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Volume 18, Number 12, 1983


Even on the Lap of His Mother
Simple Living, High Thinking
Ox Cart Sankirtana
Lord Krsna's Cuisine
The Vedic Observer
Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out
Every Town and Village
Festival of the Chariots USA
When God Takes Sides
Notes from the Editor

© 2005 The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International

Even on the Lap of His Mother

As a child, as lover, as warrior, as creator—
Lord Krsna is always the Supreme.
But how do we express our feelings for Him?

A lecture by
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness

tasmad aham vigata-viklava isvarasya
sarvatmana mahi grnami yatha manisam
nico 'jaya guna-visargam anupravistah
puyeta yena hi puman anuvarnitena

"Although I was born in a demonic family. I may without a doubt offer prayers to the Lord with full endeavor, as far as my intelligence allows. Anyone who has been forced by ignorance to enter the material world may be purified of material life if he offers prayers to the Lord and hears His glories." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.9.12)

Here Prahlada Maharaja is showing us that to offer prayers to the Supreme Personality of Godhead you don't require any high qualification. You can offer your prayers from any standard of life. It is not that you have to become a very learned and scholarly man so you can present your prayers in nicely selected words with poetry, rhetoric, metaphor, and so on. No, that is not required. You simply have to express your real feelings.

What are those real feelings? First we must become aware of our actual position, then we can express our feelings sincerely and spontaneously. Caitanya Mahaprabhu* [*Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Krsna Himself in the role 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] teaches us how to pray with proper feeling. He prays,

na dhanam na janam na sundarim
kavitam va jagadisa kamaye
mama janmani janmanisvare
bhavatad bhaktir ahaituki tvayi

"O my Lord, O Lord of the universe, I do not want any great wealth, I do not want any number of followers, nor do I want many beautiful women. All I want is Your pure devotional service, birth after birth."

Lord Caitanya particularly addresses the Lord as Jagadisa, Lord of the universe. (Jagat means "universe," and isa means "Lord.") Whether you are Hindu or Moslem or Christian or whatever, you must know that there is a supreme controller of this universe. How can you deny it? Therefore this word jagadisa has been used very appropriately by Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and His prayer is universal.

So the next question is. Who is that jagadisa, the supreme controller? The Brahma-samhita gives us this information: isvarah paramah krsnah. "The supreme controller is Krsna." Krsna is controlling everyone and everything, but no one is controlling Him. That is the definition of the supreme controller.

Everyone of us is a controller to some extent. If somebody has nothing to control, he keeps a cat or dog to control. "My dear cat, please come here." The man is thinking, "I am the controller." And sometimes we find that the dog controls the master. Actually, however, nobody in this world is a controller; everyone is controlled. But due to maya, or illusion, we forget our real situation and refuse to accept that there is a supreme controller of this universe. We know that as soon as we accept some controller we'll have to account for our sinful activities, just as when there is a government we are responsible for our unlawful activities. But because we want to continue our sinful activities, we deny that there is any supreme controller. This is the basic principle of godlessness. Why do these rascals deny that there is God? Why do they say God is dead Because they want to continue their rascaldom without any restriction.

But do you think that simply by denying God, He will die and then there will be no God? No. In this connection there is a Bengali proverb about the vulture. Vultures want some dead carcass—especially a cow. Once, for days together, a vulture was not getting anything to eat. So it cursed some cow: "You die!" But simply by the vulture's cursing did the cow have to die? No. Similarly, the atheist wants to see God dead, and he takes pleasure in saying, "Now God is dead. I can do any nonsense I like." This is going on—the vulture is cursing the cow.

So, we must know that there is a supreme controller. That is the beginning of knowledge. Why should we deny it? In every field of activity we find some controller, so why should we deny that there is a controller of this creation? There is, and therefore Caitanya Mahaprabhu particularly uses this word jagadisa to address the Lord.

As already explained, Jagadisa, the supreme controller, is Krsna (isvarah paramah krsnah). There are many controllers, but nobody except Krsna is the supreme controller. That is not possible. By individual effort, by national effort, by communal effort, everyone is trying to become the supreme controller. So there is competition. But no one can possibly become the Supreme, because this creation is made in such a way that no one is supreme but Krsna. In whatever position you place yourself, you'll eventually find someone superior to you. No one can say, "I am eternally superior." No. If you think you are superior, one day you'll find somebody superior to you. This is our position.

And what is God's position? His position is described in the Vedic literature as asamordhva, which means that no one is superior to Him and no one is equal to Him. In other words, when you find someone who has no equal and no superior, He is God. This is the Vedic conclusion.

In the Upanisads there is a similar statement: na tat-samas cabhyadhikas ca drsyate. "No one is equal to God or greater than Him." Then, parasya saktir vividhaiva sruyate: "His energies are manifested in so many ways." And also, na tasya karyam karanam ca vidyate: "He doesn't have to do anything." Take any important man—your President Johnson, for example. The President of the United States is considered the supreme man in America, but as soon as there was some disturbance in central Europe, he had to call meetings of his Cabinet and consider how to deal with the situation. He had to do something. If he did not do anything, people would no longer have considered him the supreme man.

But in the Vedic literature we find the statement that God doesn't have to do anything. That is superiority. If He had to do something, He wouldn't be supreme. In this connection, you'll be interested to know that once a European gentleman went to Calcutta and visited several temples there. First he went to the temple of the goddess Kali. He saw Kali's ferocious features—she had a chopper in her hand, and she was chopping off the heads of the demons. She was wearing a garland made of the demons' heads. Then he went to several other temples, and finally he came to our temple—a temple of Radha-Krsna. So, he was an intelligent man, and he said, "In this temple I have found God." Why did he conclude that? "In every other temple I saw that the god, the deity, was performing some duty. But here I see the Deity is simply enjoying; He has nothing He must do." This is a very nice conclusion, and it is also the Vedic conclusion.

Nowadays many fools are supposedly becoming God by meditation. But can one become God by meditation? Do you think a dog can meditate and become God? This is all nonsense. God is God! He is always God. Even in the lap of His mother, Krsna is God. Once a demonic woman named Putana came to poison baby Krsna. She was wearing a beautiful dress, and she asked Krsna's mother, Yasoda, "Yasodamayi, you have a very nice baby. Will you kindly give Him to me so I can offer Him my breast?" Yasodamayi was a simple village woman, so she answered, "Yes, you can take my child." But Putana had smeared poison on her breast. "As soon as Krsna sucks my breast," she thought, "He will die."

This is the demonic spirit. The demons always want to kill Krsna. That's all. They say, "God is dead" or "There is no God" or "God is impersonal." In other words, they want to see Krsna killed. That is their business. The demon Kamsa was always thinking, "As soon as Krsna will take His birth, I'll kill Him." But God is always God, even as a little baby. So when the demoness Putana took the child on her lap and allowed Him to suck her breast, Krsna was so kind that He not only sucked her breast but He sucked out her life also. And then she appeared in her real form as a great, gigantic demoness.

So, in the lap of His mother Krsna is still God. He did not become God by meditation, by penance, by austerity, or by following some rules and regulations. He's eternally God. He doesn't have to do anything to become God. If someone claims that he has to do something and then he will become God, he's not God. He's a dog. You should immediately understand this. If somebody advertises that by meditation or yoga he has become God, or that by worshiping such-and-such deity he has become God, immediately know that he is a dog.

Why should God have to do something to become God? If you manufacture something and call it gold, an intelligent man will know that it is not real gold. It is artificial gold. Real gold is natural. Similarly, God is naturally God. In the womb of His mother He's God, on the lap of His mother He's God, while playing with His cowherd boyfriends He's God, while dancing with His girl friends He's God, while fighting in the Battle of Kuruksetra He's God, while marrying His queens He's God, while speaking Bhagavad-gita He's God.

So, there is no difficulty in understanding God—simply try to understand Krsna. As Brahma says, isvarah paramah krsnah: "The Supreme Lord, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is Krsna." And in the Bhagavad-gita Krsna Himself says, mattah parataram nanyat kincid asti dhananjaya: "My dear Arjuna, O Dhananjaya, there is nothing superior to Me." In another place Krsna says, aham sarvasya prabhavah: "I am the origin, the fountainhead, of everything. "This means He's the origin of Siva, the origin of Visnu, and the origin of Brahma, what to speak of other living entities.

Here Sri Prahlada Maharaja says, isvarasya . . . mahi grnami: "I shall glorify the Lord." Prahlada is only five. How could he glorify the Lord? He says, yatha manisam: "It doesn't matter that I am a child. In whatever way I can, I shall express my feelings." If we can simply say, "O God, O Lord, You are so great," that is all right. After all, how can you describe or understand God's glories? It is not possible, because He's unlimited. But despite any limitations you may have, if you express yourself feelingly—"My Lord!"—that will be accepted.

Caitanya Mahaprabhu is also teaching us how to pray feelingly, without any personal interest. Everyone is praying to God with some personal interest: "Give me some money. Give me some relief. Give me a nice house, a nice wife, nice food." That is good, but not as good as if you pray to God as Caitanya Mahaprabhu does: "I don't want any money. I don't want any number of followers. I don't want a beautiful wife." Then what does He want? "I want to serve You, That's all." This is the best prayer. "My Lord, You are so good, You are so great; all I want is to be engaged in Your service, birth after birth. I have been serving rascals, but they have not become satisfied and I have not become satisfied. Now I have come to You. Please engage me in Your service." This is the last word in prayer.

Thank you very much.

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Simple Living, High Thinking

You Can Talk of Peace
Till the Cows Come Home

An inside look at the link between cow slaughter and war.

by Suresvara dasa

Winter is again upon us, and again the world staggers through its holy days, raging with quarrel and war. And though we know winter will soon leave us, when, we wonder, will war?

