The nature of the self is to be joyful.
A lecture given in Mauritius in 1975
"Prahlada Maharaja said: Because of their uncontrolled senses, persons too addicted to materialistic life make progress toward hellish conditions and repeatedly chew that which has already been chewed. Their inclinations toward Krsna are never aroused, either by the instructions of others, by their own efforts, or by a combination of both." (Srimad-Bhagavatam, 7.5.30)
We are trying to spread Krsna consciousness, but it is a very difficult task because people are so much addicted to material enjoyment. Generally, they do not like this Krsna consciousness movement, although reviving our Krsna consciousness is the ultimate goal of human life.
Krsna is God. This is the verdict of the Vedic literature: krsnas tu bhagavan svayam. After searching after God, making great research work to find out what God is, all the acaryas [spiritual masters] have concluded that Krsna is God. Unfortunately, at the present moment in this Kali-yuga [the Age of Quarrel], most people are not interested in God. Why? That is stated by Lord Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita [7.l5]:
na mam duskrtino mudhah
The word duskrtinah here means "one who always engages in sinful activities." Krti means "meritorious" or "very intelligent." But duskrti means "utilizing one's merit for sinful activities," and those who do this are called duskrtinah. Such sinful people never surrender to Krsna. They could use their good intelligence for making their lives perfect, but instead of doing that they engage in sinful activities. Sinful activities are activities of sense gratification. When one becomes addicted to sense gratification, he must act sinfully.
The symptoms of this addiction are very prominent in this age. Everyone is working hard simply for sense gratification. And as soon as you accept a life of sense gratification, you are sure to commit sinful activities. For example, throughout the whole world there are so many distilleries manufacturing liquor. Especially in the Western countries you will find so many advertisements for liquor, whiskey, cigarettes . . . Not to speak of the thousands of slaughterhouses all over the world where innocent animals are unnecessarily killed.
People can live very nicely on food grains. In the Bhagavad-gita [3.14] Krsna says, annad bhavanti bhutani: "Simply by eating food grains, both men and animals can live very happily." You can grow food grains very easily. I have seen in the Western countries how they grow food grains to feed the animals, and then the animals are eaten by man.
So, I see that on this island of Mauritius you have enough land to produce all your own food grains. But I understand that instead of growing food grains, you are growing sugar cane for export. Why? You are dependent on food grains—on rice, wheat, dal—so why make this attempt to accumulate money instead of growing sufficient food? First of all grow your own eatables. Then if there is time and if your population has sufficient food grains, you can try to grow other things for export.
The first necessity is that you should be self-sufficient. That is God's arrangement. Not only in your country but everywhere there is abundant land for producing food grains. I have traveled all over the world—Africa, Australia, and America also—and I have seen much vacant land that if used to produce food grains could feed ten times as many people as at present.
There is no question of scarcity. The creation is so made by Krsna that everything is purnam, complete. In the Isopanisad it is said, purnam adah purnam idam purnat purnam udacyate: "The Personality of Godhead is perfect and complete, and therefore His creation is also complete." So, Krsna has made a complete arrangement for everyone to live peacefully and happily, but if you don't produce food grains you will unnecessarily put men into scarcity, and that is sinful.
Every instruction in the Vedic scriptures is intended to teach us how to advance in Krsna consciousness and make our lives perfect. Unfortunately, we do not know what the perfect life is. Therefore Prahlada Maharaja says here, punah punas carvita-carvananam: "These fools and rascals who are after sense gratification are simply chewing the chewed." So making our life perfect means stopping this business of chewing the chewed.
Now we have this human form of life, and by our pious activities we may be elevated to the higher planetary systems. But what shall we gain there? A higher standard of sense gratification, that's all. For example, sex pleasure is there in the society of the cats and dogs, it is there in human society, and it is there in the heavenly planets. The arrangement may be a little different, but the pleasure of sex is the same whether you enjoy it as a dog, as a human being, or as a demigod. The pleasure of sex is not different; it is the same.
So in this material world we are changing our body (tatha dehantara-praptih) and enjoying varieties of sense gratification. That is described as punah punas carvita-carvananam: chewing the chewed. We have tasted sense gratification in our last life, and again we are trying for it in this life. When we are disgusted with this business, that is called vairagya-vidya, detachment and knowledge. And that knowledge and that renunciation, or detachment, can be achieved only by Krsna consciousness.
In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna clearly states, janma karma ca me divyam evam yo vetti tattvatah. If we simply understand Krsna in truth, then, tyaktva deham punar janma naiti mam eti so 'rjuna: the result will be that after giving up this present body we will not have to accept another material body, but we will go to Krsna in the spiritual world.
To accept another material body means to again be forced to engage in chewing the chewed. Whether I get a human body, an animal body, or a demigod body, the business is the same: ahara-nidra-bhaya-maithunam ca—eating, sleeping, defense, and sex. Don't think that the heavenly planets are very safe. We have information from the Srimad-Bhagavatam that Lord Indra is always being disturbed by so many demons, and fighting is going on.
So, our life is being spoiled by sense gratification, and it can be stopped only by Krsna consciousness. But, as Prahlada Maharaja says here, "Krsna consciousness cannot be achieved by the grha-vratanam." Grha-vratanam means "those who are too much interested in family life, or a life of sense gratification." For them it is very difficult to become Krsna conscious.
Prahlada is speaking with his father, Hiranyakasipu. Prahlada is a devotee and his father is a materialistic person interested in money and women. So Hiranyakasipu was challenging his son: "Where did you learn this Krsna consciousness?" Prahlada flatly replied, matir na krsne paratah svato va mitho 'bhipadyeta grha-vratanam: "One who is addicted to the materialistic way of life cannot understand or be convinced about Krsna consciousness, either by hearing from others, by his own speculation, or by meeting in big, big conferences." Also, in the Bhagavad-gita [2.44] Krsna says,
"Those who are too much attached to the materialistic way of life cannot become determined in Krsna consciousness."
The materialistic way of life means sense gratification. What is the difference between spiritual life and material life? These boys from Europe and America have adopted the spiritual life, which means that they have stopped the process of sense gratification. Illicit sex, meat-eating, gambling, intoxication—this is the materialistic way of life. And those who practice spiritual life must give up these sinful practices.
If we stick to the materialistic way of life, it will be very, very difficult for us to understand Krsna consciousness. Why? Because, as Prahlada Maharaja says here, adanta-gobhih: "The materialist's senses are uncontrolled." This morning, while we were walking on the beach, we found so many things—Coca-cola bottles, cigarette butts, and so many other things. Now, what is the necessity of Coca-cola? You don't find all these things in our Society. We don't drink Coca-cola. We don't drink Pepsi. We don't smoke cigarettes. So many things are selling in the market in huge quantity because the advertisements are victimizing the poor customer. All these things are unnecessary. But because people cannot control their senses, the manufacturers of all these unnecessary things are making a big business.
So, if we really want spiritual life, if we really want to be free from the material clutches, we have to learn how to control the senses. That is the purpose of human life. Human life is not meant for imitating the life of cats and dogs and hogs.
This morning a press representative came to see us, to find out some information on this Krsna consciousness movement. Our first point was that we are spreading Krsna consciousness to bring people to the standard of human life from the standard of cat-and-dog life. Cat-and-dog life means adanta-gobhih, uncontrolled senses. One female dog will be surrounded by a dozen male dogs. Why? Adanta-gobhih: they cannot control their senses. On the street they are having sex.
Therefore, human life means to control the senses. That is human life. But if you remain like cats and dogs, without controlling the senses, then what is the difference between a dog and you? There is no difference. Actually, that idea is being accepted now. The modern so-called civilization says we should allow the senses to enjoy as far as possible. This is their advancement of civilization.
Once again, the perfect example is meat-eating. We can be very happy by eating grains, which we must produce in any case—either for ourselves or for the animals. Without producing food grains, you cannot even eat the meat, because the animals need food grains to live. So you have to produce food grains in any case. But because we have uncontrolled senses, we are eating the animals instead of the grains. We do not consider, "The animals I am killing for my subsistence are eating grains, and I can also eat grains. So why should I commit this sinful act of killing another living being?" Unfortunately, those who are too sinful never think like that.
By God's law, you are not allowed to kill even an ant. For example, suppose there is a useless man; he is not doing anything. You cannot kill him. The state will take steps to punish you. You will be hanged. You cannot say, "This man was useless; he had no utility for society. Therefore I have killed him." No. According to our man-made laws, you cannot do this.
But according to the God-made laws, if you kill 'any living being you will be punished. This we do not know on account of our uncontrolled senses. We do not know that if we kill innocent animals we must go to the darkest region of hellish life (visatam tamisram). Actually, that is happening now—hellish life. The child in the womb of the mother is in a hellish condition, floating in stool and urine. But even there his life is not safe, because in the modern, so-called advanced civilization the mother is killing the child in the womb. This is going on.
We do not know the subtle laws of nature, the subtle laws of God, how things are happening, how things are going on. And without knowing these facts, our human life is being spoiled.
So, the Krsna consciousness movement is trying to educate people about the value of life and about the laws of God. We have not manufactured all this. It is received from the Vedas. The Vedas are books of knowledge (the word veda means "knowledge"). Jnana also means "knowledge." So, this life is meant for acquiring knowledge and detachment (jnana-vairagya). Otherwise we will suffer. We are now being implicated in so many sinful activities, and we have to suffer for them in our next life. As souls, we are not going to die. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, na hanyate hanyamane sarire: "The soul does not die when the body dies."
The atheists think like that: "When the body is finished, everything is finished." But that is not the fact. We are simply changing the dress, this body. But as souls, I am eternal, you are eternal. It is only because of our unbridled senses that we are entering different types of bodies. Suppose I am enjoying life as a human being very nicely. But if in my next life I become a dog in the street, how miserable my life will be! Or even if I become a very powerful animal—a tiger or a lion—it is still a miserable life. Simply misery!
