Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, came to America in 1965, at age sixty-nine, to fulfill his spiritual master's request that he teach the science of Krsna consciousness throughout the English-speaking world. In a dozen years he published some seventy volumes of translation and commentary on India's Vedic literature, and these are now standard in universities worldwide. Meanwhile, traveling almost nonstop, Srila Prabhupada molded his international society into a worldwide confederation of asramas, schools, temples, and farm communities. He passed away in 1977 in India's Vrndavana, the place most sacred to Lord Krsna. His disciples are carrying forward the movement he started.
BACK TO GODHEAD is the monthly journal of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. When Srila Prabhupada began the Society (in New York City, in 1966), he put into writing the purposes he wanted it to achieve. They are as follows:
1. To systematically propagate spiritual knowledge to society at large and to educate all peoples in the techniques of spiritual life in order to check the imbalance of values in life and to achieve real unity and peace in the world.
2. To propagate a consciousness of Krsna, as it is revealed in Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam.
3. To bring the members of the Society together with each other and nearer to Krsna, the prime entity, thus developing the idea within the members, and humanity at large, that each soul is part and parcel of the quality of Godhead (Krsna).
4. To teach and encourage the sankirtana movement, congregational chanting of the holy names of God, as revealed in the teachings of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
5. To erect for the members and for society at large a holy place of transcendental pastimes dedicated to the personality of Krsna.
6. To bring the members closer together for the purpose of teaching a simpler, more natural way of life.
7. With a view toward achieving the aforementioned purposes, to publish and distribute periodicals, books, and other writings.
An address given in September 1973
by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada,
Thank you very much for kindly receiving me on this first visit of mine to your country.
The Krsna consciousness movement is gradually spreading all over the world, but it is a little difficult to understand the purport of this movement because it is completely on the spiritual platform. Generally, people do not understand what the spiritual platform is. But it is quite simple. Every one of us—every living being—is a combination of two things: matter and spirit. Matter we can understand, but on account of our long association with matter we cannot understand what spirit is.
We know that there is something which distinguishes a dead body from a living body. That we can understand. Suppose your father dies. You will lament, "Oh, my father is no more! He has gone away." But where has he gone? Your father is lying on the bed. Why do you say that your father has gone away? "No, he is dead and gone." This shows you understand that the body lying on the bed is not your real father.
So, actually, you have no eyes to see your real father. During the lifetime of your father you did not know who he was. Therefore, when the actual father goes away, you cry, "My father is gone!" The actual father is the spiritual soul within the body. And when the soul goes away from the body, that is known as death.
So first of all we have to understand the distinction between the spiritual soul and the material body. If we can understand the spiritual soul, we can understand this spiritual movement, the Krsna consciousness movement. Otherwise, simply on the strength of the materialistic conception we will find it impossible to understand spiritual life or the spiritual platform.
What is spiritual life? Complete freedom. And an eternal, blissful life full of knowledge. That is spiritual life—a life distinct from material life, which is based on the bodily concept. Spiritual life means an eternal, blissful life of knowledge, while material life means a nonpermanent, miserable life full of ignorance.
The body is impermanent, and it is always full of miserable conditions. There is no blissfulness in the material world; we are always suffering some kind of distress. But on account of our long association with material life, we have become so dull-headed that it is very difficult for us to understand spiritual life, spiritual activities, the spiritual world. God, and our relationship with God. Therefore I have begun the Krsna consciousness movement—to train people to understand these things.
Unfortunately, because the Krsna consciousness movement is a spiritual movement, sometimes it is misunderstood. People see it from the material point of view and misunderstand. But if we associate with those who are propagating Krsna consciousness, and if we chant the Hare Krsna mantra, we can easily understand spiritual life. Chanting Hare Krsna is very simple. There are only sixteen words: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. (Actually, there are three words—Hare, Krsna, and Rama—but they have been arranged in such a way that the mantra is composed of sixteen words.)
We are simply requesting you to chant the Hare Krsna mantra. It is not very difficult. And if you chant this mantra, your heart will gradually be cleansed and you will understand spiritual life in Krsna consciousness. The whole problem is that due to material association our consciousness is now contaminated; therefore we cannot understand spiritual life. But if we take advantage of chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, our heart will gradually be cleansed and we shall be able to understand, "I am not my body: I am a spiritual soul." Then real awakening will come.
At the present moment everyone is acting according to the bodily conception of life. But we are not the body. So we are acting for something that we are not. Therefore, we are in maya, or illusion. Our whole existence is a phantasmagoria. And because we are working for something that we are not, we are confused and unhappy. We work day and night for the body, and still we are not happy. We are trying to satisfy the senses (body means "senses"), repeating the same activities again and again, but we are finding no happiness. We cannot find happiness by trying to satisfy the material body, because we are not the material body. We are spiritual souls.
Here is an analogy: Suppose a man is thrown into the ocean. He may be an expert swimmer, but he cannot be happy in the ocean because he is out of his natural condition of life. The only way he will become happy is if someone picks him up from the ocean and places him on the land.
So we in the Krsna consciousness movement do not wish to foolishly try to become happy by swimming in the ocean of the material world. That is not our program. We know it is not possible to become happy here. Better to come to the spiritual platform and act in spiritual life. Then there is a guarantee of happiness.
In the Bhagavad-gita (4.9) Lord Krsna says,
janma karma ca me divyam
"After giving up the body, those who have cultivated spiritual life, who have understood Me in truth, are promoted to the spiritual world." In the spiritual world is the eternal, blissful life that will make us happy.
So if we are serious, if we actually want to be happy, we must take to the cultivation of spiritual understanding, an understanding of Krsna consciousness. Of course, in every country of the world there is some religious system, some system for understanding spiritual life. But unfortunately, almost nobody is interested in spiritual life because people have been induced to become addicted to material, or sensual, activities. They are going further and further away from spiritual life and becoming more and more confused. Disappointment is rising all over the world.
So to mitigate this disappointment and confusion, one has to take to Krsna consciousness. Try to understand the philosophy of Krsna consciousness, and act accordingly. Then you will be happy.
Thank you very much. Hare Krsna.
Why And How To Chant Hare Krsna
All you need is your voice and your ears to begin this simple, sublime yoga meditation.
by Madhyama-devi dasi
Have you seen this message before? "Please chant these names of God—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—and your life will be sublime."
You're unusual if you haven't, because for the past seventeen years this statement has been printed on millions of signs and billboards, cards and flyers, posters and book jackets. It's been repeated on television and radio, in newspapers and magazines, and personally to hundreds of thousands of people in airports, in malls, and on street corners around the world. "Please, just try chanting Hare Krsna, and your life will be sublime!"
Why are we asking everyone to do this? What happens when you chant the names of God?
When you chant God's names, you reawaken your original spiritual consciousness. Because all living beings are spiritual souls, we're originally Krsna conscious. God conscious. But because we've been in this material world an endlessly long time, our consciousness has become covered by material illusion.
What is material illusion? It's what we're in when we think, "I am this material body, and this material world is mine, meant for my pleasure. It's mine to possess, control, and enjoy without limits."
This just isn't the truth. We're not these bodies; we're spiritual souls. This material world isn't ours, it's God's. And He alone has the ability to control it and the unquestionable right to enjoy it. When we try to usurp His position of proprietor, controller, and enjoyer, we simply end up trapped in the perplexities of the material world.
Once that happens, we can't escape by our own strength. A man bound hand and foot can't free himself. He must call on someone whose hands are free and ask for aid.
Krsna, the Supreme Spirit, is never overwhelmed by illusion. So if we want to get free from illusion, we have to cry out for help from Him. That sincere call for the Lord to protect us is the chanting of the maha-mantra—Hare Krsna. Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
By this chanting, which is exactly like the genuine cry of a child for his mother, we cleanse from our hearts the false consciousness that we are the lords of all we survey. As the illusions drop off, our true, happy, eternal spiritual consciousness revives. We return to our natural position as servants of the Lord, and ultimately the Lord reveals Himself when we sincerely chant this maha-mantra.
The chanting of Hare Krsna is not a material sound. It has nothing to do with cakras, oxygen levels, hypnosis, positive thinking, or anything merely mental or mechanical. Nor is the mantra to be chanted just for material benefits, such as wealth, fame, or even our daily bread. Hare Krsna is a purely spiritual sound, so it takes you at once to the spiritual platform, surpassing all lower stages of consciousness, whether sensual, mental, or intellectual.
Because the chanting is spiritual, anyone can benefit from it, regardless of material qualifications. It doesn't matter whether you're rich or poor, man, woman or child, red, white, black or brown, American or Indian, Muslim or Christian or Jew. The chanting will help all of us, because God's names are purely spiritual and we're all spiritual beings.
Of course, for a person deeply entangled in materialistic life it takes more time to clear material misgivings from the heart. But even such a materially engrossed person can come to the spiritual platform quickly by chanting Hare Krsna.
The three words Hare, Krsna, and Rama are transcendental seeds of the maha-mantra. The words Krsna and Rama address the Lord Himself. Both Krsna and Rama mean "the supreme source of pleasure," and Hare calls for the internal pleasure energy of the Lord. This energy helps us reach the Lord.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who brought this pure chanting of the names of God to the Western world, explained the meaning of the maha-mantra this way:
"O Lord, O energy of the Lord, please engage me in Your loving service."
