Our Leaders Are One Step Ahead
A talk given some ten years ago by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, at the Hare Krsna center in Paris.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for kindly participating in this Krsna consciousness movement. This movement is very important. It is the movement to save human society from spiritual death. At the present moment human society is being misled by blind leaders. The situation is like that of a blind man helping other blind men to cross the street. There is blind following in the sense that we do not know what the real aim of human life is.
The aim of human life is to achieve self-realization and reestablish our lost relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That relationship is the missing point in today's society. The Krsna consciousness movement is trying to enlighten human society on this important point.
According to the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita, the perfection of life is to realize one's relationship with Krsna, or God. Perhaps you have read or know about the Bhagavad-gita. The Bhagavad-gita is accepted by all acaryas (authorities in transcendental science) as the basis of all Vedic knowledge. From the Bhagavad-gita we can understand that not only human beings but all living entities are part and parcel of God. The parts are meant for serving the whole. Just as the legs, the hands, the fingers, the ears, and all other bodily parts are meant for serving the whole body, we living entities, being part and parcel of God, are duty-bound to serve Him.
We are always rendering service to someone. Somebody is rendering service to his family, somebody is rendering service to his community, somebody is rendering service to his country. And if one has nobody to serve, sometimes he will keep a pet cat or dog and serve it. So we are constitutionally meant to render service to someone else.
But despite rendering service to the best of our ability, we are never satisfied, nor is the person to whom we are rendering service satisfied. Every one of us is frustrated. Why? Because the service is not properly placed. If you want to render service to a tree, you must water the root. If you pour water on the leaves, branches, and twigs, your service will be wasted. Similarly, you need not give food separately to the different parts of your body. If you supply food to your stomach, the energy will be distributed all over your body.
In the same way, if we serve the supreme whole, the Personality of Godhead, then everyone will be satisfied. Therefore, the perfection of all welfare activities and all service to society, family, and nation is to render service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna.
It is the duty of every human being to understand his constitutional relationship with God and to act accordingly. Then our life becomes successful. This human form of life is meant for that purpose. We are missing the point, however, because we are following materialistic leaders who are spiritually blind.
Sometimes people challenge, "I don't care for God," or "There is no God," or even "I am God." But these kinds of challenges will not help us. God exists, and we can see Him at every moment. But if we refuse to see God during our life. He will be present before us as cruel death. There are innumerable features of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, because He is the original cause of the entire cosmic manifestation.
In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna explains how we can gradually understand Him and see Him personally, face to face. He says, "I am the taste of water, I am the sunlight, I am the moonlight, I am the sound vibration in the sky, and I am the character of the great personalities." So if anyone is actually serious about understanding God, he can follow the injunctions given in the Bhagavad-gita and realize Him in so many ways.
Everyone drinks water daily (not only once but several times). So if we remember what Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita—"I am the taste of water"—then God realization begins. Similarly, Krsna says, "I am the light of the moon and the light of the sun." Every one of us has seen the sunlight and the moonshine. So how can we say that we have not seen God? Krsna says, "I am the sound vibration in the sky." Who has not heard the sound of thunder in the sky? As soon as we hear the thunder, we can hear God.
The conclusion is that everyone sees God at every moment. But the atheists do not accept that they are seeing God. They deny this and say, "God is dead" or "Show me God." But a devotee of God sees the Lord at every moment, both externally and within his heart.
So the difference between the devotee and the nondevotee is that the devotee sees God at every moment and in every stage of his life whereas the atheist sees God only at the last stage of life, at the point of death.
The human form of life is given to us by nature for the purpose of realizing God. If we don't use our human life for understanding ourselves and our relationship with God, then we are committing suicide. The purpose of the Krsna consciousness movement is to save people from committing suicide—to educate the foolish human civilization in the science of God. As spirit souls we are evolving through many species of life, and if we don't take advantage of the human form, we are missing our chance.
Without God consciousness, Krsna consciousness, there cannot be any peace. Everyone is hankering for peace, but no one knows how to achieve it. Therefore, the Krsna consciousness movement is the greatest welfare activity in the world, and we request everyone to take advantage of this great scientific movement.
Our presentation is authoritative because we are guided by the principles of knowledge contained in India's ancient Vedic literature. There it is said that in this age people are so fallen that they cannot realize God by the difficult methods of previous ages. So the process of understanding the science of Krsna has been made very easy: Just chant the holy names of God—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. And if you know some other bona fide name of God, you can chant that, because ultimately there is no difference between the different names of God. Each holy name is invested with all the powers of God.
Lord Caitanya ["Lord Caitanya is Lord Krsna Himself in the form of His own devotee. He appeared in Bengal, India, five hundred years ago to teach love of God through the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra.] explained that since every holy name of God is nondifferent from the Supreme Lord, all His energies are there in His holy name. On the absolute platform there is no difference between the name of a person and the person whose name we are chanting, as there is in this relative world. So there is no difference between the holy name of God and God Himself.
Lord Caitanya also said, "There are no hard and fast rules and regulations for chanting." Thus you can chant the holy name of God anywhere and everywhere. When you are walking down the street or riding on the bus, you can chant the holy names of God, and you will benefit without having spent any money and without having hampered your business.
We therefore request and recommend that as long as you live you should chant the holy names of God: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. We don't charge anything. It is open to everyone. Why not make an experiment? Simply chant Hare Krsna, and you'll feel how much you are advancing in spiritual knowledge. This is the first-class way of attaining God realization.
If you don't believe in this simple method and you want instead to understand Krsna consciousness through science and philosophy, we have many books that explain this science of chanting the Hare Krsna mantra. We have a magazine, BACK TO GODHEAD, and also Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Nectar of Devotion, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita, and many other books for those of you who want to make a serious study of this philosophy.
Everyone should be serious about taking to Krsna consciousness, because if we miss this opportunity we do not know what is going to happen to us after death. We may have a human body, or we may have an animal body, or even a tree body. But if we chant the Hare Krsna mantra and become advanced in Krsna consciousness, we are guaranteed at least a human body in our next life.
In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says that those who have begun Krsna consciousness can fulfill the whole program within this lifetime, get salvation, and go back home, back to Godhead. But even if one fails to achieve success in one lifetime, he gets his next birth as a human being in a rich or pious family. This is guaranteed.
Therefore, our humble request is that henceforward you please chant the Hare Krsna mantra whenever possible. You have enough time, there are no rules and regulations, and there is no fee. You'll see how much you benefit.
Thank you very much.
A Theology with Heart
Professor A. L. Basham, the renowned authority
Professor A. L. Basham, one of the world's most highly respected authorities on ancient Indian civilization, has written extensively on the Hindu and Buddhist religious traditions. He is best known, perhaps, for The Wonder That Was India, a widely used college text. Dr. Basham retired recently as chairman of the Department of Asian Civilizations at the Australian National University, in Canberra.
This is a condensation of an interview with Dr. Basham conducted at A. N. U. The full interview appears in Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna: Five Distinguished Scholars on the Krishna Movement in the West, a book just published by Grove Press (paper, $7.95). The interviewer, and the book's editor, is Steven J. Gelberg, a senior editor of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust who is known within the Hare Krsna movement as Subhananda dasa.
Subhananda dasa: In your conclusion to A Cultural History of India, you say that the Hare Krsna movement "is historically very significant, for now for the first time since the days of the Roman Empire an Asian religion is being openly practiced by people of Western origin in the streets of Western cities." There are, of course, many religious groups of Asian origin that have established outposts in the West in one form or another. Why do you call special attention to the Hare Krsna movement?
Dr. Basham: For one thing, the Hare Krsna movement is very definitely a religion. It's a religion which you have to believe in fully and completely. The numerous organizations in the past which have brought Indian ideas to the Western world—organizations like the Ramakrishna Mission, the Theosophical Society, and so on—while having certain religious characteristics, have essentially been societies of people interested in mysticism, gnosticism, and so on, mostly middle-aged people who met together once a week and listened to the local swami lecturing to them, and then went back and carried on with their conventional secular lives. But the Hare Krsna movement demands a significant change in one's way of life if one is to become a full member of it.
As such, I don't think anything like it has occurred in the European context since the days of the Roman Empire when Christianity, Judaism, Mithraism, and other religions made numerous converts in the West. It is, therefore, something not completely new, but something which, I think, hasn't happened for a very long time indeed. And so I feel that it is very important historically.
You notice, I said in the streets of Western cities. We have, in fact, people of purely Western blood coming from families of the Christian or Jewish tradition who are doing, in the streets of Western cities, all the things and more which religious Hindus do in the streets of Calcutta. This being the case, I feel that—without making any value judgments—it is a very important historical phenomenon, and I can't think of anything like it since the Roman Empire.
Subhananda dasa: In that same conclusion to A Cultural History of India, you write, "A new aspect of the counter-attack from the East is the importation not only of the mystical gnosis of India, but also of her simple faith. This is chiefly the work of the Hare Krishna movement founded by Srila Prabhupada." What sorts of groups do you have in mind when you refer to the importation of "the mystical gnosis of India"? How is the Krsna consciousness movement different from these?
Dr. Basham: One can trace the steadily increasing influence of mystical gnosis in the Western world almost from the end of the eighteenth century onwards when the Bhagavad-gita was first translated into a European language by Charles Wilkins. Indian ideas circulated rapidly among the intelligentsia, not only in the English-speaking world, but also in other parts of Europe. They certainly had an effect on people throughout the Western world—Germans like Schlegel, Deussen, and Schopenhauer, Americans like Emerson and Thoreau, Englishmen such as Max Mueller (an Englishman by adoption) and Aldous Huxley, Frenchmen like Romain Rolland, and Russians like Tolstoy. But these people were in no sense thoroughgoing Hindus, and they were impressed primarily by the mysticism of the Upanisads and of the Bhagavad-gita.
Since the Second World War, particularly, there has been a great increase in the number of practitioners and teachers of Indian mystical gnosis in the Western world. But these people have been essentially teachers of yoga, of mystical praxis, and of mystical ideas, but they have not been, in the same sense as in your Hare Krsna movement, religious leaders. Undoubtedly you do practice some form of meditation in the Hare Krsna movement, but your primary activity is not mysticism in that sense but singing the praises of Krsna. So this is a different thing. It is the simple Indian bhakti which you have brought into the Western world and not the mystical, otherworldly Upanisadic doctrines, which you may accept in theory but which do not mean so much to you as these simple, straightforward practices.
