Vedic literature describes the various levels of enjoyment.
A lecture by
Devotee [Reads from The Nectar of Devotion]: "There are three kinds of happiness: material, spiritual, and devotional. Devotional service and the happiness due to its execution are not possible as long as one is materially affected. The desire for material enjoyment and the desire for becoming one with the Supreme are both considered material concepts."
Srila Prabhupada: In Sanskrit the three kinds of happiness are called bhoga, tyaga, and seva. The ordinary fruitive workers are after bhoga, the happiness of sense enjoyment. And the jnanis, the seekers of knowledge, are after the happiness that comes from negating sense enjoyment. One who is fed up with sense enjoyment will sometimes give it up and feel relief. For example, in America young boys are fed up with the kinds of sense enjoyment experienced by their fathers and grandfathers. So in the name of tyaga, renunciation, many of them have left home and become hippies. But because they cannot give up enjoyment entirely, they have taken to other kinds of sense enjoyment—intoxication and unrestricted sex.
So, beyond bhoga and tyaga is real enjoyment—seva, or the happiness of devotional service to Krsna. Here is a practical example: Suppose all of a sudden you see a one-hundred-rupee note lying on the street. If you pick it up and keep it, your conscience will beat you, because you know the money does not belong to you. You'll always think, "I have taken somebody else's money. I'm doing something sinful." In this way your mind will disturb you. So, that is bhoga. And if you don't take the money—if you leave it lying in the street—you'll also be disturbed. You'll think, "Somebody left that money there. I did not pick it up, but somebody else will find it and take it away. That is not good. "This is tyaga. But the best thing is that you pick up the hundred-rupee note and return it to the person who lost it. Then your mind will be happy and at peace. This is seva, devotion.
Everything belongs to Krsna. As He says in the Bhagavad-gita [5.29], bhoktaram yajna-tapasam sarva-loka-mahesvaram: "I am the maha-isvara, the supreme proprietor." Everyone is an isvara to some extent, but nobody except Krsna is the supreme proprietor. Unfortunately, this is unknown to the nondevotees. They think that the resources of the world have been given by nature for our enjoyment. This is the modern theory of economic development. Someone is thinking, "By the gift of nature we have a gold mine, so let us take the gold and enjoy." This is the view of the fruitive workers.
And when one nation has a large quantity of gold, every other nation is hankering to take it. Why is there struggle in this world? Because when one nation becomes wealthy, the people in the other nations think, "How can I take the wealth?" or "How can my nation take the wealth?" This is nationalism, which is simply expanded selfishness. That's all. People are fond of nationalism, but it's simply collective selfishness. In our country, Mahatma Gandhi is known as the father of nationalism. But what is that nationalism? Mahatma Gandhi thought, "The Britishers must go so my countrymen can enjoy." This is simply extended selfishness.
The basic principle of material life is "I want to enjoy." Then, even if I extend my enjoyment familywise, communitywise, or nationwise, that does not change the quality of selfishness. Big leaders are glorified in the name of nationalism, but actually neither the nation nor the community nor the person is the proprietor of anything. Krsna is the proprietor of everything (isavasyam idam sarvam [Iso mantra 1]). Therefore, whether on the individual level, the community level, or the national level, anyone who uses Krsna's property selfishly is a thief, just as a pickpocket, a gang, and an organization of gangsters are all thieves.
Once there was a conversation between Alexander the Great and a thief. Alexander had arrested him and was going to punish him. So, the thief protested, "Why are you punishing me? You are a great conqueror and I am only an ordinary thief, but actually you are simply a greater thief. That's all." Alexander the Great was very intelligent, and he immediately released the thief. "Yes," he said, "you are right. I am also a thief. Why should I punish you?"
So, everyone in this material world who is not Krsna conscious is a thief and a rogue. For example, the Americans occupied the land of America by killing the red Indians, and now they claim proprietorship. The immigration department declares, "Nobody can come here. It is our land." In this connection, there is another story about a group of thieves who stole some things and then divided them up. One of the thieves said, "Kindly divide everything honestly." The things were taken dishonestly, and he wanted them to be divided honestly. This is going on throughout the whole world. Everything has been stolen from Krsna dishonestly, and when there is conflict or a question of division, the United Nations tries to settle it "honestly." All the nations are full of plunderers, rogues, thieves—yet they have made an association called the United Nations to approve their rascaldom. You see? As soon as there is an opportunity, they'll commit all kinds of criminal activities. This we are actually seeing.
So, happiness that comes from material possessions is the happiness of rogues and thieves. And one who renounces everything, declaring, brahma satyam jagan mithya—"Only Brahman is real; this world is false"—he is a fool. What can you renounce? If you possess something, you can renounce it. But if you don't possess anything, what's the question of renunciation?
The jnanis, or impersonalists, are fed up with so-called material happiness, so in the name of brahmananda, so-called spiritual happiness, they say, "This world is false; I renounce it." The grapes are sour. You know the story of the jackal and the grapes? He wanted to get the grapes from a high place, so he was jumping, jumping, jumping. When he couldn't get them, he said, "Oh, the grapes are sour. I have no need for these grapes." Similarly, these rascal impersonalists renounce the world. This is also wrong, because what do they actually have to renounce?
Real happiness comes from seva, devotional service to Krsna. When one knows, "Everything is Krsna's and must be used for His purpose," that is real happiness. Not this false renunciation—jagan mithya. Srila Rupa Gosvami says,
Those who are after liberation from birth and death give up this world and become Mayavadi sannyasis [impersonalistic renunciants]. But Rupa Gosvami says this is phalgu-vairagya, incomplete renunciation. The word phalgu means "incomplete," and it also refers to the river Phalgu, near Gaya. This river is called "Phalgu" because if you come to it you'll find only a riverbed of sand. But if you push your hand within the sand, you'll find water. Similarly, the Mayavadi sannyasis have taken the dress of the renounced order, but within their hearts they have all kinds of desires to fulfill. If you "push your hand" within their hearts, you'll find unlimited desires for material enjoyment. They give up this world, but at heart they think, "I shall become God." Just see! An ordinary fruitive worker may try to become a king or a president, but the Mayavadis are trying to become God. How much greater desire they have, although outwardly they appear renounced.
But a devotee's happiness is different. As Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said,
na dhanam na janam na sundarim
"O my Lord, O Lord of the Universe, I do not want wealth, I do not want many followers, I do not want a nice wife. All I want, birth after birth, is to engage in Your unalloyed devotional service."
A devotee of Krsna does not desire even liberation, what to speak of wealth, followers, and so on. He simply wants to serve Krsna. That is real renunciation. And that is also perfect happiness and peace. As said in the Caitanya-caritamrta, bhukti-mukti-siddhi-kami sakali asanta:
"Those who are after sense enjoyment, liberation, or mystic perfection can never enjoy real peace."
The fruitive workers undergo great struggle to possess wealth. So they're never peaceful. And those who are after liberation generally want to become God or to become one with God. They must perform severe austerities and penances—very troublesome. So where is santi, peace? Then the yogis—they must also perform difficult practices: asanas [sitting postures], pranayama [breath control], dharana [concentration], dhyana [meditation], and so on. Where is santi? The yogi has to keep his head down for so long in sirsasana [the headstand]. That is one asana. Then he has to show some magic; otherwise he'll not be recognized as advanced in yoga practice. Sometimes the yogis will produce a piece of candy by magic. These are all troublesome things.
So, neither the fruitive worker, the impersonalist, nor the yogi is peaceful. But krsna-bhakta niskama ataeva santa: "Because a devotee of Krsna does not need to possess anything or renounce anything or show some magic power, he is perfectly peaceful."
Therefore, one should concentrate upon devotional service. Everything is included. A devotee of Krsna does not renounce anything of this world or accept anything of this world outside of Krsna's service. If he accepts something, it is for Krsna, and if he rejects something, that is also for Krsna. For example, in our society we advise, "Give up illicit sex, intoxication, gambling, and meat-eating." So, this is tyaga, renunciation. Why? For Krsna.
Our business is to accept that by which Krsna is pleased and to reject that by which Krsna is displeased. Our central point is Krsna's pleasure. In everything we do, we have to see whether Krsna or His representative is pleased. Yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasadah: "By the mercy of the representative of Krsna, one gets the mercy of Krsna." If we live in this way, we shall be happy; we shall enjoy the happiness of devotional service. Go on reading.
Devotee: "Because the impersonalists cannot appreciate the devotional happiness produced by the exchange of loving affairs with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, their ultimate goal is to become one with the Lord."
Srila Prabhupada: The impersonalists have no conception of the Personality of Godhead, so they say the Supreme is nirakara, without form. How can there be loving affairs with nirakara? I cannot love the air. Love can exist only for a person. Krsna has form and personality, so we can love Him. But we cannot love the sky. Therefore, because the impersonalists have no conception of God as a person, their "love of God" is all fictitious.
The impersonalists will pray, tvam eva mata tvam eva pita: "You are my mother, You are my father." But who is that mother, who is that father? That they do not know. We say, "Here is your mother and father—Krsna." Krsna is a tangible fact, not some fictitious, impersonal void.
Go on reading.
Devotee: "Their ultimate goal is to become one with the Lord. This concept is simply an extension of the material idea."
Srila Prabhupada: Our concept is also to become one with God—but one in interest, not in identity. Krsna says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: "Give up all other activities and just surrender unto Me." To become one with Krsna means that we agree, "Yes, Sir. For so long I acted foolishly. Now I surrender unto You." As Srila Bhaktivinoda sings, manasa deha geha yo kichu mora arpilum tua pade nanda-kisora: "O my dear Lord, whatever I possess—my mind, my body, my home—I surrender unto Your lotus feet." This is oneness. Marabi rakhabi jo iccha tohara: "You may kill me or protect me—whatever You like." But nitya-dasa prati tua adhikara: "I will remain Your eternal servant." This is oneness.