What we are praying for when we chant Hare Krsna is our return to our natural, blissful position as loving servants of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. No other means of spiritual realization is as effective in this age as the chanting of the maha-mantra:
Hare Krsna. Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare
Some Basic Rules For Chanting
1. The first rule of chanting is that there are no hard and fast rules. You don't need beads to chant. You don't have to be in a sacred place. You don't have to sit, stand, or walk in a certain way. You can chant the holy names of God anywhere, anytime, even while going about your daily routine. Somehow or other, just try to chant Hare Krsna.
2. Chant as much as possible. Why? There's no difference between Krsna's name and Krsna Himself. So the more you chant Hare Krsna, the more you're in touch with Krsna and His spiritual energy. And the more you're making progress in spiritual life.
3. Steer clear of sinful activities. Basically, that means you should stay away from gambling, meat-eating, intoxication, and illicit sex. They'll only slow down your spiritual progress.
4. Read some Krsna conscious literature daily. The more you learn of the glories of Krsna and the glories of His name, the more faith you'll have in chanting Hare Krsna. The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust has published scores of books on Krsna, and you can read any of them for transcendental benefit. A good place to start is Bhagavad-gita As It Is, by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual guide of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
* * *
Chanting Hare Krsna can be a festive group experience or a quiet, personal meditation. Singing the mantra out loud, by yourself or with others, is called kirtana. Chanting quietly to yourself is called japa.
This month, we'll tell you about japa.
Devotees of Krsna meditate by chanting the Hare Krsna mantra on a strand of 108 beads, called japa beads. You can get these beads from your local Hare Krsna temple, or you can get them by sending (in the U.S.) $3.00 to ISKCON Educational Services, 3764 Watseka Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90034.
How To Chant On Japa Beads
1. Hold the beads in your right hand.
2. There's one head bead, a bead that's bigger than all the rest. Grasp the first bead to one side of the head bead with your right thumb and the middle finger of your right hand. (Your index finger doesn't touch the bead.)
3. Roll the bead back and forth between your thumb and middle finger and chant—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The word Hare is pronounced huh-ray. Krsna is pronounced krish-na. And Rama rhymes with the English word drama. Say each syllable of each word as clearly as you can. Concentrate your attention on the sound of each word of the mantra.
4. After you've chanted the complete mantra one time, move your thumb and finger to the next bead and chant the mantra again.
5. Chant on the next bead and then the next, until you have chanted on all 108 beads. You have now reached the other side of the head bead and have completed one full "round."
6. Do not chant on the head bead, and don't cross over it to continue. Instead, turn the whole set of beads around in your hand and chant in the other direction. The last bead of your first round is the first bead for your next. Chant on this bead, then the next. and then the next. Stop when you reach the side of the head bead again. Then you'll have completed your second round.
7. Keep reversing directions in this way to chant your third and fourth rounds, and keep going. (How many rounds can you chant? Initiated devotees chant sixteen rounds a day.)
8. Treat your beads respectfully. Don't let them touch the floor, your feet, or any unclean place. Don't take them into the bathroom.
9. You can keep your beads in a bead bag, a specially sewn pouch with a strap (also available from ISKCON Educational Services for $3.00). This keeps your beads nicely while you chant, and when you're not chanting you can hang the bag around your neck to keep your beads handy. When you put your beads away, store them in the bag in a clean place. (If you don't have a bead bag, you can wrap your beads in a clean cloth and keep them in a drawer or on a shelf.)
One final word. Try to find time to chant a fixed number of rounds every day. You can start with two rounds or even one—but chant regularly, without fail, preferably in the early morning. This regularity of chanting, coupled (if possible) with a regular program of study, will give you a firm basis for further progress in Krsna consciousness.
"He Was The Perfect Example"
George Harrison talks of Srila Prabhupada, spiritual food, and the books of the Hare Krishna movement.
Last September 4 George Harrison got together with his long-time friend Mukunda Goswami, a leader of the Hare Krsna movement, and discussed Krsna consciousness at length. In the first part of their talk, published in our January issue, George told of some striking experiences he's had while chanting the Hare Krsna mantra and revealed some of his realizations about the chanting and the philosophy of Krsna consciousness. This month the interview concludes with George telling how he feels about having helped the devotees expand the movement in England, how he relishes prasadam (sanctified food), and how he deeply appreciates the movement's founder, Srila Prabhupada.
Mukunda: From the very start, you always felt comfortable around the devotees?
George: The first time I met Syamasundara, I liked him. He was my pal. I knew that Syamasundara and all of you were in my age group, and that the only difference, really, was that you'd already joined and I hadn't. I was in a rock band, but I didn't have any fear, because I had seen dhotis, your robes, and the saffron color and shaved heads in India. Krsna consciousness was especially good for me because I didn't get the feeling that I'd have to shave my head, move into a temple, and do it full time. So it was a spiritual thing that just fit in with my life-style. I could still be a musician, but I just changed my consciousness, that's all.
Actually, it gives me pleasure, the idea that I was fortunate enough to be able to help at that time. All those songs with spiritual themes were like little plugs, "My Sweet Lord" and the others. And now I know that people are much more respectful and accepting when it comes to seeing the devotees in the streets and all that. It's no longer like something that's coming from left field.
And I've given a lot of Prabhupada's books to many people, and whether I ever hear from them again or not, it's good to know that they've gotten them, and if they read them, their lives may be changed.
Mukunda: When you come across people who are spiritually inclined but don't have much knowledge, what kind of advice do you give them?
George: I try to tell them my little bit, what my experience is, and give them a choice of things to read and a choice of places to go—like you know, "Go to the temple, try chanting."
Mukunda: In the "Ballad of John and Yoko," John and Yoko rapped the media for the way it can foster a false image of you and perpetuate it. It's taken a lot of time and effort to get them to understand that we are a genuine religion, with scriptures that predate the New Testament by three thousand years.
George: The media is to blame for everything, for all the misconceptions about the movement, but in a sense it didn't really matter if they said something good or bad, because Krsna consciousness always seemed to transcend that barrier anyway. The fact that the media was letting people know about Krsna was good in itself.
Mukunda: Srila Prabhupada always trained us to stick to our principles. He said that the worst thing we could ever do would be to make some sort of compromise or to dilute the philosophy for the sake of cheap popularity. Although many swamis and yogis had come from India to the West, Srila Prabhupada was the only one with the purity and devotion to establish India's ancient Krsna conscious philosophy around the world on its own terms—not watered down, but as it is.
George: That's right. He was a perfect example of what he preached.
Mukunda: How did you feel about financing the first printing of the Krsna book and writing the introduction?
George: I just felt like it was part of my job, you know. Wherever I go in the world, when I see devotees I always say "Hare Krsna!" to them, and they're always pleased to see me. It's a nice relationship. Whether they really know me personally or not, they feel they know me. And they do, really.
Mukunda: At lunch today we spoke a little about prasadam, vegetarian foods that have been spiritualized by being offered to Krsna in the temple. A lot of people have come to Krsna consciousness through prasadam, especially through our Sunday Feast at all of our temples around the world, I mean, this process is the only kind of yoga that you can actually practice by eating.
George: Well, we should try to see God in everything, so it helps so much having the food to taste. Let's face it, if God is in everything, why shouldn't you taste Him when you eat? I think that prasadam is a very important thing. Krsna is God, so He's absolute: His name. His form, prasadam, it's all Him. They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, so if you can get to a man's spirit soul by eating, and it works, why not do it?
There's nothing better than having been chanting and dancing, or just sitting and talking philosophy, and then suddenly the devotees bring out the prasadam. It's a blessing from Krsna, and it's spiritually important. The idea is that prasadam's the sacrament the Christians talk about, only instead of being just a wafer, it's a whole feast, really, and the taste is so nice—it's out of this world. It's undoubtedly done a great deal toward getting a lot more people involved in spiritual life. Prasadam breaks down prejudices, too, because the) think, "Oh, well, yes, I wouldn't mind a drink of whatever or a bite of that." Then they ask, "What's this?" and "Oh, well, it's prasadam." And they get to learn another aspect of Krsna consciousness. Then they say, "It actually tastes quite nice. Have you got another plateful?" I've seen that happen with lots of people, especially older people I've seen at your temples. Maybe they were a little prejudiced, but the next thing you know, they're in love with prasadam, and eventually they walk out of the temple thinking, "They're not so bad after all."
Mukunda: The Vedic literatures reveal that prasadam conveys spiritual realization, just as chanting docs. You make spiritual advancement just by eating it.
George: I'd say from my experience that it definitely works. I've always enjoyed prasadam much more when I've been at the temple, or when I've actually been sitting with Prabhupada, than when somebody's brought it to me. Sometimes you can sit there with prasadam and find that three or four hours have gone by and you didn't even know it. Prasadam really helped me a lot, because you start to realize "Now I'm tasting Krsna." You're conscious suddenly of another aspect of God, understanding that He's this little samosa. * [**A cauliflower-and-pea-filled pastry deep-fried in clarified butter.] It's all just a matter of tuning into the spiritual, and prasadam's a very real part of it all.
