Back to Godhead Magazine

Volume 19, Number 05, 1984


"First We Must Understand What God Is..."
Our Vedic Heritage
The Vedic Observer
Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out
Every Town and Village
Lord Krsna's Cuisine
Reincarnation—Science or Superstition?
Simple Living, High Thinking
Notes from the Editor

© 2005 The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International

"First We Must Understand What God Is..."

Only then can we begin to understand
our intimate relationship with Him.

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

Devotee: [Reads Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.1] "O my Lord, Sri Krsna, son of Vasudeva, O all-pervading Personality of Godhead. I offer my respectful obeisances unto You. I meditate upon Lord Sri Krsna because He is the Absolute Truth and the primeval cause of all causes of the creation, sustenance and destruction of the manifested universes. He is directly and indirectly conscious of all manifestations, and He is independent because there is no other cause beyond Him. It is He only who first imparted the Vedic knowledge unto the heart of Brahmaji, the original living being. By Him even the great sages and demigods are placed into illusion, as one is bewildered by the illusory representations of water seen in fire, or land seen on water. Only because of Him do the material universes, temporarily manifested by the reactions of the three modes of nature, appear factual, although they are unreal. I therefore meditate upon Him, Lord Sri Krsna, who is eternally existent in the transcendental abode, which is forever free from the illusory representation of the material world. I meditate upon Him, for He is the Absolute Truth."

Srila Prabhupada: Srila Vyasadeva, the author of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, is offering his obeisances unto the Supreme Lord, Krsna—om namo bhagavate vasudevaya. The word bhagavate means "unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead," and vasudevaya means "who is known as Vasudeva, the son of Vasudeva." Even the leader of the impersonalists, Sankaracarya, has accepted that the Supreme Personality of Godhead appeared as Vasudeva, the son of Vasudeva and Devaki.

Srila Vyasadeva uses this word vasudevaya so people may not misunderstand to whom he is offering his obeisances. Sometimes we identify someone by giving the name of his father or mother. Similarly, Krsna's indentification is that He is the son of Vasudeva, the friend of Sridhama and Sudama, and so on. In this way, Krsna has hundreds and thousands of names.

Sometimes people protest that God cannot have any name. In one sense, we agree with them—God does not have any one name. The scriptures say that He has many, many names, but the chief name is Krsna.

Krsna's names all indicate His pastimes and qualities. They all have meaning, Vedic significance. When we call God "Krsna," that means He's all-attractive. He's attractive not only to the devotees but also to the nondevotees. It's not that Krsna is one-sided, attractive only to the devotees. No. He attracts even the non-devotees.

We can become attracted to someone in two ways—as a friend or as an enemy. Enmity is also a kind of attraction. You may think, "This man is my enemy. I want to kill him. I want to do some harm to him. How shall I do it? How shall I capture him? He goes to the office on this road, so I can capture him at that time." In Texas President Kennedy was killed. So, the man who killed him made a plan, and he was always thinking of President Kennedy. That is a kind of attraction.

Therefore, "all-attractive" means that Krsna is attractive to everyone, whether one is Krsna's devotee or His enemy. The best example is Kamsa. When Kamsa heard that the eighth son of his sister Devaki would kill him, he became attracted to Krsna. "Oh, Krsna is coming as my sister's eighth son to kill me. Let me kill my sister, the source of Krsna." So, his desire to kill his sister was due to his attraction for Krsna.

Previously, Kamsa was very kind to his sister. After his sister's marriage he very jubilantly drove his sister and brother-in-law in a chariot. Devaki was Kamsa's younger sister, and everyone naturally has some love for his younger sister. So he was affectionate. Although he was a non-devotee demon, he could not avoid such natural affection. A tiger, for example, is ready to kill anyone, but the tiger and the tigress still have affection for their cubs. That is natural.

So, Kamsa had natural affection for his sister, but when he heard that his sister's eighth son would kill him, Kamsa immediately wanted to kill her. And that was due to his attraction for Krsna as an enemy. Therefore Krsna, or Vasudeva, is attractive to everyone, even His enemies.

[To devotee:} Read the purport.

Devotee: "Obeisances unto the Personality of Godhead, Vasudeva, directly indicate Lord Sri Krsna, who is the divine son of Vasudeva and Devaki. This fact will be more explicitly explained in the text of this work. Sri Vyasadeva asserts herein that Sri Krsna is the original Personality of Godhead, and that all others are His direct and indirect plenary portions or portions of the portion."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, this will be explained in the third chapter of the First Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. In the list of various incarnations of God, Krsna's name appears. But at the end of the list it is said, ete camsa-kalah pumsah krsnas tu bhagavan svayam: "All these incarnations that have been mentioned are plenary portions or portions of the plenary portions of the Lord, but Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself."

Krsna, or God, has many incarnations, just like so many waves in a river. If you have ever seen a flowing river, you know how so many waves are coming one after another, one after another. If you sit down on the bank and go on counting the waves the whole day and night, the whole year, for your whole life, still you will not be done counting. Similarly, Krsna has so many incarnations that you cannot even count them. Therefore, one of Krsna's names is Ananta, "He who has no end."

Yet despite so many incarnations, Krsna remains full in Himself. This cannot be understood materially. If you have some money in a bank account and you take from it one, two, three, four, five, six, seven dollars, then at a certain point the bank balance will be zero. But Krsna is not like that. As the Vedas say, He is purnam, complete. Purnasya purnam adaya purnam evavasisyate. So many incarnations are coming from Him, just like the waves of a river, yet He remains the complete whole.

This is confirmed in the Brahma-samhita, where it is stated, goloka eva nivasaty akhilatma-bhutah: "Krsna lives at His home, Goloka Vrndavana, but He expands Himself throughout the whole creation." In the creation there are innumerable universes. We have a little experience of this one universe. But there are innumerable universes with innumerable planets, and everywhere, in every planet, is Krsna. Still, He continues to exist in His own abode, apart from the creation.

We cannot imagine this because we have no such experience. If we are sitting in this room, we are not sitting in another room. But Krsna is here and also in the other room, the other building, the other city, the other universe—everywhere. Try to understand the distinction between Krsna and ourselves.

We are not imagining these things about Krsna. We are taking evidence from the Vedic literatures. Again, in the Brahma-samhita [5.46] it is stated,

diparcir eva hi dasantaram abhyupetya
dipayate vivrta-hetu-samana-dharma
yas tadrg eva hi ca visnutaya vibhati
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami

Krsna has a direct expansion, and then expansions of the expansion. His immediate expansion is Lord Baladeva, or Balarama. Then from Balarama come the catur-vyuha, the quadruple expansions of Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha. And from Sankarsana, the Narayanas expand. Then from the Narayanas come second sets of Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha.

There are innumerable Narayanas, because in Vaikuntha loka, the spiritual sky, there are innumerable planets, and a form of Narayana presides over each planet. In this one material universe you cannot count the millions of planets. And there are in numerable universes, also. Still, all these universes taken together are only one-fourth of the manifestation of Krsna's energy. The Vaikuntha loka contains three-fourths of the manifestation.

So, we cannot count the number of expansions of Krsna even on one planet, what to speak of counting those spread throughout all the material and spiritual planets. Therefore, one of Krsna's names is Ananta, "He who has no end." He has innumerable forms (ananta-rupam). Yet Srila Vyasadeva will explain in the third chapter that although the Lord has all these innumerable forms, Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself (krsnas tu bhagavan svayam).

So, we should try to understand Krsna. The Bhagavatam is trying to inform us about Krsna. The first words are om namo bhagavate vasudevaya. From this we learn that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is Vasudeva, or Krsna. Now, what about Vasudeva? Janmady asya yatah: "He is that person from whom everything emanates." This means that Krsna is the source of all creation, sustenance, and destruction. We can understand that every material object has these three stages. For example, take your car. It has a date of creation, it continues to exist for some time, and then it is annihilated. These states apply to every material thing.

And for living beings, these stages are expanded to six: birth, growth, living for some time, producing offspring, dwindling, then destruction. These are the six transformations of every living being.

But Krsna goes through no such transformations. Therefore His body is not material. As explained in the scriptures, His body is sac-cid-ananda-vigraha: it is composed of eternity, knowledge, and bliss. So anyone who thinks of Krsna as an ordinary man is a rascal. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, avajananti mam mudha manusim tanum asritam: "Only the rascals take Me for a human being." One great rascal scholar has even written, "Perhaps Krsna was the leader of an aborigine tribe, and foolish people have accepted him as God."

We should not learn about Krsna from the fools and rascals. We have to learn about Him from authorities like Srila Vyasadeva. Here he is explaining who Krsna is. So first of all let us understand who Krsna is; then we can enter into a more intimate understanding of our relationship with Him. For example, if you want to know somebody intimately, you first of all have to acquaint yourself with him gradually. First you must understand that the man has such-and-such a position, his financial strength is such-and-such, his influence is such-and-such, and so on. You must understand so many things before you can get to know him well.

So, first of all we must know what God is. Then we can say something about our relationship with God. But if we do not know what God is, how can we understand anything else about Him? That is the defect in many modern religions. Generally, religion means the process of understanding God. Religion without God is just like the play Hamlet without Hamlet. And any so-called religion that is without God is a cheating religion (kaitava-dharma). Religion means following the laws of God. But if you do not know what God is, how can you know His laws? If you do not know the king, how can you understand the king's laws?

Of course, many people are trying to understand God's laws without God. For example, the scientists try to understand the laws of God, which are the laws of nature, but because the scientists reject God, they cannot understand these laws, despite all their scientific advancement. They do not know the origin of the laws of nature. Ask any scientist: "Sir, you are a great scientist. Can you say where the laws of nature come from?" The reply will be "No. But we are studying them." But when there is a law, somebody must have made that law. That is our experience. For example, when we drive on the street, we see signs that say, "Keep to the right side," or "Keep to the left side." It's the order of the government, and you have to abide by it.

So, people in the modern so-called civilization have no knowledge of God, yet they are trying to study the laws of God. They should accept, at least theoretically, that God exists. How can they say God is dead? God is the law-giver, and by His order everything is working nicely. The sun is rising exactly on time, the moon is rising exactly on time, the seasonal changes are taking place exactly on time. Food is growing for our sustenance, and also for the animals'. Everything is going on nicely. So, how can anyone say that He who is managing all these things is dead? How can we accept this ridiculous proposal?

