A talk given in June 1968
by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada,
janma karma ca me divyam
Lord Krsna is explaining here how one can very easily enter into the spiritual world, the kingdom of God. The simple formula is that anyone who perfectly understands the transcendental appearance and activities of the Lord can enter into the spiritual kingdom after death.
It is not possible to understand the Lord with our present senses, because our senses are now covered by matter. Originally, our senses are spiritual, but they have become covered by material contamination. Therefore, the process of understanding God, or the Absolute Truth, is to purify our senses of their material coverings. And this is possible simply by adopting a service attitude toward the Lord. Sevonmukhe hi jihvadau svayam eva sphuraty adah: "When we surrender to the Lord and engage our senses in His service, beginning with the tongue, the Lord gradually reveals Himself to us."
So, how can we understand the birth of the Lord? Actually, there is no question of birth for either the Lord or the living entities, because both the Lord and the living entities are eternal. A good analogy is the sunrise. Actually, there is no sunrise: it is simply an adjustment of our own position. Similarly, there is actually no birth of either God or ourselves. We are all eternal. We simply use the word birth when the body appears.
But there is a difference between God's birth and our birth. We appear in different bodies that are forced upon us by the material nature, according to our karma, or past selfish activities. But God always appears by His own sweet will, in His own original body. That is the difference. And because God appears in His original body, He is not forgetful of His past appearances. On the other hand, because we appear in different material bodies, we do forget our past lives.
Now, in this verse from the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna specifically uses the word divyam to describe His birth and activities. Divyam means "divine," "spiritual," "transcendental." Our birth is not divine or spiritual—it's full of suffering. This is another difference between our appearance and the Lord's.
If one wants to return to the spiritual kingdom, the kingdom of God, one has to learn of Krsna's appearance and activities. And how can they be understood? Simply by serving the Lord. We cannot learn this transcendental subject matter by challenge. If we are submissive, if we engage in His service, then by His divine grace He will reveal Himself. Understanding of the Lord comes by revelation, not by the experimental process. We cannot understand God in that way.
Atah sri-krsna-namadi na bhaved grahyam indriyaih: Because our senses are now materially contaminated, we cannot understand God's appearance, name, or activities with them. It is not possible. So we have to accept the process of purifying the senses. And the first step is to free ourselves from all artificial designations (sarvopadhi-vinirmuktam tat paratvena nirmalam). We are now acting under various designations. Every one of us is thinking, "I am my body, and this body has been produced in a certain family, in a certain society, a certain country. Therefore I have so many designations." But we have to become free of all these designations. That is the first qualification for understanding the science of God.
How can one become free of designations? By taking up Krsna consciousness. A Krsna conscious person thinks, "I am not Indian, I am not American, I am not white, I am not black. I am not Christian, Hindu, or Mohammedan. I am a servant of Krsna." Caitanya Mahaprabhu* [*Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Lord Krsna Himself in the form of His own devotee. He appeared in Bengal, India, five hundred years ago to teach love of God through the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra.] described Himself like that. He said, "I am not a brahmana [intellectual], I am not a ksatriya [political leader], I am not a vaisya [merchant] or a sudra [laborer]. I am not a brahmacari [student], I am not a grhastha [householder], I am not a vanaprastha [retired person] or a sannyasi [renunciant]." Then what are you? Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah: "I am the servant of the servant of the servant of Krsna." This should be our identification. This is a very good identification.
In Krsna consciousness we address our Godbrothers as "prabhu." Prabhu means "master." The idea is that I recognize that you are my master and that I am your servant—just the opposite of material consciousness. In the material world everyone wants to place himself as the master. "I am your master; you are my servant." That is the mentality of material existence. But spiritual existence means thinking, "I am your servant; you are my master."
By the force of maya, or illusion, we adopt so many identifications: "I am a rich man," "I am the prime minister," "I am this," "I am that." And when we become frustrated with all these designations, we try to become God. This is the last snare of maya.
But the philosophy of Krsna consciousness teaches us to think in just the opposite way. Instead of thinking yourself God, you have to think of yourself as the servant of the servant of the servant of God. So in one sense Krsna consciousness is very difficult, because you must become very humble. As Caitanya Mahaprabhu instructs, trnad api sunicena: You have to think that you're lower than the straw in the street. Very humble. And taror iva sahisnuna: more tolerant than the tree. The trees are very tolerant. They give you shelter, they give you shade, they give you fruits, flowers, and wood. But the trees do not protest. They stand silently. So the perfect example of tolerance is the tree.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu then says, amanina manadena: "One must refuse all kinds of respect for oneself and offer all respect to others." In other words, you must completely refuse to take part in the usual dealings of this material world. Suppose somebody insults you: "You rascal! You such-and-such!" If you know that you are not your body, that you have nothing to do with your body, then whether you are called "rascal" or "your lordship," it is the same to you. You know these are only designations of the body.
Today many people are anxious to get an M.A. or a Ph.D. But what is this M.A., this Ph.D.? They are simply designations of the body. As soon as your body is finished, all your M.A.'s and Ph.D.'s are finished. Then you will have to accept another body. And you do not know what kind of body you will have to accept—what kind of body is going to be forced upon you by nature.
Prakrteh kriyamanani gunaih karmani sarvasah: "Everything is happening by the force of nature, or prakrti." So, prakrti is forcing you to accept body after body. Prakrti is Krsna's government. You cannot avoid its control. There are 8,400,000 different kinds of bodies, and which kind of body you will get in your next life is determined by your activities in this life. According to your mentality at the last moment of your present life, you will get a certain kind of body in your next. The mind is your subtle body, and at the time of death it will carry you to a suitable womb of a mother, where you will get another gross body. Then you will develop that body, come out from the mother's womb, and begin to work according to the facilities of your body. This is the process of birth, which is full of suffering.
So in order to avoid taking birth again, we have to learn the science of Krsna consciousness very carefully. If we simply try to understand God and our relationship with Him, we become qualified to enter the spiritual kingdom. And when we enter the spiritual kingdom after giving up our present body, we are assured of never again having to take birth in this material world (tyaktva dehah punar janma naiti mam eti so 'rjuna). In another place in Bhagavad-gita [8.15], Krsna states the same thing:
mam upetya punar janma
"One who goes back home, back to Godhead, never comes again to this miserable, conditioned life in the material world."
This material world is duhkhalayam, a place of misery. But we are thinking we are happy. This is maya, "what is not." We are thinking that we are making progress, that we are happy, that we are civilized, that we are advanced. No, you are not advanced, you are not civilized, you are not happy. And you are not wise, because you do not know what you are. You are thinking that you are the body. Therefore, whatever else you are thinking is all null and void, maya.
Maya is very strong. It is very difficult to overcome maya. But Krsna gives us the formula in the seventh chapter of the Bhagavad-gita [7.14],
daivi hy esa guna-mayi
"This illusory energy of Mine is very difficult to surpass, but if you surrender to Me, Krsna, you can easily overcome it."
It is not easy to overcome maya, because she is capturing you in so many ways. For example, even if you are very wise and you understand your spiritual position—"Aham brahmasmi: I am not matter; I am Brahman, a spirit soul"—even at this stage maya may act. What is that action? When you realize "I am Brahman," you may think, "I am the Supreme Brahman, God." This means that you are still in ignorance, because you are not God.
In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna explains the actual meaning of aham brahmasmi. First He says, brahma-bhutah prasannatma: When you are actually Brahman-realized, when you have realized that you are not matter but spirit, the first symptom is that you become joyful (prasannatma). You have no more anxiety. Then, na socati na kanksati: You stop lamenting and hankering.
And, samah sarvesu bhutesu: Because you have spiritual vision, you see every living entity on an equal level. You do not see the body: you see the spirit. When you see a dog, you think, "There is a spirit soul." And when you see a brahmana, you think, "There is another spirit soul." You do not see an American: you see the spirit soul. You do not see an Indian: you see the spirit soul. This is real Brahman realization. Brahman realization does not mean that I think, "My brother is Brahman and I am Brahman, but all others are not Brahman." This is not Brahman realization. Brahman realization means to see the spiritual existence of all living entities.
But seeing the oneness of all living entities is still not sufficient. You have to go further and engage yourself in the activities of Brahman. That is perfection. Therefore, Krsna finally says, mad-bhaktim labhate param: "After Brahman realization, actual devotional service begins." Brahman realization ultimately means to understand, "I am a spirit soul, and the Lord is the Supreme Spirit. Therefore I should serve Him."
In the Vedas it is said, nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam: "Of the innumerable living entities, one is supreme." The living entities are innumerable, but God is one. And eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman:
"One living entity (God) is supplying all the necessities of the innumerable other living entities." In the Christian religion this idea is very prominent. That is why Christians pray in church, "O God, please give us our daily bread. Please excuse our faults." Because God is the Supreme, He can supply all your necessities. You require sunlight, so God has created sunlight for you. You require water, so God has created immense quantities of water for you. You require air, so God provides an immense amount of air for you. He is providing practical help for you at every step.
And He is also helping those who are not human beings. The birds, the beasts, the worms, the trees—they have no economic problems. In India I have seen the sparrows chirping and dancing and eating, and here I have also seen the sparrows chirping and dancing and eating. Whether in India or in Canada, the sparrows have no economic problems, because they are depending completely on nature's laws. But because we violate nature's laws, we have big economic problems. We have made our own economic problems.
Lord Krsna has created the sun. He has created the moon. He has created everything. Then how do we claim that this planet, earth, belongs to us? It is loaned to us for our livelihood, that's all. A rich man's son has the right to enjoy his father's property, but if he disobeys his father he is put into trouble. Similarly, because we are all sons of God, we have a right to enjoy His property, but because we have disobeyed the orders of God, there are so many economic problems.
The Isopanisad very nicely explains,
isavasyam idam sarvam
"Everything you see belongs to God. Don't claim for yourself more than you need." Similarly, in the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, sarva-loka-mahesvaram: "I am the proprietor of all planets."
So, this particular planet, earth, is also God's property. We come and go, but God's property remains. It is a simple thing to understand. And when we accept that God is the ultimate proprietor of everything and that all living entities are His sons, there is peace. This is spiritual communism.
Everyone has a right to live at the expense of God, but nobody should encroach upon the property of others. This is the system for perfect social harmony. Just try to enjoy what is allotted to you, and be satisfied with that. God has given you a certain portion of land, so be happy with it. Don't encroach upon others' land. This is Krsna consciousness.
Krsna consciousness is nothing mysterious. You simply have to think of everything in relation to Krsna and use everything in His service (nirbandhah krsna-sambandhe yuktam vairagyam ucyate). In the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu [a sixteenth-century devotional classic], Srila Rupa Gosvami says that when you dovetail everything in Krsna's service, you are free of birth and death. This is what we're doing in the Krsna consciousness society. For example, every day we use a dictating machine. How are we using it? We're recording words about Krsna. Similarly, this apartment is being used for Krsna, and this body is being used for Krsna. And we are preparing foodstuffs for Krsna.
