A conversation between
Dr. Oliver: We are in this twentieth century, this last part of the century, with a new global search for the truth about the spiritual. We, of course, in the Western world, are not familiar with the Bhagavad-gita. Our problem is basically, I think, the one that you raised in your lecture: How do we make the spiritual a scientific reality? And I think you were quite right. I think really few people get the point that you were trying to make—that this is a scientific matter.
Srila Prabhupada: That is the beginning of the Bhagavad-gita—scientifically presenting spiritual knowledge. Therefore I raised the question: What is transmigration of the soul? Nobody could reply properly. We are changing bodies. There are so many varieties of bodies, and we may enter into any one of them after death. This is the real problem of life. Prakrteh kriyamanani gunaih karmani sarvasah: nature is working, providing us with material bodies. This body is a machine. This machine, just like a car, has been offered to us by material nature, by the order of God, Krsna. So the real purpose of life is to stop this perpetual transmigration from one body to another, one body to another, and revive our original, spiritual position so that we can live an eternal, blissful life of knowledge. That is the aim of life.
Dr. Oliver: The conception of transmigration is not, of course, in the Christian religion.
Srila Prabhupada: It's not a question of religion. Religion is a kind of faith that develops according to time and circumstances. The reality is that we are spirit souls. By the laws of material nature, we are carried from one body to another. Sometimes we are happy, sometimes distressed; sometimes in the heavenly planets, sometimes in lower planets. And human life is meant for stopping this process of transmigration and reviving our original consciousness. We have to go back home, back to Godhead, and live eternally. This is the whole scheme of Vedic literature.
The Bhagavad-gita gives the synopsis of how to act in this life. Therefore, through the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita we can begin to understand the constitutional position of the soul.
First of all we have to understand what we are. Am I this body or something else? This is the first question. I was trying to answer this, but some people in my audience thought it was a kind of Hindu culture. It is not Hindu culture. It is a scientific conception. You are a child for some time. Then you become a boy. Then you become a young man, and then you become an old man. In this way you are always changing bodies. This is a fact. It is not a Hindu conception of religion. It applies to everyone.
dehino 'smin yatha dehe
[To a devotee:] Find this verse.
Devotee: [reads] "As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change." [Bg. 2.13]
Srila Prabhupada: In the Bhagavad-gita everything is explained very logically, very scientifically. It is not a sentimental explanation.
Dr. Oliver: The problem, as I see it, is how to get modern man to make an in-depth study of what is contained or outlined in this book, especially when he's caught up in an educational system that denies a place for this very concept or even the philosophy of it. There is either complete neutrality, or just a simple rejection of these truths.
Srila Prabhupada: They do not accept the soul?
Dr. Oliver: They accept the soul. I think so. But they do not care to analyze what it means.
Srila Prabhupada: Without analyzing this, what is their situation? First of all, they should analyze the distinction between a dead body and a living body. The body is always dead, just like a motorcar without a driver. The car is always a lump of matter. Similarly, this body, with or without the soul, is a lump of matter.
Dr. Oliver: It isn't worth very much. I think around fifty-six cents.
Srila Prabhupada: But if one cannot distinguish between the car and the driver of the car, then he is just like a child. A child thinks the car is running automatically. But that is his foolishness. There is a driver. The child may not know, but when he is grown up and has been educated and still he does not know, then what is the meaning of his education?
Dr. Oliver: In the Western world the whole range of education covers only primary, secondary, and tertiary education. There is no place for an in-depth study of the soul.
Srila Prabhupada: I talked with one professor in Moscow. Maybe you know him—Professor Kotovsky. He teaches at the Soviet Academy of Sciences. I had a talk with him for about an hour. He said, "After this body is annihilated, everything is finished." I was surprised that he told me this. He is known to be a very good scholar, and still he does not know about the soul.
Dr. Oliver: We have an Indology course here, given by a scholar from Vienna. But what he teaches, what kind of basic philosophy, I wouldn't know. There are about forty students. In essence they ought to start by making a detailed study of the Bhagavad-gita and use that as a basis for their whole philosophy.
Srila Prabhupada: So why not appoint someone to teach Bhagavad-gita As It Is? That is essential.
Dr. Oliver: Our university almost has an obligation to make a study of these points in depth.
Srila Prabhupada: By thoroughly studying Bhagavad-gita, one begins his spiritual education.
Dr. Oliver: Well, this is apparently what one needs. Our Hindu community here in South Africa seems to lack any fixed idea of what constitutes Hinduism. The young people especially are living in a complete vacuum. For various reasons, they do not want to accept religion, because this is what they see around them. They cannot identify with the Christian religion, the Islamic religion, or the Hindu religion. They are largely ignorant.
Srila Prabhupada: They should be shown the right path. This is the original, authentic path.
Dr. Oliver: There were not very many great scholars in South Africa amongst our Indian community. The Indian people came, by and large, as workers on the sugar plantations—field workers. A few were jewelers and tailors and so on. Then for the last hundred years there was a political struggle, resisting transportation back to India. They were fighting to make a living and to find their own place in this country. As I see it, they must give meaning to the essence of their own beliefs and faith. I've been telling them that we are privileged to have them here in this country with their background, and that they mustn't cut themselves away from it and drift into a vacuum. But they don't know to whom they should turn. So basically, they and myself and others want to know how we get this spirit into our own hearts, and how does this then issue out into everyday living?
Srila Prabhupada: That is all explained in the Bhagavad-gita: how to live peacefully in this world and how to go back home, back to Godhead.
Dr. Oliver: But how does one get modern man to voluntarily make this experiment? The real tragedy is we have wandered so far away from the spirit that we do not know where to start. And we can't get a few dozen honest believers to sit down and try to find out how much God wants to give of His mind to our minds.
Srila Prabhupada: God is giving Himself. We just have to accept Him. That requires a little advancement. Otherwise, everything is there. God says that the soul is eternal and the body is changing. It is a very simple example. A boy becomes a young man, and a young man becomes an old man. There is no denying this fact. I can understand it, and you can understand it. It is very simple. I remember that as a boy I was jumping, and I cannot do that now because I have a different body. So I am conscious that I possessed a body like that. Now I do not possess it. The body is changing, but I am the same person eternally. It requires a little intelligence to see this, that's all. I am the owner of the body, and I am an eternal soul. The body is changing.
Dr. Oliver: Now, having accepted that, a further problem then arises: What are the implications?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. If I understand that I am not this body, yet at the present moment I am engaged only to keep my body comfortable, without taking care of my self, that is wrong. For example, if I am cleansing this shirt and coat thrice daily, but I am hungry—that would be impractical. Similarly, this civilization is wrong in this basic way. If I take care of your shirt and coat, but I don't give you anything to eat, then how long will you be satisfied? That is my point. That is the basic mistake. Material civilization means taking care of the body and bodily comforts. But the owner of the body, the spirit soul, gets no care. Therefore everyone is restless. They are changing the "ism" from capitalism to communism, but they do not know what the mistake is.
Dr. Oliver: There is very little difference. They are both material.
Srila Prabhupada: The communists think that if we take control of the government, everything will be adjusted. But the mistake is there—both the communists and the capitalists are taking care of the external body, not the eternal identity, the soul. The soul must be peaceful. Then everything will be peaceful.
[To a devotee:} Read that verse.
Devotee: "A person in full consciousness of Me, knowing Me to be the ultimate beneficiary of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attains peace from the pangs of material miseries." [Bg. 5.29]
Srila Prabhupada: This means that one must know what God is. Because you are part and parcel of God, you already have a very intimate relationship with Him. Our business is knowing God. So at the present moment, there is no information. People have no complete idea.
Dr. Oliver: Well, I believe that if a satellite in the sky can reveal what is happening from one pole to the other pole, then surely God can reveal His spirit and His mind to anyone who wants to obey Him, who wants to know Him, and who sincerely wants to follow Him.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, yes. So here in the Bhagavad-gita God is explaining Himself. We have to take it by logic and reason. Then it will be a clear understanding of God.
Dr. Oliver: Yes, but how to get this across?
Srila Prabhupada: The teaching is there. We have to understand it by authoritative discussion.
Dr. Oliver: I think so. This is probable where one has to start. We have to sit down and discuss this, much the same as some professors would discuss any scientific experiment.
Srila Prabhupada: The process for understanding is described here:
tad viddhi pranipatena
[To a devotee:} Find out that verse.
Devotee: "Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth." [Bg. 4.34]
Srila Prabhupada: Read the purport
Devotee: "The path of spiritual realization is undoubtedly difficult. The Lord therefore advises us to approach a bona fide spiritual master in the line of disciplic succession from the Lord Himself. No one can be a bona fide spiritual master without following this principle of disciplic succession. The Lord is the original spiritual master, and a person in the disciplic succession can convey the Lord's message as it is, to the disciple.
"No one can be spiritually realized by manufacturing his own process, as is the fashion of the foolish pretenders. The Srimad-Bhagavatam (6.3.19) says, dharmam tu saksad bhagavat-pranitam: the path of religion is directly enunciated by the Lord. Therefore, mental speculation or dry arguments cannot help lead one to the right path. Nor by independent study of books of knowledge can one progress in spiritual life.
"One has to approach a bona fide spiritual master to receive the knowledge. Such a spiritual master should be accepted in full surrender, and one should serve the spiritual master like a menial servant, without false prestige. Satisfaction of the self-realized spiritual master is the secret of advancement in spintu;i] life. Inquiries and submission constitute the proper combination for spiritual understanding. Unless there is submission and service, inquiries from the learned spiritual master will not he effective. One must he able to pass the test of the spiritual master, and when he sees the genuine desire of the disciple, he automatically blesses the disciple with genuine spiritual understanding.
"In this verse, both blind following and absurd inquiries are condemned. Not only should one hear submissively from the spiritual master, hut one must also get a clear understanding from him, in submission and service and inquiries. A bona fide spiritual master is by nature very kind toward the disciple. Therefore when the student is submissive and is always ready to render service, the reciprocation of knowledge and inquiries becomes perfect."
Srila Prabhupada: The practical example is here. These European and American boys are coming from well-to-do families. Why are they serving me? I am Indian, coming from a poor country. I cannot pay them. When I came to the West. I had no money. I brought only forty rupees. That was only an hour's expenditure in America. So their soul is to carry out my instruction. And therefore they are making progress. Pranipatena pariprasnena—they are asking questions. I am trying to reply to them, and they have all got full faith. They are serving like menial servants. This is the process.
If the spiritual master is bona fide and the disciple is very sincere, then the knowledge will be there. This is the secret. Yasya deve para bhaktir yatha deve tatha gurau—Vedic knowledge is revealed unto those who have faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master. Therefore in Vedic society, the students are automatically sent to the gurukula [the place of the spiritual master], regardless of whether one is a king's son or from some other background. Even Krsna had to go to gurukula.
There is a story that once Krsna went with a classmate to the forest to collect dry wood for His spiritual master. Suddenly there was a heavy rain storm, and they could not get out of the forest. The whole night they remained in the forest with great difficulty. There were torrents of rain. The next morning, the guru, their teacher, along with other students, came to the forest and found them. So even Krsna, whom we accept as the Supreme Lord. had to go to gurukula and serve the spiritual master as a menial servant.
