Without favoring one religion over another,
A lecture given in Bombay in 1974
yada yada hi dharmasya
"Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion—at that time I manifest Myself."
This is a very important verse in the Bhagavad-gita. The Sanskrit word dharma in this verse is usually translated into English as "religion," and religion is defined in the dictionary as "a particular type of faith." But actually dharma does not mean a particular type of faith, because while there is one universal dharma, there are many faiths. You may accept one faith, I may accept a different faith, and someone else may accept another faith. And if everyone's faith were equally satisfactory, then there would be no need for Krsna to descend to this planet.
Many people say, "I may not like your religion and you may not like my religion, but everyone's religion is right." But if everyone's religion is right, what is the use of Krsna's coming here to rectify adharma, irreligion? Just try to understand. If religion is just a question of liking, then there is no question of irreligion. For example, some people think killing animals is approved by their religion, and others think killing animals is irreligious. Who is right? Only Krsna can decide.
So, you cannot manufacture dharma—it is not something you can concoct at home or some resolution passed in an assembly. In the Western countries, and here in India also, a resolution passed in the government assembly is accepted as dharma, or law. But Krsna is not speaking of that kind of dharma. No. As stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, dharmam tu saksad bhagavat-pranitam: dharma means "the orders given by the Supreme Lord, or Supreme Being, God."
In the state, the laws are given by the government. You cannot manufacture laws at home. That is not possible. For example, in some countries the law for driving is "Keep to the right," and in others it is "Keep to the left." Now, which is correct—"Keep to the right" or "Keep to the left"? They are both correct, depending on which government is ruling. If the government says, "Keep to the right," that is correct, and you have to accept it. And if the government says, "Keep to the left," then that is correct. We cannot say, "In my country I keep to the left, so why should I keep to the right here?" No. That argument will not be allowed. Similarly, whatever God says—that constitutes the laws of religion, and we must accept them.
In the next verse Krsna says,
"In every age, whenever there are discrepancies in the execution of dharma, I come to protect the devotees and punish the demons." This is just like the government's duty of giving protection to the law-abiding citizens and punishing the outlaws. These are the two main duties of the government. And where has this idea come from? From the supreme government, Krsna.
Now, another meaning of dharma is "natural characteristic." For example, sugar is sweet; so the dharma of sugar is sweetness. A chili is very hot; so the dharma of chilies is hotness. If sugar somehow becomes hot or chilies become sweet, that is adharma. And the dharma, or natural characteristic, of the living entity is to surrender. If you analyze, you will see that every one of us has surrendered to somebody or something—whether it be his wife, his family, his community, his society, his political party, his government, or whatever. Wherever you go, the characteristic of the living being is to surrender. He cannot avoid it.
In my talk with Professor Kotovsky in Moscow, I said to him, "Now, you have your Communist philosophy and we have our Krsna philosophy, but both of us have surrendered to a superior authority. You have surrendered to Marx and Lenin, and we have surrendered to Krsna. That's all."
So, everyone has to surrender. If one surrenders to the right person, then things will go nicely. But if one surrenders to the wrong person, there will be so many troubles. Who is the right person? As Caitanya Mahaprabhu* [*Caitanya Mahaprabhu 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.] has explained, jivera svarupa haya krsnera nitya-dasa: "We are all eternally servants of Krsna." Therefore we should all surrender to Him.
Unfortunately, although we are all surrendering, we are not surrendering to Krsna. This is the disease. The Krsna consciousness movement is trying to cure this disease. When people do not surrender to Lord Krsna, they concoct so many "Gods," so many rascals, to surrender to. That is adharma, irreligion. Dharma means to surrender to Krsna, but instead of surrendering to Krsna, people want to surrender to cats, dogs, this, that—so many things. That is adharma, which Krsna came to rectify five thousand years ago.
Krsna did not come to establish the so-called Hindu religion. Real religion means surrendering to the supreme person, Krsna. Now we do not know where to surrender. That is the difficulty. And because the surrender is misplaced, the whole world is in a chaotic condition.
We change from one object of surrender to another: "No more Congress party; now Communist party." This party, that party... What is the use of changing parties? Whether you surrender to this party or that party, you are not surrendering to Krsna, and unless you come to the point of surrendering to Krsna, you cannot have any peace. That is the point. Simply changing from the frying pan to the fire will not save you.
Therefore, Krsna's last instruction in the Bhagavad-gita is,
"Just give up all this nonsense and surrender to Me. I will protect you; do not fear." This is the perfection of dharma. Also, as stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam [1.2.6], sa vai pumsam paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhoksaje: "First-class, or superior, dharma is to surrender to Adhoksaja." The name Adhoksaja means "the Supreme Transcendence," or Krsna. Then the Bhagavatam says this surrender must be ahaituki and apratihata. Ahaituki means "without any personal motivation." We shouldn't think, "If Krsna will give me such-and-such, I will surrender." No, our surrender must be unmotivated. And then, apratihata—our surrender must also be undeviating. It cannot be checked. If you actually want to surrender to Krsna, there can be no hindrance. You can do it in any condition. Then, yenatma suprasidati: "If you surrender to Krsna in this way, your soul, your mind, and your body will become satisfied." This is Krsna consciousness.
Unfortunately, instead of surrendering to Krsna for His satisfaction, we are surrendering to many others for our own satisfaction. We join some political party so we can get the opportunity to become a minister or to capture some power. This is our real aim—not to serve our country. Maybe one or two have this idea. But usually our purpose is to get some power and position. So we are not serving the party; we are serving our ambition.
As one learned scholar has said, kamadinam kati na katidha palita durnidesah. Our so-called service is service to kamadinam—lust, anger, greed, illusion, intoxication, and envy. All these things are our masters. Somebody is serving his lust, another is serving his anger, another is serving his greediness, and so on. In this way, we are serving our senses, not any particular person. When we go to the office, we supposedly serve the proprietor. But actually we serve not the proprietor but the money he pays us. As soon as he says, "From tomorrow I cannot pay you," we say, "Good-bye." So we are serving the money. And why do we serve the money? Because money will help us satisfy our senses. Therefore, ultimately we are serving our senses.
Everyone is serving his senses, and this is what Krsna here calls dharmasya glanih, irreligion. When we serve our senses, that is irreligion, adharma, and as soon as we agree to serve Krsna's senses, that is dharma, religion. This is Krsna's instruction in the Bhagavad-gita.
At the beginning of the Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna was trying to justify serving his senses: "My dear Krsna, if I kill my relatives and my guru, Dronacarya, I'll be entangled in sinful activities. I'll go to hell." So he concluded, "I shall not fight." But Arjuna was trying to satisfy his own senses. He thought, "By killing the other party, I'll be very much aggrieved." That means he was serving his own senses.
So, Krsna instructed him, "You are a ksatriya [warrior]. It is your duty to fight. You should not consider whether you have to kill your relatives or your grandfather or your guru. When there is an opponent, you must fight." This is how they were talking.
Krsna wanted Arjuna to satisfy His senses, and Arjuna wanted to satisfy his own senses. This was the argument. But since Krsna is the Supreme Lord, His senses should be satisfied. This is the whole purport of the Bhagavad-gita. At first, Arjuna refused to serve Krsna. Then Krsna told him, "This Kuruksetra War has been arranged by Me. You simply be My instrument [nimitta-matram bhava savyasacin]." Krsna's purpose was paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya ca duskrtam—to protect the devotees and annihilate the demons. Krsna wanted to install dharma personified, Maharaja Yudhisthira, on the throne, and He wanted to kill adharma personified, Duryodhana and company. That was Krsna's plan. Therefore Krsna arranged the Kuruksetra War, and He wanted Arjuna's help, because Arjuna was His friend and devotee.
Krsna wanted Arjuna to get the credit for the victory. Just as the devotee wants to glorify Krsna, Krsna wants His devotee to be glorified. This is the relationship between the Lord and His devotee. Krsna could have done everything Himself; He was fully competent. But He wanted to give Arjuna the credit. That was His plan.
In the Bhagavad-gita, for our benefit Arjuna plays the role of the common man. Actually, Arjuna knew, "Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead; it is my duty to serve Him." Arjuna was a bhakta, a devotee. In other words, he had dedicated his life to serving Krsna. And at the end of the Bhagavad-gita, he accepts Krsna's instruction: "Yes," says Arjuna, "I will give up all my false designations and fight." This is real bhakti, devotion.
"Bhakti means to serve Krsna with our senses, giving up all false designations." One must become free of all false designations—"I am American," "I am Indian," "I am a brahmana," "I am a ksatriya," and so on. One has to become free of all these designations, because they all pertain to the body. We must know, "I'm not the body; I'm a spirit soul [aham brahmasmi}." And when one understands, "I am not this body; I am a spirit soul', part and parcel of the Supreme," that is self-realization. As long as one is in the bodily conception, he is no better than the animals. For animals there is no question of religion. Therefore, as long as we are in the bodily conception of life, we are in ignorance of our real religion, and whatever we do has no benefit either for us or for anyone else.
So, at the present moment practically everyone in the whole world is laboring under this bodily concept of life, adopting false designations—"I am Indian," "I am American," "I am this," "I am that." And on the basis of these false designations they create so many "dharmas." But these dharmas are not real dharma. Therefore, at the end of the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: "Just give up all these nonsense dharmas and surrender to Me."
The religion of the Bhagavad-gita is not Hindu religion or Christian religion or Muhammadan religion. It is the essence of religion—the reciprocation, the exchange of dealings, between God and the soul, the Supreme and the subordinate living entity. To accept Krsna as our Lord, to surrender to the lotus feet of Krsna—this is bhakti, or real religion.
When this religion is forgotten in human society, people become averse to God, or Krsna. They become godless and think they can enjoy like God. That is dharmasya glanih, perverted religion. Naturally, every one of us has come to this material world to enjoy. But material enjoyment is not real enjoyment. Real enjoyment is spiritual enjoyment, which comes from surrendering to Krsna. When there is dharmasya glanih, a discrepancy in the understanding of our spiritual identity, people forget this real enjoyment, and Krsna comes to revive it.
