Arduous yoga processes offer heavenly enjoyment
A lecture by
"The yogic situation is that of detachment from all sensual engagements. Closing all the doors of the senses and fixing the mind on the heart and the life air at the top of the head, one establishes himself in yoga." (Bhagavad-gita 8.1-2)
There are different kinds of transcendentalists, or yogis: the jnana-yogi, the dhyana-yogi, and the bhakti-yogi. All of them are eligible to be transferred to the spiritual world, because the yoga system is meant for reestablishing our link with the Supreme Lord.
Actually we are eternally connected with the Supreme Lord, but somehow or other we are now entangled in material contamination. So the process is that we have to go back again. That linking process is called yoga.
The actual meaning of the word yoga is "plus." Now, at the present moment, we are minus God, minus the Supreme. But when we make ourselves plus, or connected with God, then our human form of life is perfect.
[In the true yoga meditation system, practiced in former ages, the aspiring transcendentalist was advised to retire to a secluded place in the jungles or mountains to perform austerities. Sitting erect and practicing breath control, completely free from sex and other material activities, the yogi gradually gave up even eating and sleeping. As he approached perfection, he raised himself—the soul—by means of the life airs, to the top of the head, then burst through the skull and transfered himself to any material planet he desired—or to the eternal spiritual world. The entire process takes hundreds of years to complete and is practically impossible in this age.]
By the time death comes, we must reach that stage of perfection. As long as we are alive, we have to practice how to approach that point of perfection. And at the time of death, when we give up this material body, that perfection must be realized. Prayana-kale manasacalena. Prayana-kale means "at the time of death." For instance, a student may prepare two years, three years, or four years in his college education, and the final test is his examination. If he passes the examination, then he gets his degree. Similarly, if we prepare for the examination of death and we pass the examination, then we are transferred to the spiritual world. All that we have learned in life is examined at the time of death. So here in the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna is describing what we should do at the point of death, when we are giving up this present body.
For the dhyana-yogis, the prescription is: sarva-dvarani samyamya mano hrdi nirudhya ca. In the technical language of the yoga system, this process is called pratyahara. Pratyahara means "just the opposite." For example, suppose my eyes are engaged in seeing worldly beauty. So I would have to refrain from enjoying that external beauty and instead engage in meditation to see the beauty within. That is called pratyahara. Similarly, I would have to hear omkara—the sound representation of the Lord—from within. And in the same way, all the senses must be withdrawn from their external activities and engaged in meditation on God. That is the perfection of dhyana-yoga: to concentrate the mind on Visnu, or God. The mind is very agitating. So it has to "be fixed on the heart: mano hrdi nirudhya. Then we have to transfer the life air to the top of the head: murdhny adhayatmanah pranam asthito yoga-dharanam. That is the perfection of yoga.
A perfect dhyana-yogi can choose his own destination after death. There are innumerable material planets, and beyond the material planets is the spiritual world. Yogis have information about all the different planets. Where did they get this information? From the scriptures. From the Vedic literature. For instance, before I came to your country, I got the description of your country from books. Similarly, we can get the descriptions of higher planets and the spiritual world from the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
The yogi knows everything, and he can transfer himself to any planet he likes. He does not require the help of any spaceship. The scientists have been trying to reach other planets for so many years with their spaceships, and they will go on trying for one hundred or one thousand years. But they'll never be successful. Rest assured. This is not the process to reach another planet. Maybe, by scientific progress, one man or two men can succeed, but that is not the general process. The general process is that if you want to transfer yourself to any better planet, then you have to practice this dhyana-yoga system—or the jnana system. But not the bhakti system.
The bhakti system is not meant for attaining any material planet. Those who render devotional service to Krsna, the Supreme Lord, are not interested in any planet of this material world. Why? Because they know that regardless of what planet you elevate yourself to, the four principles of material existence will still be there. What are those principles? Birth, death, disease, and old age. You will find these on any planet you go to. On some higher planets your duration of life may be very, very much longer than on this earth, but still, death is there. Material life means birth, death, disease, and old age. And spiritual life means relief from these botherations. No more birth, no more death, no more ignorance, and no more misery. So those who are intelligent do not try to elevate themselves to any planet of this material world.
Now the scientists are trying to reach the moon planet, but it is very difficult for them to gain entrance because they do not have a suitable body. But if we enter into the higher planets by this yoga system, then we will get a body suitable for those planets. For every planet there is a suitable body. Otherwise, you cannot enter. For example, although we cannot live in the water with this body, we can live in the water with oxygen tanks—for fifteen or sixteen hours. But the fish, the aquatic animals, have a suitable body—they are living their whole life underwater. And of course, if you take the fish out of the water and put them on the land, they'll die instantly. So you see, even on this planet you have to have a suitable kind of body to live in a particular place. Similarly, if you want to enter into another planet, you have to prepare yourself by getting a particular type of body.
In the higher planets, our year is equal to one day and night, and you live for ten thousand of such years. That is the description in the Vedic literatures. So you get a very long duration of life undoubtedly. But then there is death. There is still death. After ten thousand years, or twenty thousand years, or millions of years—it doesn't matter. It is all counted, and death is there. But you are not subject to death—that is the beginning of Bhagavad-gita. Na hanyate hanyamane sarire: you are an eternal spirit soul.
Why should you subject yourself to this birth and death? To ask this question is a sign of real intelligence. Those persons who are in Krsna consciousness are very intelligent. They aren't interested in promotion to any planet where there is death, regardless of how long you live. They want a spiritual body, just like God's. God's body is sac-cid-ananda-vigraha: isvarah paramah krsnah sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah. Sat means "eternal," cit means "full of knowledge," and ananda means "full of pleasure." If we leave this body and transfer ourselves to the spiritual world—to live with Krsna Himself—then we get a body similar to His: sac-cid-ananda—eternal, full of knowledge, and full of bliss. Those who are trying to be Krsna conscious have a different aim of life than those who are trying to promote themselves to any of the better planets in this material world.
You are a very minute, spiritual particle within this body, and you are being sustained in the prana-vayu, or life airs. The dhyana-yoga system—the sat-cakra system—is to get the soul from its position in the heart to the topmost part of the head. And the perfection is when you can place yourself at the top of the head and, by rupturing this topmost part of the head, transfer yourself into the higher planets, as you like. A dhyana-yogi can transfer into any planet—wherever he likes.
So if you like—just like you are inquisitive about the moon planet—become a yogi and go there. A yogi thinks, "Oh, let me see what the moon planet is like. Then I shall transfer myself to higher planets." It is the same with ordinary travelers. They come to New York, then go to California, then go to Canada. Similarly, you can transfer yourself to so many planets by this yoga system. But anywhere you go, the same systems—visa system and customs system—are there. So a Krsna conscious person is not interested in these temporary planets. Life may be of a long duration, but he is not interested.
For the yogi there is a process how to give up this body:
om ity ekaksaram brahma
At the time of death—"Om . . ."He can pronounce om, the omkara. Omkara is the concise form of transcendental sound vibration. Om ity ekaksaram brahma vyaharan: if he can vibrate this sound, omkara, and at the same time, mam anusmaran, remember Krsna, or Visnu, he can enter into the spiritual kingdom.
The whole yoga system is meant to concentrate the mind on Visnu. But the impersonalists imagine that this omkara is the form of Visnu, or the Lord. Those who are personalists do not imagine. They see the actual form of the Supreme Lord. Anyway, whether you concentrate your mind by imagining or you see factually, you have to fix your mind on the Visnu form. Here mam means "unto the Supreme Lord, Visnu." Yah prayati tyajan deham: Anyone who quits his body remembering Visnu—sa yati paramam gatim—he enters into the spiritual kingdom.
Those who are actual yogis do not desire to enter any other planet in the material world, because they know that life there is temporary. That is intelligence. Those who are satisfied with temporary happiness, temporary life, and temporary facilities are not intelligent, according to the Bhagavad-gita: antavat tu phalam tesam tad bhavaty alpa-medhasam. I am permanent. I am eternal. Who wants non-permanent existence? Nobody wants it.
Suppose you are living in an apartment and the landlord asks you to vacate. You are sorry. But you'll not be sorry if you go to a better apartment. So this is our nature: wherever we live, because we are permanent, we want a permanent residence. That is our inclination. We don't wish to die. Why? Because we are permanent. We don't want to be diseased. These are all artificial, external things—disease, death, birth, miseries. They are external things.
Just like sometimes you are attacked with fever. You are not meant for suffering from fever, but sometimes it comes upon you. So you have to take precautions to get out of it. Similarly, these four kinds of external afflictions—birth, death, disease, and old age—are due to this material body. If we can get out of this material body, we can get out of these implications.
So for the yogi who is an impersonalist, the recommended process is vibrating this transcendental sound, om, and leaving this body. Anyone who is able to quit this material body while uttering the transcendental sound om, with full consciousness of the Supreme Lord, is sure to be transferred to the spiritual world.
But those who are not personalists cannot enter into the spiritual planets. They remain outside. Just like the sunshine and the sun planet. The sunshine is not different from the sun disk. But still the sunshine is not the sun disk. Similarly, those impersonalists who are transferred to the spiritual world remain in the effulgence of the Supreme Lord, which is called the brahmajyoti. Those who are not personalists are placed into the brahmajyoti as one of the minute particles.
We are minute particles, spiritual sparks, and the brahmajyoti is full of such spiritual sparks. So you become one of the spiritual sparks. That is, you merge into the spiritual existence. You keep your individuality, but because you don't want any personal form, you are held there in the impersonal brahmajyoti. Just as the sunshine is small molecules, shining molecules—those who are scientists know—similarly, we are tiny particles smaller than an atom. Our magnitude is one ten-thousandth of the tip of a hair. So that small particle remains in the brahmajyoti.
The difficulty is that, as a living entity, I want enjoyment. Because I am not only simply existing. I have got bliss. I am composed of three spiritual qualities: sac-cid-ananda. I am eternal, and I am full of knowledge, and I am full of bliss. Those who enter into the impersonal effulgence of the Supreme Lord can remain eternally with full knowledge that they are now merged with Brahman, or the brahmajyoti. But they cannot have eternal bliss, because that part is wanting.
If you are confined in a room alone, you may read a book or think some thought, but still you cannot remain alone all the time, for all the years of your life. That is not possible. You'll find some association, some recreation. That is our nature. Similarly, if we merge into the impersonal effulgence of the Supreme Lord, then there is a chance of falling down again to this material world. That is stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.2.32):
ye 'nye 'ravindaksa vimukta-maninas
It's just like the astronauts who go higher and still higher—twenty-five thousand, or thirty thousand, or a hundred thousand miles up. But they have to come to rest on some planet. So coming to rest is required. In the impersonal form the rest is uncertain. Therefore, the Bhagavatam says, aruhya krcchrena param padam tatah. Even after so much endeavor, if the impersonalist gets into the spiritual world and remains in that impersonal form, the risk is patanty adhah, that he comes down into material existence again. Why? Anadrta-yusmad-anghrayah: because he has neglected to serve the Supreme Lord with love and devotion.
So as long as we are here, we have to practice loving Krsna, the Supreme Lord. Then we can enter the spiritual planets. This is the training. If you are not trained in that way, then by impersonal endeavor you can enter into the spiritual kingdom, but there is the risk of falling down again. Because that loneliness will create some disturbance, and you'll try to have association. And because you have no association with the Supreme Lord, you'll have to come back and associate with this material world.