So all of the students at the gurukula learn how to be very submissive and how to live only for the benefit of the guru. They are trained from the very beginning to be first-class submissive students. Then the guru, out of affection and with an open heart, teaches the hoys all he knows. This is the process. There is no question of money. It is all done on the basis of love and education.
Dr. Oliver: I might have difficulty accepting parts of what you've indicated here, simply because I don't know. But basically I accept that God lives in us and that when we leave things to Him, He knows how to direct these things. The challenge is living life so that He will be satisfied. This is where the difficulty comes in: you need the inspiration to be disciplined. This will only become a reality in one's life if one practices it. And practices it with others who share this commitment.
Srila Prabhupada: Therefore we have this International Society for Krishna Consciousness—showing how to live a life of dedication to God. That is required. Without practical life in God consciousness, it remains simply theoretical. That may help, but it takes longer. My students are being trained up in practical spiritual life, and they are established.
Dr. Oliver: I want to thank you very much, and I pray that God will bless your visit to our country and our people here.
Srila Prabhupada: Hare Krsna.
Learning God's Way of Compassion
A London social worker undergoes a treacherous
by Rohininandana Dasa
In 1969 I saw the devotees of Krsna on the television program Top of the Pops. Disgusted by the shaved heads of the men, I turned to my mother, while indicating my own long hair, and exclaimed, "That's one thing you don't have to worry about! You'll never catch me joining that bunch."
While I was visiting Edinburgh at the time of the Arts Festival in 1970, a friend remarked to me, "There are some unusual people living just a few streets away. They shave their heads and wear robes, and they're very poor. They're some kind of monks. And whatever food they have they share with anyone who goes to their place." I was both awed and attracted just by hearing about these people, and I thought of my own miserly, anxious existence. Inside I wished that I was like them. It was not until later that I realized these were the same people who had disgusted me on TV.
A year later, in London, once more I felt attracted to the renunciation of the Hare Krsna devotees. I was working with the Simon Community, a Catholic welfare society. Founded by a Bow Street probation officer, Anton Willich-Clifford, the Simon Community is named after Simon the Cyrenean, who helped Jesus carry the cross. Anton founded the community as an alternative to inadequate governmental programs for the down-and-out. He lived with them in the squalor of their "squats" and "derries" (derelict houses) and tried to share the love of Lord Jesus with them by giving practical assistance.
I was living in a Simon night-shelter in north London when one night what appeared to be five shining beings from another world approached. Here, in this dirty, pitted urban wasteland, I was struck with wonder by their calm, bright faces, their beautifully clean robes, and their sweet words. They asked for a place to sleep that night with such natural dignity and detachment that I felt honored to host them. I quickly arranged for a room, and they simply lay on the floor and wrapped their wool shawls around themselves, refusing my offers of mattresses and blankets.
I entreated the night watchman to wake me very early, at 5:30 a.m. so that I could speak with these unearthly people whose ways I was becoming attracted to. But at 5:30 the next morning I was told that they had risen at 3:30 and disappeared back down the street into the night. "Who are these people, and how can I meet them again?" I wondered as I went on my rounds at 8:00 am, waking all the inmates by placing a lighted Players No. 6 cigarette between their lips.
I was beginning to sense that my work with the Simon Community was of little significance. One night a man I was trying to help died, and I realized, as I gazed at his stiff body, that everything I'd tried to do for him was wasted. What was the point of so much effort? Simply to enable someone to die in the temporary comfort of a bed instead of on the street? And even if one were able to prolong someone's life for a few more years, what would be the use? What would be the value of a few extra years of fleeting pleasure mixed with suffering? Just suppose I did help a man back, but failed to change his mentality, and then he went out and killed someone. Or, for instance, even if someone did stop a drinking habit, then what? Would he be happy by integrating himself back into a society that had caused his problem in the first place? What was the positive alternative? I had largely the same bad habits as the destitute people I was supposedly helping. And people outwardly normal sometimes turned out to be more unfortunate than those on skid row. How many middle-class people take drugs, get divorced, kill their unborn babies, or commit suicide?
If within the body there was some subtle element or soul that survived death, then what practical help were we offering for this? What exactly were we, and everyone else, trying to achieve? Was there a common goal for everyone? Stricken by doubt and confused by so many anomalies, I looked to Anton for a solution. He was a kindly, compassionate man, but he could not offer me clear personal guidance or an alternative way to live.
I had joined Anton shortly after my desire for Christ and spiritual peace had nearly suffered a death blow at school. I had always liked divinity lessons, but then one day I had asked the school chaplain, "What exactly is the soul, and what happens to the soul at death?" His reply had startled me. "That is a mystery. To find out you have to wait till you die." "But if we are eternal, why can't I know for sure—now?" I thought. And when I thought of the plausible explanations of life given in the biology classes, I became really despondent. Evolution and natural selection were obvious facts—why believe in God? He must be just some man-made myth. "Better to be a straightforward atheist," I thought.
But a few years later, as I studied, discussed, and thought, I began realizing that so-called scientific arguments were weak, that life was more than just the molecular activities of the body. And instinctively I began searching for a teacher, a perfect Christian. Apart from Jesus, I had no faith in any "holy man." Jesus was my model, my hero. I ruminated in my little London bedsit, "I wish I felt so strongly convinced about something that I'd be prepared to die for it, like Jesus." In Anton I had found some hope. Some people referred to him as a saint, but sometimes I saw him depressed and affected by circumstances. Although he was a great person compared to other modern leaders, still I felt hesitant to dedicate my whole life in his service.
So I used to visit St. Paul's cathedral and stand for long periods in front of a painting of Lord Jesus that hung above one of the side aisles. I felt the Lord's presence here more than anywhere else. "I am the light of the world, standing at the door of your heart. If you hear my call and answer me, allowing me in, we can exchange love with each another." This kindness of Jesus touched my heart, and I felt I must follow him. At the same time I knew how unqualified I was. I was living a materialistic life, selfishly chasing the whims of the senses by smoking, drinking, eating junk foods, searching for sex, experimenting with drugs, going to the cinema, and listening to music that had no real purpose except to agitate the mind. Lord Jesus had kindly given me a glimpse of his glory, but now I knew I needed training, practice in being a proper Christian. Yet who would teach me? I prayed, "My dear Lord Jesus, please guide me to someone who perfectly practices your teachings."
One day a friend mentioned to me that at Belsize Hall, near Hampstead, a holy leader from India was giving a lecture, followed by a vegetarian feast. Since I was open at that point to various spiritual and religious experiences and had recently become a vegetarian, I decided to go over on my day off from the Simon Community. Accompanied by one of my social worker friends, I sat near the back of the large hall, straining my ears to understand what A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was saying.
Suddenly my friend Steve leaned forward in his seat and lit up a cigarette. Almost as soon as he struck the match, Srila Prabhupada strongly admonished him, "Don't smoke in here!" It was uncanny—the speed with which Srila Prabhupada perceived this misdemeanor of one sitting at the back of a large audience, and the speed with which he dealt with Steve, who immediately extinguished his cigarette.
Soon Steve began to fidget, and he whispered, "Let's go. There's nothing for us here."
"No," I quickly replied. "I'm staying."
So Steve left and I stayed, amazed that what Prabhupada was saying made so much sense. He explained that there is a distinct difference between matter and spirit; that the soul within remains constant throughout the many changes of the body and therefore is unaffected by death; that there is a common spiritual goal for all humanity, the absence of which renders human life ultimately meaningless; and that when there are no higher principles for people to strive toward, the entire society eventually becomes pandemonium. As he expounded further, he cleared all my doubts in such a simple and pure way that I began to realize, "Here is the person who is going to train me in spiritual life. Here is that perfect Christian I've been looking for."
I began visiting the temple on my day off, but I could not seriously entertain the idea of joining the society as a full-time monk. The devotees seemed a little too otherworldly. They were so austere, devotional, and spiritual that I couldn't relate to them. I was doing so much apparently practical welfare work, such as housing, clothing, and feeding the poor, helping persons with drug and alcohol problems and marital difficulties, and making referrals to many other organizations and charities for further help.
Gradually, however, as I participated in the chanting of Hare Krsna, associated with the devotees, and tasted their wonderful spiritual food, I realized that the soul within the body is the actual person. Unless one can reach and help the soul, then what is the use of all this supposed welfare work? The soul suffers because of being disconnected from the Supreme Soul, and here was a pure society of dedicated persons who had the solution. This Krsna conscious way of life was the positive alternative for which I had been hankering. Moreover, everything the devotees did and said rested on a philosophy that, upon close inspection, proved flawless.
But still I persisted, attached to my old ways and my proud independence, and attached to the false pleasure I obtained from being a social worker who could help people, who was needed. I began to realize, "What a rascal I am. I want to serve God, but on my terms. I should be asking, 'What does God want me to do?' not 'What do I want to do for God?'" Immediately I thought of Srila Prabhupada, his disciples, and his mission. "Yes, he is my teacher. I've already accepted him in my heart. Why don't I surrender and become a devotee?"
But it was a hard decision. What about my work, my career, for there was already the possibility of becoming a probation officer like Anton. But then what about Lord Krsna? Was He not my Lord? What did He want? Yes, I knew He wanted me and was calling me, but my independence, long hair, and romances held me in their grip. I was bursting with indecision.
To put the entire situation in perspective, I decided to walk across the Pyrenean Mountains, from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. I would study the Bhagavad-gita, pray to Lord Krsna hy chanting His holy names, and think of what to do with my life. My journey would also provide an opportunity for me to work at becoming free from a few remaining meaningless habits, such as eating eggs, drinking coffee, and smoking.
The mountains were much bigger than I had anticipated or prepared for, and I felt humbled by their grandeur. Still, I wanted to conquer them, and my mind was disturbed by pride. After six weeks of steady hiking, I lost my way and became anxious. I was tired, lonely, and thirsty. This inhospitable land of rock did not offer so much as a drink of water. As I struggled along the scree of one mountainous ridge eight thousand feet up, I began to lose my nerve. To make up for this, I told myself, "I'm not afraid!" No sooner had these words left my mouth than I stepped on a large piece of rock that immediately broke loose. The rock and I plummeted down. My fall was broken only fifteen feet below, by a small table-sized ledge. With my head hanging over the edge, I watched as a minor landslide flowed speedily to the valley, thousands of feet below.
My thoughts rushed back to England, my home, my family and friends. But the awesome realization struck me—neither they nor anyone else could help me. "I'm all alone. Who can help me? . . . Krsna! My dear Lord! How could I have forgotten You? You're accompanying me in my heart—yes, and I am Your servant." I checked my limbs, and to my surprise there were no broken bones. Thirst caused great pain, but nothing could be done.
Now where to go? I couldn't go back, because of the small, newly created chasm. Both upward and downward were too steep, so I realized I had to go on. I continued walking on the loose rocks, and as I chanted Hare Krsna, I felt relieved of much pride. After some time the scree turned into smooth rock, at about a forty-five-degree angle. I couldn't go on. Downward was much too treacherous, so I had to go up.
I started climbing, and as the grade became steeper and steeper, my thirty-pound pack became an encumbrance. I thought of abandoning it, but I knew I needed it to survive, for the nights were extremely cold. The rock face became almost vertical, and my strength was waning. Then a new danger beset me. The chunks of rock to which I clung were loose; they began to wobble in my clutching fingers. I was terrified.
