The first lesson in spiritual education draws a
A lecture in Los Angeles in April 1973
dehino 'smin yatha dehe
"As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change." (Bhagavad-gita 2.13)
Here the Supreme Personality of Godhead states that you are not the body. This is the first instruction for spiritual understanding—to know, "I am not this body."
The so-called yogis are exercising the body and studying the psychology of the mind according to so many charts and humbug methods. But our philosophy is teaching that since we are not this body, where is the question of exercising the body for spiritual realization? If I am not this body, then how can I realize my self simply by a gymnastic process? This is the yogis' mistake.
Then there are the karmis—fruitive workers, or materialistic persons—who want bodily comforts. Their only idea is how to get the best comfort for the body, or, in other words, the senses. We have eyes, ears, a nose, a mouth, a tongue, hands, genitals. So many senses we have, and as soon as we are in the bodily concept of life, we immediately feel the need for sense gratification.
But Krsna says to Arjuna, "You are not this body." Therefore my self-interest does not depend on bodily comforts. The materialists do not know this. In the present age, everyone is busy gratifying his senses. In India, where all kinds of philosophies have been cultivated, the atheist philosophy of sense gratification is also present. Carvaka Muni used to be the leader of the atheist class of philosophers. His philosophy is like the Western philosophy of hedonism: "As long' as you have this body, eat, drink, and be merry." Carvaka Muni also said that: rnam krtva ghrtam pibet. "Somehow get ghee [clarified butter] and enjoy nicely cooked foods." Bodily enjoyment begins with the tongue. Therefore Bhaktivinoda Thakura, following in the footsteps of previous acaryas [spiritual masters], says, "If you want to control your senses, first control your tongue." Then we can begin to purify our senses so we will one day understand Krsna.
In the Vedic scriptures it is said, atah sri-krsna-namadi na bhaved grahyam indriyaih: "With these blunt material senses we cannot understand Krsna." It is not possible. The senses are so imperfect that you cannot acquire any perfect knowledge, material or spiritual, with them.
Now the scientists are studying the moon. But besides the moon there are millions and trillions of other planets they cannot say anything about because their senses are imperfect. I can see, say, up to one mile. But when there is a question of millions and trillions of miles, how can I use my senses to acquire perfect knowledge?
So, we cannot get even perfect material knowledge by using these senses; then what to speak of spiritual knowledge, knowledge of God? That is beyond your conception. Therefore the scriptures say, atah sri-krsna-namadi, na bhaved grahyam indriyaih: "Krsna cannot be known by our material mind and senses."
If you try to know God by mental speculation, that is frog philosophy. Dr. Frog tried to calculate the length and breadth of the Atlantic Ocean while sitting in his well. Similarly, trying to understand God with our limited mind and senses is hopeless.
Then how is it possible to understand God? sevonmukhe hi jihvadau, svayam eva sphuraty adah: "If you employ your tongue in the service of the Lord, He'll reveal Himself to you." Revelation. Therefore we have to control the tongue. What is the tongue's business? The tongue's business is to taste and to vibrate. So vibrate your tongue in the service of the Lord: chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Hare Krsna means, "O my Lord Krsna, O energy of Krsna—Srimati Radharani—both of You kindly engage me in Your service."
As Narottama dasa Thakura sings, ha ha prabhu nanda-suta, vrsabhanu-suta-juta: "My dear Lord Krsna, You are well known as the son of Nanda Maharaja, and Your eternal consort, Srimati Radharani, is known as the daughter of King Vrsabhanu." Then, koruna karoho ei-baro: "Now I have come to You. Please, both of You be merciful to me." Na theliho ranga-pay: "Don't neglect me or kick me away with Your lotus feet."
Of course, even if Krsna kicks us and pushes us away, that is still our great fortune. For example, when Krsna was kicking the hoods of the Kaliya serpent, Kaliya's wives prayed, "My dear Lord, we do not know how this culprit Kaliya became so fortunate that You are now kicking his hoods. All the great, great sages and saintly persons meditate upon Your lotus feet for millions of years, trying to get a glimpse of them, but this Kaliya is being repeatedly kicked by those feet. We do not know what he did in his past life that he's so fortunate."
