The Festival of the Chariots gives us a chance
A lecture given in London in 1972
Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you very much for coming here and participating in this great movement, known as the Hare Krsna sankirtana movement. This movement was started five hundred years ago by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu in India, in the state of West Bengal. His mission was that this Hare Krsna movement, or God consciousness, should be spread all over the world. As many towns and villages as there are on the surface of the globe—He predicted this Hare Krsna movement would be spread to all of them. And His prediction is now being carried out by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
So we ask you to kindly take advantage of this movement. The purpose of this movement is to cleanse the heart (ceto-darpana-marjanam). We have created so many problems in our lives simply out of misunderstanding, and this movement is meant for cleansing the misunderstanding from the heart. What is that misunderstanding? The misunderstanding is that we are accepting this material body as the self. We are all living entities, spirit souls, encaged in material bodies, and we are transmigrating from one body to another. There are 8,400,000 species of life, and this human form of life is the greatest opportunity for self-realization.
Self-realization means to know, "I am not this body. I am a spirit soul; I am part and parcel of God." Some of you may have read the Bhagavad-gita. In the Fifteenth Chapter it is said that the living entities are part and parcel of God. God is by nature joyful—in the Vedanta-sutra [The Vedanta-sutra, by Srila Vyasadeva, is a book of Vedic wisdom expounding the philosophy of the Absolute Truth in aphorisms.] it is said that the Supreme Absolute Truth is anandamayo 'bhyasat, "by nature joyful." Therefore, since we are part and parcel of God, our aim of life is joy.
Now we are searching after that joyfulness within this material world, but to find it here is not possible. If a fish is taken from the water and put on the land, under no conditions will he feel joyfulness. Similarly, we are spirit souls who somehow or other have come into contact with this material world. And because this material world is not befitting our spiritual self, here we cannot have joyfulness. The spiritual self requires spiritual joy, which is beyond these material senses.
So this Krsna consciousness movement is meant for cleansing or purifying the senses. As soon as we purify our senses, we can actually enjoy spiritual sense pleasure. Now our senses are not being properly used because they are covered by matter. Therefore the enjoyment we are now having is simply a perverted reflection of real, spiritual enjoyment. To experience this spiritual enjoyment we must purify our senses by the process of Krsna consciousness.
In the Vedic literatures it is said, sarvopadhi-vinirmuktam tat-paratvena nirmalam: "When we become free from the false designations pertaining to the body, we become spiritually purified." At the present moment, on account of our ignorance of the soul, we are thinking of ourselves in relationship with this body. Someone is born in India, so he is thinking, "I am an Indian." You are born in England, so you are thinking, "I am an Englishman." Another is thinking, "I am Japanese," and so on. But actually we are neither Indian nor English nor Japanese. We are spirit souls, part and parcel of God. Knowing that is self-realization. And unless we realize our self, all our activities will lead to problems and defeat.
We can see that in the present civilization, despite advancement of education, despite economic development, despite so many philosophical speculations, people are in the same problematic atmosphere as ever. Why? Because the defect of the present civilization is that people do not know what they are. We are all spirit souls, and we must realize this if we want real peace and real joyfulness.
Everything about self-realization is explained in the Vedic literature, which is summarized in the Vedanta-sutra and also in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. And five thousand years ago, the Lord Himself—Lord Krsna—spoke this transcendental philosophy in the Bhagavad-gita. We are publishing all these literatures, translated into English. If you want to understand this scientific, spiritual movement through philosophical speculation, we have dozens of books for you to read and understand.
Otherwise, you can simply chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. It is only sixteen words: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. There is no expenditure. If you chant the Hare Krsna mantra, there is no loss on your part, nor are we charging anything. We are distributing this maha-mantra free of charge, and anyone can chant it. There is no difficulty. On the basis of this mantra we are spreading this movement all over the world—not only in your country but in the whole of America, the whole of Canada, and also in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Africa. Everywhere. We have one hundred branches all over the world.
So our only request is that in whatever condition you may be, please try to chant these sixteen words whenever you have time. And you have the time: you can chant Hare Krsna when you are walking on the street, when you are traveling on the bus, or when you are sitting alone. There is no loss, but the gain is very great. Therefore our only request is that you take up the chanting of this maha-mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. And we shall periodically remind you by functions such as the one we are holding today, the Ratha-yatra festival.
This Ratha-yatra festival is very old—at least five thousand years old. Lord Krsna, along with His elder brother, Balarama, and His sister, Subhadra, once rode in a chariot from Dvaraka to Kuruksetra, and this festival commemorates Krsna's riding with His family on the chariot. This function is held every year in Jagannatha Puri, in India, where it is a great celebration. Now we are introducing this Ratha-yatra festival in the Western countries along with the Hare Krsna movement, because the inaugurator of this movement, Lord Caitanya, took a very active part in this festival. So, we are following in His footsteps. At the same time that it is being observed here in London, it is also being held in San Francisco, Buffalo, Melbourne, Tokyo, Calcutta, and many other places. Taking part in this festival means a step forward for our self-realization. Rathe cagamanam drstva punar janma na vidyate: "Simply by seeing the Lord on the chariot, one makes advancement in stopping the repetition of birth and death." So I am very glad that you have taken so much trouble to come here. Now please chant the Hare Krsna mantra along with the devotees and take part in honoring prasadam [food offered to Lord Krsna].
Our Hare Krsna movement is standing on three principal things: chanting, dancing, and eating prasadam. It is not very difficult. It is very enjoyable to chant, dance, and take prasadam. And if you like, you can hear a little philosophy of Krsna consciousness. But even if you do not understand the philosophy, or even if you do not read the books, if you simply take part in these three things—chanting Hare Krsna, dancing, and eating prasadam—you will gradually make spiritual advancement. And if you continue this process, then the day will come—even in this lifetime it may come—that you will understand Krsna. Then after leaving this body you go directly back home, back to Godhead. This is stated in the Bhagavad-gita [4.9] by Lord Krsna:
janma karma ca me divyam
Simply by understanding Krsna—Krsna's activities, Krsna's appearance, Krsna's disappearance—you are assured of returning to Krsna's abode after death.
This Ratha-yatra is one of the activities of Krsna. Therefore to take part in the Ratha-yatra festival means to associate with Krsna directly. If in this way we associate with Krsna's name, Krsna's form, Krsna's qualities, Krsna's pastimes, then we gradually transcend material existence and do not have to return here after death.
We have to give up this body one day. But if we give up this body after being elevated to Krsna consciousness, then, Krsna says, punar janma naiti: "You don't have to accept another material body." Then where shall we go? Krsna says, mam eti: "You come to Me."
There is another sky, beyond this material sky. That is stated in the Bhagavad-gita: paras tasmat tu bhavo 'nyo 'vyakto 'vyaktat sanatanah. "There is another sky, which is eternal." This sky is temporary. Your body, my body—everything in this material world is temporary. It has a date of birth, it grows, it stays for some time, it produces some by-products, and then it dwindles and finally vanishes. That is the material nature. But there is another nature, which is spiritual. And even when everything is annihilated here, that nature stands.
In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says that in the spiritual nature, or the spiritual sky, there is no need of sunshine, there is no need of moonshine, there is no need of electricity. In other words, that world is self-illuminated. So our only business is to transfer ourselves from this sky to that sky. That is the Vedic injunction: tamasi ma jyotir gama. "Don't remain in this world of darkness. Come to the world of light,"
Therefore this movement is very important, because we are trying to teach people how to transfer from this world of darkness to the world of light, which is called Goloka Vrndavana. So I am very much thankful to you for giving me your time. We have many books, and our devotees will be happy to answer any of your questions. Please take advantage of this opportunity and make your life successful.
Thank you very much.
A conversation between
Srila Tamal Krishna Goswami gurudeva oversees the affairs of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in the south-central United States and parts of the Far East. He is the author of Servant of the Servant, a memoir about his involvement in Krsna consciousness.
Srila Gurudeva: The members of our Society follow some basic principles. We abstain from gambling, all types of intoxication—even tea, cigarettes, and coffee—and we don't engage in illicit sex. Only married members engage in sex, and then only for procreating children. We are also vegetarian. All of our full-time members follow these principles. And every day they also chant the holy names of the Lord. That's why we carry these bead bags. We have prayer beads, which are similar to the rosary, and we chant God's name every day.
Cardinal Sin: What is your position about Jesus Christ?
Srila Gurudeva: We accept Jesus as the son of God.
Cardinal Sin: You have room for Christianity, yes?
Srila Gurudeva: Yes, we do, because we accept that Christianity will actually be able to bring God's message to the whole world, and our purpose is only to help people, not to convert them from one religion to another. We try to reinforce a person's original faith. As far as chanting God's names, we chant especially the name Krsna. We accept Lord Krsna as God the Father, and therefore we see no contradiction at all. We worship Jesus as the son of God, and we also worship God the Father.
Cardinal Sin: And your concept of the Holy Spirit?
Srila Gurudeva: Yes, we believe that God's mercy is all-pervasive and that by leading a pure, spiritual life one is always in touch with the Holy Spirit.
Cardinal Sin: So Jesus has come to the world as the Messiah?
Srila Gurudeva: The Messiah, yes, to deliver the message of God to the world.
Cardinal Sin: And what about the salvation of man?
Srila Gurudeva: The salvation of man lies in accepting the teachings of God.
Cardinal Sin: But Jesus's death as an act of redemption for the sins of man—you don't accept that?
Srila Gurudeva: Yes, we do. We accept that Jesus died to free men from their sins, but people should accept Jesus by accepting his teachings.
Cardinal Sin: This is correct.
Srila Gurudeva: Too often we find that people believe that because Jesus died to save men from their sins, that gives them a license to continue sinning.
Cardinal Sin: That belongs to the belief of some Protestants, but in the Catholic Church we have to accept his teachings. We have to practice what he teaches.
Srila Gurudeva: We find that by constantly studying the word of God and trying to mold our lives according to that word very literally, our lives are becoming purified. Especially we find great power in the holy name of God.
Cardinal Sin: So you're all over the world right now?
Srila Gurudeva: Yes. Our Society is in approximately fifty different countries. We have temples, smaller centers, and also farming communities. We believe that God realization is facilitated by a simple way of life. This is a special feature of our farming communities, where we are developing self-sufficient God conscious communities.
Cardinal Sin: You are also in Germany?
Srila Gurudeva: Yes.
Cardinal Sin: And in Italy?
Srila Gurudeva: In Italy also.
Cardinal Sin: What about Spain?
Srila Gurudeva: In Spain also, in many cities.
Cardinal Sin: And what about the Soviet Union?
Srila Gurudeva: Yes, we are in the Soviet Union. There was recently a newspaper article in The New York Times. It reported that the Soviet government is very concerned about Western influence, and especially two things were giving them cause for fear: the introduction of rock music and the Hare Krsna movement.
Cardinal Sin: They aren't persecuting you?
