Under the sway of maya—illusion—we succumb
A lecture in New Vrindaban, West Virginia, in 1968
nunam pramattah kurute vikarma
"When a person considers sense gratification the aim of life, he certainly becomes mad after materialistic living and engages in all kinds of sinful activity. He does not know that due to his past misdeeds he has already received a body which, although temporary, is the cause of his misery. Actually the living entity should not have taken a material body, but he has been awarded it for sense gratification. Therefore I think it not befitting an intelligent man to involve himself again in the activities of sense gratification, by which he perpetually gets material bodies one after another." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.4)
Here Lord Rsabhadeva is saying that people are mad after sense gratification. The word pramattah means "intensely intoxicated." So the material disease is to be intensely intoxicated in the matter of sense gratification. Then, kurute vikarma. Impelled by this propensity for sense gratification, people are prepared to do any kind of nonsense. For example, a man may know that stealing is not good, but because he wants to satisfy some desire for sense gratification, he steals. He knows, "If I am arrested for this stealing I'll be punished. I may be hanged." But still he commits sinful activity. This is madness.
We should philosophically try to understand whether we should be so busy for sense gratification. Suppose I say, "I want to satisfy my senses in this way. Will you kindly work for me?" You will say, "Oh, why should I work for you? You can work for your own satisfaction." Nobody will agree to work to satisfy someone else's senses, because everyone is thinking, "I want to satisfy my senses." But if that is the position, then we have to ask, "Are the senses of this body mine?" That people do not ask.
What are the senses? The senses are part of this body. If this body actually belongs to me, then of course there is meaning to my satisfying the senses of this body. But let us philosophically see whether this body actually belongs to me. It is very doubtful, because I have gotten this body from my father and mother. So it may belong to them. Or, if I am a slave, it may belong to my master. Or, because I am the citizen of some state, it may belong to the state. If the state calls—"Come on, you must sacrifice your life in the Vietnam War"—you have to do that.
So, if you analytically study your position in this way, you'll see that the body does not belong to you. Then why should you be so anxious to satisfy the senses of the body? Just try to understand: I am not interested in satisfying the senses of your body; I am interested in satisfying the senses of my body. But if this body doesn't belong to me, then why should I be so mad after satisfying its senses?
Therefore the Srimad-Bhagavatam says that those who are only after sense gratification are pramattah, intensely intoxicated or mad. And as a result of this madness, a person gets different types of bodies, none of which belong to him. For example, for various amounts of rent you can get various types of apartments. If you can pay nicely, you can get a very good apartment in New York, on Fifth Avenue or somewhere like that. Or, if you cannot pay so much, you have to be satisfied with a lesser apartment. Similarly, we get this "apartment"—this body—according to how we have acted in our previous life.
We should understand that the goal of our life is to get such a nice body that we'll never again have to change bodies. That should be the destination of our progress. But people do not know this, and so we have founded this Krsna consciousness movement just to inform the bewildered human society what life's destination is.
You'll find that this destination is described everywhere in the Vedic literature. For instance, in the Bhagavad-gita [8.15] Lord Krsna says,
mam upetya punar janma
"The highest perfection is that one comes to Me [reaches the abode of Krsna] and then hasn't got to accept this miserable body again." We do not understand that this body is miserable. But actually, whether you get a princely body or a dog's body, because you have accepted a material body you have to suffer. There is no escape.
Sometimes I meet American gentlemen who are under the impression that India is a starving country. This is not true, but even if we accept that India is a starving country, does that mean America is a very happy country? No. Americans think that simply because they have enough money, they are happy. But that is their mistake. If there is so much happiness in America, why are the young boys and girls becoming hippies? No. Happiness is different. As long as you have this material body—whether an American body or an Indian body or any body—there is no question of happiness. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam [5.5.6] Lord Rsabhadeva says, pritir na yavan mayi vasudeve na mucyate deha-yogena tavat: "Until one develops Krsna consciousness, or love of Godhead, there is no question of getting out of the material body." In other words, until you become Krsna conscious, you will have to suffer.
So, the scientists and philosophers are not studying the actual cause of suffering. Everyone is trying to get out of all sorts of miseries, but no one knows what the actual cause of these miseries is. The real cause is this body. Unfortunately, people do not know what this body is and how it is working, or what the soul is and how it is transmigrating from one body to another. They are all rascals, fools. They have no knowledge, and yet they are trying to make a solution to their problems.
There is a story that illustrates this point. Formerly, when somebody was haunted by a ghost, an expert chanter would drive away the ghost by the power of a mantra. He would chant a mantra and throw mustard seeds on the person who was ghostly haunted, and the ghost would be driven away. So, once there was a person who was ghostly haunted, and the chanter was chanting the mantra and throwing the mustard seeds, but the ghost had entered the mustard seeds! So the chanter was simply making the problem worse. Similarly, we are trying to solve our problems by manipulating this body in so many ways, but this body itself is the problem. The "ghost" is within this body, and therefore we are simply making our problems worse.
So, the sum and substance of our Krsna consciousness movement is that we want to go back to Krsna. Besides this material world, there is another nature. Now we are very busy studying this material nature—so many stars and planets—but practically speaking we have very little knowledge about even this material world. From Vedic literature we get information that this material world, this cosmic manifestation, is only one fourth of God's creation. There is another nature, the spiritual nature, where there are spiritual planets, Vaikunthas. And among them, Krsnaloka, or Krsna's planet, is the highest.
The purpose of this Krsna consciousness movement is to enable us to transfer ourselves to Krsna's planet, and the process is very easy in this age: Simply chant Hare Krsna. In this age of quarrel and dissension and disagreement, there is no alternative to chanting Hare Krsna. You cannot nicely execute the process of meditation or sacrifice or temple worship, because the circumstances in this age are different from those in previous ages. Therefore, kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha: "In this age there is no other process for getting out of the material clutches than the chanting of the names of God."
The simple process of chanting Hare Krsna was offered by Lord Caitanya. He did not invent this process; it is authorized by the Vedic scriptures. And simply by this process of chanting Hare Krsna, we can realize our self, our destination, and our mission in this human form of life. In this ceremony we are initiating some disciples into the chanting of Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Initiation means "beginning." It is not that immediately after initiation one beomes perfect, but gradually, by practice, one can achieve all perfection.
This marriage ceremony we are performing along with the initiation is perhaps a new thing I have introduced—that a sannyasi [renunciant] like myself is taking part in the marriage ceremony of his disciples. I do it because I want to see that they are free of any anxiety. As long as one is in anxiety, he cannot execute Krsna consciousness nicely. So, any of these boys or girls can keep themselves celibate throughout life if they like. But that is not very easy. Therefore we have introduced this marriage ceremony.
Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu also married, twice. His first wife died, and He married a second time. So marriage is not against the principles of our movement. Narottama dasa Thakura, a great Vaisnava poet in our line, sings, grhe ba vanete thake, 'ha gauranga' bo'le dake: "Whether one is a householder or a sannyasi, one should call out the name of the Lord." In other words, one should be Krsna conscious; that is the thing.
I am a sannyasi. I am in the renounced order. But there are also many grhasthas, or householders. So, there is no prescription that one has to take the path of the renounced order of life. The essential thing is to be Krsna conscious.
Keeping this point of view, we must follow the regulative principles* (*No illicit sex, no intoxication, no meat-eating, and no gambling.) and be satisfied. Then we can peacefully, happily execute Krsna consciousness so that in our next life we may be transferred to Krsnaloka. We cannot go there by some mechanical means. We cannot go to other planets even within this material world by mechanical means. No. Everyone has to prepare himself first. Now we are conditioned. So first we have to get out of the conditioned stage; then it is possible for us to transfer ourselves to any planet we like. Krsna states this in the Bhagavad-gita [9.25]:
yanti deva-vrata devan
"Those who worship the demigods will take birth among the demigods; those who worship the ancestors go to the ancestors; those who worship ghosts and spirits will take birth among such beings; and those who worship Me will live with Me."
We have to prepare ourselves to achieve a better position in our next life. That is real education. Whether by following the yogic principles or by cultivating knowledge or by practicing devotional service, the whole idea is to transfer oneself to a better condition of life. The best condition of life is in Krsna's planet. As Krsna says, yad gatva na nivartante tad dhama paramam mama: "If anyone comes to Me in My planet, he hasn't got to return to the cycle of birth and death."
So the purpose of the Krsna consciousness movement is to give everyone a chance to attain the topmost position, in Krsna-loka. Then there is no more returning to this material world, whether to this planet or any other planet. We may go to the moon planet, but that will not solve our real problems—birth, old age, disease, and death. Wherever you go in the material world, whether by your spaceships or by austerity or by meditation, these four material miseries are there. But if you go to Krsna's world, they are absent.
Now, this marriage ceremony is not for sense gratification. It is to enable the husband and wife to help each other in Krsna consciousness. The husband should help the wife, and the wife should help the husband. Then both will become advanced in Krsna consciousness and make their human lives perfect. There is no question of divorce or separation, which are based on sense gratification. In the modern so-called civilization, as soon as there is a lack of sense gratification there is immediately divorce or separation. No. Here there is no question of these things.