The Krsna consciousness movement is against all this rascaldom. We present Krsna: "Here is God." Take His name, and take His address also. Krsna consciousness is so perfect. People are searching after God, and we are giving His name, His activities, His qualities—everything.

Here is God's name: Krsna. Here is His form: the Deity in the temple. He is playing on His flute (venum kvanantam). We are not imagining all these things. It is not that some artist or poet has imagined Krsna. No. That is rascaldom. We take our information about Krsna from the Vedic literature, which describes that when Krsna was present personally on earth five thousand years ago He played on His flute and enjoyed pastimes with the cowherd boys and with His parents, Vasudeva and Devaki.

The scriptures say, venum kvanantam: "Krsna is always engaged in playing on His flute." This is a Vedic statement from the Brahma-samhita about the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Then, aravinda-dalayataksam: "His eyes are shaped like lotus petals." And barhavatamsam: "He wears a peacock feather on His head." These are all Vedic descriptions. Then, asitambuda: "His complexion is blackish, just like a fresh rain cloud." He is beautiful (sundarangam). Hew beautiful? Kandarpa-koti-kamaniya-visesa-sobham: "Krsna is so beautiful that even if you gather together millions of Cupids, He will appear more beautiful than all of them." These are all descriptions from the Brahma-samhita.

So, the Krsna consciousness movement is very nice. If you take part in it, you will be able to understand what God is and also what your relationship with Him is. And you will also be able to understand how to go back home, back to Godhead.

Thank you very much.

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

I came across an old issue of BACK TO GODHEAD with an article in it about how people were saying that ISKCON was "brainwashing" people. I would like to add my opinion about this issue.

I was raised an orthodox Jew. Throughout my life, I have searched to find the truth. I have a master's degree in theology. I've tried Judaism and Born-Again Christianity. But the only thing I found that was true was Krsna consciousness. I have found an inner peace that I have not found anywhere else. And nobody can say that I have been "brainwashed." Nobody talked to me about Krsna consciousness. I read a few books and magazines, then checked out the meetings the devotees held here twice a week, and I was convinced.

Mark A. Devenney

El Reno, Oklahoma

* * *

I have just read Mandalesvara dasa's nice article, "A Question of Authority" (19/ 2-3), and I would like to offer my views.

Actually, the article was quite good, except that the majority of the youths today are not as rebellious as we were in our college days. The "punk" movement is relatively quite small, and "hippies" are a thing of the past. Now young people are opting to stick to the status quo. Formerly, if a young man or woman was interested in making money and "getting ahead" in life, he or she was considered to be out of it. But now the trend is just the opposite. Now the overwhelming majority are very concerned about securing for themselves a stable material situation. The whole mood has radically changed.

I think this, therefore, has made the article, which was good in and of itself, a little belaboring of a point not exactly relevant to today's youth.

Furthermore, not everyone who reads BACK TO GODHEAD is a youth. Here in New York, for example, we send BTG to a lot of people who are older. So I think this should be kept in mind.

Vipramukhya Swami
Brooklyn, N.Y.

* * *

I have a question about the caste system as described in "Encounter at Kuruksetra" (19/1). This article said that on the basis of inherent tendencies, a child is intensively educated to assume his role in society or fill his caste. At what age is this done? I don't see how you can determine in childhood what a person shall be as an adult. Are the children in ISKCON raised this way? It seems to me this would hinder their growth and possibilities a great deal.

Do all castes have equal opportunities for spiritual advancement, or are they favored by the way they are ranked? This seems to me to be a way to pigeonhole society the way America makes divisions on the basis of race and gender. I realize that up to a point society would on its own accord group itself into divisions like the caste system, but does this become a system of better and worse—one-upmanship?

Mike Levine

York, Pennsylvania

Our reply: The authentic Vedic system of social division, called varnasrama-dharma, should not be confused with the hereditary Indian caste system, which is a later corruption of the original institution. The Bhagavad-gita clearly states that a person belongs to one of the four social divisions or varnas on the basis of his natural qualities and aptitudes. He does not inherit a position merely by birthright.

The system of varnas is natural, for no society can function without the specialized functions of intellectuals and teachers (brahmanas), political and military leaders (ksatriyas), farmers and merchants (vaisyas), and laborers and artisans (sudras). Indeed, in the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says that this system was created by Him. And every human being is natively endowed with a constellation of physical and mental characteristics that predispose him to function in one of these four positions.

A person belongs to one group or another by his own natural inclinations, characteristics, and aptitudes, which are present even in childhood. "The child," after all, "is father to the man." Thus a sensitive and perceptive teacher, knowing what to look for, can discern the latent tendencies of a child by careful observation. This is a skill that can be developed and refined by practice. Thus, by virtue of Vedic guidance and practical skill, it is possible to see the disposition of a child toward one varna or another. The point is that the vocation of a child is not imposed upon him from without; rather, it arises naturally from within the child himself, and the job of a teacher is to be sensitively aware of what the child reveals by his own behavior and then to encourage and to guide the child in the direction that the child himself has pointed to. The age at which the disposition of a child becomes clear naturally varies according to the individual, but it is usually quite evident by early adolescence, if not sooner.

The practical advantages are immense. Because modern societies have misapplied the ideas of equality, they try to educate all children in exactly the same way. As a result, children are forced to endure endless schooling that has nothing to do with their talents and vocations; quite understandably, the students become restive, bored, and empty of all motivation, and they waste years learning nothing. But the Vedic system of education, built on respect for the individuality of the student, tailors education to the student's own aptitudes and abilities. Consequently, the students become enlivened and enthusiastic, fully engaged in mind and body, and they work and study hard to develop their own potential. Far from "hindering the children's growth and possibilities," the Vedic system fosters their growth and helps them fulfill their possibilities in the most conscientious and natural manner.

The Vedic system of education can wholeheartedly acknowledge the material differences between people because it just as wholeheartedly acknowledges their spiritual equality. Every person is a spiritual soul and, as such, equal to all others. The function of a soul is to serve Krsna, and, as Krsna states in the Bhagavad-gita, "By following his qualities of work, every man can become perfect. Now please hear from Me how this can be done. By worship of the Lord, who is the source of all beings and who is all-pervading, a man can attain perfection through performing his own work" (Bg. 18.45-46). Krsna is saying that every person—king or laborer, priest or farmer—has the same opportunity for spiritual advancement as any other. Spiritual advancement means that one has an increasingly intense consciousness that "I am a servant of Krsna." In that consciousness, one does not exploit other people for one's own sense gratification. Rather, one serves Krsna and helps others to serve Him. Thus, the Vedic social system is free from the "one-upmanship," from the perpetual strife and envy, the relentless civil war that makes material society so hellish.

By educating people differently for their social service on the basis of the body, and identically for their service to God on the basis of the soul, the Vedic educational system promotes a society that is both materially and spiritually sound. ISKCON practices what it preaches, and so we are attempting to create such an ideal society in the midst of contemporary turmoil and strife. We can only ask you to examine for yourself what we are accomplishing.

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Our Vedic Heritage

The Rescue of Govindaji

A devotee-king uses his royal power and opulence
To protect and glorify the Supreme Lord.

by Jagatguru Swami and Satyaraja dasa

There are indeed many examples of kings who misused their royal position. But there have also been many saintly rulers. Jai Singh II, king of Amir from 1699 to 1745, ascended the throne at the age of thirteen. He quickly mastered engineering, architecture, mathematics, and astronomy. And like his father and grandfather, he was a devotee of Lord Krsna. With daring and devotion, at the age of nineteen he rescued the Govindaji Deity and took Him to his fort in the hills of Rajasthan.

Although the rulers of ancient India and their royal states have passed into legend, the mere mention of a Maharaja or a royal palace of India still conjures up exotic, romantic images. A Maharaja's luxury was a reflection of his power, and the palace in which he and his family and retinue lived represented an ethos and a way of life that have all but vanished.

Nowadays most people are unaware that the greatest of ancient India's rulers were devotees of Lord Krsna who used their wealth and influence in His service. Indeed, the primary purpose of Vedic India's ruling class was to protect religious principles. This they did, and the stories surrounding their activities are more alluring and fascinating than the myths that have grown up over the centuries.

One such true story concerns Govindaji, a Deity of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna. Devotees of Lord Krsna have traditionally worshiped Him in His Deity incarnation, which is made of stone, wood, clay, or other material elements. Since Krsna is the all-powerful Supreme Lord, He can appear anywhere, even in a form fashioned from matter. The Deity is not an idol—an imaginary form worshiped according to whim—but is shaped and worshiped according to directions given in the Vedic literature.

Krsna also appears personally on earth—as He did five thousand years ago in the district of Mathura in India. Such visits are rare, however, and therefore Krsna's sincere devotees take advantage of the opportunity to worship Him in His Deity forms. Shortly after Krsna disappeared from the earth almost fifty centuries ago, a great devotee named Vajra established various Deities of the Lord, and one of these is Govindaji. (Govindaji is a name of Krsna that means "one who gives pleasure to the senses, cows, and land.") These Deities were loved and worshiped for many centuries.

Then came the Moghul invasions, and all of northern India was plunged into war. People fled Mathura—but only after placing their beloved Deities within the earth and burying Them. They prayed that the Moghul rulers would not commit the offense of destroying the Deities, and they hoped the Deities might one day be discovered and worshiped again with full regalia.

Govindaji and the other Deities of Mathura remained hidden until the early 1500s, during the time of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. * [*Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Krsna Himself in the role of His own devotee. He appeared five hundred years ago in India to teach love of God through the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra.] At that time, two of Lord Caitanya's chief disciples, Srila Rupa Gosvami and Srila Sanatana Gosvami, set about recovering Mathura's ancient Deities.

One night, the Govindaji Deity whom Vajra had installed thousands of years ago appeared to Rupa Gosvami in a dream and revealed to him where He lay buried. Rupa Gosvami then excavated Govindaji and personally took charge of His regular worship. Being in the renounced order, however, he had no means for building a temple for his beloved Deity.

Rupa Gosvami was renowned as a great philosopher and as an authority on the Vedic literatures; therefore, he was often requested to attend the court of Emperor Akbar, who had a love for religious and philosophical discussion. Rupa Gosvami had written many books on the science of Krsna consciousness, and his writings, which embodied the very essence of spiritual wisdom, intrigued Akbar. After all, the emperor was an avid reader of the world's great scriptures, and Rupa Gosvami had mastered the Vedas, the most time-honored and comprehensive of them all.