Srila Gurudeva: Yes, they are persecuting us, because many of the intellectuals there are taking interest in our books. This has made the government fearful. Actually, we're not politically minded. We are not trying to create any disturbance for the government, but it seems that just being religious and God conscious is something that they find . . .
Cardinal Sin: Marxism is atheism. So your belief in God is for them something that is against their principle. Naturally, India must be your original place, no?
Srila Gurudeva: Yes. In India we have millions of followers.
Cardinal Sin: I believe your members rise very early for prayer and meditation?
Srila Gurudeva: Our spiritual discipline requires us to rise very early. We get up every morning at 4:00, and by 4:30 we come to the temple for prayer.
Cardinal Sin: I've been rising about 4:00 every morning since I've come here. I do some exercises, and then I pray for two and a half hours, because during the entire day—no time. Then at night—prayer before going to sleep.
They will say that a man who does not pray is like a bird without wings: he cannot fly. He's like a soldier without weapons: he cannot fight the forces of evil. He's like a garden without roses: no beauty. This is one way of saying things. But when you pray, you feel that you become strong. I think that is your principle?
Srila Gurudeva: Our principle is that we should feel ourselves totally dependent and maintained by the Lord.
Cardinal Sin: Cardinal Spellman says you should pray as if everything depends on God, and you should work as if everything depends on you.
Srila Gurudeva: We say, "Don't try to see God, but act in such a way that God will show Himself to you."
Cardinal Sin: That is good, very good. So with this life, you feel very happy. You feel very secure.
Srila Gurudeva: Actually, there is no anxiety for one who gives himself over to the service of God.
Cardinal Sin: No, no, you feel so happy. There is never a day when I am not so happy, so happy.
Srila Gurudeva: Actually, there's a very nice statement in one of our books we brought you today. Para-duhkha-duhkhi krpambudhih: A pure devotee of the Lord is unhappy to see the unhappiness of others.
Cardinal Sin: Yes, yes. Mother Teresa says people are already unhappy and miserable, so you should make them happy by your presence. And that is why this woman is so popular, because she is an instrument of peace wherever she goes.
Srila Gurudeva: The Vedic literature tells us of a great devotee who was requested to come back to God's kingdom, but who said, "How can I leave now, with the world in such turmoil? Unless I can arrange to deliver these people, I don't feel that I can leave this world."
Cardinal Sin: So, really that's what you said in the beginning: we need to apply ourselves to the teachings of God. That's what St. Augustine says. So there is a need for the grace of God, but the individual's cooperation with that grace is important.
Srila Gurudeva: Sometimes people say, "Yes, if God wills, then I'll take up His teachings." So we have to explain to them God does will it, but they have to help themselves also.
Cardinal Sin: The invitation is there. God cannot force you to go to heaven if you like to go to hell. The invitation is there. Now they must accept the invitation, because God is a God of democracy. He will never force you. He will only invite you. Is that your teaching?
Srila Gurudeva: Oh, yes, because love must be voluntary. Actually, God works through the person when he completely purifies himself and allows God to use him as a tool. We pray like that, that we should not have any personal motivations to stop God from using us as His instrument.
Cardinal Sin: Would you like to pray now?
Srila Gurudeva: Yes, thank you. [Leads a small group of devotees in singing the Hare Krsna mantra for a short time. Then:]
Cardinal Sin: This is beautiful. One can feel God's presence. It is just like our Gregorian chant. [He sings a Gregorian chant.] I am very happy that you came, Guru. I address you as Guru, Your Excellency the Guru, no? To all of you, my deep gratitude for your coming and sharing the beauty of spirituality.
At the great chariot festival in the holy city of Puri, Sri Caitanya
by Ravindra-Svarupa Dasa
These days you might see Lord Jagannatha parade majestically through Trafalgar Square in London or along the sun-drenched beaches of Los Angeles; or you might watch the dome of His chariot float past the skyscrapers of New York or the mountains that rim Denver; or you might gaze at the massy wheels as they turn in Toronto, Guadalajara, or Florence. All around the globe. Lord Jagannatha boards His stately chariot and, escorted by dancing and chanting devotees, goes out to see and be seen by all the people of His domain.
The festival is not new. Since time beyond memory, the celebrated Deity of Krsna known as Jagannatha ("Lord of the Universe") has been honored with a great chariot parade at Jagannatha Puri, a city in Orissa on the Bay of Bengal. Every summer pilgrims gather from all over India to join in the awesome and magnificent celebration, in which the Supreme Personality of Godhead graces everyone—highborn or low, pure or impure, rich or poor—with His presence when He leaves His palatial temple and travels in state to His peaceful summer retreat.
Long before you reach the city you can see the temple's majestic parabolic dome, topped by a golden cakra—the discus that symbolizes the all-pervading power of God. On first sight of the gleaming cakra pilgrims fall prostrate in obeisance on the road. The awe-inspiring grandeur of the temple at Puri is entirely apposite, for the Deity of Jagannatha memorializes Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as He manifest Himself at Dvaraka fifty centuries ago.
There, as part of His personal pastimes on earth, Lord Krsna reigned as king in dazzling splendor and revealed the unsurpassable opulence and majesty of His Godhood. In Dvaraka, Lord Krsna kept close company with Lord Balarama, His brother, and Srimati Subhadra, His sister. Balarama is the Supreme Personality of Godhead's first expansion; Subhadra, one of His internal spiritual energies. Since the three divine persons were always together at Dvaraka, the form of Jagannatha at Puri is worshiped with those of Balarama and Subhadra.
It is important to understand the Deity form of God properly. God appears in this form out of His supreme kindness. The eternal spiritual form of the Lord cannot be apprehended by our materially contaminated senses; therefore He graciously condescends to take a form we can directly perceive and serve. God is not stone or wood, but by His omnipotence He can appear as stone or wood and be perceptible even to our dulled and constricted vision. Therefore, Lord Jagannatha is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself.
Even though God so kindly makes Himself available to us, there is still a problem. Knowledge of the Lord's personal form is revealed at the height of spiritual attainment, and worship of the form as the Deity in the temple is a most exalted mode of devotional service. People who are degraded by culture and habit, who are not purified by reformatory practices, who are not enlightened by transcendental knowledge, cannot understand the personal form of God or appreciate the Deity incarnation of the Lord. Such people are likely to mistake the bona fide Deity for an idol fabricated by human imagination. Therefore, to prevent the ignorant from committing offenses to the Lord, people without the benefits of spiritual culture have been traditionally excluded from temples in India.
Yet this exclusiveness contrasts markedly with that divine spirit of liberality which moves God to make Himself available in the Deity form. He wants to extend His mercy to everyone. Exclusiveness and inclusiveness are thus in tension. The Ratha-yatra chariot festival helps resolve the difficulty. For on this occasion Lord Jagannatha goes out into the streets and discloses Himself to those from whom He is normally hidden. Lord Jagannatha is accordingly celebrated for being the most merciful even to the degraded and spiritually backward people.
Yet Jagannatha's liberal self-disclosure sometimes produced the feared result. In the Middle Ages, Christian missionaries began occasionally showing up at the chariot festival. Around 1320 one Friar Odoric brought the first report of the celebration back to Europe. The misinformation and misunderstanding he conveyed became part of a standard account that endured in Europe for centuries.
This account described Jagannatha as a bloodthirsty idol who demanded—and received—human sacrifice. During the chariot festival—the occasion fixed for this bloody sacrifice—frenzied devotees flung themselves by the score under the huge turning wheels of the chariot to be crushed in self-immolation. Thus the ravening bloodlust of the god was satisfied. Although scholars agree that the calumnious image of Jagannatha and His festival was wholly spurious, it became solidly entrenched, so much so that it gave the English the word "juggernaut," meaning an overwhelming force that crushes everything in its path.
Now that Lord Jagannatha's Ratha-yatra is witnessed in cities all over the world, people are surprised by its old European reputation as a horrible and gory spectacle. The world has learned to appreciate the festival as a splendid and happy celebration of notable beneficence.
At the same time, Ratha-yatra has a profound inner spiritual significance few have yet realized. We can best grasp that deep meaning by looking back in history—back in fact to the same period that saw a perverted conception of the festival take root in Europe. During those days certain marvelous deeds were manifest at Jagannatha Puri. These deeds were so extraordinary that they disclosed the most profound and rare spiritual truths at the heart of Jagannatha's festival, so momentous that they eventually changed the religious topography of the world. They were all enacted by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
To save the conditioned souls languishing miserably in material existence, the Supreme Lord periodically descends to this earth. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is one of these divine incarnations, but this appearance of the Lord is unique. It bears a very special significance. To understand this, we have to see the Lord's descent as Sri Caitanya in connection with His immediately preceding descent five thousand years ago.
This appearance was also special. Although God manifests Himself many times, He hardly ever reveals His highest and most confidential feature. Almost always God shows Himself in His full transcendental majesty, power, and opulence; and we His creatures naturally respond to this awesome numinous majesty with fear and reverence. Our love for God is united to a powerful awareness of our own creatureliness, our radical inferiority, and we therefore worship the Lord with great awe and veneration. In the spiritual literature of India, God in this majestic aspect is known by the name of Visnu ("the all-pervading") or Narayana ("the resting place of all beings"). In His Narayana feature. God is manifest as the Lord of creation, the almighty controller and maintainer of all beings.
At the same time, God is the supreme enjoyer, the infinite relisher of loving relations. But reverential worship, appropriate though it may be, holds love at the distance mandated by respect and keeps it under the constraints of formality. Religions usually teach nothing higher than reverential devotion; although such devotion is certainly laudable, by its own nature it is limited in intimacy, intensity, and spontaneity. It does not come near to satisfying the divine capacity for enjoying relationships of love.
Therefore we can understand that devotional service to God must go further than awe and reverence, and that the majestic aspect of God, which elicits such awe and reverence, cannot be the last word in divinity. There is even more to God than that, and to our great good fortune, God disclosed this highest personal feature of Himself when He descended five thousand years ago as Krsna. The great Vedic text Srimad-Bhagavatam explains that Krsna is the highest and original Personality of Godhead, and He expands Himself into uncountable plenary portions, known as Visnu or Narayana. The difference between Narayana and Krsna can be understood like this: as Narayana, God's majesty overwhelms His beauty; as Krsna, God's beauty overwhelms His majesty. The name Krsna in fact means "all-attractive," and Krsna is the last word in divinity.
The Vedic texts go further: they describe the kingdom of God as an infinite and self-effulgent sky, filled with innumerable spiritual abodes or planets called Vaikunthas. On each Vaikuntha planet dwells a majestic Narayana expansion of God in the midst of liberated devotees who perpetually worship Him in reverence. But higher than all the Vaikunthas is the supreme abode known as Goloka Vrndavana. In the Vaikunthas, the Lord is present in regal opulence, with all the trappings and appurtenances of the divine majesty. But in Goloka Vrndavana all that is put aside, and the Supreme Personality of Godhead appears as Krsna—a simple cowherd boy; He does not dwell in a palatial estate but in an unpretentious rural village, tucked away among verdant forests and blossoming meadows. Yet there is no greater abode.