The bride and bridegroom should always remember that in any condition of life they should remain together. That will be possible if they concentrate their attention on Krsna consciousness. Otherwise, maya [illusion] will attack in so many ways and cause disruption. There are so many duties for the wife in Krsna consciousness and so many duties for the husband, and if they properly execute their respective duties and engage themselves simply in Krsna consciousness, their present life will be very happy, and their next life also. So take this opportunity and be happy. Sarve sukhino bhavanti: "Let everyone become happy." That is the Vedic mission. Without being happy, nobody can execute Krsna consciousness.
Now, to begin this initiation ceremony, we must chant the following mantra:
om apavitrah pavitro va
This is a mantra for purification. In the material world we are all infected (apavitrah), but simply by remembering Krsna (yah smaret pundarikaksam) we can become disinfected (sucih). Therefore this initiation is meant to teach you how to remember Krsna always. The best way is to chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. As soon as we chant and hear this mantra, we immediately remember Krsna—His instructions in the Bhagavad-gita, His form, His name, His qualities, His pastimes, and so on. Everything comes to mind.
We have to practice remembering Krsna by chanting Hare Krsna. Then we will always remain uncontaminated. But if you forget Krsna, there is a chance of contamination. For example, if there is an epidemic disease, the medical man will administer a vaccination. In Los Angeles I received a vaccination. What was that disease—the flu?
Devotee: The Hong Kong flu.
Srila Prabhupada: The Hong Kong flu. Yes. Everyone was getting the vaccination, and I got it also. And therefore I was not attacked by the disease.
So, this whole world is the Hong Kong flu. [Laughter.] Maya is ready to attack. Always. Therefore, we have to take this vaccination of chanting Hare Krsna. In a song by Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Lord Caitanya says, enechi ausadhi maya nasibaro lagi' hari-nama maha-mantra lao tumi magi': "I have brought this Hare Krsna mantra, the medicine for killing the Hong Kong flu of maya. Now take it." This chanting of Hare Krsna is Caitanya Mahaprabhu's greatest contribution for helping us fight against the attack of maya.
Everyone is subjected to maya's influence. As Krsna says, daivi hy esa guna-mayi mama maya duratyaya: People are entangled in the three modes of material nature. To get out of this entanglement, which causes repeated transmigration from one body to another, one must remember Krsna (yah smaret pundarikaksam). And if you chant Hare Krsna, you'll be forced to remember Him. The more you practice this chanting, the more you'll realize Krsna. Eventually, as soon as the word Krsna is vibrated, you'll see Krsna, Krsna, Krsna—nothing else. Why? Because one who is conversant with the science of Krsna knows how Krsna's energies are working in so many ways. Therefore he acquires universal vision, universal love. If you love Krsna, there will be universal love. Otherwise, your "universal love" is simply talk.
So, yah smaret pundarikaksam sa bahyabhyantarah sucih. One who remembers Krsna remains always uncontaminated in any condition. This is very nice. Try to understand Krsna consciousness seriously, and your life will be sublime. It doesn't matter what your present position is. Simply take to this Krsna consciousness, and your life will be sublime.
Thank you very much. Hare Krsna.
Revival in Tirukkurungudi
Lord Caitanya's sankirtana movement offers a
By Jayadvaita Swami
Traveling north from Kanya-kumari, in a few days we come to the village of Tirukkurungudi, once visited by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu nearly five hundred years ago.
It lies at the foot of Mahendra Giri, a large mountain, historically a place of spiritual significance, now perhaps better known for the Mahendra Giri Liquid Propulsion Research Center, a link in India's space program.
From the previous village, Tirukkurungudi lies about fifteen kilometers north on an otherwise dry, desolate stretch of Tamil Nadu state highway. It is a village of about seven thousand people, most of them poor, though we are received by cultured, well-educated brahmanas of the Ramanuja sect. Several speak excellent English.
The temple, the only large structure in the village, is unexpectedly grand. The outer walls, solid stone, must be twenty feet high. The inner walls and the gopuram (tower) bear fine, though time-worn, carvings. Inside we find ourselves walking through corridors lined by hundreds of ornately carved pillars, taller than our heads yet each cut from a single stone.
In the sanctuary the Deity of Narayana, the Personality of Godhead, smiles with deep beauty and benevolent grace. The brahmanas here serve Him with devotion, carrying out the daily ceremonies in accord with ancient Vedic traditions.
Yet the worship in the morning begins at 6:30, not the usual 3:30 or 4:30. "We have some problems," our brahmana guide admits. The village has dwindled, and so has interest in the temple—and funds to maintain it.
The temple's imposing scale and its profusion of vivid artistry can only have been the work of powerful, resourceful people living in splendid prosperity, their temple and God in the center. A far cry from the poor, drought-ridden farmers of the village today. Now, chirping bats fly the colonnades, and carved dragons, dancers, gods, and heroes stand anointed with cheap whitewash.
As our pada-yatra* [*The Hare Krsna walking tour of sacred India. Hare Krsna devotees are touring India by foot, traveling from village to village, town to town, and holding an ecstatic festival every evening, with chanting, dancing, and the distribution of food offered to Krsna. It's a once-in-a-lifetime event, celebrating five hundred years since Lord Caitanya's advent. (See RESOURCES, p. 22.)] travels, we come across such temples often. Main sites of tourism and pilgrimage bear their age well, cared for by government funds and the donations of the pious. Meanwhile, hundreds of lesser-known places struggle against decrepitude, against dirt, bats, and banyan trees, and plead for funds to renovate their crumbling forgotten shrines.
The pleas will go mostly unheard. Money is scarce, renovation costly. Bright young Indians speed past temple ruins on the way to liquid propulsion research labs.
In Tamil Nadu, walls painted with foot-wide vertical stripes—white alternating with rust red—announce a building to be a temple. But Lord Caitanya's movement is of a different stripe. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu taught that in the present age the way to invoke our dormant love for God is sankirtana, the congregational chanting of the holy names of God.
Temples are costly. Chanting is free. And the purpose of our pada-yatra is to spread Lord Caitanya's sankirtana movement.
Lord Caitanya's movement is practical for the present age. According to Vedic wisdom, there are four ages of civilization, epochs cycling like seasons over thousands of years. Each age has its own methods most suitable for spiritual realization. In the Satya age the means is silent meditation, in the Treta kingly rites of sacrifice, and in Dvapara veneration of the Lord in palatial temples. But in the present age, called Kali-yuga, only one means of spiritual realization is recommended—sankirtana, the congregational chanting of God's names: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
In the present age we are short-lived, short-tempered, short-witted, and short-funded. So we need to reach Krsna consciousness the shortest way. That way is the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra.
Anyone can chant the Hare Krsna mantra, regardless of the time, place, or circumstances. The holy name of Krsna is identical with Krsna Himself, so simply by chanting we come directly to the spiritual platform. Dirt encrusted on our hearts from countless lifetimes of material existence washes away, and we become liberated souls, happy in this life and eligible next to go back to Krsna, to join in the pastimes the Lord shares with His devotees in an eternal life of bliss and perfect knowledge.
On the stage we've set up outside the village temple, high on the temple steps, we dance to the chant of the holy names of the maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The temple brahmanas assemble for our evening program, and so do thousands of simple villagers.
The village children readily join in the chanting, all smiles and clapping hands. With some coaxing, the coarse-handed farmers give it a try, and their wives also. Later the brahmanas buy copies of our Tamil edition of Bhagavad-gita As It Is.
The Bhagavad-gita teaches that prosperity depends not on machines and technology, nor even on hard work, but ultimately on the mercy of Krsna. A village prospers when it has abundant grains. For grains we must depend on rainfall; and for rainfall, on Krsna.
The Gita tells how everyone can work in harmony with nature in such a way that Krsna will be pleased. When we work for Krsna's pleasure, not just for our own, we soon find that nature provides everything we need. This naturally gives us pleasure, and this pleases Krsna even more. So a village that becomes Krsna conscious prospers spiritually and materially as well.
The key to this prosperity is to place Krsna in the center of whatever work we do. "Whatever you do," Krsna says in the Gita, "do it for Me." That's why the people of Tirukkurungudi built the temple in the center of their town.
But the poorly financed, poorly attended temple is no longer enough. What's needed now is the sankirtana movement of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
At the foot of Mahendra Giri, Lord Caitanya's sankirtana movement offers a faded village a chance to bring back its former brilliance. If the villagers take up Lord Caitanya's Hare Krsna sankirtana movement, all good fortune will surely follow. Perhaps the temple will even be restored. But even in the aging temple, the eternal Deity will be pleased, surrounded by His Krsna conscious people.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
Ecstasy Without Brain Damage
by Rasaprada dasa
"It's like a year of therapy in two hours," said one New York writer, commenting on his experience with the allegedly psychotherapeutic drug MDMA. Currently being endorsed by a handful of psychiatrists, psychologists, and scientists, MDMA, or Ecstasy, is said by its proponents to have the incredible power to banish jealousy, break down emotional barriers, heal fear, and heighten the individual's aesthetic awareness. However, unlike LSD or mind-expanding drugs, Ecstasy's "high" does not obscure one's ability to confront reality. "It appears to help people recall things from their past," says Dr. Lester Grinspoon, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "If this is an accurate picture, you might just be able to break up some logjams in therapy with it."
