaceful coexistence on the other. If man does not allow the animals peaceful coexistence, how can he expect peaceful coexistence in human society?"
Of course, vegetarian food that's been processed, cooked, frozen, packaged, stored, and shipped is still vegetarian. But whether it will be satisfying to Lord Krsna and to you is another question. So between tikkis and Tiny Taters, we resoundingly vote for tikkis. Try them and see what you think.
(Recipes by Yamuna-devi dasi)
Basic Pan-Fried Mashed-Potato Patties
One of the best things about tikkis is that you can cook them without giving them much attention (just one quick turn every fifteen or twenty minutes will do), so they make for truly effortless light meals. But they're also ideal for feast-sized dinners, since they give you lots of time to make other dishes.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
1 pound new potatoes suitable for boiling
1. Boil the potatoes until they're tender and then peel them. While the potatoes are still warm, force them through a potato ricer or a coarse sieve to produce a smooth mass of mashed potatoes. Cool the potatoes to room temperature and add 2 tablespoons of ghee or butter and then the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Then knead the potatoes until all the ingredients are evenly distributed.
2. Add the remaining ingredients (except for the ghee or oil) and knead until they're mixed well. Divide the mashed potatoes into 8 balls of equal size and then shape each ball into a flat, round patty about 2¼ inches across and ½ inch thick.
3. Brush a well-seasoned heavy iron griddle or a nonstick finished 10- to 12-inch frying pan with just enough ghee or vegetable oil to prevent the potato patties from sticking. Turn the flame down as low as possible and cook the tikkis about twenty minutes on each side, or until a thick, crisp, golden-brown crust forms. Hasty cooking or too much ghee or oil will cause the delicate patties to break apart. Offer the tikkis to Krsna when they're still hot, with a sprinkle of savory tamarind chutney or a dob of zesty tomato sauce, seasoned yogurt, or fresh green coriander-mint chutney.
Prepare as directed above, but omit the turmeric powder. Instead, add 1 to 2 teaspoons horseradish root that has been pureed or grated fine.
Prepare as directed above, but omit the turmeric powder and the minced ginger and chilies. Instead, add ¼ teaspoon powdered red chilies and 3 tablespoons toasted cashews, almonds, or peanuts that have been chopped fine.
Prepare tikkis as directed above, but omit the turmeric powder. Instead, add 1 teaspoon dry-roasted cumin seeds that have been coarsely crushed and 1 small firm ripe tomato, diced fine.
Mashed-Potato Patties Stuffed with Peas
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Ingredients for the potato pastry:
1 pound new potatoes suitable for boiling
Ingredients for the pea stuffing:
½ tablespoon ghee or vegetable oil
1. Prepare the potato pastry as directed in
Step 1 of the previous recipe.
2. Steam the peas until they're tender. Then place them in a small bowl and mash them into a coarse wet pulp. Over a medium-high flame, heat ½ tablespoon of ghee or vegetable oil in a small saucepan until a drop of water flicked into the pan sputters instantly. Add the ginger root, chilies, and asafetida to the ghee or oil and fry until brown.
3. Stir in the peas, salt, garam masala, cumin seeds, and sugar, and cook until dry. Remove the pan from the heat and add the lemon juice. Now cool the spicy mashed peas and shape into 10 equal portions.
4. Divide the potato pastry into 10 patties of equal size. Place a portion of mashed peas into the center of each patty and then fold the edges together so that the peas are in the center of the potato casing. Now gently flatten the patties so they're each 2 ½ inches across.
5. Put a teaspoon of ghee or oil into a 12-inch heavy cast-iron pancake griddle or frying pan and heat over a low flame for 2 minutes. Carefully place the patties on the griddle or pan and very slowly brown them on both sides until they form a golden-brown crust (about 15 minutes per side). Offer the tikkis to Krsna hot, with a twist of lemon or lime or a dab of fresh chutney.
Savory Mashed-Yam Patties
Preparation time: 30 minutes
1 pound yams
1. Peel the yams and steam until tender. Mash them and mix in the remaining ingredients, except for the ghee or oil. Knead the yams until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed in and the yams are smooth. Now shape into eight round patties of equal size.
2. Put the ghee or oil in a heavy 12-inch cast-iron griddle or frying pan and heat over a low flame for about 2 ½ minutes. Brown the patties on each side until they form a nut-brown, slightly crisp crust. Serve the tikkis to Krsna while they're still warm, with a dab of fresh moist chutney or wedges of lemon or lime.
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In the October issue of BTG, the "Yoga Dictionary" made a careless definition of Christ. It was stated, "The Bible speaks of Jesus Christ as the son of God, and the Vedic scriptures speak of Lord Krsna as God Himself. So Jesus Christ is the son of Lord Krsna."
If this were actually so, why did Jesus not tell us that His beloved Father's name is Krishna? It would have been so simple. And if the father and the son are one in purpose, why did Jesus not instruct His disciples to chant the maha-mantra as the way of salvation? It would have been less painful than dying on the cross as a sacrifice for mankind's sins.
The answer to this confusion is very simple. There is obviously a misunderstanding of the actual meaning of "God's son." One would naturally assume that the distinction of "father" and "son" implied two different persons. This is true in the material sense of distinctions. But when one speaks of God as Father and His son, it is not material but spiritual.
Jesus answered this confusion of His disciples when Philip asked, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." Jesus answered, "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father." (John 14:8-9) Through the bodily form of Jesus Christ, God has revealed His true nature perfectly. "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form." (Col. 2:9)
If, as you claim, Krishna is God the Father, then He and Jesus would be non-different in their nature and characteristics. In fact, were we to place Christ and Krishna side by side, there would appear some obvious differences in essential character. The most glaring difference is that while Krishna claims to remain transcendentally aloof from the dilemma of human suffering and requires a relentless enforcement of karmic law, Jesus Christ willingly laid aside his equality with God, humbled himself to identify with human suffering, and gave himself freely to die for man's sin so that all men might receive God's mercy, grace, and forgiveness. (Phil. 2:5-11)
I have met many Krishna devotees who claim to be Christians. They all have this same confusion. The true answer of the Bible is the same for them as I have presented to you. Please be aware that you are leading many astray with your careless definition of Christ and Christianity. It is simply a vain attempt to maintain your so-called claim of nonsectarianism. I have studied Krsna conscious philosophy and the vaishnava bhakti writings. There are some rather striking similarities to Christianity, but Christ and Krishna is not one of them. Vaishnavism is Hindu, so you embrace Hinduism—at least admit that much. Then if you can stop deceiving yourself, you may be inclined to stop deceiving others.
Your servant in Christ,
Timothy A. James
Mt. Sterling, Kentucky
Our reply: Even if you disagree with our thoughts about Christ, they were not careless or hasty—we said precisely what we intended.
As mentioned in Bhagavad-gita, God sends His messenger or appears on earth Himself at various times to reestablish the principles of religion. Whenever this occurs, His purpose is the same: to turn us away from materialistic life and back to love for God.
Yet because the Lord or His envoy appears in various times, places, and circumstances, He presents this same message in various ways.
Preaching to the followers of the Jewish tradition, Jesus used the language of that tradition. He chose not to introduce the unfamiliar word Krsna. And still people rejected his message and crucified him.
Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu prayed to Krsna, "My dear Lord, You have hundreds and thousands of names, and in these names You have invested all Your transcendental potencies. You have kindly made it easy to approach You by chanting Your holy names, but I am so unfortunate that I have no attraction for them."
Lord Caitanya did not insist that one chant the maha-mantra. Instead, He said that one may glorify the Supreme Lord by any of His limitless holy names. Praising the holy names and glories of the Lord and His pure devotees is the essence of all religion. (Isn't that why you're writing to us about Jesus Christ? If you don't agree, what is your letter all about? And what were Jesus and his disciples doing if not praising God and His glories?)
Yes, Jesus died on a cross as a sacrifice for mankind's sin. Yet mankind—even that portion of it that claims to be Christian—can't seem to give up sinning. (We'll speak more about this later.)
You point out that Jesus and God are one. This oneness is something Krsna's devotees do understand. But they also see how Jesus and God are different.