In this way, you should develop your Krsna consciousness by using everything for Him. Krsna consciousness is nothing artificial—some bogus meditation: "I am the Supreme Lord. I am moving the sun, I am moving the moon." These nonsensical things are going on in the name of "meditation." Simply a waste of time.
Just try to understand that you are an eternal servant of God. Then you will be perfect. You can enjoy God's property very nicely, and there will be no distress at all. The lower animals—the birds and beasts—are enjoying God's property, and you cannot enjoy it? Why are you fighting with each other? Is that advancement? Is that civilization?
So please try to understand the science of Krsna consciousness. Your life will be perfect. You will live peacefully and happily in this life, and after leaving your present body you will never again take birth in this miserable material world. Then where will you go? Krsna says, mam eti: "You will come to Me." So it is very easy to finish all problems in this lifetime. Simply try to understand Krsna.
Bhagavad-gita (4.9)Thank you very much.
A theologian and a historian of religion examine "the new bigotry."
In a misguided attempt to make sense of the exit of thousands of young adults from mainstream society into new and alternative religious movements, "anticultists" began in the midseventies to invoke a new and frightening imagery: the "cultist" as "brainwashed zombie" or "mindless robot." The result was a new kind of inquisition, one couched in psychiatric rather than theological jargon—the "victims" being now "brainwashed" by evil cult leaders rather than "possessed" by evil spirits. This new imagery also led to a new kind of exorcism: "deprogramming," or forcible deconversion.
What follows are excerpts from interviews with Dr. Harvey Cox, the noted Harvard theologian, and Dr. Larry Shinn, Danforth Professor of Religion at Oberlin College. They discuss the implications of the "brainwashing" issue, especially as it affects the Krsna consciousness movement. The full interviews appear in Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna: Five Distinguished Scholars on the Krishna Movement in the West, a book just published by Grove Press (paper, $7.95). The interviewer, and the book's editor, is Steven J. Gelberg, a senior editor of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust who is known within the Hare Krsna movement as Subhananda dasa.
Dr. Harvey Cox
Subhananda dasa: Why do many Americans seem to fear the Krsna consciousness movement? Why the often negative public reaction?
Harvey Cox: I think the main thing is plain unfamiliarity, the apparent strangeness of the movement. You find an underlying fear in many people that they could easily be lured in, and therefore they're afraid of it. All the hysterical talk about people getting brainwashed and converted against their will has as its underlying psychological dynamic the fear that "That could happen to me too; I'm not really in full control of my own mind."
I think the reason that fear is there is that there is an underlying wish that I didn't have to be in control of my own mind. We fear the thing we hope for. This is the old concept of ambivalence. People are attracted to authority against their own better judgment, and they're surprised, occasionally, at how often and how marked the need is. I think the only way to explain this underlying, constant fear is to point out that it springs from an insufficiently well grounded authority structure in one's own life, and I would say that that has to do with not being related to God in a way that requires one's full devotion and that produces authentic freedom.
So the Krsna consciousness movement is another of what my colleague Krister Stendahl calls the "hot religions" (as opposed to the "cool religions"), where there is a high degree of devotional involvement. This devotion frightens people because it makes them aware of something in themselves. Otherwise, they wouldn't be frightened. Why should they be frightened? Just walk away, ignore it, go home. Why should they have to stop and shake their heads when they see people chanting? There's something that bothers them, and one has to ask what that is.
Subhananda dasa: So, you're saying that they fear coming under the influence of some unknown external power, that they lack confidence in their own psychological autonomy?
Harvey Cox: "I'm not really all that free," they're saying. "I say I'm free, but I could also become a marionette, a puppet, a zombie." This is not such an uncommon theme in literature and in science-fiction movies—that is, people's minds or bodies being taken over by alien, malevolent forces, people being turned into "pod people," "the living dead," "zombies," "robots." I think the fear that I am not really in control of myself—that I should be in control, but I'm not—is deep-seated in the modern psyche, very deep-seated.
Subhananda dasa: So what is it about the Krsna consciousness movement that makes some people think that its members are being controlled by some mysterious, malevolent power?
Harvey Cox: Well, they're told that. They're told that constantly by the press and, in addition, they see people doing things that appear irrational—shaving their heads, wearing unusual costumes, dancing, and playing instruments. What else could have happened to these people except that they must have been possessed? That's the only category observers have to deal with what they see.
Subhananda dasa: Why should people be so resistant to the idea that the Hare Krsna devotees have made a choice to do these things out of free will? Why do people tend to opt more for the "brainwashing" paradigm?
Harvey Cox: I think it's because there aren't many examples around of people who choose a path of religious asceticism and devotion. There are so few examples of this that they don't have any models for it within their own repertoire of personal experiences. The people who understand the Hare Krsna movement better than many others are people who have a relative who's become a Benedictine monk or a nun. They know somebody who has chosen to do something that appears to the world to be crazy: giving up television, giving up family life, leaving professional careers and going off to live in a monastery. But that's legitimated in the Catholic system. I've talked with people about the Hare Krsna movement in this way, and they can easily make the connection.
There are so few examples, in most people's lives, of anybody who does anything other than simply drift along with the existing current and the existing options of more or less similar lifestyles—a little bit more or a little bit less accumulation, a little bit more or a little bit less sexual promiscuity, and never much discipline or intellectual rigor. They just drift along. The heroic choice is a rare one. Few people make heroic choices.
Subhananda dasa: Could you take a closer look at this notion of "brainwashing"? Does it have psychiatric validity? How do you see it functioning culturally?
Harvey Cox: Well, perhaps I can offer some random comments. First of all, the term "brainwashing" has no respectable standing in scientific or psychiatric circles and is used almost entirely to describe a process by which somebody has arrived at convictions that I do not agree with. If a person has changed in the last few years, or months, or weeks, and we like the change, we say that this person has "improved." We say they've learned something, or they've grown, or they've seen the light, or they've had some remarkable, effective therapy. If we don't happen to like the outcome, we say they must have been "brainwashed."
I think it's Thomas Szasz who said that a brain cannot be washed any more than a cutting remark can draw blood. The term is obviously a metaphor, and it's so flexible in the possibilities for its application that I would again want to plead for care in not using it indiscriminately. I think it's such an ambiguous and loaded term that it shouldn't be used at all.
Of course, we live in a society in which the effort to control other people's ideas, preferences, and values is an overwhelming feature. In fact, our society probably spends more money and expends more energy and technology to control other people's minds than any in history. We have a multibillion dollar industry that is designed specifically to stimulate needs, preferences, and tastes, and to persuade: the advertising industry. And besides commodity advertising, we also have the general socialization process that goes on in I' society, enacted through its various institutions—the family, the educational system, the religious establishment, and so on. The act of persuasion, along with its fruits, is noticed only when people, through one or another process of persuasion, socialization, or conversion—especially alternative systems—find themselves, or are seen to be, in a situation that other people don't like for one reason or another. Then the term "brainwashing" is used.
I personally am made very uncomfortable by coercive forms—even mildly coercive forms—of persuasion. I don't like them at all. I object to them when they're used by advertisers, by military recruiters, by salesmen, by evangelists, by anyone. I have a strong distaste for them. However, I see absolutely no way that one can preserve freedom of inquiry and freedom of open interchange in society without preserving the rights of people to try to sell me or persuade me about things. And I think that's a valuable enough freedom to maintain that I'm willing to pay the price for maintaining it.
In my mind, coercive persuasion has to include at least some element of physical isolation and of forced imprisonment. If in any movement—religious, political, or otherwise—people were being physically prevented from getting out, I would be the first to lead the charge and rescue them and demand their right to leave. However, short of a critical situation of actual imprisonment, you cannot take matters into your own hands and force a person to leave a movement that they sincerely feel they joined voluntarily.
I do object, both aesthetically and ethically, to any form of browbeating or the use of some psychological knowledge to manipulate other people. But I would object more strongly to putting the power into the hands of a government, a court, or the police to prevent this from happening. The cost would be too high. I think allowing for strong forms of persuasion is simply the cost we pay to live in a tree society, and I'm willing to pay that cost.
Subhananda dasa: There's an old tradition within psychology, especially since Freud, that tends to equate religious, mystical, or conversionary experience with mental illness. Do you think that perhaps this sort of antireligious bias is coming into play here? Isn't there a tendency to view any expression of spirituality that goes beyond socially accepted religious norms as a sign of psychopathology or, more colloquially, as "brainwashing"?
Harvey Cox: Yes, as a symptom of brainwashing, or as a symptom of psychotic, schizophrenic, paranoic, or some other deranged or unhealthy form of behavior. I think that's true. To some extent, this is a result of a severe limiting of the range of possible forms of behavior to that which is publicly acceptable, over even what we were previously allowed in our society. You have to remember that if you had been there at the early Methodist frontier revivals here in America, where the grandparents of some of our present psychiatrists were saved, you would have seen some very ecstatic behavior. Right in Martha's Vineyard, where I have my summer home, there are pictures of people at the campground jumping up and down and singing. This sort of ecstatic religious behavior is, of course, associated with religious devotion from time immemorial in virtually every culture. We happen to be living in a culture that is very restricted, unimaginative, and narrow in this regard.
A lot of this, I think, has to do with the real underlying goal of America, which is production, efficiency, and accumulation. You can't allow too much eccentricity and ecstasy if everyone has to be geared into the productive process all the time. One of the criticisms that people sometimes make of the Hare Krsna devotees is that they're wasting their time. "They're just out there chanting. Why aren't they working? Why aren't they doing something productive?" There's some suspicion even of people who live in monasteries—that they're just sitting around, kneeling around, praying. They're not doing anything really useful.
Now, there's something curious about this. It doesn't really matter what you're doing productively. You could be manufacturing hand grenades or bottling liquor; but if you're working somehow or other, that's commendable. I think it's a curious idea that it's better to be working at destructive things than it is to be singing or dancing or praying.
So, what we have here is a set of cultural assumptions that are not self-evident. They are a particular set of assumptions that are drawn upon, often by people who pretend to be very scientific and therapeutic, in order to enforce on other people a particular view of reality or a particular standard of behavior. And all this applies in the face of our insistence that we are a free and open society.
Subhananda dasa: Sometimes the repetitive chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra, or for that matter any type of devotional practice, is viewed as a kind of "self-hypnosis." What parallels do we find for this kind of contemplative discipline in religious traditions other than Krsna consciousness?
Harvey Cox: Almost every religious tradition I know of has formulae, prayers, chants, or hymns in which the repetition of sound, the repetition of names, sometimes with musical intonations, is used for a devotional purpose. Now, again, if you're operating from a different paradigm, you can call that "self-hypnosis." It's a little bit like the term "brainwashing"—nobody quite knows what "self-hypnosis" really is. But it's evident to me that human beings are capable of a wide variety of different forms of consciousness and awareness and, again, we have certain forms that are declared to be okay and others that are suspect, depending on what the underlying goals of the dominant culture are.