I keep my individuality, but I am so surrendered to Krsna that I have no disagreement with Him. Not that I mix myself up with Him and lose my individuality. I have individuality now, so my individuality must go on. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita [2.12]: "These kings, you, and I—all of us existed in the past, we are existing now, and in the future we shall also exist." There is no question of intermingling one's individuality with Krsna. Individuality is sacrificed only in the sense of being in full agreement with Him. That is oneness.
For example, in our Society I am the head. So, everyone is in agreement with me. But it is not that my disciples, my students, have lost their individuality. They're using their individuality to propagate the Krsna consciousness movement, as sanctioned by me. So, by our devotional service, by the varieties of work we do, we must see whether or not Krsna is satisfied. That's all. Sv-anusthitasya dharmasya samsiddher hari-tosanam: "The perfection of all activity is to please Krsna." This is our philosophy.
Whatever we do must satisfy Krsna or His representative. In an office, the clerks work for the superintendent. If he's pleased, the proprietor is pleased. The clerks do not have to engage in a separate endeavor to please the proprietor. If the man in charge is pleased, the proprietor is pleased.
Similarly, we have to please our spiritual master. And if he's pleased, Krsna is pleased and my life is successful. Others may be displeased or pleased; it doesn't matter. We should simply see that Krsna is pleased. Then what we are doing is all right. That is oneness—not losing our individuality. Continue.
Devotee: "In the material world, everyone is trying to be the topmost head man amongst all his fellow men or neighbors. Whether communally, socially, or nationally, everyone is competing to be greater than all others in the material concept of life. This competition can extend to the unlimited, so that one actually wants to become one with the greatest of all, the Supreme Lord. This is also a material idea, although maybe a little more advanced."
Srila Prabhupada: This kind of conception—"I shall become God"—is a material conception, not a spiritual one. Nobody can become God, because God already is. But one who has no actual knowledge of God may think that he has become God (vimukta-mani). He thinks, "I have become liberated; I have become God." Then he advertises himself as God, and some foolish people adore him: "Oh, here is God—here is an incarnation of God,"
We do not accept such a cheap God. At the age of seven, Krsna lifted Govardhana Hill. So, if you are actually God, then show me that you can lift a hill. Then I will accept you. Go on reading.
Devotee: "However, the perfect spiritual concept of life is complete knowledge of one's constitutional position, in which one knows enough to dovetail himself in the transcendental loving service of the Lord."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, this is the sum and substance of Krsna consciousness. Thank you very much. Hare Krsna.
A spiritual gathering in ancient India yields sage advice for our age of skepticism.
by Mandalesvara dasa
"Once, in a holy place in the forest of Naimisaranya, great sages headed by the sage Saunaka assembled to perform a great thousand-year sacrifice for the satisfaction of the Lord and His devotees. One day, after finishing their morning duties by burning a sacrificial fire and offering a seat of esteem to Srila Suta Gosvami, the great sages made inquiries with great respect."—Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.4
When I tell you that the Naimisaranya meeting of sages some fifty centuries ago is of great importance to us today, you may doubt. After all, the meeting was so long ago and in a forest in India, so you naturally wonder what relevance it could have today. And just who were these sages? A sage, we know, is supposed to be a wise man, one who can answer life's deepest questions. But so often we see the so-called sage depicted as an impractical, even foolish, old man who receives some ritual respect, smiles benignly, and gives sentimental or cryptic answers to questions from his disciples and admirers. Sometimes such a sage or guru will write books or deliver speeches or attend conferences on the brotherhood of man, world peace, unified religion, and so on. But rarely do intelligent persons consider these quasi-spiritualists and their assemblies and literatures as competent to offer feasible solutions to the world's problems.
Furthermore, the Srimad-Bhagavatam, which is the written account of the Naimisaranya meeting, is an ancient scripture that asks us to accept its authority—period. And this is also hard for us to do. We are skeptics. We've been trained to question authority. Outside my office window here in Philadelphia, I see every day a certain car with a bumper sticker that reads, "QUESTION AUTHORITY."
And why shouldn't we question authority? Our authorities exert control over our lives—they have power. And we know how power corrupts. We want to think for ourselves, to decide for ourselves. We believe that our caution and skepticism is a sign of intelligence.
I can sympathize with that. I also was trained as a skeptic, a questioner of authority. I suppose it began in college. My philosophy professor prided himself on being what he called a Christian humanist. And he trained and prodded us, his students, to critically analyze all our beliefs and "presuppositions." I soon learned to put my personal values and goals above all else. Authorities, I concluded, should be followed only as long as they served the interests of the individual. This humanistic approach to life had a profound effect on me, and I became a questioner—cautious and skeptical.
This same spirit was there also when I opposed the war in Vietnam. In other words, I questioned all authority, whether religious, political, or whatever. In fact, now that I think about it, my entire generation grew up in this atmosphere: the interests of the individual pitted against the dictates of impersonal social and religious authorities.
Being from the Deep South, I saw first hand the struggle of blacks for dignity and civil rights. And when, after graduating from high school, I went "up north," even in my conservative little Baptist University in conservative little Shawnee, Oklahoma, we students demanded our rights and refused to follow rules and regulations we felt interferred with our self-actualization—a spirit that certain liberal faculty members actively supported. We grew to question, reject, alter, and pick and choose from the religious and social principles of our parents. We were free-thinking individuals. I was a ministerial student, yet my activities on campus were as much against as for the status quo in my religion. I sported one of the few beards on campus; and when, as student evangelist for a weekend youth revival, I stood before a large congregation of Southern Baptists in Oklahoma City, I was considered an anathema. One young seminarian, however, on hearing that I was being turned away because of my beard, defended me by saying, "That's his individuality."
My sentiments exactly. I felt justified in my rebellion, my questioning of authority—justified in that I wanted complete fulfillment in life, in that I refused to follow any doctrines or rules that restricted my self-actualization, and in that I saw flaws in my authoritarian leaders. I refused, therefore, to surrender my individual integrity to suit such authorities.
Now the reason I so rigorously questioned authority—and you're probably the same way—wasn't that I was opposed to authority per se, but that I didn't want to serve another's interests at the cost of my own. Certainly consulting and following an authority is a convenience we all enjoy. It makes life simpler in many ways, and whenever we're able to get accurate, authoritative knowledge, we feel we have saved much valuable time.
So the idea of authority we already voluntarily accept. It's the thought of giving up our personal happiness to satisfy the dictates of some authority that goes against our grain. But even that we all accept under certain conditions. For example, when we understand that the restrictions a certain authority places on us are for our best interest, we accept. Such acceptance, we feel, isn't blind or sentimental; it's based on knowledge and a clear understanding that, although we may be foregoing some immediate temporary gratification, we are acting in our best interest.
For example, we submit to the sometimes painful treatment of a doctor or dentist because we know it's necessary and in our best interest. Our medical authorities explain to us that although they try to make the surgery or innoculation or whatever as painless as possible, it will still hurt a little; so we have to be tolerant. And the most cautious free-thinkers among us submit to painful medical treatment when we're convinced it's for our own good.
Consciously or unconsciously, most of us probably apply this same criterion to spiritual authority. We're willing to sacrifice, we're willing to submit, we're willing to undergo difficulties—but we expect first to be convinced logically and rationally that, by our sacrifices and austerities, we're really serving our best interests. My problem, however, (and you may have experienced the same difficulty) was in finding a spiritual authority that could fully satisfy me intellectually, that could convince me that my best interests would be served if I surrendered.
To be sure, I encountered a myriad of religious dogmas and teachers, but I couldn't accept any of them wholeheartedly. And this is quite common, too, because whenever scriptures or church doctrines are seen as dictating unfair restraints on the individual's material life, a great humanistic cry goes up. While the conservatives may see contraception and abortion, for example, as immoral and may seek to prohibit them, the humanistic contingent considers the prohibitions themselves to be immoral, because they appear to limit the full expression and realization of the individual's potential.
So who or what is our spiritual authority? Should we doubt our scriptures and church doctrines? And then do we appoint ourselves as the ultimate authority? Certainly that appears to be our tendency, since to alter, interpret, and speculate on authoritative teachings indicates that we hold our own ideas in higher regard than those of the scriptures.
But will we, by our own strength, be able to free ourselves from spiritual ignorance? After all, spiritual subject matter—the topics discussed by the Naimisaranya sages and recorded in the Bhagavatam—is beyond our limited field of sensory perception. The spirit soul is described in the Vedic literature as avyakta, invisible. And the supreme spiritual being, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is described as adhoksaja, beyond the material senses, and acintya, inconceivable by philosophical speculation. Says the Bhagavad-gita: "The Supreme Truth is beyond the power of the material senses to see or to know." So what spiritual understanding can we expect to arrive at when, by its very nature, spirit is beyond our sensory purview? We may derive some satisfaction from our speculations about God and the soul, but we should know that we're only guessing. There's a very wise, commonsensical saying from the Vedic literature: acintyah khalu ye bhava na tams tarkena yojayet. "In matters inconceivable, speculative arguments are useless." So we require a spiritual authority, just as we require authorities in medicine, law, and every field of education. In fact, the spiritual authority is even more essential than other authorities, due to the esoteric nature of spiritual subject matter. Without following genuine spiritual authority we cannot understand spiritual science.
The otherwise unattainable realm of spiritual knowledge comes into focus when we undertake a careful study of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Although I can't expect to transfer onto you my faith in the authority of the Srimad-Bhagavatam and its pure representatives, I can show you the reasonableness of seeing things as the Naimisaranya sages saw them: in relation with the Absolute Truth. According to the Bhagavatam, the Naimisaranya sages, and all subsequent Vedic authorities in the disciplic line for the past five thousand years, everything is an emanation from the Absolute Truth. Just as light and heat emanate from the sun and spread throughout our solar system, so all existence—from the vast material universe to the innumerable, infinitesimal spiritual souls—has emanated from the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Everything, therefore, is to be understood in relation with the Absolute Truth, the origin of everything.
