Spiritual Bliss In The Company Of The Lord
You can't buy it or steal it, but you can taste it by learning to love Krsna.
by His Divine Grace
This article is reprinted from a BACK TO GODHEAD Srila Prabhupada published in Delhi in 1956.
In the revealed scriptures the Supreme Lord is described as sac-cid-ananda-vigraha. Sat means "eternal," cit means "fully cognizant," ananda means "joyful," and vigraha means "a specific personality." Therefore the Lord, or the Supreme Godhead who is one without a second, is an eternal, joyful personality with a full sense of His own identity. That is a concise description of the Supreme Lord, and no one is equal to or greater than Him.
The living entities, or jivas, are minute samples of the Supreme Lord, and therefore we find in their activities the desire for eternal existence, the desire for knowledge of everything, and an urge for seeking happiness in diverse ways. These three qualities of the living being are minutely visible in human society, but they are increased and enjoyed one hundred times more by the beings who reside in the upper planets, which are called Bhurloka, Svarloka, Janaloka, Tapoloka, Maharloka, Brahmaloka, and so forth.
But even the standard of enjoyment on the highest planet in the material world, which is thousands and thousands of times superior to what we enjoy on this earth, is also described as insignificant in comparison to the spiritual bliss enjoyed in the company of the Supreme Lord. His loving service in different mellows (relationships) makes even the enjoyment of merging with the impersonal spiritual effulgence as insignificant as a drop of water compared with the ocean.
Every living being is ambitious to have the topmost level of enjoyment in the material world, and yet one is always unhappy here. This unhappiness is present on all the above-mentioned planets, in spite of a long life span and high standards of comfort.
That is the law of material nature. One can increase the duration of life and standard of comfort to the highest capacity, and yet by the law of material nature one will be unhappy. The reason is that the quality of happiness suitable for our constitution is different from the happiness derived from material activities. The living entity is a minute particle of sac-cid-ananda-vigraha, and therefore he necessarily has a propensity for joyfulness that is spiritual in quality. But he is vainly trying to derive his spiritual joyfulness from the foreign atmosphere of the material nature.
A fish that is taken out of the water cannot be happy by any arrangement for happiness on the land—it must have an aquatic habitation. In the same way, the minute sac-cid-ananda living entity cannot be really happy through any amount of material planning conceived by his illusioned brain. Therefore, the living entity must be given a different type of happiness, a transcendental happiness which is called spiritual bliss. Our ambitions should be aimed at enjoying spiritual bliss and not material happiness.
The ambition for spiritual bliss is good, but the method of attaining this standard is not merely to negate material happiness. Theoretical negation of material activities, as propounded by Sripada Sankaracarya, may be relevant for an insignificant section of men, but the devotional activities propounded by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu are the best and surest way of attaining spiritual bliss. In fact, they change the very face of material nature.
Hankering after material happiness is called lust, and in the long run lustful activities are sure to meet with frustration. The body of a venomous snake is very cool. But if a man wants to enjoy the coolness of the snake's body and therefore garlands himself with the snake, then surely he will be killed by the snake's bite. The material senses are like snakes, and indulging in so-called material happiness surely kills one's spiritual self-awareness. Therefore a sane man should be ambitious to find the real source of happiness.
Once, a foolish man who had no experience of the taste of sugarcane was told by a friend to taste its sweetness. When the man inquired about sugarcane's appearance, the friend imperfectly informed him that sugarcane resembles a bamboo stick. The foolish man therefore began trying to extract sugarcane juice from a dry bamboo stick, but naturally he was baffled in his attempt.
That is the position of the illusioned living being in his search for eternal happiness within the material world, which is not only full of miseries but also transient and flickering. In the Bhagavad-gita, the material world is described as full of miseries. The ambition for happiness is good, but the attempt to derive it from inert matter by so-called scientific arrangements is an illusion. Befooled persons cannot understand this. The Gita (16.13) describes how a person driven by the lust for material happiness thinks: "So much wealth do I have today, and I will gain more according to my schemes. So much is mine now, and it will increase in the future."
The atheistic, or godless, civilization is a huge affair of sense gratification, and everyone is now mad after money to keep up an empty show. Everyone is seeking money because that is the medium of exchange for sense-gratificatory objects. To expect peace in such an atmosphere of gold-rush pandemonium is a Utopian dream. As long as there is even a slight tinge of madness for sense gratification, peace will remain far, far away. The reason is that by nature everyone is an eternal servitor of the Supreme Lord and therefore we cannot enjoy anything for our personal interest. We have to employ everything in transcendental service for the interest of the Lord. This alone can bring about the desired peace. A part of the body cannot make itself satisfied; it can only serve the whole body and derive satisfaction from that service. But now everyone is busy in self-interested business, and no one is prepared to serve the Lord. That is the basic cause of material existence.
From the highest executive administrator down to the lowest sweeper in the street, everyone is working with the thought of unlawful accumulation of wealth. But to work merely for one's self-interest is unlawful and destructive. Even the cultivation of spiritual realization merely for one's self-interest is unlawful and destructive.
As a result of all the unlawful money-making, there is no scarcity of money in the world. But there is a scarcity of peace. Since the whole of our human energy has been diverted to this moneymaking, the moneymaking capacity of the total population has certainly increased. But the result is that such an unrestricted and unlawful inflation of money has created a bad economy and has enabled us to manufacture huge, costly weapons that threaten to destroy the very result of such money-making.
Instead of enjoying peace, the leaders of big moneymaking countries are now making big plans how they can save themselves from the modern destructive weapons, and yet a huge sum of money is being thrown into the sea for experiments with such dreadful weapons. Such experiments are being carried out not only at huge monetary costs but also at the cost of many poor lives, thereby binding such nations to the laws of karma. That is the illusion of material nature. As a result of the impulse for sense gratification, money is earned by spoiled energy, and it is then spent for the destruction of the human race. The energy of the human race is thus spoiled by the law of nature because that energy is diverted from the service of the Lord, who is actually the owner of all energies.
Wealth derives from Mother Laksmi, or the goddess of fortune. As the Vedic literatures explain, the goddess of fortune is meant to serve Lord Narayana, the source of all the naras, or living beings. The naras are also meant to serve Narayana, the Supreme Lord, under the guidance of the goddess of fortune. The living being cannot enjoy the goddess of fortune without serving Narayana, or Krsna, and therefore whoever desires to enjoy her wrongly will be punished by the laws of nature, and the money itself will become the cause of destruction instead of being the cause of peace and prosperity.
Such unlawfully accumulated money is now being snatched away from the miserly citizens by various methods of state taxation for the various national and international war funds, which spend the money in a wasteful manner. The citizen is no longer satisfied with just enough money to maintain his family nicely and cultivate spiritual knowledge, both of which are essential in human life. He now wants money unlimitedly for satisfying insatiable desires, and in proportion to his unlawful desires his accumulated money is now being taken away by the agents of the illusory nature in the shape of medical practitioners, lawyers, tax collectors, societies, institutions, and so-called religionists, as well as by famines, earthquakes, and many other such calamities.
One miser who, under the dictation of the illusory nature, hesitated to purchase a copy of BACK TO GODHEAD, spent twenty-five hundred dollars for a week's supply of medicine and then died. A similar thing happened when a man who refused to spend a cent for the service of the Lord wasted thirty-five hundred dollars in a legal suit between the members of his household. That is the law of nature. If money is not devoted to the service of the Lord, by the law of nature it must be spent as spoiled energy in the fight against legal problems, diseases, and so on. Foolish people have no eyes to see such facts, so necessarily the laws of the Supreme Lord befool them.
The laws of nature do not allow us to accept more money than is required for proper maintenance. There is ample arrangement by the law of nature to provide every living being with his due share of food and shelter, but the insatiable lust of the human being has disturbed the whole arrangement of the Almighty Father of all species of life.
By the arrangement of the Supreme Lord, there is an ocean of salt, because salt is necessary for the living being. In the same manner, God has arranged for sufficient air and light, which are also essential for the living being. One can collect any amount of salt from the storehouse, but one cannot take more salt than he needs. If he takes more salt he spoils the broth, and if he takes less salt his eatables become tasteless. On the other hand, if he takes only what he absolutely requires, the food is tasty, and he is healthy. So ambition for wealth, for more than we need, is harmful, just as eating more salt than we absolutely need is harmful. That is the law of nature.
The Dangers Of Rabbit Consciousness
Closing our eyes is no way to deal with the wolf bearing down on us.
By Devamrta Swami
The entire human species deserves thunderous applause. If not that, then at least the Nobel prize for delusion. Finally, after thirty-eight years, the world is sluggishly waking up to a devastating reality: nuclear warheads are everywhere, and at any moment they can annihilate everything.
Ever since July 16, 1945, human beings have lived side by side with the Bomb. After the first successful test detonation in New Mexico, the scientists responsible immediately sent President Truman an ironically worded message: "Babies born successfully." Four decades later these babies have finally matured. Year by year their number has increased, until now approximately fifty thousand of them grace the earth, with a total explosive yield 1.6 million times that of the primitive firecracker which leveled Hiroshima. In other words, these metaphorical nuclear babies seem sure to make the world uninhabitable for any real babies.
A huge cross section of the earth's population, both in nuclearly armed and conventionally armed nations, now feel shock and outrage at the current overmilitarized condition of the world. Why did we ignore this nuclear insanity for so long? many wonder. And why are many people still not taking the grotesque situation more seriously? they ask. After all, thirty-eight years of false security is quite a long time. Why are people still reluctant to see the obvious impending doom?
Ignorance + Economics = Bliss?
For one who studies the psychological knowledge contained in the Vedic literature, there is no surprise about human folly. Not only in regards to nuclear extinction but also in regards to the whole issue of material existence in general, we love voluntary ignorance. Like a rabbit cornered by a wolf, the human rabbit closes his eyes in the face of danger and thinks he is secure.
Self-imposed blindness is a necessary ingredient of material life, because if we dare confront the basic existential problems, how can we push on to achieve our goals? We want the flickering happiness and imaginary satisfaction that a materialistic culture offers. So we must stand our ground and zealously reject any knowledge that can wake us from our dream.
In today's societies, most citizens are completely convinced that the "good life" means full opportunity to sport about in an intoxicating atmosphere of comfort, luxury, and sensual pleasure. They praise their political leaders as progressive and enlightened when the current administration seems to increase or at least maintain the standard of materialism. Otherwise the people throw out the leaders by votes or violence.
