His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, came to America in 1965, at age sixty-nine, to fulfill his spiritual master's request that he teach the science of Krsna consciousness throughout the English-speaking world. In a dozen years he published some seventy volumes of translation and commentary on India's Vedic literature, and these are now standard in universities worldwide. Meanwhile, traveling almost nonstop, Srila Prabhupada molded his international society into a worldwide confederation of asramas, schools, temples, and farm communities. He passed away in 1977 in India's Vrndavana, the place most sacred to Lord Krsna. His disciples are carrying forward the movement he started. Advanced disciples throughout the world have been authorized to serve in the position of spiritual master, initiating disciples of their own. And these disciples in turn, become linked with Srila Prabhupada through the transcendental system of disciplic succession.
BACK TO GODHEAD is the monthly journal of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. When Srila Prabhupada began the Society (in New York City, in 1966), he put into writing the purposes he wanted it to achieve. They are as follows:
1. To systematically propagate spiritual knowledge to society at large and to educate all peoples in the techniques of spiritual life in order to check the imbalance of values in life and to achieve real unity and peace in the world.
2. To propagate a consciousness of Krsna, as it is revealed in Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam.
3. To bring the members of the Society together with each other and nearer to Krsna, the prime entity, thus developing the idea within the members, and humanity at large, that each soul is part and parcel of the quality of Godhead (Krsna).
4. To teach and encourage the sankirtana movement, congregational chanting of the holy names of God, as revealed in the teachings of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
5. To erect for the members and for society at large a holy place of transcendental pastimes dedicated to the personality of Krsna.
6. To bring the members closer together for the purpose of teaching a simpler, more natural way of life.
7. With a view toward achieving the aforementioned purposes, to publish and distribute periodicals, books, and other writings.
A conversation in 1975 between
Mike Robinson: Can you tell me what you believe—what the philosophy of the Hare Krsna movement is?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Krsna consciousness is not a question of belief; it is a science. The first step is to know the difference between a living body and a dead body. What is the difference? The difference is that when someone dies, the spirit soul, or the living force, leaves the body. And therefore the body is called "dead." So, there are two things: one, this body; and the other, the living force within the body. We speak of the living force within the body. That is the difference between the science of Krsna consciousness, which is spiritual, and ordinary, material science. As such, in the beginning it is very, very difficult for an ordinary man to appreciate our movement. One must first understand that he is a soul, or something other than his body.
Mike Robinson: And when will we understand that?
Srila Prabhupada: You can understand at any moment, but it requires a little intelligence. For example, as a child grows, he becomes a boy, the boy becomes a young man, the young man becomes an adult, and the adult becomes an old man. Throughout all this time, although his body is changing from a child to an old man, he still feels himself to be the same person, with the same identity. Just see: the body is changing, but the occupier of the body, the soul, is remaining the same. So we should logically conclude that when our present body dies, we get another body. This is called transmigration of the soul.
Mike Robinson: So when people die it is just the physical body that dies?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. That is explained elaborately in the Bhagavad-gita [2.20]: na jayate mriyate va kadacin . . . na hanyate hanyamane sarire.
Mike Robinson: Do you quote references very often?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, we quote many references. Krsna consciousness is a serious education, not an ordinary religion. [To a devotee:] Find that verse in the Bhagavad-gita.
na jayate mriyate va kadacin
"For the soul, there is never birth or death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying, and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain" [Bg. 2.20].
Mike Robinson: Thank you very much for reading that. So can you explain to me just a bit more? If the soul is undying, does everybody's soul go to be with God when they die?
Srila Prabhupada: Not necessarily. If one is qualified—if he qualifies himself in this life to go back home, back to Godhead—then he can go. If he does not qualify himself, then he gets another material body. And there are 8,400,000 different bodily forms. According to his desires and karma, the laws of nature give him a suitable body. It is just like when a man contracts some disease and then develops that disease. Is that difficult to understand?
Mike Robinson: It's very difficult to understand all of it.
Srila Prabhupada: Suppose somebody has contracted smallpox. So, after seven days he develops the symptoms. What is that period called?
Mike Robinson: Incubation?
Srila Prabhupada: Incubation. So you cannot avoid it. If you have contracted some disease it will develop, by nature's law. Similarly, during this life you associate with various modes of material nature, and that association will decide what kind of body you are going to get in the next life. That is strictly under the laws of nature. Everyone is controlled by the laws of nature—they're completely dependent—but out of ignorance people think that they are free. They're not free; they're imagining that they're free, but they are completely under the laws of nature. So, your next birth will be decided according to your activities—sinful or pious, as the case may be.
Mike Robinson: Your Grace, could you go back over that just for a minute? You said that nobody is free. Are you saying that if we live a good life, we in some way determine a good future for ourselves?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Mike Robinson: So we are free to choose what we believe to be important? Religion is important, because if we believe in God and lead a good life—
Srila Prabhupada: It is not a question of belief. Do not bring in this question of belief. It is law. For instance, there is a government. You may believe or not believe, but if you break the law, you'll be punished by the government. Similarly, whether you believe or don't believe, there is a God. If you don't believe in God, and independently do whatever you like, then you'll be punished by the laws of nature.
Mike Robinson: I see. Does it matter what religion you believe? Would it matter if one was a devotee of Krsna?
Srila Prabhupada: It is not a question of religion. It is a question of science. You are a spiritual being, but because you are materially conditioned, you are under the laws of material nature. So you may believe in the Christian religion, and I may believe in the Hindu religion, but that does not mean that you are going to become an old man and I am not. We're talking of the science of growing old. This is natural law. It is not that because you are Christian you are becoming old, or because I am Hindu I am not becoming old. Everyone is becoming old. So, similarly, all the laws of nature are applicable to everyone. Whether you believe this religion or that religion, it doesn't matter.
Mike Robinson: So, you're saying that there's only one God controlling all of us?
Srila Prabhupada: There's one God, and one nature's law, and we are all under that nature's law. We are controlled by the Supreme. So if we think that we are free or that we can do anything, that is our foolishness.
Mike Robinson: I see. Can you explain to me what difference it makes, being a member of the Hare Krsna movement?
Srila Prabhupada: The Hare Krsna movement is meant for those who are serious about understanding this science. There's no question of our being some sectarian group. No. Anyone can join. Students in college can be admitted. You may be a Christian, you may be a Hindu, you may be a Mohammedan—it doesn't matter. The Krsna consciousness movement admits anyone who wants to understand the science of God.
Mike Robinson: And what difference would it make to someone being taught how to be a Hare Krsna person?
Srila Prabhupada: His real education would begin. The first thing is to understand that you are a spirit soul. And because you are a spirit soul, you are changing your body. This is the ABC of spiritual understanding. So, when your body is finished, annihilated, you are not finished. You are getting another body, just as you may change your coat and shirt. If you come to see me tomorrow wearing a different shirt and a different coat, does that mean you are a different person? No. Similarly, each time you die you change bodies, but you, the spirit soul within the body, remain the same. This point has to be understood; then one can make further progress in the science of Krsna consciousness.
Mike Robinson: I am beginning to understand, but what I'm finding difficult is how this ties in with the large number of your people we see handing out Hare Krsna literature on Oxford Street.
Srila Prabhupada: This literature is meant to convince people about the need for spiritual life.
Mike Robinson: And you're really not concerned whether or not they join the Hare Krsna movement?
Srila Prabhupada: It doesn't matter. Our mission is to educate them. People are in ignorance; they are living in a fool's paradise, thinking that when their body is finished, everything is finished. That is their foolishness.
Mike Robinson: And you are basically just concerned to tell them that there is a spiritual dimension to life?
Srila Prabhupada: Our first concern is to tell you that you are not this body, that the body is your covering—your shirt and coat—and that within the body you are living.
Mike Robinson: Yes, I think I've got that now. If we could go on from there—you said that how you lived made a difference in your life after death, that there are natural laws that determine your next life. How does the process of transmigration work?
Srila Prabhupada: The process is very subtle. The spirit soul is invisible to our material eyes. It is atomic in size. After the destruction of the gross body, which is made up of the senses, blood, bone, fat, and so forth, the subtle body of mind, intelligence, and ego goes on working. So at the time of death this subtle body carries the small spirit soul to another gross body. The process is just like air carrying a fragrance. Nobody can see where this rose fragrance is coming from, but we know that it is being carried by the air. You cannot see how, but it is being done. Similarly, the process of transmigration of the soul is very subtle. According to the condition of the mind at the time of death, the minute spirit soul enters into the womb of a particular mother through the semen of a father, and then the soul develops a particular type of body given by the mother. It may be a human being, it may be a cat, a dog, or anything.
Mike Robinson: Are you saying that we were something else before this life?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Mike Robinson: And we keep coming back as something else the next time?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, because you are eternal. According to your work, you are simply changing bodies. Therefore, you should want to know how to stop this business, how you can remain in your original, spiritual body. That is Krsna consciousness.