Subhananda dasa: But the bhakti tradition can also be accurately described as mystical and otherworldly, don't you think? By "mystical" or "gnostic" I think you are referring specifically to Indian pantheism or monism, aren't you?
Dr. Basham: Yes, that's correct. Certainly bhakti tradition is mystical. It leads to transcendental experience. I myself have watched—and you can almost say taken part in—Caitanya kirtanas in Calcutta where one does feel complete release from all the toils and worries of the world and one is carried off into a higher sphere. It's a wonderful experience and you feel better for it. This is a kind of mysticism; I'm not disputing it. But when I talk about the mystical gnosis of India I mean primarily the Advaita Vedanta of Sankara and his modern supporters and followers. This has come through in all sorts of ways with the Ramakrishna Mission and many smaller movements of one kind or another. But it isn't quite the same thing as yours, which is essentially a matter of simple faith—faith which is, of course, brilliantly articulated in a long-standing theological tradition.
Subhananda dasa: In a letter you recently sent me, you briefly contrast the Hare Krishna movement with the Vedanta of the neo-Hindu propagandists, whom you refer to as the "streamlined swamis." What exactly do you mean?
Dr. Basham: "Streamlined swamis" is a facetious phrase which I invented myself. I don't mean it with any particular ill will, and I don't wish to be unduly critical in the use of this term, but I intend it as a reference to the doctrines and teachings which various Indian swamis put forth, a streamlined kind of Hindu mysticism designed to appeal to modern, jet-age disciples: levitation in a few months or even weeks, moksa in a few easy lessons—a Hinduism without class, without worship, without rigid taboos, and so forth. At the opposite extreme from your form of Indian religion or mysticism, we have, for example. Transcendental Meditation. TM seems to have dropped all its theological and even philosophical trappings. It's just a method of mental and psychic training.
That is one extreme. Yours is the other. You appropriate an Indian religious sect—its beliefs, its practices, all its taboos, and so on—root and branch and import it into the West. In between these extremes we have all sorts of variations, and the "streamlined swamis" are those who tend rather to the Transcendental Meditation extreme than to yours. I don't mean it with any undue disparagement, but such people do streamline their religious, theological, and philosophical ideas in order to make them palatable to the twentieth-century Western mind. That being the case, I think my phrase "streamlined swamis" is perhaps justified.
Subhananda dasa: So, as far as the other extreme—the Krsna consciousness movement—is concerned, you see its followers as pursuing more than merely Indian mystical ideas or meditational techniques. They venture upon a path of self-transformation, devoting themselves to a path that represents a clearly radical departure from normative Western thought, behavior, and lifestyle. In your view, then, what is it about Western or modern culture that they find so distasteful? Against what are they rebelling? On the other hand, what is it about Indian culture or Vaisnava bhakti tradition that they find so attractive?
Dr. Basham: I think one of the things that they subconsciously find difficult to get on with is the "permissive society," the notion of "do your own thing": concern yourself only with the fulfillment of your own personal whims and aims. You know the Hindu doctrine of the four progressive aims of life: dharma [social duty], artha [acquisition of wealth], kama [worldly enjoyment], and moksa [liberation] as the final end. The tendency of the permissive society is to leave dharma out altogether. And if you're one of the "outsider" types who float around among the educated youth today—quite a few of our students are like that—you might also leave artha out. All you need bother about is kama. And that kama needn't necessarily express itself in sexual activity. A lot of these kids seem to think that kama just means having sex, due to the phrase' "Kama-sutra." But obviously, in its broad context, kama means self-gratification: just do whatever you want to do, whatever you imagine is going to make you happy.
Subhananda dasa: As they say, "If it feels good, do it."
Dr. Basham: Yes, if you think it's going to benefit you and make you happy, then do it. That's kama. And they find it just doesn't work. They want something to map their courses by; they want something which gives them a feeling of direction. And, of course, dharma does that.
Psychologically, if we don't follow our dharma—whatever our dharma may be—we're sunk. As you realize, in the Hindu tradition, while there is sanatana-dharma [the eternal codes of right conduct, applying to everybody], everyone has also his own individual dharma, sva-dharma. We've got to follow our dharma or we suffer from all sorts of psychological difficulties, to say the least of it. It affects our karma [actions] and our overall behavior as well as our future happiness. And in this way—whatever we believe about a future life—there is a lot of truth in the fundamental doctrines of Hinduism.
Now, if people have no dharma, if they deliberately deny having a dharma, then their only dharma is just a vague sense of not bothering other people too much and getting on with "doing their own thing." But everybody has a different "own thing." They are no longer a group; they don't really belong to anybody. They are isolated. Moreover, their life lacks direction. They drift. And for this reason, among others, we have a great growth in the use of dangerous drugs nowadays.
Sexual promiscuity or the permissive society may look all right on paper, but it has certain disadvantages which I think the world, more and more, is beginning to realize. For one thing, while the famous "pill" has largely solved the problem of unwanted children—you can now use sex as a pleasant entertainment without any great fear of consequences—it hasn't solved the problem of human jealousy. A man and a woman are not going to be very happy in their relationship when they are constantly fearing that someday somebody might come along and take their partner away from them. This is what they are fearing today. I know from many of my students whom I've talked to—especially it affects the women, but men feel it too. The thought of losing their beloved constantly haunts them. And it's the same in marriage. A young married man has no real confidence in being able to keep his spouse until old age. And perhaps he himself will turn his eyes to another one. And thus the lack of stability in human relationships is one of the main causes of the growth of mental and psychological trouble in the world today.
Your movement sets itself diametrically against all this sort of thing. It disparages undue sexual activity. You musn't have sexual activity unless you definitely want to produce a child. One man for one woman for the rest of your life. It goes back, in a very new and different guise, to eighteenth and nineteenth century Puritanism.
I might seem old-fashioned, but it seems to me that that is what the world needs. It may be that with the invention of easier and more reliable contraception, the world will never go back to anything quite like the old Puritanical conception of human relationships, but it needs something a bit like Puritanism . . . not necessarily the rigid Puritanism which would brand every person who committed adultery with an "A" on their forehead or, as the Muslims do in Saudi Arabia, execute them. It should be far more tolerant than that. At least some people feel that the world needs, and that they need, a system which has taboos about it.
We can't all be grown-up all the time; only sannyasis and saints can do that. Many of us, for most of our lives, are children at heart, and we need some sort of guidance and control. A religious movement gives that. It is depressing that the Christian churches are doing very little in this respect now. Even the Catholics are getting almost as permissive as the unbelievers concerning their ideas of human relationships.
Not only does the young man or woman of this age, in many cases at least, find that the permissive society is unsatisfying, but he also finds the system of values which he is expected to follow unsatisfying.
On the one hand, he has the choice of one or another of the Christian communities, most of which still expect him to believe in certain doctrines he might find difficult to accept, such as the physical resurrection of Jesus. On the other hand, he has a downright unbelief, which is psychologically unsatisfying.
Man needs a sense of the mystery and the wonder of the world and of his existence within it. Unbelief or lack of concern for religion—atheism, agnosticism, whatever you like to call it—just doesn't give that. An attitude of faith is really very important for human happiness: faith in something outside oneself, faith in the fundamental goodness of the world, or faith that there is good in the world and that the world has meaning. And if you can get that, you are at least some way on the road to a happier and better life.
I think that this is what attracts some people to the Krsna consciousness movement. The movement offers them a completely different lifestyle, one which is guided and directed. Within the framework of the movement they have a good deal of liberty, but it lays down guidelines which its members are expected to follow. Many young people really need direction, guidance, meaning.
Further, there is a general feeling, among many, that the capitalist society has made a mess of things. Communist society, which allows even less freedom than capitalism does, has also made a mess of things. Between them there is the danger of their blowing the world to bits. Many seek a third alternative, a different way of life which is neither one nor the other. Your movement presents them with an alternative which some, at least, find acceptable.
Subhananda dasa: Let me ask you to explain a little more about the two major and conflicting schools of Indian thought which you've been alluding to in our discussion: the devotional/theistic school versus the nondevotional/nontheistic school—that is, Indian dualism (Dvaita) and Indian nondualism (Advaita), or what might be called the Personalistic versus Impersonalistic traditions. Do you have any suggestions—perhaps from a psychological viewpoint, or perhaps from a sociology-of-knowledge perspective—why people, in fact, become attracted to the monism of the Impersonalistic school? What are such people looking for? What sorts of needs may be satisfied by that particular philosophical viewpoint?
Dr. Basham: There are psychological influences at work. You see, this is an age of deep insecurity and fear—fear of serious and terrible catastrophes in the world such as a Third World War, economic depression, severe depletion of natural resources, widespread social breakdown, disintegration of human moral values, and so on—fears of all sorts and kinds which derive from the "acquisitive society" and the "permissive society." And this deep insecurity and anxiety, in turn, help toward a feeling that you've got to negate or transcend your individuality, because if you're no longer a personality, a self, you can't suffer, because there's no self to have consciousness of suffering. Moreover, the Advaita formula of "atman equals Brahman" [the individual soul is identical with the Supreme Soul] implies that you yourself are the whole universe and all that underlies it. But this is a refined form of egotism, if you like. It satisfies the individualist craving, and at the same time, by getting rid of the specific embodied individual, it gives the person hope that he will be saved from all the sufferings of finite selfhood.
Subhananda dasa: So there are two aspects, you're saying, of the attraction to impersonalist thought. One is the fear of a spiritual personal identity, and the other is a kind of ultimate egotism—a desire to become God.
Dr. Basham: Yes, that is how I see it.
Subhananda dasa: In his commentary on one verse of the Bhagavad-gita, Srila Prabhupada writes that those who have experienced the suffering of the world conclude that happiness can be experienced only when one is completely freed from personal identity per se, because it was as individual, personal selves that they experienced suffering.
Dr. Basham: Yes, they want to cut out their identity. If you're not an individual, you can't suffer. They want to get rid of themselves because they're frightened of being a person. It's a deep cosmic fear, a fear of the whole universe, the sort of thing that is reflected in some of the existentialist philosophers like Heidegger and Sartre.
Subhananda dasa: You seem to express a preference for the dualistic and theistic traditions. What is it about the great Vaisnava theologians like Ramanuja and Madhva that you find attractive?