Akbar had a dear friend named Man Singh. As a general in the emperor's army, Man Singh faithfully executed many arduous tasks, eventually attaining the post of king of Amir. Like Akbar, Man Singh was fascinated by Rupa Gosvami, and he one day set out for Vrndavana to meet the great saint. On meeting Rupa Gosvami, Man Singh became convinced of his exalted character. Wanting to render service to this genuine holy man, he decided to finance the building of a magnificent temple in Vrndavana for the Govindaji Deity. For five full years, several thousand men labored with great care, building one of the most gorgeous temples in the world.

The temple was four stories high, with an altar of marble, silver, and gold. A sculptured lotus flower weighing several tons decorated the main hall, where pilgrims thronged daily to see the Deity. Thus Govindaji was again being worshiped with great opulence and devotion. This continued until the early eighteenth century.

Aurangzeb, one of the last in the line of Moghul rulers, was a tyrant and an avowed enemy of Vedic culture. He plundered much of India, destroying many beautiful temples and their Deities. During the time of Aurangzeb's infamous emperorship, Man Singh's grandson, Jai Singh II, ascended the throne of Amir at the age of only thirteen. As he grew to manhood, he quickly mastered engineering, architecture, town-planning, mathematics, and astronomy. And like his father and grandfather, he was a devotee of Lord Krsna. Although he extended his patronage to all communities equally, the Krsna devotees enjoyed his special favor, because he understood the devotees to be engaged in the very essence of authentic spirituality.

One night as the aging Aurangzeb sat on his veranda enjoying the clear night and starry sky, he noticed one stationary star. On inquiring from his servant, he learned that the so-called stationary star was, in fact, the fire atop the Govindaji temple in Vrndavana, some ninety miles away. Unable to control his fury and envy, Aurangzeb vowed to blot out the disconcerting star.

That very day, Jai Singh II, now nineteen, was visiting the royal court at Agra. When he heard that Aurangzeb was going to destroy the temple of Govindaji, the temple his grandfather had built for Rupa Gosvami, he became overwhelmed with disgust and anger. Immediately Jai Singh set out for Vrndavana with a plan to save Govindaji. He knew he would be unable to save the temple, but at least he could rescue the Deity.

On arriving in Vrndavana, Jai Singh warned the people, who then fled the town. Jai Singh next carefully removed Govindaji from the splendor of His temple and, in great haste to avoid Aurangzeb's advancing army, transported Govindaji to his well-fortified capital in the desert hills of Rajasthan.

When Aurangzeb and his army reached the Govindaji temple, Aurangzeb was furious to find that the Deity was gone and the townspeople had been alerted. Still, with hundreds of war elephants and thousands of men, he began to bring down the mammoth Govindaji temple, story by story, until only one story remained. All of a sudden, the ground of Vrndavana began to shake violently. Aurangzeb's men were terrified and ran for their lives, never to return.

Although Aurangzeb wanted to kill Jai Singh for disrupting his plans, he was now old and faced more pressing problems within his empire. He soon died in South India.

With the rapid decay of the Moghul empire after Aurangzeb, Jai Singh's reputation as a righteous and powerful ruler grew. At the age of forty, he envisioned an immense new city, with Lord Govindaji at the center, residing within a beautiful temple. And as fifty-five thousand men labored for fifteen years, the dream began to manifest. Thus Jai Singh created his "City of Victory," Jaipur, a dedication to Lord Govindaji.

Jaipur city was fashioned according to Silpa-sastra, the part of the Vedas dealing with architecture and design. And although established in the early eighteenth century, it is still functional and appreciated for its masterful construction. The city was arranged on a grid of wide avenues connected by smaller roads, all focusing on the palace at its heart. Govindaji's temple stood in a beautiful garden by the palace, and when the temple doors were open, Jai Singh could see his beloved Deity from the royal quarters. Government buildings and open marketplaces surrounded the central palace and temple, and a forty-five-foot-high wall circled the entire city. With God at its center, Jaipur was the ideal city, and today it is the capital of Rajasthan.

From the story of Govindaji we can see how Lord Krsna gives His devotees opportunities to serve Him in magnificent ways. Jai Singh's grandfather, Man Singh, was able, by the Lord's grace, to build a magnificent temple for Govindaji. And although that temple was later partially destroyed, Jai Singh had the opportunity to rescue and protect Govindaji and to later construct for Him an entire city. Thus the devotee is always unshaken, seeing even a dangerous situation as an opportunity offered by the Lord to render loving service.


In 1972, when His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, traveled to Jaipur with some of his Western disciples, Govindaji was still being worshiped by thousands of devotees, Srila Prabhupada and his followers were happy to see this. Thus, there was a mutual exchange of love between the inhabitants of Jaipur and the ISKCON devotees, for these devotees were also worshipers of Lord Govinda, or Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Just as Srila Prabhupada's American and European disciples were moved to see a living legend of Krsna consciousness in Jaipur, so the queen of Jaipur, Maharani Gayatri Devi, was moved by the devotion of Srila Prabhupada and his followers. To show her appreciation, she offered Srila Prabhupada a pair of large marble Deities of Radha and Krsna, similar to the original Radha-Govindaji Deities. Srila Prabhupada accepted the Deities and immediately shipped Them to his ISKCON center in New York. The Deities, he said, would be known as Radha-Govinda.

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The Vedic Observer

Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day

Microchip Mentors

by Drutakarma dasa

I use a computer myself—I wrote this article on one. So I'm definitely not a latter-day Luddite, on some crusade against technology. But some of the full-color double-page computer advertisements I've been seeing lately in the newsweeklies make me cringe, especially the ones directed at parents of young children. Typical is one for Texas Instruments. A sad-faced schoolboy stands morosely before a blackboard with some arithmetic problems written on it. The headline says in part, "If he stumbles on sixth grade math, he may never catch up." Below, the copy reads, "Somewhere in every child's life, there's a subject that throws him. Where he was once even with all the other kids, maybe even a little ahead, he's now beginning to fall behind. He needs help." By this time, the parental heart is full of guilt and anguish. Who will help their beloved child? Texas Instrument's computer, of course.

It annoys me how the ads try to portray computers, which are really nothing more than hunks of plastic, wiring, solder, and microchips, as personalities capable of delivering the highest knowledge. "It's a friendly teacher. It responds to your child's learning level on a one-to-one basis. . . . It encourages him. Rewards him . . . turns the entire process into a positive experience, challenging your child to explore and reach out for more." Now that's really pushing the limit of credulity. Perhaps someone could make a film, Goodbye Mr. Microchips?

Undoubtedly, all loving parents want their children to have the knowledge that will enable them to successfully negotiate life's hazards and achieve an acceptable level of happiness. And of course, the quest for knowledge is not limited to children. At any age, people want to learn more about life. But what is the knowledge that really frees us from the prospect of future suffering, and from what source do we obtain it? The computer companies suggest that material knowledge is what we need and that the way to get it is through their mysterious and wonderful machine.

But let's look deeper. What are the real problems of life? Taking a very shortsighted view, one might consider getting a good education, attaining career goals, and selecting a marriage partner to be the major problems. But the Bhagavad-gita directs our attention to other problems, which although obvious enough, are generally ignored. Those problems are disease, old age, and death. And looking beyond death, we are, according to the Bhagavad-gita, confronted with inevitable rebirth. So if knowledge is valued for its ability to free us from future suffering, then the most valuable knowledge would be that which frees us from the miseries of birth, death, old age, and disease.

We therefore require a different sort of knowledge—transcendental knowledge—to become free of life's most serious problems. Thus the Bhagavad-gita declares, "This knowledge is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets."

This confidential knowledge begins with understanding the difference between the soul and the body. The body is perishable, but the soul—the real, conscious self within the body—is imperishable. "For the soul there is neither birth nor death," the Gita says. The Gita also describes the positive activity of the soul: devotional service to the Supreme Soul, Lord Krsna. By engaging in devotional service, one becomes qualified to enter the spiritual world as one of the Lord's eternal servants. This alone solves the problem of repeated birth and death in the material world.

And from where does one receive this knowledge? Only from the bona fide spiritual master, the living representative of the disciplic chain that extends all the way back to the original source of perfect transcendental knowledge, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna.

The Vedas stress that if we desire the transcendental knowledge that brings freedom from life's perplexities, we must approach a spiritual master in the authorized line of succession. Thus we enter into a personal relationship with the spiritual master, who teaches transcendental knowledge and demonstrates the practical art of devotional service to Lord Krsna. This relationship between guru and disciple, the Vedas teach, is a lifetime commitment.

Harvey Cox, chairman of the Department of Applied Theology at the Harvard Divinity School, said in a recent interview, "It's a very intense relationship in which there's a very intense interaction going on, of wrestling and struggling. I get a little of that with my graduate students, but still it's decimated by the fact that they work with other professors as well. We don't encourage in the Western educational system that kind of long, devoted work with one particular person . . . but I think some people look for that."

So it's not computers I'm mad at, just the suggestion that by running some material-education software on them you can be getting the highest, most valuable knowledge possible. Of course, there is no reason why you shouldn't be able to get the highest knowledge on your CRT. Already, computer programmers in the Hare Krsna movement are laying the groundwork, and I'm happy to say that someday soon, personal computer owners around the country will be able to download Bhagavad-gita lessons and talk on-line to devotees of Krsna about spiritual life.

Who's In The Doghouse Now?

by Jayadvaita Swami

Iceland's minister of finance may soon face a hard decision—his country or his dog.

In Reykjavik, the capital, a 62-year-old law bans dogs from the city on health grounds. Yet the minister, Mr. Albert Gudmundsson, lives in Reykjavik with a dog (the family pet), a 13-year-old mongrel named Lucy.

"Lucy is a dear member of our family, as dear to us as a child," he said.

This family has now been unsettled by a journalist at the state radio, who has reported Lucy's illegal presence to the police. If prosecuted, Mr. Gudmundsson may be fined, and his pet may be taken away.

But Mr. Gudmundsson, who placed third in Iceland's presidential election four years ago, has pledged to do everything to keep her.

"We will never agree to part with her," he said. "Rather, we will emigrate from Iceland, and I would thereby resign from politics."