So, we cannot understand Krsna by our mental speculation, our limited senses. That is not possible. We have to engage in His service. How? sevonmukhe hi jihvadau: "Beginning with the tongue." The tongue is our greatest enemy, and it is also our greatest friend. If you allow your tongue to do whatever it likes—smoking, drinking, eating meat—then it is your greatest enemy. But if you can control the tongue, then you can control all the other senses automatically.
The tongue should always be used for glorifying the Supreme Lord. That is our business with the tongue. And the tongue should not be allowed to eat anything except krsna-prasadam [vegetarian food offered to Krsna]. Then you become liberated, simply by controlling the tongue. But if you allow the tongue to do anything and everything, then it is very difficult to make any spiritual advancement.
Spiritual education begins when I understand, "I am not this body, and therefore satisfying the senses is not my business." If I am not this body, why should I bother myself to satisfy the bodily senses? This is Lord Krsna's very first instruction in the Bhagavad-gita.
The karmis [fruitive workers], jnanis [mental speculators], and yogis are all trying to satisfy the demands of the body. The karmis are directly doing that: "Eat, drink, be merry, and enjoy." That is their philosophy. And the goal of the jnanis is simply to understand that they are not this body (neti neti). And the yogis are all trying to come to the point of controlling the senses by bodily exercises, hatha-yoga. So their center of activity is also the body.
But our philosophy begins with the understanding that you are not the body. You see? When the karmis, jnanis, and yogis pass their B.A. examination in studying this body, then they may be able to understand their real function as spirit souls. But our philosophy begins with Krsna's instruction that "You are not this body." So Krsna consciousness is a postgraduate study of spiritual philosophy.
We have seen so many big, big politicians and scholars in India who write commentaries on the Bhagavad-gita, but what they write is based on the bodily conception of life. The great leader Mahatma Gandhi had his photograph taken with the Bhagavad-gita. But throughout his whole life he worked under the bodily conception: "I am Indian," "I am American," "I am Canadian." But if we are not this body, where is the question of being Indian, American, or Canadian?
Yet even though these commentators are absorbed in the bodily concept of life, they still preach from the Bhagavad-gita. What can they understand of the Bhagavad-gita? If one feels, "I belong to this nation, I belong to this family, I belong to this community, I belong to this race, I belong to this religion," then he is deeply in the bodily concept of life. But in the very beginning the Bhagavad-gita teaches that you are not this body.
So, the yogis are trying to understand the self by bodily exercise, the jnanis are trying to understand fully that they are not the body, and the karmis, like animals, cannot understand that they are not the body. So, factually, the karmis, jnanis, and yogis are only a little bit elevated above the animals. That's all.
Here is an example. In India people pass stool in the open field, and at the end of the day, because there is so much sunshine, the upper side of the stool becomes dry. The lower side is still moist. So somebody may say, "This upper side is very good because it is dry." But after all, it is all stool, whether this side or that side. Similarly, these rascals who are in the bodily concept of life are thinking, "I am a nationalist," "I am a yogi," "I am this," "I am that." But as long as you are in the bodily concept of life, you are no better than an animal.
That is the exact statement of the Srimad-Bhagavatam [10.84.13]: yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke sva-dhih kalatradisu . . . sa eva go-kharah. Go-kharah means "a cow or an ass." Animals. Who is an animal? Yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke means "a bag of mucus, bile, and air." So one is an animal if he thinks, "I am this body, this bag full of mucus, bile, and air." And one is also an animal if he thinks, "I have my family, society, children, wife, and country. They are all mine."