At that moment, as if called for. Lord Krsna appeared in my mind in the form of a verse from the Bhagavad-gita: Do thou fight for the sake of fighting, without considering loss or gain, happiness or distress, victory or defeat."
"Yes, I'll climb for Krsna! If He wants me to live, I will, and if He wants me to die now, then what can I do?" So I climbed for Krsna, without considering loss or gain, and I was immediately freed of all fear. Thereafter, whenever I forgot Krsna, I felt myself beginning to fall, and as soon as I remembered Him, I climbed fearlessly. Was Lord Krsna creating this situation to force me to surrender to Him? In my heart I knew it must be so. I felt ashamed that the Lord had done this just for me, and ashamed that I was only climbing for Him to save my neck. I climbed higher and higher, with renewed energy now, until finally I arrived at the summit of that crumbling old pile of rocks called Mount Sarraera, 8,600 feet up.
Sitting down on the small six-foot-square summit, I looked off into the distance at the stark mountain ranges receding in the evening light. I felt tiny and afraid. Aimlessly, I reached into my pack, pulled out my only book, Bhagavad-gita, and read a few lines. Then I knew what to do—"I climbed up for Krsna by His mercy, so I'll climb down for Him and stay in His service forever."
Surprisingly carefree, I started back, and sliding down the snow-covered northern slope, I finally came to rest on some flattish grassland. There, a small stream trickled down from the snow and rock, and suddenly I realized I was parched. I filled up the water bottle and was just about to drink when another verse from the Gita flashed into my mind: "If someone offers Me with love and devotion a flower, a leaf, a fruit, or some water. I will accept it."
I'd been offering my food to Krsna, but it seemed silly to offer water. This time, however, I immediately placed the untouched bottle on the ground, bowed down, and prayed, "My dear Lord, please accept this humble offering." Then I chanted the Hare Krsna mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama. Hare Hare. Now I lifted the bottle and drank deeply. The water flowed into me like a river of nectar—soothing, healing, quenching all my burning thirst for material life. I felt embraced by the infinite kindness and mercy of God.
The following day, hardly able to move a muscle, I had to lie in my sleeping bag. As I peered up at the magnificent peak that I'd just encountered, I thought, "I'm completely dependent on Krsna alone for my maintenance, safety, and protection, as He has so vividly demonstrated to me. So now I must go and surrender myself into the hands of His pure representative, Srila Prabhupada, so that I can be trained in His service." My mind was now clear and positive, my determination steady and firm. I realized the inherent freedom of the soul and felt thrilled by the joyous surge of spiritual energy spreading through me. There was now a straight path ahead to serve the perfect social worker, Srila Prabhupada, who was able to deliver the conditioned souls from the sufferings of repeated birth and death. I was confident I had found the way to render the best benefit both to myself and to the entire human society.
Since then, Lord Krsna has given me many practical opportunities to realize the great efficacy of Krsna consciousness in solving the personal and social maladies that afflict almost everyone in this age. Over the past decade, after being trained as a brahmana, or spiritual counsellor, I have been working directly with thousands of people from all kinds of backgrounds, their common problems being confusion and emptiness. All were caught up in various brands of materialism, mistaking the body to be the self. Repeatedly I have seen how such people have discovered a real friend in Krsna, the kind master to whom they could direct their energy and love; and this has strengthened my conviction about the value of Krsna consciousness in our modern society.
To see people break free of doubt and delusion, to see them illuminated with spiritual knowledge, and to see them free their character of weakness and bad habits are the ultimate reward for a social worker. We must judge something by its result. A London welfare worker told me recently that, in all honesty, he doesn't think he has really changed one person over his last eight years of running his project. And this is no surprise to me. After all, he doesn't have knowledge of who those people actually are, of what will give them happiness, of how to engage their energy in the best way, of the purpose of human life. Anyone who is serious about helping others should carefully study Krsna consciousness and come to the realization that on our own we cannot help anyone or be anyone's friend. Lord Krsna alone is in a position to help others and be their friend. We can be but instruments of His divine will.
So if we cherish any genuine desire to serve the interests of others, we must become purified of all selfishness and humbly work under the direction of one who is already fully surrendered to the Lord. We must place ourselves in Krsna's hands and allow Him to use us in whatever way He sees fit.
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
In Sanskrit, man means "mind" and tra means "freeing." So a mantrais a combination of transcendental, spiritual sounds that frees our minds from the anxieties of life in the material world.
Ancient India's Vedic literatures single out one mantra as the maha (supreme) mantra. The Kali-santarana Upanisad explains, "These sixteen words—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—are especially meant for counteracting the ill effects of the present age of quarrel and anxiety."
The Narada-pancaratra adds, "All mantras and all processes for self-realization are compressed into the Hare Krsna maha-mantra." Five centuries ago, while spreading the maha-mantra throughout the Indian subcontinent, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu prayed, "O Supreme Personality of Godhead, in Your holy name You have invested all Your transcendental energies."
The name Krsna means "the all-attractive one," the name Rama means "the all-pleasing one," and the name Hare is an address to the Lord's devotional energy. So the maha-mantra means, "O all-attractive, all-pleasing Lord, O energy of the Lord, please engage me in Your devotional service." Chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, and your life will be sublime.
The Bible and Vegetarianism
by Kenneth Rose
KENNETH ROSE studied at Bob Jones University. He received a B A. in philosophy from Ohio State University. He is now preparing for the Unitarian Universalist ministry at Harvard Divinity School. He is a ministerial intern at the First and Second Church (UUA) in Boston.
A traditional proof-text for Biblical vegetarians is Genesis. 1:29 where God says,
Behold. I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. (Revised Standard Version)
This was a universal vegetarianism, not limited to human beings, as the next verse" (Gen. 1:30) indicates. In the beginning, when the Lord had created the heavens and the earth, the relationship of predator and prey did not exist. Flesh was not a lawful food for any creature. The careful student of the Bible, however, is aware that after the great flood. God revised His earlier prohibition against eating flesh. As the flood waters receded. God said to Noah and his offspring,
The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth. . . , Into your hand they are delivered, Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and as I gave you [in Genesis 1:29] the green plants, I give you everything. Only you shall not eat the flesh with its life, that is, its blood. (Gen. 9:2-4)
For the vegetarian looking to the Bible for guidance, this passage is a source of perplexity, whereas for the nonvegetarian, it is a divine warrant for eating meat. Both of these views, however, fail to comprehend the scope and complexity of the Bible's outlook on the history of human corruption and redemption.
According to the Bible, the disobedience of Adam and Eve destroyed the peace of the first human society, the Garden of Eden. Since God was, in the beginning, the central interest of all the inhabitants of the Garden of Eden, human beings and animals could live at peace there. But true and lasting peace—whether individually or collectively—is possible only when there is no taint of selfishness. Therefore, when Adam and Eve broke God's commandment against eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the peace of the garden was destroyed (Gen. 3:17). This was the beginning of the conflict between human beings and animals (Gen. 3:15).
After falling into sin, human society, which began rapidly growing, became increasingly violent. Animal sacrifice began (Gen. 4:4), the skins of animals began to be used as clothing (Gen. 3:21), and human beings began to murder one another (Gen. 4:8, 4:23). This violence increased to such a degree that God was sorry He had created humankind (Gen. 6:13, 6:16). So God decided to destroy the human race. God's wrath, however, is always tempered by mercy, so He chose Noah and his family to survive the great flood (Gen. 6:8).
After the flood, God revised His original ban against eating flesh (Gen 9:3). Human beings since the fall into sin had proved incapable of obedience on this point. Since the consequence of disobedience to God's will was death (Gen 2:17), and since God's aim for human beings was their ultimate restoration to perfect obedience, God resorted to an expedient so that sin-weakened human beings might learn at least some degree of obedience. This expedient was a less stringent version of the original commandment. The amended commandment, though less strict, is still redemptive insofar as it is obeyed, for in obedience to God's will does the ultimate welfare of human beings lie. But despite God's lessening the rigor of the original commandment. His ultimate desire for peace between animals and human beings remained unchanged.
In other words, God allowed flesh-eating, but only as a temporary measure, to redeem humanity from the consequences of disobedience. Full obedience, however, will ultimately require full renunciation of the predatory principle. Until this occurs, the kingdom of God cannot be established. God has made known through the prophet Isaiah what this kingdom will be like:
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
In that kingdom of perfect peace, where the knowledge of God will dissolve all evil, we won't kill animals for food, because our food will be provided by God Himself. In the coming kingdom of divine peace, a river "bright as crystal" and carrying the water of eternal life will flow from the throne of God. On both sides of the river will grow "the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations" (Revelations 22:1-2).
This peace will be based not upon human caprice, but upon God's will; therefore, it will be universal and enduring. All of God's creatures will be included in it:
And I will make for you a covenant on that day [when the Lord renews the earth) with the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; and I will abolish the bow. the sword, and war from the land; and I will make you [all creatures] lie down in safety. And I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. (Hosea 2:18-19)
Despite the general human forgetfulness of God's original desire for peace between humankind and the animal kingdom, some memory of it was maintained by Israel's prophets. Animal sacrifice was a part of the ancient religion of Israel, but the prophet Isaiah reminded the Israelites of God's ancient vision of justice and peace by vehemently criticizing these bloody acts of "worship":
What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
And the prophet Amos speaks similarly:
I hate, I despise your feasts. . . .
At present vegetarianism among those who base their lives on the Bible is quite rare. Nevertheless, vegetarianism remains God's ultimate will. Through the practice of vegetarianism in obedience to God's will as revealed in their scriptures, the devotees of the Krsna consciousness movement are being true to a long-neglected aspect of Biblical revelation.
Since, according to the Bible, the goal of history is the transformation of the predatory principle into the principle of universal love, it seems reasonable to suppose that people who take the Bible seriously should strive to bring their lives into accordance with the righteousness and nonviolence that will prevail in God's kingdom. Surely we can't in this life fully escape the consequences of the Fall, but we can try, with God's grace, to live in accordance with God's perfect will as expressed in the above-quoted passages.
Some might challenge this view by citing the following passage from the New Testament:
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, through the pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and enjoin abstinence from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. (I Timothy 4:1-2)*
[*It should be noted that this passage gives evidence that there were, at the time ot its writing, groups of Christians who did not eat meat.]
To use this passage to discredit Christian vegetarianism, however, is really a misapplication of these verses, since the issue here is not food but Christian freedom.
Most Christians over the centuries have not believed that what they eat has any effect upon their salvation. They have believed that they are redeemed through faith in Jesus Christ, apart from the observance of any body of specific rules and regulations, such as the law of Moses (Ephesians 2:8). It would be an unusual Christian teacher indeed who insisted that what one eats or doesn't eat affects one's salvation (Colossians 2:16, Matthew 15:11), especially considering that, as we have already discussed, Genesis 9:3 indicates that God was willing to ammend His original commandment regarding meat-eating to a lesser one, which human beings in their weakness have a better chance of obeying.
