Back to Godhead Magazine

Volume 19, Number 10, 1984


Austerity and the Way to God
Simple Living, High Thinking
Spiritual Places
Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out
Every Town and Village
Lord Krsna's Cuisine
The Vedic Observer
The Two Faces of Time
Notes from the Editor

© 2005 The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International

Austerity and the Way to God

No matter what level of self-realization you choose,
one essential quality stands out as common to all.

A lecture given in Dallas in 1975
by His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness

tapasaiva param jyotir
bhagavantam adhoksajam
anjasa vindate puman

"By austerity only can one even approach the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is within the heart of every living entity and at the same time beyond the reach of all senses." (Srimad -Bhagavatam 3.12.19)

From this verse we can understand that the Absolute Truth is realized in three features. The first realization is param jyotih, the Brahman effulgence; the next realization is sarva-bhuta-guhavasam, the Supersoul in everyone's heart; and the final realization is bhagavantam adhoksajam, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is beyond the range of material perception.

We can understand these three features by considering the example of the sun. Our first realization of the sun occurs when we come in touch with the sunshine. That is very easy. Anyone can come into the light of the sunshine. It is open to everyone. Then, the next feature of the sun is the sun globe. That is not so easily available. You cannot go to the sun globe. According to the modern scientific conclusion, the sun is ninety-three million miles away from us, and still we cannot tolerate the heat sometimes. And what will be our position if we go to the sun? Before reaching it—even when we're still millions of miles away—the temperature will be so high that we'll be finished.

So we cannot even approach the sun globe, what to speak of entering into the sun. For that we require a different body. Of course, there are living entities within the sun globe, and there is a predominating deity also—the "president," you might say. There is a state, just as you have the United States, and there is also a president, and the president's name is Vivasvan. This is all explained in the sastra [scripture]. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, "I spoke this science to Vivasvan, the president or predominating deity of the sun globe." This is all fact. It is not fiction.

The inhabitants of the sun globe have different bodies than ours. This earth planet is made up mostly of earth, so our bodies are earthy; similarly, the sun globe is mostly fire, so the bodies there are fiery. Five gross elements exist—earth, water, fire, air, and ether—and here on this earth there is a mixture of all these, but the earth element is prominent. Similarly, in the sun globe there is also a mixture of these elements, but the fire element is prominent.

In the material world there are varieties of planets, and they are all part of God's creation. This earth is God's creation, and the sun is also God's creation. But we cannot go to the sun. Land is God's creation and water is God's creation, but you cannot live in the water and the fish cannot live on the land. Similarly, although there are millions and trillions of planets within this universe, you have to live on that particular planet where you are destined to live. That is part of your conditioning. You cannot go to the sun planet or the moon planet. You are not free.

Now the scientists have attempted to go to the moon. We are doubtful whether they actually went, but in any case no benefit has been derived by this effort. They have simply wasted their energy, time, and money, Conditioned life means that you cannot violate the laws of nature. It is not possible. But the scientists are thinking they are free to do whatever they like. That is ignorance.

They are falsely thinking that they are free. But where is that freedom? In the Bhagavad-gita [3.27] Krsna says, prakrteh kriyamanani gunaih karmani sarvasah: "Everything is being carried out by the modes of material nature." Yet this rascal civilization does not admit this. People are so foolish that although they are conditioned at every step, they still think they are free. This is illusion.

To get real freedom from conditioned life, you have to work for it. Freedom does not come automatically. Suppose you are diseased—you are suffering from fever or some other painful condition. So, to get free of the disease you have to undergo some austerity. If you are suffering from a painful boil on your body, you have to undergo a surgical operation if you want to be cured.

Therefore tapasya, some painful austerity, is necessary to get free of the diseased condition of material life. Formerly, the saintly persons or sages would practice many kinds of tapasya. In the scorching heat of summer they would ignite fires all around and then sit down in meditation. Or they would go to the Himalaya Mountains, and in the pinching, chilly cold they would stay under water up to their necks and meditate.

So, for God realization people formerly used to undergo such severe types of austerities, but at the present moment we are so fallen that we cannot tolerate even these four principles: no illicit sex, no intoxication, no meat-eating, and no gambling. These are the items of tapasya for advancing in Krsna consciousness. Are they very difficult? No. Is it more difficult to give up illicit sex and meat-eating and intoxication than to stay in water up to the neck in chilly, pinching cold? We are not advising, "No sex," but "No illicit sex." Where is the difficulty?'

Still, this age is so fallen that even this primary tapasya we cannot execute. But as it is said here in this verse from the Srimad-Bhagavatam, tapasaiva: only by austerity can one realize God. Otherwise it is not possible. Only by tapasya! There is no other means. The word param means "the Supreme." If you want to realize the Supreme, the Absolute Truth, then you must agree to certain types of tapasya.

There are preliminary, little tapasyas like Ekadasi. (The eleventh day after both the full and the new moon, on which devotees of Krsna abstain from all grains and beans.) Actually, on the Ekadasi day we should not take any food or even drink water. But in our Society we are not observing it so strictly. We say that on Ekadasi you must not take any food grains but you may take a little fruit and milk. This is tapasya. So, we cannot execute this tapasya? If we are not prepared to undertake even this very, very easily executable tapasya, then how can we expect to go back home, back to Godhead? It will not be possible.

Now, by executing some tapasya, some austerities, do you become a loser? No, you are not a loser. When anyone comes from outside and sees the boys and girls who are members of our Society, they say, "Oh, they have such bright faces!" Once, when I was going from Los Angeles to Hawaii, a priest came up to me on the plane and asked, "Can I ask you a question? I see your disciples are very bright-faced. How has this been done?"

So, by undergoing tapasya, by rejecting all these sinful activities, we can live a very simple and happy life. We can sit down on the floor; we can lie down on the floor. We don't require much furniture. Nor do we need a large amount of gorgeous clothes. No, if we are serious about God realization, then some minimum tapasya must be there. That is wanted.

Then, the first realization is the brahmajyoti, the brilliant effulgence of Krsna's body. Generally, the Mayavadis, the impersonalistic transcendentalists, think that the realization of the brahmajyoti is the all in all, while the yogis think that the realization of God in the heart is the highest. God is in everyone's heart; that is accepted in all sastra. In the Bhagavad-gita [18.61] Krsna says, isvarah sarva- bhutanam hrd-dese 'rjuna tisthati: "The Lord is in everyone's heart." And here in this verse from the Srimad-Bhagavatam the same thing is said: sarva-bhuta-guhavasam. (Guha means "the core of the heart.")

The Lord is everywhere, not only in your heart and my heart and the animal's heart, but also within the atom (andantarastha-paramanu-cayantara-stham). This is the Paramatma feature, or the Supersoul feature, of the Lord. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, [13.3] ksetra-jnam capi mam viddhi sarva-ksetresu bharata: "I am also the knower of the body; I am present in everyone's heart." In another place [Bg. 15.15] Krsna says the same thing: sarvasya caham hrdi-sannivistah.

So, God is present everywhere. He is omnipotent and omnipresent. And in our temples He is manifest as the arca-vigraha, the Deity form, by which He can accept our worship. It is not that the Deity is different from the original Krsna. No. He is the same Krsna who is living in Goloka Vrndavana, the spiritual world (goloka eva nivasati), but who is also present in everyone's heart (akhilatma-bhutah). To help His devotees realize Him He can present Himself in innumerable forms and accept their service.

Krsna is also known as Adhoksaja, "He who is beyond material vision." We cannot see Krsna, but we can see stone, we can see metal, we can see wood and other material elements. So Krsna has appeared as the Deity of stone or wood or metal so that we can see Him. But the Deity is not a stone or wooden statue. That you have to understand. The Deity is Krsna, and He is so kind that He has appeared before us so we can see Him and serve Him. This is the philosophy—not that stone is Krsna.

Of course, in the ultimate sense stone is also Krsna, because stone is the expansion of Krsna's material energy (bhumir apo 'nalo vayuh kham mano buddhir eva ca . . . me bhinna prakrtir astadha). This is the philosophy of acintya-bhedabheda-tattva, that God is inconceivably one with and different from His energies. Again we can give the example of the sun and the sunshine. In the sunshine there is heat and light, and this means that the sun is also present there. When someone is in the bright sunshine in your room, do you not say, "Why are you standing in the sun?" So, by the entrance of the sunshine within your room, the sun entered. This is the philosophy of 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.) This is the philosophy of acintya-bhedabheda—simultaneous oneness and difference.

Normally we cannot understand how one thing can be another thing, and also not be that thing. We have no experience of this because of our poor fund of knowledge. But in the case of Krsna, God, that is possible: simultaneous oneness and difference.

Now, for the atheist, Krsna's Deity in the temple is just a form made of stone or wood. He thinks, "These crazy fellows are worshiping a stone." And for them Krsna is not in the Deity. If a crazy man breaks the statue, he does not break Krsna; he breaks the stone. This is what is meant by "simultaneously one and different."

But for the devotee the Deity is Krsna. He is Krsna all the time. Even if someone sees the Deity as stone, the devotee knows that stone is also Krsna because it is an expansion of Krsna's energy, just as the sunshine is an expansion of the sun's energy. Krsna is omniscient and omnipotent, and He can accept your service in any way. Provided you want to render service, Krsna is ready to accept.

Therefore, we should never think of the Deity of Krsna, as something made of stone or wood or metal. We should always think, "Here is Krsna personally present," and we should worship Him like that. We should offer all respect to the Deity, thinking, "Here is Krsna; I cannot do anything wrong." In The Nectar of Devotion (A book by Srila Prabhupada that is an English translation and summary study of Srila Rupa Gosvami's sixteenth-century Sanskrit devotional classic Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu.) there is a list of sixty-four offenses in Deity worship, and we should avoid committing these offenses. Not that we think, "Here is a stone statue; it is not going to see that I am committing this offense." That is not very good. We should always feel, "Here is Krsna, personally present."

Actually, He is personally present. Are we such fools that we are worshiping a stone? No. We have installed this Deity exactly under the directions of previous spiritual authorities, so our worship is not whimsical. Krsna is personally present in the Deity, as He is present everywhere (sarva-bhuta-guhavasam). Similarly, He can live in many millions of temples simultaneously, and at the same time He can live in Goloka Vrndavana. That is Krsna's omnipotency.