To answer, let's go back some fifty centuries to ancient India, where a white cow and bull are grazing peacefully on the shore of the Sarasvati River. Suddenly, out of the tall grasses, a swarthy, bearded man appears, brandishing a club. He wears the dress of royalty, but when he attacks the innocent cow and bull, he shows himself to be a low-class rogue.

Then the real king appears—Maharaja Pariksit. With sword upraised, Pariksit addresses the man, with a voice like thunder.

"You rogue, how dare you beat an innocent cow just because Lord Krsna is no longer present? You are a culprit and deserve to be killed!"

Fearing for his life, the man, named Kali, gives up his royal dress and begs the king's mercy. Pariksit spares the mischievous Kali, then banishes him to places of gambling, drinking, prostitution, animal slaughter, and hoarding of gold.

This Kali-Pariksit encounter marked the dawn of what Vedic historians call the Age of Kali, our present age of quarrel and hypocrisy. The Supreme Lord Krsna had just left the earth, and Pariksit was determined to protect the universal religious principles the Lord had revived during His visit. But Kali was just as determined to raise hell; and inexorable time was on his side. As winter follows autumn, so Kali follows Krsna, and the best Pariksit could do was temporarily contain him. Places of gambling, drinking, prostitution, and animal slaughter didn't exist in pious Pariksit's day, but when Kali found gold, he was in business. And so was our age.

Our Age of Kali has come a long way since the first attempt to kill a cow and bull. Gambling, drinking, prostitution, and animal slaughter are big business now, often sanctioned and taxed by the government. Kali's spirit possesses us. Excessive pride has ruined our self-control, and excessive sex our health. Intoxication has destroyed our mercy, lying has obscured the truth, and peace has given way to war.

Kali's spirit of quarrel and hypocrisy pervades even religion, whose mere lip-servers repulse as many as they attract and give God a bad name. Even before church picnics, hayrides, and bingo parties introduce many of us to drinking, sex, and gambling, Kali confirms us as meat-eaters by serving us the flesh of cows. How often have we drunk the cow's milk with one hand and eaten her flesh with the other?

"One who, being fully satisfied by milk, is desirous of killing the cow, is in the grossest ignorance," writes Srila Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual guide of the Hare Krsna movement. "We drink cows' milk; therefore the cow is our mother. And Lord Krsna has created the bull to produce grains for our maintenance; therefore he is our father. Since the bull and cow are our father and mother, how can we kill and eat them? What kind of civilization is this?"

The simple truth of this challenge is lost to most of us. Recently, the American Dairy Association awarded McDonald's, the world's largest restaurant organization, the use of its "REAL" seal, which helps customers distinguish dairy foods from imitations. But Lord Krsna's instructions in the Bhagavad-gita to protect the cow expose the A.D.A. as an imitation dairy association. Why? Because along with an annual 120 million cartons of real milk, 380 million real milk shakes, and 300 million soft-serve ice cream cones and sundaes, McDonald's has handled enough real cow's flesh over the years to sell upwards of 45 billion hamburgers. In other words, instead of protecting the cow, Kali's dairyman is in cahoots with the slaughterhouse.

It is ignorance that compels us to slaughter from 35 to 40 million cows a year. When we buy the nicely-wrapped meat in the market, we have no idea of the suffering we are bringing ourselves by this act. Srila Prabhupada explains:

In this Age of Kali, the propensity for mercy is almost nil. Consequently, there is always fighting and wars between men and nations. Men do not understand that because they unrestrictedly kill so many animals, they also must be slaughtered like animals in big wars. Sometimes during war, soldiers keep their enemies in concentration camps and kill them in very cruel ways. These are reactions brought about by unrestricted animal-killing in the slaughterhouse. As long as human society continues to allow cows to be regularly killed in slaughterhouses, there cannot be any question of peace and prosperity.

Of course, there's always hope for peace, just as, during the bleakest winter, there's still the chance of a sunny day. Kali's clouds of ignorance, thick as they are, cannot yet deny us the truth—when we see it. And so with this in mind, I would like to tell you about my recent visit to a slaughterhouse.

The pictures on the walls told a story of which Kali must be proud. Around the turn of the century, the founder ran a one-man butchering business. He slaughtered several animals weekly and sold his meat products from a horse-drawn wagon. Then times started to change. Refrigeration, mechanization, the automobile, and two of the founder's sons brought growth to the business. Soon, founder and sons were slaughtering 125 cows weekly, then daily, as they kept gaining more customers and adding more employees and equipment. Over the years, steady growth brought the "packing company" to its present position as the "largest beef slaughterer and fabricator" in the eastern United States.

Kali is so well established that now the king's men federally inspect and grade his slaughtered cows. And for those who can take it, he gives tours.

Rose, my guide, was fortyish, frowsy, and fat as a heifer. Wearing hard hats and smocks we walked out onto a catwalk overlooking the holding pens. A thousand cows bellowed beneath us. The ammonia in the air almost covered the smell of death nearby. Although Rose sounded a little like Dale Evans when she spoke, she sounded even more like the Queen of Hearts.

"We slaughter steers, heifers, and cows—about 1,300 a day. Would you like to see the stunning?" I nodded, walked through a doorway, and suddenly beheld the most ghastly scene imaginable.

Pistol shots. Cows and bulls upside down. Blood everywhere. What the devil's going on? I looked where Rose was pointing. A man walked over to a Holstein bound to a conveyor, jammed a gun into her forehead, and fired.

"The stunner fires a sliding bolt into the animal's brain," Rose yelled above the din. "Then it's shackled and hoisted—still alive but insensible to pain. The butcher down there finishes the job by severing the major arteries with a six-inch double-edge sticking knife."

Tongue hanging, eyes bulging, the Holstein rose in the air, kicking and thrashing in her shackle—obviously fighting for life. Her udder began to spurt milk.

"Just a nervous reaction," Rose assured me. "The body is 'brain dead.'"

The body? What about the struggling soul? What about the progressive journey of all souls back to Godhead? And what about the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, Lord Krsna, the soul-giving father of all species?

But Kali runs his religions the same way he runs his wars. Cows and bulls, like enemies, have no souls. They're subhuman, nonpersons. Kill them.

The stunner, his eyes black pools under a white hard hat, reloaded his pistol. He and the butcher were killing better than a hundred cows an hour and, according to Vedic literature, preparing a dark future for themselves: "Cow killers are condemned to rot in hellish life for as many thousands of years as there are hairs on the body of the cow." But there was no need to tell anyone here they were going to hell. Awash with blood, the "Kill Floor" made the Bible's lake of fire look like Palm Springs.

It was hard for me to keep talking to Rose as though everything was all right. Kali's men held big knives, and Maharaja Pariksit was nowhere in sight. As we walked through blood puddles, my only sword was a pen.

"After the kill, the animals are dehided by a stripper, eviscerated, split into sides, weighed, and shrouded for chilling in the coolers."

Nazi and Soviet death camps never enjoyed such efficiency or such good public relations. And why not? The public's dinner table is the last stop on the production line.

"You have just dined," wrote Emerson, "and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity."

We passed into the "Fabrication Plant," where workers boned and trimmed the meat for packaging. Their faces showed many different extractions, a kind of General Assembly of butchers. I thought of the United Nations, of how its buildings stand on the very spot where New York City slaughterhouses used to, and of how its members have failed to keep the peace.

A prime example is the Middle East, where destiny has embroiled Christians, Moslems, and Jews—the world's "religious" meat-eaters—in a perennial paradigm of hatred and war. The peoples to whom the Lord delivered the Old Testament, New Testament, and Koran are always reinterpreting His words to suit their appetites. Now, "Thou shall not kill," conveniently reads, "Thou shall not commit murder," and the Moslem's and the Jew's "ritual slaughter" of fully conscious cows turns out to be more cruel than the "humane" stun-killing of the Christian. But the Lord is pleased with neither. And war in the Middle East—and everywhere else—continues.

Watching mother cow and father bull become man's meat—horrible as it was—left no doubt about the connection between slaughter and war. The misapplied technology that increased the slaughter in the founder's "packing company" also increased the slaughter in World Wars 1 and II. And the dues owed since then are in the billions.

Back home from the slaughterhouse, I walked among our Hare Krsna farm's Brown Swiss cows and bulls, who welcomed me with licks and nudges. We looked up as a military jet thundered across the sky. Even if an atomic war doesn't come, I reflected, only Krsna consciousness can release us from the slaughterhouse of repeated birth and death. And if enough of us become Krsna conscious, then even communists and capitalists can learn how to protect cows and live peacefully during Kali's wintry age of discontent.

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Ox Cart Sankirtana

An age-old mode of travel goes a long way
in awakening Vedic culture in rural India.

by Lokanatha Swami

During the eleven years from 1966, when Srila Prabhupada founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in New York City, to 1977, when he passed away in Vrndavana, India, he circled the world fourteen times, started temples, asramas, schools, and farms on six continents, wrote more than seventy books, and introduced literally millions of people to the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra. Yet in addition to this great concern for spreading Krsna consciousness outside India, Srila Prabhupada was also eager to revive it in his own country—and not just in the big cities like Bombay, Calcutta, and New Delhi either, but in the more than a half million villages of India.

Planes and trains will not take you to these villages. Not even buses reach some of them. Thus, Srila Prabhupada revealed his plan. A small party of devotees, traveling from village to village by ox cart, would perform sankirtana: chanting Hare Krsna, distributing transcendental literature, and giving out prasadam (vegetarian food offered to Krsna).