Nevertheless, no rational or scriptural reason can be discovered that would prohibit the teacher of Christian truth from encouraging believers to go beyond the concession to human weakness granted in Genesis 9:3 so that even now, before the full dawning of God's kingdom of peace, they may begin living according to the ethics of that kingdom. To live in this way must be considered as part of God's ultimate intention for humanity, for how else can one account for the fact that the Bible both begins and ends in a kingdom where the sound of slaughter is unknown?
Despite the certainty that this is God's ultimate plan, the fact remains that most of those who base their lives on the Bible are eaters of animal flesh. This, I think, is due to the ambiguity of the Bible on this issue. For just as the Bible reveals God's vision of a peaceable kingdom free from predators, so also does it contain justifications for continuing the practice of eating meat.
Vaisnavism Points Beyond Biblical Ambiguity
Vaisnava devotees of Lord Krsna find no ambiguity on this issue. They base their vegetarianism on the Bhagavad-gita (9.26), where Krsna says,
If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, speaking out of the Vaisnava tradition, explains,
One who loves Krsna will give Him whatever He wants, and he avoids offering anything which is undesirable or unasked. Thus meat, fish, and eggs should not he offered to Krsna. If He desired such things as offerings, He would have said so. Instead He clearly requests that a leaf, fruit, flowers, and water be given to Him, and He says of this offering, "I will accept it." Therefore, we should understand that He will not accept meat, fish, and eggs. Vegetables, grains, fruits, milk, and water are the proper foods for human beings and are prescribed by Lord Krsna Himself.
Srila Prabhupada's comments follow logically from a story in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, a scripture of central importance for Vaisnavas. In Chapter Seventeen of the First Canto, a righteous king of ancient India. Pariksit Maharaja, happens upon an evil king, Kali, who is beating a cow and a bull with a club on the bank of a sacred river. In this story, the cow stands for the earth (the giver of the necessities of physical existence), the bull for dharma (true religion), and Kali for the degradation (adharma) of our current age of slaughter—the Age of Kali.
All Vaisnavas agree on countering the mercilessness and violence of the Age of Kali, and so they practice strict vegetarianism. Rather than succumb to the cruel dietary preferences of the age, they look to Krsna, the restorer of true religion in times of religious decadence (Bg. 4.8), to instruct them concerning what to eat. As we have seen, Krsna has clearly indicated the foods He will accept: vegetables, grains, fruit, milk products, and water.
Clearly, on this issue the Vaisnava tradition does not suffer from the ambiguity that afflicts the Biblical tradition. So since the Supreme Lord of the universe speaks to the human race through all of the world's genuine religious traditions, perhaps we can overcome the Biblical ambiguity about eating meat by bringing the Biblical tradition into dialogue with the Vaisnava tradition. Just such a dialogue took place in 1973 between Srila Prabhupada and Jean Danielou, a French cardinal [see BACK TO GODHEAD, Vol. 19, No. 10].
The issue of vegetarianism in the Biblical tradition arises when Srila Prabhupada charges that by killing animals, Christians are regularly disobeying Jesus's commandment "Thou shall not kill" (see Matthew 5:21, where Jesus alludes to the Mosaic commandment stated in Exodus 20:13). Danielou counters Srila Prabhupada by asserting that only human life is sacred. But Srila Prabhupada dismisses this interpretation and affirms that Jesus's words refer to all life. A few moments later, Danielou claims that what one eats is not "an essential point. The important thing is to love God. The practical commandment can change from one religion to another." Srila Prabhupada brushes this assertion aside: "In the Bible. God's practical commandment is that you cannot kill; therefore killing cows is a sin for you [that is, for all Christians]."
This disagreement over how broad is the scope of the commandment—whether it is limited to human beings or should extend to all living beings—finds its source in the divergent values placed on life in the
Biblical and Vaisnava traditions. For most Jews and Christians, only human beings, who are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26), share in the divine nature. Therefore, animals have no claim to the rights such as the right to life, accorded to beings made in God's image. Animals have value only insofar as they serve human interests (Gen. 1:28-29).
This is also Danielou's view. He denies that animals have souls and asserts that human hunger justifies the eating of animal flesh. But Srila Prabhupada cites a passage in the Bhagavad-gita (14.5) that affirms a totally different view of the sacredness of life:
It should he understood that all species of life are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father.
In this view, the parental care of God extends to all living beings, from the highest to the lowest. The seed of divine life has been placed in human beings and animals alike; to eat an animal, therefore, is no less sinful than to eat a fellow human being.
The argument between the cardinal and Srila Prabhupada continues through a few more rounds. Ultimately, Danielou tries to place the blame for meat-eating by humans on some fault in the creation, whereas Srila Prabhupada sees meat-eating simply as our own moral failing. Danielou argues that human beings may eat animals because some animals do so, but Srila Prabhupada replies that if human beings want to act like carnivores, God will give them fangs and claws in another life to fulfill that desire. Srila Prabhupada seems to be asking. How shall we act: like savage beasts or divine children of God? I feel that Srila Prabhupada gets the better of the argument.
The primary result of this dialogue between the Biblical and Vaisnava traditions is the insight that the scope of the commandment "Thou shall not kill" should be widened to include all living beings. If we apply this insight to the Biblical tradition, then its ambiguity on the issue of vegetarianism will be transformed into loving concern for all life. For those of us who take the Bible seriously, our obedience to God will then become greater as it aspires to live out the vision of the peaceable kingdom the Bible points to. Then we will be strong enough to forsake the concession to human weakness granted in Genesis 9:3. To the degree that we stop slaughtering innocent creatures for food, to that degree we will nullify the predatory principle, a principle that structures the injustices characteristic of this fallen age. And seeing all creatures with equal vision (Bg. 5.18) we will enter more deeply into the kingdom of God.
Grind them, dry-roast them, or fry them.
by Visakha-devi dasi
Perhaps more than any other cuisine in the world, Lord Krsna's cuisine fully explores the six basic tastes—salty, sweet, sour, pungent, astringent, and bitter—in innumerable combinations. Just as all colors come from the three primary ones—red, blue, and yellow—all tastes are combinations of these basic six.
Spicing is important. For example, the spice fenugreek can be used to create a hint of bitterness—a taste that's practically unknown in Western cooking. But when properly prepared and served with complementary dishes, bitter tastes are welcome (some people even favor them).
Similarly, there are sweet spices, like cinnamon and cardamom, pungent ones like cayenne, and mixed tastes like cumin and coriander. Spices influence not only the taste of food, but also the appearance, texture, and aroma.
There are basically four main techniques in spicing. First, you can grind whole spices into fine, dry powders. Second, you can slowly dry-roast them to release their dormant savory strength and then roughly bruise them to produce coarse, robust powders. Third, you can grind spices with liquids into moist, smooth pastes. Finally, you can brown whole spices in small quantities of ghee or vegetable oil and add them to the dish while cooking.
You can also combine powdered spices in innumerable ways to make garam masala, a versatile ingredient in this type of cooking. Garam masala is a combination of from four to fourteen powdered spices and is welcome in many dishes—rices, dal soups, chutneys, savories, and snacks—to enhance the flavors of the other ingredients.
Please don't confuse garam masala with curry powder. Curry powders usually have turmeric, red chili powder, and asafetida, ingredients hardly ever used in garam masala. We don't use curry powder in cooking for Krsna: it stamps dishes with a stereotyped golden color, a crude, hot flavor, and an overpowering aroma. By contrast, different garam masalas may be piquant, sweet, tangy, or peppery, but they're always a harmonious blend of subtle flavors to heighten—not smother—food's natural flavors.
As you cook for Krsna, you'll want to become familiar with these spices and use them judiciously so that He'll be pleased by your sincerity and devotion. It's natural to want to serve Krsna, because as spirit souls we are part and parcel of Krsna. And the part serves the whole, just as the hand serves the body. Krsna is eternal, the soul is eternal, and the devotional service we render to Krsna is also eternal. When we die, we leave behind all our material as sets. But our devotional assets we retain. And if we don't have an iota of material desire left, then we don't have to take birth again in this material world, but we go back home, back to Godhead, to enjoy our eternal relationship with Krsna.
As devotees of Krsna we constantly try to engage our senses in devotional service We're confident that spiritual life is real and attainable. And one of the important ways to attain it is by cooking, offering and eating krsna-prasadam.
(Recipes by Yamuna-devi dasi)
Crushed Dry-Roasted Cumin Seeds
Used in seasoning a wide variety of vegetables, dals, soups, salads, and savory rice dishes.
Preparation time: 45 minutes
2 cups whole cumin seeds
1. Pour 1 cup of seeds onto one end of a cookie sheet or metal tray and slowly move small portions of them across the surface, removing any foreign matter or hard kernels. Clean the remainder of the seeds in the same way.
2. Preheat a large iron frying pan over a low flame for 4 to 5 minutes. Pour in the seeds and dry-roast them for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The seeds should be lightly toasted to release their bouquet, but not browned.
3. Measure 3 tablespoons at a time into a coffee mill. Grind the seeds with 3 short bursts of the mill. Partially crush the seeds, but don't powder them. Allow them to cool. Pour into a pint jar and finish the remaining seeds in the same way.
4. Seal the jar well; store in a cool, dry place.
This combination of five whole aromatic spices is frequently used in a finishing chaunce for Bengali-style vegetables, stews, and dals. The first recipe is mild; the second, a little stronger.
1 part fennel seeds
1 part fennel seeds
1. Remove any foreign matter from the spices.
2. Spread the spices on a large cookie sheet or metal tray and set in the hot sun for 3 to 4 hours.
3. Mix well and store tightly sealed.
Simple Garam Masala
There are only four ingredients in this well-balanced masala. It's a little savory, a little sweet.
Preparation time: 1 hour
¾ cup coriander seeds
1. Preheat the oven to 200° F. Spread the ingredients on a cookie sheet or metal tray and bake for 30 minutes.
2. Combine the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and whole cloves in a small bowl.
3. Place the cardamom pods on a stone mortar and gently tap the pods to break them open. Pull apart each pod and shake out the seeds. Discard the pods. Add the seeds to the other spices and mix well.
4. Place ¼ cup of the spice mixture into an electric coffee mill and grind for approximately 1 minute. Empty the powder from the mill into a fine metal sieve and sift out the husks. Grind and sift the remaining spices.
5. Transfer the sifted powder to a 2-cup jar and seal tightly. Store in a cool, dry place.
Coriander Garam Masala
A well-rounded, delightfully mild blend of spices.
Preparation time: 1 hour
1 1/3 cups coriander seeds
1. Preheat oven to 200° F. Spread the spices on a cookie sheet. Bake for 30 minutes and remove.
2. Combine the coriander seeds, peppercorns, cloves, red chilies, and cumin seeds in a bowl. Place the cinnamon sticks on a stone mortar and pulverize to a coarse powder. Add to the other spices and mix well.
3. Pour ¼ cup of the spice mixture into an electric coffee mill and grind for 45 to 60 seconds or until pulverized into a light, fluffy powder. Pour into a fine metal sieve and shake to sift the coarse husks from the powder. If desired, grind the coarse husks on a stone mortar and pestle until powdered.
4. Mix well, seal tightly in a jar, and store in a cool, dry place.
A fine-textured spice mixture with a salty, slightly sour flavor, this masala is especially suited for seasoning sprouted bean dishes, dry chick-pea dishes, and selected dry vegetables. It is frequently used with fruit plates to provide a contrast with the sweetness of tropical fruits.