Politics aside, we'd be sorry to see Mr. Gudmundsson have to give up either his country or his dog.

Unfortunately, he'll have to give up both.

As spiritual souls, all living beings—including both dog and master—are eternal parts of Krsna, the Supreme. But because we've forgotten our relationship with Krsna, we've come to this material world, a world of birth and death. Here we devote ourselves to our country, our family, our dog—whatever. We bark a while or we speak in the state house, we run after bones or run for office. But time finally runs off with everything we have—bark, bones, body, and all.

At the time of death, we give up our country, give up our dog, give up our politics—give up everything—and the laws of nature take us to a new body. The dog may then assume the body of a future politician, and the former politician the body of a dog.

Such a change takes place because of love. According to the Bhagavad-gita, our thoughts at the time of death are what carries us on to the next body. So the faithful dog that dies thinking of its master may next be born human, and the master who dies thinking of his beloved dog may soon find himself on the dog's end of the leash.

The human life, therefore, is meant not for devotion to dog or country but for devotion to spiritual inquiry and understanding, and ultimately for devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna.

Neglecting the Supreme, we may try to settle happily with our family and live a useful, productive life. But what is the point of clinging to a world where we can't stay, and to loved ones we can't live on with? Of what use is a life lived without spiritual inquiry? What will it produce? And what is the value of living happily at home as a fool?

One who lives for that which perishes lives for nothing. The Vedic teachings therefore point us beyond the perishable material world—beyond dog, family, politics, and Iceland—to our real home, our real family, our real life, in the transcendental world of Lord Krsna.

Total Liberation

by Dvarakadhisa-devi dasi

They gaze at you from billboards, newsstands, and television screens, with carefully painted, defiant eyes. Their lips, outlined in bold colors, are parted sensuously, and their hair cascades around their faces in calculated disarray. They are Today's Women: attractive, dynamic, independent, free of sexual hang-ups, and determined to make their way in our fast-paced modern society. They demand respect for their capabilities, and they challenge the world of men on its own terms. We see them everywhere, inviting us to follow their liberated path and enjoy real freedom. Their influence is felt by high school students, bank tellers, aspiring doctors and lawyers, the young and the old, the plain and the pretty. Their message is clear: women need no longer suffer in the restricted position forced upon them by exploitative men. Now they can enjoy the world, so long withheld from them, unencumbered by archaic misconceptions of sexual inequality.

Someone may argue that the archetypal model of a liberated woman has little influence on attitudes and values of women in general. But it is not at all difficult to see that the advertised ideal of womanhood, as it has changed dramatically over the past century, reflects the evolution of woman's role in modern society. Much has been said and documented about the growing discontent of women with their traditional roles, and the complicated issues of eroding marriages and broken families continue to create private and collective turmoil.

In their search for identity, many women reject the role of mother and homemaker as being too limited and confining, only to discover that the position of career person can be equally oppressive in terms of time management, financial freedom, and creative expression. The much celebrated sexual revolution, with its promises of deeper, more intimate relationships with loving, open-minded partners, is taking its toll in ghastly abortions, unwanted children, and horrible, incurable diseases. Many women suffer deeply from alienation and loneliness as they rapidly grow old in a world that serves the young and beautiful but offers little shelter for those whose glamour has begun to fade. From all this it would seem that woman's quest for identity and equality is badly in need of a transcendental perspective.

The root of the problem extends beyond the controversy over whether sex roles are determined by early training or by heredity, beyond the heated accusations of suppression and denial, and beyond the scope of new-found liberation. The problem arises when any of us—female or male—try to establish our identity on the basis of our body. The goal should be not how to fully realize our potential as a man or a woman, but how to discover our real identity, beyond the bodily covering. Obviously, to create equality among all the various material bodies is impossible, because someone will always be stronger or smarter or more talented. How can we ever be equal on that platform?

According to the Bhagavad-gita, all living entities are spiritual beings and are originally and constitutionally eternal loving servants of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna. Thus, spiritually we are all equal. Our present body, with its accompanying psychological needs, is temporary and has nothing to do with who we really are. It has simply developed as the result of our past activities (karma). At present we may possess the body of a man or a woman, but that is only a brief role for the eternal spirit soul. So the real bond is due to ignorance, misidentification with a temporary material body; and liberation lies not in social reform but in spiritual enlightenment.

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Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out

"You Are Not the Supreme"

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

Srila Prabhupada: Both the living entity and Lord Krsna are full of consciousness. The living entity's consciousness is within himself, and Krsna's consciousness pervades everywhere. That's the distinction.

Devotee: The Mayavadis [impersonalists] say that when we become liberated, we will also pervade everywhere. We will merge into Brahman and lose our individual identity.

Srila Prabhupada: That means you will forget everything. Whatever little consciousness you had will be finished.

Devotee: But what we will be forgetting is just illusion anyway.

Srila Prabhupada: If that is liberation, then let me kill you now. You will forget everything—liberation. [Laughter.]

[A passerby is singing in Hindi.] This is liberation—he is singing, "O my Lord Krsna, when will I surrender unto Your lotus feet?" That is liberation. Just like a child fully surrendered to his parents—he is liberated. He has no anxiety. He is confident: "Oh, my parents are here. Whatever they do is all right for me. No one can harm me."

Devotee: The impersonalists say that liberation is getting rid of all misery.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, if you are full of anxieties, where is your liberation?

Devotee: They say this can be accomplished if we become one with the Supreme.

Srila Prabhupada: Krsna is the supreme consciousness. If you lose your consciousness, how do you become one with Him?

Devotee: Well, it's not exactly that we lose our consciousness but that we merge into the supreme consciousness.

Srila Prabhupada: That means you want to become God. But why are you different from God now?

Devotee: It's my lila [pastime].

Srila Prabhupada: But if it's your lila, then why are you undergoing so much austerity to gain liberation?

Devotee: The point is that the supreme consciousness is unembodied, but we are embodied right now. So, when we attain supreme consciousness, we will also become unembodied.

Srila Prabhupada: But how have you become embodied if you are the Supreme? What made you embodied? You don't like to be embodied—the body is bringing so much suffering—so you want liberation. But whoever made you embodied—He is the Supreme. You are not the Supreme.

Devotee: I put myself in illusion so that I can enjoy becoming liberated.

Srila Prabhupada: Why would any sane man put himself in a position of being repeatedly kicked by the material nature in the form of birth, old age, disease, and death? What is the enjoyment?

Devotee: Without pain, how can you experience pleasure?

Srila Prabhupada: Then let me kick you, and you can enjoy pleasure when I stop.

Devotee: The idea is that after experiencing the suffering of this world, liberation will be very sweet.

Srila Prabhupada: But why is there suffering? If you are supreme, why is there any suffering for you? What is this nonsense—"Suffering is my lila"?

Devotee: It's suffering only for those who don't understand that they are supreme. They are the ones who suffer, but I don't.

Srila Prabhupada: Then you are just like the hogs and dogs. They do not understand that this is suffering. But we can understand. Therefore the Mayavadis are mudhas, fools and rascals, who don't know what suffering is or what enjoyment is. Mudho 'yam nabhijanati mam ebhyah param avyayam. Krsna says, "The fools and rascals don't know that I am Supreme." Therefore, after many lifetimes of suffering and talking all kinds of nonsense, one who has real knowledge surrenders to Krsna (bahunam janmanam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate). That is knowledge. When one comes to this awareness—I have simply suffered, and I have tried to delude myself by a jugglery of words"—then he surrenders to Krsna.

Devotee: So the Mayavada philosophy is actually the supreme illusion?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Mayavadi bhasya sunile haya sarva-nasa: "One who follows the Mayavada philosophy is finished." He's doomed; he will become absorbed in that false philosophy and never be able to accept real philosophy. Mayavadis are offenders. Therefore they shall remain perpetually in ignorance and think themselves God. They openly preach, "Why are you thinking that you are sinful? You are God."

Devotee: The Christians have a concept of sin. When the Mayavadis went to America, they told the Christians, "Forget this idea of sin. Whatever you do, it is all right, because you are God."

Srila Prabhupada: The Christian priests did not like the Mayavada philosophy. The Mayavadis are atheists, more than the Buddhists. The Buddhists do not accept Vedic authority. Therefore they are considered atheists. But the Mayavadi rascals accept the Vedas and preach atheism. So they are more dangerous than the Buddhists. The Buddhists, although they are supposed to be atheists, worship Lord Buddha. He is an incarnation of Krsna, so one day they will be delivered. But Mayavadis will never be delivered.

Krsna assures us in the Bhagavad-gita [18.66]: "Just surrender to Me and I will free you from all dangers." And we accept Krsna. That's all. Our method is very easy. The child is trying to walk, but he is unable and he's falling down. The father says, "My dear child, just catch my hand. "Then the child is safe.

These Mayavadis go against the verdict of God. God says, "The living entities are part and parcel of Me," and the Mayavadis say, "I am God." That is their foolishness. If they were equal to God, why does God say, "Surrender to Me"? They are not God. They are simply rascals who are claiming to be equal to God because they do not want to surrender to Him.

So this knowledge—that "I must surrender to God"—comes only after many, many births. Then one gives up this foolish word jugglery and attains real liberation in Krsna consciousness.

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Every Town and Village

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

ISKCON Blossoming in Tokyo

Tokyo—Srila Ramesvara Swami and Srila Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami, two of ISKCON's initiating spiritual masters, attended a recent convention here on karma and reincarnation, hosted by the Institute for Religious Psychology. Srila Ramesvara Swami's lecture on Krsna consciousness was well received, and the Institute' plans to publish it along with other lectures given at the convention.

The Institute's director, Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama, warmly thanked Srila Ramesvara Swami for his participation in the function. Dr. Motoyama has been a friend of ISKCON for many years and enjoys introducing people to the Hare Krsna movement.

Under the guidance of Srila Ramesvara Swami and Kavicandra Goswami, president of the Tokyo temple, Krsna consciousness is beginning to blossom in Japan. Japanese youth are showing interest in spiritual life, as they tend to be less materialistic than the older generation, which struggled to build up Japan's economy after World War II. Some young Japanese are realizing that economic development is not the solution to life's problems, and they want to find real answers.

On account of growing public interest in Krsna consciousness, a new, larger temple was recently opened near downtown Tokyo, and Kavicandra Goswami reports that attendance at the Sunday festival and feast is growing.