Dr. Basham: I find their teachings more attractive because they leave room for personality in the universe: the personality of God and the personalities of individual souls who are God's children and who are always sufficiently individualized to recognize themselves as being creatures of God. What the factual truth of the Ramanuja picture of the universe is, I don't wish to discuss here. But it is certainly a much more attractive universe to me than the Sankara one; and for me it's much more psychologically satisfying.
Subhananda dasa: Why?
Dr. Basham: Well, because the world obviously isn't "one." It may be all one within the body of God, contained in God. But I'm not you and you're not me and I don't see why when I achieve complete moksa (which I probably never shall in a thousand lives) I should be completely merged in you, and I don't think I want to be. I don't see logically why I should. I might become merged in God in that I feel that I'm almost one with God in devotion, and that I am within God, within the soul of God or that my soul is linked with God. But if I lose my individuality completely, I don't see how I can enjoy the presence of God.
Subhananda dasa: Yes, that is our view also.
Dr. Basham: Well, these are all the arguments that go back to Ramanuja and his criticism of Sankara. And they are thoroughly valid. Sankara might have been more clever as a philosopher than Ramanuja, but in the final analysis I think that Ramanuja was a better philosopher.
Subhananda dasa: Theologically, our tradition is quite close to that of Ramanuja.
Dr. Basham: Yes, I know it is. If you follow Caitanya, you're close to Ramanuja.
Subhananda dasa: You've put the Krsna consciousness movement within the broad historical context of theistic Hinduism, the bhakti tradition. More specifically, as you know, the movement is a direct modern expression of the devotional movement founded in sixteenth-century Bengal by the well-known mystic and saint Sri Caitanya.
In your Encyclopaedia Britannica article, "History of Hinduism," you state, "With its discouragement of ritualism, its strong ethical emphasis, and its joyful expressive mood of worship, the Caitanya movement affected the whole life of Bengal and was not without influence in other parts of India." With these or any other points in mind, what is most distinctive and important about Sri Caitanya's movement within the overall context of India's religious history?
Dr. Basham: There were, of course, other movements in other parts of India during the medieval period which are rather similar, but the Caitanya movement was, perhaps, most fully expressive of certain characteristics of these movements. It dispensed with the traditional, complicated brahminical yajna rituals, viewing them as unnecessary for salvation. As far as its "strong ethical emphasis" is concerned, it taught fellowship and brotherhood and the love of man for man with an intensity which many religious movements in India didn't. It tended, thus, to override caste. We're told that members of all castes were welcome in Caitanya's order and that they lived together in perfect amity and unity. And, finally, the movement's joyful and expressive method of worship: the kirtana with dancing through the streets of the towns and villages. If certain other Hindu sects do adopt this practice, I think they've done so under the influence of Caitanya. And all these things have tended to affect the whole life not only of Bengal but, to some extent, the rest of India.
Subhananda dasa: You mentioned earlier that you had taken part in a Caitanya kirtana in Calcutta. Can you describe that experience?
Dr. Basham: Over the years, I've observed several Caitanya kirtanas, but I remember one in particular. It was about twenty years ago. I got off a train in Sealdah Station, in Calcutta, just about sunset, and noticed that there was a Caitanya kirtana taking place in one corner of the station yard.
Whenever I come across a kirtana in progress, I always stop and listen, but often I'm in a hurry and have other things to do, and so I can only wait a minute or two. This time I was in no hurry. I had plenty of time to spare.
The devotees had erected a decorative tent in which they had set up the statue of Krsna and numerous brightly colored pictures of Krsna and Caitanya and the various saints of the order. The whole scene was lit up with bright lights and decorated with many flowers and various other decorations.
Not very many people were there at first, but as I stood watching and looking, more and more people came along and got involved. They were chanting "Hare Krsna, Hare Rama" just as you do. They kept on chanting and chanting and chanting, until, after a while, a few of them began to dance and then nearly everybody was dancing. I don't think I got as far as dancing, but I found that I was certainly joining in the chanting and I was really carried away. I was there for at least two hours. It was a wonderful experience.
As I think you know, on a theoretical and logical level I am not able to fully accept your doctrine of the historicity of Krsna and so on, but nevertheless I do see the emotional and spiritual force of the Caitanya movement. That evening outside Sealdah Station is something which I will never forget—the intense experience of exhilaration and relief, and the feeling of security and safety and inner happiness which came from it. And it was so clear that all the people were feeling it. It couldn't but affect me too. The worshipers were mostly poor people or lower-middle class and better types of working-class people from the buildings and tenements of the surrounding neighborhood. They had, most of the time, very dull and difficult lives, no doubt. They worked hard and hadn't much to look forward to materially. But there was such happiness, such relief from tension and strain on their faces as one could hardly imagine. And I feel that this is a very good form of religious worship. Irrespective of the truth or falsehood of what they believe in, it does people enormous good. I'm afraid I tend to take a rather pragmatic view of religion.
Subhananda dasa: The tradition is, of course, not based merely upon cathartic religious emotionalism, but on a rich and sophisticated theology as well.
Dr. Basham: Yes, of course, Caitanya had a theology, and it was fully developed by his immediate and subsequent followers. He developed a cohesive theology which he communicated orally to his followers, and which was fully elucidated in their various theological commentaries and other writings. So, obviously, the Caitanya tradition has its own logically worked-out philosophical and theological system, one that is based upon the Bhagavad-gita and the Bhagavata Purana and of course Caitanya's own special insights. But this tradition is distinctive in that it gives full play to religious emotion. It demonstrates that theological rationality and religious emotion go hand in hand. Mere theology cannot satisfy the heart. That is the importance of bhakti.
Subhananda dasa: Would you view bhakti as one of India's most important gifts to the world?
Dr. Basham: Yes, I would say so. Of course, from a purely quantitative, historical point of view, we'd have to say that Buddhism was India's most significant gift to the world. Buddhism became much more of a missionary religion than Hinduism ever was, and has affected the life and the way of thought of most of Asia. Whether this is spiritually the greatest gift or the greatest in the sense of marvelous is another matter. Although the Indian form of bhakti hasn't had a great direct influence on the rest of the world, we can say that this attitude of loving devotion to a personal God, as developed in Indian bhakti tradition, is undoubtedly one of India's greatest gifts to the world, and a very precious and a very valuable gift—if the world will accept it.
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
In Sanskrit, man means "mind" and tra means "freeing." So a mantrais a combination of transcendental, spiritual sounds that frees our minds from the anxieties of life in the material world.
Ancient India's Vedic literatures single out one mantra as the maha (supreme) mantra. The Kali-santarana Upanisad explains, "These sixteen words—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—are especially meant for counteracting the ill effects of the present age of quarrel and anxiety."
The Narada-pancaratra adds, "All mantras and all processes for self-realization are compressed into the Hare Krsna maha-mantra." Five centuries ago, while spreading the maha-mantra throughout the Indian subcontinent, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu prayed, "O Supreme Personality of Godhead, in Your holy name You have invested all Your transcendental energies."
The name Krsna means "the all-attractive one," the name Rama means "the all-pleasing one," and the name Hare is an address to the Lord's devotional energy. So the maha-mantra means, "O all-attractive, all-pleasing Lord, O energy of the Lord, please engage me in Your devotional service." Chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, and your life will be sublime.
Krsna's devotees know the smart
by Suresvara dasa
He stands five feet high, eight feet long, and weighs three hundred pounds more than a ton. His name is Bharata, after a pure devotee of Lord Krsna, but because a simple ox responds best to commands of one syllable, the men rhyme his name with spot—"Brot!"
Brot is the leading ox at Gita-nagari, the Hare Krsna farm community in central Pennsylvania.
Inside Gita-nagari's barn, a driver yokes Brot and five other oxen for spring plowing. Brot and Burf (short for burfi, a favorite milk sweet of Lord Krsna's) will be the lead oxen in a three-team train, called a span. The oxen love to work—especially Brot. If Brot has a good driver, he'll pull all day.
The driver walks the oxen out to the fields. A dawn mist shrouds the lowland along the creek. They are going to plow under a four-year stand of grass and alfalfa to prepare the land for corn.
The commands are simple enough—Gee! (Right!), Haw! (Left!), Get up! (Forward!), Whoa! (Stop!)—but they work only if the ox is surrendered to his driver. An ox may seem a dumb brute, but inside that hide and muscle is a sentient soul who knows pleasure and pain, contentment and anger. So an ox must know what is expected of him. He needs encouragement as well as discipline. And Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, has placed him here not to become our food, but to labor for us, as a father works for his family. Like us, each ox is an individual. One ox may be stronger than another, or smarter, or more high-strung. A good driver considers these things, and his commands are strong and clear.
The driver is Vaisnava dasa. A former agronomy major at Penn State, Vaisnava came to live at Gita-nagari in 1980. "While studying in school and working at a commercial dairy," he recalls, "I could see how big business was ruining the land and abusing the cow and bull. On most farms a bull won't live past two—the marketing age for steer beef. But at Gita-nagari a bull will grow up to breed cows or work as an ox."
Vaisnava carries a lash and occasionally punctuates his commands with a swat on the rump. "Get up!"
Burf and the far oxen walk in the furrow. Brot and the near oxen walk next to them, closer to Vaisnava, who stays back by the last team to keep an eye on the double-bottom plow. Is the guide wheel staying in the furrow? Are the blades turning over the earth at an even depth and width? The oxen pull, the plow cuts, and a wave of fresh topsoil peels into the furrow.
Vaisnava and his span follow the lay of the land to the edge of the field. It's time to turn. "Brot! Burf! Haw! Come here!" Brot and Burf turn left and walk along the edge of the grass. The second team follows. When the third team makes the turn, Vaisnava lifts the plow and follows the oxen along the border. "Brot! Burf! Haw! Come Here!"
Brot and Burf must turn the span back into the field at the proper angle or the plow will be off. The yoke slants as Brot leans into the turn a little harder than his partner. "Haw, Burf!" One by one, Burf and the far oxen walk into the new furrow. Vaisnava lowers the plow—right on the mark. "Good boys!"
At midday, Vaisnava refreshes the oxen with food and water and lets them rest. Like athletes, the oxen need proper nutrition and training, and they must have a strong relationship with their driver. "The driver is firm but kind," says the man in charge at Gita-nagari, Paramananda dasa. "A good driver never abuses his servant, but he is very demanding, and he expects him to perform well."
