Without submissivehly hearing from self-realized souls
A lecture given in New York in 1967
na me viduh sura-ganah
"Neither the hosts of demigods nor the great sages know My origin or opulences, for in every respect I am the source of the demigods and sages." (Bhagavad-gita 10.2)
Here Lord Krsna is saying that nobody knows Him. Even the demigods on higher planets, who are more intelligent and more advanced than human beings, do not know Krsna. Nor do the seven great sages (maharsayah), whose planet is near the polestar. They also do not know Him.
Why don't the demigods and sages know Krsna? He explains, aham adir hi devanam maharsinam ca sarvasah: "Because I am the source of all these demigods and sages." Krsna is the father of everyone. And that means He is the origin of this universe. The Srimad-Bhagavatam very nicely describes how this universe took shape, how Brahma was created, how from Brahma the rsis [sages] were created, and how the general population increased. These descriptions are there.
So, Lord Krsna is the origin of everything. As it is said in the Vedanta-sutra, janmady asya yatah: "Everything is emanating from Him." This means He is also the origin of the Paramatma (the Supersoul) and the brahmajyoti (His impersonal effulgence). Krsna confirms this here by the word sarvasah, which indicates, "I am the supreme source of anything you have any conception of." Therefore He is very great, the source of everything.
But if the Supreme Personality of Godhead is so great that nobody knows Him, then how can He be known? If He is not known even to the demigods, if He is not known even to the great sages, then how can we know Him? Yes, we can know Him. When the Supreme Lord comes before you and reveals Himself to you, then you can know Him. You cannot know Him by utilizing your imperfect senses. Atah sri-krsna-namadi na bhaved grahyam indriyaih. Because our senses are imperfect, even though we may expand our sensual power artificially, and even though we may go on speculating for millions of years, we cannot realize the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
But, sevonmukhe hi jihvadau svayam eva sphuraty adah: When you adopt a submissive attitude and you chant the holy names of the Lord, then you can know Him. The word jihvadau means that God realization begins with the tongue. The tongue's function is to eat and to vibrate sound. So we have to engage in these two processes: vibrating Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, and eating krsna-prasadam [food offered to Krsna]. You cannot allow your tongue to taste anything and everything. If you can control your tongue by eating krsna-prasadam, and if you engage your tongue in vibrating the transcendental sound "Hare Krsna," then one day Krsna will reveal Himself to You—simply by this submissive process of surrendering your tongue to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
By controlling the tongue, you control all the other senses. And if you cannot control your tongue, then you cannot control any of your other senses. So the first and foremost thing is that you have to control your tongue. Don't allow your tongue to taste everything and anything. Krsna has given us so many nice preparations. The day before yesterday we had feasting here. Everybody tasted the delicious prasadam—so many nice preparations. Our tongue is very fastidious: it wants to taste this and that. Therefore Krsna is so kind that He gives us varieties of prasadam so we can taste them and satisfy our desire and at the same time become spiritually advanced. This is a nice process.
It is not that you have to do this only in our association. You can learn this art and do it in your own home. You can make nice vegetable preparations at home and offer them to Krsna. It is not very difficult. Every day we prepare these dishes and offer them to Krsna while we chant,
["Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto Lord Krsna, who is the worshipable Deity for all brahminical men, who is the well-wisher of the cows and the brahmanas, and who is always benefiting the whole world. I offer my repeated obeisances to the Personality of Godhead, known as Krsna and Govinda."]
This process is not very hard. Everyone can prepare the foodstuffs and offer them to Krsna and then partake of them with family members and friends. Then you can all sit down before a picture of Krsna and chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. In this way you can live a pure life. Just try it and see the result.
If every person in every home takes to this principle of understanding Krsna, the whole world will become Vaikuntha. Vaikuntha is the place where there is no anxiety. (Vai means "without," and kuntha means "anxiety.") Now this world is full of anxiety because we have accepted this temporary existence of material life as all in all. But it is just the opposite in Vaikuntha, the spiritual world.
We all want to be free from anxieties, but no one knows how. Taking shelter of intoxication is not how to get oneself free from anxieties. The drug simply produces oblivion. For some time you forget everything, but when you come to your consciousness again the same anxieties are there. So this process will not help you. If you want to be free from anxieties, if you actually want life eternal, full of bliss and knowledge, then you have to understand Krsna. And this is possible only by serving Him, beginning with your tongue.
In several places the Srimad-Bhagavatam describes this process in a slightly different way. In one place [10.14.3] it is stated:
jnane prayasam udapasya namanta eva
This verse says that nobody can conquer God. Therefore one of His names is Ajita, "He whom nobody can conquer." Still, Ajita becomes conquered. Although the Lord is unknowable, although He is unconquerable, still you can conquer Him. How? Remain in your present social position (sthane sthitah) but adopt some specific principles. First, jnane prayasam udapasya: Give up this nonsense speculation, this accumulation of millions of books. Every year the world produces millions of books, and they're all useless. After six months they are thrown away. So, don't take to that speculative process—turning the mind this way and that way, this way and that way. Our minds and senses are limited; so how can you know the Supreme Truth by these imperfect, blunt mind and senses? My speculative power may be greater than yours, and another person's speculative power may be greater than mine, but nobody's speculative power can reach to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Here in this verse of the Bhagavad-gita Krsna clearly states, na me viduh sura-ganah:
"Even the demigods and sages do not know Me." Then what to speak of us? We are human beings, but even the demigods and great sages cannot understand Krsna by the speculative process. Therefore Brahma says, jnane prayasam udapasya: "Throw out this process of speculative research."
Then, namanta eva: "Just become submissive." Just acknowledge that your senses are limited. You are subordinate even to material nature, what to speak of God. Everyone is subordinate to the control of the Supreme Lord (mayadhyaksena prakrtih suyate sa-caracaram). Nobody can be equal to or greater than God. Therefore your qualification for knowing Him is to be submissive. Don't waste your time speculating. Be submissive.
Then the verse says, san-mukharitam bhavadiya-vartam: "Try to hear about the glories of the Supreme Lord from the mouths of realized souls." Don't go to unauthorized persons for spiritual instruction. How can you know the difference between an unauthorized and an authorized person? This is described in the Bhagavad-gita. The Lord says, evam parampara-praptam: "This authority is handed down by disciplic succession." In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna hands the authority down to Arjuna, who understands Krsna to be the Supreme Absolute Truth (param brahma param dhama pavitram paramam bhavan). So if we follow Arjuna's process and try to understand Krsna as Arjuna understood, then we can know who is a genuine authority. It is not very difficult to understand who a genuine authority is.
So, you have to search out that genuine spiritual authority. That's all. You have to find him and remain in your present situation and try to hear submissively from him. And as soon as you become submissive and hear from a genuine spiritual authority, then svayam eva sphuraty adah: Krsna will begin to reveal Himself to you.
God is always ready to reveal Himself to you. But how does He reveal Himself? He reveals Himself as soon as you become submissive, become a devotee, become Krsna conscious, and follow the path traversed by the great devotees and spiritual masters. Then everything will be known to you. Although Krsna is not known even to the demigods and great sages, He can be known to you at your home. Although He is unconquerable, if you adopt this process you can conquer Him. You have only to adopt the process. Otherwise you cannot know Him; there is no alternative.
Now, if you follow these principles of understanding the Supreme Personality of Godhead, what will be the result? That is stated in the next verse of the Bhagavad-gita [10.3]:
yo mam ajam anadim ca
You will understand that Krsna is ajam [unborn] and anadi [beginningless]. He is the cause of all causes; He is not caused by any other cause (sarva-karana-karanam). So to understand Krsna, the Supreme Lord, is first of all to be thoroughly convinced that He is the cause of all causes.
Then. sarva-loka-mahesvaram: Krsna is the supreme proprietor and master of all planets, both in this material world and in the spiritual world. Then, asammudhah: You will become unbewildered about God. You should not accept blindly. God has given you the power of reasoning and argument. But don't argue falsely. The process of reasoning is also mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita: tad viddhi pranipatena pariprasnena sevaya. If you want to understand the transcendental science, you have to follow this principle—you have to surrender. This is the same thing that was mentioned in the Bhagavatam verse as namanta eva, to become submissive. Unless you become submissive, you cannot be a surrendered soul. And surrendering to a genuine spiritual authority is the first qualification for understanding the Absolute Truth.
Now, where will you find that person about whom you can say, "Here is a person to whom I can surrender?" This much knowledge you must have. Don't surrender to any nonsense. How to tell the genuine spiritual authority from the nonsense is mentioned in the Mundaka Upanisad [1.2.12]: tad-vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet . . . srotriyam brahma-nistham. This word srotriyam means "one who is in disciplic succession." And what is the proof that he has come in the disciplic succession? Brahma-nistham: he is fully absorbed in serving the Supreme Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead.
So, if you find such an authoritative person, surrender to him without reservation. Surrendering unto him means surrendering unto God, because he is God's representative. But you are allowed to make inquiries—not to waste time, but for understanding. And you should try to serve him and please him. Then Krsna will reveal Himself to you. This is the process.
So, the whole process of self-realization is given in the Vedic scripture. You have only to adopt it. But if you don't adopt the process and simply waste your time with intoxication and speculation and all kinds of nonsensical activities, then you'll never understand God. As Lord Krsna says here, God is not understandable even by the demigods and the great sages, what to speak of by us with our teeny efforts.
If you follow the principles of Krsna consciousness, then slowly but surely, without a doubt, you'll understand, "Yes, I am making some spiritual progress." It is not that you will be blindly following. As you follow the principles, you'll understand more and more about God. If you eat proper, nourishing foodstuffs, you'll feel yourself gaining strength and satisfying your hunger. You haven't got to ask anybody; you'll feel it yourself, directly. Similarly, if you come to the proper spiritual path and follow the principles, you'll understand, "Yes, I am making progress." As Lord Krsna says in the ninth chapter of Bhagavad-gita [9.2], pratyaksavagamam dharmyam su-sukham: "This process of Krsna consciousness is very easy, and you can do it in a happy mood."
Now, what is the process? We chant Hare Krsna and hear nice musical sounds and eat krsna-prasadam and study Bhagavad-gita philosophy. Is it very difficult? Not at all. And by this process you'll become asammudhah, unbewildered. Nobody will be able to cheat you. But if you want to be cheated, there are so many cheaters ready to give you some bogus process and take your money and go away.
So don't be a part of this civilization of the cheaters and the cheated. Just follow the process of Krsna consciousness as it is given by the system of disciplic succession, as it is prescribed in the Vedic literature, as it is recommended by Krsna. Try to understand this science from the authoritative source, and try to apply it in your life. Then you will make spiritual progress without a doubt (asammudhah sa martyesu). The word martya means "those who are destined to die." Who are they? All conditioned souls, beginning from Brahma and going down to the insignificant ant—they are all martya, they will all die. So among the dying mortals you will become the most intelligent. Why? Sarva-papaih pramucyate. You will be free from all kinds of reactions to your sinful activities.
In this material world we are always committing sinful acts, knowingly and unknowingly. So we have to get free of the reactions. How? By surrendering to Krsna and His authorized representative, the spiritual master. Then, sarva-papaih pramucyate: you become free of all reactions to your sinful activities. This is the process. And if you adopt this process, ultimately you can get in touch with Krsna, and your life becomes successful. This process is very simple and sublime, and everyone should adopt it.
Thank you very much.
The Natural Spirit
A former "noble savage" finds
by Suresvara dasa
Dairyman Sri Krsna dasa is worried. It's been more than an hour since Cintamani, our oldest cow, seemed to "break water." Still no calf.
Normally, forty-five minutes to an hour before a cow gives birth, the calf's fetal membranes burst and a lubricating liquid starts to flow out the birth canal. If the canal dries up before the calf emerges, a veterinarian has to come and pull the calf out raw. This really rips up a cow's insides, and would probably kill old Cintamani—and her calf.
Sri Krsna paces hear Cintamani's box stall and chants Hare Krsna. Cintamani's back end is wide open. Peering inside, he sees what looks like a blood-purple balloon. He puts on a disposable plastic sleeve and reaches in. Pop! Water bursts and two hooves appear.