But I think that these criticisms of chanting or repetition of prayers as somehow mentally destructive are frankly some of the most uninformed and ignorant of the criticisms that I've run across. These sorts of criticisms cannot possibly be made by people who know anything about the history of religions, unless they want to come right out and say that they're against all religion, or all devotional practices, all prayer—which I think many of them are. At least they ought to be honest and not conceal their personal bias under allegedly scientific language.
Subhananda dasa: Consider, for example, Dr. John Clark's testimony before the Vermont Senate, which at one time was investigating the "cult" phenomenon. While delineating the psychological dangers of cults, he offers several interesting examples of pathological aberrations found therein: The belief, held by some cults, that one is not the physical body but the soul, he diagnoses as "ego-loss"; living in any sort of a religious community is "loss of autonomy"; acceptance of religious authority, such as a guru or scripture, is "loss of critical thinking"; and so forth. Since these particular criteria of psychological pathology can be applied to virtually any religion, I suspect they betray a real bias against any sort of spiritual lifestyle, especially a more intensive one.
Harvey Cox: Using the term "ego-loss" as a therapeutic value judgment is unwittingly accepting the Western understanding of ego. If you accuse the Buddhists of encouraging ego-loss, they would say, "That's right, that's what our whole tradition of five hundred million strong is about. Ego is a mistake; ego is an illusion, and we happen to be trapped by this illusion." What disturbs me is the uninformed provinciality of such comments, which are then escalated into what appear to be scientific or medical judgments. And they're not. They're simply opinions based on a particular culture's understanding of what ego or self is, what autonomy is, what rational thought is.
The coercive forcing of people into treatment, psychiatric or otherwise, or coercive persuasion to do anything—to join a religious movement, to leave a religious movement, to join a political movement, to leave one—is reprehensible, destructive to human personality, and in every way evil. I'm especially shocked at the way some professionals allow themselves to be used and even enter into this kind of thing. I'm strongly opposed to it. It has, of course, its parallels in the history of religions. We've had our Star Chamber and the Inquisition and so on. So it's not new. The motive and the language now is more psychiatric than theological, but the process is similar.
Dr. Larry Shinn
Subhananda dasa: There has developed an image, reflected in or even defined by the popular press, of the "brainwashed cultist," whose mind is controlled by nefarious cult leaders and who becomes a sort of unthinking "zombie." This stereotype has at times been applied to the Hare Krsna movement. Now, what is the source of this image? How did it develop?
Larry Shinn: Well, it comes from a number of different sources. One source is the media. For example, some reporters have gone incognito into one group in particular and have discovered what appeared to them to be techniques of coercion: sleep deprivation, food deprivation, and so on, and have then come out and written exposes. Because the public is largely ignorant of the great differences between the various groups referred to as "cults," it's assumed that if one group is doing that then they all are. So there's guilt by association.
A second reason the public has this impression is because there are some former members of these groups—people who have been "deprogrammed" out of them or have left for any one of a variety of reasons—who will describe life in these groups in very bleak terms. Such people, of course, often don't want to accept responsibility for having joined these groups "From my experience of the lifestyle within the Hare Krsna in the first place, and thus they find it convenient to attribute their involvement in them to a coercive outside influence, such as brainwashing. Under the auspices of anticult and deprogramming organizations, such people will often describe how they lived in a brainwashed state while in the group. It just seems to me, therefore, that one of the causes of the popular brainwashing stereotype is the allegation of extreme regimentation and conformity coming from people who have left the movement, people who, for a variety of reasons, have questionable motives for the way in which they describe life within the movement.
Now, from my experience of the practices and lifestyle of the Hare Krsna movement, far from conformity I find nonconformity much more the norm. I could explain that at great length, but let it suffice for now to say that there is a tremendous variety of different modes of life and behavior in the movement.
A third reason—and this perhaps is the most important and most complex reason—is that parents of new members encounter their children, whom they thought they knew, and experience virtually new people. So already, because of this, a parent feels a sense of distance, a feeling of "What are they doing with my child?"
When there is an encounter, and the son in the movement begins to speak, what does he say? "Hare Krsna." The mother starts talking with her son, who identifies himself by his new Sanskrit name: "I'm Subhananda now; I'm not Steven." The parents try to appeal to the child's logic, and in response they get preached at from a very enthusiastic and, to a great extent, yet uninformed novice. So, what are the parents hearing? The parents are hearing their child, who has given up the name that they had given him, a child who, because of his lack of expertise and his apprehension about the parents' response to the radical step he's taken, sounds nervous, who is preaching a strange philosophy that he has only partially absorbed. If I as a parent were to hear one of my children come at me with that kind of approach, 1 would feel that I was encountering a very different person.
How does one explain, then, that radical transformation? One way to explain it is, "Somebody has done this to my child. Somebody has brainwashed him." I would say that this is probably the most immediate reason why many people find brainwashing a believable notion—because what they encounter is, in fact, a person who has changed radically.
Now, let's point out immediately that throughout history, parents have made the same kind of response to their children who have made those kinds of choices. In the early years of his ministry, the Buddha had to make a requirement that every underage member had to have a written consent from his parents, because the parents were absolutely up in arms that he was taking away their children—often from middle-class or upper-class economic surroundings, the royalty classes, from lives of leisure and luxury—into an austere, ascetical lifestyle. That was a real problem for parents. It was also a problem in the days of Jesus. It was a problem in the early days of some of the early Muslim saints. And so I don't think we should find it surprising that parents—who in most cases have invested a tremendous amount of psychic energy in their children and who love them dearly—feel threatened by their children joining the Hare Krsna movement. Loving them dearly, they wish for their children things that they as parents view as being valuable and meaningful, and thus they can almost totally misunderstand their child's adoption of a new and different way.
Subhananda dasa: Is there anything the movement could do to minimize parents' fears in this regard?
Larry Shinn: I think one thing that has gone a long way to minimizing these fears has been the movement's encouragment of contact between the new devotee and his parents from the very beginning, both by inviting the parents to the temple and by having the new devotee return home to visit his or her parents, unless the parents have expressed such extreme adversity to the movement that it seems likely they may try to kidnap and deprogram the devotee. It's been much more the case in recent years that young people have kept closer contact with their parents all the way along the line.
Subhananda dasa: We've been discussing why the idea of "brainwashing" comes up at all in the public mind. What is your personal view of the matter?
Larry Shinn: As far as I can tell, "brainwashing"—in the classical or technical sense of taking a person who holds one set of attitudes and ideas and forcibly eradicating those attitudes and ideas and supplanting them with others—simply is not common anywhere. I take this from people who have studied brainwashing extensively, such as Robert J. Lifton and J.A.C. Brown, who argue that even in cases where you find radical changes in attitudes or ideas, there was an inclination to accept those changes in the first place. So, I'm adopting that as a basic assumption. From this point of view, "brainwashing," in the sense of wiping out previous memories, clearing the slate of the mind, and imprinting something totally new, just can't be done.
What you can do is to exert various kinds of persuasion on people, and that persuasion can be coercive. That's what happens in the case of some political indoctrination, as was found, for instance, during the Korean War. In these classical cases, persuasion becomes coercive because it is accompanied by imprisonment, food deprivation, sleep deprivation, fear of potential loss of life, punishments, and even torture. That sort of physical and psychological pressure is used in the attempt to have people "confess" their previous mode of thought and behavior as being terrible and wrong and to have them accept as a tutor the person who is subjecting them to that coercive process, who then reeducates them in a new mode of thought and behavior. Even with all these forms of extreme coercion, "brainwashing" is effective in less than thirty percent of the cases, according to Lifton and Brown.
So it's ludicrous to talk about "brainwashing," even in the least restrictive sense, in regards to the new religious groups in America—at least any of whom I'm aware, even the ones I find to be destructive cults. Brainwashing just is not taking place. I think persuasion, a milder form of indoctrination, does take place—persuasion that does involve convincing someone that the view they've held is wrong and that another is correct. But, as I've said, now we're talking about someone making a personal decision to change his way of life and his view of the world. That happens in a wide variety of circumstances, including the Hare Krsna movement.
Your movement happens to be among those which I would call the "low-key movements"—low-key in terms of recruiting people into the movement. The attempt to bring someone from the outside into the movement docs not involve any of the classical features of political indoctrination or any heavy kind of coercive persuasion. It's just not present here. But more importantly, the style of preaching tends much more to be just that: preaching—certainly preaching hard and preaching enthusiastically, preaching with all the powers of intellect on full throttle—but it's just that: it's preaching.
Subhananda dasa: Have you found any other evidences against the notion of "brainwashing" as applied to the Hare Krsna movement?
Larry Shinn: "Brainwashing" means two different things. One is the process itself, the process by which someone becomes "brainwashed." Secondly, you have the supposed state of mind that is achieved through the process. And that's the state referred to when people speak of "glazed eyes" and so forth. Well, I don't see any "glazed eyes" in the Hare Krsna movement. I shouldn't say I don't see any. I see very few "glazed eyes." When I do see "glazed eyes," it's often when devotees are chanting on the streets or in the temple during the arati ceremony and are sort of lost in the ecstasy of dancing and chanting and singing. Sure they are lost in their dancing and singing, just as people can get "lost" in a Beethoven symphony or in watching football on television. What might be misinterpreted from the outside as being a symptom of a brainwashed state might be, in fact, the joy of someone who is just really deeply into his religious music or dance. From the outsider's point of view he may seem to have "glazed eyes," but from the insider's point of view he is experiencing ecstasy derived from intense religious worship.
Subhananda dasa: Now, what about the much publicized attempts at "rescuing" people from brainwashing through what is popularly called "deprogramming"?
Larry Shinn: I'll be brief. If anything approximates the process of brainwashing, in the sense of coercive political indoctrination—those processes which include inducement of fear for one's own emotional or even physical well-being, and which also include intense verbal haranguing and harassment—deprogramming fits that description.
Likewise, the state that people achieve after having been deprogrammed, if that deprogramming is successful, is very much a zombielike state, if by "zombielike state" we mean parroting what your master has told you to parrot. Deprogramming, certainly, does not mean giving one the ability to "think freely again," as its proponents often claim. It means making people think the way you think they ought to think, again. And so, to that extent, deprogramming comes the closest to brainwashing of any of the processes and any of the results I've seen in these new religious movements.