By three o'clock, when the sun's heat begins to let up, Vaisnava hitches the oxen and walks them back to the alfalfa stand. Hour after hour the oxen plow. They breathe heavily, and slaver pours from their mouths. As the afternoon turns to twilight, the air cools, and the oxen feel a little relief. By sunset they have plowed three acres.
Vaisnava and the other drivers could plow more with a tractor, but they know it's not worth it. "You work hard all through the day," Vaisnava says, "and at the end you're tired and you go to sleep; peacefully, you go to sleep. Otherwise, you have a tractor that costs thirty thousand dollars, and you park it more than half the year, and you have to be in anxiety about paying what you still owe. Who needs all this anxiety? You just need to be Krsna conscious. Walk behind the oxen—'Dear Lord, please guide me.'"
Last year Gita-nagari's drivers walked behind seven teams of oxen to plow sixty acres, mow another forty, spread manure, and haul in wood. The devotees are also harnessing the oxen to produce electricity. Four oxen walk in a circle, turning a driveshaft that activates a pulley. The power generated can pump water, saw wood, or thresh grain. "Oxen," says Paramananda, "are a renewable resource, not dependent on any outside technology. They don't need gasoline or spark plugs, and they're a natural by-product of the cow."
Like a mother, the cow supplies milk, and like a father the ox tills the ground to produce food. Nowadays, of course, the cow and bull are food themselves, and the billboards would have us believe that Elsie and Elmer like being dressed up in A-1 sauce. But nature strikes back for all the slaughter, the Vedic scriptures say, with incurable disease and war. We can never be happy by killing our mother and father. But how many of us ever get to know a cow or a bull?
"Working oxen is as American as Paul Bunyan and Babe," Vaisnava says, "but last summer when I took Brot and Burf to the Hare Krsna festival in downtown Washington, most of the people didn't know what the oxen were, that an ox is a mature gelded bull. Oxen pulled the covered wagons west. Oxen helped clear the land. Yet there we were in the nation's capital, and the people couldn't recognize one of their founding fathers—the ox. 'Are they yaks?' they asked. 'Water buffaloes?'"
Not surprising. Today only three percent of Americans farm, and even the organic folks almost always use tractors. And we're too busy eating calves and steers to know what they would have looked like if given the chance to grow up.
"As soon as the people got to know Brot and Burf," says Vaisnava, "they loved them—especially the kids. They patted and talked to them like their pets. They wouldn't kill their pets, and face to face with Brot and Burf they could understand that they shouldn't kill them."
Gita-nagari provides the time-honored alternative to the modern slaughterhouse civilization. Whereas most alternative communities begun in the sixties and seventies have gone under, Krsna conscious communities like Gita-nagari are thriving.
But the devotees aren't surprised. After all, who knows better how to show us how to live than Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead? "While herding the very beautiful bulls," recounts the Srimad—Bhagavatam, "the Lord, who was the reservoir of all opulence and fortune, used to blow His flute, and thus He enlivened His faithful followers, the cowherd boys."
Paramananda says, "When you work oxen, you have to live simply, the way Krsna lived. We at Gita-nagari are finding that a simple life, based on protecting cows and working oxen, is the best life. Live simply, love God, and be happy."
On Nudity and the Hoggish Life
The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place in March 1975 in Dallas.
Srila Prabhupada: Human life is meant for cultivating God consciousness. But in the modern so-called advanced civilization, instead of cultivating God consciousness people are cultivating nudity. Isn't it so? So nature will punish them:
"All right, you want to be nude? Then become a tree and remain standing naked for five thousand years." Trees sometimes live up to five thousand years. I've seen them in a park near San Francisco.
Devotee: But they argue that if God wanted us to wear clothes. He would have made us with clothes.
Srila Prabhupada: Here in the material world, you have to work for whatever you Want. Things are provided, but you have to work for them. In the spiritual world, there is no need for work: you get all your necessities automatically. That is one difference between the spiritual world and the material world.
Devotee: We could argue with the nudists that by their logic, if God had wanted us to have food He would have made us with food, too. Just as you have to work for your food, you also have to work for your clothes.
Srila Prabhupada: The Visnu Purana explains why we have to work:
visnu-sakthih para prokta
This is a definition of the three divisions of God's energy. One energy is the internal, spiritual energy. Another energy is the marginal energy—the living entities, who are also spiritual. And the third energy is the external, material energy, where there is ignorance and work. In the material world, everyone is ignorant, and they have to work.
So, the people of the modern civilization have simply increased their work. They call it civilization, but it is actually just like a prison house, where you have to work. They are thinking that to work constantly is civilization. So they have created more work: from early morning, five o' clock, till ten o' clock at night they are simply working. They do not know that this working is their punishment. Because they're ignorant, they think that working is life. Instead of decreasing work and saving time for self-realization, they increase their work and complicate life. This they call advancement of civilization, but it is actually avidya, ignorance.
Our tendency is not to work but to get things freely. That is why we sometimes hear that question: "If God wanted us to wear clothes, why has He not created us with clothes?" This question shows that our tendency is not to work. And that is a spiritual tendency—to want all our necessities to be automatically available. This is why we see that as soon as a man becomes rich, he generally gives up work. He gets his things by having others work for him. So the human tendency is to retire from work.
Devotee: Many people would disagree with you. They think that to be unemployed is one of the worst things that can happen to you.
Srila Prabhupada: Man is not meant to work like an ass all day long. Real civilization means to minimize work, save time, and cultivate your spiritual life. That is civilization—not to work like a hog or a dog for sense gratification. That kind of life is condemned in the Srimad-Bhagavatam [5.5.1]: nayam deho deha-bhajam nrloke kastan kaman arhate vid-bhujam ye. Human life is not meant for working very hard for sense gratification, which is done by the dogs and hogs. Human life is meant for austerity (tapah). Why austerity? To purify your existence (yena sattvam suddhyed). Then you'll get unlimited pleasure (yasmad brahma-saukhyam tv anantam).
We are all seeking unlimited pleasure. But that is not possible in this material life. Unfortunately, people do not know this, so they are working very hard like hogs for a little happiness. The hog works day and night, searching out stool. And as soon as he gets some stool he becomes stout and strong. Then—sex with the nearest female. Never mind whether it's his mother, sister, or daughter. This is hog life.
So, human life is not meant for imitating the stool-eating hogs. But people of the modern society are imitating them: "We shall work hard, eat whatever we like, and have as much sex as we want." They have no discrimination in the matter of food: they eat all sorts of nonsense. And in this way they grow very strong and have sex, even with their sister or daughter. The Bhagavatam warns that this is not human life, but this has actually become the life of many modern, "civilized" men.
Devotee: But if people didn't work hard, how could things go on? Wouldn't there be an economic crisis?
Srila Prabhupada: No. Lord Krsna tells how we can make our life very comfortable: Just produce some food grains, vegetables, and fruits, and take the milk from the cow. All your economic problems will be solved. And even if you don't produce food grains and vegetables, you can still live on fruits and milk. But no, modern man takes the source of milk—the cow—cuts her throat, and eats the meat. This is civilization?
All their intelligence is being utilized for sinful life. They have good intelligence, but it is being used sinfully.
Therefore they must suffer very severe reactions—war, famine, earthquakes, and so on. (To be continued.)
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Australian Devotees Build Bridge,
Murwillumbah, N.S.W., Australia—A meeting with the acting prime minister and the opening of a long-awaited bridge highlighted a recent festival at the Hare Krsna farm community here. Before the devotees built the 200-foot bridge, anyone visiting the farm had to reach it by driving up a rugged dirt road or fording a shallow creek. But now the bridge connects the farm to Tyalgum Road, a major highway, so that guests can easily reach the community and the devotees can bring in heavy vehicles to develop the land.
Although pressing duties prevented Acting Prime Minister Douglas Anthony from attending the ceremony, a meeting at his nearby residence did take place with Srila Bhavananda Goswami, a leader of the Hare Krsna movement who initiates new devotees in Australasia.
"The Hare Krsnas have certainly brought a lot of color and life to the district," said Mr. Anthony. They are "full of joy and love."
Elsewhere in Australia, the government of the state of Queensland officially recognized the Hare Krsna movement as an authentic faith. Premier Joh Bjelke-Peterson said he "appreciated and respected the Krsnas for their prohibition of drug-taking, illicit sex, and drinking."
Martial Law No Bar to Hare Krsna Festival in Bangladesh
Dacca, Bangladesh—Even martial law and a depressed economy couldn't dampen the spirits of the leading citizens who gathered by the hundreds recently at a ceremony to honor the Krsna consciousness movement and its founder and spiritual guide, Srila Prabhupada.
Dr. Parash Nathmondal, head of the Sanskrit department at the University of Dacca, described his recent visit to Hare Krsna centers in the West and then told the assembly, "The Krsna consciousness movement sets the standard for devotional purity. I recommend that everyone give it full support."
Later, Srila Jayapataka Swami Acaryapada, who oversees the affairs of the Hare Krsna movement in Bangladesh, spoke about the philosophy of Krsna consciousness and the activities of the movement throughout the world. American-born, Srila Jayapataka has become an Indian citizen and learned to speak fluent Bengali. The assembled devotees were greatly pleased when he addressed them in their native tongue.
Life Member Roster Tops 25,000
London—The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) now has more than 25,000 life members, reports the ISKCON International Life Membership Trust.
A life member is a devotee of Krsna whose family and business commitments prevent him from living and working full-time in a Hare Krsna temple but who gives a substantial donation to help spread Krsna consciousness. His contribution goes toward printing and distributing books of transcendental knowledge, maintaining Hare Krsna temples, distributing sanctified food, and so on. Life members enjoy benefits that range from free accommodations at ISKCON centers to sets of books by Srila Prabhupada.
The centers with the most life members are those in Bombay, with more than seven thousand, London, with more than three thousand, Durban, South Africa, with nearly two and a half thousand, and Calcutta, with nearly two thousand.
For more information on life membership, get in touch with your local Hare Krsna center.
New Vrindaban on the Map
New Vrindaban, West Virginia—Although Srila Prabhupada's Palace of Gold was one of the three most popular places to visit in West Virginia last year (more than 300,000 guests), people planning a tour couldn't find New Vrindaban, the site of the Palace, on the map. Apparently state authorities got wind of the problem: New Vrindaban is now on the official map of West Virginia, published by the State Highway Department.