About the time that Srila Prabhupada conceived his plan, I and about thirty other single male devotees had just finished traveling and preaching throughout parts of India in several Mercedes vans. Not only were the vans expensive to maintain and always breaking down, but in due course we had to ship them back to Germany, because their permits had expired. We were in New Delhi at the time, and when Srila Prabhupada arrived and came to know that we no longer had vehicles for our preaching program, he called me to his room and instructed me to start the ox cart sankirtana program.

We all rushed to Vrndavana, about ninety miles south, to get everything ready. The devotees at our Krishna-Balaram Mandir in Vrndavana had already heard of our ox cart sankirtana, and they were enthusiastic to help us. The head priest came forward and offered his personal set of Gaura-Nitai Deities. (Gaura is Lord Caitanya, and Nitai is His spiritual brother, Lord Nityananda.) We took this gift to be the special mercy of the Lord. Five hundred years before, Lord Caitanya had traveled extensively throughout India spreading Krsna consciousness, and now once again He was to head up a program of traveling and preaching. The Lord's participation greatly inspired us.

Soon we had acquired some cooking pots and a supply of Srila Prabhupada's books in Hindi. We also had a few thousand copies of a handbill that described our program and our destination—Mayapur, the birthplace of Lord Caitanya. When everything was ready and we were all set to go, we went to see Srila Prabhupada, who was now visiting Vrndavana, to get his blessings. He spoke to us about how Gandhi had wanted to stop the flow of people from the villages to the big cities, but had been unable to do so. Srila Prabhupada said we could accomplish this, however, simply by giving the people a taste for the holy name of Krsna. If they developed a taste for chanting Hare Krsna, he said, they would be content with their simple life in the villages and wouldn't run after the illusory pleasures of the cities. They would remain at home, happy in Krsna consciousness. Finally, Srila Prabhupada advised us always to camp near a well or other source of water. The well, he said, is the heart of the village.

With Srila Prabhupada's blessings, about eight of us started from Vrndavana toward Mayapur, nine hundred miles away. It was October 1976, and we planned to cover the distance in five months so we could attend the yearly festival at ISKCON's center in Mayapur. We would pass through the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal.

When we started from Vrndavana, we had everything we needed—except the oxen and the cart. So we got a ride to Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal, where I sent the devotees out in pairs to the homes of our patron members to solicit funds for the oxen and the cart. I also sent two devotees to Jaipur for the same purpose. After a few days we had raised enough money, and we went to a weekly animal bazaar near Agra where we bought a pair of white oxen for a little more than two thousand rupees (about $230). We also bought a cart and equipped it with automobile tires. Now our ox cart sankirtana party was ready to get into full swing.

India is thickly populated, with villages everywhere, so for us to stop in each village along the way would be impossible. Usually we would pass through a village chanting Hare Krsna, passing out handbills, and trying to sell some of Srila Prabhupada's books. As soon as we arrived in the village where we were going to stop for the night, most of us would get down and form a chanting party at the front of the cart. Only the driver and one other devotee, who held a big poster of Srila Prabhupada, would stay in the cart.

As we passed along the main roads of the village chanting Hare Krsna, two devotees would approach the houses on either side of the road. Carrying shoulder bags, they would beg for a little rice and dal (beans) and whatever they needed for cooking. During this sankirtana procession, someone would always come forward and suggest a place where we could stay. Every village, small or large, had a temple or at least a public dormitory, and sometimes a farmer would invite us to stay at his house.

When we arrived at the place where we were to stay, we would unload our things, install the Deities, and immediately begin cooking. We had no gas or kerosene stove, so our cook would simply find three medium-size rocks or some bricks and make a fireplace, while several devotees collected wood for fuel and several others collected grass for the bullocks.

Then I would have a devotee take a megaphone and go throughout the village to announce our evening program of kirtana, arati (offering of incense and other articles to the Deities), lecture, and prasadam. The turn-out was always good. Sometimes everyone in the village would come. In many villages the people were already practiced to chant the Hare Krsna mantra, and they would participate in the kirtana very enthusiastically. After the lecture, the last and most popular part of the program would be the distribution of prasadam. We would serve kichari (a spicy dish made with rice, dal, and vegetables), and the villagers would come for seconds and even thirds.

We would also have our early-morning devotional program, of course, but that was mainly for the devotees, although sometimes a few villagers would also participate. Without fail the devotees would get up early (around 4:00) and bathe—either by dipping into a nearby river or pond or by drawing water from the village well and throwing a few bucketfulls over themselves. And then, as at any ISKCON temple, we would have mangala-arati at 4:30. Then we would go through the village chanting Hare Krsna and singing a song called Jiva Jago ("O Sleeping Souls, Wake Up!"). Both adults and children would come running straight from their beds. The sound of the drum, the cymbals, and the holy name reminded them of Krsna and of their Krsna culture, and they were invariably pleased.

After our kirtana through the village, we would return to our camp, do our japa (private chanting on beads), and have a class on the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Then one or two devotees would cook breakfast. After taking prasadam, we would load everything back into the cart, and by 9:00 we would be ready to start.

In some villages the people were so enthusiastic that we would spend two or three days. Sometimes they wouldn't let us proceed, but would beg us to stay for a few more days. Because of this popularity we were averaging only about twenty miles per week.

For the most part, the villagers were very simple and friendly. We spoke their language, we talked about their welfare, we entertained them with kirtana, and we fed them with prasadam. They would all honor the bullocks, the cart, and the devotees—especially the foreign devotees, who were the main attraction. The villagers would always follow them and look for a way to interact with them. In most of the villages we visited, no one had ever seen a foreigner.

And these foreigners weren't just ordinary foreigners—they were foreign sadhus! Their bodies may have been foreign, but the religion they were practicing wasn't at all foreign: it was the villagers' very own, which they were unfortunately no longer following very strictly. For these villagers, seeing foreign devotees of Lord Krsna was a big surprise and also a necessary reminder. The foreigners were requesting the villagers to study the Bhagavad-gita, their own most holy book, and to chant the holy name of Lord Krsna, who had appeared in their country and who was supposed to be their worshipable Lord.

Today most Indians, including those living in the villages, are busy imitating the Westerners. The people in the villages are eager to go to the cities, and the people in the cities are looking forward to the day when they can go to the West. Srila Prabhupada's idea was that if the Indians at all want to imitate the Westerners, let them imitate these Westerners—who have taken up Krsna consciousness. Then, by such imitation, all of India would again be Krsna conscious, to its great benefit.

In January we reached Allahabad, the city where three holy rivers converge. It was the year of the Kumbha-mela, a large gathering of the faithful that takes place every twelve years at that city, and Srila Prabhupada had come from Bombay by train to participate in ISKCON's programs. When we met him, he gave us a lot of attention and mercy. He heard our ox cart sankirtana stories at length, and he especially appreciated how the devotees would go from door to door begging handfuls of rice or anything else the householders would offer. The begging taught the devotees humility and engaged the villagers in Krsna's service.

At the Kumbha-mela several devotees joined us, and now we had about a dozen on the ox cart. We had the Deities, books, pots, the devotees' personal things, sacks of grain, some food for the oxen, and on top of everything, a dozen devotees—all in one ox cart!

Next we reached Varanasi, a famous holy city on the banks of the Ganges. In February the Mayapur festival was to take place, and since we were behind schedule, we decided to load our whole show into a truck and get to West Bengal fast.

Arriving in West Bengal, we again began traveling by ox cart from village to village. We had many ecstatic adventures. Especially successful was our program of distributing prasadam. As our sankirtana party would reach the gate of someone's home, the ladies of the house would come out and wash the feet of all the devotees, offer obeisances, receive us with folded hands, and offer us a basketful of rice with some vegetables on top. So we carried on our simple traveling and preaching in the land of Lord Caitanya.

When finally we reached Navadwip, just across the Ganges from Mayapur. we were greeted by crowds of enthusiastic people. They were surprised at the simple ox cart sankirtana organized by the Hare Krsna devotees. On top of the cart, as usual, a devotee held up a big portrait of Srila Prabhupada, and everyone got the blessing of seeing His Divine Grace, as they happily joined in the chanting of Hare Krsna. At the bank of the Ganges we loaded everything into a small ferryboat and headed for Mayapur.

Upon arriving at ISKCON's Mayapur project, we held a big kirtana as we passed through the gates. We went all the way up to the temple and entered. Just as we entered, the curtains opened, and we had an ecstatic view of the Lord in His Deity incarnation. Then we went up the stairs—and there was Srila Prabhupada on the balcony. He immediately called us into his room and had us garlanded and given milk sweets. We sat down at Srila Prabhupada's feet, and he asked us about the journey. He was smiling. He was satisfied, and that was our perfection.

We explained to him that we'd visited seventy-two villages between Vrndavana and Mayapur. When we had come to large highways, we had marveled at how everyone was running and riding in a great hurry. They were going nowhere, we had realized, whereas we were marching slowly but steadily back home, back to Godhead. Once one of our tires had been punctured, and we had had to pay four rupees (about fifty cents) to get it repaired. That had been our only expense throughout the entire journey!

As I sat with Srila Prabhupada, we expressed our sorrow that no new devotees had joined us. Because we had remained for only a very short time in each village, people hadn't had enough time to build up their faith in the chanting of Hare Krsna and the philosophy of Krsna consciousness. But Srila Prabhupada encouraged us: "Do not mind," he said, "You have sown the seed. I am very happy to hear of your nice activities on ox cart sankirtana. I wish I could have joined you. I like your program very much. If you continue this program, you will be benefited, the people will be benefited, and everyone will become happy in Krsna consciousness."

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We welcome your letters.
51 West Allens Lane
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19119

In "The Vedic Observer" section of your October issue you say that since everything belongs to the Supreme Person, we're thieves if we claim anything belongs to us. Does that mean that the house I've lived in for the past twenty-five years (and just finished paying the mortgage on five years ago) isn't mine? What about my car? Who will it belong to after I finish the payments? If these things are stolen from God, how do you propose I return the "stolen property" to Him?