Preparation time: 1 hour
½ cup coriander seeds
1. Preheat oven to 200° F Spread the cassia leaves, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, whole cloves, and cardamom seeds on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes.
2. Break the cassia leaves into small pieces and place them on a stone mortar. Pound and grind them to a coarse powder. Combine the roasted spices and roasted cassia leaves in a small bowl and mix well.
3. Place ½ cup of the roasted spice mixture in an electric coffee mill and grind for 1 minute, or until the mixture is pulverized to a very fine powder. Transfer the powder to a fine metal sieve and sift out the coarse ingredients. Repeat the grinding and sifting process with the remaining spices. Collect the coarse spice remnants and transfer to a stone mortar. Pulverize by hand.
4. Combine all of the roasted spice powder with the remaining powdered spices and black salt (available at Indo-Asian grocers). Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly.
5. Transfer to a small jar, seal well, and store in a cool, dry place.
A Dog's Obstinacy
The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place in September 1975 on an early-morning walk in Vrndavana, India.
Srila Prabhupada: People are trying simply for sense gratification. They do not even know the purpose of life. So our mission is to eradicate this ignorance. They are living under a wrong conception of life. Not a spiritual conception, but a material one.
Devotee: In Kathmandu I was asking people, "What kind of enjoyment is this from smoking cigarettes? You are coughing. Intoxication—toxin—means poison. So you are actually giving yourself poison. This is sanity? This is human life?" So these people usually told me, "Well, I'll give up cigarettes later."
Srila Prabhupada: At least they admit the fault. Do they not?
Devotee: Yes, some people do. I reminded all these people about karma. You know: "According to your activity in this life, you're preparing your next life. If you live a spiritual life, you'll go to the spiritual world. If you live a materialistic life—animalistic—you'll stay in the material world and become an animal." And they all admitted. "Yes. I know about the law of karma." But when I said. "Why don't you serve Krsna?" they said, "Later. Later."
Srila Prabhupada: Hare Krsna.
Devotee: So, Srila Prabhupada, can your instructions in the Srimad-Bhagavatam stop these people's lust? Or do we have to hope that somehow they will be frustrated in their attempts to enjoy sense gratification?
Srila Prabhupada: They are being frustrated. Who is successful in the material world? Can you name any instance in which someone has been really successful'' [Laughs. A brief pause.] Then?
Devotee: Everywhere in this material world, people are miserable. In America, Amy Vanderbilt, the famous etiquette expert, jumped out of her window.
Srila Prabhupada: There are many.
Devotee: Oh, yes. In San Diego and also in San Francisco, they have these fences so that when people jump off the bridges, thev are caught by the fences.
Srila Prabhupada: And I think in Berkeley they had to enclose the top of the clock tower with glass?
Devotee: Oh, yes, at the University of California—to keep the students from jumping off.
Srila Prabhupada: These are signs of how desperate people are, how disappointed with their life of materialism. They are always ready to commit suicide. Some thirty years ago, a man was sitting near me in a railway car—and all of a sudden, he jumped through the window. All of a sudden. He had been sitting nicely. What he was thinking I do not know. But he took the opportunity of the open window and jumped. I saw it.
Devotee: A kind of insanity overpowered him.
Srila Prabhupada: Insanity. Everyone is overpowered by insanity. Everyone who is trying to be happy in this material world—everyone is overpowered by insanity. They do not know the only solution is, as Krsna says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: "Just surrender to Me." (Bg. 18.66) But that they'll not do. Anything but surrender to Krsna.
Devotee: I was telling these Indian people that in America the big thing is they want to "raise the standard of living," but even those people who have raised the standard of living—they are also killing themselves. But many times these Indian people don't want to listen. "Our goal is economic development," they say. "That is the top priority."
Srila Prabhupada: Obstinacy. Dog's obstinacy. Now they are busy manufacturing various types of religious systems so that one may not have to surrender to Krsna. This is going on. Big, big swamis are saying, "Yes, whatever you manufacture, it is all right." Yatha mata tatha patha: "Whatever you concoct, that is all right." So people are content. If somebody said, "You surrender unto me," that would not be very palatable. When somebody says, "No, you can surrender to anyone," that is very palatable.
Devotee: Because that means no surrender. To surrender to anyone . . .
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Devotee: . . . means no surrender.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Devotee: Sometimes people say, "When Krsna wills it that I surrender to Him, then I will do it."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Such rascaldom. You think that Krsna is not willing it, rascal, when He says in the Bhagavad-gita, "You must do this—you must surrender to Me"?
Devotee: Sometimes people say, "When Krsna makes my heart open to Him, then I will surrender."
Srila Prabhupada: But you have no heart. You have simply stone. In the words of one devotional song: "My heart is harder than a stone. I know that chanting Hare Krsna can melt even a stone, but it does not melt my heart. Therefore I think my heart must be harder than a stone."
Devotee: Some of these religious systems even say that it is offensive to say the name of God.
Srila Prabhupada: What can I do? If these rascals say something like that, what can I do?
Devotee: Even when they write the word God, they don't write "G-o-d." They write "G, dash, d,"—so that they've indicated God, but they haven't said "God." It's too holy to pronounce. That's what they say.
Srila Prabhupada: They might as well say, "G-zero-d." [Laughter.] That would nicely convey their idea of God.
Devotee: Zero signifies their love for Him.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Zero is controlling both sides, G and d. If you multiply something by zero, what does it become?
Srila Prabhupada: That's all. This kind of thinking is sunyavadi, voidist. It is successful suicide. But we know life is not void, because God is not zero.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
ISKCON Begins 4,000-Mile Pilgrimage
Delhi, India—To commemorate the five-hundredth anniversary of the appearance of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, ISKCON devotees from all over the world have arrived in India to participate in the most extensive festival program they have ever undertaken.
The eighteen-month-long festival, known as a pada-yatra, or "walking festival," is traveling a four-thousand-mile pilgrimage route, passing through all the holy places Lord Caitanya visited on His South Indian tour. The pilgrimage began on September 2 in Dvaraka, a holy town on India's northwest coast. The devotees walk about twenty miles each day, arriving by midday at appointed festival sites in villages and towns along the way. There they are met by a caravan of trucks carrying tents and other supplies, and by evening they have organized a celebration—music, chanting, prasadam (food offered first to Lord Krsna), and displays showing how Lord Caitanya is currently being worshiped in all ISKCON centers worldwide. The pada-yatra will culminate at Lord Caitanya's birthplace, Mayapur, West Bengal, in March 1986, the five-hundredth anniversary of Lord Caitanya's appearance.
Lord Caitanya is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna Himself, appearing in the role of His own devotee to teach everyone how to best engage in devotional service. Lord Caitanya taught that, since God is absolute, we associate with Him directly by chanting His names; thus we cleanse our hearts and reawaken our eternal loving relationship with Him.
Five hundred years ago, while traveling throughout India, Lord Caitanya established sankirtana—the practice of congregationally chanting and glorifying the names of God—as the prime means of God realization in this age of quarrel. Lord Caitanya predicted that the congregational chanting of the holy names would spread to every city, town, and village in the world, and by traveling on foot from village to village. He set the example of how to implement this prediction.
By the grace of Srila Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual master of ISKCON, Lord Caitanya's sankirtana movement is now active and growing on five continents. The inspiration for the pada-yatra came largely from Srila Prabhupada's English translation of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, a sixteenth-century Bengali text by Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, which contains extensive descriptions of Lord Caitanya's travels throughout India. In his commentaries on this book, Srila Prabhupada provides further, present-day information about the exact locations and the historical significance of the villages and temples visited by Lord Caitanya, often explaining how to reach these places by train and on foot. These detailed descriptions have created an intense interest in Lord Caitanya's life, and thus devotees and other interested persons from all over the world will join the pada-yatra to retrace Lord Caitanya's footsteps.
In India, where sankirtana has been practiced for centuries, the international pilgrimage is expected to create excitement, since most villagers are as yet unaware that Westerners have adopted the chanting of Hare Krsna. In addition. ISKCON public affairs offices will broadcast the progress of the pada-yatra to the international media.
Says His Holiness Lokanatha Swami, festival organizer and a native of India: "By witnessing this grand festival, the local people will gain renewed enthusiasm for chanting the names of God. People in the villages will see that the chanting is also being practiced by people from affluent Western countries.
"ISKCON devotees are active followers of Sri Caitanya, and the purpose of the pada-yatra is to freely distribute the gift of Lord Caitanya, inviting everyone to chant Hare Krsna and be happy."
Are we pawns in the hands of fate,
by Kundali dasa
James Oliver Huberty was a pent-up, out-of-work gun nut with a grudge against the world. Finally he snapped. One day last July, Huberty armed himself and went "hunting humans." Storming into a McDonald's restaurant in San Ysidro, California, he opened fire. By the time a police marksman dropped him seventy-five minutes later, he had killed twenty-one people and wounded eighteen others. News of Huberty's rampage shocked the nation. It was the worst one-day, one-man massacre in U.S. history. For days afterward, across America, the golden arches—symbol of the McDonald's restaurants—stood as a grim reminder of the tragedy in San Ysidro.
The morning after the massacre, three passengers seated near me on a train into Philadelphia were discussing the incident. One of them defended Huberty, saying he had been a victim of circumstances beyond his control, "a pawn in the hands of fate." It had been his destiny to kill. The other two disagreed. Huberty, they said, had had the freedom to do otherwise. He didn't have to commit murder. Both sides were giving reasons to support their views. Before I could decide whether to break into their conversation, however, all three got off the train, leaving me to ponder over this problem and to reflect on the Krsna conscious solution.
The philosophical question of fate versus free will is an old one. Are our thoughts and actions completely determined by forces over which we have no control? Or, are we free to decide for ourselves, to be the captains of our fate? Most of us are inclined to think we are free. The idea that our subjective sense of choice might be illusory, we find hard to accept. It goes against the grain of our instinctive consciousness, against our sense of human dignity, and against our sense of morality. Nevertheless, there is strong evidence in favor of determinism, and the question of fate versus free will remains a controversial issue.
Many theories, along with their various supporting arguments, exist in favor of both free will and determinism. Consider determinism. For hundreds of years, the main argument in favor of this view was religious. God, being all-powerful and all-knowing, was considered to have predetermined all that would happen in the future. He knew every choice we would ever make. Everything, therefore, must be predetermined by His prior knowledge and prior decisions.
Another argument for determinism, called the metaphysical argument, is based on the maxim "Every event must have a cause." The idea here is that inasmuch as the belief is widely held that all physical events must have a cause, there is no justifiable reason why the same should not apply to mental events. Acceptance of physical determinism and rejection of mental determinism would be arbitrary. For one who accepts this maxim, it stands to reason that determinism is irrefutable.
In the modern day, however, the strongest argument in favor of determinism comes from science. Discoveries in the fields of psychology, physiology, neurology, and pharmacology indicate that the determinist's dream of being able to predict all facets of human behavior may soon come true. Behavioral scientists anticipate a time when an examination of the biological and psychological characteristics of an infant will enable them to write his life's story before he lives it. In short, the evidence available today regarding human motivation and how human attitudes are affected makes a strong case for determinism.