Better than Good
The food we eat can put us in different modes; ignorance, passion, goodness—or still better.
by Visakha-devi dasi
When I was seventeen, just out of high school and about to start college, I got a summer job as a part-time waitress in a restaurant near Rockefeller Center, in New York City. Although we had some new customers daily, mostly it was the "regulars"—local businessmen—who came for lunch while I was working. Over the weeks I saw patterns in what they ordered: Some liked "health meals"—fresh fruits, salads with cottage cheese, baked or steamed vegetables, grilled cheese sandwiches on whole-wheat bread. Others favored spicy food, especially Mexican or Italian dishes generously laden with red peppers, onions, or garlic. And still others were the steak-and-beer types, occasionally switching off to a hamburger or fried chicken.
At the time I'd never heard of Lord Krsna or His book, Bhagavad-gita. But now, after trying to understand Krsna's philosophy, I can understand that those customers revealed something about themselves by what they liked to eat.
Lord Krsna explains in the Bhagavad-gita that every one of us is affected by one, two, or a combination of all three modes of material nature—goodness, passion, and ignorance. They influence every aspect of our lives—what or whom we worship, what kind of sacrifices we make, what austerities we undergo, the charity we give, our knowledge, action, determination, attitudes, and understanding, as well as our concept of happiness.
These modes are constantly vying for supremacy within our mind, and according to which one is prominent, we come under the influence of foolishness and madness (the mode of ignorance), greed, desires, and longings (passion), or illumination and peacefulness (goodness). Even our destination after death is determined by which mode we die in. Our every waking moment, our every thought, word, and deed, is influenced by the modes of material nature.
And the modes of nature also determine what we like to eat. In the Bhagavad-gita (17.8-10), Lord Krsna says, "Foods dear to those in the mode of goodness increase the duration of life, purify one's existence, and give strength, health, happiness, and satisfaction. Such foods are juicy, fatty, wholesome, and pleasing.
"Foods that are too bitter, too sour, salty, pungent, dry, and burning are dear to those in the mode of passion. Such foods cause distress, misery, and disease.
"Food prepared more than three hours before being eaten, food that is tasteless, decomposed, and putrid, and food consisting of remnants and untouchable things is dear to those in the mode of ignorance."
After learning of the modes of nature, if you're like me you'll want to try for the mode of goodness. But in Krsna consciousness I found that there's an even higher goal: to transcend the modes of nature entirely and come to the spiritual platform. And this goal is directly related to the food we eat.
The material world is full of contamination—whether that of goodness, passion, or ignorance. But when we offer our food to Lord Krsna before we eat it, it works like medicine—it makes us resistant to the modes of nature.
In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says that He will accept vegetarian preparations—those made from grains, fruits, dairy products, and vegetables—when they're offered to Him with devotion. Such food is called prasadam, "the mercy of the Lord."
Preparing and eating these foods for our own pleasure is not the same as preparing and offering them to Lord Krsna for His pleasure, because food that's material when unconnected with the Lord becomes transcendental when offered to Him. So when you or I are fortunate enough to taste krsna-prasadam, we rise above the modes of ignorance, passion, and goodness—simply by eating.
If you're familiar with Lord Krsna's cuisine, you may have a doubt lingering in the back of your mind: "What about those spicy chutneys I've had at the Hare Krsna temple on Sundays? And sukta, that very bitter dish? And your lemon pickle—it's so salty!"
Yes, it's true. Some of the dishes we offer to Lord Krsna (dishes our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, enjoyed heartily) are sour, salty, pungent, dry, and hot. In other words, they have the characteristics of foods in the mode of passion. Srila Prabhupada himself confirmed this in a letter he wrote to one of my Godsisters: "Foods in the mode of passion are those that are very rich, such as halava." (Halava is featured this month.)
Yet it's not really difficult to understand how the halava we serve at our temples every Sunday is transcendental to the modes of nature. A dish that's prepared for and offered to Krsna is no longer in the modes of nature but is completely spiritual. So halava, a dish apparently in the mode of passion, becomes completely transcendental when prepared for Krsna and offered to Him with devotion.
So if your ambition is to transcend the modes of nature, what should you order at your local restaurant during your lunch break? Well, unless it's a Hare Krsna restaurant, the best thing is not to go there at all. In my experience, the cooks who work in restaurants are thinking about a lot of things, but pleasing God isn't one of them. And since they're influenced by the modes of material nature, and since the dishes they make aren't offered (or offerable) to Lord Krsna, you'll be similarly influenced by material nature when you eat what they've cooked.
Better if you prepare and offer some-, thing at home and take it with you for lunch. This takes more time, but it saves you money. And for the extra effort, you'll be healthier—physically and spiritually. What to make at home? Well, why not start with this month's halava. If you don't finish it at lunchtime, you can easily reheat it for supper. Or you can share it with your friends at work and let them relish krsna-prasadam along with you. That will please Krsna even more.
(Recipes by Yamuna-devi dasi)
Basic Nut-and-Raisin Halava
One of the most popular of all Vedic desserts, halava is a buttery-rich, warming, sweet grain dish ideal for special occasions or on frigid winter mornings. (It bears no relation to the Middle Eastern or Turkish candy of the same name.) Halava is best when served piping hot (and should always be offered to Krsna that way), but it's also excellent reheated. To keep halava warm, place it in a covered double boiler in an oven preheated to 250 °F. Stir occasionally.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
2 ½ cups water, or 1 cup water and 1 ½ cups milk
1. In a 3-quart saucepan, combine the water or water-and-milk mixture with 1 cup sugar or honey, saffron, cardamom, and the powdered spices. Boil briskly over a high flame for 3 mintues. Then remove the pan from the flame, add the raisins, and set aside.
2. Heat the ghee in a large saucepan over a medium-low flame for 2 minutes. Add the semolina or other grain and stir-fry about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the grains turn a rich golden tan. Then, while stirring constantly, slowly pour in the boiled syrup and the walnuts. Now continue to simmer until most of the liquid has been absorbed into the grains. (Cooking time will vary, depending on the grain you use.)
3. When the halava is light and fluffy, remove the pan from the flame, fold in 2 table-spoons of honey, and transfer to a decorative serving bowl. Now garnish with shredded coconut and offer to Lord Krsna.
Note: A pinch of salt during the final stages of cooking helps round out the flavor of halava. It is a matter of personal preference,
(Suji Halava II)
Preparation time: 30 minutes
2 ¼ cups milk
1. Combine the milk, sweetener, and cardamom in a 1-quart saucepan and place over a medium-high flame. Stir until the mixture boils. Then lower the flame slightly and boil for 3 to 4 minutes. Now remove the pan from the flame, drop in the raisins, and set aside.
2. Over a medium-low flame, heat the ghee for 2 minutes in a heavy 2 ½- to 3-quart saucepan (nonstick cookware is ideal). Toss in the cassia leaves and fennel seeds, and stir-fry until the seeds turn a light golden brown. Then slowly pour in the chickpea flour and grain, and stir-fry until the ingredients absorb the ghee and turn golden-tan (about 15 to 20 minutes).
3. While stirring constantly, pour in the milk syrup and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed and the halava is a fluffy pudding. Now transfer to a serving dish or dishes, sprinkle with chopped nuts and ground pepper, and offer to Krsna.
Shredded Carrot Halava
For this halava, select crisp, tender, bright-orange carrots and shred them at a 45 ° angle through the medium-sized holes on a hand grater. This will assure that your carrot shreds are long and medium thick rather than short and coarse. Carrot halava is delicious warm or at room temperature, and it goes well with any menu. Among devotees of Krsna it's a favorite on Ekadasi (see BACK TO GODHEAD, Vol. 18, No. 1) because it contains no grains.
Preparation time: 45 minutes
1 ½ pounds carrots
1. Combine the carrots, half-and-half, whole milk, and peppercorns in a heavy 5- to 6-quart saucepan and place over a high flame. While stirring constantly, bring the liquid to a full boil. Then reduce the flame to medium high and, stirring frequently, cook for about 25 to 35 minutes, or until the liquid has boiled off and the carrots are nearly dry.
2. Add the sweeteners and half the cardamom. Then, while stirring steadily to prevent scorching, cook for 10 to 14 minutes, or until the carrots are again nearly dry.
3. Pour in the ghee, ¼ cup raisins, walnut bits, almonds, powdered spices (including the rest of the cardamom), and fry until the mixture begins to pull away from the sides of the pan in a mass. Remove the pan from the flame and extract the peppercorns.
4. Transfer the halava to a decorative serving bowl or tray. Before offering to Krsna, garnish with raisins or whole walnuts, or decorate the surface with a sheet of edible gold or silver foil.
We welcome your letters.
I have been aware of the Hare Krishna movement for about a decade. I very often noticed the devotees chanting in downtown Vancouver. But for all those years, I looked upon them with disgust. I felt that these oddly dressed, shaven-headed boys were ruining the name of India and adversely impacting upon the image of East Indians living in British Columbia.
Recently, out of curiosity, I dropped in at their temple on the weekend. They had sankirtana [congregational chanting of Hare Krsna] going at that moment. I entered, and within a matter of minutes my heart swelled with ecstasy and tears rolled down my cheeks. That was a turning point in my life. I felt so guilty for my wrong impression of them.
Nowadays, whenever I can, I visit the temple with my wife and children. I also take advantage of the chanting in downtown Vancouver. Although I do not join in the singing, I stand beside the group of devotees and listen with all respect, love, and rapt adoration.
Over the years, I also collected magazines and books that I got from the devotees in the street. But I never read them. I just finished reading "The Science of Self-Realization" [a selective anthology of Srila Prabhupada's writings in BACK TO GODHEAD]. It has made a remarkable impact on me. It has reawakened my inner feelings and emotions for Krishna. Now I want to buy any and every thought that emanated from the supremely divine mind of Srila Prabhupada.
All my humble apologies to the sincere devotees for my misunderstanding them. Anyone who tries to inculcate (rekindle) love of God in our hearts deserves our gratitude, love, respect, admiration, encouragement, and mental and material support.
Surrey, B.C., Canada
* * *
I want to thank the Hare Krishna movement for helping me. Chanting has made me calmer and given me more peace of mind.
* * *
From Vedic books we understand that the soul resides in the heart of every living being. How do you explain the heart patient who was recently fitted with a permanent artificial heart? What happened to the soul in his body?