Ellie Partell
Spokane, Washington

Our reply: The house certainly belongs to you. But where did the bricks, wood, cement, glass, nails, and other components of your home come from? Human beings can gather and fashion the various elements of nature: they can assemble houses, automobiles, televisions, and so on, from these elements. But man cannot create these ingredients on his own; he takes from the Supreme Person's creation. And man's ability to create from the material elements is also God's gift.

So since our houses and other possessions are Krsna's gifts, we should be constantly appreciative of His generosity. A devotee of Krsna recognizes that his house belongs to God. He regularly chants God's names at home, and he offers his food to God. In this way, a devotee "returns the stolen property" by acknowledging that Krsna is the ultimate proprietor.

* * *

I am writing to tell you how much I enjoyed the August 1983 issue of BACK TO GODHEAD. Of course, I enjoy every issue. but especially this one, as it covered Detroit's cultural center. The photos and layout for the article were beautiful. Although I don't live far from the temple, I don't get a chance to go as often as I'd like to. Now I can meditate on the photos of the cultural center's temple room and Their Lordships Sri Sri Radha-Kunjabihari and feel more complete.

I would like to point out how this new cultural center has beautified the whole neighborhood. Another old mansion up the road recently had to be torn down, as it was an eyesore. I also appreciate how the center's theater and restaurant can help new and curious persons who are interested in the Hare Krsna movement but who might feel awkward in attending the large free Sunday feasts. The FATE exhibit and the restaurant offer a more intimate atmosphere. The whole complex is indeed the pride of the area—and of all Detroit.

Jean Schlage

Detroit, Michigan

* * *

I greatly appreciated the September issue of BACK TO GODHEAD. I found the article on bhakti ["Bhakti Flows West: Sri Caitanya's Children in America"] particularly interesting. The world is in debt to Swami Bhaktivedanta for bringing knowledge of devotional service to our attention.

Don Martin

Cincinnati, Ohio US

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Lord Krsna's Cuisine

Turning the Tables On Intimate Dining

When Lord Krsna is the centerpiece,
a spiritual taste replaces mealtime romance.

by Visakha-devi dasi

Dinner for two. The words conjure up a posh candlelit scene where a romantic couple whisper sweet words over an elegant multicourse meal, while soft music plays in the background. Our heartstrings twang. If only we could find our true love and enjoy life like that.

But Lord Krsna's philosophy pops such a bubble of illusion. According to His philosophy, what goes on in the material world under the name of love is simply lust. For example, in Annemarie Huste's Personal Cookbook, in the chapter, "Romantic Dinners for Two," we find, "I don't think there's a man alive who doesn't love to be fussed over and pampered, and I have to admit that my very best cooking is done when I'm preparing a meal for a male. . . . I've had at least a dozen proposals after serving dinner." In other words, she's saying, "I can satisfy a man's senses so well that he'll want to marry me." And she's implying, "As soon as I stop satisfying his senses, he'll lose interest in me." Although we commonly call this relationship love, it's actually lust.

There's a gulf of difference between love and lust, like the difference between gold and iron. Lust is based on material qualities, like appearance, ability, personality, fame, wealth, and so on. Since these are temporary, the relationship based on them is also temporary. So if Annemarie forgets how to cook one day, that'll be the end of her "love" affair.

Real love, however, is eternal; therefore only the relationship between the Supreme Lord and His devotees deserves to be called love. But at present we have forgotten this relationship. We're covered by a material body and living in the material world—where a man needs a woman and a woman needs a man. So it's natural that a man and woman will want to spend time together and share their meals. If they're Krsna conscious, though, they will share not just food but prasadam, vegetarian dishes that have been offered to Lord Krsna. And when they converse, the central topic will be Lord Krsna and His philosophy, service, pastimes, and glories. By keeping Krsna in the center, even while involved in an apparently material relationship, a man and woman make spiritual progress.

But sometimes a problem may arise. Say my husband is interested in spiritual life—he wants to eat prasadam and talk about Krsna—but I couldn't care less. Then what?

Well, for one thing, he could ask me to cook some of the dishes featured on these pages each month. He could even help me cook them. And as we cooked he could explain that the ingredients have been provided by Krsna and that devotee-cooks have prepared these same dishes for thousands of years. He could also explain that cooking for Krsna, offering the prepared foods to Him with devotion, and tasting this offered food—the prasadam—stimulates our dormant love for Krsna. Through krsna-prasadam, we can come to enjoy our original, blissful life.

If my husband and I got really ambitious, then instead of making just one or two dishes, we could try making a whole meal for Krsna's pleasure, like the one in the photo. By keeping Krsna in mind as we cook, offer, and eat this meal, we'll be rewarded with the most precious gift: Krsna consciousness. It's that easy and painless—even for a stubborn wife like myself. And it can give the relationship between a man and a woman a solid foundation—one that's based not on the lust to gratify our own senses but on serving, pleasing, and loving the Supreme Lord.

(Recipes by Yamuna-devi dasi)

Deep-fried Doughnut Savories

(Urad Bada)

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Soaking time: 3-4 hours
Yield: 10 2 ¼-inch doughnuts

½ cup skinless urad dal (try an Indian grocery store)
¼ to 1/3 cup water
1 ½ tablespoons scraped, minced fresh ginger root
½ tablespoon minced fresh hot green chilis
¾ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon mild asafoetida powder
10 small, broken fresh curry leaves
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups vegetable oil or ghee (clarified butter) for deep frying

1. Sort through the dry dal beans and remove any foreign matter. Wash the beans in a bowl of water. Drain and wash 3 or 4 more times until the water remains practically clear. Soak the dal in 2 cups of water for 3 to 4 hours. Drain in a wire sieve.

2. Combine the dal and ¼ cup water in an electric blender and blend at high speed for 30 seconds. Turn off the machine, scrape the dal with a rubber spatula down the sides of the jar toward the blades, and blend again. Repeat until the beans are reduced to a thick, smooth puree. Add only enough water to facilitate the blending.

3. Transfer the dal paste to a small bowl, add the remaining ingredients, and mix well. The paste should be thick enough to hold its shape. If necessary, add small amounts of urad flour or wheat flour to stiffen the paste.

4. Heat the ghee or oil over a medium flame in a 12-inch wok or 2-quart saucepan until the temperature reaches 310°F. Moisten hands with a light film of oil or ghee. Put about 1 ½ tablespoons of the paste into the left hand and roll it in the cup of the palm to form a slightly flattened patty. With the right thumb, press a hole in the center to form a doughnut. Gently transfer the doughnut to the fingertips of your right hand and carefully slide it into the hot oil or ghee. Shape and fry about 5 or 6 badas at a time, allowing enough room for the dal cakes to swell slightly.

5. Fry the badas for 4 or 5 minutes on each side, or until they turn golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to absorbent paper. Place on a baking sheet lined with paper towels and keep warm in a 250° oven until time to offer the badas to Krsna. They are delicious with a few tablespoons of moist, fresh coconut chutney.

String Beans with Fresh Coconut Pulp

(Barbatti-Nariyal Ki Sabji)

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Servings: 5

3 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon skinless urad dal, if available
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 to 2 teaspoons minced fresh green chilis
½ to 1 ½ teaspoons minced fresh ginger root
8 to 10 small curry leaves, if available
1 pound tender green beans
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup fresh grated coconut pulp
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
2 tablespoons minced fresh coriander or parsley leaves

1. Trim the green beans, slice into ½-inch pieces, and steam for 10 minutes.

2. Heat the ghee or vegetable oil in a 10-inch frying pan or wok over a medium flame until a drop of water flicked in sputters instantly. Add the raw urad dal, black mustard seeds, minced ginger, and chilis, and fry until the mustard seeds sputter and pop.

3. Drop in the curry leaves and immediately follow with the steamed green beans. Sprinkle in the turmeric, salt, coconut pulp, sugar, and a few drops of water. Stir, lower the flame, cover, and cook for 5 to 8 minutes.

4. When the beans are tender and dry, add the coriander or parsley leaves and toss lightly to mix. Offer to Krsna while hot.

Tamarind-Flavored Puree with Vegetables


Preparation time: 1 hour
Servings: 5

This is a South Indian sauce or soup traditionally featuring a blend of three ingredients—arhar dal, tamarind pulp, and a special spice powder called sambar masala.

Ingredients for the arhar dal:

¾ cup unboiled arhar dal
5 ½ cups water
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 ½ tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil

1. Sort, wash, and drain the dal as directed for the dal in the Urad Bada recipe.

2. Combine the dal, water, turmeric, salt, and ghee in a 3- or 4-quart saucepan and bring to a full boil over a high flame. Reduce the flame to medium and gently boil, partially covered, until the dal beans are tender and soft.

Ingredients for the sambar:

1-inch ball of tamarind pulp
1 cup hot water
½ cup dried or fresh shredded coconut, packed tight
½ cup cold water
4 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
½ tablespoon black mustard seeds
¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds, if available
1 teaspoon mild asafoetida powder
½ tablespoon sambar masala
12 to 15 curry leaves, if available
1 cup string beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
1 cup carrots, cut into ¼-inch rounds
2 small tomatoes, cut in small chunks
1 small eggplant, cut into ¾-inch cubes

1. Soak the tamarind in the hot water for 15 to 20 minutes. Squeeze the tamarind through your fingers to separate the pulp from the seeds and fiber. Pour the mixture through a sieve, pressing out all of the juice and discarding the seeds and fiber.

2. Place the coconut and ½ cup of cold water in a blender. Cover and blend on high speed until smooth.

3. Heat the ghee or oil in a 4-quart saucepan over a medium flame until a drop of water flicked into it instantly sputters. Stir in the black mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, and asafoetida, and fry until the mustard seeds sputter and pop.