Therefore, so long as we remain in the material world, changing bodies, life will be miserable. Every body is painful, miserable. As Lord Rsabhadeva says in the Srimad-Bhagavatam [5.5.4],
nunam pramattah kurute vikarma
People have become mad (pramattah) and are doing all kinds of sinful activities (vikarma). (Vikarma means "very sinful activities.") And why are they doing so? Yad indriya-pritaya aprnoti: "Simply for sense gratification." There is no higher aim, only sense gratification. Then Rsabhadeva says, na sadhu manye: "I do not think this is good." Why? Because on account of their sinful activities they already have this painful, miserable conditioned life in a material body, and if they go on performing sinful activities they will again get such a body and continue suffering. This is jnana.
Every one of us is trying to be happy, without any suffering. That is the aim of life. We are all living beings, part and parcel of Krsna, and as such our nature is to be happy, pleased, joyful (anandamayo 'bhyasat). But performing sinful activities for sense gratification is not the way to become happy and joyful. That is not the way. The way is different.
That way is Krsna consciousness. So everyone should be very serious about accepting the process of Krsna consciousness. And you should not only accept it personally but you should also teach it to others. You should propagate Krsna consciousness throughout your community, your country—throughout the whole human society. Everyone should have a chance to understand Krsna consciousness, make his life happy, and attain the stage of eternity, knowledge, and bliss.
So, this Krsna consciousness is a great science, but unfortunately it is not being taught in the schools, colleges, and universities. Therefore the people are in darkness. If we keep people in darkness and advertise that we are advancing, that is cheating. People should understand the value of life, the science of life—why living entities are taking so many different forms of life. For example, the trees standing in our compound cannot move an inch. Is that a very good life? If I am asked to stand still in one place for five minutes, it becomes troublesome. And the trees are standing for a hundred years. Just see the punishment!
So, where is the science that explains why these trees are standing in the courtyard in a miserable condition and I am sitting in this room very comfortably? Who is arranging for the different statuses of life? The scientists cannot explain these things, but everything is clearly explained in the Bhagavad-gita. If you take to Krsna consciousness and study the Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad-Bhagavatam, you will get full knowledge and your life will be sublime and successful. Thus every father, every state leader, every guardian, every spiritual master should educate his dependents in Krsna consciousness and thus give them a chance to be liberated from bondage and from the miserable conditions of material life.
Thank you very much. Hare Krsna.
A startling discovery
By Devamrta Swami
Up from the floor of the Pacific Ocean comes amazing scientific news. The pages of Discover, an American popular science magazine, describe the voyage of a research submarine that brings back irrefutable evidence that buoys Vedic science and capsizes modern biology.
While ordinary scientists recover from the shock and reconstruct their theories, detailing them in the pages of more staid scientific journals, professors of the eternal Krsna science smile with amusement. Indeed, anyone who has mastered Lord Krsna's discourses in the Bhagavad-gita certainly has the right to condescendingly intone, "I told you so!"
Desiring luxuries and the softest possible existence, mankind eagerly ushered scientific and technological zeal to the forefront of human culture. Concurrently, however, strict a priori assumptions began governing our brains: life comes from matter; life is matter; consciousness is a material by-product; the universe arises from nothing. On and on the list goes.
Assumptions about the circumstances under which life can exist are no exception to the rigid canons of faith that prevail.
For example, when we contemplate whether life might occur on other planets, two chief prerequisites habitually march forth: water in a liquid state and a climate approximating Earth's. Mars flunked the test because of no water. Venus, owing to extreme heat, never fared any better.
But the frail speculations of mundane intellects are one thing; the transcendental words of the Vedic spiritual texts another.
Lord Krsna, the compiler and goal of the Vedas, is known as apauruseya, beyond the reach of experimental knowledge. Of course, atheistic savants will immediately challenge that because of Krsna's inherent inscrutability He is not eligible to be anointed a scientific reality. Philosopher Karl Popper has argued for decades that the main criterion of science is the falsifiability of its theories. One must be able to envision experiments and observations that could disprove one's notions. Otherwise, in principle, a set of ideas unable to run the gamut of experimental negation cannot be deemed science.
Krsna, however, by His own admission, is a problem for materialists. In the Vedic literature, He flatly declares His unavailability to those absorbed in His phantasmagoric material energy. He even goes as far as to say that through His illusory potency He actively works to bewilder mundaners so that they will have no chance of perceiving Him. But, although research laboratories will never catch the Supreme or falsify Him, even materialistic scholars can immediately benefit from the perfect information divulged by that supremely intelligent, unlimited person.
Seeking to dispel illusions of false identification. Lord Krsna describes the temporary and permanent characteristics of the living entity. In the Bhagavad-gita He offers a startling detail about the phenomenon of life and its relationship to the universe. He says, sarva-gata: living entities are ubiquitous throughout the cosmos, regardless of environmental conditions. In other words, no situation is incapable of supporting life. The whole universe is alive in that life pervades "every nook and cranny."
In some places at the bottom of the ocean, where the earth's crust has split open, sea water spews up at temperatures of 662°F or higher. Because of the massive pressure exerted by the ocean, the water can remain a liquid despite the extreme temperature. No conventional scientist would ever seriously conceive that living entities could be present in 662-degree water at 265 atmospheres of pressure. But is conventional science everything?
Obtaining samples of the firey water was not an insurmountable task for the crew of the submarine Alvin. And examining the samples under a microscope—employing stained glass slides that indicate the presence of microorganisms—is a junior-high science club operation. The only real barrier, and a huge one, lay in the scientists' staunch preconceptions. What well-trained brain would be so heretical as to look for life in such a ridiculously uncongenial atmosphere?
Lewis Thomas, an ace contributor to America's popular science magazines and a best-selling author, honestly and eloquently revealed his victimization by academic conditioning. In Discover he writes, "I would have thought that to look for life in a sample of such water would just be a waste of glass slides and stain and time. I would have said, very well, we must keep our minds open for all sorts of possibilities, but not for things that are clearly impossibilities."
Nevertheless, the simple laboratory investigation confirmed the lectures of the Supreme Person in the Bhagavad-gita. Abundant communities of variegated living organisms appeared, differing among themselves enough to fit into classifications of several species. Eulogizing the intrepid daredevils at Oregon State University for their bold stroke, Thomas blessed them: "It is for that first step, taking a close look at what, in a rational world, ought to be nothing, that I hope Baross and his colleagues receive a generous prize some day." The best reward, for all intellects bound and gagged in "the rational world," would be a chance to learn from Lord Krsna. Obviously, clearheaded scientists should applaud Krsna in their journals and long to enroll in His classes.
Subsequent analysis of the perverse creatures revealed that they occupy a unique, private dimension in the ecosphere. When a sample of their water in a titanium syringe is heated within a pressurized chamber duplicating the pressure of their home at the sea bottom, and when their natural diet of basic nutrients is added, the population explodes. At 482°F, six hours is enough time for a thousandfold increase. But if the temperature drops below boiling, their reproduction stops completely.
Now high priests of the natural sciences have to overhaul their theories to account for entities who thrive luxuriantly at what are for us inconceivable, murderous temperatures. Somehow or other, their proteins avoid breaking down in the heat. Somehow or other, their enzymes remain active. Their lipids keep cell membranes intact. If this magazine were exposed to 662 degrees, it would immediately burst into flames.
As usual, nature is kicking our intellectual pride in the face, mockingly demonstrating that the basic truths of life in this world have never entered into our possession. The newly found creatures spell trouble not only for biology but for medical science as well. Hospitals place complete faith in their autoclaves—pressure-steam devices for exterminating bacteria.
But Srila Prabhupada, the founder of the Krsna consciousness movement, never accepted this illusion. He held that, according to Vedic literature, sterilization by heat is a myth. He recorded his challenge to science in his books, which were published many years before the revolutionary organisms were discovered in temperatures three times as high as the autoclave's.
From the ancient Vedic text Brahma-samhita one can learn that every type of living entity has certain peculiar attributes. These unique characteristics or abilities are technically referred to in Sanskrit as vibhuti-bhinna, individual talents. As even an uneducated child can observe, fish have the ability to exist underwater by breathing through their gills; birds can propel themselves through the sky by manipulating their wings; and humans can read and comprehend a magazine article such as this one. We cannot make our natural habitat underwater, but does this mean that no living entity can? Similarly, shall we conclude that the air is devoid of life forms? In fact, the Vedic literature informs us that just as life permeates the earth, water, and air, so life also naturally exists in fire. In Chapter Four of the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna unequivocally declares, "I spoke unchanging, flawless scientific knowledge to the chief of the entities who lives in fire."
Naturally, to those of us properly molded by Discover and Time/Life, Inc., this assertion seems outrageous. Our well-trained brain automatically recoils in disbelief. How can living entities dwell in the flames of fire? the mind demands. And dare we believe they have intellectual prowess? At the root of our spontaneous objection lies a twentieth-century disease: a total refusal to consider any knowledge not derived from an imperfect, limited entity. We absolutely reject the concept of absolute knowledge emanating from an absolute source.
Real knowledge, we believe, comes from the empirical process. First, we take in the world around us with our bare, unaided senses, or we employ technical devices that facilitate extended sensory investigations. Second, through the eyes and ears trickles a narrow flow of cosmic information. Third, these fuzzy inputs from our inadequate senses are reflected upon and distorted by the preprogrammed human intelligence. Finally, the tongue of the Ph.D. vibrates with torrents of articulately phrased yet inherently faulty speculations. The end result of this method is that our wealth of so-called knowledge expands. Owing to this artificial inflation, we feel securely insulated from any need to seek out the perfect knowledge taught by an infallible, unlimited source.
The pastimes of experimental scholarship are not confined just to biochemistry and the theories about the rarity of life. In all departments of man's intellectual pursuits, one will find the wreckage of a civilization shorn of its connection with a perfect source of knowledge. Today's men of letters prefer to cast themselves as alone in the universe, with no superior resources to rely on other than their laboratories and computers. They adamantly refuse to consider the possibility of a detailed, voluminous reservoir of flawless knowledge, outside the realm of human fallibility and limitation. Inhabitants of the twentieth century perceive their tiny brains to be supreme—and they are very proud of this bondage.
By pointing out man's intellectual mistake, the Krsna consciousness movement would like to render the highest service to human society. Devotees of Krsna are realists who know that if human society is to climb out of its current abyss, it must base its future on information free of error.
