A devotee of Krsna sees that people
A lecture by
Today I shall speak to you about being saved from the laws of nature. This was discussed between Maharaja Pariksit and Sukadeva Gosvami in the Sixth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
The universal planetary systems are very nicely explained in the Fifth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Within the universe there are some planets that are hellish. Actually, not only the Bhagavatam but all religious scriptures contain descriptions of hell and heaven. In Srimad-Bhagavatam you can find out where those hellish planets are and how distant they are from this planet, just as you can obtain information from modern astronomy. Astronomers have calculated how far the moon is from here and what the distance is between this planet and the sun; similarly, the Srimad-Bhagavatam contains descriptions of the hellish planets. We have experience of different atmospheric conditions even on this planet. In the Western countries near the North Pole, the climate is different than in India, which is near the equator. Just as there are differences in atmosphere and living conditions on this planet, similarly there are many planets that have different atmospheres and conditions of life.
After hearing a description of the hellish planets from Sukadeva Gosvami, Pariksit Maharaja said,
"Sir, I have heard from you about the hellish planets. Men who are sinful are sent to those planets" [Bhag. 6.1.6]. Pariksit Maharaja is a Vaisnava [devotee], and a Vaisnava always feels compassion for the distress of others. He is afflicted by others' miseries. Lord Jesus Christ, for instance, was greatly afflicted by the miserable conditions of the people. Regardless of which country or sect they belong to, all Vaisnavas, or devotees—any people who are God conscious, or Krsna conscious—are thus compassionate.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu has explained that the living entities are rotating in different species of life, in different planetary systems all over the universe. A living entity can go anywhere—to hell or heaven—as he likes and as he prepares himself. There are many heavenly planets, many hellish planets, and many species of life. There are 8,400,000 species of life. The living entity is rotating, wandering through these species and creating bodies according to his mentality in the present life. As you sow, so shall you reap.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu says that out of all these numberless living entities who are traveling in the material world, one is fortunate, not everyone. If everyone were fortunate, they would all have taken to Krsna consciousness. It is being distributed everywhere. But why are people not taking it? Because they are unfortunate. Therefore Caitanya Mahaprabhu says that only those who are fortunate take to this Krsna consciousness, and they get a hopeful life, a pleasant life, a blissful life, a life of knowledge.
A Vaisnava thinks, "How can these people be delivered from their hellish life?" That was Pariksit Maharaja's inquiry. "Sir," he said, "you have described that on account of one's sinful activities one is put into a hellish condition of life or in a hellish planetary system. Now, what are the countermethods by which such persons can be saved?" This is the question. When a Vaisnava comes, when God Him-self comes, or when God's son or His very confidential devotees come, their only mission is to save the sinful men who are suffering. They have knowledge of how to do this.
The Vaisnava knows that as soon as one surrenders to Krsna, one's path is clear. This is a simple method. All you have to do is bow down before Krsna with faith and say, "My Lord Krsna , I was forgetful of You for so long, for so many lives. Now please accept me." That's all. If one simply learns this technique and sincerely surrenders himself to the Lord, his path is immediately open. These are the philosophical thoughts of a Vaisnava. A Vaisnava is always thinking about how the fallen conditioned souls can be delivered. He is always involved in making plans in that way, just like the six Gosvamis of Vrndavana, Lord Caitanya's direct disciples. They very scrutinizingly studied the revealed scriptures with the aim of establishing eternal religious principles for the benefit of all human beings.
With this same Vaisnava compassion, Pariksit Maharaja says to Sukadeva Gosvami: "You have described the different types of hellish conditions of life. Now tell me how those who are suffering can be delivered. Kindly explain this to me. How can they be delivered from their fierce miseries and horrible pains?" That is a Vaisnava heart. He says, "Somehow or other they have fallen down to this hellish life. But that does not mean that they should remain in that condition. There must be some means by which they can be delivered, so kindly explain that."
Sukadeva Gosvami replied:
na ced ihaivapacitim yathamhasah
"Yes, if before one's death one's impious acts in this life are not counteracted through atonement, one has to enter the hellish planets " [Bhag. 6.1.7].
How can this be done? Sinful activities are committed in various ways. We can commit sins, or we can make a plan, thinking, "I shall kill that man." Either way, it is sinful. When the mind is thinking, feeling, and willing, then there is action.
The other day I was reading in a book that if someone's dog barks at you when you are passing on the road, then that is an offense on the part of the dog-owner, according to law. No one should have to be scared by dogs barking, so one should take care of his dog. I read this. It is a law in your country. The dog is simply barking, but it is sinful. The dog is not responsible, because it is an animal, but because the owner of the animal has made the dog his best friend, he is responsible by law. If an outside dog enters your house, it may not be killed, but the owner of the dog may be prosecuted.
Just as the barking of the dog is unlawful, so when you speak something offensive to others, that is also sinful. That is just like barking. Therefore sinful activities are committed in so many ways. We may think of sinful activities, or speak something sinful, or actually commit a sinful act, but they are all considered sinful activities. Dhruvam sa vai pretya narakan upaiti. One has to suffer punishment for such sinful activities.
People do not believe in a next life because they want to avoid this botheration. But we cannot avoid it. We must act according to the law, or we will be punished. Similarly, I cannot avoid God's law. That is not possible. I can cheat others, commit theft, and hide myself, thereby saving myself from the punishment of the state law, but I cannot save myself from the superior law, the law of nature. It is very difficult. There are so many witnesses. The daylight is a witness, the moonlight is a witness, and Krsna is the supreme witness. You cannot say, "I am committing this sin, but no one can see me."
Krsna is the supreme witness, and He is sitting within your heart. He notes down what you are thinking and what you are doing. He also gives facility. If you want to do something to satisfy your senses, Krsna gives the facility for that action. That is stated in the Bhagavad-gita. Sarvasya caham hrdi sannivistah: "I am Sitting in everyone's heart." Mattah smrtir jnanam apohanam ca: "From Me come remembrance, knowledge, and forgetfulness."
In this way Krsna gives us a chance. If you want Krsna, then He will give you a chance to have Him, and if you don't want Krsna, then He will give you a chance to forget Him. If you want to enjoy life forgetting Krsna, forgetting God, then Krsna will give you all facility so that you can forget, and if you want to enjoy life with Krsna consciousness, then Krsna will give you the chance to make progress in Krsna consciousness. That is up to you.
If you think that you can be happy without Krsna consciousness, Krsna does not object to that. Yathecchasi tatha kuru. After advising Arjuna, He simply said, "Now I have explained everything to you. Whatever you desire you can do." Arjuna replied immediately, karisye vacanam tava: "Now I shall execute Your order." That is Krsna consciousness.
God does not interfere with your little independence. If you want to act according to the order of God, then God will help you. Even if you fall down sometimes, if you become sincere—"From this time on I shall remain Krsna conscious and execute His orders"—then Krsna will help you. In all respects, even if you fall down, He will excuse you and give you more intelligence. This intelligence will say "Don't do this. Now go on with your duty." But if you want to forget Krsna, if you want to become happy without Krsna, He will give you so many chances that you will forget Krsna life after life.
Pariksit Maharaja says here, "It is not that if I say there is no God then there will be no God or I will not be responsible for what I do." That is the atheistic theory. Atheists do not want God because they are always sinful—if they thought that there is a God, then they would be forced to shudder at the thought of punishment. Therefore they deny the existence of God. That is their process. They think that if they do not accept God then there is no punishment and they can do whatever they like.
When rabbits are being attacked by bigger animals, they close their eyes and think, "I am not going to be killed." But they are killed anyway. Similarly, we may deny the existence of God and the law of God, but still God and His law are there. In the high court you may say, "I don't care for the law of the government," but you will be put into prison and have to suffer. Similarly, you may foolishly decry the existence of God—"There is no God" or "I am God"—but nevertheless you are responsible for all your actions, both good and bad.
There are two kinds of activities—good and bad. If you act nicely and perform pious activities, then you get good fortune, and if you act sinfully, then you have to suffer. Thus Sukadeva Gosvami says:
tasmat puraivasv iha papa-niskrtau
There are different kinds of atonement. If you commit some sin and counteract it by something else, that is atonement. There are examples of this in the Christian Bible. Here Sukadeva Gosvami says, "You should know that you are responsible, and according to the gravity of sinful life, you should accept some type of atonement as described in the sastras, the scriptures."
Actually, just as when one is diseased he must go to a doctor and pay doctor bills as a form of atonement, according to the Vedic way of life there is a class of brahmanas to whom one should go for the prescribed atonement according to the sins one commits.
Sukadeva Gosvami says that one has to execute the prescribed atonement according to the gravity of one's sinful life. He continues the example: dosasya drstva guru-laghavam yatha bhisak cikitseta rujam nidanavit. When you consult a physician, he prescribes an inexpensive medicine or a costly medicine according to the gravity of the disease. If you simply have a headache, he may prescribe aspirin, but if you have something very severe, he immediately prescribes a surgical operation that will cost a thousand dollars. Similarly, sinful life is a diseased condition, so one must take the prescribed cure to become healthy.
Acceptance of the chain of birth and death is a diseased condition of the soul. Because the soul is spirit, it has no birth and death and no disease. Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita- [2.20]: na jayate, the soul has no birth, and na mriyate, it has no death. Nityah sasvato yam purano na hanyate hanyamane sarire. The soul is eternal and everlasting. It is not lost with the dissolution of the body. Na hanyate hanyamane sarire. Na hanyate means that it is not killed or destroyed, even after the destruction of the body.
The missing point of modern civilization is that there is no educational system to instruct people on what happens after death. Thus we have the most defective education, because without this knowledge of what happens after death, one dies like an animal. The animal does not know that he is going to have another body; he has no such knowledge.
Human life is not meant for becoming an animal. One should not simply be interested in eating, sleeping, sex, and defense. You may have a very nice arrangement for eating, or many nice buildings for sleeping, or a very good arrangement for sex, or a very good defense force to protect you, but that does not mean that you are a human being. That type of civilization is animal life. Animals are also interested in eating, sleeping, and sex, and according to their own methods they defend also. Where, then, is the distinction between human life and animal life if you simply engage in these four principles of bodily nature?
The distinction is made when a human being is inquisitive—"Why have I been put into this miserable condition? Is there any remedy for it? Is there any perpetual, eternal life? I do not want to die. I want to live very happily and peacefully. Is there a chance of this? What is that method? What is that science?" When these inquiries are there and steps are taken to answer these questions, that is human civilization; otherwise it is doggish civilization, animal civilization.