Modern societies have subordinated all goals and policies beneath the mass distribution of the soft life. The supreme objective is rapid economic development, and the supreme means is technological advancement. Our intelligence is so much absorbed in this that we cannot and will not consider anything else, even the urgent peril of nuclear extinction. We must have a higher and higher standard of material happiness, and to attain this the economy must prosper. Let everything else be damned!
One of the greatest scholars in Vedic culture, Srila Prahlada Maharaja, has extensively researched the age-old phenomenon of man's blind dive into bottomless materialism. He summarized his findings with the analogy that the materialistic living entity is like a deer who neglects real water lying under the grass at his feet and dashes off into the desert to chase a mirage. Prahlada Maharaja explains that the happiness of pure, spiritual consciousness is the water lying a little obscured but within easy reach and the so-called pleasure we get from exploiting matter is the mirage we gallantly pursue in the desert.
The Vedic scholars advise us that the higher intelligence of the human form is meant for discriminating between life and matter. The beginning of knowledge is said to be the understanding that life and matter exist as separate energies emanating from a common source. The Vedic scientists define life as that which is conscious, and matter as that which is unconscious. Consciousness is associated with a non-material particle within the body, just as electric and magnetic fields are associated with electrons within the atom. The Vedic literature teaches that in the same way that we cannot directly observe an electron but must perceive it indirectly through the trail it leaves in a cloud chamber, so we cannot directly observe the real living entity, the spiritual particle, but must understand the symptom of conscious awareness it manifests in the external, material body.
Unfortunately, today's advanced human being is completely ignorant of his non-chemical, nonphysical identity. He has no idea what consciousness is or how consciousness enjoys. In other words, nonmaterial pleasure—Krsna consciousness—is unknown to him. Misidentifying himself as utterly a product of biophysical interactions, the great materialistic genius madly plunges into the manipulation of matter through economics and politics.
But how can anyone think organized, technological materialism will satisfy him? Matter is temporary, and it is continuously undergoing transformation. This is why we can never seem to get our hands on a permanently satisfying situation or experience. Futhermore, matter is dead, insentient, and inert. How can this lifeless, unconscious substance, whether manifesting as legs, breasts, gold, a house in the country, or a new Corvette, provide the conscious self, the soul, with anything other than a phantasmagorical taste of imaginary satisfaction?
Yet the average man will think. One should not more than briefly take note of these odd statements. Faithfully closing the mind, one must continue to vigorously move ahead toward what we all know is the ultimate good. Increase the gross national product. Raise the wages. Spread the profits. When there is steadily increasing wealth and comfort for everyone, then love, peace, and happiness will spread throughout the land. And somehow or other the missiles will never leave their silos.
The Olympics of Illusion
In The Fate of the Earth, the now world-famous best-seller about nuclear disaster, Jonathan Schell offers some comments on the determination of human beings to ignore any threats to their materialism. Although dealing primarily with the lethargic response to nuclear proliferation, his remarks shed light on our reaction to existential problems in general.
He states, "When one tries to face the nuclear predicament one feels sick, whereas when one pushes it out of the mind, as one must do most of the time to carry on with life, one feels well again."
This behavior could be classified as psychotic, Schell admits, because society is willfully closing its eyes to its own annihilation. But fear not. He goes on to reveal that the refusal to face reality might actually contain something praiseworthy and sublime. People are just trying to do what is necessary to protect their commitment to marching on in life. Our most valuable asset, he surmises, is the undaunted enthusiasm or love for fulfilling aspirations, and this should not be rudely disintegrated. "Because denial is a form of self-protection," he explains, "and because it contains something useful, and perhaps even, in its way, necessary to life, anyone who invites people to draw aside the veil and look at the peril face to face is at risk of trespassing on inhibitions that are a part of our humanity."
Certainly, to uncover and analyze the massive problems in material life may not appear the nicest function a human being can perform. If one does this too diligently and thoroughly, one transgresses a certain well-established social etiquette. Sniper fire is allowed at selected aspects of materialism, but wholesale refutation is quite unpardonable.
Members of the Krsna consciousness movement know this very well. A Krsna conscious person is concerned not only with the impending horror of a nuclear holocaust but also with the basic, inherent flaws of material existence as a whole. Therefore, many times the Krsna consciousness movement is not appreciated. It is offering a consumer product rabbits don't want: reality.
Just consider the example of a great runner training for the Olympics. His goal is to bring back a gold medal and achieve eternal fame. Hence, he trains very rigorously every day by doing whatever is necessary to build his body for victory, and he scrupulously avoids any behavior that might impair his racing ability. Day after day he works hard to shave seconds off the clock. He disciplines himself not only physically but also mentally. Any sports coach will tell you that besides the physical stamina of an athlete vying for stardom, his mental attitude is also very important.
The mind of the prospective Olympic champion must be one-pointed, fixed on winning the race. The dedicated sprinter or hurdler has to constantly surcharge his mind with what the U. S. Marines call the "can-do go-power" of positive thinking: "I can win and I will win. Nothing will stop my inevitable championship."
This total adoption of the victory mentality must be accompanied by a strict refusal to let any negative thought or worrisome anxiety enter the mind during the prerace period. The star must close his eyes to any personal, social, or political problems that may seem to attack him, understanding that his precious powers of concentration are simply meant for the race alone. After all, the sweet taste of success easily minimizes any austerities undergone during the struggle.
A Small Dose of Reality
Like our hopeful Olympic champion, people today are so attached to pursuing the illusory gold medal of material satisfaction that they often regard realistic criticism as a great nuisance or a severe disturbance. It may appear to them that the Hare Krsna devotees are always mercilessly shooting out of the sky the high-flying balloon of material contentment, which is actually artificially inflated. The devotees always seem to spoil the lively party of blind material positivism with grave warnings that the human form is meant for something else.
Albert Schweitzer even went as far as to say that the Vedas, the standard Krsna conscious texts, are "world- and life-negating." But the Krsna devotee must ask. What is wrong with negating a conception of the world and life if it is false? To distinguish between reality and illusion is actually the greatest public welfare service, because as long as the phantasmagoria predominates, there is very little chance for us to focus on the transcendental truth.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam describes that life is a kind of fight with the laws of nature, which force deterioration and death on all. The entire material cosmos is described in Sanskrit as bhava-sindhu, the great ocean of becoming and unbecoming. Generally, people are attracted by anything new. Newborn babies look so fresh and cute. New cars and homes look so stunningly elegant. It is so wonderful to travel to new places, learn new things, and capture new friends and lovers. Indeed, for the materialist the ideal scenario would be to continuously accumulate newer and newer experiences, until his body is too aged to sport any more.
The problem with anything in the material world is that it must become old. In other words, anything that becomes must unbecome. Our bodies are attacked by the passing days and nights. Although we don't think realistically whenever we see the grandeur of a sunrise, the fact is that the sun's rising and setting indicates that our life is running out. The waves of the great ocean of nature, the bhava-sindhu, are tossing, impelled by the winds of time, and components of our existence—the bodily self, wife, children, home, school, society, technology, and so forth—are like foaming bubbles appearing and then disappearing very quickly on top of these waves.
Besides all the various aspects of our life under the control of time, the experiential taste of living—the juice you extract by struggling in the world—is also spoiled by time. Haven't you noticed how the sweet beverage of material joy always refuses to remain fresh? Pick your favorite activity—intellectual, physical, mental, sexual, or whatever—and just try to do it continuously, hour after hour, day after day, without change. It's impossible. Sooner or later the taste will become stale, and you'll have to change to another pursuit, another race.
But the ruin caused by the time factor is so all-pervasive that even if you saturate your life with variegated endeavors for pleasure in the style of a millionaire playboy or a jet-setter, still the whole load quickly loses its thrill. Then, collapsing under the weight of monotony, you retreat into deep depression while externally mouthing, "I'm O. K., you're O. K."
Involvement with material existence means complete submission to the fascists of temporality and staleness. There is no material alternative to this surrender except contentment through self-enforced blindness. Pretend the problems do not exist, and then possibly you can be happy. As the old quotation goes, "Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise." But now the problems of the world are becoming so extreme that even ignorance is losing its charm.
Neither Rabbit, Dog, Nor Hog
What is wrong when Krsna conscious teachers negate this kind of "life"? What is the harm when Hare Krsna adherents point out the gross failures of this kind of "world"?
Yet in addition to the wonderful charity of dissipating illusion, the Krsna consciousness movement has even more to give. After prying open the eyelids of the voluntary blind, Krsna conscious teachers present them with the positive alternative: real life on the transcendental platform, beyond the material senses, mind, and intellect. As succinctly put by the great devotee Rsabhadeva in Srimad-Bhagavatam (5.5.1): "Of all living entities who have accepted material bodies in this world, one who has received the human form should not work hard day and night simply for sense gratification, which is available even for the dogs and hogs. One should engage in the spiritual processes necessary to attain the divine position of Krsna consciousness. By such processes one's heart is purified, and when one attains this position he attains eternal blissful life, which is transcendental to material happiness."
For one who can understand the difference between the external body of matter and the internal quantum, or packet, of spiritual consciousness called the soul, an unlimited realm of nonmaterial enjoyment opens just by his executing the perfect techniques of Krsna consciousness. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krsna, states in the sixth chapter of Bhagavad-gita, "In the pure state of perfect consciousness one is situated in boundless transcendental happiness and enjoys himself through nonmaterial senses. Established in such permanent ecstasy, one never deviates from this truth, and upon gaining it one understands that there is nothing else to be had. Firmly situated in perfect awareness of the individual soul and the Supreme Self, one is never shaken, even in the midst of greatest difficulties. This, certainly, is real freedom from all miseries arising from contact with material nature."
While all over the earth human beings are marching to protest nuclear weapons, outer space is quickly becoming the most lucrative military battlefield. In other words, having successfully endangered the entire earth and its atmosphere, now it is time for military technology to ruin the heavens also. Is there anything that modern man cannot do?
In the foreword to the 1982-1983 edition of Jane's Weapons Systems, the most authoritative guidebook on military armaments, we find this statement: "War in space is now a practical matter." Jane's then describes the two categories of space armaments: the spaceborne laser and particle-beam weapons, and orbiting vehicles that destroy enemy satellites. Both the East and West have covered in complete secrecy any information about these new toys.