The use of the words father and son obviously points to the existence of two different persons. When Jesus prays to God, do you think he's praying to himself? And the statement that Jesus is sitting "at the right hand of God" would be nonsense without the existence of two distinct individuals—Jesus and God. This is not a material distinction. It is an eternal, spiritual distinction. Even in God's spiritual kingdom, there are two distinct individuals—the father and the son, the Lord and his servant.
It's too bad you quoted only part of the discourse between Jesus and Philip. Here's how Jesus continues: "How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me." (John 14:9-11)
There is an intimate relationship between the Supreme Lord and His pure devotee. As stated in our Srimad-Bhagavatam, the Supreme Lord is always in the heart of the devotee, so the devotee is always in the heart of the Lord. Speaking of those who devote themselves to Him in pure loving service, Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita (9.29), "They are in Me, and I am in them."
The sweetness of this eternal relationship between the Lord and His pure devotee depends on their eternal individuality. Without individuality, how can there be service, how can there be sacrifice, and how can there be love?
When a pure devotee speaks, he does so not on his own behalf but on behalf of the Lord. And because the devotee completely surrenders to the Lord, the Lord works through Him. Therefore seeing the pure devotee is as good as seeing the Lord Himself.
Lord Caitanya summarized this understanding by saying that the devotee and the Lord are "simultaneously one and different."
The Vedic literature therefore recommends that one serve the Lord by serving a pure devotee of the Lord, accepting him as one's spiritual master. One should respect such a spiritual master as one would respect the Lord Himself, because such a dear servant of the Lord is a direct representative of the Lord. In a verse that's strikingly parallel with the text that you quote from Colossians, the Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.17.27) records that the Supreme Lord says, "One should know the spiritual master to be one with Me and never disrespect him in any way. One should not envy him, thinking him an ordinary man, for he fully embodies all the qualities of God."
Yet although the spiritual master is one with God, one should never think that he is God. Both oneness and difference are essential to the eternal relationship between the Lord and His pure devotee.
And the difference is precisely the one you cite: Although the Lord remains aloof from the world and strictly enforces His laws, the Lord's servant descends to the material world to bestow the Lord's mercy on sinful fallen souls.
This distinction between the Lord and His pure devotee is what gives the devotee's role its special sweetness. The devotee, in effect, is more merciful than even God Himself.
But to truly accept God's mercy, we have to do what He says. As Jesus says in that same conversation with Philip, "If you love me, you will obey what I command."
It's not enough to glibly say, "Jesus died for my sins." Jesus is eternal—he never dies. But he enacts the transcendental miracle of death and resurrection so that faithless people will have enough faith in him to listen to him and do what he says.
But some of us refuse to do what he says. We don't want to serve God—we want to gratify our senses. And we're perfectly willing to employ the name of Jesus as a tool, an excuse, for our sense gratification: since Jesus died for our sins, we think we're saved and we're free to indulge in whatever gross behavior we want.
For example, Jesus condemned fornication, yet many of his so-called followers think themselves free to sleep around to their heart's content. Jesus said, "Thou shalt not kill." Yet killing and feasting on the bodies of dead creatures has become a Christian institution.
This type of religion is, in one word, hypocrisy.
The message of Christ—and the message of Krsna—is that one should give up all such materialistic parodies of religion and surrender to the Supreme Lord, the Personality of Godhead. One who does so embraces the essence of Hinduism, the essence of Christianity, and in fact the essence of all true religion.
A Krsna conscious woman explains.
To explore the issue of women's liberation and the role of women in the Krsna consciousness movement, we interviewed Sitarani-devi dasi, a four-year member of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. A native of Great Britain, she joined the movement in Australia and received initiation in 1979 from Srila Bhavananda Goswami Visnupada. She now lives in Philadelphia with her husband, Subhananda dasa, a senior editor of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
Back to Godhead: At a time when feminism and women's liberation have become significant forces in society, questions often come up about the role of women in religions that are closely tied in to traditionally male-dominated cultures. Speaking from the viewpoint of Krsna consciousness and the culture it embodies—the Vedic, or Vaisnava, tradition—how would you respond to that concern?
Sitarani dasi: First let's try to understand the core concern of the women's liberation movement. If you look beyond the standard criticism that male-dominated society has failed to grant women social, political, or economic equality, you discover a concern that's more basic, a deeper concern. I would say that, in the most basic sense, women are protesting that they're not respected, more specifically that they are viewed as mere instruments of male gratification, as sex objects.
Our society is pervaded by a perception of women as sources of satisfaction—especially sexual satisfaction—for men. Images of attractive women are used in every conceivable manner to entice people to think, act, or consume in various ways. The gross or implied idea that women are meant for pleasing the senses of men pervades our culture. This is demeaning and insulting to any thoughtful woman. What is demeaning is that the woman herself—whether as a psychological being or a spiritual being—is not taken seriously. She becomes, in a sense, a nonperson. All that's important is her body, as an exploitable commodity. And women are so conditioned by this that they accept it and are even flattered by it.
The root of the whole problem is what devotees call the "bodily" or material conception of life. Everyone thinks they're their body, that the temporary, external, material body is the self. That's an illusion. It's the biggest illusion in materialistic society, and it underlies everything. When you identify with your body, you constantly try to control and extract pleasure out of various material objects, including the bodies of others. In that bodily illusion, a man seeks to enjoy a woman sexually, and he calls it "love."
BTG: But isn't the woman also in the bodily conception?
Sitarani dasi: Of course. And because she is, she's caught in an ambivalent position: she doesn't like the idea of being viewed as a sense object, but she does want to attract men, because that's her conditioned feminine nature. Clothing and cosmetics are multibillion-dollar industries for an obvious reason. Women can't claim to be merely passive victims of men's lust. They themselves encourage that lust. So they have to accept the consequences.
The solution to the problem of male domination and exploitation is not for women to become dominators and exploiters—to compete for social, economic, and political supremacy. So-called supremacy can't satisfy women any more than it satisfies men. It used to be that only high-powered male executives had ulcers and "burn-out." Now high-powered female executives can also have ulcers and burnout. Is that such a sublime goal for women? For anybody?
BTG: Then what is the solution?
Sitarani dasi: Women themselves have to transcend the bodily conception of life and become liberated from the mundane social-sexual rat race. And of course men have to raise their consciousness. Spiritual life begins with the realization that one is not the material body but an eternal spiritual soul. The designations "male" and "female" refer only to the material body. So ultimately they have nothing to do with the soul, or self. The mere conception that "I am a man" or "I am a woman" is maya, illusion. And sexual attraction is a product of that illusion—an illusion that obviously affects both men and women.
BTG: Why is sexual attraction an illusion?
Sitarani dasi: There's a story that illustrates this point. Once a man fell in love with a beautiful woman and tried to seduce her. But because the woman was saintly, she refused his advances. When the man persisted, she told him that if he came to her home in one week's time she would satisfy his desires. The man eagerly agreed.
So during that week the saintly woman took strong laxatives and emetics and continually passed stool and vomited everything she ate. And she stored all the loose stool and vomit in pots.
Within a week she turned thin, pale, and very ugly. So at the week's end, when the lusty man arrived at her door, he didn't recognize her. He asked the ugly woman standing at the door for the beautiful girl he desired, and she told him it was her, but he refused to believe her. Finally she convinced him that she was indeed the woman he had come to see but that for his pleasure she had separated "the ingredients of her beauty" and stored them in special pots. If he wished, she said, he could enjoy those "juices of beauty."
He eagerly begged to see and enjoy those wonderful juices, so the woman led him into the room where the pots of stool and vomit were stored. When she opened the pots, naturally he was disgusted and bewildered. Then the saintly woman explained that this stool and vomit were the only missing ingredients of her beauty, and she enlightened him about the illusory nature of material, physical beauty. As a result, he came to his senses.
So, a man in higher consciousness doesn't view a woman sexually. In Canakya Pandita's famous definition of a jnani, a wise man, he says that a wise man views all women but his wife as his "mother." The idea is that just as a man normally doesn't think of his own mother as an object of sexual enjoyment, he should view all women as his mother so that he won't look on them as instruments of selfish enjoyment. In our movement, it's standard practice for men to address women as "mataji," or "mother," to cultivate this nonexploitative idea. It's my personal experience that in Krsna consciousness a woman has real dignity, because she's respected as a spiritual being.