Through the wife we beget children. We expand. The Sanskrit word is stri, "expansion." I am one, but as soon as I get a wife I become two, then three, then four, then five. But extending these material expansions, these bodily expansions, means to deepen our illusion. Janasya moho 'yam aham mameti. Our illusion is to think, "I am this body, and everything in relation to this body is mine." So as long as we remain in the bodily concept of life, our illusion will increase. It will never decrease. Therefore Krsna's first instruction to Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita is, "You are not this body." Arjuna was in illusion, thinking, "I am this body, and those on the other side-my brothers, my nephews, my grandfather-they are all my relations. How can I kill them?" This is illusion. To dissipate this illusion, this darkness, Krsna says in the first lesson, "You are not this body." The Lord says, dehino 'smin yatha dehe kaumaram yauvanam jara tatha dehantara-praptir: "You'll have to change this body, as you have already changed it. You were once a baby. Then you changed your body to a child's body, then to boyhood, and then to youthhood. And you'll change your body to an old man's body. As you have already changed it so many times, there will be another change at death. Then you'll have to take another body." Very simple logic. And in the following verses Krsna says, "So don't fear that your nephews or grandfather or guru will die. They'll not die; they will simply change their bodies. That's all."
Krsna also says, dhiras tatra na muhyati. Dhira means "one who is sober, whose brain is nice and cool." Such a person will not be bewildered when there is a change of body at death. He will think, "What kind of body am I going to get next?" That is the real problem.
But these rascals in the colleges and universities do not know about the next life. Still they are proud of their intelligence. They do not know how they have come to their present body or what kind of body they're going to get next. No intelligence. Sometimes they even say, "Suppose I get a dog's body in my next life. What is the harm?" Yes. In a university in Hawaii a student said that. Supposedly he's being educated, but he does not care if he's going to become a dog in his next life. This is the education. And in Moscow, Professor Kotovsky said to me, "Swamiji, after this body is finished, everything is finished." Just see! This is the position of the so-called professors and students in the universities. All rascals. This is our challenge. They are all rascals because they are in the bodily concept of life. They are directly seeing that the body is changing in this life, but still they'll not believe that after this body is finished, they'll get another body.
It is very logical. Dehino 'smin yatha dehe kaumaram yauvanam jara tatha dehantara-praptir. Exactly in the same way as we have changed our body so many times, we'll have to change it again at death. Therefore one who is intelligent should try to understand what kind of body he is going to get next. That is intelligence.
Now, what kind of body you can get is also explained in the Bhagavad-gita [9.25]:
yanti deva-vrata devan
If you want to, you can go to the higher planetary system, where the demigods live for hundreds and thousands and millions of years. There you will have thousands and thousands of times better facilities for sense gratification. Otherwise, why would people want to go to the heavenly planets? Krsna says that if you try to go to the higher planetary system, you can go. There is a process. For example, to go to the moon planet one must be expert in karma-kanda, pious fruitive activities. Then by the result of pious activities you can be promoted to the moon. That is mentioned in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. But you cannot enter the moon by force, with your rocket ships. That's not possible. Suppose I've got a nice motorcar in America. If I want to enter another country forcibly, is it possible? No. I must get a passport or visa. I must get the sanction of the government; then I can enter. It is not that because I have a very good car I'll be allowed in.
So, the scientists' attempt to go to the moon is foolish and childish. They cannot go. Therefore nowadays they've stopped going. They do not speak of their moon trips anymore. They are realizing their failure. But there is a possibility of going to the moon. You can go if you adopt the real process. Similarly, you can go to the Pitrloka, the planet of the ancestors, by offering sraddha and pinda to the forefathers. Or you can remain on this earthly planet by worshiping ghosts and spirits (bhutas). Similarly, you can go back home, back to Godhead, by worshiping Krsna. Now, one may ask, What is the benefit of going back home, back to Godhead? Krsna explains in the Bhagavad-gita [8.15]: mam upetya punar janma duhkhalayam asasvatam napnuvanti: "If you come to Me, you won't have to again accept a material body, which is full of miserable conditions. You will remain in your spiritual body."
So, our Krsna consciousness movement is meant for elevating all living entities to Krsna's spiritual kingdom. Anyone who follows the principles of Krsna consciousness will surely go back home, back to Godhead. That is certain. Of course, if you deviate, if you become attracted by maya [illusion], that is your business. But we are. giving you all the information you need.