Obviously, now may be a very appropriate time for modern man to glimpse the overwhelming truth: he doesn't have the slightest idea what to do with himself. Although he has made ingenious advancement in technology, he has failed completely in the tiny matter of dealing with himself. In fact, he does not even know what the self is. There is no scientific theory or evidence that can adequately point out what consciousness is and why one's abstract identity does not change even though every cell in the body (even the brain) is constantly transforming. Might not this utter lack of knowledge cause some social problems?
Of course, in the past we never cared to understand this subject. Although voluminous, detailed answers about the self are given in the ancient Vedic texts, we have successfully ignored them. Burrowing deep inside our mountains of machines and gadgets, we've simply worried about inflation and the standard of living. But now the rapidly increasing economic decay and military conflict throughout the world are mercifully pressing even dedicated rabbits to open their eyes and see. And as reality becomes more and more popular, Krsna consciousness will become more and more loved.
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.
The case history of a little girl from West Bengal suggests she remembered a life she had lived before.
By Jayadvaita Swami
When Sukla Gupta was a year and a half old and barely able to talk, she used to cradle a pillow or a block of wood in her arms and address it as "Minu." Minu, she said, was her daughter.
And if you believe the story Sukla gradually told over the next three years, Minu actually was her daughter—but in a previous life.
Sukla, the daughter of a railway worker in Kampa, a village in West Bengal, India, was one of those rare children whose testimony and behavior give evidence for the theory that your personality survives the death of your body and travels on to live in another body. This is the theory of reincarnation.
For some five hundred million of the world's people, reincarnation is more than a theory—it is a fact, a given, a part of their everyday understanding. It's what they've learned from their scriptures, and what generations of their forefathers have believed for thousands of years.
Aside from people in the East, Western philosophers at least as far back as Plato have found it reasonable to believe that our souls have lived before, in other bodies, other lives, and will live again in new ones.
If we have lived other lives, you might ask, why don't we remember them? But memory is a tricky thing. We're lucky if we can remember where we've put our car keys. So even if past lives are a fact, it's not surprising we can't remember them.
But at least a few of us apparently can.
Sukla talked not only about her daughter, Minu, but also about her husband, "the father of Minu" (a good Hindu wife avoids speaking of her husband by name). She also talked about his younger brothers Khetu and Karuna. They all lived, she said, at Rathtala in Bhatpara.
Sukla's family, the Guptas, knew Bhatpara slightly—it was a city about eleven miles south—but they had never heard of a place called Rathtala, nor of the people Sukla had named. Yet Sukla developed a desire to go there, and she insisted that if her parents didn't take her she would go alone.
What do you do when your daughter starts speaking that way? Sri K. N. Sen Gupta, Sukla's father, talked about the matter with some friends. He also mentioned it to one of his railway co-workers, Sri S. C. Pal, an assistant station master. Sri Pal lived near Bhatpara and had two cousins there. Through these cousins he learned that Bhatpara indeed had a district called Rathtala. He also learned of a man there named Khetu. Khetu had had a sister-in-law named Mana who had died several years before, in 1948, leaving behind an infant daughter named Minu.
Sri Sen Gupta decided to investigate further.
The story of Sukla is one of nearly two thousand in the files of Dr. Ian Stevenson, Carlson Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia. Over the past two decades. Dr. Stevenson has gathered reports of people in various parts of the world who showed evidence suggesting that they had remembered past lives. About one thousand three hundred of these cases Dr. Stevenson has investigated personally, including the case of Sukla. [Among Dr. Stevenson's books are Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation (in which the case of Sukla appears) and the multivolume Cases of the Reincarnation Type. Both are published by the University of Virginia.]
When someone seems to have truthful memories of a former life, Dr. Stevenson interviews him, the people around him, and if possible the people of the life apparently remembered, looking for a more ordinary, normal way to explain things. He looks for fraud. He looks for stories with holes in them and conflicting, unreliable reports. But sometimes, as in the case of Sukla, normal explanations just don't seem to fit.
After Sri Sen Gupta learned of the family in Rathtala, he decided to yield to Sukla's desire to go there. With the consent of that family, he arranged for a visit. Sukla said that she could show the way to the house.
So in 1959, when Sukla was a little more than five, Sri Sen Gupta and five other members of his family journeyed with her to Bhatpara. When they arrived, Sukla took the lead. Avoiding various possible wrong turns, she brought them straight to the house of Sri Amritalal Chakravarty, allegedly her father-in-law in her past life.
As the party approached, Sri Chakravarty happened to be out on the street. When Sukla saw him, she looked down shyly, following the usual custom for a young woman in the presence of an older male relative.
But when Sukla went to enter the house she was confused. She didn't seem to know the right entrance. Her confusion, however, made sense: after the death of Mana, the woman whose life Sukla seemed to remember, the entrance had been moved from the main street to an alley on the side.
And the party soon found that Sukla recognized not only the house but also the people in it, including those she said were her mother-in-law, her brothers-in-law, her husband, and her daughter.
Fraud? When some Hollywood movie actress claims to remember a past life as the Queen of Persia, that's likely the right explanation. But here we're dealing with a little village girl. She starts talking about a past life as soon as she's old enough to speak. She knows all sorts of things about people neither she nor her family has ever met. Careful investigators find no evidence of fraud and no normal way the girl could have learned what she knows. And her behavior actually fits the story of her previous life.
Inside Amritalal Chakravarty's house, Sukla found herself in a room with some twenty or thirty people. But when she was asked, "Can you point out your husband?" she correctly indicated Sri Hari-dhana Chakravarty. Following the proper Hindu etiquette, she identified him as "Minu's father."
Sukla and Haridhana Chakravarty were to meet again several times, and Sukla always longed for these meetings. When he was to visit her house, Sukla told her family to make him a meal with prawns and buli. She said that this was his favorite food. Her family did what she said and later found that she had chosen correctly.
Sukla behaved toward Haridhana Chakravarty like a perfect Hindu wife. After he ate his meal, she would eat whatever food was left on his plate, as a devoted Hindu wife would do. But she never ate food from the plate of anyone else.
To try to account normally for this kind of behavior, another explanation sometimes put forward is what is technically known as cryptomnesia, "hidden memory."
Psychologists know that our minds record more than we consciously remember. Under hypnosis, an old man may vividly describe his fifth birthday party, an event for which his normal consciousness has lost all the details. Or he may recall exactly what he read in a long-forgotten book some thirty years before.
So the hypothesis of cryptomnesia supposes that what appear to be memories of a past life are merely memories of something one has heard or read and consciously forgotten.
This may in fact be the best explanation for many of the "past-life regressions" now becoming popular in journeys through hypnosis. Asked by a hypnotist to go back to a past life, a subject obediently searches his forgotten memories and uses them to dramatize an entirely fictitious "former existence."
In one notable case, back in 1906, a clergyman's daughter under hypnosis told vividly of a past life in the court of King Richard II. She poured out a wealth of details, nearly all of which proved to be true, even though many of them were so obscure that they sent researchers hunting through scholarly English histories the girl was most unlikely to have read. Finally, however, it came out that all these detailed facts appeared in a novel. Countess Maud, that the girl had read when twelve years old and had entirely forgotten.
But the case of Sukla, remember, is that of a girl less than five years old. And her recollections of a past life took place not under hypnosis but as part of her usual waking consciousness.
We may suppose that she gathered these memories normally, but this is only a supposition—there's no evidence of any normal channel through which these memories could have come.
Moreover, Sukla didn't just recall information—she actually recognized people, people who in this life were complete strangers.
She recognized Mana's mother-in-law from a group of thirty people. She pointed out Mana's brother-in-law Kshetranath, and she knew his nickname, "Khetu." She also recognized another brother-in-law, whose nickname was "Kuti." But she identified him correctly by his given name, Karuna, which even his neighbors didn't know.
She also said that her first child, a son, had died while still an infant. This was true for the life of Mana. And Sukla tearfully recognized Mana's daughter, Minu, and showered her with affection.
If there isn't a normal way to explain this, maybe there is some other less-than-normal explanation. Perhaps Sukla learned about Mana and her family through extrasensory perception.
Research has clearly shown that there is such a thing as ESP. In rigidly controlled experiments, the late Dr. J. B. Rhine and other parapsychologists have shown persuasive evidence for telepathy (the ability to read another person's thoughts) and clairvoyance (the ability to perceive objects and events without using your senses). And experiments have shown that both telepathy and clairvoyance can work over long distances.
But although ESP may seem hard to believe, to use it to explain a case like Sukla's you'd have to believe in super-ESP. Not only would this five-year-old girl have to have incredible psychic powers, but she would have to use them to zero in on a specific family in an unfamiliar city and learn intimate details of their lives. She'd also have to be selective about what her psychic radar picked out, so that she'd "remember," for example, the location of her father-in-law's house but be unaware that the entrance had changed, since that took place after Mana's death.
And then, for purposes yet unknown, Sukla would have to mold what she'd learned into a drama in which she immersed herself in the role of the departed Mana.
Most dramatic in Sukla's case were her strong maternal emotions towards Minu. From babyhood Sukla had played at cradling Minu in her arms, and after she learned to talk she spoke of her longing to be with Minu. Sukla's meeting with Minu had all the appearances of a tearful reunion between mother and daughter.
Once Mana's cousin tested Sukla by falsely telling her that Minu, away in Rathtala, was ill with a high fever. Sukla began to weep, and it took a long time for her family to reassure her that Minu was actually well.
Minu was twelve and Sukla only five. And Minu had grown taller, so Sukla said, "I am small." "But within this limitation," Dr. Stevenson says, "Sukla exactly acted the role of a mother towards a beloved daughter."
And after taking other possibilities into account, Dr. Stevenson cautiously submits that perhaps we can understand this case most suitably by accepting that Sukla was Minu's mother, just as she thought herself to be.
This brings us back to the idea of reincarnation. Of course, science can never "prove" that reincarnation is a fact. For that matter, science can never actually "prove" anything. Through science, all we can do is gather data as carefully as possible and then try to explain them in the most consistent and reasonable way. And when the body of data grows, our explanations have to grow with it.
Because of the work of Dr. Stevenson and other researchers, we now find ourselves facing a considerable body of data suggesting that reincarnation is a fact.
Yet science doesn't go far in making clear to us what that fact is.
How does it work? Why does it happen? Who or what is reincarnated? How long do you have to wait between births? Does it happen to all of us, or only a few?