Animals are satisfied if they can eat, sleep, have some sex, and have some defense. Actually there is no defense because no one can protect himself from the hands of cruel death. So-called scientists are now saying that we shall stop death by scientific methods. This is another crazy utterance. That is not possible. You may make great advancement in scientific knowledge, but there is no scientific solution to these four problems—birth, death, old age and disease.
One who is intelligent will be eager to solve these four prime problems No one wants to die. But there is no remedy. I have to die. Everyone is very anxious to stop the increase of population by employing so many contraceptive methods, but still, birth is going on. So there is no stoppage of birth. You may invent up-to-date medicines by your scientific methods, but you cannot stop disease. It is not possible just to take a tablet to put an end to disease.
In Bhagavad-gita it is said, janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi-duhkha-dosanudarsanam: "Where is the solution to these four problems of birth, death, old age and disease? That solution is the process of Krsna consciousness."
Krsna also says in the same book [4.9],
janma karma ca me divyam
Every one of us is giving up our body at every moment. The last phase of giving up this body is called death. But Krsna says, "If anyone understands My appearance and disappearance and My activities—not superficially but in truth—after giving up this body he never again accepts a material body."
What happens to such a person? Mam eti—he returns to Krsna. If you are to go to Krsna, then you have to prepare your spiritual body. That is Krsna consciousness. If you keep yourself in Krsna consciousness, then gradually you prepare your next body, a spiritual body, which will carry you immediately to Krsnaloka, and you will become happy. You will live a perpetual life of and bliss and knowledge.
Thank you very much.
Fried Food: Dispelling the Doubts
Want to enjoy delicious fried food without worrying about cholesterol?
When serving the multicourse feast offered to all comers at ISKCON centers each Sunday, I've noticed that almost everyone enjoys fried foods, whether vegetable fritters, stuffed pastries, or the biscuits and crisps we're featuring this month. Some guests (and devotees) take seconds or thirds, and if anything fried remains after the feast, there are always a few enthusiasts who'll gladly take the leftovers home for a Monday-morning snack.
Yet sometimes when I'm serving, a guest will tell me, "Oh, nothing fried for me—too much cholesterol." And once a teenage newcomer surprised me when she refused the nimkis I offered, saying, "No, thanks. I find fried things tasteless."
As far as cholesterol goes, early last year the U.S. government completed a research project on that vital yet potentially dangerous yellow substance. With a price tag of $150 million, spent over ten years, the project was the broadest and most expensive in medical history. One of its conclusions was that heart disease is directly linked to the level of cholesterol in the blood, and that lowering the cholesterol level therefore markedly reduces the incidence of heart attacks. As a result of this finding, many people now shun cholesterol-laden foods, namely all foods of animal origin. So food fried in ghee (clarified butter), the traditional cooking medium in Lord Krsna's cuisine, has become suspect.
Despite cholesterol's reputation, however, the substance is essential to life. It is a building block of the outer cell membrane, and also a principal ingredient in the digestive juice bile and in the fatty sheath that insulates nerves. Although the liver produces most of the cholesterol found in the body, twenty to thirty percent generally comes from the food we eat. Problems arise only when we consume it in excess.
Since the Hare Krsna devotees don't eat meat, fish, or eggs, they don't have to worry about the cholesterol count in their fried foods. A tablespoon of ghee contains only 31 milliliters of cholesterol—nothing compared to the 274 milliliters—the recommended daily amount for most adults) in just one egg, what to speak of the whopping 372 milliliters in three ounces of beef liver. By eating only prasadam (vegetarian food that's been offered to Lord Krsna), devotees avoid the deadly amounts of cholesterol in many nonvegetarian foods. And the moderate amounts of cholesterol devotees do eat, in ghee and other dairy products, is used by the body as an essential building block.
But besides being relatively low in cholesterol, fried vegetarian foods are succulent and flavorful when properly cooked. In the case of vegetable fritters, this succulence is due to the intense heat of the ghee or oil, which "surprises" the food, instantly sealing its pores. Then, with its surface closed, the food literally steams in its own juices to produce a light, fresh taste.
In the case of biscuits and crisps, the intense heat of the frying medium permeates the grains to make them either crisp, flaky, or tender depending on the density and ingredients of the dough. The medium also acts as a preservative. If you store these treats in a sealed container, they'll keep for up to two weeks.
But to deep-fry properly you must be attentive to timing, temperature, and technique. Use enough ghee or oil to completely cover the food while it fries, and your pot should be big enough to provide ample room for the currents of hot ghee or oil to circulate freely. Also, before adding a new batch of food, allow the ghee or oil to return to its optimal temperature.
If you neglect to keep the ghee or oil hot enough, the food will absorb too much of the frying medium. Food that's been fried at too low a temperature is greasy and heavy—a most unappetizing combination. (The teenager I mentioned earlier, who had said fried foods were tasteless, had obviously eaten improperly fried food.) And even though the frying medium may be hot enough, if you overcrowd the pot or try to fry food taken directly from the refrigerator or freezer, you may sufficiently lower the temperature to cause absorption of the ghee or oil.
You should also avoid letting the ghee or oil become too hot. Then the outside of the food scorches before the inside is fully cooked. Excessive heat can also cause the ghee or oil to smoke, which you should avoid at all costs. When ghee or oil smokes, it begins to decompose, creating a noxious compound that can inflame your respiratory system. In addition, overheated ghee or oil will impart an unpleasant flavor to food and cannot be reused.
Ghee and various oils smoke at different temperatures. For example, ghee smokes at 4l0°F, corn oil at 475°, peanut oil at 440°, sesame oil at 420°, and olive oil at 375°. There are special thermometers you can use to test the smoking temperature of the oil you're cooking with. You can also use a candy thermometer.
As long as the frying medium has not smoked, you can save and reuse it a number of times. But be sure to clean it after each use by straining it, once it has cooled, through several layers of cheesecloth. Ghee and oil store best in a cool place—the refrigerator if there's room. Oils may become cloudy in the refrigerator but will clear again when they reach room temperature. The cloudiness is harmless.
But all ghee and oil, no matter how carefully strained and stored, will eventually become unusable. As food fries, it releases microscopic particles that remain in the cooking medium and eventually burn, giving overused ghee or oil a dark color and a burnt smell and flavor.
All this may seem like mundane information—out of place in Lord Krsna's cuisine. But a devotee feels that this is the first place for such information. Our cooking for Lord Krsna should be of the highest possible standard. After all, master chefs in restaurants throughout the world are cooking par excellence for their customers, multimillion-dollar food companies are luring shoppers with their latest packaged and frozen delights, fiancis are being wooed with gourmet delights, and housewives are enamoring their husbands with tasty dinners. So why shouldn't devotees make the finest and most expertly cooked dishes for Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead?
Unlike all others, the cook who has Lord Krsna's pleasure as his goal makes spiritual advancement. His mood of selfless service progressively propels him back home, back to the abode of God, the quintessence of all destinations, a destination open to anyone who simply keeps Lord Krsna's pleasure in the forefront of his thoughts.
(Recipes by Yamuna-devi dasi)
Wafer-Thin Triangle Pastries
Preparation time: 1 hour
1 ½ cups sifted white flour
1. Combine the sifted flour, salt, and cumin seeds. Rub in the melted butter with finger-tips until it is evenly distributed. Pour in ¼ cup water, vigorously gathering the ingredients into a stiff, rough dough. Add a little more water, a half-tablespoon at a time, until you have a smooth, stiff pastry dough. Knead for about 5 to 8 minutes, until the dough is pliable. Gather the dough into a round ball, drape with a moist towel, and allow it to Sit for at least 30 minutes.
2. Roll the dough into a log and cut into 16 equal pieces. Flatten each piece into a smooth patty. On a smooth, slightly oiled counter, roll each piece with a rolling pin into a paper-thin disc. Brush a thin film of ghee over the surface. Fold in half. Brush a thin film of ghee over the half-circle. Fold into quarters-a roughly triangular shape. Now press the pastry and roll it out into a paper thin triangle. Drape rolled pastry with a damp cloth and continue rolling other pieces.
3. Heat the ghee or oil in a deep-fryer over a medium flame to 325°F. Place one pastry at a time in the hot ghee or oil, and press it with the back of a perforated spoon to keep it submerged. It will begin to puff unevenly. Fry for about 2 minutes on each side, or until both sides are crisp and golden brown. Then lift them out and drain on absorbent paper. Offer the warm pastries to Krsna. Cooled, they may be stored in air-tight containers.
Golden Pastry Chips
Preparation time: 45 minutes
1 ½ cups sifted white flour
1. Combine the sifted flour and salt. Rub in the melted butter with fingertips until it is evenly distributed. Pour in the water, stir vigorously with fingers, and gather the dough into a ball. Knead for about 8 minutes, adding a few more drops of water, until you have a smooth pastry dough. Drape with a damp towel and allow to sit at least 30 minutes.
2. Roll the dough into a log and cut into 12 equal pieces. Flatten each piece into a smooth patty. On a smooth, slightly oiled counter, roll one patty into a very thin disc. Slice into ½-inch strips and then cross-cut to yield ½-inch squares.
3. Heat the ghee or oil over a medium flame to 325°F. Fry the squares from one disc for about 2 minutes, or until pale gold. Remove with a slotted spoon and allow to cool on absorbent paper. Remove the oil from the flame while rolling and cutting another disc.
4. Reheat the ghee or oil and repeat the process until all the squares are fried. Then offer to Krsna. Chips may be stored in an airtight container for 7 to 10 days.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
A delicately seasoned savory with an attractive appearance A paste made from chickpea flour is forced through a star-shaped disc and formed into 2 ½-inch-round spirals. The "Seviya" machine required to shape the savory is available through Indian or Asian grocery and mail-order supply stores.
1 cup rice flour
1. Combine the rice flour, chick-pea flour, sesame seeds, powdered coconut, chili powder, asafetida powder, soda, and salt. Rub in the melted butter.
2. Pour in the water, and gather the mixture into a ball; remove to a clean flat surface, and knead until smooth. Divide the dough into 2 pieces. Place one portion in a "Seviya" machine with a star-pattern disc. Press the dough through the disc onto a foil-lined cookie sheet, forming individual 2 ½-inch spirals. Shape all of the dough in this manner.
