Why is the attraction between male and female so powerful?
A lecture given in Montreal in 1968
isavasyam idam sarvam
"Everything animate and inanimate within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong." (Isopanisad, 1)
Everything belongs to Krsna. That is the verdict of the Isopanisad. For example, this land of America is now divided, but to whom did it originally belong? It belonged to Krsna. You have come here and divided Krsna's property and declared, "This is Canada, this is the United States, this is South America." In this way you are claiming proprietorship. But are you really the proprietor? No. You have encroached upon another's property, so you are all thieves.
Actually, this is the position of anyone who claims to own something in this material world. This is illusion: janasya moho 'yam aham mameti. Aham mameti means "I and mine." In other words, when one thinks, "This body is me, and everything in relationship to this body is mine," he is a thief and he is in illusion.
Now, what does one consider "mine"? His wife, his children, his home, his country. Why? Because he has a bodily relationship with these things. The original illusion is to think, "I am this body," and then all these illusory, false relationships develop.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam explains that this illusion develops because we are in the kingdom of maya, Krsna's illusory potency, and she is attracting us. What is that attractive force? For man that attractive force is woman; and for woman, man. The whole world is going on because of this sex attraction. Not only in human society but also in dog society, cat society, hog society, bird society—everywhere the female is attractive for the male, and the male is attractive for the female. This is illusion.
To get out of this illusion, we must be trained in how to counteract sex attraction. That is why from a young age, brahmacarya [celibacy] training is given so that one can know that a woman's body is not actually attractive. What is attractive about it? It is simply made of flesh and blood. Similarly, if a woman analyzes a man's body, what is there to be attracted to? Flesh and blood? Is flesh and blood very attractive?
In this connection there is a nice story about how one young girl kept her beauty in a pot. Once there was a very beautiful girl, and a rich boy was after her. The girl was married, but she was not very rich. So the boy was always proposing to her that they enjoy sex life, and she became perplexed: "He's a rich man. If I don't agree, he may do some harm to my husband or to me." So she made a plan. The next time the boy approached her she said, "All right, I agree to your proposal. You come to my house in one week and I'll engage with you." Oh, he was very excited.
In the meantime the girl took some strong emetics and purgatives, and for seven days she simply purged out all her beauty by vomiting and passing stool. Then she kept those vomits and stools in two pots. Now, if you pass stool for even one day your features become ugly. And she passed stool and vomit for seven days, so naturally she became very ugly.
When the boy came to her, she was sitting at the door. He asked, "Where is that beautiful girl who was living here?"
She said, "Yes, I am she."
"No, you're not. She is so beautiful, and you are so ugly."
"No, I am the same girl."
"Why have you become so ugly?"
"Because I have extracted my beauty."
"Where is it?"
"In these two pots. Just see. If you like, you can now enjoy my beauty."
Actually, if we dissect our body we will find stool, urine, intestines, brains, muscles, blood, and so on. But because that stool, urine, muscle, brains, and intestines are so nicely decorated, the body can attract you. This is maya.
This business is going on all over the world. In this country I see that the girls are attracting the boys by their features in so many ways. And similarly the boys are attracting the girls by so many features—especially by nice motorcars. And as soon as a boy and girl are actually attracted and joined together in sex, the illusion becomes doubly knotted (tayor mitho hrdaya-granthim ahuh. The word hrdaya-granthim means "the tight knot of attraction within the heart."
So, when the knot of material attraction becomes tightened through sex, the boy and girl want a house (grha) and some land (ksetra). Of course, nowadays everyone is seeking employment, but formerly there was no industry, no big business, and so everyone had to produce his own foodstuffs out of the field (ksetra). If you become a family man, you must have some source of income, and the original source of income is the land. If you can utilize the land, then all your necessities will be provided. As I mentioned before, this American land was lying vacant, but after the Europeans took possession of it they exploited its resources. So, everything was originally in the land.
Now, after acquiring some land or some employment, one naturally wants children (suta). As soon as a boy and girl are married, they generally desire to have a child. At least the girl wants one, although now the process is different. But girls generally want a child. That is natural. Then comes apta, relatives, and finally vittaih, wealth. One needs some bank balance.
In this way one goes on increasing his illusion more and more. But nobody is thinking, "Why am I increasing my illusion? I am so busy getting the requirements of the body, but I am not the body. I am a soul. What are the requirements of the soul?"
People have forgotten their real interest and are absorbed in satisfying their superficial interests. But if you simply wash your shirt and coat and do not feed your body, how long can you exist? My Guru Maharaja [Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura] used to give a similar example: A man was drowning, and another man came to save him. So the second man jumped into the water, but when he came out he brought only the drowning man's shirt and coat. Yet the second man thought, "Now I have saved him."
The mistake of modern civilization is that people are simply concerned with the "shirt and coat"—the body. There are many hospitals to cure bodily diseases, but there is no hospital to cure the disease of the soul. This Krsna consciousness movement is for curing the disease of the soul. Every soul, every person, is mistakenly accepting his body or his mind as his self. But the Srimad-Bhagavatam says, yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke . . . sa eva gokharah: "Anyone who accepts his body as his self is like an ass or a cow." The bodily concept of life is therefore a gross misconception.
In the beginning of the Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna identified himself with his body. He was thinking, "This person is my grandfather, this one is my spiritual master, this one is my nephew," and so on. So Arjuna was unwilling to fight against them. He was perplexed about his duty. And when he was unable to find a solution to his problems, he surrendered to Krsna: sisyas te'ham sadhi mam tvam prapannam. "I surrender unto You as Your disciple. Please save me from this perplexity." Then Krsna immediately chided him. The spiritual master has the right to chide his disciple, so because Arjuna accepted Krsna as his spiritual master, the Lord immediately chided him: asocyan anvasocas tvam prajna-vadams ca bhasase. "My dear Arjuna, you are talking just like a very learned man, but you are fool number one." Of course, Krsna did not directly say "fool number one," but He said that no learned man speaks as Arjuna was speaking.
Before Arjuna accepted Krsna as his spiritual master, Arjuna was saying, "If I kill my family members, the women will become polluted and there will be unwanted children. And as soon as this world is full of unwanted children, it will be hell." This is a fact. The world has now become a hell due to unwanted children.
Arjuna was speaking just like an ordinary gentleman, but when Krsna took up His role as Arjuna's spiritual master, the Lord said, "Arjuna, you are hovering on the material plane. That is not very learned. The wise man understands everything from the spiritual platform. He doesn't lament over the body, whether living or dead."
So the body is not very important; the spirit is important. But nobody is discussing spirit. All the educational centers and universities are busy studying chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics, and at most a little philosophy. But this philosophy is simply mental speculation. Somebody gives some theory, and another philosopher gives some conflicting theory, but nobody is discussing the eternal spirit soul. That is the defect of the modern civilization.
It is a very hard task for us to convince people about these facts. But they are true whether people accept them or not. It is simply their misfortune if they do not accept. The fact is that, as Lord Krsna says, mamaivamso jiva-loke jiva-bhutah: All living entities are part and parcel of Krsna. Then what is our duty? Consider this example: The hand is part and parcel of the body, and so the duty of the hand is to serve the whole body. That's all. The hand has no other duty. It cannot eat on its own account; it cannot do anything on its own account. When the hand takes direction from the whole, from me, then it works very nicely. In the same way, my leg and tongue and all other organs are servants of the body as a whole.
Similarly, as 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.] says, jivera svarupa haya krsnera nitya-dasa: "Every living entity is the eternal servant of Krsna." Krsna is the supreme controller, so it is the duty of everyone to serve Him. That is natural. Any other position is diseased. In other words, whoever is not acting in Krsna consciousness is diseased.
The treatment for this diseased condition is chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This chanting will cure the material disease just as a certain material mantra can cure a man bitten by a serpent. I do not know whether you have seen this, but in India there are experts who, simply by chanting a mantra, can revive the consciousness of a man bitten by a serpent. Similarly, we have been bitten by the serpent of maya, illusion, and the Hare Krsna mantra will restore our consciousness to its natural state—Krsna consciousness.
Thank you very much.
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.
As the most elevated species,
by Mathuresa Dasa
Last summer I spent an afternoon at the Philadelphia Zoo with my two-year-old son, Uttama. It was a hot August day, and as I carried Uttama from cage to cage, from the elephant compound to the lion house to the bird sanctuary, I began to wish I had heeded my wife's advice to bring along the stroller. "Why bring the stroller?" I had replied. "He knows how to walk."
He certainly does know how to walk (and run and jump and climb), but like most two-year-olds, he usually heads in the wrong direction, toward whatever is most interesting—and dangerous. Spotting the elephants, he wriggled out of my arms and ran up to the low fence around the moat that separated them from us. I apprehended him just as he began to scale the fence, and I explained that we were supposed to look at the animals, not play with them. He grudgingly complied, and stood for a few minutes watching his would-be playmates and occasionally turning to me to exclaim, "B-i-i-g ones!"