So better that we know the nature of our constitutional position. Our constitutional position is that we want eternity, we want complete knowledge, and we want pleasure also. If we are kept alone, we cannot have pleasure. We'll feel uncomfortable, and for want of pleasure we'll accept any kind of material pleasure. That is the risk. But in Krsna consciousness, we'll have full pleasure. The highest pleasure of this material world is sex life, and that is also perverted—so diseased. So even in the spiritual world, there is sex pleasure in Krsna. But we should not think that this is something like sex life in the material world. No. But, janmady asya yatah: unless that sex life is there, it cannot be reflected here. It is simply a perverted reflection. The actual life is there, in Krsna. Krsna is full of pleasure.
So the best thing is to train ourselves in Krsna consciousness. Then it will be possible in this life at the time of death to transfer ourselves into the spiritual world and enter into the Krsnaloka, or the Krsna planet, and enjoy with Krsna.
These are the descriptions of Krsnaloka. Cintamani-prakara-sadmasu: the houses are made of touchstone. Perhaps you know touchstone. It's a small particle. If it is touched to an iron beam, the iron will at once become gold. Of course, none of you has seen this touchstone, but there is such a thing. So all the buildings there are touchstone. Cintamani-prakara-sadmasu. Kalpa-vrksa: the trees are desire trees. Whatever you like, you can get. Here from mango trees you get only mangoes, and from apple trees you get apples. But there, from any tree, anything you like you can have. These are some of the descriptions of the Krsnaloka.
So the best thing is not to try elevating ourselves to the other material planets, because on any material planet you enter, you find the same principles of miserable life. We are accustomed to them. We have been acclimated to birth and death. We don't care. The modern scientists are very proud of their advancement, but they have no solution to any of these unpleasant things. They cannot make anything that will check death or disease or old age. That is not possible. You can manufacture something that will accelerate death, but you cannot manufacture anything that will stop death. That is not in your power.
So those who are very intelligent aren't concerned with these four things, janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi: birth, death, old age, and disease. They are concerned about having a spiritual life full of bliss and full of knowledge, and that is possible when you enter into the spiritual planets. That is stated in the Bhagavad-gita (8.14):
Nitya-yuktah means "continuously in trance." This is the highest yogi: one who is continuously thinking of Krsna, and is always engaged in Krsna consciousness. Such a perfect yogi does not divert his attention to this sort of process or that sort of yoga system or the jnana or dhyana systems. Simply one system: Krsna consciousness. Ananya-cetah: without any deviation. He's not disturbed by anything. He simply thinks of Krsna. Ananya-cetah satatam. Satatam means "everywhere and at any time."
Just like my residence is at Vrndavana. That is the place of Krsna, where Krsna advented Himself. So now I am in America, in your country. But that does not mean that I'm out of Vrndavana. Because if I think of Krsna always, it is as good as being in India. I am in Vrndavana. I am in New York in this apartment—but the consciousness is there in Vrndavana. Krsna consciousness means you already live with Krsna in His spiritual planet. You simply have to wait to give up this body.
So this is the process of Krsna consciousness: ananya-cetah satatam yo mam smarati. Smarati means "remembering." Nityasah, "continually." Krsna declares that He becomes easily available to someone who is always remembering Him. The highest, most valuable thing becomes very inexpensive for one who takes up this process of Krsna consciousness. Tasyaham sulabhah partha nitya-yuktasya yoginah: "Because he's continually engaged in such a process of yoga, bhakti-yoga—oh, I am very cheap. I am easily available."
Why should I try for any hard process? Why shall I take to that? We chant, "Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare." And you can chant twenty-four hours a day. There are no rules or regulations. Either in the street or in the subway, at your home or in your office—there is no tax, no expense. Why don't you do it? Thank you very much.
Focus on Spiritual Science
The experimenter himself takes the place of test tubes and microscopes
By Sadaputa Dasa
This address was given at a symposium sponsored by the American Hindu Mission at the Sheraton Crossgate in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in October 1983.
Today the tendency is widespread among people all over the world to think that religion means nothing but sentiment and blind faith. In the past, people would turn to religion to find real knowledge and real guidance for their lives. But the development of modern science has led people to think that religion is outmoded and that religious writings are merely some old scriptures representing the views of people from the medieval period who might have had some interesting insights into life but who really didn't have true knowledge. Nowadays, people think science is the source of true knowledge. So what I would like to do is show that bhakti-yoga, the systematic practice of devotional service to God, is a science and should be considered scientific.
Modern science has two primary features: theories and a systematic experimental approach for proving the theories. For example, if you look at the science of chemistry, you'll find an extensive technical literature describing such things as atoms, electrons, electromagnetic fields, spin, valence, and so forth. These are all theoretical concepts. But these concepts don't simply exist in a vacuum. You also have a set of experiments that will show you the relevance of the theoretical concepts. In other words, by using the concepts and the experiments you can obtain verifiable knowledge.
An important aspect of science, therefore, is that anyone should be able to obtain predictable results by correctly performing the experiments. And it is because science can consistently deliver such practical results that it has become so prominent in the world today.
The truly significant contributions of modern science have come in the realm of physics and chemistry; everything else more or less rests on that structure. And physics and chemistry are devoted entirely to the study of inanimate matter. Of course, these studies have been very successful. We have the theory of the atom, the theory of the electron, and so on. But unfortunately, our natural human tendency is to assume that if something is successful, it must be perfect and universal. Let's look at some implications of this assumption.
Physics and chemistry describe the world in terms of electrons, protons, electrical fields, and various other such phenomena. If you think this system of ideas is universal, you'll conclude that nothing but electrons, protons, electrical fields, and so on exist. Your next conclusion will be that life itself is but matter and that life has arisen by nothing more than the interactions of atoms, according to the laws and theories of physics.
These conclusions are unscientific extrapolations of modern scientific findings. The worst result of such conclusions is that they rule out any genuine religion. If we are nothing but electrons, atoms, and so forth, operating according to impersonal physical laws, what is the question of a spiritual dimension to life or of any sort of spiritual attainment? If I am simply a combination of electrons and protons, what is the question of God realization? What kind of God realization can electrons and protons have? Thus modern science's unfortunate, unscientific conclusion that life comes from matter has led to widespread irreligion. It has actually led to the abandonment of the idea that religion has any real significance.
Here I would like to point out that the ancient system of bhakti-yoga is a spiritual system that is actually scientific. Of course, nowadays people generally think only new ideas are really of value and old ideas must be bad simply because they're old. That is the spirit of the times—but it is incorrect. The scientific system of bhakti-yoga actually provides a much more complete picture of reality than does the system of modern physics.
As I said, a scientific system consists of theory along with experimental practice; so I will first outline the theoretical side of bhakti-yoga. Books such as the Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad-Bhagavatam, as well as other Vedic scriptures, outline the theoretical basis for the world view of bhakti-yoga. Two main theoretical principles of this world view are extremely significant. The first is that each person is an eternal spiritual entity, a conscious living being, or self, within the body. (In Sanskrit this spiritual entity is called the jivatma.)
In modern science, on the other hand, we have the idea that a person is the bodily machine, and that's it. In other words, the body is a biochemical mechanism, and if one understands all the chemistry of that mechanism, one has understood everything about the person. That's the guiding principle of modern science.
The Bhagavad-gita, of course, agrees that the body is a machine. The Gita describes the human body as a mechanism (yantra) constructed from matter (maya). But the Bhagavad-gita also states that there is a completely nonmechanistic entity—the jivatma, or spirit soul—who dwells within the bodily mechanism and who is the conscious perceiver. According to the Bhagavad-gita, the bodily machine is never actually alive; it is an insentient mechanism. The soul within the body is the conscious perceiver, the life principle, the one who animates the body.
Since no experiment in modern science is sufficiently sensitive to give any direct evidence of the soul, most scientists dismiss this concept. And people in general follow the scientists. Most people today accept that life is just chemistry because they have a general distrust of old systems of thought and because the scientists have never found any direct evidence of the soul. Certainly no chemical experiment is going to give you any evidence for the existence of the soul. Nor will an electron microscope ever show you the soul. The magnifying power is insufficient, assuming even that the soul interacts with electrons, which is highly doubtful.
We should, however, at least recognize that the techniques of physics and chemistry do not rule out the possibility of a spiritual entity within the body. This understanding is very important, because sometimes a negative scientific finding will block our intellectual or spiritual progress. People tend to think, "Well, the matter is settled. There's no soul in the body; we might as well forget about that." But the matter is far from settled. Again, we should fully realize that no experiment within the corpus of modern physical science rules out the existence of the soul within the body.
The second important principle of the theoretical system of bhakti-yoga is that behind the material universe is a supremely intelligent being. This is a traditional idea of many religions, but bhakti-yoga, as we shall see, provides a systematic method of knowing this Supreme Being.
This principle of a Supreme Being is, of course, antithetical to modern science. Science as it exists today—that is, modern physical science—has tended to progressively exclude the idea of God. At the Darwin Centennial in 1959, Julian Huxley said that Darwin's theory of evolution has excluded the idea of God from all rational discussion.
Unfortunately, modern science, contrary to many statements you will hear, is not fully objective. Objectivity is spoken of as an important trait for a scientist to have, yet there's a certain tendentious character to the pronouncements of some prominent scientists who seem quite eager to eliminate God from the picture. In fact, science has become a tool of the philosophy of materialism. Because modern science has enjoyed its greatest success in the sphere of applied technology and the advancement of materialistic culture, the materialists have said, "Look. Just see what success you can have by concentrating on matter and excluding these old religious ideas." So materialists have used science to support their materialistic world view, although science per se doesn't support such a world view.
Nevertheless, scientists all over the world are trying to stamp out religion on the basis of scientific findings, and the Darwinian theory of evolution is one of the main tools. The idea behind the theory of evolution is that we don't need to invoke a supremely intelligent creator to explain the phenomenon of life. Darwin's theory of evolution maintains that life has come about purely by physical processes; it's simply a matter of electrons and protons interacting with one another and gradually coming together to form more and more complicated forms, until finally—here we are, thinking about the whole thing. I don't have time to discuss this theory in detail, but I will say that it is a prime example of a nonscientific addition to the body of scientific knowledge. No one has ever explained how atoms can come together to form human beings—or even bacteria, for that matter. Darwinian evolution is completely empty speculation.
So, the element of a supremely intelligent creator is another fundamental principle of bhakti-yoga. But there is even more than this. The Bhagavad-gita teaches that this superintelligent being, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is all-pervading, situated in the heart of everyone as the Supersoul (Paramatma). What this means, then, is that we are not separated from God. Some traditional religious doctrines say that God exists, that He created everything, but that He is extremely far away. The bhakti-yoga system, however, teaches that God is immediately accessible to us and is, in fact, providing the intelligence by which we direct our day-to-day activities.
An interesting illustration of this fact is the phenomenon of inspiration. Many prominent artists and scientists have recognized that it wasn't by their own power or intelligence that they were able to make their great discoveries. Karl Gauss, a prominent mathematician of the nineteenth century, in describing how he solved a certain extremely difficult mathematical problem, says: "I succeeded not on account of my painful efforts but by the grace of God. Like a sudden flash of lightning, the riddle happened to be solved. I myself cannot say what connected what I previously knew with what made my success possible."
In other words, Gauss admits that the answer to his problem was just given to him; all of a sudden it just appeared in his consciousness, and he knew the answer. And he gave the credit to God. He realized that the information was imparted to him from a higher intelligence.