Our reply: Transplanting the heart doesn't transplant the soul. The soul, according to Bhagavad-gita, is seated in the region of the heart. But when the heart moves, the soul doesn't.
When the surgeons switch the natural heart for a plastic one, the soul merely switches seats, like a man rising from his chair to accept a new one. So the soul of Dr. Barney Clark lived on in his artificial heart.
But whether made of flesh and blood or plastic and metal, the heart is just an inanimate pump for the bodily machine. And eventually the whole machine will break down, forcing the soul to transmigrate to a new body.
Unfortunately, the highly skilled mechanics who built Dr. Clark's heart didn't know anything of the science of the soul. If they had they would have spent more time trying to give Dr. dark a way to achieve eternal life in his original, spiritual body rather than a few extra weeks or months in his desperately ill material one.
* * *
I really like your recipe section, but one thing in your February issue puzzled me. The title of the article was "Sweet Rice: Good Enough to Steal," but you didn't give the recipe for sweet rice. What gives?
Our reply: Sorry, we goofed. Here's the recipe you're looking for:
Creamy Condensed-Milk Rice Pudding
(North Indian Chaval Ksira)
Preparation time: About 40 minutes
8 cups fresh milk
1. Clean, wash, and drain the rice.
2. Break open the cardamom pods, remove the black seeds, and crush to a coarse consistency on a stone mortar.
3. Pour the milk into a heavy 5- to 6-quart saucepan and bring to a boil over a high flame, stirring constantly with a wide wooden spatula. Now slightly reduce the flame, add the sweetener and the rice, and, stirring attentively, briskly boil for 25 to 30 minutes. Then reduce the flame to medium and gently boil the milk for 5 to 10 more minutes, or until it is creamy and somewhat thick. Don't forget to stir constantly.
4. Add the raisins, almonds, cardamom powder, and saffron threads. Then simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, and remove from the flame.
5. Cool for 15 to 20 minutes and stir in the rosewater.
6. Pour the sweet rice into individual serving dishes and garnish with a small piece of rose petal. You can offer this sweet rice to Krsna either chilled or at room temperature. It's delicious either way.
I listen to you chanting the Bhagavad-gita.
I don't understand the words you chant—
Far is the distance I've yet to travel,
Back to Godhead.
And maybe someday I will be worthy to offer
—Patrick L. Garrison
Shopping With Krsna In Mind
How to choose food to offer to the Lord.
by Madhyama-devi dasi
If you've decided to be a vegetarian, and to take the further step of offering all your food to the Lord, sooner or later you'll face the task of changing your shopping habits.
When I first became interested in Krsna consciousness, I thought the problem was simple: buy what Krsna likes, and don't buy what He doesn't like. Philosophically speaking, that's correct. Devotees of Krsna make all their decisions for the pleasure of the Lord, because they love Him. But practically speaking there's a little more to it.
I still remember my first shopping trip after I had resolved to become a devotee. When I arrived at the supermarket, tired from my day's work and very hungry, I pulled a cart clanking out of the stack and started wandering the aisles. Soft music filled the air, orchestral arrangements of old top-ten tunes. My mind was pleasantly blank, flowing with the music and wide open to the advertising displays along the aisles.
"This is a snap," I thought. "All I have to do is not buy meat, fish, or eggs. Then I'll be able to offer Lord Krsna everything I cook. What could be simpler? Surely I've got enough will power to do that."
The shopping cart decided my first purchase. Like so many shopping carts, mine tended to pull away from the center of the aisle and head toward the brightly stocked shelves—in this case an array of pickles and preserves. My arm reached out, and before I knew it I had a jar of pickles in my hand. "Cucumbers," I thought. "That's a vegetable." And I put them in my basket. I'd gone into the store with no special plan in mind. I was tired, and I just wanted something that wouldn't take long to fix. Pickles fit the bill.
And so did bread, an apple pie, a bottle of salad dressing, and cottage cheese. I knew I needed protein, and cottage cheese was supposed to have a lot. I also bought some cheddar cheese and Swiss cheese, for the same reason. Soda pop seemed all right. It went into the basket too.
When I reached the produce section, I began to worry whether I'd brought enough money. There were so many varieties of vegetables and fruit! But many seemed high priced, and most I had no idea how to prepare (kohlrabi, eggplant? I had never even heard of jicama). I also knew that devotees shunned two of my previous favorites, garlic and onions, not because they weren't vegetables but because they increased the mode of passion in the eater. So, sticking to my determination to shop devotionally, I settled for potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, and apples.
The check-out line was a bore, so I picked up a magazine and began leafing through it. 1 found an interesting article on preparing eggplant, but before I was halfway through it my turn had come. So I slipped the magazine into my pile of purchases and waited apprehensively for the cash register to ring up what I owed. I had just enough money.
When I got home with my bags, I was proud of myself. Now I could offer a vegetarian meal to Lord Krsna and eat His remnants, prasadam, just like the other devotees!
I didn't know how to cook Indian-style (I barely knew how to cook at all), but the devotees had assured me that the style of cooking is not so important as the care for Krsna that goes into it. So I prepared grilled-cheese sandwiches and a salad, and I arranged them on my offering plate with a pickle, a piece of pie, and a glass of soda.
I put the plate on my altar, in front of the pictures of Srila Prabhupada and Lord Krsna, and then read the offering prayers from the sheet of paper the devotees had given me. Then I transferred the offered food from the Lord's plate to a plate of my own, washed the Lord's plate and put it away, and sat down to dinner.
I was (and still am) a compulsive reader, and the magazine with the eggplant article was lying on the table with most of the other groceries, which I'd been in too much of a hurry to put away. I soon finished the article, so I began reading the labels on the jars and packages before me. I started with the cheddar cheese—and got my first shock: It was made with rennet.
I knew what rennet was. As a child, I had read the "Little House" series of books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. In the very first book young Laura was afraid that Pa was going to kill their beautiful little calf for the lining of its stomach—rennet—so that Ma could make cheese. In the story, of course, Pa hadn't killed the calf. A neighbor had already killed one, and that made enough rennet for both families. But what calf had been killed for the cheese I'd bought—and that I'd offered to Krsna?
I stopped eating. I picked up the cottage cheese container. It had "cottage cheese" on the label, and "salt," and—sure enough—"gelatin." Gelatin comes from boiling the bones, hooves, and horns of dead animals. What about the salad dressing and the pickles? In the dressing, eggs. And in the pickles—garlic and onions, the very vegetables I'd made an extra effort to avoid.
Surely there was nothing wrong with the bread! And what could they possibly do to apple pie? But I'd let myself be fooled again. There it was, right on the labels of both: "vegetable and/or animal fat."
I was sad and angry. Sad because I'd offered something unofferable to Krsna and I was coming to care enough for Him to want to give Him things He liked. And angry not only at the food manufacturers (they didn't have to put meat into everything), but also at myself for being fool enough to go along with it, and for hurrying too fast to read the labels in the store, where it would have counted.
I finished the meal. I couldn't afford not to: I was low on money. As I mentally prayed to Lord Krsna for His mercy, I hoped He would be kind enough to accept the good intentions of a very, very neophyte devotee like me. But I wanted to offer Him food, not just good intentions! "Next time," I determined, "I'll know what to look for. And I'll get it right!"
I didn't get it all right on the next trip, of course, nor on the next. But I found that buying what Lord Krsna likes is easy, if you just maintain a firm determination to serve the Lord.
Over the weeks I learned more and more about what to do and what not to do while shopping for Krsna. What I learned I'd like to share with you now. Here's a list of tips. If you follow them, you'll avoid my mistakes, and your joy in offering food to the Supreme Lord will never diminish.
1. Plan simple menus of dishes the Lord would like. Ask the devotees—they can help with menus and even recipes. You can also get a Hare Krsna Cookbook. (Send $2.50 plus $1.00 postage to IES, 3764 Watseka Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90034.) Before you go shopping, make a list based on your menus, and stick to it.
2. Meditate on the Lord's pleasure, not your own. This will be easier if you don't shop when you're hungry. That way you won't be tempted by junk foods or quick-to-prepare foods, which cost more and often contain things you don't want to offer to Lord Krsna.
3. Chant Hare Krsna as you shop, or bring along a tape recorder and headphones. Chanting Krsna's holy names or listening to devotional tapes will help you remember Krsna. It will also shut out the corny background music in the store.
4. Put devotional care into your shopping service; take time to read every label. This cannot be emphasized enough. Don't assume that labels stay the same; products change. Watch out for rennet, gelatin, and lecithin (it comes from eggs, unless specifically marked "soy lecithin"). Also watch out for "natural flavorings" (they could be natural animal flavorings). If a product has a blank label, don't buy it—they don't want you to know what's in it.
5. Bring a BACK TO GODHEAD magazine to read in the check-out line. The store manager puts the magazines and candy there because he knows you'll be so bored that you'll probably buy something. Fool him! Bring your own Krsna conscious reading matter.
6. Explore alternatives to supermarket shopping. Many cooperatives, for example, will order rennetless cheese for you. Or explore your local farmer's market, or farms near your city where you can pick your own produce. And if you have a little space in your yard, why not grow something for the Lord? Lord Krsna will be pleased to see your sincere efforts in His service.
Exeter, Harvard, SDS, drugs, Skinner, James,
by Mathuresa Dasa
I first heard the chanting of Hare Krsna in 1968, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, during my freshman year at Harvard University. My dormitory room overlooked the sidewalk in Harvard Square where the devotees chanted in the afternoon several days a week. I liked the chanting, although it sometimes drew me away from my studies.
Having just spent four disappointing years at the Exeter Academy, in New Hampshire, I was enjoying a new freedom at Harvard. I could choose my own courses, make new friends, and take part in Boston's collegiate youth culture. Since my father was then principal of Exeter, the move to Cambridge meant a new freedom from my family as well. As I walked back and forth to my classes through leaf-strewn Harvard Yard, ate with my classmates in the freshman dining hall, and studied diligently in Widener Library, I felt that now, at last, my real education was under way.
But Harvard, too, was a disappointment. As I studied I became more and more dissatisfied, although I couldn't understand why. My friends, and even a few of my professors, admitted to some of the same feelings. I continued my studies anyway, for the sake of that prestigious degree, but the dissatisfaction increased, and I used to gather with my friends, smoke marijuana, and talk about the uselessness of education.
I was majoring in psychology because I wanted to better understand who I was and how the people of the world could live together happily and peacefully. Full of freshman enthusiasm, I signed up for some advanced courses, hoping to get right to the heart of my new field.