Mike Robinson: I see. So if I become Krsna conscious, I wouldn't risk coming back as a dog?
Srila Prabhupada: No. [To a devotee:] Find this verse: janma karma ca me divyam . . .
janma karma ca me divyam
"One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna" [Bg. 4.9].
Srila Prabhupada: God is saying, "Anyone who understands Me is free from birth and death." But one cannot understand God by materialistic speculation. That is not possible. One must first come to the spiritual platform. Then he gets the intelligence required to understand God. And when he understands God, he does not get any more material bodies. He goes back home, back to Godhead. He lives eternally; no more changing of body.
Mike Robinson: I see. Now, you've read twice from your scriptures. Where do these scriptures come from? Can you briefly explain that?
Srila Prabhupada: Our scriptures are coming from the Vedic literature, which has existed from the beginning of creation. Whenever there is some new material creation—like this microphone, for instance—there is also some literature explaining how to deal with it. Isn't that so?
Mike Robinson: Yes, that's right, there is.
Srila Prabhupada: And that literature comes along with the creation of the microphone.
Mike Robinson: That's right, yes.
Srila Prabhupada: So, similarly, the Vedic literature comes along with the cosmic creation, to explain how to deal with it.
Mike Robinson: I see. So, these scriptures have been in existence since the beginning of creation. Now, if we could move on to something I believe you feel very strongly about. What is the main difference between Krsna consciousness and the other Eastern disciplines being taught in the West?
Srila Prabhupada: The difference is that we are following the original literature, and they are manufacturing their own literature. That is the difference. When there is some question on spiritual matters, you must consult the original literature, not some literature issued by a bogus man.
Mike Robinson: What about the chanting of Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna—
Srila Prabhupada: Chanting Hare Krsna is the easiest process to become purified, especially in this age, when people are so dull that they cannot very easily understand spiritual knowledge. If one chants Hare Krsna, then his brain becomes purified, and he can understand spiritual things.
Mike Robinson: Can you tell me how you are guided in what you do?
Srila Prabhupada: We take guidance from the Vedic literature.
Mike Robinson: From the scriptures you have quoted.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, it's all in the literatures. We're explaining them in English. But we're not manufacturing anything. If we were to manufacture knowledge, then everything would be spoiled. The Vedic literature is something like the literature that explains how to set up this microphone. It says," Do it like this: some of the screws should be on this side, around the metal." You cannot make any change; then everything would be spoiled. Similarly, because we are not manufacturing anything, one simply has to read one of our books, and he will receive real spiritual knowledge.
Mike Robinson: How can the philosophy of Krsna consciousness affect the way people live?
Srila Prabhupada: It can relieve people's suffering. People are suffering because they are misunderstanding themselves to be the body. If you think that you are your coat and shirt, and you very carefully wash the coat and shirt but you forget to eat, will you be happy?
Mike Robinson: No, I wouldn't.
Srila Prabhupada: Similarly, everyone is simply washing the "coat and shirt" of the body, but forgetting about the soul within the body. They have no information about what is within the "coat and shirt" of the body. Ask anybody what he is, and he will say, "Yes, I am an Englishman," or, "I am an Indian." And if we say, "I can see you have an English or an Indian body, but what are you?"—that he cannot say.
Mike Robinson: I see.
Srila Prabhupada: The whole modern civilization operates on the misunderstanding that the material body is the self (dehatma-buddhi). This is the mentality of the cats and dogs. Suppose I try to enter England, and you stop me at the border: "I am an Englishman," you say, "but you are Indian. Why have you come here?" and the dog barks, "Rau rau, why are you coming?" So what is the difference in mentality? The dog is thinking he's a dog and I'm a stranger, and you are thinking you are an Englishman and I am an Indian. There's no difference in mentality. So if you keep people in the darkness of a dog's mentality and declare that you are advancing in civilization, you are most misguided.
Mike Robinson: Now, moving on to another point, I gather the Hare Krsna movement has some concern for areas of the world where there is suffering.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, we have the only concern. Others are simply avoiding the main problems: birth, old age, disease, and death. Others have no solution to these problems; they are being misguided. They are being kept in darkness. Let us start to give them light.
Mike Robinson: Yes, but apart from giving spiritual enlightenment, are you also concerned for people's physical well-being?
Srila Prabhupada: Physical well-being automatically follows spiritual well-being.
Mike Robinson: And how does that work?
Srila Prabhupada: Suppose you have a car. So, naturally, you take care of the car as well as yourself. But you don't identify yourself as the car. You don't say, "I am this car." That is nonsense. But this is what people are doing. They are taking too much care of the bodily "car," thinking that the "car" is the self. They forget that they are different from the "car," that they are a spirit soul and have a different business. Just as no one can drink petrol and be satisfied, so no one can be satisfied with bodily activities. He must find out the proper food for the soul. If a man thinks, "I am a car, and I must drink this petrol," he is considered insane. Similarly, one who thinks that he is this body, and who tries to become happy with bodily pleasures, is also insane.
Mike Robinson: There's a quote here that I'd like you to comment on. I was given this literature by your people before I came, and one of the things you say here is that "Religion without a rational basis is just sentiment." Can you explain that?
Srila Prabhupada: Most religious people say, "We believe . . ." But what is the value of this belief? You may believe something which is not actually correct. For instance, some of the Christian people say, "We believe that animals have no soul." That is not correct. They believe animals have no soul because they want to eat the animals, but actually animals do have a soul.
Mike Robinson: How do you know that the animal has a soul?
Srila Prabhupada: You can know, also. Here is the scientific proof: the animal eats, you eat; the animal sleeps, you sleep; the animal has sex, you have sex; the animal defends, you also defend. Then what is the difference between you and the animal? How can you say that you have a soul but the animal doesn't?
Mike Robinson: I can see that completely. But the Christian scriptures say—
Srila Prabhupada: Don't bring in any scriptures; this is a commonsense topic. Try to understand. The animal is eating, you are eating; the animal is sleeping, you are sleeping; the animal is defending, you are defending; the animal is having sex, you are having sex; the animals have children, you have children; they have a living place, you have a living place. If the animal's body is cut, there is blood; if your body is cut, there is blood. So, all these similarities are there. Now, why do you deny this one similarity, the presence of the soul? This is not logical. You have studied logic? In logic there is something called analogy. Analogy means drawing a conclusion by finding many points of similarity. If there are so many points of similarity between human beings and animals, why deny one similarity? That is not logic. That is not science.
Mike Robinson: But if you take that argument and use it the other way—
Srila Prabhupada: There is no other way. If you are not arguing on the basis of logic, then you are not rational.
Mike Robinson: Yes, OK, but let's start from another hypothesis. Suppose we assume that a human being has no soul—
Srila Prabhupada: Then you must explain the difference between a living body and a dead body. I have already explained this at the beginning. As soon as the living force, the soul, is gone from the body, even the most beautiful body has no value. No one cares for it. But now, if I touch your hair, there will be a fight. That is the distinction between a living body and a dead body. In a living body the soul is there, and in a dead body the soul is not there. As soon as the soul leaves the body, the body has no value. It is useless. This is very simple to understand, but even the biggest so-called scientists and philosophers are too dull-headed to understand it. Modern society is in a very abominable condition. There is no man with a real brain.
Mike Robinson: Are you referring to all the scientists who fail to understand the spiritual dimensions of life?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Real science means full knowledge of everything material and spiritual.
Mike Robinson: But you were a chemist in secular life, were you not?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, but it doesn't require any great intelligence to become a chemist. Any commonsense man can do it.
Mike Robinson: But presumably you think that material science is also important, even if today's scientists are dull-headed.
Srila Prabhupada: Material science is important just so far. It is not all-important.
Mike Robinson: I see. Can I come back to a question I had from before? When we were differing a few minutes ago you were saying, "Don't bring the scriptures in; just use common sense." But what part do the scriptures play in your religion? How important are they?
Srila Prabhupada: Our religion is a science. When we say that a child grows into a boy, it is science. It is not religion. Every child grows into a boy. What is the question of religion? Every man dies. What is the question of religion? And when a man dies, the body becomes useless. What is the question of religion? It is science. Whether you're Christian or Hindu or Moslem, when you die your body becomes useless. This is science. When your relative dies, you cannot say, "We are Christian; we believe he has not died." No, he has died. Whether you are Christian or Hindu or Moslem, he has died. So when we speak, we speak on this basis: that the body is important only as long as the soul is in the body. When the soul is not there, it is useless. This science is applicable to everyone, and we are trying to educate people on this basis.
Mike Robinson: But if I understand you correctly, you seem to be educating people on a purely scientific basis. Where does religion come into it at all?
Srila Prabhupada: Religion also means science. People have wrongly taken religion to mean faith—"I believe." [To a devotee:] Look up the word religion in the dictionary.