Many other people have recognized this phenomenon, and it's an essential principle of bhakti-yoga—that God is directly relating with us, even at this very moment. In our day-to-day lives, we tend not to think about God, except perhaps theoretically. But bhakti-yoga teaches that God is very much present always.
So, the existence of the soul and a supremely intelligent, immanent being are two fundamental principles of the system of bhakti-yoga. And, as with the physical sciences, certain experimental procedures can confirm these theoretical principles.
In bhakti-yoga, the basic experimental procedures lead to realized knowledge of God. This is possible because we are all spiritual entities. If we were just material systems made of electrons, protons, and so on. God realization would be out of the question. After all, what can electrons and protons realize about a supreme spiritual being? But because our nature is inherently spiritual, in principle we can have knowledge of God, who is entirely spiritual. It's a question of one spiritual entity obtaining knowledge of another.
Bhakti-yoga consists of procedures specifically designed to awaken our direct spiritual perception of God, and in many ways these procedures are analogous to those you would find in, say, the science of physics. For example, in the Millikin oil-drop experiment, which measures the charge on an electron, one first of all has to adjust the conditions of the experiment very carefully. There can't be any vibration running through the room. Then one has to precisely follow each step to accurately measure the electron's charge.
Likewise, in bhakti-yoga one must follow certain regulative principles—no eating of meat or taking of intoxicants, for example—and also perform certain procedures, such as chanting the name of God for a certain period each day. Then one can get realized knowledge of the object of study. In a physics experiment, the object of study is some inanimate object or entity, such as an electron. But in bhakti-yoga the object of study is the perceiver himself, the jivatma, and ultimately the Supreme Soul, the Paramatma dwelling in the heart. So by practicing bhakti-yoga one can come to perceive the soul and
Now superficially, devotional service may seem merely a material activity that one performs with his various bodily senses. But if we look at devotional service from a theoretical perspective, we can understand what happens when someone begins to serve God. The Supreme Lord, Krsna, wants very much to reestablish His relationship with the individual spiritual souls. They, however, know nothing of this relationship because they're covered by the illusion generated from the material energy. Krsna has therefore arranged things so that if a spirit soul, working through proper channels, serves Him, then Krsna, acting through the devotee's heart, will reveal spiritual knowledge to that person. There is a reciprocation.
By referring to the theoretical tenets of bhakti-yoga, we can understand how this reciprocation takes place, at least in principle; whereas by using mere material concepts, such as those in physics or chemistry, we couldn't begin to understand.
So, there is a large and consistent theoretical basis to bhakti-yoga, and if one carefully follows the devotional process, these theoretical statements are confirmed. The process works. I'll read a verse from the Srimad-Bhagavatam illustrating this point. This is the seventh verse of Chapter Two, First Canto: "By rendering devotional service to the Personality of Godhead, Krsna, one immediately acquires both causeless knowledge and detachment from the world." Now, this is ample evidence that one who practices devotional service to Lord Krsna acquires causeless knowledge and detachment. If you follow the procedures of bhakti-yoga properly, you get results.
What this amounts to, then, is that when a person practices bhakti-yoga and gets results, he can understand them in terms of the theoretical concepts of the system, and if he continues practicing and gets more and more results, he gradually develops faith that bhakti-yoga is actually scientific.
This process is entirely analogous to what happens in a science such as chemistry. Suppose a person initially doesn't know about chemistry. Maybe he doubts that chemistry really is a valid subject. If he takes a course in chemistry, he'll hear all kinds of theory—electrons, orbitals, and so on—which sound to him like so much gobbledygook. But if he performs the experiments and thinks carefully in terms of the theory, he'll eventually say, "Aha! This works! I know these ideas have some value, because if I apply them systematically, I get the predicted results." And if over a period of years he performs more and more advanced experiments, he'll gradually become completely convinced that chemistry is a real science.
The message I'm trying to convey here this evening is simply that bhakti-yoga is a science in precisely this sense—that there are theoretical principles as well as systematic procedures, and if a person does the procedures carefully, then, through experience, he will gradually come to realize that bhakti-yoga works.
Of course, bhakti-yoga is fundamentally different from physical science, because in bhakti-yoga one is not studying inanimate matter but attaining spiritual realization. But bhakti-yoga is not just a sentimental religious system people are supposed to accept merely on faith; it is a system that produces tangible results when one carries out the procedures in the prescribed way. And in this sense bhakti-yoga is completely scientific.
SADAPUTA DASA studied at the State University of New York and Syracuse University and later received a National Science Fellowship. He went on to complete his Ph. D. in mathematics at Cornell, specializing in probability theory and statistical mechanics.
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
In Sanskrit, man means "mind" and tra means "freeing." So a mantrais a combination of transcendental, spiritual sounds that frees our minds from the anxieties of life in the material world.
Ancient India's Vedic literatures single out one mantra as the maha (supreme) mantra. The Kali-santarana Upanisad explains, "These sixteen words—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—are especially meant for counteracting the ill effects of the present age of quarrel and anxiety."
The Narada-pancaratra adds, "All mantras and all processes for self-realization are compressed into the Hare Krsna maha-mantra." Five centuries ago, while spreading the maha-mantra throughout the Indian subcontinent, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu prayed, "O Supreme Personality of Godhead, in Your holy name You have invested all Your transcendental energies."
The name Krsna means "the all-attractive one," the name Rama means "the all-pleasing one," and the name Hare is an address to the Lord's devotional energy. So the maha-mantra means, "O all-attractive, all-pleasing Lord, O energy of the Lord, please engage me in Your devotional service." Chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, and your life will be sublime.
A Taste of Vedic Hospitality
With spiritual vision and a variety of these tasty snacks,
by Visakha-devi dasi
In every culture, there's an etiquette for receiving guests, but probably nowhere was this etiquette more developed than in the Vedic culture that flourished in India fifty centuries ago. An important part of Vedic reception was the cuisine, which featured a variety of delectable dishes. This month, we offer you a glimpse into this tradition of hospitality as well as some classic Vedic recipes that you can prepare for your next guest.
The Vedic tradition trained householders to see all living beings as part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, Krsna. Thus, Vedic householders felt themselves responsible for giving shelter and comfort not only to their immediate family but to Krsna's family—everyone. The Vedic injunction is that even if an enemy comes to your home, you should receive him so well he doesn't apprehend any danger. In fact, even a snake in your home should not go hungry! This training helped the householder become broad-minded, seeing every living being in relation to Lord Krsna.
The Vedic system enjoins that we receive a guest according to our means; if we're so poor that we cannot offer food, we can still satisfy a guest with a comfortable sitting place, fresh water, and pleasant words of welcome. If we're well-off, we can offer a lavish feast.
When Lord Krsna was present on earth, He personally showed the example of hospitality. The Srimad-Bhagavatam relates how Lord Krsna welcomed His devotee Akrura:
Lord Krsna, who is very kind to His devotees, embraced Akrura. Taking him by the hand, Krsna brought him to His sitting room, where He offered him a very nice sitting place and water for washing his feet. He also worshiped him with suitable presentations of honey and other ingredients. When Akrura was thus comfortably seated, Krsna brought very palatable dishes, and Akrura accepted them. When Akrura finished eating, the Lord gave him spices as well as pulp of sandalwood, just to make him more pleased and comfortable. The Vedic system of receiving a guest was thus completely observed by Lord Krsna.
Although the India of Vedic days has gradually disappeared, a vestige of Vedic hospitality remains, and it was demonstrated in 1970 when Srila Prabhupada toured India with twenty-five of his American and European disciples. These Western devotees, who for several years had tolerated the quizzical and sometimes hostile attitudes of their countrymen, got an unexpected taste of traditional Vedic hospitality. In Surat, for example, a city in Gujarat state on the west coast of India, crowds gathered to garland Srila Prabhupada and his disciples when they chanted through the streets. Each day a different family would invite the group to their home. The Western disciples would have kirtana, Srila Prabhupada would speak about Krsna consciousness, and then the hosts would serve a sumptuous feast of Krsna prasadam.
Similarly, in Calcutta, Indore, Bombay, Gorakhpur, Madras, Delhi—everywhere the Western devotees went—they were well received.
According to the Vedic tradition, the host is greatly benefited by receiving saintly persons. The genuine saint does not go to someone's home to fill his empty stomach; nor does he go to complain, socialize, or gossip. A saintly person goes to a home to instruct the people there in spiritual life. And certainly this was why Srila Prabhupada traveled with his disciples throughout India—just to remind Indians of their great spiritual heritage. The householders who welcome such visitors are benefited, and their home is sanctified. However, that home where saintly guests are not admitted or respected is condemned, for its residents are unaware of the higher values of life. All of us should consider it a sacred duty and privilege to welcome guests, especially saintly guests.
If the company is expected, there's usually time to make piping hot savories, tantalizing sweetmeats, or an entire meal. But, for the unexpected guest, here are some nibblers you can prepare and keep on hand to serve between meals. These are deep-fried and salty foods that have a diverse range of textures and flavors. You can store them in air-tight jars and eat them at room temperature, or warm them in the oven. Serve them with a cool drink, fresh cut fruit, or a sweet. They're ideal for offering to Lord Krsna—and then to your guest.
(Recipes by Yamuna-devi dasi)
Crispy Deep-Fried Dal
Yield: 2 cups
Soaking time: 12-24 hours
1 cup split chana dal or moong dal
1. Sort through the dry dal beans and remove any foreign matter. Place the beans in a strainer and lower it into a large bowl of fresh water. Rub the grains between your palms. Change the water and repeat the washing 3 or 4 times or until the water is practically clear.
2. Fill a 1-quart bowl half full of cool water, add the dal and baking soda, stir, loosely cover, and soak in a cool place for 12 hours. (If moong dal is used. soak for 6 to 8 hours.)
3. Drain and rinse the dal. Soak for an additional 12 hours (6 to 8 hours for moong dal) in clean, fresh, cool water.
4. Drain and spread the dal out on a wire screen or clean absorbent towel to dry for 2 to 3 hours. (Insufficient drying may result in an overly-crunchy finished product.)
5. Heat the ghee or oil in a suitable deep-frying vessel over a medium flame to about 375°F. Sprinkle in 1/3 cup of the dal beans. They will sink to the bottom of the pan, and the hot oil or ghee will froth up the sides of the pan. After 2 to 3 minutes the frothing will subside, and the dal will float to the surface. The frying is completed when the dal is crispy and a light golden color. It should not be allowed to brown. Lift out all the dal kernels with a fine-meshed strainer spoon and transfer to absorbent paper. Fry the remaining dal, 1/3 cup at a time.
6. While still warm, sprinkle with fine-textured salt and toss to mix. When the dal is cooled to room temperature, it may be stored in a well-sealed jar. Fried dal will remain fresh for up to 3 weeks. After that, it gets stale. Refresh dry dal by warming it in a preheated 250° oven for 5 to 7 minutes.
Deep-Fried Potato Straws, Cashews, Raisins, and Coconut
(Guzerati Aloo Chidwa)
One afternoon in Indore, India, in the winter of 1970, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was receiving offerings from a large gathering of villagers. This preparation was brought fresh and warm in a clean woven basket, along with a large basket of fresh green coconuts. All present thoroughly relished the refreshment, and Srila Prabhupada commented on how expertly it was assembled. He noted that this chidwa was one of his spiritual master's favorite afternoon refreshments. Here is that memorable specialty.