Mukunda: We've served about 150 million plates of prasadam so far at the free feasts around the world, what to speak of our restaurants.
George: You ought to have it up outside on billboards like those hamburger places do. You know, like "150 million served." I think it's great. It's a pity you don't have restaurants or temples on all the main streets of every little town and village like those hamburger and fried chicken places. You should put them out of business.
Mukunda: You've been to our London restaurant. Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise?
George: Lots of times. It's good to have these and other restaurants around, where plainclothes devotees serve the food. People slowly realize, "This is one of the best places I've been." and they keep coming back. Then maybe they pick up a little bit of the literature or a pamphlet there and say, "Oh, hey, that was run by the Hare Krsnas." I think there's a lot of value also to that kind of more subtle approach. Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise has proper foods, good, balanced stuff, and it's fresh. Even more important, it's made with an attitude of devotion, which means a lot. When you know someone has begrudgingly cooked something, it doesn't taste as nice as when someone has done it to try and please God, to offer it to Him first. Just that in itself makes all the food taste so much nicer.
Mukunda: You've been a vegetarian for years, George. Have you had any difficulties maintaining it?
George: No. Actually, I wised up and made sure I had dal bean soup or something every day. Actually, lentils are one of the cheapest things, but they give you A-1 protein. People are simply screwing up when they go out and buy beefsteak, which is killing them with cancer and heart troubles. The stuff costs a fortune too. You could feed a thousand people with lentil soup for the cost of half a dozen filets. Does that make sense?
Mukunda: George, you and John Lennon met Srila Prabhupada together when he stayed at John's home, in September of 1969.
George: Yes, but when I met him at first, I underestimated him. I didn't realize it then, but I see now that because of him, the mantra has spread so far in the last sixteen years, more than it had in the last five centuries. Now that's pretty amazing, because he was getting older and older, yet he was writing his books all the time. I realized later on that he was much more incredible than what you could see on the surface.
Mukunda: What about him stands out the most in your mind?
George: The thing that always stays is his saying, "I am the servant of the servant of the servant." I like that. A lot of people say, "I'm it. I'm the divine incarnation. I'm here, and let me hip you." You know what I mean? But Prabhupada was never like that. I liked Prabhupada's humbleness. I always liked his humility and his simplicity. The servant of the servant of the servant is really what it is, you know. None of us are God—just His servants. He just made me feel so comfortable. I always felt very relaxed with him, and I felt more like a friend. I felt that he was a good friend. Even though he was at the time seventy-nine years old, working practically all through the night, day after day, with very little sleep, he still didn't come through to me as though he was a very highly educated intellectual being, because he had a sort of childlike simplicity. Which is great, fantastic. Even though he was the greatest Sanskrit scholar and saint, I appreciated the fact that he never made me feel uncomfortable. In fact, he always went out of his way to make me feel comfortable. I always thought of him as sort of a lovely friend, really, and now he's still a lovely friend.
Mukunda: In one of his hooks, Prabhupada said your sincere service was better than some people who'd delved more deeply into Krsna consciousness but could not maintain that level of commitment. How did you feel about this?
George: Very wonderful, really. I mean it really gave me hope, because as they say, even one moment in the company of a divine person, Krsna's pure devotee, can help a tremendous amount.
And if I didn't get feedback from Prabhupada on my songs about Krsna or the philosophy, I'd get it from the devotees. That's all the encouragement I needed, really. It just seemed that anything spiritual I did, either through songs, or helping with publishing the books, or whatever, really pleased him. The song I wrote, "Living in the Material World," as I wrote in I, Me, Mine, was influenced by Srila Prabhupada. He's the one who explained to me how we're not these physical bodies. We just happen to be in them.
That was the thing about Prabhupada, you see. He didn't just talk about loving Krsna and getting out of this place, but he was the perfect example. He talked about always chanting, and he was always chanting. I think that that in itself was perhaps the most encouraging thing for me. It was enough to make me try harder, to be just a little bit better. He was a perfect example of everything he preached.
Srila Prabhupada has already had an amazing effect on the world. There's no way of measuring it. One day I just realized, "God, this man is amazing!" He would sit up all night translating Sanskrit into English, putting in glossaries to make sure everyone understands it, and yet he never came off as someone above you. He always had that childlike simplicity, and what's most amazing is the fact that he did all this translating in such a relatively short time—just a few years. And without having anything more than his own Krsna consciousness, he rounded up all these thousands of devotees, set the whole movement in motion, which became something so strong that it went on even after he left. * [* "His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada left this material world on Nov. 14, 1977.]
And it's still escalating even now at an incredible rate. It will go on and on from the knowledge he gave. It can only grow and grow. The more people wake up spiritually, the more they'll begin to realize the depth of what Prabhupada was saying—how much he gave.
Mukunda: Did you know that complete sets of Srila Prabhupada's books are in all the major colleges and universities in the world, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Oxford, Cambridge, and the Sorbonne?
George: They should be! His contribution has obviously been enormous from the literary point of view, because he's brought the Supreme Person, Krsna, more into focus. A lot of scholars and writers know the Bhagavad-gita, but only on an intellectual level. Even when they write, "Krsna said . . . ," they don't do it with the bhakti or love required. That's the secret, you know—Krsna is actually a person who is the Lord and who will also appear there in that book when there is that love, that bhakti. You can't understand the first thing about God unless you love Him. These big so-called Vedic scholars—they don't love Krsna, so they can't understand Him and give Him to us. But Prabhupada was different.
Mukunda: The Vedic literatures predict that after the advent of Lord Caitanya five hundred years ago, there would be a Golden Age of ten thousand years, when the chanting of the holy names of God would completely nullify all the degradations of the modern age, and real spiritual peace would come to this planet.
George: Well, Prabhupada's definitely affected the world in an absolute way. What he was giving us was the highest literature, the highest knowledge. I mean there just isn't anything higher.
Mukunda: A lot of people, when they just get started in spiritual life, worship God as impersonal. What's the difference between worshiping Krsna, or God, in His personal form and worshiping His impersonal nature as energy or light?
George: It's like the difference between hanging out with a computer or hanging out with a person. Like I said earlier, "If there is a God, I want to see Him," not only His energy or His light, but Him.
Mukunda: What do you think is the goal of human life?
George: Each individual has to burn out his own karma and escape from the chains of maya, * [*The illusory energy that forces the pure soul to think that he is a material body and thus become entangled in material life.] reincarnation, and all that. The best thing anyone can give to humanity is God consciousness. Then you can really give them something. But first you have to concentrate on your own spiritual advancement; so in a sense we have to become selfish to become selfless.
Mukunda: What about trying to solve the problems of life without employing the spiritual process?
George: Life is like a piece of string with a lot of knots tied in it. The knots are the karma you're born with from all your past lives, and the object of human life is to try and undo all these knots. That's what chanting and meditation in God consciousness can do. Otherwise you simply tie another ten knots each time you try to undo one knot. That's how karma works. I mean, we're now the results of our past actions, and in the future we'll be the results of the actions we're performing now. A little understanding of "As you sow, so shall you reap" is important, because then you can't blame the condition you're in on anyone else. You know that it's by your own actions that you're able to get more in a mess or out of one. It's your own actions that relieve or bind you.
Mukunda: I don't think it's possible to calculate just how many people were turned on to Krsna consciousness by your song "My Sweet Lord." Why did you feel that you wanted to put Hare Krsna on the album at all? Wouldn't "Hallelujah" alone have been good enough?
George: Well, first of all "Hallelujah" is a joyous expression the Christians have, but "Hare Krsna" has a mystical side to it. It's more than just glorifying God; it's asking to become His servant. And because of the way the mantra is put together, with the mystical spiritual energy contained in those syllables, it's much closer to God than the way Christianity currently seems to be representing Him. Although Christ in my mind is an absolute yogi I think many Christian teachers today are misrepresenting Christ. They're supposed to be representing Jesus, but they're not doing it very well. They're letting him down very badly, and that's a big turn-off.
My idea in "My Sweet Lord," because it sounded like a "pop song," was to sneak up on them a bit. The point was to have the people not offended by "Hallelujah," and by the time it gets to "Hare Krsna," they're already hooked, and their foot's tapping, and they're already singing along "Hallelujah," to kind of lull them into a sense of false security. And then suddenly it turns into "Hare Krsna." and they will be singing that before they know what's happened, and they will think. "Hey, I thought I wasn't supposed to like Hare Krsna!"
Mukunda: What would you say is the difference between the Christian view of God, and Krsna as represented in the Bhagavad-gita?
George: When I first came to this house it was occupied by nuns. I brought in this poster of Visnu [a four-armed form of Krsna]. You just see His head and shoulders and His four arms holding a conch-shell and various other symbols, and it has a big om† [† This transcendental syllable, which represents Krsna, has been chanted by many persons throughout history for spiritual perfection.] written above it. He has a nice aura around Him. I left it by the fireplace and went out into the garden. When we came back in the house, they all pounced on me, saying, "Who is that? What is that?" as if it were some pagan god. So I said, "Well, it God is unlimited, then He can appear in any form, whichever way He likes to appear. That's one way. He's called Visnu."