According to this vision, all problems come when things are seen as separate from the Absolute Truth. And, conversely, all problems can be solved when things are understood in their proper perspective in relation with the Absolute Truth. And what is our relation with the Absolute Truth? According to Srimad-Bhagavatam, we are the eternal servants of the Absolute Supreme Personality of Godhead. And how this is so is presented very clearly in the Bhagavatam.
The Bhagavatam seeks to teach us three things: 1. We have an eternal relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. 2. We have to perform loving devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. 3. By so doing, we will solve all the problems of life and attain the highest perfection of pure love of God. The Bhagavatam compares devotional service to watering the root of a tree. When we water the root of a tree, we simultaneously water all the leaves, flowers, and fruits. Similarly, when we serve the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, we are automatically fulfilling all other needs and obligations.' Other attempts at happiness or at combating distress are, therefore, shortsighted.
The Bhagavatam explains that although we are eternal spirit souls, eternal servants of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, we have come to this material world to forget our original identity and to engage in activities that have no tinge of loving service to God. This is the cause of all our problems, because to carry out our illusion, we have to take on one material body (and identity) after another, birth after birth. But when we revive our lost, loving relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, we again become rightly situated in our eternal constitutional position. And the Bhagavatam thoroughly explains how this one adjustment is so sweeping as to solve all life's problems (including the otherwise unsolvable problem of repeated birth and death).
And as for solving problems on a global basis—that's also possible only by putting things in the proper perspective in relation with the Absolute Truth. Materially speaking we find so many nationalities, races, religions, social classes, and so on. But from the absolute perspective, everything has emanated from the Absolute Truth; therefore, everyone is the servant of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and everything is His property. Only when we realize this can we establish real unity and peace—because spiritually we are all equal and we all have the same fundamental need to revive our loving relationship with God.
Consider the analogy of the pebbles in the pool. If ten people each throw a pebble into a pool, there will be as many little "self-centered" circles. And the circles will clash and overlap. So, individually, nationally, socially, we all have our selfish, vested interests. And they overlap. But if we could all hit the center of the pool, so to speak, by properly aligning ourselves with the Absolute Truth, the origin of everything, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, then our circles would all be concentric and harmonious.
Thus from so many points of view the prescription of the Srimad-Bhagavatam and the Naimisaranya sages is convincing and relevant. And things don't have to be new to be relevant. Five thousand years ago, the sun that shone down on that Naimisaranya meeting gave off heat and light. And today, the sun is still giving heat and light. The same sun, the same energies, but still relevant. Certainly the Naimisaranya sages, the most elevated and educated persons of that day, considered the discussion of Srimad-Bhagavatam relevant for future generations. Through the eyes of Vedic literature, they were able to foresee that the people of our present age (which began five thousand years ago and will continue for the next 427,000 years) would live "but short lives." They also foresaw that people would be "quarrelsome, lazy, misguided, unlucky, and, above all, always disturbed." They took their meeting with utmost seriousness, as they requested Suta Gosvami to explain the essence of the Vedic literature for the benefit of the unfortunate people of this age.
So here we are in the 1980's. The age of quarrel and hypocrisy is in full swing. We doubt and question authority—and for good reasons. But still we are in need of spiritual guidance. Incorrigible free-thinker that I was (and am), I'm very happy to say that I fully accept the authority of the Srimad-Bhagavatam and that, consequently, I accept the authority of the sages of Naimisaranya, as they discuss the ills of our present age and how to cure them. I also accept the authority of my spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhakti-vedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual master of the Krsna consciousness movement, who has carefully translated and reasonably explained the Srimad-Bhagavatam for the benefit of everyone. I'm as rigorously philosophical about life as I ever was—I still think for myself—but I know the great value of taking advantage of the best authoritative advice available.
A Splinter's Tale
When we're surrounded by winter's beauty and danger,
by Suresvara dasa
Temple needs wood! . . . Temple needs wood!"
As the call echoes across our snowcapped farm, four men and two boys hop on an ox-drawn sled and head into the forest. Stripes of snow on bare branches, the silence deep and white. Winter's woods are an ancient theater for sages seeking an audience with God. But the meditation offered here is more an adventure. Today's revelation: Krsna's temple needs firewood.
"Flash! King! Get up!" Vaisnava drives the oxen forward, and the sled moves easily over the trail's snow-paved ruts and sloughs. Vaisnava tells the boys that King's real name is Maharaja. And Flash's real name? Flashlight.
Laughter and sunshine dance in everyone's eyes. Then the sun goes in, and a north wind begins to blow. The breath of winter chills the devotees' hearts and fires their souls to bring in the wood. Prabhanu thinks they can have a load down to the temple within an hour—if they don't get stuck. The devotees hold on to the sled's sideposts and take their places with the animals and trees as servants in Krsna's kingdom.
"Flash! King! Gee!" The oxen turn right, "broke to the word." As the trail winds up a steep hill, the oxen pull harder, their muscles rippling silently in the ascent. They love to pull—so massive and submissive—hauling sled and people upward to the snowy summit.
The trail narrows on top as the trees close in. The forest looks more beautiful up here. And more dangerous. The devotees duck branches as the oxen move over snow-covered rocks and stumps. The easy-loading sled rides barely twenty inches off the ground. The men jump off and walk by the oxen, who, surrounded by snow and trees, depend more than ever on Vaisnava's strong commands. The forest will yield its fuel, but not without a struggle.
The trees are mostly hardwoods—hickory, oak, beech, maple, and more—with a few pine and cedar groves. The devotees have cut selectively. Although from late fall to early spring they burn ten cords weekly, seldom do they have to cut up a whole mature tree just for firewood. Weed trees, fallen trees, and the topwood of trees cut for lumber supply nearly all of it. The Lord brings us here to gather the wood, and gives us the oxen to haul it home.
"Whoa!" The party stops in a clearing. Snowflakes appear, and branches toss against a grey sky. Logs of locust, drying for a year in the sun and wind, stand in stacks, tepee-style. Gudakesa recalls an Indian massacre. The boys, Puri and Bala, follow his finger as he points out stone ruins down in the valley.
"Farmers say the settlers' ghosts still haunt that place. First the Indians thought this land was theirs, then the settlers, now the farmers—maybe tomorrow the developers. Seems people keep forgetting everything belongs to God."
The boys want to hear more about the ghosts, but Gudakesa and the others start to work loading the sled. The logs are heavy, the footing uncertain. The men work in pairs, flipping extra-heavy pieces onto the bed and stacking the sled with eight-foot lengths. Locust has a straight grain, and big men like Gudakesa can split a log with one swing of the axe. The devotees load the sled to capacity and wrap the logs with a heavy chain.
"Flash! King! Get up!" Vaisnava, Gudakesa, and the boys head back to the temple with the wood, but Prabhanu and Gita stay to chop down a dead oak. The shortage of woodsmen the last couple of seasons has begun to tell. The temple is down to its last cord, the forest cutting to a few tepee stacks. To stay warm the rest of the winter, the devotees will have to hustle.
"Cut a wedge on the pond side of the trunk," Prabhanu tells Gita. "See how the tree is leaning that way? Then make a felling cut on the opposite side about two inches above the wedge. The leader branches should have a clear fall into the snow."
Chop. . . . Chop. . . . Gita's axe gashes the dead oak's trunk. Fifty feet up, flying squirrels spring away and glide to safety in a nearby maple. The babies don't make it and fall into the snow. Chop. . . . Chop. . . . "Heads up!" Gita jumps back as a pine bough crashes into the snow in front of him.
"A widow's limb," says Prabhanu. "Must have got caught up there last month when I felled that pine. Loose limbs like that kill lumberjacks every year. Never work in the woods alone."
Yet the solitude of the woods draws us, Prabhanu reflects, to be with God in His kingdom. "There is another nature," says Lord Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita, "which is eternal and is transcendental to this manifested and unmanifested matter." As the pond reflects the oak, so nature reflects eternity. Her beauty is Krsna's invitation to come home, her danger a warning lest we refuse. Like the trees, the bigger we are in this world, the harder we fall.
As Gita chops away, the ninety-foot oak leans farther and farther, then falls into the snow. Where a tree once stood, only silent space remains, filling with snowflakes.
"The wood's probably down to the temple by now," says Gita hopefully.
But it's not. Just a hundred yards away, the sled is stuck on a big stump. Vaisnava and Gudakesa have been trying to hatchet the front crossbar free, but to no avail. The loaded sled is too heavy for the oxen to back it up. Vaisnava has another idea. He unhitches the oxen, walks them behind the load, and wraps their chain around the rear crossbar. At his command, the oxen pull the sled off the stump. Vaisnava hitches the oxen around front again. Then—snap!—the key holding King's collar in the yoke breaks. Vaisnava whittles a splinter key and hopes it will last the trip back.
"Flash! King! Ready . . . Get up!" The oxen pull the load with their powerful necks and shoulders, the yoke creaking in the wind. Snow swirls and dashes their faces. Steaming backs humped, slaver icicles crusting their chins, the oxen lean forward, their eyes slit in concentration as they pull.
Alive to the struggle, the devotees sweat heavily inside their woolens. "Wood warms us twice," as the saying goes. And the first warmth, when we chop the wood and team it home, is the most purifying and memorable. Industrialists have contrived easier ways for us to stay warm. No doubt. But when we let technology comfort us, do we really master nature or just juggle the struggle. After all, we still have to pay the bills. We still have to grow old. Since time is the fire in which we all burn, what better way to use our time than to work with Mother Nature and go back to Godhead? Without Krsna consciousness, a modern hearth is little more than a convenient place to die.