Yield: 10 servings
12 ounces baking potatoes (about two medium-sized potatoes)
1. Wash and peel the potatoes. Hold a potato lengthwise in your hand, place it at a slight angle on a hand shredder, and shred through the large holes to yield long, thin straws. Place the potato straws in a colander, rinse thoroughly under cold, running tap water, then soak in cold water for ten minutes. Shake the colander to drain off all of the excess water; thoroughly pat the potatoes dry between absorbent towels.
2. Over a high flame, heat the clarified butter or oil in a deep-walled frying pan or wok until the temperature reaches about 375 °F. Drop in a small handful of potato straws and fry for about 2 minutes or until they are crisp and golden brown; remove with slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper. When all of the potato straws are fried, drop in the green chilis and fry until they blister and turn golden brown; remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to absorbent paper to drain.
3. Blend the powdered spices, salt, and sugar in a small bowl. Heat 1 ½ tablespoons of ghee or oil in a 7-inch frying pan over medium-low heat for about 1 ½ minutes. Add the cashews and fennel seeds; stir-fry for about 5 minutes. Drop in the sesame seeds and sweet neem leaves and continue to stir-fry the mixture until the nuts are golden brown; remove the pan from the heat and pour contents through a fine-meshed strainer resting over a bowl. Save the excess ghee or oil for further use.
4. Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and gently toss to mix well. Serve fresh and warm or cool to room temperature; store in a well-sealed container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
Srila Prabhupada's Puffed Rice and Nuts
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada gave his disciples the recipe for this simple snack in Indore, India, in 1970.
Yield: 6 servings
¼ cup ghee or vegetable oil
1. Heat 2 tablespoons ghee or oil in a 7-inch frying pan over a medium-low flame. Slowly fry cashews for about 7 to 10 minutes until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper. Prepare the raw peanuts in the same way.
2. Blend the powdered spices and salt in a small bowl.
3. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of ghee or oil in a 3- to 4-quart saucepan over a medium flame until a drop of water flicked in instantly sputters. Add the minced ginger and chilis and fry until browned; toss in the raisins, nuts, powdered spices, and salt. Immediately follow by pouring in the puffed rice. Stir-fry for 3 to 4 minutes, mixing the seasonings throughout the puffed rice.
4. Add the sugar and the ghee or oil remaining from the nuts. Toss and fry for a few more seconds. Offer to Krsna and serve fresh and hot.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
by Suhotra Swami
Happy New Year! Thirty-six years ago George Orwell selected this year's date as the title of his novel of ominous social prophecy. In his vision, the nations of the world of 1984 would form three superstates, pitted against one another in constant war. Winston Smith, the main character of 1984, is an official in the government of Oceania, and his duty is to revise recorded history so that it conforms to the political dogma of Big Brother, Oceania's all-powerful leader. Life is depicted as dreary, dull, joyless. Those who count for anything in society—the employees of the State—live under constant surveillance. A careless remark, a few sentences of despair hastily scribbled in a notebook can cost a citizen his sanity in the dungeons of the dreaded Thought Police. For the masses, those persons who are not members of the Party, the State demands less rigid conformity, if only because the masses have become little more than human robots, whose minds are devoid of the ability to think critically.
While Orwell's book is perhaps an accurate foretelling of the rise of totalitarian communist empires, another book, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, predicts a world more comparable to a modern Western technocracy.
God, for Brave New World, is science and technology, which extends its influence to all corners of life. Babies are mass-produced in test-tubes, and the children are raised in a tightly controlled but seductively benign environment. All state citizens are trained to fill slots in the complex social machinery, and any tendency in a child to rebel is met by systematic psychological manipulation. The "happiness" of the residents of the brave new world revolves around free sex (marriage has been abolished) and drugs (soma for depression, feelies for enhancing excitement). Persons unable to conform to the brave new world are considered savages. They are banished to reservations where they are granted "the right to be unhappy."
The stark prophecies of 1984 and Brave New World do not perfectly describe contemporary society, but noteworthy similarities are there, nonetheless. In London, for instance, there is a reservation of sorts in King's Row, where thousands of self-proclaimed savages have taken up a life-style characterized as "the new tribalism," with tribal names like "the Punks," "the Skinheads," "the Rockabillies," and so on. Similar tribes roam the streets of Paris, Berlin, New York, and San Francisco. Bedecked in their bizarre costumes, they idly gaze into an empty future, while society around them becomes more and more complex and depersonalized.
But perhaps for most of us, a blind optimist within smiles, "I'm looking forward to a happy 1984. I've got my own life to live. I can make my own choices. If I want to go to school, I can do that. If I want to get a job, I can do that, too. I can get stoned on cocaine. Or if I want to drop out—well, that's also my right. I'm free!"
Yet who among us can say that we have independently arrived at our personal definition of happiness? Happiness is defined for us by parents, friends, teachers, politicians, psychologists, scientists, and so on. A laboratory rat is free, too. He runs down an alleyway, turns left, then right, and has a choice of levers to push: one for food, one for drink, one for sex. But the rat may also perish at any moment in the rubber-gloved hands of his big-brother scientist, who gazes down upon his little world from far above.
And far above us, in outer space, surveillance satellites, their unblinking electronic eyes able to read the license plates on our cars, look down upon the maze of our little world. Should they detect things a big brother in Washington or Moscow doesn't like, a signal might be relayed to a missile crew deep under the earth or to a submarine cruising beneath the sea. And in minutes, our world could burst into atomic flames.
Sure, it's frightening, perhaps more frightening than Orwell and Huxley imagined. And what's the solution? These authors—being materialists—didn't have one. Long before Orwell or Huxley, however, sages of ancient India predicted in their writings the ills that would afflict us in the present age. The Srimad-Bhagavatam, a treasure house of Vedic wisdom compiled five thousand years ago, refers to our time as Kali-yuga, the age of quarrel. The Bhagavatam describes Kali-yuga as an "ocean of faults." But it also recommends deliverance from this ocean through the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
The chanting of Hare Krsna is, quite simply, liberating. When one chants Hare Krsna, he liberates his consciousness from its physical and mental coverings. He no longer identifies with the mortal designations of male or female, white or black, American or Russian, but he realizes he is an undying soul. By this knowledge he is freed from the cycle of birth and death.
No, Krsna consciousness isn't pabulum for those too weak to face the world as it is. A Krsna conscious person is the most uncompromising realist and has no false optimism about living in the material world—in 1984 or any other time. Nor does he retreat into listless despair. He knows he is not the body but is an eternal servant of the Supreme Lord. A Krsna conscious person, out of natural compassion, is eager to work enthusiastically in this world to give Krsna consciousness to others, and his only reward is that his service be accepted by Krsna. Such a devotee is always satisfied, even in the most adverse circumstances.
The year 1984 has just begun, and already the prospects are as ominous as the predictions of Orwell and Huxley. A deliberate. or even accidental, push of a button could set the clock back a thousand years. Our cities, our machines, and our science could be consigned to a mass tomb. Then, standing in the lonely shadows of failure, we would be forced to face ourselves at last and to recognize ourselves for what we really are.
Or we could make it easy on ourselves and give up voluntarily the heavy burden of our false lordship by simply accepting the sublime wisdom of the sacred Vedic texts. This wisdom transcends the limitations of space and time, and it is known as Krsna consciousness. It's as fresh and relevant now as ever. Modern man, whose great intelligence is stranded in a meaningless chaos of his own making, has great need of it.
Who Art In Heaven?
by Drutakarma dasa
In response to feminist pressure for a "nonsexist" rendering of the Bible, the National Council of Churches has changed the phrase "God our Father" to "God our Father [and Mother]."
But is God just a formless spiritual entity to which we can attach whatever labels we currently favor? Who is God? Is God masculine, feminine, both, neither? Does anybody really know?
Traditionally, Christians have favored a conception of God as a grey-bearded old man. But when this view is challenged, as is now happening, there's little scriptural evidence that can be marshalled in support of the conventional image of God. In other words, the Bible doesn't really reveal much about what God looks like.
Of course, all the difficulties about the identity of the creator could be very easily resolved if the actual form of God were ever to be revealed to humankind. Amazingly enough, this has already taken place, most recently five thousand years ago, when the Supreme Lord appeared in His original spiritual form in India. Srimad-Bhagavatam, the Sanskrit classic which records the history of the Lord's incarnation, states, "Dear Lord, if You did not appear in Your eternal transcendental form, full of bliss and knowledge . . . then all people would simply speculate about You according to their respective modes of material nature." That, of course, is exactly what is happening now.
Srila Prabhupada comments, "The appearance of Krsna is the answer to all imaginative iconography of the Supreme Personality of Godhead." (Krsna is the chief Sanskrit name of God, who is also known as Allah, Jehovah, and so on.) The form of the Lord, as personally seen by great saints and sages present at that time, is completely described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam and other Vedic scriptures. Lord Krsna appears as an eternally fresh youth, enjoying transcendental pastimes with His associates in the spiritual world, while at the same time, through His remote expansions, He effortlessly creates, maintains, and destroys millions of universes.
He? Before the feminists raise their voices in protest, it should be pointed out that Krsna is not alone. He is eternally accompanied by His feminine counterpart, Radharani. In thousands of temples throughout India (and in ISKCON temples throughout the world). God is worshiped in the form of Radha-Krsna. The Vedic scriptures reveal that Radha is Krsna's personified pleasure energy.
Srila Prabhupada explains, "It is not that Radharani is separate from Krsna. Radharani is also Krsna, for there is no difference between the energy and the energetic. Without energy, there is no meaning to the energetic, and without the energetic, there is no energy. Similarly, without Radha there is no meaning to Krsna, and without Krsna there is no meaning to Radha. Because of this, the Vaisnava philosophy first of all pays obeisances to and worships the internal pleasure potency of the Lord. Thus the Lord and His potency are always referred to as Radha-Krsna—the potency always comes first."
Another name for Radharani is Hara. In the vocative case this becomes Hare. So the familiar Hare Krsna chant is an address to Radharani, the personified pleasure potency of Krsna, along with Krsna Himself.
So here's a suggestion for the more thoughtful feminists—Why go through all the trouble of rewriting the Bible when the Vedic scriptures already contain the perfect explanation of God's masculine and feminine aspects? And if there's need of a slogan, the Hare Krsna mantra will serve the purpose more than adequately.
by Mathuresa dasa
With the economic growth of the twentieth century, insurance sales have blossomed as never before. Americans alone now pay $200 billion a year in premiums—"the gross national premium," as it is sometimes called. Only the banking industry handles more of America's wealth. There are 400 million life insurance policies in force in the United States, which means that many Americans have more than one. Altogether, American lives are insured for more than $3.5 trillion.
From one point of view, insurance is simply a way to distribute misfortune. The idea is simple: Since life is full of potential calamities, we can share the financial loss from such calamities by contributing to a mutual fund from which those of us who actually suffer loss may be indemnified. For example, a group of home owners may agree to pay $200 apiece for $20,000 worth of fire insurance on their homes. The assumption is that, at most, one in every one hundred customers will collect his $20,000, but everyone—as insurance salesmen are fond of saying—will have purchased "peace of mind."
Since insurance, or loss sharing, is a corollary of trade and property ownership, we can assume that it has existed in one form or another throughout history. The merchants of ancient Rhodes shared the risks of their seagoing ventures, and many centuries ago Chinese merchants insured cargo on boats going down the Yangtze River.