"Haribol!" Sri Krsna cheers. Real "break water." The other fluid, excessive mucus, had fooled him. But his relief again turns to dismay when he takes another look at the hooves. "They're upside down."
When a calf is upside down, its head gets stuck, and it can't get out. Nor at this point can old Cintamani push much from the inside. So Sri Krsna ties bailing twine around the calf's hooves. He pulls hard, but the calf won't come out. In cases like this, Sri Krsna recalls, the vet reaches way in and flips the calf right-side up. It's worth a try. He reaches in past the legs—then something brushes his arm. The tail.
"Oh," he breathes, "it's just backwards. Right side up and backwards." Relieved, Sri Krsna gives the hind legs a mighty yank, and out comes the calf.
It's a heifer!
But since she came out backwards, part of the baggy afterbirth is smothering and choking her. Quickly, Sri Krsna rips away the placental slop and reaches down her throat. After much blowing, he finally gets the stuff out of her lungs, and she starts to breathe. Had Sri Krsna not been there to help, she would have suffocated.
Cintamani, meanwhile, is exhausted. A cow—especially an old cow—cannot carry and deliver her precious calf unaided. She depends upon the care and management given her by the dairyman. And what dairyman cares for her better than a devotee of Krsna, the friend of the cows.
At last, Cintamani looks over and sees her calf. Mooing and grunting, she leaps up to lick and nudge the little one, who starts to nibble on Cintamani's fleshy brisket. Sri Krsna grins and gets a bucket. As he milks Cintamani, the calf stands and falls. Cintamani is batting her around and mooing up a storm. Sri Krsna gets a bottle and tries to feed the calf, but all she wants to do is stand up. After repeated rebuffs, he decides to break for lunch and try feeding her afterward. He applies an antiseptic to the calf's navel, then leaves the barn for the temple.
Sri Krsna looks as if he's been protecting cows all his life. Like many a red-blooded American, though, he grew up hunting animals and eating "beef." Just before he became Krsna's devotee, he even took part in killing a cow.
"Mom," he remembers saying, "I just want to be an animal."
"But Chris," his mother replied, "you can't be an animal. You're a human being. You have a higher intelligence."
And yet without Krsna consciousness, Chris's intelligence was dissatisfied. While growing up in his parents' ninety-thousand-dollar home in Vermont, he watched them pay dearly for all the modern wonders that were supposed to bring them the good life. "My mother was always crying," Sri Krsna recalls, "because we couldn't pay all the bills. And my father was always upset because 'the good things in life' were always breaking down."
Out of high school and determined to live a simple, natural life, the young man and his best friend, Jim, got a summer cabin in the woods.
"We paid the rent with money we'd made working for a landscaper. We looked up to the old lumberjacks in Belmont, who used to chop wood all day and live in tarpaper shacks. We started smoking pipes, rolling our own cigarettes, and wearing weird hats like the old-timers.
"Jim's sister, Judy, had introduced us to health foods, so we weren't eating meat. We were cooking seven-grain cereal and eating peanut butter and whole wheat bread. Better than Campbell's soup, but a long way from krsna-prasadam [food offered to Krsna]. One time a guy came by with pepperoni, and I had some."
When summer turned to fall; Chris and Jim moved a few miles west into the Green Mountains to build their own log cabin. Using only axes, they chopped down some tamaracks, cut off the limbs, made notches, and stacked the logs up. Very simple. No saws used, not even a nail. "You could see right through the walls."
Although the growing season was over and Chris and Jim hadn't stored any food, they were determined to be self-sufficient. They would have to hunt.
"The forest was full of bears, bobcats, wolves, and deer. We were young and strong and crazy as anything. We didn't know about our higher, spiritual nature, so we thought 'natural' meant to be like an animal."
Shunning firearms, they mostly went after small game. Fisheye lures worked well under the ice; sharp stones found their mark on birds and rodents; wire loops snared as many as a dozen rabbits.
"There were rabbit trails everywhere in the evergreens. We'd tie a wire loop to a branch and drop it over the rabbit's path. When his head went through the loop, he'd run forward in fear, the slipknot would tighten, and he'd strangle himself."
As winter set in the cabin became more remote. A hard crust covered five feet of snow; travel was by snowshoes only. Then one night it snowed three more feet.
"We couldn't even open the door. Finally, we pushed back the drift a little, jumped outside, and disappeared into eight feet of powder.
"We had an Irish setter with us then, too, named Doolittle. We were having a hard time in the snow that morning, but Doolittle was catching rabbits and squirrels like anything. When we got back to the cabin. Jim turned him upside down and played like he was going to skin him. He wouldn't do that, of course. Doolittle was like our brother. So were all the animals, for that matter, though we hadn't thought of that. We liked the dog because he was better than us at living natural."
Catching their own meat may have been more honest than buying it from the butcher, but it was also much harder. And the subzero weather made the skinning and cleaning downright hellish. Another problem: as Judy's health-food book informed them, their staple—rabbit meat—contained only seven of the eight essential amino acids. But it was another book of Judy's that really started them thinking. About karma.
"It was a yoga book. It said that the body is a house, the self within is the owner, and there is karma, or reaction, for whatever you do. Do something good, you get good karma. Do something bad, you get bad karma. The book recommended a vegetarian diet, because meat-eating is unhealthy and needlessly cruel. Anything needlessly cruel—like killing animals—is unnatural and therefore bad karma."
So much for the noble savage. Chris and Jim realized that far from living naturally, they had been transgressing the laws of nature, a nature which had given them a human intelligence with a higher responsibility. But now, exactly what was that responsibility? What was the self within? And nature without? And what, really, was the natural way to live? They had more questions than a little yoga book could answer, but they were on the right track. To start with, they gave up meat for good.
Back in Belmont for supplies, the two of them stocked up on wheat flour, sunflower seeds, and raw peanuts. Also, Chris swapped his marijuana for a warm woolen shirt. By giving up whatever was unnecessary, they figured they could avoid bad karma. They combined bread, peanuts, and seeds with apples they'd sliced and dried in the fall, and that was pretty much their diet the rest of the winter.
But man does not live by bread alone—even if it's whole wheat. A few times they came down from the forest, sneaked into Jim's parents' house, and raided the cookie jar. "We knew we were backsliding when we ate an Oreo."
Back at the cabin, they started to question the necessity of their cast-iron stove. Maybe even the cabin itself was extravagant. After all, there was plenty of softwood in the evergreens. They could make a brush hut and live inside with a simple campfire. It wasn't long before they started thinking about going south.
"We could see it was going to be really hard if we stayed in Vermont. So rocky and hilly there. The growing season was short, too. And then winter came and you'd have eight feet of snow all the time.
"We started looking at National Geographic spreads on South America; especially around the equator. We wanted to gather the lushest fruit. Not even pick it, just get it when it fell—that idea again of avoiding karma. And we wanted to find a spiritual guide."
Before they left, however, destiny entangled them in another hard detail. They needed new boots for the trip, but they wanted to make their own. How to get leather? They heard about a farmer who was going to kill a cow that week. When they approached him, he said if they skinned her, they could keep the hide. He just wanted the meat. They'd heard about the horrendous karma for killing a cow, and they cringed at the thought. But then the farmer was going to kill her whether they came or not. Why not use the hide? They were safe, they figured, as long as they didn't pull the trigger.
"Slaughtering pigs had been part of growing up and proving you were tough ('Stick that squealer, sissy!'), but a cow was a lot bigger. We had to take her out of her stall and go down a different aisle. She didn't want to do that, and right from the start there was fear and slipping, as we pushed her toward the barn door. The big farmer was twisting her tail, pushing and beating on her to go outside. When we got her in the road, he shot her, but he didn't hit her right. So it was really horrible. She was running around with a shot in her head, bellowing and terrified and no wits. Finally he got her again, and she went down. Just being there, we felt guilty."
They were. The Vedic literature condemns everyone directly and indirectly connected with animal slaughter: "One who orders, one who kills, one who cuts the dead animals into pieces, one who sells, one who buys, one who cooks, one who serves, and one who eats—all are equally criminals." And the karmic reaction: "Cow killers are condemned to rot in hellish life for as many thousands of years as there are hairs on the body of the cow."
Makes "an eye for an eye" sound soft—but there's good reason. Among the animals the cow is like our mother. Her milk (especially when farm-fresh, hot, and offered to Krsna) empowers our intelligence to understand spiritual knowledge so that we can transcend mortal karma and return home to Godhead. How do cows turn common grass into this miraculous milk? Such is the magic and kindness of Lord Krsna, the cows' creator and protector. And to deter us from killing His beloved cows, and our own chances for eternal bliss, what warning could be too severe?
It was April and still snowing. The Appalachian Trail ran just a mile from their cabin. Chris and Jim were ready.
"A lady yogi in Belmont had taught us pranayama, breath control. She said that if we ever cut our hair, we'd lose all our spiritual power. Real cuckoo. But anyway, the yoga kept our bowels open."
Their evolution had turned them toward the East. The day they left the cabin, though, they looked less like Siddhartha than like Huck Finn.
"We wore big wool-felt hats and tied our long hair like scarves around our necks. Heavy blankets covered the fifty-pound homemade packs strapped to our backs. The shirts and pants we'd hand-sewn from unbleached cotton. We stepped into those cowhide boots, picked up our craggy sticks, and took off."
By foot, the equator was some five thousand miles away. The climate would change as they traveled, but walking would be slow enough to let them adapt. And if they couldn't eat what the woods provided, they had bought enough peanuts and seeds to last for several months.
South of the Green Mountains, the snow turned to rain.
"It was cold, and our only rain gear was those wide-brimmed felt hats. Our tent was three pieces of canvas, which meant that every night we had to find some sapling, cut it, and stretch out the canvas. No ground cloth, just mud."
The rain followed them all the way to Pennsylvania. After three weeks, the sun finally broke through. Clear skies prevailed over the hilltop trail, giving Chris and Jim a grandstand view of the countryside. But there was a new challenge: rocks.
"The Pennsylvania mountains were all rocks, so many rocks you just couldn't avoid them. Millions of rocks. And we felt them right through our rawhide boots. We'd tanned the leather American Indian style—with the cow's brains—but the boots were hardly giving us any protection. Our feet were aching and started to blister."
Bad-karma boots. Luckily, Chris had sewn some good karma into his pack: a cashier's check. Needing relief, they came down from the trail and into a small town to buy sneakers.
"There were two factories in this town, and most of the people there worked in those factories. The fumes from the smokestacks were so bad that all the trees and everything on the mountainside was dead."
Jim put on his turban ("to catch the prana coming in"), while Chris went into a bank. Everybody was afraid of them. They looked like billy goats and smelled worse. After buying sneakers and food, they looked for a place to rest.
"The church bells were ringing that day, the whole day, and as it got darker, we just followed the sound of the bells right to the church. We slept there, got up, and left."
More rain for a week. Above Allentown, where the trail crossed the highway, a sign pointed to a nearby hostel. The scowling manager put them up with four young beer-drinkers.
"You guys Jesus freaks?" they asked.
"We're higher," said Chris. "Pranayama. "
They had to face it, though, their spirits were sinking. The cold rain, their sore feet—they just couldn't adapt like the animals. They were human; they wanted to brush their teeth. But what an inhuman world. Even if they made it to some equatorial Eden, supersonic planes would still come to shatter the peace and smite the blue. The planet was too far gone; madmen had long since ruined their garden primeval; and wherever they went, there they were—chased, like everyone else, by the actions and reactions of destiny.
They had the address of a yoga asrama near Harrisburg. Breaking their vow never to ride again in a motor vehicle, they hitchhiked to the city's outskirts, found the asrama, and parked their walking sticks by the front door.
"We were looking for spiritual guidance, but the people there were scared to death of us. One guy's wife was sick, and he thought just our presence would kill her—our bad auras. They drove us to their natural-foods store, loaded us up with fruit and vitamins, and dropped us off at a deserted motel."