The recent decades have witnessed the most intense brain-thrashing in human history. Mighty armies of physical and social scientists have turned the whole world upside down, gallantly attempting to hack away at the massive layers of economic, political, ecological, and psychological problems that increase day by day. Needless to say, after almost a century of extreme academic vigor, one gloomy conclusion has begun to haunt our think tanks: the more knowledge we seem to get, the more knowledge we seem to lack; whatever we seem to know today, tomorrow we will throw away.
The plain truth of the huge quagmire called modern civilization is that mankind cannot and will not improve itself without superior information from a superior source. Krsna, the fount of all Vedic knowledge, presents His qualifications: "I know everything past, present, and future. I also know about everyone, but no one knows about Me. . . . Scholars and researchers can't understand My origin, for in every respect, I am their origin."
There is a spiritual process for scientifically understanding Lord Krsna in full, but Hare Krsna devotees don't expect every learned person to be advanced enough to undergo it. But it is possible for an unbiased mundaner to at least appreciate the unparalleled and supremely beneficial knowledge delivered by Lord Krsna. Scientists, sociologists, or educated persons in general can at once realize the value of Krsna's flawless counsel by applying His instructions in their daily attempts to comprehend the world and to save it. Without principles and details from the omniscient, we remain with the bitter axiom of philosopher Soren Kierkegaard: "Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards." Aren't future generations meant for something better?
A Lifetime of Service
Her search was not a sentimental one. She was looking for
by Acarya-devi dasi
I grew up in the sixties, and like most of my friends, I more or less rejected my parents' philosophy of "getting ahead in life," although I had always been a good student. By my early teens, I tended to go more inside myself as I questioned, "What is the purpose of life? I'm training up to go and get a job in an office, but what for? There is more to life than this, but what is it? And where do I find it?"
Since childhood I had liked to write poetry and short stories. After school, on weekends, during summer vacation—I spent most of my free time writing, pouring out the innermost thoughts of my heart. I wanted to make a serious career of writing, although I wasn't thinking of writing as a way to "make a buck." Rather, it was part of my deep philosophical search, a challenge I had to meet so I could answer questions about the meaning of life. To write, I thought, a person had to be desperate to find answers to the ultimate questions; only in that way could one write prolifically.
I shared my inner feelings with some of my friends who were also using writing as a kind of spiritual quest, and we shared our ideas about the meaning of life. Once, one of my friends, upon being asked what her purpose was in living, replied reflectively, "I am living to try to find something to live for." It was a deep and desperate expression, one that we all shared: Who am I? Why am I here?
Drugs, of course, were an integral part of our search. By the age of fifteen I had decided I was going to be part of the hip crowd, part of the new generation of self-styled spiritual seekers. (It was 1969, and the flower generation was in full swing.) But after less than a year the novelties of drugs and newfound friends faded. I had seen some of my friends "flip out," and I was too cautious to proceed with something that might irreparably damage my brain. I began to doubt that I would find happiness in any kind of drug, and by my senior year I had returned to my studies and the pursuit of good grades.
But the spirit of searching for that elusive "something" in life persisted, eventually leading to Europe in 1973. Awed by the many great artists, musicians, and philosophers who had hailed from this continent, I was certain that if I could visit countries with culture, with deep roots in the past, I could certainly trace out some meaning to my life. My father had told me of his early life in Switzerland, and I had been intrigued. I thought that by researching the heritage of my ancestors, by living in their culture and imbibing it, I could perhaps discover my true goal in life.
Europe was filled with thousands of hippies, most of them wandering aimlessly, taking drugs, and having casual sex. Some were spiritual seekers, using drugs under the pretext of attaining "spiritual realizations," but they didn't seem to be finding any practical answers to the problems of life—only temporary hallucinatory euphorias. I had come such a long distance, hoping to imbibe some of the foreign cultures, but the people I met were doing the same things I had just left behind. For years afterward, when people asked me what impelled me to go traveling around Europe, I was fond of quipping, "I went there looking for myself—but I wasn't there."
By the time I was twenty I had done pretty much everything I had wanted to do, and I thought incessantly about God. Although my family had never been particularly religious (they had stopped going to church when I was a child), because I was distressed about the meaning of life and wanted some direction, I did the instinctive thing: I prayed to God.
In the summer of 1974 a friend invited me to visit a Christian summer camp, and I eagerly welcomed the opportunity. I arrived on Saltspring Island, a fresh, beautiful, but sparsely inhabited island off the coast of British Columbia, with high expectations. I soon noticed, however, that very few of the young people there were interested in spiritual life. In fact, when I arrived, most of them were rushing off toward the beach or hiding in the bushes taking drugs or drinking. They spent little time participating in church activities; the only time everyone gathered together in the church was for meals.
I was disappointed. I had come looking for some new friends who would be interested in discussing God and spiritual life, but all I met were people who were more interested in getting high than in finding God. The minister and his wife were young, pious Christians—good people—but they had obviously failed to turn their congregation toward a religious life.
Yet despite this disappointment, my interest in the spiritual side of things blossomed. At home again, I began reading the Bible, intrigued by the idea of developing a personal relationship with God. The Presbyterian church on the corner was open every morning for two hours of prayer and meditation, and I started regularly attending, praying fervently to God for direction.
At the same time, I also began psychiatric therapy to help me sort out my goals in life. And to relieve my frequent anxiety attacks, I began to use tranquilizers. After nine months of therapy, the doctor's conclusion—"All you need is a new boyfriend, new friends, and a new job"—catapulted me, disgruntled, out of individual therapy into group therapy.
I also attended the church's Sunday sermons, but somehow I always felt something was missing. Most of the congregation would sit through the sermon impassively. The Reverend W. often spoke of how Christ had died for our sins. I knew some of the members were not following the codes of God—there were couples who were "living in sin"—but it didn't appear that they had any intention of trying to reform their bad habits.
Although I was sincerely trying to understand God, these sermons failed to touch my heart. It seemed the minister was advocating an idealistic standard of behavior that no one was following. I thought that we should not only repent for our sins—as he was constantly urging—but also give up those sins once and for all. Hadn't Jesus, upon forgiving the prostitute for her sins, advised, "Now go and sin no more"?
Frustrated by these sermons, I thought to myself, "No, there's more than this! I know there's more than this!" I had almost come to feel foolish for wanting to find happiness and meaning in my life, as if I were struggling to attain something that simply didn't exist. But if it didn't exist, I asked myself, why did I want it so badly?
One day Reverend W., having noted my regular attendance at church, called me in to speak with him. In the course of our conversation I asked him what the difference was between his church and other churches—a question that had been puzzling me, since there were sixteen churches within a six-block radius of my apartment. I particularly wondered why some churches allowed intoxication, whereas others did not. What was his policy?
"Well," replied the Reverend, "when I go home, I can have a drink. But we don't believe in becoming intoxicated." But why, I wondered, did he draw a line between having a drink and becoming intoxicated? Wasn't the aim of drinking to become intoxicated—even if just a little? I was confused, and I feared that venturing out to the other churches to ask my questions would only increase my bewilderment.
I wondered why I was suffering so much. Although out of fear of rejection I had always tried to maintain a facade of happiness, I was losing my motivation to play the game. Then one day I made another discovery: I had become dependent on tranquilizers; I couldn't start my day without them. After two years of psychotherapy, I had become bored with therapy groups and depressed by drugs.
I began reading books on reincarnation and the occult, thinking this could give me a clue about the secrets of life. James Pike's The Other Side was an intriguing account of a bishop whose son had died; he felt his son was still communicating with him. I had often wondered what happened after death, and this book piqued my interest. It suggested many fascinating possibilities: Had I lived in other times, other places, doing other things? Would I live again?
In my own way, I was searching for God through my readings. My search, however, wasn't merely a sentimental one: I was looking for a pure, spiritual process that I could adopt in my everyday life. I recalled how in my childhood, adults had said to me, "Don't do as I do; do as I say." But the ideal teacher, I felt, would not only be able to tell me what to do but would also be pure and dedicated to his own teachings. Somehow, I wanted to find that teacher.
In February of 1977 a friend who had just spent a year in Asia came by to see me. In Nepal he had met a yogi who told him, "You should read the Bhagavad-gita." When my friend returned to Canada, he went to a hip bookstore on Vancouver's Fourth Avenue, looking for a copy.
"Sorry, we don't have the Bhagavad-gita here," he was told, "but try the Hare Krsna temple. They have it there." As it turned out, the temple was within walking distance. So he went there immediately, inquiring about the Bhagavad-gita. Soon, he told me, he had been introduced to the Krsna consciousness movement (which is based on the ancient teachings of the Gita) and began regularly attending the temple functions. He was convinced that the philosophy of Krsna consciousness taught a practical way of living a pure life totally dedicated to God. In fact, he had become so convinced about Krsna consciousness by being with the devotees that he was about to move into the temple and become a devotee himself.
My first reaction was shock: Hare Krsna?! I recalled how I had first begun seeing the Hare Krsnas on the streets of downtown Vancouver in 1969, a group of saffron-clad men who sang and danced on the streets. They struck me as odd, and I would always cross the street to avoid them. Now, however, I felt I was ready to hear what they had to say.
I paid my first visit to the Vancouver temple a week later. It was a Sunday afternoon, the day when Hare Krsna temples all around the world traditionally hold a "Love Feast." Persons who want to learn more about Krsna consciousness could come and hear the chanting and the philosophy and then take a multicourse vegetarian feast—all free of charge. I knew that this was something different from the things I had experienced before, and I wanted to learn more about it.
When I found out they had accommodations for guests, I asked if I could stay overnight and attend the early-morning meditation (mangala-arati) and classes on the holy scripture. I was invited to stay in the women's living quarters. The room I slept in was devoid of all but the barest furnishings and several pictures of Lord Krsna and His associates on the wall. I was immediately impressed with the simplicity of the devotees' lives. "This is what I've been looking for," I thought. The devotees used whatever was necessary for bodily maintenance but didn't become bogged down with unnecessary "conveniences." With their bodily concerns kept at a minimum, they were free to spend nearly all their time serving and glorifying God, or Krsna. "Simple living and high thinking" was one of their mottos.
Over the next few months I began regularly visiting the temple and associating with the devotees, and they began teaching me what Krsna consciousness meant. I soon learned that the basic understanding of the Bhagavad-gita was aham brahmasmi: "I am not this body; I am a spirit soul."