Three nights a week a party of devotees chants Hare Krsna in the busiest parts of town, attracting the attention of the after-work crowd. The devotees are also taking advantage of the crowded Japanese train stations for introducing Krsna consciousness to the public. Dressed in traditional robes and tilaka, the shaven-headed men profusely distribute Srila Prabhupada's books.

The devotees here are certain that more and more Japanese people will soon become Krsna conscious, because the Japanese are enthusiastic about chanting japa (the individual chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra on beads). Since the popular Japanese concept of spiritual practice is to sit quietly in a yoga posture chanting mantras, japa seems natural. Devotee attire and appearance come naturally too, because of the Japanese familiarity with Buddhist monks, who also dress in robes and shave their heads.

Bala Books Announces New Publications

Brooklyn, New York—Bala Books recently announced the publication of The Life Story of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, a biography of ISKCON's founder and spiritual master told through simple text and detailed panel illustrations.

Srila Satsvarupa dasa Goswami, one of ISKCON's initiating spiritual masters and author of Srila Prabhupada's authorized biography, and Sesa dasa, the director of ISKCON's Philadelphia center, prepared the manuscript for this thirty-two-page book. The pencil drawings were done by Bhaktisiddhanta dasa, one of the principal artists for ISKCON projects in India.

Bala Books has now topped the two-hundred-thousand mark in its production of transcendental literature for children. The project began in 1977 with a printing of fifteen thousand copies of Agha, The Terrible Demon, a book that later appeared in a list of recommended readings that is published by the National Council of Teachers. Bala Books has published more than a dozen titles since then, one in six languages.

Readings in Vedic Literature/or Children, another Bala Books publication, was recognized for its special merit by the International Youth Library of Munich. And most recently, the School Library Journal, America's leading reference magazine for school and public librarians, published a favorable notice of A Gift of Love: The Story of Sudama the Brahmin.

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Lord Krsna's Cuisine

The Spices of Life

Seasoning with devotion.

by Visakha-devi dasi

The utensils and ingredients in this photo are for making paste masalas. "Paste masala" refers to spices and herbs that have been ground to a moist, smooth consistency. When slowly simmered, paste masalas impart a full-bodied flavor that is distinctive yet subtle—an ideal spicing for dry bean dishes, dais, gravies, and moist vegetables. This method of spicing will add a versatile and sophisticated dimension to your cooking.

To make paste masalas in the traditional way, you need a large, heavy stone mortar and pestle for pulverizing the dry ingredients. It's a time-consuming and arduous task (especially for a large quantity), even if you're good at it, so in the photo we've also included a small electric grinding mill and an electric blender. With these you can make paste masalas in a jiffy that taste just like those made the traditional way.

Now, you may think that using such equipment isn't spiritual, but my spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, has taught differently. He writes,

One should not be attached to material sense enjoyment but should accept everything enjoyable which is in relationship to Krsna. One should not give up anything which can be utilized in the service of the Lord, That is the secret of devotional service. Anything that can be utilized in advancing Krsna consciousness and devotional service should be accepted. For example, 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 are doing in Krsna consciousness. We are utilizing these machines for Krsna's service. With such sentiment for Krsna, or Krsna consciousness, we can accept everything.

Everything is connected with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore everything should be engaged in His service. As one great devotee prayed, "My mind, my body, my family, whatever may be mine, I have surrendered at Your lotus feet, O my dear Lord Krsna."

So a hesitancy to use the grinder and blender in Krsna's service indicates an incomplete understanding of the philosophy if Krsna consciousness. Such appliances nay seem material, but when used in a spiritual way—to make food for Krsna—they become spiritual.

That is the absolute nature of Krsna: everything connected with Him acquires His spiritual nature. By cooking for Krsna, therefore, we spiritualize not only our grinder and blender but our whole kitchen. And even our senses, when engaged in the service of the Supreme Lord, are spiritualized. That's why the great devotee I quoted earlier also prayed, "The spiritual world appears in my home whenever I see the worship and service of Lord Krsna going on there." In the spiritual world, everything is being used in Krsna's service, and when our home is similarly devoted to Krsna's service, it's as good as the spiritual world.

But laboring for something other than Krsna's service, whether with old-fashioned or new-fangled devices, is useless. The Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.8) states: "The occupational activities a person performs are only so much useless labor if they do not provoke attraction for the message of the Personality of Godhead." And a few verses later we read that the highest perfection we can achieve by discharging our duties is to please the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

So use the grinder and blender—or mortar and pestle—for Krsna. That will make cooking a labor of love, an activity that evokes our natural affection for the Lord. It's the proper use not only of our utensils but also of our lives.

(Recipes by Yamuna-devi dasi)

Cumin and Black Pepper, Coriander, Cumin, or Fennel Paste Masala

For the cumin and black pepper masala., use approximately 1 part whole black peppercorns, plus 2 parts cumin seeds, to 3 parts water; for the other masalas, approximately 1 part any dry seed to 1 part water.

1. Pulverize up to ¼ cup dry spice seeds into a fine-textured powder. Transfer the contents into a small bowl. Add almost an equal amount of water to make a loose, wet paste; let the paste sit for 1 hour before using.

2. The pastes may be refrigerated in airtight containers for up to 2 or 3 days. The pastes will thicken. Therefore before using, add small quantities of water.

Simple Combination Paste Masala

A basic paste seasoning for any cooked rice, vegetable, grain, or dal preparation. Allow 1 to 2 tablespoons of the paste seasoning for any 4 to 6 servings of a preparation. Simply heat ghee in the pan, fry the paste seasoning over a medium to medium-high flame for about 1 or 1 ½ minutes, and add your grain or vegetable and the desired quantity of liquid for cooking. Garnish as desired and offer to Lord Krsna.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

2 ½ tablespoons cumin seeds
1 ½ teaspoons fennel seeds
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
3 to 4 tablespoons water
1 ½ tablespoons peeled, fresh ginger root, minced fine
1 to 1 ½ tablespoons seeded hot green chilies, minced fine
1 medium-size tomato, peeled and diced, or 1/3 cup plain yogurt
2 ½ tablespoons ground coriander
1 ½ teaspoons turmeric

1. Combine the cumin, fennel, and black peppercorns in a grinder; pulverize to a fine powder. In a small bowl thoroughly mix the powdered spices and water.

2. Blend the ginger root, chilies, and tomato or yogurt until smooth. Combine with the moist powdered spices, add the coriander and turmeric, and mix well.

Deep-Fried New Potatoes in Seasoned Broth

(Aloo Dam)

Preparation time: 1 hour
Servings: 6

Ingredients for preparing the potatoes:

2 pounds peeled red or white potatoes
2 pounds baby new potatoes
3 cups ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil

Ingredients for preparing the paste seasoning:

12 blanched almonds
½ teaspoon sesame seeds
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon peeled fresh ginger root, minced fine
1 ½ to 3 teaspoons hot green chilies, minced fine
½ tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon sugar or honey

Remaining ingredients:

3 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
1 cassia or bay leaf, crumpled
1 to 1 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds
1/8 teaspoon mild asafetida powder, if available
1 cup plain yogurt, whisked
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons fresh coriander or parsley leaves, minced

To prepare the potatoes:

1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1 ¼-inch cubes to correspond in size with the baby new potatoes. Pat them dry. Steam or parboil the new potatoes for 12 minutes, then peel. Air dry.

2. With a fork, prick each new potato or cube in 4 places about ½-inch deep; divide the potatoes into 3 batches. Pour ghee or oil into a 10-to 12-inch wok or deep-frying pan, making sure the oil level reaches only half way up the sides of the pan. Place pan over a high flame. When the temperature reaches 360 °F on a deep-frying thermometer, fry the potatoes, one batch at a time, until they turn golden brown. Transfer them to absorbent paper to drain.

To make the paste seasoning:

1. Pulverize the almonds and sesame seeds to a fine powder with your mill or mortar.

2. Blend the water, ginger root, and green chilies for about 1 minute or until the liquid is smooth. Pour the liquid into a small cup, add the powdered almond-sesame mixture and the ground coriander, turmeric, garam masala, and sweetener; blend thoroughly.

To assemble the vegetable:

1. Heat the ghee or oil in a 3-quart saucepan over a medium-high flame for 1 to 1 ½ minutes. Fry the cumin and cassia or bay leaf until the cumin seeds brown. Add the asafetida and paste seasoning, and stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes or until the ghee or oil oozes out of the paste and the color darkens slightly. Stir in the yogurt and water. Raise the flame to high and bring the broth to a boil. Add the potatoes, salt, and ½ of the fresh herbs. Reduce the flame as low as possible and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. This dish dries out if it is allowed to simmer longer. Before offering to Lord Krsna, sprinkle in the remaining herbs.

Deep-Fried Cauliflower and New Potatoes in Tomato Broth

(Phulgobhi-Aloo Dam)

Preparation time: 1 hour
Servings: 5-6

1 pound cauliflower, washed, trimmed, and thoroughly dried
1 pound new potatoes, peeled, washed, and thoroughly dried
3 cups ghee or vegetable oil

Ingredients for the paste seasoning:

1 ½ tablespoons dried powdered coconut
1 ½ tablespoons sesame or white poppy seeds 12 raw blanched almonds or cashews
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon peeled fresh ginger root, minced fine
2 to 3 teaspoons hot green chilies, minced fine
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon sugar or honey

Remaining ingredients:

3 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
1 small cassia or bay leaf, crumpled
1 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds
½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
2 medium-size firm, ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced fine
2 cups water
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons fresh coriander or parsley leaves, minced

To prepare the vegetable:

Divide the cauliflower into flowerets, about 1 inch thick and 2 inches long. Cut the potatoes into 1 ¼-inch chunks. Make 4 or 5 ½-inch-deep pricks with fork tongs in each potato piece. Pour the ghee or oil into a deep 10- to 12-inch frying pan or wok, making sure the oil level reaches only ½ way up the sides. Place the pan on a high flame until the temperature reaches 350°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Gently drop in all the cauliflower and deep-fry until the pieces are golden brown; transfer to absorbent paper to drain. Deep-fry all the potatoes until golden brown and transfer them to drain. Remove the pan from the flame.

