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Volume 20, Number 01, 1985


The Sense to Know God
Coming to Krsna
Simple Living, High Thinking
The Glories of Lord Caitanya, Part 1
Lord Krsna's Cuisine
Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out
Every Town and Village
The Vedic Observer
My Encounter With the Art of Perfection
Can God Do That?
Notes from the Editor

© 2005 The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International

The Sense to Know God

An integral connection exists between the senses,
devotional service, and God realization.

A lecture given in Hamburg in 1969
by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness

visnu-saktih para prokta
ksetra-jnakhya tatha para
trtiya saktir isyate

"Lord Visnu's potency is summarized in three categories—namely the spiritual potency, the living entities, and ignorance. The spiritual potency is full of knowledge; the living entities, although belonging to the spiritual potency, are subject to bewilderment; and the third energy, which is full of ignorance, is always visible in fruitive activities." [Cc. Madhya 6.154]

This verse from the Visnu Purana states that the energy of the Supreme Lord (visnu-sakti) is originally spiritual, but that it manifests in three ways. It is like the sunshine, the energy of the sun globe. The sunshine is one energy, but it manifests as illumination and heat. Similarly. God has one energy, which is spiritual and which sustains His spiritual abode. And that same energy is manifested in another spiritual form, the ksetrajna, or marginal energy, which comprises us living entities. Then, avidya-karma-samjnaya trtiya saktir isyate: "Besides these two forms of the Lord's energy there is a third form of His energy, known as avidya, or ignorance, which is based on fruitive activities." One who is influenced by this energy has to experience the good and bad fruit of his labor. This is the material world. The material world is also an energy of Krsna. or God. but here ignorance prevails. Therefore one has to work. In our original state we haven't got to work, but when we are in ignorance we have to work.

So, Krsna actually has one energy, the spiritual energy. He is the whole spirit, and the energy emanating from Him is also spiritual. Sakti-saktimator abhinnah. From the Vedanta-sutra we learn that the energetic, Lord Krsna. is nondifferent from His energy. Therefore the material energy is also nondifferent from Krsna. In another place in the Vedic literatures it is said, sarvam khalv idam brahma: "Everything is Brahman, spirit." And in the Bhagavad-gita [9.4]. Krsna says. maya tatam idam sarvam jagad avyakta-murtina: "I am expanded as this cosmic manifestation, My impersonal feature." Mat-sthani sarva-bhutani na caham tesv avasthitah: "Everything is resting on Me, or everything is an expansion of Myself, but personally I am not there."

This is acintya-bhedabheda, the philosophy of simultaneous oneness and difference of God and His energies. Inaugurated by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, although it is there in codes in the Vedanta-sutra, this philosophy can satisfy the two classes of philosophers who study the Absolute Truth. One class says that God and the living entities are different, and the other philosophers, the monists, say God and the living entities are one. This acintya-bhedabheda philosophy says that God and the living entities are simultaneously one and different. They are one in quality, but different in quantity.

Again we can give the example of the sunshine and the sun globe—the energy and the energetic. In the sunshine there is heat and illumination, and in the sun globe there is also heat and illumination. But the degrees of light and heat are quite different. You can bear the heat of the sunshine, but if you went to the sun globe you could not bear the heat there; it would immediately burn everything to ashes. Similarly, Krsna and the living entities are qualitatively one but quantitatively very different.

Krsna is infinite, while we are smaller than the atom. Therefore it is not possible for us to know the Supreme Personality of Godhead by our ordinary sense perception. Atah sri-krsna-namadi na bhaved-grahyam indriyaih: "Krsna isn't perceivable by our blunt material senses." The word namadi means "beginning with His name." With our material senses we cannot understand Krsna's names or His form or His qualities or His paraphernalia or His activities. It is not possible.

Then how are they to be understood? Sevonmukhe hi jihvadau svayam eva sphuraty adah: "When we take to the Lord's transcendental loving service, beginning with our tongue, the Lord reveals Himself." Our first business is to engage the tongue in the service of the Lord. How can you engage the tongue in the service of the Lord? By chanting and glorifying His name, fame, qualities, form, paraphernalia, and pastimes. This is the business of the tongue. When the tongue is engaged in the service of the Lord, all the other senses will gradually become engaged.

The tongue is the most important sense within the body. Therefore it is recommended that if we want to control our senses, we should first control the tongue. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has emphasized this. He describes our present conditioned state as sarira avidya-jal: we are packed up in the network of this material body, and we are just like a fish caught within a net. And not only are we caught in this body; we are also changing this "net" life after life, through 8,400,000 species. In this way we stay caught in the network of ignorance. Then, jodendriya tahe kal: our imprisonment within this network of ignorance is being continued on account of our desire for sense enjoyment. And out of all the senses, Bhaktivinoda Thakura says, the tongue is the most dangerous. If we cannot control the tongue, then the tongue will oblige us to take different types of bodies, one after another. If a person is very much fond of satisfying his tongue by eating flesh and blood, then material nature will give him the facility to regularly taste fresh flesh and blood: he will get the body of a tiger. And if one does not discriminate in his eating—if he eats all kinds of nonsense, everything and anything—then material nature will give him a hog's body, in which he will have to accept stool as his food. So much suffering is caused by the uncontrolled tongue.

Therefore, this human form of body is a great opportunity, because by engaging the tongue in the loving service of the Lord we can advance in Krsna consciousness. We can achieve ultimate realization of God just by engaging the tongue in His service. In other bodies—the cat's body, the dog's body, the tiger's body—we cannot do this. So this human form of life is a great boon to the living entity, who is traveling through the cycle of birth and death, perpetually inhabiting different sorts of bodies. The human body is the opportunity for utilizing the tongue properly and getting out of the clutches of the material nature.

If we can keep our tongue always engaged in chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, we will realize Krsna. because the sound of Krsna's name is not different from Krsna Himself. Why? Because Krsna is absolute. In the material world, everything is different from its designation. I myself am different from my name and from my body. But Krsna is not like that: Krsna and Krsna's body are the same. The rascals cannot understand this. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita [9.11], avajananti mam mudha manusim tanum asritam: "Rascals and fools deride Me when I appear as a human being. They are thinking I am an ordinary human being." Param bhavam ajananto mama bhuta-mahesvaram: "These rascals do not know what I am. They do not know My transcendental nature and My supreme influence over the entire creation."

Without understanding Krsna, the fools consider Him an ordinary human being. The word mudha means "rascal." Yet in spite of this warning, there are so many rascals passing as big scholars. When Krsna orders, "Surrender to Me," the rascals comment, "It is not to Krsna but to the unborn spirit within Krsna that we have to surrender." They do not know that Krsna is not different from His body, that Krsna is not different from His name, and that Krsna is not different from His fame. Anything pertaining to Krsna is Krsna. These rascals are monists, philosophizing about "oneness," but as soon as they come to Krsna they immediately try to separate Him from His body or from His name.

But the fact is that Krsna's name and Krsna are not different. Therefore, as soon as your tongue touches the holy name of Krsna, you are associating with Krsna. And if you constantly associate with Krsna by chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, just imagine how purified you will become simply by this chanting process.

Our tongue also wants very palatable dishes to taste. So Krsna, being very kind, has given you hundreds and thousands of palatable dishes—remnants of foodstuffs eaten by Him. And if you simply make this determined vow—"I shall not allow my tongue to taste anything not offered to Krsna and shall always engage my tongue in chanting Hare Krsna"—then all perfection is in your grasp. All perfection. Two simple things: don't eat anything not offered to Krsna, and always chant Hare Krsna. That's all.

Variety is the mother of enjoyment, and krsna-prasadam [food offered to Krsna] can be prepared in so many nice varieties. How much enjoyment do you want with your tongue? You can have it simply by eating krsna-prasadam. And the more your tongue becomes purified by tasting krsna-prasadam, the more you'll be able to relish chanting the Hare Krsna mantra. As Lord Caitanya says, anandambudhi-vardhanam: "Chanting Hare Krsna increases the ocean of transcendental bliss." We have no experience within this material world of an ocean increasing. If the oceans would have increased, then all the land would have been swallowed up many long, long years ago. But the ocean of transcendental bliss produced by chanting Hare Krsna is always increasing.

The great authority Srila Rupa Gosvami says, "What good is chanting Hare Krsna with one tongue? If I had millions of tongues, then I could chant to my full satisfaction. And what good are these two ears? If I had millions of ears, I could hear Hare Krsna sufficiently." He's aspiring to have millions of ears and trillions of tongues to relish the chanting of Hare Krsna. This is an elevated stage, of course, when the chanting is so sweet and melodious that we want to have more ears and more tongues to relish it.

At present, however, we cannot know how relishable is the name of Krsna (atah sri-krsna-namadi na bhaved grahyam indriyaih). With our present senses we can't understand the name, form, and qualities of Krsna. Therefore if we try to immediately understand Krsna by looking at His picture, we shall think. "Oh, Krsna is simply a young boy embracing Radharani and the other gopis." Unless our senses are purified, we shall accept the dealings between Krsna and Radharani as ordinary dealings between a young boy and a young girl. Actually, this is not the fact. Their dealings are completely pure.

In the Caitanya-caritamrta, Srila Krsna-dasa Kaviraja Gosvami explains that there is a gulf of difference between the loving affairs of the gopis with Krsna and the ordinary, lustful dealings of human beings. He has compared the gopis' love for Krsna to gold, and our so-called love here to iron. As there is a great difference between gold and iron, there is a great difference between the loving affairs of the gopis with Krsna and the mundane, lusty affairs between men and women or boys and girls. Love and lust are never equal.

Therefore, to understand Krsna as He is we have to purify our senses. And to do that we should carefully follow the principles of sevonmukhe hi jihvadau: first of all engage in chanting Hare Krsna. Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna. Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama. Hare Hare. Don't try to understand the loving affairs of Radha and Krsna with your present senses, but simply chant Their holy names: Hare Krsna. Then, when the dust on the mirror of your heart is cleansed away, you will understand everything.

Thank you very much.

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Coming to Krsna

A New Day, A New Life

"I had always been uneasy living in the material world.
Finally, here was a source of knowledge that told me how to get out."

by Baladeva Vidyabhusana Dasa

It was the mid 70s. At twenty-six, I was a product of the consciousness revolution in America. During my last year in high school the dress codes were abandoned, and later the science building at my college was burned down as a protest against the administration. After bouncing through three schools I finally graduated, but then I went sailing off on an old Nova Scotia schooner instead of joining the ranks of ordinary workers. In my own idealistic way I had decided never to work on projects I thought would harm society. With this ideal in mind I worked at a series of occupations—doing research for the Environmental Protection Agency, serving in the Peace Corps, and captaining a boat for tourists in the Virgin Islands.

Later I became happily married and, giving up my earlier ideals with hardly a second thought, landed a career position with a big company in the Caribbean that tested weapons and guidance systems on Navy ships. Then came a Peugeot and a comfortable house several hundred feet from the white sandy beaches and clear warm waters of St. Croix. Flushed with success, I had but one nagging thought: How long can this happiness last?

During rare moments of introspection I could see that the thrill I had felt during the many different experiences in my life had soured, but that somehow or other I had gone on to a new situation before complete dejection set in. Naturally, it was unpalatable to think about hitting another dead end, so I didn't allow these fearful thoughts to occupy me for very long. As it is said, "Ignorance is bliss," and my consciousness-raising sessions soon ended.