The beginning of Krsna's teachings in the Bhagavad-gita is "I am not this body but rather a spirit soul." This is the spiritual understanding. When one understands this, his devotional service begins and he becomes joyful (brahma-bhutah prasannatma). Because we are in darkness, we are not joyful; we are always morose. Although we are serving our family, our community, our government, and so forth, we are not happy, because that is not our real religion. When we direct this same service attitude toward the lotus feet of Krsna, we'll be satisfied.
You cannot satisfy anyone by material service. Mahatma Gandhi served India to his best ability. Still, he could not satisfy everyone: somebody killed him. So, as long as we engage in materialistic service—whether to the society or family or community or whatever—we'll never be able to satisfy anyone. No one will ever say, "Now I am completely satisfied."
But if we try to serve Krsna, He is so kind that just a little service will make our life successful. I'll give you an example. When Krsna was a child, the Putana demoness wanted to kill Him. (That is the plan of the demons—to kill God somehow or other.) Putana thought, "I will smear some poison on my breast, and when I allow Krsna to suck it He'll die." That was her plan. But when she took Krsna on her lap and offered Him her breast, Krsna sucked out Putana's life along with the poison. This was Krsna's kindness. Krsna thought, "This demoness has come to kill Me, but after all, I have sucked her breast. Therefore she is My mother, and she must get the position of My mother in the spiritual world." Krsna is so kind. If you try to serve Him somehow or other, even if you do it with a bad purpose, He will accept your service. So why should we serve so many others?
Also, if you serve Krsna, you automatically perform all other services—services to the society, to the family, to the country, and so on. Why? Because Krsna is the root of everything. If you pour water on the root of a tree, the entire tree will be nourished (yatha taror mula-niscanena trpyanti tat-skandha-bhujopasakhah). And similarly, because Krsna is the root of everything (aham sarvasya prabhavah), if you serve Him, everyone else will automatically be served.
The purpose of this Krsna consciousness movement is to serve Krsna—that is our only aim—yet automatically we are giving social service. How? Because as soon as one becomes Krsna conscious, he gives up all kinds of intoxication, all kinds of illicit sex, all kinds of meat-eating, and all kinds of gambling. Is that not social service? It is the best social service. In America the government is appreciating our movement. There are so many young people addicted to LSD, and the government is seeing that as soon as one of them comes to Krsna consciousness, he gives up all this nonsense. Although the government is spending millions of dollars, they cannot stop this intoxication. But we can stop it simply by giving young people Krsna consciousness.
So, it is a fact that if you accept this dharma—surrendering to Krsna—then all the problems of the world will be solved. Therefore Krsna consciousness is so much needed. And to give this education, to teach the people, Krsna comes (yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati bharata). Krsna and Krsna's instructions are identical. Don't think that Krsna is no longer present. He is present by His words, the Bhagavad-gita. Take His instructions, apply them in your life, and you will be happy. This is Krsna consciousness.
Scientists are asking, "What is it like to be an animal?"
by Dvarakadhisa-devi dasi
When Spot sees Timmy riding his bike up the street, he leaps up and races to the front gate. Frantically dancing around the boy, pressing affectionately against him, he accompanies him to the front door, where Timmy disappears inside the house.
Spot gazes after him mournfully, giving a reproachful "Woof." After a few hopeful minutes, he resigns himself to his loss and resettles himself beneath the porch.
Spot's behavior is typical, as every dog lover will attest: man's best friend has unwavering devotion for his beloved master. Yet according to many authorities (including Timmy's father), Spot, being only an animal, doesn't have feelings; he's little more than a furry machine that reacts automatically to various stimuli. He doesn't have feelings like we do, merely conditioned responses. Nevertheless, he puts on a good show, sometimes seeming to perceive Timmy's emotional needs more astutely than Timmy's own family members. He seems to understand and relate to Timmy with far more sensitivity than Timmy's fourteen-year-old sister, for example, and Timmy's relationship with Spot constitutes Timmy's most satisfying friendship. So how can it be that Spot has no feelings?
Can an elephant feel sorrow? Do butterflies have worries or aspirations? Can you embarrass a squirrel, or a tiger, or a whale? What do animals think about? Or do they think at all? How is it that certain animals display such humanlike characteristics? These questions, although often asked by precocious six-year-olds, are generally considered to fall within the realm of speculative fiction and have long been ignored by investigative scientists.
Yet in 1981, under the auspices of the prestigious Dahlem Conference in Berlin, approximately fifty noted psychologists, philosophers, and scientists met to address this very issue. The conference was entitled "Animal Mind/ Human Mind," and discussion focused on the concepts of experience and consciousness in relation to animal behavior. Or, as one conferee, Donald Griffin of Rockefeller University in New York City, put it, "What's it like to be an animal of a particular species?"
Highlighting the conference were a number of presentations displaying the undeniable aptitude of various chimps, bumblebees, and dolphins. Lively debate flourished as distinguished scientists and philosophers attempted to define such terms as "consciousness" and "intelligence." Although much of the discussion dealt with the difficulty of agreeing on the usage of these terms, the conclusion was revolutionary. The conferees agreed that the most important question about the animal mind is no longer whether animals possess consciousness, but to what extent they possess consciousness.
For a student of Vedanta philosophy, the answers to such questions on animal behavior are clear. There are 8,400,000 different species of life or, to put it differently, 8,400,000 choices of bodies for the spirit soul. The particular body awarded to a spirit soul is determined by the state of consciousness that soul has developed in previous lives. Lower consciousness leads the soul to lower life forms, and higher consciousness leads to higher life forms. The lower species facilitate only the very basic functions of existence: eating, reproducing, defending, and sleeping. These lower species, however, are not merely functional machines created to fill up space and supply amusement for human beings. The spirit souls in these species have feelings and desires, although very limited and self-centered. Enwrapped in thoughts of "Where will I sleep? Where is my food?" the animals completely identify with the body as the self and must live in constant fear of death.
In contrast, human life is especially suited to inquiring philosophically, "Who am I? Why am I suffering? What is the purpose of my life?" By utilizing the advanced intelligence of the human mind, one can understand the temporary nature of this material world and also the eternal, spiritual nature of the self, as distinguished from the bodily covering. When one is thus self-realized, he can understand the spiritual identity of all creatures. The Bhagavad-gita teaches that one who is self-realized "sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater" (Bg. 5.18). Every human being has the responsibility of seeking this higher knowledge and acting in such a way that the less developed living beings are not exploited. If a human being, however, neglects this duty of self-realization, his position is no better than that of an animal.
So, it's encouraging to see that the scientific community is cautiously beginning to confirm the Vedic truth of the spiritual unity of all living beings. But through their arduous process of research, the full understanding will be slow in coining, although that full understanding has been recorded for thousands of years in the Vedic literature. To properly study the animal mentality one must first understand his own identity beyond the temporary material body. In other words, the question shouldn't be, "What's it like to be an animal?" but "What does it mean to be a human being?" If the scientists can provide the answer to the second question, then they can save themselves from experiencing firsthand the answer to the first.
We welcome your letters.
I want to praise Suresvara dasa for his recent article "You Can Talk of Peace Till the Cows Come Home." Certainly cow slaughter is undermining the moral strength of this country as much as slavery did, and just as surely, it must stop, one way or another. If we are not shocked by the killing of innocent cows who do us service by giving us their milk, then why should we be shocked that people from this country can go out and shoot women and babies in other lands? Even the most basic familiarity with human psychology should tell us that animal slaughter and world peace cannot exist together.
Suresvara certainly had courage to endure the horrors of the slaughterhouse in order to write his article. His position was more painful than that of Red Cross members who inspected Nazi prison camps in World War [I. At least the Nazis tried to hide their worst sins, but the managers of modern slaughterhouses are so inured to carnage that they don't even realize how abominable their actions are.
* * *
In one of your BACK TO GODHEAD magazines, in an article by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, I was not surprised to read that "Human prosperity flourishes by natural gifts and not by gigantic industrial enterprises." This is a fact every Christian or highly religious person of any sect knows and believes.
But regrettably enough the members of the Krsna consciousness movement are not practicing what they preach. My question is, Have they forgotten that these gigantic industries are making the Hare Krsna movement prosperous by printing magazines, by providing building materials for temples all over the world, by providing cars, trucks, and other means of transportation to spread their gospel, and by manufacturing and providing almost all the necessities of the movement?
I conclude, therefore, that ISKCON is surviving by means of a godless civilization as elaborated in the second paragraph of that article.
Our reply: The basic philosophical principle of the Krsna consciousness movement is that everything in this universe is the property of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna. Those rebellious souls who deny God's authority are illusioned, misidentifying themselves with their material body and mind, and thus they work for sense enjoyment. Because men have built gigantic industries in order to exploit God's creation for their own sense enjoyment, those industries cause the destruction of the noble aims of human life.
The Bhagavad-gita, however, teaches that we should use our body, mind, and possessions in Lord Krsna's service, not misuse them for sense gratification. As you note in your letter, the Krsna consciousness movement utilizes cars, trucks, printing presses, and so on. But we use these things—as you have also noted—to spread the gospel of Krsna consciousness, not for our sense enjoyment. Thus even the energy mankind has misdirected toward godlessness is being turned toward the service of God. Devotional service means to utilize the kingdom of God for God, not for fulfilling material desires.
As Srila Prabhupada explains in The Nectar of Devotion, "Anything that can be utilized in advancing Krsna consciousness and devotional service should be accepted. For instance, we are using many machines for the advancement of our present Krsna consciousness movement, machines like typewriters, dictating machines, tape recorders, microphones, and airplanes. Sometimes people ask us, 'Why are you utilizing material products if you condemn the advancement of material civilization?' But actually we do not condemn. We simply ask people to do whatever they're doing in Krsna consciousness. This is the same principle on which, in Bhagavad-gita, Krsna advised Arjuna to utilize his fighting abilities in devotional service. Similarly, we are utilizing these machines for Krsna's service. With such sentiment for Krsna, or Krsna consciousness, we can accept everything. If the typewriter can be utilized for advancing our Krsna consciousness movement, we must accept it. Similarly, the dictating machine or any other machine must be used. Our vision is that Krsna is everything. Krsna is the cause and effect, and nothing belongs to us. Krsna's things must be used in the service of Krsna. That is our vision."