Perhaps one day scientific investigation will come up with answers to these questions. For now, investigators can do little more than gather data and speculate.
So if reincarnation happens to everyone, you can figure on going through it yourself—perhaps countless times—before science even begins to figure out what's going on.
The members of the Hare Krsna movement, however, have a different way of getting understanding.
Faced with an unfamiliar but complex machine, you can observe it and try to figure out how it works. You can monkey with the thing and see what happens. You can call in friends and get their ideas of what the pulleys, gears, and wires are supposed to do. And maybe you'll figure it out. Maybe.
But the sure way to understand the machine is to learn about it from the person who built it.
So the direct way to understand the machinery of the universe—including the subtle machinery of reincarnation—is to learn about it from the person behind it.
That there's a person behind this machine comes near to being self-evident. It's axiomatic. Of course, you're free to reject the axiom. But then you're faced with the task of explaining how things "just happen" to work, how everything in the universe "just happens" to fit together, without any intelligence behind it.
You can say that everything happens "by chance" (which is no explanation at all). You can ascribe everything to some ultimate impersonal force that, without intelligence or volition, gets everything to work. Or you can sidestep the problem by saying that everything we see is merely an illusion: "The machine doesn't even exist." But then you have to explain where the illusion comes from. And that puts you right back where you started.
It's easier and more reasonable, therefore, to assume that behind the workings of the cosmic machine is the supreme intelligence, or the Supreme Person. This is the entity to whom we refer when we use the name Krsna.
For various excellent reasons (explained elsewhere in the issues of this magazine), we accept that the book known as Bhagavad-gita conveys the words of Krsna Himself. So the members of the Hare Krsna movement, like devotees of Krsna for thousands of years, learn about reincarnation from the words of Bhagavad-gita
In Bhagavad-gita Krsna tells us that reincarnation happens to everyone. "For one who is born," Krsna says, "death is certain. And after death one is sure to be born again."
Krsna compares this journey through a succession of lives to the changing of clothing. Your true self—your "soul"—is eternal, but it goes through temporary bodies, one after another.
So it's not that you "become a different person" when you change from one body to the next, any more than you become somebody else when you change your clothes or when you grow from a child to an adult. You're always the same you, but you watch your body and mind transform from those of a child to those of a youth and then those of an old man or woman. Similarly, Krsna says, death is but a transformation from one body to the next.
Still, death is like nothing else under the sun. It's the biggest jolt there is. And when we get to the other side, we forget all about what we were doing in the life before, just as a person who falls asleep forgets what he was doing during the day and then wakes up and forgets about his dreams.
In rare cases, though, memories may persist, as they apparently did with Sukla Gupta. Sukla remembered her home, her family, and her clothing from the previous life. She talked about the three saris she used to wear, especially the two made of fine Benares silk. And when she visited what she said was her former home, she found the saris stored in a trunk, jumbled in with clothing that belonged to others. She picked out the three saris she said were hers, and in fact they had been Mana's.
Sukla talked about a brass pitcher in a particular room of the house. When she visited, the pitcher was still there. The room had been Mana's bedroom, and Sukla correctly showed where Mana's cot had previously been. And tears came to Sukla's eyes when she saw her old sewing machine, the one that Mana had previously used.
But even if we forget our previous lives, they influence our present one nonetheless. The Bhagavad-gita says that it's what we've done and thought in our past lives that determines what kind of body we start out with in this one. And by what we do in this life, we're paving our way to the next.
According to the Bhagavad-gita, we've already been through many millions of lifetimes, and it's possible we'll have to go through many millions more. Some of them may be in human bodies and some in the bodies of lower forms like animals and trees.
But by spiritual realization, the Gita says, we can free ourselves from spinning through this endless cycle of incarnations. We can transcend material existence altogether and return to our eternal home, in the spiritual world with Krsna.
The Gita points out that each of us is eternal and Krsna is also eternal. And our real existence is our eternal life with Krsna.
As we travel from lifetime to lifetime, we can't hold on to anything, for everything in the material world is temporary. Everything material fades away and ultimately loses meaning.
The Bhagavad-gita therefore advises that now, in this present human life, we should fully use our energy and time for spiritual realization.
By the time Sukla was seven, her memories of her former life had begun to fade. Yet even before the memories left her, that life was already gone. Sukla had mentioned that in her former life, as Mana, she'd had two cows and a parrot. But after Mana's death the cows had died, and the parrot had flown away.
Thou Shalt Not Kill
Not only is meat-eating unhealthy, uneconomical, and unkind, but all the world's major religions condemn it.
by Visakha-devi dasi
Meat-eating is bad for many reasons. For health reasons: "The inherent cholesterol, toxins, uric acid, high bacteria count, general indigestibility, and lack of fiber in the flesh of an animal whose life was aborted in turn shortens the life of the carnivore" (Mark Braunstein in Radical Vegetarianism). For economic reasons: "Land which will produce one ton of beef will produce ten to twenty tons of highly nutritive nonflesh foods" (Frances Moore Lappe in Diet for a Small Planet). For ethical reasons: "Those who kill animals for food will be more prone than vegetarians to torture and kill their fellow men" (Pythagoras).
And for religious reasons. Religion, as defined in the Vedic literature, means following the laws given by God. "Unfortunately," Srila Prabhupada points out in his writings, "the so-called followers are not following. In the Christian Bible it is said, 'Thou shalt not kill,' but killing is a good business in the Christian world. There are so many slaughterhouses."
In 1973 I was present when Srila Prabhupada and Cardinal Jean Danielou discussed this point in Paris. The Cardinal defended meat-eating, saying that human life is sacred but animals could be killed for food. Srila Prabhupada told him, "That is your interpretation. The commandment is 'Thou shalt not kill.' Human beings are meant to eat vegetarian food. The tiger does not come to eat your fruits. His prescribed food is animal flesh. But man's food is vegetables, fruits, grains, and milk products. So how can you say that animal killing is not a sin? It is sinful, and as long as a man is sinful, he cannot understand God. The human being's main business is to understand God and to love Him. But if you remain sinful you will never be able to understand God—what to speak of loving Him."
Although the Bible may contain several passages that allow meat-eating (and even these are in question because the original Greek word for "food" has often been rendered as "meat" in English), these passages don't justify meat-eating for Christians in general. In fact, Genesis and Leviticus contain many passages that expressly forbid meat-eating. But nowhere in the Bible do we find passages that forbid vegetarianism.
In addition, there is much evidence that many early Christian fathers were vegetarian and strongly urged their fellow Christians to give up meat-eating for ethical and spiritual reasons. St. John Chrysostom, a prominent early Church father, wrote, "We, the Christian leaders, practice abstinence from the flesh of animals to subdue our bodies. . . . The unnatural eating of flesh-meat is polluting."
Like the early Christian leaders, today's Christians should give up meat if they care at all about following Christ's teachings—to repent, believe in God, and love Him with all our heart, and to be just, compassionate, charitable, and joyful. How does that tally with huge slaughterhouses, where countless innocent animals are massacred for our meals? Can anyone honestly believe Christ, the all-merciful son of God, would condone this?
Other religions also support meatless diets, although the so-called followers of those religions would have us believe otherwise. Abraham Isaac ha-Kohen Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of prestate Israel, said, "In the future ideal state . . . people's lives will not be supported at the expense of the lives of animals." And Dr. Richard H. Schwartz, author of Judaism and Vegetarianism, concludes, "In view of the strong Jewish mandates to be compassionate to animals, preserve health, help feed the hungry, preserve and protect the environment, and pursue peace, and [in view of] the very negative effects flesh-centered diets have in each of these areas, how do you justify not becoming a vegetarian?"
What about Islam? Well, around the beginning of the sixteenth century the Chand Kazi of Navadvipa, a learned scholar in the Koran, admitted that in the higher stages of Islam meat-eating is not recommended. And, of course, Buddhism is known for its doctrine of ahimsa, or nonviolence. Naturally, strict Buddhists follow a meatless diet.
But despite all this, just as we shrug our shoulders at the economic, ethical, and health reasons for vegetarianism, we also shrug at the religious reasons. But we do so at our own risk, because ultimately we face not an alternative of vegetarianism or nonvegetarianism but of following the laws of God or breaking His laws. It's easy enough to break them, certainly—but it's impossible to avoid the punishment.
Srila Prabhupada writes, "The animal killers do not know that in the future the animals will have a body suitable to kill them. That is the law of nature. Every living creature is the son of the Supreme Lord, and He does not tolerate even an ant's being killed. One has to pay for it. So-called civilized nations are unnecessarily maintaining many slaughterhouses for killing innocent animals. When a nation is attacked by its enemies, the wholesale slaughter of the citizens should be taken as a reaction to their own sinful activities."
It may seem like a great challenge in self-denial for a life-long meat-eater to give up his steaks and chops. But if you switch to prasadam, it's a cinch. For example, if you crave protein-rich succulence, try preparing a fried cheese dish and offering it to Lord Krsna. A good one to start with is this month's selection. You'll find it much more satisfying than meat, because it satisfies Lord Krsna. And, miracle of miracles, meat will fade from your memory, just as it has from ours.
(Recipes by Yamuna-devi dasi)
Fresh Curd from Whole Milk
Preparation time: 20 minutes
8 cups homogenized milk
1. Evenly drape an 18-inch-square cheesecloth in a colander or sieve. Then place the colander or sieve over the sink or a large bowl.
2. Pour the milk info a 4-quart saucepan and place over a high flame. Stir constantly and bring to a full frothing boil.
3. Reduce the flame to low and, before the foam subsides, pour in the lemon juice. Now very gently stir the milk. After 10 seconds, remove the pan from the heat but continue stirring. After one minute, the curds should solidify. If they haven't solidified, place the milk over the flame again until lumps of fresh curd separate from the clear, pale yellow whey. If necessary, sprinkle in some more lemon juice.
4. As soon as the curds form, pour in 1 cup of hot water. Then set aside for 5 to 10 minutes, until the curd has settled to the bottom of the pan.
5. Gently lift out the lumps of curd with a large slotted spoon and transfer them to the colander or sieve lined with the cheesecloth. Strain the remaining whey through a fine-mesh wire strainer and collect the small pieces of curd. Combine all the curd in the cheesecloth.
6. Gather the four corners of the cheesecloth and lift out the curd. Rinse it for 5 to 10 seconds in a gentle stream of lukewarm water.