Chris and Jim had one last resource. Just before they had left Vermont, Judy had given them a copy of Back to Godhead (Judy's best friend had become a Krsna devotee). And now, scanning the list of Hare Krsna centers in the magazine, they spotted the address of a Hare Krsna farm in Port Royal. Pennsylvania. Their map showed it was only fifty miles away. They called the farm.
"All of a sudden we were talking with the Hare Krsna people, and although they didn't know us, they were ready to drive an hour to pick us up. A real friendly exchange. We were proud, though. We told them we'd hitch in."
Chris called his father and asked him to ship more of the peanuts and seeds they'd stored to Port Royal. The Krsna farm, they figured, would be a rest stop where they would recover their strength and get spiritual stamina for their ongoing march to Paradise.
It was May now. The cows were out to pasture when Chris and Jim arrived—beautiful Brown Swiss, chewing alfalfa, turning it to milk. Two devotees were plowing a field with oxen, a dozen more cultivated a garden nearby. Some children ran out to greet them. Chris and Jim collapsed on the grass, but krsna-prasadam and the devotees' kindness soon revived them. How happy these people looked.
"The next day we helped Isvari-pati clean out the woods by the temple. We were hauling a dump wagon through tree stumps and underbrush. We wanted to show the devotees we could work really hard, so that they would appreciate us—but we couldn't keep up with Isvari. We got tired real quick, but he just kept on going. He wasn't trying to show us up; he was just happy doing his service."
Devotional service to Krsna, they soon learned, was the natural happiness of the soul. No wonder they had been frustrated trying to live like animals. Human life was intended for realizing they weren't animals.
"The self is beyond the gross body and subtle mind," writes Srila Prabhupada, the Hare Krsna movement's founder and spiritual master. "The body and mind are but superfluous outer coverings of the spirit soul. The need of the spirit soul," Prabhupada continues, "is that he wants to get out of the limited sphere of material bondage and fulfill his desire for complete freedom. He wants to get out of the covered walls of the greater universe. He wants to see the free light and the spirit. That complete freedom is achieved when he meets the complete spirit, the Personality of Godhead."
By reading Srila Prabhupada's translations and commentaries on the Vedic scriptures, by living with the devotees, and by chanting Hare Krsna, Chris and Jim were coming to realize that really Krsna consciousness was the natural life of the soul. But what about their earlier karma? Wasn't there still hell to pay for all their past activities? They consulted the Bhagavad-gita: "Abandon all paths and just surrender unto Me," was Lord Krsna's climactic instruction. "I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear." The way was clear.
But was their consciousness? The moment of truth came one day when a package arrived from Vermont.
"I was having a hard time," Sri Krsna recalls. "We were working long hours in the garden, and I was thinking I couldn't take much more of this. The plan had been to leave as soon as we got more peanuts and seeds, so when the package arrived, I took Jim aside and said, 'Let's go.'"
Jim was surprised: "What do you mean, Chris? This is it. Don't you see? This is the natural spiritual life we've been looking for. If we don't become Krsna conscious, everything is going to be mundane and artificial—even the tropics. Let's stay, Chris. This is the Absolute Truth."
"I hated what he was saying," Sri Krsna chuckles, "because he was right, and that meant I had to stop just serving my body and start serving God. But I had to be honest. Serving Krsna was the most natural thing to do—so we stayed."
That was in the spring of 1978. By the summer, Chris and Jim were taking care of the cows, and the following spring they became formally initiated devotees.
* * *
Lunch over, Sri Krsna returns to the barn and sees Cintamani lying down with her calf. He scoops Cintamani some grain and feeds the milk bottle to the calf.
"You've got to be very Krsna conscious around cows," he says. "The more you care for them, the more milk they give you. Krsna Himself protects cows, works bulls—what could be more natural than living like Him?"
Gunshots sound unnaturally in the distance. Farmers say they can't "make it" without killing their old cows. But inside Krsna's barn, old cow, calf, and dairyman are doing just fine.
Did a supremely intelligent being create the universe?
by Mathuresa Dasa
The universe around us appears to be orderly and symmetrical. The planets rotate perfectly in their orbits. Our bodies possess complex circulatory, respiratory, and digestive systems. Even the atoms are highly structured. All this suggests that the universe was created not by chance, but by an intelligent person. If human beings can create houses, skyscrapers, and many other structures, it is plausible that a person far more powerful than any human created the universe and everything in it.
But although the design evident in every corner of the visible world strongly indicates the plan of an intelligent creator (God), by logic alone we cannot be absolutely certain that He exists. The origin of the cosmos is beyond our experience. We did not observe the creation of the universe, and for all we know it could have happened in any number of ways that we have not considered or are unable to consider. On the platform of logic, therefore, the debate over whether or not there is a Supreme Being, a Creator, must always end in stalemate.
The Vedic literature confirms that we cannot conclusively understand the Supreme Being by logic alone. The Bhagavad-gita declares that the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, who is the creator of both this universe and the spiritual world beyond it, can be understood only by His mercy, when He is pleased to reveal Himself to His faithful devotees. Although our logic and mental gymnastics cannot rise to embrace the Lord, He can by His omnipotence pierce through the uncertainty and ignorance of His faithful servants and show Himself to them.
While confirming the fallibility of human reasoning, however, the Vedas do not recommend that we abandon reason. If we lack a deep philosophical understanding of God, our faith in Him tends toward sentiment and fanaticism and easily falls prey to atheistic arguments. The Vedic literature therefore includes all manner of logical arguments—including the argument from design—indicating that the universe is the work of a supremely powerful person. But the Vedic literature goes further as well, describing in detail the stages of creation, the age and dimensions of the universe, the purpose of the creation, and the origin of the material elements. The Vedic literature, in other words, not only proclaims "God created" but also tells us how and why He created.
To begin with, the Vedic literature asserts that the Supreme Lord is not obliged to participate directly in the creative work. While theists sometimes conceive of God as an extremely hardworking old man, who has little time off from His duties as creator, the Vedic literature explains that God creates by His desire alone, without having to exert Himself in the least. Since He possesses unlimited power and wealth, He can, like any wealthy person, get others to do the work for Him. If a wealthy financier wants to construct an office building, he doesn't do everything himself. He conceives a general plan or chooses a building site, then hires lawyers, architects, engineers, contractors, and so on to execute His will. The financier doesn't have to dig the foundation, pour the cement, or lay the bricks.
Like the wealthy financier, the Supreme Lord is aloof from the work of creation, but just how He delegates the creative duties, and to whom, is unique. Unlike ordinary persons, Krsna can expand Himself into innumerable forms, known as plenary expansions, who are equal to Him in power and opulence. These expansions are all the same Personality of Godhead, Krsna Himself, and yet at the same time They are individuals with independent thoughts and actions. Brahma-samhita gives the analogy that just as one candle can light many other candles, each with the same power to illuminate, so Krsna, the original Personality of Godhead, can expand Himself into innumerable plenary forms and still maintain His identity as the supreme, original person.
A person's appearance on millions of television screens at once partially illustrates Krsna's power to expand, the difference being that the television expansions are only images of the original person and must move and speak as that person does, whereas Krsna's expansions, although non-different from Him, can act as They please. They are not mere images, but complete individuals.
While the wealthy financier must employ others to fulfill his desires, Krsna creates the universe through these individual expansions of His own self. Further elucidating this transcendental phenomenon, the Svetasvatara Upanisad explains that to achieve our goals, we rely on three attributes, knowledge (jnana), strength (bala), and activity (kriya). To construct a large building, for example, the architects and engineers need sufficient knowledge of the building sciences, the construction company must have sufficient strength in the form of manpower and machines, and everyone has to engage in various activities. The Supreme Lord, however, possesses within Himself all knowledge, all strength, and all potential to act and can therefore accomplish anything He wants. By investing these powers in His various expansions. Krsna effortlessly executes the business of creation. The financier works through his money, while Krsna works through His personal expansions and energies.
Krsna's ability to expand Himself is inconceivable—beyond the range of ordinary logic. But it is inconceivable only in that we human beings cannot do it and have not seen anyone else do it. Otherwise, accepting that God is all-powerful, nothing He does is inconceivable. Rather, His apparently inconceivable attributes serve as testimony to His omnipotence. Therefore the Vedic literature, by describing Krsna's attributes in detail, does not preclude a logical approach to understanding the Supreme Lord, but rather draws our use of logic onto a higher, transcendental platform.
Krsna's first expansion for the creation is Maha-Visnu, who begins by manifesting the material elements from His transcendental body. Modern scientists will object to the mention of a creator. The material energy is eternal, they say, so why bring in God? But the Vedic literatures respond that Maha-Visnu is also eternal and that the material elements are His eternal energy. God and His energy are like the sun and the sunshine, which exist simultaneously, although one is the origin of the other. Both God and the material energy are eternal, and yet God is the source of the material energy.
We might also wonder how Maha-Visnu could perform the gigantic act of creating all the material elements without becoming totally depleted, dispersing Himself into the elemental creation. Materially speaking, when we take something from a particular source, we gradually exhaust that source. Withdraw money from your bank account, and the balance goes down. Pour water from a glass, and the glass empties. Take milk from a cow, and the cow gradually dries up—unless she can replenish her supply from a pasture or feed bin. Since God is by definition the source of everything, there is nothing outside of Him to replenish Him. So what happens to Maha-Visnu when He creates the material elements from Himself?
The Isopanisad says that nothing happens to Him at all. Maha-Visnu is unaffected and unchanged, even while supplying an unlimited quantity of elements. How could this be? Because depletion and exhaustion are properties of matter. Maha-Visnu, however, is not matter, but pure spirit, and therefore He has no material properties. He produces the complete cosmic manifestation from His own form, yet remains perfect and complete. As Krsna expands into Maha-Visnu without changing His form or identity, so Maha-Visnu creates the material elements, yet remains complete in Himself.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam informs us that from the material elements Maha-Visnu produces not one, but innumerable universes, or, rather, universal shells. These gigantic shells are hollow spheres. The lower half is filled with water, and the upper half is—at least initially—empty. The Bhagavatam also states that our particular universe is the smallest of all the universes, and yet the space inside the shell measures four billion miles in diameter, while the shell itself is billions of miles thick.
Maha-Visnu expands His personality and enters each universe as Garbhodakasayi Visnu. Garbhodakasayi Visnu then generates Brahma, the first living entity in the universe.
Although Lord Brahma is an eternal, individual person, he is not a plenary expansion of the Lord. He, like you and me, is a jiva-tattva expansion, in quality equal with Krsna but quantitatively minute. The jiva-tattva expansions are part and parcel of Krsna, and as such their eternal, blissful function is to render loving service to Him. In fact, they have no other function, just as a finger has no other function than to render service to the entire body. When the jiva souls are separated from the eternal service of Lord Krsna, they lose their eternal blissful nature, just as a finger loses its very life when severed from the body.
Before coming to the material creation, the jiva souls live in the eternal spiritual world, which lies beyond the material universes. There they act in their relationships as servants, friends, and associates of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna. Since these relationships with Krsna are based solely on love, however, the jiva souls have a minute degree of independence: they can choose to remain subordinate to the all-powerful Supreme Person, or they can desire to neglect His service and become independent lords themselves. Without this choice, this freedom to serve or not to serve, there is no question of loving God, since love is necessarily an act of free will. A minority of jiva souls, misusing their independence, desire to enjoy life without Krsna.
It is to fulfill—as well as to reform—this unnatural desire of a relatively small number of jivas that Lord Krsna creates the material world. Walled within the shells of material universes, the independently-minded jivas are awarded bodies in any of the millions of species and are allowed to forget their eternal life of bliss and knowledge with Krsna. According to Bhagavad-gita, a jiva soul is situated in each living body just as a driver is situated in an automobile. The driver is different from his car, although he directs its movements. Similarly, the jiva soul, although doggedly trying to enjoy a body made of the material elements, is separate from it. Each kind of body—from the microbe to the human being—affords the jiva a particular kind of sense enjoyment, a different means for trying to satisfy his godless longings.