"Whoa!" The party stops at the cross-trails, the summit of the quarter-mile slope. Snow sweeps the hill from top to bottom. High on the right, another bough breaks loose and falls with a whistling whoosh!
"Easy, boys, easy!" Vaisnava stays in front of the oxen and eases them down the steep trail. Gudakesa walks alongside the sled, while Puri and Bala joggle up top with the wood. "Easy!" Snow—in the pulling a beauty, in the braking a beast.
Suddenly King is out of the yoke. The splinter key has snapped. King's collar fallen in the snow. Vaisnava grabs King's side of the yoke and starts to run downhill with Flash. Gudakesa catches King by the halter and moves out of the way.
"Whoa, Flash!" Vaisnava lashes Flash on the nose. Useless. Flash can't slow the full load alone. The sled's tongue is pushing the yoke with tremendous weight, goading Flash faster and faster down the hill.
"Haw! Gee!" Puri and Bala hang on for dear life as the sled hurtles left and right with terrific momentum. The woods seem to riot in the wind, blustering snow on the breakneck slalom. Vaisnava is a good driver, but he's no ox. How long can he keep his balance, running down the icy ridges?
The sled has barely missed some twenty trees. Flash is having trouble turning left, and up ahead a big elm stands close on the right, where the trail turns sharply left. Before Vaisnava can give the command to turn, he falls. The sled nearly crushes him as he rolls over in the snow, hollering, "Haw! Haw!" As the sled careens toward the elm, the boys' eyes open wide.
* * *
That evening at the temple, the Krsna Deity shines like the full moon. Locust burns brightly in the furnace, its smoke curling up to the stars.
Inside, Vaisnava sips hot milk and tells the devotees about the yoke keys that snapped and how he ran downhill with Flash. He picks up a splinter of kindling and spans it between two fingers.
"When I fell, that's how close the sled came to running over me."
"Amazing!" says Gita. "That's how close the widow's limb came to falling on my head."
Puri and Bala, who have been listening at the keyhole in their pajamas, suddenly burst into the room.
"Amazing!" says Bala. "That's how close we came to hitting the elm!"
"Hey, you rascals are supposed to be asleep," says Prabhanu. "All right, Puri. What does our protector, Lord Krsna, tell us about Himself in the Bhagavad-gita"
"The splendor of the sun," quotes Puri, "which dissipates the darkness of this whole world, comes from Me. And the splendor of the moon and the splendor of fire are also from Me. And whoever at the time of death quits his body remembering Me at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt."
The devotees turn in, tired but inspired. Krsna consciousness saves us from the forest of material life—a splinter's tale of hard knocks and broken dreams—where time cuts everyone down. Heads touch pillows, and everyone falls fast asleep. The last to bed, Vaisnava points his toes towards the wood-burning stove.
"My dear Krsna," he prays, "You are my wonderful Lord. And from this day on, I'm Yours."
Curing the Vegetarian Blues
Being vegetarian in a nonvegetarian society can be hard—
by Visakha-devi dasi
Glancing through a copy of Bon Appetit the other day, I couldn't help feeling how difficult it is to be a vegetarian amidst our meat-oriented culture. On the magazine's cover the "Chef of the Month" beamed as he carved up a well-done veal roast. The lead story featured the popular dishes of France—almost all included meat. The how-to section demonstrated cuts on a chicken. And ads depicting meat appeared throughout the magazine.
Even the classiest restaurants aren't prepared for the vegetarian. A vegetarian friend who was obliged to go to a famous Italian restaurant for a business lunch told me of her plight. She said that when she quietly told the maitre d' of her dietary preference, he was beset with anxiety and hurriedly left to inform the chef. Unfortunately, it was too late, and her worst fears were realized: the melon had prosciutto, the risotto had shrimp, the vegetable soup was made from chicken-stock base, and the Caesar salad had anchovies. (At one point she overheard the maitre d' muttering to himself about the problems people cause by being different.)
Vegetarian party-goers don't have it any easier. They invariably find themselves conversing about the protein question, the cholesterol problem, or ethics, and sometimes debating with carnivores who say vegetables are a bore. Meanwhile, the hostess is anxious lest her vegetarian guests starve before the evening is over.
Nonvegetarians feel awkward around family members who are vegetarian. When my husband and I go to his parents' home, my mother-in-law dutifully brings out her vegetarian cookbook and, with great trepidation, launches into some vegetarian dishes, never quite confident that she or anyone else will be satisfied after a meatless meal.
Problems like these can cause all but the most staunch vegetarians to have second thoughts or even to break their resolution from time to time, unless they find ways to get around these embarrassments. My vegetarian friend at the fancy Italian restaurant, for example, pleaded indigestion. Then, while the others ate their multi-course meal, she ruminated over cream of potato soup as inconspicuously as possible. As for nonvegetarian friends and family members, you can always ask them to have a stock of fruits and nuts on hand for you. (Despite your best efforts to avoid problems, though, you'll probably be getting fewer and fewer invitations from your nonvegetarian friends anyway.)
The best—and most radical—solution of all, however, is to eat only krsna-prasadam, food that's been offered to Lord Krsna. That may seem too radical, but only until you taste the rewards. Prasadam is so good, you may not care to eat anything else.
Then as for restaurants, there are lots of Hare Krsna restaurants (see list on back cover). If you don't live near one, you could visit your local Hare Krsna center. It's open seven days a week, and every center holds a feast on Sunday.
As for parties, Krsna devotees don't sit in the corner, mulling over potato soup. They bring prasadam from their temple and take pleasure in serving generous helpings. And after relishing prasadam, you won't start talking about what you're missing by not eating meat. The thought won't even occur.
As for family gatherings, you can always go over to your folks' house an hour or two early, prepare some vegetarian dishes, offer them to Lord Krsna, and serve them with the meal—or, better yet, as the whole meal. If you've practiced the recipes we print here each month, your dishes will take the cake, and you can easily guide the conversation around the glories of krsna-prasadam.
What are those glories? Well, they're demonstrated in the life of Narada Muni, one of the greatest devotees of Lord Krsna. In his former life, Narada was the son of a maidservant and had no education. But once, while his mother was serving great devotee-sages, Narada helped her, and sometimes in the absence of his mother he would serve the great devotees himself. Narada used to eat the remnants of their food, and by so doing he became purified in heart and attracted to devotional service. As he went on eating krsna-prasadam, he gradually became as pure-hearted as the sages, always desiring to hear and chant the glories of the Lord.
Not only for Narada, but for ourselves as well, prasadam can be the beginning of our devotional service to Lord Krsna. Devotional service is the goal of religion and can be as simple and easy as tasting palatable dishes.
Although the Vedic literature doesn't tell us exactly what dishes Narada first tasted, here are some that are fit to serve to devotee-sages—or to your family members. If you're a vegetarian and you've got the blues because no one else is, offering these dishes to Krsna and then serving them to your friends is the perfect remedy.
(Recipes by Yamuna-devi dasi)
Cucumbers in Delicate Broth
Preparation time: 1 hour
Select firm cucumbers, 6 to 7 inches long with bright green skins and round ends. If the cucumbers are filled with seeds, scoop them out and use only the firm flesh. To remove excess bitterness, sprinkle the cut cucumbers with salt and allow them to sit for about 30 minutes; then rinse and cut as directed.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee (clarified butter)
1. Heat the ghee or oil in a 2-quart saucepan over a medium-high flame until a haze forms over the surface. Drop in the strips of ginger and chilis and the cumin seeds, and fry until the seasonings turn a light golden brown. Sprinkle in the asafoetida powder, and then add the cucumbers, the cayenne or paprika, and the turmeric. Stir-fry for 4 to 5 minutes.
2. Add the water and salt and bring to a full boil. Reduce the flame to low, cover, and simmer slowly for 20 minutes or until the cucumbers are tender and translucent, but not mushy. Remove the pan from the flame and gently blend in the lime juice, sweetener, garam masala, and minced herbs. Cover and allow to sit for 2 or 3 minutes before offering to Krsna.
Baked Eggplant Halves Stuffed with Fried Indian Cheese and Tender Chickpeas
(Baigan/ Kabli Chana)
Preparation time: 30 minutes
1 medium-size eggplant or 4 baby, round eggplants, halved lengthwise
Ingredients for the stuffing:
¼ cup vegetable oil or ghee
1. Using a small spoon and sharp paring knife, scoop out the eggplant centers, leaving shells 1/3-inch thick. Sprinkle the salt and cayenne or paprika inside the eggplant shells; set on absorbent paper towels to drain for about ½ hour. Preheat oven to 375 °F.
2. Heat the clarified butter in a 10- to 12-inch frying pan over a medium-high flame for 1 ½ minutes. Drop in the cheese cubes and fry for 4 to 7 minutes, gently turning them until they are crisp and golden brown on all sides. Transfer with a slotted spoon and set aside.
3. Stir in the ginger root, green chilis, cumin, black mustard, and ajwain seeds; fry until the seasoning browns slightly. Toss in the asafoetida powder and sweet nim leaves, fry for a few seconds, and immediately add the diced green pepper. Fry until the peppers glisten and wilt slightly. Add the tomatoes and eggplant pulp and fry for about 10 minutes.
4. Add the fresh herbs, coriander powder, turmeric powder, chickpeas, salt, and fried cheese cubes. Blend well. Brush the eggplant shells with ghee or oil and fill with sauteed stuffing. Place them in a shallow casserole dish, spoon the yogurt over the top of each piece, and sprinkle slightly with paprika.
5. Bake uncovered for about 1 hour or until the shells are fork tender; garnish with fresh parsley or coriander sprigs and offer to Krsna.