Being very kind, Krsna has appeared in our various temples; so we should be very careful to remember, "Here is Krsna, personally present. Here is Srimati Radharani. Here is Lord Caitanya and Lord Jagannatha." Even if you commit some mistake, the Deity will not protest. But we should not commit any mistake. That is our duty. We should not do anything offensive. The directions are there in the sastra: "Do like this, do like that. Don't do that." And if you follow, there will be no offense, and offenseless service will make you more and more advanced in spiritual life.

So, you have to follow the authoritative principles given in these scriptures and handed down by the disciplic succession. Yasya deve para bhaktir yatha deve tatha gurau. If you have faith in God—Krsna—and similar faith in the spiritual master, and if you follow his instructions, then you will understand Krsna in His different features: jyotih, bhagavan, and sarva-bhuta-guhavasam. He is the brahmajyoti, just like sunshine; He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna; and He is the Supersoul, the Paramatma, within everyone's heart. The process for realizing these features of God involves tapasya—a little austerity. Whatever little tapasya we have prescribed you should follow. Then you'll gradually understand Krsna. And if you understand Krsna, your life is successful.

Thank you very much.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Simple Living, High Thinking

The Noblest Profession

The roots of peace and prosperity lie
in working the land, protecting the cow, and loving Krsna.

by Suresvara dasa

Winding through Sri Mayapur, the sacred Ganges shimmers in the cool light of dawn. The villagers are up, wiry Bengalis, worshiping, working in rhythm with nature. As temple bells fill the air, barefoot bullock drivers plow the earth—the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all bodies.

And Hare Krsna pilgrims are there, as mindful as the farmers of the persistence of life through death, the passage of energy through changing forms. These pilgrims come from all countries and creeds, seeking their roots in the sacred soil, in the eternal soul, and in Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

At the ISKCON temple, the sanai players blow ragas that herald the rising sun. Before long, Hare Krsna farm minister Paramananda dasa is touring the bountiful fields and complimenting his guide, Dr. S. K. Nirmal.

"It is all Krsna's magic," Dr. Nirmal exults, sweeping his hands skyward. "We are simply His servants." The author of a book on natural pest control, fifty-two-year-old Nirmal lived as a landholder and an entomologist before coming to Mayapur last year. "I was a Gandhian," he says with a smile, "spinning my cotton, growing grains. I have academic qualifications, but I am retired now. I want to serve Krsna and make this farm an example for the people."

Paramananda, who runs an ISKCON farm in Pennsylvania, grins appreciatively. It is good to get away from the West—with its agribusinesses and state-of-the-art slaughterhouses—and visit the holy places of India, home of simple living and Krsna consciousness. But that doesn't mean Nirmal's job is an easy one.

"The villagers are stubborn," he asserts. "For generations they have been losing their people to the city and forgetting the techniques of good farming." He points to a neighbor's shabby wheat field. "They were just scattering the seed. That means 10 percent goes to the birds, and another 10 percent doesn't get enough moisture." When Nirmal sowed his kernels in lines—a simple technique that cuts the cultivation cost and promotes a high yield—a hundred villagers gathered and shouted, "You madman! What are you doing?" But now his wheat stands tall and triumphant, and next year, say the villagers, they too will sow in lines.

Rice was a lesson in seed selection. When the villagers cut the paddy to sow, they use about 30 kilos of seed. With the seed Nirmal selects, though, he needs only 18 kilos. His method: Drop an egg in a bucket of water. Add salt to increase the density until the egg floats. Take out the egg and immerse the paddy seeds in the water. The healthier seeds will sink. And so will costs. In a recent planting, Nirmal sowed only 38 percent as many seeds as his neighbor, but reaped a higher yield.

High yields abounded in Vrndavana, where some fifty centuries ago, Krsna herded His 900,000 cows. With so many cows fertilizing the soil, one could use a simple wooden plow and get tremendous results. Earlier this century in India, extensive tests done by Sir Albert Howard (the father of contemporary organic farming in the West) proved to the agricultural world the beneficial effects of cow dung and other composted manures. During Mayapur's hot season, the sun bakes out much of the soil's richness. But by adding huge quantities of cow dung, the devotees have been able to plant and harvest year round.

And how they have distributed the bounty! During the Bangladesh War, ISKCON founder and spiritual master Srila Prabhupada started 1SKCON Food Relief, and since then the devotees have pooled their own and government resources to serve needy villagers more than seven million free meals. But Nirmal says this is just the beginning.

"Prabhupada wanted that no person within ten kilometers of our temple should ever go hungry. Now we are giving them food, and better, we give them knowledge so that they can grow more themselves."

A pump engine drones at a nearby tube well. Farther on, a plowman coaxes his bullocks forward in a high-pitched staccato, "Tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat! Ta-hah, ta-hah!" He wears simply a saronglike lungi, Paramananda notices, with rags tied about his hair against the fiercely rising sun. "Do you have any problem getting water?"

"Yes," nods Nirmal. "Water is a big problem here. We have two wells, but we don't always have diesel to run them."

"Why don't you use the oxen?"

"Yes, bullocks are best. That is the Vedic system I want to revive. The diesel is from the previous manager. We have so much manpower—why buy machines and wait on the Arabs for fuel? And if there is war, then what? I stopped the engine at the sugar-cane press; the diesel was spoiling the taste of the juice. People have forgotten the dignity of farming. I am trying to help them, but it will take time."

Times have changed in India, as everywhere else, since Krsna sported in the fields of Vrndavana. Centuries of foreign domination and hodgepodge Hinduism have left Indians poor and confused. Even the Krsna conscious renaissance that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu started in sixteenth-century Mayapur seemed to fade when the imperial British imported the Industrial Revolution. After independence, India's leaders held on to the secular-industrial policies of the West and deliberately ignored the Vedic principles of agrarian living and God consciousness, the very treasures Sri Caitanya said could spiritualize all humanity, But in disciplic succession from Sri Caitanya, Srila Prabhupada brought Krsna conscious spirituality to the West—and many spirited young Westerners back to India—and now Indians are remembering their true culture, realizing its relevance to today's world.

"Srila Prabhupada used to criticize the Indians for imitating the West," Paramananda recalls. '"My policy,' Prabhupada would say, 'is that I am going to the West and making them Krsna conscious. So you imitate them, you rascals!'"

Nirmal laughs uproariously. "Yeah! 'Now you imitate!' Fantastic!"

And Prabhupada would add, "Rascals think Vedic culture is primitive, but actually it's most scientific."

Paramananda and Nirmal walk toward an eggplant patch where two bamboo crosses stand like scarecrows. Says Nirmal, "You've heard of Laksmi, the goddess of fortune? She represents everything that comes from the soil—crops, jewels, raw materials—all wealth. Anyway, when rats were destroying the crops, I got some zinc phosphate from Bombay. It worked well for a while, but the rats were so intelligent they stopped eating it. Then the Vedas gave me a hint. The sages describe Laksmi as riding on an owl, a nocturnal predator. To give the owls the hint, I put up these bamboo perches, and watched them land at night. One by one, the rats came out of their holes and ended up in the owls' stomachs. Krsna's natural pest control."

But a goddess, riding on an owl? Paramananda can hear his Pennsylvania neighbors chuckle. Actually, he and the other devotees get along quite well with these folks. Even if they don't always understand us, they seem to appreciate our work. Whenever we hold open house, they turn out five-hundred-strong—to see our champion cows, ride the ox cart, eat good food, and laugh till sundown. And when .22-caliber bullet holes showed up on our brightly painted cow sign recently, a friend called to tell us who was bragging about it: old Clyde. Our friend called us not so much because he loves cows. He hates a braggart.

Characters like Clyde make us cautious. But even the gruff guys sometimes surprise us with encouragement. Early last spring, a feisty local stopped Paramananda in town. "You out plowin' with the oxen yet?"

Paramananda looked at him. "We were going to last week, but the snow beat us."

"Damn snow."

Mostly they're rooting for us—leathery cornhuskers in their bib overalls and John Deere caps; plump, perm-curled farm-wives in big house dresses; towheaded kids with slingshots, riding double on rusty bikes. They're rooting for us, if only because we remind them of an America that was—a wholesome, agrarian America. We're family members of an endangered species: the small farmer. Still, they tell us, "You can't go back."

Nor do we want to simply "go back." When Lord Krsna came to earth. He appeared in a family of farmers. By His personal example, Krsna taught us the value of farming the land and protecting the cows.

"Agriculture is the noblest profession," Srila Prabhupada wrote. "It makes society happy, wealthy, healthy, honest, and spiritually advanced. If we really want to cultivate the human spirit," he noted, "we must have intelligent men of character to guide society. And to assimilate the subtle form of transcendental knowledge, we need sufficient milk and milk preparations to develop our finer brain tissues. Ultimately, we need to protect the cow to derive the highest benefit from this important animal." Seen in this light, our relationship with the land and the cow is not only symbiotic, it is sacred.

To slaughter the cow, to exhaust the earth with chemicals and crush her under the "wheels of progress," and then to shrug and say, "You can't go back," is to accept the slogans of those who hold nothing sacred but money. Shall we accept what else they say?

"They say," as Krsna observes in the Bhagavad-gita, "that this world is unreal, with no foundation, no God in control. They say it is produced of sex desire and has no cause other than lust. Following such conclusions," the Lord continues, "the demonic, who are lost to themselves and who have no intelligence, engage in unbeneficial, horrible works meant to destroy the world."

Recalling Lord Krsna's words, Nirmal is stirred up. "These monkeys are spoiling the whole world. At any moment, nuclear bombs can rain down. Why? Because people have forgotten God. Nobody wants to work the land. Everybody wants to go to the city and become a big shot. But when He was here, even Krsna, the Supreme Lord, would go to the forest for His spiritual master and cut firewood. But if people forget the dignity of working the land, how will they grow the food they need to survive?"

We must go back, back home to Godhead. And to sustain and inspire us on our way, we need to return to a simpler, more natural way of life—the life Krsna gave us. And if we can't immediately stop the big wheels of industry, we should at least turn them in a spiritual direction.

"America has technological advancement and wealth," Srila Prabhupada used to say, "and India has spiritual knowledge. The job of the Krsna consciousness movement is to combine the two strengths and uplift the world."

In a nearby field where schoolboys with sparkling eyes pull weeds and chant Hare Krsna, Paramananda recognizes his favorite sweet corn. "Silver Queen?"

"Yes. From the kernels you sent from the States." Past the corn, Nirmal points out a nitrogen-fixing legume. "Barseem. It's like alfalfa, but it's not perennial."