Within each of the innumerable universes, Garbhodakasayi Visnu expands as Ksirodakasayi Visnu, who then expands Himself unlimitedly to enter the hearts of all the living entities in His particular universe. This expansion of Krsna is known as Paramatma, the Supersoul, who accompanies each jiva soul in his search for material pleasure. In the Gita, Lord Krsna says that, as the Supersoul. He directs the jivas' search by supplying them with memory, knowledge, and forgetfulness. Al death, the jiva soul is taken from his present body and prepared for his next birth in one of the 8,400,000 species. All this is arranged by the Lord in the heart. The human body is just suitable for austerity, self-realization, and rewakening Krsna consciousness, but if a human being acts and desires like an animal, he is allowed, in his next life, to enjoy in the body of an animal.
In marked contrast to the jiva soul, the Supersoul, although situated within the material body, is never controlled by a desire to enjoy matter. Krsna and His expansions are the controllers of the material energy, whereas the jiva, as long as he desires to forget Krsna, is controlled by the same energy. In the Upanisads the jiva soul and the Supersoul are compared to two birds sitting in the same tree of the body. One Bird (the jiva) tries to enjoy the fruits on the tree—material pleasures—forgetting the other bird (the Supersoul), who is patiently watching. The Supersoul observes and directs the jiva's activities, unaffected by material desire. Only the jiva souls assume material bodies and try to enjoy matter.
We all have experienced, however, that this material world is not a place of unadulterated enjoyment. In fact, it is sometimes argued that even if there is a God. He could not he good or just. since His creation is filled with disease, old age, death, and many other miseries. Krsna, however, creates the material world not just for our independent sense enjoyment, but also to remind us that enjoyment outside of His service is illusory. When a man goes mad, forgetting his friends, relatives, and his own self, whatever enjoyment he experiences in that maddened state is worthless. In the same way, the jiva souls have forgotten their eternal relationship with their dearmost friend, Krsna. Until they reestablish that relationship, they will be able to realize but a small fraction of their potential for happiness, even if they acquire wealth, fame, beauty, education, and other temporary material advantages. The material desires are designed to remind the jiva that the material creation is foreign to him, and thus they evince God's concern for our true welfare. The jiva who comes to his senses and practices Krsna consciousness can very quickly return to the spiritual world.
Lord Brahma, the first jiva soul in each universe, is in charge of constructing all the planets and planetary systems. He is also in charge of creating the 8,400,000 species of life, including aquatics, insects, plants, birds, animals, and human beings. Inspired and empowered by Garbhodakasayi Visnu, Brahma assembles the creation using the material elements. Starting from just above the waters of the ocean that fills halt the universe and extending up to his own planet in the topmost reaches of the dome of universal space, Brahma constructs fourteen planetary systems, one above the other. The earth planet is in the seventh of those fourteen planetary systems.
Brahma doesn't create his own materials—the elements—and even in manipulating them he is dependent on Lord Visnu for guidance and inspiration. Nor does Brahma create the life which animates each body, for life is not the result of a combination of the material elements. Brahma only assists in creating the bodily vehicles, while the life, the eternal jiva souls, is supplied by the Supreme Lord.
Of the many differences between this short description of Brahma's creation and currently popular scientific descriptions, two are especially important. The first is that the Vedic literature portrays the original creature in each universe as highly intelligent, more so than even the greatest modern scientist. Brahma's intelligence, and his resultant creative accomplishments, are surpassed only by Lord Visnu Himself. Modern scientists, on the other hand, assert that the original creature in the universe was a microbe, and that the forefathers of modern man were apes and cave-dwellers.
The second contrast is that the Vedic literature asserts that all species were produced more or less simultaneously at the beginning of the creation, while popular evolutionary theory holds that the species have gradually evolved. According to the evolutionists, aquatics evolved into land animals and land animals evolved—only a relatively short time ago—into human beings. Evolutionists acknowledge, however, that one of the many flaws in their theories is that there is still—more than a century after Darwin's debut—no fossil record showing one species evolving from another. For dedicated Darwinists this lack of evidence is only an impetus to revamp their theories. But for the dedicated devotee of Krsna it is a confirmation of the Vedic version that all species of life, including the civilized human beings, have existed since the dawn of creation.
In this connection it is also interesting to note the Vedic calculations of the age of the universe. The Vedic literature states that Lord Brahma lives for one breath of Maha-Visnu. When Maha-Visnu exhales, the material elements and universes emanate from Him, and when He inhales, the universes are destroyed and merge back into His body. Thus the universes and their respective Brahmas are created and destroyed with every breath of Maha-Visnu. The entire cycle—one breath of Maha-Visnu, or one lifetime of Brahma—takes 310 trillion solar years. According to Srimad-Bhagavatam, Brahma's life is half over at present, which means that this universe has existed, along with all the species, for 155 trillion years.
There are many other contrasts between the Vedic version of creation and other versions—both theistic and atheistic. The Bhagavatam and other Vedic texts analyze the relation of time to the universe and to the Supreme Lord, the role and development of each material element, the origin of gravity, and many other details of the creation. At each step the Vedas reveal a unique understanding of the creative process.
Many people will argue that few if any of the Vedic descriptions can be scientifically proven. But neither can they be "scientifically" disproven. How can you prove or disprove the gigantic form of Maha-Visnu?
And why should we not at least consider the Vedic literature as evidence? It is the oldest, most voluminous, and most consistent body of literature known to man, and it contains information not only of the creative process, but of every science human society needs, including medicine, economics, and so on. By its comprehensive nature alone, the Vedic literature deserves serious study by researchers in every field.
Devotees of Krsna accept Vedic statements as evidence—as axiomatic truths—not due merely to the length and detail of the Vedic texts, but because the author of the Vedas is Krsna. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, "By all the Vedas, I am to be known. Indeed, I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas." For the devotees, at least, statements made by the Absolute Truth are perfect evidence, irrefutable proof.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
Puncturing The "Jerk Theory"
by Satyaraja dasa
Until recently, most sociobiologists have explained evolution by reference to the tenets of neo-Darwinism, that revamped, updated version of Darwin's theory of slow, adaptive evolution. But a newer, rival theory—"punctuated equilibrium," as it is called by Stephen Gould and others—holds that the production of new animal species occurred in comparatively sudden jumps, or "jerks."
Propounders of the new theory maintain that fossil evidence is in their favor. Why? Because in many cases the intermediate animal forms—which, according to the neo-Darwinists must be there—are conspicuously absent from the fossil record. In other words, the fossil records are not nearly as incomplete as the neo-Darwinists have supposed. And to support this idea, the punctuationists point to the fact that jerks always accompany the branching of the evolutionary tree.
Some scientists see punctuated equilibrium as a useless theory with no basis in fact. A recent issue of New Scientist (June 1984) quotes Dr. John Turner: "Of the essential jerk theory, one can say as Gould did of sociobiology, that it brings no new insights, and can cite on its behalf not a single unambiguous fact." That the punctuated equilibrium theory has gained so much popularity among sociobiologists indicates just how unconvincing and inconclusive the evidence is for the traditional evolutionary belief. Apparently neither theory can explain the gaps in the fossil record; therefore, both lack credibility.
For many, many centuries, however, the Vedic literature has contained detailed information about the origin of the species. All life forms, according to the Vedic science, appear in the early stages of the Supreme Lord's cosmic creation, when the Lord impregnates all the living souls within material nature. These indestructible, spiritual souls gradually evolve through the various species—microbes, plants, aquatics, insects, reptiles, birds, animals, and humans. Thus the only evolution is an evolution of consciousness, as the individual souls gradually rise to the human platform. On attaining a human birth, a soul must continue to evolve by cultivating spiritual consciousness; otherwise, according to his desires and karma, he will fall again into the lower species.
One who wastes his human life in sinfulness may be reborn as an animal or a plant, whereas one who acts piously may receive another human body and the opportunity for further evolution through spiritual knowledge and piety. However, one who acts transcendentally—that is to say, one who devotes his life to serving the Supreme Lord, Krsna—ultimately receives a spiritual body and goes back to Godhead. This is the final and highest link in the evolutionary chain. It is the missing link after which we are all searching.
by Mathuresa dasa
When General Motors and Ford paid their executives a total of $262 million in bonuses last spring. Owen Beiber, president of United Auto Workers, called the payments "obscene." Beiber vowed he would demand proportionate benefits for the auto workers during negotiations with the auto industry leaders in July. By the time the present Auto Workers contract expires on September 15, Beiber expects to secure added health benefits, greater job security, and significant wage increases.
The controversial executive bonuses came as a result of record profits the U.S. auto industry has raked in since the imposition of the automobile import quota in 1981. With less competition from foreign auto makers, U.S. companies have been able to raise prices by an average of one thousand dollars per vehicle. This one-thousand-dollar-per-car surcharge paid by the American consumer accounts for the record auto-industry profits in 1983—profits that auto workers and executives are now eagerly dividing. Consumers are therefore upset at getting the raw end of the import-quota deal.
Not only in the auto industry but throughout the history of industry and commerce, the question of how to divide the fruits of work has been raised. Isn't it natural that executives, since they are more directly responsible for profits, be paid more than laborers? Yet how can we expect that either laborers or consumers will not get upset over executive salary bonuses? Ford Motor chairman Philip Caldwell, made more than $7 million in 1983!
The Bhagavad-gita says that the fruits of everyone's work belong to the Supreme Lord, Krsna, who is the ultimate controller and provider. Although we like to think that we singlehandedly achieve the results of our work, without Lord Krsna's sanction we can't claim even a penny.
One practical proof of this is the many intelligent and industrious persons who can't make ends meet. Or consider the many other persons who are neither intelligent nor industrious and yet have no financial problems. And there are still others who accumulate wealth through years of endeavor and yet die paupers. Therefore, although we must work with intelligence, as if everything depended on us, we have to admit that the final results of our work are in Lord Krsna's hands.
Since all profits depend on Krsna, they should be used in His service. The million-dollar executive should build temples, establish schools, and publish books to educate people in the science of Krsna consciousness. The laborer also should contribute to the worship and glorification of the Supreme Lord. And consumers, no matter what their economic status, should purchase only what is necessary for a comfortable, hut not extravagant, lifestyle, so that their energy and attention will not be needlessly diverted from achieving life's ultimate goal—love of God.
No one is exempt from the obligation to offer the results of his or her work to the Supreme Lord. In the Gita Lord Krsna says that even the poorest person can please Him by offering Him "a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or a little water" with devotion. Krsna is impressed neither by the rich man's millions nor by the pauper's pennies; He wants only to see evidence of our exclusive devotion to Him.
Experienced devotees of Krsna know, however, that pleasing the Supreme Lord is the most gratifying of all work and that broadcasting His glories is the best service to mankind. Both the million-dollar executive and the wage earner will feel far more satisfaction using their resources in Krsna's service than in trying to make extensive arrangements for their own comforts. And when executive, laborer, and consumer are all devotees of Krsna, there will be no argument over how to divide profits.
by Baladeva Vidyabhusana dasa
Congress is straining its legislative brain to figure out what to do about the flood of illegal aliens into the U.S.—and what to do about the three to twelve million who are already here. Gone is the benevolent American spirit praised by Emma Lazarus and proclaimed by the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." Now, although millions of foreigners apply annually for citizenship, only five to six hundred thousand are allowed to immigrate to the U.S. More than one million are caught each year trying to enter illegally, while an estimated five hundred thousand enter undetected.
A large percentage of these millions of "feet people" now form an exploited underclass, working on farms or in sweatshops for as little as one dollar per hour. This wage is usually much more than they would have made in their own country, so it remains as a very attractive feature. Thus illegal immigrants easily capture jobs that otherwise would have fallen to America's unemployed.
Few issues on Capitol Hill are stirring as much controversy as the one over amnesty for those aliens already illegally residing in America. While supporters of amnesty point out that America is a melting pot, a nation of immigrants—one in four New Yorkers is foreign born—opponents claim that to reward millions for breaking the law is grossly unfair. Amnesty, says U.S. congressman Bill McCallum, "is unfair to the millions who stood in line to come to this country legally. It is a great slap and a cruel hoax."