4. Add the curry leaves, string beans, carrots, eggplant, tomato, and sambar masala and stir-fry for about 10 minutes. Pour in the tamarind pulp and coconut puree, partially cover, and gently boil for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

5. Pour the cooked dal into the vegetables, stirring constantly, and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. Garnish with fresh minced herbs and offer to Krsna.

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The Vedic Observer

Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day

Watt's So Funny?

by Drutakarma dasa

Secretary of the Interior James Watt was forced to resign because of some unfortunate remarks he made about his appointees to a national coal commission. His panel had, he said, "every kind of mix you can have. I have a black, I have a woman, two Jews, and a cripple."

The almost universal outrage at this statement suggests that people expect the nation's leaders to display a vision of equality that goes beyond the obvious disparities of physical form and appearance. So there arises a nagging question—what kind of equality are we then talking about? After all, the woman on the panel isn't a man, the black person isn't white, the Jews aren't Moslems, and the physically disabled person is, in fact, in some way crippled. If there is equality, we have to look further. It's doubtful that many of the people who got upset at Mr. Watt's remarks have analyzed this very deeply. But their response does point to an instinctive awareness that the equality of human beings transcends material conceptions, that it is ultimately a spiritual equality.

In other words, we expect our kings to be philosophers. In ancient India's civilization this ideal was actually attained, and a ruler would be known as a rajarsi (saintly king). The rajarsis received a kind of training for political leadership that has not been talked about very much in the West since the days of Plato, who wanted philosopher-kings to rule his republic.

In the Bhagavad-gita it is said, panditah sama-darsinah: a wise man sees all living beings with equal vision. But this outlook was not meant just for solitary mystics. The Gita's knowledge was specifically intended for those who governed society.

According to the Vedas, the equality of all living beings lies in their common origin in the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna. In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna states that all living beings are equally His spiritual parts. As the authors of the Declaration of Independence correctly stated five thousand years later, "All men are created equal." Properly understood, this statement refers to the soul, not the body.

Without the presence of the soul, the body is simply a lifeless combination of material elements. The Bhagavad-gita compares the soul to the driver of a machine. So we may see that one man is riding a bicycle and another is driving a car. The first may be going twenty miles per hour and the other, ninety miles per hour. Still another man may be flying a jet airplane. Essentially the drivers are equal, but because of their vehicles they manifest different powers and abilities. Similarly, the soul may be present in a body that is male or female, black or white, Christian or Jewish, crippled or uncrippled. But although the bodies may be different, the souls within are the same.

A government administrator must understand this and help others to understand this, because only this knowledge will free people from suffering. Every material body must grow old, get sick, and die. And then, according to the law of karma, the soul must enter another material body and repeat the process. Understanding this, a leader will be able to act for the citizens' real welfare. Ultimately, this means educating the people in the techniques of self-realization, so that they can be freed from the cycle of birth and death.

A leader lacking this higher knowledge will be unable to see with equal vision. He will make all kinds of distinctions based upon the physical body. And rather than helping the citizens, he will tend to misuse his powerful position to exploit them. Ultimately, the reason so many people were upset about Watt's remarks, was that they revealed, however indirectly, his potential to act in a way injurious to those under his care. And that's not a laughing matter, as Mr. Watt himself found out; it's a disqualification for holding public office. But the big question is, How many more of our public officials have attitudes and perceptions similar to Watt but are more expert in concealing them?

Our National Defense: Up In Smoke?

by Satyaraja dasa

On May 26, 1981, an EA-6B electronic warfare plane crashed on the flight deck of the nuclear carrier Nimitz Medical tests showed that six of the fourteen men killed in the accident had regularly used marijuana and that three were probably high when they died. In a letter to the Los Angeles Times, one Nimitz crew-member wrote: "Sure, a lot of people on this boat smoke grass. So do I. But look around you, friend, look around. Who the hell don't?"

Drug abuse in the armed forces is perhaps the most alarming offshoot of America's leading business—the $60-billion-a-year, illegal-drug industry. A 1973 investigation showed that ten percent of U.S. troops on the front lines in West Germany were using heroin monthly, or more often. And a Department of Defense study this year reveals that fifty percent of the enlisted men surveyed use drugs or alcohol on duty.

Widespread drug abuse—in the armed forces and elsewhere—indicates that the average citizen's day-to-day life is devoid of satisfaction. This lack of satisfaction, the Bhagavad-gita says, stems from our ignorance of the soul's eternal relationship with the Supreme Person, Krsna. Krsna is the reservoir of all pleasure, and a good dose of Krsna consciousness would put America's biggest industry out of business.

The Auto Industry:
Going Nowhere Fast

by Mathuresa dasa

The 170 million motor vehicles registered in the United States pump 80 million tons of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and hydrocarbons into the air annually. Auto exhaust accounts for most of the smog that hangs over U.S. cities, and that smog is a major cause of emphysema, bronchitis, lung cancer, cardiovascular disorders, and asthma. By rough calculation, breathing the air in New York City is as likely to cause lung cancer as smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.

Eighty years ago, when the automotive industry was just getting under way, no one foresaw that motor vehicles would cause so much pollution. On the contrary, early enthusiasts hailed the auto as a remedy for pollution and other urban maladies. At the turn of the century, horse-drawn carts and carriages with steel-rimmed wheels clattered along the cobblestone streets, creating a sometimes intolerable din. Horse manure littered city streets, and the resulting fumes irritated nasal passages and lungs. Dried horse dung gave rise to a kind of dust that medical authorities blamed for the dysentery and diarrhea plaguing city children. Tetanus was thought to be introduced into the cities in horse fodder, and thirty communicable diseases, including typhoid, were linked to horses and horse excreta.

Automobiles, many argued, would eliminate the horses, horse manure, smelly and unsightly stables, as well as the cobblestone streets that provided the necessary footing and traction for horses. As a Scientific American article explained in 1899: "The improvement in city conditions by the general adoption of the motorcar can hardly be overestimated. Streets clean, dustless and odorless, with light rubber tired vehicles moving noiselessly over their smoothe expanse, would eliminate a greater part of the nervousness, distraction, and strain of modern metropolitan life."

Not only would automobiles reduce urban stress, but they would create an alternative to urban living. The auto would enable workers to spend the day at their factories and offices in the city and live in the countryside miles away. "Imagine a healthier race of workingmen," the Dearborn Independent exhorted its readers in 1904, "who, in the late afternoon, glide away in their own comfortable vehicles to their little farms or houses in the country. . . . " As Henry Ford put it, "We shall solve the city problem by leaving the city."

The growth of the auto industry did spark a suburban real estate boom, as well as rapid growth in the steel, rubber, plate glass, and other related industries. Between 1910 and 1927, 15 million Model T's rolled off the Ford Motor Company's assembly lines, and the nation laid down hundreds of thousands of miles of paved streets and highways. Both directly and indirectly, the automotive industry contributed greatly to the prosperity of the twenties.

From the start, however, the disadvantages of motor transport were apparent. By the early 1920s, auto traffic in American cities was one of the major problems of the day. And in 1924 alone, 23,600 people, including 10,000 children, died in auto accidents. The number of deaths rose each year—to 40,000 by 1940 and to 50,000 by 1965. Since 1965, despite the enforcement of Federal auto safety standards, the figure has remained around 50,000 a year. All told, more Americans have died in motor vehicle accidents than in all the wars America has fought.

In terms of the economy as well, the benefits of the auto industry are questionable. Auto production contributed significantly to the wealth of the Roaring Twenties, but when the market became glutted around 1926, production fell off. This, of course, affected the national economy, and some economists point to the leveling of the auto market in the late twenties as a major factor in the stock market crash of 1929.

Today motor transportation is so intricately woven into the fabric of our life that it's hard to imagine doing without it. The auto not only allows us to live miles from our places of work, our schools, our shopping centers, and our recreational facilities—it forces us to. People can no longer spend their days near home and family. The automotive industry has disrupted and divided our lives and made us dependent on our expensive, dangerous, smog-belching vehicles. We spend an enormous amount of time and money to purchase and maintain our cars, and they, in turn, exert an enormous influence on our lives. So the question might be raised: "Who's driving whom?"

And yet, dependent as we are on our automobiles, we may have to do without them, at least to some extent. Motor vehicles in the United States guzzled almost 115 billion gallons of gasoline in 1980, and many authorities fear that at that rate, the supply can't last long.

But would the loss of the automobile be a blow to progress, or would it be a blessing? The Srimad-Bhagavatam points out that although what we so often refer to as progress—developing a "higher standard of living"—may raise some standards, it lowers others. And the bad effects of such "progress" cancel the good effects. The higher speed of automobiles over horse-drawn vehicles, for example, has brought with it a disproportionate lowering of safety and health standards.

Progress toward material happiness, the Srimad-Bhagavatam states, is always illusory. Endeavors for such progress "result only in a loss of time and energy, with no actual profit." (Bhag. 7.6.4) And that's no exaggeration. Try subtracting the millions killed and maimed in auto accidents from the billions of dollars the auto industry has added to the gross national product. At best, you get zero.

Not only is material advancement unprofitable, but "the results one obtains are inevitably the opposite of those one desires." (Bhag. 7.7.41) For example, such a formidable health menace as air pollution from auto exhaust is the result of attempts to improve public health and the urban environment. And if we think we can escape from auto exhaust by adopting, say, electric cars, or solar cars, we will find other disadvantages to contend with. That's the nature of material progress.

In addition to being self-defeating, material progress diverts our attention from spiritual progress. The Vedas recommend, therefore, that instead of wasting time pursuing illusory material progress, people should live simply and peacefully, devoting their time, energy, and creative intelligence to the service of the Supreme Person, Krsna, and thus free themselves from the cycle of birth and death. Until we are free from the miseries of repeated birth and death, there is no question of a higher standard of living.