However, we cannot neglect the prescribed rules and regulations regarding devotional service. Since sinful activities such as meat-eating, illicit sex, intoxication, and gambling interfere with Krsna consciousness, devotees never attempt to utilize such things in the service of the Lord.
ISKCON is expanding by the will of God. It does not depend on industrial enterprises, because everything, including the raw materials utilized by the factories, are ultimately gifts of God. So although you have suggested that the Krsna consciousness movement "survives by means of a godless civilization," the fact is that everyone—God conscious devotee and godless materialist alike—exists by the gifts and mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The devotee recognizes this; the atheist does not.
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I must mention my special appreciation of the articles by Ravindra-svarupa dasa, most recently, "Endless Love" and "Encounter at Kuruksetra." His explanations of the value and qualities of spiritual pleasure compared with material pleasure are so clear and thorough and strikingly poetic that his words enter my mind and heart to arouse my dormant feelings of love for Krsna. His articles, one by one, are helping me realize that "there is no society like Krsna's society, and no love like Krsna's love." I certainly hope he continues writing about the nectar of devotional service so that we may all benefit from his mature insights. Also, the illustrations are supremely beautiful!
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.
While Europe, as if weary of its medieval concepts of God,
by Ravindra-Svarupa Dasa
Europe in the fifteenth century was undergoing that awesome social and cultural transformation that the historian Jules Michelet, looking back in reverence, named the Renaissance, the "rebirth." That long medieval period, with its vision so entranced by splendid images of the eternal that it could hardly spare a glance for this fleeting world, with its mind so obsessed by last things—Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell—that it endured this life only as a hard trial and preparation, with its social body constructed of rigid hierarchies and maintained by a plodding economy—all that was finished. Like a man awakening from sleep and shaking fuzzy images of dreams from his head, Europe came alive to the senses and beheld as if for the first time the whole vast world that lay so enchantingly before it, rich with mysterious promise, beckoning with limitless possibilities.
Pico della Mirandola composed an Oration on the Dignity of Man. Still depicting pious subjects, Michelangelo carved in rock the grace and strength of a perfectly proportioned, smoothly muscled David and shaped a hymn in glorification of the male body, while everywhere painters adorned walls with the supple limbs and lustrous complexions of ripely rounded, exquisitely charming Madonnas. Bold navigators turned their prows into uncharted seas and found new worlds for exploration and exploitation. In the grip of a relentless fascination, Leonardo da Vinci limned in notebooks painstaking studies that delved into the intricacies of human anatomy and the mechanics of birds in flight. Based on a new, manmade kind of wealth, a new, self-made aristocracy arose—"merchant princes" who created far-flung empires of trade, banking, and manufacture. And so it happened that in a great shift of human vision from God to man and matter, the modern world was born.
India in the fifteenth century was also undergoing a renaissance—of a quite different sort. It was indeed almost the opposite of the European one; scholars have called it the "bhakti renaissance," a great rebirth of devotion to God. The preeminent figure of this powerful religious upsurge was Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
When modern researchers explain historical changes, they, of course, consider only mundane causes—social, political, economic, and other such factors. However, I want to explore here another kind of cause: the divine. The Bhagavad-gita explains briefly how and why God periodically intervenes in human history: "Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice," Krsna declares, "and a predominant rise of irreligion—at that time I manifest Myself. To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I Myself appear, millennium after millennium" (Bg. 4.7-8).
As an introductory text, the Bhagavad-gita succinctly presents general principles. More advanced texts, like the Srimad-Bhagavatam, furnish further information. Drawing on such works, Srila Prabhupada comments on the statement of the Bhagavad-gita: "It is not a fact that the Lord appears only on Indian soil. He can manifest Himself anywhere and everywhere, and whenever He desires to appear. In each and every incarnation, He speaks as much about religion as can be understood by the particular people under their particular circumstances. But the mission is the same—to lead people to God consciousness and obedience to the principles of religion. Sometimes He descends personally, and sometimes He sends His bona fide representative in the form of His son, or servant, or Himself in some disguised form."
Why should God have to appear over and over again? After all, if God is perfect, shouldn't He be able to establish religion perfectly? Shouldn't once suffice for all? It is, however, the nature of the material world that all things decay in time, and while God is infallible, the human beings who receive and transmit God's instructions are fallible. Consequently, the religious traditions God establishes become compromised and undermined by a worldly spirit, and so in time they disintegrate. When religion thus declines, and irreligion consequently rises, God descends to rectify the imbalance and restore the principles of righteousness. God's periodic intervention is crucial. Krsna notes in the Bhagavad-gita that if He did not act in this way, "all these worlds would be put to ruination" (Bg. 3.24),
The Renaissance in Europe offers a clear instance of the decline of religion. Fifteen hundred years earlier, Jesus Christ, the son of God, had appeared in a remote corner of the Roman Empire and had taught, as far as possible, the principles of religion. His followers, adopting and transforming the philosophical heritage of the Greeks and the practical and material legacy of the Romans, had eventually created in Europe a God-centered civilization. But the Renaissance, as a great movement of secularization, signaled the destruction of that civilization. Priestly worldliness and corruption had vitiated the spiritual power of the Church (as anyone familiar with the history of the Renaissance popes can attest). Although Martin Luther and other reformers attempted to restore the purity of Christianity, they unintentionally provided the means for European rulers to break loose from religious control. Thus the Reformation greatly contributed to the dismantling of the medieval God-centered civilization.
If Europe during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries illustrates the sort of religious decline described in the Bhagavad-gita, India in the same period illustrates the divine restoration. The transcendental agent in this case was Sri Caitanya, who appeared in what is now West Bengal in 1486, just four years after Luther's birth in Germany.
A person should be accepted as an incarnation of God only if He is referred to in scriptures. Many scriptures foretell the advent of Lord Caitanya. The Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.5.32) says: "In the age of Kali, intelligent persons perform congregational chanting to worship the incarnation of Godhead who constantly sings the name of Krsna. Although His complexion is not blackish, He is Krsna Himself. He is accompanied by His associates, His servants, His weapons, and His confidential companions."
This verse identifies Lord Caitanya as a special kind of incarnation called a "yuga-avatara." Vedic literature describes history as cyclical, progressing through repeated revolutions of four great ages called yugas. The first age of the cycle, satya-yuga, is a golden age of immense spiritual and material well-being; each subsequent age ushers in a decline. We are now five thousand years into Kali-yuga, the final and most debased age. "In this iron age of Kali," the Bhagavatam says, "men have but short lives. They are quarrelsome, lazy, misguided, unlucky, and, above all, always disturbed" (Bhag. 1.1.10).
Religious practice has to be tailored to fit the particular characteristics of each of the yugas. The meditational practices suitable for Satya-yuga, for example, will be ineffective in the Kali-yuga. People no longer have the time, the determination, and the peace of mind to meditate properly. The Lord therefore descends in each yuga—as the yuga-avatara—in order to establish the appropriate form of religion. According to the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Lord Caitanya is the yuga-avatara for this age of Kali.
The Bhagavatam also notes the specific religious practice Lord Caitanya will propagate: sankirtana, the congregational chanting of the name of God. Sankirtana is especially suitable for Kali-yuga, because it is both easy to do and extremely powerful. In this age we are in such a morbid condition of soul that only the strongest of remedies can heal us. And we will refuse the medicine unless it is sweet and easy to take. Therefore, Lord Caitanya disseminated the holy name. No matter how quarrelsome, lazy, misguided, unlucky, and disturbed we may be, we can easily chant Hare Krsna with perceptible spiritual results. We will at once have a taste of transcendental bliss and feel lust, greed, and anger diminish. The immeasurable potency of the divine name will rid even the most polluted mind of the putrefaction of material existence.
Lord Caitanya possessed such immense spiritual power that waves of devotion spread out from Him and inundated all of India with love of God. His life and teachings have been expertly recounted by Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, universally recognized as a classic of Bengali literature. We can get some idea of Lord Caitanya's potency from this description of the Lord's impact on people during His tour of South India:
Whenever Lord Caitanya met anyone, Krsnadasa Kaviraja says, He would ask them to chant Hare Krsna. "Whoever heard Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu chant 'Hari, Hari,' also chanted the holy name of Lord Hari and Krsna. In this way, they all followed the Lord, very eager to see Him. After some time, the Lord would embrace these people and bid them to return home, after investing them with spiritual potency. Being thus empowered, they would return to their own villages, always chanting the holy name of Krsna and sometimes laughing, crying, and dancing. These empowered people used to request everyone and anyone—whomever they saw—to chant the holy name of Krsna. In this way all the villagers would also become devotees of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. And simply by seeing such empowered individuals, people from different villages would become like them by the mercy of their glance. When these individuals returned to their villages, they also converted others into devotees. When others came to see them, they were also converted. In this way, as those men went from one village to another, all the people of South India became devotees. Thus many hundreds of people became Vaisnavas [devotees of Krsna] when they passed the Lord on the way and were embraced by Him" (Cc. Madhya 7.98-105).
A unique feature of Krsna's appearing as Lord Caitanya is that although Lord Caitanya is Krsna Himself, He does not appear as God but rather as a devotee of God. There are two reasons why God assumes the role of His own devotee, one of them external and public, the other internal and private.
The public reason God comes as a devotee is to teach the chanting of the names of God in the most attractive and powerful way. By playing the part of His own devotee—the greatest devotee of all—Krsna is able to show by His own peerless example the splendor of pure devotional service. Since Lord Caitanya is God Himself revealing to us how He wishes to be served, the teachings of Lord Caitanya are most authorized.
God's private reason for descending as Lord Caitanya is more difficult to grasp, and to understand it we will have to enter into some of God's confidential, internal affairs. Indeed, it is principally through Lord Caitanya that these matters have become known to us at all. (They are, to be sure. described in ancient scriptures, but Lord Caitanya illuminated the meaning of those texts and made their importance shine forth.)
Krsna's appearance as Lord Caitanya is really Krsna's own tribute and testament to the overwhelming attractiveness of pure devotional service and, especially, of His pure devotee. Moreover, when Krsna assumes the features of His own greatest devotee, He has, in fact, a particular devotee in mind: His highest and most intimate devotee. Srimati Radharani.