3. Preheat the ghee or oil in a deep-fryer to 320°F. Slip in 5 or 6 spirals at a time and fry at
300°F for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until crisp and golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain. Offer to Krsna warm or cooled to room temperature. Spirals may be stored, well sealed, in a cookie jar or tin for 7 to 10 days.
Flaky Seasoned Biscuits
Preparation time: 1 hour
2 cups white flour
1. Combine the flour, salt, and semolina or farina. Rub in the melted butter with fingertips until it is evenly distributed. Add the yogurt and 4 tablespoons of water, and quickly gather the mixture into a stiff dough. If it is too crumbly to gather, sprinkle in up to 2 additional tablespoons of water. Knead into a smooth dough and divide the dough into 2 equal portions.
2. Add ½ teaspoon ground pepper to one portion of the dough and 1 teaspoon of ajwan seeds to the other. Knead in the new ingredients. Drape both portions with a damp cloth and allow to sit for 30 minutes.
3. By hand, roll each portion into a 12-inch log, then cut each log into 12 pieces with a rolling pin roll each piece into a 2 ½-inch disc. The edges will be uneven because of the dough's stiffness. Place a whole peppercorn in the center of each of the 12 pepper-flavored biscuits and press it firmly into the dough.
4. Heat the ghee over a medium flame to 290°F. Slip in 5 or 6 discs and fry for 5 minutes on each side, until crisp and pale gold. They should swell slightly and not be allowed to become dark brown. During the last 2 or 3 minutes, the heat may be raised to 300°F or 350°F to make the texture crisp and to shorten the frying time. If the flame is too high, the pastries will remain raw inside and swell into puffed ovals. So regulate the heat carefully.
5. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on absorbent paper, and cool to room temperature. Reduce the temperature of the ghee and fry the rest of the discs in the same way. Offer to Krsna. In a tightly sealed container, the pastries will keep for 10 to 14 days.
6. Allow the ghee to cool for 15 minutes after frying is complete. While it is still warm, strain it through a fine sieve to remove bits of seasonings and flour.
A Mission to Awaken the Soul
Five hundred years ago, as today, the public chanting,
by Mandalesvara dasa
Continuing a special series of articles commemorating the five-hundredth anniversary of Lord Caitanya's appearance in Mayapur, West Bengal. By His life and teachings, He inaugurated the Hare Krsna movement.
The poetic description in the caption below,* translated from the Bengali, takes us back almost five hundred years. Lord Caitanya, known then as Nimai Pandita, was married and living in His home town of Navadvipa. He was young, but already He had earned the reputation of a God-intoxicated saint. His charming charismatic power enabled Him to inspire one and all to join Him in the purest ecstasy of chanting Lord Krsna's beautiful, absolute names.
*[When the eastern horizon became tinged with the redness that heralds the rising of the sun, the jewel among the brahmanas, Lord Caitanya, immediately awakened. Taking His devotees with Him, He journeyed through the towns and villages of Nadia. The mrdanga drums resounded and the hand cymbals played in time. Lord Caitanya's golden form slightly trembled in ecstatic love of Godhead, and His footbells jingled. Lord Caitanya called out to the townsfolk, "You spend your nights uselessly sleeping and your days decorating your bodies! Now just sing the holy names without offense. You have achieved this rare human body. Don't you care for this gift? If you do not worship the darling of mother Yasoda now, then great sorrow awaits you at death. With every rising and setting of the sun, a day passes and is lost. Why then do you remain idle and not serve Krsna, the Lord of the heart? You should understand this essential fact: Life is temporary and filled with miseries. Therefore carefully take shelter of the holy name and remain always engaged in His service. Desiring to bless all living beings, this sweet name of Krsna has descended to this material universe and shines like the sun in the sky of the heart, destroying the darkness of ignorance." (Arunodaya-kirtana, by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura)]
Historically and theologically, Lord Caitanya's chanting and dancing and preaching (pictured at right) are the basis for the public chanting and literature distribution of the members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness today. And five hundred years ago, as today, the sankirtana movement of Lord Caitanya was not always appreciated.
It so happened that certain Hindus came before Chand Kazi, the Mohammedan ruler in that part of Bengal, to complain of Nimai Pandita's sankirtana. The Caitanya-caritamrta relates their complaints as follows:
Nimai Pandita was previously a very good boy But now He loudly sings all kinds of songs, clapping playing drums and hand bells and making a tumultuous sound that deafens our ears. . . . He has made all the people practically mad by always performing congregational chanting. . . . He has spoiled the Hindu religious principles and introduced the irreligion of nonbelievers. Now the lower classes are chanting the Hare Krsna mantra again and again. For this sinful activity, the entire city of Navadvipa will be deserted. According to Hindu scripture, God's name is supposed to be the most powerful hymn. If everyone hears the chanting of God's name, the potency will be lost."
Such complaints as these, though isolated and based on misunderstanding, influenced Chand Kazi to try to oppose the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Yet what to speak of Chand Kazi, no powerful ruler, not even the mythical Lucifer, is a fit competitor for God. Lord Caitanya came to this world to establish the universal, nonsectarian religion for the entire age, and no one can stop Him or His mission. To try to do so, as the story of Chand Kazi will reveal, could be risky.
The Kazi foolishly reassured his petitioners that he would personally put a stop to the public chanting of Hare Krsna. To prove His point, he went out and threatened a group of chanters with arrest, smashing a clay drum used to accompany the chanting But in his dreams that very night, the Kazi saw what appeared to be a greatly fearsome creature, His body like a man's, His head like a lion's, roaring very loudly.
"While I was asleep, the lion jumped on my chest, laughing fiercely and gnashing His teeth. Placing its nails on my chest, the lion said in a grave voice: I shall immediately bifurcate your chest because you broke the mrdanga drum! You have forbidden the performance of My congregational chanting. Therefore I must destroy you!"
About that same time, one of the Kazi's constables attempted to stop a group of devotees from singing Hare Krsna. But when he did so, a flame from no visible source suddenly flared up and burned his beard and blistered his cheeks. This happened on several occasions, with several of the Kazi's constables.
The fearful Kazi thought it wise to raise his restriction on public chanting, and he did. But now he began receiving reports and complaints that even many non-Hindus were taking up the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra. It was an epidemic!
The Kazi was dismayed to learn that Lord Caitanya was organizing a massive civil disobedience protest. Assembling devotees from all over the Navadvipa area, Lord Caitanya led a great procession of chanters in a march on the home of Chand Kazi. An army of voices thundered with the Hare Krsna mantra as virtually the entire city of Navadvipa converged on the Kazi's home. Inside, the Kazi cowered, fearing that an irate mob had come to finish him. But by the transcendental power of Lord Caitanya and by the power of the holy name Himself on the lips of the chanters, the crowd remained peaceful.
Lord Caitanya, not by a show of force but by His unequaled charisma, scriptural knowledge, and power of argument, convinced the Kazi of the importance of propagating the chanting of God's holy names. So the story has a happy ending:
The Lord said, "I wish to beg you for one favor in charity. You must pledge that this sankirtana movement will not be checked, at least in the district of Nadia."
Today also public leaders should logically and systematically consider the philosophy of Lord Caitanya and try to understand the tremendous value of His movement. Chand Kazi, in cooperating with Lord Caitanya's sankirtana movement, derived inestimable spiritual benefit. Although a devout Mohammedan, he became convinced by Lord Caitanya of the higher, nonsectarian principle of glorifying God through singing His names, thus showing that the sankirtana movement is indeed universal.
This victory of Nimai Pandita's in His home town of Navadvipa was but one of many such victories. In fact, Lord Caitanya, being the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is never defeated. In other words, the sankirtana movement is all part of God's great plan for creation.
Consider the history . . .
In the beginning, the Supreme Personality of Godhead glanced over His own inconceivable material energy and set in motion the divine mechanism of cosmic creation. Having thus generated the entire creation out of Himself, He then entered within it and gave it life, just as the soul gives life to the physical body. In His feature as the four-armed Lord Visnu, He incarnated permanently within every atom and, side by side with every infinitesimal soul, within the heart of every living being, mammoth to microbe, accompanying the soul on its wayward sojourn through material existence, lifetime after lifetime.
Yet despite the all-pervading personal presence of the Supreme Godhead—within the atoms, within the hearts of others, and within ourselves—we remain strangely blind to that presence. Flaunting our minute independence, we have desired to enjoy apart from God, the creator and controller of everything. And God, to fulfill that desire, has obligingly veiled our original, or Krsna, consciousness. Now, instead of reveling in our true identity as the Lord's eternal servant, friend, parent, or lover, we labor under one temporary material identity after another, life after life.
This is referred to in the Sanskrit as ahankara, which roughly translates as, "I am this body." In other words, the Supreme Personality of Godhead has given us over to illusion.
But we asked for it. Without being illusioned, we could not feel satisfied within the miserable restrictions of material existence while we seek out happiness, oblivious to the Supreme Lord and our constitutional position as His eternal servants.
Lord Caitanya, however, wants to give us relief, to revive us to our original consciousness of eternal happiness and illumination. Therefore, in our interest He incarnates again and again, age after age, in various ways and through various eternal forms. Sometimes He sends His representatives, who are like His sons or servants, and who act as His emissaries, executing His will. But Lord Caitanya also comes in person. And when He does so. He prefers to come during the most degraded of times, the age of Kali (which began about 5,000 years ago and extends 427,000 years into the future).
And the particular prescription the Lord offers in this none-too-spiritually-inclined age is, most appropriately, simple and universal: uniting together and chanting the holy names of God. The result: the lifting of the veil of illusion, the revival of our dormant love for God, and the severing at last of our age-old shackle to the chain of birth and death, birth and death, birth and death—lifetime after lifetime. That is the purpose of human life. So Lord Caitanya's prescription of chanting the holy names of God is no sentimental, religious fanaticism; it is the universal religious practice for our age.