A devotee of Krsna will admit that, as things stand now, the automobile is a practical necessity, and he'll use the automobile to take Krsna consciousness to every city and town. But he doesn't mistakenly see the auto as a symbol of progress. He sees that when you tally up all the automotive industry's balance sheets, you find an extremely poor business record: eighty years of hard work—and no profit.

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Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out

A Less-Than-Doggish Civilization

The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place in July 1975 on an early-morning walk in San Francisco.

Devotee: Srila Prabhupada, one of the scientists who invented the hydrogen bomb was lamenting recently that young people are not so interested in science anymore.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The scientists cannot solve the problems of birth and death. So the young people are becoming saner. "What is the use of wasting our time in this way?" they think. "Science cannot solve any real problems." That is good sense. Is this professor still alive?

Devotee: Yes, he's still living.

Srila Prabhupada: So ask him to invent some bomb that will prevent death. Tell him, "People are already dying, and you have invented something to make them die wholesale. Now invent something that people can take so they'll never have to die. Can you do that? No? Then we are no longer interested in your science."

Go to this professor and tell him, "You are regretting that we young men are no longer interested in science. This is the reason: Since when we die everything will be finished, what is the use of studying your science? You have not improved anything. The animals are taking birth and dying, and we are also taking birth and dying. What is the essential difference? So your science is all false propaganda. We are no longer interested."

Devotee: In Los Angeles you said that in twenty-five years science will be finished.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, it is already finished. Their so-called religion is also finished, and their so-called politics is also finished. Because they have finished with God, everything of theirs will soon be finished—zero, only zero.

Devotee: The whole of human civilization, Srila Prabhupada?

Srila Prabhupada: Where is that civilization? The mother is killing the child in the womb. Is that civilization? Where is their civilization? It is a less-than-doggish civilization. Dogs will not kill their offspring. Nonsense rascals! They are encouraging the mother to kill the child in the womb, and they're claiming this is a civilization. They are less than dogs and cats. The dogs and cats try to protect their young. Do you know that? The cats carry their kittens from one place to another so that the male cat may not kill them. The tigers also give protection to their young.

Devotee: Even the rats do that.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, a mother's affection for her child is natural. But now the so-called civilized mothers are killing their children. This is your civilization. And this is your religion, your science, your philosophy—everything. This "civilization" is finished unless people take to Krsna consciousness.

[Pointing to pine cones on the ground] What are these?

Devotee: These are pine cones, Srila Prabhupada. They are the seeds of the pine tree.

Srila Prabhupada: Let's see the scientists produce one seed like that. Where is the scientist who can do that? Millions of living beings are born every second, yet they are trying for years together to manufacture one living being in the laboratory and take credit for creating life. What is their credit, even if they succeed? Already millions and trillions of living beings are being born every day. These scientists who try to create life are fools, and the people they are fooling are also fools.

Devotee: They say they can explain creation without God. They say everything has come from Mother Nature.

Srila Prabhupada: But without a father, can a woman give birth? Where is the father? Ask these rascal scientists this question.

Devotee: Sometimes they say that God is now dead.

Srila Prabhupada: But even if a man's father is dead, that does not mean the man has taken birth without a father. That you cannot say. The father may be dead—that we'll discuss at a later date. But first you have to accept that a woman cannot give birth without a father. Who is that father?

Devotee: Nature has created everything on her own. Originally things began by some chance combination of atoms and molecules.

Srila Prabhupada: Anyone who says this creation began by chance is a rascal. Nothing takes place by chance. The answer is in the Bhagavad-gita, where Krsna says, bijam mam sarva-bhutanam: "I am the original seed of all existences." Challenge these rascals. They're cheating so many people.

Devotee: Now the scientists are studying the atom, Srila Prabhupada, and they agree—

Srila Prabhupada: First of all let us know what good they have actually done. They are proposing so much nonsense—that nature is working independently, that human beings have descended from the apes—but have they released us from the clutches of the material nature? Even if you accept that there is no God and that nature is supreme, you are still subordinate. You are not independent. This is also explained in the Bhagavad-gita [3.27]: "Everything is going on by the control of Krsna's material energy, but those who are fools and rascals think that they are independently doing everything." Why are you thinking you are independent? The material nature is pulling you by the ear: "Come here!" You cannot say, "I will not become an old man. I'll not die." You must become old and die. Even if you accept only the existence of nature but not God, you still must accept nature's authority. Where is your independence?

Devotee: That is why they're engaged in science—to master nature.

Srila Prabhupada: That is another foolishness. And we shall be misled by these rascals? They promise everything for the future. "Yes, in the future we'll do this. In the future we'll do that." Postdated check. "I'll give you a million-dollar check dated six months from now. Take it." Only the fool will be satisfied: "Now I am rich."

Devotee: So the check from the scientist returns stamped "Insufficient Funds."

Srila Prabhupada: Not "Insufficient Funds"—"No Funds."

Devotee: Account closed.

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Every Town and Village

A look at the worldwide activities of the
International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)

New Temple for ISKCON Vancouver

Vancouver—After five years of patient effort and a heroic last-minute marathon, the devotees of the ISKCON center here have completed building an ornate Vedic-style temple for their worshipable Deities, Sri Sri Radha-Madana-mohana. (Krsna's name, Madana-mohan, means "supreme enchanter.")

The temple is on an eight-acre plot in the quiet suburb of Burnaby, a thirty-minute drive from downtown Vancouver. Since 1978, when the devotees acquired the property, they had wanted to build a temple. But not until a year and a half ago, when architects Om and Jyoti Sharma began lending a hand, did the project really get going. The Sharmas, a husband-and-wife team who had come to Vancouver from India, felt inspired to help the devotees build a temple for Lord Krsna.

With the help of the Sharmas and under the direction of Bahudaka dasa, leader of the Vancouver ISKCON center, the pace of the construction began to quicken last January. But a sinking foundation seemed to threaten the projected opening date—August 31, Lord Krsna's birthday.

Srila Gopala Krsna Goswami Bhagavatapada, one of the present spiritual masters in ISKCON and director for ISKCON's affairs in Canada, commented: "This Vancouver property is a gem—only a short ride from the city, but in a country atmosphere. It was imperative that we construct a beautiful palace for Sri Sri Radha-Madana-mohana, which would make this facility complete and a wonderful beacon of Krsna consciousness. It had to be finished."

Yet with only three weeks left, the goal seemed out of reach. All the stained-glass panes and ornately decorated mirrors just couldn't be completed on time—or so it seemed. As for the 2,400-square-foot marble floor, Dharmarupa dasa reported, "Every professional floor-layer said it wasn't possible. But every day for the last ten days our all-devotee floor crew worked from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. the next morning, and they got the job done. At the opening, one of the professionals who had laughed earlier was amazed. He said we'd performed a miracle." Another miracle happened when the landscaping crew turned the dusty, untidy terrain into orderly lawns and walkways. In one night they laid a football field's worth of turf. And as for the sinking of the foundation—it stopped.

The grand opening, advertised all over the city, attracted six thousand guests. Burnaby's mayor, William Le Warne, was there, along with "the Right Honorable Svend Robinson, of the Canadian parliament. Mr. Bimala K. Mitra, the Indian consul general, and the Honorable Elwood Veitch, of British Columbia's legislative assembly, also attended.

The festivities included chanting, plays, and a sumptuous feast of krsna-prasadam (food offered to Krsna). Adding to the evening's highlights, a helicopter flew over the grounds and showered the petals of ten thousand flowers upon the celebrants. Finally, at midnight, the fountains were turned on and the curtains opened to reveal Sri Sri Radha-Madana-mohana on Their shimmering new altar.

Mr. Robinson summed up the collective sentiment during his address: "This palace is a hidden gem in our community. It is a beautiful building. But there is another beauty that transcends its beauty, and that is the rich spiritual beauty of this community of devotees. The peace and harmony that form the basis of the Vedic teachings must, I believe, be spread throughout our community. And I feel that God consciousness, as exemplified in this temple, will spread throughout the land."

The devotees of the Vancouver ISKCON center have drawn up plans for a vegetarian restaurant and a museum, which will complement the temple and create a cultural and spiritual oasis for British Columbians.

Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Receives Gita

Kadoma, Zimbabwe—Prime Minister R. G. Mugabe, while visiting the annual Kadoma Agricultural Show. received several volumes of Srila Prabhupada's books from Hare Krsna devotees. The prime minister had just addressed a large gathering and was touring the exhibits, when devotees garlanded him and then presented him with Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is, The Science of Self-Realization, and several other books. Devotees also gave the prime minister a letter of commendation and offered assistance in solving problems among the nation's youth. At the Harare Agricultural Show, a week later, Zimbabwe's president, the Honorable C. S. Banana, also received a set of Srila Prabhupada's books.

ISKCON Hosts World Council of Churches Delegates

Vancouver—Recently, ISKCON's director for interreligious affairs, Subhananda dasa, attended the Sixth Assembly of the World Council of Churches at the University of British Columbia. The WCC, which meets only once every seven or eight years, is the world's largest international federation of Christian churches, representing most Protestant and Orthodox denominations, which together claim 400 million members. Its three hundred affiliated church organizations come from more than one hundred countries.

As a representative of ISKCON, Subhananda attended many plenary sessions, interreligious symposia, and related ecclesiastical and cultural events along with members of the official Hindu delegation. Subhananda dialogued with church leaders and other delegates from all over the world, including the Reverend Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual leader of the world's 70 million Anglicans. Noticing that Subhananda's wife, Sitarani-devi dasi, was a native of Great Britain, the Archbishop inquired how the Hare Krsna movement was faring in England. Sitarani explained that the English—perhaps due to England's strong historical ties to India—tend to accept Hare Krsna devotees more than people of some other Western countries. The Archbishop spoke of the sincerity of Western Krsna devotees and gratefully accepted a copy of Subhananda's recent book, Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna: Five Distinguished Scholars on the Krishna Movement in the West.