You may have seen paintings that depict Radha and Krsna together; Lord Krsna appears as a beautiful young man with a dark-blue complexion that glows like a newly formed rain cloud illuminated within by lightning. Srimati Radharani is an equally beautiful young girl; Her complexion is lustrous like molten gold. Krsna plays on His flute, and Radharani, Her hand resting lightly on Krsna's shoulder, listens in enchantment. It is clear from Their posture and from the way They glance at each other that They are deeply in love.
Westerners often misunderstand Radha and Krsna. An earlier, puritanical generation was appalled at the notion that God should have a consort and enter into a conjugal relationship. Nowadays, one encounters people from a younger generation who are very much "into" sex and are delighted to think that God is too. Both groups radically misunderstand Radha and Krsna, because both share in a common error: that the relationship between Radharani and Krsna is like a mundane sexual relationship.
Male and female and the attraction between them are found in this world only because sexual polarity and attraction exist originally in God, in Radha-Krsna. As above, so here below. But there is a difference also. Worldly sexual relationships are merely perverted reflections of the original and transcendental conjugal relationship between Radha and Krsna, which is pure and spiritual and devoid of any tinge of lust. As long as Our materially besmirched minds are conditioned by worldly desire, we are unable to conceive of the immaculate love between Radha and Krsna. We project our own unwholesome relationships and unholy loves onto God. This is surely a mistake. A person can understand the conjugal love of Radha and Krsna as it is only if he himself becomes free from lust. Lord Caitanya was able to make an unprecedented disclosure of the confidential relationship between Radharani and Krsna because He also taught the chanting of Hare Krsna, which destroys lust and other material impurities with unrivaled efficacy.
We can understand the position of Srimati Radharani by means of the ideas of "potency" (sakti) and the "potent" (saktiman), that is, of power or energy, on the one hand, and of the possessor of the power, the energetic source, on the other. To use an illustration, fire is the potent, and heat and light are the fire's potency. But the supremely potent, the ultimate source of all energies, is Krsna; everything else, material or spiritual, is His potency, emanating from Him as heat and light emanate from a fire. (Heat and light are potency in relation to the potent fire; fire, potency in relation to the potent sun; the sun, potency in relation to Krsna, the supremely potent.) The entire content of what is can be exhaustively described as Krsna and His energies.
Three of Krsna's multitudinous potencies are prominent. One of them manifests the whole material world; another, the innumerable spiritual souls. The third—called the internal potency—manifests the transcendental kingdom of God. This internal potency has three further subdivisions. By one of these transcendental potencies, Krsna maintains His existence and that of the eternal kingdom of God; by another, He knows Himself and causes others to know Him. And by the third internal potency He enjoys transcendental bliss and causes His devotees to feel bliss.
This internal potency of bliss, called hladini-sakti, is Srimati Radharani. As the embodiment of Krsna's transcendental pleasure-giving potency, Srimati Radharani is Krsna's most perfect devotee; She lives only for satisfying Him with Her pure devotional love. All devotional service falls under the auspices of Srimati Radharani, and only by Her mercy and care are the devotees able to please Her beloved Krsna. She is the ideal devotee, the exemplar of unconditioned love.
Krsna and Radha are simultaneously one and yet different, just as a fire and its light are one and yet different at the same time. Thus, although Radharani and Krsna are one in Their identity, They have separated Themselves eternally. Radha and Krsna together exemplify the simultaneous oneness and difference of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His energy, constituting the whole of the Absolute Truth. Thus they illustrate the most profound metaphysical principle.
Radharani and Krsna show that the ultimate nature of God contains internal varieties, and Their endless reciprocation of love is the basis of an internal transcendental dynamic by which Krsna is eternally increasing in beauty and bliss. Although Radha has no desire for her own enjoyment, when She sees Krsna, Her joy increases without bound. Because Her joy increases, Her sweetness and beauty also increase. When Krsna sees Radha becoming more and more beautiful, His joy also becomes greater, making His beauty and His sweetness grow. When Radha sees that She has pleased Krsna, She becomes overjoyed, and as Her joy multiplies, She becomes even more beautiful and sweet. This again increases Krsna's own joy, beauty, and sweetness. . . . And so the reciprocation goes on and on, without limit or end.
The name Krsna means "all-attractive," and knowing the reciprocation of ever-increasing love between Radha and Krsna allows us to appreciate how attractive God is—much more attractive than anything in this world. When God is misconceived as static and without variegatedness, it makes the material world seem more interesting and alluring by comparison. Just this sort of static conception was borrowed by Christian philosophers from Aristotle and enshrined in medieval theology; and this is one reason why the Renaissance turned to the material world for a sense of promise, adventure, and expanding possibilities. For God was philosophically understood as actus purus, which meant that He was everything that He could ever be; He was entirely static, a kind of crystalized, frozen perfection.
It was thought that if God possesses the fullness of infinite perfection, then the divine perfection would be at an absolute maximum and could not increase. But Krsnadasa Kaviraja says that although God is at the fullness of perfection, He still does increase. The apparent paradox may be easier to accept if you consider a similar "paradox" discovered by modern mathematicians in their investigation of the properties of infinite sets. Let us consider, for example, a hotel with infinite rooms, all of which are occupied. Although the hotel is full, you can always add more guests—in fact, an infinite number of guests. Let us imagine that the desk clerk wants to check in a new guest. He blows a whistle, and all the doors open. The occupant of room 1 moves to room 2, of 2 to room 3, . . . and so on, ad infinitum. The new guest enters the now-empty room 1. Similarly, even though an infinite number of guests check out of the hotel, it will retain full occupancy. The Isopanisad makes a similar point about the Supreme Personality of Godhead: He is so complete that even though countless energies emanate from Him, He remains complete and wholly undiminished. And although Krsna is full and complete, yet, through His loving reciprocation with Radha, He eternally increases without limit.
Lord Caitanya also embodies another phase in the transcendental psychology of the loving reciprocation between Radha and Krsna. We have already seen how Krsna is ceaselessly fascinated and attracted by Radha. He finds Her love for Him equally amazing. Its selfless purity and its intensity fill Him with wonder. Krsnadasa Kaviraja tells us that Krsna thinks to Himself, "Whatever pleasure I get from tasting My love for Srimati Radharani, She tastes ten million times more than Me by Her love" (Cc. Adi 4.126). Krsna is the supreme enjoyer, but He realizes that Srimati Radharani, by Her love for Him, enjoys even more bliss than He does. Thus Krsna becomes eager to experience for Himself the flavor of Srimati Radharani's love for Him.
Krsna's beauty and sweetness are so limitless that they attract the whole universe. Krsnadasa Kaviraja says: "The beauty of Krsna has one natural strength: it thrills the hearts of all men and women, beginning with Lord Krsna Himself. All minds are attracted by hearing his sweet voice and flute, or by seeing His beauty. Even Lord Krsna Himself makes efforts to taste that sweetness" (Cc. Adi 4.147-48). But the one who relishes Krsna's beauty and sweetness the most is Srimati Radharani. Her immaculate love is like a flawless mirror, and in that mirror Krsna's own beauty and sweetness shine with ever greater brightness. Thus Krsna desires to experience His own attractiveness in the way that Srimati Radharani does.
For these reasons, then, Krsna desires to take the position of Srimati Radharani. That desire is eternally fulfilled in the person of Lord Caitanya. In His form as Lord Caitanya, Krsna assumes the golden complexion and the devotional feelings of Radha, and tastes for Himself the unlimited bliss of devotional service.
Krsnadasa Kaviraja sets down two verses in which he summarizes the nature of Lord Caitanya: "The loving affairs of Sri Radha and Krsna are transcendental manifestations of the Lord's internal pleasure-giving potency. Although Radha and Krsna are one in Their identity, They separated Themselves eternally. Now these two transcendental identities have again united in the form of Sri Krsna Caitanya. I bow down to Him, who has manifested Himself with the sentiment and complexion of Srimati Radharani although He is Krsna Himself. Desiring to understand the glory of Radharani's love, the wonderful qualities in Him that She alone relishes through Her love, and the happiness She feels when She realizes the sweetness of His love, the Supreme Lord Hari, richly endowed with Her emotions, appeared from the womb of Srimati Sacidevi, as the moon appeared from the ocean" (Cc. Adi 1.5-6).
The three transcendental personalities of Radha, Krsna, and Caitanya together manifest the eternal dialectics of divine love, the timeless dynamics of the ever-expanding ocean of transcendental bliss. Lord Caitanya descended to flood the world with that ocean of love by distributing to everyone the chanting of the names of God. Simply by chanting Hare Krsna, anyone can enter into that limitless ocean of the nectar of devotion.
Lord Caitanya inaugurated a bhakti renaissance and turned people's vision to God at the same time that the Renaissance in Europe turned people's vision to man and the world. Men like da Vinci, fascinated by the marvelous and cunning complexities of material nature, began to delve into her secrets with an insatiable curiosity and were rewarded with discovery. At the same time, as if in counterbalance, Lord Caitanya, through the renaissance of bhakti, gave to the world an unprecedented view into the inner dynamics of infinite love in the all-attractive Supreme Personality of Godhead. Just as men of the Renaissance tried to open up the world and unlock the secrets of nature, Lord Caitanya and His associates opened up the kingdom of God and unlocked the secrets of love of God.
To the people of the Renaissance, the world and man seemed imbued with limitless possibility and promise. Western civilization to the present day has been following up on that vision, and it becomes more and more apparent that the world and man have not lived up to their promise. The Renaissance shift of vision from God to man and matter has cut people off from any transcendent source of meaning and value, and the resultant relativism and nihilism—the ripened fruit of the Renaissance—have released demonic energies that have devastated the earth in our time. And there is more to come.