Pineapple and Peas in Almond Broth
Preparation time: 10 to 15 minutes
An elegant, succulent blend of sweet pineapple, green peas, nuts, and seasonings. Small servings become a novelty dish on a formal dinner menu. A sweet, golden-ripe pineapple is absolutely necessary.
3 tablespoons blanched almonds, halved
1. Combine ½ of the nuts, the sesame seeds, coriander seeds, and dried coconut in an electric coffee mill and pulverize to a fine powder; transfer to a small dish. Place ¼ cup of water or coconut milk in an electric blender jar, add the minced ginger and chilis, cover, and blend on high speed until smooth. Remove the feeder cap, and by spoonfuls, feed in the pulverized powdered nut mixture. If necessary, add water to facilitate blending the mixture into a smooth, thick puree.
2. Heat the clarified butter or oil in a 3-quart saucepan over a medium flame for 1 ½ minutes. Add the remaining cashews and almonds and stir-fry until the nuts are golden brown; remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside. Raise the flame to medium high, drop in the black mustard seeds, and fry until they crackle and sputter; add the smooth, wet nut puree and a sprinkle of water and stir-fry for 1 ½ to 2 minutes. Add the remaining 1 1/3 cups of water, the saffron threads, and the salt. Cover and gently boil for about 5 minutes.
3. Add the pineapple and peas. Reduce the flame to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the pineapple and peas are tender. Remove the pan from the flame, stir in the cream, nutmeg powder, and garam masala; sprinkle the remaining fried nuts over the surface as a garnish, and offer to Krsna.
We welcome your letters.
I am a professor of political science and have encountered your BACK TO GODHEAD magazine many times throughout the past few years.
It seems that your movement has been criticized as having rather naive solutions to the critical world problems of today's society. Granted that if everyone in the world simply meditated upon God and chanted Hare Krsna, there would be little need for an international power struggle between nations; still, the likelihood of such a Utopia is slim.
In the face of perhaps a global nuclear holocaust, is there any scope within Krsna consciousness for practical action—say as in the realm of politics?
Louis M. Nicholson
Our reply: Yes, we are taking practical action to solve the critical problems of the world. Unfortunately, our critics are unable to appreciate that we strike at the heart of the problem.
The heart of the problem facing society is sense gratification. Thinking that sense pleasures produce real happiness, people are feverishly pursuing sense gratification. And they align themselves with this or that leader in the hope that he will gratify their senses. Since all leaders do not agree on how to derive the optimum sense gratification, we have ideological divisions and conflict. This ongoing struggle has evolved into the present global nuclear threat. People need to be educated to understand that sense gratification is the cause of their distress and that human life is a rare and unique opportunity to awaken full God realization.
Our practical action consists, therefore, of preaching Bhagavad-gita so that people can adjust their misguided lives toward the path of pure devotional service. If the world's leaders can somehow be convinced to take to Krsna consciousness, then they can organize society around Krsna conscious ideals. Just as in former times Lord Krsna convinced Arjuna, a political leader, to fight for the cause of God consciousness and defeat the demonic elements, so our mission is to convince present-day leaders to do the same. This is obviously not an easy mission. We require all the help we can get. Whether one is a political scientist, philosopher, administrator, statesman, or warrior, we invite him to cooperate with our mission to establish the devotional way of life in all spheres of society.
We do not expect—nor is it our goal—that people will sit all day and chant and meditate on God. But if they have enlightened leadership, they can be guided to work in such a way that all their talents and resources can be pooled for the progressive benefit of the social body. This is practical action—fighting ignorance with the sword of knowledge.
* * *
I'd like to say that I think BACK TO GODHEAD magazine is the most interesting and fascinating magazine I have ever read. It is deep, philosophical, and refreshing. I really look forward to getting it every month. And the Hare Krsna religion has changed my life and thinking a great deal.
But I still believe in Christ and the Bible. So there's something that has been bothering me. Can you tell me why the Second Commandment—"Thou shalt not take unto thee any graven images"—appears to contradict the worshiping of the Deities in your temples? Please let me know your thoughts.
Our reply: According to all world scriptures, God, the Supreme Person, is omnipotent. There is nothing He cannot do. He can appear anywhere and anytime, and He does appear, especially in response to the prayers of His pure devotees.
The Vedic scriptures of India describe the personal forms of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, and His eternal associates in great detail. And the Vedas assert that when these forms are fashioned out of material elements like stone, wood, brass, and so on, Krsna Himself, at the request of His pure devotees, will appear in them to accept our worship. The Deity forms are therefore not idols but the Supreme Lord Krsna Himself. With material vision we are unable to see the spiritual form of God, but Krsna is so kind that He agrees to appear in a form that we can see. So although we should not imagine a form of God and worship that, we should understand that Krsna is non-different from His authorized Deity form in the temple.
* * *
What a great magazine you have. It's a blessing to receive such inspirational messages and photos every month. As a graphic artist, I applaud your magazine's design and illustrations. Each and every issue is proof of the living reality of the message of Swami Prabhupada. Haribol!
* * *
I am a United States citizen from India. A few days back I found the January 1983 issue of BACK TO GODHEAD lying on the road at the University of Maryland campus in Catonsville, where I was attending a workshop.
The magazine was fresh and crisp, as if it had fallen there very recently. I picked it up instantly and touched the cover picture of Lord Visnu to my forehead in reverence.
It occurred to me that Lord Krsna wanted me to have it. Now I want to read all the issues. Therefore please enter my subscription right away.
Dharmendra Swamp, M.D.
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
In Sanskrit, man means "mind" and tra means "freeing." So a mantrais a combination of transcendental, spiritual sounds that frees our minds from the anxieties of life in the material world.
Ancient India's Vedic literatures single out one mantra as the maha (supreme) mantra. The Kali-santarana Upanisad explains, "These sixteen words—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—are especially meant for counteracting the ill effects of the present age of quarrel and anxiety."
The Narada-pancaratra adds, "All mantras and all processes for self-realization are compressed into the Hare Krsna maha-mantra." Five centuries ago, while spreading the maha-mantra throughout the Indian subcontinent, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu prayed, "O Supreme Personality of Godhead, in Your holy name You have invested all Your transcendental energies."
The name Krsna means "the all-attractive one," the name Rama means "the all-pleasing one," and the name Hare is an address to the Lord's devotional energy. So the maha-mantra means, "O all-attractive, all-pleasing Lord, O energy of the Lord, please engage me in Your devotional service." Chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, and your life will be sublime.
The Logic of the Unlimited
The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and a guest took place in August 1973 at the Hare Krsna center in London.
Srila Prabhupada: Modern scientists say there is no brain behind the creation. How foolish they are. If we see a painting, we would not say, "There is no brain behind this artistic work. It is so wonderfully painted, yet it has been created automatically. There is no artist." This is foolishness.
But the scientists say that there is no artist behind the creation of a beautiful flower. Without a brain behind it, how could such a thing come into existence? But these rascal scientists do not understand. They say nature produces the flower. What is nature? Nature is an instrument, but the brain behind nature is God.
When you paint a flower with a brush, the brush is not the creator of that painting—you are the creator. Similarly, in the creation of a real flower, nature is only the brush, but the creator is God.
Guest: No two are the same, are they?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, everything is full of variety. In one species of rose, you'll find many varieties. And in the human species, you will find variety even between twin brothers.
Guest: And in the spiritual world, are there also varieties?
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes. There is unlimited ananda, or pleasure, and pleasure means variety. "Variety is the mother of enjoyment." For example, from grain, sugar, and ghee [clarified butter] we can prepare hundreds of varieties of delicious foods. If you simply try to eat plain ghee, sugar, and grain, they will not be enjoyable, but if someone takes them and prepares varieties of sweets and then gives them to you upon a plate, you'll say, "Oh, these are so nice." Such a great variety of foods can be prepared from these three ingredients.
Similarly, the varieties of things in this material world are made from eight basic ingredients, namely five gross elements and three subtle elements. Earth, water, fire, air, and ether are the gross elements, and mind, intelligence, and ego are the finer elements. This material world is simply a combination of these eight elements.
Now, just as it takes a person with a brain to combine ingredients in this world, the whole creation must also have a big brain behind it. For example, we use earth, water, and fire to make this building, this table, this chair, vase, harmonium, book—so many things. The ingredients are the same, but our brain decides how to assemble them into many varieties of objects. Similarly, this material cosmic manifestation is full of varieties, and the brain behind it is Lord Krsna. That is stated in the Bhagavad-gita [9.10]:
[To a devotee]: Read the translation.
Devotee: [Reads from the Gita] "This material nature is working under My direction, O son of Kunti, and it is producing all moving and unmoving beings. By its rule this manifestation is created and annihilated again and again."
Guest: Would you say modern science is only materialism, Srila Prabhupada?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The scientists are dealing only with earth, water, fire, air, and ether. That's all. It's all materialism. They do not know what spiritualism is.
Guest: What makes the scientists do their work? What motivates them?
Srila Prabhupada: It is the soul. The soul is a living being with minute independence. He desires to work in a certain way, and nature supplies him with the facility. For example, earth is not man's creation. Earth is God's creation, a product of God's energy. But we use the earth and mold it into various forms—pots, dolls, books, and so on. The ingredients are supplied by God, or by nature, which is God's energy, and we simply transform them. We cannot actually produce anything. So, like God, we have creative energy, although in very minute quantity. Just as God creates the whole universe by His intelligence, we use our intelligence to create this table, this pillow, this harmonium out of God's energy. That's all.
Krsna explains all of these things in the Bhagavad-gita. It contains perfect information of everything. One has to study it carefully, that's all. And you can consider the philosophy of Bhagavad-gita with your good logic. For example, Krsna says, "The material elements are My energy." Now, consider the Atlantic Ocean, a vast body of water. It is created by God's energy. Do you accept that? If you hesitate, what is your reason?