Exponents of Ecstasy cite case histories that document the drug's effectiveness in treating a wide range of problems, from artist's block to rape victimization. Yet as promising as the results may sound, Ecstasy also poses problems. Responding to a University of Chicago study that revealed that a related drug, MDA, can cause brain damage in laboratory animals, the Drug Enforcement Agency has placed Ecstasy on the Schedule I list of drugs having a high potential for abuse. (The list includes heroin, cocaine, LSD, and marijuana.) Possession of MDMA is now a misdemeanor, and manufacture and sale of the drug are punishable by fines of up to $125,000 and fifteen years in prison.
Mental health professionals who support the drug still contend that it has enormous therapeutic potential. Says James Bakalar of the Harvard Medical School, "I think the DEA's decision is precipitate. It's difficult to make a case that this is a serious threat to the nation's health or safety. They should wait until all the research is in."
Supporters like Bakalar hope to persuade the Government to place MDMA in a Schedule III classification, along with drugs like codeine. This would restrict the drug but still allow licensed therapists to continue using it. Yet should the DEA agree to such a proposal, MDMA boosters would still have a problem: The formula for the drug is available to anyone and cannot be repatented. Therefore, no pharmaceutical company is likely to put forward the millions of dollars it takes to test any drug for government approval. Notes psychiatrist Jack Downing, "MDMA is an orphan that has nobody bidding to be its parent."
However doomed Ecstasy therapy may appear to be, the attempts of therapists to heal fear, banish jealousy, and remove emotional barriers are praiseworthy. After all, energy nowadays seems to be directed toward amplifying these problems, whether internationally or individually.
The Krsna consciousness movement is also concerned with allaying emotional sufferings and helping people realize their full potential. How best to do this is taught in the Vedic literature: We must go beyond the bodily self, beyond the psyche, to the eternal self, the soul. This is not possible through conventional therapy or through the use of MDMA or any other psycho-active drug. It is possible only through the self-illuminating science of bhakti-yoga, which awakens us to our eternal self in eternal loving service to God. By thus transcending the physical, mental, and intellectual planes, we overcome jealousy, fear, and insecurity automatically. Participating in the ultimate therapy of loving God is real ecstasy. And there's no risk of brain damage.
Toward A Natural Economy
by Mathuresa dasa
On the day the giant South Works of U.S. Steel closed last year, a cortege of automobiles formed at the Local 65 union hall in Chicago. The drivers, many of whom had been employed by U.S. Steel since the Second World War, drove in procession to the South Works' gates for a farewell visit to the machine shops, welding shops, and furnaces, where they had spent so much of their lives. They felt they had lost not only their jobs but a dear friend.
In the past ten years, U.S. Steel, Interlake, LTV, and others have laid off thousands of workers at mills across the country. In some parts of the country, factory closings by U.S. Steel and consequent, foreclosures on steelworkers' homes have prompted angry demonstrations and even threats against the lives of U.S. Steel executives and their families, "You have profited so much from our labor," the steelworkers are in essence saying, "how can you now leave us out in the cold?"
Steel executives might reply that workers have also profited. It is in large part the high wages demanded by unions that have given foreign companies a competitive edge and put American manufacturers out of business. Out of the steel business anyway. The difference between the companies and the workers is that many companies have been able to shift their capital into oil investments and other pursuits, whereas the workers have no such alternatives.
On the one hand, we could side with the workers by arguing that steel companies, or employers in general, ought to guarantee not only good wages but job security as well. According to the Vedic social system called varnasrama, employers should look upon workers as family members, caring for them as they would for their own relatives. How can we coldly view laid-off workers as inevitable fatalities of the free-market system, letting the welfare of an individual or a community be determined by profit-margin calculations?
But on the other hand, there's more to be considered than simply the question of job security. Even with a big weekly paycheck, a steelworker's living conditions are hardly ideal. The south shore of Lake Michigan, for example, is both the most highly industrialized area in the world and one of the most blighted. In neighborhoods with names like Irondale and Slag Valley, rows of bungalows stand right outside factory walls, where chemicals rain from factory smokestacks and fine gray grit from nearby slag dunes fills the air.
After they've worked all day in smelters and machine shops, this is what steelworkers come home to. Former employees of South Works may have fond memories of their years there, and fonder feelings still for their homes, but such living and working conditions nevertheless take their mental, physical, and spiritual toll.
The obligation of employers to treat employees like family members is hardly fulfilled by assuring workers job security in manmade hells. According to the varnasrama system, the emphasis in any economic system should be on agriculture. The necessities of life—grains, fruits, vegetables, milk, cotton, wood, and so on—are products of nature, not of factories. And the conditions required for developing these necessities are ideal for developing ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually. What good is "progress" that robs us of sunshine, fresh air, and the vision of nature's beauty? Although advocates of industrial development bill agrarian life as primitive and backwards, the fact is that the relatively few people who realize significant profit from industrial enterprises build homes in the country, not atop the slag heaps on the south shore of Lake Michigan.
Unlike the wealth produced from industrial enterprises, nature's wealth is available to everyone. Any person (or, in industrial jargon, any "worker") can live comfortably, if simply, by cultivating a few acres of land and keeping a cow. The cow gives milk, from which we get butter, cheese, and a variety of other foods, while the bull or ox assists in producing food by plowing, hauling, and so on. Agricultural surpluses can be exchanged for other necessities, and thus agriculture and trade are the simple alternatives to industrial hell.
So what are the nation's unemployed steelworkers supposed to do? Trade their mortgaged homes for log cabins, their cars for horses, and their refrigerators for plows? Of course not. But the United States government, if it is at all concerned with the plight of working people, should introduce measures to gradually direct the nation toward an economy in which a larger percentage of the population obtains most of life's necessities directly from the land, an economy that enjoys a healthy independence from the products of the factory.
Critics of agrarian life point out that farming is hard work, with few vacations and with forced dependence on the weather. But compared to factory life, farm work is itself a vacation. And while the farmer depends on God to provide suitable weather, the factory worker must depend for his livelihood on the whims of his all-too-human employers. The sun rises and sets every day without fail, the seasons go their fairly predictable ways, and although there is the chance of drought and other natural disasters, God's creation, unlike man's industrial enterprises, never shuts down for good. Even with the disastrous droughts of the past few years, American farmers have produced enormous surpluses. In the varnasrama system, one primary duty of the mercantile community, or of the government, is to distribute such surpluses to areas struck by drought, famine, and other disasters.
But if agrarian life is so simple and conducive to human well-being, why has almost everyone left the farm? Yes, they were driven away by combines and other machines that can do the work of hundreds of men. (And they continue to be driven away—when they can no longer pay for the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of factory-made equipment needed to run a modern, profit-oriented farm.) But most historians contend that the lure of city jobs, not the drudgery of farm life, was the prominent factor in taking people off the land. City jobs enabled workers to purchase the refrigerators, televisions, and washing machines that supposedly make life more enjoyable. People left the farms, in other words, to exchange a simple dependence on God for a quest after superficial bodily comforts.
What do farmers, or "workers," do when they reach the city? They hire themselves out to manufacture or service or repair or sell the very amenities they came to enjoy. They build refrigerators, televisions, washing machines, automobiles, electric can openers, and so on, then go out and spend their paychecks on the same things. Sure they profit. Sure they earn more than they did back on the farm. How else could industrialists sell their wares? Not on the employees' labor alone are industrial fortunes built, but on the employees' patronage as well. Employers thrive by the invention, promotion, production, and sale of newer and newer amenities, while employees "thrive" by purchasing those amenities for their homes in Slag Valley and Irondale. Round and round the workers go, manufacturing and buying.
Does all this make life more enjoyable? No. Automobiles, washing machines, and fast-food restaurants are a bad trade for clean air, clean rivers, and fresh, unprocessed food. More essentially, a life directed toward artificially increasing bodily comforts is a bad trade for a simple life of depending on God. Not that the entire ingrown, exploitative, industrial cycle makes either employer or employee any less dependent on agriculture (ever eat a ball-bearing?), on nature (does U.S. Steel really manufacture steel?), or on God (can IBM make the sun rise?). It only makes us less conscious of that dependence.
Members of the Krsna consciousness movement are trying to make people more conscious of the Supreme Lord. A practical feature of their endeavors is the network of Krsna conscious farm communities, through which devotees intend to reestablish the varnasrama principles of social organization delineated in the Vedic literature. The basic principle of the varnasrama system is that the individuals who comprise society, as well as the various social divisions—farmers, merchants, politicians, soldiers, educators, and so on—cooperate to satisfy the Supreme Person. A society fully dedicated to God is fully protected by Him also, enjoying both social harmony and material prosperity. The more the farm-based varnasrama society expands, the less the workers of the world will be inclined to jump aboard the glittering and treacherous merry-go-round of industrial progress.
The Liberation of Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya
A hardened scholar encounters a saintly young pilgrim,
by Tattva-Vit 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.
Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya was one of the great Vedic scholars of sixteenth-century India and an appointee to the court of the king of Orissa. Historical Bengali accounts tell of his encounter with Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu—a meeting that in many respects changed him. A logician and the dean of the state faculty in Sanskrit literature, Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya had a speculative mind and a hard heart. Caitanya Mahaprabhu dismantled his pride, altered his bad disposition, and converted him into a great devotee of Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
For Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, God had no concretely personal qualities. The Bhattacarya derived his philosophical knowledge by logical hypothesis. For example, he reasoned: "Everything is created. So there must be a higher power that has created this world. But that great power cannot be a person, because persons have limited power." Many of us have a similar, impersonalistic conception of creation. Late twentieth-century life is characterized by our alienation in a universe felt to be a field of force rather than a divinely ordered harmony. Even persons of religious faith sense this estrangement if their understanding of God is weak, abstract, or formless. Yet by the grace of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, anyone who hears with faith and love about Sarvabhauma's liberation from the net of philosophical speculation very soon is able to come to a full, personal understanding of God.
The liberation of Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya took place in the sacred city of Puri on the Bay of Bengal. There, an awe-inspiring temple memorializes Lord Krsna's pastimes as the King of Dvaraka fifty centuries ago. When Caitanya Mahaprabhu entered this temple for the first time, and beheld the Deity of Krsna known as Jagannatha ("Lord of the Universe"), Sarvabhauma was present. He saw Caitanya Mahaprabhu become overwhelmed in love of God and fall on the floor unconscious.
The Bhattacarya wanted to scrutinize the symptoms of the unconscious pilgrim. He knew that charlatans would sometimes feign a trance just to attract the innocent and take advantage of them. In this case, however, the symptoms appeared to be genuine. Sarvabhauma was unable to detect any movements of Caitanya Mahaprabhu's abdomen. The beating of the heart, the breathing, and all bodily activities were in complete suspension. But multiple symptoms of ecstatic trance, technically called suddipta-sattvika, were visible in Caitanya Mahaprabhu's body. Although surprised, Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya understood in light of certain Vedic writings with which he was acquainted that such symptoms could be exhibited only by an eternally liberated soul, someone in complete forgetfulness of material existence.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu was twenty-four at the time and, having recently entered the renounced order (sannyasa), was traveling with some companions. He had just left their company and had walked ahead to Puri to see Lord Jagannatha. He'd lost external consciousness due to intense, ecstatic love for Lord Krsna. Yet within, Sri Caitanya remained actively engaged in loving service to the Lord on the transcendental plane. His friends arrived at the temple and heard about an unconscious mendicant who had been taken to the house of Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya. Just then, Sri Gopinatha Acarya, Sarvabhauma's brother-in-law, arrived, and he took the pilgrims to see Sri Caitanya, whom they revived by loudly chanting the holy names of God: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Then, at the Bhattacarya's request, they all bathed in the sea and returned to his house for lunch.
When, out of customary respect for the sannyasa order, Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya offered to become Caitanya Mahaprabhu's servant, Sri Caitanya spoke humbly to him as follows: "Because you are a teacher of Vedanta philosophy, you are the master of all the people in the world and their well-wisher as well. You are also the benefactor of all kinds of sannyasis. I am a young sannyasi, and I actually have no knowledge of what is good and what is bad. Therefore I am taking shelter of you and accepting you as a spiritual master." By agreeing to become Sarvabhauma's student, Caitanya Mahaprabhu exhibited exemplary behavior for a sannyasi, whose duty is to study the Vedanta philosophy.
The Bhattacarya belonged to the order of Sankara, a ninth-century teacher who appeared after Buddhism had spread in India. Sankara imposed an impersonal interpretation on Vedanta philosophy by positing that the individual soul and God are identical and that spiritual existence ultimately lacks variety and personality. Sri Caitanya, being a Vaisnava sannyasi (a devotee of Lord Visnu, or Lord Krsna), disapproved of Sankara's view. He accepted the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the original, direct commentary on the Vedanta philosophy, written by the author, Srila Vyasa.
Despite this difference, Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya met in a very pleasant mood one morning at the Jagannatha temple. Caitanya Mahaprabhu listened to the Bhattacarya's comments on the Vedanta philosophy for seven days without asking a question or even speaking a word. Sarvabhauma, therefore, could not tell whether his student was properly understanding or not. In India many sannyasis hear the Vedanta philosophy as a formality, without understanding the meaning. Sri Caitanya knew this and, by remaining silent, posed as one of them, a sannyasi in name only. He thus condemned their mechanical, superficial approach to the Vedic literature. On the eighth day, after being asked by Sarvabhauma whether the teaching made sense, Caitanya Mahaprabhu denounced it as an imaginary, incomprehensible attempt to establish the Absolute Truth as impersonal.
All Vedic literature examines the Absolute Truth, the source of everything. The Absolute Truth is sometimes described as impersonal Brahman and sometimes as the Supreme Person, Krsna. We distort the real meaning of Brahman if we try to explain the Absolute Truth without the personal understanding. Wherever the Vedic literature employs impersonal descriptions, the intent is to establish that the Supreme is eternally free of mundane qualities and attributes. For example, when it is stated that God has no eyes yet He sees, this means that His eyes are not limited, like ours. With His perfect eyes, He can see past, present, and future—everywhere, in every comer of the universe and in every corner of everyone's heart. Vedic texts that mention an impersonal truth are meant only to prove in the end that the Absolute Truth has an eternal body with spiritual senses. The Absolute Truth, therefore, is the Supreme Person, Krsna, the origin of everything.
The personal understanding is more complete than the impersonal understanding, because it explains why everything we see is full of variety. That we have come from an impersonal source devoid of personality, qualities, and form is not logical. The source of everything must also have personality and form. After all, you cannot give what you have not got.
But the Supreme Lord is not limited like us. No one is equal to or greater than God. Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, possesses in full all the wonderful qualities we have in minute degree: beauty, wealth, knowledge, strength, reputation, and renunciation. Unfortunately, because our mortal bodies are full of ignorance and misery, we think that for God to be eternal, cognizant, and blissful, He must be formless or impersonal.
One might ask why Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, being a Vedic scholar, mistook the Absolute Truth to be impersonal. The answer is that understanding the Absolute Truth fully is not possible unless one obtains the mercy of Lord Krsna's pure devotee. As Krsna Himself says in the Bhagavad-gita (4.34), "Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth." Fortunately, Sarvabhauma received that benediction: Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu instructed him on the real meaning of Vedanta and enabled him to know perfectly that Krsna is the source of everything spiritual and material.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu turned Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya around, an alteration Sarvabhauma at first accepted reluctantly. As Sri Caitanya criticized Sankara's ideas, the Bhattacarya offered unlimited rebuttals. However, Caitanya Mahaprabhu refuted all his arguments and established three important truths: (1) Krsna is the central point of all relationships; (2) devotional service to Krsna is everyone's real occupation; and (3) life's ultimate goal is to love Krsna. Caitanya Mahaprabhu also explicated the meaning of a famous verse from the Srimad-Bhagavatam which states that Krsna attracts to His loving service even persons who are self-satisfied and free from material desires. This erudite exposition elicited the Bhattacarya's rapt admiration.
It also made Caitanya Mahaprabhu's identity apparent to Sarvabhauma. Previously he had heard from Gopinatha that Sri Caitanya was Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. Since the Bhattacarya was an impersonalist, with no idea of a Supreme Person, he had accepted Caitanya Mahaprabhu as simply a great devotee. Scriptural evidence provided by Gopinatha that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was the Supreme Lord did not sway Sarvabhauma, either. He was such a dry speculator that Gopinatha's quoting scriptural references was as fruitless as sowing seeds in a barren field. Gopinatha therefore told Sarvabhauma that while he should understand the Supreme Lord through scriptural evidence, he would not be able to do so until he received a tiny bit of the Lord's favor. Now Gopinatha's prediction was fulfilled. Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya understood Caitanya Mahaprabhu to be Krsna in person, and denouncing his pride and offenses, he took shelter of the Lord.
Vaisnavas hold that Lord Krsna and Lord Caitanya are both the original Personality of Godhead. Fifty centuries ago Krsna ordered everyone to become Krsna conscious: "Think of Me, worship Me; in this way you will come to Me." Unfortunately, people are fallen, and Krsna's instructions proved difficult to accept. Therefore, Krsna returned five centuries ago with the same mission, but a different method. Krsna "disguised" Himself as Lord Caitanya, the ideal devotee, to teach everyone how to surrender to Krsna. Lord Caitanya is Krsna Himself in the role of His own devotee. The account continues:
To show Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya mercy, Caitanya Mahaprabhu allowed him to see His Visnu form. Thus He immediately assumed four hands.
Overcome with ecstatic love of God, the Bhattacarya composed and recited one hundred beautiful verses. Two verses are especially famous:
Let me take shelter of the Supreme Person, Sri Krsna, who has descended in the form of Caitanya Mahaprabhu to teach us real knowledge, His devotional service, and detachment from whatever does not foster Krsna consciousness. He has descended because He is an ocean of transcendental mercy. Let me surrender unto His lotus feet.