Therefore, Lord Caitanya's appearance was most timely. The civilization born in Europe during the Renaissance has grown to straddle the earth. But there has been a most fortunate counterflux, as the sankirtana movement of Lord Caitanya has also spread over the globe, in fulfillment of Lord Caitanya's own prophecy. By showing how Krsna is supremely loving and all-attractive, and by making Krsna easily accessible through the chanting of His names. Lord Caitanya has made it possible for us to shift our vision back to God once more. This is necessary. Man and the world cannot answer to the demand we have placed upon them. Only Krsna and His transcendental kingdom, where He eternally revels in pastimes of love, can do that. This alone is the realm that is rich with infinite promise, beckoning to us with limitless possibilities.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
Scarcity In The Land Of Surplus
by Mathuresa dasa
The United States has enough surplus wheat to provide more than two tons of cereal and baked goods for every American family and enough surplus cheese, butter, and powdered milk to put forty pounds of dairy products in every kitchen in the country. Yet while these and other surplus foods sit in government warehouses, a debate over hunger in the United States is in progress.
On one side, President Reagan has said that he is puzzled by news that hunger is on the rise, and a special presidential task force has agreed: no "rampant hunger problem" exists in the U.S. The task force has also asserted that the Reagan administration's cuts in food aid have not harmed the poor. These findings, however, contradict earlier reports.
In October the United States Conference of Mayors announced a marked increase in the numbers of hungry and homeless. One month later, after a five-state tour, Senator Edward Kennedy reported a similar finding. And in January, Kennedy referred to the presidential task force's report as "a transparent cover-up of the serious and worsening problem of hunger in America." The President's economic policies are to blame, say Kennedy and other Democrats.
Both sides in the election-year hunger debate, however, seem to be ignoring a most important question: How could even a trace of hunger exist in a country so rich in agricultural resources as America? Even if the unemployment rate were double what it is now, what excuse is there for even one hungry person? A recent study by the Economic Research Services shows that a mere fraction of the U.S. surpluses would be enough to end hunger in the sixty-seven poorest nations of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East—what to speak of the United States.
This contradictory state of affairs throws into question not just the Reagan administration's economic policies but modern economic planning in general. What is it about our modern industrial economies that prevents food surpluses from reaching those who need them? In trying to answer this question, let us briefly consider the Vedic outlook on economics.
The Bhagavad-gita reminds us that the primary function of any economy is not to develop industry or commerce but to produce food through agriculture. As Lord Krsna explains, both men and animals live by eating products of the field. But because many Western countries, America in particular, are accustomed to food surpluses, they tend to minimize or ignore this simple truth. Automobiles, televisions, home computers, and the many other elements of technological advancement are useless without the fundamental wealth of agricultural abundance. We can't eat nuts, bolts, transistors, and microchips.
Agricultural wealth depends in turn on the mercy of the Supreme Lord. While the atheist credits bumper crops to advances in farming techniques and technology, the devotee of Lord Krsna sees that without the cooperation of nature, which works under Krsna's direction, not one stalk of wheat can grow. The severe droughts that over the past several years have baked large sections of America's farmlands are one example of just how useless modern technology is without nature's assistance.
Not only are the products of industrial technology inedible, they are all more or less unnecessary. When nature can profusely supply grains, fruit, milk, cotton, silk, wood, and other raw materials, why the overemphasis on heavy industry? We can't live without nature's gifts, but we can live without man's. For the devotee, therefore, America's enormous food surpluses confirm the statement of the Katha Upanisad that the Supreme Lord provides life's necessities for all living beings.
In the ideal economic system, most families own some cows and a few acres of land, and whatever surplus grains and milk products they accumulate they can trade for other necessities. That, in a nutshell, is the commonsense Vedic outlook on economics.
Modern economists also recognize the central importance of agriculture, although not so much for its potential to supply all our needs as for its role in industrial growth. They point especially to the mechanization of agriculture as the foundation for industrial development, because to the degree that a nation frees its labor force from farm work it is able to build industry. Of course, taking men off their farms ends their direct access to nature's tangible wealth, making them dependent on others for their livelihood and subjecting them to the danger of unemployment. But most analysts consider this a negligible drawback since they judge a nation's wealth in terms of industrial development rather than in terms of the dignity and security of the labor force. The wealthiest nations, they say, are the ones with the smallest farm populations. In the U.S., for example, less than five percent of the labor force works on farms, whereas in many third-world countries the figure is fifty percent or more.
Agriculture (or the agribusiness industry), in addition to serving as the foundation for industrial growth, plays an integral role in the economic superstructure of the industrialized nations. In America the hundred-billion-dollar food processing and distribution industries are, of course, directly dependent on agribusiness, as are industries which produce farm machinery, insecticides, and fertilizers. The American consumer spends twenty percent of his income on food, so there is in fact no sector of the economy that is not deeply affected by the ups and downs of the food industry or, more specifically, by fluctuations in food prices.
While the consumer naturally appreciates low food prices, they spell bankruptcy for the agribusiness and food distribution industries and therefore threaten the entire industrial economy with collapse. The government is thus obliged to support food prices by buying up surplus commodities and keeping them off the market.
So if we are wondering why the vast U.S. surpluses can't be used to feed the hungry at home and abroad, the answer is clear: widespread distribution of surpluses would cripple the economy. A case in point is the U.S. food stamp program, which enables the needy and unemployed to purchase goods from retail outlets. If this program were curtailed and surpluses were instead given directly to the needy, retail businesses would lose billions of dollars each year and the entire economy would suffer. In much the same way, large-scale distribution of America's food surpluses abroad would have a detrimental effect on international trade. U.S. surpluses must, therefore, remain in U.S. warehouses—all in the name of economic development.
Thus our manmade industrial economies now stand in direct opposition to the natural economic arrangements of the Supreme Lord—a fact that both sides of the hunger debate have failed to realize. As the father of all living beings, Krsna is ready to provide generously for every one of His children. But instead of fulfilling Lord Krsna's desire, economic planners the world over seem to consider it their duty to keep Him from flooding the market. Therefore, as one of this century's great Krsna conscious leaders used to say, the only shortage in this world is a shortage of Krsna consciousness—a shortage of surrender to the plans of the Supreme Person.
Academia On The Rocks
by Drutakarma dasa
Material enjoyments, which are due to contact with the material senses, are sources of misery," says Lord Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita. "Such pleasures have a beginning and an end, and so the wise man does not delight in them." With alcohol abuse epidemic on the nation's college campuses, students should consider this advice.
Thomas Adams, the dean of students at Loyola University in Chicago, states, "The single greatest drug abuse on this or any other campus is undoubtedly alcohol." A research study by Boston's Medical Foundation on 7,000 New England students at 34 campuses found:
—95% of undergraduates drink.
—20% of the men students and 10% of the women say that getting drunk is "important" to them.
—29% of the men and 11% of the women are heavy drinkers.
Gerardo M. Gonzalez, a specialist on alcohol at the University of Florida, stated, "People assumed you went to college, drank up, had a good time, and graduated. Now they're beginning to realize that the problem of alcohol abuse is a national problem with tremendous personal and economic cost."
One naturally wonders why, despite the dangers of alcohol, more and more of the nation's college students are drinking. Industry advertising practices may have a great deal to do with it. Washington columnist Colman McCarthy reported in his article "The Booze Business is Booming on Campus " about "the beer industry's fierce campaign to capture not only the youth alcohol market but also create early loyalty that may last a drinking lifetime." Outlining the methods of the industry, McCarthy said, "Beer companies like Coors, Miller, and Anheuser-Busch have college marketing programs. Miller employs student representatives on 550 or so campuses. . . . Coors is on 182 campuses. It pays between $150 and $300 a month. . . .The aim is to get as many student activities as possible centered around the beer can or keg." An especially successful gimmick is for a beer company to give student governments money to put on rock concerts at which the company's beer is exclusively sold.
William F. Plymat, Sr., director of the American Council on Alcohol Problems, said in a message before the British Parliament, "Immature youth are very susceptible to the clever advertising messages that are often aimed at them to use alcohol to achieve social acceptance and happiness. We owe a special duty to youth to protect them as much as possible from an industry that seeks to recruit them into using an extremely dangerous drug."
Although complete prohibition has not proven practical, Mr. Plymat's recommendation for a nationwide ban on all advertising for alcoholic beverages seems reasonable, as does placing the production of alcoholic beverages under government monopoly, for sale through limited outlets to adults registered as alcohol users. In addition, the government could fund programs to educate the public in the dangers of alcohol consumption and to provide rehabilitation for alcoholics.
Nevertheless, even such drastic measures will not be successful as long as people still feel an inner need for alcohol. Srila Prabhupada states, "Unless one is transcendentally situated, it is not possible to cease from sense enjoyment. The process of restriction from sense enjoyment by rules and regulations is something like restricting a diseased person from certain types of eatables. The patient, however, neither likes such restrictions nor loses his taste for eatables."
How to become transcendentally situated is described in the Bhagavad-gita. "A liberated person is not attracted to material sense pleasure or external objects but is always in trance, enjoying the pleasure within. In this way the self-realized person enjoys unlimited happiness, for he concentrates on the Supreme."
The process of concentrating upon the Supreme is technically called meditation. In This Side Up, a publication of the U.S. government's Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration, mantra meditation is recommended as a genuine technique for providing positive experiences that will help young people overcome the psychological need for alcohol and other drugs. "Mantra meditation is a simple and popular way to meditate. . . . Usually a mantra is given to you by the person who teaches you to meditate. It is a word or syllable that can be focused upon or repeated over and over." The publication goes on to state that by meditation one can "achieve a high level of relaxation and a definite 'up' feeling."
The authors of This Side Up recognize the spiritual foundations of meditation, and the Hare Krsna mantra is especially effective, being the transcendental sound vibration of Godhead. The Vedic literature teaches that God's transcendental energies are concentrated in mantras—such as the Hare Krsna mantra—that contain the names of God. Among these energies is the Lord's transcendental pleasure energy, hara (hare in the vocative). Thus by meditating upon the sound of the Hare Krsna mantra, one can experience a spiritual pleasure that far surpasses any material experience. Chanting Hare Krsna should be a part of everyone's education.
The Pope And Saintly Qualities
by Kundali dasa
Back in January of 1984, when Pope John Paul II personally visited and forgave "as a brother" Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him almost three years before, the Pontiff's message to the world was clear: "Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you." His example befits a follower of Lord Jesus, who showed mercy even to his tormentors: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Judging from the media's coverage of this simple act of forgiveness, Pope John Paul's reputation as a man of God has now increased. People the world over. Catholic and non-Catholic alike, were moved by the Pope's example of saintly conduct. Thus we are reminded that saintly conduct can transcend all barriers of class, culture, and religious creed. I found the worldwide approval the Pope received to be heartwarming, and I took it to be a positive sign for the members of the Krsna consciousness movement, who are all endeavoring to develop the qualities of saintliness, one of which is forgiveness.