Guest: Well, one man says one thing, and another man says another thing. So many people have different things to say.
Srila Prabhupada: But it is a question of logic. From your body, water is produced, is it not?
Srila Prabhupada: Urine is coming, perspiration is coming. These waters are produced by the energy within your body. So why can the vast waters of the Atlantic Ocean not be produced from God's energy?
Guest: Yes, truly they could.
Srila Prabhupada: Because God is unlimited, He has unlimited energy. I have limited energy, so I can produce, say, one pound of urine or one ounce of perspiration. But if God likes, He can produce an unlimited quantity of water. Why only one Atlantic Ocean? He can produce many millions of Atlantic Oceans. What is the difficulty in understanding this?
A look at the worldwide activities of the
ISKCON Food for Life Program Active in Major Cities
Miami—The ISKCON Food for Life program is in full swing here and in other cities across the United States and abroad. Making use of surplus food from the U.S. Department of Agriculture as well as other donated food, devotees cook simple dishes, offer them to Lord Krsna, and then take the delicious prasadam out to parks and other public places for free distribution.
In Miami, seven days a week now for one year, Ananda-sindhu dasa has been singlehandedly cooking prasadam, transporting it to Bayfront Park, and distributing it to about eighty people each day. (On Sundays twice that number partake.)
In Philadelphia, Visnor-aradhanam dasa and Candrika-devi dasi head up the program. Says Candrika, "We've had an overwhelmingly favorable response from both the government and the people. The government has provided huge quantities of free surplus foodstuffs, and the people we serve are so enthusiastic about prasadam that we're distributing every day of the week.
"When I began to search for an indoor location for the winter, many leading Philadelphians became familiar with the Food for Life program. Quite a few organizations and churches offered us the use of their facilities, including the Philadelphia Citywide Development Corporation."
In Paris, Hari-vilasa dasa runs a program that features not only free prasadam but also the chanting of Hare Krsna, diorama displays, and Krsna conscious literature in six languages. Attracted by the sound of the chanting, crowds of people in the Centre Pompidou—a cultural center drawing eight million visitors a year—gather within minutes to see the displays and receive free copies of Srila Prabhupada's books in French, English, Arabic, Spanish, Hungarian, and Armenian. Hari-vilasa, president of France's Spiritual Sky Scented Products, helped finance the printing of these books and personally distributes them. Meanwhile his wife, Parijata-devi dasi, distributes prasadam to hundreds of hungry Parisians and tourists.
"I want to show that the Hare Krsna movement is giving to the world," Hari-vilasa said. "Actually in the Vedic culture, every householder distributes prasadam according to his means."
New BBT Publications
Los Angeles—The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT) recently published a second edition of Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is (250,000 copies). Since 1972, when the Macmillan Company published the first unabridged edition, the book has been printed in over forty languages. Srila Prabhupada was pleased with the first edition, even though the inexperience of the new American disciples who assisted him in preparing the manuscript was evident. In the second edition the word-for-word Sanskrit-English equivalents are clearer and more precise. And in places the translations, though already correct, have been revised to come closer to the original Sanskrit and to Srila Prabhupada's original dictation.
Also new from the BBT is Uniting Two Worlds, the sixth and final volume of Srila Prabhupada's biography, Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami. In reviewing Uniting Two Worlds, Professor Shaligram Shukla of Georgetown University said, "It tells of his [Srila Prabhupada's] distribution of spiritual knowledge through his writings, of his struggle to establish the Krsna consciousness movement in his native country, India, and of his averting a potential schism among his followers. Through all these events he emerges an imaginative, resourceful teacher equipped with the deepest understanding of his tradition; and thus we see how this indomitable personality imparted stability and confidence to all who contacted him. . . . Read his story and you will be convinced that his teachings and his example shed a calm, gentle light on the face of troubled humanity."
Another new book is the condensation of the Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, entitled Prabhupada (300,000) copies. The BBT will soon print translations of Prabhupada in Italian, Spanish, German, and Chinese.
ISKCON Initiates Tours to Unite East and West
Vrndavana, India—Twenty-five ISKCON life members from all over India toured Europe last fall as part of an intercultural program sponsored by the Vrndavana Cooperative Trust, a branch of ISKCON especially dedicated to East-West cultural exchange. Gunarnava dasa, a senior devotee in ISKCON with many years experience in India, explained his reasons for the tour: Srila Prabhupada was eager to see that life members—who do so much to support our society—be kept in tune with our activities around the world. After working in India for so many years, I felt that our life members there weren't getting enough opportunity to understand the scope of Srila Prabhupada's society. So I thought, 'Let me organize international tours. And let's begin with Europe.'"
With the assistance of travel agents in New Delhi and ISKCON devotees throughout Europe, Gunarnava carefully planned a three-week tour through Italy, Switzerland, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and France, including overnight accommodations at four- and five-star hotels and multi-course midday meals at ISKCON centers in each country. The cuisine was an important part of the tour, since, as devout followers of India's ancient Vedic culture, most of ISKCON's life members are lifelong vegetarians.
In a travel brochure printed for the tour by Japan Air Lines, Gunarnava explained, "In the midst of your visit to the Italian art treasures, the French chateaus and cathedrals, the English palaces and gardens, you will also find a new wave of spiritual awareness. Take darsana of exquisite Radha-Krsna Deities, relish delicious, vegetarian prasadam cooked in both Indian and Western styles, and enjoy the association of Vaisnava devotees."
The tour members met Gunarnava in Delhi and flew to Rome. Arriving at four in the morning, they were greeted at the airport by ISKCON devotees, who garlanded them with flowers. Later that day, after touring Rome, the life members rode in an air-conditioned bus to the ISKCON center on the outskirts of the city for a sumptuous feast of krsna-prasadam (food offered to Krsna).
The tour continued in this way—visiting ISKCON centers as well as many traditional European landmarks. In fact, some of the ISKCON centers are themselves European landmarks. Villa Vrndavana, near Florence, is a renaissance palace once owned by political theorist Niccolo Machiavelli, and has now been transformed into a spiritual center for painting, sculpture, and the Vedic arts. And the Chateau d'Ermenonville, near Paris, was once the castle of French kings and the home of philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau. It is now being restored by ISKCON devotees to serve as a museum of Vedic history.
"The members were very inspired," said Gunarnava. "They couldn't believe that ISKCON was so well-situated in Europe. They were wonder-struck at how the devotees were preaching very vigorously and spreading Vedic culture.
"Prabhupada very much wanted this cultural exchange program: those in India visiting our centers in America and Europe, and those in the West visiting our centers in India. Prabhupada wanted East and West to combine under the one flag of ISKCON.
"Srila Prabhupada traveled around the world many times," Gunarnava continued, "and his preaching created a new order of holy places. London, New York, Paris, Rome, and other great cities of the world have been blessed by his lotus feet and made into places of pilgrimage."
Upon returning to India, Gunarnava received enthusiatic letters of appreciation from all the members of this first tour. This year, beginning in April, he plans to lead similar tours, and he foresees taking ISKCON life members throughout both Europe and America.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
Grenada: Saved Or Enslaved?
by Kundali dasa
The American invasion cum "rescue" that catapulted the tiny island nation of Grenada into world news headlines last fall affected my life considerably. Now, for as long as I live, I may never again be greeted by vacant looks when I have occasion to tell someone I'm from Grenada. Now everyone knows about the island—its location, size, population, and national language. They also know that it's pronounced Gre-nay-da and not Gra-nah-da. This may not seem like much, but I consider it a boon. From now on my life will be easier, at least when I apply for visas or go through immigration checks. But there's another aspect of the Grenada invasion that is of far greater significance. In fact, its magnitude is almost inestimable. Let me explain.
Many of my friends, knowing I was born and educated in Grenada, solicited my thoughts on the recent political strife there. Usually they would ask whether I was critical, as they were, of America's intervention in the internal affairs of my country. A few of them were curious to know if I was glad that Grenada had been saved from Marxism and from Cuban-Soviet expansionism. I explained that I had not taken any side in the matter. But I also explained that I nevertheless felt a mixture of anguish and joy over the episode. Anguish I felt because the Grenada issue was symptomatic of the nescience that divides the people of the world into conflicting parties and checks the progress of human society toward peace. But I felt joy at having been freed from such nescience.
Of course most people have a deep-rooted love for the country of their birth. Many men have achieved "immortality" because of the heroic feats they performed in the name of home and country. The Japanese, for example, used to consider it glorious to die for the emperor. Every nation has its slogans, heroes, and customs around which their patriotic pride revolves. And every nation has its Stars and Stripes Forever, its Deutschland, Deutschland Uber Alles!" In Grenada it was, "Isle of Spice with Everything Nice."
I also used to be quite a nationalist. Hailing from such an obscure place as Grenada, I had to bolster my sense of identity and self-esteem with intense patriotic pride to compensate for the utter insignificance of my homeland. And had I not learned Vedic philosophy I would still be caught fast in the grip of that illusion.
The Vedic philosophical system teaches that at the core of our patriotic zeal is the false assumption that we are our bodies. Because we assume the body to be our true identity, the nation, state, county, city or town, street, block, building, race, and family of our birth all take on a special significance to us. We think we owe our existence to all these things, and we come to regard them as almost worshipable. But when we understand our identity as separate from the body, then all our bodily designations are clearly of little value.
According to the Vedic literature, our true identity is as nonphysical sparks of pure consciousness, eternal and sentient. Our existence and enjoyment, therefore, are not dependent upon our having a material body. As nonmaterial (spiritual) beings, we belong in the spiritual world, where Lord Krsna presides eternally as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the object of loving service and devotion for all the eternally liberated souls. But by our independent volition, we have chosen to leave the spiritual world and sojourn in the material world, seeking an alternative to pure devotion to Krsna. Therefore we are obliged to accept a material body, birth after birth. Once incarcerated within the material body, the spirit soul forgets his original identity and mistakenly considers the material body to be himself. He then indulges in various pursuits of sense pleasure, gratifying his material senses while neglecting his true self.