7. Gently twist the cheesecloth so that it loosely binds the hot curd. Hang the cheesecloth from a hook or kitchen cabinet knob so that the whey can drain into a bowl or the sink for at least 1 ½ hours.
Special Tips: Making each batch of curd is different. You may find that the cheese forms before all the suggested amount of lemon juice has been added. If this happens, don't add any more juice. It will harden and toughen the delicate curds. Also, you may want to speed up the draining process by placing the freshly wrapped curd back in the colander or sieve, or on a flat surface such as the rim of your sink, and putting a 5- to 6-pound weight on top of it for ¾ to 1 ½ hours.
Fresh Curd and Green Peas in Tomato Broth
Preparation time: 45 minutes
10 to 12 ounces fresh curd
1. Cut the curd into ½-inch cubes and lay them on some paper towels for about 15 minutes to absorb the excess whey.
2. Over a medium flame, heat the ghee or vegetable oil in a 10- to 12-inch frying pan or 5- to 6-quart saucepan. When the ghee is hot, carefully add the curd cubes and, constantly turning them, fry until evenly browned on all sides. Now remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
3. Into the frying pan place the ginger root, green chilies, cumin seeds, and black mustard seeds. Fry until the cumin seeds are brown and the mustard seeds turn gray and pop. Now add the tomatoes, powdered spices, sweetener, and ½ the fresh herbs and fry until the mixture thickens to a pulp and the ghee begins to separate from the tomatoes.
4. Add the fresh peas and whey or water, cover, and cook on a medium flame for 15 to 20 minutes or until the peas are tender. If you are using frozen peas, add them during the last 5 minutes of simmering the sauce.
5. Add the cheese cubes and salt, and simmer 5 minutes more. Before offering to Krsna, stir in the remaining herbs.
On Christians, Communists, and Cow-Killers
What follows is the conclusion of a conversation that took place between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples during an early-morning walk in March 1975 in Dallas.
Srila Prabhupada: The Christians say, "We can commit all kinds of sin, but Christ will take our sins on himself. He has taken a contract." Do they not say something like that?
Srila Prabhupada: Poor Christ has to suffer for all their sinful activities. "He wanted to save us from sin," they say, "so he gave us an injunction that we don't have to care whether we sin or not." This is hypocrisy.
In Melbourne I was invited by some priests to speak. They asked me, "Why do you think the Christian religion is dwindling? What have we done?" So I replied, "What have you not done? You claim that you are followers of Jesus Christ, yet you are performing all kinds of sinful activities. Therefore you will soon have to close down this hypocrisy." They were not very much pleased with that answer.
"What have we done?" they ask. They have done so many sinful things, but they do not admit they are sinful. This is hypocrisy. In the Ten Commandments the Bible clearly says, "Thou shalt not kill." But they'll not obey. That is sinful.
Willful sinners. If one acts sinfully out of ignorance there may be some concession, but they are knowingly sinful. They know that killing cows is sinful, yet still they are doing it.
Devotee: Most Christians don't think it's a sin to eat meat, Srila Prabhupada.
Srila Prabhupada; That means the priests are rascals for misinterpreting the Bible. This hypocrisy is going on in the name of religion. But how long can those who preach such ideas cheat others? You can cheat all people sometimes, and you can cheat some people all of the time, but you can't cheat all people all of the time.
Devotee: The communists also argue that the Christian religion is hypocrisy. They say it is "the opiate of the people." So they want to abolish it.
Srila Prabhupada: The communists have had a bad experience with the Christian religion, and they have no information that there is a need of religion. So they want to abolish all religion.
Devotee: The communists say that the problems of the world are so great that unless people give allegiance to a world government, the problems cannot be solved.
Srila Prabhupada: We also say that. Krsna is the Supreme Lord; take shelter of Him and all problems will be solved. That we are also teaching.
Devotee: But the communists have missed the point that Krsna must be recognized as the Supreme Lord.
Srila Prabhupada: Ekale isvara krsna, ara saba bhrtya: "The only master is Krsna. Everyone else is His servant." This is the central principle of the Bhagavad-gita. Accept this principle and everything will be all right, immediately.
If you study the Bhagavad-gita, you won't find any word that you can refute or that is not good for you. The whole Bhagavad-gita is practical—very congenial for human civilization. First Krsna teaches that you must learn who you are. You are not the body. You are a spirit soul within the body. Who knows this? This is the first lesson Krsna teaches in the Bhagavad-gita. As soon as you understand that you are not the body but that you are within the body, you understand what spirit is. Then your spiritual knowledge advances further. But the rascals do not know what spirit is. So they have no spiritual knowledge.
Devotee: They think cows have no spirit.
Srila Prabhupada: Do you believe that?
Devotee: No. Cows have spirit. The spirit soul makes the body work.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. How can they say there is no spirit in cows? You have spirit. Your body is moving. You are working. You are eating. You are talking. And as soon as the spirit soul is gone from your body, the body becomes dead matter. The hands and legs will still be there, but they will not work, because the spirit soul is gone.
So, what is the difference between the cow's body and your body? Come to human reasoning. Is there any essential difference between your body and a cow's body?
Devotee: No. But now they are saying that human beings also have no soul. They say that since the cow has no soul, we can eat the cow, and since human beings have no soul—
Srila Prabhupada: You can kill the baby in the womb. Advancement of ignorance is accepted as advancement of civilization. Why? Because there is no spiritual knowledge.
[Srila Prabhupada and his disciples pass a man playing golf.]
Devotee: That man thinks he has retired from working hard, but he's still working hard just to put a ball in a hole.
Srila Prabhupada: What else can he do? He doesn't know that there is another engagement—spiritual life. That is his ignorance.
When there was an electricity failure in New York, the statistics showed that more women became pregnant. What else could people do in the darkness? "Let us have sex." That's all.
Without spiritual knowledge, human beings become just like animals.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Devotees Building Africa's Largest Temple
Chatsworth, South Africa—With the generous financial help of South Africa's Indian community, Hare Krsna devotees are building the largest temple of Lord Krsna on the African continent.
The structure covers more than four acres and has three spires, one rising twelve stories and two rising nine. When completed, the temple will seat 1,800 in its main hall. There will be classrooms, offices, living quarters, a large kitchen, a 700-seat amphitheater, and a pool of lotus flowers encircling the building.
The striking design—a union of traditional Vedic architectural principles and modern building techniques—is the work of Austrian-born architect Raja Rama dasa, who has helped build Hare Krsna temples in India. Before coming to Krsna consciousness a decade ago. Raja Rama worked as an apprentice in several prominent firms in Cologne.
"We realized that if we were to really build something special for the Lord, we'd have to manage the contracting ourselves. So we organized our own construction company.
"The African continent—maybe the whole Southern Hemisphere—has seen nothing quite like it. It's already attracting many visitors, but just wait till it's completed!"
Raja Rama and the other devotees in South Africa are so enthusiastic to build the temple that it reached the first-floor level in only three months and since then has consistently been going up ahead of schedule.
ISKCON Guru on Nationwide Radio Show
Dallas—Listeners to forty radio stations across the United States recently heard one of ISKCON's present spiritual masters, Srila Tamal Krishna Goswami Gurudeva, speak on Krsna consciousness. The radio show was America Overnight, a popular talk show moderated by Ed Busch and produced here.
After the show Mr. Busch said, "All eight lights on my telephone were lit up like a Christmas tree. This show brought in the most calls I've ever had!" Mr. Busch also remarked that he and Srila Gurudeva made a good team. The show was so popular that Mr. Busch wants to schedule another program in a few months that would last longer and allow Srila Gurudeva to answer more calls.
Leading Hindu Group Lauds ISKCON
Bombay—The Vishva Hindu Parishad ("The Universal Hindu Association"), a religious and social organization with more than five thousand branches worldwide, recently recognized ISKCON as "a great modern representative of Vaisnavism [devotional service to Visnu, or Krsna], preserving the purity of the soul and sanctity of actions for development of love of God."
In a signed statement, VHP president Maharana B. S. Mewar said, "We Hindus consider the activities of ISKCON to be an integral part of our life to preserve and propagate the pure Vedic culture and thought for the preservation of mankind."
The paper recommends ISKCON's centers as "oases for Hindus living and traveling abroad, a source of great inspiration and spiritual strength."
The VHP statement concludes, "The religious tradition that ISKCON represents is the oldest and purest in its approach to life in the world, and all respect should be shown to this great and noble work."
Kudos for Srila Prabhupada, Srimad-Bhagavatam,
Delhi—Recently Dr. D. R. Kalia, president of the Indian Library Association, wrote this warm appreciation of Srila Prabhupada and his Srimad-Bhagavatam:
"I strongly recommend the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust edition of the ancient classic Srimad-Bhagavatam to all students of Indian philosophy and culture. The original text is presented along with Roman transliteration, word-for-word synonyms, accurate translation, and extremely lucid commentary and exposition. It is a remarkable work, definitely a landmark in the matter of elevating humanity toward world unification and divine consciousness.
"The learned author, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, was a world-renowned saint and savant in the field of Vedic philosophy and its practical application in the modern world. He was unequaled in his efforts to establish the Vedic way of life in all countries of the world."
Srila Prabhupada's life story is now on film.
by Madhyama-devi dasi
ISKCON Cinema, the filmmaking branch of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, has just released a documentary on the life of Srila Prabhupada. Titled Your Ever Well-Wisher (after the closing to Srila Prabhupada's letters), the film traces Srila Prabhupada's life from his birth in Calcutta in 1896 to his passing away in Vrndavana in 1977.
Your Ever Well-Wisher tells how, as a child, Srila Prabhupada worshiped the Deity form of Lord Krsna and celebrated the Ratha-yatra chariot festival, how he was later influenced by Gandhi's nationalist movement, how he met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, and how he then increasingly dedicated his life to spreading Krsna consciousness in India and around the world.
The film tells of Srila Prabhupada's determined effort to publish and distribute BACK TO GODHEAD magazine in India, of his hardships in traveling to America on a cargo ship at age sixty-nine and struggling alone in New York City for a year, and of his tirelessly planting and nurturing the seeds of Krsna consciousness on six continents.