The process is simple. Chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, become purified, always remain liberated from the material clutches, and try to understand Krsna. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita [4.9], janma karma ca me divyam evam yo vetti tattvatah tyaktva deham punar janma naiti mam eti: "If you simply try to understand Me, then after quitting this body you'll come to Me." This is our philosophy. It is very simple, and everything is explained by Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita. Try to realize this philosophy and preach it for the benefit of the whole world. Then everyone will be happy.
Thank you very much. Hare Krsna.
"What are you people doing?"
"We're practicing yoga."
"Yoga? You call this yoga? Chanting and dancing, playing on drums and hand cymbals, passing out magazines and sweets—all in one big group?"
"Absolutely! Yoga means 'to link with God,' and this congregational chanting of God's names—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—is the best way to link with Him. Chanting Hare Krsna is an important part of bhakti-yoga, the yoga of devotion."
"Hmm. You look happy enough."
"Yes. Krsna Himself says in the Bhagavad-gita that bhakti-yoga is joyful and everlasting."
"And these magazines?"
"Here, take one. And why don't you come to our Sunday Feast and find out more about bhakti-yoga? We serve delicious vegetarian food to hundreds of guests every Sunday at every Hare Krsna center."
"Well, I just might do that. Thank you."
A Special Kind of Vegetarian
Health and economic advantages are only
by Dvarakadhisa-devi dasi
One Sunday afternoon last fall I was speaking with Sharon, a guest visiting our Hare Krsna center for the first time. The topic turned to vegetarianism. Ruefully, Sharon confessed she had always wanted to become a vegetarian. But how? It seemed impossible. Some sort of meat product tainted. most of the foods in the supermarkets and restaurants. The thought of cooking for herself was bewildering. "I don't even like salads," she sighed. "And I get tired of peanut butter and jelly. So what else is there to eat?"
What else? I was momentarily struck silent, as visions of freshly puffed puris, elegant sabjis, flaking samosas, and steaming hot rice dishes raced through my mind. There was so much else. It was simply our misfortune as born-and-bred Americans that we had no knowledge of the science of Vedic cooking, where varieties of grains, vegetables, and milk products are wonderfully combined in numberless ways to satisfy the appetite.
Yes, at first I was speechless, but I could also sympathize. I could remember my own tentative attempts at vegetarianism, before I moved into a Hare Krsna temple. I would push my empty cart up and down the aisles of the grocery store, searching for something suitable for human consumption. Reluctantly I would drag myself over to the produce section and dubiously eye the strange forms of vegetables: the mysterious eggplants, the thick-skinned pumpkins, the ears of corn tightly wrapped in husks that concealed the familiar kernels. I was even uncertain of how to cut into these vegetables, what to speak of preparing a meal with them. The few brave attempts I did make were so troublesome, and the results so bland, that I soon fell into living off peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and leftovers from my visits to the Hare Krsna center.
There are many reasons for becoming attracted to vegetarianism, and you will find great diversity among those who consider themselves vegetarian. Some vegetarians merely abstain from red meat while continuing to eat chicken and fish. Others avoid all meats, but eat eggs. Still others abstain from all animal products, including milk.
These diets may be inspired by moralistic concerns, or they might be based on health considerations. Whatever the reason, today's vegetarian, at least in America, is in a minority. At a typical restaurant, for example, the vegetarian finds fruits and vegetables restricted to side dishes and garnishes. Despite medical and moral evidence to the contrary, Americans seem convinced that a meal is incomplete without meat. Fortunately we are now witnessing a growing awareness of the ills of meat-eating and a resultant increase in vegetarianism.
Devotees of Lord Krsna are a special kind of vegetarian. While we are certainly quick to point out the health and economic advantages of our vegetarian diet, such concerns are, frankly, secondary. We eat the way we do because this diet is recommended by the Supreme Lord Himself.