One interesting point is that those people who are engaged in deprogramming have a much tougher time, for the most part, with Krsna devotees than they do with members of most other groups, because few of the deprogrammers know anything about the movement's theology and very little about what actually goes on in the movement. So, when they make exaggerated allegations to the devotee whom they are trying to deprogram, such as that the Hare Krsna children are pulled out of bed at two in the morning and thrown into cold showers and forced to dance before idols, the devotee is just sitting there laughing to himself or herself, because these things just don't go on. So the deprogrammers often come off looking like total buffoons, because they don't know what in the devil they're doing. It's almost a humorous situation, in which people who are terribly paranoid about the Hare Krsna movement have so exaggerated their claims against the movement that they become ineffectual in trying to deprogram someone out of it.
Deprogramming will continue to be mostly unsuccessful, I believe, among those devotees who have any serious level of commitment to the movement. My suspicion—and it's a suspicion which I think can be borne out by the evidence—is that those people who are successfully deprogrammed are people who would probably have dropped out anyway, somewhere along the line.
Reprinted by permission of Grove Press, Inc. Copyright 1983 by Steven Gelberg.
"We shouldn't let the darkness of
by Dr. Laxmi Narayan Chaturvedi
DR. CHATURVEDI, a life member of the Hare Krsna movement, lives in Akron, Ohio.
The Vedic literature of India is unique because it clearly defines the goal of human life. What is that goal? As stated in the first aphorism of the Vedanta-sutra (the essence of Vedic spiritual knowledge), athato brahma-jijnasa: "Now [in the human form of life] one should inquire about Brahman, the Absolute Truth." For human beings there is no goal more important than this.
The basis of all animal life is sense gratification. The animals know nothing other than eating, sleeping, mating, and defending their own interests. But human life is blessed with abundant intelligence, or power of discrimination. So the main purpose of human life is to distinguish, by discrimination, the absolute from the relative, the eternal from the ephemeral, the real from the unreal, the spiritual from the material. The ability to do this is given only to mankind.
By nature, man is a rational animal. If one removes the rationality from a human being, what remains is merely an animal. Man should therefore be responsible for each of his acts. Not only God's laws but also the laws of society demand this. A man's instincts, the tendencies born of his animal side, pull him toward the base desires of sense gratification. But he should use his intelligence to control these tendencies and inquire into the Absolute Truth.
The purpose of our animal instincts is to preserve the integrity of the body. Eating provides energy for our body's activities, growth, and repair. But indiscriminate overeating results in such diseases as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. And under-eating, as in anorexia nervosa, results in physical deterioration and premature death. So moderation is called for in eating and in all our other sensual activities. As Lord Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita (6.16-17), "O Arjuna, there is no possibility of becoming a yogi [a seeker of the Absolute Truth] if one eats too much or eats too little, sleeps too much or does not sleep enough. He who is regulated in his habits of eating, sleeping, recreation, and work can mitigate all material pains by practicing the yoga system."
In summary, human beings should indulge in only as much sense gratification as is absolutely necessary to keep body and soul together. Then one will have ample time and energy to strive for the all-important goal of life: understanding the Absolute Truth.
Unfortunately, most modern men and women fail to appreciate the value of either minimizing sense gratification or understanding the Absolute Truth. Thus they waste their time and energy struggling only for sense gratification. Indulgence has become the watchword of modern society, in which virtually no one teaches the ultimate purpose of life. The intelligence one should use to explore the Absolute Truth is instead used for exploiting nature and enhancing sense enjoyment. The result is the growth of modern technology, which has brought society to the brink of a terrible disaster. People have become self-centered, motivated only by the desire for sense gratification. They have developed jealously and hatred for each other, which on a small scale produce ever-increasing crime and on a large scale produce widespread wars and destruction.
Science has provided the lethal weapons for such a greedy society—a horrible waste of human intelligence. And the tragedy does not end here. The scientists, with their glamorous technology, have confused the people so that they cannot see things in their proper perspective. Man thus aspires to become immortal so he can enjoy unlimited material pleasure, but he forgets that death is gradually approaching him. No scientist can check old age, disease, and death. Man's efforts to enjoy material nature are like those of an animal in the slaughterhouse who is too busy enjoying his food to notice the butcher approaching with an ax.
A lot would change if the scientists and other leaders would try to understand the teachings of the Vedic scriptures, such as this from Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.13.46):
"This material body made of five elements is already under the control of eternal time (kala), action (karma), and the modes of material nature (guna). How, then, can it, being already in the jaws of the serpent (death), protect others?"
No matter how comfortable our situation is in the material world, it is only temporary: eternal time, in the form of death, always limits it. No scientist, industrialist, or world leader can avert death.
Therefore, we should not let the darkness of ignorance, symptomized by the mad search for sense gratification, dominate our lives. Rather, under the guidance of spiritual intelligence, we should search out the light of Absolute Truth. This is the only purpose of human life.
As the Vedas sing, tamasi ma jyotir gama: "Don't stay in darkness. Come to the light."
Having given up wealth and high position, they led lives and wrote books that still illumine the path of devotion.
by Dravida dasa
Five hundred years ago, in Bengal, India, Lord Krsna appeared in the form of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to teach love of God through the chanting of Hare Krsna. Two of Lord Caitanya's chief disciples were Srila Rupa Gosvami and Srila Sanatana Gosvami (shown at right). These two brothers received extensive instruction from the Lord in the science of devotional service, and the books they wrote form an important philosophical pillar of the Krsna consciousness movement.
Before joining Lord Caitanya, Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami were named Dabira Khasa and Sakara Mallika, respectively. Though not Muslims themselves, they held top ministerial posts in the government of Nawab Hussain Shah, the Muslim king who ruled Bengal from 1499 to 1522. In addition to being expert administrators, however, they were also learned scholars fluent in Sanskrit, Persian, and other languages. The Nawab trusted them implicitly, and whenever he left his capital, Ramakeli, he would put them in charge. Thus the brothers enjoyed the privileges of high office.
While in the Nawab's service, Dabira Khasa and Sakara Mallika heard about Lord Caitanya, and when He visited Ramakeli they took the opportunity to meet Him. Inspired by the Lord, they decided to retire from the government and join Him. Lord Caitanya gladly accepted them as His disciples and gave them the names they're known by today.
Rupa Gosvami was the first to retire. After resigning from the Nawab's court, he left Bengal and went to meet Lord Caitanya at Allahabad, where for ten days the Lord instructed him in the principles of devotional service.
Lord Caitanya told Rupa that people generally don't know that the purpose of life is to reestablish one's relationship with God, break free of repeated birth and death, and return to Lord Krsna's spiritual kingdom. Lord Caitanya explained these goals along with the process for achieving them—devotional service to Krsna. Later, Rupa Gosvami wrote many Sanskrit works elaborating on these teachings.
Most prominent among Rupa Gosvami's writings is the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has presented this book in English in the form of a summary study called The Nectar of Devotion, and in the Preface he explains its significance: "The basic principle of the living condition is that we have a general propensity to love someone. No one can live without loving someone else. . . The missing point, however, is where to repose our love so that everyone can become happy. At the present moment the human society teaches one to love his country or family or his personal self, but there is no information about where to repose the loving propensity so that everyone can become happy. That missing point is Krsna, and The Nectar of Devotion teaches us how to stimulate our original love for Krsna and how to be situated in that position where we can enjoy our blissful life."
After instructing Rupa Gosvami, Lord Caitanya sent him to Vrndavana, the holy place in northern India where Krsna enacted His childhood pastimes. The Lord then left Allahabad and went to Benares.
Meanwhile, Rupa's brother Sanatana Gosvami hadn't been able to get the Nawab's permission to resign from the government. In fact, the Nawab was so angry at the prospect of losing his chief minister that he had Sanatana thrown in jail. But Sanatana managed to escape by bribing the jailer, and with little more than the clothes he was wearing he slipped out of Bengal by the back roads and caught up with Lord Caitanya in Benares.
Lord Caitanya was overjoyed to see His dear disciple and was deeply moved that he had taken so much trouble to come to Him. Sanatana Gosvami bowed down before the Lord, and the Lord lifted him up and embraced him. "My dear Lord," Sanatana said, "I have passed my whole life in the deep well of sinful materialism. Still, by Your causeless mercy You have delivered me. Now, by that same causeless mercy, please tell me what my duty is." Sanatana Gosvami also asked about his spiritual identity and how he could get free of the suffering that accompanies life in the material world.
Pleased with Sanatana's humility and his eagerness to learn spiritual truths, Lord Caitanya instructed Sanatana on many topics, including Lord Krsna's transcendental forms, incarnations, opulences, beauty, and service.
Afterward, Lord Caitanya sent Sanatana to Vrndavana to join his brother in writing extensively on the science of devotional service and in reestablishing Vrndavana as a place of pilgrimage. Although the brothers had formerly been wealthy government officials, they now lived in Vrndavana as mendicants, wearing loincloths, eating and sleeping very little, writing transcendental literature, and absorbing themselves in the ecstasy of Krsna consciousness.
The writings and exemplary lives of Srila Rupa Gosvami and Srila Sanatana Gosvami have inspired generations of devotees in the disciplic line coming from Lord Caitanya (the Hare Krsna movement is part of this line), and many devotees have carried on the literary exposition of Krsna consciousness. Thus the books of Srila Rupa Gosvami, Srila Sanatana Gosvami, and their followers comprise the most voluminous, exacting, and consistent body of spiritual literature in the world.
On the Operator of the Universal Machine
The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place in May 1975 during an early-morning walk in Perth, Australia.
Srila Prabhupada: The atheist says there is no God, no operator of this big universal machine. But has the atheist any experience of a machine working without an operator?
Devotee: No. But you cannot compare this whole universe to any man-made machine.
Srila Prabhupada: Why? Just the other day we saw a huge printing press in Japan. It was printing the sheets, collecting them, stacking them—so many things were being done systematically, all by machine. Similarly, by the universal machine the seasonal changes are going on, the sun is rising, the moon is rising, the water of the oceans is moving in waves. Everything is being done systematically: the sun and the moon are rising exactly on time, the seasons are coming exactly on time. Is this not how a machine works?
Devotee: [taking the role of an atheist] But this universal machine is so wonderful that it goes on without an operator.
Srila Prabhupada: You're a rascal—dull—so you cannot understand how someone is operating this universal machine. You cannot find in your experience any machine that is working without a person. Why do you bring this idea that without an operator this big universal machine is working? This is a false idea.
Devotee: There are some automatic machines.
Srila Prabhupada: No. Behind every machine there is an operator.
Devotee: Someone must turn it on and off.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. There is no such thing as an automatic machine. That is impersonalism.
Devotee: We can see the operator of these small machines, Srila Prabhupada, but we can't see the operator of this universal machine.
Srila Prabhupada: Have you seen the operator of the electric powerhouse? Do you think the powerhouse is working automatically?
Devotee: Well, we could see him if we wanted to. We could drive there right now.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, and you can go to Krsna and see Him, also. But first you must become qualified.
Devotee: That's not so easy.