"Our alfalfa lasts five to ten years," says Paramananda. "Just keep out the weeds."

"Can you send some of those seeds, too?"

As Paramananda and Nirmal return from the fields, the ISKCON compound (with its lotus-shaped fountains, formal English gardens, huge devotional buildings, and devotees from all lands) emerges as a stunning model of Prabhupada's East-West combination. The spiritual city the devotees are building at Sri Mayapur is starting to rise from the fields, to show even the most sophisticated Westerner what the simple Vedic villager has known for ages. That the life arising from the earth contains innumerable eternal souls. That the soul who has come into the human form has a golden opportunity to transcend nature's cycle of birth and death. And that our prosperity, peace, and happiness remain rooted, as always, in working the land, protecting the cow, and loving Krsna.

Use back button to return.

Return to top


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

I wanted to comment on the article "The Quest for Certainty" [19/6], by Kundali dasa. Congratulations! Certainly this is proof of the intellectual prowess of the members of ISKCON. I was impressed! A very good piece of writing. If you can continue to produce such articles, I think it will have great benefit for both your movement and the reading public.

Andi Emerson Weeks
New York City

* * *

Although I was raised a Roman Catholic, I have become very much interested in the spiritual philosophy of the Bhagavad-gita. But my main problem is the existence of the soul: I still think that after I die there will be a complete end to all my consciousness and individuality. And as for the concept of reincarnation, that seems to just be "whistling in the dark."

Is there any way a scientifically-minded person can understand the soul and reincarnation, other than just taking Krsna's word for it?

Jay Kaelin
Los Angeles

our reply; There is no scarcity of scientific evidence about the soul and reincarnation. (See "Reincarnation: Science or Superstition?" [19/5]. But what is unscientific about accepting Lord Krsna's instruction in the Bhagavad-gita? Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Are you, or the many other people who think that death means an end to consciousness and individuality, greater authorities than the Supreme Lord?

Of course, if you don't accept that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, then it will be difficult or impossible to accept what He says in the Bhagavad-gita. But if we even theoretically accept that Krsna is God and read the Gita in that submissive spirit, then we can understand His teachings. Otherwise the Gita will remain a great mystery.

* * *

I have read many of your books and your magazine, BACK TO GODHEAD, which I enjoy every much. I have a copy of your July 1984 BACK TO GODHEAD and have read about your Free Meal Mobile program in Cleveland, Ohio. The only thing I can say is that it shows you have a great love for people. I think others should follow your example.

Jim Tyier
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Spiritual Places

Krsna In The Heart Of Texas

From a place in Dallas to a farm
Near the Red River Valley, devotees are presenting
Krsna consciousness to the Lone Star State

by Krsnamayi-devi dasi

The Southwest Sun Belt region of the United States has become an area of rapidly expanding cities, prospering businesses, and low unemployment—a veritable golden land of opportunity. The city at the heart of all this good fortune is Dallas, Texas. And in that city is a temple that is drenching the area with a downpour of spiritual activities palatable to the affluent and the poor, the young and the old. This hub of Krsna conscious activity is known to most Texans as Kalachandji's Restaurant and Palace, a four-star dining experience. Thousands have flocked there to see the palace of the magnificent Krsna Deity called Kalachandji, "the beautiful moon-faced one."

Many people make their first trip to the restaurant because of its reputation for fine food, but many return again and again because of the atmosphere. In the outdoor garden, the most popular dining area, guests sit nestled among fragrant flowers and plants. The centerpiece of the garden is a holly tree, encircled by a fountain set in the middle of a stone tile floor. Enclosing the garden are stucco walls. Their stained-glass windows glitter like gems as they filter the evening sunlight onto the booths.

The atmosphere reaches out to envelop you even as you enter the building. An elaborately costumed doorman wearing a jeweled turban and a decorative sword graciously sweeps open the door. A hostess wearing a beautiful sari greets you in the hallway and shows you to your table. The dinner has a standard number of courses, but the dishes change every night. A full-course meal includes a trip to the fifteen-item salad bar and a heaping basket of puris (whole-wheat puffed breads) and poppadams (delicate chiplike wafers made from bean flour). An appetizer follows and can vary from stuffed vegetable pastries to apricot mousse to smoked cheese with fruit and crackers. Then comes dal, a nutritious soup made from any one of a dozen exotic beans. The main plate consists of two subjis (vegetable preparations), pullao (a rice dish), savories, chutney, and several other gourmet speciality items. Topping off the meal is a choice of halava with fruit sauce (the speciality of the house), burfi (hot fudge), or sweet rice. Hot or cold tamarind tea is always available, and red or white sparkling juices are served by the glass or by the carafe. And though The Dallas Morning News recently rated Kalachandji's one of the top ten restaurants in the city, the devotees aren't satisfied and are still improving the menu.

"The food we prepare in the restaurant," explained Sunanda dasa, Kalachandji's head chef, "is not just Indian cooking or natural food, which implies brown rice and sprouts. It's a unique blend of American, European, and Indian vegetarian cuisine. Most importantly, it's krsna-prasadam, or food that has been spiritualized by being offered first to God. Therefore it greatly benefits everyone who tastes it.

"Actually, since this restaurant is so successful," Sunanda added, "it's our biggest form of preaching. We're giving people the chance to experience Krsna consciousness in so many ways."

The restaurant is open between 5:30 and 9:30 p.m. daily, except Monday, and each week as many as five hundred guests crowd the Palace. Ninety percent leave with two or three books about Krsna consciousness. By this method, as well as by keeping books on display in stores and yoga centers, the Dallas devotees distribute five thousand books each month, all free.

"We're trying to find the best way to distribute our books and get the best results," said Bhakta-rupa dasa, president of the Dallas center. "This way, because people take prasadam, see the Deity of Kalachandji, and get a book, all in one evening, they can relate to Krsna consciousness in a very comfortable way and thus appreciate the cultural heritage of our movement."

The restaurant began from the inspiration of Srila Tamal Krishna Goswami Gurudeva, one of the present spiritual masters in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and the director of ISKCON's affairs in Texas and Oklahoma as well as in Fiji, the Orient, and the Philippines. On finding a magazine article featuring the best chefs in America, Srila Gurudeva decided it would be fitting for a Hare Krsna devotee to become an internationally known gourmet chef. Building a wonderful restaurant was the first step in the plan. In six weeks, fifteen devotees working day and night had built the garden restaurant. The restaurant combined with the already existing Palace to create a popular attraction.

After finishing a bountiful meal, most people join one of the groups touring the adjacent Palace. Styled after temples in India, the Palace was designed by Dutch architect Hans Keilman, also known as Surabhi Swami, the minister of architecture for ISKCON and architect for ISKCON temples in Bombay and Vrndavana, India. The result is a beautiful teakwood temple boasting thirty hand-crafted pillars that feature seventy-five carved lions and eight six-foot-square Rajasthani silk paintings by B. G. Sharma, one of India's foremost artists. A flick of a switch bathes the airbrushed clouds billowing across the sky-blue ceiling with the pink tinge of sunset.

The altar, where the Deities of Lord Kalachandji and His eternal consort. Srimati Radharani, stand, is made of teakwood, marble, and bright stained-glass with a peacock-motif canopy. Water bubbles pleasantly from two gilded lotus-flower fountains standing before the altar.

Maha-buddhi dasa. ISKCON's minister of tourism, predicted, "We foresee that with the development of our Dallas community, it may, in the Southwest, reach the level of popularity of Prabhupada's Palace of Gold in West Virginia."

In addition to maintaining the successful restaurant and the beautiful palace, the devotees have rejuvenated the East Dallas neighborhood surrounding the temple, an effort several newspapers have applauded. The twenty homes owned by devotees have been completely renovated, improving the appearance of the area immensely. Adjoining the restaurant complex, a two-acre park with its dozens of cultivated pecan trees adds to the beauty of the neighborhood. The city council has also praised the temple's efforts, and the local chamber of commerce, which Kalachandji's is a member of, works closely with the temple on many of its projects, including its latest plans to turn a historic sanctuary next door to the temple into a cultural center and museum.

Under Srila Gurudeva's direction, the devotees have made giant steps in inter-faith relations in Dallas. Devotees were chosen to be the representatives of Hinduism at the 1984 National Day of Prayer celebrations held in Dallas, and they have also been invited to aid city officials in planning the religious aspects of the festivities celebrating the 150th anniversary of Texas statehood. The temple has also become involved in an established Dallas tradition by entering a float in the 1984 Cotton Bowl Parade. The float, a pink lotus flower pulled by a giant golden swan, captured the Judges' Prize for Special Merit, and millions viewed the float on national television.

The Food for Life program has brought even more praise. Five days a week at least one hundred people, most of them children, are fed a complete free dinner. Located in the heart of the "Little Asia" section of Dallas, the Food for Life center also houses a job opportunity office and will soon include a family medical facility.

Radhanatha dasa, one of the coordinators, explained: "We met with city officials, and they liked our food relief program more than some of the other programs in the city, because we're reaching out to the poor people who are established in Dallas—the families. Everyone seems interested in helping the transients, but no one is helping the poor people who are struggling to lift themselves up." But that is just what the Dallas temple is doing, and because everything served is krsna-prasadam, the recipients have not only their hunger but also their spiritual cravings satisfied.

In addition to all of this, the devotees maintain a 1,400-acre farm in southeast Oklahoma. It serves as a retreat for devotees and guests, a summer camp for children, and a community farm project. Forest covers about five hundred acres of the farm, and six hundred acres are used for growing pecans, apples, peaches, pears, apricots, plums, cherries, wheat, dal beans, peanuts, rice, sorgum, alfalfa, soybeans, cotton, and other crops. The property includes several multi-acre lakes and grazing land for horses. The remaining acreage is earmarked for housing and buildings.

Although one hundred full-time devotees reside in Dallas, attend the temple functions, and adhere strictly to the four regulative principles of devotional life in Krsna consciousness—no meat-eating, no gambling, no intoxication, and no illicit sex—an additional two hundred congregational members accept Krsna consciousness as their religion and put its philosophy into practice in their daily lives. Many of them participate in a program called Friends of Lord Krishna, which offers instruction on chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, vegetarian cooking, and other topics. In addition, five thousand Dallas residents of Indian descent visit the temple regularly and attend the major celebrations throughout the year.