Still others argue in favor of free will. William James, in his essay "The Dilemma of Determinism," points out that we undeniably have attitudes and experiences that make sense only if we are free agents. For example, our feelings of regret or remorse make no sense if our lives are strictly determined. Determinism puts us in a "curious logical predicament," James writes, wherein murder and other heinous acts are no longer sinful or immoral and regret for things we have done becomes an absurdity and an error. For what is the use of regret or remorse if abominable acts absolutely cannot be avoided?
Apart from feelings of remorse and regret being meaningless, legal and ethical judgments also become meaningless, James points out. As Huberty's protagonist on the train was arguing, we cannot attribute responsibility to criminals for their crimes if they have no choice. If we are merely pawns in the hands of fate, how can we be punishable for doing what we couldn't possibly have avoided? If we say, "Well, punishment is also predetermined," then punishment loses all moral significance, If we then claim that punishment is useful because it can alter the factors that determine a criminal's behavior, then we must assume the judges are free agents in their decision to punish. This simply proves that for morality to be meaningful, someone must be assumed free.
Finally, an argument that is sometimes made in favor of free will is that if determinism is true, those who believe in free will are determined to be that way. In that case, what is the use of discussing fate and free will? Discussion implies freedom to decide the matter one way or the other. The very fact that determinists bother to argue the question shows their implicit acceptance that some free will exists. Or they must agree that they have been engaged by fate to waste their time arguing, another "curious logical predicament."
The Krsna consciousness philosophy, I'm happy to say, can reconcile the two poles of the fate-and-free-will controversy. This may startle some of our readers. Generally, those who have only a cursory knowledge of the Krsna conscious philosophical system assume it is deterministic, because it embraces the idea of karma. According to the popular conception of the law of karma, all human actions are the result of some previous action. This is clearly a deterministic concept. Naturally, therefore, some of our readers may wonder where free will fits into the Krsna conscious scheme.
We get our understanding of the reconciliation between fate and free will from the Bhagavad-gita. The first relevant bit of information given in the Gita is that we are not our material bodies; we are eternal spirit souls who occupy material bodies. Once this is at least theoretically accepted, we can go on to understand the extent to which we are determined and the extent to which we have free will.
As spiritual beings, we are all part and parcel of the original and supreme spiritual person, God. That means we are qualitatively of the same nature as God. Just as a tiny gold nugget contains, in minute degree, all the chemical properties of the huge gold mine, so we, the individual spiritual entities, have all the spiritual qualities of God in minute quantity. Qualitatively we are one with God, but quantitatively we are not. God is infinite, and we are infinitesimal. We can never be equal to Him.
The Bhagavad-gita informs us that God's identity is Krsna. He is the possessor of all opulences—wealth, beauty, knowledge, strength, fame, and renunciation—without limit. We, being part and parcel of Him, have these same opulences, but to a far lesser degree. God is the supreme creator, and we too have some creative ability. God is the supreme independent person, and we too have minute independence, or free will. Because of our finite nature, however, our natural condition is to be dependent on God. In other words, although we have free will, still, because of our minuteness, our highest beatitude is to be sheltered and controlled by God. Our minute free will is manifest, however, in the form of our prerogative to choose between staying under Krsna's control in the spiritual world, His abode, or coming to the material world and trying to enjoy apart from Krsna.
Krsna creates the material world to facilitate those souls who choose to leave the spiritual world. Since the material sense objects and our spiritual senses do not interact, material nature awards us material bodies equipped with material senses so we can try to lord it over nature and enjoy. At the same time, nature conditions us to forget our original identity and characteristics. This condition is called maya, illusion. Because of this illusion, we try our utmost to squeeze out pleasure and happiness from this material world.
Actually, we cannot control the material energy of God. Our material bodies are mechanisms produced by nature and are completely subject to the laws governing matter. All we are free to do is desire according to our conceptions of material enjoyment. And the material nature, acting as God's agent, fulfills our desires. Bewildered by our misidentification with the body as our true self, we foolishly think ourselves the doers of activities in this world. In actuality these activities are carried out by the material nature as conducted by its three modes: goodness, passion, and ignorance.
Goodness, passion, and ignorance are the three phases in which material nature operates. A person in the mode of goodness is wiser than persons in the other modes. He has greater knowledge and is less affected by the material miseries. He likes clean surroundings and has few vices. The representative type of this mode is the poet or philosopher.
The mode of passion is symptomized by attraction between male and female. This attraction leads to intense longings for sense gratification and motivates one to seek honor in society, acquire many possessions, and become entangled in family affairs. A person in the mode of passion must struggle and work very hard to please his spouse and maintain his prestige. In the modern day, the mode of passion is considered the standard of happiness. Everyone feverishly tries to enjoy his senses at virtually any cost, the net result being greater and greater illusion. Gradually the illusion becomes so deep that the mode of passion is transformed into the mode of ignorance.
The mode of ignorance is the opposite of the mode of goodness. A person in this mode is degraded to the lowest status of human life, and even lower, into the animal species. His intelligence becomes so covered that he loses all interest in cultivating knowledge. He is unclean, lazy, and dull. He is not interested in spiritual understanding; rather, he is addicted to intoxication and too much sleep. Such unfortunate persons populate the skid rows of the world. They are virtually unable to do anything to benefit themselves. Ultimately the mode of ignorance leads to madness.
In the Bhagavad-gita, Krsna explains how every activity in this material world is associated with one of these three modes. For example, there is faith in the mode of goodness, in the mode of passion, and in the mode of ignorance. The same is true of food, knowledge, acts of charity, work, understanding, determination, and even happiness. At every moment our bodies are under the influence of these modes. When we sleep or take intoxicants, that's the mode of ignorance. When we indulge in sex, that's the mode of passion. And when we philosophize about life's meaning, that's the mode of goodness.
Whenever we choose a particular course of action in terms of our desire for material enjoyment, we are in fact agreeing, knowingly or unknowingly, to become influenced by the mode associated with that particular choice. In other words, our free will in this material world is limited only to choices within the modes of nature. In our original condition we are transcendental to these modes, but upon coming to this material world, we lose our freedom to act outside of their influence.
Material nature, although allowing us only a limited choice, deludes us into thinking we are completely free. But our freedom is like that of a prisoner who has the privilege to choose between a first-, second-, or third-class prison cell. He has three choices, but in all cases he is still in prison. Like a prison, the three modes of nature restrict our original free will. The instinctive sense of free will that we now feel is factual, but it is only partially realized.
Our destiny in this material world is determined by a combination of our partial free will and the three modes of material nature. According to our previous karma, we are destined to face certain situations in this life. In those situations we have a certain amount of freedom to choose how we want to react. Once we choose, we come under the control of the mode associated with our choice, and we are obliged to accept the consequences, be they happy or miserable.
Huberty, for example, was destined to lose his job and to have a generally hard life. He reacted to all this by going beserk and killing, which is in the mode of ignorance. He could have slept it off, or he could have sought help through religion, or even psychiatry. But blinded by his frustrated desire to lord it over the material world, he came under the influence of the mode of passion, which later became transformed into wrath (ignorance). Then he was locked in. He felt compelled to go hunting humans. In his heart he knew better, but he could not surmount the conditioning influence of the mode of ignorance.
Conditioning by the modes of nature is so strong that we tend to make the same choices again and again, even when we know our choice is detrimental to our long-range self-interest. This conditioning also accounts for why determinists are able to gather so much scientific data in support of their theory. As we all know, force of habit is extremely difficult to break. We have our partial free will, but even then we become so conditioned that our partial free will is scarcely used. We just make the same choices again and again. Thus. for a given set of circumstances our choices and actions become predictable.
Fate and free will, as described in the Bhagavad-gita, are analogous to the relationship between the state, the law-abiding citizen, and the criminals in prison. A citizen is considered free only if he obeys the laws of the state. If he breaks the law, he goes to jail. A prisoner may enjoy limited freedom to choose between reading a book or writing a letter: between Jell-0 or ice-cream for dessert; between work in the barber shop or in the kitchen. But he is not free to abandon the prison altogether. By comparison, the free citizen is in a better position, but both are controlled by the law. Practically, the only unconditioned exercise of their free will is in their decision to choose between being a good citizen or a criminal.
Similarly, as eternal spirit souls, we are forever free to choose between being a free citizen of the spiritual world or an imprisoned citizen in the material world. The choice is entirely up to us. In the spiritual world we voluntarily agree to be controlled by Krsna, in love. As a result, we relish perpetual transcendental bliss in the association of the pure devotees of God. In the material world we are controlled by Krsna also, but through His agent material nature in the form of the three modes. Here we must undergo repeated birth, old age, disease, and death, as well as other concomitant physical and mental miseries.
From the above description, it is clear that Huberty was responsible for his shooting spree. After all, he chose to come to the material world, and of all possible choices, he made the decision that obliged him to mow down twenty-one people. He could have done otherwise, but he didn't.
Furthermore, we can understand that in spite of the law of karma, moral and legal judgments are still relevant, because we do have some limited choice to react morally or immorally to the various situations we encounter due to our past karma. And because we have choices, our feelings of regret and remorse are also valid.
Please note, however, that from a purely spiritual point of view, the exercise of our limited free will in this material world is of relatively little significance. It simply isn't our natural position to be here in the first place. A liberated soul, a free citizen of the spiritual world, understands that all aspects of life in the material world—whether in goodness, passion, or ignorance, whether moral or immoral—are unnatural and undesirable for the soul.
The Bhagavad-gita further informs us that we need not remain here; we can be liberated. By proper understanding of our spiritual position, the nature of this material world, the nature of the spiritual world, and the nature of Krsna, we can become enlightened and free from entanglement in the three modes of nature.
We can gain this understanding by a careful study of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is. There the process of liberation, called bhakti-yoga, the path of pure devotional service, is also given. Devotional service is transcendental to the stringent rule of the three modes of nature. The decision to perform devotional service is, therefore, the best use of our free will. Similarly, your reading BACK TO GODHEAD magazine is a liberating, devotional activity. It is not under the jurisdiction of nature's modes. It is an act of your original free will.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
Overpopulation—A Popular Myth
by Mathuresa dasa
Social scientists from around the world gathered in Mexico City last August to discuss the alarming growth of the world's population. The conference, sponsored by the United Nations, couldn't have met in a more appropriate place. With a population estimated to reach eighteen million by 1985, Mexico City will soon surpass Tokyo as the world's largest urban center.
Mexico City's problems are similar to those found in other major urban areas. Three million cars, seven thousand diesel buses, and 130,000 factories spew eleven thousand tons of pollutants into the air daily. Some estimates put unemployment at forty percent, and burglary and theft have risen thirty-five percent in the past year.
But these problems, experts say, are only symptomatic. The one problem that underlies all the others—not only in Mexico City but in urban areas around the world—is overpopulation. Mexico City, from a count of two million just after World War II, grew to nine million by 1970, and city officials predict thirty million by the year 2000. And by 2025, world population, which now stands at 4.7 billion, will reach 8.3 billion.
How will we ever feed, clothe, house, and educate all those people? The conclusion of most social scientists and economists is that we can't and that the solution to overpopulation is family planning, or (less euphemistically) abortion or contraception.
But a Krsna conscious person will take issue not only with this "solution"—the mass murder of millions of unborn children each year—but also with the almost universally held assumption that population growth is the number-one culprit, and even with the assumption it's a culprit at all.