"Actually, it's impossible to do justice to Srila Prabhupada's life in a documentary film," said Yaduvara dasa, who edited and produced Your Ever Well-Wisher with the help of his wife, Visakha-devi dasi. "It's impossible because Srila Prabhupada was not an ordinary person. He was a completely spiritual, divinely empowered representative of God. Although he lived in this material world, he was never affected by it, just as a lotus flower rests on the water but never gets wet. Srila Prabhupada was totally free of envy, greed, and lust. And although he was so exalted and did so much, he didn't have an iota of pride. You can see why it was audacious of us to try to make such a person come alive in an hour-long documentary.
"Still, my wife and I knew that this film would be important for spreading Krsna consciousness—that it would give people a better appreciation of Srila Prabhupada and enliven all the devotees. So we pressed on with the project. We decided that if we simply portrayed Srila Prabhupada with as much love and devotion as we could, then by his mercy the film would be a success. It would become spiritualized, and those who saw it would become spiritually inspired."
Your Ever Well-Wisher is the ninth documentary Yaduvara and Visakha have made since becoming disciples of Srila Prabhupada in 1971. They began work on the film about two years ago, carefully viewing all the footage of Srila Prabhupada they could find. About eighteen hours of film in all, this included TV coverage, 8 millimeter amateur shots, and 16mm films they and others had shot over the years. In addition, they pored over thousands of still photographs of Srila Prabhupada.
To write the script, they studied the seventy volumes Srila Prabhupada wrote, the biography of Srila Prabhupada by Srila Satsvarupa dasa Goswami, and most of Srila Prabhupada's seven thousand letters.
As the film evolved over the months, the husband-and-wife team showed it to many devotees to get feedback. Visakha explained, "Although we felt that this was our humble attempt to glorify our spiritual master, we also felt a responsibility to all the disciples who have dedicated their lives to Srila Prabhupada. He was an extraordinary person, partly because he belongs to a disciplic succession of spiritual masters that extends back to Lord Krsna Himself, but also because no one before Srila Prabhupada ever had so much success spreading Krsna consciousness. Just to convince one person to dedicate his life to God is an amazing feat—but Srila Prabhupada convinced thousands! We knew that his disciples, out of love for him, would want him glorified perfectly. So we turned to many of them for help and advice."
To add depth to the film, Yaduvara traveled widely and filmed interviews with people who had known Srila Prabhupada. In the film we hear from Acarya Prabhakar, Srila Prabhupada's first disciple; S. K. Jain, who printed BACK TO GODHEAD in India; Sumati Morarji, who provided free passage to America; Sally Agarwal, Srila Prabhupada's first sponsor in America; Allen Ginsberg, who chanted Hare Krsna with Srila Prabhupada in New York and San Francisco; and renowned scholars, religionists, and intimate disciples. By blending these first-hand remembrances with footage of Srila Prabhupada, the film-makers offer a rich composite of his life and teachings.
Is it a success?
"We'll have to see by the results," Visakha answered, "by how the audiences respond. If people understand anything about Srila Prabhupada through this film, they'll also understand how appropriate the title is—Your Ever Well-Wisher. And to that extent the film will be a success."
A swami from Miami harvests honey in Hawaii.
by Narahari Swami
Several times a week at the Hare Krsna center in Honolulu, I set aside my staff and formal monk's dress, don a full-coverage white suit, light up my smoker, and begin one of my favorite spiritual meditations—taking care of Lord Krsna's honeybees.
Who would ever have suspected that beekeeping could be a totally transcendental form of yoga and meditation? Frankly, I never did until one day about eight years ago a devotee came running into our Miami temple screaming, "The temple is being invaded by a huge swarm of bees!" Alarmed, I peeked through the window. Sure enough, there they were: thousands and thousands of bees filling the air like a great dark cloud. I don't remember exactly what impelled me to do what I did next, but for some reason or other I cautiously walked outside, stood right in the middle of the buzzing cloud, and thought, "Krsna must have sent these bees so we could engage them in His service."
Within a few minutes the bees had clustered like a large football on the eaves of our building. Not knowing what to do, I quickly drove off to a farm supply store and asked the owners how I could catch our swarm of bees and what supplies I would need to cultivate honey from them. A knowledgeable fellow outlined the procedure and then sold me all the supplies I needed.
Off I went. But by the time I got back to the temple all the bees were gone. Undeterred, I started calling all over town to find some bees to fill Krsna's first hive. I discovered many local beekeepers more than willing to help us get started.
Now, some eight years and thirty hives later, I can look back and see why Krsna arranged to start a beehive at His temple. In the Age of Kali, the Age of Quarrel and Hypocrisy, Lord Krsna comes in an especially merciful form. Lord Caitanya, and indiscriminately gives His mercy to all the conditioned souls by engaging them in His service. So why not bees? They can produce honey, a wonderful sweetener for food offered to Krsna, as well as clean-burning wax for candles used in worship of the Deity form of the Lord. In the hive the bees also make substances with great medicinal value, which have been used for literally tens of thousands of years.
In Hawaii, where honeybees can work throughout the year, a hive may house from forty-five thousand to seventy-five thousand bees at a time. Each hive has one queen and about a hundred male bees, the drones. The rest are sterile females, the workers. The queen and the drones may live for a few years, but the workers live only about seven weeks.
So in each hive, nearly a half million bees can offer their services to Krsna every year. This service will in their next life elevate them to the human form, and thus they will be saved from having to enter literally millions of other life forms. And as human beings, the souls who in their last life inhabited the bodies of bees will continue their devotional service to Krsna.
We have practical experience that bees who work for Krsna are generally more gentle and productive than other bees. The bees at our center in Honolulu produce well over two tons of honey each year. Our temple kitchen and wholesale bakery use most of it. We bottle what's left and, after offering it to Krsna, sell it in our temple store and in local health-food stores.
Recently, Honolulu hosted the annual convention of the American Beekeepers Association. Many commercial beekeepers came to town, and one well-seasoned professional from Canada met our devotees in Waikiki, where he accepted an invitation to come to our center and see our bees. Eager to learn some new techniques from him, I asked him to work through our hives with me. He agreed, and as we began working he was amazed at how enthusiastic and well-behaved our bees were. He'd never seen anything like it.
Each time I work through Krsna's hives, Krsna seems to reward me with a new transcendental realization. For example, recently I saw that honeybees clearly display the spirit soul's eternal nature: to serve, honor, and love. The original nature of all beings is to reciprocate with Krsna in His unlimitedly sweet loving affairs. But when the spirit soul comes in touch with material nature, he misdirects his love. In the beehive, all the bees serve, honor, and love the queen. If for some reason the hive becomes queenless, all the bees become anxious and will do little or no work. In the queen's presence, however, the bees work feverishly and almost never turn their back to her. Special attendants feed her and massage her body. When a new queen is hatching, the workers decorate her cell in anticipation.
Like most queens, the queen bee is very vain. If for some reason there is more than one queen in the hive, as soon as they see each other they will battle to the death. Even newborn queen bees are murderously vain. Generally, when the workers are hatching out a new queen, several other queen cells are growing nearby. As soon as the first queen hatches, she eats something and then proceeds to tear apart all the other queen cells and sting the larvae to death. (Interestingly enough, only the queen can sting more than once.)
Another fascinating thing is that although no one bee is designated as the "hive commander" or "hive coordinator," the complex hive flourishes harmoniously. There are nectar collectors, pollen collectors, water collectors, nurses, chemists, scouts, wax makers, ventilators, guards, cleaners, carpenters, and undertakers. And sometimes, when honey is scarce, a gang of bees will raid other hives.
How all this goes on so smoothly has baffled beekeepers as far back as their records date. As for myself and the devotees I work with, however, there is no mystery in the beehives. As Lord Krsna explains in the Bhagavad-gita, He sits within the hearts of all living entities and directs their actions. Krsna is working wonderfully, guiding all the bees as they work to produce their honey. It is also Krsna who creates the varieties of flowers that attract the bees to come and collect nectar and pollen. And all this is part of Krsna's plan for bees to assist in the pollination and cross-pollination of various plants.
Sometimes I feel like I could go on forever relishing the many wonders going on in Krsna's transcendental beehives. Then I remember that Krsna says, "This is all but a tiny spark of My splendor." And I reflect on the real honey that I and the devotees who work with me can harvest from Krsna's hives—pure, unmotivated love of God.
An excerpt from the foremost book of spiritual knowledge,
This Bhagavata Purana [Srimad-Bhagavatam] is as brilliant as the sun, and it has arisen just after the departure of Lord Krsna to His own abode, accompanied by religion, knowledge, and so on. Persons who have lost their vision because of the dense darkness of ignorance in the Age of Kali will get light from this Purana.
Lord Sri Krsna has His eternal dhama, or abode, where He eternally enjoys Himself with His eternal associates and paraphernalia. This eternal abode is a manifestation of His internal, spiritual energy, whereas the material world is a manifestation of His external, material energy.
As Lord Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, when He descends to the material world He displays Himself and all His paraphernalia by His internal potency, called atma-maya. His form, name, fame, paraphernalia, abode, and so on are therefore not creations of matter.
Krsna descends to reclaim the fallen souls and to reestablish codes of religion which are directly enacted by Him. Except for God, no one can establish the principles of religion. Either He or a suitable person empowered by Him can alone dictate the codes of religion.
Real religion means to know God, our relation with Him, our duties in relation with Him, and ultimately our destination after leaving this material body. The conditioned souls, who are entrapped by the material energy, know hardly anything of these principles of life. Most of the conditioned souls are like animals—engaged simply in eating, sleeping, fearing and mating. They are mostly engaged in sense enjoyment under the pretension of religiosity, knowledge or salvation.
The conditioned souls are still more blind in the present age, the Age of Quarrel, or Kali-yuga. In the Kali-yuga the population is just a royal edition of the animals. They have nothing to do with spiritual knowledge or godly religious life. They are so blind that they cannot see anything beyond the needs of the body. They have no information of the spirit soul, which is beyond the jurisdiction of the subtle mind, intelligence and ego, but they are very proud of their advancement in knowledge, science and material prosperity. Having completely lost sight of the ultimate aim of life, they risk becoming a dog or hog just after leaving their present body.
The Personality of Godhead Sri Krsna, appeared before us just a little prior to the beginning of Kali-yuga [five thousand years ago], and He returned to His eternal home practically at the commencement of Kali-yuga. While He was present, He exhibited everything by His different activities. Specifically, He spoke the Bhagavad-gita and thus eradicated all pretentious principles of religiosity. And prior to His departure from this material world, He empowered Sri Vyasadeva through Narada to compile the messages of the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Thus the Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad-Bhagavatam are like torches for the blind people of this age. In other words, if men in this age of Kali want to see the real light of life, they must take to these two books alone. Then their aim of life will be fulfilled.