It sort of freaked them out a bit, but the point is, why should God be limited? Even if you get Him as Krsna, He is not limited to that picture of Krsna. He can be the baby form. He can be Govinda and manifest in so many other well-known forms. You can see Krsna as a little boy, which is how I like to see Krsna. It's a joyful relationship. But there's this morbid side to the way many represent Christianity today, where you don't smile, because it's too serious, and you can't expect to see God—that kind of stuff. If there is God, we must see Him, and I don't believe in the idea you find in most churches, where they say, "No, you're not going to see Him. He's way up above you. Just believe what we tell you and shut up."
Mukunda: Anyone who's sincere about making spiritual advancement can usually see the value of chanting, whatever his religion may be. I mean if that person was really trying to be God conscious and trying to chant sincerely.
George: That's right. It's a matter of being open. Anyone who's open can do it. You just have to be open and not prejudiced. You just have to try it. There's no loss, you know. But the "intellectuals" will always have problems, because they always need to "know." They're often the most spiritually bankrupt people, because they never let go; they don't understand the meaning of "transcending the intellect." But an ordinary person's more willing to say, "Okay. Let me try it and see if it works." Chanting Hare Krsna can make a person a better Christian, too.
Mukunda: When you were in Vrndavana, India, where Lord Krsna appeared, and you saw thousands of people chanting Hare Krsna, did it strengthen your faith in the idea of chanting to see a whole city living Hare Krsna?
George: Yeah, it fortifies you. It definitely helps. It's fantastic to be in a place where the whole town is doing it. And I also had the idea that they were all knocked out at the idea of seeing some white person chanting on beads. Vrndavana is one of the holiest cities in India. Everyone, everywhere, chants Hare Krsna. It was my most fantastic experience.
Mukunda: You wrote in your book: "Most of the world is fooling about, especially the people who think they control the world and the community. The presidents, the politicians, the military, etc., are all jerking about, acting as if they are Lord over their own domains. That's basically Problem One on the planet."
George: That's right. Unless you're doing some kind of God conscious thing and you know that He's the one who's really in charge, you're just building up a lot of karma and not really helping yourself or anybody else. There's a point in me where it's beyond sad, seeing the state of the world today. It's so screwed up. It's terrible, and it will be getting worse and worse. More concrete everywhere, more pollution, more radioactivity. There's no wilderness left, no pure air. They're chopping the forests down. They're polluting all the oceans. In one sense, I'm pessimistic about the future of the planet. These big guys don't realize that for everything they do, there's a reaction. You have to pay. That's karma.
Mukunda: Do you think there's any hope?
George: Yes. One by one, everybody's got to escape maya. Everybody has to burn out his karma and escape reincarnation and all that. Stop thinking that if Britain or America or Russia or the West or whatever becomes superior, then we'll beat them, and then we'll all have a rest and live happily ever after. That doesn't work. The best thing you can give is God consciousness. Manifest your own divinity first. The truth is there. It's right within us all. Understand what you are. If people would just wake up to what's real, there would be no misery in the world. I guess chanting's a pretty good place to start.
Mukunda: Thanks so much, George.
George: All right. Hare Krsna!
We welcome your letters. Write to
I read Brahma-muhurta Dasa's article, "How I came to Krsna consciousness" (Vol. 17, No. 11), with great interest. I think the Hare Krsnas (along with the members of most other religions) are in danger of falling into the "virtue trap." How "good" should a person be? Should I stop hating? Stop gambling? Stop gossiping? Stop drinking? Take a vow of poverty? Become celibate? Stop eating meat? Stop desiring? Stop eating plants and die like the Sikhs sometimes do?
As beautiful and wonderful as Krsna is, I don't believe there is an absolute standard of virtue—as the fundamentalist Christians also teach. You are "good" relative to somebody else, to the extent you make that person happy. But you cannot please everybody. If you are dissatisfied with simply pleasing yourself, then concentrate on making other people happy. In so doing, you will have achieved a "higher purpose" in life.
David S. Curry
Our reply: By "virtue trap" you apparently mean demanding such a high standard of rectitude from ourselves and others that neither we nor anyone else can follow it. Thus we seem hypocrites, and we turn off many people (such as yourself) from Krsna consciousness.
But the first point we must understand is that every one of us is already in a "trap," locked into the cycle of repeated birth and death. And that trap is one we've fashioned for ourselves through our own sinful (i.e., selfish) activities in this and previous lives. We already live in a "sin trap," if you will, bound tight by our karma.
So we have a problem: How can we break the bonds of karma and get free of birth and death? Lord Krsna answers throughout the Bhagavad-gita: "Just serve Me. Worship Me. I will release you from all reactions to your sins. Don't worry." These instructions are the basis of Krsna consciousness. Krsna, acting from within, helps us to be "good" when we surrender to Him; He removes our contaminated desire for sinful activities and purifies our heart, giving us the higher taste of ecstasy that comes with serving Him. At last He lifts us out of the world of birth and death and brings us back to Him in His own spiritual abode.
Now to your specific questions. How good should a person be? Well, devotees of Krsna define as good any action conforming to Krsna's instructions in the Bhagavad-gita and other scriptures, the instructions of a bona fide spiritual master, and those of realized saints and sages who are devotees of the Lord. We should conform to these instructions at every moment; so we should be absolutely good if we want liberation in this lifetime.
Should you stop hating? Yes. Stop gambling? Yes. Stop gossiping? Yes. Stop drinking? Certainly. All these things block spiritual advancement.
Should you take a vow of poverty? No; just live simply and use whatever you have for serving Lord Krsna. This is the standard of renunciation Krsna sets in the Gita.
Should you become celibate? If possible. Otherwise, get married or stay married and practice self-control by having sex only with your wife and only to have a child. Sex is the greatest material pleasure, and therefore sex desire is the greatest hurdle we have to cross in our effort to break free of material bondage. Minimization of sex is a must.
Should you stop eating meat? Absolutely. Killing defenseless animals just to satisfy our tongue is the greatest sin. Stop desiring? No. Start desiring to chant Hare Krsna and serve the Lord.
Should you stop eating plants? Of course not. Simply adopt a lacto-vegetarian diet and offer everything to Lord Krsna before you eat (see our "Lord Krsna's Cuisine" feature for more on Krsna conscious cooking and eating).
Finally, we must emphatically state that there is an absolute standard of virtue: what pleases Krsna is good; everything else is bad. And if we- live according to this principle we'll make ourselves and everyone we come in touch with supremely happy. But if we adopt some relative, self-formulated standard of virtue, we'll only perpetuate our miserable life in the material world and cause moral confusion among the gullible.
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Please send me a complete list of foods that are rajasic [in the mode of passion].
Reading your magazine brings much comfort and joy.
Long Branch, New Jersey
Our reply (from Visakha-devi dasi): Thank you for appreciating our magazine.
As for your inquiry. Lord Krsna describes the qualities of rajasic foods in Bhagavad-gita (17.9): "Foods that are too bitter, too sour, salty, pungent, dry, and hot are liked by people in the mode of passion (rajas). Such foods cause pain, distress, and disease." In his purport, Srila Prabhupada writes, "Foods in the mode of passion cause misery by producing mucus in the stomach leading to disease?"
Srila Prabhupada elaborated on this point in a letter to one of my Godsisters. "Foods in the mode of passion are those that are very rich, such as kacauris [deep-fried pastries stuffed with ground beans], halava [farina roasted in butter, cooked in milk or water, and sweetened with sugar], rasagullas [cheese-balls soaked in concentrated sugar-water], etc."
But that's not to say that devotees never eat rasagullas, kacauris, or halava. In fact, we eat these with great delight—but only after they've been offered to Lord Krsna. Then they're no longer rajasic: they're transcendental to the modes of nature. By eating such transcendentalized food, we can rise above those modes and make solid progress on the path back home, back to Godhead.
For more on this subject, watch for our "Lord Krsna's Cuisine" article in the May issue of BACK TO GODHEAD.
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My self, wife, and two children are small subsistence farmers in the mountains of West Virginia. We subscribe to your magazine and think it's a beautiful message to the people in this world. Please, if possible, more articles on Krishna conscious farming, gardening, and food production should be included in future issues.
I am personally a great deal interested in the use of oxen and horses as work partners. Srila Prabhupada himself said we should "milk the cows and work the bulls." Is this only a symbolic suggestion? Does the movement have working bulls? Horses? I would like to correspond with anyone in the organization who is experienced with draft animals.
Hinton, West Virginia
Our reply: You're right—of late we've been neglecting our farm communities in BACK TO GODHEAD. But we plan to rectify the situation soon with an article about the use of oxen at our Gita-nagari farm community in Pennsylvania. Srila Prabhupada's instruction to "milk the cows and work the bulls" was certainly not symbolic, and none have taken this instruction to heart more avidly than Paramananda dasa, the head of the Gita-nagari farm. For more information about the use of draft animals on ISKCON farms, write to him there. The address is in the back of this magazine.