One of the most important of a series of events held in conjunction with the WCC assembly was a special interfaith gathering at the local ISKCON community in Burnaby, British Columbia, attended by thirty prominent representatives of non-Christian faiths—official guests of the WCC—along with a number of important Christian delegates.

Hindu guests included Shrivatsa Goswami, director of the Sri Caitanya Prema Sansthana in Vrndavana, India; Dr. Anant Anand Rambachan of the University of Leeds, England; and Dr. Sita Nambiar, president of Daulat Ram College of Delhi University.

Among the distinguished Moslem guests were Dr. Inamullah Khan, secretary general of the World Moslem Conference and international vice-president of the World Conference on Religion for Peace; Shaykh Yusaf Khan Shakirov, an important Soviet Moslem leader; Dr. Mohamed Talbi, a distinguished Islamic theologian from Tunisia; and Aziz Khaki, president of the Pacific Interfaith Association of British Columbia.

Jewish guests included Rabbi Robert Sternberg, director of interreligious affairs for the Canadian Jewish Congress, and Mrs. Fredelle Brief, national president (for Canada) of the World Conference on Religion for Peace.

Other non-Christian participants included Reverend Abbess Fung Wing Ming, a Buddhist scholar and abbess of the Por Yea Buddhist nunnery in Hong Kong; Dr. Gopal Singh, former Indian ambassador, former member of parliament, current chairman of the Indian government's Commission on Minorities, and a Sikh leader; and Mr. Art Solomon, a Canadian spiritual leader.

Among Western Christian guests were Mrs. Pauline Webb, a former member of the Central Committee of the WCC and coordinator of overseas religious programming for the BBC (Mrs. Webb delivered the keynote address for the Sixth Assembly); Reverend Marcus Braybrooke, chairman of the World Congress of Faiths and co-editor of World Faiths Insight; and Dr. John Berthrong, associate secretary for interfaith dialogue for the United Church of Canada.

Other Christians were Reverend Dr. M. M. Thomas of South India, former Chairman of the central committee of the WCC, director for twenty years of the Institute for Religion and Society in Bangalore, India, and currently part-time professor of social ethics at Princeton Theological Seminary; Reverend Sushil Adhikary, president of the Bangladesh Baptist Sangha; and Reverend Samuel Ngcobo, general secretary of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa.

The guests toured ISKCON Vancouver's beautiful new Radha-Krsna temple, participated in a worship ceremony, and viewed the award-winning film Vrndavana, Land of Krsna. After the film, all partook of a twelve-course, gourmet Indian vegetarian feast and enjoyed the warm, festive atmosphere of the community. Many of the delegates expressed appreciation for the opportunity to learn more about the Krsna consciousness movement and praised the industriousness and devotion of the local community members. Each guest received complimentary copies of various ISKCON publications and a copy of Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna.

As Subhananda dasa, who convened and hosted the event, later remarked, "Almost every one of the guests commented to me or to one of the other devotees present how pleased they were to have had the chance to see the Hare Krsna movement close up and to witness its authenticity and vitality. Many of them promised, as religious leaders, to convey their impressions to their own religious communities around the world."

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Festival of the Chariots USA

Here comes the Lord of the Universe—
and the chance of a lifetime . . .

by Mathuresa Dasa

The three towering chariots, their brightly colored silk canopies billowing, glide slowly down streets that on every other day of the year are reserved for a heavy traffic of cars, trucks, and buses. The chariots proceed in single file, a colorful, majestic caravan. Before each chariot, young men in white and saffron robes play double-headed drums and brass hand-cymbals, leading the crowd in dancing and in a loud, uproarious chant: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

The seven-foot-high wheels roll forward as men, women, and children tug the chariots' thick ropes and look back over their shoulders at the mountainous vehicles. Hindu businessmen are there with their wives, their children, and even their mothers, earnestly straining at the task. Locals and out-of-towners alike join in. Some have come hundreds of miles to take part in the festival.

On the sidelines, onlookers watch the joyous spectacle. Some faces, set with indifference a few minutes before, now break into big grins. Others look puzzled. People are wondering, "What's going on? Where did those big carts come from? Why the tumult?"

In case you're among the puzzled, the celebration is called Ratha-yatra, the Festival of the Chariots, a religious festival observed annually for thousands of years in India. This festival commemorates one of the pastimes of Lord Sri Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, during His appearance on earth five thousand years ago. Although Lord Krsna is the origin of the entire cosmos, He regularly appears within it, playing the part of a human being, while at the same time exhibiting the powers and opulences of His supreme position. The purpose of His pastimes on earth is to reestablish the essence of all religious principles—unalloyed love for God.

During His earthly pastimes fifty centuries ago, Lord Krsna, accompanied by His brother Balarama and sister Subhadra, visited Kuruksetra, a holy site in north central India. There Lord Krsna met with His friends and relatives from Vrndavana, who dearly wanted Him to return with them to Vrndavana, Krsna's childhood home. The feelings of love for Krsna expressed by the residents of Vrndavana is the theme of the Festival of the Chariots. "Ratha-yatra," Srila Prabhupada writes, "is the emotional process of taking Krsna back to Vrndavana."

The Ratha-yatra festival, therefore, gives everyone a chance to remember and to celebrate Krsna's pastimes. The deity forms of Jagannatha (Krsna), Balarama, and Subhadra, who ride upon the three chariots in the Ratha-yatra parade, were carved in memory of Krsna's Kuruksetra visit. Although these forms are made of wood, they are not idols—false or imaginary objects of worship—but are authorized incarnations of the Absolute Truth, who consents to appear in such forms at the request of His pure devotees. Enthusiastic participants in the Festival of the Chariots experience a blissful transcendental reciprocation with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, in these deity forms. According to the Bhavisya Purana, whoever joins in the Ratha-yatra parade and festival will be elevated to the kingdom of God.

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada introduced Ratha-yatra to the West in 1968 in San Francisco. Since then the festival has spread to many cities in the United States, South America, Europe, Australia—and even India, where ISKCON Ratha-yatra festivals have given new life to the ancient tradition.

ISKCON devotees take pleasure in the months of planning and hard work that go into making the festivals a success. They understand that, of all welfare activities, the distribution of Krsna consciousness is the most beneficial for everyone. A plate of ordinary food may help the hungry, and ordinary singing and dancing may cheer the sullen, but tasting food offered to Krsna and singing and dancing in glorification of Him is transcendental and gradually delivers one from all distress.

Last summer and fall, ISKCON devotees in North America staged major Ratha-yatra festivals in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, New York, Boston, and Vancouver. At the end of each parade the carts rolled into festival sites, where the devotees entertained thousands of guests with transcendental music, lectures, exhibits on reincarnation and Vedic culture, and continuous vegetarian feasting.

The Ratha-yatra festivals now appearing annually in cities around the world are a unique opportunity for all of us. More than occasions for mere merrymaking, the offer us the chance to glorify and celebrate the pastimes of the Supreme Lord and to develop our dormant Krsna consciousness. So the next time you see those huge, colorful chariots rolling down the street, surrounded by singing, dancing crowds—join in! It's the chance of a lifetime.

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When God Takes Sides

In former times Lord Krsna would personally participate in the cosmic struggle between good and evil. What can He do in these days of moral ambiguity?

by Ravindra-Svarupa Dasa

These days most people think it simple-minded to see the world as an arena where the forces of good contest the forces of evil. We no longer view things in black and white but shades of grey; we have become used to moral ambiguity, and for good reasons, we are wary of the claim that "God is on our side." When Reagan called the Soviet Union an "evil empire," I was not alone in feeling uneasy—uneasy not because I like Russia, but because Reagan seemed far too unaware that the United States has not been, by contrast, all sweetness and light.

Indeed, our modern world more and more seems to be a bleak place where evil simply battles evil, a place of furious struggles where the victory of any party is a disaster. True, people are a mixture of good and bad, but somehow the mechanisms of modern civilization increasingly seem to subvert the good and employ it for vile ends. Consider Albert Einstein's desire to plumb nature's truths—which to him meant understanding the mind of God. How did it happen that such a pristine urge resulted in the most demonic weapons of war? And this was facilitated by leaders who sincerely wanted nothing but peace.

Under the circumstances, our longing for the moral simplicity of unambiguous good contesting an equally unambiguous evil is understandable. I'm sure such a longing contributed to the vast popularity of the Star Wars films. Of course, we seek in fantasy what we don't find in reality. Yet I am convinced that this paradigm of the contest between good and evil is much more than a fantasy, much more than an expression of nostalgia for a lost political innocence. It reflects, rather, a basic feature of the real world, and one we still need to attend to.

This is how the Vedic sage Vyasa saw it. When he relates in the Srimad-Bhagavatam the histories of Krsna's various appearances in this world in ages long past, the pattern clearly emerges. On the side of the good we have the suras, the godly, and on the opposite side the asuras, the ungodly; and a great cosmic contest between these two parties has been seething since the beginning of the universe.

The suras, according to this account, are servants of God, devoted to furthering God's purpose in the world. God created the world for the reclamation of the fallen souls, who meet with repeated birth and death as they transmigrate through various species of life. When a soul is at last promoted to a human birth, he has a chance to become free from this round of birth and death altogether and return to the kingdom of God for an eternal life of perfect knowledge and bliss. Such freedom comes by properly developing the full consciousness characteristic of the human form. This developed consciousness, which permanently ends all material miseries, is called Krsna consciousness. A Krsna conscious person no longer wrongly identifies himself with his material body, having directly realized his own nature as an eternal spiritual being, and he uses his mind and senses solely to satisfy God. Without Krsna consciousness, we misidentify ourselves with the material body, as animals do, and, like animals, we act merely to satisfy material desire. And because we have failed to realize our human potential, we remain interred in the world of the dying.