Both sides in this debate, however, would do well to take account of just who is an alien. From ancient India's Vedic literature we learn that our real identity is neither American nor Mexican nor any nationality, but spirit soul—eternal, fully knowledgeable, and completely blissful. But because we have chosen to challenge the absolute authority of the Almighty, we have been thrown from our home in the spiritual world into this foreign material world to suffer our lot, life after life. Therefore we are all aliens within this material world. Until we realize that our real business is to lovingly serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead, we have to stay here in America, Mexico, Vietnam, Africa, and so on.
The coveted happiness of being an American (or a citizen of any other country) is paltry when compared to the happiness of returning to our original homeland in the eternal spiritual world. Just as we see the life of certain animals as lowly and abominable, so those who are liberated souls regard our life, even in this land of golden opportunity, as thoroughly miserable. From the enlightened, spiritual viewpoint, we are all aliens, emigrants from the spiritual world. We should realize this and try to help one another go back home, back to Godhead, rather than squabbling over petty issues of amnesty and citizenship.
"We Don't Begin from Zero"
The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (and some of his disciples took place in July 1975 on an early-morning walk in Chicago.
Srila Prabhupada: Where does Darwin begin?
Devotee: He begins in the ocean. He says that some fishlike animal climbed out of the ocean and began to breathe the air.
Srila Prabhupada: Then where did the ocean come from?
Devotee: He doesn't say.
Srila Prabhupada: Then his theory is not perfect.
Devotee: Scientists say there was great turbulence on this planet in the beginning. The oceans were stirring, and then some lightning charges occurred.
Srila Prabhupada: From where did the lightning come? And from where did the ocean come? Where is his philosophy? It is a speculation.
Devotee: They say it all began from a primeval explosion.
Srila Prabhupada: Then I ask the same question: Where from did the explosion come'?
Devotee: They say that the explosion took place at time zero. [Laughter]
Srila Prabhupada: Time zero?
Devotee: Time began then, at time zero. And they say that the question "What was before that?" is not a logical, sensible question.
Srila Prabhupada: Why?
Devotee: They say it's a question that should not even be asked.
Srila Prabhupada: No, then they are rascals. They are beginning from zero. How can you begin from zero?
Devotee: Everything comes from nothing then.
Srila Prabhupada: That is not philosophy.
Devotee: They say it all originates from a giant mass of primordial matter.
Srila Prabhupada: Then the same question arises: From where did the matter come?
Devotee: They say it's an accident.
Srila Prabhupada: So that is rascaldom. Where is the accident? Nothing is accidental. Everything happens by cause and effect. The Bible says that in the beginning there was God, or the word of God. So God was there. That is the beginning. In our philosophy, too, that is the beginning. The Srimad-Bhagavatam gives evidence: janmady asya yatah . . . aham evasam evagre. And the Bhagavad-gita: aham sarvasya prabhavo mattah sarvam pravartate. This is our philosophy. Everything begins from God.
Now you can ask, "From where did God come?" But that is God. God is existing. He is not caused by any other cause. He is the original cause. Anadir adir: He has no beginning, but He is the beginning of everything. This is the conception of God given in the statements of Brahma: anadir adir govindah. That adi is the original person, Govinda, Krsna. We find this in the Vedic history. Brahma is there in the beginning. He is a deva, one of the demigods—the first demigod.
Now Krsna says, aham adir hi devanam:
He is the cause of the demigods. He is the cause of Brahma also. So this is our philosophy. We don't begin from zero or from an accident.
Devotee: Darwin never tried to understand the Vedic philosophy.
Srila Prabhupada: No, no, he admitted that he speculated. He is not a philosopher: he is a speculator. He has admitted: "It is my speculation. I think like this."
Devotee: He started his speculation from the creation of life.
Srila Prabhupada: Anywhere, speculation is neither science nor philosophy.
Devotee: They call the Vedas speculation. They say the Upanisads are speculation.
Srila Prabhupada: No, no, no, not speculation. Sri Isopanisad says, isavasyam idam sarvam: everything is beginning from the isa, the supreme controller. Where is the speculation in the Vedas?
Devotee: They say the Vedas are written by man. Therefore they are imperfect.
Srila Prabhupada: What is your philosophy? It is written by man. What is the value of your philosophy? It is speculation. We don't say that the Vedas are written by man. They come from a transcendental source. The words spoken by the Lord are called apauruseya, which indicates that they are not delivered by any mundane person.
They may say whatever they like, but we don't accept it. Suppose somebody says, "Your father's name is so-and-so." What is his authority to say what my father's name is? I know very well,
So their suggestion is like that: "Your father's name is this." Is that a very good suggestion? We can challenge: "You don't know anything about my family. How can you say, 'Your father's name is this?'"
Is it not rascaldom? You do not know anything about my family, and you say, "Your father's name is this." What is this logic?
Devotee: Darwin's whole theory rests on the fact that he showed bones and archeological evidence.
Srila Prabhupada: Anyway, it is not possible that he has seen all the bones. So taking it that he has studied by seeing the bones, I can say very easily that it is not possible for a person like him to see all the bones. That is my challenge.
He says, "Millions and millions of years ago..." But he lived for fifty years. How has he seen all the bones? He is a limited person.
Devotee: They admit they haven't found all the bones, but they say that what they have found is conclusive evidence.
Srila Prabhupada: But they cannot say that. If you have seen all the bones, then you can conclude. But they say some of the bones are missing. Therefore their theory is always imperfect.
Devotee: Just this year they found a skull that was millions of years older than any human skull they found before.
Srila Prabhupada: That's all right. But still they cannot say they have found all the skulls. They simply guess: "There is some gap of millions of years."
Devotee: They even say that the missing link is the most important part.
Srila Prabhupada: So that is not science. Therefore we say they are rascals. And other rascals will believe them.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Dutch Parliamentary Report Endorses ISKCON
Amsterdam—As the home of the World Court (the United Nations' International Court of Justice in the Hague) and the International Committee on Human Rights (in Utrecht), the Netherlands is regarded as the nation in which the most difficult international legal disputes are best adjudicated. Rulings from these international bodies frequently cause nations to reverse or radically alter their existing foreign or domestic policies. Therefore it was an event with important worldwide implications when a special Dutch government report recently defined and recognized ISKCON as an official religious body.
The 320-page report, prepared over the last four years by the Dutch Parliament Committee on New Religious Movements, had many favorable things to say about the Hare Krsna movement. The committee, which extensively studied the activities of seven groups in the Netherlands, concluded. "The image of Hare Krishna, according to our findings, is that of a pure, genuinely Hinduistic movement without compromise in the face of Western views."
The subcommittee also noted that the Hare Krsna movement had matured since the first devotees arrived in Amsterdam in 1970. "Certainly during the first years in our country, Hare Krishna was no more than a marginal hippy group, whose attraction for some lay mainly in the rejection of the Western cultural pattern. The image shaped during that period seems to have hardly changed in the public eye, even though the movement has considerably gained in maturity in the course of the years."
Hari Krsna dasa, ISKCON's regional secretary for the Netherlands, feels that the very positive tone of the report stems in part from the devotees' willingness and eagerness to cooperate with the investigation. "From the beginning, our position was that we very much appreciated such an investigation. We felt that, considering the authentic spiritual foundation of our movement, we would come out well if they spent sufficient time studying us. So we were very favorable towards the investigation.
"Our policy was to be open and honest," Hari Krsna dasa continues. "If some mistake was made by our movement, we admitted it. At the same time we emphasized that our mistakes were incidental ones, not fundamental ones, and that the integrity of our movement cannot be doubted. I told the subcommittee we don't think that because our philosophy is absolute and, as far as we're concerned, perfect, that all of our actions are therefore also absolute and perfect. The committee appreciated this approach."
The government had originally begun the study because of the bad images of new religious groups created by the media and by lobbyists from "anti-sect" groups. But the subcommittee ended up severely criticizing both the media and anti-sect groups, pointing out that they had created a one-sided picture which distorted reality. They accused the anti-sect movement of waging a campaign of hatred and exaggerating issues by presenting false evidence.
In the final paragraph of the section of the report dealing with the Krsna consciousness movement, the committee said, "The openness that the movement has shown us has enabled us to build for ourselves a clear image of Hare Krishna. If this image has not increased our Krishna consciousness, it has at least increased our consciousness of the movement which is called by that divine name."
Scholar Praises Srila Prabhupada's Books
Ladakh. India—Shiv Sharma, professor of Sanskrit at the College of Buddhist Philosophy, has written this appreciation:
"The manner in which His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has presented his encyclopedic Srimad-Bhagavatam with specially-prepared illustrations, original Devanagari script, word for word synonyms, diacriticised transliterations, clear translation and commentary, glossary, Sanskrit pronunciation guide, index to verses, and extensive general index coupled with a table of contents for ready reference is a literary wonder of the world. Also, the clear and precise Purports make these volumes masterpieces.
"Swami Prabhupada's books teach the principles of brahminical culture, namely, no intoxication; no illicit sex; no gambling; and no eating of meat, fish, and eggs. The value of his books is seen in that he has molded for the better thousands of lost lives. Thus his spiritual writings actually inject realized knowledge into the heart of the student. . . .
"As an educator I highly recommend these books to all school, college, and university libraries. As a believer in the Vedic principles, I cannot but strongly urge all seekers after Truth to study these books."
A son's eulogy transforms a funeral service
by Brahma-muhurta Dasa
Some time back, my father's mother and sister and my mother's brother all passed away within the space of a year. One day my father called me to his studio and asked me, "Why am I going through this tragedy?"
"Krsna," I replied, "is trying to warn you that the material world is just temporary and that you can leave your body at any time. So you should take advantage of your human birth and practice spiritual discipline while, you've still got the chance. And the best way to accomplish this is to chant Hare Krsna."
He agreed to try, and from then on he chanted on his beads every day. Again and again he would tell me how grateful he was that I had introduced him to Krsna consciousness—how it had deeply affected his life and the lives of many of his friends.
A few months later, my father was driving my family to Vermont to see his dying brother, when my father blacked out and swerved off the road. At the hospital the doctors discovered he had cancer—a malignant brain tumor. My sister called and told me, "Dad has cancer, and the doctors say he has, at most, six months to live." I was shocked. It was totally unexpected, as he was only sixty and quite fit for his age.
My father was a professor of architecture at Smith College, where he had been teaching for the last twenty-five years. He had worked hard to support a family of seven and to maintain an old farmhouse on seventy-five acres. Now, despite his condition, he still hoped to keep teaching for a couple of years and then retire. But these plans crumbled as his condition became more and more critical. He consulted many doctors, looking for some cure. He went to an acupuncturist, many charlatans, and even a health institute, where each doctor recommended his own "sure cure." Meanwhile, the tumor was growing fast, and he decided to have an operation, even though the doctor would not make any promises. He might live; he might not. He might never be able to speak again. In effect the doctors were indicating to us that we should be prepared for the worst.
My father survived the operation, and the pain subsided a little. But the operation had taken its toll. His condition worsened. He lost his ability to read. Speaking became extremely difficult. Late one fall afternoon he told my mother and sisters he was going for a jog down an old dirt road near our house. Several hours later they found him a half mile down the road, lying face down in a ditch. My sister lifted him up. He was unconscious, and his face was covered with blood. As he opened his eyes, he didn't know where he was or what had happened.
When I heard about this, I was living in the ISKCON center in Boston. My father's death seemed imminent, so I took the first opportunity to go and see him. After a big religious celebration at the temple one day on November 12, 1983, I gathered all of the transcendental flower garlands and some of the caranamrta (sacred water) from the festival and brought it all to my father.
When I arrived at home and entered his room, I found him lying motionless in bed, his eyes wide open and glaring upwards. He sensed my presence and strained to smile, I put the garlands on him and around the bed. He squeezed my hand. His temperature was high, and he was breathing heavily. All he said to me was "Hare Krsna."
Two days later, on a very auspicious day (the disappearance anniversary of three great, saintly teachers), my father passed away. He had Srila Prabhupada's red rose garland around his neck, the sacred tulasi garland that had been worn by the Deity of Lord Krsna on his chest, japa-mala (prayer beads) in his hands, and a large picture of Radha and Krsna above his bed. And he was hearing kirtana (devotional prayers) sung by the pure devotee Srila Prabhupada. The last thing I heard him utter was "Hare Krsna." I remembered Lord Krsna's words in the Bhagavad-gita: "Whatever one remembers at the time of death—that state he will attain without fail." Taking everything into account, I consider my father's death an auspicious event.