Lord Caitanya heard the verses and happily embraced Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya.
The following morning, just before sunrise, Lord Caitanya went to the Jagannatha temple and received from the priest some flower garlands and food that had been offered to the Deity. These He carried to Sarvabhauma's house. Sarvabhauma was getting up, and the Lord took pleasure in hearing him chant the holy name "Krsna, Krsna" as he arose. When they sat down together inside the house, Lord Caitanya placed the food offered to Lord Jagannatha in Sarvabhauma's hands. The Bhattacarya then quoted two verses which state that one should eat the remnants of food offered to Lord Krsna immediately upon receiving them. Pleased to see Sarvabhauma's faith in Krsna, Lord Caitanya quoted a verse stating that the duty of the spirit soul is to perform devotional service to the Supreme Soul and that one who wants to realize his true identity and receive the Lord's mercy should not consider the body to be the self. From that day on, Sarvabhauma was a very affectionate, staunch devotee of Lord Caitanya.
The next day, Sarvabhauma went to see Lord Caitanya and asked Him, "Which item is most important in the execution of devotional service?" Lord Caitanya replied that the most important item was the chanting of the holy name of the Lord. He elaborately explained how chanting the holy name rids one of the bodily concept of life.
Sarvabhauma, who had previously been in the darkness of speculative arguments, now understood the conclusion of the revealed scriptures: devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One day he came before Lord Caitanya and quoted a prayer to Lord Krsna from the Srimad-Bhagavatam: "One who seeks Your compassion and thus tolerates all kinds of adverse conditions due to his past deeds, who engages always in Your devotional service with his body, mind, and words, and who always offers You obeisances, is certainly a bona fide candidate for becoming Your unalloyed devotee."
While reciting this verse, Sarvabhauma changed the original word mukti-pade to bhakti-pade. Lord Caitanya immediately pointed this out and asked the Bhattacarya about his intention. The Bhattacarya replied that pure love of God, or bhakti, far surpassed mukti, or impersonalistic liberation from material life. Lord Caitanya then explained that mukti-pade also indicated Visnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. To attain mukti, or liberation, He said, was to attain the service of the Lord. But Sarvabhauma, who for so many years had read and taught impersonalism, now hated the word mukti because of its impersonalistic connotations. This change in the Bhattacarya was possible only by the mercy of Lord Caitanya. Such devotional fervor in one who had previously been so staunchly nondevotional was further proof to everyone that Lord Caitanya was none other than Krsna. After this incident, all the inhabitants of Jagannatha Puri came to take shelter of the Lord.
The stadium is packed. The home team's at bat. You're there with your family.
by Dvarakadhisa-devi dasi
I can recall the scene quite clearly. I was sitting in the bleacher section of the Busch Memorial Stadium one summer evening as the setting sun swept the pale blue sky with luminous streaks of color. The air was heavy with the combined scents of peanuts, popcorn, and beer. Around me, the crowd was relaxed and amiable, composed mostly of people who seemed to be related to each other. On the field below, a robust young woman emerged to sing the national anthem, only to be drowned out by the accompaniment of the organist. The St. Louis Cardinals, their red-and-white uniforms contrasting sharply with the brilliant green Astro-turf, shifted in boyish impatience as the anthem soared to its vigorous conclusion.
It was a warm and familiar scene. The wholesome congeniality of this Midwestern city was reflected in the faces around me, beaming through their Italian and Germanic flavoring with American prosperity. As the women filled each other's ears with the details of the latest gallbladder operation, the men hunched forward in absorbed concentration, oblivious to everything except the pitch and the swing. Banners in small fists waved, and the combined sound of twenty radios chorused each play, as our favorite team came from behind in the fifth inning.
I had come with my own family—two sisters and my brother. We were in the habit of doing everything together. Our ages were snug with Catholic closeness, and we had a long-standing rapport of comfortable friendship. I had always found baseball appallingly dull, but I usually went along for the companionship, filling in the scorecard precisely to keep my attention from wandering. There was a strong sense of security in the bonds of my familial affections, and this was only heightened by the fervor of team loyalty and nationalistic patriotism.
It was not at all rational, then, that I should find myself saturated with an overwhelming sensation of loneliness. In the midst of that crowd, bolstered by all that was dear to my heart, I felt completely and totally separated. The vendors' shrill cries could have been coming from millions of miles away, and the game taking place on the field seemed pointless and incomprehensible. My heart was swelling with sadness, as if I were in a foreign country without any familiar refuge. Yet here I was in my home town! The lack of logic only emphasized the intense emotion.
Sometimes there is a kind of poetic beauty in the mood of loneliness we might experience, say, striding along on a solitary path in the January twilight. It's a willful relishing of uniqueness, something we schedule to revitalize our psyche. But sometimes loneliness attacks us in a completely inappropriate setting, creating an unwanted disruption to intimacy and camaraderie. Suddenly your birthday party becomes a room full of noisy people, your new date doesn't seem to understand your English, and your first curtain call leaves you blinded and shaken. A beautiful experience stands stripped of the emotional richness that gave it life, and under bare scrutiny, you discover that there's nothing actually there. It's a frightening experience, as you push away the suspicion that all is not really right with your life—that you're missing something so urgent and essential that even the sweetest pleasures are soured with the sensation of being all alone.
The missing ingredient is Krsna consciousness. Without some real sense of God and how He is involved in our lives, we are certain to feel empty. We are always linked with Krsna; He is simply waiting for us to turn to Him again. Naturally our lives, when devoid of the central figure of worship and love, will be pale and lonely. Lord Krsna Himself explains that He is the actual best friend of each living being, residing within the innermost core of our hearts, always ready to guide and nurture us back to our full relationship with Him. Sudden flashes of loneliness are small but profound signals of our misplaced affections. Proof of their accuracy is that they disappear in direct proportion to the degree with which we embrace vibrant Krsna consciousness.
Sometimes I still find myself slipping into these feelings of loneliness, despite all external security. But rather than being dismayed, I am comforted. I am reminded of my real home with Krsna and of my eternally satisfying relationship with Him. The warmth of this realization drives out the chill of loneliness.
On Pseudo Christians
The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place during an early-morning walk in Geneva on June 6, 1974.
Srila Prabhupada: Meat-eating is the main barrier to understanding God. The meat-eaters will never be able to understand Him.
Disciple: That priest you were talking with last night is a good example. He said to you, "Let us go on to higher topics. We've been talking so long about meat-eating."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Disciple: You said, "Well, if you are sinful, it is useless to go on to a higher topic."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. This very fact is stressed in the Srimad-Bhagavatam [10.1.4]:
"Everyone can understand the Supreme Truth, except the rascals who are meat-eaters." Vina pasughnat: "except those who eat meat." Vina means "except," pasu means "animals," and ghnat means "a killer."
And so Lord Jesus Christ reaffirmed the Biblical commandment "Thou shalt not kill." You see, these so-called followers of Jesus Christ were killers from the very beginning. And despite the order of Christ, still they are continuing their killing to this day. But vina pasughnat: whatever seemingly pious things they may do, those who are animal killers, meat-eaters, can never understand God. It is simply not possible.
These pseudo religious people think, "We are doing very good work, philanthropic work, godly work. We are opening hospitals, building highways, feeding the hungry, and so on. So, what is the difference if we maintain the slaughterhouses and kill fifteen million animals a day? Of course, for some reason that we don't understand, every now and then we end up in ghastly wars wherein we slaughter ourselves and others. But we are happy."
These pseudo religionists also pride themselves on their huge buildings, their big skyscrapers and big factories. But all of this is duskrti—industrious rascaldom—because it is meant only for committing sinful activities, that's all. "Yes," they will say, "we are only after wine, women, gambling, and meat-eating—but we are civilized."
Disciple: Recently one of your disciples visited Butler, Pennsylvania. While he was there he met a priest who said, "Oh, yes, I remember your spiritual master. In 1965 he was here. He'd just come from India, and he was giving lectures in our church."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Upon arriving in America, I gave lectures in churches. And what is a church? A church is a place where there are God-conscious persons. So I never criticized a church or mosque. Never. Because whatever the group may be, the main thing is, they are God-conscious—and so they are good.
But when they disobey the Lord's commandments, then I must criticize. Still, I criticize only these rascals—those who set the pattern, those who disobey the commandments out of sheer stubbornness. Otherwise, we have no criticism of them. We have no problem.
Disciple: We're not sectarian.
Srila Prabhupada: Why should we be? God is one. Why should we be sectarian? Each person, according to his own particular cultural background and circumstances, is praying to God. That is one of the forms of bhakti, devotional service to God.
Disciple: Many of the young people now—they may look to the Bible for instruction, but they stay away from the priests and ministers. They feel they're hypocritical.
Srila Prabhupada: They are hypocritical. Simply hypocritical. These priests and ministers—all of them are hypocritical. Getting big fat salaries, drinking wine, and eating killed animals. And when you remind them, "Thou shalt not kill," they say, "let us go on to higher topics."
These pseudo Christians are such rascals. They conjecture Jesus Christ may have eaten fish. Even if it were true—after all, there was little or no other food available at the time. But these rascals think, "Jesus Christ ate fish. Therefore let us maintain big slaughterhouses."