I watched too, wondering what these "big ones" thought about being caged, with crowds of human creatures gawking at them. And not to speak of being caged within a zoo, what was it like to be caged within such a body? As a student of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, I understood that every living creature—elephant, human being, or whatever—is not the physical body but is the eternal soul within the body. The soul activates the body just as a man "activates" his clothing. A body can't move without the soul any more than a suit of clothes can get up and walk.
One amazing thing about the soul is that although it is extremely small (one ten-thousandth the size of the tip of a hair, the Svetasvatara Upanisad says), it activates huge bodies, like elephants and whales; microscopic bodies, like germs and viruses; and everything in between. The tiny soul spreads consciousness throughout the body just as the sun spreads its light throughout the sky.
So these elephants loitering before us in the August heat were in fact tiny spirit souls inside huge, gray, four-legged bodies. Since their senses, mind, and intelligence were different from mine, they saw, heard, smelled, tasted, felt, and thought about things in a different way. I, for instance, couldn't tell offhand the difference between the males and the females. But the elephants, I assumed, could not only tell the difference, but found their mates quite comely. And the elephants would prefer different foods than I, although we probably could have shared a bag of peanuts. As individual spirit souls, all living beings are qualitatively the same, but when the consciousness of the soul "filters" through a particular body, it takes on particular qualities and activities.
Uttama and I next visited the lion house. When I told Uttama that the lioness asleep in a cage outside the main entrance was a "big kitty," he stared in disbelief. Back home Uttama was pretty good friends with the Siamese cat next door, although it had scratched him once or twice. But what if, he seemed to be thinking, one of these moved into the neighborhood?
Inside, visitors crowded up to a railing in front of a row of three cages on one side of a large room. On the opposite side, people sat on bleachers provided by some thoughtful zoo managers. Lions were a big attraction.
Edging forward to get a better look, I saw two more lionesses and one lion, all three pacing back and forth at the front of their cages. With Uttama in my arms, I stood and watched the lion as he reached one end of his cage, wheeled around, and shook his golden mane. We caught his eyes for the first time, and Uttama grabbed my shoulder and hid his face. I was also startled. Obviously this guy was hungry, and as he glared at us, his intentions, frustrated by only a few iron bars, were clear.
The lion's features were so fierce that I had to remind myself that he too was a spirit soul. The Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic literatures explain that every soul is originally a pure, eternal servant of the Supreme Soul, the Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna. But when the soul desires to forget his position as servant of Krsna and to become a lord himself, he falls into the material world, where he gets the opportunity to fulfill his desires in the various species.
The individual soul is accompanied during his sojourn in this world by the Super-soul (an expansion of Lord Krsna), who sits beside the individual soul in the bodies of all living creatures. The Vedic literature likens Krsna's expansion as Supersoul to the "expansion" of the sun, which can shine down on the heads of millions of people and yet remain one. The Supersoul enters everyone's heart and yet remains the one Supreme Lord. The embodied soul, of course, has forgotten his relationship with the Supersoul, or Krsna, but Krsna is never affected by forgetfulness. He remains with the tiny individual soul, witnessing his activities and fulfilling his desires.
The Supersoul fulfills our desires first of all by supplying us with a suitable body, A living entity with an intense desire to eat flesh may be provided with a lion's body, which is equipped with sharp claws and teeth as well as the strength and speed to hunt and kill other animals. An elephant, on the other hand, while also very strong, is not suited to eating meat, but has the ability to enjoy himself by consuming great quantities of other foodstuffs. The Vedic literature informs us that there are 8,400,000 species of life and that each species is designed to afford the soul the opportunity to enjoy a particular kind of sense pleasure.
At the end of its life in one body, the soul is transferred, by the arrangement of the Supersoul, to another body to again take birth. The soul thus travels in the cycle of repeated birth and death from body to body and from species to species, evolving from aquatic life to plant life to animal life and, finally, to the human form. According to the Vedic literature, the Darwinian theory of evolution, which states that all species have evolved from one-celled organisms, is incorrect. The Vedas state that all 8,400,000 species have existed since the beginning of creation. What evolves is not the body, but the soul.
The Supersoul not only directs the movement of the soul from body to body but also directs all psychological processes. In the Gita Lord Krsna says: "I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge, and forgetfulness." The lion, for example, has not only the strength and speed to hunt and kill but the necessary knowledge or intelligence as well. Understanding the desires of the living entity perfectly, the Supersoul grants him the type of intelligence needed to fulfill those desires. All embodied souls, including those in human bodies, are under the impression that they are acting independently and are accomplishing things on their own. Yet without intelligence from the Supersoul, no one can do anything.
So, as Uttama and I watched the lion pace back and forth in his cage, I thought of how the Supersoul was present in the lion's heart along with the individual conditioned soul and of how He had supplied that soul with a particular kind of body and intelligence. Completely forgetful of his eternal spiritual nature (that also by the Supersoul's grace), this soul was fully identifying with its lion's body, seeing other animals, including us two-legged ones, as food.
We had been watching for five or ten minutes when I noticed two zoo employees pushing a two-wheeled cart down the aisle between the guard rail and the lion cages. When I saw that the cart was filled with rather slimy-looking reddish-brown meat, it occurred to me why the lion had appeared so hungry—it was lunch time! Although the lion's glare had at first startled me, I now felt a little empathy, even though his "lunch" looked revolting.
The crowd of visitors pressed forward as the zoo-keepers flung big hunks of meat into the cages. Everyone in the bleachers stood. The lion, being the last in line, pawed the bars, shook his head, and let out an echoing roar. When his portion finally came flying through the bars, he snatched it up in his jaws and carried it triumphantly to the back of his cage.
While the lion and lionesses ate, my attention turned to the crowd of spectators. I had already tried to understand how the world looked through the eyes of an elephant or a lion and how the Supersoul was fulfilling their desires. So what about my fellow human beings, my fellow zoo-goers? I assumed that their outlook was much like mine, that they found the spectacle of the lion's meal somewhat ghastly, although natural. Raw meat, everybody knows, is the proper food for a lion.
But weren't most of the spectators meat-eaters themselves? Nearly everyone nowadays is. So perhaps they were identifying, if only slightly, with the big meat-eaters behind the bars. I couldn't say for sure.
What was perfectly clear, however, was that while both the lions and the spectators were capable of eating meat, the lions were much better at it. This the crowd seemed to notice, too.
"Look! It's going to gobble the whole thing!" said one lady, as a lioness downed a particularly large mouthful.
"Ripped it in two!" a boy in front of me squealed, as the lion tore into his meal.
The lion is fully equipped to devour raw flesh; even its digestive system is specially adapted for meat. Medical research has linked meat-eating by humans to cancer, kidney disease, and heart disease; but the lion suffers no such difficulties.
Observing lunch at the lion cages served to confirm the assertion of the Vedic literatures that meat-eating is only for animals. Not only is the human body ill-adapted to consuming flesh, but the killing of helpless creatures for the satisfaction of our bellies is unworthy of our human intelligence. The animal is a spirit soul like ourselves, an individual who, when slaughtered, suffers as much as we would. And the Supersoul is present in the animal's heart as much as in ours. Knowing this, a human being should see each body as a residence for the Supreme Lord and should therefore avoid violence as far as possible.
It's not that I felt the urge to convince the crowd around me that they should be vegetarian. After all, many animals—like Uttama's friends the elephants—are vegetarian, so why should a human being feel particularly distinguished simply because he eats only fruits, vegetables, and grains? Besides, killing vegetable life is also violent, although less so than killing creatures who are higher on the evolutionary scale and therefore more acutely conscious of pain.
The special opportunity of human life isn't to be vegetarian, but to understand the soul and the Supersoul—the individual self and the Supreme Lord. When human beings have knowledge of the soul and the Supersoul, they naturally avoid violence, both toward each other and toward those lower on the evolutionary scale.
Holding Uttama in my now-aching arms, with four-legged meat-eaters in front of me behind the bars and two-legged ones pressing in around me, I felt fortunate to be a member of the Krsna consciousness movement and doubly determined to continue helping the movement, in my own small way, to energetically distribute the Vedic science of self-realization (the science of the self and the Superself) to all parts of the world. Only if people come to understand the Krsna consciousness movement can they take full advantage of their human lives.
Discovering The Culture of the Soul
A young Canadian moves from Judaism to rock music to the rat race
by Vaiyasaki Dasa
I grew up in the Canadian Midwest in Winnipeg, a city of half a million people. I was Jewish, and my early education was steeped in the lore and culture of Judaism. Weekly my mother would send me for my violin lesson and dance class. At age thirteen I was duly confirmed, and I feelingly sang the Hebrew prayers at my Bar Mitzvah, with a voice cracking intermittently because of puberty. As is the custom, some people said it was the best they'd ever heard.