It had been a hectic but exciting week in Puerto Rico. The systems tests had gone well, and I had been offered a new position with much greater responsibility and, of course, a hefty pay hike. As I stood at the airline ticket counter buying my ticket for St. Croix, I looked forward to spending a few well-earned days off on the beach with my wife. But then into my mind came my old, nagging friend: "Can all this really last?"

With my new responsibilities there would be less time at home; I'd have to give more time and attention to "playing the game." I was entering the big leagues of the business world. Someone had fallen from his position with a crash, and I had taken it over—and now I was already beginning to worry about my future. "Is it all worth it?" I thought.

Suddenly my reverie was broken by a pretty girl wearing an exotic Indian dress and carrying a handful of flowers and a shoulder bag full of books. She pinned a flower on my lapel and asked, "Have you ever read the Bhagavad-gita? This book will answer all your questions about life." She handed me the book and asked for a donation, which I willingly gave. Intrigued by the whole event, I started reading the substantial volume on the plane ride home.

The following week was a turning point in my life. As I read through the pages of Bhagavad-gita As It Is, by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, something began to stir in my heart. I recalled reading in some mystical book that when you are ready, your guru will come to you. I reflected on how I had become so hard-hearted and engrossed in material concerns since the days of my innocent youth. I felt guilty about abandoning my idealism.

Reading page after page of Srila Prabhupada's book, I felt my anxieties slowly being stripped away. With clear logic Srila Prabhupada explained that we are all spirit souls, that the soul is different from the body, and that all suffering comes when we falsely identify with the body. By reading about the science of spiritual life as presented in the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, I could see how empty my company's promises of wealth and power really were. It was obvious that I could find happiness only by serving God. As Krsna says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: "Give up all varieties of activity and simply surrender unto Me," and Srila Prabhupada left no doubt that this was the right thing to do. I had always been uneasy living in the material world. Finally, here was a source of knowledge that told me how to live in it without anxiety—and how to get out of it.

Being a practical man, I thought, "Well, let's see if these people actually practice what they preach." My wife and I planned to surprise the devotees. We would search them out at the airport in Puerto Rico where I had bought the Bhagavad-gita and ask if we could spend a weekend with them. If nothing else, I thought, living with the Hare Krsnas would certainly be a new sensation.

We flew from St. Croix to San Juan. Sure enough, the devotees were out in force at the airport, distributing books to the crowds of tourists, businessmen, and other travelers during the Friday evening rush. We asked one of the devotees if there was a place for us to stay at the temple, and he happily answered yes.

Around six o'clock my wife and I piled into a rusty old van with the devotees, who were all exuberantly recounting stories about the day's book distribution. Then, as we drove through San Juan, some of the devotees began chanting the Hare Krsna mantra on their beads, while others told us excitedly about Krsna and the glories of devotional life.

Eventually we arrived at an unassuming house on the beach. A boy named Haridasa greeted my wife and me at the front door and welcomed us in with a bright smile and a friendly "Hare Krsna." This place was different; we were immediately captivated by the sounds, smells, and sights of that little temple. Somewhere within the temple compound; bells tinkled as the devotees sang their evening prayers; exotic odors from the kitchen merged with incense to create an aromatic bouquet; and everywhere there were beautiful pictures of Krsna.

It was a hustle-bustle evening as the devotees all hurried to finish their duties before going to sleep. My wife went into the sewing room with some of the women, and only Haridasa was free to stay with me and answer questions. I wanted to know everything all at once: "How do you live? What do you do? Who were you before you joined?" Haridasa patiently answered my every query. Both my wife and I had trouble falling asleep; this was an amazing adventure, and we were very attracted by these wonderful people.

At what seemed like the middle of the night, I was shaken from my slumber by loud chanting and music coming from the temple room. When the floor stopped moving I dozed again, but was awakened at six and asked to join the devotees for the rest of the morning program. They had already been up for hours, and when I first saw them they were enthusiastically chanting the Hare Krsna mantra on their beads. I wondered where they got all that energy.

At the sound of some lightly tinkling bells, the devotees lined up in great anticipation before a satin curtain at one end of the temple room. The lights dimmed, the curtains were quickly drawn, and there amid billowing clouds of incense and pots of bright flowers on the altar stood the brilliantly polished brass Deity forms of Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda. The devotees cheered in greeting and then respectfully bowed to the floor.

I stood still for a long, breathless moment, gazing at the Deities. It seemed as if my heart had stopped. I was overwhelmed with emotions I had never felt before. Here in this small temple room I was experiencing the tangible presence of God. I was simultaneously fearful and attracted, but also surprised: "What is this?" I thought. At breakfast I recounted my experience to the devotees, and they carefully explained that since God, Krsna, is supremely powerful, He can appear in any form and at any time He wants. He especially likes to reveal Himself to those who are devoted to Him, because they have no other desire but to serve Him. The devotees were sensitive and knowledgeable about spiritual life, way beyond my highest expectations. I was taken by their simple life and strong faith in God. They seemed to have captured the essence.

Afterward the devotees gave my wife and me strings of japa beads, and we went to chant on the beach. Away from the temple, we were quickly reminded of our recent past. Young couples frolicked on the sand while radios poured out advertisements tempting us with various enjoyments. Memories came flooding in, and a spiritual crisis arose. We had been drawn away from our "normal," comfortable, materialistic life and introduced to life in a vital spiritual community, but now our past was trying to pull us back.

I had to smoke a cigarette. My wife and I talked. What about love? Could we really give up illicit sex? How much security is there in a life like this? Are the devotees really free? Where would the conviction and resolve come from to give up material life? Could we become servants of Krsna like the devotees back at that little house? Should we just keep walking and try to forget the whole thing—regress to "the good old days"? If we did, could we ever forget that real spiritual life actually exists in the world? The advantages of spiritual life over ours seemed clear enough, but the prospect of following spiritual discipline seemed frightening.

Perplexed and shaken, we continued to walk on the beach and chant. Then I remembered a passage I had read in the Bhagavad-gita As It Is: "In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear." It was as if Krsna had personally descended to speak this verse to me again, and as I explained its meaning to my wife, following Srila Prabhupada's purport, our tears were vanquished. Srila Prabhupada had written,

Activity in Krsna consciousness is the highest transcendental quality of work. Even a small beginning of such activity finds no impediment, nor can that small beginning be lost at any stage. Any work begun on the material plane has to be completed; otherwise the whole attempt becomes a failure. But any work begun in Krsna consciousness has a permanent effect, even though not finished. The performer of such work is therefore not at a loss even if his work in Krsna consciousness is incomplete.

Having passed our first crisis of faith, my wife and I turned back toward the temple with renewed enthusiasm. The sun had risen high above the ocean: it was a new day, a new life.

That afternoon the devotees all returned to the temple early to prepare for the weekly Saturday night sankirtana party, in which everyone goes out in the streets and chants Hare Krsna together. In great jubilation they gathered up their instruments—drums, cymbals, gongs, and bells—and prepared for the chanting party. Meanwhile, my wife and I helped fill bags of popcorn, which would be distributed as prasadam ("mercy") to the crowds once the popcorn had been offered to Krsna. I knew this would be an unforgettable Saturday night.

The response of the people in San Juan was overwhelming. Brown bodies poured out of tenements for blocks around. At every balcony for ten stories up, whole families pressed against the rails, leaning down, smiling. Children stopped their bicycles to watch, and groups of Spanish youths smoking cigarettes and wearing T-shirts with rolled-up sleeves drew in from both ends of the street. As the devotees' enthusiasm grew, the crowd closed in and began pulsing with Latin rhythms of Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Some started clapping, some chanted, some even danced in discotheque style. But no one could match the acrobatics of Viprahita dasa, who lept and twisted high in the air, to the amazement of everyone. I was also drawn into the dancing. Embarrassed at first, I found it difficult to come out in public as a Hare Krsna. But all fears soon melted away in the bliss produced by this public profession of commitment.

The next morning it didn't seem so difficult to rise, and my wife and I got up to attend the early-morning ceremony, which started at 4:15. It was Sunday, and soon after breakfast everyone began busily preparing for the public feast and festival to be held that evening. The temple was cleaned from top to bottom. In the kitchen devotees cut vegetables and fruits, scrubbed pots, stirred various preparations over the stove, and rolled exotic pastries. They were all joyful, singing and chanting wherever they went, and I wondered how the devotees could sustain this spiritual happiness at such a practical level.

I approached Laksmi-Nrsimhadeva dasa, the temple president, who was at the stove toasting farina in butter. He was making halava (my favorite), a sweetened grain-and-fruit dessert. As he stirred the farina he explained how every activity can be a meditation on God when it's done as a personal service for Him. "For example," he said, "now I'm in the kitchen carefully preparing this halava, which will later be offered directly to Krsna for His satisfaction. When devotees dedicate their activities to Krsna and at the same time meditate upon Him, they become happy—simply because He's satisfied." Laksmi-Nrsimha was pure and kind—the embodiment of what I'd hoped to find by coming to the Hare Krsna temple for the weekend. Here was living proof that the devotees were strictly following their spiritual master and practicing what they preached.

We could not stay for the feast because I had to return for work the next day. All the devotees gathered to wish us well and say good-bye. I gave another donation, and they gave me an armful of books. I knew I was holding the answers to all my questions. We were sad to leave our new friends, and I knew they were sad to see us go back to our island. However beautiful, it would now be an island of struggle, a place where there were no devotees, no temple, and no spiritual community. I knew it would be hard to protect our tender, new spiritual life without their support and association.

* * *

We never returned to see our friends in Puerto Rico, and becoming a servant of God turned out to be a difficult test of intelligence, faith, and determination. I decided I could no longer take part in the business world; there was just too much cheating and inhumanity. Ultimately, I quit my job.

My "friends" from work came over in shocked disbelief. "How could you abandon your career?" they asked. The boss came to "talk sense": "Don't you know you will be black-balled from the defense industry? You won't be able to get another job." And then the supervisor came with the final warning: "You have a high security clearance. If you say anything about the work you were doing, you'll be prosecuted. You'll never get another clearance. You'll be ruined!" Bewildered, he then asked, "How can you give all of this up to follow the Hare Krsnas?"

That was just the beginning. Selling the house and the car barely paid off the debts accrued from years of high living. Chanting took on new meaning as my wife and I sincerely gave up our bad habits one by one. We cleared the remnants of poor beasts from our freezer. Unbelieving associates gladly carried away all our intoxicants. One of the hardest things was giving up the craving for tobacco, but we did it by using our tongues instead to chant Hare Krsna and take krsna-prasadam (food offered to Krsna).

Leaving "paradise," we went to visit our parents in New Jersey. Our enthusiasm was stronger than our understanding of the philosophy of Krsna consciousness, but we managed to get our families and old associates to grudgingly acknowledge the benefits of our new-found life style. But it took us several months of struggling without the association of devotees before we were finally free to move near a Hare Krsna temple.

Traveling from the east coast of America to the west, to join a temple close to where we had once lived in Berkeley, was like crossing a desert. Finally we rolled up to the Hare Krsna temple to surrender to Lord Jagannatha, the presiding Deity. We seemed to be entering the spiritual world itself. Out back the devotees were lined up to take prasadam, which was being served by a short, jolly devotee named Visvareta dasa. He gave us whopping plates of prasadam and then persuaded us to take more and more. I went to the temple room and asked smiling Lord Jagannatha to please accept me as His servant.