Shortly afterwards, family and friends from around the country arrived for the funeral service, packing an old New England church with four hundred people. It was mainly a Christian group, some of them churchgoers, some not. Many wore gray flannels and blazers. The mood was solemn. After burying the ashes at the cemetery, the congregation went to the church, where in a deep, resonant voice the priest led everyone in singing psalms and reciting passages from the Bible.
The priest had promised a few close family members a few minutes each to speak about my father. When my turn came, I walked up to a spot behind the pulpit and stood there in my bright saffron robes, with tilaka* (*Sacred clay markings on the forehead and other parts of the body signifying that the body is a temple of Visnu, or Krsna, and should be used in His service.) on my forehead. I must have been a peculiar sight. Nevertheless, seeing an opportunity to enlighten an attentive audience with the message of Krsna consciousness, I spoke:
"If my father were here today, he would want me to speak openly and transmit his presence and the presence of our Almighty Supreme Father, God, in the most enlivening way possible.
I remember my father for a very rare and attractive quality he had. I can best describe it by remembering our relationship. More important than being responsible for giving me this body, he directed me to spiritual life and encouraged me in it. I remember that in my childhood He never told me I should become like him—an architect, a football star, a Harvard man, head of a big family. In fact, he confidentially told me that the burden he had taken on—although he considered it a burden of love—had deprived him of an opportunity to pursue what he described as 'the deepest essence of human life.' So he told me he hoped I would some day do what he couldn't.
"I never thought of myself as a very religious or spiritual person. On the contrary, without any doubt I caused the most disturbance in our family as a child. Nonetheless, he tolerated me and saw a spark in me that I was not even aware of. He told me he was hoping for the day it would ignite. After a long search for truth, peace, and purpose, I came to Krsna consciousness. While I was at the temple in Amsterdam my father came to visit me, wanting to evaluate my decision and commitment. We spent two wonderful and meaningful weeks together, during which he fully participated in chanting Hare Krsna and in other spiritual activities. After returning home, he wrote me this fabulous letter I would like to read to you:
(As I read my father's letter I began thinking, "Here is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, something I have been dreaming about for years—to engage all the people I know from the past in the ecstasy of chanting Hare Krsna. I don't know if it will work, but I have a plan. I simply pray that by the mercy of my spiritual master and Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, some how or other these people will be able to taste the nectar of the holy names.")
"Over the years," I continued, "our relationship became closer and closer. Whenever we met, he would ask one thing from me—that I would chant Hare Krsna with him. He also enjoyed chanting with my mother. The Bible says, 'Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. God's name is always considered sacred.
"The name Krsna in the Hare Krsna chant is a name for God that means 'the All-Attractive One.' It is from the Sanskrit language, the oldest language in the world In essence, when we chant Hare Krsna we are calling upon the Lord: 'Please engage me in Your service.' When my father left this world, he was hearing this prayer, am therefore I am sure he is with our Supreme Father, God, Krsna.
"I am sure my father and our Supreme Father would be pleased if we all said this beautiful prayer in their honor. I will repeat two words at a time, and then every one can respond. Don't be shy or there will be a dead silence, and it will be very embarrassing for me."
I led them in chanting—Hare Krsna Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare. Practically everyone joined. It was wonderful. As the holy name of Krsna, resounded, I turned around and, to my surprise, saw the priest, who had been so apprehensively seated behind me earlier also chanting along. Afterwards he gave me a bear hug in front of the congregation.
Five hundred years ago, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu (Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Krsna Himself in the role of His own devotee. He appeared in India five hundred years ago to teach love of God through the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra.) predicted that in every town and village the chanting of the holy name would be heard—even in a little village in New Hampshire. And now I had seen at least a little of this prophecy come true.
After the service, everyone filed out of the church, and I was mobbed with many hugs and congratulations. I hadn't seen many of these people since my childhood, so I couldn't recognize many of them. But they all remembered me. It was as if I had stepped into a dream or a past life I had almost completely forgotten. Never, in all my years of church-going as a child, did I walk out of a church feeling so enlightened and refreshed. This time the whole congregation seemed to be emanating a glow instead of the customary gloom.
Afterwards, there was a party, where many people accepted krsna-prasadam (food offered to Krsna) and some of Srila Prabhupada's transcendental literature that I had on display. Some of the still-sober people even asked philosophical questions. Since that day I have received letters and phone calls from people who said that it was an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives.
Ironically, as I write this article in my room at our Miami temple, I hear music of the thirties blaring from some loudspeakers outside my window. It's the rest home next door, where the inmates use their last days baking in the sun and recalling fading memories of the past. Their attempts at happiness appear vain and childish, the women with bright lipstick, and heavy makeup on their pale, withered faces, and couples dancing with their aching, swollen bodies to a song about young love. Every day the sirens come howling, the ambulance appears, and the orderlies scoop up another corpse. What an inglorious and embarrassing way to die!
I feel very happy that my father was interested in Krsna consciousness and that he intelligently decided to spend his last days glorifying God by chanting His holy names. Death is usually a gloomy event that we prefer not to talk about. But due to the transcendental influence of the holy names of the Lord, and by the mercy of the pure devotee Srila Prabhupada, what is ordinarily a tragedy became a spiritually purifying and enlightening event. You also should take up this joyful process of chanting the holy names of the Lord and make your life sublime. After all, you never know when you'll have to go.
We welcome your letters.
Devotees seem to be antiscientific. Two articles in the July issue ("Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out" and "Science or Skullduggery?") are critical of the theory of evolution. And one article in the June issue ("Exploding the Arms Race") makes fun of the Big Bang theory. Isn't there any room for science in the realm of Krsna consciousness?
Our reply; In the articles you refer to, our writers are pointing out just how unscientific many modern scientific theories are. Devotees are not against science, but before they accept a scientific theory they examine it to see if it is founded on logic and on experimental proof. Many so-called scientific theories have very shaky foundations and appear to have been formulated with the primary motive of denying God. Devotees naturally criticize that kind of "science."
* * *
We have to tell you how wonderful and uplifting our experience has been at New Vrindaban, where we stayed with our three daughters for five days in June.
We had looked forward to this most unique of vacations, and we were amply rewarded. The peace and the pace were both like nowhere in the U.S.A. It was as though it was a piece of Krsna's land. We felt a oneness with the devotees, although we are still only in the early stages of becoming followers. No doubt with Krsna's help everything can be done, and you are all living proof of this. . . . We look forward to many years of "happy returns" to New Vrindaban.
Byravan and Lakshmi Viswanathan
* * *
I really liked the articles on your centers in West Bengal and in Los Angeles. This kind of picture article gives me an idea of how your movement is working around the world . . . even in vastly different settings. Reading these articles is like taking a guided world tour. Can we expect more of these?
Our reply: We're glad you like to see how ISKCON is doing worldwide. You can look forward to an article on our Dallas center in the October issue.
One Potato, Two Potato, Three...
Or—pick any vegetable, choose one of these three cooking methods,
by Visakha-devi dasi
This month, I'd like to discuss three-basic ways of cooking vegetables. As you become thoroughly conversant with these three basic methods and as you observe how each method affects the ingredients. you will learn how to vary the final taste, texture, and appearance of the dish. The characteristics of a particular vegetable determine for you whether it should be cooked until it is tender-crisp, butter-soft, or pureed.
METHOD 1 makes dry-textured vegetable dishes. Small, uniform pieces of vegetable are briskly sauteed in ghee (clarified butter) and then cooked to tenderness without adding any liquid. If the particular vegetables that you're cooking have substantial moisture content, you can stir-fry them until they're tender-crisp and softly browned. But if the vegetables are dry or starchy, then set the flame to medium-low, cover the pan, and allow the vegetables to cook in the ghee and their own juices until butter-soft.
METHOD II makes butter-soft braised vegetable dishes. Here you briskly sautee the vegetables, add a liquid, and continue cooking (covered, on low flame) until the vegetables are very tender. Use this method for making vegetable stew, vegetables in gravy, moist vegetables in a concentrated glaze or sauce, or crusty, tender vegetables coated with seasoned ghee,
METHOD III makes vegetables in seasoned butter, sauce, or broth. Unlike the first two methods, where the vegetables were sauteed before being cooked to tenderness, this time you first cook them to near tenderness and then sautee them. Depending on the vegetable, you may boil it, steam it, pressure cook it, oven or coal bake it, or deep or shallow fry it. You may cook it either whole or cut, peeled or unpeeled. If you cook it whole, you afterwards cut it into uniform pieces and quickly sautee them in seasoned ghee on a medium high flame. This improves texture and flavor. You can further enhance the finished vegetable by swirling it in a prepared sauce, sprinkling it with more butter and lemon juice, or floating it in a delicate broth.
To put these three methods into practice, I'm taking that all-around vegetable, the potato, and cooking it each way. The three results are illustrated in the photo, and the three recipes above explain the steps involved. Depending on the spices and herbs that you've got, pick one of the three lists of seasonings and prepare the potatoes using the same seasonings for each method. Then you can see the differences created just by varying heat, timing, and the sizes and shapes of the vegetable pieces. With variations in ingredients and seasonings, it's easy to see how you can create innumerable main or side dishes with any vegetable.
The devotee loves making varieties o dishes and offering them to Lord Krsna And the Lord reciprocates many time over by offering His love to the devotee Thus Lord Krsna's cuisine is an exchange of love. And out of that loving exchange come the most delicious dishes you could ever imagine.
(Recipes by Yamuna-devi dasi)
Three Methods for Cooking Vegetables
Choose one of the combinations of ingredients below—essential, basic, or gourmet—and, using it each time, prepare potatoes with METHOD 1, then METHOD II, and then METHOD III.
Essential seasoning ingredients:
1 pound peeled potatoes (about 3 medium-size)
1 to 2 ½ cups water (for METHODS II and III)
2 tablespoons fresh coriander or parsley leaves, minced
Basic seasoning ingredients:
1 pound peeled potatoes (about 3 medium-size)
1 to 2 ½ cups water (for Methods II and III)
2 tablespoons fresh coriander or parsley leaves, minced
Gourmet seasoning ingredients:
1 pound peeled potatoes (about 3 medium-size)
1 to 1 ½ cups water (for Methods II and III)
½ tablespoon lemon juice
1. Cut the potatoes into ½-inch cubes. Heat the ghee or oil in a heavy frying pan over a medium-high flame until a haze forms over the ghee's surface. Drop in the seeded green or red chilies, whole spice seeds, and minced ginger root (optional). Fry the spices until they reach the desired shade of brown. Add the potatoes and fry, stirring frequently to prevent burning, until they are partially cooked and slightly browned.
2. Reduce flame to medium-low, sprinkle in the powdered spices and salt, add half of the fresh herbs, then loosely cover and cook until the potatoes are tender. Stir in the remaining herbs, the sugar, and the lemon juice (optional). Fry for one or two additional minutes to evaporate any remaining liquid.
Dry-Textured, Tender Braised Potatoes
1. Cut the potatoes into 1-inch cubes. Heat 2 ½ tablespoons of ghee or oil in a heavy 4- to 6-quart saucepan over medium-high to high flame until a drop of water flicked into the pan instantly dances. Drop in the seeded green or red chilies, whole spice seeds, and minced ginger root (optional). Fry the spices until they reach the desired shade of brown. Stir in the potato cubes and cook, stirring frequently to prevent burning, until they are about 1/3 cooked and gently browned.
2. Drop in the powdered spices, the salt, half of the fresh herbs, and about 1 ¼ cups water. Reduce the flame to medium-low, then gently boil the potatoes until they are tender and the water has nearly evaporated. Stir in the remaining ½ tablespoon of ghee, the sugar, and the lemon juice (optional). Then raise the flame to medium-high and fry until the vegetable is dry and slightly crisp. Remove the pan from the flame and fold in the remaining freshly minced herbs.