Our family would meet regularly at my Uncle Mike's home, where we would dutifully observe the High Holy Days, especially Passover and Hanukkah. This was a necessity in our family. We were maintaining the tradition, because to be a Jew was considered a privilege. Not that my mother looked down on Gentiles; rather, she readily mixed with people of all faiths and made friends with them. Our Jewish culture was our way of life, of course, but it was mainly concerned with the external concept of being Jewish. God was rarely discussed.
As I entered my teenage years, my cultural perspective changed. I gave up the violin, which I had studied for six years, and took up the guitar. I started playing rock 'n' roll and blues. Since my father had abandoned his responsibility to the family and had gone off on his own merry way, I had no one around to explain to me what was happening. My senses were becoming wild.
It wasn't long before everybody knew me as a rock guitarist gigging around town with various bands. The family was embarrassed. My mother tried to dissuade me, but she was unable to give proper guidance, partly because of my stubborn nature and partly because of her liberal attitude. She had always wanted me to become accomplished at music—but not like this!
Having already completely rejected the culture in which I had been born, nurtured, and educated, I now embraced the rock culture. My young senses were awakening, and I wanted to experience new sights and sounds and ideas. And my Jewish culture was unable to provide them. My new way of life, although strange to my family, was very exciting and challenging to me.
"It'll never last," my mother used to say about my music, "It's just a passing fad. You should take up something more worthwhile and lasting." Prophetic words, though they fell on deaf ears. Still, I couldn't really become a part of the rock music scene, because it was too jaded for my sensibilities. Outwardly I appeared to be a part of the scene, but inside I was a different person—a person who was becoming more and more dissatisfied with life.
By the time I reached my early twenties I was completely bored with everything. Nothing gave me a sense of fulfillment—not my rock music, not my college, and not my girl friend, what to speak of my Jewish family tradition, which I had rejected years ago. I was feeling culturally bereft. Still, I figured I had to make money, so I packed my bags and left for Toronto, where I applied for a job with IBM. After passing a barrage of tests. I was accepted into the IBM family of computer programmers, or "hackers," as they're known in the trade.
Two years in the business world as a young man on the way up didn't inspire me either, though I vainly tried to enjoy my new-found wealth. I was bored with associates talking about Fortran and bytes of core storage. Again those feelings of dissatisfaction overtook me. Before, when I was living at home, my mother would often lament, "Why can't you ever stick to anything? Use your intelligence and do something with your life." Now I was bored with computers and wanted to leave. But I didn't know where to go or what to do.
I had experienced life in several widely varying cultural milieus, but without finding satisfaction. My soul was crying for some deeper expression, but society could not provide the outlet. Although I loved music, I couldn't find a sense of purpose in what I was playing. Computers were interesting, but my job wasn't anything more to me than just a way to earn a living. It seemed I had come to a dead end.
One day during the summer of 1968, my supervisor gave me a new assignment: a Mr. Sen Gupta would be requiring my help to run his programs. Mr. Sen Gupta was from India, and I was interested to hear him speak about his life and culture and about his boyhood in a remote village. It was all new to me, and he piqued my interest with his mystical references to Krsna and his talk of childhood encounters with the occult. That all this talk was going on in the Toronto Data Center of IBM seemed incongruous to me. Understanding the inappropriateness of the situation, and feeling he had found a friend, Mr. Sen Gupta invited my girl friend and me to dinner at his home.
As soon as we walked in the door we were in a different world. As we followed our host into the living room, the fragrance of curry greeted us. We sat down, and as I sank into the comfortable sofa, I glanced around the room. The pictures on the wall immediately evoked a culture both distant and ancient. Mrs. Sen Gupta came in from the kitchen, greeted us with smiles, sweet words, and cordial Indian gestures, and then returned to finish the last bit of cooking.
My girl friend and I began chatting with Mr. Sen Gupta. When my girl friend mentioned that she had seen shaven-headed youths playing drums and chanting Hare Krsna in San Francisco during the summer, our host replied, "Oh, they are Vaisnavas." Although I had never heard the word before, somehow it stuck in my mind.
Our host explained that these were devout followers of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, a sixteenth-century saint who propagated the chanting of the names of God as the best way to achieve God consciousness in this lifetime. "At home in Bengal," our host continued, "this chanting and dancing is a common sight. Bengali Vaisnavas accept that Caitanya Mahaprabhu is an incarnation of Lord Krsna." It never occurred to me at the time that Mr. Sen Gupta was also a Vaisnava.
All of a sudden Mrs. Sen Gupta walked into the room carrying a tray with several exotic-looking dishes. She walked right past us and placed the tray on the mantle-piece before an attractively framed picture. She folded her palms and closed her eyes. "She's saying a prayer," our host informed us, as we stared with great interest at this unfamiliar custom. After a few moments, she returned with a smile to inform us that dinner was ready.
The vegetarian meal was completely new to us, and we liked it. Although I didn't know it at the time, we were being served prasadam, which means "the mercy of Krsna." Vaisnavas prepare all food with the consciousness that it is for the pleasure of God. Then it is offered with devotion to Krsna, who accepts the offering of love from His devotees. The food, coming in contact with the Supreme Pure, becomes spiritualized. It's a similar idea to the Holy Eucharist of Christianity, except instead of a wafer, you get a banquet of sumptuous vegetarian cuisine cooked with exotic spices and herbs. Unknowingly, I was experiencing the culture of Krsna consciousness from an authentic Bengali Vaisnava. Over a hot cup of herbal tea, our host informed us that every Sunday they would get together with other Indian families at a rented hall downtown. "We use it for our temple," he said. He asked if we would like to visit, and we said we would.
The next Sunday afternoon we drove downtown, following the directions Mr. Sen Gupta had given us. When we got there we found an old three-story building, hardly what we had expected an Indian temple to look like. We climbed two flights of stairs, until we came to a door marked with a three. Opening the door, we entered an auditorium with rows of pews and, at the far end, a small stage. Rhythmic music emanated from the stage. Although we were careful to enter quietly, almost everyone turned to look at us as we took our seats.
From our seats we watched the musicians sitting cross-legged on the stage. One man pumped a harmonium and sang in a moving voice, while the others played drums and hand cymbals and responded in chorus. As I listened intently, trying to follow the melody and rhythm, I gradually caught on; they were chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Unexpectedly, a wave of emotion swept over me and I began shedding tears. Overcome by the mood, I closed my eyes. I had been involved with music all my life—why was this affecting me so strongly? Allowing the sound vibrations to enter into me, I wondered at the beauty of it all. After a few moments, I looked over to my girl friend to see how she liked it. She smiled and nodded.
When the musicians stopped playing, everyone acknowledged our presence with a polite greeting. Although we were the only Westerners present, we felt at ease. Soon the singing started again, and after some time we decided to leave. Quietly, we tiptoed out the back and down the stairs.
The next time Mr. Sen Gupta came by the office, we spoke only briefly, but I told him that I had enjoyed the Sunday program. His work at IBM was almost finished, however, and we hardly saw each other again. I began reading books on yoga and philosophy. Before long I became a vegetarian, and I began meeting other people who were also seeking something more substantial in life.
From time to time I would come across the Hare Krsna devotees chanting on street corners and distributing their magazine. It was always pleasing to hear the rhythmic chiming of hand cymbals and then round a corner to find robed and shaven-headed youths chanting the familiar Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, and dancing. Occasionally they would offer me a BACK TO GODHEAD magazine, but I had my own philosophy. Besides, I figured I knew what their beliefs were. I understood they had adopted a life of simplicity and chanting as a means of spiritual realization, so I accepted them as brothers.
A few years passed, and I moved to London. One summer's day in 1972, as I was walking through Soho, I heard a familiar sound—ting, ting, ting, ting, ting, ting. As I rounded the corner onto Oxford Street, there they were: the Hare Krsna devotees, chanting and wending their way through the crowds of shoppers and tourists, bringing a little music and their magazine to the noisy city streets.
It was like meeting an old friend. A smile appeared on my face as they danced by me. They're here too, I mused, and I remembered my exchanges with Mr. Sen Gupta and the chanting at the Indian temple years ago. From my own experiences I knew that an ancient culture was being transplanted in the West, much the same as Christianity had been exported to India.
Later one devotee, Prabhavisnu dasa, helped me to grasp the importance of the chanting of Hare Krsna. He explained that, according to the five-thousand-year-old Vedic scriptures, the chanting of the holy names of God cleanses the heart of lust, anger, greed, envy, madness, and illusion. Thus the original consciousness of the soul is uncovered and one's dormant love for God is automatically revived. This is possible because God and His holy name are nondifferent. I was personally able to experience the power of the chanting of Hare Krsna, and the results were very satisfying.
After almost a year of visiting the London Hare Krsna temple and associating with the devotees, reading the translations of the Vedic writings by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, and observing the four basic restrictions for all devotees—no meat-eating, no intoxication, no illicit sex, and no gambling—I came to several important realizations. First, I realized that the Krsna devotees were much more committed to spiritual life than anyone else I had come across. They didn't offer mere lip service, nor was their spiritual practice a part-time engagement. Rather, they wholly dedicated themselves to the devotional service of God in every aspect of their lives.