Then, thinking that I had to shave my head before I could join the devotees, I walked to a local barber shop. After waiting my turn, I settled into the chair, but when the barber understood what I wanted, he acted as though I had asked him to commit a crime. Brandishing his straight razor, he growled about calling the police. I ran outside, completely dejected. I had never thought spiritual life would be like this. The whole material world seemed to be overwhelming me. It was another crisis. But having weathered other storms by recalling the words of the Bhagavad-gita, I tried that method again and was soon on my way to another barber shop. The barber there was more helpful. "Sure, I'll take the job. I've never done one of these before." He carefully shaved my head, leaving a tuft at the back.

Later I felt relieved, even lighthearted, as I sat on a sofa in the lobby of the temple. Visvareta came by with another plate of prasadam. "Welcome home," he said.

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Simple Living, High Thinking

Religion You Can Drink

We've all experienced the sweet taste and nutritional benefits of milk.
Few of us are aware of its finer qualities.

by Suresvara dasa

"It's fitness you can drink," say the billboards, as a sportsman goes diving for a ball. The milk ads these days hit us right where we live—the body. For ages, though, India's sages and scriptures have offered us a spiritual reason to drink milk. From the spiritual perspective, therefore, a more appropriate billboard ad might be: "Milk. It's religion you can drink."

What does milk have to do with religion? Let's go to God's country—where cows make milk—and find out.

The sun shines on our hillside pasture, green and serene against the morning sky. Bells tinkle where the cows munch fresh grasses and drop their fertile compliments to the earth. Sometimes the cows team up to lick and nuzzle each other, or to tail-whisk the flies. Now ruminating with half-closed eyes, the cows look a little like sages themselves. Their meditation: making milk.

Cows make milk from their blood. The blood carries the products of digestion and absorption to the udder, which changes the raw materials into milk components. To make fifty pounds of milk in a day, a cow must pump some ten tons of blood through her udder. That's why all the grazing and cud-chewing. But exactly how that grass turns into milk is as mystical as life itself.

"Within your body, by mystic power, you can transform food into blood and tissue," writes Srila Prabhupada, the Hare Krsna movement's founder and spiritual master. "Similarly, by mystic power, the cow eats grass and produces milk."

Scientists say that the chemicals of life vary in their proportion and distribution from one species to another, and that a specific biochemical condition accounts for the cow's producing milk.

"But who produced those chemicals and that arrangement?" Prabhupada presses. "You cannot produce milk from grass in your laboratory. But the cow can give you milk by mystic power."

Twice daily our ruminating mystics enter the barn to let down their milk. Giving milk is a function of motherhood; kindly treatment helps the flow. And so our milkers sing to the cows as they go, handling each mother with care as they draw the sweet liquid from her body. From nature's lab comes miraculous milk.

The single most important article of food for the maintenance and health of both child and adult," proclaims The Mother's Encyclopedia. "The most valuable food we have," advises the Red Cross. "Contains almost all the food elements that the human being needs," says Dr. Spock. All the elements a milk marketer needs, too. Hence the blizzard of ads. We are reminded that "you never outgrow your need for milk." We are encouraged by some athlete with milk on his upper lip to "wear a moo-stache." We are exhorted by trim, glamorous movie stars to drink milk and "be somebody."

"Hold on!" the sages announce. "You're not that body; you're the soul within. If you miss that point, you'll miss all others—like the spiritual value of cow's milk."

Take it from the sages—cow's milk is God-given nectar. It fortifies the body and develops the brain's finer tissues as well. By filling us with goodness, milk clears the consciousness so we can consider higher, spiritual life.

In ancient India, early in the morning at milking time, the sages would approach the dairymen for a pound or two of milk. The villagers would welcome these holy men, who would enlighten them with sublime, spiritual knowledge. Their inspiration: Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

"As the sun alone illuminates all this universe," says Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita, "so does the living entity, one within the body, illuminate the entire body by consciousness."

Consciousness is the symptom of the soul. Though we cannot see the soul inside the body, we can perceive its presence by consciousness. During the dawn milking, we can't see the sun, but we can perceive its presence by the early light. Similarly, the presence of an individual consciousness illumining all living bodies—whether man or animal—indicates the presence of the soul. Each soul, though divine, displays different powers according to its bodily circumstance. The soul embodied as a cow, for instance, can turn grass into milk. And the soul embodied as a human being can turn his consciousness toward God.

It's natural to remember God in the country, whose beauty reflects His eternal kingdom. The Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic literatures describe the kingdom of God as a spiritual wonderland, where everything is possible in loving service to Krsna. The "desire trees" there yield any fruit upon request, and the surabhi cows, beyond the constraints of flesh and blood, give a limitless supply of milk. The Lord keeps many such cows, and in His transcendental form as a cowherd boy. He herds them.

"Lord Krsna and His cowherd friends entered the forest to enjoy the new, seasonal atmosphere," the sage Sukadeva relates in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. "The cows, being fed by new grasses, became very healthy, and their udders were all very full. When Lord Krsna called them by name, they immediately came to Him out of affection, and in their joyful condition the milk flowed from their udders."

Sadly, though, the cries of the cows in the modern slaughterhouses mock the country's reflection of Krsna's peaceable kingdom. We've heard that "man is made in the image of God," and so we hold human life sacred and religiously protect a person's right to live. But the cow, made in the image of the Lord's beloved surabhis, also protects us by supplying us nourishing milk. Shouldn't we protect her, too?

Srila Prabhupada comments, "By God's grace, the innocent cow is simply eating grass and supplying the finest food, milk. The cow's blood is very nutritious, but a civilized person uses it in the form of milk. From milk, we can make so many things—yogurt, cheese, butter—and by combining these products with fruits, vegetables, and grains, we can make hundreds of wholesome preparations. That is civilized. Not spilling the cow's blood in big slaughterhouses and eating her flesh.

"So protect the cow," Srila Prabhupada continues. "Don't be ungrateful. That is Krsna's advice. From infancy, we are drinking the cow's milk, and if in return we cut her throat, that is barbaric, less than animal. Even an animal respects its mother. But the 'civilized' men are doing that—killing mother cow. And they want peace. Just see the fools. They are less than the lowest animal."

The message is clear. Milk—a product of the cow's goodness—enriches human consciousness. Meat—a product of man's ignorance—degrades it. That's why meat-eaters, even if they drink milk, cannot understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

So draw your nourishment from the cow, say the sages—not by spilling her blood, but by drinking her milk—and listen to the messages of Godhead. There's a limit to the amount of milk you can drink, but there's no limit to how much you can hear about Krsna. And the more you hear, the more you grow in spiritual understanding. Such is the milk of Krsna's kindness. And that's religion you can drink forever.

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The Glories of Lord Caitanya, Part 1

Who Is Lord Caitanya?

Western scholars say He was a great Bengali saint,
but biographers of His time authoritatively established His identity as God.

by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami

The first in a special series of articles commemorating the five-hundredth anniversary of the appearance of Lord Caitanya. By His life and teachings. He inaugurated the Krsna consciousness movement.

As we begin to celebrate the five-hundredth anniversary of the appearance of Sri Krsna Caitanya (in March 1986), many people who have never heard the name Caitanya (and perhaps even some who have never heard the name Krsna) will ask, "Who is Krsna Caitanya, and what is His significance?"

If we turn to academic sources for an answer, we will find considerable historical data. A New History of India, by Stanley Wolpert, states, "In Bengal the most popular of all bhakti Hindu preachers was the teacher Caitanya." In A History of Indian Philosophy, the respected Surendranath Dasgupta writes, "The religious life of Caitanya unfolds unique psychological symptoms of devotion which are perhaps unparalleled in . . . history. . . ." And the Encyclopaedia Brittannica refers to Lord Caitanya's "profound and continuing effect on the religious sentiments of his Bengali countrymen." The Brittanica also states that Lord Caitanya propagated "the community celebration [sankirtana] of Krsna as the most powerful means of bringing about the proper bhakti attitude."

From the historical records about Lord Caitanya, we certainly see a picture of a God-conscious saint who appeared in India during the sixteenth century. But we have to seek further—into the devotional Vedic literature—to understand the full, spiritual significance of Lord Caitanya and the bhakti movement that He inaugurated.

We should consult the biographies of Lord Caitanya, especially the Caitanya-bhagavata, by Vrndavana dasa Thakura, and the Caitanya-caritamrta, by Krsnadasa Kaviraja. Both of these works were compiled in the sixteenth century and are filled with first-hand accounts of Lord Caitanya's acts and teachings. They also give us an accurate picture of the social and religious setting in which Lord Caitanya lived. The Caitanya-caritamrta is especially valuable, because the author quotes extensively from the Sanskrit Vedic scriptures to authoritatively and logically establish the divinity of Lord Caitanya.

One of the opening verses of Caitanya-caritamrta boldly asserts that Lord Caitanya is none other than the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna Himself:

What the Upanisads describe as the impersonal Brahman is but the effulgence of His body, and the Lord known as the Supersoul (Paramatma) is but His localized plenary portion. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna Himself, full with six opulences [wealth, fame, strength, beauty, knowledge, and renunciation]. He is the Absolute Truth, and no other truth is greater than or equal to Him.

The author of Caitanya-caritamrta does not expect us to accept this statement without proof; therefore, he carefully argues on the basis of guru, sastra, and sadhu to support his assertion about Lord Caitanya. (According to Vedic knowledge. spiritual truth is revealed through three harmonious sources: the scriptures [sastra], the disciplic succession of previous saints and teachers [sadhu], and one's own spiritual master [guru]. When these three authorized sources agree, then information is conclusive.)

As a follower of Lord Caitanya, I accept the statement of Caitanya-caritamrta that Lord Caitanya is Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. I, along with many thousands of other Westerners, have come to accept this conclusion from the great spiritual master of the Krsna consciousness movement in the modern age, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who has done more than anyone else to spread the teachings of Lord Caitanya all over the world. It is, therefore, by Srila Prabhupada's grace that I attempt to demonstrate that Lord Caitanya's teachings are a nonsectarian, spiritual science and can be accepted by serious thinkers regardless of nationality, race, or religion.

The verse I have quoted from Caitanya-caritamrta, which asserts that Lord Caitanya is the Supreme Lord, contains two important Sanskrit terms. Brahman and Paramatma. According to the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the Absolute Truth is manifest in three features. The impersonal feature is called Brahman, or the formless, eternal existence beyond the dualities of this temporary world. Brahman is the highest truth for the speculative, Vedanta philosophers and for certain mystic yogis.

Paramatma refers to the Supersoul, the personal form of God as He appears in the heart of every living being. This expansion of God grants liberation from birth and death to those highly elevated yogis rapt in meditation on Him.

The third feature of the Absolute described in Vedic literature is Bhagavan, or the original, personal form of Godhead as He eternally exists in His own spiritual abode. This form of the Absolute is the cause of both Brahman and Paramatma and is the highest truth of eternity, bliss, and knowledge. Bhagavan, or the Personality of Godhead, can be realized, however, not by philosophy or good works or yoga, but only by pure devotion.