Disciple: Under religion the dictionary says, "recognition of superhuman control or power, and especially of a personal God entitled to obedience, and effecting such recognition with the proper mental attitude."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Religion means learning to obey the supreme controller. So, you may be Christian and I may be Hindu; it doesn't matter. We must both accept that there is a supreme controller. Everyone has to accept that; that is real religion. Not this "We believe animals have no soul." That is not religion. That is most unscientific. Religion means scientific understanding of the supreme controller: to understand the supreme controller and obey Him—that's all. In the state, the good citizen is he who understands the government and obeys the laws of the government. He is a good citizen. And the bad citizen is the one who doesn't care for the government. So, if you become a bad citizen by ignoring God's government, then you are irreligious. And if you are a good citizen, then you are religious.
Mike Robinson: I see. Can you tell me what you believe to be the meaning of life? Why do we exist in the first place?
Srila Prabhupada: The meaning of life is to enjoy. But now you are on a false platform of life, and therefore you are suffering instead of enjoying. Everywhere we see the struggle for existence. Everyone is struggling, but what is their enjoyment in the end? They are simply suffering and dying. Therefore, although life means enjoyment, at the present moment your life is not enjoyment. But if you come to the real spiritual platform of life, then you'll enjoy.
Mike Robinson: Can you explain to me, finally, some of the stages you go through in spiritual life? What are the spiritual stages that a new devotee of Krsna goes through?
Srila Prabhupada: The first is that you are inquisitive. "So," you say, "what is this Krsna consciousness movement? Let me study it." This is called sraddha, or faith. This is the beginning. Then, if you are serious, you mix with those who are cultivating this knowledge. You try to understand how they are feeling. Then you'll feel, "Why not become one of them?" And when you become one of them, then all your misgivings soon go away. You become more faithful, and then you get a real taste for Krsna consciousness. Why aren't these boys going to see the cinema? Why don't they eat meat or go to the nightclub? Because their taste has changed. They hate all these things now. In this way, you make progress. First, faith, then association with devotees, then removal of all misgivings, then firm faith, then taste, then God realization, and then love of God, the perfection. That is first-class religion. Not some ritualistic ceremony of "I believe, you believe." That is not religion. That is cheating. Real religion means to develop your love for God. That is the perfection of religion.
Mike Robinson: Thank you very much for talking with me. It's been a pleasure talking to you.
Srila Prabhupada: Hare Krsna.
An Offering Of Love
The Sunday Love Feast,
by Visakha-devi dasi
Back in August of 1965, Srila Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual master of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), was crossing the Atlantic aboard the steamship Jaladuta. At that time there was no worldwide Hare Krsna movement. But Srila Prabhupada was crossing the ocean to carry the message of Krsna consciousness to the Western world. For days he'd been feeling seasick and dizzy, yet on August 20, the appearance-day anniversary of Lord Krsna, he spoke to the crew about Lord Krsna's philosophy and fed them prasadam (food offered to Krsna) that he'd cooked himself.
And later, in America, Srila Prabhupada regularly cooked and distributed prasadam—to his suburban hosts near Pittsburgh, to a hatha-yoga teacher in uptown New York, to the guests who attended his evening lectures, and to the hungry spiritual seekers who began coming to his New York storefront for lunch each day. But it wasn't until Srila Prabhupada had been in America for a year that he began the "Love Feast."
So it was that late one Saturday night in the fall of 1966, one devotee was stirring sweet rice in the small kitchen in the storefront temple at 26 Second Avenue, while others were frying samosas, kneading and rolling puri dough, spicing vegetable dishes, cutting apples for a chutney, making golden ghee-fried milk balls (called gulabjamuns), and working on some half dozen other preparations, all under Srila Prabhupada's direct supervision. This was all in preparation for one of the first of ISKCON's Sunday Love Feasts, and the devotees, who had advertised the new program in the Lower East Side neighborhood, were expecting about fifty guests.
Word spread quickly about the exotic and delicious vegetarian feasts the Hare Krsna devotees were having. Before long, each Sunday the small temple room and courtyard would fill with guests eager to try the delicacies the devotees were generously serving. Over the years that followed, Srila Prabhupada opened many other temples, and in each one his Sunday feast program became a standard activity that continues today in the 175 Hare Krsna temples worldwide.
We sincerely request you to visit us soon for an enjoyable summer Sunday evening. We'd like you to try the dishes we've made for Krsna's pleasure. As you can see from the photo of Lord Krsna's plate, we try to please Him with variety and opulence. As for the taste—that you can judge for yourself when you come.
Perhaps it seems odd that we cook this extraordinary meal and offer it to God on His own silver plate before anyone else (including the cook) has tasted it. Actually, this is an important part of the science of devotion. God is not in need of anything from anyone; He is self-sufficient. Yet He eagerly accepts whatever His devotee offers Him in love. In other words, although God is the proprietor of everything and is full and complete in Himself, and although He is the reservoir of all pleasure, still His I pleasure increases unlimitedly (as does ours) when I we serve Him with love.
The process of pleasing the Supreme is called bhakti, or service to the Lord with devotion. For those inclined toward philosophy, bhakti can be intensely philosophical; for those inclined toward activity, it can be most active. Bhakti can be as passive as hearing about Krsna, as arduous as fighting for Him, and as nectarean as caring for Him and feeding Him.
To Lord Krsna, bhakti is the most important qualification a person can have. In the Bhagavad-gita (18.55) Krsna says, "One can understand Me as I am, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of Me by such devotion, he can enter into the kingdom of God." In other words, God is hungry not for our food, but for our bhakti. And in exchange for our bhakti, He gives Himself.
The dishes that you see in the photograph, like all the dishes the devotees offer to Krsna, contain no meat, fish, or eggs. They, like the hundreds of thousands of other dishes we can offer, are made with combinations of vegetables, grains, fruits, milk, nuts, water and sweeteners. This is because Lord Krsna advises, "If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit or water, I will accept it" (Bg. 9.26).
And why the silver plate?
God, Srila Prabhupada has explained, is the original owner of all wealth. Whatever wealth we may have ultimately belongs to God, for He is its origin, its creator. A devotee, therefore, sees that all wealth should be used in the service of its owner, Krsna. So whatever wealth a devotee has he uses in the service of Krsna. If the devotee had the means, he would offer meals to the Lord on pure gold. Silver, after all, is still not quite the best.
Eating the food that's been offered to Krsna with such love and devotion brings about an inner wealth that can't be purchased with any amount of money. This is the wealth of spiritual life. Srila Prabhupada writes, "Preparing nice, simple vegetable dishes, offering them before the picture or Deity of Lord Krsna, and bowing down and praying for Him to accept such a humble offering enable one to advance steadily in life, to purify the body, and to create fine brain tissues, which will lead to clear thinking. When one offers Krsna food, Krsna directly accepts such eatables, and one becomes Krsna-ized by eating such remnants."
Please, come and join us for the Sunday Love Feast. It's a transcendental experience we'd like to share with you.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
Nothing Comes From Nothing
by Kundali dasa
Every month I get Acts and Facts, the newsletter of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), a Christian organization out to demolish the evolutionists. The newsletter brings me spirited updates on the latest round in a seemingly endless series of debates between the God-fearing creationists and the atheistic evolutionists.
The creationists believe that the Holy Bible is the absolute word of God and hence the last word on creation, any contradiction being false, diabolical, and unfit to be taught in the schools. At the very least, they declare, the biblical version should be presented as an alternative to the atheistic theory of evolution.
The evolutionists object to the creationists' claim on the ground that the Bible teaches religion, not science. The biblical version of creation is not supported by any hard scientific facts—proof, the evolutionists say, that the universe was not created but rather evolved from a tiny point of concentrated matter the size of a pinhead.
Mysteriously, this pinhead of inert matter grew and grew until it became a good-sized chunk. Just as mysteriously, the chunk exploded. And the universe came into being. Gradually, over a period of many millions of years, from the random pushes and pulls of subatomic particles, the pieces fell into place and the creation—oops, sorry, wrong word—existence, as we know it, developed.
The evolution theory doesn't deny the need or possibility of a transcendent creator. After all, even a tiny pinhead speck of concentrated matter has to come from somewhere.
Whence came the speck? Right now the evolutionists have no stock answer to this question. They are determined, however, to come up with an alternative to God. At all costs, they want to avoid resorting to mysticism.
How this dispute will finally be settled, if it is ever to be settled, is of paramount concern to the people at ICR, and for good reason. Should the evolution theory be established as incontrovertible in its present form, it would put holes big enough to pass a church through in the Christians' claim that the Bible is the absolute word of God—a welcome event, no doubt, in the minds of those who believe religion is holding back the progress of civilization.