Srila Prabhupada: It is very easy. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, bahavo jnana-tapasa puta mad-bhavam agatah: "By becoming purified through knowledge and penance, many have come to Me in the past." So why are you disappointed? You can go to Krsna. Striyo vaisyas tatha sudrah: Even if you are low-born or less intelligent, you can go to Him. Krsna is open to everyone. Simply become qualified, that's all. And what is the qualification? Krsna says, man-mana bhava mad-bhakto mad-yaji mam namaskuru: "Just always think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me, and offer your respect to Me." These four things you must do. We have opened our temples for this purpose—so you can always think of Krsna, worship Him, offer obeisances to Him, and become His devotee. Then mam evaisyaty asamsayah: Without any doubt, you will go to Him. What is the difficulty?
Devotee: The operator of the powerhouse is running the powerhouse, but it's not really necessary that we go see him. We can simply enjoy the electricity provided by the powerhouse.
Srila Prabhupada: That's what you do if you're a rascal, a fool. But if you are intelligent enough, you'll ask, "Who is the operator? Let me see him." That is the difference between an intelligent person and one who is dull.
I once heard a story about a little boy who was beating on a drum—dumm, dumm, dumm. He became inquisitive and thought, "Wherefrom is the sound coming? Somebody must be within the drum." So he found a way to open the drum and look inside. This is intelligence. A dull student will think, "Oh, the sound is just coming, that's all." But an intelligent boy will always inquire, "What is this, father? ' What is this, father?"
So if one is very dull, just like the cats and dogs, he will not inquire about the operator behind this universal machine. In the human form of life this inquiry should come. Otherwise, you remain cats and dogs.
Devotee: What about the body, Srila Prabhupada? Isn't that also a machine?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Devotee: But the scientists say that this body is more complicated than any machine because it can think, feel, and will, whereas machines can't do that.
Srila Prabhupada: The scientists cannot see that the thinking, feeling, and willing is coming from the operator of the machine, the soul. These rascals cannot understand that. Krsna says, dehino 'smin yatha dehe: Within the bodily machine is i the operator, the soul.
Devotee: Just like the child who tried to find the cause of the sound in his drum, the scientists are trying to find the cause of the material world. Is that not intelligence?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, but they have not reached the ultimate goal.
Devotee: But they're trying.
Srila Prabhupada: They're trying—that is admitted. But they are concluding that there is no operator. That is their foolishness. They have to go further and further until they conclude, "Yes, there is an operator." That is the final goal of their investigation. Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, bahunam janmanam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate: "After many, many births of sincere inquiry, if one is actually intelligent he will surrender to Me." And then, vasudevah sarvam iti: "He'll understand that Vasudeva [Krsna] is everything."
But these scientists waste time. When we say, "Here is Krsna—here is the operator of the universal machine," they'll not accept. They would rather waste time life after life, laboring and wondering. But one day they will come to the conclusion that Krsna is the operator behind this whole universe.
(To be continued)
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Chinese, Hebrew, Urdu Books Published
Hong Kong—The Hare Krsna movement has its first full-fledged art book: a Chinese edition of Light of the Bhagavata, originally written in English by Srila Prabhupada in 1961 for Tokyo's Congress for Cultivating Human Spirit.
Published under the auspices of Srila Tamal Krishna Goswami, one of ISKCON's present spiritual masters, the new book measures almost nine inches by twelve and boasts forty-eight full-color reproductions of paintings by Madame Yun-sheng Li, one of the few remaining masters of the Gongbi school of Chinese painting.
Light of the Bhagavata begins with a series of poetic verses from the Srimad-Bhagavatam that describe the scenic beauty of Vrndavana, Lord Krsna's childhood home, during autumn. The verses generally employ analogies that either criticize materialism and false religiosity, extol morality and God consciousness, or describe the transcendental pastimes of Lord Krsna and His companions. One of Madame Yun's illustrations accompanies each verse.
The concluding section of the book contains Srila Prabhupada's elaborate purports on the Bhagavatam verses, along with the verses themselves and black-and-white reductions of the illustrations.
The first printing of ten thousand was funded by Harivilasa dasa, of Spiritual Sky Scented Products in France. The North American branch of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust will soon publish an English edition, and editions in Japanese and other languages will follow.
In other publishing news, ISKCON now has a book in Urdu. It's Srila Prabhupada's Perfection of Yoga, translated from the English by a Muslim poet from Kashmir and published by Amogha-lila dasa in Bombay. Thousands of people have requested Krsna conscious books in Urdu, the national language of Pakistan, and more will be forthcoming.
Finally, two new Hebrew books have recently rolled off ISKCON's presses. Sri Isopanisad and Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers, two of Srila Prabhupada's all-time best-sellers, have been published by Israeli devotees under the direction of Srila Bhagavan Goswami, who oversees ISKCON's affairs in Israel and initiates disciples there.
George Harrison Visits ISKCON Center in Mayapur
Mayapur, West Bengal—Former Beatle George Harrison, an old friend of the Hare Krsna movement, recently paid his first visit to the ISKCON center at this holy place of pilgrimage. A guest of Srila Jayapataka Swami Acaryapada, who oversees ISKCON's affairs here, George took part fully in the temple programs and toured the garden-filled grounds. The rapidly developing project impressed him, and he promised to return in 1984 for the opening of the ornate memorial to Srila Prabhupada now under construction.
The Taste of Krsna
From plain, pure water to exotic sharbat, whatever we drink should make us think of Lord Krsna.
by Visakha-devi dasi
Without water, we'd die within a week. And we wouldn't be the only ones. Sooner or later, every last bird, beast, insect, fish, and plant would die too. Without water no cow could produce a drop of milk, not a blade of grass could grow, not a flower bloom or a fruit ripen. We couldn't even brush our teeth without water.
But these days most of us probably don't think much about a water shortage. The scientific know-how that makes the water flow from our bathroom tap and garden hose gives us a sense of security. By the flick of our wrist, there's water when we want it. On a larger scale, technology enables us to irrigate arid land. On a recent drive through central California, I saw hundreds of acres of orange, avacado, and grapefruit groves irrigated by a system of pipes and sprinklers.
Yet the greatest scientists, despite all their technical expertise, can't end a drought. The rain falls by God's arrangement: the sun evaporates some of the ocean water, which then turns into clouds and falls on the land as rain.
Besides providing the very means of sustenance for all the earth's creatures, rain, in the form of drinking water and other beverages, can produce God consciousness. Srila Prabhupada explains, "The knowledge received from Krsna enables us to see Krsna. Someone may challenge, 'Can you show me God?' And our answer is 'Yes, God can be seen at every moment. Krsna says, "I am the taste of water." We drink water every day, and the taste of water is there. So if we think of this taste as Krsna, we will have begun realizing God. Even if one is drinking liquor, if he thinks, "The taste of this drink is Krsna," he will one day turn out to be a great saintly person.'"
If we don't get enough to drink every day, we impair our ability to function. Tests by the United States Army have shown that if a man loses five percent or more of his body weight from dehydration, his efficiency decreases tremendously, although he may not realize it. The obvious remedy: drink water—two quarts a day for the average person, say the Army's researchers. So there's ample opportunity to drink water, think of Krsna, and become Krsna conscious.
Krsna consciousness means always to be aware of Krsna's presence everywhere. Since Lord Krsna is all-pervasive by His diverse material and spiritual energies, even the beginner in spiritual life can perceive Krsna. Water is one of Krsna's energies, and in the pure taste of water we can perceive Him. And naturally, we'll glorify the Lord for His kindly supplying water to quench our thirst.
Who would have thought we could become God conscious just by drinking? Yet it's true. Through beverages we can realize our complete dependence on the mercy of the Lord and become attracted to serving Him with devotion. And this transcendental process can begin the next time we drink something.
Lord Krsna's cuisine has a wide variety of beverages for quenching the thirst and pleasing the palate. The foremost of these is fresh water. (You'll wonder why we consider water pleasing to the palate only if you've never experienced the special taste of cool, clear, sweet water drawn from a mountain spring or a deep well.) It's traditional to welcome a guest with fresh water, a comfortable place to sit, and pleasing words. In this way anyone, rich or poor, can make his guest feel refreshed and thoroughly welcome.
Fresh water is also the standard beverage for full meals, while fresh juices squeezed from tree- or vine-ripened fruits may accompany a savory or sweet for a light meal. (Fruit juices are rich in vitamin C. A small glass of orange juice will supply the day's requirements.)
You can make more substantial beverages by combining fruits, spices, nuts, and essences with milk, buttermilk, or yogurt. Milk, also the basis for cold shakes, makes a soothing nightcap when served hot. With yogurt and buttermilk you can make cooling refreshments that are ideal for counteracting the heat of a midsummer's day. And if you're at all hesitant about yogurt, try a lassi, a sweet yogurt smoothie. It fills the body with strength and cools the head and stomach.
More exotic are the classic Vedic beverages, sharbats and squashes. Sharbats (not to be confused with the flavored ices called sherbets) are drinks made with a syrup containing extracts from herbs, flower petals, bark, nuts, or fruits. A squash is a drink made from fruit syrup. Both sharbats and squashes are delightful drinks, as well as remedies for minor ailments. They're fragrant, full of nutrients, and great-tasting—altogether a pleasure to offer Krsna. And, while you share them with your family and friends, you can meditate on how wonderful the Lord tastes.
(Recipes by Yamuna-devi dasi)
Easy Lime or Lemonade Squash Mix
This mix is convenient to have on hand in the refrigerator or on trips. Just add water and ice for a cooling, delicious refreshment.
Yield: about 1 ½ quarts of syrup (enough for 9 quarts of lemon- or limeade)
Preparation time: 40 minutes
5 to 8 lemons or limes
1. Peel long strips of rind from the lemons or limes, avoiding any white pith, and place the rinds into a small bowl.
2. Bring the water to a full boil, pour it into the bowl, cover, and allow the mixture to sit for 30 minutes. Then pour through a strainer, collect the liquid, and discard the rinds.
3. Over a medium flame, heat the rind-water and sweetener in a saucepan until the sweetener dissolves. Then remove from the flame, add the citrus juice, and allow to cool. Now pour the syrup into a 2-quart jar, secure with a tight-fitting lid, and refrigerate.
4. To offer the first glass of lemon- or limeade to Krsna, do the following: Shake the jar, measure out ¼ cup of the syrup, pour it into a 12-ounce glass, add cracked ice, and fill with cold water.
Ginger-Flavored Orange Squash
1 tablespoon finely minced, scraped fresh ginger root
1. Combine the ginger, warm water, sweetener, lemon juice, and mint leaves in a blender and blend for about 1 minute.
2. Stop the machine, add the ice cubes, and blend for another minute. Pour the juice through a fine strainer into a 1 ½ quart pitcher. Now add the orange juice and cardamom powder, stir well, pour out a glass, and offer to Krsna.