The conception of Bhagavan is the pure monotheistic idea described (though not very clearly) in Biblical references to the loving, all-powerful, all-knowing Father in heaven, the creator. In other words, God is more than an eternal force or law. Ultimately He is a loving person, and the goal of human life is to know Him, serve and love Him, and attain to eternal life in His blissful spiritual kingdom.

According to Vedic literature, Bhagavan, or the Personality of Godhead, appears in this world in various incarnations foretold in the scriptures. The Srimad-Bhagavatam gives a comprehensive list of the prominent incarnations and then concludes: ete camsa-kala pumsah krsnas tu bhagavan svayam. This means that all of the listed incarnations are parts of the Godhead , but the appearance of Lord Krsna is special because Krsna is bhagavan svayam, the original Personality of Godhead from whom all incarnations emanate.

This is the conclusion of all the Vedic literatures—the Upanisads, the Puranas, and the Mahabharata and Bhagavad-gita. In the Gita Arjuna refers to the great authorities who accept Lord Krsna as the Supreme: "You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the ultimate abode, the purest, the Absolute Truth. You are the eternal, transcendental, original person, the unborn, the greatest. All the great sages such as Narada, Asita, Devala, and Vyasa confirm the truth about You, and now You Yourself are declaring it to me."

In accepting Krsna as the Supreme Lord, the author of Caitanya-caritamrta is one among many millions, but when he asserts that Lord Caitanya is the same Lord Krsna, he reveals a more confidential understanding of the Absolute Truth. Commenting on Caitanya-caritamrta, Srila Prabhupada describes the progressive logic of the Caitanya-caritamrta's author, Krsnadasa Kaviraja: "The author wants to establish first that the essence of the Vedas is visnu-tattva [or Bhagavan], of which the highest category is Lord Krsna. It is also the conclusion of the Vedic literatures that there is no difference between Lord Krsna and Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. This the author will prove. If it is thus proved that Sri Krsna is the origin of all tattvas, namely, Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan, and there is no difference between Sri Krsna and Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, it will not be difficult to understand that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is also the same origin of all tattvas."

Although Lord Caitanya Himself never declared that He was Krsna, the Vedic literature reveals that He was. The Bhagavatam, for instance, not only identifies Lord Caitanya but also describes His mission:

krsna-varnam tvisakrsnam
yajnaih sankirtana-prayair
yajanti hi sumedhasah

"In the age of Kali, intelligent persons perform congregational chanting to worship the incarnation of Godhead who constantly sings the name of Krsna. Although His complexion is not blackish, He is Krsna Himself. He is accompanied by His associates, servants, weapons, and confidential companions." [SB 11.5.32]

Still, even if we grant that Lord Caitanya is Krsna, we may ask, "Why did Lord Krsna appear in this form?" The answer: Lord Krsna in His form of Lord Caitanya most generously distributes love of God to the fallen people of the age of Kali. When Lord Krsna appeared on earth five thousand years ago, He blessed the world with His loving pastimes in Vrndavana and with His teachings in the Bhagavad-gita. But with the passage of time, it became more and more difficult for people to fully appreciate and take advantage of that blessing. The present age, the age of Kali, is characterized by the deterioration of spiritual values and understanding. In the course of time, therefore, people became confused about Lord Krsna's teachings in the Gita. Also, the unfortunate people of this age are unable to practice austerities for self-purification in spiritual life. To rescue these fallen souls, therefore, Lord Krsna has again appeared, but this time as His own pure devotee. Lord Caitanya.

The specific mission of Lord Caitanya was, by both example and precept, to distribute the religion (dharma) specifically ordained for this age, the chanting of the holy names of God. Historically Lord Caitanya may be described as a Bengali saint, but His mercy is not intended merely for the Bengalis. It is for the entire world. He even predicted that the chanting of the name of Krsna would one day be known in every city, town, and village in the world.

The chanting of the holy names of God as delivered by Lord Caitanya is not only an easy practice, but it is also the topmost method for achieving spiritual perfection. No one but the Supreme Lord Himself could distribute the highest form of devotional service, and thus Lord Krsna Himself appeared as a devotee. That is Lord Caitanya.

Lord Caitanya is Lord Krsna in His most merciful feature. Therefore, even if one doesn't understand Lord Caitanya's identity as the Supreme Lord, but accepts Him as a saintly person or as a social reformer and philosopher, one can still derive the highest benefit by chanting the names of God. Without knowing anything at all about Lord Caitanya, people throughout the world have enthusiastically participated in Lord Caitanya's sankirtana movement of chanting, dancing, and partaking of spiritual food (prasadam). Through the growing Hare Krsna movement, Lord Caitanya's prediction is quickly coming to pass, and the holy name of Krsna is known everywhere. The day will soon come when knowledge and appreciation of Lord Caitanya will also become widespread, because whoever chants Hare Krsna becomes Lord Caitanya's follower, and He then enlightens the devotee from within, revealing the highest transcendental knowledge of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna Caitanya.

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Lord Krsna's Cuisine

A Different Kind of Ice Cream

These unique frozen treats have a secret ingredient.

by Visakha-devi dasi

How many brands of ice cream are there? Yet despite the great variety, the ingredients don't vary much from one brand to another, nor does the finished product. Of course, each company does something a little different that supposedly makes their brand distinct and special. But ice cream that's been prepared for Lord Krsna and offered to Him with love and devotion stands above all others.

Why this is so can be better understood if we consider a certain pastime of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu (Krsna Himself, who appeared in India five hundred years ago in the role of His own devotee to teach love of God through the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra). According to the Vedic text, Caitanya-caritamrta, once when Lord Caitanya went to see the Deity of Krsna in the temple, the Deity's servant offered Him prasadam, food that had been offered to Krsna. The prasadam was so wonderful that its aroma alone, to say nothing of its taste, would fill one with spiritual ecstasy. Lord Caitanya tasted it and was fully satisfied. He considered, "Where has such a taste come from? Certainly it is due to the food's having been touched by the nectar of Krsna's lips." Understanding this, Lord Caitanya felt the spiritual emotion of ecstatic love for Krsna.

He bade farewell to the servant of the Deity and returned to His own quarters, constantly remembering the prasadam He had tasted. That evening, when He sat down with His personal associates in a secluded place to discuss the pastimes of Krsna in great jubilation. He gave shares of the Deity prasadam to everyone present. As they savored the uncommon sweetness and fragrance of the prasadam, they were struck with wonder.

Lord Caitanya said, "The ingredients that made this prasadam are all material. Everyone has tasted these material substances before. However, in these ingredients extraordinary tastes and uncommon fragrances exist. Just taste them and see the difference in experience. Apart from the taste, even the fragrance pleases the mind and makes one forget any other sweetness besides its own. Therefore, it is to be understood that the spiritual nectar of Krsna's lips has touched these ordinary ingredients and transferred to them all their spiritual qualities. . . . Now taste it with great faith and devotion."

So, as Lord Caitanya pointed out, the ingredients of prasadam—sugar, cream, nuts, flavorings, and so on—are material; everyone has tasted them before. But prasadam, because Lord Krsna has tasted it, is spiritualized food. It transcends ordinary food. And this brings us to the missing ingredient, the "ingredient" that distinguishes the ice cream of Lord Krsna's cuisine from ordinary ice cream.

The missing ingredient is devotion. Lord Krsna, being perfect, complete, and without needs, does not taste just any old ice cream. The consciousness of the persons preparing and offering the food is very important. Those who prepare the food for the Krsna Deity in the temple are devotees, so their motive is to satisfy the Lord with their service. They know Lord Krsna does not become hungry like ordinary persons and that He docs not actually require their food. But they also know that He nevertheless enjoys a loving exchange by accepting whatever His devotees offer Him. And whatever the Lord accepts becomes imbued with spiritual qualities and will benefit greatly whoever tastes it. The devotees, understanding the Lord's deep desire to give this spiritual benefit to everyone, are also eager to widely and freely distribute the Lord's remnants. Now compare that to the consciousness behind your store-bought ice cream.

Even a beginner in spiritual life ran gather ingredients, make ice cream for the pleasure of Lord Krsna, and offer it to Him with love and devotion. This incalculable quality of Krsna consciousness is missing from ordinary ice cream.

Just as prasadam is not ordinary food, so those who taste it are not ordinary people. Lord Caitanya explained, "Only persons who have the full mercy of Krsna are fortunate enough to receive the remnants of the Lord's food. This nectar from Krsna's lips is extremely difficult to obtain, but if one gets some, his life becomes successful."

Every one of us has the opportunity to taste the nectar of krsna-prasadam. Why miss this opportunity? Although you and I may not be spiritually elevated and may not understand the spiritual qualities of prasadam, we'll still appreciate how good it tastes. And the spiritual benefit will come anyway, even without our fully under standing it. What's there to lose?

(Recipes by Yamuna-devi dasi)

Quick-and-Easy Vanilla Ice Cream

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Chilling time: 2 hours
Freezing time: 6 to 10 hours
Servings: 8

2 cups heavy whipping cream (36% to 40% milk fat)
1 teaspoon vanilla or 1 teaspoon kewra essence
¼ cup sweetened condensed milk

1. Combine the ingredients in a large bowl, cover, and chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

2. Beat the mixture until it holds firm peaks. Spoon into any metal freezer container and still-freeze until firm; then offer to Krsna. The freezing is hastened by using metal rather than glass or plastic containers.

Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream

A perfect dessert for the summer, when berries are vine-ripened, bursting with flavor and natural sweetness. With this recipe a small quantity of berries goes a long way. Best if made the day before serving.

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Freezing time: 10 to 12 hours
Servings: 6

2 cups sliced strawberries, washed and drained
¼ cup powdered sugar, measured then sifted
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
½ cup light whipping cream, chilled
½ cup sliced strawberries for garnishing

1. Combine the berries, sugar, orange juice, and lemon juice in a blender and puree. Beat the chilled creams in a bowl until thick, but not stiff; blend with the strawberry puree.

2. Transfer the mixture into a metal freezer container, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and freeze for 10 to 12 hours until solid. About 1 hour before serving, place the ice cream in the refrigerator to soften slightly. Garnish with sliced strawberries, and offer to Krsna.

Banana Nut Ice Cream

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Chilling time: 1 hour
Freezing time: 8 hours
Servings: 8

¼ cup sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
5 ripe bananas
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons superfine sugar
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ cup walnuts, chopped fine

1. Combine the condensed milk and cream in a large bowl and chill, covered, for 1 hour.

2. Puree the bananas in a blender or press them through a sieve to yield a puree. Then thoroughly mix the lemon juice, sugar, nutmeg, and nuts into a smooth mixture.

3. Beat the cream mixture until it forms soft peaks. Add the banana mixture and whip lightly. Pour into freezer containers or trays and still-freeze until firm.

Classic Vanilla Ice Cream

A recipe for ice cream that is churned by hand or made in an electric ice cream machine. The ice cream melts quickly upon sitting and tends to become crystalline when stored for long in the freezer, yet when fresh, it is an old-fashioned favorite.

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Chilling time: 2 or 3 hours
Freezing time: as allotted by manufacturer
Servings: 10

2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 cups light whipping cream
1 cup superfine sugar
1 three-inch-long vanilla bean

1. Combine the light cream, vanilla bean, and sugar in a medium-size saucepan. Heat and stir over medium heat until the sweetener is thoroughly dissolved, or for approximately 5 to 7 minutes.