I am not prepared to settle this issue one way or the other, because the Krsna consciousness version of creation* [*The Vedic explanation of creation appeared in BACK TO GODHEAD 19.9 in the article "How He Creates."]—which I cannot present in this limited space—supports neither the evolutionists nor the creationists. But, isn't there something about atheistic evolution that confounds logic and common sense?
Atheism asks us to agree that everything came from nothing. In other words, on the question of how the universe came about, atheism says, "No intelligence, no designer, no creator—nothing was involved. It just happened of its own accord."
To put it another way, atheism favors Absolute Ignorance over Absolute Wisdom in trying to explain all the achievements of creative skill. Let's try applying this practically. Sit back and imagine for a few moments someone successfully convincing you that this short essay had no author. . . . It's absurd, isn't it?
by Ramanatha-sukha dasa
Archeologists report that they may have found the remains of an ancient city beneath the waters of the Arabian Sea off the coast of Gujarat. Wax seals, earthenware, and other artifacts have been attributed to Dvaraka, the ancient capital of Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
S. R. Rao, resident archeologist at India's National Institute of Oceanography, led a diving expedition a few miles off the coast of Gujarat last December, locating a vast temple complex. Subsequent laboratory tests have shown that the temple flourished as part of a city more than three thousand years ago.
The diving expedition used sophisticated underwater vacuum tubes and side-scan sonar to locate the Dvaraka site. "This project is helping us to learn about our history, our culture, and our religion," said V. V. Varadachari, the oceanography institute's director.
Critics of the government-funded expedition have complained that the money should have been used to improve the nation's education system, since 185,000 of India's schools do not even have chalkboards. These critics are not impressed that modern scientific technology is being used for a spiritual purpose—to find a principal location of the Supreme Lord's earthly pastimes.
At least in one sense the critics are correct: Most of India's six hundred million citizens already know from reading the Srimad-Bhagavatam and other Vedic literatures that Lord Krsna had a kingdom off the west coast of India. They don't need their scriptural knowledge confirmed through archeology.
The Descent Of Mickey Mouse
by Nayanabhirama dasa
I was sitting in the lobby of the Hare Krsna movement's international guesthouse in Vrndavana, India, when I happened to notice a copy of the Hindustan Times. Curious to find out what was happening in the world, I leafed through the paper and came upon an unusually large advertisement with this heading: The Real Mickey Mouse from Disneyland, U.S.A., is here! "Oh, no," I groaned. "Mickey Mouse in India! What next?"
I couldn't believe my eyes. I thought I must have either been dreaming or become delirious from too much sun. But "No," the ad copy reassured me, "you're not dreaming. Mickey is coming all the way from Disneyland to meet you all, in an afternoon of laughter, fun, elephant rides, games, eats, and more. ... So be there, kids. Mickey's dying to meet all of you. . . . Tomorrow at the Oberoi Intercontinental Hotel, the gates of funland will swing open for you." The celebrated rodent was to arrive on a special Pan Am flight from Los Angeles the next day.
Two days later, the story of Mickey's descent on Delhi appeared in the Hindustan Times:
MUTE MICKEY DELIGHTS KIDS
At his press conference, Mickey Mouse was accompanied by his spokesperson and interpreter, Melissa Tyler, the official "Disneyland Ambassador to the World." Asked by one of the journalists what he had to say, Mickey replied through Ms. Tyler, "Keep a smile on your face."
A reassuring message in troubled times such as these. And not difficult for one wearing a mask (such as Mickey's) with a painted smile. But aside from the spoiled kids from Delhi's posh suburbs stuffing their pudgy faces with the gratis goodies, there were few others who could take advantage of the munificent Mouse's hospitality. India's numberless homeless and destitute children, who work for a pittance in conditions of Dickensian squalor, would never see Mickey Mouse or tuck in to the funland goodies.
No matter, for Mickey's real message, that of ever-expanding consumerism, would be heard loud and clear by those that count, that is, India's affluent upper class. The fact is that Mickey Mouse is America's best and most popular ambassador to the world—"best" in the sense that he promotes American materialistic values of consumerism. Like the Hollywood movie in which, as Marshall MacLuhan observed, "all the ordinary people have cars, refrigerators, and electric stoves," so Mickey Mouse, a personification of that Hollywood fantasyland, is one big advertisement for consumer goods.
One of the Disney ads, for example, offered a free Disney gift with every purchase. Among the products listed were Disney calendars, musical greeting cards, Mickey Mouse hats, diaries, and autograph books. The whole idea behind consumerism is to expand markets by fostering artificial desires for goods no one really needs. After all, who really needs a Mouseketeer hat or a Mickey Mouse autograph book? But seeking to expand its markets, Walt Disney Productions has sent Mickey Mouse around the world to create a "need" for the superfluous.
Unlike the West, India is not yet fully geared for consumerism. Most Indian shops, barely larger than kiosks, carry little more than the basic necessities of life. There is no impulse buying of unnecessary items. If you need something, you ask for it, or have it made to order. Nor is there much advertising in the newspapers, a lack that accounts for their skimpiness.
It was the British imperialists, pressed by a need to expand their markets, who first introduced consumerism into India and began eroding her traditional Vedic culture. British propaganda did not simply aim to establish consumerism per se, but to create a demand for British goods exclusively. To do this the British had to first establish the inferiority of anything "native" (a derogatory term when used by imperialists), which included everything from their heathen religion and philosophy to customs, mores, and culture, all of which the British found incomprehensible.
The British propaganda has been so ingrained in the Indian mind that even today, if you look at advertisements in India's glossy movie magazines or on urban billboards, you'll find English-looking models enjoying British products such as Britannia (white) bread or glucose biscuits with their English tea.
Gandhi understood that the way to break the imperial yoke would be for Indians to boycott British goods. Hence, he and his followers burned all the British-milled cloth and wore their own homespun cloth instead, which is what Indians had worn long before there were any British factories. Seeing no need for heavy industry, which he believed deleterious to the human spirit, Gandhi wanted to revive the cottage industries. Since independence in 1947, however, there have been many great changes, and India has come a long way toward modernization. Now the mills of Bombay and Ahmedabad have replaced those of Manchester and Lancashire, and India, believe it or not, ranks among the top ten industrialized nations in the world.
Although British imperialism is long gone, American and Japanese goods have replaced the British ones. Like consumers all over the world, Indians are mad after the latest electronic gadgets and state-of-the-art technology.
The insidiousness of Mickey Mouse's descent into Delhi became all the more apparent when I noticed in one of the Mickey Mouse ads a picture of the goodies. Nestled in the corner, against a tall tumbler of some frothy drink topped with a cherry and two straws, was a hamburger with all the trimmings. Without saying it in so many words, the ad was implying that if you want to enjoy as they do in the West, you have to eat meat. The suggestion is particularly odious, since India is not only traditionally vegetarian (meat-caters are called "nonvegetarians"), but is also the only country in the world, aside from Nepal, where the cow is officially protected from slaughter.
The spectacle of Mickey Mouse in Delhi may at first appear ludicrous, if not harmless, but actually it is rather sad to see Indians, respected all over the world for their profound spiritual culture, throw away their culture for the banal superficialities of American pop culture. It would be a great mistake to give up dharma for Disney, Krsna for Mickey. Previously, nearly all calendars and notebooks depicted religious scenes of Krsna in His various pastimes and incarnations. Now they often display secular subjects ranging from Mickey Mouse and Goofy to naked babes waving the Indian flag, to film stars, politicians, and dogs racing madly on motorcycles. Such mundane iconography can never satisfy the agitated mind of the conditioned soul, for it serves only to perpetuate the idols and mundane ambitions of a godless civilization.
Ironically, as India looks to the West for its technology and iconography, materially exhausted Westerners are turning to India, now more than ever, for spiritual inspiration. Thanks to the success of Srila Prabhupada's efforts to spread Krsna consciousness in the West, Westerners have begun to appreciate the higher principles of Vedic civilization. And Indians, seeing the Western interest, have begun to rediscover their own heritage—thinking that if foreigners are taking it up, it must be good.
Lord Caitanya launched His mission of mercy in
by Sesa Dasa
The flat, verdant ricelands of West Bengal's district of Nadia appear timeless and remote. Farmers till the soil with oxen and wooden plows in this land seemingly unconcerned with today's modern world. Yet Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who appeared here five hundred years ago, predicted that the spiritual movement He started here would be broadcast all over the world and would indeed change the direction of civilization.
Sri Caitanya inaugurated the sankirtana movement of the congregational chanting of the holy names of God. While living here in Nadia, He would travel from village to village, chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The mission of the Lord is always to deliver the fallen souls, and this chanting works powerfully to reawaken the natural love of God dormant in our hearts. Lord Caitanya, therefore, was fulfilling His mission of mercy simply by chanting and dancing.