The point is that men and women will never be able to deal with each other in a nonexploitative way until they give up viewing each other as objects of sense gratification. And they can do that only when they raise their consciousness to the spiritual level. And that's only possible in a spiritually oriented society or community like that of Krsna consciousness.
BTG: Granting that ultimately we're not male or female, aren't we subject to the capacities and limitations of these bodies while we're in them? In that sense, don't you make some distinction, on the physical level, between men and women?
Sitarani dasi: Well, men and women are different, obviously. They're physically different—women can bear children and men can't. And psychologically women are different too.
BTG: Feminists argue that much of this psychological difference is simply a matter of social or cultural conditioning.
Sitarani dasi: Maybe so. But women still have their own conditioned nature, their own material psychology and the limitations that go with it. And one can either deny these limitations or one can overcome them through spiritual advancement. A woman who is genuinely after liberation tries to transcend her conditioned nature by cultivating spiritual knowledge. The solution to feminine limitation is not to cultivate masculinity, as some feminists do, but to cultivate spirituality.
BTG: What about the Vedic conception of the "protection of women," the idea that a woman should be protected in childhood by her father, in her middle years by her husband, and in old age by her grown sons? Some women would naturally react defensively against the idea that women need to be under the "protection" of a man.
Sitarani dasi: This protection of women by men is not a matter of egoistic domination or exploitation, but of genuine care by loving relatives. Because women are physically weaker and more emotionally vulnerable than men, they benefit by being under the loving protection of men, such as their husbands. Whatever some feminists might claim, it's natural for a woman to want a man to protect her and provide for her. That's not to say that no woman is capable of self-reliance. But generally speaking a woman seeks the association and protection of a man.
We all know that women are emotionally more vulnerable than men. Because women want love and protection, they are easily taken advantage of by men who pose as "lovers" and eventually leave them. Women are left emotionally scarred by these kinds of experiences. When a young woman is cheated by a man she has placed her faith in and given her heart to, it's difficult for her to place her faith again in another man. A woman who has been unchaste in her youth often finds it difficult to become chaste later on, when she's married. So premarital sex as a way of life is definitely destructive of marital fidelity. We believe that for a healthy marriage and family life, a woman must be chaste and reserved, both before and during marriage.
This idea that a woman needs protection doesn't imply disrespect for women. Quite the contrary. It implies respect and concern. Devotees respect women as valuable members of society not only for their own distinctive value as human beings but also for their contribution as wives and mothers. We don't consider those functions to be insignificant. The quality of human society will to a large degree reflect the quality of the families people are raised in. Wifehood and motherhood are crucial social functions, so we don't feel there's anything demeaning about being a good wife or a good mother. Modern so-called women's liberation means that an unprotected woman is sexually used by a man, becomes pregnant, and then has to beg money from the government so she can support her unwanted child or murder her child in the womb. Is that liberation?
BTG: Some women aren't going to like the idea of male protection, because they've had bad experiences putting their trust in men.
Sitarani dasi: Yes, the whole idea becomes ludicrous if men aren't materially and spiritually mature and capable of offering real protection. Most women have little experience in their own lives of being truly protected by men, so they'll find this idea difficult to understand. And how can they have had that experience? To be able to offer sincere protection to a woman, a man must be beyond the material exploitative mentality. How many men in modern society are like that? Practically none. As far as lean see, that kind of pure mentality is possible only in a movement like Krsna consciousness.
The system of male protection can't be artificially imposed. For a woman to submit herself to male protection—for her to want to do that—the man must be of very high character. The Vedic social system calls for a high level of morality, not only, of course, on the part of women but also on the part of men. If the husband is of low character, the Vedic scriptures say the chaste wife is not dutybound to associate with him or serve him.
Both men and women in Krsna consciousness must understand that the principle of male protection of women is not a matter of slavish submission but a lofty social principle and practice in the service of spiritual advancement. Protection must be based upon knowledge and compassion; otherwise the system won't work.
BTG: Are women devotees in Krsna consciousness respected by the male devotees?
Sitarani dasi: Of course they are. A Vaisnava, a devotee, respects every living being as a part or a servant of Krsna, regardless of the external bodily form. A devotee respects even an ant, what to speak of a human being, and what to speak of a human being who has dedicated her life to the highest ideals of Krsna consciousness. So respect is naturally there. A few male devotees, it can be said, are a bit chauvinistic. But with maturity and spiritual advancement devotees mellow out.
BTG: What about the role of women in the marriage relationship? Although ISKCON women are not compelled to marry, most ultimately do. How do they integrate their marriage with their spiritual lives?
Sitarani dasi: In a Krsna conscious marriage, the husband and wife help each other advance in spiritual life. Our scriptures state that the wife shares in the spiritual assets of her husband. If the husband is spiritually advanced and the wife is chaste and faithful to her husband, she attains the same spiritual perfection as her husband. In Sanskrit, the husband is called pati-guru, "husband-guru," because he acts as spiritual guide for the wife. The wife is referred to as dharma-patni, the man's partner in religious life.
And it should also be pointed out that although the man is generally considered the spiritual guide to the wife, there are many instances, both in tradition and in our movement, where the wife is spiritually the stronger of the pair. I know of numerous cases in ISKCON where wives have either brought their husbands to the movement or helped their husbands overcome spiritual weakness within the movement, or where a husband fell away from Krsna consciousness and the wife stayed on in the movement and thrived.
The wife can be a real source of strength for the husband. The Srimad-Bhagavatam gives the analogy that just as the commander of a fort protects the fort from being conquered by invading plunderers, the wife protects the husband's body from being conquered by material desires, which plunder the body. A spiritually strong wife can help the husband conquer sex desire.
In Krsna conscious marriage, both husband and wife work together to progress in spiritual life. Marriage is a religious sacrament because it's dedicated to the service of the Lord. Krsna is the center of the relationship. In the ultimate issue, both parties' attachment to Krsna is stronger than their attachment to each other. This kind of spiritual focus helps keep the relationship pure.
BTG: Can women attain the highest spiritual perfection in Krsna consciousness? Is there any sense at all in which women by their nature are restricted from the highest attainments?
Sitarani dasi: Absolutely not. Anyone who strictly follows the instructions of the spiritual master and the scripture is qualified to attain perfection in Krsna consciousness. There is no restriction of any kind.
BTG: Are there examples in the Krsna conscious tradition of great women devotees, saints, or spiritual leaders?
Sitarani dasi; There are many. In scriptures such as the Mahabharata and the Srimad-Bhagavatam, we find historical accounts of great saintly women like Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas; Gandhari, the ascetic wife of Dhrtarastra; Kunti, Krsna's aunt; and Devahuti, the mother of the incarnation Kapiladeva. We've published a book, Teachings of Queen Kunti, which presents Srila Prabhupada's commentary on Kunti-devi's famous prayers to Lord Krsna. These are just a few examples.
BTG: What about women as ascetics, renunciants? Women often seem to be cast in the role of exalted wives and mothers at best, and sometimes as cumbersome material entanglements for men.
Sitarani dasi: The scriptures do say that women are generally less inclined toward asceticism than men, but that's not to say that they shouldn't strive for an ascetic ideal. The scriptures do describe women as a cause of material entanglement for men, and that's true. But scripture balances that out by describing that men are also a material entanglement for women. As women are maya [illusion] for men, men are also maya for women, because they can provide only temporary protection. An enlightened woman realizes that ultimately she can depend only on the Supreme Lord, Krsna.
The idea is that as long as a man and woman are together for sense gratification, the woman is dangerous for the man, and the man is also dangerous for the woman. But if their attachment is transferred to Krsna, as it is in a proper spiritual marriage, both man and woman become Krsna conscious and attain complete liberation.
So, renunciation is not simply a man's activity. In Vedic culture, when the husband leaves home in old age as a sannyasi, a renunciant, the wife also becomes a renunciant. She doesn't leave home as the husband does. She lives under the care of her grown sons and sets a high example of austerity and saintliness for the entire family.
BTG: Does all this apply in the Krsna consciousness movement?