Second, unlike traditional Hinduism, which is polytheistic, Krsna consciousness is monotheistic, with a clear conception of a personal God.
Third. I realized that the philosophy of Krsna consciousness is extremely profound and deals with ontological concepts of God and His creation not found in other faiths.
I was impressed by the devotees, not only by their deep understanding of spiritual truths hut also by their kindliness. Resolving to fully experience Krsna consciousness and recalling the ecstatic, attractive chanting and friendliness of a devotee I had met back in Toronto (Visvakarma dasa), I flew back to Canada and moved into the Toronto temple.
By the summer of 1975, I felt an irresistible desire to go to India and experience first-hand the roots of the Krsna religion. Arriving in West Bengal, I immediately fell in love with this tropical land and its people, and I recalled my exchanges with Mr. Sen Gupta. I was now in his homeland, where almost everyone was a devotee of Krsna! The people accepted me as a fellow Vaisnava, and many invited me into their homes as an honored guest. They were charmed to see that I had so fully imbibed their culture.
Everywhere I went, the chanting of Hare Krsna was accepted as the means to spiritual salvation. This was especially true in the rural areas, which were dotted with many picturesque villages. Here the people lived simply and naturally in thatched bamboo cottages that reminded me of some South Pacific island paradise.
In Bengal, every village holds a yearly festival in which expert musical groups and singers are invited to sing the Hare Krsna mantra; it's an age-old tradition. The custom is that the chanting must go on for three days without a moment's break. This, they believe, produces a very auspicious atmosphere. Many people come from the neighboring villages to hear their favorite groups play. I also attended one such festival, and more than ever I was able to see that Krsna consciousness was an integral part of these people's lives. It was also clear that these villagers, despite their simple lifestyle, were much happier than the anxiety-ridden men and women of modern Western cities.
From my study of Srila Prabhupada's books and by my own realizations, I can understand that today's mood of dissatisfaction in life comes from identifying the material body as our real self. Consequently, so much effort is spent in trying to squeeze out every last drop of pleasure from the body. Krsna consciousness, on the other hand, is based on the universal principle that life is eternal. The practice of Krsna consciousness reveals to us that we are not these bodies, but the spirit soul within. The spirit soul animates the otherwise lifeless body.
Because Krsna consciousness is the eternal culture of the soul, it is fully satisfying to everyone. Now I am applying my talents as a musician by playing and singing songs for the glorification of Krsna. (I haven't given up my computer skills either. In fact, I wrote this article on a new microcomputer using Wordstar.) Krsna consciousness has been especially meaningful to me because it has freed me from the misconception that I am the body. And it has revealed to me the eternal principle that everyone is a spiritual soul, part and parcel of the Supreme Soul, Krsna.
That's Krsna consciousness—whether you consider
by Visakha-devi dasi
One day in the fall of 1970, when Srila Prabhupada was in Amritsar, India, one of his disciples asked him about a slogan popular among India's impersonalistic philosophers: tat tvam asi. (The impersonalists cite this phrase from the Vedic literature to support their philosophy that we are all God.) Prabhupada explained that tat tvam asi indicated the living entity is one with God in quality—both are spirit. But as far as quantity goes. God is infinite, and the living entity is infinitesimal. To say we are all God, therefore, is a gross misapplication of this statement from the Vedic literature.
"These impersonalists will just talk and talk Vedanta philosophy," Srila Prabhupada said. "It is simply mental speculation, and they will never come to any conclusion. They will go on speculating for years and lifetimes, but we'll realize God simply by eating." And from the plate of prasadam (vegetarian food offered to Krsna) sitting in front of him, Srila Prabhupada selected a sweet and popped it into his mouth.
Because impersonalists do not accept the Personality of Godhead, their philosophy and way of life are dry. In their ambition to become God they try to renounce all activities of the material world. This world, they say, is false; only Brahman, the all-pervading, impersonal spirit is truth. Unfortunately, along with material activities, they also reject the activities of devotional service. Therefore, although they are trying to turn from the meager pleasures of material enjoyment, they have not yet found the superior pleasure of spiritual life. Devotees, however, being personalists, realize the highest spiritual truth by such devotional activities as preparing and offering food for the pleasure of Krsna and then accepting the remnants as His mercy (prasadam).
This month we're featuring sweets so that you can offer them to Krsna and then pop them into your mouth, just as Srila Prabhupada did. The art of making these sweets has been preserved through generations of specialized sweet-makers in India. There the sweet repertoire is extensive and elaborate, and although preparing such sweets may appear simple, to do it masterfully requires great skill.
Of all cooking oils, ghee (clarified butter) is best suited for making grain sweets, because the flavor of the sweet greatly depends on the flavor of the oil. You may economize, however, by using a mixture of half ghee and half clean, mild vegetable oil.
Traditional sweet-makers place stress on the texture, color, and shape of each type of sweet. Some sweets are made into balls or pressed into decorative molds. Others are cut from solid sheets into cubes, wedges, triangles, diamonds, or oblongs. Some are folded, others are stuffed. Each region has its own popular sweet specialty and shape. And each sweet, alter it's been offered to Krsna, will give spiritual benefit to whoever eats it.
Srila Prabhupada further explained the benefits of eating prasadam during a conversation he had in New York (a year after Amritsar). A disciple had asked him the result of distributing a sweet called Simply Wonderfuls. (See this month's recipes.) Srila Prabhupada told him, "Then it is wonderful—simply wonderful. He has not tasted such a wonderful sweet in his life. Therefore, you give him wonderful, and because he is eating that wonderful sweet, one day he will come to your temple and become wonderful. Therefore it is simply wonderful. So go on distributing this Simply Wonderful. Your philosophy is simply wonderful, your prasadam is simply wonderful, you are simply wonderful. And your Krsna is simply wonderful. Krsna acts wonderfully, and it is acting wonderfully. Who can deny it?"
(Recipes by Yamuna-devi dasi)
Yield: 12 pieces
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1. Combine the butter and sifted powdered sugar in a small mixing bowl and cream until smooth.
2. Add the powdered milk and cardamom powder and mix into the soft dough. The ingredients may need to be adjusted slightly by adding a sprinkle of milk or additional powdered milk, if necessary. The dough will harden as it sets, so immediately divide into 12 pieces and roll into smooth, round balls.
3. The balls may be pressed into candy molds to yield attractive shapes before being offered to Krsna.
Melt-in-Your-Mouth Chick-Pea Flour Sweets
Yield: 15 balls
½ cup butter
1. Melt the butter in a 10-inch nonstick or heavy frying pan over a medium-low flame. Sprinkle in the chick-pea flour and mix well. Stir-fry until the mixture turns golden brown. Remove from the flame.
2. Add the sifted powdered sugar and cardamom powder and thoroughly blend the ingredients, using a wooden spoon.
3. When the mixture is cool enough to handle, roll it quickly into neat balls or press into decorative molds and offer to Krsna.
Variation I: Pistachio Nut Laddu Prepare as directed, adding finely chopped, blanched, raw pistachios with the cardamom powder.
Variation II: Crunchy Laddu
Prepare as directed, adding 3 tablespoons toasted, slightly crushed sesame seeds, 3 table-spoons dessicated coconut, and 2 tablespoons toasted, chopped cashews or peanuts.
Deep-Fried Chick-Pea Flour Pearl Sweets
Yield: 14 to 16 Balls
Special Equipment: 2 circular, large, flat perforated spoons: one with 1/8-inch holes, one with 3/16-inch holes.
Ingredients for the chick-pea flour pearls:
1 ¼ cups sifted chick-pea flour
Ingredients for the syrup and assembling the sweet:
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds, crushed
Pour the 2/3 cup of liquid into a blender jar. Cover, remove the feeder cap in the lid, turn on the machine, and slowly feed in the sifted chick-pea flour. Blend thoroughly, then turn off the machine and check the consistency of the batter. Flour varies in absorbency, so a little more liquid or flour may be required to prepare a batter thin enough to fall through the holes in the 1/8-inch perforated spoon in pearllike drops. Transfer the batter to a bow], cover, and set aside while assembling the syrup and remaining ingredients.
To prepare the syrup and remaining ingredients:
Combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a heavy 2-quart saucepan, place it over a medium flame, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Raise the flame to medium-high and boil for about 10 minutes, or until the syrup reaches about 235°F on a candy thermometer. Remove the pan from the flame, add the remaining ingredients, stir well, and set the pan over the lowest possible flame.
To fry the pearls and shape the sweets:
Heat the clarified butter in a 10- to 12-inch wok or deep-walled pan until the temperature reaches about 340°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Place 2 ½ tablespoons of the batter on the 1/8-inch perforated spoon. Hold the spoon about 6 inches above the surface of the hot ghee, and allow the batter to fall through the holes in neat, round pearls. If the batter is too thin, it will fall too swiftly through the holes and produce elongated squiggles. Thicken the batter by adding small quantities of flour. Fry the pearls, stirring them with the second perforated frying spoon, until they are golden brown and crisp. Remove the pearls and transfer to the warm syrup. Fry the remaining batter in several batches. Thoroughly stir each batch of pearls into the syrup.