Later, after entering the renounced order, (sannyasa), Lord Caitanya traveled throughout the Indian subcontinent chanting the holy names and dancing in ecstatic love of God. The Lord's chanting would inspire others to chant and their chanting would inspire still others. In this way the sankirtana movement spread (and is continuing to spread) to every city, town, and village.
Lord Caitanya broadcast His message with mrdanga drums and hand cymbals and traveled on fool. He did not spread His movement outside of India, although His plan was that all the peoples of the world would one day take up chanting the holy names and thus awaken their dormant love of God. To fulfill this vision. Lord Caitanya requested His devotees to continue the momentum He had begun in the land of Nadia.
Srila Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami, chief disciples of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, were dispatched to Vrndavana, the place of Krsna's childhood pastimes. There, in pursuance of the Lord's order, they authored many books explaining Lord Caitanya's teachings—not by creative speculation, but by respectfully and extensively citing the Vedic literature. Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami wrote and preached, and their disciples and their disciples' disciples heard and repeated the teachings. Thus the teachings of Lord Caitanya have been purely preserved throughout the five centuries since the Lord's appearance.
In 1896 the teachings of Lord Caitanya reached the West. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, foremost of Nadia's disciplic followers of Lord Caitanya, sent a small book he had written in English to McGill University in Montreal. The book was part of his plan to spiritualize Western civilization. He predicted that soon devotees from all over the world would come together in the land of Nadia to worship Lord Caitanya.
Srila Bhaktivinoda's son, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, expanded upon his father's desire, utilizing modern means of transportation and communication, especially the printing press, to spread the sankirtana movement. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta likened the printing press to a big drum, a brhat mrdanga. An ordinary mrdanga is heard only within a small radius, but the printing press can be "heard" all over the world. Since in Lord Caitanya's mission the book and drum carry the same message, to call the printing press a brhat mrdanga is most fitting. And Srila Bhaktisiddhanta played his big mrdanga, writing many volumes of transcendental literature in Bengali and English and encouraging his disciples to do the same.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta wanted to send his disciples to influential Western countries to preach. He saw that a preacher's travel was no longer limited by geographical and cultural considerations. Modern transportation and communication had made the entire world into a great global community, with tremendous potential for spreading the movement of Lord Caitanya. Most sincere Vaisnavas of the day simply saw the Western countries and their technological advancements as synonymous with materialism. How could a follower of Lord Caitanya, they reasoned, go to the West or use Western gadgets and machines? But Srila Bhaktisiddhanta simply saw the opportunity to fulfill the great desire of Lord Caitanya.
In Calcutta in 1922, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta took an immediate interest in young Abhay Charan De. Although Abhay Charan was later to be initiated by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and eventually to become known the world over as Srila Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual master of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, at their first meeting he was startled to hear this venerable saint request him to take Lord Caitanya's sankirtana movement to the English-speaking world. Abhay argued against Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's proposal. India was a dependent nation under British rule; who would listen? But Srila Bhaktisiddhanta defeated this argument, stressing that Lord Caitanya's sankirtana movement was transcendental to politics. The movement that Lord Caitanya had begun in Nadia, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati explained, was not dependent upon any material circumstances. It would, by the pure desire of the Supreme Lord and His devotees, spread throughout the world. Abhay Charan heard and accepted the instructions of his spiritual master and started to mold his life by them.
It was not until August of 1965, after many years of preparation and struggle, that Srila Prabhupada boarded the steamship Jaladuta for New York City, the heart of Western civilization. Alone, and with little more than his simple sannyasi garb and forty rupees, he arrived in the completely strange and foreign land of America. But he had his copies of his translation of Srimad-Bhagavatam, and he carried the holy name of Krsna. He was the emissary of Lord Caitanya.
Using a pair of hand cymbals he had brought with him, Srila Prabhupada began his mission, chanting with a small band of young seekers on New York's Lower East Side. With the help of a friend, Srila Prabhupada made a record album, chanting Hare Krsna to the accompaniment of a harmonium and a borrowed mrdanga drum. As news of the Indian swami and his chant spread, more and more young people began joining him at his small storefront for morning and evening classes and chanting.
Embarking in January 1967 on his first airplane journey, Srila Prabhupada took the sankirtana movement to San Francisco. There he chanted in Golden Gate Park, drawing thousands of hippies anxious for the alternative answers the sankirtana movement offered. Srila Prabhupada had outlined these alternatives in the books that he was translating:
Human society, at the present moment, is not in the darkness of oblivion. It has made rapid progress in the field of material comforts, education, and economic development throughout the entire world. But there is a pinprick somewhere in the social body at large, and therefore there are large-scale quarrels, even over less important issues. There is need of a clue as to how humanity can become one in peace, friendship, and prosperity with a common cause. Srimad-Bhagavatam will fill this need, for it is a cultural presentation for the respiritualization of the entire human society.
Lord Caitanya's movement was not to be confined to the limited geographical boundaries of India or the countercultural world of America's hippies. It was the spiritual movement of the age, meant for delivering all fallen souls from the sufferings of material existence.
Through his personal example, his writings, and his spoken instructions, Srila Prabhupada inspired his disciples to take up Lord Caitanya's cause. Within one year of his journey to San Francisco, he had completed his first world tour and had sent three couples to London. Within a short time, they had enlisted the help of Beatle George Harrison and had recorded the Hare Krsna chant for Apple Records. This record became a number-one hit on popular music charts all over Europe. And on the sidewalks of major cities of America and Europe, it became common to see sankirtana parties composed mainly of Western young people dressed in the fashion of Lord Caitanya, playing mrdanga drums and hand cymbals and chanting Hare Krsna.
As Lord Caitanya's international movement grew, Srila Prabhupada instructed his disciples to increase the distribution of the books he had written. This was also sankirtana, he explained.
Srila Prabhupada led the expansion of Lord Caitanya's sankirtana movement, circling the globe once or twice every year. Wherever he went he preached to government and religious leaders, as well as to the common man. His unshakable faith made him confident that if anyone objectively heard the message of Lord Caitanya, then that person's life would be transformed. In his translation of Caitanya-caritamrta he wrote, "The Krsna consciousness movement has spread all over the world within a very short time (within five years), and mundane people are very astonished at this. However, by the grace of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, we understand that everything is possible by the grace of Krsna." The thousands of devotees from all over the world who have heard from Srila Prabhupada and who have responded by dedicating their lives to spreading the sankirtana movement are proof of the power of sankirtana.
During his lifetime Srila Prabhupada traveled around the world fourteen times, visiting major cities on every continent. Yet wherever he went, he usually found himself far from the beloved birthplace of Lord Caitanya in the land of Nadia. He even once referred to an American city he was visiting as "this remote corner of the world"—remote because geographically, culturally, and spiritually, this city was removed from the transcendental atmosphere of that area in West Bengal where Lord Caitanya took His birth and began His sankirtana movement.
It was here in Nadia that Srila Prabhupada chose to establish the international headquarters for the Hare Krsna movement. And here, annually, in fulfillment of Lord Caitanya's prophecy, devotees from many nations gather to refresh their desire to spread His movement everywhere.
On Social Revolution
The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and members of the United Nations World Health Organization took place in Geneva on June 6, 1974.
Srila Prabhupada: All over the world, or anywhere in the world, you can make this experiment, just as we are doing. Live very simply, be self-sufficient; get your necessities not from factories but from the farmland. And glorify God's holy names.
In this industrial set-up, capitalist or communist, only a few big men can be happy—so-called happy—at the expense of the other people. And because the others are being exploited or simply left unemployed by this corrupt few, the others also become corrupt. They try to avoid all work and sit idly. Or else they do not work honestly. And so many other things.
So the only remedy is that everyone should live naturally and chant God's holy names. Become God conscious. This remedy is simple, and here you can see some of the results. My young European and American students—they had been addicted to drugs and drinking and smoking and so many other modern bad habits. But now, just see how sober they are and how they are glorifying the Lord's holy names.
You can change the world and make everything all right, provided you take this instruction. There is no other remedy. If you choose not to listen, what can be done? The remedy—the right medicine—is there. But if you don't take the medicine, how will the disease be cured?
W.H.O. member: You referred earlier to the unfortunate departure of villagers to the city. You pointed out that in city life, the villagers become factory workers, and then so many evils follow. And you suggested as a solution that if we live in the villages and work the land for a mere three months, we'll have food to eat for the whole year.
But I'd like to point out that there is such a vast amount of unemployment in our towns and villages. Many people there are feeling doomed. They cannot produce enough food for themselves, because they do not have access to the land. The mercantile people use it for their own purposes. And this is why so many of the ordinary people are unemployed. This is why they go into the cities. It is not necessarily that "the good life" in the city attracts them, but that they don't have access to the land. The land is not used by the mercantile group, and the ordinary people are not able to live in the villages as free men and grow enough food for themselves.