I knew that the devotees followed four principles—no eating of meat, fish, or eggs; no taking of intoxicants; no illicit sex: and no gambling. These activities are considered sinful because they strongly promote body consciousness and thus keep one ensnared in the cycle of birth and death.
Although I was interested in Krsna consciousness, I doubted that I could follow the four regulative principles. I just couldn't see myself living the renounced life of a devotee. These habits were so deeply ingrained in me that to purify myself of them seemed impossible.
I confronted the devotees with my misgivings. They assured me that Lord Krsna was present in His holy name and that if I called on the names of the Lord—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama. Hare Hare—Krsna would hear my pleas, deliver me from the clutches of material existence, and situate me in loving service to Him.
I continued chanting Hare Krsna and reading about the philosophy of Krsna consciousness, both with the devotees and on my own. Slowly I was accepting Krsna consciousness into my life. After each visit to the temple I'd come home, go through all my possessions, and say to myself, "I don't need this. I don't need that." Soon I found myself getting rid of many useless things. And my dependence on tranquilizers was gradually disappearing.
I started feeling lighter in mind and heart, knowing that I was giving up unnecessary habits for the higher goal of love of God. I was shedding my unwanted habits and emerging into freedom, like a butterfly emerges from its cocoon. I became more peaceful. I knew I had found what I was looking for, and everyone could see the change in me. I knew I had to become fully Krsna conscious.
In September of 1977 I first met His Divine Grace Satsvarupa dasa Goswami Gurupada, who was soon to become my spiritual master. His personal example of Krsna consciousness struck me with the most sublime impression: Here was a guru who practiced what he preached. After several months I became his initiated disciple and fully adopted the practices of Krsna consciousness.
At that time, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founding spiritual master of the Hare Krsna movement, had recently left this mortal planet. My spiritual master (who was one of his first disciples) was writing his biography, and he needed someone to type it. With my secretarial background and with my strong desire to be connected to a spiritual writing project, I began this work. Although for so many years I had worked at jobs using these skills, not until my spiritual master blessed me with Krsna consciousness and the ability to use my skills in Lord Krsna's service did I actually become happy.
Now the sixth and final volume of the biography (entitled Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta—"The Nectarean Pastimes of Srila Prabhupada") has recently been published, and I can continue using my abilities in the service of Lord Krsna. A common misconception is that to become a devotee of God one must give everything up. The only thing that needs to be given up, however, is the mentality of "everything belongs to me." Rather, everything is done as an offering to the Supreme Lord. Krsna states in the Bhagavad-gita:
yat karosi yad asnasi
"Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer or give away, and whatever austerities you perform—do that, O son of Kunti, as an offering to Me." (Bg. 9.27)
Thus, far from giving anything up, I have rather gained immense benefit: a lifetime of service to Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Five Cuisines in One
A wide variety of cooking styles lend themselves
by Visakha-devi dasi
What we have been calling "Lord Krsna's Cuisine" on these pages actually includes five cuisines: western Indian (Maharashtrian and Marwari), eastern Indian (Bengali), southern (Madras;), northwest central (Gujarati), and northern (Punjabi). These differ not so much in cooking techniques as in ingredients and spicing. In each region, the older generation has passed its cuisine on to the younger, thus keeping the traditions intact through many centuries.
Srila Prabhupada once said that the western Indian cuisine was unparalleled in quality. In this cuisine the cook emphasizes the natural flavors of the main ingredients, blending them with suggestive tastes of the subordinate ones. He or she evokes elusive to mild pungency in each dish through the use of judicious seasoning, and composes menus that artistically contrast, balance, and blend the textures, shapes, colors, and sizes of the various dishes.
Eastern Indian cuisine is characterized by vivid, lively seasoning and a few unique ingredients. Black cumin, cumin, black mustard, fennel, fenugreek, cassia, and dried red chili pods are almost always present in various combinations, and bitter, sour, salty, and astringent dishes abound.
Southern cuisine is generally characterized by dishes containing rice and dried beans. These two ingredients form the basis of so many recipes that you could cook an entirely different rice and dried-bean dish every day for months. The coot soaks, drains, and grinds rice and dried beans into light, smooth batters or pastes. He then transforms these into spongy-moist dumplings, faintly sour crepes, or deep-fried savory donuts. Finally he complements these with liquid dishes like fresh chutneys, hot consommes, or vegetable-dal soups. (This month we've featured recipes from this cuisine.)
Northwest central cuisine is notable for its mildness. The cook often integrates an elusive, sweet/sour flavor into many dishes and can make an exceptionally tasty array of between-meal snacks by contrasting textures and flavors.
Northern cuisine, on the other hand, has rich, full-bodied dishes. The distinctive flavor of ghee (clarified butter) plays a predominant role in a wide selection of fresh wheat breads, deep-fried savory pastries, and moist farina dishes called halavas. The cook brings out flavor in dal by using garam masala (a blend of powdered spices), and he evokes warm, robust flavor in milk puddings and milk fudges by adding saffron, rose essence, cardamom powder, or almond paste.
In one sense, then, there are five distinct regional cuisines within Lord Krsna's cuisine. But actually there's only one: cooking for the pleasure of Lord Krsna. Traditionally, throughout India the older generation taught the younger one not only how to cook the regional dishes but also how to offer these fine dishes to the Lord with love and devotion.
This devotional attitude is the essence of Lord Krsna's cuisine. Since Lord Krsna is transcendental to all designations. His cuisine also transcends all regional differences and national boundaries. It is universally appealing. People from any lifestyle or ethnic background will at once be attracted to krsna-prasadam (food offered to Lord Krsna).
Since Lord Krsna is the origin of all variety, His cuisine also offers unprecedented variegatedness. It includes recipes that lend themselves to nearly every occasion, nutritional requirement, budget, time of day, and season; it includes challenges for the accomplished cook as well as quick-and-easy dishes for the beginner or for anyone pressed for time. On whatever level you approach Lord Krsna's cuisine, you'll surely derive great pleasure and enjoyment.
What do you need to start? Nothing more than your desire: Whether your kitchen now reflects rural simplicity or stunning, copper-clad sophistication, you can prepare recipes from Lord Krsna's cuisine. It isn't necessary to collect expensive-looking gadgets; for most recipes, basic equipment will suffice.
To maintain the spirit of this cuisine, external and internal cleanliness in the kitchen are a must. For external cleanliness, keep your kitchen shining clean—from the glisten on the bottom of the saucepans to the floor beneath your feet. If you practice cleaning up as you go along, you'll save working space, eliminate clutter, improve your cooking, and increase your pleasure in cooking as well.
As for internal cleanliness, always think of Krsna and never forget Him. You're not just making healthy, natural dishes that taste extraordinarily good; you're not just putting in a little extra measure to please yourself, your family, and your friends. No, you're doing the highest yoga—bhakti-yoga—by dedicating your efforts for Lord Krsna's pleasure. This is not our imagination: in the Bhagavad-gita (6.47) Krsna declares, "Of all yogis, the one with great faith who always abides in Me, thinks of Me within himself, and renders transcendental loving service to Me—he is the most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all."
So, with your mind sincerely fixed on pleasing Krsna, whatever pure vegetarian dishes you choose to make and offer—whether from the north, south, east, or west—will happily be accepted by the Lord as part of His cuisine. Then cooking and tasting will take on a new dimension for you, and after the experiencing, you'll know that there couldn't be any greater cuisine—anywhere.
(Recipes by Yamuna-devi dasi)
Rice and Urad Dal Dosha Pancakes Stuffed with Seasoned Potatoes
Soaking time: 30 hours
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Servings: 10 to 12 stuffed pancakes
Ingredients for Potato Stuffing:
2 medium-size new potatoes (about 12 ounces), boiled, peeled, and diced into 'A-inch cubes
Ingredients for Dosha Pancakes:
½ cup split urad dal, without skins
To Prepare the Potato Stuffing:
1. Heat the ghee or oil in a 10-inch frying pan over a medium flame until a drop of water flicked into it instantly dances. Drop in the minced chilies and ginger root and fry until they start to brown. Add the mustard seeds and fry until they sputter and pop. Immediately add the curry leaves, then the diced potatoes. Stir well.
2. Sprinkle in the four powdered spices and salt. Saute for one minute. Pour in the water, lower the flame, and cook until the vegetable is dry (about 5 to 10 minutes).
3. Remove the pan from the flame and blend in the lemon juice and fresh or dried coriander leaves.
To Prepare the Dosha Pancakes:
1. Sort through the urad dal and remove any foreign matter. Wash the dal in several changes of water by rubbing the grains between your palms, until the water is practically clear. Strain in a wire sieve. If basmati rice is used, repeat the same process for sorting, washing, and draining.
2. Place the rice and dal in separate bowls, add 2 ½ cups cool water to each bowl, and soak for at least six hours, or even overnight. Then drain off the water.
3. Place the rice in an electric blender or food processer, add 2/3 cup water, and blend at high speed until it is ground into a smooth batter. Pour the pureed rice into a 1 ½-quart bowl, scraping the sides of the blender jar or processer with a rubber spatula to remove all of the contents.
4. Place the drained dal in the blender or processor, add ½ cup water, and blend at high speed until it is a smooth, fluffy batter. Add the pureed dal to the rice batter, add salt, mix thoroughly, cover, and allow the batter to sit at room temperature (about 75°F) for 24 hours. Check to see if the batter has risen. If not, let the batter sit for 1 or 2 hours more.
5. Add about 1/3 cup water and gently stir. The batter should resemble a thick, heavy pancake batter with a smooth consistency.
6. Heat a 10- to 12-inch cast iron griddle or skillet on a medium flame. Lightly grease the surface with ghee or oil. Before cooking, sprinkle water on the cooking surface to test the temperature. If it's too hot, the water will vanish immediately. If it is not hot enough, the water will boil. When the surface is the right temperature, the water will dance and sputter, then vanish.
7. Using a large serving spoon, place 3 spoonfuls of batter on the griddle and immediately begin spreading it into a thin 8 ½-inch round or oval shape, starting from the center and spiraling outward. Try to use the right pressure and motion in a rhythm to yield an even, very thin pancake. Allow the dosha to cook for about 30 seconds, then sprinkle 1 teaspoon of melted ghee or oil around the edges and on top of the dosha.