The inception of Lord Caitanya's sankirtana movement in the West occurred during the summer of 1966, on New York City's Lower East Side. It was begun by Lord Caitanya's own empowered emissary, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, known then simply as Bhaktivedanta Swami or Swamiji. Humbly, this lone individual began his divine mission on behalf of Lord Caitanya. In that tiny storefront at 26 Second Avenue, which by now must be intergalactically famous, and in nearby Tompkins Square Park, Srila Prabhupada founded Lord Caitanya's International Society for Krishna Consciousness and planted the seed of sankirtana by leading all comers in the nonsectarian chanting of the holy names of God. By dint of his spiritual purity, Srila Prabhupada was able to invoke the mercy of Lord Caitanya and eventually, through his active preaching, to garland the world with the chanting of the holy names, just as Lord Caitanya desired. Like medicine from a time-release capsule, the chanting of the holy names is gradually entering the bloodstream of today's nations, races, and religions. And gradually we are feeling relief.
Relief does not mean, however, that all the suffering of the world will be removed and all the sinning will continue. Rather, the sincere chanter of the holy names sees that all suffering is due to disobedience to the laws of God: sin. He knows that to achieve complete freedom from suffering, one must give up the hypocrisy of sinful life. The chanting of the holy names, therefore, must be accompanied by the cultivation of transcendental knowledge and the application of the principles of holy life.
To give an example: When firewood is dried, or cured, it can very easily be made to flame. And in a dry forest in summer, a spark and a brisk, driving wind can easily create a conflagration that man's efforts cannot contain. Similarly, the chanting of Hare Krsna will spread most quickly and powerfully when the masses have been "cured" through the cultivation of transcendental knowledge and the renunciation of hedonism and violence. The members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness have sworn themselves to the path of spiritual knowledge, right action, and regulated chanting of God's names. Their lives, therefore, are set forth as examples of the transforming, life-lifting power of sankirtana.
The members of the Hare Krsna movement know within their hearts that although they may experience many difficulties, as long as they remain sincere and dedicated, they will be victorious. They know that they are executing the mission of the Supreme Lord Himself and that they are under His protection. The only real threat, therefore, is when the devotees become deficient in the three critical areas mentioned above: (1) chanting the holy names under strict regulation, (2) cultivating transcendental knowledge, and (3) living by the principles of holy life. Naturally, a devotee sometimes feels the urge for sinful life, for philosophical deviation, or for rebellion against the authority of guru or even against his very life support, Lord Caitanya's sankirtana movement. But if he remains sincere and faithful to Lord Caitanya's desires, he participates fully in the great chanting party of God Himself.
In the traditional singing of Hare Krsna, a lead singer chants the mantra and the others respond. Similarly, the sincere devotee of Lord Caitanya is like one who responds to the Lord's lead. As Lord Caitanya is dancing in ecstasy and drinking the nectar of the holy names, He is also inviting us to join with Him. We have only to shed some of our materialistic misconceptions, raise our hands, open our hearts and mouths, and follow Him: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
The chanting of this mantra is the very breathing of the eternal soul in the liberated condition, and its meaning is fully spiritual: "O dear Lord Krsna, please engage me in Your transcendental, loving service." This is the eternal, constitutional function of everyone, and it's as spiritual as you can get—singing and singing the names of God for all the world and God Himself to hear, praying fervently all the while: "O dear Lord, please engage me in Your transcendental, loving service."
You can lose yourself in the chanting. There's no need for any other thought, and as your intensity and sincerity increase, you feel an inner joy that awakens within your heart, like some long-asleep eagle now spreading its wings after eons of stillness. And you begin to soar, slowly at first, taking off from the peak of your highest hopes that God will incline toward your helpless prayer for entrance into His service.
And raising your arms, you take wing and dance—with abandon, yet fully conscious of all that is really important: Who you are. Why you are.
As at last you enter into your spirit element, all material pleasures and goals seem far below you, tiny and insignificant. The brilliant light of transcendental knowledge warms you on your flight. No sentimental, religious rapture, this is real life as it was meant to be, as Lord Caitanya meant for you to have it: eternal life full of bliss and knowledge. This is the sankirtana movement of Lord Caitanya.
by Kundali dasa
It kills 350,000 Americans every year. Six to nine times more addictive than alcohol, it is also eight times deadlier. Addiction to it is harder to treat and cure than addiction to heroin, and it leads to a higher incidence of fatality. Yet the drug is so easy to get even children can buy it. And what's more, the production of this dangerous drug is subsidized by the U.S. government.
The drug—you guessed it—is tobacco, nicotine.
Last fall, Dr. William Pollin, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association that while illegal heroin has 400,000 addicts across the country, nicotine has over thirty million.
And let's not forget that cigarette smoking also causes lung cancer, heart disease, and emphysema, and it is suspected to be the cause of a number of pregnancy complications, including fetal injury and premature birth.
Just what is our government's stand on this deadly, addictive drug? That appears to be anybody's guess. On the one hand, the government spends monies to campaign against cigarette smoking. On the other hand, it spends even more tax dollars to subsidize tobacco production on 182,000 farms in six southern states. Recently, Congress killed a proposal to have tobacco labeled "addictive."
The question in some observers' minds is whether this most pernicious of drugs will eventually be outlawed. Well, judging from our government's equivocal policy toward smoking, I can answer that question with a definite "maybe." To which I will add, "But don't count on it." The issue is really a very complicated muddle. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are at stake. Untold billions of dollars for state and federal revenues are at stake. The power of big business is at stake. Five southern states grossed 2.6 billion dollars from tobacco sales in 1983. Believe it or not, there is greater interest in those figures than there is concern over the 350,000 dying yearly from tobacco.
When you consider the hue and cry we raised over the tragedy in Jonestown, where the fiendish Jim Jones coerced nine hundred of his followers to fatally poison themselves, or the outrage we felt over the loss of fifty-eight thousand young Americans in the Vietnam War, it's hard to believe that right here at home 350,000 smoke themselves to death every year to almost no protestation. What possible good can come from this government-sanctioned criminality?
Obviously, something should be done. But what? It should be something constructive, something realistic.
I was a pack-a-day smoker for seven years, but when I took up Krsna consciousness I found that I would have to give up all intoxicants. From the Bhagavad-gita I learned that I am not this material body but an eternal spiritual soul, part and parcel of God. I also learned that I am the eternal servant of God, not the servant of Philip Morris and R. J. Reynolds. This understanding helped me immediately. t decided to no longer be a slave of tobacco. I vowed to chant the Hare Krsna man tra whenever the urge for a cigarette hit me and to not stop until the urge went away. After about two weeks the urge went away and just never came back. I haven't touched a cancer stick in twelve years.
A Cry For Human Rights
by Tota-gopinatha dasa
Silent Scream—a film that shows ultrasound pictures of a twelve-week-old fetus being aborted—is fanning the flames of controversy over abortion. The embryo's heart begins to race—up to two hundred beats per minute. Then the embryo reacts to the surgical instruments and, although too young to cry out, opens its mouth in a "silent scream." The unborn child is subsequently torn apart piecemeal and is vacuumed, bit by bit, from the womb.
Those favoring abortion, the prochoice faction, argue that a woman has the human and constitutional right to control her own life and body and therefore the right to a safe and legal abortion. Silent Scream, on the other hand, representing the prolife faction, contends that human life begins at conception. And to convince us, it appeals to our emotions and sentiments, vividly showing and describing the mechanics of abortion. But neither faction has satisfactorily answered the most crucial question here: What, exactly, is a human being? In other words, at what point should an embryo be seen as a human being entitled to protection under U.S. constitutional law?
The most obvious answer to this question is also the simplest. When a woman is pregnant, we understand that the newly conceived embryo will become a baby, then a child, and then an adult, by natural progression. Thus, the simple truth is that a human being is present from the moment of conception. This conclusion is in line with the Bhagavad-gita, which states that a nonphysical spirit soul animates the body at every stage of life. The person is never the body at any stage of development.
Human rights are ultimately the soul's nights, a fact implicitly recognized by the U.S. Constitution: "All men are created equal." Obviously we aren't equal in intelligence, beauty, strength, and so on. We are equal only as eternal souls, part and parcel of the Creator.
By divine arrangement the transmigrating, eternal spirit soul begins a new life by taking shelter in a womb at the time of conception. From that moment the spiritual rights of the unborn, beginning with the right to life, deserve respect. Trying to justify abortion on the grounds that the embryo is not developed enough to protest is like trying to justify murder because the victim is asleep or unconscious.
Unwanted pregnancy must be accepted as a lawful reaction of material nature, under divine sanction, to previous violation of spiritual principles—indulgence in illicit sex. That is called karma, or reaping what you've sown. You may try to circumvent your karma by abortion, but this simply violates another spiritual principle and makes matters worse.
The real solution is to live in harmony with spiritual principles. Human life is an opportunity to become enlightened and transcend material miseries altogether. The purely spiritual process of bhakti-yoga, devotional service to God, beginning with chanting the names of God, Hare Krsna, frees one from karmic reactions and unveils one's divine qualities, moral purity, and love of God. Only by sincere application of nonsectarian spiritual principles can America truly be "one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
In A Nice Neighborhood Like This
by Mathuresa dasa
Out for a walk after a deskbound morning, I left Fairmount Park and entered Chestnut Hill, a wealthy Philadelphia suburban community of rolling lawns and old stately houses. As I left the park path and emerged onto a smoothly paved road, I was surprised to see a heap of decomposing trash—paper, cardboard, and cans—half concealed in the roadside bushes. Odd, considering the nice neighborhood.
Half an hour later, retracing my steps, I again neared the heap, but when I was still about fifty yards away, a station wagon with a "MAKING DELIVERIES" sign in the back window passed me. Groceries maybe. But no, the driver stopped at the heap, tossed a hot-water bottle out the window, turned the car around, and sped back up the road.
The next moment another car, a blue Valiant, passed me and braked beside the papers and cans. The driver, a young man, jumped out, scanned the trash, and found the hot-water bottle. Holding it upside down with his right hand, he shook it vigorously above his cupped left palm.
Figuring the "delivery" contained illegal drugs and thus not wanting to interrupt the young man, any more than you want to interrupt a dog that is eating, I at first hesitated to walk by him into the park. But he hardly noticed me passing.
I could be wrong. Maybe the hot-water bottle contained an invitation to tea, a diamond ring, or some hot water. But the incident got me to thinking about drugs anyway, pondering the hundreds of tons of narcotics that the news media tell us flow across the U.S. borders and into the U.S. bloodstream annually. Although I'd been surprised to see a drug delivery, I shouldn't have been. Dope is everywhere.