So the long tradition of worshiping Lord Krsna is flourishing in Dallas. Not only are the devotees worshiping Him in His Palace, but they are also serving Him through community development, farming, feeding the poor, and introducing Dallasites to the joys of Krsna consciousness and krsna-prasadam.

Said Srila Tamal Krishna Goswami: "Our Dallas community offers people an opportunity to seek Krsna consciousness in many variegated ways. Texans like to be first class in all that they do. We feel confident that our community will meet their highest expectations."

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out

The "Morals" of Meat-Eating

The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and Cardinal Jean Danielou took place in Paris some ten years ago.

Srila Prabhupada: Jesus Christ said, "Thou shall not kill." So why is it that the Christian people are engaged in animal killing and meat-eating?

Cardinal Danielou: Certainly in Christianity it is forbidden to kill. But we believe that there is a difference between the life of a human being and the life of a beast. The life of a human being is sacred because man is made in the image of God. Therefore, to kill a human being is forbidden in the Bible.

Srila Prabhupada: But the Bible does not simply say, "Thou shall not kill the human being." It says broadly, "Thou shall not kill."

Cardinal Danielou: It is necessary for man to kill animals in order for him to have food to eat.

Srila Prabhupada: No. Man can eat fruits, vegetables, and grains and drink milk.

Cardinal Danielou: No flesh?

Srila Prabhupada: No. Human beings are meant to eat vegetarian food. The tiger does not come to eat your fruits. His prescribed food is animal flesh. But man's food is vegetables, fruits, grains, and milk products. So how can you say that animal killing is not a sin?

Cardinal Danielou: We believe it is a question of motivation. If the killing of an animal is for giving food to the hungry, then it is justified.

Srila Prabhupada: But consider the cow: we drink her milk. Therefore she is our mother. Do you agree? Cardinal Danielou: Yes, surely. Srila Prabhupada: So if the cow is your mother, how can you support killing her? You take the milk from her, and when she's old and cannot give you milk, you cut her throat. Is that a very humane proposal? In India those who are meat-eaters are advised to kill some lower animals like goats, pigs, or even buffalo. But cow-killing is the greatest sin. In preaching Krsna consciousness we ask people not to eat any kind of meat, and my disciples strictly follow this principle. But if, under certain circumstances, others are obliged to eat meat, then they should eat the flesh of some lower animal. Don't kill cows. It is the greatest sin. And as long as a man is sinful, he cannot understand God. The human being's business is to understand God and to love Him. But if you remain sinful, you will never be able to understand God—what to speak of loving Him.

When there is no other food, someone may eat meat in order to keep from starving. That is all right. But it is most sinful to regularly maintain slaughterhouses just to satisfy your tongue. Actually, you will not even have a human society until this cruel practice of maintaining slaughterhouses is stopped. And although animal killing may sometimes be necessary for survival, at least the mother animal, the cow, should not be killed. That is simply human decency. In the Krsna consciousness movement our practice is that we don't allow the killing of any animals. Krsna says, patram puspam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayacchati: "Vegetables, fruits, milk, and grains should be offered to Me in devotion" [Bhagavad-gita 9.26]. We take only the remnants of Krsna's food (prasadam). The trees offer us many varieties of fruits, but the trees are not killed. Of course, one living entity is food for another living entity, but that does not mean you can kill your mother for food. Cows are innocent; they give us milk. You take their milk—and then you kill them in the slaughterhouse. This is sinful.

Devotee: Srila Prabhupada, Christianity's sanction of meat-eating is based on the view that lower species of life do not have a soul like the human being's.

Srila Prabhupada: That is foolishness.

First of all, we have to understand the evidence of the soul's presence within the body. Then we can see whether the human being has a soul and the cow does not. What are the different characteristics of the cow and the man? If we find a difference in characteristics, then we can say that in the animal there is no soul. But if we see that the animal and the human being have the same characteristics, then how can you say that the animal has no soul? The general symptoms are that the animal eats, you eat; the animal sleeps, you sleep; the animal mates, you mate; the animal defends, you defend. Where is the difference?

Cardinal Danielou: We admit that in the animal there may be the same type of biological existence as in man, but there is no soul. We believe that the soul is a human soul.

Srila Prabhupada: Our Bhagavad-gita says sarva-yonisu, "In all species of life the soul exists."

Cardinal Danielou: But the life of man is sacred. Human beings think on a higher platform than the animals do.

Srila Prabhupada: What is that higher platform? The animal eats to maintain his body, and you also eat in order to maintain your body. The cow eats grass in the field, and the human being eats meat from a huge slaughterhouse full of modern machines. But just because you have big machines and a ghastly scene, while the animal simply eats grass, this does not mean that you are so advanced that only within your body is there a soul, and that there is not a soul within the body of the animal. That is illogical. We can see that the basic characteristics are the same in the animal and the human being.

Cardinal Danielou: But only in human beings do we find a metaphysical search for the meaning of life.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. So metaphysically search out why you believe that there is no soul within the animal—that is metaphysics. If you are thinking metaphysically, that is all right. But if you are thinking like an animal, then what is the use of your metaphysical study? Metaphysical means "above the physical" or, in other words, "spiritual." In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, sarva-yonisu kaunteya: "In every living being there is a spirit soul." That is metaphysical understanding.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Every Town and Village

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

Devotees Bring Temple to New York Sidewalks

An Indian-style temple at the foot of a Manhattan skyscraper? Not for long. Aindra dasa's van, transformed into an ornate temple, appears at different places in New York City every day. To the accompaniment of instruments, Aindra and his group chant the holy name of Krsna, distribute hooks on Krsna consciousness, and offer free refreshments to passersby.

Books by Leading Devotees Receive Favorable Reviews

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania—Two books written by senior members of ISKCON recently received favorable reviews. The September issue of Choice magazine carried the following review of Prabhupada, the abridgment of the six-volume biography of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder-acarya of ISKCON. Srila Satsvarupa dasa Goswami, one of the present spiritual masters in the Hare Krsna movement, wrote Prabhupada.

The review said. "This biography of the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (the 'Hare Krishna' movement) belongs in all academic and public libraries. It is a very satisfactory abridgment of the multivolume 'authorized' biography of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, from the same publisher, that is appearing under the title Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta (1980-83). The author . . . writes with both sympathy and balance, and even in this abridged form there is a rich attention to detail, plus engaging excerpts from interviews with both 'insiders' and 'outsiders.' This volume should be paired with the essays in Steven Gelberg's Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna (Grove Press, 1983). Together they provide a remarkably comprehensive account, accessible to all levels of readership, of one of the important religious movements in and between contemporary America and India. . . . Highly recommended."

In the Religious Studies Review (April 1984), Dr. Mark Juergensmeyer praised Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, a book containing five dialogues with noted scholars. The book's editor, Steven Gelberg, also known as Subhananda dasa, is ISKCON's director of interreligious affairs.

The review said, "[These] interviews show skeptics that the Hare Krishna movement is not the odd aberration it may appear to be but has roots in Indian tradition and should also have a place in America's own multicultural soil. The dialogues are intelligent, well edited, and make for interesting reading. Moreover, the publication of the book is a significant event in itself. It marks a new phase in the movement's efforts to routinize itself and find an acceptable niche in the global terrain of religious culture."

Memoirs About Srila Prabhupada Published

Los Angeles—The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust here recently announced a new publication, Servant of the Servant, written by Srila Tamal Krishna Goswami Gurudeva, one of the present spiritual masters in the Hare Krsna movement. Srila Gurudeva writes intimately of his extensive association with his spiritual master, ISKCON's founder-acarya, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. In a simple, entertaining style, Srila Gurudeva recalls his first meeting with Srila Prabhupada and takes us on a journey through the United States, England, Europe, and India as he helps Srila Prabhupada establish ISKCON centers around the world.

The reader shares in the intimacy of one disciple's relationship with his spiritual master, while also getting an inside look at ISKCON in its infancy. Srila Gurudeva effectively blends his personal memoirs with excerpts from the many letters he received from Srila Prabhupada, showing how the founder-acarya of ISKCON practically applied the teachings of India's ancient Vedic literature to the management and propagation of a dynamic spiritual movement in the modern world.

The six-hundred-page volume, complete with thirty-two pages of photographs, is a must for anyone interested in understanding the development and inner workings of the Hare Krsna movement.

The book may be obtained from Dallas ISKCON, 5430 Gurley Ave., 75223.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Lord Krsna's Cuisine

The Best from Any Angle

Vegetarianism has many advantages.
"Prasadamism" goes a step a further

by Visakha-devi dasi

Whether you look at Lord Krsna's cuisine from the viewpoint of taste, health, economics, morality, or spiritual benefit, it's our firm conviction that it's the best in the world.

In Eating for the Eighties, authors Janie and Neil Hartbarger begin by saying, "Nature provides us with a complete diet. As long as we use it wisely, not playing with food too much, stripping it of nutritional value in our attempts to improve it, that abundance can feed us well and keep us healthy. As we will show, there's no need to include meat. It is variety that balances everything out.... Complex carbohydrates should be the mainstay of your diet." This is like a summary of our Krsna conscious diet. Today's packaged, precooked convenience foods don't find their way to Krsna's offerings. We offer Krsna dishes made from whole grains, nuts, vegetables, fruits, and milk products. And the mainstays of our diet are rice, dal (made from legumes), and capatis (made from whole wheat flour)—the complex carbohydrates that the Hartbargers mentioned.

In early 1983 I read a report from the American Institute for Cancer Research. Eating meat (as well as drinking coffee or alcohol), the report warned, is likely to cause cancer. The Institute recommends eating fresh fruits and vegetables to help reduce the risk. As you may know, in Krsna consciousness we don't eat meat, nor do we drink any alcohol or coffee. Long before these studies of cancer-causing foods were made. Lord Krsna gave us some simple principles to protect our health as: well as to help us advance spiritually.

As for variety, well just look at the photograph and say there's no variety in the vegetarian cuisine! And just think, there are some sixty types of vegetables, eleven types of legumes, fifty types of fruits, forty different spices, as well as a variety of nuts, grains, and dairy products, all of which can be prepared in innumerable ways by varying the combinations of ingredients, the cooking methods, spicing, and so on. If you calculated all the possible varieties mathematically, you'd be flabbergasted.