Sweet Rice: Good Enough to Steal
Delicately sweetened condensed milk flavored with spices and thickened with rice—a dish Krsna's devotees can't resist offering to Him.
by Visakha-devi dasi
If you've ever been to a Sunday Love Feast at a Hare Krsna temple, it's more than likely that you've tasted sweet rice—that cool, thick, milky dessert with rice in it—often the highlight of the feast.
Sweet rice (one kind of ksira, or condensed milk dish) was also a favorite five thousand years ago, when Lord Krsna walked the earth, and through the centuries its popularity has continued. Five hundred years ago, when the Lord appeared as Caitanya Mahaprabhu (we're observing the anniversary of His appearance in the coming weeks). He personally related a historical incident that involved this dish.
Once a highly advanced devotee named Madhavendra Puri was living in the holy village of Vrndavana, India, peacefully worshiping Krsna in His Deity form. (For those advanced spiritually, the Deity form in the temple is not simply a stone or wooden statue but a direct manifestation of the Lord. In other words, the Deity of Krsna is Krsna: Krsna and His Deity are identical. Since God is omnipotent, if He wants to appear as the Deity so that His devotee can serve and worship Him, who can stop Him?)
One night the Deity came to Madhavendra Puri in a dream and asked him to collect some Malayan sandalwood. The paste made from this unique wood has a cooling effect when smeared on the body, and the Deity was apparently feeling a little uncomfortable in Vrndavana's scorching summers. Madhavendra Puri was very pleased at receiving this request from his Lord, and he immediately left Vrndavana and headed for Jagannatha Puri, the city about a thousand miles away where sandal-wood was available.
En route to the city, Madhavendra Puri stopped over at the town of Remuna, where he saw the worship of a second Deity of Krsna, Lord Gopinatha. Madhavendra Puri especially appreciated how Gopinatha was being offered such opulent food daily. And when he heard that every evening the Lord received twelve pots of ksira that tasted as good as nectar, Madhavendra Puri thought to himself, "If I could taste this ksira, I could prepare a similar offering for my Lord hack in Vrndavana." But at once he became ashamed. The idea in Deity worship is that the Lord should be the first to taste every dish, and at the time Madhavendra Puri was thinking he'd like to taste the ksira, Gopinatha hadn't vet eaten it. Feeling that he had offended the Lord, Madhavendra Puri left the temple and went to a solitary place to chant Hare Krsna.
But Lord Gopinatha had not considered Madhavendra Puri offensive. That night the Lord came to one of His priests in a dream and told him, "I have hidden a pot of ksira for Madhavendra Puri. Please take it to him." The priest immediately woke up and bathed. Then he entered the Deity room and found the pot of ksira exactly where Gopinatha said he had hidden it!
The priest rushed from the temple with the pot of ksira, found Madhavendra Puri, explained what had happened, and gave him the ksira. In great ecstasy, Madhavendra Puri ate the ksira stolen for him by Lord Gopinatha. And from that day on, the Deity of Krsna in Remuna became famous as Ksira-cora-Gopinatha, "Krsna, the Sweet-Rice Thief."
Although we may not be so fortunate that Lord Krsna will personally steal sweet rice for us, we can prepare, offer, and relish ksira while remembering this pastime and thus enter into the mood of devotion exemplified by Madhavendra Puri.
Although rice ksira (the famous sweet rice) is the most common type, there are many others, some of which you may like even better. You can make a type of ksira to fit every occasion and season. Light fruit ksiras, served well chilled, are refreshing in the hot summer months, and hearty grain ksiras, sometimes served warm, are welcome favorites during the cold winter months.
As for the health side, the amino acids (the building blocks of protein) in milk and grain complement each other. So by eating these together you get more usable protein than if you ate the same amounts of milk and grain separately. And if you shy away from the standard sweetener, granulated sugar, you can substitute light-colored, mild-flavored honey or unrefined sugar. Just remember that since the flavor of the ksira depends to a great extent on the sweetener, try to use a mild and delicate one.
Whatever kind of ksira you make, the most important ingredient is your consciousness. In Madhavendra Puri's case, he wanted to taste Lord Gopinatha's ksira not to enjoy it but to learn how to make it for his own Deity back in Vrndavana. After Madhavendra Puri received the pot of ksira, he drank it in great ecstasy, broke the clay pot into tiny pieces, and carefully kept them in his cloth. Each day he would eat one of those tiny pieces of the pot and become ecstatic by remembering Gopinatha's mercy upon him.
We cannot imitate Madhavendra Puri's exalted level of devotion, but we can keep the pleasure of the Lord and His devotees foremost in our mind when we prepare ksira at home. That consciousness will be the success of our dish—and of our lives.
(Recipes by Yamuna-devi dasi)
To prepare condensed milk pudding (ksira), use a saucepan that's double or triple the volume of milk. For example, if the recipe calls for 2 quarts of milk, use a 4- to 6-quart saucepan. We highly recommend a heavy 5-to 6-quart nonstick saucepan; it will let you use maximum heat. Your milk will have room to rise, froth, and vigorously boil in the early stages of cooking, and this will cut cooking time to a minimum. For perfect results, stir the pudding constantly. During the last 15 to 20 minutes, keep the flame in the medium range and stir very carefully. Rhythmic and uniform stirring will prevent the thick milk on the bottom of the pot from scorching.
Generally, the puddings should be only slightly thick when removed from the flame, for they inevitably thicken further as they cool to room temperature. This is especially so when the pudding contains rice, noodles, or some other grain. Refrigeration will thicken the pudding even further.
Plain Condensed-Milk Pudding
Preparation time: 1 hour
8 cups fresh milk
1. Pour the milk into a 5- or 6-quart saucepan and bring to a boil over a high flame. To avoid scorching, stir constantly with a wide wooden spatula.
2. Reduce the flame slightly to the medium-high range and allow the milk to boil for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until it is reduced to slightly more than half its original volume. Stir constantly.
3. Add the sweetener and continue boiling the milk, stirring attentively until it is reduced to a thick liquid, or about 1/3 its original volume.
4. Remove the saucepan from the flame and stir in the cardamom powder. Cool the ksira to room temperature, stirring now and then. Refrigerate for at least two hours.
5. Before offering to Krsna, you may garnish His serving with a small piece of edible silver or gold foil or a sprinkle of slivered, blanched, raw pistachio nuts, or both.
Sweetened Condensed Milk With Juicy Tangerine Cells
(Bengali Kamala Payasa)
A delectable citrus fruit called kamala grows in Bengal and is often used to make a delicious condensed milk dish. You can imitate the dainty flavor of this fruit by using fragrant, sweet tangerines or mandarin oranges. When you add the juicy cells of either of these fruits to sweetened, homemade condensed milk, the result is a rich, beautifully flavored pudding.
Preparation time: 1 hour
8 cups fresh milk
1. Wash the citrus fruits. With a sharp knife, cut off a few strips of orange or tangerine rind, removing only the colored orange part and avoiding the bitter white pith. Slice the rinds into paper-thin shreds and save for a garnish.
2. Peel the citrus fruits and cut into segments. Take each segment apart by removing the white membranes and leaving only the juicy cells (avoid crushing them). Set the cells aside.
3. Prepare a simple ksira as in steps 1 to 3 of the above recipe for Plain Condensed-Milk Pudding.
4. Remove the saucepan from the flame and cool the ksira to room temperature. Gently fold in the citrus cells, and then refrigerate the pudding for at least 2 hours. Before offering to Krsna, garnish His serving with a few paper-thin shreds of orange or tangerine rind.
Sweetened Condensed Milk with Fried Vermicelli Noodles
Preparation time: 1 hour
2 ½ tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)
1. Break the vermicelli into pieces 2 ½ to 3 inches long and crush slightly.
2. Heat the ghee in a 5-or 6-quart saucepan over a medium flame. Add the vermicelli and gently stir-fry until the noodles turn a rich golden brown.
3. Pour in the milk, turn the flame up to high, and, while stirring constantly, bring the milk to a full boil. Reduce the flame slightly (just enough to prevent the milk from boiling out of the saucepan) and briskly boil for about 15 minutes.
4. Break open the cardamom pods, remove the black seeds, and crush them to a powder.
5. Add the cardamom powder and sweetener to the milk and continue to boil over a moderate flame for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until the milk is creamy and slightly thick. Stir in the almonds and raisins.
6. Remove the saucepan from the flame, cool the milk to room temperature, and chill. Before offering to Krsna, garnish His serving with a small piece of edible silver foil or a sprinkle of minced pistachio nuts, or both.
How Work Can Be Worship
The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place in June 1974 during an early-morning walk in Geneva.
Devotee: What does Krsna mean when He says in the Bhagavad-gita that we should be desireless?
Srila Prabhupada: He means that we should desire only to serve Him. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu [Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Krsna Himself in the role of His own devotee, appeared five hundred years ago in Bengal, India, to teach love of God through the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra.] said, na dhanam na janam na sundarim kavitam va jagad-isa kamaye: "I don't want wealth. I don't want followers. I don't want beautiful women." Then what does He want? "I want to serve Krsna." It is not that He says, "I don't want this, I don't want that. Let Me become zero." No.