2. Remove and cool to room temperature. Remove the vanilla bean.

3. Combine the light and heavy cream in a 1-quart bowl. Cover, and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.

4. Pour into the freezing unit and follow the manufacturer's directions for freezing.

Variation: Fresh Coconut Ice Cream

Prepare as directed, but omit the vanilla bean and add 1 ½ cups fresh grated coconut pulp and ½ teaspoon cardamom powder Churn by hand, or freeze in an electric ice cream machine.

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Chilling time: 2 to 3 hours
Freezing time: as allotted by manufacturer
Servings: 10

2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 cups light whipping cream
1 cup superfine sugar
1 ½ cups fresh grated coconut (about ½ coconut)
½ teaspoon cardamom seeds, ground

Lemon or Orange Ice Cream

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Freezing time: 8 hours
Servings: 9

3 lemons or 2 oranges cup superfine sugar
2 cups heavy whipping cream, well chilled
3 tablespoons ice water
yellow or orange food coloring, optional

1. Grate the rind from the lemons or oranges and set it aside. Squeeze and strain the juice from the fruit and combine it with the sugar. Heat the mixture in a small saucepan for one or two minutes, stirring constantly, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Then cool to room temperature.

2. Combine the cream and iced water in a cool bowl and whip into soft peaks. Beat in the sweetened citrus juice, grated rind, and coloring if desired. Pour into freezer trays and still-freeze, whisking or beating after about 2 hours of freezing. Return to the freezer and repeat the beating in about 2 hours. Cover the tray and freeze until firm.

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Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out

Advice to the United Nations

The following is a continuation of a conversation that took place between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and Mr. C. Hennis of the U.N. 's International Labor Organization on May 31, 1974, in Geneva.

Srila Prabhupada: The social body should have a class of men who act as the brain and guide everyone so that everyone can become happy. That is the purpose of our movement.

Mr. Hennis: That's a valid point, because it has always been affirmed in every society that there is a need for a priestly class or a class of philosophical leaders.

Srila Prabhupada: But now the so-called priestly class are amending the Biblical injunctions according to their whims. For instance, the Bible enjoins, "Thou shalt not kill." But the priestly class is like the other classes—sanctioning slaughterhouses. So how can they guide?

Mr. Hennis: But the animal world is entirely composed of beings who eat one another. I suppose that the justification that people have for maintaining slaughterhouses is that it is just a cleaner way of killing than for a lion to jump on the back of an antelope.

Srila Prabhupada: But as a human being you should have discrimination. You should be guided by your brain, and society should be guided by the "brain class" of priestly, thoughtful men. Nature has given human beings the fruits, the vegetables, the grains, the milk, which all have great nutritional value, and human beings should be satisfied with these wholesome foods. Why should they maintain slaughterhouses? And how can they think they will be happy by being sinful, by not following God's commandments? This means society has no brain.

Mr. Hennis: My organization isn't directly concerned with giving people brains.

Srila Prabhupada: Your organization may not be directly concerned. But if human society is brainless, then no matter how much you may try to organize, society can never become happy. That is my point.

Mr. Hennis: My organization is concerned with taking away the obstacles that prevent people from attaining a proper brain. One of the obstacles is just plain poverty.

Srila Prabhupada: No. The main thing is, society must learn to discriminate between pious and sinful activities. Human beings must engage in pious activities, not sinful activities. Otherwise, they have no brain. They are no better than animals. And from the moral point of view, do you like sending your mother to the slaughterhouse? You are drinking the milk of the cow—so she is your mother—and after that you are sending her to the slaughterhouse. That is why we ask. Where is society's brain?

Mr. Hennis: Of course, when you speak of the distinctions that are made between pious activities and sinful activities—

Srila Prabhupada: Today practically no one is making this distinction. We are making it, and we have introduced these ideas by establishing farm communities and protecting our cows. And our cows are winning awards for giving the most milk, because they are so jubilant. They know, "These people will not kill me." They know it, so they are very happy. Nor do we kill their calves. At other farms, soon after the cow gives birth to a calf, they pull her calf away for slaughter. You see? This means society has no brain. You may create hundreds of organizations, but society will never be happy. That is the verdict.

Mr. Hennis: Well, we can't be accused of engaging in sinful activities when we don't think what we are doing is sinful.

Srila Prabhupada [Laughing]: Oh? You don't think you can be accused of breaking the state law—just because you don't know what the state law is? The point is, if your priestly class have no knowledge of what is sinful, they may instruct you, "Don't do anything sinful"—but what good is that? You must have a priestly class who know what is sinful, so that they can teach you. And then you must give your sinful activities up. When these young people came to me, I told them, "Flesh-eating, illicit sex, gambling, and intoxication—these things are sinful. You must give them up." If we do not give up these sinful activities, nature punishes us. So we must know the laws of nature, what nature wants. At the very least, nature wants that we human beings stop our sinful activities. If we do not, then we must be punished.

Mr. Hennis: We are just trying to give people a fair share of the material things of life: proper wages, decent homes, decent opportunities for leisure.

Srila Prabhupada: That is all right, but people must know what is sinful and what is pious.

Mr. Hennis: Yes, but I don't think you can properly expect to indoctrinate people. At least, you can't expect an international organization to indoctrinate people.

Srila Prabhupada: As an international organization for peace and well-being, the United Nations should maintain a class of men who can act as society's brain. Then everything will be all right. Simply legs and hands working without any direction, without any brain—that is not very good. The United Nations was organized for the total benefit of human society, but it has no department that can actually be called the brain organization.

Mr. Hennis: That's true. That's true. They are servants of the membership, servants of the various states of the world. We are only the servants of these people. What we try and do is let them get together and help them understand their problems.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, help them understand. At the very least, help them understand what they should do and what they should not do. At least do this much.

Mr. Hennis: This we do try to do to the extent that it is possible for the secretariat to shape and evolve a philosophy. We try to do it. But of course, we can't adopt a completely radical approach. We do what we can, in the manner of a good servant and the manner of a good steward, to try and hope the leaders are on the right path and the right direction.

Srila Prabhupada: If society does not know what is sinful and what is pious, it is all useless. If your body has no brain, then your body is dead. And if the social body has no brain, then it is dead.

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Every Town and Village

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

Congressman Welcomes ISKCON Students

Washington, D.C.—U.S. Congressman

John Bryant of Dallas recently took a break from his very busy schedule for what he called his most interesting and informative meeting in a long time. The meeting was a visit by seven ISKCON gurukula students, their teacher, and two members of ISKCON's ministry of education—part of a special educational tour of the Northeast.

Rep. Bryant was already familiar with the ISKCON temple, school, and restaurant located in his congressional district in East Dallas. The students, most of whom were from the gurukula in Dallas, garlanded Mr. Bryant and served him a special lunch of prasadam (vegetarian food offered to Krsna).

When Mr. Bryant expressed a deep appreciation of Eastern philosophical thought, one of the gurukula boys took the opportunity to present him with a copy of Bhagavad-gita As It Is and also with copies of BACK TO GODHEAD magazine.

The meeting was one of the highlights of a new gurukula training program, in which students travel and experience different people and places around America.

Devotees Convert Adelaide's Eynesbury House into a Temple

Adelaide. Australia—Evneshury House, one of this city's most historic and prestigious properties, was recently opened as a temple for the Hare Krsna movement. Built in 1879, Eynesbury House is considered the finest example of Victorian-Italian architecture in South Australia.

For several months the buildings underwent extensive restoration. Visitors at the inaugural opening, especially the local residents, were delighted to see the buildings resume their original splendor. After a tour, including a climb up the tower's thirty-foot spiral staircase, everyone enjoyed a sumptuous vegetarian feast of delicious krsna -prasadam.

Several TV stations and newspapers covered the opening. Said one TV broadcast: "This begins a new era for the Hare Krsna movement in Adelaide."

New Full-Color Magazine Critiques Modern Science,
Offers Vedic Paradigm

Los Angeles—Persons who appreciate a scientific outlook will appreciate Origins, a new publication from the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. While questioning the reductionistic theories of modern science, which hold that simple mathematical laws can describe all phenomena. Origins outlines an alternative theoretical system that links the domains of science and religion.

The writers of Origins derived this alternative view from the Vedic philosophy of India as it is elaborately presented in the books of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, ISKCON's founder and spiritual master. The Vedic philosophy provides a highly detailed account of the physical universe as well as verifiable descriptions of nonphysical phenomena such as consciousness.

Under the direction of BBT trustee Srila Ramesvara Swami, a staff of writers, artists, and photographers worked for more than a year to make Origins a concise and colorful statement of the Krsna conscious approach to modern science. Over sixty full-color paintings, diagrams, and photographs illustrate six articles on cosmology, psychology, evolutionary theory, biology, and other topics. Each article discusses the strengths and weaknesses of current scientific theories.

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The Vedic Observer

Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day

A Question Of Quotas

by Drutakarma dasa

A recent survey of the world economic situation published in the Los Angeles Times (Oct. 24, 1984) concludes, "Today despite 12,000 years of technological progress, an enormous increase in material production and consumption, bloody revolutions aimed at redistributing wealth, and well-intentioned reforms aimed at ameliorating the effects of inequality, human society remains divided between haves and have-nots."

The disparity is readily apparent in the distribution of the world's food resources. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the world is growing enough food to feed its 4.7 billion inhabitants; yet 460 million people are going hungry. In Africa, millions are on the verge of death from starvation, while American granaries are bursting with surpluses.

To help deal with the immediate effects of hunger, the Hare Krsna movement is providing relief through its worldwide Hare Krishna Food for Life program and regularly cooperates with private and government relief agencies. But beyond this, members of the movement are convinced that unless world leaders recognize certain fundamental truths about our planet, its resources, and human nature, there can be no permanent solution to the problem of scarcity in the midst of abundance.

The Vedic literatures of ancient India provide some key insights. "The Supreme Personality of Godhead is perfect and complete, and because He is completely perfect, all emanations from Him, such as this phenomenal world, are perfectly equipped as complete wholes." So states Sri Isopanisad, one of the classic works of the vast Vedic wisdom. This important truth can help us understand the root cause of the unbalanced distribution of resources that results in the rich few getting richer and the many poor getting poorer. God has provided enough for everyone, but because of a deficiency of spiritual knowledge we are creating imbalances that result in widespread deprivation and suffering.

When American scientists launch a space vehicle like Challenger into orbit, the crew can safely assume that their physical needs have been anticipated and provided for. Biomedical specialists have doubtlessly calculated the requirements of the crew members for food, air, and water and have supplied the spacecraft with adequate amounts of these necessities. But just imagine the havoc that would result if one or two crew members began using up the supplies that were intended for the other astronauts aboard the spacecraft. And then let's further imagine what would happen if all the have and have-not crew members completely forgot about their mission and instead began to devote all their energies to fighting over the spacecraft's resources. That would be a very accurate picture of what is going on in the world today.

Having lost sight of life's real mission, namely self-realization, most of spaceship earth's crew members are engaged in a purposeless struggle to amass material assets. We tend to forget that our stay on this planet is brief and temporary. When we leave, all that we take with us is the amount of spiritual realization we have acquired. If that realization is complete, we attain liberation from material existence and return to our original position as associates of the Supreme Lord in the spiritual world. But if our spiritual realization is incomplete, then we must return for another lifetime in the material world.