Now for the economics of it. To get the total amount of the recommended daily allowance of usable protein that the average American male needs (43.1 grams), you'd need to buy thirty-five cents' worth of split peas. To get the same amount of protein from steak would cost you two dollars. But who needs statistics? Anyone who looks at the supermarket prices knows that meat's an expensive source of protein. And it's expensive in terms of world economics as well. Frances Moore Lappe writes, "An acre of cereals can produce five times more protein than an acre devoted to meat production; legumes (beans. peas, lentils) can produce ten times more; and leafy vegetables fifteen times more."

As for morality—don't forget about the suffering of the millions upon millions of innocent animals that are slaughtered yearly to fill our stomachs. Unfortunately, we have been forgetting. But the suffering due us as a result of our sins won't be forgotten, and today's animal killers will suffer horribly in future lives. That is the law of nature.

And who are those animal killers'.' "When animals are killed in the slaughterhouse," Srila Prabhupada explains, "six people connected with the killing are responsible for the murder. The person who gives permission for the killing, the person who kills, the person who helps, the person who purchases the meat, the person who cooks the flesh, and the person who eats it, all become entangled in the killing."

Now you might think you'd like to become a vegetarian. But why stop there? We're offering something much better. Lord Krsna's cuisine is much more than vegetarianism. It's prasadamism. You could say, "What is this prasadam? We're eating the same food. Why is it called prasadam? You might think it's just ordinary food, but because it has been offered to Lord Krsna, it is now His mercy (prasadam). It has been spiritualized.

Will you like the way prasadam tastes? Well, we can't guarantee that you'll like every dish; but then again, maybe you will. The best way to find out is to try it. As it's said, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

(Recipes by Yamuna-devi dasi)

Sauteed Cauliflower and Green Peas

(Phoolgobi-Mattar Sabji)

Preparation time: 45 minutes
Servings: 4

4 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee (clarified butter)
½ tablespoon peeled fresh ginger root, minced fine
1 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds
8 to 10 small sweet nim leaves, if available
1 large cauliflower, trimmed, washed, and cut into small flowerettes about 1 ½ inches long and ½ inch wide
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/8 to ¼ teaspoon chili powder or paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup green peas
2 tablespoons fresh coriander or minced parsley leaves
¼ cup heavy cream, homemade cultured sour cream, or plain yogurt

1. Heat the ghee in a 4- to 5-quart saucepan over a medium flame for 1 minute. Stir in the minced ginger root and cumin seeds and fry until nicely browned. Stir in the sweet nim leaves and then add the cauliflower flowerettes. Sprinkle with turmeric, salt, and chili powder or paprika. Stir-fry until the cauliflower is slightly browned and partially cooked. Add the peas and about 2 tablespoons water. Cover and reduce the flame to low. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender but not broken down. Remove the lid, raise the flame, and cook until dry.

2. Fold in the cream, sour cream, or yogurt and sprinkle with fresh parsley or coriander leaves. Then offer to Krsna.

Deep-Fried Cauliflower Balls in Tomato Gravy

(Phoolgobi Kofta/ Tomatar Sas)

Preparation time: 1 ¼ hours
Servings: 4 or 5

Ingredients for cauliflower balls:

3 cups firm white cauliflower, grated
½ tablespoon fresh ginger root, minced fine
1 teaspoon hot green chilies, minced fine
3 tablespoons fresh coriander or minced parsley leaves
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 ½ tablespoons coriander powder
1 tablespoon dry-roasted cumin seeds, crushed coarse
1 cup chick-pea flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
3 cups ghee or vegetable oil for frying

1. Combine the grated cauliflower, ginger root, chilies, fresh minced herbs, turmeric, coriander, and cumin seeds in a 2-quart mixing bowl; toss to blend the ingredients well. In a smaller bowl, thoroughly mix the chick-pea flour, baking powder, and salt.

2. Begin to heat the clarified butter to 350 °F over a medium flame in a 10- to 12-inch wok or deep-frying pan. Meanwhile, add the flour to the grated cauliflower and mix with your hand until the ingredients hold together. Immediately divide the mixture into 12 balls.

3. Deep-fry 6 balls at a time, turning frequently and maintaining the temperature between 320° and 330° for 8 to 12 minutes, or until the balls are a deep reddish color. Remove the balls from the ghee with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper.

Ingredients for tomato gravy:

2 pounds tomatoes, cut into quarters
6 blanched almonds, chopped
1 tablespoon sesame or white poppy seeds
¼ cup fresh coriander or minced parsley leaves
1 teaspoon hot green chilies, minced fine
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
¼ cup ghee or vegetable oil
½ tablespoon fresh ginger root, minced fine
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
1 ½ teaspoons salt

1. Combine the tomatoes with 1 cup water in a 2-quart saucepan. Place on medium flame and simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, cool for 10 minutes, then pour the ingredients through a sieve, a little at a time, until allot the tomato puree is collected in a bow] and only the skins, membranes, and seeds remain in the sieve; set aside puree while preparing the paste spice.

2. Place the chopped almonds and sesame or poppy seeds in an electric coffee mill and pulverize until powdered. Transfer the powder to an electric blender jar, add ½ of the fresh coriander, ginger root, and chilies and 1/3 cup water; cover and blend at high speed until the ingredients are reduced to a smooth puree. Pour the puree into a small bowl and stir in the powdered coriander and cumin.

3. Heat the oil or ghee in a 3-quart saucepan over a medium flame until a drop of water flicked into it instantly sputters. Drop in the mustard seeds and the sweetener, and fry until the mustard seeds crackle and the sweetener reddens. Stir in the spicy puree and enough water to yield 3 ½ cups of liquid. Add the salt and remaining fresh herbs and simmer the sauce until it is reduced to 2 ½ or 3 cups.

4. Add the balls to the simmering gravy, letting them soak for only 4 to 5 minutes before offering to Krsna.

Deluxe Yellow Split-Pea Soup

(Arhar Dal)

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Servings: 5 to 6

¾ cup arhar dal, unoiled, or yellow split peas
4 cups water
1 teaspoon peeled fresh ginger root, minced fine
½ teaspoon hot green chilies, minced fine
2 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice
1 or 2 dried cassia or bay leaves
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
¼ to 1 teaspoon salt
2 ½ tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/8 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/8 teaspoon mild asafetida powder
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
2 teaspoons sugar or mild honey

1. Clean, wash, and drain the dal or split peas.

2. Place the washed dal or split peas, water, ginger, chilies, lemon juice, cassia leaves, turmeric, salt, and ½ tablespoon ghee in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over a high flame. Reduce flame to medium, cover, and gently boil, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour, adding water if necessary, or until the dal or split peas are mushy and soft. Remove from the flame, pick out the whole cassia leaves, and whip the dal or split peas with a rotary beater until creamy smooth.

3. Heat the ghee in a small pan over a medium flame. One after another, stir in the cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, and black mustard seeds. Fry until the seasoning begins to brown. Add the asafetida powder and sweetener. Stir and cook until the sweetener turns red. Remove from the flame and pour into the cooked dal or split peas. Cover and allow the spices to seep into the soup for one or two minutes. Stir and offer to Krsna.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

The Vedic Observer

Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day

Almost everyone agrees that life begins at conception; the sperm mixes with the ovum in one of the fallopian tubes, and barring natural or man-made calamities, this initial mixture ultimately results in the birth of a child.

But when does human life begin? When does that mixture of sperm and ovum become an individual person entitled to protection under the law? This is the central question in the abortion debate. "It's human right from conception," the anti-abortion forces say. "No, it's not, " the pro-abortion people counter. "Not until birth can a child be awarded human rights. "

But why, the Krsna devotee asks, should the abortion debate hinge on the question of human or nonhuman? Is only human life sacred? According to the Vedic literatures, an eternal individual soul inhabits the body of every living creature. The soul is the driver of the bodily vehicle, and without the soul there is no possibility of life or living symptoms. The soul enters the womb at the time of conception, and this makes the fetus a unique, living individual person.

What to speak of abortion, even contraception, which is highly recommended by many anti-abortionists, interferes with nature's arrangement to provide a soul with a new body and is therefore bound to result in unfavorable karmic reaction. The bottom line, then, is that if you don't want to suffer the karmic reactions to abortion and contraception, then don't have sex unless you want to have a child.

This month we are considering the abortion issue in the light of two recent events.

Fetus Fiasco

by Drutakarma dasa

About five thousand years ago the great sage Vyasadeva made the following prediction: "In the Kali-yuga [the present age of quarrel and hypocrisy] the following things will diminish: religion, truthfulness, cleanliness, mercy, duration of life, bodily strength, and memory."

The decrease in the quality of mercy is particularly noticeable in the phenomenon of abortion, the deliberate killing of unborn children. It's hard to think of any act more merciless, yet last year there were 1.3 million legal abortions in America.

Considering the overwhelming instinct of humans to protect children once they are born, it is hard to see why abortion is tolerated. Part of the reason seems to lie in the fact that many people do not see abortion as killing. By a kind of doublethink, they deny the status of humanity to the fetus.

That the nation's courts are taking a leading role in fostering this misconception is extremely unfortunate. A recent decision by the California State Court of Appeals, reported in The Los Angeles Times (July 3, 1984), illustrates the point.

Two years ago, sixteen thousand human fetuses stored in jars of formaldehyde were found in a repossessed shipping bin belonging to the owner of a pathology lab that had gone out of business. Anti-abortion groups, including the Catholic League, wanted to hold a memorial funeral service for the fetuses, but were opposed by pro-abortion groups. The matter wound up before a Los Angeles Superior Court justice, who ruled in favor of holding the funeral service.

Upon appeal, however, this judgment was reversed. Writing for the State Court of Appeal, Justice Arleigh Wood said, "It is clear from the record that the Catholic League is a religious organization which regards a fetus as a human being and abortion as murder. While this specific belief may well cross sectarian lines, it is a belief not universally held. Consequently, any state action showing a preference for this belief will be strictly scrutinized and must be invalidated unless it is justified by compelling government interest. . . ."

This logic is sickening to anyone who has not been completely overwhelmed by the ignorance of the age. There is an obvious difference between the sixteen thousand fetuses as they existed in the wombs of their mothers and as they now exist in jars of formaldehyde. It's not at all a question of "belief"—the fetuses once displayed the signs of life, and now they no longer do. And the reason that they don't is because of the intervention of abortionists, whose life-depriving actions are sanctioned by the nation's courts. If murder isn't murder, than what is?