Iced Yogurt Drink
3 cups thick plain yogurt
4 one-inch-square pieces of the thick yogurt that forms on top of homemade yogurt
1 teaspoon sugar or honey for garnishing 4 chilled glasses
Note: If you use honey as the sweetener, heat it in the water until it dissolves and then chill the mixture until it's ice cold.
1. Combine the yogurt, rosewater, and sugar or honey-water in a 1 ½-quart mixing bowl. Churn vigorously with a lassi churn, or whip with a wire whisk, or beat with a rotary beater until the mixture is light and smooth. If you used sugar as the sweetener, add the ice-water and beat until blended.
2. Place ¼ of the ice into each chilled glass, pour in the yogurt drink, and stir. Before offering to Krsna, place a small piece of thick yogurt on the surface of each drink and garnish with a sprinkle of sugar or a few drops of honey.
Chilled Five-Nectar Party Punch
3 cups milk
1. Boil the milk and then chill it.
2. Extract 1 cup of milk from the coconut.
3. Combine the milk, yogurt, water, and coconut milk in a large bowl and whip until blended.
4. Place the mango pieces and honey in an electric blender and blend until smooth. Then add the cracked ice and blend for a few more seconds.
5. Combine the ingredients in a gallon punch bowl resting on cracked ice. Sprinkle the surface with the dried coconut, deep-fried lotus pods, and rosewater. Allow the drink to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before offering Krsna the first glass.
Spicy Hot Coconut-Milk Tonic
(Garam Nariyal Dhood)
1 fresh coconut
1. Peel the coconut and dice the meat into ½-inch cubes.
2. Place the coconut and ½ cup of water in a blender and blend on high speed for about 1 ½ minutes. Now remove the cap on the lid and slowly pour in an additional 1 ½ cups of hot water. Then add the cardamom seeds and peppercorns, and blend until the coconut is reduced to a smooth puree.
3. Line a strainer with a double thickness of cheesecloth or cotton muslin and strain the coconut puree, collecting as much liquid as possible. Press with your palms to extract all the liquid you can, and then gather the corners of the cloth and twist out the remaining liquid. You should have a little more than 2 cups of coconut milk. Now add enough water to bring it to 4 cups.
4. Heat the diluted coconut milk, lemon juice, piece of ginger root, and sweetener in a small saucepan until the mixture almost boils. Offer to Krsna hot.
There are many ways to try to find it, but only one will give us the full enjoyment and complete freedom we're looking for.
by Suhotra Swami
If you were to go out onto the streets of a typical Western city and ask the first person you met, How do you think people can achieve the most happiness? chances are you'd get an answer something like this: "Since life is meant to be enjoyed, society should let us explore all kinds of pleasures unrestrictedly, provided we don't hurt others. This will produce the greatest amount of happiness for the most people." This is the ideology of liberalism, more flippantly expressed in the common slogan, "I do whatever turns me on, and let others do their own thing."
But unrestrained pursuit of pleasure doesn't necessarily bring happiness—in fact, it brings just the opposite. What's more, my neighbor's chosen pleasure may very well bring me pain, and vice versa, despite all pretensions of letting the other fellow "do his own thing." These days, the pursuit of happiness by people we may not even know is threatening our very lives: Do we really feel secure under our nuclear umbrella? Are we really thankful for toxic waste and acid rain? Do we really want cocaine addicts repairing the planes we fly in? Obviously, in an interdependent world of conflicting interests, letting everyone "do his own thing" will bring havoc, not happiness.
So if we want to find a practical prescription for universal happiness, we'll have to discard the Utopian cliches of liberalism and delve into an analysis of the nature of happiness itself.
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All conceptions of happiness, diverse as they may be, have two basic elements in common: enjoyment and freedom. We feel we cannot be happy unless we are enjoying in whatever way we think best. And even while we're enjoying, we feel we can't be completely happy unless we can enjoy undisturbed and freely expand our enjoyment without opposition.
So, keeping this common platform of enjoyment and freedom in mind, let's turn to the three kinds of happiness described in the Vedic literature and see how much enjoyment and freedom are afforded by each.
The first kind of happiness is material happiness. This is the happiness of sense gratification, enjoyed grossly through varieties of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending, and subtly through the pleasures of the mind: accumulation of knowledge, speculation, the arts, and so on.
Those striving for material happiness generally believe they can find the enjoyment they seek in sex and that they can purchase freedom with money. For example, men look upon beautiful women as icons of all that is enjoyable. (For this reason, the Sanskrit word for woman is stri, "that by which pleasure expands.") Even when marketing other enjoyable sense objects, advertisers almost invariably employ a pretty girl to convince us of the pleasures inherent in their products. And in the arts, sex is an ever-present theme, as shown by some remarks attributed to the late choreographer George Balanchine: "Ballet is woman. . . . Everything a man does he does for his ideal woman. You live only one life and you believe in something, and I believe in that."
Thus material enjoyment, gross or subtle, culminates in sex. And for enjoying sex to the fullest, money is indispensable. With money, even an ugly old man can enjoy beautiful young women. Money, therefore, certainly seems the ticket to freedom and well-being in this world.
But do money and sex bring us real freedom and real enjoyment—and thus real happiness? Can we really say Elvis Presley or Marilyn Monroe, for example, led happy lives? "Well," one might venture, "they enjoyed the adulation of millions of admirers and a level of sense pleasure unavailable to many. Yes, they were happy—at least for some time." And yet they died before their time, in misery. Their sense enjoyment didn't bring them happiness, nor did their wealth free them from anxiety, heartbreak, disease, advancing age, and death. How about Howard Hughes, Aristotle Onassis, the Shah of Iran? Unarguably, even great wealth can't insure happiness, and every materialist, wealthy or not, must suffer a plethora of ever-mounting problems that culminate in unavoidable death.
And because no one in the material world actually obtains lasting happiness, everyone becomes frustrated and is forced by unfulfilled lust to compete for whatever enjoyable things are to be had. Of course, recognizing the futility of a "war of everyone against everyone," people do make social alliances to further their mutual goals of sense gratification. The most common such alliance is marriage, which then extends outward to family, friends, and society.
But though materialistic alliances may seem solid, they are extremely fragile and never last for long. They are destroyed from without by conflict with other allied materialists (as when nations destroy one another in war), or from within by the conflicting ambitions of members of the same alliance (as when a husband cheats on his wife, or vice versa). Or an alliance may simply disintegrate from the corrosive depravity that accompanies success, as when entire societies collapse from moral decay (witness ancient Rome). Ultimately, then, since the root of material happiness is selfishness, lasting unity among materialists is an unrealizable dream.
Thus the liberal ideal of universal material happiness—the happiness achieved by a "free" society unified on a common platform of sense enjoyment—is nothing but a mirage. Ever shimmering on the horizon, this liberal Utopia is a tempting but illusory oasis in the Sahara of material lust—a chimera ever retreating before the ever-advancing caravan we call human history, the "progress" of which is marked by the bleached skeletons of previous generations of sense enjoyers. Unfortunately, most people are convinced that this Utopia is just over the next sand dune, and they are quite content to march along in lock-step, urged on toward a "better tomorrow" by the scientists, politicians, and Madison Avenue hucksters.
Out of many such determined materialists, however, a few may see the futility of a life of illusory happiness. They break away from the slavish pursuits of materialism and seek happiness in introspection, beyond the veil of physical sense perception. This, the second kind of happiness, is called the happiness of liberation, or (in Sanskrit) brahmananda.
Brahmananda begins when a person understands he is not the material body and mind but an eternal spirit soul. When a person knows that his real self is undying, he's relieved of the multitude of anxieties that plague the materialist because of his fear of death. But attaining full brahmananda requires much more than just theoretical appreciation of the soul. A person must detach himself from worldly affairs and situate his consciousness firmly on the platform of eternal existence (Brahman). Only then can he free his self, or soul, from the cycle of samsara, repeated birth and death.
One can achieve brahmananda by practicing either jnana-yoga (cultivation of knowledge of the Absolute Truth through exhaustive ontological analysis), or a form of dhyana-yoga (meditation on the Absolute Truth in His impersonal feature), or a combination of these two. These processes entail complete renunciation of sex, minimizing all other kinds of sense gratification almost to nil, and, in the case of dhyana-yoga, retiring from society to the wilderness for severe austerities.
Now, referring to our definition of complete happiness—full enjoyment and complete freedom—we can easily see the dilemma faced by those who pursue brahmananda: to attain freedom, they must renounce enjoyment. The freedom they seek is liberation from repeated birth and death. Mr. Balanchine notwithstanding, everyone (every spirit soul) is being shunted from life to life in higher and lower species by his karma. To stop this transmigration by jnana-yoga and dhyana-yoga, one must repress the senses and absorb the mind in one's eternal spiritual nature, which is pure, undifferentiated consciousness. If one can quit his body while in the awareness of the Absolute Truth, he attains brahmananda, the joy of complete freedom.
This joy is the joy of relief. As long as one remains totally absorbed in the awareness of his eternal nature, he doesn't have to take on a physical body and experience the miseries of material life. His joyous sense of release is like the relief a man feels when he at last sets down his heavy burden after a long, painful journey.
Unfortunately, because mere negation of one's material entanglement affords no positive enjoyment to the soul, it cannot bring lasting satisfaction. Therefore brahmananda is flawed. The desire for active enjoyment eventually wells up in the mind and diverts the attention once again to the realm of sense gratification.
Brahmananda, then, though certainly superior to material happiness, is for most people an impractical goal. Who, especially in the Western world, will undergo the arduous austerities required to transcend body consciousness? Certainly not those who practice the fashionable form of yoga-like gymnastics imported from India by a number of so-called gurus. The "yogis" of the big-city asramas are more interested in relaxation, weight reduction, and increased sexual power than in liberation from birth and death. This corruption of the principles of yoga only further demonstrates its inapplicability to today's society. Most people are simply unable to suppress their desires for pleasure long enough to attain brahmananda.
So far, the prospect of satisfying our inner urge for real happiness seems bleak. We are confronted with the choice of either undergoing the hopeless struggle for sense gratification or, if we can muster the great stamina required, dropping out of worldly life altogether and negating our embodied existence through meditation and introspection. Neither choice affords us the optimum of enjoyment and freedom we all yearn for.
But there is a third kind of happiness—devotional happiness. At first glance, the idea of "devotional happiness" seems to contradict our definition of ideal happiness (total enjoyment with complete freedom). "If I must devote my life to God, where is my freedom?" one may ask. "And if I must offer the fruits of my work to God, how will I enjoy?" We can answer these questions by understanding some facts about God and ourselves that are given in the Vedic literatures.