If we are to avoid this unwelcome prospect, society should be arranged so that all members are aware of life's spiritual goal and can peacefully devote themselves to attaining it. It will then naturally follow that the unrestricted competition for material resources that leaves some with plenty and others with not enough will be alleviated. The Isopanisad gives a simple formula for economic well-being for everyone on the planet. "Everything animate or inanimate that is 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."

Of Mice And Meat

by Dvarakadhisa-devi dasi

Consider for a moment the plight of the carnivorous beast. Skulking about the forest brush, sniffing and listening with intense concentration, hunger gnawing at his belly and burning in his eyes, he searches for prey. His meditation is single-pointed in hopes of a kill. But his task is difficult: to find his prey inattentive and unwary. He must be ready—for whenever the opportunity comes—and his attack must be swift, fearless, and lethal. And at last it does come—the kill: the fearful eyes of the victim, the screams of pain and terror, and the stench of fresh blood. For us this would certainly be a repulsive task simply for the business of eating. And this sort of act—this barbarity, this furtive slaughter—marks the difference between civilized and bestial existence.

For animals, however, this gross violence is acceptable, without any consideration of right or wrong. The anguish and suffering of hapless prey is hardly the concern of predators in the animal kingdom. And, of course, the killer incurs no sin. For us human beings, however, even to witness such brutal killing is painful, because we are endowed with the quality of compassion. If necessity suddenly forced us to prowl the jungle for creatures to leap on, kill, and devour, most of us would starve. Our bodies, when pitted against the prowess of the animal kingdom, are frail. Our intelligence facilitates devising other means of nourishment, and our philosophical vision and capacity for empathy lead us to regard the feelings of others.

Nevertheless, our so-called civilized society promotes the slaughter of animals as a necessary clement of modern living. We may not have to see the brutality behind those neatly wrapped and ordered packages of red meat displayed under lights in our local supermarkets, but the savage slaughter was there as surely as in the jungle. Although our modern approach to getting food may appear civilized, in essence it is inhuman. Thanks to our superior intelligence, our approach is more sophisticated and controlled, and we feel sufficiently removed from the ghastly carnage by the intervention of industry and commerce. Most of us will never see the throngs of cows herded into the slaughterhouse, or hear their pitiful cries, or witness their anguish.

Indeed, what we often see of the meatpacking industry is cartoons of smiling cows, chickens, and pigs dancing across the TV screen, inviting us to relish their tasty flesh. Our language buffers us from any suspicions about the origin of our prized sirloin steaks, as we regularly eye slabs of rotting carcasses and refer to them as "cuts of meat," or "tender aged beef." Mothers encourage their little ones to eat their hot dogs, which are stuffed with toxins and intestinal wastes, and smiling waitresses serve hamburger patties comprised of the most repulsive organs of the cow and often containing such substances as earthworms and decayed rodents. Yet most of us are somehow convinced that our daily quota of meat is not only safe but necessary for our nutritional well-being, a conviction we maintain even when confronted with the most gruesome details of animal slaughter and meat-eating.

Recent investigations into the practices of a meat-packing plant in the western United States provide a strong challenge to such false security regarding the sanctity of our red-blooded American diet. Rudolph "Butch" Stanko, owner of the Colorado-based Cattle King Packing Company, is presently facing charges for alleged discrepancies in the cleanliness and purity standards at his plant. The company was a big supplier of meat to the U.S. Defense Department, to fast-food restaurants, and to local supermarkets. Larry Andrews, a former employee, testifies, "He told us not to throw away anything, to use every bit and piece, even the blood clots." The company was accused of regularly bringing in already dead animals and animals known to be diseased to mix in with the ground meat products. In defense against the charges. Cattle King's attorney acknowledged, "Yes, these things happened—like they do at every other plant in the United States."

Certainly these statements suggest a nasty business full of cheating at the expense of the customer, and you may find yourself viewing your next hamburger with a new wariness. But even without these horrid details, if we think about it objectively, where is the consideration of any real cleanliness or purity when dealing with carcasses? The meat that people are purchasing for their families' dinners is nothing more glorious than contaminated slices of flesh, slashed from animals ruthlessly killed after their brief, miserable, disease-ridden existence, which ended in violence and terror. To ignore the suffering of the animal from whose very body your steak or cutlet has been obtained and to romanticize the business of animal slaughter as healthy, sanitary, and necessary is a kind of madness. What you're getting is simply a package of decaying flesh, toxins, and wastes, and in exchange you implicate yourself in the most horrible kind of violence imaginable.

Human beings possess a higher intelligence and a finer sensitivity that allows for moral judgments. To witness the death of an animal such as a cow, therefore, would be very painful for us. That's our natural human compassion. And yet we eat the flesh of the cow without any qualms of conscience. The heinous act of slaughter may be out of sight and out of mind, but by eating the flesh we become implicated in sin.

According to the strict laws of karma, every human being is responsible for his actions. These actions create reactions, which propel each of us into particular circumstances of happiness or distress. In the case of animal slaughter, a grievously sinful act for one with human discretionary resources, the reaction is that the offender is forced to accept an animal body in his next birth and to suffer the same horrible life and death.

Our meat-eating isn't as bloody as that of the animals hunting in the forest, but in light of our superior capacity for understanding suffering and death, it's far more horrible. We don't need to eat the flesh of animals to survive, and to remove this violence from our lives would create an immediate improvements in consciousness. Being vegetarian may not be the perfection of human life, but it is one of the first steps on the path of perfection.

Futurists' Follies

by Grahila dasa

How many times have you had trouble finding a parking space downtown? Well, according to some scientific theorists, the day may soon come when you won't have to drive around block after block looking—the computer in your car will tell you where you can park. And when you want to go on a trip, your car's computer will map out the best route. According to experts at last year's World Future Society convention in Washington, D.C., these are but a couple of the conveniences we'll be enjoying in the future.

We'll also be able to program our computerized home appliances without even pushing buttons. For example, just tell your video entertainment center which programs you'll want to see. Too busy to catch Monday night football? Tell your TV to store the telecast till next week. You will even select alternative plots to dramas and soap operas.

Geoffrey Calvert, a Canadian economist and actuary, predicts that in the near future people will live in good health well beyond one hundred. Some experts predict that we will soon have vaccines to prevent most major forms of cancer, drugs that will unclog arteries and prevent heart disease, and wrist devices that will warn us of illness. Artificial blood vessels, hearts, and kidneys will be commonplace and inexpensive.

Researchers in agriculture hope to greatly increase crop and dairy production through genetic engineering, farming the sea, and developing new-age foods such as spirulina. Industrial advancements would include factories in outer space, better utilization of solar energy, and the robotization of many boring, dangerous, and tiring jobs.

Such predictions may make us optimistic about a bright future of comfort, convenience, increased enjoyment, and longer, healthier lives, but let's not forget that the promises of science often prove empty. Placing our faith in the predictions of modern science may result in a big letdown. Remember DDT? In January of 1945, Science magazine proclaimed,

Success in at least one such campaign was cited by Professor Essig. About twenty years ago the Mediterranean fruit fly, a terrible menace to certain fruit and vegetable crops, especially the citrus fruits, was accidentally introduced into Florida. Drastic measures were necessary, but by thorough cooperation among federal, state, and private interests the last traces of the fly infestation were wiped out in a short time.

DDT's promise spreads broadly over three fields: public health, household comfort, and agriculture. In the first category come the triumphs already scored by DDT against such plagues as malaria and typhus. Household comfort will be promoted by the abatement or even the complete wiping out of such insects as flies, fleas, bedbugs, and 'nuisance' mosquitos. DDT can be useful to agriculture not only in combating field and orchard insects, but also in protecting forests, livestock and poultry.

Unfortunately, by the 1960s, the U.S. government had to place heavy restrictions on the use of DDT because of its harmful effects to fish and waterfowl and its probable harmful effects to human communities who consumed contaminated wildlife. So although in 1945 the readers of Science may have felt confident that the problem of insect pests would soon be conquered, forty years later Florida citrus growers are still contending with the Mediterranean fruit fly, and flies, fleas, bedbugs, and mosquitos remain a problem.

Nor can we overlook that science and technology has helped create for us the threat of nuclear holocaust. According to Theo Brown, executive director of Ground Zero, which studies nuclear war, a ninety percent reduction of nuclear arms would still leave the U.S. and the Soviet Union with enough nuclear might to destroy one another.

The above are but two instances of the plethora of science's dubious achievements. To regard the achievements and promises of modern science with optimism, therefore, may well be naive, even foolish. If we think long and hard about the matter, without becoming enamored by scientific gadgetry and titillated by brash promises of a technological Utopia, we should see that the contributions of modern science are at best superficial. In many cases they prove counterproductive, even suicidal. We want to be free of suffering and to enjoy happiness—that's natural. But science has helped us only to palliate, not to cure. It has lulled us into a preoccupation with the symptoms of our suffering, without showing us the root cause.

If we examine the real cause of the problems we are trying to alleviate through science and technology, we should see that increasing creature comforts is no solution at all. This is nicely explained by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in his commentary on the Srimad-Bhagavatam:

The sufferings of human society are due to a polluted aim of life, namely lording it over the material resources. The more human society engages in the exploitation of undeveloped material resources for sense gratification, the more it will be entrapped by the illusory material energy of the Lord, and thus the distress of the world will be intensified, rather than diminished.

In other words, not understanding that we are eternal spiritual beings, servants of God, we strive for pleasure by gratifying the bodily senses. Because of a strong desire for sense gratification, we develop an exploitative mentality toward material resources, humanity, and other living beings. Especially in this age of spiritual ignorance, this exploitative mentality leads to extremely sinful activities, like cow slaughter, abortion, and unrestricted sex indulgence. We needn't, however, condemn science and technology. They are tools. In the hands of self-realized persons, they can serve the highest aims and noblest end of society. In the hands of exploitative sense-gratifiers, science and technology will wreak havoc.

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My Encounter With the Art of Perfection

I, who had worshiped so long at the shrine of the Bard,
now astounded myself by thinking, "This is greater than Shakespeare!"

by Ravindra-Svarupa Dasa

RAVINDRA-SVARUPA DASA, a devotee of Krsna for fourteen years, holds a doctorate in religion from Temple University. The above article is from the Preface to the author's forthcoming hook. Encounter with the Lord of the Universe, a collection of the author's articles, reprinted from BACK TO GODHEAD.

By the time I encountered the Krsna consciousness movement. I was so eager to transcend material existence that I was willing to renounce practically everything for the sake of liberation. So convinced was I that pain and suffering were of the essence of this life that I did not desire to reserve any attachment, even to the highest and best part of it.

And to me, that highest and best was exemplified in art and literature—in those timeless artifacts, those "monuments," as the poet Yeats beautifully called them, "of unaging intellect." And I myself had since adolescence sought transcendence in the role of the artist. I had become captivated by a certain image of the artist, an image presented with consummate lyricism by James Joyce in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: a "fabulous artificer . . . forging anew in his workshop out of the sluggish matter of the earth a new soaring impalpable imperishable being."

A magus turning matter into spirit, the artist transmutes the tacky, mortal stuff of this life into a new "unaging," "imperishable" creation; in so doing, he redeems his existence from time and change. Certainly this redemptive drive toward the eternal and immutable is the deepest motive of art. As such, the artistic impulse is religious. The problem is that it fails. It is bad religion.