The Vedic tradition of cooking is not simply another style of food preparation and seasoning, such as Mexican or Italian; it is the cuisine Lord Krsna personally enjoyed when He appeared on this planet some five thousand years ago. The pages of Vaisnava scriptures contain descriptions of Lord Krsna relishing the vegetarian dishes lovingly prepared by His devotees: sweets made from milk and sugar, opulent vegetables cooked in clarified butter, yogurt combined with fresh fruit and rice, and much more. Krsna is the engineer of the entire universe; He can easily arrange a diet that is simultaneously tasty, nutritionally balanced, and free from karma.
These Vedic dishes reach their perfection when they are cooked by devotees for the Lord's pleasure and offered to Him with selfless love. Then the devotee can savor both the delicious results of the cooking and the transcendental pleasure of devotional service. Although eating is in many respects only a minor aspect of our lives, it can become a sacred meditation.
In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, "Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer or give away, and whatever austerities you perform—do that as an offering to Me" (Bg. 9.27). The offering may be simple—a leaf, a flower, some fruit, or water-but it must be done with love and devotion. Then Lord Krsna will accept it. The ingredients are vegetarian, but the essence—the love and devotion—makes Krsna's devotees unique vegetarians.
My new friend, Sharon, and I shared the experience of a superb vegetarian feast that Sunday. The dishes had all been prepared by the devotees and offered to our beautiful Deities. As Sharon marveled over the richness and variety of the dishes, I reflected on how perfectly uncomplicated the process of eating can be. There's no need for mass slaughter of innocent animals or for expensively processed food or for frustrated vegetarians starving themselves in the midst of plenty. Learning to prepare satisfying vegetarian meals is not difficult, as this month's simple recipes will attest. After some practice the basic ingredients become familiar friends, even to those of us raised on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
(Recipes by Yamuna-devi dasi)
Simple Glazed Carrots
Preparation time: 45 minutes
2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil
1. Wash and scrape the carrots and cut them diagonally into slices 1/8-inch thick.
2. Heat the ghee in a 3- to 4-quart saucepan over a medium-high flame until a drop of water flicked in sputters instantly. Stir in the minced green chilies, ginger root, and cumin seeds, and fry until light brown. Then add the honey or sugar and fry until the cumin seeds are deep brown. Drop in the turmeric powder, and immediately pour in the sliced carrots. Stir well. Now fry the carrots for 3 to 4 minutes, pour in the water, cover tightly, reduce the flame to low, and gently boil for about 20 minutes, or until the carrots are nearly cooked.
3. Remove the lid, add the salt and black pepper or chili powder, and cook until the liquid is almost entirely cooked off and the carrots are tender. Stir in the fresh parsley or coriander leaves and lemon juice. Offer to Krsna.
Simple Potato-and-Green-Pea Stew
Preparation time: 25 minutes
This is a popular gravylike pea-and-potato combination. For a thicker, drier gravy, reduce the water to 1 cup.
3 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
1. Peel the potatoes and dice into 3/4-inch chunks.
2. Heat the ghee in a 4-quart saucepan over a medium-high flame until a haze forms over the surface. Drop in the chilies, ginger, cumin seeds, and black mustard seeds, and fry until the mustard seeds sputter and pop.
3. Stir in the tomatoes, coriander powder, turmeric, garam masald, and potatoes, and stir-fry for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the mixture is slightly dry.
4. Pour in the green peas, salt, hot water, and half the fresh herbs, and bring to a full boil. Reduce the flame to low, cover, and gently boil until the potatoes are tender but not mushy and broken down. Before offering to Krsna, stir in the remaining minced herbs and lemon juice or mango powder.
Deep-Fried Whole Chick-pea Chips
(Masala-, Kabli Chana
Soaking and drying time: 30 hours
2 cups whole chick-peas
1. Sort through the dry chick-peas and remove any foreign matter or broken peas. Place them in a 1 ½-quart bowl full of cool water, add the soda, and stir until it dissolves. Loosely cover with a cloth and allow the peas to soak in a cool place for 12 hours.
2. Drain and rinse the chick-peas. Fill the bowl half full with clean water, and soak the chick-peas for another 12 hours. Slip off the loose skins by gently rubbing the chick-peas between your palms.