Now, the mercantile group are exploiting. They are exploiting. So unless there is some kind of revolution by which you can curb the power of this mercantile group, how can you hope that someday people will be able to live in their villages and grow their own food on the land?
Srila Prabhupada: The thing is, the government has the duty to see that nobody is unemployed. That is good government.
In the Vedic system, society has four natural groupings. The brahmanas, or thoughtful group, instruct and advise. The ksatriyas, or dynamic group, protect and organize. Then the vaisyas, or mercantile group, look after the land and cows and see to food production. And the sudras, or laboring group, assist the other groups.
Now, this means that the government should be composed of dynamic ksatriyas, who will protect everyone else and make sure the various groupings are doing their duties. The government has to see that everyone is properly employed. Then the whole problem of unemployment will be solved.
W.H.O. member: But at present the mercantile group are also in the government. In fact, they are entrenched. They have a very strong voice in the government, and in many instances they are outright officials in the government.
Srila Prabhupada: No—that means bad government.
W.H.O. member: Yes, that is . . . that is true.
Srila Prabhupada: That is bad government. The mercantile group should have nothing to do with the government. Otherwise, how can the government see—with no ulterior motives—about everyone's employment?
The government should encourage the mercantile group to use their ingenuity freely, but not to devise unnatural industries that come and go and leave people unemployed. The government has to see that everyone is properly employed.
W.H.O. member: That's what I am looking forward to—the day when the Krsna consciousness movement can become a real revolutionary movement that will change the face of society.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. I think it will bring revolution, because the American and European people are taking it to heart. I have introduced it to them, and they're very intelligent—they take everything very seriously.
We have been working only a few years, and yet we have spread this movement all over the world. If people take it seriously, it will go on, and there will be revolution. Because we are not working whimsically, capriciously. We are taking authoritative direction from the sastra, the scripture. There is so much information here. People can read all these books and get information. If they take it seriously, it will bring revolution.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Devotee Alfred Ford Named Top Collector
Recently Art and Antiques magazine named the top one hundred collectors in America. Its list includes Alfred Brush Ford of the Ford dynasty, also known as Ambarisa dasa, a devotee in the Hare Krsna movement. In 1980 Ambarisa opened the Ramayan Art Gallery (pictured above) in Detroit. This fall his large collection of Oriental art will go on permanent display at the Bhaktivedanta Cultural Center, formerly the Fisher Mansion, which Ambarisa spent $2.25 million to purchase and develop into a gorgeous showplace for Krsna culture.
Ground Broken for New Vrindaban's
New Vrindaban, West Virginia—On May 31 Srila Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada, one of the present spiritual masters in the Krsna consciousness movement, presided over a ground-breaking ceremony here for the Temple of Understanding. The new temple will be the world's largest Krsna temple and the most ambitious architectural project of its kind since the construction of the great temple in Tanjore, India, in the eleventh century.
The temple will be twenty times larger than the famous Prabhupada's Palace of Gold. Designed to accommodate 1,200 visitors at one time, it will stand 216 feet high and will include a theater, art gallery, planetarium, museum, cafeteria, and gift shop. The temple and plaza area will occupy 200,000 square feet.
Completion of the temple complex is scheduled for 1992. The temple proper will be open to the public in 1988.
U.S. Congressman Alien Mollohan was on hand at the ceremony to deliver the keynote speech.
ISKCON Float Wins a Top Prize in Melbourne Parade
Melbourne, Australia—Devotees here recently participated in the 1985 Myer Moomba Parade, the largest annual parade in the southern hemisphere. Their float won the Ministry of Arts Award for the most original float, one of the top three awards.
The float's fourteen-foot-high pink lotus flower captured everyone's attention. In the whorl of the lotus, seated upon a golden throne, sat Balarama dasa and his wife, Sri Lekha-devi dasi, dressed to portray Lord Krsna and Srimati Radharani. Balarama dasa is ISKCON's regional secretary for the State of Victoria.
At the center of the float was a sculpture of two swans swimming on a pond, and on either side, wearing colorful Indian costumes, sat devotee women and children portraying the cowherd girlfriends (gopis) of Radha and Krsna.
Sculpted peacocks, butterflies whose wings moved in the breeze, frogs, white birds, a bull, a cow, and two calves completed the scene. Devotees danced in front of the float and chanted Hare Krsna to the accompaniment of drums and hand cymbals.
Six hundred thousand spectators viewed the parade, which was also televised across Australia, in Japan, and as far away as England. One television broadcaster described the float's depiction of the lovely scene and then added that the devotees distribute two thousand free meals a week in Melbourne.
At the end of the parade all the floats remained on display in a large park, where the devotees distributed tens of thousands of books and snacks.
The Adelaide Advertiser commented that the devotees "showed the rest of Melbourne what a real float should look like."
The Hare Krsna movement expands its presentation of
by Mathuresa Dasa
College Avenue curves uphill and past the modern campus of San Diego State University. It is spring, shortly after midnight in midweek, and the avenue is nearly deserted. Laughter and loud music drift from nearby dormitory parties. Fifty yards from the avenue, with the party ruckus out of earshot, the main campus quadrangle is silent.
Silent, that is, except for a soft, hollow rattle . . . clang . . . clang. From a bright yellow tractor-trailer parked on the quadrangle corner near the student center, a crew of Hare Krsna devotees unloads eight-foot aluminum tent-poles in the semi-darkness, spreading them in rectangular, dominolike patterns on the brick-and-cement sidewalk. Over the next five hours the devotees will assemble ten brightly colored tents topped by three-foot-high yellow banners reading "The Science of Reincarnation," "Transcendental Art," "The Search for the Kingdom of God," and soon.
The devotees have to work at night because the locations, usually parks or college campuses, are too crowded during the day. "The students saw nothing here a few hours ago," crew leader Madhuha dasa explains, setting down an armload of poles, "but tomorrow morning . . . there's definitely a surprise factor."
Madhuha is one of the creators and directors of the traveling Festival of India, which he and other devotees began in 1979 with funds supplied by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT), the publishing arm of the Hare Krsna movement. A presentation of some important aspects of India's ancient Vedic culture, the festival shows how Vedic concepts and the Vedic lifestyle are, ever relevant in guiding human society and in fulfilling man's quest for timeless knowledge. The festival is always "a surprise," both visually and culturally, although the devotees arrange for the sites weeks and even months in advance and advertise energetically.
One of the festival exhibits. Origins: Higher Dimensions in Science, confronts the questions "How did life originate?" and "Life from chemicals: fact or fantasy?" Strolling into the Origins tent, a festival-goer reads the following on a row of laminated panels amid photos and illustrations: "A fundamental tenet of modern science is that everything that exists can be broken down into simple mathematical expressions and explained by the laws of physics. But consciousness—complete with memories, feelings, perception, desires, and sense of selfhood—eludes such descriptions."
The festival exhibits are based on books published by the BBT. Consisting of commentary and translations of the Vedic literatures, the books of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (founder and spiritual master of the Hare Krsna movement) explain that life and consciousness are not products of chemical evolution but rather symptoms of the eternal soul situated in the bodies of all living entities. The eternal soul animates the temporary body. Chemicals alone are always lifeless.
That we are not our bodies but eternal souls is the first principle of spiritual knowledge. Enunciated in the Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic texts, this principle has been taught by followers of Srila Prabhupada for nearly twenty years, primarily through book distribution. The Origins exhibit at the Festival of India spells out the we-are-not-the-body principle by exposing the faults in popular scientific theories such as the "life from chemicals" theory, the "big bang" theory, the evolutionary theory, and so on. The exhibit quotes, among others, Albert Einstein and T. H. Huxley and concludes with the Vedic explanations of life and consciousness.
By 6 a.m. Madhuha and his crew have finished assembling the tents, and most of the laminated exhibit panels are in place. An early-rising SDSU student is already examining the paintings in the Transcendental Art tent—colorful pictures of many of Krsna's incarnations, of Krsna speaking the Bhagavad-gita on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra, and of such unusual scenes as an emaciated mystic yogi meditating high in the Himalayas.
Based on Srila Prabhupada's writings, the festival exhibits are like giant walk through books. Hare Krsna devotees are internationally known for distributing their literature in airports and other public places, but people sometimes don't understand that devotees are primarily out to disseminate transcendental knowledge, not collect money. In some African, Asian, and Eastern Bloc countries devotees distribute the books far below cost, or even pass them out free, depending on the people's economic conditions. In the United States and other countries, on the other hand, books are sold at cost or slightly above. Devotees know that if you hand a free book to a relatively wealthy Westerner, it's likely to soon find its way into a wastebasket.
"Book distribution" is therefore not a euphemism but a proper label for the practical method devotees use to accomplish the task of distributing Vedic knowledge. By investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in the Festival of India program, the Hare Krsna devotees have further committed themselves to their number-one task. There is no admission charge for the festival, and the "books" are tastefully presented with numerous photographs and illustrations. Visitors stroll through the tents at their own pace and enjoy the vegetarian refreshments provided by devotees.