The residents of Vrndavana worship Krsna with direct and unceremonious spontaneity. So that He may enjoy intimate relationships, Krsna causes His devotees to see Him as their equal or even their inferior, and He plays the part of close friend or playmate, of son, grandson, or nephew, or, most intimately, of youthful paramour. By Krsna's arrangement, the residents of Vrndavana do not even know that Krsna is God—or, if they know, they are not interested. Awareness of the Lord's power and majesty would simply get in the way of their love. These are God's supreme devotees.
God is reluctant to reveal His private affairs to the world because the souls here are envious of Him and first of all need to acquiesce to His categorical supremacy. Therefore, the Lord almost always reveals Himself in full majesty. In doing that, He must necessarily withhold His most attractive feature. But once in a great while He descends directly as Krsna.
When Krsna descends, He brings all Vrndavana—including all its supremely devoted residents—with Him. Thus for a time the highest transcendental abode miraculously unfolds without limit within the confines of mundane geography. The world can see for once the highest and most confidential life of God.
Krsna's personal appearance is rare, but whenever He does come. He is always followed by another very special divine incarnation: Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Sri Caitanya is Krsna Himself, but in this case, Krsna does not appear as Krsna but as the supreme devotee of Krsna. Krsna becomes His own devotee for two reasons. He is so attracted and amazed by the intensity and purity of the devotional love of the foremost Vrndavana devotee, Srimati Radharani, that He wants to experience Her ecstatic love for Himself. So Krsna assumes the feelings and golden complexion of Radharani and thus appears as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. This is Krsna's internal, or personal, reason.
Here is the other—the external or public—reason: In disclosing Himself as the cowherd boy of Vrndavana—as the best companion, the most darling child, the most enchanting lover—Krsna revealed the supreme feature of the Absolute Truth. It quite exceeds the range of ordinary spiritual practice. So even though Krsna showed Himself in Vrndavana, He still remains inaccessible to even very devout religious observation. Therefore, Krsna descends again, in the role of His own devotee, to give the world the most powerful process of devotional service. Thus, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu makes Krsna available.
In 1510, having entered the renounced order of life, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu quit His home and relatives in Bengal and journeyed to Jagannatha Puri. He immediately amazed the whole city: a twenty-four-year-old sannyasi, He turned its greatest resident, the renowned logician and scholar Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, into His ardent follower and advocate. Sri Caitanya did not stay to enjoy His fame: He left almost at once to tour the holy places of South India. He returned just as preparations were underway for the Ratha-yatra festival of 1512.
The events that transpired next have been skillfully recounted by Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, his biography of the Lord. To understand the import of these events we have to consider the significance of Jagannatha Puri and its festival in light of the Lord's purposes in coming as Sri Caitanya. His public purpose was to deliver Krsna freely to everybody. The highest feature of the Godhead, Krsna, is rarely attained. But Sri Caitanya is so merciful that He makes what is most sublime and rare easily obtainable by all. As the very personification of divine mercy, Sri Caitanya naturally chose to worship at Puri, for Lord Jagannatha, who leaves His temple to appear personally before even the most fallen, is the perfect embodiment of God's unrestrained kindness.
Moreover, when Lord Jagannatha takes His journey, devotees congregate by the thousands and join together in exuberantly chanting the names of the Lord. This is also significant, for Sri Caitanya specifically descended to teach and spread nama-sankirtana, the congregational chanting of the holy names of God. Chanting God's transcendental names is so spiritually powerful that it can transmute even the most base people into the most exalted and radiant lovers of God. Thus Jagannatha's chariot festival is practically the image of Sri Caitanya's own mission.
As the day of the festival drew near, Sri Caitanya personally took part in the preparations.
Two miles up the coast from the great temple of Jagannatha stands a modest but very attractive temple with milk-white walls and a russet roof, nestled among tropical gardens. A steady ocean breeze playing through the gardens surrounds the temple with a soothing sururrus and bathes it in cool and refreshing currents of air. The temple's name is Gundica. Here the chariot parade ends, and in the restful atmosphere of this still country place, Jagannatha, Balarama, and Subhadra remain for a week of leisure. The rest of the time the temple stands empty.
All year long the vacant temple collects dirt, sand, and straw; cleaners are sent just before the festival. It is considered a menial's job, so Lord Caitanya surprised everybody when He set out with hundreds of devotees, brooms, and waterpots to clean Gundica temple for the arrival of Jagannatha.
In great jubilation, the Lord swept every surface of the temple—floors, walls, ceilings—chanting Hare Krsna all the time, and His followers swept and chanted with Him. He swept so energetically His entire body became coated with dirt and dust. Sometimes the Lord shed tears of devotional ecstasy, and with those tears He washed the temple. Finally, He gathered all His sweepings into a single pile, throwing it outside. The others did the same. Sri Caitanya's pile was by far the largest.
Again they swept the whole temple, meticulously removing the tiniest bits of dust, grit, and straw. Then a hundred devotees came in with brimming water-pots, and Sri Caitanya began vigorously throwing water on all the floors, walls, and ceilings. Devotees crowded about a lake and a well nearby filling pots; others rushed back and forth in lines with full or emptied pots. In the temple, water flew in great arcs and every surface was washed and scrubbed again and again. Everyone in the temple, in the water lines, in the filling places, ecstatically chanted the names of Krsna. Lord Caitanya got down on His hands and knees and mopped the floor of the temple and polished the throne of Jagannatha with His own robes.
Then it was finished. The temple shone. It was cool, radiant, immaculate—as cool and bright, Krsnadasa Kaviraja says, as Sri Caitanya's own heart. It was fit to receive Lord Jagannatha.
In cleaning the Gundica temple. Lord Caitanya vividly demonstrated how one should diligently clean his own heart to make it fit to receive the Lord. In the material world we have closed our hearts to Krsna, and for many lifetimes our empty hearts have been collecting all the dirt and debris of material desires. If we wish Krsna to return, we must thoroughly wash all that contamination out of the heart, just as Lord Caitanya swept every speck of straw and grit from Gundica temple. If we use the cleaning process given by Lord Caitanya and regularly chant the Hare Krsna mantra, our hearts will soon become bright and clean and cool and peaceful. Lord Krsna will then joyfully take up residence in that purified place.
Gundica was prepared, and two days later the three huge chariots stood in the morning sun before the gates of the Puri temple, awaiting their transcendental passengers. A vast crowd packed the streets. Inside the gates, Sri Caitanya watched Lord Jagannatha, surrounded by powerfully built bearers, proceed from His throne to His chariot. Stout cushions led across the courtyard like steppingstones, and the bearers, muscles and veins bulging, lifted the large and heavy form of Jagannatha from cushion to cushion. Sometimes a cushion would split open with a heavy cracking report, and clouds of cotton wadding would fill the air. As Lord Jagannatha moved toward His chariot, Lord Caitanya loudly called out to Him, "Manima! Manima!"—"My Lord! My Lord!" But the tumultuous din of musical instruments drowned out His words.
As Lord Jagannatha drew near His cart, Sri Caitanya saw Maharaja Prataparudra, the King of Orissa. The King was bending over with a gold-handled broom, carefully sweeping the road in front of Lord Jagannatha. The King had long desired to have an audience with Sri Caitanya, and the Lord had steadfastly refused. As a member of the renounced order, Sri Caitanya was forbidden to have any connection with worldly men. But when Lord Caitanya saw the crowned head of state personally performing this menial service for Lord Jagannatha, He became very pleased and resolved to show the king all mercy.
As Lord Jagannatha prepared to depart for Gundica temple, Lord Caitanya organized His close followers into seven groups for sankirtana, congregational chanting. Each group had two drummers, a dancer, a lead chanter and five others to respond. Sri Caitanya placed four chanting parties in front of the chariot, one on each side, and one in the rear.
The thick ropes that draw the chariots stretched tight, and as the crowd shouted in joy, the ponderous wheels began to turn. As the three huge chariots started to inch forward, the hundreds of mirrors that decorated the chariots flashed in the sun. Festoons of bright silken cloth billowed and shimmered. Scores of white yak-tail wisks hanging in rows swayed back and forth in unison, and bells and gongs of all shapes and sizes clanged, chimed, and tinkled. The chariots' cloth canopies, shaped just like the great stone dome of the Puri temple, moved stately and majestically; each vehicle was a temple in motion.
As the wheels of Jagannatha's car started to turn, fourteen drums began pounding together. Nearby, the king stood with his confidant Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, and together they watched as Sri Caitanya began to dance before Lord Jagannatha in ecstasy, chanting the names of Krsna. Sometimes He flung His long arms high over His head and chanted, "Jaya Jagannatha! Jaya Jagannatha!"—"All glories to Lord Jagannatha!"
As Lord Caitanya danced. He remained facing the steadily advancing chariot and kept His eyes fixed upon the large-eyed, smiling countenance of Lord Jagannatha, riding above and always moving toward Him. And Sri Caitanya began to sink deeper and deeper into a specific emotional ecstasy elicited by this Ratha-yatra journey of the Lord.
The chariot ride of Lord Jagannatha commemorates a particular incident in the pastimes Lord Krsna displayed on earth. Sri Krsna had spent His childhood and youth in the rural simplicity of Vrndavana, enjoying fully His intimate affairs with His boyhood friends, with his parents, and with the gopis—the cowherd girls. But the Lord had descended for an external purpose as well—to rid the earth of the burden of violent, demonic kings who were at that time oppressing the people and destroying religious principles. So when Krsna reached maturity, He left Vrndavana to fulfill that purpose. And so He ruled as King of Dvaraka, His kingdom by the sea, and led His armies against the demonic oppressors and, one after another, defeated them, thus restoring the reign of righteousness to the world.
When Krsna left Vrndavana, He broke the hearts of all the residents. Their grief was beyond bearing, and no one's grief was greater than Srimati Radharani's. She had lost the Lord of Her heart, the Master of Her life. For love of Him She had sacrificed everything, loving Him, finally, without caution or restraint, allowing Her reputation to be destroyed, Her very life to be taken over and possessed by Him. And then—He had left. He had never returned. Now Her days and nights were spent in tears. Time became stultified. Each minute widened into an aeon, yawned into an endless gulf of grief. The whole universe was vacant. The anguish of Her separation became so intense at times that it seemed to plunge Her into madness.
Srimati Radharani's intense feelings of separation are transcendental, just as Her conjugal relationship with Krsna is transcendental. The prototypes of all relationships and the feelings are found in Krsna. These are original, while those we experience in this material world are merely their perverted reflections. The conjugal relation in this world, for example, is based on lust—that is, the desire to use the other to satisfy one's own senses. But the original conjugal relationship between Radharani and Krsna is based on love. Love is the desire to satisfy the other, giving no thought to one's own enjoyment. A person in love enjoys solely by seeing the satisfaction of the beloved. Thus love has no tinge of selfishness. So the spiritual love between Radha and Krsna is quite the opposite of what passes for love in this world. Moreover, material feelings, like the relations that evoke them, are fleeting and impermanent. But the feelings aroused in relation to Krsna are endless. They never fade, but ever increase in intensity.