Sitarani dasi: In ISKCON, women have a greater opportunity for renunciation than was generally available in traditional Vedic society. In that society, a young woman would go straight from her father's home to the home of her husband and would not become a renunciant until her old age, when her husband became a sannyasi. But when Srila Prabhupada arrived in America for the first time, he saw that in the West the great majority of young women spend a considerable time on their own before they marry. Many such "independent women" were attracted to his newly founded movement, so he created a brahmacarini-asrama, a situation in which unmarried women could live as celibates within the protection of the temple community, living the same ascetic, devotional life as the male disciples.
BTG: Although men and women seem to have an equal spiritual status in the temples, we see that the men and women eat, serve, and worship separately. Why?
Sitarani dasi: For the obvious reason that in a community largely consisting of male and female celibates, chastity has to be preserved by a healthy separation of the sexes. In the traditional Indian system, only men lived within the core asrama community. To make Krsna consciousness equally available to women, Srila Prabhupada welcomed women into the communities, but he made provisions for separate living arrangements and strict protocols so that the temple would stay pure and peaceful, undisturbed by illicit dealings between the sexes. The basis for the separation is not mutual dislike but mutual respect.
BTG: But doesn't this separation lead to stereotyped roles for both men and women in the movement?
Sitarani dasi: As far as devotional service is concerned, you'll find women engaged in all types of activities. There are no exclusively female vocations in the movement. Both men and women cook, clean, and raise children. And rather than remaining homebound, our women are strongly encouraged to be assertive as missionaries and preachers. There are many women active in the arts: painting, sculpture, music, and classical dance. Devotee women are active in publicity work, and they also lecture in high schools and colleges. Women are active and productive in all these areas.
BTG: Do you have any final comments?
Sitarani dasi: Yes. We sincerely invite all women who are interested in realizing their full potential as women, as human beings, and as spiritual entities to join us in Krsna consciousness. This is the real women's liberation.
On Lust and Love, Myth and Reality
The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and David Lawrence, a British schoolteacher, took place in August 1973 during an early-morning walk in London.
David Lawrence: In the Srimad-Bhagavatam there seems to be a great deal of . . . demonology, if you like. Now, I confess this raises problems for me. Are the references to, say, the demoness Putana taking Krsna on her lap and Krsna sucking her breast and killing her—is this to be taken literally or allegorically?
Srila Prabhupada: Literally.
Mr. Lawrence: Literally, as a physical fact?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Of course, in the Bhagavatam there are some figurative stories, similar to Aesop's Fables. These are for instruction.
Mr. Lawrence: What about the reference to Krsna and the unmarried gopis [cowherd girls]? You say in your books that "He treated them like dolls, yet they were well pleased with Him." What is the main point of that passage?
Srila Prabhupada: When the Bhagavatam says Krsna treated the gopis like dolls, that means the gopis danced just according to His desire.
Mr. Lawrence: Is that to be taken literally, or is there some symbolic meaning?
Srila Prabhupada: No, literally. The gopis are so devoted to Krsna that whatever Krsna desires, they do.
Mr. Lawrence: I must confess, these activities of Krsna's are quite beyond my comprehension.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, they are very difficult for ordinary people to understand. That is why this portion of Krsnas life is depicted in the Tenth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Nine cantos are devoted to understanding Krsna's supreme position. Then Krsna's intimate lila [pastimes] are described in the Tenth Canto. But if one tries to read the life and pastimes of Krsna without understanding that He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one will be misled. Therefore the Bhagavatam begins by explaining the Supreme Lord as the original source of the creation (janmady asya yatah). The Bhagavatam doesn't abruptly introduce Krsna's pastimes with the gopis.
In the spiritual world Krsna has unlimited varieties of activities. The activities in this material world are only a perverted reflection of those in the spiritual world.
But out of foolishness we take Krsna's activities to be like ours. Krsna loved the gopis. The gopis were young girls, and Krsna was a young boy, and He loved them. But here the so-called love between a young boy and girl is lust. Therefore it is condemned. But in the love between Krsna and the gopis there is not a trace of lust
Here lust is going on in the name of love. And because it is not love, it doesn't continue very long—it breaks. But in the history of the spiritual world, you don't find that the love between the gopis and Krsna broke at any time. That is the difference between lust and love.
Mr. Lawrence: In the West, one in three marriages is destined to break up. That's what they say now—one in three.
Srila Prabhupada: Just see! And they are trying to drag their lusty ideas into Krsna's pastimes. Generally, rascals claim that Krsna's pastimes with the gopis support their own lusty activities: "Krsna acts lustily, so I can also." This is a gross misunderstanding. People who think like this do not take into account that here in the material world so-called love is lust—and it breaks. But in the love between Krsna and the gopis, there is no breaking—only increase. So how can they compare their lusty affairs to Krsna's loving affairs with the gopis?
Mr. Lawrence: I must admit that I've read far enough in your books to see that they really can't.
Srila Prabhupada: When you give an analogy, there must be many points of similarity. So where are the points of similarity between Krsna's pastimes and the lusty affairs of this material world? These rascals are so dullheaded that they don't even have a logical argument. They are comparing the lusty affairs of this material world to the affairs of Krsna and the gopis. But where is the similarity?
Mr. Lawrence; There's never any mention at all of lust or animal desire, is there?
Srila Prabhupada: No. For example the Bhagavatam describes everything about Krsna's dancing with the gopis—their kissing, their embracing, and so on. But there is no mention of contraceptives. And the gopis never became pregnant. So how can we compare Krsna's loving affairs with the gopis to the lusty affairs of this material world?
Mr. Lawrence: It can't be done. Another question: I was reading a book (one not put out by the Krsna consciousness movement) about Lord Caitanya, and it said that the manifestations of Krsna consciousness He showed during kirtana [chanting] and so on were manifestations of madness. Can you comment on that?
Srila Prabhupada: When a man is himself mad, he'll find others mad. [Laughter.]
Mr. Lawrence: He'll see a reflection of himself.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. This misunderstanding is condemned in Bhagavad-gita, where Krsna says avajananti mam mudha: "Because when I come to this world I come in a human form, rascals take Me for an ordinary human being." (The word mudha means "rascals" or "asses.") So, Lord Caitanya is Krsna Himself, but the fools and rascals take him for an ordinary human being.
Mr. Lawrence; They're just talking from within their own experience. They can't imagine what happens when God presents Himself as a man.
Srila Prabhupada: When they hear that Krsna lifted Govardhana Hill, they think, "This is mythology." But if Krsna is actually God, is it very difficult for Him to lift a mountain? He's floating so many heavy planets in the sky. So if Krsna can make so many planets weightless, is it very difficult for Him to make Govardhana Hill weightless?
These things are very easy for devotees to understand, but nondevotees cannot understand them. Therefore in the Bhagavad-gita Krsna clearly says, bhaktya mam abhijanati: "Only through devotional service can one understand Me." So if you want to understand Krsna and Krsna's pastimes in truth, you must take to the process of devotional service.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
You'll Find a New FATE in Detroit
Detroit—Last September a new dining facility, a new multimedia museum, and a complete renovation of the grounds delighted visitors to the Bhaktivedanta Cultural Center, this city's branch of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).
The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new museum was a semiprivate event, but even without publicity about four hundred people toured the museum and grounds during this preview opening. The grand opening is scheduled for next spring.
Attending the ceremony were two of ISKCON's present spiritual masters, Srila Bhavananda Goswami and Srila Ramesvara Swami, who have been overseeing the completion of the project.
The Bhaktivedanta Cultural Center is dedicated to His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, ISKCON's founder and spiritual guide, who passed away in 1977. Srila Prabhupada, whose sculpted figure appears writing at his desk in his room at the Center, translated and wrote more than seventy books dealing with the Vaisnava (devotional) philosophy and spiritual culture of India. The Bhaktivedanta Cultural Center is dedicated to continuing his work by bringing the ideas and methods of bhakti-yoga into the lives of the Center's many visitors.
Guests to the Center's preview opening enjoyed the formal gardens, with their marigolds, salvia, and roses; the water fountains, with colored lights glittering into the evening; and, at the head of the outdoor waterfall, the brilliant golden figure of Lord Matsya, the first of ten original outdoor sculptures representing Lord Krsna's major incarnations (the other nine will be installed next spring).