The pro-abortionist reply is "It's not murder, because the fetus is not human." But the big fallacy is the pro-abortionists' claim that their views are somehow impartial, whereas the religious view that human life begins at conception is a narrow, sectarian bias. Exactly the opposite is true. The laws of God are the actual impartial and objective universal principles by which human society should be ordered. Proscriptions against murder are found in all religions.

God is the supreme father of all living beings, and He alone is capable of giving guidelines applicable to all. But the so-called laws manufactured by the imperfect, limited intelligence of materialistic men are bound to work for the interests of some people and against the interests of others.

The exact balance is determined by factors such as the relative political power of the groups in question. Abortion is a good example. Parents are relieved of the burden of raising children resulting from their sexual relations. Government is relieved of the supposed burden of an increasing population. But the unborn children, who can rely upon nothing but the mercy of humanity, are denied the right to life.

Yet it should be noted here that just as the state has the means to enforce compliance with its imperfect man-made laws, God has made arrangements to enforce compliance with His perfect, universally applicable laws, such as "Thou shall not kill." The principles of cosmic justice are administered through the operations of karma, by which those who cause injury to others must themselves undergo equivalent suffering. Quite simply, this means that there is a very good chance that those responsible for abortion will undergo a similar fate in their next lives. Just a belief? Let's wait and see.

Souls On Ice

by Dvarakadhisa-devi dasi

Bring up the subject of abortion at any social gathering and you're sure to ignite sparks. On both sides of this heated issue, convictions run deep, and for either party compromise is usually unthinkable. One reason the controversy over the moral complexities of abortion continues to rage is the absence of any authority to clarify the basic points of contention. For example, the combined efforts of our scientists and legal experts have been unable to produce a simple definition of precisely when human life begins. The Supreme Court skirted the issue in 1973 in the famous Roe vs. Wade decision, which upholds that a woman's right to govern her own body overrides the right to life of her unborn child. That decision has opened the door for our current system of abortion-on-demand.

Now the courts—this time in Australia—may get another shot at the hordes of unborn, unwanted infants. In Melbourne, two miniscule human embryos are drawing a lot of attention as they float silently in a freezer tank at Queen Victoria Medical Center. The embryos were intended to be implanted in the womb of Elsa Rios, who entered the clinic in 1981. After one unsuccessful attempt at implantation, Elsa and her husband never returned to the clinic, leaving the two embryos frozen in suspended animation. Last year the couple was killed in a plane crash, leaving no word on the care of their two heirs-to-be. Now the question attracting all the attention is what to do with the hapless orphans: implant them in another womb and give them the chance to enjoy their inheritance, or simply allow them to thaw and perish?

The forces on both sides of the abortion issue quickly realized the implications involved in such a decision. To treat unimplanted frozen embryos as legal entities entitled by law to the shelter of a womb would be devastating to the abortionist platform. On the other hand, the right-to-life groups will be outraged if the embryos are thrown out as useless property. Australia's court system is unwilling (or unable) to offer any substantial guidance, and the scientific community is hampered by its continuing bewilderment over the mysteries of conception.

Of course, scientists admit the presence of some viable life force that motivates the development of the human embryo from conception to birth. The argument used by the pro-abortionists, however, is that because the embryo is dependent upon the body of the mother for survival, it should not be considered an individual human being. But is this argument reasonable? Even after the child is born he is still completely dependent upon the mother for survival, yet we do not question that to kill a small baby is murder. Indeed, all living beings are dependent upon some particular physical arrangement to satisfy the needs of their bodies. Human beings need sunshine, food, water, and fresh air; no one would seriously suggest that they must be able to exist without these necessities before they can be accepted as human. So how can we conclude that there is no human life in the early stages of pregnancy?

But the issue of abortion becomes complicated not so much by a lack of scientific evidence and legal clarification as by the desire for unrestricted sexual enjoyment. Society encourages free sexual expression, but no one wants the resultant responsibility for unwanted children. Rather than deal with the difficulties of self-restraint, we have opted for abortion. The issue then becomes how to justify the heinous act of slaughtering helpless, unborn children, dehumanizing the fetus so that our consciousness won't be troubled by thoughts of murder. The bulk of society has now accepted abortion as standard medical procedure, even without assurance from legal or scientific authorities. How will they ever resolve the issue of frozen embryos in Australia without the benefit of any real guidance?

For one familiar with Vedic teachings, the problem is at once painful and comical. That the finest legal and scientific brains are unable to understand that an unborn human child is human is certainly comical. But to witness widespread legalized murder is painful. Thus uncontrolled desire has merely clouded the issue, and neither laypersons nor judges, scientists, or other so-called experts seem competent to comprehend the simple facts about the nature of life. Society should be educated about the soul within the material body. The eternal soul inhabits many varieties of bodies, from insect to demigod, so there should be no difficulty in accepting the existence of a living soul within the human fetus. The soul enters a new body at conception and, when allowed to stay there unhampered, gradually develops all the faculties of body, intellect, and senses. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada writes:

The individual particle of spirit soul is a spiritual atom smaller than the material atoms, and such atoms are innumerable. This very small spiritual spark is the basic principle of the material body, and the influence of such a spiritual spark is spread all over the body as the influence of the active principle of some medicine is spread throughout the body. This current of the spirit soul is felt all over the body as consciousness, and that is the proof of the presence of the soul. Any layman can understand that his material body minus consciousness is a dead body, and this consciousness cannot be revived in the body by any means of material administration. Therefore, consciousness is not due to any amount of material combination, but to the spirit soul. (Bg. 2.17, purport)

Thus, with the application of spiritual wisdom, one of the most complicated issues of the day is greatly simplified. Of course, the world will continue to debate the issue of abortion. And as for our little friends in the freezer, the future looks bleak. Most likely, they will perish in thawing, scientists predict, due to the primitive techniques employed at the time of their fertilization. And even if they do make it in and out of the womb, the many legal complications involved will afford the courts plenty of room to avoid the significant issue. How can judges decide on the rights of motherless embryos when they themselves have no insight into the nature of the soul? Thus materialistic society continues to roll along on its unenlightened course, creating confusion and anxiety for all who follow its path. In contrast, spiritual understanding is waiting for those sickened by the bewildering whirl of material life.

Use back button to return.

Return to top


"Krsna Is The Original Cowboy"

The leader of the Hare Krsna movement in Dallas
wants Texans, who may feel they are the original cowboys,
to recognize Krsna and come and worship Him.

Srila Tamal Krishna Goswami Gurudeva is one of the present spiritual masters in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. He oversees ISKCON's affairs in the south-central United Slates and parts of the Far East, and is the author of Servant of the Servant (please see page 19), a memoir about his activities in the Krsna consciousness movement. 1SKCON Television taped the following interview in Dallas on May 30. 1984.

Reporter: Why did the Hare Krsnas participate in the Cotton Bowl Parade?

Srila Gurudeva: We feel that we are as much a part of Texas as anybody else. In other words, we are the Texas Krsnas. We were out there marching in the parade with our float. And we got a special prize, and everybody loved it. They loved it.

Reporter: All right. Given that. it seems to me that a parade is all pomp and flowers and glitter and so on. Where do you fit in?

Srila Gurudeva: We're festive. We're always singing and dancing. That's what we're famous for. We are the biggest parade people in the world. We're always singing and dancing and making festivals.

Reporter: It seems on the surface that this somehow flies in the face of the anti-material position you report to profess.

Srila Gurudeva: No, no, no. I'll tell you why. There's a distinct difference. The difference is that when we sing and dance and hold festivals, it's in praise of Krsna, in praise of God. And we hope that we inspired other people at the parade to do the same.

Reporter: Are you saying that you alone, out of all those other people in the floats, were there to serve God, and everyone else was there to serve the population on the streets? Is Hare Krsna the only way?

Srila Gurudeva: I don't feel that way at all.

Reporter: How does Hare Krsna differ from other religions worldwide''

Srila Gurudeva: We have a lot of detailed information about God and God's kingdom. That's one big difference I see. And we practice strictly what we preach, also. But I don't say it's the only way. When I speak to someone about Krsna consciousness, I'm trying to think how to inspire him to serve God.

Just to give you an example, I was recently at the airport in San Antonio, and this state trooper came in. He must have been about six feet four. I was sitting there waiting to get on the plane. The state trooper came right up to me, and I thought, "Okay, what did I do wrong?" Then he looked at me, and he said, "Do you accept Lord Jesus Christ?" I said, "Certainly I do." He was a born-again Christian. My feeling was that this man is a man of God, so I started to encourage him to preach to me. If I thought that we were the only way, I wouldn't have let him get a word in edgewise, and I would have just preached to him. But I thought. "Okay, this man is doing some witnessing on behalf of the Lord. Let him witness. That will increase his love for God, and I will have helped to do that, so I would have been His servant. And that's good."

Reporter: Any good salesman knows that you let the potential buyer do the talking first. Is that what you were doing?

Srila Gurudeva: Oh, no. This man wasn't about to buy anything I had to sell.

Reporter: Is that why you didn't witness to him, so to speak?

Srila Gurudeva: No, because I could see that it was good for him to preach. He was going strong. He was speaking about God, so I thought, "Let him speak about God. It's nice."

Reporter: Did you feel because of his closed-offness he was not going to be open to you by the time he was finished? Do you feel that your religion was still better than his?

Srila Gurudeva: No. I was in ecstasy letting him speak about God. I thought it was great. I thought, "This is really fortunate. How many people would have a state trooper come up to them and start preaching about God?" Usually the only thing you do with a state trooper is you get a ticket. I thought, "This is certainly an arrangement by God that this happened."

Reporter: You are obviously doing well for yourselves, both financially as well as in numbers. Do your numbers grow daily?

Srila Gurudeva: That would be nice.

Reporter: It's not true?

Srila Gurudeva: It's true. Sometimes they grow daily, sometimes they grow weekly. It's hard to predict. After all, when you're dealing with Ph.D. courses, you don't expect too many candidates.

Reporter: Develop that point. It's an interesting metaphor. I would like to hear it translated.

Srila Gurudeva: We give many guest lectures in colleges around Texas. It's a good forum for our message, and while on campus you can see the composition of the student body. Freshmen are the top number. Sophomore students, a little less. Juniors, less. Seniors, still less. And the postgraduates, masters, and Ph.D candidates—very few.

Similarly, ours is the Ph.D. course of religious studies—Krsna consciousness. That means we are demanding the most rigorous adherence to God's principles of any religion in the world. And we are giving the loftiest philosophical explanations of the science of God of any religion in the world. Krsna consciousness is the topmost knowledge.