Although Srimati Radharani appeared to be suffering in separation, in truth She was neither suffering nor separated from Krsna. In the spiritual realm there is no suffering, for all emotions are varieties of ecstasy. Nor is there any separation as in this world. In Her transcendental separation, Radharani was more intimately united with Krsna than ever. In Her transcendental grief, She was actually experiencing the highest bliss.
Separation intensifies love—that is true even in this world. Separate a mother from her child, and see how her material affection blazes up. Pure devotees desire only to increase their love for Krsna, and Krsna satisfies their desire by arranging for them to love Him with strong feelings of separation. Here love of God reaches its peak, and Sri Caitanya, as the embodiment of Radharani's love, spent His days and nights consumed by this highest and most intense mode of devotional feelings.
The Ratha-yatra festival brought these feelings to their highest pitch. For the festival commemorates the single occasion on which Srimati Radharani again met Krsna. For many years Krsna had ruled as King of Dvaraka exhibiting in the splendor of His capital, the power of His army, the brilliance of His court, and the beauty and refinement of His queens all the opulence of Godhead.
Then, on the occasion of a solar eclipse, Krsna left Dvaraka. Riding with Balarama and Subhadra at the head of endless columns of chariots, elephants, and palanquins, Krsna led His whole royal dynasty to a holy pilgrimage site called Kuruksetra. From all directions, many other royal households converged in state upon the place of pilgrimage. And finally, a small plodding caravan of bullock carts carried all the residents of the obscure cowherd village of Vrndavana, hoping to see their Krsna, who had left them long ago.
And so Srimati Radharani came once more to behold the lover of Her youth. She first saw Him surrounded by His courtiers, riding in regal splendor. Later, They met in a secluded place. Now, after so many endless years apart. She was together again with the same Krsna of long ago. Her ecstasy was boundless. Yet, strange to say, the joy of meeting did not vanquish the feelings of separation that had possessed Her for years. On the contrary, those feelings became even more intense, even though Krsna—the same Krsna as before—was there. For now He was in royal garb, and all around Them were warriors and their horses, elephants, and the rattling of their chariots. As She looked at Krsna, She longed to see Him as the simple cowherd boy, carrying His flute, decorated with the forest flowers of Vrndavana. She yearned to see Him in the old places—by the bank of the river there, under the tree where They used to meet. Thus Srimati Radharani merged into the most powerful of ecstatic emotions, paradoxically uniting the ecstasy of union with the ecstasy of separation; the two were felt simultaneously, and they perpetually intensified each other. So although Her joy at having Krsna again knew no bounds, Her heart was breaking in separation. She yearned to take Krsna back to Vrndavana.
The Ratha-yatra celebration, commemorating this event, is really the emotional process of bringing Krsna back to Vrndavana. Puri itself, with its majestic temple, is Dvaraka, and Gundica, set in rural gardens, is Vrndavana. And as Lord Caitanya danced before Lord Jagannatha's chariot on the way to Gundica, He merged deeper and. deeper into the feelings of Radharani. He lived through all Her feelings for Krsna, and expressed all of them in His ecstatic dancing.
As Sri Caitanya danced, Lord Jagannatha watched with great pleasure. King Prataparudra, together with Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, was also intently watching, and the king became stunned with ecstatic love. Then it happened by the mercy of Lord Caitanya that the king could clearly see the mystery of the Lord's activities. He saw that Lord Caitanya, the dancer, and Lord Jagannatha, who watched the dancer, were the same Personality of Godhead. The king directly beheld the mystery of the Lord: how the one Lord manifests Himself in transcendental variegatedness for the enjoyment of His pastimes.
As the procession moved forward, Lord Caitanya moved from one sankirtana group to another, now dancing in the midst of one, now the other. And then the king and Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya saw another mystery, witnessed only by the confidential associates of Sri Caitanya: They saw Lord Caitanya dancing in the center of all seven groups at once. The chanters in each group, not realizing that the Lord had expanded Himself by His spiritual potency to be in all seven groups, thought that the Lord had come to favor them. Sometimes as seven, sometimes as one, the Lord danced before the chariot. And sometimes all the groups would come together in front of the chariot to form a circle around Lord Caitanya.
Then Lord Caitanya would dance with greater and greater energy. Roaring like thunder, leaping higher and higher, He hurled Himself in a circle so swiftly that He looked like the single incandescent ring formed by a whirling firebrand. Everyone became astonished, even Lord Jagannatha. The chariot came to a complete standstill and remained immobile while Lord Jagannatha watched with unblinking eyes the dancing of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
All throughout the parade, the chariot would stop and start, go slow or fast, as if it had a will of its own. Sometimes the car would stop and refuse to budge, even though the ropes were pulled with much force. Then, inexplicably, it would start to go forward again. Devotees have experienced the same thing in modern Ratha-yatras in Europe and America. The truth of the matter is that the chariot moves by the will of Lord Jagannatha, and not by any human agency.
As the Lord danced before the motionless chariot, physical transformations induced by ecstasy appeared on His body. His skin erupted with goose pimples, and the hairs of His body stood on end: His body resembled a silk cotton tree, all covered with thorns. His teeth chattered so violently that people became afraid they would fall out. His body flowed with perspiration and sometimes oozed blood. His voice became so choked with ecstasy that when he tried to shout "Jagannatha!" He could utter only "jaja gaga, jaja gaga." Tears sprang from His eyes as though expressed from a syringe, and people all around Him became wet. Sometimes He became stunned, crashing suddenly to the ground and lying immobile, scarcely breathing. His limbs hard as wood. Then He would suddenly leap up again, and tears, perspiration, and foam would fly from His golden body.
Then His ecstatic mood changed. Svarupa Damodara, the Lord's secretary, could instantly read the feelings of Sri Caitanya, and he began to sing a particular verse repeatedly. In this verse, Srimati Radharani expresses Her feelings at meeting Krsna at Kuruksetra. Srimati Radharani says, "That very person who stole away My heart during My youth is now again My master. These are the same moonlit nights in the month of Caitra. The same fragrance of malati flowers is there. In Our intimate relationship, I am also the same lover, yet still My mind is not happy here. I am eager to go back to that place on the bank of the Reva, under the Vetasi tree. That is My desire."
Now Sri Caitanya, fully merged into the highest ecstasy of Srimati Radharani at Kuruksetra, began to dance rhythmically. Gradually He moved further and further out in front of Lord Jagannatha's chariot, and then, in response, the chariot also began moving slowly forward. As Lord Caitanya danced. He mimed in gesture the drama of the meeting at Kuruksetra, with all its tragic and exalted emotions. Lord Jagannatha and Lord Caitanya again enacted that sublime pastime of transcendental love on the road to Gundica. Sometimes Lord Caitanya danced out in front of the chariot, and so, in the role of Radharani, tried to lead Krsna back to Vrndavana. Out of her love for Radha, Jagannatha moved forward.
Sometimes Lord Caitanya would fall behind the chariot, thereby indicating that Krsna had forgotten the residents of Vrndavana, had put away the love of His youth, forsaking Her and all the others. Whenever Lord Caitanya dropped in back of the chariot, the chariot would come to a stop. In this way Krsna—Lord Jagannatha—responded that He had not forgotten. Srimati Radharani—all of Vrndavana—remained dear to Him above all else. The chariot would stand immobile until Lord Caitanya again came in front to dance, moving further and further ahead of the car. Then Lord Jagannatha again began to move slowly forward. In this way, Krsna admitted that He could not live without Radharani, that He could never be satisfied outside of Vrndavana. And in this way, Lord Caitanya led Lord Jagannatha to Gundica, and satisfied Him fully.
By His extraordinary pastimes with Lord Jagannatha during the Ratha-yatra festival, Lord Caitanya manifested the most confidential ecstasies of divinity. People are wasting away in this material world, trying vainly to squeeze a few drops of happiness out of dead, dry matter. Lord Caitanya disclosed these innermost pastimes of Krsna, opening this incalculable treasure of spiritual feelings, to show that nothing in this world can compare to Krsna.
For a long time, the world has heard of God's power and majesty, but it is not much attracted. Therefore, Lord Caitanya also revealed God's sweetness and beauty. The all-attractive feature of God was actually revealed when Krsna descended five thousand years ago. But Lord Caitanya revealed it more completely and more openly by showing through His own ecstatic attraction how attractive Krsna is. We know how lovable Krsna is because in Sri Caitanya we see how much love He evokes. And just as Lord Caitanya at the Ratha-yatra disclosed the highest love of God, He also showed the way to attain it.
He did this by organizing a powerful exhibition of sankirtana—congregational chanting of the holy names of God. This simple and natural practice possesses such immense spiritual potency that people with no spiritual qualifications at all can come to the highest level of spiritual realization. For the regular chanting of Hare Krsna destroys material desires—as Lord Caitanya wrote: it "cleanses the heart of all the dust accumulated for years." All kinds of material desires, gross and subtle; all the misconceptions of pride and egoism; all the furies of anger and hatred; all of these gradually fade and then utterly vanish if one chants the holy name with the same care and attention with which Lord Caitanya cleansed Gundica temple. Then Sri Krsna will appear within your heart, and all of Vrndavana with Him.
Lord Caitanya's sankirtana movement was revolutionary in that it offered everyone spiritual enfranchisement. Some of Lord Caitanya's followers were born as Moslems, others were outcasts because they had worked for the Moslem government. None of them was allowed to enter Jagannatha's temple, yet they were the most advanced devotees of Lord Jagannatha. In worshiping intimately with these devotees, Lord Caitanya showed that spiritual elevation is not a matter of birth or social status, but of purity. And since the chanting of Hare Krsna can purify even the most fallen, no one on earth is excluded from worshiping Lord Jagannatha.
Thus Lord Caitanya made Sri Krsna available to everyone. For twenty years He worshiped Lord Jagannatha at Puri, and every year He danced and chanted before the Lord's chariot. As a result, Lord Jagannatha, ever merciful to the most fallen, now rides on His chariot in cities all around the globe, smiling on the whole world.
We welcome your letters.
While reading your recent article dealing with cows, I was shocked and hurt to learn that ISKCON castrates their bulls. I feel that this is a horrible thing to do and also unnecessary. Somehow it is hard for me to see how Krsna could sanction this, since He loves cows.
I wish you could explain why you feel it is so necessary to mutilate the bulls in this manner. Surely it must be extremely painful both during the castration itself and afterwards, when the bull has to live with the fact that it can no longer engage in the natural function of reproduction.
Would it be right for us to castrate humans? Certainly bulls have feelings too.
I hope to see this letter and your reply in a future issue of BTG.
R. A. Street S. Walpole, Massachusetts
Our reply: Krsna created the bull to breed cows or to work as an ox. An ox is a mature castrated bull. An uncastrated bull can't work. He's too wild with sex desire. Ever meet one? A bull can be very fierce. One on our Pennsylvania farm used to break out of his corral, terrorize the cows, damage the property, and charge everyone with his horns. We had to put a ring in his nose and chain him up. And the bull's "natural function of reproduction" must be carefully supervised. If you let him breed more animals than you can maintain, there's no one to buy them except people who will eventually sell them to slaughter.