In Bengal they have a story about a man who saw a mosquito and said, "Bring a cannon."
Disciple: So then do Christians still need people to give them spiritual guidance?
Srila Prabhupada: Surely. Their priests and ministers do not, cannot, guide and uplift them. The priests and ministers are themselves fallen.
Otherwise, the Christian religion is very nice—if simply the people have spiritual guides who help them to follow it perfectly.
So many people have asked me, "Do you value Christianity?"
"Yes, I say. "If you faithfully follow your Christian religion, you will become perfect."
So all over the world, people need spiritual guides who can demonstrate, based on God-conscious scripture, how to love God.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
International Academic Conference on
New Vrindaban, West Virginia—Twenty-five top scholars from the United States, Canada, and Great Britain assembled here in mid-July for a major academic conference titled "Krsna Consciousness in the West: A Multi-Disciplinary Critique." Representing such institutions as Oxford, Harvard, the University of California, Brown, the London School of Economics, the University of Toronto, and Georgetown, participants included such distinguished scholars and authors as Bryan Wilson (internationally-known sociologist of sect movements), Robert S. Ellwood (noted historian of alternative religions, East and West), David G. Bromley (author of several influential books on the contemporary "cult" controversy), historian Thomas J. Hopkins (author of the popular college text The Hindu Religious Tradition), and Gordon J. Melton (author of Encyclopedia of American Religions and other works on religion in America). Other prominent academic observers of the Hare Krsna movement included historians and sociologists of religion, theologians, an anthropologist, a professor of clinical psychiatry, and a child psychologist.
Participants presented papers on a wide range of topics, including ISKCON's historical roots and current status in India; the movement's place in American religious history; the charismatic leadership of its founder, Srila Prabhupada; conversion into ISKCON and spiritual life within it; public attitudes toward the movement; rearing and educating children; the mental health of members; Christian and Jewish responses to the movement; ISKCON's view of other religions; its potential theological contribution to Christian tradition; and the history and development of the New Vrindaban community, ISKCON's famous religious and cultural complex. Presentation of the papers was followed by lively and wide-ranging discussion.
Included among the participants were scholars from within ISKCON: Ravindra-svarupa dasa (William Deadwyler, Ph.D.), Garuda dasa (Graham Schweig, doctoral candidate at Harvard Divinity School), and Subhananda dasa (Steven J. Gelberg), ISKCON's director for interreligious affairs, who organized the conference.
Iskcon Review Begins Publication
Philadelphia—The Bhaktivedanta Institute of Religion and Culture, an informal association of scholars within ISKCON, recently announced publication of the first issue of ISKCON REVIEW, a biannual, interdisciplinary journal dedicated to the academic study of the Hare Krsna movement. ISKCON REVIEW'S purpose, according to the introduction to the first issue, is "to stimulate and communicate—as well as to review—research and reflection on the Hare Krsna movement in all its aspects. It is intended both for those who have a direct interest in ISKCON as well as for those whose general interest in Hindu tradition, new religious movements, or contemporary spirituality might be served by a deeper awareness of the movement."
Complimentary copies of the first few issues will be sent to a select list of nearly one thousand academics and professionals. Other interested persons should order from RESOURCES, page 22.
Schoolgirls Tour U.S.
Washington, D.C.—Representative Ben Gilman (R-N.Y.) recently took time out of his schedule to meet girls from ISKCON's Lake Huntington school. Gilman chairs the presidential commission on hunger, and he applauded the Hare Krishna Food for Life program. The girls invited him to their school, which is in his district.
The girls attended sessions of Congress and the Supreme Court, and then continued their U.S. tour to Atlanta, Gainesville, Tallahassee, New Orleans, Houston, Dallas, St. Louis, Chicago, and Detroit. Their main activities (in addition to camping) were chanting Hare Krsna and performing plays for audiences at scheduled stops.
On The Strength Of His Teachings
Although Srila Prabhupada never visited Vancouver,
by Visakha-devi dasi
By the inexplicable benevolence of Lord Krsna, for fifteen years I've toured Hare Krsna temples intercontinentally, sometimes with Srila Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual master of the Hare Krsna movement, and sometimes, after he passed away, on my own. I've seen Srila Prabhupada search for land and buildings to create temples in city and country, tirelessly instruct his disciples in managing and maintaining Krsna conscious establishments, and inspire thousands to come to the temples, live in them, and make them vibrant centers of devotion and spiritual development.
So last summer, when I went to the far reaches of western Canada and for the first time saw the beautiful temple devotees had built there, the huge farm and preaching centers, the school and book distribution program, what surprised me most was that Srila Prabhupada had never been to western Canada to personally instruct the devotees there.
To Bahudaka, the hefty and amiable regional secretary for western Canada's Hare Krsna centers, that Srila Prabhupada had not come was a cause of great regret. I could understand his feeling, but to me the success of Krsna consciousness in western Canada despite Srila Prabhupada's never having visited there was glorious evidence of his immense spiritual potency and the sincerity of his disciples. For solely on the strength of Srila Prabhupada's teachings, his disciples had done so much.
Bahudaka, the son of a former member of the Canadian Parliament, was one of the first in this area to become spiritually inquisitive. Just three weeks after he'd received his B.A. from the University of Victoria (he majored in psychology and philosophy), he and his wife moved to a commune in northern British Columbia. One of the other commune members was chanting Hare Krsna, so Bahudaka and his wife also began chanting.
A few months later, in September 1970, he visited the Hare Krsna temple in Vancouver for the first time. The sights and smells delighted twenty-two-year-old Bahudaka, and he felt strong spiritual ecstasy from the kirtana (congregational chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra). Before long he shaved off his beard, and within a year he and his wife were initiated. Two months later Bahudaka became president of the fledgling temple in Vancouver.
Since their neighbors complained about the boisterous kirtanas at the temple, Bahudaka and the ten other devotees had to relocate five times in a year and a half. Finally, in May 1973, they established themselves in a spacious house in an upper-class district. During the five years they stayed there, the community grew to eighty-five devotees, formed an incense business and an elementary school, and increased the daily street sankirtana and literature distribution.
In the years following his initiation, Bahudaka had met with Srila Prabhupada, his spiritual master, at the Los Angeles temple and in India, and he had often thought of inviting him to Vancouver. In 1974 Srila Prabhupada had named the beautiful Deities in the Vancouver temple Sri Sri Radha-Madanamohana and had arranged for Their installation, but he had never seen Them in person. Bahudaka thought that if Srila Prabhupada came, he could take pleasure in seeing the transcendental forms of the Deities, inspire his disciples, and preach to the many interested guests. But Bahudaka also considered how Srila Prabhupada wanted time to do his most important work—translating the Sanskrit scriptures into English—and how he sometimes mentioned that traveling took away from that work. So, out of shyness and a wish to serve his spiritual master's desire, Bahudaka didn't invite Prabhupada to Vancouver.
That's why many of Srila Prabhupada's disciples in Vancouver never saw their spiritual master. But as Harilila-devi dasi said, "Although I never saw Srila Prabhupada, I don't feel like I've never seen him. I feel that he's close to me, helping me."
It is perhaps this feeling, which other devotees expressed in their own way, that is at the heart of the Vancouver community. Faith in Srila Prabhupada and his teachings propels devotees on. For example, in the spring of 1977, when Srila Prabhupada had fallen gravely ill, Bahudaka and the other devotees in Vancouver wanted more than ever to please him with their service to Lord Krsna.
By this time Bahudaka had a cadre of sincere devotees working with him and had developed a cooperative management system: leading devotees had full responsibility in their fields of activity, and a board met regularly to make joint decisions concerning the whole community. The leaders met and decided to begin a marathon to double their distribution of Srila Prabhupada's transcendental books. And they decided to relocate their now overcrowded temple. The devotees were inspired and worked hard, some distributing their spiritual master's books, others searching for land for a temple.
In June 1977 they found an ideal property: eight acres of woodsy land in an area called Burnaby, eleven miles from downtown Vancouver, between two main roads that led to the city. Part of the land was zoned for a church, the adjoining part for residences. The unique plot was just suitable for Sri Sri Radha-Madanamohana's temple.
Srila Prabhupada passed away in November 1977. In Vancouver, the devotees' feeling of separation from their beloved spiritual master impelled them to intensify their book distribution marathon, and by Christmas they had doubled the previous year's total. The temple coffers were full. Within weeks the down payment for the land in Burnaby would be due.
Should they keep the money from the sale of Srila Prabhupada's books and buy the land for the temple? The leaders met. No, they decided, Prabhupada wanted the money from the sale of his transcendental books to go to the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT) for printing more books. So the devotees sent the money to the BBT and searched elsewhere for the down payment. Just before the deadline, some Indian gentlemen came forward with the money for the land. Thus Krsna rewarded the leaders' faith in Srila Prabhupada and their strict adherence to his instructions, and the result of this episode was that the devotees' faith—both in Prabhupada and in their temple leaders—was strengthened.