The science of Krsna consciousness teaches that to nurture a saintly character one must become a devotee of God; this is absolutely essential. Once one resolves to do this, his next step is to associate with persons of similar conviction. Consciousness is like a mirror, reflecting whatever it associates with. Therefore, if we want saintly qualities, we must seek saintly association.
The Krsna consciousness movement is a society of persons who have chosen to become saintly. Like most people, the devotees of Lord Krsna see the many problems of the world and want to bring about a change for the better; but they also know that the first step in effecting that change is to purify themselves. As I have already mentioned, forgiveness is but one saintly quality. A pure devotee of the Supreme Lord is also humble, truthful, equal to everyone, faultless, mild, magnanimous, and clean; he is without material possessions, he performs welfare work for everyone, and he is peaceful, surrendered to the Supreme Lord, devoid of selfish desires and indifferent to material acquisitions; he is fixed in devotional service to the Lord, he completely controls the six bad qualities (lust, anger, greed, illusion, madness, and envy), eats only as much as required, and is sane; he is respectful, grave, compassionate, friendly, poetic, expert, and devoid of false prestige; and he speaks only of God and devotional service to Him.
Sometimes misinformed persons try to discredit the process of Krsna consciousness, claiming that the devotees will fail; it's too difficult to be good in a bad world, they say. Granted, it's a struggle to be good in a bad world, but what else can we do? Shall we compromise? Give up? Become part of the bad world? Of course not. Even the people who make the world bad have to struggle to do so. Struggle is there in either case. One simply has to choose whether to struggle as part of the solution or struggle as part of the problem. But struggle we cannot avoid.
Working Like Pigs
The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place in September 1975 during an early-morning walk in Vrndavana, India.
Srila Prabhupada: Life can be easily maintained by agriculture and cow protection. But no, with great difficulty the leaders of the so-called modern civilization build big, big mills and factories to produce motor cars, skyscrapers, and so on. In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna calls this ugra-karma, horrible activities. Unnecessarily creating problems, one after another.
For example, formerly paper was used only to print books of Vedic knowledge. Now paper is used for so many useless publications—volumes and volumes of newspapers, magazines, and sex books. Simply creating agitation of the mind. And if you explain these things, people will say, "These are all primitive ideas." The modern idea is that one must work very hard day and night just to get a little piece of capati [bread].
Devotee: If a person doesn't work hard day and night, they say, "You are just living off society."
Srila Prabhupada: Pigs are also working day and night. Then what is the difference between the pig and me, if I am also working hard like the pig?
Devotee: There's no difference.
Srila Prabhupada: Then why do you say that you have an advanced civilization? Kastan kaman na arhati: the Srimad-Bhagavatam says it is not desirable; it is not good. You have been given a body different from that of the hogs so you can live peacefully and happily. Why should you accept kastan kaman, so much hardship?
Actually, people do not want to work hard, Otherwise, why do the proprietors, the capitalists, leave the factory and go to a solitary place in the country whenever they can?
Devotee: They don't find any happiness in the hard work.
Srila Prabhupada: Then the other workers think, "This rascal has engaged us in hard work, and he's enjoying. Let us drive him out! Kill him!" This is communism. Everyone wants comfort and peaceful living. Therefore this civilization of hard work is condemned. If hard work is desirable, why are the capitalists avoiding it?
Devotee: They say they worked hard to get the comforts of life. Now they are relaxing.
Srila Prabhupada: I am also relaxing. Why are you inducing me to work hard? Chant Hare Krsna and take a little prasadam [food offered to Krsna]. That's all. Why are you inducing me?
Devotee: They say you have to earn your relaxation. You're not entitled to it unless you work very hard.
Srila Prabhupada: But earn or not earn, I am enjoying relaxation. If I am already enjoying, why should I pay for it? I have already paid for it. By my karma in my previous life I have already paid for it.
Devotee: They don't believe in the law of karma.
Srila Prabhupada; Therefore they are rascals, and this is a rascal civilization. On one side, they promote contraceptives, and on the other side they encourage women to marry three times a week. This is their civilization. If you want to stop increasing the population, why are you inducing people: "Indulge in sex"? Everything is contradictory. And it is all based on sense gratification.
Devotee: If a person is not satisfying his senses, they think he is crazy.
Srila Prabhupada: But who is actually satisfying his senses? You are crazy. In your attempt to satisfy your senses, you are repeatedly being kicked by nature, and your senses will never be satisfied. Still, you are trying for that. Even the eighty-year-old man is going to the nightclub. When will his senses be satisfied?
But if somebody is relaxing, calmly chanting Hare Krsna and avoiding sense gratification, they will condemn him; "Oh, you are escaping reality."
Devotee: Misery loves company.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The world is working so hard, but where is the peace and happiness?
Devotee: It's coming.
Srila Prabhupada: [Laughs.] When will it come? That is unknown.
Devotee: Maybe at the end of this century.
Srila Prabhupada: Or maybe at the end of your life. Just like an insurance policy. You work hard and go on paying the premium, thinking you'll be happy after death. But if one is going to be a dog after death, how will he be happy?
Devotee: It is evident that the miseries of this age are becoming greater and greater.
Srila Prabhupada: That must be, because people are all under nature's laws. How can they avoid the miseries? According to how they work in this life, they will get the result. Karmana daiva-netrena: There is a superior power to supervise how they are working. Everyone is bound up tightly by the reactions of his previous work (karma-bandhana).
But people do not know this. They have a poor fund of knowledge. So Krsna comes to inform these rascals:
"You are all the lowest of men—fools." That is Krsna's declaration. Therefore Krsna says, "Surrender unto Me." This is the whole purpose of the Bhagavad-gita.
As Krsna sees, we see. This is Krsna consciousness. We are not perfect. But we are perfect so long as we follow Krsna. That's all. Suppose that I am a blind man: I am not perfect. But if you have got eyes—if you take me, and I follow you—then I am perfect. Krsna assures, "You surrender to Me, and I will make you free from all dangers," and we accept Krsna. Our method is very easy.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Lotus-Flower Float Dazzles Cotton Bowl Crowd
Dallas, Texas—The new year began here on an ecstatic note at the twenty-seventh annual Cotton Bowl Festival and Parade as a crowd of one hundred thousand and a national television audience of millions viewed the award-winning float built by "the Texas Hare Krishnas."
Designed and built by members of Dallas ISKCON, the float featured a gigantic golden swan pulling a 45-foot-high lotus flower. Atop the swan, surrounded by several Hare Krsna children, rode a murti (statue) of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual master of ISKCON. Persons portraying Sri Sri Radha-Krsna and six of Their personal attendants rode on the lotus flower. Completing the display were ISKCON devotees, along with Indian musicians and dancers. The float reflected the theme of this year's parade, "That's Entertainment," and demonstrated that art, music, dance, and all human talents should glorify the Supreme Lord's eternal spiritual pastimes.
Even though the crowd of Texans was surprised to see the transcendental float, the devotees met with a warm reception. "Seeing the devotees waving, especially the little children," said Bhaktisaranga Swami, ISKCON's regional secretary for Texas, "melted the Texans' hearts."
A group of only three devotees, headed by Yasomati-nandana dasa, worked five weeks to construct the float. Three days prior to the parade, the float received the "Judges' Award for Special Merit," taking fourth place out of twenty-two floats. According to Sunanda dasa, who directed the project, "The most difficult task wasn't building the float—it was getting into the parade. Generally only after four or five years on a waiting list can a group get into the Cotton Bowl parade, so we had little hope, but we tried anyway. And by the grace of Lord Krsna and the desire of Srila Tamala Krishna Goswami [ISKCON's spiritual master in charge of Dallas], we were accepted, and the project was a great success."
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness has participated in other parades as well. Hare Krsna floats won awards in Hawaii at the 1981 Aloha Week Floral Parade and in Australia at the 1983 Moomba Parade.
Scholar Praises Srila Prabhupada's Books
Dortmund, West Germany—Paul Schwarzenau, professor of theology at the University of Dortmund, recently wrote:
"Now that most of the writings of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada exist in German translation, German-speaking people have direct access to the profound philosophy and theology of the Bhagavad-gita and that of-the great Indian saint Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, in their original setting within a living Indian tradition.
"I have found that by studying the works of Sri Bhaktivedanta Swami, my insight into the Christian tradition, to which I belong, has expanded considerably. I have no doubt that, ultimately. God is the fundamental common basis of Krsna consciousness and Christianity. . . . Now, I believe, is the time to explore the common spiritual foundations of these two traditions and learn from each other about our common Father.
"One who seeks a true ecumenical dialogue between Indian and Christian spirituality cannot but become drawn to the spiritual authority of these works, which embody and reflect the oldest Indian traditions."
ISKCON Doubles Book Distribution
Los Angeles—The distribution of Srila Prabhupada's books is booming, according to a recent newsletter from the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT), the publishing arm of ISKCON. In 1983, the BBT's India division tripled its book distribution volume over the previous year's, while Ireland, Israel, New York, Texas, Switzerland, and Trinidad doubled theirs. Los Angeles and Northern Europe increased by about forty percent. BACK TO GODHEAD magazine doubled its circulation during 1983.
Some observers have doubted whether the Hare Krsna movement could maintain its momentum after its founder and spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, passed away in 1977. But as a testament to the continuing vitality of ISKCON and to ISKCON's dedication to Srila Prabhupada's instructions, global book distribution has doubled since 1977.
On a tight schedule? These delicious dishes
by Visakha-devi dasi
I was looking through a new cookbook on making meals in twenty minutes, and I read, "Never before have so many people wanted so much out of life and had so little time to enjoy it. Between inflation, two-job marriages, and the quest for self-improvement, the momentum of our life style has us all dancing at a furious reel of achieving and coping. Something has to give. And usually the first thing to go is the time spent preparing our daily meals...."