What that means to me is that people everywhere have unwittingly discovered a basic fact of life: Even if you have wealth, education, and other material advantages, these things alone don't satisfy. The West, America in particular, enjoys a high standard of living, but despite our good food, expensive clothing, electronic entertainment, free sex, fancy cars, and the best and worst in art and literature, everyone is frustrated. They can't get any satisfaction, because they are spiritually poor.
Spiritual assets begin to accumulate when we understand our identity as eternal individual souls. Now we're living in temporary physical bodies, attempting to enjoy life by catering to the demands of our physical senses: eyes, ears, tongue, nostrils, genitals, and so on. Enjoyment, according to the Krsna consciousness scriptures, is indeed the purpose of life, but gorging and caressing our physical and mental habitations is an extremely limited platform of enjoyment. The body lasts for only a few years; youth, when the senses are strong enough for wholehearted indulgence, spans only a fraction of that time; and the enjoyable moments themselves—a passionate embrace, a friendly conversation, a hearty meal—are just that: moments.
That's just not enough for the spiritual self. The self, being eternal, longs for eternal enjoyment—which the physical body, no matter how you fondle or pummel, can't supply. This limitation doesn't bother the animals, who make do with eating, sleeping, and sex. But we humans have more intelligence; we're able to understand, however dimly, there's more to life than sensory indulgence. We naturally hanker after knowledge, freedom, bliss, satisfaction, enlightenment. And drugs can create an illusion of these things. But that illusion simply serves to thwart our search for the real thing.
Most of us probably underestimate the extent of our involvement in this illusion, overlooking, for instance, the $50 billion a year Americans spend on alcohol (a drug). And the illegal drug trade grosses even more, $100 billion, according to Vice-President Bush. Marijuana and cocaine are becoming as commonplace as beer.
One day last January, federal authorities arrested a dozen sheriffs in Georgia and Louisiana on charges of taking $100,000 bribes from drug smugglers to leave certain airstrips and beaches unpatrolled. The evening news showed a southern governor responding to the incident with a declaration that we should be ready to call in the Army and Navy to stop drug traffic.
The proposal just didn't sound practical. Call in the armed forces? Weren't the sheriffs an armed force? What makes the governor think the Army isn't also implicated, at least to some degree? If Americans are spending $100 billion on illegal drugs, then is there any force, armed or unarmed, that isn't implicated, that isn't affected either by drug addiction or quick-money addiction?
I very much doubt it. I look at it like this: When I hear that tens of millions of people in the U.S. have venereal disease of one kind or another, I assume that besides "ordinary" people, there are plenty of senators and congressmen and scholars and journalists and corporate executives and soon who have it too. Similarly, when I hear that a measly sheriff gets $100,000 just for turning his head, I assume head-turning is far more profitable for higher-ups. And when I read that the teenage son of wealthy parents sold the family silver to buy cocaine, I wonder what an Army officer or an IBM executive or even a governor might sell. It is not my intention to asperse great institutions or great people, but epidemics have a very egalitarian way of spreading. And, after all, this is a democracy.
It makes little sense to call in the Army whenever we discover a Delorean involved in a cocaine deal or a few sheriffs taking bribes or a Kennedy dead from an overdose. Our society is unable to resist the disease of drug abuse because our natural immune system (spiritual practices and values) has broken down. Until society in general receives a substantial injection of Krsna consciousness, which is the scientific culture of genuine spiritual life, even the Army and the Navy won't be able to help.
America is a nice neighborhood. But somewhere, partially hidden in the bushes, there's a rotting heap of trash we are unwilling—or unable—to clean up.
Karma for Rascals
The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place in Rome in May 1974.
Srila Prabhupada: People are doing all kinds of forbidden activities. Why? What is the purpose? Nunam pramattah kurute vikarma yad indriya-pritaya. The only purpose is sense gratification. The rascal does not think, "I am doing all these sinful activities for sense gratification, and as a result, I will have to accept a very low grade body." That he does not know. He has already got one low-grade body, and so he is simply suffering. And by his present activities he is guaranteeing that he will get yet another low-grade body—more suffering. And still, he will do everything for sense gratification.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam warns him, na sadhu manye yato atmano 'yam: "Oh, it is not good. This kind of activity has already covered your soul by a miserable body."
"Well, this body is temporary. I'm not going to worry."
"Then take another body, rascal. This body is temporary—but after this life you will get another body. Most abominable. So why are you doing this kind of nonsense? Yes, this body is temporary, but why don't you understand that it is also klesada: it is always subjected to the miserable conditions of the material world? You know this body is miserable, and any other body you get will be miserable. So why do you keep getting these bodies? Stop these activities."
This is Krsna consciousness. But people do not know that any type of material body you accept will be miserable. For instance, they have constructed this comfortable building, but if for only a few hours there is severe cold, many people may die, even in this building. Isn't it true? So whether you remain in this or that material situation, the sufferings will be there. And just to attain the comfort of this tall building, how much misery one has to go through.
"Sir, I am not going through misery," the owner says. "The laborers are doing that."
"But you have to get the money to pay them. How miserable it is to acquire this money to pay the laborers."
People are simply captivated by money. Otherwise, the whole affair is miserable. Sometimes the laborers fall to their death while constructing a skyscraper, do they not? And I have heard that in New York, many buildings have no tenants. Another misery. The owner of the place—he is also suffering. "I have spent so much money, but no tenants." For the last six or seven years, the tallest building in London has been vacant.
Disciple: On Tottenham Court Road. Yes, that big one.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes [laughing]. The owner's misery is that if he kept tenants, that would be still more miserable than going without tenants. Isn't it so? Yes. Therefore he remains without tenants—because he would have to pay so many taxes that it would be more miserable. So he is avoiding that. In summary, constructing the building was troublesome, and now, keeping it is also troublesome. To search out pleasure, people have manufactured so many things-this thing or that thing. But still, they cannot enjoy it. For a few minutes they can enjoy it, then once again it is useless. "Let us go away."
Disciple: Sometimes people wonder, "How can I be sure that I can actually become a bird or a dog?"
Srila Prabhupada: Where are all these birds and dogs coming from? Let these people answer. Where are all these birds and dogs coming from?
Disciple: Well, most people say from other birds and dogs.
Srila Prabhupada: That you may think, but you do not know the natural law. Nature is providing these bodies, and your past activities force you to accept them. Take this apartment—either you accept it or someone else accepts it. Similarly, this body is an apartment. Nature provides it, and you have to accept it. We are all spiritual entities, and under nature's direction, we are changing material bodies. My past activities may force me to change to one kind of body. His past activities may force him to change to another kind of body. Is that unreasonable? In our next lives, this person may accept my kind of body, and I may accept his kind of body. This is simply an apartment change. I may go to one kind of apartment, he may go to another kind. But anyway, nature is providing so many apartments.
You may say, "No, no. I am not going to accept that apartment."
Nature will reply, "No, no. It is not your decision any longer. How much 'money' [good karma] have you accumulated, sir, to pay for your accommodations?"
"I have no money."
"All right. Then go to this apartment."
And you must accept that apartment. Karmana daiva-netrena: by your past activities, it will be decided what kind of apartment you will get. It is not your decision.
Many a rascal thinks that now that he has gotten a human body, he can never again be degraded to the animal species. That is very palatable. [Laughing.] But nature will force him to accept the body of a cat or dog. The decision is not yours but that of the superior authorities—just as in the office, when you get promoted or demoted, the decision is not yours but that of the directors. You cannot say, "No, no. I am not going to accept this new post." No. You have to accept.
Karanam guna-sangah asya sad-asad-janma-yonisu: these different types of bodies are due to your past association with the different modes of material nature. Otherwise, why are there so many varieties? One person has become a crow; another person has become a sparrow; another person has become a dog; another person has become a cat; another person has become a tree; another person has become a blade of grass. Nature is so expert, though, that in spite of these different varieties of misery, she assembles them in such a nice way that they look very beautiful.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Bombay Ratha-yatra Festival Biggest Ever
This year's Ratha-yatra festival was Bombay's largest yet, according to Srila Gopala-Krsna Goswami Bhagavatapada, one of ISKCON's spiritual masters, who oversaw the event. The cart rolled through downtown Bombay for five hours, and the devotees on the cart tossed to the enthusiastic parade viewers half a million packets of food offered to Krsna.
City Council Hears Krsna Invocation
Dallas, Texas—Recently, a city council meeting here began with an invocation by Srila Tamal Krishna Goswami Gurudeva, one of ISKCON's spiritual masters, who oversees its affairs in the southwest U.S.
"Ladies and gentlemen, please rise," an announcer said at the start of the meeting, when a Dallas religious leader customarily steps to the podium and gives an invocation. For an ISKCON representative to have been invited to give the invocation indicates that ISKCON is gaining acceptance as a bona fide spiritual movement in Dallas.
Srila Tamal Krishna Goswami first read a verse from the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada: "Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues" (Bg. 3.21). He also read Srila Prabhupada's brief commentary.
Then he told the council members that an ideal leader is concerned with both the material and spiritual well-being of the citizens. A happy and prosperous life with the ultimate goal of going back to the kingdom of God, he said, depends on God's blessings and upon avoiding intoxication, gambling, illicit sex, and unholy foods. He advised that a pure life can be maintained by chanting the holy names of God, as revealed in the world's scriptures.
A week later, ISKCON received an invitation to another city council meeting later this year.
Guatemalan Devotee Elected
Guatemala City—Richard Shaw, at age twenty-two, is well known as the youngest congressman in Latin American history. He is also widely known as a disciple of Srila Hridayananda dasa Goswami Acaryadeva, one of ISKCON's spiritual masters.
Shaw, whose devotee name is Rupa-manjari dasa, is one of four spokesmen for the Union of the National Center, a party founded by the owner of Diaro El Grafico, Guatemala's foremost daily newspaper.
As an El Grafico editor, Rupa-manjari writes a bi-weekly column and has published many articles on Krsna consciousness, including a thirty-two-page Sunday supplement on vegetarianism. He was appointed head of the youth branch of the new party and later accepted a place on the party's election ticket.
"You've got to understand," he was told, "we're not established in your district, so you definitely won't be elected this year."
"I decided to try anyway, knowing it would be hard work," Rupa-manjari commented after a strenuous four-month campaign. "I started visiting bus stops and people's homes. I was really surprised to win. It was impossible, but by Krsna's grace I was successful. The incumbent candidate, a lawyer, didn't set foot in the district, preferring to conduct his campaign by television."