The Vedic literature asserts that Lord Krsna, the eternal Supreme Person, has been supplying the necessities of life to all living beings since the beginning of creation. All living things are part and parcel of Krsna; they are His children. And since He is all-powerful, He can support an unlimited number of children.
Sound simplistic? Fanatically religious? Consider the facts. Even though many of the planet's five billion inhabitants are hungry, there is enough food to feed everyone. A report published by the Economics Research Institute shows that only a fraction of the annual U.S. food surpluses could end hunger in all the world's poorest nations. Even though the U.S. government—like many other governments—pays farmers to restrict the size of their crops, still U.S. surpluses are more than sufficient to end starvation.
Furthermore, hundreds of millions of acres on this planet are used to grow non-essential crops like coffee and tobacco. Millions more are used to grow the grains and other products needed to produce meat, wine, beer, and liquor. Coffee, tobacco, meat, and liquor are not necessities. Human society is at present addicted to these things because of a lack of Krsna consciousness.
Another problem supposedly related to overpopulation is unemployment. Mexico City's unemployment rate is already soaring, and with thousands of peasants pouring in from the countryside each week, the problem grows worse.
But why not pin the blame for hunger and unemployment on mismanagement rather than on population growth? By Krsna's arrangement a man can live comfortably by cultivating an acre or two of land and keeping a cow. If the energy tied up in Mexico City's 130,000 factories were put into irrigating the Mexican countryside and into intelligently dividing the land. Mexico's unemployment problem would cease to exist. And the labor force would have some independence and dignity, rather than having to depend on the ups and downs of an industrial economy.
Another related problem in Mexico City is pollution. In addition to air pollution, the city produces fourteen thousand tons of garbage a day, only eight thousand of which is processed. This too, experts say, is caused by too many people living too close together.
That may be. But why should millions crowd into a few square miles when they can live much more sanely and comfortably in the country? Population alone doesn't produce thousands of tons of waste paper, waste metal, waste plastic, and so on. Nor are these wastes the product of man's only essential occupation: agriculture. Waste—not only metal and plastic, but millions of tons of deadly chemicals—is primarily a product of modern industrial economics. The same industries that make a few people wealthy and provide a few more with jobs also dump their wastes at our cities' doorsteps.
So it is not at all simplistic or fanatical to say that Krsna can provide more than enough for everyone, now and in the future. It is a fact. There is enough for everyone now, and by Krsna's grace, the earth has the potential to provide for many billions more. There is no such thing as overpopulation. The world is suffering only from a lack of competent, God conscious leadership.
by Dravida dasa
"The Use of Cocaine Is Escalating With Frightening Rapidity," screamed a recent eight-column headline in The New York Times. The article went on to say an estimated twenty-five million Americans have tried the drug, and five to six million use it every month. Perhaps 1.5 million have a serious cocaine dependency. And five thousand people try it for the first time every day. As New York State Senator Roy M. Goodman recently said, "[Cocaine use] must now be viewed as an epidemic threat to society."
Cocaine is the most potent of all natural stimulants. A person high on the drug feels smarter and sexier, more alive and competent, than ever before. "With cocaine," explained one user, "you're indestructible, perfect, the giant of your dreams." Another addict, who squandered his inheritance and nearly destroyed the delicate membranes in his nose, said he nevertheless "felt powerful, in control. Cocaine is ego food. It feeds the ego like nothing I've ever seen in my life. "The illusion of infallibility and indestructibility lasts for maybe twenty or thirty minutes, and then there's the inevitable crash. Anxiety and, for the heavily addicted, paranoia close in, followed by the frantic search for more cocaine—or for barbiturates or heroin to dull the anguish.
Recognizing the threat that burgeoning cocaine abuse poses for American society, President Reagan has mounted a massive law-enforcement effort in South Florida, where most of the potent white powder enters the country from Colombia. But the profits are too great ($20 to $30 billion a year) and the organized criminals too wily for the antismuggling effort. As one veteran official from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration said, "The only way to stop the [cocaine] trade is to stop the production or stop the demand. And we can't stop the source."
Let's take a look at the demand aspect. Here's where the teachings of Krsna consciousness can help.
The first principle of Krsna consciousness, as Lord Krsna Himself teaches in the Bhagavad-gita, is the radical dichotomy between the soul and the body. The soul (the self, or jivatma) is pure spirit, an infinitesimal particle of consciousness, whereas the body is nothing but a hunk of lifeless matter that seems alive only because the soul is within it. The soul is unborn and eternal, unchanging and indestructible—the body is impermanent and always in flux.
Along with this concept of the eternal soul in an ephemeral body, Krsna naturally teaches the concept of reincarnation: "As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death" (Bg. 2.13). Like an old coat, the old and decrepit body is discarded when we die, and the soul enters a new body to repeat the process of birth, growth, activity, aging, disease, and death. Each of us—each soul—has gone through this trauma of reincarnation countless times, in countless varieties of bodies, and now in this human form, says Krsna, we should end this painful cycle. Originally possessed of eternal life and limitless bliss and knowledge, the glorious spirit soul is not meant for suffering ignominiously in this world of matter. He's meant for the spiritual world, the kingdom of God.
The problem, of course, is that we've forgotten all this. Instead of identifying ourselves as spirit souls, particles of the Supreme Spirit—God, or Krsna—we identify ourselves with our material bodies and their extensions: family, community. nation, race, religion, social station, and soon. And this false identification, known in Sanskrit as ahankara, "the false ego," keeps us in ignorance and tightly bound up in the complexities of the material world.
The science of Krsna consciousness is the perfect antidote for the false ego. Instead of serving the endless demands of the body for pleasure, we learn to serve the Lord and His representative, the guru. Instead of surrendering to our bad habits and self-destructive addictions, we follow four regulative principles that prohibit not only intoxication but also illicit sex, gambling, and meat-eating. By following these principles of service and self-restraint, we transform the false ego into the real ego—the understanding that we are each an eternal loving servant of Lord Krsna.
Now, in recalling our discussion of cocaine's effects, we can see that the drug greatly strengthens the false ego. Indeed, it is certified "ego food"! In a remarkable section of the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna gives a perfect description of how the cocaine addict thinks: '"I am the lord of everything. I am the enjoyer. I am perfect, powerful, and happy. . . . There is no one so powerful and happy as I am.' In this way such persons are deluded by ignorance. Perplexed by various anxieties and bound by a network of illusions, they become too strongly attached to sense enjoyment and fall down into hell."
Who is Krsna speaking of in this passage? The demons, the enemies of God. The hard fact is that the more we try to enjoy intense sensual pleasures—whether through drugs or through sex or by any other means—the more we violate God's laws, the more we cover our innate spiritual knowledge, and the more we suffer.
We each have within us both the divine and the demonic natures. It's just a question of which qualities we want to cultivate. If we lead a life according to God's laws, a life of Krsna consciousness, then our divine nature—which, after all, is our real nature—predominates. Such a life is full of peace and spiritual happiness, and it leads us out of the clutches of the material world and back to the eternal kingdom of God. But if we cultivate the demonic qualities, basing our life on the pleasures of the senses, we must suffer. Even a life of so-called wholesome pleasures that rejects cocaine and other drugs is also sinful. The "crash" may take a little longer to manifest—as disease, old age, and death—but it's no less painful.
The desire to reach out for pleasure is natural in every embodied being, because the embodied condition is ontologically one of lack, of separation from our blissful home in God's kingdom. But if in our attempt to attain greater happiness we abuse the body with drugs, then we are simply deepening our ignorance and our false identification with matter, which is what has caused our embodied condition in the first place. And the agonizing reactions are plain for all to see.
On the other hand, when we direct our attempts for greater happiness toward increasing our awareness of Krsna and of our eternal relationship with Him, there is no comedown, no crash. There is only a progressive awakening of spiritual bliss and knowledge. If the government is really serious about halting the spread of cocaine use and getting present addicts off the drug, it should help the Krsna consciousness movement spread the science of devotion to God, which alone can destroy the root of the crisis.
We welcome your letters.
Thank you for sending us BACK TO GODHEAD magazine. We enjoy reading it, as it keeps us well informed of the worldwide activities of ISKCON. May Lord Sri Krsna give you all more and more strength to spread Krsna consciousness.
Sanjay and Jayant Vaitha
* * *
When I read Kundali dasa's article on gurukula [19/9], I got an idea. I am a gurukula student (age thirteen), and in English class we have writing assignments. So I asked my teacher if I could write this letter to the editors.
I have often heard the comment "Hare Krsna children do not receive a proper education." I have heard this from aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents, guests who come to the Sunday love feasts at the temple, and new devotees.
I always explain that we are still pioneers. This way of teaching, based on the fact that we are not our bodies, has never before been attempted in the English language. We want to teach from the proper perspective, we want to teach from the vantage point that we are not our bodies, we are spirit souls, there is a God, He has a personality, a form, and we have a relationship with Him. All this is taught along with academics. This is the foundation of a gurukula education. This process teaches one how to have a peaceful life.
Besides, our academic standard is high. In the year of 1983, several reporters, professors, and other visitors came to the gurukula in Gita-nagari and were impressed by how the children were peaceful and so enthusiastic to study. In the public schools the children do not always find enjoyment in their studies, and therefore the classroom becomes disrupted because of the children's misbehavior. The educational system for the Hare Krsna movement is the only proper education.
At Gita-nagari we are taught tutorially. Srila Prabhupada (the founder-acarya of the Hare Krsna movement) said that teaching tutorially is the best method of teaching. Tutorially means that in one classroom each child is progressing at his own rate. The children in the class I attend are academically progressing at their own pace. Some are two grades ahead. I like this system, because if you are having difficulty with some subject matter, you are allowed time to gain a proper understanding of the subject without fear of falling behind in your class. If you're ahead and you comprehend the subject properly, you don't have to wait for the others to catch up.
Every child in our school is excited to go to a Hare Krsna school, because it offers real knowledge. You are taught why you have come here to this material world, where you will go at death, and what to do while you are here. We are studying the basic subjects, such as math, English, social studies, geography, history, and so on, but on the proper basis. God is always the center of our activities. In other schools, God is not discussed. He is intentionally left out. Therefore, our education is not based on falsehood.
* * *
The following is an excerpt from a letter written to Mahadyuti dasa, a devotee in London, by his mother.
I do like the articles in the magazine relating to everyday questions and problems. Even if I don't necessarily always agree with your points of view, I certainly continue to understand them more and find them helpful in talking to other people.
I feel I owe it to you to tell you that I no longer only defend your way of life, but I speak of it in such a positive and proud way (because I know you are devoting yourself to the welfare of others) that I know you would be happy about it.
I'm not sure if you're encouraged to be proud, but I feel proud of you, your life, and your accomplishments.
Mrs. S. N. Kesten
A lesson in pleasure seeking.
by Satyaraja dasa
The search for happiness is natural, because it is the constitutional position of the spirit soul to be eternally joyful. But our search for happiness in the external, physical world is always frustrated; we look everywhere, never realizing permanent pleasure.