8. After 1 ½ to 2 minutes of cooking, scrape around the edges with a thin spatula to lift the pancake and check if the bottom is sufficiently browned. Simultaneously, on the surface, small holes will appear, and patches of brown will be visible through the pancake. When the bottom is brown, it is ready to turn. Slip the spatula around the edges and loosen the dosha from the pan. If your pancake is sticking, either the flame is too high or low, the batter consistency is wrong, or your pan isn't properly "seasoned." Cook to a light-brown color on the other side for about two minutes.
9. Remove the dosha, place about two table-spoons of the potato vegetable on one half of it, fold, and cover with the other half. If you cannot offer the doshas piping hot, place them in a preheated oven at 250°F. When ready to offer to Krsna, cover with the moist coconut chutney featured in the next recipe.
Creamy Fresh Coconut Chutney
Preparation time: 30 minutes
1 ½ cups fresh grated coconut, packed loose
1. Combine the coconut, yogurt, ginger root, chilies, asafetida, pepper, and salt in a 1-quart bowl.
2. Heat the ghee in a small saucepan. Fry the urad dal, cumin, and black mustard seeds until the cumin and urad dal brown and the mustard seeds sputter. Remove from flame, toss in the curry leaves, wait 10 seconds, and pour the spices into the 1-quart bowl. Mix well. Place over dosha pancakes and offer to Krsna.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
Political Piety And The Laws Of God
by Satyaraja dasa
"For nearly two hundred years, the U.S. Congress has begun its daily deliberations with prayer," states an article in The Oregonian. "Out of 100 Senators, perhaps five show up each morning. ... In the House, where the proceedings are televised, the turnout is higher—maybe 20 out of 435. Of those who do show up, virtually none come for the prayer."
The article continues: "Congressional prayer—scorned in practice as a neutered, meaningless exercise in piety—is endorsed piously by politicians as evidence of their virtue. The voters are supposed to fall for the logic once endorsed by [journalist] A. J. Liebling: 'Man go to church—good man, no lie. Man not go to church—bad man, lie.'"
While politics is not synonymous with atheism, religion has lost much of its credibility in the political arena. Aside from praying to win an election, most politicians have little interaction with God.
And yet nearly all of us would admit that the qualities promulgated by the religious way of life—be it Judaism, Christianity, Islam, or Hinduism—are indeed desirable. In fact, a brief mention of these qualities would convince most people that they are valuable not only in the realm of politics but in every facet of life. Consider, for instance, the qualities of cleanliness, truthfulness, austerity, mercy, and devotion to God. These nonsectarian qualities are espoused by every religious system. If everyone were endeavoring to attain these attributes, the world would be a better, safer place. In other words, politics and God consciousness are not mutually exclusive but share many of the same goals.
Modern politicians may understand this fact to some extent. Democratic presidential candidate Jesse Jackson is, after all, a reverend, and many leaders have given more than just lip service to the importance of religion. But nonsectarian religious principles should in fact have the most prominent place in every leader's adminstrative policy and in every candidate's campaign platform. According to the Bhagavad-gita and other world scriptures, the Supreme Lord is the supreme leader. He is the proprietor of all planets and all lands. Just as in America, state leaders are obliged to enforce the laws of the federal government, so each and every leader on earth is obliged to promote and enforce the laws of God. If leaders don't do this there can be only chaos, just as there would be chaos if a state decided to secede from the Union.
It is right and proper to insist that our leaders refrain from propounding one religious tradition and discriminating against another. The purpose of separation of Church and State is to prevent such discrimination. But while it is correct to separate Church and State, we should clearly understand that there is no question of effective government without following the laws of God.
Exploding The Arms Race
by Mathuresa dasa
One familiar and morbidly ironic feature of the nuclear arms race is that both sides publicly claim they are building up their arsenals only to keep the peace—to keep the other side from attacking. "A nuclear war can never be won, and must never be fought," said President Reagan in a speech last fall, and the sentiment is echoed by leaders in the Kremlin. But each party, accusing the other of being an incurable aggressor, and following the logic that "the best defense is a good offense," continues to expand its nuclear stockpile.
Observing this apparently sincere desire of both the Soviet Union and the United States to avert a nuclear holocaust—and strongly suspecting their equally apparent inability to do so—we should ask ourselves what it is that drives them on, keeping a meaningful and lasting arms agreement out of reach.
In answer to this question, the Bhagavad-gita suggests that the nuclear arms race is a natural and predictable outcome of materialistic civilization. Materialists, the Bhagavad-gita says, inevitably perform "unbeneficial, horrible works meant to destroy the world."
Sound apocalyptic? Maybe. But it is certainly not unreasonable to say that the arms race is horrible and unbeneficial. And the Gild, to support its prophetic warning, enunciates the three basic principles of materialism that have fostered our modern nuclear face-off. Let us consider these principles and some of their implications.
The first principle is anisvaram, which literally means "without a controller." Materialists do not believe there is a person who created the universe and controls its systematic movements. To them, the orbiting of the planets, the regular changing of the seasons, the intricate structure of living bodies—in short, the design evident in all corners of the visible world—does not indicate a supreme designer.
One of the most popular materialistic theories of how the universe came to be is the Big Bang theory. According to this theory (or one version of it), a primordial explosion led somehow to the formation of hydrogen and helium, and gradually the entire universe took shape.
No one, of course, has ever observed an explosion create anything (except chaos). Whether you use a keg of gunpowder, a grenade, or an atom bomb, explosions only destroy. Proponents of the Big Bang, to be able to prove their theory, ought to be able to create something—even a simple structure like a toolshed—with explosives. But they can't.
At least within our practical experience, it is people, not explosions, that create. People create skyscrapers, cities, highways, toolsheds and so on. Therefore if we are to logically and scientifically formulate a theory of the creation of the universe, we should lean toward what we can call the Big Person theory, or the theory that God, the supreme person, is the creator.
The only difficulty with the Big Person theory is that it obliges us to recognize a person far greater—and therefore more worshipable—than ourselves. This is always too much to ask of a materialist.
The second principle of materialism described in the Bhagavad-gita is apratistham, which means "without a foundation." Every structure has a foundation. A house, for example, rests upon a foundation of concrete, or upon the earth itself. Take away the foundation, and the structure can't stand.
According to the Gita, the foundation of all living bodies is the eternal soul. The soul is like the driver inside a car, or like a man inside a suit of clothes. Take away the driver and the car stops. Take away the man and the suit of clothes has no life of its own. Similarly, a body without a soul is a dead body. The body alone has no life.
But materialists say that there is no soul, no foundation, and that life is no more than a combination of material elements.
The theory of evolution, for example, is based on the idea that life arose from a random mixture of material elements in a "primordial soup." By chance this soup produced simple one-celled organisms, which in their turn evolved into plants, animals, apes, and finally human beings. And human society, according to this theory, has evolved from primitive, superstitious, and religion-oriented cultures to the modern cultures of the twentieth century. Coincidentally enough, the materialists who invented this elaborate theory place themselves—or modern man—at the top of the evolutionary ladder—as the most intelligent and civilized beings who have ever existed. In the Gild, therefore, Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, explains that one of the primary characteristics of materialists is conceit.
The apratistham principle, in addition to denying the existence of the soul in each living body, denies God, the Supreme Soul, as well. Since the universe works under the direction of the supreme person, it is, in one sense, His body. Just as the individual soul is the foundation of the various bodies within the universe, the Supreme Soul is the foundation of the universal body. But the materialist denies both the soul and the Supreme Soul.
The third principle of materialism is asatyam, which means "unreal." This final principle follows from the previous two. In reality, every structure has both a creator and a foundation. In asserting that the universe has neither, the materialist is saying, in essence, that it is unreal. From the materialistic viewpoint, the entire world is ultimately a phantasmagoria, a moving dreamland without any reason or purpose, in which we may do as we like without any fear of consequences. Since there is no soul, we need only enjoy this life without worrying about a future one. And since there is no God, or supreme authority, who can punish us for even the most atrocious acts?
But although the materialists ultimately say that the world has no meaning or purpose, their purpose is clear: to enjoy without restriction. "They believe," the Gita says, "that to enjoy the senses is the prime necessity of human civilization." In fact, the purpose of all three fundamental materialistic principles is to clear the way for unrestricted, animalistic sense enjoyment.
"Well and good," says the materialist. "What's wrong with that?" But the consequences of materialism are disastrous. Driven by the desire for sense gratification, materialistic men can rationalize anything. Abortion, for example, is prominent all over the world because the materialist denies that the soul is present in the womb from the moment of conception, causing the fetus to grow. If life is just a combination of material elements, then why not kill the child in the womb—or even when it is newly born?
Pursuing a materialistic line of reasoning, we could also conclude that the loss of human life from, say, the firing of a few hundred nuclear missiles is not more significant than the destruction of the missiles themselves. If both the missiles and the human beings are but different combinations of the material elements, then why should anyone be upset if we use one to destroy the other?
In fact, if we strictly adhere to the principles of materialism, we are forced to conclude that law, religion, morality, and justice are only so many arbitrary standards, created by various individuals who are themselves only random mixtures of the material elements. In other words, materialism renders meaningless all standards of human behavior. Lord Krsna, therefore, describes the materialist as "demoniac."
Demoniac people grow more and more violent as they compete for the resources of nature. Thinking that at the time of death everything is finished, they have no qualms about violence, and therefore there is constant threat of war between demoniac nations. Those in favor of nuclear buildup insist that the continued manufacturing of nuclear weapons will result in a balance of power. And this balance of power, they say, will in turn serve as the foundation for a peaceful and prosperous world. So at both ends, it seems—from their primordial Big Bang to their twentieth-century arms race—the demoniac are devout believers in explosions and explosives and have no faith in Krsna and His instructions in the Bhagavad-gita.
"First Deserve, Then Desire"
What follows is a conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples. Recorded in July 1975 in Denver, it begins in an automobile and continues outside.
Srila Prabhupada: Yesterday you were putting forward the idea that the body is no more than a machine. We also accept that. In the Bhagavad-gita it is said, yantrarudhani: "The body is a machine." The word yantra means "machine."
But at the same time you pointed out that the body is growing. Does a machine such as a car grow?
Devotee: Does a car grow? [Laughs] No, Srila Prabhupada.