When forgetful souls team up in groups—according to race or ideology—they divide and lay claim to the world, with an intent to exploit its resources. But their attempts result in anxiety, due to conflicting interests for ownership and control. The present global chess game between the capitalists and the communists, for instance, is based on such a conception. Constant rivalry creates a universal tension and deviates humanity from the real human mission, which is to return to the transcendental spiritual world.
Though forgetful souls continually voice high-sounding rhetoric about world peace, universal brotherhood, and the like, experience shows that the complete opposite is being accomplished. At the time of this writing there are at least forty-four trouble spots in the world. And as everyone is well aware, huge stockpiles of nuclear weapons are being amassed, with enough destructive might to wipe out human life on earth many times over.
It is really not very difficult to see that as long as people, laboring under a bodily conception, take sense gratification as life's prime objective, there can be no lasting unity or peace. No collective peace means no individual peace. And how can we have happiness without peace?
In this philosophical light, we can see that the people of Grenada have not been rescued at all. No "ism" can free people from their bodily identification and bondage. The Vedic literature, however, can.
I feel very fortunate to have been rescued from the darkness of nationalism, with its underlying false assumption and consequent misguided aspirations. Rather than take sides on issues where the contenders are equally ignorant of their actual identity and purpose in life, as was the case in Grenada, I prefer to dedicate myself to the Krsna consciousness movement, which is working very hard to give transcendental knowledge to all people of all nations. In this way, I try to show my appreciation for the movement that emancipated me from the slavery of ignorance.
Peace Talks Paradox
by Suhotra Swami
For a growing number of people on both sides of the Atlantic, the nuclear arms buildup is the issue of the eighties. Events just won't let us forget our seemingly inexorable march toward Armageddon: A TV movie called The Day After becomes a national event and shows 100 million Americans, in graphically gory detail, what a nuclear strike would do to the people in and around Kansas City. The start of the deployment of Cruise and Pershing II missiles in Europe brings hundreds of thousands of protesters into the streets there. And the breakdown of the Intermediate Nuclear Force (INF) talks in Geneva, followed by threats of a Russian arms buildup, apparently insures an eventual U.S.-Soviet confrontation.
The Russian walkout at the INF talks especially points up what many see as the root of the nuclear crisis: the two-faced morality of leaders who talk of peace and prepare for war. The Cruise and Pershing II missiles are a bargaining chip, says President Reagan and his advisors, a response to the Russians' deployment of SS-20 missiles that threaten all of Europe. If NATO doesn't deploy the new missiles, the argument goes, the Russians will see us as patsies and walk all over us—and the nuclear war will become more likely. Therefore, in the interests of peace we have to install the missiles, while, of course, continuing the peace talks in Geneva.
But critics of this two-faced morality argue that from the start it worked against the interests of world peace by linking disarmament talks with armament policy. The INF conference, they say, was thus reduced to a mere cosmetic gesture, a futile charade acted out mainly to allay the darkest fear of a jittery world. What is that fear? That perhaps the superpowers aren't at all serious about peace. Perhaps they actually mean to have a war. What other conclusion can we draw as new weapons continue to be rolled out and mounted upon launching ramps on both sides of the Iron Curtain?
The nuclear arms buildup reveals only the tip of the iceberg of the two-faced morality that pervades our modern civilization. In basic and cruelly honest language, although we dress ourselves up nicely as sophisticated men and women and speak the pious platitudes of civilized formality, underneath this thin veneer lurks a pack of savage beasts who live by the law of the jungle.
We march for peace, holding hands in human chains to symbolize the linking together of the human race. We sing wistful songs that express the dreamy vision of a world united—a vision that would become reality if only a few selfish politicians weren't making trouble for the rest of us with their terrible weapons. Yet, worldwide, we humans daily gorge ourselves on the carcasses of millions of slaughtered creatures, a feast of death that is not only savage but also unnecessary, wasteful, unhealthy, and irreligious.
But alas, the argument that our taste for the blood of innocent creatures has something to do with man's brutality to man has long fallen on deaf ears. Such fanatic vegetarian idealism may have appealed to such fools as George Bernard Shaw, Mahatma Gandhi, Leonardo da Vinci, Diogenes, and Ralph Waldo Emerson, but it is totally irrelevant to the rest of us. Pass the roast beef, please. We are civilized!
The human animal, whose teeth aren't designed to rip out throats, who has no claws for tearing flesh, whose digestive tract is ill-suited for meat, is nonetheless the most bloodthirsty creature of all—and the most proud of it. His crafty intelligence can devise the most tortuous twists and turns of logic to justify his cruelty.
And eating meat isn't the end of our barbarity toward animals. In the name of medical science, researchers in vivisection laboratories deliberately torture, cripple, blind, poison, dismember, and kill thousands of helpless creatures every day. All this is supposed to advance the cause of humanity. But what is so special about the human animal that his cause should advance at the expense of so many other creatures? How is it moral to kill a chimpanzee so that we can (perhaps) better understand how to save the life of a baby? How are a chimpanzee and a baby different? Both have two arms, two legs, and a head. In many respects, a chimpanzee is more intelligent than a baby. By what right does arrogant mankind deem it humane that the top of a chimpanzee's skull be opened while it is still alive so that electrodes can be surgically implanted in its brain?
The two-faced moralist will retort, "This is a specious argument. Everyone knows that the baby will grow up. The chimpanzee will never be anything more than a dumb animal, whereas the baby might become a scientist or a world leader."
And what, then, of the human fetus? Can't he also grow up to be a scientist or a world leader? If we are so concerned about the extraordinary worth of the human being, why are there 55 million abortions every year worldwide? That is more than the total number of deaths in World Wars I and II combined. In the time it takes you to read this article, some two hundred abortions will have taken place.
No matter how one dresses up this slaughter with sanctimonious phraseology, the fact remains: It is slaughter. Even the slaughterers themselves know it. A recent study published in Time shows that of the unmarried American men who arranged for their girlfriends to have an abortion, 26% secretly thought it was murder, and 81% couldn't help feeling guilty about the child that might have been born. But modern two-faced morality rules that it is more important to give facility to men and women for unrestricted sexual enjoyment than it is to stop the cold-blooded murder of their unwanted offspring.
Now the ugly storm-clouds of nuclear annihilation loom on the horizon of our human "civilization." Some of us march in demonstrations, collect signatures, block military traffic, and make long-winded speeches. But who is really willing to stop the slaughter? Who is really willing to stop playing the game of two-faced morality'?
Their union could have a profound influence
By Devamrta Swami
In 1610 Galileo saw too much through his telescope and earned a date with the Inquisition. Catholic theologians in Rome, not wanting to risk seeing something that might shake their faith, refused even to look through Galileo's new-fangled lenses.
But times and popes have changed. Now the Vatican, through its Pontifical Academy of Science, is actively soliciting advice from hundreds of the world's leading scientific brains. Heralded as organized religion's most elaborate mechanism ever to interface with science, the Pontifical Academy boasts a permanent roster of seventy-one experts—twenty-six are Nobel Prize winners—all elected for life.
Although the Academy stems back to 1847, only in the last five years has it flourished. Observers cite Pope John Paul II's interest in science and philosophy as a big factor. For example, the pope told a group of astrophysicists gathering in the Vatican "how highly the Church esteems pure science." He added that the Bible "does not wish to teach how heaven was made but how to go to heaven."
Followers of the Vedic scriptures appreciate the pope's broad vision and honesty. Already the pontiff has personally received several Bhaktivedanta Book Trust editions of Krsna conscious literature, including two in his native tongue. ISKCON's founder and spiritual guide, Srila Prabhupada, always declared that although the comprehensiveness and depth of scriptures vary, the essence is the same, just as one plus one equals two whether in pre-school arithmetic or in university calculus. The university scholar, however, has grasped all the profound complexities of mathematical science; and likewise, the Vedic scholar has the most complete understanding of material and transcendental phenomena.
If Vatican dignitaries probe into the vast volumes of Vedic literature, the elaborate science of the Lord's engineering will be at their command. Especially the Srimad-Bhagavatam lavishes on the student principles and details of not only the material cosmos but also the paradisiacal universe outside the realm of matter and time. The entanglement of the living entity in material existence is minutely analyzed side by side with the technology of spiritual liberation.
The Church's reliance on scientists' limited, imperfect intelligence has severe disadvantages. Last year a seminar of twelve scientists convened by the Pontifical Academy concluded that "masses of evidence" from paleontology and molecular biology support "beyond dispute" the concept of human evolution.
Yet even a layman knows that the concepts comprising neo-Darwinism are in hot water. In 1980, many of the world's most erudite geologists, paleontologists, molecular biologists, embryologists, and population geneticists gathered in Chicago for a summit conference on evolution. "Personality clashes and academic sniping created palpable tension in an atmosphere that was fraught with genuine intellectual ferment," reported Science. "The proceedings were at times unruly and even acrimonious." Although the renowned experts attending the historic conference certainly held faithfully to certain concepts of evolution, they bitterly clashed over how evolution might have occurred. And no one could present any direct evidence that it had occurred.
Vedic scholars would furthermore request these scientists to kindly explain the origin of consciousness. Without consciousness one cannot be aware of anything—not even of the atheistic doctrines of modern science. Yet evolutionists, wrangling over micro-changes in bodily limbs and organs, refuse to acknowledge their inability to account for consciousness, the most important feature of the living being.
In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, announces to the tiny-brained empiricists of this world: "Now I will teach you in full, knowledge of both material and spiritual phenomena. You can be sure that having mastered this, nothing further shall remain for you to know." Therefore the Krsna consciousness society cordially invites religionists and scientists alike, from all walks of life, to take shelter of Vedic knowledge, as taught by the supreme theologian and scientist Himself.