Look at these books that are right behind us here. Here you see a whole library of knowledge. And these books, this knowledge, can change a person's life and teach him how to realize the goal of life. The goal of life is to become self-realized. The goal of life is to understand who you are and why you are on this planet. It's not just to become another confused, lost person groping for some temporary satisfaction and ultimately ending up in frustration and death. The real purpose of human life is to avoid having to take another material birth again. The real purpose of human life is to go back home, back to Godhead.

Reporter: Let me put a hypothetical situation to you. I'm a normal Dallas kid, normal experiences, and so on. Let's add to that that my father is a Christian clergyman. Let's add that I have gone to a private Christian school, where every day began with the Apostles' Creed and the Pledge of Allegiance. At fourteen or fifteen I began to think that perhaps my father doesn't know everything I thought he knew all along, and, like many other American teenagers, I'm out of there. Does this happen among your children?

Srila Gurudeva: Not very often.

Reporter: Does it happen?

Srila Gurudeva: Sometimes. It happens with our adults, also. It's not just the children. In other words, many are called, but few are chosen to enter the kingdom of God. Even in the Bible that is stated. We don't expect that every single person who comes here is going to remain a devotee for life. Ours is not a place of indoctrination. It is a place of teaching. We're trying to teach people more about the science of self-realization. If someone learns two percent of that science, we consider that their visit here has been a success. That's our outlook.

Reporter: Is it fair to children, who don't have the choice, who are not at an age where they can make that choice?

Srila Gurudeva: Can I ask you a question? Is it fair for children to be subjected to four hours of television a day? Is it fair for a child to be subjected to the type of thing that practically every parent subjects their kids to in America these days? People feed their kids junk foods. Is that fair to that living entity, that organism, to be fed things that are going to harm his body and rot his teeth?

Reporter: I know of no religion that requires a child to sit down and watch television for four hours a day and eat Twinkies.

Srila Gurudeva: No? There is a religion—it's called "The Great American Way. That's the religion I'm talking about. I'm talking about Americana. I'm talking about the "good old American way."

Reporter: If anything, that would be viewed as an a-religious expression that has nothing to do with freedom of choice for religion.

Srila Gurudeva: It's heavy indoctrination and that's my point. All parents, according to their way of life, subject their children to indoctrination.

Reporter: Indoctrination carries with it an assumption of will. Conditioning came with it an assumption of response to an environment. I would suggest that a child watching four hours of television a day and eating Twinkies is not being indoctrinated but is in fact being conditioned. I would suggest that a child being drilled on catechism responses by an authority figure within a church or movement is in fact being indoctrinated.

Srila Gurudeva: Well, call it what you want, but anybody who sits in front of a boob tube for four hours and eats Twinkies is a vegetable, as far as I'm concerned. He's just a vegetable. He may be a "free" vegetable as opposed to an "indoctrinated" vegetable, but he is a vegetable. So we want to turn out some intelligent beings. We feel that there's enough vegetation already on the planet, and we would like to see some advanced creatures walking around on the face of the earth giving some direction to the world instead of having to open a newspaper every day am read about how every single country is at war.

Reporter: Well, how does your Dallas Palace help the world situation?

Srila Gurudeva: The Dallas Palace is really Kalachandji's Palace. "Kalachandji" is a name for Krsna. As you've seen in our temple room, there is a Deity of Krsna. The Deity is like a statue of Krsna, but He is not just a statue. We take it that the Deity form of the Lord is a transcendental form that's worshipable. This is stated in scripture, and we have personal experience of it. When I first came here, thought, "This Deity deserves to have the best care. We have to build Him a palace." And that was my whole motive. I was thinking that somehow Krsna is going to be pleased. It was an inspired feeling I had. I felt that this Deity is like covered fire: this Deity is so powerful that if He is worshiped properly He is going to attract all the people of Texas. All the people of Texas, because Krsna is actually a cowboy also. Krsna is the original cowherd boy.

Reporter: I beg your pardon?

Srila Gurudeva: In Texas, everybody feels they are the original cowboys, but the original cowboy is Krsna. Krsna's activities five thousand years ago are described in our scriptures, and He used to take care of the cows. He was a cowboy. So, I feel that Kalachandji will be recognized as the original cowboy here in Dallas and that gradually the Texans are going to come and worship Him.

Reporter: You talk about Kalachandji as the Deity to be worshiped by Texans. It sounds almost like you are introducing idol worship to a rather conservative state. Don't you expect a negative reaction from folks to that?

Srila Gurudeva: Well, I don't base my actions on whether someone reacts negatively. In other words, I consider that if someone doesn't understand something, it's my duty to educate him and not back off if his reaction is based in ignorance. No. It's not idolatry at all. An idol is an image. And the word image connotes something about the imagination. You imagine something, and you just start to worship it as God. That is not what we're doing. Our Deity—Kalachandji, or any other Deity of Krsna—is described in great detail in our scripture. This Deity was made exactly according to scriptural directions as being a likeness of the features of God.

When you put a letter in a post office box, it will go to its destination, whereas if you make your own box, the letter won't go anywhere. Similarly, if you just worship some kind of stone statue according to your own imagination of God, it's not going to help you. But if you follow the scriptural advice and make a Deity exactly according to the scriptural references, and if you worship that Deity according to the very strict principles mentioned in the scriptures, then you will find that your worship is accepted and received by the Lord. So we don't call it idolatry.

Reporter: All right. But we're talking about an East Indian culture, as compared to a cowboy culture. Do they have anything in common at all? How can they be related?

Srila Gurudeva: The similarity is in the cows. Krsna is the original cowboy, because one of Krsna's activities when He was present on earth five thousand years ago was to take care of the cows. And similarly, here in Texas, there are cows and there are cowboys taking care of the cows. Unfortunately, they are not taking very nice care of them. So the common factor is the cows. The distinction is how we take care of them. We want to introduce the original cow culture, which is based on the protection of the cows. Another name of Krsna is Govinda, or one who gives protection to the cows. We feel that the Texans should now learn that there is a better way to deal with cows than the way they've been dealing with them. In fact, we would say that if the Texans want to avoid massive karmic reaction they had better stop slaughtering cows immediately. We know if you keep up this type of sinful behavior of slaughtering cows, then there's going to be a very severe karmic reaction. There are a lot of heavy karmic reactions coming.

Reporter: So everyone involved in the cattle industry who does not come to Krsna consciousness by the time of his death is moving in the opposite direction?

Srila Gurudeva: Not only individually, but as a group.

Reporter: Societies can suffer death?

Srila Gurudeva: Yes, there's such a thing as national karma. That's what's going on in the world today. And there is international karma. For all the abortion and all the slaughtering of animals, there is huge karma being created all over the face of this world, and the result comes in the form of unseasonable weather conditions—drought, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes—and ultimately, if it gets too heavy, atomic war. That's international karma.

Reporter: And the Texans' response to that might be, "If I want to avoid economic ruin, I've got to continue slaughtering the cows."

Srila Gurudeva: The arrangement of Krsna, God, is that man should cultivate the land and protect the cows. Everything that you need for a balanced, healthy diet can be gained from these two things—wheat you grow on the land and the products that you can derive from the cow. But not the cow's flesh.

Once you kill the cow, you lose all the valuable things you can get from milk. And, from a moral point of view, we feel that the cow should be protected. If she's going to give you eight or ten years of her milk, that's quite a contribution. So, as a matter of thankfulness, gratefulness to her, we feel "Let her live out her life peacefully." And if someone is really into eating meat, well, she's going to die a natural death anyway. Then you can go ahead and eat the meat. Maybe the cow will be a little thinner and there will be a little less meat.

In fact, there was a very interesting study that revealed that if you produce beef rather than grains, it takes five times more land to get the same nutritional value. So this is a very sound economic policy—to grow grains and vegetables and fruits and to take care of the cow and get her milk products—because then you have the food problem solved.

Reporter: Isn't the idea of God as a cowboy kind of laughable?

Srila Gurudeva: In 1968 I was preaching on the streets of Los Angeles, and I met this preacher from a Baptist revivalist church. He was a very nice man. He appreciated what I was saying to him, and he said, "I want you to come to my church." At the church meeting, I gave my sermon, and he gave his. And he was telling everybody in the audience about God. He said, "You know, no one has ever seen God. And do you know why? Because He's so big that you can't get far enough away from Him to actually see Him." That was his explanation. Another explanation I heard is the common one that God is an old man with a long, white beard. He's sitting on a big throne, and He's got a line of people stretching out into infinity—people with so many things they want to talk to Him about.

When I hear these things I don't laugh, even though I could, because this is all speculation. They don't know what God looks like. When you turn to most scriptures of the world, they don't give very much information about how God looks, except to say that man is made in God's image, which simply lets us know that God has a more or less humanlike appearance. But in the Vedic scriptures from India you get detailed information about the appearance of God. And just for your information, He happens to be, in His original form, a very beautiful, transcendental personality with exquisite features and qualities. That's why we can develop love for Him. And one of His favorite activities just happens to be taking care of the cows.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

The Two Faces of Time

In this world time and tide wait for no man.
But beyond the walls of the universe,
time assumes a different feature.

by Mathuresa Dasa

What is time?

The question has perplexed philosophers throughout the ages. If you wanted to give a quick answer, you might say, "Time is what changes things." Or you might want to go along with Albert Einstein, who said, in effect, "Time is what a clock reads." Or maybe you consider the question itself a waste of time.

In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, gives His own answer in a few words. "Time I am," He says, "the great destroyer of the worlds." Time, according to the Gita and other Vedic literatures, is an inconceivable energy of the Supreme Lord through which He ultimately destroys everything.

We measure time in terms of the movements of physical objects. The time the earth takes to orbit the sun we call a year. The time the moon takes to orbit the earth we call a month. And the time the earth takes to revolve on its axis we call a day. To further subdivide our days into hours, minutes, and seconds we observe the movements of other physical objects. Sand, water, pendulums, quartz crystals, and cesium atoms are a few of the things man has used to make his timepieces. By observing how many times these objects swing, rotate, vibrate, and so on during the greater movements of the planets, we can subdivide our days.

In fact, every physical object or mechanism is a clock of sorts, because everything physical is affected by time. Even the beating of our hearts and the gradual decay of our bodies can serve to measure the passing moments.