ISKCON Radio Station Opens in Switzerland
Casino di Montegglo, Switzerland—A new branch of Radio Krishna Centrale (RKC) has begun broadcasting nineteen hours daily in the Italian-speaking south around Lugano.
Taped programming is supplied by the main RKC station in Florence, Italy Programs such as Radio Kitchen, East Meets West, and Radio Bambini, a children's show, have already proven popular in Italy.
A survey conducted on the streets of Lugano after several weeks of broadcasting indicated that perhaps half of the potential Swiss-Italian listening audience of seventy-five thousand was familiar with the Hare Krsna station.
Soon devotees hope to begin live broadcasting, expand the schedule to twenty-one hours, and increase the transmitter power.
The amazing account of how one of
by Kundali dasa
The holy town of Udupi lies on the Arabian Sea in the South Indian state of Karnataka. The town is famous as a place of pilgrimage because of the temple Sri Krsna Matha. This temple was founded by Srila Madhvacarya (A.D. 1238-1317), one of the greatest saints, philosophers, and religious reformers of India. Udupi is said to have attained the status of Vaikuntha, the kingdom of God, because the Supreme Personality of Godhead came and stayed there in response to the desire of His pure devotee Srila Madhvacarya.
Even before Madhva's time Udupi was renowned as a holy place. People throughout South India frequently went there on pilgrimage because it was a center of Vedic scholarship and the site of two ancient temples, Sri Anantesvara and Sri Candramaulesvara. In the Sri Anantesvara temple, the more famous of the two, Lord Visnu and His personal expansion Lord Ananta-sesa are said to reside within the Siva-linga, the deity form of Lord Siva, who is the most powerful demigod and the greatest devotee of Lord Visnu, or Krsna. Sri Candramaulesvara is a temple of Lord Siva, so named because he carries the crescent moon (candra) on his head. Not much else is known about Udupi prior to Madhva's advent, except that the town is named after Lord Siva, "Udupi" being derived from "Udupa," another name of Lord Siva meaning "he who carries the moon on his head."
Srila Madhvacarya, in the years before he founded the Sri Krsna Matha, was affiliated with the Sri Anantesvara temple. Here he used to hold audiences spellbound with his learned discourses on the science of Krsna consciousness. Within the temple compound he would regularly hold debates with scholars opposed to pure devotion to Lord Krsna as the ultimate end of Vedic knowledge. Madhva never lost a debate. After founding Sri Krsna Matha, Madhva made it the center for all his activities. Tradition still has it, however, that pilgrims go first to Candramaulesvara and offer their respects to Lord Siva, then to Anantesvara to offer respects to Lord Visnu, and finally go across the street to Sri Krsna Matha to worship Srila Madhvacarya's original Deity of Lord Bala Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead as a young child.
The amazing story of how the Bala Krsna Deity crossed the ocean from faraway Dvaraka in Northwest India to Udupi in the south is told in Madhva-vijaya, the biography of Srila Madhvacarya. Madhva wanted to have a temple of Lord Krsna in Udupi; the devotees could then worship and serve the Lord and ennoble their souls. Well, it so happened that in Dvaraka, one of the main places of Krsna's pastimes on earth five thousand years ago, a Deity lay concealed within a large mass of gopi-candana clay (the yellowish clay Vaisnavas use daily in marking their freshly bathed bodies as temples of Lord Visnu). No one knew the Deity was there, but because the lump of clay was exceedingly heavy, some sailors loaded it onto their merchant ship as ballast. On the ship's southward journey, just off the coast of Udupi, a tempest blew the ship aground on a sandbank.
On that very day, Srila Madhvacarya absorbed in composing Dvadasa-stotra, his famous twelve-part poem praising Lord Krsna, had gone to the beach to bathe or, as some say, to receive the Lord. Upon seeing the ship caught fast on the sandbank and hearing the cries of the sailors in distress, Srila Madhvacarya waved his cloth in their direction. This calmed the stormy seas, and the ship floated free. Madhva then guided the vessel to safety. Eager to show his appreciation, the captain offered Madhva whatever he wanted from the ship's cargo. Madhva chose the heavy lump of gopi-candana clay.
Disciple attendants of Madhvacarya had just started back to Udupi with the large lump of clay when, but a short distance from the beach, the lump broke in two, revealing the handsome Deity of Lord Bala Krsna. But now the combined effort of thirty of Madhva's disciples could not budge the Deity. Only when Madhvacarya himself embraced and lifted the Deity as if He were a child did the Deity consent to be moved. In great transcendental ecstasy Madhva carried the Lord the four miles back to Udupi. On the way he completed the remaining seven parts of Dvadasa-stotra, reciting the verses out loud. Back in Udupi, Madhva bathed the Lord in the lake known as Madhva-sarovara and enshrined Him in the Sri Krsna Matha. Srila Madhvacarya instituted rigorous standards for worshipping Sri Krsna, and whenever he was in Udupi he would personally perform the thirteen daily worship ceremonies for the Lord.
How the Deity of Bala Krsna had come to be buried in Dvaraka is told in Prameya-navamalika-tika, a work from the seventeenth century by Raghuvarya Tirtha, an acarya in succession from Srila Madhvacarya. Once, during the time of Lord Krsna's manifest pastimes on earth, mother Devaki lamented to the Lord over her misfortune at never having witnessed the Lord's childhood pastimes in Vrndavana. She entreated the Lord to make her happy and fortunate, like mother Yasoda, by showing some of His childhood feats and frolics.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead, just to give pleasure to His pure devotee, at once assumed the form of a small child and clambered all over Devaki's lap. Later, when Devaki went to churn butter, Krsna, acting like an ordinary mischievous child, broke the churn, ate the lumps of butter, and even smeared butter all over his transcendental body. He then snatched the churning rod and rope from Devaki's hands. After sporting like this for some time, the Lord again assumed His usual form of eternal youth. Mother Devaki was thrilled beyond measure to see this childhood pastime of the Lord.
Queen Rukmini-devi, Lord Krsna's consort, witnessed these pastimes, and the Lord's mischievous behavior and childhood features enthralled her. To preserve the memory, she had a Deity made of child Krsna holding a churning rod and rope. Queen Rukmini began to worship this Deity regularly. Later, after the Lord returned to the spiritual sky with His retinue, Arjuna deposited the Deity in a place called Rukminivana. In the course of centuries the Deity became completely covered with clay, and it remained in that condition near Dvaraka until merchant sailors brought it to Madhvacarya at Udupi.
Before his departure from this world, Srila Madhvacarya appointed eight of his sannyasi disciples to take charge of the worship at Sri Krsna Matha and to continue propagating Krsna consciousness in the region. Today the responsibility for the worship is rotated in two-year periods called paryaya among eight sannyasis in disciplic succession from the original eight. During the fourteen-year interim period between turns at paryaya, each sannyasi travels and preaches and raises funds for use when his turn for worship comes. During his paryaya, he personally performs the thirteen daily ritual services to the Deity.
Each sannyasi also heads his own matha, where other Deities, ones given by Madhvacarya to the original eight sannyasis, are worshipped. These eight mathas are located along Car Street, a road that circles the Candramaulesvara and Anantesvara temples and runs right past the main entrance to Sri Krsna Matha. Car Street is where parades such as the one pictured at the opening of this article are held. According to the significance of the festival being observed, sometimes only one cart and sometimes all three are used. A fourth cart, completely covered in silver, is used for special festivals.
Replete with a decorated elephant and a musical band, a parade on Car Street is an almost nightly event in Udupi. Residents and pilgrims alike turn out en masse to see the Lord riding high upon His cart and smiling beneficently upon the adoring devotees. The procession stops at intervals along the route, and the Lord is entertained by fireworks displays or worshiped by offerings from His many devotees. The parades start at eight and are usually over by nine-thirty.
Seeing the enthusiastic devotion of the residents of Udupi engladdens the heart of any devotee. Even a hardened nondevotional heart would be touched. Udupi is one of the few places left in India where devotional, spiritual traditions, for which India is famous, are still practiced intact. Such a pure devotional atmosphere is the principal symptom of the spiritual world. Thus a fitting epithet for Udupi is "the Kingdom of God on Earth."
For twelve years Madhyageha Bhatta would regularly travel the eight miles north from his village of Belle to Udupi. There at the Anantesvara temple he would pray for a son. One day a devotee in a trancelike state climbed the temple flagpole and announced that to reestablish the purest principles of religion, a male child, an incarnation of Vayu, the demigod in charge in air, would soon be born. Madhyageha understood within his heart that this would be his own child. Soon his wife, Vedavati, gave birth to a son. The happy couple named him Vasudeva.
From infancy Vasudeva showed extraordinary intellect, so much so that he was given brahminical initiation at age five, three years early. Whatever he heard of read, even just once, he could remember. His body was unusually strong, lustrous, and beautiful. At age eleven, Vasudeva left home for Udupi, to live with Acyutapreksa, an ascetic widely respected for his scholarship and saintly character. After one year, despite strong protest from his father, Vasudeva renounced the world. Acyutapreksa named him Purnaprajna.
Less than forty days after taking sannyasa, Purnaprajna defeated Vasudeva Pandita, a famous wandering scholar, in a public debate. The pandita was known for his hair-splitting dialectical ability, but he was no match for young Purnaprajna. The pandita spoke for three days and then dared anyone to refute his conclusions. Purnaprajna shocked the crowd when he accepted the issues, he repeated almost verbatim the pandita's arguments. Then, one by one, he smashed them all. His victory was the talk of Udupi. Acyutapreksa gave him the title Anandatirtha, in recognition of his mastery of Vedanta.
Word spread far and wide about the debating skill of the young ascetic in Udupi. Challengers and admirers converged on the town. Buddhisagara and Vadisimha, two Buddhist monks who had converted many to their fold, challenged Anandatirtha. After a day-long skirmish, they promised to return the next day. That night, however, they secretly fled from Udupi.
Anandatirtha went on a tour of South India. The most notable events on this tour were two encounters with Vidyasankara Svami, the lineal successor to Sripada Sankaracarya, who was the original propounder of the monistic theory of the Absolute Truth. Some basic tenets of Sankaracarya's philosophy are as follows: God and the soul are identical; the formless, senseless, impersonal Absolute is the only reality; all else is illusion; and the incarnations of God are all products of illusion. Anandatirtha was thoroughly familiar with this doctrine, so he knew all its weak points. With firmness and courage he challenged the venerated Vidyasankara, and a fierce debate ensued. Vidyasankara could not defeat his opponent, yet he refused to accept defeat. They met again, in Ramesvaram, during the monsoon season, at which time Vidyasankara taunted and harassed Anandatirtha. But the young saint tolerated the abuse.