The musk deer, an animal native to Central Asia, gives us a hint to the solution of this predicament. The musk deer is famous for the scent produced from a glandular sac beneath the skin of the male's abdomen. Not only is the reddish-brown secretion from this sac much sought after by human beings, who use it as a base for many perfumes, but according to the Vedic tradition, the musk deer himself sometimes goes mad over the powerful fragrance. In his madness he runs wildly about, looking everywhere for the intense scent. Everywhere, that is, except within himself.
Are you about to hear some facile pronouncement about "the happiness within"? Well, yes and no. Yes, the devotees of Krsna will tell you that by serving Krsna one feels happiness within—happiness independent of the fleeting pains and pleasures of the physical body. No, their statement is not facile; it is based on experience, and on a realized understanding of our spiritual identity.
Every living entity is a spirit soul—part and parcel of the Supreme Soul, Krsna—and entitled to the unlimited spiritual pleasure derived from satisfying Krsna's transcendental senses. The temporary physical body is only a covering over the soul, just as a shirt or coat is only a covering over the body. In comparison to even a drop of the transcendental happiness of serving Lord Krsna, the greatest pleasures of the physical world appear meager.
We just instinctively follow the "scent" of happiness, but if that scent leads us to gratify our bodily senses, rather than to serve and please Lord Krsna, we have been fooled. Like the musk deer, we'll search vainly in the external world, never experiencing the happiness within.
An Indian Army General inquires from Giriraja Swami,
When His Holiness Giriraja Swami visited Pune, India, recently to open a new center of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, he addressed a well-attended gathering at the city's main hall, Nehru Memorial. While the divisional commissioner, K. S. Sidhu, and Maharashtra legislator Atui Sangtani sat on the dais with Giriraja Swami, and while Bhari B. R. Malhotra, prominent industrialist and life member of ISKCON, introduced the Hare Krishna movement, Lt. General T. S. Oberoi, in charge of the Southern Command of the Indian Army, humbly look his seat in the audience. (The Southern Command is the largest command in India and covers eight states.) After hearing Giriraja Swami speak and answer questions from the floor. General Oberoi rose. . .
General Oberoi: Your Holiness, I know you are short of time, but may I ask you a question?
Giriraja Swami: Oh, yes.
General Oberoi: There has been a personal conflict in my mind as to what is the aim for which we are born, what is the aim of our life. It certainly could not be the aim to amass some wealth and ultimately die, or to make a building and then die, or to marry and procreate and then die.
For our minor activities in life we have the aims set first, before we get going to achieve them. When we train our people in the army—whatever they have got to do—we first tell them what is the aim. And once they are clear what is the aim, then we decide what means we have got to adopt to achieve that. And invariably we don't go wrong.
Now here it is, my whole life is going to waste, to my mind—I am still not very clear what is the aim of my life. A lot of people have been benefited by this great movement [ISKCON], by chanting, but I still feel that this is all the means to the end. But only once you are very clear what the aim is can you decide whether chanting is the only answer. Would you kindly, Your Holiness, enlighten us about the aim of life, so that thereafter we can be very, very clear as to what we have got to do to achieve that aim?
Giriraja Swami: Your question is glorious, because it deals with the Absolute Truth and is therefore beneficial for everyone. This same question was asked by Srila Sanatana Gosvami to Sri 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.] Sanatana Gosvami had been a very highly placed government servant—prime minister to the Nawab Hussain Shah—but he resigned from his government service to join the mission of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
So when Sanatana Gosvami met Lord Caitanya at Prayag—Allahabad—he said to Him, "My Lord, people flatter me that I am a very great man, a very learned scholar, but actually I am a great fool. And I'm such a fool that when they say I am learned. I believe them, even though I do not even know who I am or what is the purpose of my life. So can you please enlighten me as to who I am and what is the ultimate goal of life?"
In reply, Lord Caitanya explained that the living entity is the eternal servant of the Lord, Sri Krsna, and that the ultimate goal of life is to develop love for Krsna: prema pum-artho mahan.
As spiritual souls, we are part and parcel of God. And the natural function of the part is to serve the whole. The hand is part of the body, so its natural function is to serve the body. If the hand is not serving the body, it is diseased or dead. In the same way, our natural function is to serve God. And if we are not serving Him, it is to be understood that we are in a diseased condition, that we are spiritually dead. We must serve God.
Now, how to serve God? If we understand we are eternal servants of God, or Krsna, we have to act in our constitutional position. In other words, in addition to theoretical understanding, we have to engage in the practical activity of serving Krsna. So how to serve Krsna?
Lord Caitanya has instructed that the highest standard of service to the Lord is that of the gopis [cowherd girls] of Vrndavana. [The gopis of Vrndavana are renowned in the Vedic literature as the greatest of all devotees of Lord Krsna.]
How is that? Once Lord Krsna said that He had a headache and that the only thing that could cure Him would be dust from the feet of His devotee. So His messenger went and announced that Krsna had a headache and that He could be cured only by the dust from His devotee's feet. He approached many, but everyone said, "Oh, if the dust from my feet touches the head of the Lord, it will be a great offense. I will go to hell. I'm not going to give dust from my feet for the Lord's head." So the messenger became very discouraged. But Krsna advised him, "Now you go to Vrndavana, and see what happens there."
So the messenger went to Vrndavana, and immediately all the gopis surrounded him. "Oh, you've come from Lord Krsna! How is our Lord? Please tell us, how is He doing?"
The messenger replied, "The Lord has a headache."
"Oh, no! The Lord has a headache. Oh, no! What can we do?"
"The only thing that will cure Him is the dust from His devotee's feet."
Immediately they replied, "Oh, yes, yes! Take it, take it all. Take as much as you want. Take everything."
The messenger said, "Don't you know that you could go to hell for this?"
"We don't care if we go to hell, as long as Krsna's headache is cured."
So this is love—pure, selfless love of God. And this should be the aim of life. This love can be achieved simply by chanting the holy names of the Lord: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
General Oberoi: I thank you, Your Holiness, you have answered my question.
Religion's Ultimate Goal
Recently, at the ISKCON centers in West Virginia and Washington, D.C., I witnessed with pleasure thousands of Indians coming to visit. And I know the same phenomenon is occurring at dozens of other ISKCON centers throughout North America and Europe, wherever there is a large Indian population. In India, an average of one thousand persons daily and five thousand on Sunday visit the ISKCON temple in Bombay. And ISKCON's centers at the sacred sites of Vrndavana and Mayapur draw similarly large crowds. Unlike other visitors to ISKCON centers, who are encountering Krsna consciousness for the first time, Indians recognize this as their traditional culture, as something they have learned from their parents and should continue to uphold. Visiting Lord Krsna's temple, they feel, is a pious act, a religious duty. The temple also provides an amiable atmosphere for families and friends to socialize. But beyond these personal reasons for coming to the temple, is there a higher motive?
Generally, people execute religious duties for material ends. That is, they pray, perform rituals, and so on, in hopes of attaining temporary goals: better health, a good marriage, success in business. But in the Bhagavad-gita, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna, advises that those who practice religious life by seeking material boons are missing the real point. Material life is always temporary and filled with unhappy reverses. The real goal of spiritual life is to attain pure love of God (bhakti), which alone enables us to transcend the inevitable sufferings of material existence. By keeping this transcendental goal in mind, we can attain the highest spiritual result from our visits to a Krsna conscious temple.
Some Hindus customarily follow the religious practices of yajna (sacrifice), dana (charity), and tapasya (austerity). Indeed, the Bhagavad-gita recommends that one never give up these practices. One should not, however, perform them blindly, but in a way, that helps develop devotion to Krsna.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam informs us that, because of a lack of wealth and qualified worshipers in the present age of faithlessness, (Kali-yuga), many sacrifices of former ages are not possible. For this age, the sankirtana-yajna, or the congregational chanting of the holy names of God, is the recommended form of religious sacrifice. To come into a congregation of devotees and chant the maha-mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—and at the same time to view the Deities of Radha-Krsna or Sita-Rama, is certainly easy and pleasant. Yet the spiritual results it brings are greater than those gained from any other method of yajna. Of course, one may chant Hare Krsna in any place or circumstance, but by chanting in the temple with others, one becomes inspired and determined to chant more regularly and seriously.
As for dana (charity), in India pious Hindus often perform such publicly charitable acts as establishing schools and hospitals, digging wells and planting trees in public places, and making public parks. It's also popular for a father to give charity at the birth and marriage of his children. But if charity is given with a motive to increase one's own name and fame as a benefactor, or if it is given only in support of projects of temporary value, then neither the donor nor the recipients benefit spiritually. Charity should be for pleasing Krsna; therefore, one should contribute to the maintenance and expansion of a Krsna conscious temple or to the cause of spreading transcendental knowledge through projects such as the printing and distribution of spiritual literature.
Some people may think that the practice of tapasya, or austerity, was only for a past age when yogis performed penances in the Himalayan Mountains. Or some people perform the austerity of fasting on certain days, although such austerity is usually for some material end and can hardly be considered a pure devotional practice. The appropriate spiritual austerity, however, is to refrain from bad habits like illicit sex, meat-eating, and intoxication. This austerity will help us quickly advance in spiritual life. By visiting the temple and taking the pure food offered to Krsna (krsna-prasadam) and by hearing the purifying words of Lord Krsna from the Bhagavad-gita, one avoids indulging in unnecessary vices. And through the association of devotees one can find the personal resolve to gradually adopt these austerities in one's own life.
Although Lord Krsna appeared in India, Krsna consciousness should not be viewed in a sectarian way as an "Indian religion," just as Christianity should not be viewed as a "Mideastern religion." Spiritual values are universal and are transcendental to all designations of nation, race, or sectarian creed. But because the Vedic culture flourished in India for so long, the people of India today still evince the vestiges of that advanced spiritual culture, a culture that should be shared with the world. Because of centuries of foreign rule as well as the mad chase after materialism, India is drifting away from these original values. Some Indians are even ashamed of their original culture, as if it were primitive or in other ways inferior to other cultures. The fact is, however, that India never flourished so much as when Vedic culture was fully intact; and even today she can make the most glorious contribution to world culture by rediscovering the roots of her Krsna conscious culture.
The scriptures state, "Those born in the land of Bharata-varsa (India) have the special responsibility to help others by distributing spiritual knowledge." (Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila 9.41) Although this responsibility is shared by all Indians, few have taken it seriously. Most notably, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada humbly came forward with Krsna's pure message, journeying to the West in 1966 to single-handedly spread Krsna consciousness. It is only because of his work in forming the Krsna consciousness movement that the authorized process of bhakti-yoga is now established within the cultures of all of the different nations of the world. Now, people the world over can avail themselves of India's rare gift of spiritual culture.
Life in the present age is very demanding, and just to eke out a living in today's precarious economy takes a person's full endeavor. It may appear, therefore, that to visit a temple or to take up spiritual practice is a luxury or a waste of money and endeavor. But to think that way is a mistake. Even it you're struggling full-time with worldly responsibilities, still it is wise to take the time to visit an ISKCON center. And if you feel unable to fully surrender to Lord Krsna's lotus feet, you can still chant His holy names, hear His immortal words, and honor His prasadam. And it you learn how to make even a brief visit to the Krsna conscious temple a visit of pure devotion, then Lord Krsna, by His inconceivable grace, may bring you close to Him sooner than you imagine.—SDG