To prepare the paste seasoning:

1. Pulverize the coconut, sesame seeds or poppy seeds, nuts, and fennel seeds to a fine powder.

2. Blend the water, ginger, and hot chilies until smooth. Pour the liquid into a small cup, add the powdered coconut-fennel mixture, coriander, turmeric, garam masala, and sweetener; blend thoroughly.

To assemble the vegetable:

1. Heat the ghee or oil in a 3-quart saucepan over a medium-high flame for 1 ½ minutes. Toss in the cassia or bay leaf, cumin, and mustard seeds and fry until the mustard seeds crackle and sputter. Add the paste seasoning and stir-fry until the ghee or oil oozes out of the paste.

2. Pour in the water, salt, and ½ of the fresh herbs and bring to a full boil. Reduce the flame as low as possible; add the fried cauliflower and potatoes, cover, and allow the vegetables to steep in the slowly simmering broth for about 15 minutes. Stir in the remaining fresh herbs just before offering to Krsna.

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Reincarnation—Science or Superstition?

Without Vedic knowledge, apparent evidence
concerning past and future lives leaves us with an unsolvable—
and sometimes frightening—mystery.

by Kundali dasa

In 1977, a television station in England broadcast a live program that viewers are likely to remember for a long time. Millions watched in amazement as Joe Keeton, a hypnotherapist, put a volunteer into a hypnotic trance and "ran her backwards in time"—back to a previous life in sixteenth-century England.

Twenty-three-year-old Jan (not her real name) became eighteen-year-old Joan Waterhouse, on trial for witchcraft in a Chelmsford courthouse. In her trance, Jan became almost hysterical as she repeatedly clenched her fists and grimaced in such apparent pain that Keeton felt obliged to bring her out of hypnosis after only a few minutes of questioning.

Yet in those few minutes Jan had revealed that in her alleged past life she had been tortured with pins and forced to undergo trial by fire—an ordeal in which a suspected witch had to grasp a hot iron bar. In her regression, Jan seemed to relive all the anguish of a real torture victim. Jan's performance, if we may call it that, was very convincing. It surpassed anything an actress could have done. In her normal consciousness Jan had never heard of the Chelmsford witch trial. Joe Keeton, and no doubt the television audience, were especially impressed by the detailed corroboration of Jan's recollections found in the Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology, which contained an account of the actual trial. The book happened to be in the studio library. Later, Jan's experience was further corroborated by a record of the trial found in the library of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Jan's hypnotic regression to an apparent past life is one of thousands that have been conducted over the past thirty years. Joe Keeton has done more than nine thousand such regressions. Researchers in Canada, Europe, Russia, and Australia are busy studying the "past life" phenomenon. Libraries and bookstores abound with literature on the subject. And although for those who require ironclad scientific proof none of these accounts confirm reincarnation, the phenomenon of past-life regression is in large measure responsible for the growing popular belief in rebirth. A 1969 Gallup poll showed that twenty percent of all Americans believed in reincarnation, while a similar poll in 1981 showed an increase to twenty-three percent,

Still, many questions remain: Are past lives, recalled under hypnosis, fact or fantasy? Can reincarnation be scientifically proven? If so, what is it that reincarnates? And if I do reincarnate, what will I be in my next life? Do I have any choice in the matter? Can I come back as an animal? Does reincarnation ever end? What happens then?

Belief in Reincarnation:
A Brief History

The idea of reincarnation is intriguing. Nearly everyone at some time in his life wonders what happens at death, and rebirth is one interesting possibility. Throughout history, some of the most thoughtful minds have advocated this idea. In the Western world, followers of the Orphic religion in ancient Greece were the first known exponents of reincarnation. They were succeeded by Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, and a host of other philosophers, right up to the present day. Several early Christian church fathers also supported the notion, as did many Jewish and Islamic theologians.

While no version of the reincarnation doctrine ever achieved popular acceptance in the West, it has fared quite well among philosophers. Even the prince of empirical skeptics, David Hume, agreed that if the soul were indeed immortal, "metempsychosis [reincarnation] is the only system philosophy can hearken to."

Scholars have traced the very earliest records of the reincarnation doctrine to India, where the world's most ancient cultural and philosophical tradition, the Vedic culture, still survives. Western scholars are not exactly sure when the Vedic culture originated. Some surmise that it began as early as the fourth millennium B.C. But according to the Vedic literature itself, the culture is considerably older. Western scholars find such a claim hard to entertain. Five thousand years ago Europe was in "uncivilized prehistory," and historians assume everyone else must have been equally primitive. At any rate, the Vedic literature contains the earliest narratives of persons who reincarnated, along with a systematic philosophical explanation of transmigration of the soul.

Serious researchers, and even the mildly curious, would do well to examine the Vedic account of reincarnation. The Vedic teachings emphasize the future rather than the past lives. After all, our past lives are already spent and can never be revived. Thus researching them has no practical value—except, perhaps, to prove reincarnation. But the Vedic literature offers both proof of reincarnation and a practical method whereby we can affect our future life positively.

These teachings tell us in exact detail how we should live so that we can attain a specific destination and a specific body in our future life, just as we might purchase a ticket and board a plane to fly to New York. Better still, they tell us how we can go to the supreme destination and become completely liberated from the cycle of repeated birth and death. The Vedic version of the reincarnation doctrine is, therefore, a far more useful subject for investigation than "past-life" regression.

The Vedic Version in a Nutshell

The essence of the Vedic teachings on reincarnation is contained in the Bhagavad-gita, India's unexcelled treatise on metaphysics. In the Gita, Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, enlightens His friend and devotee Arjuna about the distinction between the material body and the spiritual soul:

For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain. . . . The soul can never be cut into pieces by any weapon, nor burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind. . . . It is said that the soul is invisible, inconceivable, and immutable. Knowing this, you should not grieve for the body. (Bg. 2.20, 23, 25)

The soul, the true self of a living being, is an antimaterial particle. When covered by a material body, the soul forgets his real spiritual identity and becomes conditioned by material nature so that he identifies with the material body as his true self.

Nature, Krsna explains, consists of three modes—goodness, passion, and ignorance. (Each mode has its particular symptoms, which Krsna describes at length in the fourteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth chapters. When the living entity is under the influence of one of the modes or a combination of them, he is compelled to act in various ways for the pursuit of happiness. In this way he becomes more and more implicated in nature's complex, subtle laws of action and reaction. These three modes constantly vie for dominance over the conditioned soul, and at the time of death the dominant mode determines the kind of body the soul will be awarded in his next life. Lord Krsna describes the soul's general destination according to each mode as follows:

When one dies in the mode of goodness, he attains to the pure, higher planets of the great sages. When one dies in the mode of passion, he takes birth among those engaged in fruitive activities; and when one dies in the mode of ignorance, he takes birth in the animal kingdom. (Bg. 14.14, 15)

Lord Krsna also describes how the soul travels from one body to another:

The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another as the air carries aromas. Thus he takes one kind of body and again quits it to take another. The living entity, thus taking another gross body, obtains a certain type of ear, eye, tongue, nose, and sense of touch, which are grouped about the mind. He thus enjoys a particular set of sense objects. (Bg. 15.8-9)

The conditioned soul is sheathed in two bodies. One is the gross body, made of earth, water, fire, air, and ether, and the other is the subtle body, composed of mind, intelligence, and false ego. The soul occupies the same subtle body throughout all the changes of gross bodies. Thus all his memories and conceptions from previous lives travel with him, stored within his mind, from one body to the next. (According to the Vedic teachings, past lives recalled in hypnotic sleep are quite possible, at least theoretically. However, the Srimad-Bhagavatam explains that the mind also concocts experiences based on factual past lives. It is almost impossible, therefore, to discern authentic recollections from concocted ones.)

In strict accordance with nature's law of karma, the soul receives a gross body that exactly conforms to the subtle conceptions and desires stored in his mind. A hog, for example, is a conditioned soul who developed the mentality and desires of a hog and thus received from nature a hog's body, with suitable senses of sight, taste, smell, and so on, with which he could pursue his hoggish desires. The same holds true for a fly, a worm, a whale, and so forth. Thus, through the inexorable law of karma, nature rewards or punishes the conditioned soul, who must accept various gross bodies that, according to his previous activities, allow him to enjoy or force him to suffer.

Since time immemorial, philosophers have been baffled by the apparent injustice of nature's ways. Why is one race, nation, family, or individual singled out for suffering, while another is awarded abundant health, wealth, and good fortune? The law of karma wonderfully explains nature's seeming capriciousness. In this life, we are all reaping the individual or collective just deserts of our previous good or bad deeds. At the same time, we are creating a new stock of reactions to be meted out in the future. W. R. Alger, a Unitarian minister and author of A Critical History of the Doctrine of a Future Life, considers karma to be "marvelously adapted to explain the seeming chaos of moral inequality, injustice, and manifold evil presented in the world of human life. Once admit the theory to be true, and all difficulties in regard to moral justice vanish; . . . and the total experience of humanity becomes a magnificent picture of perfect poetic justice."

In the Bhagavad-gita, Krsna declares that the soul does not have to undergo repeated birth and death in the material world; he can escape and attain eternal life in the spiritual world, in the company of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Unfortunately, many persons who believe in karma and reincarnation are unaware of the path of liberation. Some think the goal is to accrue good karma life after life, while others think the goal is to be liberated from the cycle of rebirth by merging into an amorphous ocean of spiritual consciousness, completely devoid of any personal features whatsoever. Both these proposals are denied in the Gita. The ultimate goal, says Lord Krsna, is to return to Him in the spiritual world. This is clearly His intent when He tells Arjuna,

After attaining Me, the great souls, who are yogis in devotion, never return to this temporary world, which is full of miseries, because they have attained the highest perfection. From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again. . . . That which the Vedantists describe as unmanifest and infallible, that which is known as the supreme destination, that place from which one, having attained it, never returns—that is My supreme abode. (Bg. 8.15, 16, 21)

If the conditioned soul uses his present body to purify his consciousness of material contamination, he becomes free of the distresses of birth, old age, disease, and death. He is then reinstated in his original spiritual body and relishes eternal blissful life in the association of Krsna and all His devotees.