Over the centuries the insurance business has given rise to a rich lore. Tales of arson, murder, suicide, and other crimes are plentiful, and new ones still appear regularly in today's newspapers. "Insurance," wrote Alexander C. Campbell, a nineteenth-century author, "has made barratry a trade, arson a business, and murder a fine art. There is hardly a crime ... of which it is not the prolific mother."
But our purpose here is not to disparage the insurance business. Serious insurance-related crimes probably get more attention than their relative infrequency merits. And, without insurance, the industry's defenders point out, no economy can grow. Also, insurance does afford us a certain amount of financial protection.
Not that the premiums we pay make this world any less miserable. Rather, the insurance industry, like the health-care industry, flourishes only because this world is filled with misery. Financial protection is better than no protection at all, but we shouldn't be made to believe that we're getting more than that. Life insurance, for example, does not literally insure our lives; it simply provides for our loved ones after we die. It could, therefore, more aptly and honestly be called "death insurance."
What strikes a student of the Vedic literature is that although we're insured against fire, disease, death, flood, drought, and unemployment in this life, we have made precious little provision for the next life. Is the possibility of a life after this one such an unlikely risk?
Spokesmen for any religious persuasion could, of course, make facile statements about "eternal life insurance," threatening us with dreadful fates if we don't sign up for their brand of salvation. But the followers of the Vedic literatures are not trying to frighten us into buying a bill of goods, like the insurance salesman who conjures up imminent tragedy to sell his policies. The Vedas explain that we are eternal individual souls situated within these temporary bodies. While the body is subject to any number of dangers—it can be burned, cut, crushed, drowned, and so on—the soul is indestructible. When the body dies, we are transferred either to another body in one of the millions of species of life or to the transcendental world, to live eternally in our fully awakened spiritual identities.
As individual souls, we are indestructible, but does that mean we have nothing to fear? The greatest calamity for a soul with a human body is to plummet into the lower species. So while taking all precautions to care for and insure our temporary bodies and properties, we should not neglect our spiritual well-being.
The Vedas give us a documented, well-reasoned warning to this effect. A human being whose life is devoid of Krsna consciousness develops a mentality like that of an animal: he is primarily interested in defending himself, his family, his nation, and so on, so that he can enjoy eating, sleeping, and sex. Whereas the animal has only his claws and fangs for defense, human beings have sophisticated weapons—and sophisticated insurance policies.
Despite the sophistication, however, the mentality of eat, sleep, mate, be merry, and enjoy life is basically the same as an animal's. In the next life, therefore, such a soul is matched with a suitable animal body, and he loses the opportunity for the spiritual advancement his human intelligence had afforded him.
The Bhagavad-gita states that even a little advancement on the path of devotional service to Krsna can protect one from this greatest of all dangers. We can hardly imagine the work it takes to earn the money to pay $200 billion in insurance premiums, yet every year, thousands of faithful souls, driven by the fear of fire, disease, death, and other catastrophes, manage to pay such a sum. Even a fraction of that labor and money directed towards the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, could save us from a far greater catastrophe.
On Real Intelligence
The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place in May 1975, during an early-morning walk in Melbourne.
Devotee: Srila Prabhupada, I read in one of your books that one way we can learn about God is through a process called anumana. What is that?
Srila Prabhupada: Logic. For example, as soon as we see a machine, we know there must be an operator of that machine. This is logic. You cannot expect the machine to work without an operator. Similarly, this material nature is a machine and the operator is God. Even though you cannot see God, by logic you can know He exists. This is human reasoning.
But the atheistic scientists will not accept this simple argument. Even an ordinary typewriter cannot work automatically; it requires an operator to push the buttons. Then how can this big machine of the material nature work without an operator? What is this nonsense!
The scientists say, "There is no God. Everything is working by the forces of nature." But what is nature? Nature is simply a machine, just as our bodies are machines. The operator of the bodily machine is the soul, and the guide is the Supersoul, Lord Krsna in the heart. As soon as the soul goes away from the body, the bodily machine stops working. And the same is true for the machine of the material nature. It does not work without an operator. But the so-called scientists have no common sense to understand this logic. Therefore they are rascals.
Devotee: Who is the greater rascal, the material scientist or the ordinary atheist?
Srila Prabhupada: Anyone who does not accept God is a rascal. That is Krsna's statement in the Bhagavad-gita [7.15]: na mam duskrtino mudhah prapadyante naradhamah. Who doesn't recognize God? Those who are sinful rascals, the lowest of mankind.
Now, someone may say, "No, the scientists are so educated." But that education is false education. Real education means to understand God. Vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyah.
If one does not understand God, his education is useless. It has no meaning. When someone claims to be educated, we should simply ask, "Will that education save him from death?" If not, then what is the value of his education? Our real problems are birth, old age, disease, and death. Can materialistic education solve these problems? Can the scientists stop anyone from growing old? Nobody wants to become old; everyone wants to keep himself youthful. But no scientist can stop old age. Then what is the value of the scientists' education? We acquire an education so we can solve our problems. The scientists are solving only temporary problems, but they cannot solve the ultimate problems. Therefore their education is useless. Srama eva hi kevalam: it is simply hard labor for nothing. That's all.
Devotee: The leaders seem to have adopted a stop-gap policy. They keep the people in ignorance and fool them into believing progress is being made, when actually it's not. In this way the leaders can maintain their position.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, the blind leading the blind: andha yathandhair upaniyamanah. The leaders tell the people that by material adjustments they will be happy. But that is not possible. Still, the people are such fools that they do not think, "Where is the solution to my problems? You have given me the chance to live in a skyscraper building, but is that the solution to the problems of birth, old age, disease, and death?" No one has brain enough to ask this question.
Everyone is trying to save himself from disease, from old age, from death. Why do people go to a physician as soon as there is some disease?
Devotee: They want to get well.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. And ultimately, they do not want to die. But even if you have the best physician, death will eventually come in any case. Then where is the solution to the problem of death?
Still, people accept science as the solution to all their problems. Therefore the Srimad-Bhagavatam [2.3.19] says, sva-vid-varahostra-kharaih samstutah purusah pasuh. "Those who are like dogs, hogs, camels, and asses praise leaders who are also like animals." Both the leaders and their followers are animals; none of them is a human being. The big animal bluffs, "I have done so much for you, and I promise to do more. Give me your vote." And the small animal thinks, "Yes, he has done so much for me. Let me vote for him. "This is going on. Andha yathandhaih: one blind man is leading other blind men. What is the use? If I am blind and I say, "Come follow me and I shall take you to Melbourne," as soon as we go in the road, I will be killed and you will also be killed. That's all.
Devotee: Srila Prabhupada, sometimes when we tell people this life is full of miseries, they say, "What do you mean? There are high points and low points, but basically I am a happy person."
Srila Prabhupada: That is their foolishness. They cannot distinguish misery from happiness. They are being kicked by material nature, the agent of Krsna. Because they are desiring in various ways to become controllers or enjoyers, they are being offered various types of bodies and suffering repeated birth and death. But because people have no sense, they think this material life is pleasurable.
Now, as Australians, you may have so many nice facilities, but you cannot enjoy them perpetually. By the force of nature you will have to change your position. Today you may be living in a nice apartment, and tomorrow you may become a rat in that apartment. It is not in your power to change the strong laws of nature. You must change your position.
Actually, everyone is being controlled by the material nature at every moment. So an intelligent person asks how to get out of this material nature, how to end the suffering of repeated birth, old age, disease, and death. And Krsna explains how to end this suffering in Bhagavad-gita [7.14]: mam eva ye prapadyante mayam etam taranti te. "As soon as the rascal surrenders to Me, he is out of the control of My material nature." Surrendering to Krsna is real intelligence.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Memorial to Srila Prabhupada Opens in Indian's Holiest City
Vrndavana, India—On November 6, 7, and 8, hundreds of ISKCON devotees and guests attended the dedication here of a memorial built in honor of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual guide of ISKCON. Vrndavana is one of India's most revered holy cities and the site of the internationally known Krishna-Balaram temple, which Srila Prabhupada opened in 1975. The two-story marble memorial, complete with ornate balconies and winding staircases and featuring photo and sculpture exhibits, stands adjacent to the Krishna-Balaram temple.
His Excellency Mr. S. B. Chavan, Minister of Planning for India's central government, was the guest of honor at the dedication ceremonies. He and Mr. Ghorpade, a member of India's parliament, delivered speeches praising Srila Prabhupada's unique achievements in distributing India's rich, spiritual heritage all over the world.
The highlight of the dedication ceremony came when devotees visiting from ISKCON centers around the world bathed and dressed a larger-than-life-size murti of Srila Prabhupada. In this murti form Srila Prabhupada now presides over the memorial temple complex, receiving regular daily worship from his disciples and grand-disciples.
Filmmaker Attenborough Receives Biography
Sir Richard Attenborough, producer-director of the Academy-Award-winning film Gandhi, talked with Dhananjaya dasa, ISKCON's director of public affairs for the United Kingdom. The occasion was the opening of a photo display on the life of Gandhi at the Indian Cultural Center in London. Folding his hands and saying, "Namas te" [a respectful greeting], Sir Richard accepted a garland and a copy of the second volume of Srila Prabhupada's biography, Planting the Seed, and expressed interest in visiting Bhaktivedanta Manor, ISKCON's country estate near London.
Fifty centuries ago, during a fierce war, Lord Krsna and one of
by Ravindra-Svarupa Dasa
In the midst of the great battle, surrounded by the clash of arms, the pounding of hooves, the rattle of trappings, the shouts of warriors, and the screams of wounded men and beasts, where the dust churned up by the horses dimmed the sun and blood turned the earth to mud, Krsna suddenly stopped the chariot and sprang to the ground. Raising the wheel of a disabled chariot over His head, the Lord raced toward the great general Bhismadeva like a lion charging an elephant. Just moments before, wave after wave of lethal arrows from Bhismadeva's bow had crashed relentlessly down upon Arjuna's chariot. In amazement, the other warriors had seen the figures of Arjuna and his driver Sri Krsna completely disappear behind the curtains of the general's arrows. It had been certain that Arjuna was about to fall before the fury of the attack.
And then Bhismadeva's bow was still. It dropped to the ground, and the invincible general stood unarmed and stared with widening eyes at the Lord charging furiously toward him. In intense concentration he noted every detail of Krsna's appearance: He saw how the beautiful flowing black hair of the Lord had turned ashen from the dust of battle; he saw how beads of sweat adorned His face like dew on a blue lotus flower; he saw how red smears of blood from wounds made by his own arrows enhanced the beauty of the transcendental body of the Lord. Bhismadeva watched the Lord rushing toward him, preparing to kill him with a hurl of the wheel, and he was filled with ecstasy.
This encounter on the battlefield between Lord Krsna and Bhismadeva was not the hostile clash of enemies that it appears to be. On the contrary, it was the reciprocation of deepest love between the Supreme Personality of Godhead and one of His great devotees, and from it both derived the highest transcendental bliss. Srila Prabhupada explains this encounter at Kuruksetra in Chapter Nine of the First Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, and if we study the incident under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master, who can take us to the reality that lies beyond appearance, we can begin to enter into the profound mysteries of the relations between the Lord and His pure devotees.