Visitors to the Center begin with a tour of the First American Transcendental Experience (FATE), an elaborate multimedia diorama museum. The tour, which lasts forty minutes, includes six beautifully detailed dioramas illustrating pastimes of Krsna taken from the Srimad-Bhagavatam, a major scripture of India and one of the works translated by Srila Prabhupada. The museum is a magical experience: trees blossom, monkeys peer slyly through the bushes, and an indoor waterfall splashes as Krsna and His friends and calves appear, poised within arm's reach of the seated guests.
Adi-deva dasa (Haydn Larson), Project Director of FATE, led his team of talented artists, sculptors, and musicians through five years of work to complete the dioramas, the special effects, and the soundtrack of narration and music.
After the diorama museum, guests go on a guided tour of the building itself (the famous Moorish mansion built in the late 1920's by Lawrence P. Fisher, of Body-by-Fisher fame). The opulent mansion of marble, onyx, ceramic tile, intricately carved wood, and gold leaf was in disrepair until ISKCON purchased it with combined donations from two devotees, Ambarisa dasa (Alfred Brush Ford, great-grandson of the man who built the Model T) and Lekha-sravanti-devi dasi (Elizabeth Reuther Dickmeyer, daughter of Walter Reuther, the labor leader). Devotees went to work to restore and enhance the mansion's original beauty, and now guests share in the appreciation of its splendor.
On the second floor, guests first enter the new gallery of original Krsna conscious paintings and sculpture, and then visit the music room, where talented Indian and American artists regularly perform. The art, music, dance, and drama of India's spiritual culture promise to be one of the Center's major attractions.
Across the hall from the music room, there's seating for forty people in the elegant new dining facility. And not only is the food delicious, it's spiritual, having been cooked with loving devotion and offered to Their Lordships Sri Sri Radha-Kunjavihari, the presiding Deities of the Bhaktivedanta Cultural Center. Guests and members are welcome to see the Deities and attend the traditional arati ceremonies, chanting, and classes in bhakti-yoga, all held daily in the beautiful marble temple on the first floor.
According to Prabhanu dasa (Paul Alien), the Center's manager, the indoor programs will continue for the public all winter long, while work continues on the gift shop, the grounds, and the outdoor sculptures for the grand opening next spring. The museum is open from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and from noon to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Groups of ten or more may arrange tours Monday through Thursday. For more information about the schedule of tours and the new dining facility's catering service, call (313) 331-6740.
"Servant of the Servant" Published
Houston—The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust has published the first volume of a memoir entitled Servant of the Servant, by Srila Tamal Krishna Goswami, one of the first American disciples of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. The book tells of the early days in San Francisco and Los Angeles when the Hare Krsna movement was just beginning.
Srila Tamal Krishna Goswami was (and still is) one of Srila Prabhupada's most trusted leaders in the Hare Krsna movement, and the book revolves around letters he received from Srila Prabhupada during 1968 and 1969.
The book is also rich with reminiscences of the author's experiences in Srila Prabhupada's personal company and his insight into Srila Prabhupada's instructions.
As Tamal Krishna Goswami gives the text of each letter, he tells of the events that led up to it and followed it, and he explains what the letters meant to his own spiritual life and the lives of other devotees.
Printed in a limited edition, the book (227-pages, paperback) is available from ISKCON Houston, 1111 Rosalie Street, Houston, Texas 77004. The price is $5.00 plus 50 cents (in America) for postage.
New Delhi—"It is a rare pleasure to peruse this luxurious edition of our great devotional classic, Srimad-Bhagavatam. I wish all success to the movement for the spread of Krishna Consciousness, and in particular to this magnificent project for bringing the treasures of the Bhagavatam to the Western reader." (K. Swaminathan, Chief Editor of The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi.)
Hare Krsna Festival Draws Thousands To New Vrindaban
New Vrindaban, West Virginia—Thousands of tourists and Hare Krsna devotees poured into this Hare Krsna community for a celebration on Labor Day weekend.
The celebration took place to honor His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder and original spiritual master of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, for whom the New Vrindaban devotees labored seven years to build Prabhupada's Palace of Gold, an ornate memorial now the fifth largest tourist attraction in West Virginia.
On the final day of the three-day festival, the devotees celebrated the birthday anniversary of Srila Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada, the spiritual leader of the New Vrindaban Community and the one who led the devotees in building the Palace.
Devotees Pull Krsna's Chariots Worldwide
His name is Jagannatha—Lord of the Universe—and this summer and fall millions of people throughout the world pulled the ropes of His chariot, sang His praises, and feasted on His merciful bounty of prasadam (spiritual food), as Hare Krsna devotees brought the annual Ratha-yatra Chariot Festival to major cities around the world.
Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, New York . . . thousands lined the streets as the red, yellow, blue, green, golden-topped, flowered, beribboned carts sailed by on huge wheels bearing mirrors that flashed in the sun. London, Birmingham, Bristol, Brighton, Manchester, Glasgow, Rome . . . all over the world thousands came to praise or scoff, but stayed to eat, as literally millions of plates of free vegetarian food, made spiritual by having been offered to the Lord, were served by blissful devotees.
Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta, Madras . . . devotees on the carts threw flowers, garlands, balloons, packets of prasadam into the outstretched hands of the shouting crowds. And at the end of the parade, the fairgrounds: the brilliantly colored tents, the book displays, the dramatic and musical performances, the exhibits of paintings and sculpture—all living, vibrant proof that God isn't dead, spiritual life isn't dry, meditation doesn't have to put you to sleep—look! Up there on the cart! That's the Lord of the universe, Jagannatha. Why is He smiling?
Boston, Mexico City, Honolulu . . . in the Aloha Day parade, His cart won a prize. The theme of the parade was "Isles of Smiles," and the Lord of the universe smiled down from the fifteen-foot-high altar, smiled out from the wheels, decorated with His form made of thousands of colored chrysanthemums, and, as the sign on the cart said, smiled "over the Isles."
The Lord is pleased by the sincere loving service of His devotees. And what amazing quantities of service had to be done to put these festivals on! An incredible fifteen tons of prasadam was served to hundreds of thousands in Calcutta! Twenty thousand took prasadam in Los Angeles. In London, devotees gave out one and a half tons of feast preparations. Tons and tons of vegetables bought, washed, cut, cooked, offered to the Lord, served out . . . hours and hours of planning and carpentry work to build the carts . . . more hours spent stringing miles and miles of marigolds, carnations, roses to decorate them . . . hundreds of canopies, flags, and tents painstakingly sewn . . . hours of practice to perfect the stage performances . . . and have you ever tried to paint an elephant?
Vancouver, New Orleans, Toronto . . . there are the big moments, like when the mayor of the capital of the United States officially proclaims the day of the festival Ratha-yatra Day . . . like when the Chief Justice of Bengal, Sri Shambu Chandra Ghose, begins the Calcutta festival by sweeping the road in front of the chariot with a golden broom, just as a famous king did five hundred years ago . . . like when the year's major soccer match is cancelled because 2 ½ million Calcutta residents would rather see the chariot roll by.
But the small moments are just as important . . . like when festival-goers in D.C., driven under the tents by a twenty-minute rain shower, watched ecstatic, irrepressible devotees dancing and chanting out in the rain . . . like the look on one small boy's face when he finally realized that what he eats when he goes out for a hamburger is a relative of that soft-eyed, gentle ox he's been stroking so lovingly . . . like the satisfied smile on a grandmother's face as she finds out that "Indian food isn't necessarily hot, now, is it?"
And, of course, the news media came. How often do they get to see an elephant, after all? Much less a painted one? Weekend radio and TV. . . ABC, CBS . . . the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and Herald Examiner . . . neighborhood newspapers too, they pick up the story . . . the Hare Krsnas are at it again.
On the front page of the Indian Express, one of the largest daily newspapers in India, a reporter covering the Madras festival comments on the change of parade routes requested by Madrasi police officials, who felt that a procession through the Muslim areas would be inadvisable. "An ISKCON member, however," continues the reporter, "said that they had no qualms about going through either Muslim or Christian localities." No, not a qualm. Why? Because, after all, "Jagannatha" means "Lord of the Universe."