A bull bred for working should be castrated before the age of six months. You take a surgical instrument and pinch the blood vessels above his testicles. The operation is simple, quick, and no more painful than a needle shot. The resultant hormonal changes provide the growing ox with a powerful neck and shoulders and mellow his temperament so you can train him to work. His testicles remain undeveloped, but the simple ox isn't hung up about it. In fact, he's more peaceful than the steaming bull. The same drive he would have put into procreation, he puts into work. An ox loves to work.
Since Krsna loves the cows. He gives them to us to employ and protect in His service. That is our true "dominion over the cattle" (Genesis 1.26). But we're not surprised that you didn't know how the bulls work as oxen. Today only three percent of Americans farm, and even the organic folks almost always use tractors. People are too busy eating calves and steers to know what they could do if given a chance to grow up. So let's save our shock for the slaughterhouse. If we don't work the bulls as oxen, then, like our misled countrymen, we'll think them useless and want to kill them too. And that's no bull.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
by Drutakarma dasa
In the ideal social system described in the timeless Vedic scriptures of India, special protection is afforded to five classes of living beings: the brahmanas (spiritual leaders), cows, women, the elderly, and children. By this standard, modern society is doing a very poor job, especially in the case of children, as a recent outrage surely demonstrates.
Even for the most jaded residents of Southern California the case was shocking—over 125 children subjected to sexual abuse at the best preschool in affluent Manhattan Beach. The accused included the school's operator, Virginia McMartin, seventy-six, and three members of her family. Under questioning children revealed that small animals had been killed in front of their eyes by their teachers in order to frighten them into silence. When one of the defendants was ordered released on bond, a parent told the news crews outside the courtroom that the government was failing in its job to protect the community's children. The widespread nature of child abuse grew ominously apparent as more cases followed—public and private school teachers, choir leaders, and others, all accused of sexual abuse of children.
It goes without saying that everything possible should be done to protect children from the nightmarish horrors of sexual abuse. But a thoughtful person trained in the spiritual principles of Krsna consciousness can see the whole issue of protecting children in a more thorough and all-encompassing perspective.
Devotees of Krsna believe that children should be protected right from the very beginning of their existence. Krsna conscious married couples engage in sex only for the purpose of conceiving a child, thus insuring that every child is loved and wanted. Krsna conscious parents understand that in conceiving a child they are giving a spirit soul the opportunity to enter a human body. In this human body, the soul will be able to use its intelligence to become self-realized and thus escape the cycle of birth and death in this material world. At the end of its life the soul will be able to return to its real home in the spiritual world and there remain as an eternal servant of the Supreme Lord Krsna. To not give a child a chance to take full advantage of this opportunity is to condemn it to the painful experience of death and rebirth, perhaps in a species less than human. That is real child abuse. Krsna conscious parents desire to protect their children from this ultimate form of suffering. Indeed the Vedas state that those who cannot protect their child from repeated birth and death should not become parents.
Rather than protecting their children from death, however, Americans are killing almost two million infants each year through abortion. And it is not only the dead infants who have suffered. Abortion has resulted in a devaluation of children in relation to sex. The whole principle of abortion is that the right to experience sex is more important than the responsibility to assume the burden of raising and protecting a child. When confronted with the choice between unrestricted sex and the life of a child, society in general has chosen to kill the child. So there is a very real psychological connection between abortion and child sexual abuse that needs to be examined.
After a child is born, Krsna conscious parents protect it by giving it the opportunity to be trained in the principles of self-realization. Since this training must be given by a bona fide spiritual master, or guru, it is customary for parents to send their school-age children to a gurukula—a school run by such a bona fide guru. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness operates these gurukulas as private religious schools. At a gurukula, in addition to learning the normal academic subjects, the children are trained in self-realization and thus receive their "second birth."
The first birth—the birth of the body—occurs when one is born of a father and mother. The second birth—the start of one's eternal occupation as a servant of God—occurs when one accepts a spiritual master and Vedic knowledge. One of the most important qualities of spiritual masters or teachers is that they be completely free from sinful activities: gambling, intoxication, meat-eating—and illicit sex. It is now dawning upon the public in general that a teacher must have moral standards, not simply academic qualifications. From such a teacher, children can receive the spiritual training that will allow them to become free from the cycle of birth and death. If parents want to protect their children completely, they should not fail to give them this education.
What's Wrong With Animal Rights?
by Kundali dasa
The Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine recently ran an article by William Ecenbarger on the animal rights movement. It was an informative and compelling version of the facts and arguments put forward by people who fight against speciesism—exploitation of animals. These people feel that the time has come to stop man's tyrannical "dominion" over animals. They disagree with the traditional notion that animals are meant to serve man's ends in cages, laboratories, traps, and kitchens.
The animal rights activists feel that their cause is cut from the same moral cloth as other crusades against injustice—the struggles against racism and sexism, for example. Their strongest argument against speciesism is summed up in a quote from the British philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), who wrote in his Principles of Morals and Legislation: "The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they think? but, Can they suffer?" The answer, of course, is an unequivocal "Yes, animals certainly can suffer." Therefore, say the animal rightists, logically we should extend that ethic to include animals. Thus one of their primary goals is to stop commercial production of animals for food.
Naturally, animal liberationists espouse strict vegetarianism. They say it is an important first step we can all take to combat speciesism. They are confident that in time their goals will be realized because "the weight of reason" is on their side.
Whether "the weight of reason" is sufficient to convince people in general to change their eating habits is certainly doubtful. But more important is the argument meat-eaters sometimes give to counter the animal rightists. They take the argument against inflicting suffering on other living beings one step further and try to lodge the animal rightists in an ethical sinkhole. This came out in the editorial column in the same issue of the Inquirer, wherein David R. Boldt, the editor of the magazine, wrote in response to Ecenbarger's article: "My own excuse for eating meat is that plants, research has shown, have feelings, just like animals. Why choose between them? Before considering the fate of the steer, imagine the dread and horror that spreads across a wheat field when the thresher starts its work."
Boldt's challenge carries "the weight of reason," although most reasonable people would not equate the suffering of wheat being harvested with the suffering of a steer being slaughtered. Obviously the steer is more sensitive to pain and more aware of its fate. We all know this. Our stomach reacts considerably less if we observe the threshing of a wheat field than if we observe the grisly work in a slaughterhouse. From a spiritual point of view, the sinful reaction, or karma, for animal slaughter is many times more severe than for taking a plant's life. By nature's arrangement, every living being is food for another, but the Vedic scriptures advise us that violence should be kept to a minimum. A vegetarian is therefore generally considered a more sensitive, refined, and spiritually advanced human being than a meat-eater. Thus the efforts by the animal rightists to end ghastly animal slaughter is commendable.
Still, being a vegetarian is not entirely free of inflicting some suffering and the concomitant karmic reactions. A moral argument based on "the weight of reason" would have to eliminate plants' suffering completely, or the all-out moralist could not eat at all. Indeed, the animal rightists would be hard put to answer Boldt's challenge purely on the grounds of reason.
How does the philosophy of Krsna consciousness, considering that it advocates strict vegetarianism, resolve this moral conundrum? This point was discussed in a conversation between Srila Prabhupada and Father Emmanuel, a Roman Catholic priest, in 1974:
Srila Prabhupada: The Vaisnava [Krsna consciousness] philosophy teaches that we should not kill even plants unnecessarily. In the Bhagavad-gita [9.26] Krsna says:
patram puspam phalam toyam
"If someone offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or a little water, I will accept it." We offer Krsna only the kind of food He demands, and then we eat the remnants. If offering vegetarian food to Krsna is sinful, then it would be Krsna's sin, not ours. But God is apapa-viddham—sinful reactions are not applicable to Him. He is like the sun, which is so powerful that it can purify even urine—something impossible for us to do.
Krsna is also like a king, who may order a murderer to be hanged but who himself is beyond punishment because he is very powerful. Eating food first offered to the Lord is also something like a soldier's killing during wartime. In a war, when the commander orders a man to attack, the obedient soldier who kills the enemy will get a medal. But if the same soldier kills someone on his own, he will be punished. Similarly, when we eat only prasadam [food offered to Krsna], we do not commit any sin. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita [3.13]:
"The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is first offered for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin."
Father Emmanuel: Krsna cannot give permission to eat animals?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes—in the animal kingdom. But the civilized human being, the religious human being, is not meant to kill and eat animals.
For the devotee of Krsna, therefore, the decision to be vegetarian is not based on sentiment, whim, fad, or incomplete reasoning. It is based on the authority of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. (Someone may try to argue that this conclusion is mere religious belief; it doesn't have "the weight of reason" on its side, Their argument is due only to ignorance of the scientific nature of the Krsna consciousness philosophy and of how it establishes Krsna's existence and authority beyond a shadow of reasonable doubt. For more on this question see "The Quest for Certainty," in BACK TO GODHEAD, Vol. 19, No. 6.)
Krsna is Hrsikesa, the Lord and master of our senses. We are part and parcel of Him, just as the hand is part and parcel of the body. The constitutional duty of the part is to serve the whole; this is our practical experience. The standard of real satisfaction for the soul, therefore, is that whatever pleases Krsna's senses pleases our senses and nourishes us, spiritually and materially. So the most important principle regarding diet is that we should eat only those foods He authorizes, and only after first offering them to Him in sacrifice.
According to this principle, if Krsna were to authorize offerings of meat, fish, or eggs, we would willingly comply and accept that as His mercy. On the other hand, eating for our own personal sense gratification, whether vested in steaks or salads, is immoral and entangles us in a greater or lesser degree of karmic reaction.
Now, it remains to be seen whether both Mr. Boldt and the animal rights champions, with their apparent willingness to follow "the weight of reason" to its ultimate conclusion, are ready to do so and surrender to the authority of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The ethical deadlock between the meat-eaters and animal rightists is one of many examples of how our finite minds are unable to discern the conclusive truth. The conclusive Absolute Truth, Krsna—the Supreme Personality of Godhead—is beyond our reasoning ability, and without His authority we have no criteria by which to choose whenever reason leads to ethical dilemmas.
Krsna consciousness is the only system of thought that can help us get out of such ethical dead ends. How is this so? Because Krsna consciousness is the philosophy propounded by the Absolute Truth personified, Lord Sri Krsna. To have this realization and appreciation, however, materialistic meat-eaters as well as vegetarians will have to learn the art of humbly appealing to Krsna for moral, philosophical, and spiritual guidance. The first revolutionary step in that direction is to sincerely chant His transcendental holy names: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Anyone who takes to this chanting gradually realizes that Krsna consciousness is indeed the Absolute Truth, without any logical inconsistencies or loose ends.
Independently You Cannot Be Happy
The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place in October 1975 during an early-morning walk in Nairobi, Kenya.