The battle at Kuruksetra was a civil war within the Kuru dynasty between the sons of Dhrtarastra (called the Kauravas) and the sons of Pandu (called the Pandavas) for rulership of the kingdom. Dhrtarastra and Pandu were brothers, and in the normal course of events Dhrtarastra, as the elder of the two, would have been king. But because Dhrtarastra was blind from birth, Pandu ascended to the throne.
Then Pandu died untimely. His five orphaned sons—one of whom was Arjuna—came under the care of their uncle Dhrtarastra, who raised them and trained them in the military arts along with his own sons. The eldest son of Dhrtarastra, the evil-minded Duryodhana, became increasingly envious of his cousins, and he resented any share they would have in the kingdom, which, had his father been ruler, would have fallen entirely to him. Dhrtarastra was not a bad man, but he was weak-willed and excessively fond of his eldest son, and gradually he fell in with Duryodhana's vicious schemes to kill the Pandavas.
All these plots failed, but Duryodhana did manage to cheat the Pandavas of their share in the kingdom and have them banished for fourteen years. When the Pandavas returned from exile to reclaim their rightful share of rulership, it was refused them. They then requested five villages to rule, but even that was asking too much: they were denied even as much land as you could drive a pin into.
To appreciate how important rulership was to the Pandavas, we need to understand an important Sanskrit word: dharma. Sometimes translated as "duty," sometimes as "religion," dharma contains both meanings but has really no exact equivalent. Formed from the Sanskrit root dhr, meaning "to support or sustain," dharma denotes the fundamental basis of a thing, that by which something is what it is, its inalienable nature or character. Thus the dharma of fire is to burn, and the dharma of sugar is to be sweet.
We learn from the Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic texts that every human has a two-fold dharma, one permanent and one temporary. Since all living entities are eternal, subordinate particles of God, our essential and unalterable nature, our permanent, eternal dharma, is to serve God. Now one may object that since many people quite plainly don't serve God, that cannot be everyone's unavoidable dharma.
People who appear not to be serving God, however, really are serving Him, although they do so unwillingly. To serve someone means to be controlled by the other person's order, and since everyone is necessarily controlled by God, everyone serves Him. Those who serve God willingly, in love and devotion, are controlled directly and favorably by God, and they enter into eternal life. But those who rebel against God, seeking independence, serve Him unwillingly, being controlled by Him indirectly and unfavorably, through material nature; therefore, they must suffer repeated birth and death. Because service to God is our dharma, serve we must. Nevertheless, we have this much freedom: How to serve God is up to us.
In addition to this eternal and universal dharma pertaining to the soul, there is a supplementary dharma pertaining to the body; it is temporary and particular, applying only to civilized human beings. The Vedic literature tell us that four groups of people naturally compose human society: brahmanas, or intellectuals, who guide society according to their knowledge of the highest truth; ksatriyas, or executives, who manage society under brahminical direction and protect the citizens from external and internal disturbances; vaisyas, or producers, who create the wealth of society by agriculture and trade; and sudras, or laborers, who assist the other three groups.
In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna tells Arjuna that these four kinds of people, endowed with the appropriate qualities and aptitudes, are His creation; thus they are as natural to human society as head, arms, belly, and legs to the human body. Vedic society had the advantage over ours in recognizing this; following the directions of the Vedic literature, it determined to which group a child belonged on the basis of his inherent tendencies and then educated him intensively to assume a social role in fulfillment of his own nature. Each group had its particular constellation of duties, obligations, injunctions, prohibitions, and moral and ethical values, which together constituted the dharma of that group. Although dharma in this sense is usually translated as "duty," it is not like some externally imposed fiat followed merely out of a sense of obligation; rather, by virtue of nature and education, it is constitutive of one's own self. To go against one's dharma, therefore, is not just to do wrong; it is to violate one's very nature.
Because Vedic society was God-centered, the permanent and the temporary dharma were in harmony; the members of each group executed their particular duties as service to God. As Krsna instructs Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita [3.9]: "Work done as a sacrifice for Visnu has to be performed, otherwise work binds one to this material world. Therefore, O son of Kunti, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain unattached and free from bondage."
Now we can understand why it was so important for the Pandavas to rule: they were ksatriyas, and rulership was their dharma. Krsna states conclusively that it is far better to execute one's own dharma imperfectly than that of another perfectly [Bg. 3.35].
Moreover, in pursuing their dharma in relation to society, the Pandavas would also fulfill their dharma in relation to God. The Pandavas were great devotees of Krsna—so great that Krsna Himself, having descended into this world, played the part of their friend and kinsman. And Krsna wanted the pious and devoted Pandavas, rather than the impious and ungodly Kauravas, to rule. When the Kauravas remained obstinate in opposing the rights of the Pandavas, war became inevitable. Krsna tells Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita [4.8] that He descends to earth to reestablish dharma. And in the great battle at Kuruksetra, which took place by Krsna's will for that very purpose, the Pandavas were His chosen instruments.
Krsna Himself did not fight. The Kauravas objected that the Pandavas would have an unfair advantage if the all-powerful Lord fought on their side. Krsna therefore vowed that He would not personally take up arms and would participate strictly as a noncombatant, as the driver of Arjuna's chariot.
Bhismadeva was also a great devotee of Lord Krsna's. a devotee of the same stature as the Pandavas. But Bhismadeva, strange to say, was on the wrong side, the side of the impious Kauravas. Bhismadeva was the aged and revered grandsire of the Kuru dynasty, a valiant warrior, a brilliant general, and a great authority on religious principles. He was extremely affectionate toward the Pandavas, and he had repeatedly warned the Kauravas in the strongest terms of the wickedness and folly of their course. But when that course had led to war, Bhismadeva had been obliged to fight for Duryodhana against his own beloved grandchildren, the Pandavas, because he was maintained at Duryodhana's expense.
It appears in Bhismadeva's case that his temporary dharma as a ksatriya, which bound him in honor to his patron, was in conflict with his eternal dharma as a devotee, which bound him in love to his Lord. And it seems he erred in choosing to follow the former rather than the latter.
In fact, however, there was no disparity in dharma for Bhismadeva. A pure devotee acts only in obedience to the Lord, and the real reason Bhismadeva fought for the Kauravas was that Krsna wanted him to. Krsna had two purposes to fulfill by this. First. He wanted the Kauravas to have every possible advantage—and a fighter and leader like Bhismadeva was a huge advantage—so that when the Kauravas went down in ignoble defeat, the whole world would see that, however well-favored the side of vice may be, it can never conquer virtue.
Krsna's second purpose was more confidential. In the kind of relationship Krsna and Bhismadeva enjoyed, their love for one another was intensely aroused by fighting. Krsna therefore placed Bhismadeva in the opposing ranks to set the stage for a mutually satisfying encounter at arms.
To understand the relationship between the Lord and His warrior-devotee, we need to know something about the idea of rasa in the Vedic analysis of love. The flavor or taste of love varies according to the kind of relationship. A fan loves a celebrity, a loyal retainer loves his employer, a young man loves his brother, a mother loves her child, a husband loves his wife—these are all relations of love, but in each the quality of love, the emotional coloring, is distinct. That distinctive emotional coloring, that characteristic, affective flavor, is called rasa.
No matter how intense the material rasas we experience in this world seem to us, they are only stale and juiceless copies—reflected into this world like a mirage into a desert—of the real and original spiritual rasas tasted in relation with God. To show us this, Vedic texts recount hundreds of fascinating encounters between the Lord and His devotees—like this one between Krsna and Bhismadeva—in which different rasas are exhibited. Expert devotees, analyzing these narrations, have discovered twelve distinct rasas, which they divide into two categories, called direct and indirect. A direct rasa is situated permanently in the heart of a devotee, whereas an indirect rasa will suddenly appear under certain conditions. The five direct rasas are called neutrality, servitude, fraternal love, parental love, and conjugal love. The seven indirect rasas are called humor, astonishment, chivalry, compassion, anger, dread, and ghastliness.
In the neutral rasa, a devotee is so overwhelmed by the transcendent greatness of God that he can do no more than passively adore Him. In servitude, the devotee feels subordinate to God, but He also wants to express His love actively by rendering service. A devotee in the more intimate fraternal rasa relates to God informally and as an equal, as one friend to another. In the parental rasa, the Lord takes the subordinate position of a child, and the devotee loves the Lord in the mood of a mother or father. In the most intimate, conjugal rasa, the devotee has the feelings of a wife or a girl friend toward the Lord.
You may see a contradiction between the idea of dharma, which says that the living entity is an eternally subordinate servant of God, and the idea of rasa, which holds that a devotee can act as the Lord's equal or superior. But there is no contradiction. While the living entity is never equal to or superior to the Lord, when the Lord wants to taste the feelings that arise in intimate relationships, He allows a devotee to become His companion, parent, or lover by causing the devotee to forget the immense differences between them. Ontologically, the devotee remains a subordinate servant; psychologically, by the will of the Lord, he becomes the Lord's equal or superior. Rasas with Krsna are thus pure service to Him and are the highest expressions of dharma.
Krsna is the supreme enjoyer, the reservoir of all rasas, eternally engaged in pastimes of love with innumerable devotees, relishing infinite varieties of emotions and feelings. Devotees situated in various rasas serve Krsna by satisfying His desire to enjoy in some particular way. The devotee is impelled solely by love, which is an intense desire to satisfy Krsna with no interest at all in one's own enjoyment. This distinguishes spiritual rasas from material ones, which are based on lust, or a desire to secure one's own satisfaction. If one wants to appreciate the spiritual quality of the rasas between Krsna and His devotees, one must be free from lust. Otherwise, there is the danger, especially acute with reference to the conjugal rasa, of conceiving the spiritual rasas materially.
Because we are emanations of God, whatever is in us reflects what is originally in Him. Thus we can understand something about God by studying ourselves. For example, we are persons, so we can understand that God must be a person. We have bodily form, and therefore we know that God does also. We enter into various relationships; so does God also. Of course, the personality of God is without the limitations and faults of material personalities, nor can God's transcendental body be injured by blade or bullet or ravaged by age and disease like our material bodies. Nor do His relationships have any of the well-known shortcomings that make material relationships so problematic. People who speculate about God deny Him personality, body, and relationship, because of the imperfections that attend these things in the material world. This needlessly limits God; all that has to be denied are the imperfections.
Accordingly, there is no need for misgivings when we hear that God likes to fight. The fighting propensity is certainly found in us, and therefore it originally exists in God. A fight offers unique pleasures: an intense concentration of the mind and a heightening of the senses, along with the excitement of contest and adventure, the thrill of being challenged by danger, and an exhilaration in the testing of one's strength and courage.
Of course, in the material world, fighting is altogether polluted by hate and enmity, and with the advent of modern mechanistic warfare, it has degraded into mere terrorism and indiscriminate butchery. The dharma of ksatriyas is to fight, but when they engage in a trial of arms, such as the one at Kuruksetra, they at least observe the rules of chivalry. No ksatriya would attack an enemy when he was disarmed or asleep. Equals fought only with equals on equal grounds. Battles were conducted in the spirit of sporting contests, and they were waged where civilians would not be in danger. All things deteriorate in time: Chivalry is dead, and the plan for our next big war has the military on both sides bunkered safely in underground Pentagons, while their weapons rain destruction onto each other's defenseless civilian population. We have reason enough to dislike fighting, but we shouldn't project all the despicable characteristics of fighting in the material world onto God's transcendental fighting. The perversions are ours, not God's.