Employment In the Service of Krsna
When a philosophy works, its followers have work also.
by Drutakarma dasa
The ad in Miami-area newspapers promised eighteen construction jobs at a site in Coral Gables. Two hundred hopeful unemployed workers rushed that morning to the address, which turned out to be a vacant lot.
"It was a cruel hoax," said Leo Harris, an out-of-work welder. "It was something I've never seen before—the despair in some people's faces. They were so desperate they would have done almost anything to find work. . . . They were really disappointed. A few broke down and cried."
The psychological effect of joblessness is devastating. Continental Airlines pilot Jim Hodgson, 33, says "All my life I wanted to be a fat, dumb, and happy pilot flying the friendly skies. Then one day in November 1980 they told me, 'Give us your bags, give us your wings, give us your stuff. We'll call you when we need you.' I was stripped naked and thrown out into the world without a job. Telling people you're unemployed is like telling them you've got leprosy."
Connie Cerrito, laid off after working thrity-five years at a New York cosmetics factory, said, "My job was my whole life. That's all I did. It's unbearable now. I can't go on like this."
In this era of rising unemployment, it is common to see hundreds of people lining up at the doors of companies offering a few jobs—and those who don't get those jobs often wind up at the doors of other institutions, namely our hospitals and prisons.
Sociologist M. Harvey Brenner of Johns Hopkins University studied the effects of unemployment and found that a 1% increase in the national jobless rate coincides with a 4.1% increase in suicides and a 3.4% increase in admissions to state mental hospitals. Prison populations also increase, rising 4%, and police records show a 5.7% increase in the homicide rate.
It is therefore urgent that society provide every able-bodied citizen an opportunity to work. Pope John Paul II, in his recent encyclical On Human Work, said that it is the duty of the state to act against unemployment, "which in all cases is an evil, and which, when it reaches a certain level, becomes a real social disaster." Work, the Pope added, is "a fundamental dimension of man's existence on earth."
This same principle is expressed in the Bhagavad-gita, the book containing the essence of ancient India's Vedic knowledge. There Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, says, "No one can refrain from doing something, even for a moment. "It is the nature of the living being always to be active. Even during sleep, when the physical body is inactive, the mind remains actively working in dreams. Therefore Lord Krsna says, "Action is better than inaction." Everyone must work. He further states, "A man cannot even maintain his physical body without work." Nor can one maintain the bodies of those who depend on him, his family members. So work is a social necessity as well as a fundamental activity of consciousness itself.
When Lord Krsna appeared on earth some fifty centuries ago. He showed by His own example the importance of work in human society. In the Bhagavad-gita (3.22-24), Krsna says, "No work is prescribed for Me within all the three planetary systems. Nor am I in want of anything, nor have I the need to obtain anything—and yet I am engaged in work. For if I did not work, certainly all men would follow My path. If I should cease to work, all these worlds would be put to ruination."
The meaning is clear: For society to prosper, everyone must be employed. "Rational planning and the proper organization of human labor," the Pope said in his encyclical, should balance "the different kinds of employment: work on the land, in industry, in the various services, white-collar work, and scientific and artistic work."
Krsna gives an outline of such rational social planning in the Bhagavad-gita, where He says, "The four divisions of human society were created by Me." He describes the four social divisions as the intellectuals and priests (brahmanas), the administrators and military men (ksatriyas), the businessmen and farmers (vaisyas), and the laborers and artisans (sudras). No society on earth is without these four classes. They are not artificial castes but natural divisions growing out of people's varied physical and mental characteristics. Even in communist countries, which strive for a classless society, intellectuals naturally rise to prominence, as do professional administrators and military men (the so-called New Class). Most communist countries have also had to make allowances for some private business and farming.
But who should organize society so that these four classes are fully and harmoniously employed? In the Vedic social system the task of properly organizing society fell squarely upon the shoulders of the administrative class, who were advised by the intellectuals and priests. The first duty of the chief executive was to see that every citizen was working according to his natural ability. If there was any unemployment whatsoever, everyone knew where to place the blame and where to turn for help. The government leaders took full responsibility.
The Vedic spiritual classic Srimad-Bhagavatam gives a historical account of King Prthu, who faced an even worse unemployment problem than modern leaders. At the time of his coronation, the citizens of the world were suffering from massive unemployment and poverty because of the previous king's mismanagement. They appealed to their leader:
"Dear King Prthu, just as a tree with a fire in the hollow of its trunk gradually burns up, we are burning up because of the fire of hunger in our stomachs. You are the protector of surrendered souls, and you have been appointed to give employment to us. You can give us all kinds of occupational engagements, for you are the master of our livelihood." In response to the pleas of his subjects. King Prthu took immediate action.
Here is part of the commentary on this section of the Bhagavatam by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada: "It is the duty of the head of state to see that everyone in the social order—brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, and sudra—is fully employed. . . . It is here indicated that although the people were willing to perform their duties, they were still unemployed. . . . When the people are perplexed in this way, they should approach the head of the government, and the president or king should take immediate action to mitigate the distress of the people."
So it seems there is some substance to the charge by liberals in the American government that President Reagan is cold and callous toward the millions of his unemployed countrymen.
But we must remind liberals and conservatives alike that jobs alone are not sufficient to insure a peaceful and harmonious society. Even in times of relatively full employment, there are plenty of economic problems and labor strife. And workers in all types of jobs, from the assembly line to the boardroom, are always disgruntled about the kind of work that economic necessity forces them to do.
What is the cause of these problems? The Vedas inform us that when the work we do violates the laws of God and nature, we will suffer some unpleasant reaction. Some conservative thinkers would agree with the Vedas on this point. Leading conservative commentator Russel Kirk states in the introduction to his latest book. The Portable Conservative Reader, "Conservatives generally believe that there exists a transcendental moral order, to which we ought to try to conform the ways of society. A Divine tactic, however dimly descried, is at work in human society."
Of course, if the transcendental, divine order of things is only "dimly descried," it can hardly serve as a basis for organizing society. In the Vedic system of government, that divine plan is brought into distinct focus and made central to the daily lives of all the citizens.
Work in a Vedic society is never performed simply as an act of economic necessity. It is instead seen as an expression of the soul's intrinsic nature. This principle is vaguely recognized even by modern psychologists, such as Dr. James Siddal, who has been dealing with the problems of the unemployed in Ohio. He says, "Without the opportunity to feel pride, accomplishment, a kind of spiritual satisfaction through work, the important things to us are the material things work enables us to buy." (Emphasis added.) Under these circumstances, any kind of work becomes merely a distasteful duty. Dr. Siddal says, "You can't imagine the psychological devastation that comes from the corrosive effect of seeing work as drudgery."
For one who is not aware of his deeper spiritual nature and who doesn't know how to make his work an expression of that nature, work can't be anything but drudgery, a means to satisfy his own desires or meet the demands placed upon him by family and society. Only a person who understands the true nature of the self can actually enjoy work.
What is the nature of the self? The Vedas explain that every living being is an eternal loving servant of the Supreme Lord, Krsna. When we learn how to work in that position, we become satisfied spiritually as well as materially. We experience our inherent qualities of eternality, full knowledge, and ever-increasing transcendental pleasure, a pleasure that makes the highest material pleasures seem insignificant.
How can we work in our spiritual position of service to God? Lord Krsna explains that we don't have to undergo any wrenching disruption in our daily lives. He says in the Bhagavad-gita (18.45, 46), "By performing the work suitable to his own natural qualities, anyone can become perfect. Anyone can attain perfection by worshiping through his own work the all-pervading Lord, the source of all being."
To learn how to worship the Supreme Lord by our work, we need the guidance of a bona fide Krsna conscious spiritual master. Srila Prabhupada once wrote, "A spiritual master, knowing the particular abilities of a particular man, trains him in such a way that by his tendency to act he becomes perfect. The Bhagavad-gita makes it clear that one can attain the highest perfection of spiritual life simply by offering Krsna service according to one's ability, just as Arjuna served Krsna by his ability in the military art. Arjuna offered his service fully as a military man, and he became perfect. Similarly, an artist can attain perfection simply by performing artistic work under the direction of the spiritual master. If one is a literary man, he can write articles and poetry for the service of the Lord under the direction of the spiritual master. One has to receive the message of the spiritual master regarding how to act in one's capacity, for the spiritual master is expert in giving such instructions."