The Bhagavad-gita is the preliminary study of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. And the Srimad-Bhagavatam is the summum bonum of life, Lord Sri Krsna personified. We must therefore accept the Srimad-Bhagavatam as the direct representation of Lord Krsna. One who can see the Srimad-Bhagavatam can see also Lord Krsna in person. They are identical.
We welcome your letters.
I've been reading Back to Godhead for a long time now because my sister subscribes to it. Lots of times in your articles you mention karma. I have a question about this.
Isn't it just your karma that you are all Krishna believers and other people are Christian or Jewish or whatever? And if it is just your karma to be Krishnas, then why bother to go out and try to convert people to your way of life? Why not let them just live out the destiny their karma has determined for them?
Our reply: The answer to your first question is no. Becoming a devotee of Krsna has two causes, neither of which involves karma, or selfish action followed by a reaction.
The first cause is some kind of service performed for Lord Krsna, even unknowingly, in this life or previous lives. This service produces an attraction for Krsna consciousness, either later in this life or in the next.
An even more important cause, however, is the mercy of a pure devotee of the Lord. Because such a devotee directly experiences the great value of Krsna consciousness, he tries to give it to others. His vigorous efforts in spreading Krsna consciousness can bring anyone to devotional service, especially a person with a history of some service in his past.
This brings us to your other questions. When a devotee goes out to spread the message of Krsna consciousness, he is, as you say, trying to change the destiny people's karma has determined for them. But what's wrong with that? Whether Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, or atheist, a person who lives out his karmic destiny is sure to suffer repeated birth, old age, disease, and death. Only pure devotion to God can break the chains of karma and release us from these four miseries.
So in an effort to give everyone a chance to begin serving the Lord, devotees of Krsna go out and chant Hare Krsna, sell literature about Krsna, give out food offered to Krsna, and tell people about Krsna. This is the least we can do to try to repay the infinite debt we owe our spiritual masters.
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.
Dvaita—the philosophy of dualism, or the idea that God and the living entity are two—that they have eternally separate identities.
As espoused by Sripada Madhvacarya (the renowned thirteenth-century spiritual teacher) and his followers, dvaita directly opposes the monistic and impersonalistic philosophy of Sankara, who five centuries earlier had taught that God and the living entity are one. Sankara and his followers believed that the living entity is actually God but has become temporarily forgetful of his true nature because of the power of illusion. When the living entity realizes his true identity as the Supreme, he will again become God.
The dualists argue that if the individual living entity was once God but became covered by illusion, this would mean that God is not all-powerful, not the Supreme—a patent contradiction. God can't be subject to illusion, since He is the source of all energies, including illusion, or maya. God is never subordinate to any of His energies, so at no time could He forget His own divinity. Therefore, the living entity is not God Himself. Rather, he is one of His energies, who because of his minuteness is liable to fall under the sway of God's illusory potency.
Concerning the question of whether the Supreme is a person or not, the Sankarites argue that since from our own experience we know that form and personality are limiting, the Supreme, being unlimited, must ultimately be formless and impersonal—undifferentiated Brahman.
In response, the dvaitists maintain that while material form and personality are certainly limiting, formless oneness is even more so. The true conception of the Absolute is a person with unlimited spiritual form, personality, qualities, and pastimes. This is God.
Another argument for the personality of the Supreme is that since the living entity, who is a part of God, has form and personality, it stands to reason that the whole, God, would also have form and personality. Otherwise God's creation would possess attributes that He, the creator, doesn't have—again, a patent contradiction.
Dvaitadvaita—the philosophy of combined dualism and monism, or the idea that God and the living entity are simultaneously one and different. The founder of the dvaitadvaita philosophy is the thirteenth-century spiritual teacher Nimbarka.
Dvaitadvaita improves upon dvaita by adding the understanding that while the minute living entity is eternally an individual, distinct from God, he is also qualitatively one with Him. Just as a drop of seawater has all the qualities of the ocean in minute degree, the living entity has all of God's qualities in minute degree.
In a nutshell, the philosophy of the dvaitadvaitists is this: God and the living entity are one in the sense that the energy and the energetic source can never be separated. But each individual entity, or soul, has an eternal individual identity. No one is separate from God; only through misuse of his minute independence does the living entity forget the Lord and think himself separate from Him. God is the father of all that exists, animate as well as inanimate, and when the conditioned soul realizes that his constitutional position is to serve his Lord, the soul becomes one with God in the sense that his desires and the Lord's are identical.
For a fuller discussion of dualism and monism, see Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, Chapter 7.
Dvapara-yuga—the third in the cycle of the four yugas, or ages.
According to the Vedic literature, the four yugas are Satya, Treta, Dvapara, and Kali. A thousand such yuga cycles comprise twelve hours in the time scale of Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe. Satya-yuga lasts 1,728,000 years, Treta 1,296,000 years, Dvapara 864,00 years, and Kali, the present age, 432,000.
In each successive age, people's average life span decreases. In Satya-yuga one could live up to 100,000 years. In Treta-yuga 10,000. In Dvapara-yuga one could live up to 1,000 years, and the prescribed means of self-realization, based on people's longevity and character, was opulent and meticulous worship of the Deity form of the Lord in the temple.
At the end of the last Dvapara-yuga (about 5,000 years ago). Lord Sri Krsna appeared and performed His earthly pastimes.
The Failure of Liberation Movements
When you have no knowledge of God and the soul, your struggle for freedom ends in bondage.
by Srila Hridayananda Dasa Goswami
Modern history is full of liberation movements. Even the American revolution and the formation of the American nation can be seen as a type of liberation movement that signaled the eventual collapse of European colonialism. In America, modern liberation movements have sought to free blacks, Latinos, homosexuals, females, and so on from the social dominance and economic exploitation of so-called "normal" white Americans. Unfortunately, almost all these liberation movements seem to reinforce rather than transcend a materialistic view of personal identity and thus unwittingly contain within their ideology the seeds of prejudice, exploitation, and bondage—the very things they are fighting against. This can be explained as follows.
Modern scientists tend to define reality exclusively in terms of the laws that govern matter. Biologist John Maynard Smith of the University of Sussex declares, "The individual is simply a device constructed by the genes to insure the production of more genes like themselves." According to Dr. Richard L. Thompson, a mathematician at the State University of New York at Binghamton, "This statement conveys in a nutshell what modern science has to say about the meaning of human life." Unfortunately, modern liberation movements seem to accept this superficial definition of life. In the Unity Statement of the Women's Pentagon Action, we find the following statement: "We are made of blood and bone, we are made of ... water."
Obviously, we are not blood, bone, and water, since blood, bone, and water are unconscious material elements that would hardly march to the Pentagon to secure political and economic rights. We are consciousness, and therefore we are aware of, or conscious of, the blood, bone, water, and so on that make up our body. We conscious beings march to Washington to demand our rights. We, who are consciousness, form liberation movements because it is the nature of consciousness to seek freedom.
If we misidentify ourselves as molecular machines, then we fall into the bondage of gross ignorance, specifically that ignorance perpetrated by the worst type of men, those who would conceptually annihilate the soul and God and obliterate forever the only real basis of peaceful society—namely, mutual respect for the sacred status of all life forms and all living beings, based on their common quality of being emanations from God.
In other words, it is my strong contention that to irrationally assume that every living being is identical with the physio-chemical body renders meaningless in an ultimate sense any attempt to establish a moral, just, or liberated human society. Unfortunately, liberation movements tend to intensify the false egoistic identification with the material body and thus themselves contribute enormously to the conceptual and psychological basis of social exploitation and manipulation. This point can be analyzed as follows.
The material body desires sex, food, shelter, and defense, and the material mind desires prestige and the sense of superior status in society. A person dominated by the material body and mind must become an exploiter or manipulator of the material world, since such a person is driven to seek personal gratification either as an individual or through an egotistical collective identity.
The first stage of liberation is understanding that I am not a bag of molecules, I am not blood, bones, stool, bile, mucus, and so on: I am pure consciousness. The Bhagavad-gita teaches us to understand our spiritual identity and gives the following example: We once had a baby body, and then we had the body of a child, an adolescent, and finally an adult. Despite the fact that the body changes its biological elements every seven years, forming in this time span a new physical entity, we remain the same person. That continuous person is the self, or the soul.
If I free myself from the illusion of being a biological machine, the illusion that my existence as a conscious person is not ultimately real since it can be reduced to impersonal, unconscious entities, namely atoms and molecules—if I can thus free myself from the big lie of modern so-called scientists, then I can free myself from the exploitative, self-centered desires that plague the material body and mind. This is real liberation.
A liberated person can deal with any man or woman without trying mentally or physically to utilize that person as an instrument of personal gratification. A liberated person sees all the creatures of the earth, those appearing in human society, animal society, bird society, fish society, insect society, plant society, or even mineral society, as eternal spiritual entities temporarily encased in various material coverings.
Thus a liberated person sees that every living entity is equal to his or her self in a spiritual sense. In other words, the liberated person sees that every living entity is equal spiritually and is thus worthy of respect and concern. A liberated person cannot view any living entity as a mere object of heartless consumption or manipulation. A liberated person opposes the inexplicable brutality of the slaughterhouse. A liberated person opposes the cruelty of the hunters, who slaughter innocent creatures for sport, and he opposes the publishers who devastate millions of trees to produce paper on which they print their pornography, their trivia, and their materialism.
First we should free ourselves from the vicious illusion that we are material machines. Next we should free ourselves from the selfish desires that pollute the material body and mind. And finally we should free ourselves from the misunderstanding that we are meant to be lords of the earth. The earth does not belong to human beings, either individually or collectively. It belongs to God.
The experience of God is immediately available to any man, woman, or child who chants His holy name, and indeed billions of persons have taken advantage of this facility of God realization throughout the world. Since statistics prove that the vast majority of Americans believe in the existence of God, there is no need to waste time trying to prove His existence, but rather we immediately address ourselves to that vast majority who have at least sufficient sanity to understand that there is a Supreme God. (If you are not convinced or informed about the existence of God, then you should instantly address yourself to this primary concern.)