Srila Prabhupada: But then there is a contradiction. The body is certainly a machine; that is accepted. Krsna also says that, so it is undoubtedly true. The body is just a complicated machine. But at the same time the body grows. So how can it be a machine?
Devotee: Is the body compared to a machine in the Bhagavad-gita?
Srila Prabhupada: No, Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita that the body is a machine. He doesn't say it is compared to a machine. Actually, it is a machine.
Devotee: But then it cannot grow, because a machine doesn't grow.
Srila Prabhupada: But it does grow. So what is the solution?
Devotee: The answer, I think, is that the body is changing at every second.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Take, for example, this car we are riding, in. It is simply a machine. Now, if I want a bigger car, I have to purchase another car. It is not that this car will grow. Or, suppose you have a big car and it is too costly to maintain. You want a smaller car. So, you cannot contract your sedan and make it into a smaller car. You require to purchase another car. Similarly, a child cannot have sex in his child's body. If he wants to enjoy sex, he must have another body, an adult's body. This is such a simple thing, but the rascals cannot understand how nature is supplying us with different machines, different bodies, at every moment.
Devotee: I think all of this is beyond the present level of scientific knowledge.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, because it is all happening automatically, by the inconceivable energy of Krsna: parasya saktir vividhaiva sruyate svabhaviki jnana-bala-kriya ca. Krsna's potencies are working so wonderfully and so swiftly that you cannot see how things are going on.
Concerning how our body is changing at every moment, the example of the movie spool is very appropriate. Each tiny picture is different, but when the movie is shown through a projector, you cannot understand that. It seems to be one smoothly running picture, but actually in the background there are many, many different pictures. In one picture you will find that the hand is here, in the next picture the hand is there, in the next it is here. . . . But when the pictures are all shown very rapidly, the hand seems to be moving. As soon as you stop the projector, however, the hand becomes fixed in one position.
So, if an ordinary cinema picture can create this illusion, how much greater is the illusion created by the subtle workings of nature and the bodily machine. People do not know that at each second they are being supplied a different body.
How can the rascals know this? They have no brain—all dull-headed materialistic mudhas [fools]. They cannot understand this. But this is the process that is going on. I want a certain thing, a certain kind of body, and nature supplies it.
Devotee: But it's true that sometimes we desire a certain kind of body, or let's say a certain ability—like playing music—yet we aren't ever able to do it.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. You have to be qualified by your karma to get a certain kind of body. Now, whatever Krsna wants, He can do—but you are not independent like Him. You are dependent on nature, and your position is very insignificant. But Krsna can, as soon as He wishes, immediately do anything. This is also mentioned in the Bible: "God said, 'Let there be creation,'" and there was creation immediately. But you cannot do that. You may desire something, but nature will supply you according to what you deserve. Devotee: The scientists say that every seven years the whole body changes—all the molecules are replaced in that time.
Srila Prabhupada: Not every seven years. From the medical point of view, the blood corpuscles are changing at every moment.
Devotee: They're totally different?
Srila Prabhupada: New blood cells are constantly coming into being, and the old ones are being destroyed. So, you cannot say that the bodily machine is growing. That is fallacious. You are actually getting a new machine at every moment.
[Everyone gets out of the car.] Whatever you deserve, you will receive from the material nature. You may desire something, but at the same time you may deserve something else. So your desire will not be fulfilled. For example, the impersonalist rascals say, "I desire to become God." But that kind of desire will never be fulfilled. So we say, "First deserve, then desire."
Devotee: It all depends on our qualification, doesn't it?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Your position is very minute. So you can desire up to a certain limit. It is not that you can declare, "I will become the complete whole, the universal Absolute." That is the defect of the Mayavada [impersonalistic] philosophers. Because we are all spirit (aham brahmasmi) and the Supreme is also spirit (para-brahman), they declare, "I am qualitatively one with God, and therefore I am one with Him in every respect." A drop of ocean water contains the same ingredients as the big Pacific Ocean—it is qualitatively one with the ocean. But if a drop of ocean water says, "I desire to become the ocean," that is not possible. So, when we understand that we are qualitatively one and quantitatively minute in relation to the Supreme, that is our perfection.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Elegant Restaurant Opens in Milan
Milan, Italy—The Govinda restaurant recently opened here, just off the famous Via Torino, and surely ranks as ISKCON's most elegant dining place. Designed by decorator-turned-devotee Marco Ferrini, Govinda shows off Indian culture with European flair.
The downstairs area of the restaurant seats forty and includes a boutique featuring Indian paintings and crafts. Upstairs, there are two VIP dining rooms. There is even a recording studio on the premises for Radio Krsna Centrale, Italy's fast-growing Krsna conscious radio network.
Operating as a private club, Govinda had over 1,500 members, including the mayor of Milan, only two months after opening. Each Monday evening the restaurant hosts conferences on yoga, reincarnation, Indian culture, and various themes from the Bhagavad-gita. Many guests purchase Srila Prabhupada's books and invite devotees to their homes to learn more about Krsna consciousness.
Govinda in Milan is one of more than thirty ISKCON restaurants around the world that promote the cause of vegetarianism by serving delicious prasadam—food offered to Lord Krsna. In addition to opening restaurants, ISKCON devotees have, since 1966, served out over 150 million nourishing free multicourse dinners, founded over thirty vegetarian farm communities, provided vegetarian food relief to the hungry in Asia, Africa, and the West, and widely publicized the value of a spiritual, vegetarian diet through books, magazines, and films. Also, many devotees of Krsna have begun prasadam businesses, producing a wide variety of natural, nutritious, vegetarian foods.
All this makes ISKCON a very strong and well-organized force for vegetarianism. Scott Smith, the associate editor of Vegetarian Times, has written, "The International Society for Krishna Consciousness is doing a superb job of letting people know that vegetarian food is healthful, delicious, and pleasing to the eye. . . . They [the devotees] are master cooks, their food is stunningly delicious, and they cannot be praised enough for their success in promoting the cause of vegetarianism worldwide."
Sanskrit Scholar Praises Srila Prabhupada's Books
Calcutta—The head of the department of Sanskrit at Calcutta University, Krishna Gopal Goswami, has written the following warm appreciation of Srila Prabhupada's Srimad-Bhagavatam series:
"It is gratifying to note that Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada took upon himself the magnificent task of editing this monumental scripture, Srimad-Bhagavatam, with transliteration, a lucid translation, and a very illuminating exposition in the form of English purports, written with sympathetic understanding.... Its abiding values and ennobling spiritual thoughts can give correct leadership to mankind in the midst of sickening contemporary problems."
Gandhi Accepts Bhagavatam
New Delhi, India—While attending the Sixth International Book Fair here, Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi visited the booth of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT), ISKCON's publishing arm. There she saw a large photograph of herself accepting a set of BBT books from Srila Gopala Krsna Goswami Bhagavatapada, one of ISKCON's present spiritual masters, and Lokanatha Swami, a regional secretary of ISKCON in India.
"Hare Krsna," the prime minister said, and Haridasa dasa, the first Muslim to become a Hare Krsna devotee in India, presented her with part three of the First Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, a Vedic classic. In this volume His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder-acarya of ISKCON, writes about the duties of a head of state.
Ignoring a most important avenue of knowledge,
by Kundali dasa
A frequent criticism of the Krsna consciousness philosophical tradition is that it places too much emphasis on authority. This is not surprising, seeing as how philosophy in the modern world is based on a revolt against authority. And yet we gain a considerable amount of our worldly knowledge from authorities—the media, schools, libraries, doctors, lawyers, and other experts. Devotees of Krsna consider this inconsistency between philosophical ideal and practical experience absurd. If authority is a valued source of our worldly knowledge, then how much more essential it must be in matters of a supra-sensory nature. From the Vedas we learn that without authority there is no real possibility of our penetrating the maze of relative truths in this world and reaching the Absolute Truth in the transcendental world. And it is precisely this Absolute Truth that we desire so much in our quest for certainty.
Our quest for certainty is part of the age-old effort to transcend belief. As the seventeenth-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal observed, we are not satisfied arbitrarily accepting any system of dogma to live by. We want to justify to ourselves and to others why we adhere to this or that particular set of values. We crave certainty. We want Truth—the kind of Truth that Pascal described as "invincible to all skepticism."
Yet ironically, despite our yearning for Absolute Truth, most of us limit ourselves to two sources of knowledge that for centuries philosophers and scientists have known yield results that are far from "invincible to all skepticism." These sources are sense perception and inferential logic. Both rely on our sense organs, which are defective and unreliable. All of us have had the experience of being deceived by our senses. Perhaps we saw a mirage, or a stick that appeared bent because it was half immersed in water. There are many similar examples. And the process of inference, because it relies on our faulty sense perceptions, is also unreliable as a source of certain knowledge.
In support of the above conclusions, the Vedas list four characteristic defects that vitiate the reliability of all knowledge gained by perception and inference. First, we all make mistakes—"To err is human." Second, we are all subject to illusion. Third, everyone has limited senses. Finally, everyone has the propensity to cheat. By their very nature, therefore, perception and inference fail to provide us access to the Absolute Truth. If we rely only on them, our quest for certainty is at a formidable impasse.
Some philosophers see this impasse, and being unaware of any alternative to sense perception and inference, they conclude that indubitable knowledge is impossible. These skeptics argue that even if there is a metaphysical truth underlying physical reality—an ultimate cause of existence—it is unknowable in any factual or verifiable sense because we have no access to it here in the world of phenomena. Therefore all metaphysical pursuits are futile. At best we can only conceptualize the Absolute in terms of our human experiences. But the Absolute may be entirely different from our human notions, and since we can never verify our speculations one way or the other, it is far more pragmatic to work cooperatively for the realization of humanistic ideals.
A good many people are taken in by this argument, but it has a serious flaw. The skeptics' declaration that we can never acquire knowledge is an example of the very thing they attempt to deny: an assertion of certain knowledge. In other words, it would take perfect knowledge to know there is no perfect knowledge. This is patently absurd, and thus extreme skepticism refutes itself. We can conclude only that some sort of indubitable knowledge is possible. Our task, then, is to investigate further for a source of knowledge more reliable than perception or inference.