Srila Prabhupada: [Taking the role of an atheist.} By pleasing the spiritual master, you please Krsna. That's nice. But why should Krsna be pleased? Why should one bother himself to please Krsna? Answer this.
Devotee: Because our real position is to serve Krsna. We've fallen into the illusion of this material energy because we forgot our position as His servants.
Srila Prabhupada: We are making scientific progress. What is the use of bringing God in?
Devotee: Because we shall never become perfect if we don't serve God.
Srila Prabhupada: That is begging the question.
Devotee: Everybody has to serve somebody. Since Krsna is the reservoir of all pleasure and everything emanates from Him, instead of serving some ordinary person we should serve Krsna.
Srila Prabhupada: But without serving Krsna, I am getting pleasure by drinking wine. Why shall I serve Him?
Devotee: That pleasure will not last; it is only temporary.
Srila Prabhupada: But I also will not last. So I am enjoying wine while I can.
Devotee: But such a mentality is third class. Actually, our life is eternal.
Srila Prabhupada: That is your statement—"third class"—but my statement is "It is first class."
Devotee: Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita [10.10], "To those who are constantly devoted to Me and worship Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me." So, this is our desire.
Srila Prabhupada: I don't want to go.
Devotee: You don't want to go to Krsna?
Srila Prabhupada: No.
Devotee: All right, suffer.
Srila Prabhupada: You are putting upon me some impression—"suffer"—but I am enjoying.
Devotee: Your knee is hurting. Is that enjoying?
Srila Prabhupada: That I am curing. That is also nice. [Laughter.]
Devotee: It is said in the Bhagavatam that we are just like the limbs of the body and that Krsna is like the stomach. All the limbs may be jealous of the stomach and not want to feed the stomach, but if the hands and legs and mouth were to go on strike and not feed the stomach, they would ultimately be destroyed.
Srila Prabhupada: This is the right answer. Every limb of the body must cooperate with the stomach. If the finger thinks, "I shall remain independent and be happy," that is not possible. The stomach must be supplied food, and then all the other parts of the body will be happy.
Similarly, Krsna is the central enjoyer (bhoktaram yajna-tapasam). He is the center of everyone's activities, just as this African state is the center of people's activities here. If you do not satisfy the state—or the president—then you cannot remain happy. Independently you cannot be happy. For example, we have come to this park because the state is maintaining it. We have not gone to the jungle. So if we actually want happiness, we must cooperate with the state.
Similarly, if our ultimate aim is to become happy, then we must cooperate with Krsna. This is obligatory. You cannot escape it. If you try, you'll be unhappy.
Devotee: We are part and parcel of Lord Krsna . . .
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Even a child—he will naturally bring everything to his mouth. He picks up something, but he does not put it anywhere. Immediately he puts it in the mouth. Why doesn't he put it in the ear? He doesn't know what is what, but as soon as he gets something, he puts it in his mouth because his position is eating. He knows—"Taste with the tongue and eat." He hasn't got to be educated.
So, our position is like that. Being part and parcel of Krsna, we have a natural tendency to serve Him. Serving Krsna is not artificial. When you forget Krsna, that is artificial. Our normal life is to love Krsna, to serve Krsna. That is our normal life. Without our serving Krsna life is abnormal, a madman's life.
Therefore Krsna comes to this world to preach normal life: sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja. "Give up all other so-called duties and simply surrender unto Me." This is normal life. Krsna doesn't require our help. He can create many helpers. But for our good Krsna comes and says, "If you want a normal, happy life, then surrender unto Me." This is His proposal.
Devotee: But Krsna is not here now to give us this normal life. What are we to do?
Srila Prabhupada: Therefore Bhagavad-gita and all other Vedic literatures are there to remind us of our forgotten position—to love and serve Krsna.
krsna bhuli' sei jiva anadi-bahirmukha
We cannot ascertain when we have come to this world, but from time immemorial we have forgotten Krsna, and life after life we are changing bodies and suffering. So here, in the human form of life, there is the opportunity to revive our original position. But we require the help of knowledge, perfect knowledge. That is available in the Vedic literature.
So, we may read the Bhagavad-gita, but if we don't take advantage of its knowledge and if we go on acting whimsically, then we will suffer. You cannot avoid cooperating with Krsna. You must cooperate. There is no question of an alternative. You must cooperate; otherwise you'll never be happy.
Our aim of life should be to end misery (atyantika-duhkha-nivrttih). For example, I'm suffering from this knee trouble because I am in this material world, because I have this material body. So, atyantika-duhkha-nivrttih means no more material world, no more material body. And no more misery. And for that purpose we have to cooperate with Krsna; otherwise it is not possible to end our misery.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Cleveland Grants $20,000 to "Food for Life"
Cleveland, Ohio—By a vote of 21-0, the city council here recently approved a $20,000 grant to fund ISKCON's local Hare Krsna Food for Life program. His Holiness Tapah-punja Swami, president of the Cleveland Hare Krsna temple, announced that the grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will be used to provide 2,400 meals a month for poor people in the city's Garden Valley neighborhood. "We are grateful the city is open-minded enough to provide this wonderful opportunity," he said.
City councilman Lonnie L. Burten said he supported the grant because ISKCON has a proven record of supplying food to poor people. "They can take $15,000 and do what the average food program does with $75,000 or $100,000 because of the way they cook it," said Burten.
Last summer the devotees distributed hot meals from a converted postal truck called the "Free Meal Mobile." "We were feeding up to four hundred people in forgotten neighborhoods in a few short hours each day," Tapah-punja Swami recalls. "I think the city was moved by our honest gesture."
"We don't expect any personal salaries," he explains. "All the funds will be spent for purchasing and distributing food. Simply stated, we can serve better food to more people for less money, and we're going to prove it."
The Cleveland devotees operate their Food for Life program under the direction of one of ISKCON's present spiritual masters, His Divine Grace Srila Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada. Several years ago their low-cost Govinda's restaurant won the esteem of the entire city council, which issued a resolution recognizing them for their selfless work.
Tapah-punja Swami says that in addition to providing delicious food he will offer training about nutrition to participants in the free-meals program. "Here in America, the hunger problem is not lack of food," he explains, "but that the people are trained to eat the wrong kinds of food. People are overfed, but undernourished. In India, Krsna consciousness is called 'the kitchen religion.' We believe that if food is prepared in a mood of love and devotion to God, people benefit not only materially but spiritually as well."
KHQN Now Broadcasting Krsna Consciousness
Spanish Fork, Utah—Owned and operated by devotees of Krsna here, KHQN (1480 on the am dial) recently began broadcasting "The Sound of Transcendence" fifteen hours a day, seven days a week, to nearly half a million people, becoming America's first full-time Krsna conscious radio station.
KHQN is situated on five acres of land, seven miles south of Provo, Utah, home of the Mormons' Brigham Young University, with thirty thousand students.
Currently the station can reach only part of Salt Lake City, but with new equipment soon to be installed, its audience there will substantially increase.
Formerly a country-western station, the sudden change-over to "Sanskrit contemporary-wave music" and a diversity of message-oriented programs immediately won the media's attention.
The Religious News Service reported the story, and newspapers across the country printed it. Announcer Nanda-patni-devi dasi was quoted: "We believe we have something to offer that can be enlightening to all people. The overall goal of KHQN is to let the people know what the Hare Krsna movement is about. We're not recluses."
KHQN offers a variety of programs. Each day begins at sunrise with a lecture by ISKCON founder-acarya His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, and a new program, lasting thirty-five to forty minutes, is aired every hour. The balance of each hour is filled with music.
The Kacauri Story
On the anniversary of Srila Prabhupada's appearance,
by Visakha-devi dasi
Every morning at Hare Krsna temples around the world, devotees gather to sing Sri Sri Gurvastaka, eight Sanskrit verses praising the spiritual master. These verses describe the characteristics of a genuine spiritual master. The fourth verse says that a genuine spiritual master encourages the distribution of prasadam [food offered to Lord Krsna.] to the public. As Srila Prabhupada explains, "Ours is not a dry philosophy—simply talk and go away. No. We distribute prasadam, very sumptuous prasadam. In every temple we offer prasadam to anyone who comes. In each and every temple we already have from fifty to two hundred devotees, and outsiders also come and take prasadam. So prasadam distribution is a symptom of the guru.
"Prasadam is not ordinary food, because prasadam has the potency to make us gradually become spiritualized. Therefore it is said that realization of God begins with the tongue. By engaging our tongue in the service of the Lord, then we realize God. So what is that engagement of the tongue? We chant the holy name of the Lord, and we take His prasadam. Then, by these two methods, we become God realized. You don't have to be very highly educated or be a philosopher, a scientist, or a rich man to realize God. If you just sincerely engage your tongue in the service of the Lord, you will realize Him. It's so simple. That's why the guru introduces this prasadam program. And when the guru sees that prasadam distribution is going on, he is very pleased."
This month we're especially remembering Srila Prabhupada, since August is his appearance day anniversary. Once in India when he was offered potato chidwa (a deep-fried, salty snack), he commented that this dish was one of his spiritual master's favorite afternoon refreshments and that just by tasting it he thought of his spiritual master. Similarly, one of Srila Prabhupada's favorite dishes was kacauris (spicy, vegetable-stuffed fried pastries). And by preparing, offering, tasting, and distributing kacauris, we can relish thoughts of Srila Prabhupada.
As a child, Srila Prabhupada had several nicknames. One was Kacauri-mukhi, because of his fondness for kacauris. Both his mother and grandmother would give him kacauris, which he kept in the many pockets of his vest. He liked to watch the vendors cooking on the busy roadside, and he would accept kacauris from them and also from the neighbors, until all his inside and outside vest pockets were filled.
Sometimes when he demanded that his mother make him kacauris, she would refuse. Once she even sent him to bed. But when his father came home and discovered this, he said, "No, we should make them for him." And he woke his son and personally cooked kacauris for him.
Many years later, as Srila Prabhupada was beginning the first Hare Krsna center, at 26 Second Avenue in New York, he arranged a lavish feast for the first Krsna conscious wedding ceremony in America. And at that sixteen-course meal, kacauris were the piece de resistance. (Yamuna-devi dasi, whose recipes appear on these pages each month, spent six hours the day before the feast stuffing potato kacauris.) After tasting Srila Prabhupada's kacauris at the wedding feast, one young man resolved on the spot to dedicate himself to Krsna consciousness and become Srila Prabhupada's disciple as soon as possible.
Some years later, after Srila Prabhupada had established a worldwide confederation of more than one hundred temples, institutes, schools, and farm communities, he stayed at his Krishna-Balaram Mandir in Vrndavana, India. Although his health was not good and his digestion was weak, he asked one evening for some of the kacauris that had just been offered to the Deities. His disciples hesitated. Prabhupada was nearly eighty, and for years he had been traveling nonstop, preaching Krsna consciousness on six continents, writing dozens of books, and initiating thousands of disciples. The two senior disciples present tried to convince Prabhupada that kacauris were too rich and that there were other dishes that would be easier for him to digest. But Srila Prabhupada ate kacauris anyway, digesting them without difficulty.