Steamed Potatoes, Pan-Fried with Seasonings
1. Cut the potatoes into ¼ inch cubes and place them in a vegetable steamer tray inside a large saucepan. Cover and steam the potatoes over boiling water until they are soft and tender throughout, but not mushy.
2. Heat the ghee or oil in a 10- or 12-inch heavy frying pan over medium-high flame until a haze forms over the surface. Drop in the seeded red or green chilies, whole spice seeds, and minced ginger root (optional). Fry the spices until they reach the desired shade of brown. Add the steamed potatoes, powdered spices, and salt, sugar, and lemon juice (optional). Reduce the flame slightly and stir-fry the potatoes until they are browned. Remove the pan from the flame, and mix in the freshly minced herbs.
Here are a few practical suggestions to bring out the best in your vegetable cookery. Generally, try to select small, firm vegetables, as fresh as possible.
To help retain nutrients and freshness, store your vegetables untrimmed and unwashed in a refrigerator or cold cellar. Clean them just before cooking.
To help remove astringency or bitterness from certain vegetables, wash and trim them, cut them into pieces, sprinkle them with salt, and let them sit aside for 30 to 60 minutes. Finally, squeeze the moisture out of the vegetable. Some vegetables should then be washed again and fully dried before they are used.
Try to prepare only as many vegetables as you will need, and as far as possible, serve them as soon as they are cooked. Vegetables tend to lose flavor if they are reheated quickly or kept warm for long periods of time. If you must reheat vegetables, use a medium flame rather than high.
Fresh, natural vegetables keep their fresh, natural vegetable flavors when they are steamed, cooked in dry heat, cooked quickly, or boiled whole and unpeeled until tender, and immediately seasoned with ghee.
Avoid cooking spinach or fresh greens in aluminum or cast iron, for the vegetables easily absorb the flavor of these metals. Stainless steel, nonstick cookware, and enamaled cook-ware are ideal for this purpose.
To remove strong flavors from broccoli, cabbage, or brussels sprouts, blanch the vegetables for 4 to 6 minutes, plunge them into cold water to stop them from cooking, then proceed with normal preparation.
Will the crisis in American education
by Kundali dasa
In May of this year, my wife and I had our first child, a boy. Since his birth, I've had to answer many questions from relatives about my intentions for his future education. They were mostly concerned to know whether the education from a gurukula, a Krsna conscious parochial school, would be comparable to one from a public school. They also wanted to know if my son would be prepared and encouraged to go on to college. Some of them expressed fears that a Krsna conscious education would be too limiting, insulating the child and making him overly dependent on the Krsna conscious way of life. "You never know," they told me, "he may not want to be a devotee of Krsna when he grows up. You should send him to a public school where he'll receive a well-rounded education."
I knew I wouldn't send my son to public school, and I knew that gurukula education was more than adequate. But how to fully answer my relatives' questions so that they would be satisfied? I decided to find out about education in America today and see how it compares to a gurukula education.
Like most people in the United States, I've known for a long time that public schools are having serious problems. But my research revealed a situation far more criticial than I had imagined. Most of the information I found painted a dismal picture. Probably the most gloomy one was the report by the National Commission on Excellence in Education (NCEE) that came out in early 1983. After an eighteen-month study, the commission turned in its report card:
—Twenty-three million Americans are functionally illiterate.
—Since 1963, scores on the College Board Scholastic Achievement Tests (SAT) have steadily declined. The average verbal score has fallen fifty points; the average math score, more than forty.
—Enrollment in remedial math courses accounts for twenty-five percent of all math course enrollment in America's colleges and universities.
—The scholastic achievement of college graduates has grown progressively lower each year. To compensate, many colleges have lowered their academic standards.
—Business and military leaders complain that they must spend millions of dollars for remedial education in basic reading, writing, and simple arithmetic.
The NCEE report made no mention of such prominent problems as drug abuse, truancy, violence, and vandalism. Still, the report was negative enough that, while discussing it in a radio broadcast on April 30, 1983, President Reagan described high-school graduates as "prepared for neither work nor higher education."
John Silber, president of Boston University, described the situation in more lucid terms: "Today's high school diploma is a fraudulent credential. . . .What the diploma tells you is that a student was institutionalized for twelve years. That's all. You wouldn't know whether the student had been in a prison colony, a reform school, or a place for mental defectives."
Why is the educational system in the most affluent and powerful nation in the world failing so miserably? The NCEE did not give any specific reasons, but it did give a lengthy list of recommendations. School hoards, the NCEE recommended, should improve the content of science, math, and English classes; set more rigorous standards for testing academic performance; devise methods to use classroom time better; put greater stress on teacher competency; provide better leadership; and increase fiscal support. These measures, the commission decided, if implemented over a period of several years, would rectify the situation.
On the surface, the NCEE recommendations sound practical and reasonable. And a new parent like myself, you might expect, should be optimistic and think, "Good, by the time my child is ready for school, they will have had five years to upgrade the system."
But I don't feel optimistic. In fact, I seriously doubt that implementing the commission's recommendations would significantly improve the quality of education in America. The crisis in education is much more serious and its cause much more fundamental than the NCEE's report indicated. And, as my research has shown me, this is a view that many educators around the country hold. In their opinion, the commission's report aimed at relieving only the symptoms of the problem. The report did not even mention the cause underlying the symptoms.
Srila Prabhupada, my spiritual master, has summed up the cause of the crisis in modern education:
Modern civilization has advanced considerably in the field of mass education, hut the result is that people are more unhappy than ever before because of the stress placed on material advancement to the exclusion of the most important part of life, the spiritual aspect. . . . Modern civilization is a patchwork of activities meant to cover the perpetual miseries of material existence. Such activities are aimed toward sense gratification, but above the senses is the mind, and above the mind is the intelligence, and above the intelligence there is the soul. Thus the aim of real education should be self-realization, realization of the spiritual values of the soul (Sri Isopanisad).
As a former student myself, I find that Srila Prabhupada's conclusion is precise and correct. And, as I mentioned before, a number of educators would agree with his general assessment of the problem. For example, in an interview with U.S. News and World Report, Steven Muller, president of Johns Hopkins University, made essentially the same point, Muller said that the biggest problem in education is that students are not taught values. This situation has developed, he explained, because "education today is rooted in the scientific method, having essentially turned its back on religion. . . . The failure to rally around a set of values means that universities today are turning out highly skilled barbarians."
Similarly Professor Andrew Oldenquist of Ohio State University says speculations about the decline of American education have been "incomplete and occasionally silly." In his opinion the problem was caused not by Vietnam or by too much TV or by any number of the myriad causes usually cited. What went wrong, Oldenquist says, "was not a gadget nor an event: it was an idea." Educators and social scientists in the sixties and seventies developed a relativistic philosophy which ousted "middle-class values" like morals and academic achievement. Replacing these were self-esteem, feeling good about oneself—or in other words, sense gratification. Oldenquist calls it "individualism gone mad."
But even before the sixties, as far back 1929, Alfred North Whitehead observed that education in America was in a critical state of decline. In The Aims of Education, Whitehead lamented modern education's teaching a plethora of subjects but failing to impart divine wisdom. He considered this "sad evidence of the defeat of human endeavors." Thus Whitehead wrote,
So long as we conceive education as merely consisting in the acquirement of mechanical mental aptitudes and of formulated statements . . . there can be no progress; though there be much activity amid aimless rearrangement of syllabuses. . . . You cannot be wise without some basis in knowledge; hut you may easily acquire knowledge and remain bare of wisdom.
Whitehead, who is considered one of the keenest intellects of this century, had the insight to perceive what took more than fifty years to become common knowledge. The schools and colleges, he said. induce "paralysis of thought" by subjecting the pupils to the aimless accumulation of knowledge. Whitehead explained:
The importance of knowledge lies in its use, in our active mastery of it—that is to say, it lies in wisdom. It is a convention to speak of mere knowledge apart from wisdom, as of itself imparting dignity to its possessor. I do not share in this reverence for knowledge as such. . . . That knowledge which adds greatness of character is knowledge so handled as to transform every phase of our immediate experience. It you have much to do with the young as they emerge from school and from university, you soon note the dulled minds of those whose education consisted in the acquirement of inert knowledge.
This is similar to Srila Prabhupada's calling today's educational institutions "slaughterhouses"—they kill rather than satisfy what Whitehead called "a youth's natural craving for wisdom."
"Slaughterhouses." "skilled barbarians," "paralysis of thought," "mental defectives," "fraudulent credentials"—certainly these terms conjure up unsavory images. And as a responsible parent, I cringe at the thought of my son's being subjected to such a system. Clearly America's schools are in a mess. But how do the Krsna conscious schools compare? Are they also beset with waning academic standards? Are they also without a framework of values, without an idea? Or, are the gurukulas a better alternative to public schools?
Well, it's impossible to get any substantial data on Krsna conscious schools from the library. Gurukulas are still a fairly recent development in America, and very little data on them has been accumulated. I decided, therefore, to visit a gurukula in Lake Huntington, New York, just a few hours' drive from where I live in Philadelphia. There I could see for myself what the gurukula environment is like, (Some of my conversation with Murali-vadaka dasa. the gurukula headmaster, appears in the interview below.)
I should point out that at present the Krsna conscious schools in America consist only of elementary- and intermediate-level schools. Children ready for secondary school attend the Bhaktivedanta Swami International Gurukula in Vrndavana, India. That school is big enough lo handle all the secondary school requirements for the Krsna consciousness movement for the time being.
A Krsna conscious gurukula educator aims at providing the very things that Oldenquist, Muller, Whitehead (and Srila Prabhupada) consider most wanting in the public schools: a set framework of values and knowledge that builds character, instills divine wisdom, and leads to self-realization. The idea of gurukula is that regardless of a student's propensities, aptitudes, social position, or academic abilities, he or she will have been trained to function on the highest principles of human integrity, on the principles of saintliness. The ultimate end is to create a society wherein every citizen will gradually progress toward spiritual enlightenment and love of God, which is the ultimate goal of human life.
In the Bhagavad-gita, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, outlines the course of study that leads to such a spiritually enlightened state:
Humility; pridelessness; nonviolence; tolerance; simplicity; approaching a bona fide spiritual master; cleanliness; steadiness; self-control; renunciation of the objects of sense gratification; absence of false ego; the perception of the evil of birth, death, old age, and disease; detachment; freedom from entanglement with children, wife, home, and the rest; even-mindedness amid pleasant and unpleasant events; constant and unalloyed devotion to Me; aspiring to live in a solitary place; detachment from the general mass of people; accepting the importance of self-realization; and philosophical search for the Absolute Truth—all these I declare to be knowledge, and besides this whatever there may be is ignorance.
But the emphasis on spiritual achievement in gurukula docs not mean neglect of academic standards. Test results prove this fact. Academic achievement among students at the Lake Huntington gurukula is higher than average. This came to light in 1981, when the gurukula students took the Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT). The WRAT is a. standardized state test that schools administer. It measures skills in reading, spelling, and arithmetic, and compares them with the scores of students nationally. Sixty-three percent of the gurukula students were approximately 2.5 grades above average in reading, 1.8 grades above in spelling, and 0.9 above in arithmetic. The remaining thirty-seven percent were about 2.2 grades above average in reading, 1.5 grades above in spelling, and 0.3 above in arithmetic.
But beyond statistics, what I saw at Lake Huntington was most encouraging and attractive. The boys and girls were happy and enthusiastic. They enjoyed a strong camaraderie with each other and with their teachers. And they were exempted from the evils of the public school system.
As with any endeavor, of course, the gurukula system has problems. One unique problem, I found, is that the parents of the students, being themselves products of the public school system, have been poorly trained as candidates for the spiritual discipline of Krsna consciousness. Some parents, therefore, are not always able to live up to the ideal, exemplary standard of Krsna consciousness. And when the children see discrepancies in the behavior of their parents, this tends to work against their gurukula training. The children become confused by the double standard. This is not a major problem, however.