Devotee: The nondevotee also says he knows what he wants, but he says, "I can accomplish the same good results without Krsna."
Srila Prabhupada: Then he is a fool, because he does not know what "good results" really are. Today he is struggling very hard for one "good result," but tomorrow he'll desire something else, because he must undergo a change of body when he dies. Sometimes he's taking the body of a dog and desiring one "good result," and sometimes he's taking the body of a demigod and desiring another "good result." Bhramatam upary adhah: he's wandering up and down the universe, just like . . . what is that?
Devotee: A ferris wheel.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Sometimes he is rising to an elevated position, and then again he must come down and take the body of a dog or hog. This is going on.
brahmanda bhramite kona bhagyavan jiva
"After wandering up and down the universe for many lifetimes, one who is very fortunate comes to devotional life by the mercy of the spiritual master and Krsna."
Devotee: Well, the nondevotee will say, "We are also doing good service. You are distributing food, and we are also distributing food. You are opening schools, and we are also opening schools."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, but we are opening schools that teach Krsna consciousness, while your schools are teaching illusion. The problem is that the rascals cannot understand the difference between bhakti [devotional service] and karma [material activity]. Bhakti looks like karma, but it's not karma. In bhakti we also work, but for Krsna's sake. That is the difference.
For example, Arjuna fought in the Battle of Kuruksetra, but because he fought for Krsna he is accepted as a great devotee. Krsna told him, bhakto 'si me . . . priyo 'si me: "Arjuna, you are My dear devotee." What did Arjuna do? He fought, that's all. But he fought for Krsna. That is the secret. He did not change his fighting capacity as a warrior, but he changed his mentality. At first he was thinking, "Why shall I kill my kinsmen? Let me leave the battlefield and go to the forest and become a mendicant." But Krsna wanted him to fight, so at last he surrendered and did it as a service for Krsna. Not for his own sense gratification, but for Krsna's sense gratification.
Devotee: So sense gratification is there even in devotional service?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. A karmi works for his own sense gratification, and a bhakta works for Krsna's sense gratification. That is the difference between a nondevotee and a devotee. Sense gratification is there in either case, but when you work for your personal sense gratification it is karma, and when you work for Krsna's sense gratification it is bhakti. Bhakti and karma look similar, but the quality is different.
Another example is the behavior of the gopis [Krsna's cowherd girlfriends]. Krsna was a beautiful boy and the gopis were attracted to Him. They wanted Him as their lover, and they went out from their homes in the middle of the night to dance with Him. So it appears that they acted sinfully—but they did not, because the center was Krsna. Therefore Caitanya Mahaprabhu recommends, ramya kacid upasana vraja-vadhu-vargena ya kalpita: "There is no better mode of worshiping Krsna than that practiced by the gopis."
But the rascals think, "Oh, this is very good. Krsna danced in the middle of the night with other men's wives, so let us also gather some girls and dance, and we will also enjoy like Krsna. "This is a gross misunderstanding of Krsna's pastimes with the gopis. To prevent this misunderstanding, Srila Vyasadeva [the author of the Srimad-Bhagavatam] has devoted nine cantos of the Bhagavatam to describing Krsna's position as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Then he gives a description of Krsna's behavior with the gopis. But the rascals jump immediately to the Tenth Canto, to Krsna's dealings with the gopis. In this way they become sahajiyas [imitators of Krsna].
Devotee: Will such persons experience a change of heart, since they're somehow or other associating with Krsna?
Srila Prabhupada: No. Kamsa also associated with Krsna—but as an enemy. That is not bhakti. Bhakti must be anukulyena krsnanusilanam: favorable devotional service. One should not imitate Krsna or try to kill Him. That is also Krsna consciousness, but it is not favorable and therefore it is not bhakti. Still, the enemies of Krsna get salvation, because they have somehow or other thought of Krsna. They get impersonal liberation, but they are not allowed to enter into the pastimes of Krsna in the spiritual world. That benediction is reserved for those who practice pure loving devotion to Krsna.
A look at the worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Devotee Hairdresser Breaks All the Stereotypes
By Carol Edgar (Reprinted From the Dallas Observer)
Dallas—If you happen to be among the multitudes flocking to Kalachandji's, the new Hare Krishna gourmet vegetarian restaurant winning rave reviews, and you go on Saturday night, you'll probably be greeted by a Hare Krishna who breaks all the Hare Krishna stereotypes.
Her name is Elaine Dodson. At Kalachandji's, where she volunteers as hostess Saturday evenings, you'll see her dressed in the traditional sari, her head covered in deference to her faith. Away from the restaurant and the temple, she sheds the religious garb for trendy street clothes and make-up in keeping with her work. Dodson is a hair stylist and consultant on matters regarding beauty and health. The day we visited her in her studio just south of Nostromo on Travis, she was dressed in a bright teal-colored suit, her hair a flaming orange—certainly not what you'd expect of a Hare Krishna devotee.
"I'm their best PR," Dodson admitted from her studio, which is elaborately decorated in bright-colored prints. "I grew up here in Dallas—was raised a Baptist like everyone else. But when I became an adult I realized I didn't have the philosophical answers I wanted. So I started searching. Let's see, I went from Baptist to Unity to Eastern religions. I studied a lot of philosophy and learned a lot about Eastern thought.
"Then I met a guy from India who took me to the Hare Krishna temple. At first I thought it was too strange, but the more I investigated the faith, the more I realized how much it offered.
"Actually, it's a form of bhakti-yoga," Dodson explained. "The idea is to have total control over the senses. Listen, the hairdresser world gets pretty wild, and I needed something to ground me."
"So how do you get control over your senses?" we asked, certain we wouldn't like the answer.
"Well, we have four basic principles," Dodson said. "Number one is no illicit sex. That means no sex outside marriage and sex within marriage only for the purpose of conceiving a child."
"So you're celibate?" we asked incredulously, knowing that Dodson is divorced.
"Yes," she said cheerfully, "and I'll tell you in a minute how I do it. The second principle is no drugs of any kind, which includes nicotine, caffeine, and other more common drugs and not just the hard stuff. The third is no gambling. And the fourth is no meat, fish, or eggs, since killing things upsets your karma."
We were stuck on rule number one and asked Dodson how she keeps herself chaste.
"Well," she said, "I have to be at the temple at 4:30 every morning, which means I don't have time for night life."
"Yes, every day. We do daily what the Baptists do once or twice a week. From 4:30 to 6:30 we chant on beads. Then, from 6:30 to 8:30 we study Sanskrit. After which I rush home, change clothes, and come to work by 10:00."
Dodson's religion pervades her life. She believes that outward beauty starts from the inside, and she urges vegetarian foods, herbs, and vitamins on her customers.
"Do you proselytize them too?" we asked, noting a pink etagere stacked with pamphlets.
"Well," she said, "people get pretty close to their hairdressers. And it's impossible to get to know me without knowing that I'm a Hare Krishna. If they're interested, I'll tell them more."
Hare Krsna Chant Resounds at Ghana Religion Conference
Accra, Ghana—At the invitation of the Ghanian government, the Hare Krsna movement recently sent a delegation of devotees to a two-day conference in the state house here. The theme of the conference, the first of its kind in this country, was "How Can Religion Best Help Ghana?"
Asked to open the conference with congregational chanting of Hare Krsna, the devotees gladly complied, delighting the delegates from seven hundred religious organizations for an hour and a half. (Many enthusiastically joined in.)
Later Maha-mantra dasa, the spokesman for the group, addressed the assembly. Responding to the question "How can religion best help Ghana?" he explained that the chanting of God's holy names is the only way to counteract the ills of today's world, which are the effects of the present Age of Quarrel. He said that by vigorously propagating the science of God consciousness, beginning with the chanting of Hare Krsna, the government of Ghana would find peace, prosperity, and true happiness flooding the country.
Eastern Canada's Krsna Culture
The traditional chanting, dancing, and worship
About a decade ago the Hare Krsna devotees in Canada bought two churches—one in Toronto and one in Montreal—and caused a bit of consternation. Their neighbors wondered just who they were and what they were going to do.
Today these fears are gone. Krsna consciousness has become firmly established in eastern Canada—not just in Toronto and Montreal but also in the nation's capital, Ottawa—and the large incandescent HARE KRISHNA sign on the high stone walls of the Toronto temple raises hardly an eyebrow among the people in some 25.000 cars that pass by each day.
Still, for many Canadians the questions remain: What do the Hare Krsnas do? And why?
Nandikesvara dasa, president of the center in Montreal, explained, "We live according to the Vedic scriptures, such as Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. These books were introduced here in the late sixties and early seventies by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual guide of the Hare Krsna movement. He translated them from the original Sanskrit and explained them in elaborate purports. To understand our activities here in eastern Canada, you have to understand something of the principles laid down in these scriptures.",
And what are those principles? "In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says, 'All that you do, all that you eat, and all austerities you may perform should be offerings to Me. In this way you will become free from karmic reactions and come back to Me in the spiritual world.' Everything we do is guided by this principle of making it an offering to Lord Krsna. This is he basis of the whole culture of Krsna consciousness."