On his return journey, while addressing an assembly of learned men, Anandatirtha stated that every Vedic utterance conveyed a triple meaning, that each verse of the Mahabharata had ten meanings, and that each of the thousand prominent names of Lord Visnu had a hundred meanings. When the astonished assembly demanded he prove his statement, Anandatirtha explained a hundred meanings of Visva, the first name of Visnu. Before he could proceed further, however, they begged him to stop, admitting they didn't have the intelligence to comprehend his elaborate explanations.
Back in Udupi, Anandatirtha, who was now known as Madhva, wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad-gita and gave a copy to Acyutapreksa for his approval.
Madhva's next tour was to Badarinatha, high in the Himalayas. In Badarinatha he met Srila Vyasadeva, the author of the four Vedas and their voluminous supplementary literature. In preparation for this meeting, Madhva had observed complete silence and complete fasting for forty-eight days. He learned the full meaning of the Vedanta-sutra, the distilled essence of Vedic wisdom, from the transcendental author himself and promised to write a commentary on the sutras, one that would be faithful to Srila Vyasadeva's original intent and purport. By the time he came down from the Himalayas, his commentary, Sutra-bhasya, was completed. He sent a copy ahead to Udupi for Acyutapreksa's approval.
On his return trip, Srila Madhvacarya converted Sobhana Bhatta and Sami Sastri to Vaisnavism. They later became successors to Madhva, as Padmanabha Tirtha and Narahari Tirtha. Madhva refused to let Narahari take sannyasa, ordering him to remain in his high governmental position, in return for which he was to obtain the Deities of Mula Rama and Sita, lying in the King of Kalinga's treasury. For many years Narahari remained in that service, until finally, just three months before Madhva's departure from this world, Narahari brought the ancient images of Sita-Rama to his guru. These were the original Deities of Rama and Sita, worshiped by Maharaja Iksvaku and then by Maharaja Dasaratha, the father of Lord Rama. Then during the time of Lord Krsna's advent, the Pandavas gave them to the Gajapati kings of Orissa. Eventually the Deities were kept in the king's treasury.
While still in his twenties, Srila Madhvacarya undertook a second tour to Badarinatha, this one after he had founded Sri Krsna Matha in Udupi. On the way, a tyrannical king pressed Madhva's party into digging a reservoir for the city of Devagiri. Madhva, however, persuaded the king himself to take part in the digging and then left with the party. The pilgrims had many other hardships and misadventures, but Madhva always saved them with his quick thinking and mystic powers. In Badarinatha, Madhva again heard from Vyasa, who gave him eight sacred Salagrama stones.
On his return trip Madhva stopped in Goa, where he enacted an amazing gastronomical feat. Previously he had eaten a thousand bananas in one sitting. But in Goa, he outdid his earlier record. He ate four thousand bananas and then drank thirty pots of milk. When asked to prove that plants indeed respond to music, Madhva took a few seeds in his palm and began singing in his melodious voice. The seeds sprouted. Madhva continued singing, and the plants grew, swaying to the melody. Madhva continued singing. The plants grew into full maturity and yielded the fruits and flowers. News of this feat spread everywhere.
From Udupi Madhva traveled south again. In Visnumangalam he debated with Trivikramacarya, a logician and grammarian of remarkable skill, who was able to make the Sanskrit language convey any meaning that suited his purpose. The debate lasted fifteen days, and in the end Trivikrama surrendered at Madhva's feet. A full account of that debate is given in the Madhva-vijaya, written by the son of Trivikramacarya. News of Trivikrama's conversion brought hundreds more men and women into Madhva's fold. His life's mission thus became firmly rooted in India.
Srila Madhvacarya wrote thirty-nine books clarifying the tenets of Vaisnavism and showing Vaisnavism to be the true Vedic religion. In many of his works he attacked the monistic creed of Sankaracarya's followers, exposing to impede Madhva's mission by less honorable means. They tried to defame him, declaring him a heretic and all his followers outcasts. They even stole his writings and his valuable collection of ancient books, thinking that without literature his mission would be finished. Somehow, King Jaya Simha of Visnumangalam acquired the books and returned them to Madhvacarya.
Madhva had appeared in two other incarnations. During the time of Lord Krsna's appearance on earth he appeared as the warrior Bhima, one of the five Pandava brothers. During the time of Lord Rama, he incarnated as the beloved Hanuman, the ideal servant of the Supreme Lord. And, as in those incarnations, Madhva performed many feats of strength and displayed mystical perfections. As a child he would appear suddenly in one mighty leap from anywhere in mighty leap from anywhere in response to his mother's call. In school he cured a friend's headache by blowing in his ear. To help his father out of debt he turned tamarind seeds into money. On two occasions he made seeds sprout into plants by his singing. An enormous rock in Ambu Tirtha, requiring at least fifty men to move it, bears an inscription stating that Madhvacarya placed it there with one hand. Many times Madhva made small quantities of food increase for distribution to hundreds of people. At the age of seventy-nine, his mission well established, Srila Madhvacarya passed away. His devotees say he went to Badarinatha to join Srila Vyasadeva.
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Note: The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) is in the sampradaya, or disciplic line, from Madhvacarya by way of the Gaudiya Vaisnavas, the Bengali school of Krsna devotees. The members of ISKCON are connected to the Madhva-sampradaya through Laksmipati Tirtha, A Madhvaite who initiated Srila Madhavendra Puri, the grand-spiritual-master of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Srila Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual master of ISKCON, is eleventh in the disciplic line from Lord Caitanya. Because of this connection to Madhva, Udupi holds special interest for ISKCON members. It is the place where one of the predecessor acaryas boldly preached Krsna consciousness, the Absolute Truth, and delivered many conditioned souls from illusion and ignorance.
We welcome your letters.
Is there such a thing as liberation theology within your Vedic system? I noticed that you have Hare Krsna centers in Chile and El Salvador. Does your movement in these countries support or empathize with the struggle of the commonfolk against the murderous oppression they face? . . . Is the black majority in South Africa supposed to merely chant the Hare Krsna mantra and not fight back against apartheid tyranny?
Robert K. Smith
OUR REPLY: According to Vedic "liberation theology," the worst oppression that anyone can face—and the kind that everyone does face—is to be forced by the laws of material nature to suffer repeatedly in the vicious cycle of birth, old age, disease, and death. Whether one is a Salvadoran peasant, a South African black, or a well-to-do Canadian, American, or European, everyone is oppressed by these four primary miseries of material life.
The members of the Krsna consciousness movement are not politically active per se, but that doesn't mean we are apathetic about human rights. Our primary aim, however, is to educate people everywhere about their spiritual identity and about life's spiritual purpose. When people are ignorant of their spiritual identity, they misunderstand the purpose of life; thus to achieve their misguided aims they are ready to oppress others.
The Vedic social system, known as varnasrama, emphasizes cooperation among individuals, classes, and nations for the common goal of satisfying the Supreme Person. Only when we've established this common spiritual cause is there any hope of putting an end to oppression. Otherwise, as history shows, the so-called liberation of one group only leads to the oppression of another. Oppression cannot be eliminated without Krsna consciousness.
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I have had contact with ISKCON because of my study and teaching of the music of India. On so many levels you are to be commended: your spiritual principles, your devotion to study and prayer, your thoughtful way of life. However, you are making the serious mistake of. . . hiding and jeopardizing the intellectual gifts of your women members. In not one of your publications have I read anything of intellectual/spiritual substance (other than food, as important as that is) by a woman. Furthermore, when members of your community have come to the college where I teach, the women have, with one significant exception, held back their verbal and persuasive skills. That exception, . . . Laksmimoni-devi dasi, is proof that you are wasting talents.
OUR REPLY: First of all, one of our contributing editors, Visakha-devi dasi, and one of our regular contributors, Dvarakadhisa-devi dasi, are both women. If you read some of their articles, you will probably agree that their writings contain as much "intellectual/spiritual substance" as articles written by men.
Futhermore, our monthly feature "Lord Krsna's Cuisine" (which you were obviously referring to) is not really just about food. Those articles are philosophical, but the philosophy is presented in such a way as to make the science of bhakti-yoga easier to understand and apply. This is a great accomplishment by a gifted and sincere writer. She expertly takes "intellectual spiritual substance" and makes it practical and understandable. And this feature has been running every month for three and a half years. Quite a noteworthy accomplishment, we feel—and by a woman.
We searched through our 1983 and 1984 issues of BACK TO GODHEAD and discovered eleven articles by women (other than those articles by the two women already mentioned). Also in the last two years, we ran dozens of photographs of women instructing others in the philosophy of Krsna consciousness. These numbers should help to convince you that ISKCON has no policy that would hide or jeopardize the intellectual gifts of its female members.
Rather, ISKCON's philosophy is that in the service of Lord Krsna there is no distinction of caste, creed, color, or sex. In the Bhagavad-gita, the Lord especially mentions that a woman who has taken Krsna consciousness seriously is also destined to reach Him. On the absolute plane there is no gradation of higher and lower. The only qualification of a person speaking on Krsna consciousness is that he or she has knowledge of Krsna. If a woman can lecture nicely and to the point, then her audience will be purified.
Regarding your point that when members of our movement have come to your college, the women have held back their verbal and persuasive skills: As you know, women nowadays are under great social pressure to compete with men as equals in almost every conceivable way. The women's lib movement, however, isn't necessarily making women (or men) any happier. Certainly the competitive role isn't for every woman, and ISKCON recognizes this right of women. We offer all women the opportunity to find happiness and selfulfillment—as a mother, as an intellectual, or as both.
Ages ago, Saubhari Muni was so accomplished at yoga that he could meditate underwater. Everything was going fine, until . . .
by Mathuresa Dasa
To practice yoga, or silent meditation, you first of all need a secluded place. Traditionally, yogis have retired to Himalayan caves, to remote corners of dense, unexplored jungles, even to the depths of an ocean or river. The great yogi Saubhari Muni meditated for many years within the Yamuna River, with only the local fish for company. He was able to do so because he possessed many mystic powers—the sign of a true yogi—and could, like his aquatic companions, breathe underwater.