At the Lake Huntington gurukula I met Dr. Lawrence Lilliston, a clinical child psychologist from Oakland University in Michigan. Dr. Lilliston was conducting a study of the gurukula students, covering such categories as cooperativeness, conflict resolution, cognitive functioning, academic performance, emotional maturity, moral reasoning, levels of aggression, and creativity. To the best of my knowledge Lilliston's is the first such scientific study of the gurukula children. I would have loved to have gotten the results of his work, but, unfortunately, it will be several months before all his data is collected and analyzed and the results published.
Dr. Lilliston was willing, however, to discuss with me his initial impressions, as long as I made it clear that his work is not funded by the Krsna consciousness movement and that he had no vested interest in any particular outcome. He told me he was certain that analysis of his data would show the gurukula children to be lower than the average in their level of aggression and higher than average in their level of cooperative play and academic achievement. He found the children to be respectful and considerate. He also praised the teachers: "One of the things that really impressed me here is the teaching by example that the teachers do in all phases of the program. This school is unlike anything that I've seen. The training is unlike even other parochial schools, and I've seen a lot of those."
I took the opportunity to ask Dr. Lilliston a question my relatives had put to me: "Do you find the emotional and psychological development of these children normal, or would you say they were unable to think for themselves, learned things by rote, and lacked personality?" To this he replied. "The bottom-line statement, in my opinion, is that this is a very healthy environment. Generally, I find the students to be mentally quite healthy, quite stable, to have a good sense of where they are, who they are, and so on. Gurukula is a wonderful atmosphere in which kids can learn."
As an advocate of the Krsna consciousness philosophy and life, I'm naturally predisposed toward the gurukula system of education. I am pleased, therefore, to say that the Lake Huntington gurukula is above average academically and also offers an incomparable opportunity for a child to develop sound moral values, greatness of character, divine wisdom and self-realization. I feel satisfied that my son will be able to get the best all-around education in a Krsna conscious gurukula such as the one I saw at Lake Huntington.
An Interview with Murali-vadaka dasa
Murali-vadaka dasa is the headmaster of ISKCON's gurukula at Lake Huntington, New York, and has worked with that project for the past three-years. Prior to joining the Krsna consciousness movement, he taught for four years in the New York City public school system and was director of a children's summer camp in New Hampshire for eight years. He was also a social worker in New York City.
What are the major differences between gurukula and public schools?
"Two major differences are prominent in my mind, although one may stem from the other. The first is that in the Krsna consciousness movement we have standards by which we educate our children. That is absent in the public schools. In fact, the opposite is predominant—that is, the concept of subjective or relative morality. Whatever Suzy thinks is right is right for her. Whatever Tommy thinks is right is right for him. From a Krsna conscious point of view, this leads to so many problems—lack of moral strength, lack of character.
"In gurukula we have a standard, an absolute standard. Because Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Absolute Truth, the children learn math, social studies, science—everything—in relation to the Absolute Truth. Krsna. Nowadays, the direction of sociopsychology is that if you maintain some absolute standard—'This is right and this is wrong'—it's labeled as a 'value-judgment.' Value judgments are no-no's. Because there is no standard, homosexuality is now a 'normal' thing.
"The superiority of the character of children raised according to a set standard was brought home to me when the state inspected our school. Three inspectors reviewed our teachers' credentials, reviewed the curriculum, reviewed the textbooks, and then asked to observe the classroom for a few hours. We walked into the first classroom. All the students stood up with folded hands and smiled. The inspectors said. 'We've seen enough,' and walked out. Then we got a letter saying our school provided equivalent education. Next they called to tell us unofficially that they wished the mood of learning and love in our school was present in their schools.
"The second major difference, and this is based on my personal experience, is that public school teachers don't really care about teaching. They want money. Students can see the teachers don't really care, and so they don't care about their teachers. Our teachers build strong personal relationships with each child, and they are required to be exemplary in their behavior. But public school teachers can be degenerates and debauchees. As long as they are fairly discreet about it and report to classes, fine. In gurukula we teach by example. It is better than precept."
Do you have a discipline problem?
"According to a Gallup poll, discipline is the biggest problem in public education. At gurukula, however, the problem is minimal. The teachers see themselves and the students as servants of Krsna. And their responsibility is to train Krsna's other servants, the students, in the art of pure devotional service. This vision fosters a relationship of love and trust between teachers and students. When there is love and trust, there is obedience. Then a child wants to please his teacher, and discipline becomes a very simple thing."
Are gurukula students cloistered?
"A lawyer who visited here told me, 'Your children are cloistered. Why don't you give them a choice?' I said, 'Oh, no. Your children don't have a choice. Our children understand both Darwinism and creation according to Krsna. * (* 'See "How He Creates" on page 8.) In the public schools, however, they are taught only Darwinism. You're the one not giving a choice.' He agreed. It's illegal to teach God's position in the public schools.
"On the practical level, our children get plenty of exposure to the world. They help with the community shopping. They compare prices, talk with the salespeople, figure their change. They know how to interact with society at large. And they go out preaching door to door. Plus our community here is open to the public. They are insulated, not isolated. They may not know what it means to he a pimp on Times Square, but I don't think they have to know that.
"Other children have no choice. They have no opportunity to know what devotion is. Not one of them can tell you the benefits of celibacy. They think it's sick. Our children can tell you about sex life, about why everyone is mad after it, but they can also tell you the benefits of celibacy. They certainly have a choice."
Does gurukula stress spirituality too much?
"Srila Prabhupada said, 'Our gurukula system is designed to bring one to the platform of pure, unalloyed devotion to Krsna.' We are not interested in comparative IQ tests, or teaching our children trivial details. But Srila Prabhupada also stressed that our students should not be seen as foolish.
"Academically, our children are two or three grades superior to public and private schools. And we are not even all expert teachers, nor do we have the resources that others invest. But these children can certainly stand with the others. About one year ago they entered a statewide poetry contest, and three of our children won in different areas.
"As they get older, they'll be guided to specialize in the subjects or crafts that they show a particular propensity for. We don't waste time, money, and effort to educate a person beyond the intermediate level in a whole range of subjects that he or she has no interest in or desire to learn. Mass education, or education for education's sake, is a mistake as far as we are concerned."
What about higher education?
"There'll definitely be facility for that. But our goal is not to produce children who can go to college. They will be competent to enter the universities, but we are more interested in producing saintly devotees of God."
What about the criticism that God has been taken out of the public schools?
"We differ from other groups who make that complaint. They may object that God is taken out of the schools, but they cannot answer the questions, Who is God? What is He like? Where does He live? What are His activities? Only the Vaisnava philosophy, Krsna consciousness, answers these questions. No one else can.
"For example, we had a visitor here who told me, 'Sufism means selfless devotion to God.' I asked him, 'Who is God?' He didn't know. So I said, 'Let's say I cook you a very nice apple turnover, hut you hate apples. What good is my so-called devotion and love for you? Unless I know you and how to please you, all my talk about love and service to you is just sentimental speculation.'"
Will gurukula accept children of nondevotee parents?
"Yes, we already have. There are five children in this school whose parents are not and do not profess to be devotees. Because of the moral training and the character-building and the protection children get here, we anticipate that more and more intelligent, pious members of society will want to send their children here. We are straightforward, and the parents understand, 'You send your children here and they'll he trained, along with the good standard of education and character-building, to become devotees of Krsna.' For parents who are really concerned about their children's future, there is no alternative to gurukula. Any unbiased observer can see that."
Religion and the Engines of War
Many violent conflicts erupting around the world today are being billed by the news media as "religious wars." Fighting between the Sikhs and Hindus in India, between Christians and Moslems in Beirut, between the Moslem sects of Iran and Iraq, and between the Protestants and Catholics of Northern Ireland—all seem to have roots in religious conflict. But we should be careful about blaming religion for wars. In fact. wars involving religious sects should force us to consider what is truly religion and what is mere sectarian fanaticism. The scriptures and practices of Krsna consciousness enable us to make this distinction and to see how genuine spirituality can work for peace and liberation among humankind.
Certainly the propagandists of atheism would like to make the case that God consciousness is itself a delusion and a source of evil. "If you feel God is on your side," states one commentator, "you can justify any atrocity." But when faced with the charge that some of the worst crimes in history have been committed in the name of religion, U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield replied, "We have to distinguish between what man does to pervert the truth and what it says in the Old Testament. I don't think we can blame the church as a whole. We have to recognize that it is made up of sinners."
We would be throwing the baby out with the bath water to say that to obtain peace we must remove religion from human culture. Rather, it is the spiritual dimension which especially raises the human being above a bestial struggle for survival. The valuable force of spirituality is a quality distinct from the perversion of religion as it appears in sectarian violence. True religion, therefore, must be defended against the vicious attacks of atheism, which attempt to make religion a scapegoat.
Today's so-called religious wars are in fact irreligious. If the leaders and groups involved were truly religious and acted according to the codes of God, they would not be fighting each other. The actual engines of war are nationalism, economic strife, class and racial struggles, and so on. The warring parties may profess religious sentiments, but sentiments are not enough when both parties are acting in disobedience to the eternal precepts of true religion. Former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat once explained this in a discussion with then President Carter: "If we resurrected Jesus Christ and Prophet Mohammed together, they would not be able to persuade Moslems and Christians to open the borders with Israel after twenty-nine years of hatred, four wars, rivers of blood, and massacres."
Why would the spiritually-realized founders of the great religions not be able to convince their followers? Because such "followers" are not actually obeying or even aware of eternal religious principles. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, describes true eternal religious principles according to the nonsectarian, universal standard of Srimad-Bhagavatam:
The sum and substance of religious life is to execute the orders of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and one who does so is perfectly religious. In the Bhagavad-gita the Supreme Lord Krsna says, "Just think of Me always and become My devotee." Furthermore, the Lord says, "Give up all kinds of material engagements and simply surrender unto Me." Anyone who directly executes such an order from the Personality of Godhead is actually a religious person. Others are described as pretenders, for there are many activities going on throughout the world in the name of religion which are not actually religious.
From this definition we may conclude that nowadays pure religion in rare. But its importance is very great and it should not be blasphemed. For example, one news feature on the Ayatullah Khomeni's reign of terror in Iran read, "A Holy Man Who Thrives on Hate." If he thrives on hate, then why call him a holy man?
To comprehend the actual value of spiritual life requires transcendental understanding. Religion is not merely a social or psychological factor; it is the science of God and the soul, and it teaches us how to attain eternal life. When a person receives true spiritual knowledge from a genuine representative of God and from a genuine scripture, then that person becomes purified and renders devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, even during this lifetime. Such a self-realized person is always pleasing to the Supreme Lord, and he also leads a sane, peaceful, and productive life within the temporal realm.
The Krsna consciousness movement is based on the Vedic scriptures, which are untinged by sectarian concepts; therefore it can contribute to society by establishing the universal principles of religion. The Bhagavad-gita, for example, teaches that we should respect all living beings, regardless of their race or religion or social position. In fact, according to the Gita, we should respect even animals and plants, because within each body is the spirit soul, and all spirit souls are equal. As explained by Srila Prabhupada, this knowledge will free us from the mentality that leads to sectarian strife:
If one advocates the Hindu religion, Moslem religion, the Christian religion, that religion . . . there will be conflicts. History shows that the followers of religious systems without a clear conception of God have fought with one another. There are many instances of this in human history. But systems of religion that do not concentrate upon service to the Supreme are temporary and cannot last for long because they are full of envy. There are many activities directed against such religious systems and therefore one must give up the idea of my belief and your belief. Everyone should believe in God and surrender unto Him.
One attempt at solving the problem of warring religious factions is found in the secular state that permits religious freedom. Taking "secular" to mean that the government is not partial to any particular religious faith, then this is the view espoused in the philosophy of Krsna consciousness. But "secular" should not mean that the government is ignorant of the principles of religion or apathetic toward them. Austerity, cleanliness, truthfulness, mercy, and other such qualities are for all human beings, regardless of religion. And directing people toward these qualities and toward devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the responsibility of government leaders. This change would not only end sectarian fanaticism, but it would also relieve society of its present hedonism and immoral atheism, which lead to exploitative conflict and war. The devotees of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness are dedicated to serving humanity by educating people about the universal principles of true religion. Broad-minded government leaders would do well to consider this great potential in the Hare Krsna movement.—SDG