Preparing, eating, and distributing krsna-prasadam is only one aspect of the transcendental, Krsna conscious culture that Srila Prabhupada introduced in the West and revived within India. A divinely empowered representative of God, Prabhupada carried and freely gave life's greatest treasure: love of God. Those who received this gift feel that they cannot begin to repay him for it. The best they can do is to follow his teachings and, at least on the anniversary of his appearance, prepare and distribute kacauris for his pleasure.
(Recipes by Yamuna-devi dasi)
Pastries Staffed with Spiced Green Peas
Preparation time: 1 ½ hours
Ingredients for the pastry:
2 cups unbleached white pastry flour or all-purpose flour
Ingredients for the pea stuffing:
½ tablespoon ghee
10- to 12-inch wok or similar 3- to 4-inch deep-frying pan
slotted spoon for deep frying frying thermometer (optional) absorbent paper for draining dish lined with paper towels for keeping the kacauris warm, if necessary
To prepare the pastry:
1. Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a deep mixing bowl. Add the butter or ghee and rub the flour-ghee mixture between your fingertips until its consistency is similar to dry oatmeal. Make a well in the center, pour in ½ cup of cold water, and quickly stir and gather the mixture into a ball. It may be necessary to sprinkle in up to 1 more tablespoon of water, adding 1 teaspoon at a time, to allow the dough to adhere into a mass and reach a soft, smooth texture.
2. Knead the dough for about 8 to 10 minutes or until the dough is soft, smooth, pliable, and elastic. Shape into a ball, place in a bowl, drape with a moist towel, and allow the dough to sit for at least 30 minutes while preparing the stuffing.
To prepare the pea stuffing:
1. Place the peas in a mixing bowl and mash them with a fork until they form a wet, semi-solid pulp.
2. Heat the ghee or oil in an 8- to 10-inch frying pan over medium heat for 1 ½ minutes. Add the hot chilies and ginger root; stir-fry until golden brown. Sprinkle in the asafetida powder, fry for a few seconds, then stir in the pea puree, and fry until the mixture is dry.
3. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients. Transfer the mixture to a plate to cool. Divide into 17 or 18 balls.
To shape and fry the kacauris:
1. Cut the dough into two equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 9-inch-long log. Score and cut each into nine 1-inch pieces. Drape a moist cloth over the pellets.
2. Take one piece of dough and press it between your palms, flattening it into a 2 ½-inch disk. Gently press around the edges with your thumb and fingertips to thin slightly. Place a pellet of the stuffing in the center of the dough and pull the dough around the filling to close it. Pinch the edges together until thoroughly sealed, then gently press the excess dough back into the pastry. Try to pinch the seams closed; the surface of the pastry must be devoid of cracks. With the pastry resting in the right palm, seam side up, press with the heel of your left palm and evenly flatten the pastry into a 2 ¼-inch-round cake about ½-inch thick.
The dough on the finished cake should have an even thickness, for a thin spot will burst during frying. Place the pastry, seam-side down, on a platter. Finish shaping and stuffing the remaining pastries.
3. Heat the ghee or oil over a medium to medium-low flame until the temperature rises to about 240°F on a frying thermometer. Slip in 9 pastries, seam-side down. The ghee or oil temperature will fall to about 220 to 225°F. Now, slowly fry the pastries for about 23 to 27 minutes. Use a wooden spoon for turning the delicate pastries. Remove and drain with a metal frying spoon. The following general temperatures and corresponding times may be helpful guidelines.
4. Offer the piping hot pastries to Krsna. Keep warm until served, in a preheated 250° oven on an uncovered baking dish lined with paper towels. Or serve at room temperature.
Pastries Stuffed with Seasoned Potatoes
Preparation time: 1 ½ hours
Ingredients for the pastry:
2 cups unbleached white pastry or all-purpose flour
Ingredients for potato stuffing:
1 ½ tablespoons ghee
10- to 12-inch wok or similar 3- to 4-inch deep-frying pan
slotted spoon for deep frying frying thermometer absorbent paper for draining dish lined with paper towels for keeping the kacauris warm, if necessary
To prepare the pastry:
Prepare as directed in the previous recipe, but combine the yogurt and water before adding to the dry ingredients.
To prepare the potato stuffing:
1. Heat the ghee or oil in a small frying pan over medium-high flame for about ½ minute, then add the minced chilies, ginger, and mustard seeds and fry until the mustard seeds sputter and pop. Drop in the potatoes, mashed coarse, and stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes.
2. Remove from the heat, add the remaining ingredients; blend well. Pour onto a plate, cool, and divide into 17 or 18 even-sized balls.
To shape and fry the kacauris:
Divide the dough into 17 or 18 pieces. Then prepare as directed in steps 1 through 4 in the previous recipe.
A devotee-bookseller explains.
By Seva-devi dasi
Have you ever met a Hare Krsna devotee in an airport, a parking lot, or on the street distributing books and collecting donations? Many people wonder why we do this. I've been distributing books for over six years, and I'd like to tell you something about the origin of book distribution.
Devotees are not ordinary booksellers; their bookselling is transcendental. It is sankirtana, the glorification of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Sankirtana can be executed very easily, without great endeavor or expense. One can simply chant the Hare Krsna mantra by himself or with others. Or one can read about and discuss the pastimes of the Lord and His devotees. When we give someone a book, we allow him to get in touch with the philosophy and pastimes of Krsna. Any donation he gives helps support the book publication and the temples of the Krsna consciousness movement. Temples worldwide distribute prasadam (spiritual food) free of charge and give people the opportunity to come and take part in spiritual activities. And all of this is sankirtana, the glorification of Lord Krsna, which is what Krsna consciousness is all about.
Sankirtana is not new. Five hundred years ago in West Bengal, India, Lord Caitanya—Krsna Himself in the role of His own devotee—came to establish sankirtana as the process of purification in this age. At that time, many persons believed that one could attain perfection only by intense study of Sanskrit and the Vedas. They would spend their whole lives memorizing and discussing verses. Many also believed that spiritual life was open only to those bom in the families of brahmanas, or intellectuals. Lord Caitanya, however, did not concern Himself with caste distinctions, nor did He require candidates for spiritual life to possess vast amounts of learning. He allowed everyone the opportunity to engage in the service of God simply by chanting the holy names: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Lord Caitanya desired that the chanting of the holy names of God be spread to every town and village in the world. Traveling widely throughout India, He introduced people to the chanting of Hare Krsna and also asked them to give the chanting to others. He directed His most competent disciples to write books elaborating all aspects of devotional service to Krsna, for the benefit of people in the future.
After Lord Caitanya left this world, many persons claiming to be His followers changed the essence of His teachings, until by the 1800s His teachings were no longer respected by intelligent, educated persons. Then, on September 2,1838, Bhaktivinoda Thakura, a pure devotee of Lord Caitanya, was born in India. Although a highly placed government magistrate and the father of ten, Bhaktivinoda Thakura would rise very early every morning to write essays, books, poems, and songs about devotional service to Lord Krsna. Thus, through his writings and personal influence, he reestablished the purity and deep meaning of Lord Caitanya's teachings.
Bhaktivinoda was very concerned that the message of Lord Caitanya be spread throughout the world, and he prayed to the Lord for a son to help him accomplish this mission. On February 6, 1874, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura was born to him in Jagannatha Puri. Even as a young boy, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was an avid scholar of Vedic literature, and his father trained him in proofreading and publishing his magazine, Sajjana-tosani. By age twenty-five, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati had established himself as an outstanding author and scholar. He never married, but directed all his attention to the distribution of Krsna consciousness. He initiated many disciples and established the Gaudiya Math, a unified group of devotees, temples, and presses throughout India.
Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was especially interested in using the printing press to disseminate Krsna consciousness, and he coined the term "brhat mrdanga" (big mrdanga) in relation to the printing press. A mrdanga is a drum used to accompany the chanting of Hare Krsna. This drum can be heard for only a block or two, whereas the "brhat mrdanga" of the printing press can be heard all over the world.
Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was very eager to see that Lord Caitanya's teachings be spread worldwide, and he always urged his disciples to take Krsna consciousness to the West, where most people were ignorant of spiritual life. One of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's disciples, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, very successfully carried out this instruction.
Srila Prabhupada was born on September 1, 1896, in Calcutta. An astrologer predicted that the child would be a great devotee of the Lord and in his later years would be a very successful religious leader, opening 108 temples around the world. His father, Gour Mohan De, was a pure devotee and very carefully trained Prabhupada in all the principles of devotional service.
In 1922, Prabhupada met Srila Bhaktisiddhanta. At that time, Bhaktisiddhanta requested Prabhupada to spread Krsna consciousness in the West. From that first meeting, Prabhupada began planning how to carry out this instruction. In 1944, he began to publish a monthly magazine in English called BACK TO GODHEAD, which he would distribute to many people in India as well as abroad. In 1962, after retiring from family life, he began to translate into English and write commentary on the Srimad-Bhagavatam, India's great spiritual classic, and by January 1965 he had published the first three volumes. With these books he felt confident to travel to America and spread Krsna consciousness.
After one year in America, Prabhupada had gathered a few followers, and in 1966 he officially incorporated the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). He initiated many disciples, some of whom he then sent to various cities to establish more centers. At first additional centers sprang up in America, then in Canada, Europe, India, and eventually all around the world. But the prime means for spreading Krsna consciousness, Prabhupada emphasized, was the distribution of transcendental literature.
Following the instructions of Lord Caitanya and Srila Prabhupada, the devotees in ISKCON are enthusiastically distributing books for the benefit of people everywhere. So, when you meet the devotees collecting donations, remember that they're not out to exploit you by taking your money to give it to some big man at the top or to keep it for themselves. The members of ISKCON want to give people the opportunity to find out about Krsna consciousness and thus perfect their lives.
Charitable organizations abound, but to give a suffering person free food or medical treatment is incomplete, because it neglects to give a person the knowledge that he is not his body but an eternal spirit soul, servant of Krsna. As long as one does not have transcendental knowledge, he must repeatedly suffer birth, disease, old age, and death. All problems are due simply to a lack of God consciousness.
The books the members of ISKCON are distributing present the science of God consciousness and explain how it can be implemented in society. The devotees who are distributing these books understand the urgency of presenting this message, and therefore they work with great determination. But it's not easy. Most people are not inclined toward spiritual life, and a devotee has to tolerate a lot of rejection and harsh treatment, just as he tolerates the heat, cold, rain, and snow. You may have seen a devotee untiringly approaching people despite continual rejection, or running up to people in a parking lot for hours on a freezing winter day. Some people think that these devotees get a lot of money for this or that they're "brainwashed," because this kind of voluntary enthusiasm and determination isn't ordinary. But for the devotee, distributing transcendental literature isn't an ordinary job, and he derives transcendental satisfaction from meeting receptive people and from knowing he's pleasing his spiritual master and Krsna.