When Krsna wants to enjoy the pleasure of fighting, He calls upon an appropriate devotee to be His opponent. When Krsna fights with His devotee, He enjoys feelings of love enhanced by the sharp emotions of combat, and Bhismadeva yearned to serve Krsna in this way. In Bhismadeva the direct rasa of servitude was combined with the more prominent indirect rasa of chivalry. Fighting with Krsna is a natural expression of that special valorous enthusiasm which characterizes the chivalrous rasa.
Krsna was eager to be attacked by His beloved Bhismadeva, and so, as the supreme controller in everyone's heart, He caused Duryodhana, after a disastrous day of battle, to approach Bhismadeva with an insulting accusation: The Pandavas were winning only because Bhismadeva, out of affection for them, was reluctant to attack them with his full prowess; if Bhismadeva was unwilling to fight the Pandavas, he should have said so in the beginning. A ksatriya cannot tolerate any insult to his honor, and Bhismadeva responded with a vow: He would slay all five Pandavas the next day with five arrows especially made for that purpose. These he handed over to Duryodhana for safekeeping. But Arjuna, by a clever strategem, got the arrows away from Duryodhana. Bhismadeva understood that Krsna was behind the ploy, and so he swore that the next day Krsna would have to take up weapons Himself (breaking His own vow), otherwise His friend Arjuna would die.
And so it came about on the battlefield that Krsna charged toward Bhismadeva with upraised wheel to save Arjuna from certain death at the general's hand. Bhismadeva had kept his promise and forced Krsna to break His own. Arjuna, acting in the fraternal rasa, grabbed Krsna around the waist to check His assault on Bhismadeva, pleading with Him not to break His promise and be known as a liar. Krsna could appreciate Arjuna's friendly concern, but he had deliberately gone back on His word to show that He protects His devotee unconditionally, at whatever cost to Himself. Nothing supersedes His love for His devotees.
Krsna was magnificent—in protecting Arjuna and in breaking His promise. And Bhismadeva relished this in deep ecstasy, just as he relished the stern military features of Krsna as He adroitly maneuvered Arjuna's chariot in battle, a whip in His right hand and a bridle rope in His left. He relished seeing Krsna's hair made ashen and disheveled by battle, and His face beaded with perspiration from the effort of guiding the chariot. And he relished seeing the wounds inflicted by his own arrows on Krsna's body.
Krsna displayed these features in battle to satisfy the chivalrous love of His servant, just as Bhismadeva pressed his furious attack against Krsna to satisfy the fighting spirit of the Lord. Because the arrows falling upon Krsna were shot in chivalrous worship by His beloved Bhismadeva, the Lord accepted them as He would a shower of soft roses offered by another devotee. The Lord enjoyed the wounds inflicted upon Him by Bhismadeva, although in truth, there is no possibility of wounds on the spiritual body of Krsna. Just as intense love can cause goosebumps to be raised on the skin or a flush to appear on the face, so Krsna responded in love to Bhismadeva with the appearance of wounds on His inviolable transcendental body.
Thus Krsna graciously accepted the love offered to Him by Bhismadeva. It was the general's most wonderful hour. After the battle was over, when he lay with his body so riddled with arrows that it did not touch the ground, and great sages had gathered with the Pandavas to witness the passing of the mighty warrior-devotee, Bhismadeva fixed his mind with intense concentration on the image, driven indelibly into his heart, of Krsna, angry and disheveled, with the wheel lifted high, rushing at him as a lover runs to meet his beloved.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam relates many pastimes between Lord Krsna and pure devotees like Bhismadeva. Hearing these narrations will certainly act as an antidote to the prevalent poisonous stereotype of a remote, static, and entirely unsociable God, a God too grandly aloof to enter fully into mutual relationships: a God you wouldn't really care to know. This pernicious idea of God has led many people to think that relations with Him must be vacuous and one-sided, and spiritual life deadly dull; godless relationships seem far more interesting. Mark Twain spoke for these people when he quipped: "Heaven for climate, hell for society."
But Krsna shows us that relationships with Him are endlessly rich and attractive, filled with powerful and exalted emotions, replete with fascinating interchanges, utterly absorbing in interest, and charged through and through with ecstasy. Each of us possesses a rasa with Krsna as part of our eternal makeup, but as long as we remain turned away from Him to seek happiness in material relationships, our rasa lies undeveloped and dormant within our heart. To encourage us to revive our sleeping love for Him, Krsna has graciously revealed some of His unlimited pastimes, so that we can see there is no society like Krsna's society, nor any love like Krsna's love.
We welcome your letters.
I enjoy BACK TO GODHEAD very much. I find it both inspirational and thought-provoking. I want to thank you for publishing such an excellent magazine. I live in a rather remote area in Upper Michigan and look forward to learning more about Krsna each month.
Cindy L. Feliciano
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Hare Krsna. I have read with great pleasure and interest the essay "In Pursuit of the Highest Truth." I admire your efforts to bring together the Eastern and Western philosophical understanding of Godhead.
I was born and brought up in a Vaisnava family. From my early childhood, I had the privilege to learn about Krsna and worship Him. So when I came to this country, I was very much disturbed and disgusted with the Western concept of God as a bush of fire, or a pillar of fire, or a cloud. Unfortunately, there were no temples in this country then to show Westerners what God looks like. Thanks to Srila Prabhupada, today everyone can see and appreciate the most beautiful and opulent form of the Lord.
In your essay, which is very pleasing and convincing even to the most ordinary person, you have explained the form of the Lord, the Supreme Truth. The picture of Krsna being chastised by His mother brought tears of joy into my eyes.
Laxmi Narayan Chaturvedi, M.D.
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I have read with considerable interest the interview "You Can Be Happy" with Srila Bhavananda Goswami Visnupada in the July 1982 issue of BACK TO GODHEAD.
Not only in other parts of the world but here in India as well, many scientifically-minded and educated people have not appreciated the basic unity of life, which is the basis for nonviolence. The truth, however, is that the Vedantic concept of the unity of life is fully supported by modern science.
Let me quote Nobel Prize winner Sczent-Gjorgi on this subject. Discussing the role of chemicals universally required by animals from plant food, he said: "This simple fact involves a point of great philosophical importance. If I look upon the cells as a mechanism and upon the molecule as a wheel of this mechanism, I say that there are two mechanisms, the plant cell and my cell, whose parts, the single wheels, are interchangeable. Two mechanisms whose parts are interchangeable cannot be very different. This is the first scientific evidence for the great fundamental chemical unity of living Nature. There is no real difference between cabbages and kings. We are all recent leaves on the old tree of life."
In fact, many beautiful parallels between the Vedantic ideas and the most modern scientific concepts can be ennumerated.
D. R. Sharma
Our reply: Although the Vedas generally stress the spiritual—rather than the chemical—unity of life, it is true that there are many parallels between Vedic concepts and the concepts of modern science.
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I am disturbed by the pejorative use of the term "petty nationalism" in the November 1982 issue of your magazine. Didn't Krsna urge Arjuna to fight for the kingdom, even though Arjuna wanted to maintain a pacifist stance? "Action, not inaction" was, I believe, Krsna's precise instruction.
Our reply: Krsna's first instruction to Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita is that an intelligent person should not identify with the material body. Our bodies may have been born in England or America, Russia, or Japan, but the soul within the body is neither English nor American nor Russian nor Japanese. The soul is eternal, a fragmental part of the Supreme Lord. When we leave our present bodies at death we are transferred to other bodies, and we forget all the affiliations—national, political, racial, social, familial and so on—of our previous life. Since Arjuna was a prince and a great military commander, Lord Krsna urged him to fight to establish a kingdom based on the eternal universal principles of God consciousness—not any sectarian nationalistic differences. Krsna urged Arjuna to be active in Krsna consciousness, in other words, not active for a temporary cause. In this age, Lord Caitanya has recommended that our "fighting" be to spread the chanting of the names of God, or "Hare Krsna," to every town and village on earth.
"Find a Bona Fide Guru"
A young woman tells of her search for satisfying answers
by Kamra-devi dasi
I entered Cornell University in the fall of 1971 at the age of seventeen, full of hopes, expectations, and innocent dreams. For the first time, I was away from my parents' close jurisdiction. The new opportunity to associate with world-famous scholars and professors excited me, and I was looking forward to preparing for a career in veterinary medicine.
With my newly found freedom, it was only a few months before I had abandoned the strict moral principles my orthodox Jewish parents had tried to instill in me. I made new friends who, like me, had come to Cornell for a good education—and a good time. I was having fun doing things I knew my parents wouldn't approve of, but something wasn't right. I would go to parties where most of the kids were drinking or taking drugs, and I would see members of the faculty behaving just like the students. Here were my teachers challenging my intelligence, demanding me to study and to cultivate a deep love of knowledge, yet by their activities, they seemed to be indicating that life's real goal lay in hedonism. So I was shocked to see that the enjoyment of the professors was on the same level as that of the students. And I began to question the value of working to attain a degree in veterinary medicine.
By the end of my first semester, I was already dissatisfied with dating, partying, hearing rock music, and getting intoxicated, and I wanted to apply myself to my studies. But the profound disillusionment I felt with my professors also disillusioned me about the life I was supposed to be working so hard to make for myself.
For example, my first biology course was taught by a well-known British professor, who began her introductory lecture by announcing to thirteen hundred students that she had a five-acre marijuana field in back of her house. The reactions of the students varied from cheering to booing, but for me this was another blow to my weakening faith.
As for my expanding freedom to enjoy ever-increasing sense pleasures, I realized that I would just become ever-increasingly dissatisfied. It was a syndrome: hankering for a bigger and better stereo system or more and better horses, or whatever happened to strike my fancy. I would have to work hard to achieve my goals, but upon achieving them, I would immediately become dissatisfied and have to work still harder to achieve an even more ambitious materialistic goal. I became fearful, anticipating a life of frustration. I wanted to give up my recently acquired bad habits, but what could replace them that would actually satisfy me?
Although my friends considered me overly philosophical, I saw myself as simply trying to make sense out of life. Any goal appeared to be a dead end, so I began to question: "Is anything absolute? I have one opinion, someone else has another opinion, and someone else has another opinion. But what is the answer?" Certainly microbiology class or lectures in the autopsy lab weren't providing answers to such questions. I was already disillusioned with my religious training. Where would I find answers to my questions?
I say I had rejected religion, but I had good reasons. My parents weren't living up to the principles they professed and had tried to instill in me. They didn't seem convinced, and I wasn't convinced. They had sent me to an Orthodox Hebrew school, but that had only increased my disillusionment. Even my teachers hadn't seemed to understand the essence of the Old Testament and the Torah, and the synagogues were more populated for Tuesday night bingo than for Saturday morning Sabbath services.
When I began to see Hare Krsna devotees on the Cornell campus, I was curious. I think I must have admired them right from the beginning, if for no other reason than that they were always there—day after day for several hours a day. They obviously had conviction, and it made me want to return to religion for the answers to my questions. I would see the men dressed in dhotis, their foreheads marked with tilaka, their heads shaved except for a sikha in the back. Usually I would be on my way to the student union building, and I would pull my hat down low and cross the street, I was miserable and bored, sunk in thoughts of my unanswered questions. I figured I didn't have anything in common with these Hare Krsna devotees, but I did begin to think that maybe religion could answer my questions. Thus it was a considerable breakthrough when I decided to again experiment with religious life.