In January 1978, ISKCON Vancouver purchased the Burnaby property. At first the devotees hired architects to design a temple, but for four years seemingly endless complications and trouble arose. Finally an Indian devotee-engineer named Kratu dasa joined the temple. With tremendous determination and dedication, he and his wife worked to obtain the necessary building permits from the city. Before long, devotees began coming to build the temple: Om Sharma and his wife, Jyoti, both of whom were devotees, architects, and planners; Rajarsi, a financial wizard; Dyutidhara dasa, a hard-working builder; Bhakta Dave, an electrical genius; and many others. As Bahudaka said, "We faced so many difficulties, but gradually we saw how Krsna assembled a varied and competent crew to build this temple. "The devotees saw the project as a labor of love for glorifying the Supreme Lord and His pure devotee, Srila Prabhupada.
The opening day was Janmastami (the appearance anniversary of Lord Krsna) 1983. To complete the temple on time, one hundred devotees had to work eighteen hours a day for the final three months. Eight thousand people came for the grand opening, including leading members of the Indian community, the mayor of Burnaby, a local legislative assembly member, and Svend Robinson, the area's member of Parliament. Mr. Robinson addressed the huge gathering:
It is an honor for me to be here this evening to indicate not only to the people who are present but to everyone that this temple is a hidden jewel. I say "hidden jewel" because there are many people who do not know of the existence of this temple, and whose only contact with the Hare Krsna movement is the devotees that they see on street corners. And if nothing else, I think it's important that we take a message out of here today about the strength and diversity of this great community. This temple is a beautiful building, but there is another beauty which transcends the beauty of this building, and that is the rich spiritual beauty of the community here. . . .
The prime minister of Canada, although unable to attend the opening, wrote the devotees a letter of appreciation and encouragement. "This is a joyous occasion for all people," he wrote, "regardless of race, religion, or creed." As part of the festivities, a helicopter hovered overhead, sprinkling flower petals on the assembled crowds. The helicopter was later shown on nationwide TV, along with an interview with Bahudaka, who saw the temple opening as a major turning point for the Hare Krsna movement in western Canada. The TV reporter referred to the opening and the temple as "a very impressive job well done."
But building a lavish temple for Krsna was only one phase of the devotees' plans for spreading God consciousness in western Canada. Another phase had already begun, even as the temple was being completed: the purchase of a 1,700-acre farm in a valley of the coastal mountains two hundred miles north of Vancouver.
The devotees felt a farm was needed for several reasons. For one, zoning regulations prevented the devotees from building additional residences on their land in Burnaby. As more children filled the school and more devotees joined, there would be no room to accommodate them. But also, more importantly, the leaders wanted to fulfill Srila Prabhupada's desire for an ideal varnasrama community.
Varnasrama is the Vedic system for a harmonious and progressive society. It's, based on the principle that individuals, depending on their particular qualities and activities, have different roles to fulfill in making a society successful and complete. The intellectuals are learned and of impeccable character. They advise the administrators, who are charismatic, bold, and resourceful. The farmers, tradesmen, and entrepreneurs provide the necessities for the society, and the laborers assist the others. The leaders in Vancouver envisioned householders buying a parcel of land on their farm, building a house, and peacefully living with their families in a God-centered atmosphere.
I was eager to see the farm, so early one morning Bahudaka and I, along with his eldest son, Gurupada dasa, began driving north, leaving behind a rainy city that had not yet stirred from the pale of night. We passed verdant fields in Fraser Valley and then followed Fraser River through the range of high mountains that loom over Vancouver. After some time, Bahudaka pointed out how the trees were smaller and the land was drier. The clouds drop their rain in Fraser Valley, he said, and leave the northern regions dry and desert-like. By the time we turned left where a sign that read "Saranagati" indicated our farm, the only vegetation the land offered was dry-looking sagebrush and meager-looking trees. Seeing me apprehensive, Bahudaka explained that two large lakes (one about a hundred acres), fed by mountain streams flowing year round, provide enough water to irrigate the land at Saranagati, and as a result the farm is as lush as Fraser Valley.
"No hunting," a sign said as we entered the farm, and then another: "Saranagati Farm, Visitors Welcome." Saranagati is a Sanskrit word meaning "the path of devotional surrender." When I first heard the name, I wondered if it meant that one is inclined to surrender at the farm because of isolation from the rest of the world or because of attraction to Krsna through His display of natural beauty there. Once at the farm, I felt that both reasons fit, for when one leaves the materialistic influence of city life, associates with the friendly, hard-working devotees, and relishes the simple, natural lifestyle and breathtaking vistas, one can easily remember Krsna at every turn. And remembering Him is an important step in lovingly surrendering to Him.
In the future, Bahudaka said, Saranagati's six hundred forested acres would provide lumber for homes, classrooms, guesthouses, a restaurant, and a temple. Here in this remote corner of the world, those interested in spiritual life could depend on the land, the cows, and the bulls for their necessities. Wherever their interests and proclivities lay—agriculture, construction, cottage industries, teaching, crafts, black-smithing, art, management, animal husbandry, temple worship, and so on—they could become expert in them and delve into them fully.
Tarakanatha dasa, the president of the farm, reiterated this basic plan for its development. "Our original idea is to create a self-sufficient Krsna conscious community where people can see and experience the ideal Vedic lifestyle. Our biggest problem at the moment is simply a lack of manpower. But this is Srila Prabhupada's vision, and we will try to realize it."
Tarakanatha received initiation from Srila Prabhupada in 1972 but saw him only a few times and never spoke with him. Yet Tarakanatha's consciousness of Prabhupada and his attraction to his teachings was fresh and dynamic. Every night he sat in the small temple room and read to the other devotees from the Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta (the biography of Srila Prabhupada by Srila Satsvarupa dasa Goswami). Together the devotees experienced the many adventures, struggles, victories, and humorous situations that Srila Prabhupada experienced while spreading Krsna consciousness throughout the world.
Why were the projects in western Canada so centered on Srila Prabhupada and so successful? Each devotee I asked had a different perspective. Lilamrta-devi dasi, for example, a book distributor since 1976, told me that the spiritual masters who came to Vancouver after Srila Prabhupada had passed on—Srila Satsvarupa dasa Goswami, Srila Kirtanananda Swami, and most recently Srila Gopala Krsna Goswami—themselves kept Srila Prabhupada in the center. So the newcomers became as Prabhupada-oriented as the old-timers.
Although she never saw Prabhupada, Lilamrta is one of his sincere disciples. She has served him by consistently following the process of bhakti-yoga he presented in his many books and by associating with devotees—at least when she can. Most of the time Lilamrta travels the length and breadth of western Canada and parts of the U.S., distributing Srila Prabhupada's books—even to the Eskimos! She told me she's put books into the post-office boxes of the ten thousand people in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories (everyone in those areas has a post-box, since mailmen don't go to their homes). "This temple," she concluded, "runs on kirtana, the prescribed method of enlightenment in this age. Bahudaka enlivens the devotees with his chanting. When he leads kirtana, it's like fresh rain falling; everything perks up again."
Dadhi-harta dasa, another disciple of Prabhupada's, helps support the temple by giving all his earnings as a taxi driver. "The success of the Vancouver temple is Bahudaka himself," he said. "He's our source of inspiration, our shelter, and our protection." Bala Krsna, the headmaster of the school, said likewise: "Bahudaka is the source of stability in our community. He gives us spiritual strength, and everyone likes him; everyone feels good just being around him."
Between overseeing the activities in the temple, the farm, and the small preaching centers in various cities in western Canada, Bahudaka keeps himself quite busy. But he still finds time to harvest alfalfa and plant wheat at Saranagati, lead kirtanas wherever he is, relax and speak frankly with the devotees, and to play with his seven children. He and the other leaders have recently begun a new construction project: erecting a thirty-foot-high statue of Lord Caitanya on their land in Burnaby, in full view of Marine Way, a road that will soon carry thirty-five thousand cars daily. Next they want to establish a museum on the land, a restaurant, and beautiful garden with fountains. "This will be an intense preaching project in the future," Bahudaka told me.
But his major interest, his personal delight, is the farm. Why? Because "before he passed on, Srila Prabhupada said that if he stayed longer he would personally develop this varnasrama system on our farms. He didn't stay with us to do this, but as his disciples we will try to do it for him." Bahudaka concluded, "There's not much to be hopeful about in the world these days, but we have a stable community here by Srila Prabhupada's grace, and we have found a lot to be enthusiastic about."
I could only conclude that in a higher, spiritual sense, Srila Prabhupada has been to western Canada and is still there today, for as Srila Prabhupada himself said. "The spiritual master lives forever by his divine instructions, and the follower lives with him."
The Joy of Cooking Badas
Making badas with a blender eliminates the grind
by Visakha-devi dasi
It's sunny and sparkling, well organized, with a sizable pantry, but it's far from an all-American kitchen. There's no blender, no food processor, no microwave, but a large shelf with rows of spotless glass jars containing unusual-looking spices and dried herbs. Open the cupboards and you'll find more such jars containing varieties of rices, dals, grains, sweeteners, dried fruits, and nuts, all suggesting that the cook here is as atypical as her surroundings in this sparsely populated, forested part of southern Oregon.