If sugar crystals form in the syrup, add a sprinkle of hot water and raise the heat slightly. When all the chick-pea flour pearls have been added, remove the pan from the heat and cool the mixture until it is bearable to handle. Press a golf-ball-size portion firmly between buttered palms until the ball holds shape. The balls will become hard as they reach room temperature. Offer to Krsna.
Deep-Fried Pastry Cubes in Sweet Syrup
Yield: 30 cubes
1 cup sifted, unbleached white pastry flour or all-purpose flour
Ingredients for syrup:
½ cup sugar
1. To prepare the pastry, combine the flour, salt, sugar, soda, black cumin seeds, and sesame seeds in a mixing bowl. Using the fingertips, rub the ghee into the dry ingredients until the texture resembles dry oatmeal. Add the yogurt, stir briskly, and gather the mixture into a loose dough. If the dough crumbles, add small sprinkles of water until the particles adhere; knead the dough on a clean counter-top or marble slab for at least 5 minutes or until it is smooth and silky. Gather the dough into a neat ball, cover, and allow to sit for at least ½ hour. Then roll the dough into a rectangle 1/3-inch thick; cut into 30 small squares.
2. To prepare the syrup, combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a small 1 -quart saucepan and boil it over a medium-high flame for about 7 to 10 minutes. Keep the syrup warm over the lowest possible flame.
3. Heat the 3 cups of clarified butter in a 10-to 12-inch frying pan over a medium flame until the temperature reaches 360°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Remove the pan from the flame and add all of the squares. Allow them to cook off the flame until the temperature falls to 260°F and the ghee stops simmering. Replace the pan over the flame and fry slowly for 15 to 20 minutes, regulating the heat between 260°F and 270°F. When the pastries are properly cooked, they turn a soft gold color, swell slightly, and become crisp. As they finish frying, transfer to absorbent paper to drain.
4. Slip 6 or 7 pieces of warm pastry into the warm syrup, stir, and soak for 10 or 15 seconds. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain on a cake rack resting over a plate. Glaze all of the pastries in this way and offer to Krsna.
Modern Society Has No Brain
The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and Mr. C. Hennis of the United Nations' International Labor Organization took place in Geneva in 1974.
Mr. Hennis: The International Labor Organization is interested in promoting social justice and protecting the worker.
Srila Prabhupada: By natural arrangement, the social body has four divisions: the brain division, for guidance; the arm division, for protection; the belly division, for sustenance; and the leg division, for assistance. Every one of them is meant for maintaining the social body, and the whole body is meant for maintaining every one of them. But if you think about it objectively, the brain is the first division, the arms are the second, the belly the third, and the legs the fourth.
To keep your body healthy, you care for all these different divisions. But if you simply take care of the legs and not the brain, then you do not have a good, healthy body. The United Nations is taking care of society's fourth division, the workers. What care are they taking of the first division? That is my question. At the present moment in society, there is very, very little care for the first-class men, the thoughtful men.
Mr. Hennis: The International Labor Organization has as one of its major aims to promote social justice. And that means that every class of worker has its proper place in society, should have a full measure of human dignity, and should have a proper share in the rewards for labor. . . . We are trying to insure a measure of uniformity in social justice, in treatment of labor and protection of labor, and in security, occupational safety, and health, and in all these things that are of importance to the worker, as well as in payments to professional workers such as architects, nurses, doctors, veterinarians, and so on.
Srila Prabhupada: According to the Vedic conception of society, the higher three classes—the intelligent, the protective, and the productive classes—are never to be bound to an employer by a salary. They remain free. Only the fourth class, the laboring class, is employed.
My point is that the United Nations should now think how the whole human society can live peacefully, with a real purpose in life—not whimsically, without any purpose in life. Wherever I go, when I ask any gentleman, "What is the purpose of life?" he cannot explain, That means there is no truly intelligent class. Nobody knows life's real, spiritual purpose—realizing the self and realizing God.
Mr. Hennis: Well, I think that the International Labor Organization is devoted to the reduction of inequalities between the different classes of men with a view to getting them all a better share of the good things of life, and by that, they may begin to reach a greater degree of human happiness—as they understand it, as the people themselves understand it. It may be that they don't understand it well.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. For example, in America the laborer class is very highly paid. But because there is no spiritual guidance—no intelligent class—the laborer class is wondering, "Now I have some money—so how shall I use it?" And often they misspend their money on drinking. You may think that you are guaranteeing the laborer class a good living, but because there is no intelligent class to guide them—no brain in the social body—they will misspend their money and create disturbances.
Mr. Hennis: Well, we try to look after that in an indirect way. As I said, we don't tell people how to spend their money. We don't tell them what to do in their free time. We do try to make sure that they have proper facilities for leisure, that they have proper opportunities, sportsgrounds, swimming pools, and so forth, although that's not our primary concern. But what we do try to do—and this will interest you very much—we have a very big program concerned with workers' education. We endeavor to provide programs of education to the worker in teaching him how to understand the problems of modern industry, to understand the problems of management, the people on the other side of the bargaining table; to understand how to read a balance sheet, for example, in a company or understand what are the problems that face the management as distinct from the workers in a firm; to understand the basic rudiments of economics and finance and that kind of thing.
Now clearly, if a man wants to drink, he wants to drink. But we feel ... we are not interested in the drink particularly, except in that it represents a hazard at work. Then it may be dangerous to the man in his occupation. There, of course, we are interested in it.
Srila Prabhupada: No. That is not the point. The point is that everyone in society should be guided by the intelligent class, the brain. Therefore the brain must be properly maintained. That is our point.
Mr. Hennis: Well, I would say, to the extent that all this has a bearing on improving a man's position in his job, improving his skills at work, and improving his ability to represent his fellow man in trade unions and that kind of thing, we are concerned with it. We are concerned with improving his general culture, his general education, and in particular his education as a worker in relation to industrial and trade-union life in general. We hope by this means a man will improve his status, and by improving his status, he will have other things to think about than just getting drunk.
Srila Prabhupada: We want the laborers to work intelligently, for life's real purpose. And life's real purpose is to please God and realize God. Not that the laborers should simply become hard-working like asses, without any intelligence, without any purpose in life. Of all the animals, the ass is the most hard-working—but he is still an animal, because he does not know why he is working. You see? No intelligence. We don't want that. We want an intelligent class to offer guidance, so that laborers can work with intelligence and realize God. That is the difference between you and us.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
ISKCON Feeds Philippine Disaster Victims
Cebu City, Philippines—When Typhoon Nitang devastated the Philippines in September, killing 1,500 people by a tidal wave, devotees from the local Hare Krsna Food for Life program were immediately on hand here and in Mandaue, two of the worst afflicted cities, distributing nutritious prasadam—food offered to Krsna.
The 109-mile-per-hour winds caused extensive destruction—sinking twenty ships, smashing buildings, and uprooting trees. The high winds blew the roofs off the buildings at the ISKCON community, and the devotees had to endure without electricity for a week and a half.
"As soon as the weather calmed down, we went to the market and purchased sacks of wheat flour, rice, and mung beans," said ISKCON's regional secretary Maha-srnga Goswami. "We worked around the clock making veggie burgers, and everyone was very appreciative."
TV Debate in Spain Enhances Devotees' Reputation
Madrid, Spain—A new era for Krsna consciousness here began recently when half of the country—an estimated fifteen million people—saw Madrid temple president Sucisrava dasa on Spain's most popular TV talk show, La Clave ("The Key").
Dr. Larry Shinn, a prominent friend of ISKCON and Danforth Professor of Religion at Oberlin College in Ohio, was invited by the show's producers to speak on behalf of ISKCON.
Dr. Shinn and Sucisrava defeated opponents Jose Belil, president of the Spanish Pro-Youth Association, and Dr. Louis West, director of the University of California's Neuropsychiatric Institute in Los Angeles.
Mr. Belil accused the devotees of using "brain control" and of misusing funds collected for the Hare Krsna movement in Spain. Dr. Shinn replied that he had studied sixteen ISKCON temples in the U.S. and India and saw no evidence of either coercion or misuse of funds. Dr. Shinn stressed that the devotees follow an ancient religious tradition, one that is also currently followed by many Indians.
Sucisrava pointed out that at the devotee's request the Spanish government had inspected the ISKCON accounts and had found nothing abnormal. "Everything we collect," Sucisrava explained, "is through distributing literature that tells about religious and spiritual principles that can benefit any person."
Also supporting ISKCON was the chairman of the Office of Religious Affairs in the Spanish Ministry of Justice and a representative for the Jehovah's Witnesses in Spain.
La Clave, the longest-running show in Spanish TV history, is hosted by Jose Luis Balbin, whose reputation for integrity compares to Walter Conkrite's in the U.S. Said Kesava Bharati Goswami, ISKCON's regional secretary for Portugal and Spain. "Of all the shows on television, this is the one that the intellectuals watch. This will have a very positive effect on ISKCON's position in Europe."