I visited various churches, temples, yoga groups, and meditation centers. A Quaker group near the campus would hold silent meditations, and I went several times. They would sit quietly for hours, and anyone who wanted to say something could stand up and speak. But it seemed mostly mundane. Someone would quote a poet or talk about the Grateful Dead or discuss what band was going to play on campus or speak on some other topic I had already rejected as not providing any ultimate answers. But I continued to search. I became especially interested in yoga, and I decided to become a vegetarian. I learned of so many religious people who were vegetarians, and I began to conclude that eating flesh would deter me from my spiritual goals.
I found a vegetarian restaurant about forty-five minutes from Cornell in the town of Trumansburg, and I used to go there regularly. The girl who owned the restaurant was interested in the Hare Krsna movement, and she would let Hare Krsna devotees from the Buffalo center stay there on occasion. Then one evening I was sitting in the restaurant when devotees entered, chanting Hare Krsna and putting sticks of incense at all the tables. Some of the devotees were selling books. The devotees' happy, smiling faces, their enthusiasm, and their music all attracted me deeply. Suddenly I felt that I'd like to be a part of this group. I let the idea pass, but I purchased a set of three Krsna books from one of the devotees. I looked at the pictures, glanced at some of the Sanskrit words, which I couldn't read, and wondered about the bluish boy with the flute in His hand and the peacock feather on His head. I gave the books to a friend.
But I decided I should become more seriously involved with yoga. I was already interested in a popular yoga group, and now I began regularly attending the chanting and meditation sessions. The members would chant their mantras softly, indoors. I asked, "If this is the Absolute Truth, like you say, why don't you go out and chant in the streets like the Hare Krsnas?"
They said, "Oh, we don't want to upset people. Everyone has his own path toward self-realization."
I was again sensing hypocrisy, especially when I found that some of the members were involved in drinking and homosexual activities, but I continued attending the meditations. I even received initiation, but I found the philosophy of the group vague and impersonal. I was praying earnestly—to whom I wasn't sure—for some guidance, and an answer came during a group meditation. It was as if a voice from within overwhelmed me: "Find a bona fide guru." I didn't know what the "voice" meant, and I wasn't sure how to follow the instruction, but I never forgot it.
Then, after two years of study at Cornell, I took a leave of absence and turned toward the field of horsemanship. I studied under a top British instructor at an academy in Maryland, but I ran into the same frustrations I had met at Cornell: unanswered questions. I would be riding frisky thoroughbreds during the cold winter weather, and as we would approach the six-foot-high jumps, all I could think would be, "What if the horse falls on me? What if I died at this instant? What would I have attained?" I started to pray daily in complete despair, "O God, if there is a God, please take all these things away from me, and let me know what You want me to do!"
I called the telephone information for the number of the Washington, D.C., center of the yoga society I had joined at Cornell. The operator, however, instead of giving me the number, told me, "Don't bother with them. They won't accept an out-of-town member. Try the Hare Krsna center. They'll accept anyone." But I insisted, got the number, called, and was refused. I still didn't call the Hare Krsna center.
By now, the prospect of a career in horsemanship also lost its taste, and I went to my parents' home in New York City. I was unsure of what to do with my life. But I had to do something, so I got a job as a riding instructor. Then one day, in the Port Authority Bus Terminal, a devotee gave me a BACK TO GODHEAD magazine. I had been teaching riding in New York City for a few months and was becoming more and more frustrated. But the more I felt frustrated, the more I read and reread the BACK TO GODHEAD. The cover picture showed two men, like puppets on strings, being manipulated by the three modes of material nature. I felt that I could relate to that, as I could see that I was not in control of the events in my life. There was a full-page picture of the New Vrindaban farm community in West Virginia, and an article about chanting the Hare Krsna mantra on beads. I called the temple in Brooklyn, and the devotee I spoke with (Sravaniya-devi dasi) answered all the questions I had been asking for almost three years.
Sravaniya sympathized with my frustration and explained to me about transmigration of the soul. She told me, "We attain different bodies—animal, human, plant, male, female, and so on—according to our activities and desires. But only in the human body can we question the goal of life and realize that we are suffering. The goal of life is to learn to love Krsna."
"In the BACK TO GODHEAD magazine," I said, "I read about how the three modes of material nature control all that we do. But I read in the Bhagavad-gita where Krsna says, 'Rise above the three modes.' So how do we rise above the modes if everything we do is controlled by them?"
Sravaniya explained that devotional service to Lord Krsna, beginning with hearing about Krsna from a pure devotee, was transcendental to material activities. "Later on in the Bhagavad-gita," she said, "Krsna says, 'One who engages in full devotional service transcends the modes of material nature and comes to the spiritual platform.' So you can rise above the modes of material nature by performing pure devotional service to the master of the modes of nature, Lord Krsna. But the key is that devotional service must be done under the guidance of a spiritual master. You have to accept a bona fide guru."
Here was the clinching line. "Find a bona fide guru." I was very relieved and pleased by the answers I was getting, but I had other questions. By the time we were finished, I was almost crying in joy. Sravaniya had given me tangible hope that the answers to all my questions lay in performing devotional service to Krsna.
On my next day off from work I visited the temple. I arrived early enough in the morning to be able to take part in chanting japa, attending the Srimad-Bhagavatam class, and eating prasadam. I went out with a group of devotees to chant Hare Krsna on the streets of Manhattan. It was wonderful. And I realized I had been sent there by the same person who, a year and a half before, had told me from within my heart, "Find yourself a bona fide guru." I felt alive.
In my talks with devotees at the temple, I expressed my concern about making an abrupt change in my way of life. The devotees rose very early in the morning and were very disciplined in their practices. I knew it was the correct way to lead my life, but I also knew it was going to be difficult. The devotees agreed with me. But they pointed out that to achieve any goal in life I would have to work and perform austerities, and I now was striving for the supreme goal. I had been ready to undergo austerities to attain a doctorate in veterinary medicine, but this degree was even better, because you could take it with you after death.
The next day, when I returned to work, all I had to do was exercise a horse belonging to a big New York lawyer. I rode the bridle paths all day in Central Park, dressed in my custom-made breeches, boots, hunt cap, and jacket. But today I chanted the Hare Krsna mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—as loudly as I could.
Within a few days, I moved into the Brooklyn temple, and the welcome I received from the devotees was wonderful. I could understand that Krsna was personally taking care of my life. He had directed me to His devotees, who could, by their words and sincere examples, help me to attain eternal knowledge and happiness. I received initiation from a bona fide guru, Srila Prabhupada, a few months later, and by following his sublime instructions, I am guaranteed to attain the highest goal available for any living being—eternal devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna.
"I hope our kids will grow up with more hatred," says a Lebanese mother. "They must be more on guard."
A Lebanese soldier wears a T-shirt with the slogan, "Kill 'em all!"
In North Ireland an interviewer asks a boy, "What do you feel about your father's death now?" The boy's friend answers for him, "Revenge, that's what you want. Isn't it, Paul?" The boy agrees, "Aye. Revenge."
These are the voices of vengeful survivors in countries torn by war. In such countries—and there are many of them—hatred and revenge show little sign of letup. Usually the living hatred in such places has been bred by generations of crimes and atrocities. For a person to seek revenge when his family members are slain in a sectarian feud is natural. And for an economically oppressed people to take bloody vengeance on their oppressors is also understandable. But because the hatred and revenge make peace and harmony impossible, even for future generations, a sane person will see these destructive forces as undesirable. As theologian H. E. Fosdick stated in his book Wages of Hate, "Hating people is like burning down your own house to get rid of a rat."
The ancient Vedic literatures offer serious solutions to human hatred. The history of the great saintly king Dhruva Maharaja gives an instance of how one man overcame a revengeful anger that threatened to annihilate an entire race.
One day, Dhruva Maharaja learned that his younger brother had been killed by a member of the Yaksas, a powerful mountain tribe. Overwhelmed with lamentation and anger, Dhruva immediately got on his chariot and set out to take revenge. Dhruva Maharaja was a great fighter, and he and his forces began killing thousands of Yaksa soldiers. But Manu, the law-giver of the human race, being compassionate to the remaining Yaksas, approached Dhruva to give him instructions.
Manu did not approve the attack on an entire state to retaliate for one man's crime. The situation was similar to many modern-day conflicts, where cities and nations of nonpolitical, nonmilitaristic men, women, and children become victims of military violence.
Manu said, "My dear son, please stop. It is not good to become unnecessarily angry. It is the path of hellish life. By killing Yaksas who are not actually offenders, you have gone too far."
Manu's instructions were ultimately spiritual, because according to Vedic literature, it is only when we can see the spiritual oneness of all living beings that all party differences can be cleared up.
"One should not accept the body as the self," said Manu, "and thus, like the animals, kill the bodies of others." The animal thinks that the body of another animal is his food; therefore, one animal attacks another. But a human being, according to Manu, the law-giver for humanity, should not even kill animals unnecessarily, what to speak of human beings.
Dhruva Maharaja was not only a warrior, but a pure devotee of Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead; therefore, he soon became submissive to the wisdom of Manu. Dhruva had temporarily forgotten his original God consciousness, but Manu's instructions revived it. Nowadays, we can hardly find a politician or military leader who can stop in his tracks and deeply consider why he is pushing thousands of people on toward the path of violence. But that is even more reason why educational advice like that of Manu to Dhruva should be extended to all people. It is the greatest need of the day.
Manu taught God consciousness. He informed Dhruva that every living entity contains an eternal spark of spirit and that the Supreme Lord also dwells in the heart of everyone. Therefore, since every living creature is a residence of the Supreme Lord, unnecessary killing is unlawful. A person should act to please God, and that will simultaneously please himself and others. But vengeance will please and satisfy no one.
By elevating himself beyond sectarianism to God consciousness, a person will go beyond the bodily designations that sustain so many racial and fanatically nationalistic hatreds. For one who is God conscious, no individual or group is an ally or an enemy: everyone is an individual spirit soul, part and parcel of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Dhruva Maharaja took the instructions of Manu, ceased his killing, and came to peaceful terms with the Yaksas. In other words, the transcendental wisdom of Vedic knowledge was practical and successful in establishing peace. This knowledge is still applicable today, as it is universal and intended for all times. Wherever people sincerely attempt to implement this advice, therefore, good results will come.
But if wisdom like Manu's does not become influential, then what is the fate of humanity? There are indications that the slogan "Kill 'em all!" is sometimes on the minds of the leaders of the superpowers. Abusive words and threats are passed back and forth with increased intensity, and the nuclear weapons are already on hand for the mutually assured destruction of both superpowers as well as much of the rest of the world.
In his recent address to the United Nations, President Reagan declared, "In modern times a new, more terrifying element has entered into the calculations: nuclear weapons. A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought."
But how can we avoid it? Summit conferences like START and INF, with bafflingly complex de-escalation plans, will always fail unless some real wisdom is introduced. Behind the diplomatic masks and underneath the superpower peace rhetoric lurks the irrational enemies of humanity: hatred, revenge, and ignorance—all based on identifying the body as the self.
The world's leaders show no appreciable understanding of God consciousness and how it can work to solve the deadly feuds between individuals and nations. But now more than ever we need practical enlightenment. The Krsna consciousness movement is making the Vedic knowledge available to all people, with confidence that if even a few responsible leaders take it up, humankind will be spared. The alternative is to go on suffering from the ignorant, vengeful acts of those who want to "Kill 'em all!"