The Sanskrit word kala-cakra denotes time's control of the cyclical movement of the physical world. Kala is a name for the Supreme Person in His feature as time, and cakra means "wheel." Each and every physical thing, from the smallest atomic particle up to the complete form of the universe, has a particular wheel of time that it is obliged to follow. Kala-cakra therefore refers not only to an object's movements but to its overall duration—its life expectancy—as well. The earth, sun, moon, stars, planets, our physical bodies, and so on disappear in the course of time, and their particular durations are all kala-cakras.

All our analysis and measurement, however, does not make time any less perplexing or any more perceivable. What we perceive in the movement and change of the innumerable clocks—man-made and natural—that surround us is not time, but time's effect on these objects. And what we are measuring is also not time, but the duration of these effects in relation to each other. Time itself is immeasurable, having no beginning or end. It stands above all relative effects, employing its various cakras to shape the physical world according to the Lord's will.

But although we cannot observe time directly, we can learn much—with the help of the Vedic literature—by observing time's effects. I have already mentioned time's overall effect: destruction. Krsna says that as time He is "the great destroyer of the worlds." And yet, as we can understand from the Vedic texts as well as from our own experience, time brings not only destruction but creation and sustenance as well.

Within every kala-cakra there is a point of creation, a point of sustenance, and a point of destruction. Everything has its given schedule of creation, sustenance, and destruction under the influence of time. The universe itself, according to the Srimad-Bhagavatam, is created at a certain time, sustained for the equivalent of 310 trillion solar years, and then destroyed. After destruction, time brings about recreation, and the cycle begins again. Thus, although the overall effect is destruction, the physical world goes through repeated creations and annihilations.

Within these cycles of creation and annihilation, time has many other manifestations. Time brings birth, death, old age, and disease—the fourfold miseries of material life mentioned in the Gita. It also brings on miseries caused by natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, and so on, as well as miseries caused by the attacks of other living creatures, like insects or our human enemies.

All in all, therefore, time as we know it is a vehicle of suffering. It surrounds us, imprisons us, and gradually destroys everything we have. The pleasure we do experience is sure to have an end and sure to be mixed with suffering. This is like the pleasure of eating ice cream mixed with sand: the overall effect is misery.

The Supreme Lord in His form of time is not, however, directly responsible for our suffering, any more than a government is responsible for the suffering of the inmates in government prisons. To prevent criminals from creating disturbances and to convince them to reform themselves, the government locks them away. The government, however, creates not only prisons but also parks, schools, highways, and so on. The citizen decides whether he will enjoy freedom as a law-abiding individual or suffer as a prison inmate.

Similarly, those souls who do not want to serve Krsna or obey His laws are thrown into the physical world, where they are imprisoned in temporary bodies and are made to suffer under the law of karma. In the Vedic literatures the destructive, misery-laden nature of time is represented by the goddess Kali. Kala—the Supreme Lord as time—controls Kali, who inflicts various kinds of suffering on the inmates of this universe. Kali is the prison warden. She, and not God Himself, is directly in charge of punishing the inmates according to their particular criminal activities. Kali personifies the devastating cycle of creation, sustenance, and dissolution, and she wields the manifold miseries of material life. The effects of time as we can observe and experience them are Kali's doing.

But even Kali is not to be blamed for our suffering. She is a pure devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, and her thankless duty is to remind the rebellious souls of the futility of trying to enjoy life without Him. Each of us is an eternal, fragmental part of Krsna, and as such our eternal, blissful function is to serve Him. Outside of Krsna's service and association we wither and waste away, like leaves separated from a tree. In the Gita, therefore, Lord Krsna, with only our welfare in mind, requests us to surrender fully to Him. Kali, or material nature, is trying to convince us that to neglect this request is against our own best interest.

In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna explains that beyond the repeated creations and annihilations of this physical universe exists a transcendental world, which is eternal and is never destroyed. He also declares that those who surrender to Him can easily enter that transcendental world. Since Krsna is in charge of Kali, He can order her to release His surrendered servants. By ourselves we are helpless to escape Kali's grip, but she readily obeys Krsna's commands.

Krsna's inconceivable time energy also exists in the transcendental world, hut Kali, time's devastating feature, is absent there. Transcendental life, therefore, is not marred by repeated creation, sustenance, and annihilation. Instead, time only sustains, and therefore the residents of the transcendental world are free to eternally serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, without any hindrance. So, whereas Kali brings birth, death, and other suffering, time's transcendental feature supplies Krsna and His devotees with unending and ever-increasing spiritual happiness.

That spiritual happiness is available, even in this temporary world, for anyone who takes up devotional service to Krsna. From the very start, a devotee begins to realize that he is not the body but is a pure spiritual soul situated within the body. He therefore tolerates the body's inevitable decline, caring for his health only so that he can enthusiastically render service to Krsna. And as the devotee advances spiritually, the pleasures of devotional life make bodily miseries appear insignificant. Even death is of no consequence for the pure devotee, since at death he enters the transcendental world.

So, what is time? Time is a vehicle for suffering—or for unending happiness. The choice is ours. Either way, time is sure to always remain a source of perplexity, because it is an inconceivable energy of the Supreme Lord. Better to be perplexed by time's unlimited potential to bring spiritual enjoyment, however, than by its power to destroy.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Notes from the Editor

How to Develop Spiritual Vision

In the Vedic literature we find the phrase sastra-caksus, which means "to see with the eyes of scripture." Scriptures like the Bhagavad-gita teach eternal truths, and these truths can be confirmed in our daily experience. By this combination of hearing from scripture and seeing the material world as it really is, we can realize firsthand the nature of the soul and of God, even while we are performing our ordinary duties.

"I am the light of the sun and the moon," declares Lord Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita. Guided by these words, a perceptive person can see God in nature. Everyone sees the sun; without its rays nothing can be seen. And the sun is the energy of God, a part of Him. And the moon, so soothing and beautiful to see at night, is a reflection of the beauty of God.

Similarly, Lord Krsna says, "I am the taste of water." The quality of water can be judged by the purity of its taste, and this pure taste is one of the energies of God. One who sees with the eyes of scripture, therefore, perceives God's presence in water by its taste, and he glorifies God for kindly supplying the wonderful thirst-quenching liquid.

Then what about the ugly things in life? What lesson do they teach? How can they remind us of God? In our attempts to enjoy life, we tend to forget the ugly reality, yet in the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says, "The wise person is always aware of the evils of birth, death, disease, and old age." Nowadays, rather than being ever mindful of these miseries of material existence, we have become expert at ignoring them and even at covering them up. But old age, disease, and death are all around us nonetheless, and an intelligent person will seek an alternative.

There is an instructive story in this connection from the early life of Lord Buddha. Born and raised in Gaya, India, as the son of a powerful king, the young Buddha lived sheltered within the family palace, never seeing the harsh realities of life. But when one day he ventured out for the first time in his life, he encountered the unpleasant features of the material world.

First he met a person who was deformed by a crippling disease. "What has happened to him?" the prince asked his companion, who replied that this man was diseased.

"Will this happen to me?" the prince asked.

"Yes, of course," replied his guide, "one disease or another happens to each of us."

The prince saw a very old person bent over and hobbling along. "What has happened to him?" he asked. And his friend replied that this was old age, a misery that eventually afflicts everyone. Then the prince encountered a corpse, and he was shocked to learn that this was the final blow for all mortals—death. "Yes," he was told, "this will also happen to you."

Unlike ordinary persons who try to ignore the inevitability of suffering or who imagine that it can somehow be avoided, Buddha was deeply affected. He realized that, in light of the inescapable miseries of material existence, no one could be truly happy. Ultimately, he came to realize the state of nirvana, or that existence beyond the cycle of repeated birth and death. We may not be as elevated as Lord Buddha, yet by the grace of the great sages and scriptures like the Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad-Bhagavatam, we can also see the truth.

Practicing the art of seeing through the eyes of scripture is especially easy in India. For example, the scriptures compare a man who works hard but never inquires into self-realization to the washerman's donkey, struggling all day under the washerman's load in return for a little grass to eat. The donkey does not understand that grass is easily available all around, so he ignorantly surrenders to the washerman. In another Vedic analogy, unrealized human beings who waste their lives in indiscriminate eating and illicit sex are compared to hogs, a common—if revolting—sight in the Indian villages. The graphic examples of the donkey and the hog are not merely metaphors; according to the laws of transmigration, a person who misuses his life may become a beast in his next life, so that he can better express his hoglike or asslike mentality.

Life in the West also provides many unique opportunities for a person to apply the art of seeing with the eyes of scripture. According to the Bhagavad-gita, all varieties of personalities and material phenomena can be divided into three basic categories: goodness, passion, and ignorance. Once a person associates with these three forces, or modes, he comes under their control and is forced to act. "When there is an increase of the mode of ignorance," Lord Krsna informs us, "darkness, inertia, madness, and illusion are manifest." Thus we can see in the behavior of the drunkard, the drug addict, and the slothful person how one can be controlled by the mode of ignorance.

A person in the mode of passion is described as one who intensely endeavors to satisfy his senses. From this description we can conclude that many apparently successful workers are under the grips of passion, and we can foresee the inevitable results of their actions. Thus it is said that one who understands the scriptures can see the future.

Through the eyes of scripture, we can gain many insights into contemporary life in the West. We can perceive the widespread illusion that the body is the self (displayed in racial prejudice, nationalism, and rampant sense gratification). We can also perceive the illusion that the land of one's birth is sacred, and—grandest illusion of all—that this brief life and this temporal world are permanent and all in all.

The art of seeing with the eyes of scripture is not just an amusing way of looking at the world; rather, it is the art of following higher knowledge. The scriptures correct our vision so that we are not fooled by mere appearances that make us think material possessions or a beautiful woman are worth attaining even at the cost of our soul. With truth gathered from the Vedic scriptures, we can confront the material world for what it is, learn to distinguish illusion from truth, and appreciate all nature as part of Krsna's energy.

The ultimate spiritual vision is to see God through eyes of love. This will occur when we absorb ourselves in devotional service. The scriptures and sages invite us to chant Lord Krsna's holy names and to see His Deity in the temple. These are direct experiences of the spiritual energy within the material world. The scriptures promise that if we engage in pure devotional service, the Lord will reveal Himself in our heart and give us the intelligence to see Him everywhere.

In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna says, "For one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, I am never lost to him, nor is he ever lost to Me."—SDG

Use back button to return.

Return to top