And she is. Yamuna-devi dasi studied Vedic cookery for eight years, traveling in India for some of that time to study from the masters there. In 1976, when I joined her in Oregon to take photographs for her upcoming six-hundred-recipe cookbook, she often invited me to help her make the dishes we were to photograph. I liked making all the many dishes we prepared, with just a few exceptions. One of those exceptions was badas.
Yamuna had returned from India with a thirty-pound stone mortar and pestle for grinding soaked dal into a fluffy paste to make badas. But since that process took expertise and was also time-consuming, she opted to borrow a manual grinding machine from a neighbor instead. She braced the clumsy grinder onto the edge of the back porch, and as she stood on the porch slowly pouring dal into the feeder, I stood on the ground turning the long crank handle. When we finally finished, we had to disassemble the contraption, soak it in hot water, scrub it, pat it dry, and reassemble it.
When we served badas in India, they were one of my favorite dishes, but in Oregon it was such an ordeal to make them that my taste for them dramatically waned.
Then Yamuna's birthday came, and a few of us chipped in and bought her a blender. She viewed it with a mixture of skepticism and hopefulness, and that night, with the excitement of a scientist on the verge of an important discovery, she sorted, washed, and soaked some dal. First thing the next morning, she drained the dal and started feeding it into her whirring new blender, stopping it periodically to push the dal that had spattered onto the sides of the blender jar back toward the blades.
After a while she stopped the blender and felt the dal paste between her thumb and forefinger. It was almost as silky smooth as what we'd produced by hand! She put the paste into a bowl, mixed in some light seasonings, rolled the paste into small balls, and deep-fried them. We offered them to Lord Krsna, and on tasting them Yamuna asserted that most people wouldn't be able to tell those badas from the ones made manually. (Some time later she discovered that food processors are even better than blenders for making feather-light dal paste). Now badas were easy to make, and my taste for them immediately revived.
To my delight, I learned from Yamuna that you can also combine dal pastes with elaborate seasonings and herbs, shredded or chopped vegetables, and chopped nuts or coconut. They can also be shaped into fancier forms than small balls—like cutlets, patties, doughnuts, or puffs. After you fry these delicacies, you can soak them in water until they're spongy soft and then press them dry and smother them with lightly seasoned yogurt and zesty tamarind chutney. That's dahi bada, and not only are they nutritious and easy to digest, but they are also one of the most exciting of the many dishes made from dal in Lord Krsna's cuisine.
Looking back on those weeks we spent together, I see that despite being thousands of miles from India, despite being hundreds of miles from an established ISKCON center, despite our Western birth and upbringing, and despite our shortcomings in spiritual realization, we were making spiritual advancement. In that simple, scenic setting, we were happily cooking for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, offering our food to Him, and relishing His prasadam (after taking pictures of it for the cookbook). And after prasadam, with the sun setting and the day's service behind us, we would sit on the front porch and read from Srila Prabhupada's books. Once in a while, Yamuna would tell about some of the many times she had been with Srila Prabhupada in America, Europe, and India.
By serving Lord Krsna and hearing and chanting about Him and His pure devotee, we were following the eternal, supra-mundane path of bhakti-yoga. And we felt that Srila Prabhupada's teachings were real and relevant to every facet of our lives. I especially remember one of his purports in Bhagavad-gita As It Is:
It does not matter what one is or where one is situated. The process is so easy that even a leaf or a little water or fruit can be offered to the Supreme Lord in genuine love, and the Lord will be pleased to accept it. No one, therefore, can be barred from Krsna consciousness, because it is so easy and universal. Who is such a fool that he does not want to be Krsna conscious by this simple method and thus attain the highest perfectional life of eternity, bliss, and knowledge? Krsna wants only loving service and nothing more.
Recipe by Yamuna-devi dasi
Juicy, Stuffed Dal Cakes in Yogurt Sauce
(Marawadi Dahi Bada)
This is a favorite preparation from the Marawadi culinary tradition, requiring a skillful hand to maneuver the light dal pastes around the stuffings of sliced nuts and raisins. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada frequently requested that this dish be prepared on special holidays. With a little practice, the results reward the effort and time.
Soaking time: 2 hours
Ingredients for bada paste:
1 cup split moong dal, without skins
Ingredients for bada stuffing:
3 tablespoons raisins
Ingredients for yogurt sauce:
2 cups fresh plain yogurt
Ingredients for garnish:
½ tablespoon dry-roasted cumin seeds, powdered coarsely
Ingredients for the tamarind chutney:
1-inch-round ball of seedless dry tamarind
To make the bada and stuffing:
1. Sort through the dals and remove any foreign matter. Wash the dals and soak in clean water for 2 hours.
2. Place half of the dal and approximately 1/3 cup water in a blender, and blend on high speed until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Pour into a mixing bowl. Place the remaining dal in the blender with ¼ cup water, the ginger, chilies, salt, and caraway seeds, and blend until creamy and smooth. If the mixture is not feeding into the rotating blades, turn off the motor and scrape the paste downward with a rubber spatula. Replace the lid and repeat the grinding until all the dal is a fluffy, light paste. Scrape the rest of the dal paste into the mixing bowl, add the baking soda, and mix well. The paste must be thick enough to hold shape when molded. If need be, bind the mixture with a few spoonfuls of sifted chick-pea flour or whole-wheat flour.
3. Soak the raisins in hot water for 10 minutes. Drain and chop. Combine the sliced nuts and raisins, and mash slightly to make the mixture tacky. Set aside.
To fry the badas assemble the following:
bowl of dal pastes and a tablespoon
1. Heat the ghee in a 10- to 12-inch frying pan over a medium-high flame until it reaches 300 °F.
2. Moisten your left hand with water, place a rounded tablespoon of the paste in your palm, and spread it slightly. Put approximately 1 teaspoon of the nut-raisin filling in the center. Now place another tablespoon of the dal paste over the filling, spreading it carefully to the edges and covering the nut mixture. Carefully slip this stuffed bada into the heated oil. As quickly as possible, prepare 3 to 4 more badas to complete one frying batch.
3. Fry the badas to a golden color, about 5 minutes on each side. They will swell slightly. Remove each with a slotted spoon and carefully drop into the bowl of warm salt water to soak. Form and fry the remaining cakes in the same manner. Soaking time varies from 10 to 15 minutes up to 1 ½ hours, depending on the consistency of the foundation dal paste. The badas should become soft, airy, and spongy. Ideally, they are soft in 10 to 15 minutes. Press each bada gently between your palms to drain out the water. Place them on a plate and chill until ready to serve.
To make the yogurt sauce:
Combine the yogurt and salt, and churn until smooth.
To prepare the garnish:
1. Place each spice in a separate mound next to the bowl of churned yogurt.
2. Pick 6 to 8 coriander leaves off their stalks, rinse, pat dry, and add to the spice plate.
To prepare the tamarind chutney:
1. Soak the tamarind in the warm water for 15 to 20 minutes. Press the fruit off the stems so a thick brown puree is formed.
2. Press the puree through a wire strainer. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk well.
The final assembly:
1. To offer to Krsna, place 2 badas in a small, shallow serving bowl.
2. Ladle ½ cup of yogurt over the badas.
3. Place 1 tablespoon of the tamarind chutney sauce on the center of each bada.
4. Sprinkle approximately ¼ teaspoon of cumin and coriander and a pinch of garam masala and chili powder over the badas.
5. Garnish with 1 or 2 coriander leaves.
Cow Protection and Peace
Does the death of a seventeen-year-old cow on a Krsna conscious farm have any significance to the world?
Cintamani was not an ordinary cow. During her lifetime she gave birth to fourteen calves, produced 160,000 pounds of milk, and 6,350 pounds of butterfat. This places Cintamani among the top one hundred cows in lifetime production in Juniata County, Pennsylvania. Scoring eighty-eight out of a possible one hundred points when evaluated for overall qualities, Cintamani was an unusually good dairy cow.
Furthermore, Cintamani was part of a community that practices cow protection. Her long life and good performance, therefore, exemplify the economic good sense of an agrarian, cow-protecting, God-serving way of life.
Cow protection is not something that is a concern just to farmers. Sparing the lives of the cow and the bull and using their contributions properly will produce far-reaching benefits for all human society. In the absence of cow protection, in today's cow-slaughter civilization, there is no possibility of peace and happiness in society. George Bernard Shaw wrote,
Like carrion crows we live and feed on meat,
Reflecting on the death of Cintamani and the philosophical implications of cow protection, I wrote the following poem.
They Should Never Be Killed
The Supreme Lord is a cowherd boy,
But it will be a long time
It will be a long road before you can see you are killing your mothers and fathers, and you cannot undo the karmic link between the stockyard and the Bomb. It is already too late, as Macbeth said of his crime, "I am in blood/ Stepp'd in so far, that, should I wade no more, Returning were as tedious as go o'er."
But there is hope.
At Gita-nagari** we are doing that,
In freezing rain the cows live in.
Large-eyed, gentle Brown Swiss mothers, jerky, nervous calves,
Because Genesis states
"But what do we eat?
It is easy to avoid the greatest crime.
To see the large-uddered mother