In the eleventh chapter of the Gita, Krsna explains that this perfection is attained only by those who execute the process of bhakti-yoga, the path of pure devotion to Him. In the ninth chapter He declares that bhakti-yoga leads to "direct perception of the self by realization." By direct perception Krsna does not mean perception with our material senses, as He explains in the Gita:

In the stage of perfection called trance, or samadhi, one's mind is completely restrained from material mental activities by practice of yoga. This perfection is characterized by one's ability to see the Self by the pure mind and to relish and rejoice in the Self. In that joyous state, one is situated in boundless transcendental happiness, realized through transcendental senses. (Bg. 6.20-21)

Such transcendental perception awakens only by the purifying process of bhakti, Our material senses are not the final authority on the transcendental platform. Nevertheless, because bhakti-yoga leads to predictable results every time—namely, liberation from karmic reactions and full self-realization—it is a perfect scientific process.

Dogmatism vs. Science

A discussion of reincarnation would be incomplete if we failed to address the opposing view, that of the empiricists, who hold that whatever cannot be perceived by at least one of the five senses cannot be proved to exist. Being materialists, empiricists look upon Vedic metaphysics as a nonsensical, wishful attempt for immortality. "Can you show us the soul?" they demand. "Can you give us scientific proof that the soul exists?" Since their demand for "scientific proof" has never been met to their satisfaction, empiricists have little sympathy for the lofty views of the Vedic transcendentalists.

We should bear in mind, however, that when empiricists call for scientific proof, they really mean empirical proof. The reason they say "scientific proof" is only because they assume that gross matter is all that exists and that empiricism is the only valid scientific method for investigating reality.

Neither of these assumptions is true. The Vedic literature repeatedly asserts that the soul is a nonmaterial substance. How, then, can materialists expect anyone to prove the existence of the soul by empirical methods? Furthermore, Krsna describes the soul as acintya, inconceivable, and avyakta, invisible. Again, how can something inconceivable and invisible be presented for sensory inspection?

Materialists perennially insist that their empirical standards be applied by the transcendentalists. Such a proposal is patently absurd. Suppose we transcendentalists were to demand that the empiricists give us a complete description of the molecular composition of a nerve cell without employing any empirical procedures—just chant Hare Krsna, be celibate, give up meat and intoxicants, and study philosophy with us. Such a demand would be taken as outlandish, and rightly so, because studying cell structure is a material science and thus requires an empirical methodology. Similarly, the process of self-realization, which results in direct perception of the soul, is a spiritual science and thus requires a spiritual methodology.

Still, although it is impossible to perceive the soul directly except by practicing bhakti-yoga and acquiring spiritual vision, it is possible to perceive the soul indirectly by inference, even before one perfects the process of bhakti. In fact, understanding the soul's existence by inference may give you the impetus you need to pursue self-realization to the point of full maturity.

In the thirteenth chapter of the Gita, Lord Krsna tells Arjuna how the soul's existence is inferred:

O son of Bharata, as the sun alone illuminates all this universe, so does the living entity, one within the body, illuminate the entire body by consciousness. (Bg. 13.34)

In other words, the mere fact that a person is conscious implies that the soul is present in the body, even if we cannot see the soul directly, just as the presence of the sunlight implies that the sun is present in the sky, even when the sun isn't directly visible.

In the second chapter of the Gita, Lord Krsna gives another inferential argument for the soul and reincarnation:

As the embodied soul continuously passes. in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change. (Bg. 2.13)

Everyone has experienced the subtle and continuous changes of body "from boyhood to youth to old age," but most people are unaware of just how literal the change of body is. In The Human Brain, John Pfeiffer states, "Your body does not contain a single one of the molecules it contained seven years ago." This means that if you are thirty years old, you have completely changed your body roughly four times. But throughout these changes of body, you subjectively perceive that your individual identity is not changing. You wouldn't doubt fora moment, for example, that the "I" who demanded a cookie from Mommy at age five is the same "I" who is now reading this article, regardless of how many bodies you may have changed in the interim. The logical inference is that the "I," or the self, is different from all these changing bodies. That unchanging self is the spirit soul.

At this point the empiricists will shake their heads disapprovingly, or smile tolerantly, charmed to see the lengths to which transcendentalists will go to uphold their fantasies, for empiricists supposedly reject inference as a valid argument. But the inherent flaw in their so-called scientific neutrality has been aptly pointed out by Professor J. Paul Williams of Mt. Holyoke College in his essay "Belief in a Future Life":

The fact that we have no direct experience of souls which do not exist apart from the bodies . . . need not force us to the conclusion that [the soul] does not exist. The typical reaction of the materialists to this kind of reasoning is an appeal to stick to the known facts. But the materialistic scientist certainly does not limit himself to immediately experienced data. The limits of our experience are so narrow that if we did not permit our thinking to go beyond them, human thought would be puny indeed. Whoever experienced an atom or an electron? The whole conception of the atomic structure is an inference; it is believed because it is consistent with the way in which elements combine, because it explains why under certain conditions peculiar markings appear on photographic plates. Yet we do not accuse the physicist of irrationality when he says that solid matter, such as rock, is really composed of tiny solar systems in which electrons revolve at incredible speeds around protons. Let no one think he has reached perfection in his habits of thought if he accepts inferential logic in physics but rejects it in theology.

In other words, transcendentalists are just as entitled to present inferred evidence as empiricists. It is certainly inconceivable that a swirling cloud of atomic particles can appear as a solid rock, or that the electron can act sometimes as a particle and sometimes as a wave. But these are gospel truths to empirical scientists. Therefore, to argue from inference for the existence of the soul and for its inconceivable qualities is not as farfetched as some adamant materialists would have us think.

As we have seen, reality can be viewed from different perspectives. A transcendentalist has to apply the methodology of the physicist to understand subatomic reality. By the same token, the physicist has to apply the methodology of the transcendentalist to understand the soul. As in any other science, those who abide by the hypothesis and conduct the experiment carefully will get the predicted result. As Lord Krsna assures us,

The foolish cannot understand how a living entity can quit his body, nor can they understand what sort of body he enjoys under the spell of the modes of nature. But one whose eyes are trained in knowledge can see all this. (Bg. 15.10)

Technological success has awarded the empiricists a great deal of prestige. But science is not synonymous with empiricism. Science means the systematic execution of procedures that yield observable and predictable results. Empirical methods, therefore, are not the only ones that qualify as scientific. Such an assumption is pure dogma.

In truth, empiricism limits us to an understanding of only those features of reality that can be described physically, chemically, or mathematically. Consciousness, the most essential part of reality (and the inseparable quality of the soul), is left out by this approach. If empiricism cannot account for such a basic feature of reality as consciousness, how can we possibly rely on it to prove the existence of the soul, which underlies consciousness? And what to speak of other subtle natural phenomena, such as the principles of karma and reincarnation?

The Bhagavad-gita, unlike empirical science, presents a model of reality that takes all phenomena into account. It therefore deserves full consideration. For those who reject the teachings of the Gita out-of-hand, Dr. Michael Sabom of Emory University, in his book Recollections of Death, reminds us of the true meaning of "scientific method":

To say that an idea has not been accepted in a scientific sense does not mean that such an idea should not at least be scientifically considered as a possible explanation for unexplained phenomena. For it is the premise of objective neutrality which has made scientific method such as a useful investigative process: all available hypothesis must be carefully examined before a conclusion can be reached.

Thus, whether one wants to prove or disprove reincarnation or the existence of the soul, an in-depth study of the Bhagavad-gita is indispensable, for the Gita is "an available hypothesis" with "an explanation for unexplained phenomena" that "must be carefully examined before a conclusion can be reached."

For anyone interested in past or future lives, the Gita will reveal how we've come to our present situation and, more importantly, how we can act to break free of the cycle of reincarnation forever. Knowledge of our past lives may lead to some vain reminiscences—if we do not unearth some horrifying memories like Jan's—but the Bhagavad-gita's scientific teachings for attaining the liberated status are far more in our self-interest.

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Simple Living, High Thinking

For the Young at Heart

Spring will vanish with the rose,
but the song of the soul in love with God lasts forever.

by Suresvara dasa

A May sun warms our country school-house. Inside, Haridasa is wrapping up the morning's history lesson for his sixth-graders.

"And so, while Ponce de Leon was sailing the Florida Straits looking for the Fountain of Youth, while Copernicus was in East Prussia speculating about the solar system, and while Michelangelo was in Rome trying to paint heaven and earth inside the Sistine Chapel, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, Sri Krsna was moving about south India as Lord Caitanya, creating a transcendental renaissance of pure love for God. And how did He do that, Prema?"

"By dancing and singing Hare Krsna with His followers through all the villages and towns."

"And what's that called, Siddha?"

" Sankirtana!"

Siddha's enthusiasm and the streaming sunbeams give Haridasa an idea. He leans forward and whispers a challenge: "Sankirtana! The full mile to nature class by the bridge. Who's ready?" A Me! explosion kayos the goddess of grammar, and Haridasa leads his charges (armed with cymbals and drums) out into the bright sunshine of sankirtana—the dynamic praise of the holy names of God.

The drums resound and the cymbals play in time as Haridasa leads the tumultuous chanting: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

The birds go wild as the devotees leap high in the air, recalling Lord Caitanya, who would chant like thunder and shake the earth with His ecstatic dancing. "O Krsna!" Lord Caitanya exclaimed. "In Your name You have invested all Your transcendental energies!" A spring breeze carries the scent of pine and cedar, but it is sankirtana that sends the devotees running and jumping. Krsna in sound is dancing on their tongues.

"Haribol!" the gardeners cheer. Spring will vanish with the rose, but sankirtana—the song of the soul in love with God—lasts forever. Even now, the devotees' chanting pierces the sky, their souls leaping in pursuit.

On they go, over the carpets of yellow and green, past the cows milking and oxen plowing, around the fields of planted grain; up to the orchard where songbirds sing and blossoms blow and the beehives hum with the season's first flow of nectar.

"Of seasons," says Krsna in Bhagavad-gita, "I am flower-bearing spring." And what better way to see spring than through the divine sound of Krsna's names.

On and on, cymbals sizzling, drums afire, hands in the air, defying fatigue, feeling fresher, hearing Krsna, the Eternal Youth. Paint this, Michelangelos, before the world goes blazing mad, like the damning Old Man on Sistine's wall. Paint a flute-playing Genius of Flowers, whose bodily hue resembles a fresh rain cloud, who Himself comes as the Golden Dancer, Lord Caitanya—followed by devotees like these, who chant from the heart, sweeping and zooming and spinning and booming Krsna! Krsna! And who stop for class now by a covered bridge.