Coincidentally, when Indira Gandhi visited the United States in 1982, the cultural exchange she and President Reagan agreed to initiate between their countries was also given the name "Festival of India." This year, under the U.S.-India program, many Indian dance and theater troupes will perform in the United States, and American galleries and museums will display Indian exhibits. Though the two festivals of India are not yet officially related, they cover some of the same ground, the devotees emphasizing more the universal features of spiritual Vedic philosophy and culture and how they apply to Western lifestyles and thought.
Srila Prabhupada said many times that a combination of Western technology and Vedic culture could revitalize the war-torn, spiritually impoverished modern world. If a blind man takes a lame man on his shoulders, he said, together they make a perfect team. The Western countries are spiritually blind, unaware of the non-sectarian Vedic science of self-realization, while India is technologically lame. Cooperation between the two could spark a cultural revolution. It was Srila Prabhupada's intention to inaugurate such a joyous revolution. In 1965, in the Preface to his Srimad-Bhagavatam translation and commentary, he wrote, "There is need of a clue as to how humanity can become one in peace, ' friendship, and prosperity with a common cause. Srimad-Bhagavatam will fill this need, for it is a cultural presentation for the respiritualization of the entire human society."
Carrying on the Bhagavatam tradition, the Festival of India, which in the past five years has crisscrossed America and Canada aboard its yellow tractor-trailer, sheds spiritual light on the controversial issues of the day and clarifies some Vedic concepts now popular in the West, such as karma and reincarnation.
At eight-thirty Madhuha leaves the completed festival sight to get some much-needed rest, while other devotees arrive to set up book tables and stock the food booth with freshly cooked snacks. By late morning students fill the quadrangle, running to classes, sunning themselves on the steps of the student center, and browsing through the festival tents. Two girls, backpacks over their shoulders, have rolled their bikes into the Reincarnation tent and stand reading:
"Most of us seldom if ever think about death or what happens afterward. Some say that death is the end of everything. Others hold that this life is only one of many we have lived and will live in the future. In fact, more than one-third of the world's population—about 1.5 billion people—accept reincarnation as a fact."
Further on, the girls scan quotes beneath the pictures of Nils Bohr, Socrates, Benjamin Franklin, and others, reading how each of these famous personalities believed in the possibility of a next life. Then the coeds pull their bikes to the end of the exhibit to see what the Bhagavad-gita has to say on the matter. Students are also inspecting the other exhibits, talking with the devotees, taking the free books, and sampling the vegetarian snacks.
The theme of East-West collaboration is evident in every detail of the Festival of India program, right down to the festival tents. "When we were getting started in 1979," says Madhuha, "we used tent material imported from India—the traditional multicolored cloth—and bamboo poles. It was all very authentic-looking, but we ran into problems. We couldn't set up on paved areas because the stakes holding the tent ropes had to be driven into the ground. That limited our choice of locations, and the tents put a lot of wear and tear on our hosts' lawns."
The Indian-made tent cloth, though dazzling, also had drawbacks—it was neither water- nor fireproof. A shower could turn the festival into a sodden mess, and while he was setting up at one college campus, Madhuha recalls with a laugh, the automatic sprinkler system came on at 4 a.m., soaking the tents before the devotees could find the turn-off valve. As for fire hazards, just before an important engagement in Los Angeles a fire marshal showed up at the site, pulled a few fibers from one of the tents, tested them with his butane lighter, and called off the festival.
The devotees consulted with an American tent manufacturer and found solutions to their problems. The present aluminum tent frames stand firmly without rope supports, and the U.S.-made tent material, still brightly colored, is both fire- and waterproof. Perhaps what all this proves, at least microscopically, is that modern American technology is perfectly compatible with and even highly complementary to the ancient Vedic spiritual knowledge and culture. The blind man and the lame man have joined forces!
At 5 p.m. Madhuha returns to the quadrangle with his crew and begins to disassemble the exhibits and tents, loading them carefully into their assigned compartments in the yellow tractor-trailer. Devotees and students linger at the food booth and book table, talking and eating, as the multicolored tents gradually disappear. Madhuha and his crew have two days off before the festival in San Diego's Balboa Park on Sunday, then a day to drive the exhibits up to Laguna Beach. Later, there will be festivals in San Francisco and Seattle, and by late summer they will have crossed the country and moved halfway down the East Coast.
Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare
Japa is a simple, age-old practice. You softly chant the Hare Krsna mantra (names of God) while fingering a string of 108 beads. Pause long enough on each bead to say the entire mantra once. The touch of the beads combines with the sound of your voice to help you meditate. And because God and His holy names are one, you enter a blissful, anxiety-free meditation on the Absolute.
And what a versatile meditation it is! You can practice alone or with others—anywhere, anytime.
Says Srila Prabhupada, who introduced the chanting throughout the world, "The transcendental vibration established by the chanting of Hare Krsna is the sublime method for reviving our original, pure consciousness. ... By chanting this transcendental vibration, we can cleanse all misgivings from our hearts and feel ecstasy coming through from the spiritual stratum. . . . This chanting of Hare Krsna is enacted from the spiritual platform, and thus this sound vibration surpasses all lower strata of consciousness."
Saviors of the Most Fallen
More merciful than the most merciful Lord Caitanya
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.
Throughout the world, members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness worship Lord Caitanya along with His principal associate, Nityananda Prabhu. The altar of every ISKCON temple is graced either by a worshipable painting or by lovingly dressed and cared-for icons (known in Sanskrit as murtis) of Nityananda Prabhu (Nitai) and Lord Caitanya (Gaura). And in virtually every kirtana, ISKCON devotees raise their voices in the jubilant chant "Nitai Gaura Hari-bol!"
Just as Lord Caitanya is Krsna Himself, so Nityananda is Balarama. Srila Prabhupada explains, "There is no difference between the spiritual positions of Lord Caitanya and Nityananda Prabhu, or Krsna and Balarama. All of Them are but different manifestations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead." This Vedic truth is illustrated in the following pastime from the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta:
One day Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu exhibited to Lord Nityananda Prabhu a six-armed form bearing a conchshell, disc, club, lotus flower, bow, and flute.
And the story continues. Though Nityananda Prabhu is God and therefore one with Lord Caitanya, He is simultaneously a separate personality from Lord Caitanya. And He sees Himself as a servant of Lord Caitanya. So the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta informs us. He arranged for a formal ceremony in worship of the Lord. But when, during that ceremony. He went to put a garland around the neck of Lord Caitanya, He saw the Lord assume yet another form of Godhead. This time He saw Himself within Lord Caitanya. "During this special ceremony," writes Srila Prabhupada, "all the devotees of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu could understand that there is no difference between Lord Caitanya and Nityananda Prabhu."
And as They are one, so Their mission is also one. Following Lord Caitanya, Nityananda Prabhu also popularized the public chanting of the holy names—through His many disciples and personally, by His preaching door to door and by His ecstatic manner of chanting and dancing in divine love. In fact, Nityananda Prabhu is sometimes said to be more merciful than the most merciful Lord Caitanya Himself. This is not a contradiction but is simply one aspect of the personality of the manifestation of God who is variously described as the most merciful, the most unconventional, and the funniest. Indeed, Caitanya-caritamrta states that Nityananda Prabhu is "very merciful and very funny."
One pastime—the deliverance of Jagai and Madhai—acquaints us well with the mercy of Nityananda. One day Nityananda Prabhu was walking down a main road of Navadvipa when He came upon a roaring crowd. Upon inquiring. He learned that two drunken brothers, former brahmanas now fallen into debauchery, were making fools of themselves before everyone and creating a disturbance. Nityananda Prabhu concluded that these degraded brothers were ideal recipients of Lord Caitanya's mercy. If these two were to be delivered, He reasoned, then that would glorify Lord Caitanya as the deliverer of the most fallen. With this in mind. He began to push His way through the crowd toward the two brothers.
Emerging into an opening in the center of the crowd, Nityananda approached the rowdy pair, humbly asking them to chant the holy name of Lord Krsna. This enraged the two brothers, however, who began to swear at Nityananda Prabhu and chase Him. Of course, no one can defame or harm Nityananda Prabhu, as He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but such is His transcendental pastime as a humble yet bold preacher of Krsna consciousness. When Lord Caitanya learned later that day that Nityananda Prabhu had attempted to deliver such fallen persons, He was very happy.
The next day, Nityananda Prabhu went to see the two brothers, but as soon as He approached them, Madhai threw a piece of earthen pot at Him, striking Him on the forehead and causing blood to flow from His transcendental body. This, of course, was a great offense, yet Nityananda Prabhu, out of His great compassion for these doomed souls, forgave them and again humbly requested them to chant Hare Krsna.