Though the format of BACK TO GODHEAD
In February 1944 His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada published the first issue of BACK TO GODHEAD magazine. At his home in Calcutta, he wrote the articles, typed the manuscripts, and designed a logo—essentially the same logo we use on the cover of BACK TO GODHEAD today: an effulgent Lord Caitanya* [*Lord Caitanya is Krsna Himself in the role of His own devotee. He appeared in India five hundred years ago to teach love of God through the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra.] shedding light on the people of this age of spiritual darkness.
Srila Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual guide of the Hare Krsna movement, started BACK TO GODHEAD to fulfill the desire of his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, who had told him to preach the science of Krsna consciousness to the English-speaking world. Before passing away in 1937. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta had established a movement of Krsna devotees in India (the Gaudiya Math) and he had sent some of his disciples abroad to preach. They had met with little success, however, and had returned to India after a short time. But Srila Prabhupada was determined to succeed where others had failed, and BACK TO GODHEAD magazine became a major part of that attempt.
In some ways BACK TO GODHEAD has changed greatly in the last forty years. Most of the issues published between 1944 and 1960, for example, were tabloid size—one sheet folded in half, making four pages of type. And Srila Prabhupada himself wrote almost all the articles, oversaw the printing of a thousand copies of each issue, and singlehandedly distributed every copy.
But in many important ways BACK TO GODHEAD remains the same. It is still Srila Prabhupada's magazine, boldly presenting the science of Krsna consciousness in a manner both well-reasoned and uncompromising. The lead article in each issue is still Srila Prabhupada's—usually a transcription of one of the thousands of lectures he gave. And in the remaining articles of each issue, Srila Prabhupada's followers expound the essential message of the Vedic literature as they have learned it through the disciplic succession.
BACK TO GODHEAD offers not only in-depth explanations of the Krsna conscious philosophy but also timely applications of that philosophy to current events. For example, in the inaugural issue, back in 1944, Srila Prabhupada explained the basic principle of spiritual science: the difference between the physical body and the self. Prabhupada pointed out that the physical body is a temporary vehicle—like an automobile—and that we, as eternal spiritual individuals, are drivers of the physical body. When we forget our identity as servants of God, we fall into ignorance and falsely identify with the bodily vehicle.
The defect of the present-day civilization is just like that....Everyone is fully concerned with the comforts of the body and everything related with the body and no one is concerned with the Spirit that moves the body although even a boy can realize that the motor-car mechanism has little value if there is no driver of the car.
Prabhupada then applied this principle to the current events of World War II. He had witnessed firsthand the bombing of Calcutta and the starvation resulting from the warring parties' destruction of much of India's rice crop. And he had noted the pleas of world leaders for "moral rearmament" and a return to spiritual ideals. He advised the war-weary citizens of the world that unless they rose above the bodily concept of life—thinking of themselves as Indians, Americans, Germans, Japanese, and so on, and thinking that the pleasures of the body were life's all-in-all—they could not have peace.
BACK TO GODHEAD continues this tradition of transcendental commentary, with articles on the nuclear arms race, the economy, pollution, abortion, and many other topics. Our readers will also find feature articles on Krsna conscious communities—both rural and urban—around the world. Such features reveal how devotees live in a simple, joyous way, dedicating their talents and daily activities to the Supreme Lord.
In the fall of 1966, after traveling to the United States and establishing the first center of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, in New York City, Srila Prabhupada handed over the job of writing and publishing BACK TO GODHEAD to his first disciples. The first issues of BACK TO GODHEAD in America were printed on a mimeograph machine Prabhupada purchased secondhand from a country club in Queens. Prabhupada told his disciples that even if they could print only one page, they should publish BACK TO GODHEAD every month. But they should work hard, he said, to make the magazine as popular as Time.
Through the years, therefore, BACK TO GODHEAD has been the literary staple of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Srila Prabhupada often called it the "backbone of ISKCON." In fact, most of Srila Prabhupada's followers have been introduced to spiritual life and educated as devotees of Krsna by reading BACK TO GODHEAD. Anyone curious to know what the Hare Krsna movement is about and what the Hare Krsna devotees are doing will find their questions answered in these pages.
BACK TO GODHEAD has come a long way since those early issues in New York City, although it still hasn't caught up with Time. People of this age don't realize the importance of self-realization. Despite their various religious and quasi-spiritual affiliations, they think that the purpose of human life is to earn money and enjoy sense gratification—and nothing more. To them, self-realization is a waste of time. So when devotees approach people to try and interest them in BACK TO GODHEAD, they often find that people don't want to take the time.
This is the same situation Prabhupada himself encountered years ago. In the March 1956 issue he wrote:
When we approach some gentleman and request him to become a reader of "Back to Godhead," sometimes we are replied to with the words "NO TIME."
Without understanding the science of Krsna consciousness, modern civilization is trying to be happy just by taking care of the outward body, without any concern for the person inside. Therefore, despite economic and scientific advancement, people are dissatisfied.
Back to godhead informs its readers not only of the soul within the body but of the eternal spiritual world where everyone eternally serves the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna. Just as we learn about faraway places on this planet by hearing about them, similarly, we can come to understand the nature of the spiritual world and ultimately go there by reading BACK TO GODHEAD. BACK TO GODHEAD magazine, therefore, is an invitation to return to our eternal, misery-free home.
Foolish Claims for Supreme Control
Atheists sometimes claim that the advancement of science disproves the existence of God. According to this theory, the people of ancient times, being unable to understand or control natural phenomena, ascribed the mysterious workings of nature to the supernatural, or God. But now that science promises to explain everything and give man full mastery over his environment, belief in God is naive, superstitious. But is this theory borne out by the facts? Some recent occurrences in Moscow show the boldness—and fallacy—of such atheistic claims.
Last November, when Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov was absent from a Red Square parade, newsmen speculated that the Soviet leader must be the victim of a serious illness. Mr. Andropov's absence caused such a political stir that another significant event of the day went largely unnoticed: the appearance of the sun. But sure enough, on that overcast November day, just as on the same day of the previous year, the chilly Moscow gloom suddenly evaporated as the sun appeared, shining down on the Politburo members as they stood atop the Lenin Mausoleum.
When this had happened during the 1982 parade and commentators had suggested it might have been divine intervention, Soviet officials had scoffed at the remarks. But this year the Moscow newspaper Moskov skaya Pravda asserted flatly that the appearance of the sun over the parade on Red Square was due to Soviet scientific technology, not to God. Moscow's Experimental Production Laboratory had employed six special planes for six hours in spraying the offending clouds with a chemical capable of dispersing cloud formations for a short time. Thus the Soviets "subjugated" the sun, ordering it to shine on their parade. And the Soviet leaders were quite pleased with the results, although Mr. Andropov was not well enough to attend the spectacle.
The point I wish to raise here is a blunt one. If the Soviets are actually such competent controllers of nature, why didn't they cure their premier of his disease? Moving aside some clouds for a few moments is a playful tinkering of small consequence compared to restoring Premier Andropov's health. Yet despite the latest in medical and technological skill, the top Soviet physicians could not give health to their leader's aging, ailing body. And countless similar examples could be cited of man's helplessness before the powers of nature, all proving that scientific prowess does not make a human being the supreme controller. In fact, when tiny human beings offer their relative scientific achievements to disprove the control of the supreme being, they only prove their own foolishness.
The fact is, scientific prowess does more to prove than to disprove the power of the Supreme Godhead. Whenever science makes practical advancement, it is by the exertion of intelligence and control over some limited aspect of nature. For example, scientists have created satellites that they can fly in space by remote control. But when we consider this phenomenon reasonably, we conclude that there must also be a guiding intelligence behind all the stars and planets in the universe. Only an uninformed child or fool would think the satellites orbiting the earth are doing so independent of any control or intelligence. And similarly it is foolish to conclude that the entire cosmos has been created by chance and is working independent of any higher direction.
Although some scientists attempt to discredit God by postulating various evolutionary theories to explain the complex laws of universal harmony, their theories are constantly changing and are therefore unreliable. Their theories are merely mental concoctions for avoiding the obvious conclusion: nature is controlled by a superior intelligence—God. The Vedic literature, however, informs us directly that creation, maintenance, and annihilation throughout the entire universe are all being carried out by Sri Krsna, who is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The Benefits of "The Day After"
According to a Gallup poll taken after the airing of ABC's nuclear holocaust scenario The Day After, forty-five percent of the U.S. population thinks that nuclear war will take place within the next ten years. One of the most shocking features of the film was its portrayal of how people's normal lives of unassuming mediocrity suddenly ended when the bombs hit, creating an unremitting hell. Thus The Day After had the sobering effect of forcing millions of people to consider that death may come at any moment.
Although it is unfortunate that people are growing more and more anxious and pessimistic, this prevailing mood of negativity may be used toward a positive end. As stated by Mukunda Goswami, the Public Affairs Minister of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, "When wholesale destruction of population seems imminent, the basic problems of life (disease, old age, birth, and death) can more easily be perceived as the essential problems of mankind—problems which have existed since eternity and which will continue to exist."
In these times of growing awareness of death, the Krsna conscious philosophy stands able to assist a bewildered humanity. Lord Krsna's teachings in the Bhagavad-gita begin with the understanding that we are not these material bodies and that the real self is the indestructible spirit soul, which does not die at the demise of the body. Beyond this, the Bhagavad-gita brings one up to the point of realizing and serving the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, and, after leaving this body, returning to Him in the eternal, spiritual world.
We have no greater need than learning that which will free us from death, and if the morbid predictions of holocaust will lead people to consider the ultimate remedy, Krsna consciousness, then there is a ray of real hope.