The bridge, which connects our farm to the neighbors', was once the main link between Beale and Spruce Hill townships. It spans a river that our youngsters call Viraja.* [*after the watery nirvana Vedic cosmographers chart between the material and spiritual worlds.] April's rains have raised the waterline a few feet up the span's stone trusses. The neighbors care little for the names posted by children and politicians. What matters, on both sides of the river, is that "spring has sprung."

And so have the weeds. (And what is farming but a war on weeds?) Yet there's magic in those spring greens, as Krsna Himself indicates: "It is I who am the healing herb."

"Stellaria media," pronounces Haridasa, "is the Latin label for chickweed, a favorite of what bird, Nirmala?"

"The chicken."

"Brilliant! And you'll be smarter still when you learn how to use this plant to make an ointment. Chickweed smoothes and heals and has remarkable drawing properties. It takes the poisons right out of the skin."

Haridasa picks up a plantain, a long, weedy plant with broad leaves and a spike of small, greenish flowers.

"Many people spend a lot of money trying to destroy this plant, because it takes up so much space in their lawns. But they'd be amazed at the uses of plantain. It supplies lots of minerals the body needs. Its leaves are tender and go well in a spring salad. And fresh plantain leaf fluid can cure infectious skin diseases, and—watch it, Siddha! That's poison ivy."

Siddha pulls back and inspects the whitish berries and smooth leaflets he almost grabbed.

"Good thing the woods are full of yellow dock," says Haridasa. "When you take dock leaves and pulp them, they'll cool the most terrible poison-ivy rash."

Unnoticed, headmaster Mahejya, down to the river for a swim, slips onto the bridge's lookout and listens.

Haridasa goes on to describe a syrup of yellow-dock root, splendid for someone recuperating from surgery or a long illness; then a way of using violet leaves to control cancer; and after that, enough natural remedies to put the drugstore out of business.

"But there's no herb or group of herbs on earth," he stresses, "that can keep your body from getting sick. And no herb or group of herbs that can keep your body free from growing old and dying."

"Ah, but love can heal anything!"

What? All eyes rise to the lookout, where Mahejya sits cross-legged in his swimsuit posing as a mystic.

"Hello," smiles Haridasa, guessing the headmaster's game. "What's your name?"

"Dr. Love," Mahejya intones, "naturopath in residence. I'd like to show you an endless flow of life, continuously expanding in love, power, and joy. Love charges the body with light and increases its vibratory rate. Then the light within every electron glows brighter. You actually become self-luminous. Once you get dominion over the atomic substance of the physical body, you can conquer death."

"Preposterous!" Haridasa chuckles. "But you're good at juggling words. Have you ever thought about a career with the circus? There's a sucker, you know, born every minute."

"No, my friend. There's a sucker dying every minute. Time can't kill you—only you can kill you. By your own thoughts. The immunological system picks up those death urges and stops protecting you. But there's a way to make those coded messages bring you life instead of death. For ages people have known the secret of re-programming cells. You reprogram them with love, so that they can go on living forever."

Mahejya's speech mystifies the children. Haridasa sees it's time to preach.

"Eternal youth—people can dream about it all they like," he begins. "But saner people . . . people who know a little about nature's laws . . . they know we can't live forever. Not here. Not in this world of matter. You can see it. We can all see it.

"Just look. Just look, say, at a piece of fruit. From a flower you get a tiny fruit. Very tiny. Then it grows. It stays on a branch for some time. It gets to be full-grown. It ripens. Then it starts dwindling day by day—until finally it falls back to the earth and decomposes. Of course, it leaves behind new seed—which grows into new trees and produces new fruits, which all meet the same old fate. And so on and on. So there you have it. The law of nature. That's the way God made it."

"Oh, but the seed of God is in us," Mahejya replies, still the devil's advocate. "Pear seeds grow into pear trees. Nut seeds grow into nut trees. And God seeds grow into God."

Suddenly, Haridasa thunders Krsna's name, and Mahejya, as if struck by lightning, leaps into the river. Hare Krsna! Laughter and wonder splash hearts as the headmaster swims to shore.

"I believe!" he emotes, emerging from the water.

"You may believe or not believe," laughs Haridasa. "But there's an herb that cures death. A spiritual herb that keeps you from ever getting another material body. That way you'll never have to go through death again."

Mahejya smiles and the children listen.

"All over the universe, from planet to planet," Haridasa explains, "countless souls are searching for eternal youth, eternal happiness. But only a few are fortunate enough to meet a pure devotee of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Only a few get the chance to understand pure devotional service to Krsna.

"Now, this devotional service is just like a seed. The pure devotee sows that seed in your heart. And if you go on watering the seed by hearing and chanting Krsna's names, then that seed is going to sprout. Just like the seed of a tree is going to sprout if it gets regular watering.

"And with this regular watering, this hearing and chanting, your plant of devotional service just grows and grows . . . until it breaks out of the material universe and into the spiritual sky. Before long it reaches the highest planet, Goloka Vrndavana, the supreme planet of Krsna. Soon your plant bears the fruits and flowers of pure love of God. It takes shelter at the lotus feet of Krsna.

"Lord Caitanya wanted everyone to get free from old age and death. He wanted everyone to taste these spiritual fruits. So He left us their seeds in the chanting of Hare Krsna, the sound of the Lord's holy names."

"Haribol!" the children cheer.

Mahejya and Haridasa beam, grateful to give what, as children, they themselves never had—Krsna consciousness. Dried and dressed, Mahejya strikes up the chanting of Hare Krsna, and Haridasa leads the sankirtana party back through the fields toward the schoolhouse. Of all the countless lives thriving under that springtime sun, who could be more fortunate than these? Deep in their hearts, the seed of love of God has started to sprout.

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Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama 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.

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Notes from the Editor

Election Year: What Are the Choices?

The year of a United States presidential election always brings intense campaigning and debating, out of which we are supposed to choose our favorite candidate. But for many of us, election time also raises the question of whether a real choice exists. Since 1960, the percentage of eligible voters who actually go to the polls has steadily declined. A major reason for this, according to Curtis Ganes of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, is "citizens' questioning the effectiveness of government and the efficacy of their votes." And according to another poll, "More people are feeling that the link between their vote and public policy is tenuous at best and that voting is simply not worth the effort."

If the nonvoting trend increases, it will pose a serious threat to the republic. As stated by Marvin Stone, editor-in-chief of U. S. News and World Report, "No political system can remain healthy forever if large numbers feel that their voices do not count."

But how much power do we have to determine events and make choices in our lives? Here is Lord Krsna's analysis in the Bhagavad-gita: "The spirit soul bewildered by the influence of false ego thinks himself the doer of activities that are in actuality carried out by the three modes of material nature" (Bg. 3.27).

By the words "false ego," Lord Krsna means the misconception of thinking the material body to be the self. According to the Bhagavad-gita, within the temporary body is the spirit soul, which is the real, eternal self. The body, therefore, is only a covering for the soul, much as clothing is a covering for the body. A person influenced by false ego, however, does not acknowledge that his body is a product of nature, which works under the supervision of God. He has no knowledge that everything—including himself—is under higher control. He thinks, Lord Krsna explains, that he is "the doer of activities that are in actuality carried out by the three modes of material nature."

This is ignorance. According to the Bhagavad-gita, if we revive our loving relationship with God and work under His guidance, we will achieve freedom from the control of material nature, from the forces that bind us to the miseries of birth, death, disease, and old age. Otherwise, even if we exercise our political choice, there will be no question of liberation from material nature.

Political debates that do not take into account the facts concerning nature and the control of God are futile. How can one party be better than another if both labor under the most basic misconceptions about God, nature, and the soul? As the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta states:

"In the material world conceptions of good and bad are all mental speculations. Therefore saying, 'This is good, and this is bad,' is all a mistake."

Political candidates and government leaders may express some kind of God consciousness, but observers often see this as no more than political maneuvering in the quest for votes. Unless we are in knowledge of the intricacies of nature and God's control, then our service to God and religion will be another illusion under which a politician and his followers will be misled.

We must know the basic laws of existence, such as the law of karma, by which nature awards us the reactions to our deeds. The law of karma is unyielding, and we cannot avoid its control any more than we can avoid birth and death. We must also be in knowledge of our own identity as spirit souls, separate from the material body. Without such a basic requisite as self-knowledge, how can anyone truly lead others or make an intelligent choice as to who is most qualified to lead? And unless our activities are in adherence to the will of the Supreme, as enunciated in the scriptures and exemplified in the lives of saintly persons, our choices are "choices" only within the realm of illusion.

The disappointment that is causing citizens to avoid the voting booth cannot be checked simply by patriotic speeches. According to the pollsters, nonvoters are not so much opposed to individual candidates as they are alienated from the entire system. Political analysis! Peter F. Drucker of the Clairmont Graduate School in California direly comments, "Nobody believes anymore that government delivers." But how can the government deliver as long as government leaders ignore the laws of nature? When the blind lead the blind, both fall into a ditch.

Considering present circumstances—public ignorance on the one hand and the power of professional politicians and other sectarian interest groups on the other—it is unlikely that we will soon see political leadership that is aware of God, nature, and the soul as described in the Bhagavad-gita. Meanwhile, due to the ignorance and mischievousness of our leaders, the world continues in great distress. Srila Prabhupada has written of this dilemma and of the hope offered by the Krsna consciousness movement:

At the present moment the rulers are so powerful that by hook or by crook they capture the highest post in government and harass countless numbers of people on the plea of national security or some emergency. One party defeats another, but the public continues to suffer.
When the people are godless and the presidents or kings are unnecessarily puffed up with military power, their business is to fight and increase the military strengths of their different states. Now, therefore, it appears that every state is busy manufacturing weapons to prepare for a third world war. . . . But the real business of the chief executive is to see to the happiness of the mass of people by training them in Krsna consciousness in different divisions of life.

Of course, we don't have to wait for the majority to elect such a leader. If we are tired of being cheated, we can seek out a bona fide spiritual master and, through him, take directions from the Vedic literature on how to perfect our lives. The Srimad-Bhagavatam states, "One who cannot deliver his dependants from repeated birth and death should never become a spiritual master or a leader of the people or even a father or husband." A misled nation may not be able to elect a qualified leader, but an individual can still save himself by sincerely seeking the truth. There is higher knowledge than that delivered by the political systems. There are real choices, and real leaders.—SDG

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