One course dealt mainly with the research of B. F. Skinner, the pioneer in behavioral psychology (and a member of the Harvard faculty). Skinner, I discovered, had spent a great deal of time in his Cambridge laboratory minutely studying the behavior of caged animals, especially Harvard Yard's native pigeons. Although I admired his careful research, his chilling theories of how to manipulate human behavior seemed to leave no room for freedom—something I was just beginning to appreciate greatly.
In another course I read Principles of Psychology, by William James, the outstanding American psychologist and philosopher of the last century. Like Skinner, James had taught at Harvard. He had done much research on frogs, which had apparently abounded on the Harvard campus in the 1800's, when the Charles River had been less polluted. James was a powerful thinker, but he also didn't give me what I was looking for: practical ideas I could immediately apply to improve my life and the world around me.
I began to doubt the value of my studies. In a light moment with my roommates one evening, I concluded that the only substantial difference between James and Skinner was that James had studied frogs and that Skinner, because of a shift in the local fauna, had studied pigeons.
By this time the Vietnam War was at its height. I was adamantly opposed to it, and I started to get involved in radical politics. In the spring of 1969 members of the Students for a Democratic Society entered the administration building in Harvard Yard, threw out the dean and other faculty members, and declared that they would occupy the building until the military's Reserve Officers Training Corps left campus. Though I wasn't a member of SDS or much of a radical, I joined the demonstration. At least it was a change from the dull routine of classes.
The next day, just before dawn, a hundred state policemen surrounded the building. They were all big men wielding long black nightsticks and dressed in knee-high leather boots, leather jackets, and blue helmets with tinted visors that hid their eyes. After spraying tear gas through the windows, they broke down the doors and charged into the ad building.
We all decided to be non-violent, of course. So about sixty of us were loaded into paddy wagons, taken to the Cambridge police station, and booked on charges of criminal trespassing.
Meanwhile the Harvard student community, having witnessed the bust, went on strike and refused to attend classes. All these events got wide coverage in the Boston papers, and the story even made the cover of Life.
But after the initial excitement wore off, I began to lose interest in radical politics. The SDS meetings during the strike were disorganized and beset by endless petty quarrels. But the worst part of these meetings was the series of long-winded harangues by the leaders, in which they presented their hodgepodge of political ideologies. My studies seemed fascinating by comparison.
I don't know if ROTC ever left campus, but I do remember that Harvard canceled final exams that spring. Now that was a victory we could all appreciate.
The next fall, after I helped organize a peace march in Washington, D.C., political activism joined my academic studies on the garbage heap of what I considered useless wastes of time.
A year later, after two years at Harvard, I took a one-year leave of absence, rented an apartment in the Jamaica Plains section of Boston, and began to study on my own. I felt a little relief. Free from the oppressive routine at Harvard, I did the best I could to stop using marijuana and other drugs. Then, late in March of 1971, as I walked down Tremont Street alongside the Boston Commons, a young woman walked up to me and handed me a magazine. Various political, religious, and cultural groups were always passing out literature on the Commons, so I took the magazine and kept walking, leafing through the pages. But after a moment I heard the young woman call to me from behind: "Sir, we just ask that you give a small donation to cover printing costs." I was a little annoyed, and I thought of giving the magazine back to her. But instead my hand somehow went into my pocket, and I gave her fifty cents.
It was a BACK TO GODHEAD magazine. On the cover was a color photo of the Hare Krsna devotees chanting and dancing on the corner of the Boston Commons near the Park Street subway station. There were about twenty of them, young men and women, dancing in step with their hands raised above their heads. They wore bright orange and yellow robes, and every one of them was smiling with a jubilance I had never seen before.
During my freshman year at Harvard two years earlier, when I would hear the devotees chanting Hare Krsna and playing their instruments outside my dormitory window, I had never thought of approaching them and asking them what they were doing. I had still thought that my Harvard education had something meaningful to teach me. And besides, the devotees looked strange with their shaved heads and saffron robes. Whenever I had to walk through Harvard Square, I would cross the street to avoid them.
Now, however, I was beginning to understand that professors, radical leaders, family, and friends had nothing substantial or lasting to offer me. Nor, for that matter, did I have much of anything to offer them. So I became a little more curious to find out about the Hare Krsna devotees.
I knew they weren't attending school or college, although they weren't uneducated or illiterate, either (the BACK TO GODHEAD in my hands testified to that). And I knew they didn't take drugs or smoke cigarettes. What were they all about, anyway?
I went back to my apartment and read the BACK TO GODHEAD, beginning with the lead article, by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada explained that to become disgusted with materialistic life is not enough. One has to find a positive alternative. He compared materialistic life to a glass full of ink, and renunciation of materialistic life to pouring the ink out of the glass. But, he continued, a glass is meant to be filled with something. So if you reject materialistic life but don't replace it with spiritual life, the ink of materialistic life will fill your glass again.
This analogy struck home. I had personally experienced that although I had rejected my home, family, education, and friends, I was still relying on them, for want of anything better. I would still sometimes use drugs and do all the things I already knew wouldn't make me or anyone else happy. Srila Prabhupada explained that we had to fill our lives with the chanting of the holy names of the Lord, Krsna, and with other devotional services to Him. This was like filling up the glass with milk. If our glass was filled with the milk of Krsna consciousness, we would no longer be attracted to the ink of materialistic life.
I was startled at how perfectly Srila Prabhupada had analyzed my problem. In contrast to my former schoolmates, who thought I was being too negative, and to my parents, who suggested I see a psychiatrist, Srila Prabhupada seemed to know me better than I knew myself. Accepting him at once as my friend and guide, I decided to visit the Boston Hare Krsna center to find out some more about Krsna consciousness.
I found the address in my BACK TO GODHEAD and located the temple on a map of Boston. It was a couple of miles across town from my apartment. Lacking money for a bus or cab, I set out on foot.
The walk took me through a section of Boston I had never explored before. The crosstown street I walked along (Harvard Street, ironically enough) was lined with shops, delicatessens, banks, grocery stores, movie theaters, and neat two- and three-story houses. A wooden sign hanging over the sidewalk on one of the many side streets marked the house where President Kennedy was born. Normally, the shops and theaters would have interested me, what to speak of Kennedy's birth-site—that certainly would have caught my attention, at least as a curiosity. But on that day the little Kennedy house seemed like an insignificant island in the middle of nowhere, and the shops, although busy with customers, appeared empty and unreal. They were real enough, of course, but pale and lonely in contrast to my heart's desire to find out more about Krsna consciousness. Harvard Street and JFK were just so much of that same ink.
At last I arrived at the Hare Krsna temple, a large three-story house on North Beacon Street. I must have been quite a sight in my old bluejeans and work shirt. My hair was long and unkempt, and I had become skinny and pale from irregular eating and occasional bouts with drugs and alcohol. I rang the doorbell.
A devotee opened the door part way, stuck his clean-shaven head out, and said, "Yes?"
"I want to know more about what you're doing," I said.
He smiled and asked me to come in. Leaving my shoes on a shelf by the door, I stepped into the front hall.
The aroma of incense, mixed with the fragrance of fresh flowers and exotic smells from the kitchen, completely captivated me. The temple was so clean, the floors were so well-polished, and the walls and ceilings so brightly painted that I was astonished.
My host told me that the temple housed a printing press and an art studio and that the devotees were busy publishing books on the science of Krsna consciousness written by their spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada. Some devotees, he said, painted illustrations for the books and magazines, some operated the press, some cleaned the temple and cooked, some sold the books and did business, and everyone (including the couples with children) rose at four in the morning and chanted Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. He told me the chanting meant, "O my dear Lord Krsna, please let me serve You."
I could see that the devotees weren't inactive and discouraged like me but always active in Krsna's service. As we talked, my host had a comfortable chair brought for me, while he sat on the floor, friendly and confident. Everything about him was fresh, clean, and personal.
After half an hour or so he told me that he had a lot of work to do, so I took my leave and promised to return for the festival and feast next Sunday afternoon.
I attended one or two Sunday feasts that spring, and I began to chant Hare Krsna regularly on my own. By chanting Hare Krsna and eating krsna-prasadam (food offered to Krsna) with the devotees, I became attracted to the life of devotional service. The devotees explained that Krsna was a name for God and that by chanting His name we directly associate with Him. They were always quoting their spiritual master and the Bhagavad-gita. I didn't understand much of the philosophy at first, but the prasadam was so delicious that, on the devotees' advice, I stopped eating meat, fish, and eggs.
During one of my visits to the temple, I asked for a copy of Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is. They were out of stock. So the next day I looked all over town and found a copy in a Copley Square bookstore. It was a paperback published by Macmillan, with introductions by Thomas Merton and Allen Ginsberg and explanations of the text by Srila Prabhupada. I had already read two or three other Gitas, with little understanding. But from reading BACK TO GODHEAD I had become certain that Srila Prabhupada's commentaries would be clear and relevant. Later in the spring, when an old friend invited me and several others to stay with him on his parents' land in Maine, I took Bhagavad-gita As It Is with me.
The property in Maine was four acres on a hill overlooking a coastal bay. It was peaceful and scenic—an ideal setting, I thought—but after a few days I discovered that I missed the cheerful devotees. My friends and I decided to cook only vegetarian meals, and I even introduced them to the chanting of Hare Krsna. But they also smoked marijuana, and out of habit I would join them. And on weekends my friend's parents would drive up from Massachusetts and cook a big Sunday dinner with barbecued meat, boiled lobster, and steamed clams. Despite the ideal country setting, I realized that I just wanted to be with the devotees.
Every day I would sit and read Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is, and one day a verse in the second chapter particularly caught my attention: "That which pervades the entire body you should know to be eternal. No one is able to destroy that imperishable soul."
In the purport, Srila Prabhupada explained that what pervades our bodies is consciousness. Pinch yourself anywhere and it hurts. Most people assume that since the body is temporary the consciousness spread throughout the body is also temporary. But in this verse Lord Krsna states that, unlike the body, consciousness is eternal: it has no beginning and no end. The body is born and dies, but the soul, the spiritual self that is the source of consciousness, has no birth and death.
Just theoretically understanding this verse made me very happy. Krsna and Srila Prabhupada were saying that we are eternal, and I had no reason to disbelieve it, no evidence to disprove it. This, not the study of caged animals and disturbed people, was the key to psychology—to real satisfaction. We are eternal, and therefore we can never be happy by trying to adjust our temporary surroundings.