To date in the Western world, a plausible alternative to these has not been devised. The Vedic literature, however, recommends a third source of knowledge: sabda-brahma, hearing from transcendental authority. The Vedas consider sabda-brahma more reliable than perception or inference because it conveys knowledge free of all defects. Please note, however, that the Vedas do not dispense entirely with reason and experience. What they question is the validity of these methods in matters that do not fall within the range of reason and experience.
Some of the premises of the Vedas theory of knowledge are as follows: The Absolute Truth is that from which all else emanates; the Absolute Truth is inconceivable; that which is inconceivable can't be understood by any amount of mental speculation; the Absolute Truth can be understood only if it chooses to reveal itself. Now, keeping in mind that absolute means unlimited, unconditional, complete, perfect, unadulterated, and so on, let us carefully try to understand how one can realize the suprasensory Absolute Truth by the process of sabda-brahma.
The Vedas explain that because the Absolute Truth is the source of everything, all qualities, attributes, and varieties found in this world must innately exist in it. Otherwise, it could not be defined as complete, unlimited, and so forth. If everything originates from and inheres in the Absolute Truth, then personhood—or personality—must also be among its innumerable features. And since the Absolute Truth is transcendental, its personal feature must be a transcendental person.
Of course, a suprasensory Absolute Person is completely inconceivable in terms of our present mundane experience. But the consequence of denying the possibility of His existence is extremely grave. We are obliged to allow, at least theoretically, that a transcendental Absolute Person can exist—just to fulfill the literal meaning of the term "absolute." The moment we deny personhood to the Absolute Truth, we immediately try to impose limitations on the Unlimited. We try to make the Inconceivable conceivable, the Complete incomplete.
A great many thinkers have difficulty coping with the Vedas' assertion that the Absolute Truth is a person. Though they readily agree that absolute means "unlimited," "complete," and so on, they somehow retain a limited conception of the Absolute. They speculate that the Absolute must be some sort of all-pervading, infinite, undifferentiated, impersonal, metaphysical substance—a "Oneness" devoid of any personal characteristics.
These impersonalists, as they are called, generally derive their conception of the Absolute in response to the variegated nature of this world. Metaphysical reality, they reason, must be the complete opposite of physical reality. Therefore it must be formless, homogeneous, subjective, and impersonal.
The Vedas, however, explain that the complete Absolute includes both the personal and the impersonal aspects. By way of analogy, consider the sun. The sun is like the personal feature of the Absolute, the sunlight like the impersonal feature. Both exist simultaneously as the energetic source and the energy, but one is localized, the other expansive and all-pervasive. Similarly, the Absolute Person exists simultaneously with the impersonal Absolute. This is necessarily true, although paradoxical, because the source of all emanations must simultaneously contain and reconcile all contradictory notions.
The Vedas give numerous details about the name, form, qualities, pastimes, and entourage of the Absolute Person. His name, we are told, is Krsna, the All-Attractive One. His transcendental body is made of eternality, knowledge, and bliss. No one is equal to Krsna or greater than Him. He is the prime cause of all causes. His transcendental abode in the spiritual realm is far, far beyond the material realm. There Krsna always revels in transcendental loving exchanges with His pure devotees. These relationships are untainted by mundane feelings such as envy, hate, anger, fear, illusion, and lust.
From time to time, Krsna manifests Himself within the physical world and enacts many wonderful, incomparable pastimes. He also delivers to human society knowledge of the Absolute Truth unavailable from any other source. Krsna does not have a material body. Thus He is never afflicted by any of the four human defects. He is absolute, and His words are absolute. For this reason, His devotees accept the scriptures spoken by Krsna, such as Bhagavad-gita, as authoritative and perfect—absolute knowledge. Hence the basis of scriptural authority for Krsna conscious persons is the Absolute Truth Himself.
Since I used the Vedas as the reference to establish the personhood of the Absolute Truth and the authority of Bhagavad-gita, one may naturally wonder about the basis of the authority of the Vedas. The Vedas themselves explain that they emanated from the Absolute Truth. They are not man-made. And in the Bhagavad-gita (15.15) Krsna says, "By all the Vedas, I am to be known. Indeed, I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas."
Still, some philosophers try to discredit the Vedas' claim that they rest on the authority of the Absolute Truth. These thinkers sometimes cite the fallacy of circulus in probando, circular reasoning, to refute the Vedas' claim. They object to the fact that the Vedas refer to themselves to give evidence for their authority. The argument looks something like this:
A: Krsna is the Absolute Truth.
In logic this type of reasoning is not admissible evidence. But when the discussion is about evidence for the Absolute Truth, this argument is valid. Logical reasoning dictates that there can be no source of verification for the Absolute Truth but the Absolute Truth Himself. Furthermore, these philosophers overlook that the Vedas' claim—albeit an astounding one—is completely consistent with the premise of its theory of knowledge: that knowledge of the suprasensory Absolute can come only from the Absolute Himself. In this particular instance, therefore, the fallacy of circulus in probando does not apply.
There is another important reason why the fallacy of circular reasoning is not applicable in this case. The Vedic literature gives a scientific methodology whereby one can test its theory of knowledge. All sages and saintly persons who followed the Vedas' recommendations to the point of mature transcendental realization—such as Narada Muni, Madhva, Ramanuja, Sri Caitanya, and His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada—all confirm that the Vedas emanated from the Absolute Truth, and that the Absolute Truth is Krsna.
The knowledge Krsna reveals about Himself in the Vedas is as good as His autobiography. Krsna is the superexcellent authority and the last word on Himself, just as Shakespeare is the last word and authority on himself. Devotees find no contradiction or fallacious reasoning in the theory that transcendental knowledge must come from transcendental authority. Rather, they find it sublime. It is so sublime that even if you withdraw the support of the Vedas, it still stands up to the critical examination of reason.
The final point concerning the theory of sabda-brahma is understanding the authority of the guru, the spiritual master. Lord Krsna, besides being the basis of authority for the scriptures, is also the authority for the disciplic succession of gurus. He explains this in the Bhagavad-gita. He is the original guru, having enlightened Lord Brahma with transcendental knowledge. Lord Brahma enlightened Narada Muni, whose disciple was Vyasadeva, and so on down to the present day.
Transcendental, indubitable knowledge is first given by Lord Krsna and then transmitted as it is without any adulteration through the disciplic chain. Each guru repeats the message in just the way he heard it from his predecessor guru.
Hearing from the lips of a bona fide spiritual master is as good as hearing from Krsna directly. The guru's teachings and behavior must be in consonance with the Vedic version. The moment a "guru" deviates from this principle, the disciple is no longer obligated to follow him.
In the Vedas, Krsna repeatedly exhorts us to seek out a bona fide guru, surrender to him, and please him by submissive inquiry and service. In this way the disciple gradually transcends all material limitations of his senses, mind, and intellect. Then by spiritual cognition, called vaidusa-pratyaksa, he can see Krsna face to face. But he can be successful in this endeavor only if he humbles himself before the authority of scripture and the authorized spiritual master.
Actually, accepting authority is the universal principle in learning virtually any subject. Granted, authority has been corrupted and abused in the past—and it certainly will be in the future—but the validity of the principle still stands. Hundreds of years of philosophical speculation have not produced a more feasible method for understanding the Absolute Truth than sabda-brahma.
Those who think the process of Krsna consciousness places too much emphasis on authority would benefit immensely by studying the Vedas' theory of knowledge. They would be pleased to find it "invincible to all skepticism," although on a personal level they may balk at accepting the discipline. That raises a question of their integrity. As far as the quest for certainty is concerned, there is simply no other way to get around the impasse created by perception and inference. Sabda-brahma has been tried and proven true. It does deliver the indubitable Absolute Truth.
We welcome your letters.
I've just read the article by Mrs. Debarati Datta (19/4), "The Magic of a Real Guru" and I greatly appreciate her analysis. I have two questions, however. First of all, how would you suggest that Westerners find a bona fide way of inquiring into the Vedic tradition? And secondly, have the teachings of the "liberal gurus" actually had any bad effects on Indian society today?
Our reply: Mrs. Datta directly answers your first question in her article. She says that she refers all her Western acquaintances to the books of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, which she has found sufficient to answer all her questions about spiritual life.
As for the effect of "liberal gurus," Mrs. Datta's article stresses more the overwhelmingly positive effect of Srila Prabhupada's life and teachings. But she strongly implies, of course, that a mere show of magic tricks, while temporarily impressive, won't help anyone fulfill the all-important human mission of cultivating knowledge of God and developing love for Him.
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I just want to express my gratitude to the devotees of the Hare Krsna movement. After becoming friends with the devotees, my whole outlook on life has changed for the better. If people would just try to become friends with the devotees there would be a drastic change for the good of society. I am not saying this out of sentiment—it's a fact. Everyone on this planet is looking for happiness and peace. After reading your books and BACK TO GODHEAD magazine, I think they will find it in your movement.
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We like BACK TO GODHEAD very much because it gives us so much information about the Hare Krsna movement, as well as practical advice on how to handle day-to-day problems. We have lost interest in all other magazines, which only waste time and money, and tell you nothing interesting. So we thank you very much, and look forward to getting the next issue.
Karin and Carlos Kukahn
The Miracle of Mayapur
The annual meeting of Krsna devotees at Lord Caitanya's birthsite
by Mathuresa Dasa
Each Spring hundreds of ISKCON devotees from around the world gather at ISKCON's center in Mayapur, West Bengal, to celebrate the birth of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Lord Caitanya, who appeared in Mayapur in a.d. 1486, is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna Himself, playing the part of His own devotee; thus He teaches us that the pleasure of serving Krsna is so great that Krsna Himself desires to experience it. In this Age of Kali (quarrel and hypocrisy), when many ordinary men claim to be incarnations of God and exhort their followers to aspire to become God, the Supreme Person presents Himself as a humble servant of the Lord. Lord Caitanya stressed the chanting of God's holy names as the most effective means of self-realization in this age, and He predicted that the chanting of Hare Krsna would spread from the land of India—where He personally traveled and preached—to every city, town, and village in the world. Four hundred years later Bhaktivinoda Thakura, a great devotee of Lord Caitanya, prophesied that people from all corners of the globe would gather in Mayapur to chant Jaya Saci-nandana! Jaya Saci-nandana!: "All glories to Lord Caitanya, the son of mother Saci."