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness has been organized to give everyone the opportunity to learn the actual art of all work—devotional service to Lord Krsna. This is real employment, and this work has one great advantage over ordinary work: there's always plenty to do for Krsna, both here and in the spiritual world—so you can forget about unemployment, eternally.
Piety at the Pig Roast
Morality the American Way.
by Srila Hridayananda Dasa Goswami
In the fastidious, righteous America of the past, it was exhilarating and fashionable to intellectually break down the hangups that made people feel guilty about immoral acts. In today's degraded, drifting society, teachers and professors are scrambling back to the old provincial concept that education should teach a person to be good, moral, and self-controlled.
"The scientific method is a marvelous means of inquiry," says Steven Muller, president of Johns Hopkins University, "but it really doesn't provide a value system. The biggest failing in higher education today is that we fall short in exposing students to values."
Charles Muscatine, a professor of English at UC Berkeley, who calls today's education "a marvelous convenience for a mediocre society," says that education does have a purpose: to cultivate "informed decision-making that recognizes there is a moral and ethical component to life."
Students "should be taught philosophy, moral philosophy, and theology," says psychiatrist Robert Coles, who teaches at Harvard and Duke. "They ought to be asked to think about moral issues, especially about what use is going to be made of knowledge, and why—a kind of moral reflection that I think has been supplanted by a more technological education. Replacing moral philosophy with psychology has been a disaster, an absolute disaster!"
Well and good. A refreshing and unexpected display of American intellectual piety. But there are problems blocking a return to moral education. For one thing, who's to decide the obvious question "What is moral?" and the perhaps more difficult question "What is immoral?"
We fear the violence of an immoral society, yet autocratic measures to insure morality are something we perhaps fear more. We don't want America to collapse like hedonistic Rome, yet we certainly do not want to follow the example of highly "moral" countries like Iran. How do we insure morality and at the same time avoid losing our freedom?
Consider the moral predicament caused by what would seem the most obvious moral precept. The Bible says, "Thou shalt not kill." Yet this simple moral maxim seems impossible for most Americans to accept, or even understand—even those clamoring for a return to morality. The Bible tells us not to kill. But Americans certainly do love to kill. Americans are avid hunters, fishers, and meat-eaters, although we tend to ignore or even deny that this is killing.
For example, the September 27 edition of Time reports this breathtaking display of spiritual dullheadedness: "'My father's favorite quote was from the Bible,' Democratic Senatorial Candidate Mark Dayton, 35, told voters at a Minnesota pig roast." Quoting the Bible at a pig roast, after all, is good American fun. There's certainly nothing immoral about killing a pig.
Consider Kentucky Governor John Y. Brown (recently involved in a controversy over his Florida banking transactions). Governor Brown made a vast personal fortune by popularizing Colonel Sanders Kentucky Fried Chicken. In other words, as a businessman he arranged to kill millions and billions of chickens. He also started the Lums Restaurant Corporation, a fast-food cow-killing chain. When asked about his money, he said, "It was made through the American process." He added, "There is nothing improper or illegal. I have nothing to hide. Anything I've made I've made honestly and I spent honestly."
If it's the "honest American way" to slaughter billions of innocent animals, including the cow, which provides us milk like our mother, then how are we to agree on a standard of morality?
And why maintain sophisticated institutions like Harvard, or indeed the U.S. Congress, if our morality can't go beyond the level of insects and animals? Animals defend their own kind. And if we simply defend our own kind, if we limit our morality to not hurting other human beings, then we are acting on the level of animals. True morality means respect for the holiness of all life, and indeed of all that exists, since everything emanates from the Supreme Holy, the Supreme Lord.
Without a thorough understanding of the science of God, morality is a farce, whether it's administered by so-called religious leaders like those in Iran or by the pious agnostics we find in American universities. We must have a solid understanding of God, as explained by Krsna consciousness.
Krsna consciousness teaches that all life is a sign of the eternal soul. God is the Supreme Soul, the supreme life, and all that lives is part of God. If we can't even follow the simple injunction "Thou shalt not kill"—if we instead prefer big educational and political discussions over chicken and steak dinners, pig roasts, and barbecues—then we are far too ridiculous, as a nation, to survive.
Hey lady! Lady!! Wake up! Your bird is starving. Hey lady!
by Dravida dasa
Why is that woman blithely dusting the birdcage when it's the bird itself, obviously sick or hungry, that urgently needs attention? She seems so caught up in polishing her golden cage that she's forgotten all about the poor creature. Or perhaps she's just too deaf and nearsighted to perceive its distress.
The urgency we feel in wanting to do something to remedy this outrage roughly parallels the urgency a self-realized spiritual master feels as he looks upon those of us who are suffering the pains of life in the material world. The parrot, you sec, represents the spiritual soul, the spark of consciousness encaged within the material body. The cage is the body itself, which covers the soul and keeps him trapped in the material world. And the old woman represents the person in spiritual ignorance, oblivious of the needs of the spiritual self within and absorbed in satisfying the demands of the external body.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada felt intense compassion for people suffering from spiritual ignorance, and he dedicated his life to teaching the science of Krsna consciousness so they could be enlightened. In his commentary on India's greatest spiritual classic, Srimad-Bhagavatam, he writes, "The spirit soul's needs must be fulfilled. Simply by cleansing the cage of the bird, one does not satisfy the bird. One must actually know the needs of the bird himself. The need of the spirit soul is that he wants to get out of the limited sphere of material bondage and fulfill his desire for complete freedom. He wants to get out of the covered walls of the greater universe. He wants to see the free light and the spirit. That complete freedom is achieved when he meets the complete spirit, the Personality of Godhead."
Now, you may ask. How did the bird ever get into the cage in the first place? How did the soul ever become covered by matter? How did we ever lose sight of God?
The Vedic literature explains that each of us is a part of God, a minute particle of His spiritual energy. And because we are part of God we have His qualities, but in minute quantity. One of those qualities is independence.
God, or Krsna, has complete independence—He can do whatever He wants whenever He wants. Our independence consists of being able to choose between serving Krsna and trying to imitate Him.
Serving Krsna is our constitutional activity and brings us eternal bliss in Krsna's spiritual world. But when we try to imitate Krsna—when we try to usurp His position of supreme enjoyer and controller—we must come to the material world. Here we forget Krsna, acquire a body made of matter, and suffer perpetually in the cycle of repeated birth, old age, disease, and death. Eons ago, in some unimaginably distant millennium, we chose not to serve Krsna but to imitate Him. And we've been encaged in matter ever since.
To end our suffering, we need only choose now to serve Krsna. There is no other way, as Krsna affirms in the Bhagavad-gita (7.14): "My material energy is insurmountable—unless one surrenders to Me." After all, Krsna is God, the supreme controller of both the spiritual and material energies. He has created the material world only to teach us that living apart from Him is misery. Once we learn that and begin to serve Him again, He compassionately lifts us above the painful dualities of material life.
The Vedic literature says that one who serves the Lord with his full energy is free of material bondage, even while still living in the material body. In other words, at every moment he understands himself to be transcendental to the pleasures and pains, the ups and downs, of material existence. Even in the greatest difficulty he remains undisturbed, serene in his transcendental loving relationship with Krsna. So life in the world of matter can be a pleasure when we're nourished by spiritual contact with Krsna, just as life for our bird in the golden cage would be a pleasure if he were properly fed and cared for.
Of course, the bird in the cage would find ultimate happiness only in freedom: he wants to return to his home in the forest. Similarly, the self-realized soul yearns to return home, back to Godhead, to live with Krsna eternally. And this is the fruit of full surrender to the Lord.
"Wake up!" call out the Vedas. "Try to understand the great value of the human form of life. Don't remain in the darkness of spiritual ignorance. Come to the light of transcendental knowledge." The devotees in the Krsna consciousness movement, following the lead of Srila Prabhupada, echo this call of the Vedic literature. Human life is very rare, and it is the only form of life in which the soul enwrapped in ignorance can understand the science of God consciousness. The purpose of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness is to provide knowledge of God in the form of books and other media, to provide a practical method for reestablishing our loving relationship with God through bhakti-yoga, devotional service, and to show by example how we can live in this world in a liberated and joyful state, serving God with all our vital energy. Now it is simply up to each of us to choose to quit polishing the cage and take care of the suffering bird within.