Systematic exploitation of the earth, the bodies of others, or even one's own body ' constitutes grave irresponsibility and duplicity, since the actual proprietor of the body has not been conceptually established. Upon arriving in a particular country, our primary concern is to understand the laws that govern that place. Such laws are not merely the ordinary physical laws that govern material objects but also the acceptable and unacceptable modes of bodily and verbal behavior in a particular nation that are enacted and enforced by those who govern. Recognition or awareness of these laws is of primary and not secondary concern to a citizen.
Similarly, knowledge of the laws that govern the universe is of primary concern to every human being. To suggest that we put these questions aside reveals a bewildered sense of conceptual priority and procedure.
If we claim that we will first solve the immediate problems of the body, we are presupposing two things that are ludicrous to presume:
1. We presuppose that the body, and not consciousness, or the soul, is the essential identity of the entity and therefore worthy of our first concern. We assume that we are bodies and that perhaps we have a soul, rather than that we are consciousness, or self, or soul, and that we have a body.
2. We presuppose that if there is a God, He is not a participant in or a controller of the affairs of man and therefore satisfaction of such a God is irrelevant or unnecessary to the progressive amelioration of the human condition. Implicit in this gross misapprehension is the presumption that human beings potentially may control the affairs of the earth, and this implies human proprietorship of the planet, a concept that reeks of exploitative intentions.
In fact there is a God, and the universe is strictly governed by His laws. Violation of the laws of God threatens and disturbs all citizens, directly or indirectly. If a man commits a crime, his crime weakens the entire system of peaceful coexistence and is therefore socially undesirable for all citizens. Violation of the laws of God threatens to deviate society from the actual path of cultural evolution and weakens the entire basis of peaceful coexistence among humans and other creatures, which is the mutual recognition of the sanctity of all life forms.
If the body is not created by God, and if there is no soul, then control or manipulation of one person by another is merely a biophysical event without ultimate meaning. Morality and justice are then mere inventions of self-righteous entities, who are themselves expressing the propensities of their genes and whose anger and indignation at social injustice can be described through the symbols of mathematical expression as neurochemical brain states.
Thus the attempt by a people or social class to free itself from oppression or to achieve justice, in the materialistic concept, becomes a mere test of political strength for personal gratification and resembles the model of social Darwinism, which in itself is the model for unrestricted exploitation by the most vulgar means.
If we claim that God is useless because millions of innocent people suffer in the face of an all-powerful God, then we accept the primitive concept that the soul is created in the present life and therefore cannot be guilty for his suffering as an infant, child, or adult, since he has no activities previous to this birth. This concept of soul-creation, fostered by medieval thinkers, has bewildered the students of Western theology and led to the declaration of theistic mysteries, a sorry replacement for explanatory spiritual science.
If we reject God because we cannot accept the mysterious theology of the dark ages, and if we thereby ignore the great mystical traditions of India, which teach us that the soul is eternal and enjoys or suffers in this life the fruit of his or her past deeds, then our approach to the serious issues of life is sectarian and stunted.
We living beings dwell within our bodies as consciousness, and other living beings dwell without, perceiving our bodies from without. What is the absolute logic or moral imperative—without reference to God—that assigns the privilege of ownership to the internal and not the external entity? If we accept the principle that the body is to be exploited for selfish gratification and is not meant for the service of God, then how do we establish that the body should gratify the internal rather than the external controller of the body?
The real tyranny is the tyranny of illusion, which keeps us perpetually in the ignorance of material consciousness. Those who are exploited or oppressed should not struggle to become equal exploiters of the earth—to have a fair share of ignorance. Rather, they should take to Krsna consciousness to scientifically understand the soul and God, and thus achieve real liberation.
Real liberation entails extracting the conscious self from the cycle of birth, death, disease, and old age. The concept of liberation without reference to the supreme proprietor, the supreme benefactor, and the supreme controller and consciousness, is absurd and hopeless.
If we maintain a society of big exploiters or of many little exploiters, the result will be the same. If we try to adjust and integrate a planet full of billions of little gods, the result will be ludicrous, disastrous, and useless. The urge to exploit matter for bodily or mental gratification, and thereby to gratify one's false ego, is like a germ. As long, as, a single cell of this deadly germ remains within one's mind, it will continue to grow, and in its extreme manifestation it will produce a Hitler or a Stalin.
The rulers of society are ignorant men who falsely accept the material body as the self and man as the ruler of the earth. Like animals, such persons think that their native land is their property, that their families are their property, that their personal bodies are their property, and that one may enjoy or exploit in any obscene way, without consideration of the laws of God.
Unfortunately, many liberation movements accept these basic illusory principles but make the following demand: that the big exploiters of the earth be replaced by the many little exploiters—that exploitation be opened to all, on an equal basis. Many liberation movements directly or indirectly, consciously or unwittingly, nullify the very basis of respect among all creatures, namely, recognition of the sanctity of all life forms. They do this by attempting to define immediate reality without reference to a transcendental source of existence, a supreme conscious entity with the authority to establish an irrefutable imperative of nonexploitative social intercourse.
Uncommon Books for the Common Man
In the spring of 1976 His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness spent a month at the ISKCON center in Honolulu. There he worked intensively at translating and commenting on the Vedic classic Srimad-Bhagavatam. He had been in Honolulu about a week when he announced one morning, walking along Waikiki Beach, that he expected to finish that night the last purport to the Seventh Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. When the devotees expressed their happiness, Srila Prabhupada replied, "Oh, I can finish very quickly, but I have to present it for your understanding. It requires deep thought, very careful thought, to present it for the common man."
Srila Prabhupada's saying that he was making the Bhagavatam understandable for the common man didn't mean his writings were lacking in substance: they are pure substance. But in the essential spirit of the Bhagavatam itself, Srila Prabhupada omitted anything extraneous and distracting, selecting from the commentaries of the previous acaryas (spiritual teachers) whatever would best impel his readers to pure devotional service. At the beginning of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the author, Srila Vyasadeva, states that the Bhagavatam excludes all materially motivated forms of religiosity and offers only pure devotional service. The Srimad-Bhagavatam is therefore called "the ripened fruit of the tree of Vedic knowledge." And just as the Bhagavatam is itself the most essential spiritual knowledge, so Srila Prabhupada, in translating and commenting on the Bhagavatam, utilized the same spirit of delivering the pure message without any speculation or deviation.
Srila Prabhupada's presenting Srimad-Bhagavatam's message for the common man did not mean mere simplification. It meant urgently addressing the reader to give up the world of illusion and take to the eternal liberation of Krsna consciousness. Srila Prabhupada was making available to the average reader spiritual truth that had been hidden and unavailable, even to austere practitioners of yoga and to learned brahmanas proficient in Sanskrit. "Old wine in new bottles," Srila Prabhupada called it.
The Vedic truths are eternal, but they must be presented in every age by stalwart Vaisnava acaryas. On the authoritative basis of the Vedic literature, the acarya clearly establishes the Vedic conclusion as relevant, universal truth. Modern society is so degraded, however, that an acarya can no longer appeal to the authority of Vedic scripture—no one will accept it. Srila Prabhupada's writings, therefore, deal with such theories as the origin of life by chance, Darwinian evolution, and chemical evolution. And he defeats them all with strong logic, establishing that life comes from life, not from dead matter. Srila Prabhupada even dedicated one of first books, Easy Journey to Other Planets, to "the scientists of the world," and he adapted the Bhagavad-gita verses quoted in that book into scientific jargon of "matter and antimatter." Thus he deftly used scripture and logic to establish the Vedic conclusion.
Srila Prabhupada's writings also combat the false teachings of bogus yogis, gurus, and "incarnations," who appear like a tidal wave of falsity in the modern age, both in India and the West. His writings also criticize modern political institutions, analyzing why monarchies fall, why democracy is also failing, and how dictatorship will increasingly harass the citizens. The governments' policies and their abusive taxation, their propaganda, their abandonment of simple, agrarian life—Srila Prabhupada discusses all in light of the scriptures.
In his travels Srila Prabhupada observed the rampant degradation of human society: sexual liberation, the latest fads in intoxication, and the vicious crimes of animal slaughter and meat-eating. And his criticisms and solutions focus the timeless Vedic wisdom on today's world. One of his Bhagavad-gita purports deals specifically with the threat of nuclear holocaust:
Such people [atheists] are considered the enemies of the world because ultimately they will invent or create something that will bring destruction to all. Indirectly, this verse anticipates the invention of nuclear weapons, of which the world today is very proud. At any moment war may take place, and these atomic weapons may create havoc. Such things are created solely for the destruction of the world, and this is indicated here. Due to godlessness, such weapons are invented; they are not meant for the peace and prosperity of the world.
Srila Prabhupada's criticisms are strong and authoritative, befitting a true acarya; his uncompromising spirit is appealing. He is not a timid scholar pointing out some obscure historical references. Yet underlying his writing, a humble tone of request speaks to the heart. As the servant of the servant of Lord Krsna, he asks everyone to please take up the process of Krsna consciousness and be restored to his original, constitutional position of eternity, bliss, and knowledge.
More than simply rendering the Vedic literatures, however, Srila Prabhupada also established a way of life based on that Vedic literature. Consequently, he gained first-hand experience in bringing the most materialistic persons to the standard of renunciation and devotional service. His books reflect these practical realizations, and many times his purports relate to the difficulties and triumphs in trying to introduce spiritual principles within a materialistic society.
In the Sixth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, for example, Srila Prabhupada presents the story of Daksa's cursing Narada Muni after Narada had instructed Daksa's sons in pure Krsna consciousness, The jealous father, considering Narada his enemy, cursed him to be always traveling, without any home. In his commentary, Srila Prabhupada writes that he also was cursed by the parents of his disciples and that, therefore, despite his having many centers around the world, he must constantly travel and preach. Thus Srila Prabhupada imbued his writings with the thoughtfulness of his own personality—that of a pure devotee faithfully dedicating his body, mind, and words in the service of the message of the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Srila Prabhupada's books, therefore, are eternal truth made practical. They combine the thoughtfulness of a textual scholar with the practical application of a transcendental social and political reformer. Many scholars have translated and commented on the Vedic literature, but their writings have lacked the potency to change the heart of the reader and make him a devotee of Lord Krsna. Srila Prabhupada's books, however, are genuine, and they are inspiring thousands of people throughout the world to become devotees of the Lord.—SDG