According to the Vedanta-sutra, a book of aphorisms that embody the essence of Vedic spiritual knowledge, God is by nature full of supreme happiness, eternally situated in transcendental bliss. From the Visnu Purana, another authoritative Vedic literature, we learn that we, the spirit souls, are like countless tiny sparks of consciousness emanating from God, the Supreme Spirit. Just as each spark in a fire possesses the qualities of heat and light, so each spirit soul possesses the ability to enjoy the transcendental bliss Sri Krsna Himself enjoys eternally. But the tiny spirit souls cannot enjoy to their full capacity apart from Krsna, just as a spark cannot glow apart from the fire. For a spark to glow at all, it must dance within the flames; if it should leave the fire, it rapidly loses its brilliance. Similarly, the individual spirit soul realizes his full ability to enjoy only in contact with Krsna, the supreme enjoyer. Thus the secret to happiness lies in reestablishing our relationship with the Lord.
Since enjoyment originates in Krsna's transcendental personality, and since Krsna Himself is far beyond any of the constraints of the material energy placed upon our enjoyment, one who associates with the Lord through devotional service automatically experiences the happiness of complete enjoyment and freedom. This is devotional happiness, or Krsna consciousness.
On the supreme value of devotional happiness over any other kind, Srila Prabhupada writes, "The standard of comfort and happiness conceived by a common man engaged in material labor is the lowest grade of happiness, for it is in relationship with the body. The highest standard of such bodily comfort is achieved by a fruitive worker who by pious activities reaches the plane of heaven. But the conception of comfortable life in heaven is insignificant in comparison to the happiness enjoyed in the impersonal Brahman, and this brahmananda, the spiritual bliss derived from impersonal Brahman, is like the water in the hoofprint of a calf compared with the ocean of love of God. When one develops pure love for the Lord, he derives an ocean of transcendental happiness from the association of the Personality of Godhead. To qualify oneself to reach this stage of life is the highest perfection."
Human life is our only chance for attaining the happiness of pure devotion to Krsna and then returning to His eternal spiritual abode after death. We shouldn't miss the chance. Unlike the struggle for sense pleasure, Krsna consciousness isn't self-defeating, and unlike the struggle for brahmananda, Krsna consciousness is easily performed and leads to eternal, positive enjoyment. Therefore those who try to find permanent material happiness in this fleeting life, as well as those who try to negate their personhood for brahmananda, are only cheating themselves of the great opportunity for attaining real happiness, devotional happiness, both in this life and the next. So if you're actually serious about finding lasting happiness, you should inquire deeper into the subject of devotional service to Krsna.
Confronting The Politics of Atheism
Negotiations, boycotts, threats—nothing seems to tame the Russian bear. Why?
by Mathuresa Dasa
The possibility of a summit meeting between President Reagan and General Secretary Andropov has raised cautious hopes for deescalating the nuclear arms race. Some of us anticipate such a conference with great interest, and some with great skepticism. All of us, certainly, are horrified at the prospect of nuclear war, but with the SALT I and SALT II accords disintegrating and the INF talks in Geneva moving at a snail's pace, one wonders if negotiations with Moscow will ever pay off.
In the twenty years since the construction of the Berlin wall, the Soviets have marched into Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan, crushed Poland's nine-million-member Solidarity trade union by proxy, and slapped thousands of Russian dissidents behind bars. In the face of such brash aggression and disregard for human rights, can we really expect an arms-control treaty to hold up for long? And as for other strategies, we've learned the hard way that trade sanctions, boycotts, empty threats, and other cold-war tactics are useless.
Military confrontation, of course, is out of the question: even downright hawks shudder at the prospect of a conventional war escalating into a nuclear holocaust. Therefore, since neither diplomatic, economic, nor military strategies seem effective, the United States and its allies would do better to confront Soviet aggression on a more fundamental platform—the platform of ideology.
We can begin to understand communist ideology by looking at the Soviet Union's denial of religious freedom. Karl Marx, the father of communism, assumed that religion of any kind is a product of the imagination. He claimed that since oppressed people, especially the exploited working class, are unable to realize happiness in this life, they worship a nonexistent God and aspire for an eternal heavenly life beyond the grave. Absorbed in the pursuit of this illusion of otherworldly satisfaction, the workers neglect to fight for an improvement in their socioeconomic condition in this world.
Thus religion, according to Marx, is a capitalist tool for keeping the workers complacent in their poverty while an elite—bankers, merchants, and industrialists—enjoy the true satisfaction of worldly wealth. Only when the workers have completely rejected religion can they overthrow the capitalist free-enterprise system and transfer their devotion from God to the communist state and its leaders. In other words, the role of supreme protector, provider, and friend—the role normally attributed to what Marx said is an imaginary God—devolves, after the revolution, upon the communist state, which becomes the recipient of all previously misdirected faith and devotion.
Marx likened the socioeconomic bondage of the working class to a chain, and religion's illusory promises to artificial flowers decorating that chain. Captivated by the artificial flowers, the workers forget that they're bound and make no attempt to break the chain and pick the real flowers of worldly happiness.
Marx predicted that with the overthrow of the capitalist system, religion would automatically vanish. He further predicted that material science, which explains reality without any reference to spiritual existence or an all-powerful creator, would strip human society of any vestigial religious misgivings. The abolition of religion would thus be the natural result of communist revolution and scientific advancement.
But religious faith in Russia did not die after the Bolshevik revolution in 1917. In applying Marx's philosophy, therefore, Soviet leaders, beginning with Lenin, took a stronger stance against religious practices. Lenin held that before the revolution could be successful the state would have to eliminate belief in God by force. The struggle against God, he said, was inseparable from the struggle against socio-economic bondage; both would have to be executed simultaneously. Ever since Lenin, therefore, the Soviet government has been militantly antireligious. In fact, atheism is so integral to Marxist-Leninist ideology that the active suppression of God consciousness is essential to the stability of the Soviet state.
The United States, at its roots nominally God conscious—"in god we trust," "one nation under god"—is the natural opponent of communism. Although the U.S. and Russia regularly trade blows on the political and economic levels and threaten each other with nuclear annihilation, their conflict is grounded in this most crucial ideological disparity: the communist bloc officially denies the existence of the Supreme Lord, while the Free World officially acknowledges Him.
And what is the basic principle of freedom but the right to recognize our subservience to the all-powerful and all-perfect Supreme Person? As Marx correctly observed, when we deny that God is the ultimate proprietor, master, and friend, the powers and privileges normally recognized as His are up for grabs. And they are grabbed, as we have seen, by men who use the advantages of absolute power for their own corrupt, selfish purposes. This is the essence of totalitarianism. To the degree that both leaders and citizens recognize the supreme leadership of God, a nation remains free of the dictatorship of ordinary, fallible men.
This is not to say that the United States and its allies are free of corruption. It is a question of degree. The U.S. doesn't openly and categorically deny the Supreme Lord; therefore the corruption is not as total, the disregard for human rights not as prominent, as behind the Iron Curtain. But as Marx predicted, the atheistic leanings of modern science induce people to reject God. Especially in America, the luxuries of modern technology have fostered hedonism. This atheistic inclination is the greatest danger to the Free World, because to remain strong the Free World must keep a firm footing on the ground of God consciousness. How can you throw a good punch if you're standing in quicksand?
While the Kremlin vigorously propagates Marx's dialectical materialism, which logically and methodically denies God and spiritual existence, the U.S. shows no eagerness to spread the counterpropaganda of God consciousness. Nor do the religious traditions of the West have the philosophical depth and spiritual strength necessary to counter atheistic communism. The West's strategic position, therefore, is weak.
The Krsna consciousness movement suggests that the deep logical and philosophical understanding of the science of God consciousness presented in the world's oldest scriptures, the Vedic literatures, is the best weapon against Soviet expansionism. The Vedic literatures provide us with elaborate descriptions of the Supreme Person and His inconceivable qualities, powers, and activities. While other scriptures merely state that God created the cosmos, the Vedic literatures describe how, giving more than enough detail to satisfy today's scientifically-minded readers.
The more than seventy books written by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada—translations, with commentary, of essential portions of the Vedic literatures—establish theism on an unassailable scientific foundation and expose atheism as foolish and untenable. In the foreword to the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada writes that simply by a careful reading of these books "one will know God perfectly well, so much so that the reader will be sufficiently educated to defend himself from the onslaught of atheists. Over and above this, the reader will be able to convert others to accepting God as a concrete principle."
Srila Prabhupada's books are well known in the West, and to the dismay of the Soviet leaders they are also becoming popular contraband behind the Iron Curtain. By establishing the Supreme Lord as a concrete principle and by establishing the imperative of placing Him in the center of all facets of society—political, economic, social, religious, and so on—Krsna consciousness indeed poses a threat to the Soviet Union.
Interestingly, the Soviets consider the Krsna consciousness movement primarily American in origin. Last year, one Soviet newspaper published by the Communist Party's Central Committee warned Russian adherents of the movement that "they have allowed themselves to succumb to alien influences, swallowing the lure cast out by our ideological foes."
Although both Krsna devotees and U.S. officials will deny that the Hare Krsna movement is American, it's true that America, by its tradition of religious tolerance, has inadvertently helped foster a powerful "ideological foe" of Marxism-Leninism. The United States and its allies, in looking for new strategies to contain Soviet expansion, would do well to take a closer look at the theistic ideology of the Hare Krsna movement.
Computers Put the Byte on Humanity
Will the personalization of computers bring the depersonalization of you and me?
by Visnu-Jvara Dasa
Late last year, for the first time ever, the editors of Time failed to name a "Man of the Year." Instead, they named the computer "Machine of the Year." All human competitors for the award—from President Reagan down to Lennie Skutnik, who pulled a drowning woman from the freezing Potomac after the Air Florida crash—were found wanting. Superceding all rivals, the computer reigned supreme.
True enough, computers have acquired a special place in modern society. Without computers, there'd be no intercontinental conference calls, no advanced television circuitry for a flawless Trinitron picture, no superaccurate cruise missiles. No pocket calculators, no Pac-Man, no Memory-writers or instantaneous bank transactions.
Still, one wonders just what makes the computer so great that Time would single it out over thousands of worthwhile nominees from the human race. After all, who gives computers their brains? Who puts them together? And when they break down, who fixes them? We know of no computer that is self-programming or self-repairing. In short, computers rely on man for every aspect of their existence. Man can live perfectly well without computers (and has for millennia), but computers can't exist without man.
But Time's editors weren't entirely off the mark. It's a peculiar fact that computers seem to acquire a life and "personality" of their own. Ever had the experience of sending a letter to, say, the phone company and receiving a reply from its computer? It's a little disconcerting to find out you're not dealing with a human being but with an impersonal thing that considers you another impersonal thing. And the way computers are proliferating, it won't be long before they're controlling nearly every aspect of our lives. Just imagine this scenario:
First, a computer sends you a two-million-dollar water bill. When you send back several desperate notes of protest to Central Waterworks, the computer classifies you as a troublemaker and dispatches the computerized robot police to your home. Although you activate your laserized home defense system, unfortunately it's tied into the city's central data bank. . . .