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.
Dasa—When a member of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness receives spiritual initiation, he or she accepts a spiritual name (a name of Krsna or a great devotee of Krsna), with the word dasa or dasi, meaning "servant," at the end. (The word is dasa for men, dasi for women.) This indicates that he or she is a servant of God. While most people think themselves masters of their lives and surroundings, a devotee thinks himself a servant of Krsna and depends on His mercy in all circumstances.
A good servant always tries to please his master, and a good master always sees to the best interests of his servants. And who could be a more reliable master than God? By taking the humble position of a servant, the devotee gets the benefits of having the best master, Lord Krsna.
Dasaratha—Dasaratha, the ruler of the Indian kingdom of Ayodhya, was the father of Lord Ramacandra, an incarnation of God who appeared on earth hundreds of thousands of years ago.
King Dasaratha loved his valiant son Ramacandra beyond words, and so too did all the citizens of Ayodhya. Dasaratha, therefore, upon reaching old age, decided to abdicate the throne and crown Ramacandra king.
But King Dasaratha had three wives, and one of them, Kaikeyi, Lord Ramacandra's stepmother, reminded King Dasaratha of an old promise. She had once served him faithfully when he was wounded in a battle, and out of gratitude he had promised her a boon of her choosing. She had asked, however, that she be allowed to choose the boon later.
Now, as the kingdom festively made ready for Lord Ramacandra's coronation, Kaikeyi demanded of King Dasaratha her boon—that he install her own son as king and banish Lord Ramacandra to the forest.
Kaikeyi was unbending, and King Dasaratha was bound by his promise. Lord Ramacandra, therefore, to fulfill His father's word, abandoned the kingdom and went to the forest with His wife, Sita, and His brother Laksmana. And King Dasaratha died of a broken heart.
The pastimes of Lord Ramacandra appear in detail in the epic scripture known as the Ramayana, written by the great sage Valmiki.
Death—For the soul there is never birth or death. But the body, like all things material, is sure to fall apart and cease to exist. What happens at death is that the soul—the eternal spark of consciousness—leaves behind the temporary material body. Thus the body becomes forever lifeless, and nature's subtle laws of karma poise the soul for rebirth in a new body.
One who is born is sure to die, and after death one is sure to be born yet again. But a fully self-realized person escapes this endless cycle of birth and death by fixing his mind on Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and returning home to Krsna's eternal spiritual world.
Deva—The word deva means "god." God is one, but because all living beings are parts of God, when they become godly they may also be called "gods." But among all these tiny gods there is one Supreme God, the Supreme Lord.
The Vedic writings say that living beings, according to their choice, may be of two natures—godly or demonic. Those who are devoted to the Supreme Lord are godly (visnu-bhaktah smrto daivah), and those averse to serving God are called demonic (asuras tad-viparyayah).
Among the devas, or godly living beings, some are entrusted by God with the responsibility for managing various aspects of the cosmos. For example, they control various planets and regulate the workings of natural forces such as the wind, rain, and sunshine.
Because these devas wield tremendous power, people sometimes worship them for material prosperity or even think them the same as the Supreme Lord. One may worship whatever deva one chooses, they think, and the result will be the same.
The Bhagavad-gita, however, disagrees. According to the Gita, those who worship the various devas (such as Brahma, Siva, Ganesa, or Indra) may enjoy temporary pleasures on the planets of the devas after death. But these pleasures, the Gita says, are meant for the less intelligent. Only those who devote themselves to the Supreme Lord (Visnu, or Krsna) may enter the eternal kingdom of God.
Lord Sri Krsna is the fountainhead of all the devas (aham adir hi devanam), and those who are godly surrender to Him. Therefore He is known as Deva-deva, "the God of all gods."
Death on the Evening News
While recently watching the evening news, I saw that almost the entire show was about killing and death: a murder, a rash of drug poisonings, a massacre of refugees by military forces, and a sampling of wars and preparations for war. For a kind of relief, the half-hour report ended with sports coverage. Yet even the world of games mourned: the news gave a two-minute homage to a former baseball hero who had just died at seventy. Only the commercials provided sheer, unadulterated illusion, inviting viewers to enjoy true happiness from Shredded Wheat or a new Volkswagen.
Was the TV news editors' emphasis on killing sensationalistic? Or was my taking notice of it too extreme?
In one sense, history is nothing but the piling up of corpses, the vanquishing of empires. So there's nothing startling about people dying.
But what is startling is our refusal to face up to the inevitability of our own death. As expressed in the Mahabharata, a great epic of Vedic times, "Every day millions of living beings are forced to the kingdom of death. Yet those who remain aspire for a permanent life in the material world. What could be more wonderful than this?"
Superficially, we all recognize that we shall die one day. We take out insurance policies to provide for those who will live after us. We make out wills bequeathing whatever we own to our loved ones. We may even put money aside for our own funeral, cemetery plot, and gravestone. But this is not real preparation for death.
Who really knows what will happen after death? Even if we profess a theory or a theology that explains death, do we know for certain where we will go after death? Most people don't in quire into these questions seriously; they keep up the illusion that death won't come to them. Unwilling to face death, they concentrate wholeheartedly on enjoying their present life, with no concern for the next.
Yet a small but growing number of people are concerned about their own death and are trying to do something about it. Recent years have seen the increasing popularity of a psychology of death, a discipline aimed at mentally preparing a person for a peaceful demise. Taking death to be inevitable, psychologists try to relieve our anxiety about the end. And often their death therapy rests on speculations about a uniformly pleasant hereafter.
In reaction to the "death psychologists," atheistic humanists have condemned many death studies as symptomizing a morbid fascination or an escape from the realities of life. For such humanists, temporary bodily life is the all-in-all. They want to go on boldly trying to enjoy this material world, or sometimes to improve it by political or altruistic efforts. At best, they hope to die with a cavalier attitude of "no regrets." But they also can't say for sure what death is.
Real knowledge about life and death begins with a clear understanding of the self beyond the body. Suppose at a wake the grieving widow says, "Oh, my husband is dead and gone!" Another person may say, "Why do you say he's gone? He's lying there." But she will say, "No, he's gone forever." The very language suggests that the person who was her husband, the real self, was different from his body.
Whether the body is old or young, white or black, man or woman, it is simply a covering for the real self, the eternal spiritual particle within the body. This lesson we must learn. Then we can understand that we do not really die when our body dies.
The Vedas say that to think the body is the self is to think on the level of the animals. When a cow's calf has died and the cow will no longer give milk, the farmer sometimes tricks the cow by bringing the calf before her. The cow licks the body of the dead calf and allows herself to be milked. People with a bodily conception of the self are similarly foolish. They take shelter of materialistic science and sometimes think that when they die scientists will be able to freeze their dead bodies so that in the future they may live again. But no scientist can return a departed soul to the body, any more than a cow can bring her calf back to life. We must know first of all that the soul, not the body, is the self. Only then can we progress toward an understanding of death.
According to Vedic information, when death occurs the vital bodily functions stop and the eternal self, or soul, transmigrates to another body. But for each of us the question remains: "Where will go after death?"
The answer is that our destination is determined by the laws of karma, the subtle laws of action and reaction that work under the direction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Thus we will take our next body according to our activities in this life. If now we live in goodness, next time we will get a better body—one in the human species or higher. But if we misuse the human form of life and act out of passion or ignorance, in our next life we will be degraded, perhaps to an animal species or even lower. So it is intelligent to live the present life in preparation for the next.
Still, even if we amass "good karma" and get a better body in our next life, this doesn't solve the problem of death. The flaw of mortality always remains, no matter what body we get. So for materialists death remains an insoluble problem, whether they fear death, try to forget death, try to prevent death, or pretend to accept death. Only Krsna consciousness solves the problem of death.
The solution? To raise our consciousness out of beastly, bodily identification up to spiritual knowledge, to love of God, so that when death comes we can transcend the cycle of repeated births and deaths. If a person dies completely enlightened about the self and God and about this world and the next, he can go to the eternal, spiritual world and attain immortality in his original identity as a servant of God. This is the good news that is unfortunately never reported on television.—SDG