500,000 View Toronto's Tenth Ratha-yatra
Toronto, Ontario—This city's tenth annual Ratha-yatra parade took place on Yonge Street, Canada's busiest thoroughfare (and at 1,783 miles long, the world's longest street). Half a million people enjoying the Tall Ships Festival also watched the devotees and other participants in the parade pull three forty-foot-high chariots to the waterfront on Lake Ontario. The parade was led by a decorated elephant, and a plane flew over the city for six hours trailing the message "Krishna Blesses Toronto. Hare Krishna."
At the festival site, one of ISKCON's present spiritual masters and the director of its affairs in Canada and western India, Srila Gopala-Krsna Goswami Bhagavatapada, hosted Toronto alderman Ying Hope and Indian consul general Surinder Lal Malik, the guest speakers.
Five thousand pieces of transcendental literature were given out, and the festival goers enjoyed colorful exhibits, devotional music, and a vegetarian feast.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
by Drutakarma dasa
The time is five thousand years ago. The place, the Battlefield of Kuruksetra, in northern India. The warrior Arjuna is undergoing a moment of intense anxiety just as he is about to enter into combat. Overwhelmed with doubt and despair, he says, "I am now unable to stand here any longer. I am forgetting myself, and my mind is reeling. I see only causes of misfortune."
Srila Prabhupada explains in his commentary on this passage from the Bhagavad-gita: "When a man sees only frustration in his expectations, he thinks, 'Why am I here?'" Of course, Arjuna eventually recovered from his moment of self-doubt and went on to victory. But if a person can find no satisfactory answer to the question "Why am I here?" then he might conclude that ending his existence is a practical solution.
Unfortunately, this is exactly the conclusion that more and more American young people are reaching. Seeing only unhappiness in their futures, they are taking their own lives in numbers that are shocking. Surprisingly, many of the victims are quite well off in terms of material well-being and social status.
Cathy Ann Petruso was a popular seventeen-year-old high school senior in New York's Westchester County. Captain of the cheerleading squad, she had also been selected by her classmates as homecoming queen. She seemed to have everything going for her; yet one summer night she hung herself with her own belt in the rest room of a drive-in movie theater. Hundreds of similar examples could be cited.
In recent years suicide has ranked second or third as the leading cause of death among people under twenty-four years of age. Each day, an average of eighteen American young people kill themselves, and according to some mental health professionals, the number of unreported suicides could double or triple the total. Furthermore, Dr. J. Vernon Magnusson, a professor of child psychiatry at the Emory University School of Medicine, estimates that the number of suicide attempts is fifty times as great as the number of reported deaths, now running at a rate of almost six thousand a year.
The reasons for the suicide epidemic are a matter of controversy. But in all analyses a predominant theme emerges—in their search for happiness, teenagers are encountering a sense of extreme hopelessness.
Some observers have attributed this to a lack of traditional religious values. Steven Stack, a student at Pennsylvania State University, says, "Religion supplies moral guidelines. . . . Young people, while freer, are also more unhappy." However, most people are probably already aware of traditional guidelines, but see little reason to follow a list of "don'ts" that seem to do nothing more than deny the human desire for happiness. So, instructing young people in a list of moral guidelines may not be the complete answer.
According to the sages of ancient India, underlying our deep dissatisfaction and frustration is a fundamental lack of knowledge about our own inner nature. We do not understand who we really are.
The problem thus becomes one of identity. The Bhagavad-gita teaches that the real self is the soul. Without the presence of the spirit soul, the body is a lifeless lump of matter. The body is, therefore, simply a temporary vehicle for the soul. By nature, the soul is eternal and full of happiness and knowledge. If one can remain fixed in this knowledge of the self, one experiences complete satisfaction along with freedom from all kinds of fears and anxieties. The reverse is also true. If one is always looking outside the self—to the body and material objects—for pleasure and satisfaction, one is always going to remain frustrated in one's search for happiness, without knowing why. And it is this sense of not knowing why one is unhappy or what to do about it that is doubtlessly a major contributing factor in the impetus toward suicide. The fear of the future becomes so overwhelming that one can no longer confront it.
The state in which the mind is completely focused upon the actual self within the body is technically called samadhi. The Gita says, "In the stage of perfection called trance, or samadhi, one's mind is completely restrained from material mental activities by the practice of yoga. This perfection is characterized by one's ability to see the self by the pure mind and to relish and rejoice in the self. In that joyous state, one is situated in boundless transcendental happiness, realized through transcendental senses. Established thus, one never departs from the truth."
The methods for attaining this position of self-realization are described in the Gita. The effectiveness of these techniques leads Dr. Elwin H. Powell, a professor of sociology at the State University of New York, to declare, "If the truth is what works . . . there must be a kind of truth in the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, since those who follow its teachings display a joyous serenity usually missing in the bleak and strident lives of contemporary people."
Of course, the Gita's teachings are meant for everyone—not just those unfortunate young people who might be contemplating taking their own lives. But here's something we can all consider: if we don't become self-realized in this lifetime, then according to the Gita, we will remain entangled in an endless cycle of births and deaths. In effect, if one does not seriously take up the process of self-realization, one is committing a kind of spiritual suicide.
Day Of The Living Dead
by Mathuresa dasa
Staying in Intensive Care Units (ICU's) in U.S. hospitals can cost upwards of $600 a day. Add to that base rate the charges for respirators, kidney dialysis machines, drugs, lab tests, and so on, and a daily bill of $2,000 is not unusual. In 1982 Americans spent about $28 billion—or nearly one per cent of the gross national product—on ICU's.
And why not spend so much? ICU support systems maintain our most valuable possession: life.
Or do they? Critics point out that although the advanced medical technology used in ICU's can support a patient's organ system for long periods, it cannot cure the underlying diseases. Put a terminally ill patient in an ICU and he's still terminally ill. He has no hope of living normally, and even his bed-ridden existence is tenuous. Sometimes patients are "kept alive" under such conditions against their wills, and may even have to be tied down to prevent them. as they thrash about in pain, from pulling the life-sustaining tubes and needles from their bodies. So at least in some cases, ICU's appear to prolong not life, but the agonies of death.
A devotee of Krsna always remembers that his life and death are in the hands of the Supreme Lord and that an ICU cannot in itself prolong anyone's life even for a second. A devotee looks after his health and may take whatever steps are necessary—including those of the most advanced medical technology—to keep physically fit. But he never makes the mistake of thinking that his physical well-being can ever be fully controlled by medical technology. Whether the medicine works or not or whether the ICU does in fact keep him alive is ultimately up to Krsna.
Furthermore, a devotee does not take his physical body as all in all. He knows that he is an eternal individual spirit soul situated within a temporary body and that the death of the body does not mark the end of his real self or of his service to Krsna.
Much of the emphasis on the use of ICU's is a result of the lack of knowledge that we are transcendental to our physical bodies. A society that falsely thinks that the individual dies with the death of the body is bound to spend billions to try to keep the body alive, even if only for a few extra moments—and even if those moments are a living death. On the other hand, one who knows the self is transcendental will be more inclined, when faced with imminent death, to rely fully on Krsna, rather than on an ICU.
The New Vrindaban community is creating a spiritual Disneyland,
by Kundali dasa
The impressive picture you see here is an artist's conception of the Temple of Understanding, an eighteen-story architectural masterpiece designed by M. Mutiah Staphati of Madras, India, to be built in New Vrindaban, a burgeoning community of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in the West Virginia panhandle. The temple, iridescent and gleaming with gold-leaf trim, will be the first of its kind in North America. In fact, even in India such an architectural feat has not been attempted in almost five hundred years. The 25-million-dollar Temple of Understanding will be the main attraction in the Land of Krishna, a one-hundred-acre complex that will include sculptures, botanical gardens, art galleries, multimedia exhibits, a planetarium, and more—all aimed at educating visitors in the sublime philosophy of Krsna consciousness.
New Vrindaban, founded by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, is a sixteen-year-old Hare Krsna community, located near Wheeling in the hills of West Virginia about half an hour south of Interstate 70. Under the guidance of Srila Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada, New Vrindaban has grown from very humble beginnings to a thriving, diversified community of more than five hundred members. In 1968 New Vrindaban was but a handful of devotees, a couple of ramshackle buildings, and a few hundred acres of mostly wooded land. Today, spanning more than four thousand acres, it is a beehive of activity with some twenty workshops and studios, a school, a press, a two-hundred-cow dairy barn under construction, and one of the state's most gorgeous and famous architectural wonders, Prabhupada's Palace of Gold.
The New Vrindaban community vaulted to international acclaim in 1979 with the opening of the Palace of Gold, which blends the richness and beauty of Indian architectural design with American technological know-how. (See BACK TO GODHEAD 16/6.) The Palace, a creation of marble, onyx, stained glass, gold-leaf, crystal, and teak, has attracted an estimated 2.5 million people in the five years since it opened. As one reporter put it, "The Palace of Gold has to be seen to be believed." One visitor called it "the Hare Krsna equivalent of the Sistine Chapel," and the news media has dubbed it "the Taj Mahal of the West."