For several weeks last summer I lived with the Canadian devotees and saw how they put these principles into practice.
As in all Hare Krsna temples, the devotees in Canada begin the day at 4:30 in the morning with a formal arati ceremony. Accompanying themselves on drums and hand cymbals, they sing prayers to the spiritual master, a pure representative of Krsna and the devotees' spiritual guide and source of inspiration. Then they chant the Hare Krsna mantra in chorus.
Arati is a ceremony for greeting the Lord, who dwells in the temple in His Deity form. (To the uninitiated. He looks like a stone statue.) Visvakarma dasa, president of the Toronto center, explained, "Krsna is eternally manifest in His spiritual form in the spiritual world, far beyond the material universes, and He is within the heart of every living being in another spiritual form, the Supersoul. But we can't see His spiritual form with our material eyes. So for the benefit of us conditioned souls and aspiring devotees, Lord Krsna appears in His spiritual form within a form made of matter so that we can see and serve Him. A bona fide spiritual master installs the Deity in the temple and prays to the Lord to please appear there. And when we come before the Deity of the Lord and worship Him and chant His name, we feel Krsna's personal presence."
For an hour and a half after the arati softly on beads (see page 4 for more details). Then it's time for a class in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Laksminatha dasa, president of the center in Ottawa, told us of its significance: "By hearing the Bhagavatam every morning, we feel tangible spiritual improvement. The Bhagavatam is the foremost of all Vedic literatures because it deals with nothing except the instructions and activities of Lord Krsna and His devotees. The Lord is within each of us, and, as the Bhagavatam itself explains, He purifies our heart and gives us transcendental knowledge when we regularly hear about Him. Ultimately He reveals Himself to us. So the morning Bhagavatam class is a vital part of every devotee's practice of Krsna consciousness."
During the Bhagavatam class the temple cooks are busy at work in the kitchen, listening to class via loudspeakers. Krpa-sindhu dasa, a cook at the Montreal center, explained the philosophy behind cooking for Krsna: "As Krsna says in the Gita, 'Everything you eat should be an offering to Me.' So the food we cook in this kitchen is all for Krsna's pleasure. That's why we cook only vegetarian food—because that's what Krsna asks for in the Gita. When the meal is ready, a priest will arrange it on special plates used only for Krsna. Then he'll take the plates into the Deity room, place them before the Lord, and offer Sanskrit prayers asking Him to please accept the offering. Devotees eat only food that has first been offered to Krsna. Such food is called prasadam, 'the Lord's mercy.' "
After the class, everyone rises to sing more prayers glorifying the spiritual master. Then it's breakfast time, followed by the start of the day's devotional activities.
Visvakarma told us how the devotees offer their work to Krsna thoroughout the day: "Some manage the temple accounts, some maintain the temple grounds and clean the temple itself. Some go out to distribute Krsna conscious literature—BACK TO GODHEAD magazine or books by Srila Prabhupada or his followers. Some go to high schools and universities to tell students and their teachers about our philosophy and way of life. In Ottawa and Montreal we have vegetarian restaurants that serve prasadam to hundreds daily, and many devotees work in them. Then there are our acting troupes, who put on Krsna conscious dramas. We also have artists and musicians and dancers who create or perform for Krsna. And, of course, we send out a group of devotees every day to chant Hare Krsna on the city streets so that everyone can hear and benefit."
Visvakarma also told me about his large congregation of Indian life members. They've seen that the devotees are following the genuine Vedic culture, so they enthusiastically support the temple. Two members, Syama-Krsna dasa and his wife, Kunti-devi dasi, recently took spiritual initiation from Srila Gopala Krsna Go-swami, who oversees the movement's affairs in Canada and initiates new disciples there.
Kunti-devi explained how they decided to take the step of accepting formal initiation: "When we started reading BACK TO GODHEAD, we used to read about everyday people pursuing Krsna consciousness. And that made us think, 'Well, what is there to stop us? If ordinary people like us can do it, why should we hesitate?' Reading BACK TO GODHEAD was wonderful."
Her husband added, "What inspired us was that we saw that we didn't have to give up our regular life. We could carry on with that and yet advance spiritually and make Krsna the center of our life. We could do everything for Krsna and help spread Krsna consciousness."
To find out about the Krsna conscious drama being performed in Canada, I talked to Nanda-kisora dasa in Montreal, He's been putting on plays about Krsna for ten years, and now he's directing a production based on the Mahabharata, India's great epic poem of 110,000 couplets. The Mahabharata relates a complex scries of political events that culminated fifty centuries ago in the Battle of Kuruksetra, a devastating war of royal succession in which Lord Krsna Himself took part. The Bhagavad-gita is part of the Mahabharata.
"Dramatizing the Mahabharata is like sculpting," said Nanda-kisora. "The entire story is like a large stone that must be cut and formed into a play that presents the essence of the work. Ideally the finished production should be so absorbing that the audience should forget they're watching a play. They should be drawn into what's happening onstage as if it were real life." The production I saw did just that: the members of the audience were transfixed by the play, fully absorbed in Krsna consciousness.
I also learned that another troupe, in Toronto, puts on a play based on the Ramayana, the epic about Krsna's incarnation Lord Ramacandra. And I heard that one devotee performs ballet and classical Indian dance to portray the Lord's pastimes.
I knew my visit wouldn't be complete without stopping at one of the prasadam restaurants. Nandikesvara showed me around Chez Govinda in Montreal. He suggested I try the Tofu Burger, a favorite among patrons.
I could hardly hold it in my hands, let alone fit it into my mouth, but somehow I chomped into it. Wonderful! Between light, homemade whole-wheat buns was a base layer of sour cream sauce, then lettuce, a slice of tomato, a half-inch-thick fried tofu patty, alfalfa sprouts, thick melted cheese, and then tomato sauce—all bulging out. It was exquisitely delicious!
"That's just for a start," said Nandikesvara, laughing as I grappled with the expansive munchie. "Now this is the Cosmic Special." It was an eight-inch-wide capati (a round, whole-wheat tortilla) decked with thick avacado puree, tomato slices, melted cheese, sunflower seeds, and fresh alfalfa sprouts.
"What do you think of that?" Nandikesvara asked.
Next I asked Punyakirti dasa, who manages Chez Govinda, about the restaurant's interior.
"The devotees did it all themselves," he told me." Abhay Charan made the wrought-iron table legs and matching chairs, Dana-keli did the plumbing, wiring, and kitchen installations, and Visnu dasa hand-painted the wall mural." This monumental piece of artwork consists of seventeen panels separated by hand-cast columns and arches.
"As the mural shows," Punyakirti continued, "the kingdom of God is a place of beauty and peace, where everyone lives together without trouble—unlike the material world, where there is constant fear, strife, and exploitation. But when we make Krsna the center of our lives, even this world can be peaceful and harmonious. All up and down the street there are many restaurants, but they're full of violence because they're serving meat—dismembered carcasses. Here we serve only vegetarian foods offered to Krsna. So the mural isn't just an expression of wishful thinking. This actually is a place of peace, and because all the food is cooked for Lord Krsna and offered to Him, all our patrons get incalculable spiritual benefit as well."
Unfortunately, I never did get to visit the Back Home Buffet, the devotees' restaurant in Ottawa, where I heard they serve a different national vegetarian food every day: Italian food one day, Indian the next, Mexican the next, then Oriental, then American. Maybe I could go back and do a special article just on the Ottawa restaurant. Of course, I'd have to sample all the national dishes . . .
In any case, from what I saw of the Hare Krsna devotees in eastern Canada, far from bringing consternation to their neighbors, they're winning congratulations. The temple programs, the restaurants, the art, music, drama, and dance, what to speak of the summer celebrations like The Festival of the Chariots and Lord Krsna's Appearance Day, all add up to a multifaceted expression of Krsna culture that has something to please everyone.
On Vancouver's most popular talk show,
Announcer: When the Krsna movement first appeared on the scene, many critics dismissed it and predicted that it would never last. Well, it has lasted. And with us tonight is the man in charge of the Krsna movement in Canada, Srila Gopala Krsna Goswami. Here is Laurier Lapierre now with Srila Gopala Krsna.
Laurier Lapierre: Good evening, sir, and welcome to our program. What is it that you do?
Gopala Krsna Goswami: I travel around the world preaching the message of Bhagavad-gita. I encourage people to take advantage of the human form of life and achieve liberation from the cycle of repeated birth and death in this world. This is what the Krsna consciousness movement is trying to do—propagate the ageless philosophy of the Vedas, which describe how human life should be led.
Mr. Lapierre: How relevant is that to us, who live in the age of the atom and instant communication?
Gopala Krsna Goswami: The teachings of the Bhagavad-gita are for everyone—it doesn't matter in what age one may live. In any age there are two types of knowledge one can obtain: knowledge of relative truth and knowledge of the Absolute Truth. The Absolute Truth is true eternally—in the past, present, and future. The Bhagavad-gita gives knowledge of the Absolute Truth, so it is as relevant today as it was five thousand years ago, when Krsna spoke it.