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual master of ISKCON, fulfilled both predictions—by spreading the Hare Krsna movement to the West, and by arranging for his followers to come to Mayapur each year. Srila Prabhupada envisioned a thriving spiritual city, centered on the world's largest temple, rising from the Mayapur farmlands. Mayapur, he explained, would be famous, both as an international center for spiritual education and as the capital of the Hare Krsna movement. Before passing away in 1977, Prabhupada initiated the practical fulfillment of his vision by seeing to the construction of two large, modern guesthouses to accommodate Western visitors. These two buildings, along with the elegant memorial to Srila Prabhupada now being built by his disciples, dominate the beautiful Mayapur countryside today.
ISKCON members come to the annual festival not only to visit this most sacred place of pilgrimage but also to make plans for expanding the Krsna consciousness movement in the year ahead. At this time, ISKCON's Governing Body Commission (G.B.C.) meets to discuss such important matters as the printing (in some forty languages) and distributing of Srila Prabhupada's books, the construction of new temples, and the coordination of ISKCON's Food for Life program. At this year's meetings the G.B.C. devoted considerable time to preparations for the celebration of the 500th anniversary (coming up in 1986) of Lord Caitanya's appearance. At that time, many additional Western guests and reporters, along with dignitaries from both local and foreign governments, are expected to visit ISKCON's Mayapur project. As part of the publicity campaign for that festival, devotees representing thirty nations will tour India on foot, carrying the flags of their respective countries.
Another feature of the yearly festival is workshops and seminars on all aspects of the Krsna consciousness movement. Devotees from five continents gather to exchange ideas and to share their experience in devotional cooking, magazine publication, Deity worship, temple management, and in presenting Krsna consciousness to students, government officials, the press, and people in general.
These workshops—and the Mayapur festival as a whole—confirm Srila Prabhupada's frequent assertion that ISKCON is succeeding where the United Nations has failed. Since the founding of the United Nations, international conflicts have actually increased, because no one has yet found a platform of common interest for all peoples. Srila Prabhupada, however, offered everyone the nonsectarian spiritual science of Krsna consciousness, which can help people of any nationality or religious faith reestablish their eternal, loving relationship with the Supreme Lord. It is on the basis of this science that men and women from a wide variety of backgrounds gather at Mayapur and confer on a unified strategy for the spiritual rejuvenation of human society.
Throughout the festival thousands of pilgrims from India and Bengal flock to the ISKCON center to see the temple and gardens and to meet the Western devotees. They are surprised and delighted to hear that India's Vedic culture has taken root abroad. Although India has long been famous as the land of religion and spiritual culture, never before have so many Westerners understood and accepted the essence of the Vedic teachings: surrender to Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Srila Prabhupada would often say that although Eastern and Western culture are in some ways different, their combination through Lord Caitanya's movement would produce some wonderful results. Visitors happily observe some of those results in Mayapur—both in the temple grounds and in the many hundreds of foreign devotees.
ISKCON devotees are in their turn delighted to see firsthand how the Krsna consciousness movement has not only a long history in India but also an overwhelming following among the Indian people today. Devotees preaching in their own countries find that most of their countrymen have never heard of Lord Krsna or Lord Caitanya, have little understanding of the simple, spiritual way of life, and sometimes greet Krsna devotees with apprehension. But in Mayapur the Western devotees meet many Indians who have practiced Krsna consciousness since early childhood, and who are glad to see Westerners adopt the Vedic culture. Devotees greet the steady flow of guests with books and magazines in Hindi and Bengali, and with generous distribution of sumptuous krsna-prasadam (food offered to Krsna). As the birthday of Lord Caitanya approaches, the crowds swell to half a million a day, and the joyful meeting of East and West continues throughout the evening and into the night.
The week-long festival includes excursions each morning by bus, by boat, and on foot to places where Lord Caitanya enacted His pastimes five hundred years ago. The Lord's birthplace, the house where He and His associates met each evening to congregationally chant the holy names, and the homes of certain other of His associates remind the pilgrims of the importance of the Supreme Lord's appearance in this material world. According to the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna descends whenever true religion declines and irreligion increases.
True religion means obedience to the laws of God, and God Himself comes not to favor a particular religious group but to reestablish His laws for humanity. The Srimad-Bhagavatam, the topmost Vedic literature, explains that the four principles common to all true religions are cleanliness, mercifulness, austerity, and truthfulness. Cleanliness is destroyed by illicit sex, austerity by intoxication, mercy by the slaughter of animals, and truthfulness by gambling. True religion, therefore, must prohibit illicit sex, meat-eating, intoxication, and gambling, while at the same time promoting the glorification of the Supreme Lord. If the members of the world's religions were to follow these four essential restrictions and to chant God's holy names, then all sectarian religious fighting would end and the world would realize the peace, prosperity, morality, and love of God that all religions espouse.
For a devotee, seeing the places where Lord Caitanya performed His pastimes serves as a potent reminder of His life, His teachings, and the purpose of His appearance. In fact the entire mood of the Mayapur festival is one of intense remembrance and appreciation of Lord Caitanya through hearing about Him and seeing His earthly abode. This remembrance of the Lord combines with an expanded appreciation of Srila Prabhupada—who brought the teachings and abode of the Lord within the reach of every human being—to make the Mayapur festival a blissful, transcendental experience. The devotees aspire for nothing more than to share this experience with everyone.
Transcendental Methods for Controlling Stress
Learning how to cope with stress in daily life is not a newly discovered gift from modern psychologists. Mental illnesses from anxiety, as well as expert cures for stress, are as old as humanity itself. The Vedic knowledge of ancient India, as taught today in the form of Krsna consciousness, goes to the very source of the problem and gives solutions not only for how to cope effectively with stress but how to remove permanently the very causes of anxiety, which prevent us from realizing our full potential of happiness and productivity.
Modern psychology's approach is often based on the concept of a human as a biological and mental being, and doesn't take into account the spiritual dimensions of life. The psychologists' research and advice is, therefore, helpful only up to a certain limit. Thus they have prescribed certain favorable mental attitudes and drugs to combat anxieties that arise from inevitable human crises. But despite the successes of their techniques, psychologists know little of how to remove the root cause of stress.
Researchers at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston have even introduced meditation techniques for helping people adjust to stressful events. Apparently, a time of relaxed meditation blocks the effect of norepinephrine, an "emergency" hormone that raises the blood pressure and increases the heart rate. Health magazine ("Meditation: Medicine?" July 1982) reports:
To meditate, a person sits comfortably in a quiet environment, repeats a word, prayer, sound, or phrase, and maintains a passive attitude toward intervening thoughts. The aura of calm that meditation evokes is known as the relaxation response—characterized by a drop of blood pressure, heart rate . . .
As Krsna conscious devotees we are pleased to see this mention of meditation on a sound or prayer—known in Vedic language as "mantra meditation"—advised as a psychiatric healing method. (This is hardly the "brainwashing" or hypnotism as charged by the anticultists.) But we cannot make a complete endorsement of this use of mantra meditation. Certainly the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra has beneficial mental and bodily effects, as indicated by the Beth Israel research team, but if we are to get the full benefit, we should understand and practice mantra meditation with knowledge of its spiritual nature.
The original purpose of every genuine form of meditation is to tap the existential, spiritual reality, which is at the heart of human consciousness. Real relief from life's miseries as well as relief from undue anxiety over those miseries can come only when we understand our constitutional position as eternal spirit souls. This ultimate well-being should be sought and discovered, and we should not be satisfied merely with a cover-over "medicinal" approach that does not remove the cause of anxieties.
In the transcendental epic Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna gives directions to His friend Arjuna, a warrior who is suffering in a situation of extreme stress on a battlefield. Krsna observes that Arjuna has become overwhelmed by fear and ignorance and has failed to see beyond the fear of death. Krsna therefore begins His instructions by informing Arjuna of a higher knowledge.
While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor the dead. (Bg. 2.11)
Lord Krsna then proceeds to teach Arjuna the nature of the real self, beyond the body and mind. The spirit soul, which is our real identity, is not subject to any kind of destruction that might befall the body. It is also by nature full of bliss and knowledge, and it can be realized by direct perception. Bhagavad-gita teaches the techniques of yoga and meditation for awakening us to an enlightened state in which we can remain strong even in adverse conditions.
In that joyous state, one is situated in boundless transcendental happiness, realized through transcendental senses. Established thus, one never departs from the truth, and upon gaining this, he thinks there is no greater gain. Being situated in such a position, one is never shaken, even in the midst of greatest difficulty. This indeed is actual freedom from all miseries arising from material contact. (Bg. 6.21-23)
The comprehensive transcendental science of the Bhagavad-gita—including knowledge of karma and reincarnation, techniques for doing devotional service to God even while in normal occupational situations, and directions for following the path leading to the highest liberation of love of God—are all completely relevant to life in the twentieth century. These teachings are not sentimental or imaginary, nor do they promise instant salvation without inner purification. Since the Bhagavad-gita goes so much to the depth of the human condition, we recommend it for study, not as a matter of religious faith, but for anyone interested in transcending the anxieties of daily life.
Each of us faces a battlefield encounter every day, as we are threatened by inevitable attacks from disease, old age, and ultimately death. If we have no more to rely on or depend on than the resources of our body and mind, then we are sure to suffer anxiety, since our support system is fallible and, in fact, sure to fail us. Attempts to buttress our ego or well-being by such psychological techniques as positive thinking or by the impersonal approach to meditation will also fall short. Only when we understand the strength of our position as eternal spirit souls, in relation to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and under His protection, will we be assured and confident, even as we move through the battlefields of life.
Mantra meditation, under the guidance of a spiritual master who knows its purpose, will be especially effective in this age. Former techniques of meditation are practically impossible today, because they require extreme austerities and conditions of seclusion that are neither advisable nor possible nowadays. Chanting the Hare Krsna mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—is easy and can be done in any situation. Not only will it adjust the flow of adrenalin, regulate heart rate and the bodily metabolism, increase the alpha brain waves, and lower the blood pressure, but far more importantly, it will allow us always to see beyond the anxieties of the temporary body and mind and thus enable us to work within this world for the ultimate benefit of ourselves and others.—SDG