The principal task of the suras is to maintain the normative form of human civilization, established by God, that nurtures Krsna consciousness. The standard books of knowledge of such a civilization, teaching the science of self-realization, are the Vedic literatures. Where there is no Vedic culture, no one is released from birth and death, and God's purpose in creating the world is frustrated.

The asuras, in contrast, labor under the profound misconception that happiness can be achieved not by self-realization but by sense gratification. While the suras, under Vedic direction, engage all natural and human resources in the service of God, the demonic asuras use God's property for their own enjoyment. In their hands, science becomes a tool to subjugate and control all resources systematically; thus their aim is to usurp the position of God Himself. They are naturally opposed to the stewardship of the Lord's representatives, and so try to depose the suras time and again.

In the days when a well-established Vedic civilization would be assaulted by the asuras, there was an unambiguous struggle between good and evil. Since suras are inherently humble and meek and asuras ruthless and brutally efficient, in the natural course of events the suras would have been unfailingly crushed. But they were not, because time and again their supernatural ally and ultimate protector—God Himself—would intervene and reverse the course of events. Just as from the friction between two sticks of wood, fire appears, so from the friction between suras and asuras, God appears. Krsna states in Bhagavad-gita (4.7-8) the reason for His occasional descents: "Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice . . . and a predominant rise of irreligion—at that time I descend Myself. To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to establish the principles of religion, I Myself appear millennium after millennium.

At the time Krsna appeared and spoke the Bhagavad-gita, the whole world had been oppressed by an alliance of asuras, who had siezed political power and had built up huge military forces. The head of this demonic alliance was an unscrupulous tyrant named Kamsa. Krsna took birth as Kamsa's own nephew, and when Kamsa received prophetic warning that one of his sister's children would eventually kill him, he imprisoned his sister and her husband and killed her children as soon as they were born, one by one. But Krsna escaped and was hidden away to grow up in the country among cowherds.

At the age of sixteen, however, Krsna deliberately walked into a trap set for Him by Kamsa, a wrestling match Kamsa had arranged in his capital. This was not the sporting event it seemed; the wrestlers were trained killers with orders to slay the youthful Krsna. But Krsna vanquished the bone-crushers and then, dragging the astonished tyrant from his throne, slew him with a single blow. Thereafter, as a ksatriya, a member of the royal order, Krsna defeated Kamsa's allies in battle, one after another, thus ridding the world of its violent and unholy oppressors.

While some love God and others hate Him, God Himself is ultimately impartial and equally beneficent to all. Because He is a person. He responds according to the way we approach Him, and thus He is perceived as amiable or inimical. Yet those like Kamsa, whom Krsna slays, are liberated by virtue of their direct contact with the all-auspicious Personality of Godhead. Thus a victory by Krsna is a victory for everyone—sura and asura alike.

In these rough times, we no longer see the clear-cut distinction between sura and asura. The gradual triumph of secular culture and the erosion of spiritual values has affected nearly everyone. The godly tendency in people is baffled by lack of encouragement and direction and is co-opted by the institutions of a materialistic culture. Even religion has been subverted, for it usually tries to persuade God to gratify our desires, rather than to teach us to satisfy His; it aims at enlisting God on our side rather than at showing us how to be on His. Stevenson's parable claimed that a bestial Mr. Hyde is hidden—as the name suggests—in every Dr. Jekyll, but now it seems that Mr. Hyde is on the loose, and the good doctor doesn't know how to get out.

Most of us are innocent, but because of the detrimental effects of this age, we act like asuras, simply because we don't know of any alternative. If Krsna were to act now just as He did in former times, coming with bow or sword or ax to destroy the asuras, we would all be liable to His chastisement. Therefore, when Krsna appeared five hundred years ago as Lord Caitanya to reinact His historic mission for our own age, His divine weapon was the Hare Krsna mantra. This weapon destroys the demonic mentality. Even though this mentality has infected practically everyone, those who are basically godly will be attracted by the chanting of Hare Krsna, and it will purify their consciousness of all asuric imposition. Thus Vedic culture will gradually be reestablished all over the world for the salvation of all living beings.

If things go on as they have been, however, there will finally be no real contrast between godless communism and godless capitalism; both sides will be guided entirely by asuric interests. Even now, both sides are locked into the deployment of increasingly terrifying weapons, a situation anticipated by Krsna, who said that asuras characteristically "engage in unbeneficial, horrible works meant to destroy the world" (Bg. 16.9). But we are fortunate to be living in the era of Lord Caitanya, who offers us an alternative. Because of that, we may look forward to the fulfillment of the poet W. B. Yeats's prophetic words concerning modern man:

Now his wars on God begin;
At stroke of midnight God shall win.

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Notes from the Editor

Observations on "The Vedic Observer"

Regular readers of BACK TO GODHEAD will notice the new format for "The Vedic Observer." These articles and pithy illustrations offer Krsna conscious commentary on the issues of the day. Already this has become one of our most popular features, proving the relevance of the Krsna conscious viewpoint.

If you're a person who follows world events with an analytical eye, don't dismiss "The Vedic Observer" simply because it gives the spiritual or absolute viewpoint. Even if you regard yourself as a secular, objective judge of world events, you have to formulate some point of view—democratic, Marxist, humanistic, or whatever. The viewpoints in "The Vedic Observer" are based on a profound, ancient science of God consciousness, and they deserve at least as much careful attention as the various viewpoints of our ordinary commentators and political analysts with their varied slants on the news. Yes, Krsna conscious reporting is also from a particular viewpoint—the viewpoint of the Absolute Truth.

In expressing his admiration for America's news media, essayist E. B. White remarked, "The beauty of the American free press is that the slants and the twists and the distortions come from so many directions, and special interests are so numerous, the reader must sift and sort and check and countercheck in order to find out what the score is. This he does."

The obvious difficulty here is whether the average American is qualified to sift and sort and check and countercheck and arrive at anything more than confusion. Or he may conclude that since everyone else's views are petty and self-interested, he might as well do the same and not even try for a higher standard of justice or objectivity.

"The Vedic Observer," however, allows the reader to see his world through the eyes of transcendental knowledge. Most people keep up with world events through newspapers, news magazines, radio, and television, but such mundane coverage is presented through the mind and eyes of conditioned souls. According to Vedic knowledge, all conditioned souls have four defects: they make mistakes, they become illusioned, they sometimes cheat, and their senses are imperfect. "The Vedic Observer," however, is above these defects, because it is fully grounded in transcendental knowledge. If—without knowledge of the Supreme, the eternal self, and the ultimate goal of life—we analyze current events, we may increase our stock of facts, but not our depth of understanding these facts.

"The Vedic Observer" bares problems to their very root and provides solutions—something no ordinary news editorial can do. Consider the vitriolic column by George Will in Newsweek on the Korean Air Lines tragedy. Mr. Will angrily criticized what he considered an inadequate response from President Reagan to the Soviets, and he suggested more radical measures—a break in diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, a grain embargo, and so on. But he couldn't offer any explanation as to why enmity between nations exists.

From the Krsna conscious viewpoint, however, we can see that nationalism is the culprit, because the people of a nation so strongly identify with their land, without any reference to the supreme proprietor. God. Only the Krsna conscious viewpoint can show how to alleviate international enmity, because only by Krsna consciousness can people transcend their superficial differences and come to the spiritual platform, the only platform of unity. For a commentator like Mr. Will, nationalism is an axiomatic truth, yet such a "truth" is the very cause extensions between one nation and another. All lands belong to God, and until we can realize this and act accordingly, we cannot have united nations or world peace.

"The Vedic Observer," unlike most editorial pages, has no political ax to grind. The Korean Air Lines tragedy, for example, was reported in the Soviet Union only sketchily, and in such a way as to serve the propaganda interests of the ruling elite. Americans pity the misinformed Russian people and are outraged at the Soviet government. And yet Americans are also receiving news with a certain slant. But "The Vedic Observer," being transcendental, is automatically free from political, racial, or religious bias.

"The Vedic Observer" is also practical because it gives the reader advice in dealing with today's problems. One of last month's editorials dealt with the Korean Air Lines incident in terms of how the members of one family began to change their lives for the cause of world peace and saw how the lives of millions of others could be changed by Krsna consciousness. Another editorial aimed directly at the futility of gambling. Such essays prod the reader to do something, to change his life by taking up God consciousness.

A Krsna conscious writer follows the news just like anyone else, but because of his transcendental insights, he's able to provide solutions. Certainly everyone knows already the Soviets and the Americans have enough weapons to destroy each other and the whole world, so what is more important—knowing this or knowing how to stop it? World problems need realistic solutions, not simply detailed reporting, and this is the unique and valuable contribution of the Krsna conscious writer.

"The Vedic Observer" is the most relevant commentary, because it draws on the most authoritative information, the directions given by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna. As IBM has computer handbooks and as General Motors has auto handbooks, so God provides a handbook, the Vedic literature, as an operator's manual to guide us in utilizing the material energy wisely and profitably. Devotee-writers see behind the complex picture of world events the illusory material energy, the innumerable spiritual souls, the laws of karma, and ultimately the supreme controller, Krsna. If a news commentator is ignorant of these, then everything he says will be incorrect. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, "While speaking learned words, you are talking like a fool." The devotee-writer does not make this mistake. He does not speak without reference to God's handbook, and therefore, he does not mislead others.


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