When it comes to food, we want it effortlessly and fast. That's why forty percent of the American food dollar is spent in restaurants and why an uncalculated amount is spent on fast foods at home—precooked, frozen, canned, and instant.
But why, in the "momentum of our life style," is cooking the first thing to go? Why not TV? Or the movies? Or the baseball game? Well, maybe it's because cooking takes a lot of effort and the reward is often small and fleeting. We may labor for a few hours to make an elegant luncheon, only to be left with a pile of dirty dishes an hour after it's served; and then a few hours later, everyone's ready for another meal. Was it worth the effort? From the statistics, most of us must think not. We'd rather phone for a take-out pizza and sit back for Star Trek reruns. There are just more important things to do than cook.
Krsna's devotees, however, have a different attitude. Our desire to get a (or out of life has led us on a quest for self-realization—to understand who we are, who God is, and what our relationship with Him is. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna explains that the process for achieving this goal is devotional service. (That's accepted by all authentic scriptures.)
Time spent in devotional service is important. Time spent in other ways is wasted and can never be regained—even at the cost of millions of dollars. The Srimad-Bhagavatam (2.3.17) confirms, "Both by rising and setting, the sun decreases the duration of life of everyone, except one who utilizes the time in devotional service to the all-good Personality of Godhead." Similarly, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, "With every rising and setting of the sun, a day passes and is lost. Why then do you remain idle and not serve the Lord of the heart?" And a great devotee of the Lord prayed, "O my Lord, I have spent my life uselessly. Having obtained a human birth and having not served Radha and Krsna, I have knowingly drunk poison."
A devotee understands that if we're slapping a meal together so we can get out of the kitchen and watch TV, we're wasting our time—both in the kitchen and out of it. Cooking, or anything else done for our sense pleasure, is useless as far as spiritual realization goes; ultimately it won't help us enjoy life or get much out of it. But if we're cooking for Krsna (or doing any other activity for His satisfaction), our time is perfectly spent.
The care we take in finding the proper ingredients for cooking, as well as the love and devotion we give to preparing and offering dishes to the Lord, are all part of our quest for self-realization; they're all devotional service. Those who purchase the food for Krsna, those who cook it, those who offer it, those who serve it, those who taste it, and those who clean up afterward—all get a reward that's neither small nor fleeting. They get eternal, spiritual benefit. In one way or another, they are engaging in devotional service, and that will lead them to the highest enjoyment in life.
The care we take in finding the proper ingredients for cooking, as well as the love and devotion we give to preparing and offering dishes to the Lord, are all part of our quest for self-realization; they're all devotional service. Those who purchase the food for Krsna, those who cook it, those who offer it, those who serve it, those who taste it, and those who clean up afterward—all get a reward that's neither small nor fleeting. They get eternal, spiritual benefit. In one way or another, they are engaging in devotional service, and that will lead them to the highest enjoyment in life. It's all a matter of knowing the process.
Sometimes it seems that the dishes Lord Krsna favors most take the longest time to make—like milk sweets that must be boiled down for forty-five minutes, or kacauris (stuffed savories) that are deep-fried for twenty-five minutes. Yet, even in the momentum of our devotional lifestyle, we're often fully engaged doing other services and don't have as much time as we'd like to cook for Krsna. So this month, we're featuring dishes that are quick and easy and that are also pleasing to the Lord. Puffed rice, for example, is a light meal, great for breakfast, brunch, or an afternoon or evening snack. Not exactly "instant," but almost. And every second that we give to making, offering, serving, and tasting these foods brings us closer to our goal: an eternal life full of bliss and knowledge with Krsna.
(Recipes by Yamuna-devi dasi)
Puffed Rice with Fried Nuts and Peas
Preparation time: 30 minutes
¼ cup ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil
1. Heat the ghee or oil in a large 5- to 6-quart saucepan over a medium-low flame for about 1 ½ minutes. Add the peanuts and stir-fry for about ten minutes or until they turn golden brown. Remove the peanuts with a slotted spoon and set aside to drain. Fry the cashews for 5 to 7 minutes or until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside to drain.
2. Drop in the ginger, chilies, turmeric, coriander, cumin, and asafetida in quick succession, and stir-fry for no more than 3 to 4 seconds. Immediately toss in the steamed peas, raise the flame to medium high, and stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Pour in the puffed rice and, stirring constantly, fry until the puffed rice is slightly crisp and well coated with powdered spices. Add the nuts, salt, and sugar; mix well. The puffed rice loses its crispness if it sits, so offer to Krsna immediately.
Quick-Roasted Farina with Braised Cabbage and Bell Peppers
Preparation time: 20 minutes
3 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
1. Heat the ghee or oil over a medium-high flame in a 4- or 5-quart casserole for about 1 minute. Toss in the raw urad dal, chilies, ginger root, cumin seeds, and mustard seeds, and fry until the mustard seeds sputter and pop.
2. Add the cabbage, peppers, and turmeric and, stirring frequently, fry for approximately 5 minutes or until the vegetables are braised and slightly limp.
3. Add the farina and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Stir in the water, salt, and tomatoes and boil for almost 1 minute. Remove the pan from the flame, cover, and allow the preparation to sit for 2 or 3 minutes. Stir, sprinkle with lemon juice, and offer to Krsna.
Roasted Farina with Coconut and Nuts
(Masala Suji Uppma)
Preparation time: 25 minutes
4 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
1. Heat the ghee or oil in a 3- or 4-quart casserole over a medium flame until a drop of water flicked in sputters instantly. Drop in the ginger root, chilies, dal, and mustard seeds and fry until the mustard seeds pop and sputter.
2. Reduce the flame to low, add the curry leaves and farina, and stir-fry for about 5 minutes. Add the coconut and nuts. Still stirring, roast over a low flame for 5 to 7 minutes or until the ingredients are golden brown.
3. While stirring with one hand, add water with the other. Bring the liquid to a boil over a high flame. Add the salt and cumin seeds. Reduce the flame to medium and cook until the farina absorbs the liquid. Remove, cover, and allow to sit for 3 to 4 minutes.
4. Stir, sprinkle with lemon juice, and garnish each portion with a sprinkle of chopped coriander leaves. Then offer to Krsna.
Puffed Rice with Fried Vegetables
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Ingredients for Deep-Fried Vegetables:
1/3 cup peanuts, slowly deep-fried until golden brown
Ingredients for Puffed Rice:
3 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
1. Combine the deep-fried vegetables and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and garam masala; set aside.
2. Heat the ghee or oil in a 3-quart saucepan over a medium flame for 1 to 1 ½ minutes. Combine the coriander, cumin, turmeric, powdered chilies, and salt; drop the powdered seasonings in, stir, and immediately add the puffed rice. Stir-fry for 4 to 5 minutes or until the puffed rice is crispy.
3. Add the nuts and vegetables, sprinkle in the rest of the salt, and mix thoroughly. Offer warm to Krsna.
Without sleight of hand or word jugglery,
by Debarati Datta
MRS. DEBARATI DATTA, an active member of the Hare Krsna movement, lives in Denver.
The other day I was at a party and the host was talking about famous magicians and their tricks. Then he mentioned that if a guru could perform magic tricks, he would no doubt enjoy unlimited success. My host reasoned that performing magic would be the guru's way of telling his disciples, "As you can see, I am superior to you because I have some powers that you do not have; therefore, you should follow me."
Although I couldn't agree with my host, I could see the point he was making because I knew from experience that some people will inevitably fall into such a trap. One of the other guests mentioned a certain, guru who did, in fact, perform magic tricks, thus attracting many followers. As this conversation continued, some very sobering thoughts entered my mind.
I recalled the strong statement of' the Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.3.21): "Any person who seriously desires real happiness must seek a bona fide spiritual master and take shelter of him by initiation." And another quote from the Vedic literature also came to mind: "To understand transcendental science one must approach a bona fide spiritual master." This passage goes on to explain that a guru must be brahma-nistha, fixed in God consciousness.
Considering all this, we can see that the foremost qualification of a guru is not that the guru establish his superiority (whether by magic tricks or whatever) but that he establish the superiority of God and be able to arouse the dormant love for God in the hearts of others. Learning about our relationship with God and how to approach God; therefore, should be our purpose in approaching a guru. The only superiority that we should expect the guru to establish about himself is that he loves God above all else, that he has dedicated his life to cultivating and disseminating knowledge of God, and that he follows the disciplic line of pure devotees of God. Such a self-realized soul will not concoct his own philosophy but will strictly adhere to the authorized scriptures. Thus he is a bona fide guru, fit to instruct and initiate disciples.
Certainly a real guru does not need to perform magic tricks to please or impress his disciples. He will not try to please or impress his disciples at all; rather the disciples must try to please and impress him with their sincerity, respect, humility, and service. This is confirmed by Lord Krsna Himself in the Bhagdvad-gita: "Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth" (Bg. 4.34).
We members of ISKCON have the great fortune of having known, directly or indirectly, a real guru—His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada—who set the most glorious example for all .gurus to follow. From his life we can understand that a real guru always directs our attention not to himself but to Lord Krsna. Therefore, although Srila Prabhupada told us very little about himself, what he had to say about Lord Krsna comprises more than fifty volumes and fills thousands of hours of audio and video tapes. Certainly this lack of pride and egoism, this absolute preoccupation with Krsna, is befitting a real guru.
We accept Srila Prabhupada as great because he taught us how God is great. We worship Srila Prabhupada because he has taught us how to worship God. And we are grateful to him for bringing God into the lives of so many sincere people all over the world. We are overwhelmed by the glory of the saint who walked among us, because we see people all around us behaving in a way that is most unsaintly.
Srila Prabhupada taught us that the reason society is becoming more and more degraded is that people are forgetful of God. He taught us that a life without God consciousness is a wasted life and that loving and serving God is like watering the tree of life at its root. In other words, he taught us that from God consciousness come all good things: peace, prosperity, happiness, and morality.