Consider this typical example of the "eternizing theme" from one of Shakespeare's sonnets:

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest,
Nor shall Death brag thou wand'rest in his shade
When in eternal lines to Time thou growest.
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

The poet refers to his verse as eternal—as eternal as Time itself—yet in the final couplet a more deflated view prevails: the verse can at best last no longer than mankind. And while the poet boldly asserts that his verse rescues his subject from time and death, preserving him in eternal youth, we recognize a rhetorical fiction, a hyperbole. Centuries ago that fair youth moldered in his grave and is now at most a sparse handful of dust. Nothing has really been saved from time and death: not the poet, not his subject, not his art.

The promise of art is illusory. Art cannot save us, no matter how beautiful and well wrought its objects may be. They are, essentially, fictions. At best, art may palliate the pains of life, but even in this it dangerously misleads. They say that during the Holocaust, Jews were marched toward gas chambers while an orchestra beguiled them with Mozart and Brahms. Aesthetic enjoyment is like an anodyne that relieves the symptoms of a disease. Given the illusion of health, we can ignore our sickness, and eventually it destroys us.

The spell of art is hard to break once you have fallen under it, but I became at last disenchanted. Although I was still deeply attracted by great art and literature and still strongly felt the allure of the artistic vocation, I knew neither the enjoyment nor the creation of art could save me from death, I began to study spiritual writings, and eventually I became sure of at least this much: that material life is essentially suffering, that suffering is caused by our desires, and that the cure for suffering lies in the uprooting of our desires. I was willing, therefore, to give up everything, from the gross satisfaction of animal appetites to the refined pleasures of art and its creation. I set out on my own to eradicate my desires. I failed utterly.

I failed because my idea of renunciation was rudimentary, incomplete. I did not actually understand renunciation, in principle or in practice. Finally, however, I was enlightened in this matter by the devotees of Krsna. As they explained it, the Krsna conscious method of renunciation was both sensible and practical. And, as I soon discovered, it was remarkably efficacious. Moreover—and this astonished me completely—it was joyful through and through. It was not negation but fulfillment. And whatever I gave up on the material platform, I got back a thousandfold on the spiritual. In my case, this was most immediately evident with reference to literary art.

I had gleaned my previous ideas of renunciation from the teachings of various impersonalists, those mystics who think that ultimate truth is wholly devoid of names, forms, attributes, activities, and relations and that to characterize it properly we must resort to silence and negation. They hold that in the liberated state the knower, the known, and the act of knowing coalesce to absolute unity and that to enter that state we must denude ourselves of all personality and individuality and turn away from all sensory and intellectual experience. This bleak and daunting prospect can appeal only to the most burned-out victims of time, and it has sent many seekers back to material life in frustration.

But Rupa Gosvami, a great authority on devotional service, calls this impersonal sort of renunciation phalgu-vairagya, "incomplete renunciation." It is incomplete because the realization of the supreme on which it is based is incomplete. By rejecting material qualities, names, forms, activities, and relations, the impersonalists have reached but the outer precincts of divinity, which they report to be an endless, undifferentiated spiritual effulgence. But they do not know that this effulgence conceals a still higher region of transcendence, where the Supreme Personality of Godhead Krsna resides. In this topmost abode, hidden in the heart of the infinite ocean of light, Krsna exhibits His most beautiful transcendental form and His unsurpassable personal qualities as He plays out endless exchanges of love with His pure devotees. Because the impersonalists have unfortunately not yet realized these variegated positive features of transcendence, they must be content with mere negation of the material.

When there is complete realization of the supreme, however, one enters the luminous realm of devotional service. Here, the senses and mind of the devotee become decontaminated from all material taint by complete absorption in the active service of their transcendental object, Krsna. In this way there is the awakening of full spiritual existence, and material existence automatically ceases. Accordingly, the devotee does not reject mind and senses, desire and activities, but he restores them to their original purity through the devotional activities of Krsna consciousness. Because the devotee focuses his full attention on the supremely attractive forms and pastimes of Krsna, he quite naturally loses his interest in all the attractions of this world. In comparison with Krsna and His society, those attractions undergo fatal devaluation.

The foremost book dedicated wholly to Krsna is the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Srimad-Bhagavatam is filled with accounts of the marvelous activities the Lord performs during His various descents into this world. It narrates His eternal, joyful pastimes in His supreme abode, and it describes in detail how he dwells as Supersoul within our hearts. With scientific precision, Srimad-Bhagavatam tells how Krsna again and again brings forth and maintains and winds up the creation. It tells of the great adventures of His devotees throughout the universe. And it instructs us in the potent practices of bhakti-yoga, by which we can regain our transcendental organs of perception and once again see Krsna always, within everything and beyond everything. The works comprising India's vast spiritual literature are called the Vedic literature, and the Srimad-Bhagavatam is "the ripened fruit of the Vedic tree of knowledge." Yet this work was hardly known outside of India until His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, my spiritual master, began his hugely successful project of translating it and distributing it all over the world.

The first time I read Srimad-Bhagavatam was one of the high points of my life. In those days, we had only the three russet volumes Srila Prabhupada had written and published in India and brought with him to America. But these books—crudely printed, badly bound, riddled with typos—were the greatest literature I had ever encountered. I, who had worshiped so long at the shrine of the Bard, now astounded myself by thinking, "This is greater than Shakespeare!" I read with full appreciation that one of Krsna's names is Uttamasloka, or "He who is praised by immortal verse." I delved deeper and deeper into the Bhagavatam, endlessly fascinated, and discovered one day that I had in the process renounced the literature of this world.

Srimad-Bhagavatam is in a class all its own, and once you have acquired a taste for it, all mundane literature seems stale and flat. Nor do you tire of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. As a rule, the higher the quality of a literary work, the more it bears rereading. A paperback thriller is notably unthrilling on second reading;

Hamlet or King Lear remain satisfying after many revisits. Still, there are limits, and even the most ardent Shakespearean requires periodic relief. But you can pick up Bhagavatam every day and find it inexhaustible; with each rereading it increases in interest. Because Bhagavatam is simply not a product of this world, it has the ever-fresh quality that is the hallmark of spirit.

All along I had really wanted Srimad-Bhagavatam. It seemed to me that all literary yearnings for the eternal unconsciously seek that crest-jewel of books. And now I had found it. So I did not, after all, have to give up my attraction to literature; I had only to purify it. Once purified, my desire was satisfied beyond my greatest expectation.

In the same way, my desire to write was also fulfilled. In becoming Srila Prabhupada's disciple, I had become part of a distinctively literary spiritual tradition. The historical line of spiritual masters to which Prabhupada belongs is named the Brahma-sampradaya, after its first member, the cosmic engineer. Lord Brahma. At the beginning of creation Brahma was impregnated with Vedic knowledge by Krsna, and Brahma then arranged for this knowledge to be passed down carefully from generation to generation through an unbroken chain of masters. Lord Brahma is often depicted with a book in his hand, signifying his possession of Vedic knowledge, and his sampradaya, preserving its founder's characteristic, is particularly learned. Its members are so distinguished for literary production that it is known as "the sampradaya of the book." Thus, Srila Prabhupada himself made books the basis of his preaching effort, and he gave the world more than sixty volumes of spiritual writings.

Not long after I moved into the temple, I heard these instructions from Srila Prabhupada, on tape from a lecture in Los Angeles: "Every one of you, what is your realization? You write your realization—what you have realized about Krsna. That is required. It is not passive; always you should be active. Whenever you find time, write. Never mind—two lines, four lines, but you write your realizations. Sravanam, kirtanam—writing or offering prayers, glories—this is one of the functions of a Vaisnava [devotee]. You are hearing, but you have to write also. Then, writing means smaranam—remembering what you have heard from your spiritual master." Thus, writing automatically involves a devotee in three prominent aspects of devotional service: hearing and chanting about Krsna and remembering Him [sravanam, kirtanam, and smaranam]. And in a letter to a disciple, Prabhupada said: "All students should be encouraged to write some article after reading the Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and Teachings of Lord Caitanya. They should realize the information, and they must present their assimilation in their own words. Otherwise, how can they become preachers?"

Moreover, Prabhupada specifically established BACK TO GODHEAD magazine in America to provide his disciples with an outlet for their writings. So I had abundant encouragement. And I had inexhaustible material. There was nothing else to do but write.

Srimad-Bhagavatam recounts the occasion when the great sage Narada Muni had cause to instruct his disciple Vyasadeva concerning the principles of devotional service. Narada says: "O brahmana Vyasadeva, it is decided by the learned that the best remedial measure for removing all troubles and miseries is to dedicate one's activities to the service of the Supreme Lord Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna. O good soul, does not a thing, applied therapeutically, cure a disease which was caused by the very same thing? Thus when all a man's activities are dedicated to the service of the Lord, those very activities which caused his perpetual bondage become the destroyer of the tree of work." (Italics added.)

My own experience confirms these words of Narada Muni. Certainly my intense desire to enjoy and create fine literature had bound me tightly to this world. But when I became a devotee, the very desire that had caused my bondage, when dovetailed in the service of Krsna, produced freedom. I experienced early the purifying, liberating effect of writing in Krsna consciousness.

Writing, for me, demands great concentration. In practically no other circumstances am I compelled to meditate so intensely on Krsna and His teachings; in so doing I associate with Krsna and by that association become purified. Moreover, the effort to write clearly is the effort to understand clearly. When I see my words out there, all detached on the page, it is as if they stand exposed for judgment. And I hasten to revise and revise and revise again. In reworking and refining my writing, I feel I am being reworked and refined. In this way, writing keeps me fixed in the refiner's fire of Krsna consciousness.

I said earlier that the ambition to attain the eternal and immutable is the deepest motive of art. In the case of Krsna conscious art, this drive can realize its end. Krsna is eternal, and whatever comes into contact with Him attains that same eternal nature. The literary artist who dedicates his craft fully to the service of Krsna, then, really does transmute matter into spirit, and he becomes redeemed fully from time and change. His work may be more or less expert in the world's judgment, but that matters not at all. As Srila Prabhupada noted in this connection, "If one is actually sincere in writing, all his ambitions will be fulfilled."

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Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama 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.

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Can God Do That?

Some of Lord Krsna's transcendental
pastimes may seem hard to swallow.
But there's a sound explanation.

by Mathuresa Dasa

If I were to tell you I knew a story about a boy who swallowed a raging forest fire to save his friends and relatives, you'd probably think it was a fairy tale. Boys don't swallow forest fires.

If I were to tell you the story was about how God swallowed a raging forest fire, you might consider more seriously the possibility of the story's being true. God has been known to part seas, hold forth from clouds, and demolish mighty empires. So why not inhale a forest fire?

The fact is, the short story I am going to tell is about an attractive young boy who inhaled a raging forest fire to save His friends and relatives. But it's not a fairy tale. It's a true story. You see, that young boy is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna. Let me explain.

The Vedic literatures describe three levels of God realization. On the first level, the transcendentalist realizes God as Brahman, the effulgent, all-pervading spirit, and he realizes that he too is eternal spirit, different from the temporary, physical body. This is not to say, as many transcendentalists mistakenly conclude, that we are God, but that we have the same eternal, spiritual nature as God.

On the second level, God is realized as Paramatma, the Supersoul, who is within the hearts of all living creatures and within every atom. The Supersoul witnesses our activities, awards us our karma, hears and answers our prayers, and directs the movements of material nature, from the orbits of the greatest planets down to the stirring of the smallest particles of dust. "Not a blade of grass moves," say the Upanisads, "without the will of the Lord."