The basic philosophy of the Bhagavad-gita is that when the body dies the soul doesn't die. Whether one is living in a primitive age or in the modern age, one's body is bound to die. But the soul lives eternally.
Mr. Lapierre: Does it take on another form eventually?
Gopala Krsna Goswami: It does. According to the Vedic scriptures, there are 8,400,000 different kinds of bodies.
Mr. Lapierre: How did you find that out?
Gopala Krsna Goswami: Well, there's a lot in the scriptures that neither you nor the scientists will ever be able to discover.
Mr. Lapierre: You have to take it on faith?
Gopala Krsna Goswami: You have to have faith, but you can also test it out. For example, about twelve years ago Dr. Wilfred Bigelow, a world-famous heart surgeon at the Toronto General Hospital, stated in an interview published in the Montreal Gazette that after seeing people die for thirty-two years he was definitely convinced there was a soul. In his correspondence with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual master of the Hare Krsna movement. Dr. Bigelow acknowledged that what the Vedas are teaching is far superior to what modern science will ever discover.
Mr. Lapierre: And the end result of having a soul is what?
Gopala Krsna Goswami: Well, the real point is that we should utilize our human life correctly. The soul is our real identity. Just as you have a suit and trousers that are covering your body, you have a body that is covering your real self, the soul. The purpose of getting this human body is to act according to religious principles so that we can get out of repeated birth and death in material existence and return to the eternal kingdom of God, where we all belong.
Mr. Lapierre: What made you come to the movemen?
Gopala Krsna Goswami: I was in Montreal, doing my studies at McGill, and I was questioning the real purpose of human life. I had been searching for about two years, meeting spiritual leaders of various faiths, until I finally met Srila Prabhupada. That was in June of 1968. I asked him what the human form of life is -meant for. His answers were so satisfactory and so convincing that I eventually decided to adopt this way of life.
Mr. Lapierre: One problem your movement has is that you are lumped together as just another cult—a brainwashing one.
Gopala Krsna Goswami: Actually, we have a problem only with those who don't take the time to study the Krsna consciousness movement. In fact, if you would take the time I could show you statements by leading Indologists around the world, including Dr. A.L. Basham [the world's foremost Indologist], who have studied the Krsna consciousness movement and concluded that it authentically represents the Vedic culture.
Mr. Lapierre: So there is no "cult" involved? There is no brainwashing involved?
Gopala Krsna Goswami: No.
Mr. Lapierre: Another problem is that you walk down the street, take forlorn, sad souls, disappointed with life—young, impressionable—and drag them back to your temple, and after that they become Krsnas.
Gopala Krsna Goswami: Can you tell me that you are not disappointed with life?
Mr. Lapierre: Every day. Especially after the hangover I have. But I am not about to go out and put on your robes. I will stop drinking before that.
Gopala Krsna Goswami: But let us face reality. The reality is that everyone is disappointed with life, and the reason you turn to alcohol as a means of shelter is that you are also disappointed. But some are honest enough to admit it, and (excuse my frankness) some are hypocrites who do not want to admit they are disappointed. Those who don't have the courage to face up to reality take shelter of alcohol, drugs, loose women, gambling, and other illicit activities.
Mr. Lapierre: We have been told by so many people, most of whom are crackpots, that they have the answer to life's disappointments. I must have interviewed several people in the past two to three months who say they have the answer to life. Consequently, one wonders. Aren't you just another one of them? Aren't you just another crackpot who says he has an easy way out of life's dilemma?
Gopala Krsna Goswami: As I said, if you take the time to study our philosophy, you can draw your own conclusion. If you want to buy a suit, you take the time to go to two or three shops to make sure you are getting the best price. Or if you want a job, you'll take the time to go for a few interviews to find out which job would be the best for your character. Similarly, if you take the time to study the Hare Krsna movement, you'll conclude that it is a genuine movement offering information based on the most scientific knowledge, the knowledge presented in the Vedic scriptures.
Mr. Lapierre: One last point: How do you reconcile all of this with the technology of modern life?
Gopala Krsna Goswami: In Krsna consciousness we use all facilities in the service of the Lord. For example, you have this wonderful TV studio. We also have our own TV studios, but we make programs that show people how to be God conscious. So the modern amenities are there, but we are using them all in the service of the Lord.
Anyone can serve Krsna. Krsna doesn't say that you have to withdraw and move into the temple and shave your hair off, giving up your family. Remain where you are, but perfect your life by stopping sinful activities and making God the center of your life.
Mr. Lapierre: Thank you. Thank you for your gentleness and for the gentleness of your people. Thank you very much.
Reflections on Completing Srila Prabhupada's Biography
As I prepare this month's "Notes" I am in Ireland, where I have just concluded writing the seven-volume series Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta. Writing this biography of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder and spiritual guide of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), has been my main occupation for the last five years.
One conclusion I have reached by studying the life of Srila Prabhupada is that he was much more than the spiritual master of a few thousand disciples. He was truly a spiritual teacher for the millennium, because he revealed the pure spiritual path that humanity can follow for thousands of years to come. So although Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta is certainly not the only biography of a spiritual master, it is unique nonetheless—because Srila Prabhupada was unique.
Srila Prabhupada faithfully conveyed the transcendental message handed down through the disciplic succession, the chain of God-realized spiritual masters beginning with Lord Krsna's direct disciple Brahma. Therefore he is a bona fide guru. Yet he is more. He is the spiritual master whom Lord Krsna empowered to accomplish what no previous spiritual master had ever accomplished: the establishment of a worldwide movement of Krsna consciousness. Srila Prabhupada's International Society for Krishna Consciousness is a dynamic, living, spiritual reality, and that spiritual reality is nothing less than the embodiment of yuga-dharma, the spiritual path the Vedic scriptures recommend for all humanity in the present Age of Kali, the Age of Quarrel and Hypocrisy.
The essence of all religious principles is contained in the Bhagavad-gita, in which Lord Krsna concludes, "Surrender unto Me and give up all other religious principles. I will release you from the reactions of all sins. Do not fear." Lord Krsna taught this simple principle of surrender five thousand years ago, but in the course of time people misunderstood and misinterpreted it. After some time almost no one was following Krsna's order to surrender to Him.
Five hundred years ago, therefore, Lord Krsna appeared on earth as Lord Caitanya to revive the original message of surrender to Himself. But this time He showed us how to surrender—by taking up the process of sankirtana, the congregational chanting of the holy names of God.
Centuries later, in the 1800's, a great devotee of Lord Caitanya's named Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura began the mission to disseminate the philosophy and practice of sankirtana all over the world. Bhaktivinoda Thakura had deeply studied many religions and philosophies, and he had concluded that sankirtana was the quintessence of spiritual life, a universally applicable process fully able to unite all people and bring them to life's perfection—pure love of God.
Bhaktivinoda Thakura's son, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, became the spiritual master of Srila Prabhupada and instructed him to go to the West, teach the principle of sankirtana, and thus implement the vision of worldwide Krsna consciousness.
Srila Prabhupada, infused with unflinching faith in the instructions of his spiritual master, soon proved that Krsna consciousness could indeed be adopted by people of all races and cultures. In the short period of twelve years, Srila Prabhupada established more than one hundred centers of Krsna consciousness worldwide, initiated thousands of disciples on six continents, and saw many of the seventy or so books of transcendental knowledge he wrote during this time translated into more than thirty languages. Thus Srila Prabhupada showed the universality of Krsna consciousness. And as long as Srila Prabhupada's followers continue to abide by his instructions, the Krsna consciousness movement will continue to develop in the same dynamic, nectarean way it did under his personal guidance.
Having completed Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, I am eager to see the remaining volumes printed, distributed, and read so that people will learn more about Srila Prabhupada and see how relevant his life's example and teachings are. Of course, all biographers want their readers to remember the biography's hero, and I'm no exception. The renowned biographer James Boswell, who wrote The Life of Samuel Johnson, wanted his readers to become immersed in "the Johnsonian ether." But with all due respect for Boswell's genius, we must frankly say that there is no great value in becoming immersed in the brilliant conversations and sometimes dubious moral conclusions of Samuel Johnson. Certainly the Johnsonian ether can't help us at the time of death.
But if we immerse ourselves in the transcendental atmosphere of Srila Prabhupada's pastimes, we will realize our eternal, spiritual identity beyond the body, an identity based on our eternal loving relationship with Lord Krsna. Just as we can come in direct touch with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, by remembering His activities, we can also come in touch with Krsna by remembering the activities of His pure devotee and representative, Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada's pastimes can free us from the suffering of material life and enable us to taste the nectar of the eternal pastimes of Lord Krsna and His associates in the spiritual world. This is true because Srila Prabhupada's life was solely dedicated to glorifying Krsna; so when we hear of Srila Prabhupada, we automatically hear the glories of the Lord and become Krsna conscious.
As for myself, I don't think I can stop writing about Srila Prabhupada. Therefore I'm having my staff do more research so I can present supplementary books about him. I hope that readers everywhere, by hearing of Srila Prabhupada, will become Prabhupadanugas, followers of Srila Prabhupada. I can wish no better fortune for anyone.—SDG