Jagai was astounded. Immediately he fell at the feet of Nityananda Prabhu, begging Him to pardon his foolish brother, an act of divine mercy Lord Nityananda had dispensed even before Jagai had requested it. But Madhai again turned on Lord Nityananda to harm Him. This time Jagai stopped him and implored him to surrender to Nityananda Prabhu.
Suddenly Lord Caitanya appeared on the scene, furious that someone had offended Nityananda Prabhu. Invoking His ultimate weapon, the Sudarsana disc. Lord Caitanya prepared to kill the two offenders. But Nityananda changed the course of events. Although Lord Caitanya was ready to kill the two degraded brothers, Nityananda Prabhu reminded Him of His mission of delivering the most sinful. In essence. He reminded Lord Caitanya that if He resorted to killing miscreants (as He did in so many other incarnations), there would be no one left to preach to, since almost everyone in this age is addicted to the same sinful as were Jagai and Madhai. Lord Nityananda requested that rather than kill them, Lord Caitanya deliver them. Lord Caitanya agreed to accept Jagai and Madhai, but only on the condition that they would reform their behavior. The brothers agreed.
Srila Prabhupada writes in this connection, "This is the specific kindness of Lord Caitanya. In this age no one can say that he is free from sin. It is impossible for anyone to say this. But Lord Caitanya accepts all kinds of sinful persons on the one condition that they promise not to indulge in sinful habits after being spiritually initiated by the bona fide spiritual master."
This pastime of Lord Caitanya and Nityananda Prabhu demonstrates the especially merciful combination of these two divine personalities, appearing together to deliver the most fallen souls. The sankirtana movement of chanting the holy names of Krsna is Their movement. They began it, and They continue it. Our great fortune is that we are being given the opportunity to participate in it.
When Srila Prabhupada established the Deities of Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda in ISKCON temples throughout the world, he was acting in perfect accord with the mission and will of Lord Caitanya and Nityananda Prabhu. Consider these facts:
(1) Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda are the most merciful and munificent manifestations of Godhead. They appear in the most godless age to deliver the most sinful persons. They offer the highest of all spiritual perfections: pure love of God. They teach the simplest and most sublime of all spiritual practices: the chanting of Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
(2) By Their inconceivable (yet perceivable) presence within Their many Deity forms in temples around the world. Lord Caitanya and Nityananda Prabhu accept the sincere service of the thousands of converted "Jagais and Madhais" who, like their prototypes, have received the forgiveness and the mercy of Gaura-Nitai and have given up all sinfulness.
(3) By Their presence within ISKCON temples, within the devotional chanting of ISKCON devotees, and within the hearts of the devotees. Lord Caitanya and Nityananda Prabhu continue to bless the fallen souls of this age. Thus They direct Their own spiritual movement.
How easy it should be for us to appreciate the wisdom, the compassion, and the munificence of Lord Caitanya and Nityananda Prabhu. By Their desire and by the subsequent desire of Their servants, transcendental mercy is spreading everywhere. As the Caitanya-caritamrta states, "I offer my respectful obeisances unto Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda, who are like the sun and moon. They have arisen simultaneously on the horizon of Gauda to dissipate the darkness of ignorance and thus wonderfully bestow benediction upon all."
So, like the sun and moon together. Lord Caitanya and Nityananda Prabhu have appeared to brighten our lives and dissipate our ignorance. If you want to avoid Them, you'll just have to close your eyes.
Your Own Apocalypse
The word doomsday appears so often and in so many different political, military, and religious contexts that the topic has come to puzzle many people. The word derives from the Old English phrase domes dag and refers to a day of judgment or trial in which a sentence is pronounced. It also refers to a final cosmic dissolution, "the end of the world." In Christianity, doomsday is often associated with Armageddon, the "Mount of Slaughter" described in the Apocalypse, a visionary disclosure of what the future is supposed to hold. Although such descriptions appear in the literatures of Christianity and other religions, the actual event has been wrongly predicted so often that many scoff at the very idea or regard such descriptions as myths. Nevertheless, it is not uncommon even today to see various prophets, teachers, and religionists interpreting the social and political events of our times in such a way as to show that the end of the world is at hand.
In the fifth century, Sulpicus Severus wrote that the Roman tyrant Nero had reappeared in the world as the Antichrist and that the end of the world was nigh.
A century later Quodvultdeus identified the Book of Revelation's Gog and Magog as the Goths and the Moors and predicted the world to end "in three years and six months."
In a meeting with Richard the Lion-Hearted in 1191, the seer Joachim stated that the Antichrist had already been born in the world and that the day of judgment was forthcoming. (In his lifetime, Joachim's reputation was such that he was consulted in his mountain retreat by four popes and was visited by kings, queens, and other members of royalty.)
European Christians in the thirteenth century regarded Genghis Khan, the beheader of Prester John, as an apocalyptic figure. The popular view was that the world would end in 1265.
In the 1360s, Jan Milicz pronounced Emperor Charles IV to be the Antichrist; once more doomsday was at hand.
William Miller, the founder of the movement that was to spawn the Seventh Day Adventists, predicted the world to end on April 3, 1843; July 7, 1843; March 21, 1844; and October 22, 1844.
More recently, the Jehovah's Witnesses have predicted the world to end sometime in 1975 and also on October 2, 1984. Presently there are an estimated seven to eight million evangelical Christians who expect the world to end within this generation and quite possibly in the 1980s. The most widely endorsed scenario for Armageddon is that presented by Hal Lindsey in The Late Great Planet Earth. (Lindsey is the bestselling author of the decade, his book having sold fifteen million copies.)
Understandably, such predictions and interpretations of the times have made people skeptical about religious pronouncements in general. In more secular circles, however, many regard the destruction of the world as quite possible, even likely.
Since the development of the atom bomb more than forty years ago, human beings have confronted the feasibility of global destruction through nuclear war. In The Fate of the Earth, Jonathan Schell gives scientific evidence from a variety of sources to show that it an all-out nuclear war were to occur, not only would no nation win but life on this planet would come to an end. And in recent weeks scientists have described how nuclear war will in all likelihood give rise to what they term a "nuclear winter." According to this view, as firestorms sweep through the bombed cities, soot and ash will rise into the upper atmosphere of the planet to form dust blankets so thick that no sunlight will he able to reach the surface of the earth. The average temperature on earth will then drop an estimated forty degrees, disrupting the ecological balance.
Despite such dark forebodings, many feel that war can be averted. Some argue that since the superpowers know that nuclear war will assure the destruction of everyone, no one will be willing to begin the fighting. Thus the advocates of this policy of "Mutual Assured Destruction" favor the continued development of offensive nuclear weapons. President Reagan has advocated in his Strategic Defense Initiative a space-based nuclear missile defense system designed to destroy nuclear missiles far above the surface of the earth. Such a system would, presumably, dissuade the Soviets from beginning a nuclear war. Said Reagan, "I have called upon the great scientific talents of our country to turn to the cause of strengthening world peace by rendering ballistic missiles impotent and obsolete." It would appear that from either a religious or a political/technological perspective, there is no clear consensus on the inevitability of the destruction of the world.
Based upon the teachings of the Vedas, the Krsna conscious perspective does not hold that total cosmic annihilation will occur within our lifetime. Yet, there is one "apocalypse" each of us will experience: death.
Despite the fact that no one lives forever, people act as if they will never die. The Vedic literature describes how a wise king was once asked, "What is the most amazing thing in the world?" The king replied, "Although the people of the world see that everyone must die, no one really thinks that he will die. This is the most amazing thing in the world." Even the doomsaying evangelists live for this world and minister to their congregations in a materialistic way by promising financial miracles or by providing guidance on attaining success in materialistic endeavors. Most people today absorb themselves in pleasure-seeking, neglecting all the while inevitable death. Yet like a personal apocalypse, each person's death is coming.
Sooner or later we will each face our day of judgment. We don't have to study and interpret the political events of the day to recognize this fact, nor need we resort to Biblical-political wizardry. This "doomsday" will come whether or not Reagan deploys his Star Wars defense system, and whether or not the Russians or the Americans or the terrorist fanatics explode their bombs. With total devastation, our personal apocalypse will strike. For some, it will be "prophesized" by those telltale signs of mortality, disease and old age. For others, it will give no warning. But one by one we will all go to our personal doomsday. This Armageddon will occur by the agency known as time, and, personal beliefs and opinions notwithstanding, it is inevitable.
According to the Vedic scriptures, the self survives death to take on another body. And which particular body a particular soul takes is determined by that individual's thoughts and deeds during his human incarnation. We should rectify our consciousness, therefore, in preparation for our next life. And as for the larger events of a thermonuclear Armageddon, that too may be avoided, but only if people rectify their activities and free themselves of their destined doomsday. Destiny can be changed by Krsna consciousness.—SDG