Srila Prabhupada's Palace of Gold is the first phase of the master plan for the Land of Krishna, which is scheduled to be completed in 1996. The aim of the project is to inspire and enlighten people about Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. "In the mundane world," says Srila Bhaktipada, "there is Disneyland. We are creating a spiritual Disneyland, where people can enjoy and be amazed, but at the same time learn something worthwhile."
Visitors—or pilgrims, if you will—to the Land of Krishna will have to plan to stay at least six days to take in all the tours and programs that will be offered. (Small wonder that the master plan calls for two one-hundred-room hotels). The site for the entire project is a tract of ridge land divided into three sectors. Each sector will have a different focus and will require an average of two days to tour.
Sector one, the Home of the Spiritual Masters, will cover about forty acres and will include the Palace of Gold, which will be surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens. Already some thirty thousand annually-flowering plants, forty thousand spring-flowering bulbs, and five thousand summer-flowering bulbs, plus shrubs and evergreens, have been planted. These gardens and others yet to come will provide year-round beauty and fragrance. The atmosphere should be exhilarating.
Other features to be included in sector one are sculptures, large pools, a performing arts center, and a conservatory housing tropical plants from around the world. The walkway from the Palace to the conservatory will be lined with three hundred crab-apple trees. In the nearby Valley of Guru and Gauranga, two forty-foot-high images of Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda* [*Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda are Lord Krsna and Lord Balarama. who appeared in India five hundred years ago in the roles of devotees of Krsna to teach love of God through the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra.] will stand overlooking a two-million-gallon lake. In this lake a beautiful swan-shaped boat for taking the Deities of Radha and Krsna on boat rides will be kept in an ornate boathouse resembling a little temple. In the performing arts center, episodes from the two great Sanskrit epics Mahabharata and Ramayana will be staged weekly.
Visitors to the Home of the Spiritual Masters will learn what a bona fide spiritual master is, and they'll hear stories from the lives of the past great spiritual masters in the disciplic line. By the end of the first two days, visitors will have an understanding of why one needs a spiritual master, the distinguishing characteristics of a bona fide spiritual master, the importance of the system of disciplic succession, and so on. This sector is scheduled for completion in 1986 and will cost an estimated ten million dollars.
Next (on the third day) begins the tour of the second sector, the Krsna Book Forest Park. This section is conceived as an interlude between the deep philosophical experience of sector one and the overwhelming majesty and splendor to come in sector three. The Krsna Book Forest Park will emphasize sweetness and beauty. It will be a botanical haven, with thousands of rare trees and plants. The Park will feature thirteen specially designed and landscaped sites, where the main boyhood pastimes of Lord Krsna will be depicted in sculpture. More than five hundred heroic-size sculptures (nine-foot-high children and twelve-foot-high adults) will be cast or carved to re-create these pastimes. Why such huge sculptures? The devotees hope that the visual impact will create a strong impression. Thus, for the rest of their lives, visitors to Krsna Book Forest Park will be able to relish the memory of the transcendental pastimes that the Supreme Personality of Godhead performed five thousand years ago in Vrndavana, India.
One of the highlights of the Krsna Book Forest Park will be a zoo housing animals from Krsna's pastimes; peacocks, monkeys, elephants, and even parrots that chant Hare Krsna. Another feature of the Park will be an observation tower from which visitors can survey most of the Land of Krishna. This will be a photographer's delight. Krsna Book Forest Park will consist of about thirty-two acres and will cost an estimated fifteen million dollars. Its completion is scheduled for 1989.
The tour of sector three will begin on the fifth day of the Land of Krishna pilgrimage and will highlight the Temple of Understanding. The structure will be 240 feet square at its base and will rise over 160 feet high. To enter the temple, visitors will traverse an 800-foot walkway—past the Seven Pools of Mercy, through the Plaza of Life, with its reflecting pool, and into the temple through a portico supported by six elephant columns. Once in the lobby visitors may take stairs or elevators up to the main floor of the temple, or they may go to the dining hall, with a capacity for three thousand, where they will enjoy delicious prasadam. Hare Krsna vegetarian cuisine.
In the middle of the main floor will he the Kirtana Hall. sixty feet square. On the far side of the hall will be three altars. On one altar will be enthroned the presiding Deities of New Vrindaban, Sri Sri Radha Vrndavanacandra, and on the other two will he Deities of other manifestations of the Lord, Before entering the Kirtana Hall, tour groups will view an orientation film, explaining the practice of Deity worship in the process of Krsna consciousness. Afterwards, visitors will be taken before the Deities.
Other features on the main floor will be a Vedic Science Hall, an Exhibition Hall, and a Philosophy Hall and Planetarium, where spectacular multimedia shows will be presented. The halls of the main floor will be decorated in sacred South Indian motifs.
Leaving the main floor and ascending the tower over the Kirtana Hall, guests may go out onto the roof of the main floor and wander in the gardens of rare roses and other flowers, or they may continue up into the Tower of the Holy Name. As they ascend they will pass through galleries of devotional art masterpieces by members of the Krsna consciousness movement and famous works from India. In the upper levels of the tower there'll be exhibits depicting the Vaikuntha worlds, the spiritual realm. On the topmost level will be a shrine, and within, the transcendentally beautiful form of Nataraja-Krsna, "Krsna, the Master of Dance." The Temple of Understanding will also house a library, various workshops, and family counseling offices.
The master plan calls for art enormous garden area behind the temple: the Gardens of Lord Caitanya. This will be similar to the Krsna Book Forest Park, except that the sculptured images will depict the pastimes of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Only those who stay six days and experience all other features of the Land of Krishna will be able to fully appreciate the confidential Gardens of Lord Caitanya.
The scheduled date for completion of the Temple of Understanding is 1996, but the opening is scheduled for 1992, which means tours will go on during the four years of the finishing touches. The third sector will occupy thirty-three acres, and the estimated cost is 25 million dollars.
The Land of Krishna, with the Temple of Understanding at its heart, will be the center for the revival of Vedic spiritual culture in the Western world. It will be a significant contribution to the religious and cultural heritage of the United States, what to speak of bringing appreciable economic gains to the state of West Virginia. Ultimately, the devotees at New Vrindaban expect that the project will significantly improve the spiritual and moral quality of America.
The Land of Krishna project will demonstrate something that Srila Prabhupada many times expressed a desire to see. He used to say that India, being impoverished materially, is like a lame man; and America, being impoverished spiritually, is like a blind man. If the lame man gets on the shoulders of the blind man, then together they can work for their mutual benefit. In other words, the combination of India's spiritual wisdom and America's material opulence will be beneficial to both nations and ultimately the world. The phenomenal success of Prabhupada's Palace of Gold gives us an indication of just how dynamic and expedient is this formula for propagating Krsna consciousness.
Of course, neither New Vrindaban, the Palace of Gold, nor the Land of Krishna project would be possible without dedicated devotees ready to face the untold trials and tribulations such a momentous project is sure to bring. Heading the list of these stalwart devotees is Srila Bhaktipada, who by his pure and consistent example of Krsna consciousness instills warmth and enthusiasm for spiritual life in his followers. He is a great source of inspiration as he makes his daily rounds, going from site to site overseeing each phase of the project's development.
One of the chief devotees assisting Srila Bhaktipada is Kuladri dasa, president of the New Vrindaban community. Param Brahma dasa is in charge of planning and development. Murti dasa is an architect by profession who has been involved in temple building projects of the Krsna consciousness movement in India and South Africa since 1972. Sudhanur dasa, who developed many skills while working on the construction of the Palace of Gold, is in charge of design. And, of course, each resident of New Vrindaban plays some vital role in the ultimate success of the master plan.
One excellent result already achieved by the project is that it has attracted support and participation from professional persons outside the New Vrindaban community, most notably from the Indian sector. Gradually, qualified persons are stepping forward and expressing a desire to work on the project, and this has been very encouraging to the devotees. One devotee explained that they especially welcome involvement by Indian experts in architecture and engineering, because it's easier to convey ideas about structure and design to them. After all, Indians come from a cultural and religious background that comprehends the philosophy and life-style of Krsna consciousness; therefore, Indians are easier for the devotees to communicate with and are generally more sympathetic to the devotees' cause.
Recently at a master-plan conference, twenty experts in various aspects of architectural design and engineering volunteered to help develop what will be the most fabulous place of pilgrimage in America. Among the volunteers was Sashi Patel, a senior designer for Celli-Flynn in Pittsburgh and already a long-time supporter of the Land of Krishna project. Another senior designer from Pittsburgh who is taking an active part is Prakash Patel of Dravo-Wellman. Also, M. P. Dokai, a project manager for the Veterans Administration in Washington, D.C., has volunteered his help. At the two-day master-plan conference, committees were formed and a resolution was passed to hold quarterly meetings until completion of the project.