It further occurred to me that this understanding of our eternal nature was part of what made the devotees so energetic and happy. They must have more than just theoretical understanding, I thought. They must have directly experienced that they are eternal and practically realized their eternal relationship with Krsna. There was no other way to account for their profound joyfulness, their friendliness, and other qualities I noticed in them. Srila Prabhupada's presentation of the Bhagavad-gita, combined with my association with his disciples, was having a deep effect on my life. I wanted to begin my spiritual education—to join the devotees and be like them.
I started regularly going off alone to some nearby woods to practice the chanting and dancing I had seen the devotees do. I thought I should become expert at this so I could show the devotees I was qualified to be a member of the temple.
When I finally decided to return to Boston and become a full-time devotee of Krsna, I didn't think I would be able to explain this decision to my friends. So I left early one morning without letting anyone know. It took me all day to hitchhike down to Boston, and during the last leg of the trip it rained. I arrived at the temple' about nine in the evening, soaking wet.
Standing in the front hall, dripping, I surprised a devotee with the news that I wanted to join. He ran to get me a towel and a plate of prasadam. I dried off and ate while he explained that he was about to lock up for the night and that I should come back the next day and talk to the temple president. I was disappointed, but I understood that it was late and that most of the devotees were already asleep.
So I walked across town to spend one last night in my apartment. As I walked I chanted Hare Krsna and looked forward to joining the temple the next day.
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.
Dhyana—Dhyana, meditation, is one of the steps in the eightfold yoga system of Patanjali.
The process of dhyana directly precedes samadhi, or complete absorption in the Supreme. The eightfold yoga system is also known as dhyana-yoga.
Dhyana-yoga was practiced many thousands of years ago, in the Age of Satya, or Truth, when people had extremely long life spans. The sage Valmiki, author of the epic Ramayana, practiced dhyana for sixty thousand years before he reached perfection.
Because of our short life span in the present age, the Age of Kali, dhyana-yoga is impractical. The Srimad-Bhagavatam advises that the best process of spiritual realization in the Age of Kali is the chanting of the holy names of Krsna (Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare).
In the Age of Satya the dhyana-yogi achieved perfection by meditating on the form of the Lord within his heart, but in the Age of Kali one can attain all the benefits of dhyana simply by chanting Hare Krsna.
Draupadi—Draupadi, a great devotee of Lord Krsna, was the wife of the five Pandava brothers.
When the Pandavas lost all they had in a rigged gambling match, the evil Duryodhana induced them to place Draupadi as a bet. The Pandavas lost, and Duryodhana's brother Duhsasana then tried to strip Draupadi naked before an assembly of princes and kings.
At first Draupadi tried to hold on to her sari. But finally, realizing her helplessness, she completely surrendered to Lord Krsna. Krsna then supplied her a sari of unlimited length, thus frustrating Duhsasana's attempt and saving Draupadi's honor.
Drona—Drona, also known as Dronacarya, was the military teacher of both the Pandavas, who were great devotees of Lord Krsna, and their nondevotee rivals the Kurus. Drona too was a devotee of Lord Krsna, but political ties obliged him to fight on the side of the Kurus. Drona taught both the pious Arjuna and the impious Duryodhana the art of fighting, but he considered Arjuna his best student.
Durga—the goddess who personifies the energy of the material world.
As the creator, maintainer, and destroyer of the material universe, Durga has immense power. Therefore many people worship her for material boons.
Durga's power, however, like that of all the demigods, comes from Lord Krsna. In the Bhagavad-gita, Krsna says that the material energy works under his direction. If one worships Durga, one will undoubtedly receive material benedictions, hut the Bhagavad-gita says that such worship is for the less intelligent. The truly intelligent person worships only the Supreme Lord, the ultimate cause of all causes.
Durvasa Muni—a powerful mystic who was known to be easily angered and easily pleased.
Durvasa once offended King Ambarisa, a gentle devotee of the Lord. So to punish Durvasa, Lord Krsna sent His personal weapon, a flaming disc called the Sudarsana cakra. Durvasa tried to escape, even by going to Lord Krsna's abode in the spiritual world, but the Lord told him to go and beg pardon from King Ambarisa, who forgave Durvasa. In this way the Lord showed that He doesn't forgive offenses against His devotees, but His devotee, out of compassion, forgives all offenses against himself.
On another occasion, Durvasa visited the house of the Pandavas, five brothers who were fully devoted to Lord Krsna. Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas, had a special dish that would feed unlimited numbers of guests as long as she herself had not eaten. But Durvasa, at the request of Duryodhana, the Pandavas' evil cousin, came after Draupadi had finished her meal. Duryodhana knew that if the Pandavas failed to offer food to welcome Durvasa and his ten thousand disciples, Durvasa would become angry and curse the Pandavas. In anxiety, Draupadi prayed to Lord Krsna, who came and promptly ate a morsel of food that had stuck to one of the pots. Because Krsna was satisfied, Durvasa and his disciples were automatically satisfied, and Draupadi and the Pandavas were saved from Durvasa's wrath.
Back in 1971, Russell Bliss sprayed oil mixed with dioxin on dusty horse arenas, dirt roads, parking lots, and farms at twenty-two sites in Missouri. His purpose was twofold: to control the dust and to get rid of the dioxin, a waste product that a defunct hexachlorophene plant had paid him to dispose of. At the time no one knew that dioxin was one of the world's most deadly poisons—that exposure to even one part per billion can hurt you.
Soon people in villages like Times Beach, where government investigators found more than one hundred parts of dioxin per billion in 1974, were suffering severe headaches, chest pains, and diarrhea. And hundreds of birds and animals were dying. Because the long-term effects of dioxin are thought to include cancer and birth defects, the people in Times Beach and the other contaminated towns have borne a crushing burden of anxiety. And most frightening of all, forty pounds of dioxin from the hexachlorophene plant are still unaccounted for.
Today Times Beach is disappearing: last February, in an attempt to make amends for nine years of scandalous neglect, the federal government bought up all but a handful of the town's eight hundred homes and thirty businesses.
But the problem that Times Beach epitomizes will not disappear. Suddenly Americans are being forced to ask themselves, What are we going to do with all those billions of tons of toxic waste our industries generate? And how are we going to protect ourselves from the billions of tons improperly disposed of in the past?
Of course, these questions aren't new. Ever since Rachel Carson's Silent Spring created an uproar against DDT in the early sixties, we've become increasingly aware of the threat of man-made chemicals in the environment. In the seventies this growing concern produced the Environmental Protection Agency, with its $1.6 billion "superfund" targeted to clean up the worst toxic waste dumps.
Yet although we've known of environmental pollution for decades and pushed the government hard to control and combat it, here it is 1983, the EPA is under investigation for dereliction of duty and possible criminal collusion with industrial polluters, and next to nothing has been done about the tons of poisonous chemicals pouring into our rivers, seeping into our soil, and leeching into our ground water. Maybe we've been asking the wrong questions and looking in the wrong place for help.
The real culprit in the toxic waste mess isn't the EPA or even the industrial polluters. It's us. In the words of Dr. Samuel Epstein, professor of occupational and environmental medicine at the University of Illinois Medical Center and co-author of Hazardous Waste in America, "The driving force behind the very existence of the hazardous waste problem is modern society's thirst for consumer products and its eagerness to purchase them at the lowest short-term market cost, even if this means generating massive quantities of dangerous byproducts. . . . Given the limitations of knowledge, the imperfections of institutions, the runaway nature of modern chemical technology, and the 'unforgiving nature' of hazardous substances, only one strategy can ensure the long-range protection of man and the environment from hazardous wastes. And that is not to generate them."
Fine. But Dr. Epstein doesn't go far enough. The crux of the problem is how to change the way we live so we won't need or want consumer goods that produce huge amounts of toxic waste. This is the issue that Dr. Epstein fails to address but that the Krsna consciousness movement can.
From the Krsna conscious viewpoint, the root of the toxic waste mess goes even deeper than Americans' desire for the products of a high-tech consumer society. Underlying this desire is a misconception of who we are and where we should look for happiness.
In the Bhagavad-gita, a standard book of spiritual knowledge, Lord Krsna explains that it's a mistake to identify ourselves with our body. We're actually spirit souls, particles of conscious energy, situated within the body just as a driver sits in a car. When we identify ourselves with our body, we seek to satisfy the demands of the bodily senses. And yielding to exaggerated and unnatural sensual demands brings painful reactions—such as poisoning from toxic wastes. Selfish action followed by painful reaction: this is one aspect of the law of karma.
When we understand our true identity as spirit souls, however, we don't have to stimulate our senses to be happy. We can get happiness from a higher source. This is true because as spirit souls we are not simply particles of consciousness but part of the Supreme Consciousness, Lord Krsna, with whom we have an eternal intimate relationship. So when we think of Krsna, glorify Him, and serve Him, we feel a transcendental happiness far greater than any sense pleasure. A Krsna conscious devotee can therefore be perfectly satisfied leading a simple life, consuming the minimum needed for health and reasonable comfort, and enjoying the pleasure of serving God in many ways.
But, someone may protest, Hare Krsna devotees also contribute to the toxic waste problem when they drive cars, fly in airplanes, and publish books. They're also polluting the environment.
True, devotees of Krsna are polluting the environment—but only minimally, because they're not using technology to meet the exaggerated demands of the senses. They use only as much technology as is absolutely necessary for spreading the teachings of Krsna consciousness, knowledge people urgently need so they can give up a technology-dependent life for a simple life of devotional service to God. And devotees of Krsna are building farm communities where they are living this ideal life as far as possible (see "Ox Power," page 10). Basic agriculture, cottage industries, reliance on the cow for milk and the ox for power, and cultivating pure love for God—this kind of karma-free life is in perfect harmony with the environment.
America's karmic debts are starting to come due. Toxic wastes have joined nuclear armaments as a danger long ignored that must now be faced. Palliatives like the EPA superfund can only delay a solution to the problem by lulling us into thinking something is being done when things are only getting worse. What's needed is not a political solution but a spiritual one. Until a cleanup of the environment is coupled with a cleanup of our hearts, until we stop demanding the baubles of high-tech consumer goods and start living a simple life of spiritual culture, America is sure to have more Times Beaches in its future.