Why such extreme measures? Because the purpose of yoga is to withdraw the senses from all material engagements and fix the mind on the Supersoul (the form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead who dwells within the hearts of all living creatures). The aspiring yogi must completely abstain from even the thought of sex, reduce and regulate his eating and sleeping, and even restrict what he sees and hears. By extended, uninterrupted practice, the yogi transcends material nature and returns to the eternal spiritual world, the abode of Lord Krsna.
So don't expect to properly practice the yoga of silent meditation in a city or a suburb or, for that matter, even in most rural areas; there are just too many distractions nowadays. You may practice sitting postures and breathing exercises, trying to improve your health, your aura, or your sexual prowess, and if you like you can call that yoga. But according to the ancient Vedic literature, the sourcebooks of yoga instruction, the purpose of yoga is to fully and continuously restrain the senses and fix the mind on the Supreme Person.
With this purpose fixed in his mind the yogi Saubhari Muni long ago entered the Yamuna River. Surely there he would be undisturbed. There were no attractive girls in designer jeans strutting along the river bottom, no ads for cigarettes, beer, or fashionable clothing to divert the attention, no business-wise yoga instructors crooning that their brand of spiritualism makes one a better executive or a better student or a better lover. No distractions whatsoever. Hardly a sound. Just Saubhari and the river. And the fish.
Poor Saubhari. He was a qualified, sincere, no-nonsense yogi, so well endowed with mystic powers that he could meditate underwater, yet his mind was diverted by a pair of fish. After many years of underwater meditation, Saubhari observed two fish copulating, and feeling the desire to enjoy sexual pleasure awaken within himself, he emerged from the river and went looking for a mate.
From this we can understand that meditational yoga, also known as astanga-yoga, although recommended in the Vedic literature as a means of ascending to the spiritual plane, is extremely difficult. We are all by nature active and pleasure-seeking. Most of us find it difficult to sit still even for a few minutes. We want to enjoy life by seeing, hearing, touching, walking, talking, and so on. To abruptly stop all these activities and meditate on God is almost unthinkable. Even such a highly qualified yogi as Saubhari Muni, who lived thousands of years before the rise of our noisy, polluted, fast-paced modern civilization, had a hard time of it.
So why would anyone attempt such a difficult form of yoga? Well, the aspiring transcendentalist, the yoga candidate, usually understands that bodily and mental activities alone cannot bring satisfaction. He has heard from Vedic authorities that we are not these material bodies but are eternal spirit souls dwelling within the body. The yogi wants to free himself from bodily encagement.
In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna teaches that the body is a temporary vehicle for the soul and that after the demise of the body the soul takes a new body. The unenlightened soul transmigrates from body to body in the painful cycle of birth, old age, disease, and death, trying to enjoy life but is ultimately frustrated in every attempt. To become free from this cycle of misery and to experience transcendental bliss, the yogi is advised to reduce bodily activity and to meditate on the Supersoul, Lord Krsna. According to the Bhagavad-gita, the state of mind at death determines our next life. Thus, the yogi who passes away fully absorbed in meditation on Krsna attains an eternal, blissful body in the spiritual realm and never returns to take birth and die in this material realm.
In previous ages many yogis were able to perfect the process of astanga-yoga. In fact, Saubhari Muni himself, after exhausting his desire for material enjoyment, completely renounced the life of sensual pleasure, returned to his meditation, and attained perfection. In the present age, however, astanga-yoga is more or less impossible, and the Vedic literature recommends instead the path of bhakti-yoga, devotional service.
The purpose of bhakti-yoga is the same as that of astanga-yoga: to withdraw the senses from all material activities and to concentrate the mind in unswerving meditation on the Supreme Person. In bhakti-yoga, however, we actively use our senses in Krsna's service. In particular, bhakti-yoga involves hearing—hearing about Krsna's qualities and pastimes, about the activities of His incarnations and great devotees, and about the transcendental philosophy spoken by the Lord Himself in the Bhagavad-gita. The bhakti-yogi learns to see everything in relation to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, to see that the material universe is His creation. The bhakti-yogi also regularly meditates on the beautiful Deity form of the Lord in the temple. The bhakti-yogi can even employ his tongue in Krsna's service—by tasting food offered to Krsna and by chanting His holy names.
In this way the bhakti-yogi is always active within the realm of devotional service. He attains the same result as the inactive astanga-yogi; but easily and naturally. The bhakti-yogi can live with his friends and family in the midst of modern civilization. In fact, many of the practices of bhakti-yoga are best performed in the company of other devotees—the more the merrier. Far from distracting, the association of devotees is an inspiration for the performance of devotional service. The serious astanga-yogi; however, must remain alone. and even then, as in the case of Saubhari, there is a chance of falling away from the path of austerity and renunciation.
The purpose of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) is to make the spiritual association of devotees (bhakti-yogis) available in every part of the world. ISKCON centers are open to anyone interested in hearing about the Supreme Personality of Godhead and rendering service to Him in the company of devotees. Aspiring yogis can thus attain perfection, unperturbed by the distractions of modern life.
The Best People in the World
In a recent meeting in Mayapur, India, the members of the Governing Body Commission of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness appointed several of my Godbrothers to posts of great spiritual responsibility—posts requiring stringent vows of renunciation.
"So what?" is the likely response from many nondevotees. "What use to me is such renunciation?"
This outlook arises from an inability to appreciate genuinely spiritual persons and spiritual advancement. Most people hold materialistic values and are interested only in the advancement of material life, with an emphasis on competing for material goods. They haven't learned to perceive and to appreciate the subtler qualities of spiritual persons, nor are they able to share in the devotees' feelings of happiness and admiration on seeing others attain greater spiritual elevation. All these finer sentiments are suppressed when one hankers after bodily pleasures and material acquisitions.
Thoughtful commentators perceive unrestrained materialism as a destructive force in the world. "The squalid cash interpretation put on the word 'success' [is] our national disease," stated William James. To Alexander Solzhenitsyn, rampant materialism has a stifling effect upon personal growth: "Active and intense [material] competition permeates all human thought without opening a way to free spiritual development."
The Vedic literature also condemns unrestrained materialism: "Taking shelter of insatiable lust and absorbed in the conceit of pride and false prestige, the materialists, thus illusioned, are always sworn to unclean work, attracted by the impermanent. They believe that to gratify the senses is the prime necessity of human civilization. Thus until the end of life their anxiety is immeasurable. Bound by a network of hundreds of thousands of desires and absorbed in lust and anger, they secure money by illegal means for sense enjoyment" (Bg. 16.10-12).
Despite a materialist's attempts to enjoy, however, he meets with only suffering throughout his life. His attachment to mate, home, and wealth forces him to undergo constant anxiety to increase his standard of material enjoyment. Yet his hopes for happiness are never fulfilled. Whatever measure of material success may come his way is invariably marred by anxieties and fears of setback, and no amount of wealth or endowment of beauty can protect him from disease, old age, and death. Therefore those saintly persons who can free us from this precarious position by informing us of the highest purpose of life are the most valuable members of society.
According to the law of karma, after this present lifetime the soul will transmigrate to another body. But what kind of body that will be and what experiences the soul must undergo remain mysteries to the materialist. Not only is the common man in ignorance of these truths, but so too are the leaders of culture and civilization. Thus the present society is a case of the blind leading the blind, or in the words of the great spiritual master Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, the cheaters and the cheated.
The devotees of ISKCON are providing information about how to liberate the soul from the entanglement of materialistic society, and they set the perfect example of how one should live. The spiritual values they teach are transcendental to any religion, and because they live in strict accordance with those values, devotees should be recognized as the most advanced members of society.
Although their work is not always readily appreciated, spiritual welfare workers serve humanity all over the world. As history shows, such persons are sometimes crucified, abused, or neglected, but they never lose their enthusiasm to take up their compassionate work. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna says such persons are more dear to Him than anyone else.
The appointment of new sannyasis and gurus within ISKCON is therefore not a mere institutional formality. Rather, the new leaders are genuinely advanced spiritualists who have been recognized as such because of their pure devotional character and spotless behavior.
Out of compassion for humanity and duty to his spiritual master, the sannyasi renounces all material preoccupations and attachments, including those in relation to wife and family, and devotes himself fully to helping others. All humankind becomes his family, and with full attention he dedicates himself to propagating Krsna consciousness throughout the world.
The guru's responsibility is to remove the sinful reactions of the spiritual aspirant and guide him throughout his spiritual life. A guru is thus not one who performs magic tricks or exploits people by claiming to be God. Rather, under his expert guidance, the less advanced spiritualists come to realize the ultimate goal of life. To execute their duties properly, therefore, the new sannyasis and gurus must actually be advanced spiritual personalities.
For example, Jagadisa Goswami, one of four newly appointed gurus, is pioneering educational work on the elementary and high school levels and has organized gurukulas—schools on the Vedic model—in India and many Western countries. In addition to the conventional subjects, gurukula students learn of the transcendental nature of the soul, without which knowledge one's education is incomplete.
Agrani Swami, another new guru, will be accepting disciples in the Caribbean, where many persons of traditional Hindu heritage have forgotten their original culture. In Puerto Rico, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and especially Guyana, Agrani Swami will be selflessly working to restore the original Krsna consciousness of people from many different racial, national, and religious backgrounds.
Although, as we have shown, there is much evidence that materialism is on the rise today, the desire for spiritual life is never extinguished from the heart. Wherever saintly personalities propagate bona fide spiritual life, many spiritual persons come forward. This has been especially true throughout the African continent, where Bhaktitirtha Swami is the newly appointed guru. And in India, Gaura-Govinda Swami, who has done much work in translating Srila Prabhupada's books into Orian, will be accepting disciples.
My friend Mahanidhi Swami, one of the newly appointed sannyasis, works in the Baltimore area and is especially keen to distribute the transcendental knowledge of Srila Prabhupada's books. He is also dedicated to going into the heart of the city to chant the holy names of God with the devotees. These methods of spreading the name and glories of the Supreme are recommended in this age as the topmost form of yoga. In this way, Mahanidhi Swami works without selfish motive to please his spiritual master.
These devotees and others work to benefit everyone in the world. Although it is a sad commentary on our times that such people are not widely recognized as the most important members of society, they are nevertheless providing the highest service to mankind. Nor will the world's neglect of their efforts deter them from their work.—SDG