Although master architect M. Mutiah Stapathi, who designed the Temple of Understanding, was unable to attend the conference, his involvement remains vital to the project. Mr. Stapathi, who knows all the intricacies of traditional temple design as set forth in the Vedic literature, regularly visits New Vrindaban between trips to India and is consulted at each step of the planning.
As you can see, the Land of Krishna is a very big scheme—too big, you may think, to succeed. But the Bhagavad-gita says that wherever there is Krsna and His pure devotees, there will be success, Especially after witnessing the success of the Palace of Gold, one can't help but think that the Land of Krishna will also be a success. As Srila Bhaktipada put it, "Krsna is not a poor fellow. He can do anything. Our responsibility is to surrender to Him. The more we surrender to Krsna, the more we become empowered by Krsna to act on Krsna's behalf. The only problem is to surrender."
For further information, for offering advice or suggestions, or for volunteering to help, please write to: Param Brahma dasa, ISKCON, R.D. 1, Box 3184, New Vrindaban, West Virginia 26041
We welcome your letters.
I found Notes from the Editor: "What Are the Choices?" [19.5] to be a short but accurate analysis of the true meaning of civic and patriotic duty. Personally, I found this article especially applicable to West Africa and to my country, Nigeria. The thirst for power is so great that a country may change governments four times a year, and yet none of the leaders follow the laws laid down by God. The Krsna consciousness movement is an ideal example for people all over the world because it is giving knowledge of God and of how to love God.
R. Adewale Makusota
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Thank you for sending me free copies of BACK TO GODHEAD. I have truly enjoyed these knowledge-filled samples, and I am therefore enclosing a check for a one-year subscription. Your movement is always a source of inspiration to me.
Devendra Jessram Singh
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I have just gone through BACK TO GODHEAD Vol. 19, No. 9, and as I went through the magazine—beginning with Srila Prabhupada's lecture, which was No. 9. and feel compelled to congratulate you on what a fine issue it is. The cover photo is a real winner so succinct with specific instructions—I found it very stimulating.
"The Natural Spirit" was, in my opinion, the best that Suresvara dasa has done, because it is so interesting to hear how devotees joined the Hare Krsna movement. This is a great puzzle to public leaders, educators, parents, and so on. Even the Indians are perplexed. So, this is a very interesting story.
The article "How He Creates" deals with a topic that is of intense interest to people in this part of the world. They are dissatisfied with the Biblical story of creation, and they come to us for explanations. This article is so lucid that I feel moved to reprint it and distribute it, or even to try to get it published in a newspaper here.
The articles in The Vedic Observer are all very skillfully written. The drawings enhance the commentary. I also like the masthead; it gives it a kind of newspaper appearance. In fact, the title suggests a newspaper: The Vedic Observer.
Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out is one of the simplest and yet heaviest discussions Srila Prabhupada has given. He destroys all of modern science in a few sentences.
"The Death of My Father" is a powerful article. It's a real-life experience, and the photo is first class. This article shows that Krsna devotees do not alienate themselves from their parents. This is just the kind of material we need to counteract fanatic criticisms against us.
The article on gurukula is of particular interest, because even as far away as here in Africa there is publicity given to the growing problem of sexual abuse of children in America. This is causing great concern—parents and teachers having sex with pre-adolescents. This article was so inspiring that my mother wrote to tell me how much she liked it. She had previously read in Time about all the despicable things being done to children. So I am very glad to see how in our timeless magazine, people can read how children are being elevated.
Notes from the Editor is also interesting. It weaves in outside sources to support the point, and I think that enhances the article. As usual, the recipe section is first class.
On the whole, this magazine is a very nice presentation of Krsna consciousness, and anyone who reads it will be impressed.
When Legislation Fails: A Change of Heart?
The election year has ended, but the debates continue. And one of the most controversial issues is the role of religion in government. The Hare Krsna movement takes no side in the political battle, but it can offer thoughtful advice to help solve a complex problem.
Our viewpoint is that government is responsible for giving the citizens moral and nonsectarian religious guidance. Legislation and court rulings all presuppose some kind of ethics, and the more enlightened and compassionate the lawmakers are, the better it will be for all citizens. In the Vedic literature, for example, both the leaders and the citizens are advised to rigidly observe four religious principles: austerity, mercifulness, cleanliness, and truthfulness. Surely a secular government could live with these guidelines, as they do not favor one religious creed over another. By following such principles, the nation's moral vigor would greatly increase, yet governments take little or no responsibility in this crucial area. And what if the government leader is himself immoral or apathetic toward evil in his state? According to a Bengali proverb, "If the ruler of a state is sinful, the citizens will never be happy, just as in a family there can be no happiness if the wife is corrupt."
A Krsna conscious person, however, is aware that spiritual conscience cannot be legislated. It requires a change of consciousness, a change of heart. And if the government fails in its moral duties, the citizens should still be able to avail themselves of spiritual example and higher knowledge. Consider the devotees of the Krsna consciousness movement: they did not need government legislation before giving up the sinful activities of illicit sex, intoxication, gambling, and meat-eating. They gave up these things on the basis of higher knowledge and the example of saintly persons, and in the spiritual pleasure of serving Krsna, they have found a higher taste. A devotee's main efforts, therefore, are directed not toward seeking favorable legislation but toward seeking to purify people's hearts. New York governor Mario Cuomo—though his position on religion or politics may be questionable—expressed this principle when he called on his fellow Catholics to take up "persuading, not coercing; leading people to truth by love."
An interesting case of legislative failure in the matter of religious and moral guidance was the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the prohibition against liquor. Prohibition's failure proves that legislation (even when used against a recognized vice), if not accompanied by a real change of heart, becomes a mockery of both religion and government. In Prohibition—Era of Excess, Andrew Sinclair writes, "With hope and sincerity the prohibitionists looked forward to a world free from alcohol and, by that magic panacea, free also from want and crime and sin." But what happened? Despite the successful passage of the amendment, the people were not really prepared to give up drinking. Even the author of the Eighteenth Amendment, Senator Morris Sheppard, had a large whiskey still operating on his farm months after the amendment was passed, and judges who handed down sentences against bootleggers often had their own stock of wine and liquor in their cellars. Prohibition was a clear case of moral legislation with no accompanying change of heart, and therefore it failed.
We in the Krsna consciousness movement, therefore, stress that persons who claim to lead religious movements or who claim to follow the founders of great religions must be exemplary. By upholding the basic principles of spiritual life—austerity, mercifulness, cleanliness, and truthfulness—they should lead the way. They should fully engage in the transcendental occupation of glorifying God; only then can they expect to see a God-conscious nation.
In a country already filled with evangelists, party-line politicians, self-styled philosophers, and church-goers and church leaders, for the numerically small and recently-arrived Hare Krsna movement to offer spiritual advice might seem presumptuous. The Krsna consciousness movement, however, is based upon the eternal Vedas and upon the Vedic culture, which existed centuries before the advent of Christianity. So we are not exactly upstarts or members of a new religion. The bhakti-yoga process of devotional service to God, stressing the chanting of His holy names and strict avoidance of sinful activities, is a potent force for genuine theism and is beneficial for all. The auspicious presence of Krsna consciousness in America has been appreciated by Christian ministers and theologians who have seen in the devotees, ascetic and devotional practices that can be taken up by the larger religious denominations.
America will always be a pluralistic society, with freedom of religion for all people. Yet because America is predominantly Christian (130 million claim to belong to the various Christian sects), I would like to submit a Krsna conscious suggestion for how Christians (and other religionists) may increase their spirituality and thus their potency for transforming others.
This was, in fact, the proposal of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada when he was touring through Europe and Australia and meeting with many church leaders in 1974. Getting an excellent reception from high church officials in Melbourne, Srila Prabhupada spoke hopefully of a united religious effort. He suggested that Christians chant the name of Christ (which is from the Greek Christos, and is philologically similar to "Krsna") and that they stop animal slaughter. Both these principles are within the Christian scriptures and the scriptures of the other great religions as well.
Hymn singing is common to all religions, although the science of mantra chanting, and the particular emphasis on chanting God's names is especially exemplified in the Krsna consciousness movement. When we chant Hare Krsna, we come to realize that Krsna, or God, is personally present in all His glory and fullness—just by the recitation of His name.
And as for the ban on animal slaughter, this should be readily understandable to those religionists who decry abortion. Unfortunately, the animal liberation cause is almost completely neglected. We feel this is because of widespread ignorance of the nature of the spirit soul in the hearts of all living creatures. A study of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, with special attention to Krsna's analysis of the soul, is essential for anyone interested in refining his spiritual perceptions.
Finally, I would like to suggest that persons sincerely dedicated to God consciousness—including Krsna devotees, Jews, Christians, and others—develop the higher taste of spiritual life. There can be no real hope of religious values in government unless pure spiritual desire first exists in the hearts of the religious practitioners.—SDG