Most currently popular conceptions of God fall within the categories of Brahman and Paramatma realization: God is understood to be the omnipresent and omniscient Supreme Being, the almighty creator and ruler of the universe, the provider of our daily necessities, the overseer and stem judge of our deeds; He is the Great Cosmic Scorekeeper, fully absorbed in His unlimited administrative duties.

These conceptions of God, while correct, are incomplete. There is a third and higher level of God realization, known as Bhagavan realization, in which we understand that God is not first and foremost the controller of this material world nor the servant of our desires. God is the Supreme, the the one master of all. How could He be obliged to act as our servant or simply as a cosmic administrator? The Vedic literatures inform us that God, in His topmost feature as Bhagavan, resides in His eternal abode, beyond the material world, where He enjoys blissful pastimes with His pure devotees. In that transcendental abode He is known as Krsna, the all-attractive Personality of Godhead, and although He is the oldest of all, He appears eternally as a fresh youth.

Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan are progressive realizations of the same Supreme Person. Brahman is the effulgence of Krsna's transcendental body. Paramatma is Krsna's personal expansion through which He creates and maintains the material universe. And Bhagavan is Krsna's original form as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the source of all other features of God.

People sometimes argue that God cannot be a person. If He were, they say. He would be limited and imperfect like us. But the Vedic literatures answer that although God is an individual person, we cannot compare our personalities to His in every respect. He is the greatest person and has no limitations or faults. Because He is the origin of everything, He necessarily possesses everything. If He were merely an impersonal being, He would he lacking the most valued of all assets—personality, or individuality. And how can the Supreme lack anything?

Bhagavan Sri Krsna occasionally appears in human society to display His intimate pastimes. To play the part of a human being, He descended five thousand years ago as the son of one of His devotees. He grew from childhood to boyhood to youth—but no further. When He spoke the Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra, He had been on earth for 125 years and had many children and grandchildren. Yet He looked no older than twenty or twenty-five.

So what about that boy in the painting inhaling all those flames? As I was saying, that's Krsna, the Supreme Person, and He's swallowing a forest fire to save His friends and relatives. Once, while Krsna and all the residents of Vrndavana, India (Krsna's home town), were in the forest on the bank of the river Yamuna, a fire broke out, surrounding them all. Krsna was only seven years old at the time, and yet all the inhabitants of Vrndavana, feeling the heat of the fire closing in on them, turned to Him with full faith and cried out, "Our dear Krsna! O Supreme Personality of Godhead! Please try to save us from this devastating fire. We have no other shelter than You."

The residents of Vrndavana were on the topmost level of Bhagavan realization. They knew and loved Krsna as their dear-most friend and as their affectionate child. Although they were sometimes aware that He was the Supreme Personality of Godhead, that fact was not important to them.

Attracted by His beauty and by His loving dealings, they lived only to serve Him and to please Him. "Krsna may or may not be God," they would think, "but we want to serve Him just because He is such a wonderful boy." Even when they called out to Him in fear of the fire, addressing Him as the Supreme Personality of Godhead and asking Him to save them, they were thinking of Him primarily as their intimate friend.

Hearing the distressed cry of His own townspeople, and understanding that they were depending completely upon Him, Krsna felt compassionate and immediately swallowed the forest fire. Although He was playing the part of a human being, whenever He desired He would display the opulences and power that proved He was God.

In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna explains that He rewards us according to our degree of surrender. To the atheist, who denies the very existence of God, Krsna remains obligingly invisible. To those persons who approach Lord Krsna to request that He fulfill their material desires, He reveals Himself as the Almighty Father. But to those who worship Him only to please Him, without any desire for their own gratification, He is eternally the most loving friend. He displays His earthly pastimes, such as swallowing the forest fire, to awaken in all of us an ambition to attain this transcendental friendship.

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

Earlier this year, with some patient perseverance on the part of my wife, I began reading some of the books published by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Being brought up with a Christian background, needless to say I was apprehensive.

It was comforting to see so many parallels between the teachings of the two faiths. That's when I began to realize that both were the same faith inspired by God into different versions to better reach the understanding of all humanity.

I started seeing myself and my relationship with God much clearer. The first thing to go was meat-eating. I actually developed a sincere hunger for more knowledge—not only from scriptures like the Bhagavad-gita, but also from Bible passages that now seemed to make more sense. I must confess, though, that after doing this reading and visiting the Chicago temple for the Ratha-yatra festival, I still found some of the customs a trifle awkward to get accustomed to.

My question to you is this. From what I've read, there are no real contradictions between Christianity and Krsna consciousness in their message to us about our relationship with God. Not being an expert on the scriptures of either, am I on target with this way of thinking?

Jeff Schultz
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Our reply: From a scriptural point of view, your thinking is right on target. There is no real contradiction between the message of Christianity and that of Krsna consciousness. Lord Jesus Christ preached love of God, and in the Bhagavad-gita Lord Sri Krsna preached the same thing. Lord Jesus described himself as the son of God the Father, and Lord Krsna said, "I am the seed-giving father of all living entities." We find no contradiction in this.

The Ten Commandments are laws for the Christians, and Krsna consciousness encompasses all those Commandments. And just as the Bible stresses glorifying the holy name of the Lord, the Krsna consciousness scriptures also put great stress on kirtana, or glorifying God's divine names. In this way, you will find many parallels between Krsna consciousness and the Christian ideal.

But, as you have noted, there are differences in the customs, and like anything new, they will take some getting used to. Please note, however, that customs, rituals, and socio-religious mores are largely external. They give but slight indication of the love a person has in his heart for God. Even within the various schools of Krsna devotees in India, differences among customs, standards, and rituals abound. But any religious process must culminate in a purified heart, full surrender to God, and unmotivated devotional service. The Krsna consciousness movement is offering people the opportunity to come to that standard.

The Krsna consciousness scriptures, in addition to clarifying ambiguous passages in the Bible (as you have experienced), also deliver a wealth of knowledge about God. His abode and associates. His names and pastimes, as well as about spiritual life in general. And this knowledge is far more complete than Biblical accounts. This is a very significant difference, but not a real contradiction. It's more like the difference between a multivolume encyclopedic dictionary' and a pocket dictionary. They don't contradict each other, but one is more complete and therefore more authoritative. This distinction between Krsna consciousness and Christian thought is readily apparent to anyone who makes an unbiased comparison of the two. You seem to have no trouble doing this, and therefore you are becoming enlightened by coming in touch with Krsna consciousness.

Please continue to study this great movement. Take advantage of this knowledge, and help us give it to others. This will assure your rapid advancement in Krsna consciousness and make you very dear to Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and to Lord Jesus Christ.

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Notes from the Editor

Seeing the Bright Side of Illness

While writing this month's column, I am confined with an illness that has stopped my normal work. It's a discouraging, uncomfortable interlude, yet I am seeing how illness can also bring one valuable realizations.

For example, I wrote a poem that I don't think I could have written had I not been sidelined:


My list of Things to Do
falls to the side.
All I do is rest.
Yet one cry to Krsna
is worth a hundred days
of marching in pride.

In the spirit of making the best of a bad bargain, I would like to suggest some hidden benefits to look for the next time you have the misfortune of being physically ill.

One of the first things I noticed was that things went on fine without me. This may be a crushing blow to the ego, but there is always some competent young fellow ready to take up the slack when the boss is missing. Even on the level of national heroes this is true. National heads may feel pride, thinking, "Without me, everything will go to ruin," but history shows that the world goes on. No one is irreplacable. Seeing this truth in my own life has reminded me to look out for delusions of grandeur about who I am once I return, by Krsna's grace, to my normal responsibilities. I take less for granted. I've become more grateful for the honest work that awaits me when I return to health. And I've had other realizations. When illness strikes you down, it becomes pretty obvious that you aren't the center of the universe, the enjoyer of all things, the lord of all you survey.

To miss work on account of illness may lead us to consider just what a hectic pace we usually keep. In reading the Bhagavad-gita (something I usually have precious little time for), I recently came across Lord Krsna's description of the modes of passion and ignorance, which He describes as the driving forces behind the actions of most everybody. The Gita's basic teaching is that each of us is an eternal spirit soul. Out of greed and forgetfulness of God, however, we have chosen to come into this material world, where we are being forced to act under the influence of the material modes of passion and ignorance. Taking on a burden of superficial duties, we utterly forget our spiritual nature and work passionately for temporary goals. We may think we are the doer of our activities, but actually we are not. We are driven by the mode of passion. Srila Prabhupada explains this in one of his purports in the Bhagavad-gita:

In the mode of passion people become greedy, and their hankering for sense enjoyment has no limit. We can see that even if a person has enough money and adequate arrangements for sense gratification, still he has neither happiness nor peace of mind. Why is that? Because he is conducted by the mode of passion. If a person wants genuine happiness, his money will not help him; he has to elevate himself to the mode of goodness by practicing Krsna consciousness.

A careful reading of the Bhagavad-gita will make us consider more deeply whether we require a fundamental adjustment in our life. After all, if we allow ourselves to become absorbed in the rat race of passion, we may miss the real goal: self-realization. Certainly, if illness turns us toward a valuable scripture like the Bhagavad-gita and leads us to re-evaluate our priorities, then that illness is a blessing.

But usually illness is a negative experience. We may be forced to sleep a lot, to become numbed by medicines, or to endure chronic pain. The quiet days of inactivity become boring. After all, every individual's nature is to become happy through some kind of activity, and illness restrains us from that pursuit. Undoubtedly, disease is an unwanted imposition, yet that very frustration may give rise to a very thoughtful question: "Why do I have to suffer this disease?"

To ask this question is to go beyond symptoms to the original cause of our discomfort. During my present illness, I have heard a lot about the distinction between symptom and cause. One naturopathic doctor gave a graphic example of this when he told me that treating a headache with painkillers was like turning off a fire alarm because you're bothered by the noise. In other words, the headache is often but a symptom, and to cure it completely one must correct the underlying cause. But the question "Why do I have to suffer any disease?" goes beyond holistic-health-consciousness and leads ultimately to a profound philosophical inquiry. The ultimate goal of that inquiry is to understand the original cause of all suffering and to apply the remedy.

This question—"Why do I have to get ill?"—was asked five hundred years ago by Sanatana Gosvami to his spiritual master. Lord Caitanya. Lord Caitanya replied that disease is one of the four natural miseries of material existence: birth, disease, old age, and death. These miseries will always occur as long as we continue to take birth within this material world. The miseries, including disease, can be alleviated only when we attain our original, spiritual consciousness and transfer ourselves to the spiritual world, where life is full of bliss, eternity, and knowledge. Ultimately, disease is caused not by infection or by bad diet or by overwork; it is due to taking a material body. We may think that after a little rest and medication we will bounce back, but unless we find the root solution, there will always be another illness—and not only in this life but in repeated lifetimes in various species.

My recent experience has been that illness may make us more humble and thoughtful, and that that in turn may lead us to seek the guidance of spiritually advanced persons and of the revealed scriptures. Our friends' "Get Well Soon" cards are but wishful thinking. Only with spiritual knowledge can we free ourselves from the miseries inherent in nature. But if we are without this knowledge, all our endeavors are wasted.—SDG

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