Now hundreds of devotees all over the world are distributing Krsna conscious literature, and the desire of the great spiritual masters and the Supreme Lord is being fulfilled. The "brhat mrdanga" is being heard all over the world, and people are being benefited.
The Heliodorus Column
An archeological discovery proves that there were
by Jagatguru Swami and Satyaraja dasa
Heliodorus was a Greek ambassador to India in the second century B.C. Few details are known about the diplomatic relations between the Greeks and the Indians in those days, and still less is known about Heliodorus. But the column he erected at Besnagar in central India about 113 B.C. ** (Suvira Jaiswal, The Origin and Development of Vaisnavism (New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1980), p. 116.) is considered one of the most important archeological finds on the Indian subcontinent. The column's inscription has remarkable historical value—for the Krsna consciousness movement and for the world—because it stands as irrefutable evidence that the philosophy of Krsna consciousness had made an impact on Western minds at least twenty-two hundred years ago.
Heliodorus was sent to the court of King Bhagabhadra by Antialkidas, the Greek king of Taxila. The kingdom of Taxila was part of the Bactrian region in northwest India, conquered by Alexander the Great in 325 b.c. By the time of Antialkidas, the area under Greek rule included what is today Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Punjab. ** (A. L. Basham, ed., A Cultural History of India (London: Clarendon Press, 1974), p. 431.)
The column erected by Heliodorus first came to the attention of Western eyes in 1877, during an archeological survey by General Alexander Cunningham. The inscription, however, went unnoticed, because of the pillar's thick coating of red lead. It had been the custom of pilgrims who had worshiped there to smear the column with vermilion paint. The column, Cunningham deduced from its shape, was from the period of the Imperial Guptas ** (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (London: JRAS, Pub., 1909), pp. 1053-54.) (a.d. 300-550). Thirty-two years later, however, when the inscription was brought to light, it became clear that the monument was several centuries older. ** (Ibid.)
In January 1901, a Mr. Lake discerned what he thought was some lettering on the lower part of the column, and removal of some paint proved him right. Dr. J. H. Marshall, who accompanied Mr. Lake, described the discovery in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society in 1909. Cunningham, Marshall explained, had been mistaken about the age of the column and "could little have dreamt of the value of the record which he just missed discovering. ... A glance at the few letters exposed was all that was needed to show that the column was many centuries earlier than the Gupta era. This was, indeed, a surprise to me, but a far greater one was in store when the opening lines of the inscription came to be read." ** (Ibid., p. 1054)
A reproduction of the inscription, along with the transliteration and translation of the ancient Brahmi text, is given here as it appeared in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society:
1) Devadevasa Va [sude]vasa Garudadhvajo ayam
"This Garuda-column of Vasudeva (Vishnu), the god of gods, was erected here by Heliodorus, a worshipper of Vishnu, the son of Dion, and an inhabitant of Taxila, who came as Greek ambassador from the Great King Antialkidas to King Kasiputra Bhagabhadra, the Savior, then reigning prosperously in the fourteenth year of his kingship."
1) Trini amutapadani—[su] anuthitani
"Three immortal precepts (footsteps) . . . when practised lead to heaven—self-restraint, charity, conscientiousness."
From the inscription it is clear Heliodorus was a Vaisnava, a devotee of Visnu. Vasudeva and Visnu are both popular names of Krsna—the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and Heliodorus's endorsement of self-restraint (damo), self-sacrifice (chago), and alertness (apramado) further corroborates his status as a devotee of Krsna. Professor Kunja Govinda Goswami of Calcutta University concludes that Heliodorus "was well acquainted with the texts dealing with the Bhagavat [Vaisnava] religion." ** (Kunja Govinda Goswami, A Study of Vaisnavism (Calcutta: Oriental Book Agency, i956), p. 6.)
To our knowledge, Heliodorus is the earliest Westerner on record to convert to Vaisnavism. But some scholars, most notably A. L. Basham ** (A. L. Basham, The Wonder That Was India, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Taplinger Pub. Co., 1967), p. 60.) and Thomas Hopkins, are of the opinion that Heliodorus was not the only Greek to convert to Krsna consciousness. Hopkins, chairman of the department of religious studies at Franklin and Marshall College, has said, "Heliodorus was presumably not the only foreigner who was converted to Vaisnava devotional practices—although he might have been the only one to erect a column, at least one that is still extant. Certainly there must have been many others." ** (Steven J. Gelberg, ed.. Hare Krsna Hare Krsna (New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1983), p. 117.)
It is interesting to note that the column has other historical merits. Around the turn of the century, a number of Indologists (Weber, Macnicol, and others) had noted "points of similarity" between the Vaisnava philosophy of unalloyed devotion to Krsna and Christian doctrine. They had argued that devotion to Krsna must have been a perverted offshoot of Christianity, and cited the similarity between stories about Krsna and about Christ to further support their claim. ** (Jaiswal, Op. cit., p. 2.) But the discovery of the inscription on the Heliodorus column laid their speculations to rest. Here was conclusive archeological proof that the Vaisnava tradition antedated Christianity by at least two hundred years.
The column also struck down another erroneous notion. For centuries it was the common belief that India's orthodox tradition did not accept converts. An Islamic historian, Abu Raihan Alberuni, who went to India in A.D. 1017, tried to explain in his book Indica why the Indian orthodoxy did not admit foreigners. Alberuni suggested that the practice developed only after the Moslem incursion into India, sometime after A.D. 674. ** (Ahmad H. Dani, Alberuni's India (Lexhore, India: Univ. of Islamabad, 1973), p. 37.) Antagonism between the Moslems and Hindus seems to be the main reason behind the non-conversion practice. For many centuries prior to the Moslem presence, however, there had been no bar to conversion into the orthodox fold, as attested by the Heliodorus column.
Vaisnavism is the path being followed by the members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Western converts are impressed, just as Heliodorus must have been, by the philosophy and practice of Vaisnavism. Ironically, however, misinformed persons try to defame the Krsna consciousness movement and the time-tested tradition that it represents. They try to lump in members of ISKCON with the faddish cults of the day, many of which are known to have questionable practices and motives.
In the face of the historical precedent set by Heliodorus, these accusations leveled against the modern Vaisnavas are clearly unwarranted. The Heliodorus column, erected in honor of Lord Sri Krsna, is proof that the Vaisnava philosophy of devotion to Lord Krsna was winning followers from the West long before its recent inception as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
Freedom from All Miseries
Within this short essay I intend to prove that there is no real happiness in the material world. And I have strong evidence to support my argument. But before you quit me, hoping to avoid the curses of some cynical misanthrope, let me assure you that my conclusion is actually of an extremely positive nature, and that I have equally strong evidence to prove that any human being can achieve total, lasting happiness in this lifetime.
My case is not a contradiction: before proving that real happiness is attainable, I have to remind you of the many miseries that plague humankind. As the Bhagavad-gita states, the miseries of birth, disease, old age, and death are inherent in everyone's life. Aside from these four major spoilers of happiness, the Vedic literature enumerates another three: miseries caused by our own bodies and mind, miseries sent by nature—such as hurricanes, droughts, and so on—and miseries inflicted on us by other living entities. One has to admit these miseries are with us, and are unavoidable.
We don't want disease, but although advances in medical science have halted some "old" diseases, "new" ones pop up, and many diseases remain incurable. So if, while the suffering of disease is forced upon me, I claim that I am quite happy, my claim is heavily qualified.
In a similar way, old age is forced upon us. We prefer to maintain our youth, but we are helpless before the forces of time. Old age is shoved down our throat.
And who is immune from the miseries and disasters of the elements? Heat, cold, fire, volcanos, earthquakes—the list is almost endless. We may think that happiness consists of enjoying an air conditioner during 115-degree heat waves, but such "happiness" is only a preventative measure against a naturally inimical condition.
As for the miseries forced on us by other living entities, there is no paradise spot on this planet where we may be free from them. If I have made a temporary v truce with my human antagonists, then germs, bugs, or some other species will inevitably come to bite or otherwise attack me. I can defend myself. I can fight and maybe kill them. But I cannot be free of hostilities directed at me by other living entities. We therefore exist in a perpetual state of war against one enemy or another. And "war is hell."
I promised that this would be a positive essay, but before looking for hope, let us consider the ultimate defeat we all have to face. A die-hard optimist, after hearing of the various kinds of miseries, might bravely persist and claim, "Never-mind. Admitting that into each life some rain must fall, still I am happy. Despite the defects—which are an inevitable part of human existence—I will embrace the world. I will say, 'Yes' to life."
But this won't help. We may say, "Yes" to life, but death says "No." If, like Hamlet, contemplating whether "to be or not to be," we decide to continue our miserable, material existence, death nevertheless declares that we shall not be. If, despite so many kinds of unhappiness, we want to enjoy material life, we are still forcibly kicked out of life. So how can we sanely conclude that material life is a happy proposition?
And yet human existence is a happy proposition, because within the human form of life it is possible to gain knowledge of the real self. In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna describes the qualities of this individual self: it is eternal, undying, full of knowledge, and completely joyful. The inevitable sufferings previously described plague the body, but the eternal self is different from the body, and therefore is immune to all those sufferings. As long as we are ignorant of the real self, we identify with the body, taking this miserable world as our permanent abode. Thus we suffer, although we do not have to suffer. Spiritual education, which begins with understanding our eternal selves, ends the sufferings of repeated birth, disease, old age, and death and situates us in our original, constitutional nature as part and parcel of the eternal, blissful Personality of Godhead.
Just as the miseries of material life are undeniable and easily perceived, so transcendental happiness is also readily available to anyone who practices Krsna consciousness. If freedom from misery is rarely attained in this world, it is because most people never take up the work of achieving transcendental realization. But aspiring transcendentalists, even from the beginning of their progress in Krsna consciousness, feel release from the bonds of suffering by connecting the pure spirit self to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna, through devotional service.
The promise of freedom from misery is not a post-dated check that can only be cashed in after death. The Bhagavad-gita (6.20-23) describes the self-realized soul living within this world:
This perfection is characterized by one's ability to see the self by the pure mind and to relish and rejoice in the self. In that joyous state, one is situated in boundless transcendental happiness, realized through transcendental senses. . . . Being situated in such a position, one is never shaken, even in the midst of the greatest difficulty. This indeed is actual freedom from all miseries arising from material contact.
Krsna consciousness, the path of freedom from all miseries, may seem abstract and theoretical to one who has never tried it. It may sound too much like "philosophy," whereas misery is painfully tangible. But if a personal testimony is valuable, I may offer my own tangible experience. Before practicing the chanting of Hare Krsna and the life of devotional service, I was unhappy, although as a middle-class American I had many material advantages. But now that I'm situated in Krsna consciousness, I feel happy and fulfilled, even when I'm threatened by the miseries of material life. And there are many Krsna conscious devotees whose experience is similar.
But since the personal testimonies of others can never give us direct experience, we invite everyone to both study and practice the way of freedom from miseries—Krsna consciousness. See for yourself that it is the way that leads to eternal life in the kingdom of God, where there is no birth, death, disease, and old age.—SDG