A real guru does not compromise. He doesn't say, for example, "Yes, you can eat the flesh of slaughtered animals. I love you too much to impose any restrictions in your already miserable life. So do whatever you were doing before, but just become my disciple. By becoming my disciple, you need not be overly concerned about following God's laws." No. A real guru will give us the bitter medicine of truth. Like a compassionate doctor, he acts in our best interest, even at the risk of not being appreciated. Srila Prabhupada writes in the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, "In the pursuit of self-realization, one has to follow many rules and regulations to control the mind and the senses and to concentrate the mind on the self. All these procedures are very difficult, bitter like poison, but if one is successful in following those regulations and comes to the transcendental position, he enjoys life as though always drinking nectar." So the restrictions a real guru imposes are necessary and beneficial.
When a guru who does not impose any restrictions on his disciples gains thousands of followers, it is no wonder. But when a guru like Srila Prabhupada—who restricts his disciples from meat-eating, illicit sex, intoxication, and gambling—has as many followers, it's truly extraordinary. Only a real guru can convince his disciples that life is meant for self-realization, for loving and serving God unconditionally, for plain living and high thinking.
Being Indian, I'm sometimes approached by Westerners who ask my opinion of such-and-such swami or guru. And usually I just refer them to Srila Prabhupada's books, which I have found competent to answer all questions about spiritual life. Of course, not everyone who inquires about spiritual life is genuinely interested in the real thing. Many people, I find, are more impressed by magic tricks and other material alternatives than by transcendental knowledge and devotion to God. And for those who want to be cheated, Srila Prabhupada has said, Krsna will send a cheater.
But Srila Prabhupada sincerely desired that we obtain the genuine article, true spiritual life. He desired that we embrace the spiritual principles of avoiding sinful habits (meat-eating, intoxication, illicit sex, and gambling), reading Vedic literatures like the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam, and chanting the holy names of God: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Srila Prabhupada's great desire was that people all over the world would realize the magic in the holy names of God. He wanted us to know that by chanting Hare Krsna we can transform our lives from suffering repeated birth and death to loving God and returning to our original home in the spiritual world.
The life that Srila Prabhupada has given to his followers is beautiful and complete. It is a very open, honest, and practical life of poetry and dance and music, of good and nourishing food, of healthy habits, enriched family relationships, and indispensable knowledge. To transform so many lives in such a powerful, beneficial way is a bit of the real magic of a real guru.
The form may vary, but the function doesn't.
by Satyaraja dasa
A temple of Lord Krsna is a "house of God" and is completely spiritual. But what exactly does that mean?
Consider the following analogy. If you were to take an iron rod and place it in fire, the rod would become hotter and hotter until it would glow red hot. Then, practically speaking, your iron rod would have become fire, giving off its own heat and light. Indeed, if you dared touch it, it would burn you.
Similarly, if a building is actually functioning as a house of God, a place where the Supreme Lord is worshiped with love and devotion, then it should be accepted as totally spiritual, as a part of the kingdom of God. Of course, an iron rod has the capacity to burn you only when it is put into fire, and a building may appropriately be called a temple only when it is used in the service of the Supreme Lord. Its use in the sincere service of God, therefore, distinguishes a temple from an ordinary building. And such a temple will purify all who enter, just as a red-hot iron rod will burn whoever touches it.
Sometimes people avoid the temple. Understanding that God is everywhere, they say, "God is all-pervading. I don't have to go into your building." But if God is all-pervading, then He is certainly in the temple.
Actually, God's presence in the temple is especially beneficial for us, for despite His omnipresence, He is not readily perceivable, except to one with spiritual vision. In a genuine temple, we're able to associate with people trained in such spiritual vision, and we get to enhance our own realization of the all-pervading nature of the Lord by hearing transcendental philosophy. Furthermore, we learn to perceive the Lord's personal presence in the Deity (arca-vigraha) on the altar.
Thus, by taking advantage of spiritual association, by hearing transcendental philosophy, and by worshiping the Deity in the temple, an ordinary person is more likely to remember the Lord's all-pervasiveness in day-to-day life. Moreover, the temple offers us an opportunity to meet others who are also interested in broadening their spiritual perception. So, if a building cannot afford one all these facilities, then it should not be called a temple.
The activities within a genuine temple are intrinsic to the soul—they are natural. A temple of Lord Krsna affords one the opportunity to sing the holy names of God, to worship the Deity, to eat food offered to the Deity, to perform various services for the pleasure of the Deity, and to hear transcendental philosophy from Vedic texts like the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. Such activities are inherently pleasing. One need simply acquaint himself with these things to know for sure that devotional service to Lord Krsna is the natural activity of the soul.
A bona fide temple is actually a sample of the spiritual world. Thus, in the material world, genuine temples are few and far between. When we enter such a temple, however, we need no one to tell us it is genuine. Does one who is well fed need someone to tell him that he is no longer hungry? When we enter a bona fide temple, we are naturally uplifted and reminded of our original relationship with God in the transcendental kingdom. We feel at home.
After all, the spirit souls in this material world have a sort of "amnesia." We identify with our gross material bodies and forget our real identity in our eternal relationship with God. Thus there is no end to our misery, birth after birth. But when we enter a temple, we feel relief. This is because a place where the Supreme Lord is worshiped according to the rules and regulations of the revealed scriptures is reminiscent of the spiritual world, our original home.
Even in the conventional sense, when someone has amnesia, expert psychologists agree that the most reliable cure is to place the patient in the environments he should be most familiar with. No other remedy is quite as effective. Similarly, when one goes to the temple, associates with devotees, and chants the holy names of God—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—one is cured of the amnesia of material life. Soon one becomes spiritually aware, naturally happy.
The temples of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, being genuine temples by all the above standards, are fully spiritual. Therefore, although they appear to be within the major cities of the world, they are also within the spiritual world—a transcendental phenomenon visitors everywhere are experiencing daily. If you visit, you too might remember something you've long forgotten.
A Krsna Conscious Response to Terrorism
Whenever we hear of a sensational act of terrorism somewhere in the world, especially when it involves the random killing and maiming of innocent people, we ask, "Why?" And when a particular terrorist group comes forward and claims credit for some atrocity, we ask the same question, this time more deeply—"Why? Why do they hate so much? What can be done to stop them?"
The experts say to explain, what to speak of to remedy, terrorism is difficult, because it is such a complex and varied phenomenon. In his book Terrorism, Robert A. Lifton discusses such explanations as the moral breakdown of society, psychological aberrations of the individuals involved, the terrorists' desire to change the existing system, motives of frustration and revenge, a syndrome of hate, and the terrorists' conscious effort to appear unpredictable and irrational—a "strategy of the absurd." Mr. Lifton concludes that the sheer variety of these opinions indicates "what a complex problem modern terrorism is." Brian Jenkins, director of the Rand Corporation program on political violence, has said of terrorism, "It's a lot more complex than simply saying. Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.'"
In the face of such a painful complexity, I won't attempt to advocate that terrorism can be easily solved by everyone's chanting Hare Krsna and becoming Krsna conscious. It's not so easy. What to speak of teaching peace and equanimity to terrorists, presenting such principles of God consciousness to the millions of normal persons is difficult. Yet the Krsna conscious devotee has the duty of presenting with conviction the message of God consciousness as the remedy to ills such as terrorism, even though he knows that most people will find these teachings difficult to apply. The devotee remains undaunted, however, confident in his understanding that the Krsna conscious solution is possible and practical.
A Krsna conscious analysis of terrorism shows sectarianism to be the common denominator of the widely varied terrorist groups. Ignorant sectarianism, churned into hate by people already accustomed to violence, produces terrorism. In the Mideast the Palestinians justify their violent acts of terrorism by the sectarian claim that they are fighting for their homeland. In Northern Ireland the fighting is mainly based on nationalistic and economic differences. And the Basques in Spain, the Puerto Rican national groups like FALN, and many other groups throughout the world all stand on their various sectarian concepts of racism and nationalism in their struggle for power.
Some terrorist groups are based on ideologies rather than differences in race or nationality, but in either case the violent results are the same. The pitting of one speculative ideology against another cannot create an atmosphere in which the world's population can peacefully and cooperatively live together. Nor will malicious, vengeful acts convince one group of the rightness of another. Tensions due to differences in ideology, race, and national allegiance will continue to confuse us, and they cannot be resolved simply by political diplomacy. What is required is a change in consciousness, a change that will lift the vengeful parties above their petty concerns of sectarianism.
The Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic literatures give relevant advice for alleviating the distorted sectarian mentality. The Sri Isopanisad states that all land and resources are ultimately the property of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and while we may lawfully use these resources, we must conform to a God-given quota. World leaders should recognize this and act accordingly. Otherwise, if nations disregard the proprietorship of God and thus exploit the laws of nature in a sectarian way, then the "fanatic" have-nots will only imitate the bad example. Futhermore, the Srimad-Bhagavatam informs us that when a person is enlightened with absolute knowledge, he will see that sectarian issues are not worth hating and killing for.
To a Krsna conscious person, the basic principles of God consciousness are not sentimental, theoretical, or dogmatic but are facts of nature and life. And a Krsna conscious person is capable of applying those principles to the most complex situations of daily living. Political experts and analysts are often called in to combat terrorism, but why not call in the best self-realized spiritual teachers, who know the science of God and can spot the deficiencies in the present Age of Quarrel? Persons who are free of sectarianism, who see the spirit soul in all beings despite the bodily covering, are the most qualified when a nation's leaders are considering how to avert terrorism.
Once on a morning walk in Rome, my spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, the founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, was being asked how Krsna consciousness could solve the various problems of modern society. When asked about terrorism, Srila Prabhupada replied that people should not expect to do away with terrorism as long as the vast majority of human beings were behaving as animals. It is natural that one ferocious beast fight with another, he said. So we shouldn't be surprised when persons already accustomed to inhuman acts become terrorists. In other words, as long as the members of society are being taught that certain kinds of exploitative sectarianism are good and that certain kinds of violence for sense gratification are approved (such as animal slaughter and abortion), then we should not be surprised to see a few agitated members of such a society committing acts of terrorism. Violence will always breed violence.
While there is an obvious, immediate need to barricade embassies and presidential buildings against the terrorists' dynamite-loaded trucks, and while there is a need for police and military surveillance to prevent terrorism from erupting in public places, more lasting solutions must be taken up. Krsna conscious persons have knowledge of the nonsectarian, nonviolent spiritual essence at the heart of every human being, and they see that the most important step in combating terrorism is to propagate this knowledge.—SDG