The computer police bring you before the android judge, who announces that his sibling system couldn't possibly be wrong and threatens to implant a few microchips in your brain for even suggesting such a thing. Such errors, he says, went out with Univac. He leaves you the choice of paying the bill, going to prison for three years, or doing alternative service in the Silicon Valley gulag.
Thus ends the perhaps not-too-futuristic case of John Q. Public vs. The Computer.
But the matter is serious. The personalization of the computer by Time and the phone company is the obverse of an even more sinister development: the depersonalization of human beings. Modern science, which has produced and refined the computer, has reached the conclusion that ultimately we are simply a combination of chemicals and that life is nothing more than the interactions of subatomic particles.
There is, however, an essential difference between machine and man. Unlike a computer, a human being has the self-contained powers of discrimination and will. A computer can't make any totally independent decisions: it must receive instructions from a conscious entity, a human being. But a human can make decisions without the aid of an outside agent.
We have this power of perception because within the material body of flesh, bone, blood, and so on is a conscious, spiritual observer, the soul. As living, spiritual souls we can feel love, anger, fear, and countless other emotions, and we can independently think and decide to act. As a conglomeration of dead substances like steel, copper, glass, and silicon, computers can only juggle information with great speed. So it's a little disappointing that Time awarded its 1982 prize to a machine. Any man (or woman, for that matter) would have been infinitely more qualified.
What I am suggesting is that the actual wonder is not in the machine but in man, and that the actual wonder in man is life. But who deserves the credit for creating the phenomenon of life? Life can't be explained by any mathematical formula or physical law. If a man could create life in the laboratory, he would certainly be the just recipient. But so far, all the scientists have done is take the essential life-containing ingredients from one place and transport them to another. No one has yet been able to create life from inert elements. So where does the credit for creating life go? To someone who has already created life, to the person who has created all the life that we see around us.
"Oh, no," you say, "now he's going to tell us about God." But what's the matter with that? Do you have a better explanation for life? If so, you'd rival the scientists now vying to be society's high priests. But just as I don't think the scientists, with all their Ph.D.'s, can figure out where life comes from, I don't think you can either.
I'm not asking you to accept my explanation simply on blind faith. Nor is it actually my explanation. It's the explanation of the Vedic literatures of India, the Sanskrit texts that form the oldest and most comprehensive body of spiritual and physical knowledge in the world. These books, which are available in English translation from ISKCON Educational Services, provide thorough, scientific answers to the question of the origin of life and the universe. I encourage all of you to investigate on your own and see whether the Vedic literatures can answer these questions for you, as they have for millions of people for thousands of years.
Perhaps Time could have named the "Person of the Year" instead of the "Machine of the Year" or even the "Man of the Year." And if they had made an exhaustive study, they would have had to conclude that the real "Person of the Year" is God, Lord Krsna. It is He alone who is the source of all life and who has created the entire universe by His innumerable inconceivable potencies. Who could be a better "Person of the Year" than God, on whom everything rests, the Bhagavad-gita affirms, "like pearls strung on a thread"?
It strikes me that the scientists and you—your people—are in many ways talking about the same thing, only using different language. But pick what words you will, both groups are striving to find the underlying source of this world, or consciousness. From personal experience I can testify as to how science can be non-material. I studied electricity. By the time I was finished, I felt I was very much in contact with a phenomenon that lacked sensible understanding. I mean, what really is a volt, an amp, an ohm? Certainly nothing you could put your hands on or see. All you know are the effects of it. Forces from an invisible world.
Our reply: You're right about the limitations of the senses. You're also correct to say that the material scientists and we devotees of Krsna are studying the same thing. But it's not simply a question of different vocabularies; it's a question of different methods also. Whereas we accept the authority of Vedic literature, material scientists accept only data gathered through their imperfect senses. What you spoke of as "the underlying source of this world, or consciousness"—or, in other words, the Absolute Truth, the prime mover, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna—being beyond the realm of our limited mind and senses, cannot be fully understood by experiment and speculation.
But the devotees' knowledge is very practical. Like the scientist, he has knowledge of the world; but beyond that, he sees everything as the energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna. And he utilizes everything in Krsna's service.
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I can't tell you how glad I am when I find BTG in my mailbox. Instant Sanity! My only complaint is that BTG isn't long enough. I wish each issue were 300 pages in length—so I could relish it all month long instead of for a few hours.
May I just congratulate you all on your splendid achievement—this little magazine that has changed my life forever and keeps making it better and better.
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I am a Hindu boy of fifteen, and I like to read all kinds of religious books. For the past few days I have been reading the Bhagavad-gita and have come across the word "yoga" many times. Does this refer to the yoga of physical exercise? Please explain.
Our reply: The Sanskrit word yoga literally means "to link." So any process that links us to God is yoga. In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna outlines several kinds of yoga, including karma-yoga, jnana-yoga, astanga-yoga, and bhakti-yoga.
These yoga systems are like rungs on a ladder. The physical exercises you're talking of are a small part of astanga-yoga (the yoga of meditation), which is one of the lower rungs. In the sixth chapter of the Gita, Krsna summarizes astanga-yoga, and at the end of the chapter He concludes that bhakti-yoga (the yoga of loving devotional service to God) is the highest of all yogas. In other words, Krsna consciousness is the top rung of the yoga ladder.
Unlike with other ladders, however, on the yoga ladder you don't have to climb past the lower rungs to reach the top. You can come at once to the highest level, Krsna consciousness, simply by chanting Hare Krsna and following Krsna's instructions in the Gita. So Krsna has made it easy for us to become perfect yogis in this difficult age—if we but have faith in Him and His holy name.
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First of all, I would like to thank you so very much for teaching me how to chant the Holy Names of our Father, the Supreme Lord Krishna—Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. After 44 years on the Planet Earth, I must say it is a blessing, by God, just to know the holy name Krishna. Thank you for your beautiful magazine, and thank you for teaching the truth about God and mankind. I have learned that it is a pleasure and a privilege to serve God, that it is a natural thing for man to serve God. Thank you.
The Bronx, New York
Chanting Hare Krsna—Only in Georgetown?
Every Saturday evening, Hare Krsna devotees in the Washington, D.C.-Baltimore area gather in Georgetown with drums and hand cymbals to perform congregational chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra. Saturday night in Georgetown is a scene of heavy crowds out for entertainment, as couples head for the restaurants, nightclubs, and fashionable shops. Varieties of street minstrels and hawkers appear, and sometimes people gather around a public spectacle, as when the devotees—shaven-headed men in saffron or white robes and women in colorful saris—dance and sing for hours: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Although devotees have been chanting in America for almost two decades, for many people the sight of a chanting party is still sometimes jarring and unbelievable. One Saturday night a woman stopped before our party and shook her head in disbelief. Finally she exclaimed, "Only in Georgetown!" and walked off in shocked dismay.
But it isn't only in Georgetown. Nor is there need for dismay. The chanting of Hare Krsna is a pure spiritual tradition performed today all over the world by ISKCON members exactly as it has been performed in India for thousands of years. Yet a clashing of sensibilities may nevertheless occur when someone happens upon devotees chanting in public. And the reactions of amazement, alarm, laughter, and rejection illustrate a basic problem in introducing Krsna conscious culture to the West: Krsna consciousness is new and strange.
A. L. Basham, one of the world's most highly respected authorities on ancient Indian civilization, wrote in his conclusion to The Cultural History of India that the Hare Krsna movement "is historically very significant, for now for the first time since the days of the Roman Empire an Asian religion is being openly practiced by people of Western origin in the streets of Western cities." In a recent interview (published in BACK TO GODHEAD, May 1983), Dr. Basham stated that although other Asian movements have appeared in the West, Krsna consciousness is especially prominent because of its strict adherence to its spiritual tradition. Since most people on the street aren't authorities on religious traditions, however, they may dismiss the chanting of Hare Krsna as weird or unimportant.
But not everyone makes this mistake. Former Beatle George Harrison explains his appreciation of the sudden appearance of devotees in London back in 1968: "I knew about Prabhupada because I had read all the liner notes on his record album. Having been to India, I could tell where the devotees were all coming from, with the style of dress and shaved heads. I had seen them on the streets of Los Angeles and New York. Since I'd read so many books and was looking for yogis, my concept of devotees wasn't like that of other people, who think the devotees have all escaped from a lunatic asylum in their pajamas."
So it's mostly a matter of information. To one who knows, Krsna consciousness is an important, serious contribution to world culture. The street chanting, which at first may seem like a political protest or a folk dance, is actually a highly developed form of group meditation. Next time you encounter a chanting party on the street, stop for a moment. Listen to the chanters. You'll hear, above the steady rhythm of the drums and hand cymbals, chorus of voices repeatedly singing, "Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare. . . ."
This chant is a mantra. In Sanskrit, man means "mind" and tra means "freeing." So a mantra is a combination of transcendental sounds that frees our mind from the anxieties of living 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."
Usually a chanting party is also accompanied by a few devotees handing out BACK TO GODHEAD magazines or other Krsna conscious literature. From this literature one can understand intellectually how Krsna consciousness is beneficial for everyone.
Of course, it's natural to view anything new or unfamiliar with a cautious or even cynical eye, and certainly to most Westerners, the public chanting of Hare Krsna is new and unfamiliar. But aside from this, another reason we may be skeptical is that while the chanting of Hare Krsna is pure spiritual sound, our modern civilization is becoming more and more permeated with materialistic sound. Thus the chanting clashes with the very heart of the materialistic culture, which asserts, "You only go around once in life, so grab all the gusto you can get!" The chanting informs us of our real self beyond the temporary display of buy-and-sell in our urban "reality."
The chanting brings us face to face with spiritual reality and prods us to question the materialistic way: Do we really belong to this temporary world and to the "normal" activities of Georgetown-Times Square-Hollywood Saturday nights? Or should we aspire to know our selves more deeply, in our original spiritual identity beyond the time and place of our present bodily existence?
The contention of the Krsna consciousness philosophy is that the clash between the chanting and the normal activities in the streets is actually the clash between spiritual reality and material illusion, between truth and falsity. Moreover, the chanting-meditation is the ideal method of spiritual realization, because one can perform it although living in the hectic modern world. One can live in Krsna consciousness anywhere and under any conditions, even while continuing one's workaday existence with occupation, society, family, and so on. Without going to extreme lengths of renunciation, one can chant the names of God, understand the eternal reality, and go back to Godhead.
A person can chant Hare Krsna at home or with his friends. It's not that the robed, shaven-headed devotees on the streets are the only ones with the privilege of chanting Hare Krsna. Anyone can. If you're interested but too hesitant or shy to try the chanting, you can always stop and watch the next time you see the Hare Krsna devotees chanting in the streets. You have nothing to lose, but the gain is very great.—SDG