3. Drain the chick-peas in a colander for 10 minutes. Lay them out on a cookie sheet, and tap each chick-pea with a small stone pestle or wooden mallet to flatten it into a roundish disc. Allow the chick-peas to dry for 2 or 3 hours in a warm, sunny window or porch. Turn each chip over and dry an additional 3 hours.
4. In a suitable deep-frying vessel, heat the ghee or oil over a medium-high flame to about 350T. Sprinkle in a handful of the chips. Initially they will sink to the bottom of the pan, but they will rise to the surface within a few minutes. Allow the peas to blister slightly, become crispy, and brown to a soft color. Remove with a frying spoon and transfer to absorbent paper to drain. Fry the remaining batches of chick-pea chips in the same manner.
5. Sprinkle with the salt and powdered spices while still warm. Toss well. Offer to Krsna.
Deep-Fried or Roasted Wafers
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Although technically not a "bread," these thin wafers are shaped like flat-breads and are often served at the conclusion of a Vedic meal.
Round, thin wafers from three to eight inches in diameter, they are prepared from ground dal doughs, either plain or spiced, and laid out in the hot sun to dry until brittle. You may purchase these wafers ready-made at any IndoAsian grocer. Store them in a well-sealed container, and they will last for months. When you need some, simply deep-fry or roast them.
To deep-fry Paparas:
Heat 2 to 3 cups of ghee or vegetable oil over a medium flame in a large frying vessel with at least 3-inch-high walls. When the temperature reaches 360°F, slip in a wafer. It will immediately swell and expand to nearly twice its original size. Fry on each side for a few seconds until crisp and pale gold. Remove, drain, and offer to Krsna piping hot.
To dry-roast Paparas:
Glowing coal embers are the most effective heat source for dry-roasting paparas. However, if a gas or electric stove is most practical, simply rest a dry papara on a cake rack about 1 1/2 inches above the heat source. As each area of the papara expands and toasts, rotate the rack so an untoasted area is above the heat. Cook each side until it's fully expanded and toasted and has small charred flecks. The papara will become brittle. Offer to Krsna hot.
Creamy Rice-Flour Custard
Preparation time: 30 minutes
This milk pudding selection is similar to the custards of the West. But it requires less milk, takes less time to prepare, and yields surprisingly dainty results.
1/3 cups fresh milk
1. Combine the rice flour with 1 cup of the cold milk, and mix well until creamy and completely free of any lumps.
2. Pour the remaining milk into a medium size saucepan and, while stirring constantly, bring to a full boil over a high flame.
3. Reduce the flame to medium. Slowly pour the rice-milk mixture into the gently boiling milk and, stirring constantly, cook for approximately 8 to. 12 minutes. (The stirring must be constant and rhythmic to prevent lumps from forming and to keep the mixture smooth.)
4. Add the sweetener and powdered spices and continue gently boiling and stirring for about ten minutes, or until the pudding has a creamy consistency.
5. Remove from the flame and cool for ten minutes. Stir, add half the nuts and, if desired, the essences. Pour into 8 or 10 small bowls and chill. Garnish each portion with a sprinkle of the remaining nuts just before offering to Krsna.
Revealing the Land of Krsna
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's visit to Vrndavana
by Drutakarma dasa
Among the sacred cities of the world, Vrndavana is probably the least well known. Yet this small town in northern India ranks with Rome, Jerusalem, and Mecca as a center of worship. It was in Vrndavana that the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna, displayed His transcendental pastimes during His appearance on this planet some five thousand years ago. Over the course of centuries, the places of Krsna's pastimes were lost to human memory, until they were rediscovered in the sixteenth century by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is Krsna Himself in the role of His own devotee.
But Vrndavana is more than a place of historical importance. According to the teachings of Lord Caitanya, the earthly Vrndavana is a replica of Goloka Vrndavana, Lord Krsna's eternal abode in the spiritual sky. Great souls with transcendental vision can actually perceive this and worship Vrndavana as nondifferent from the Lord Himself.
This consideration led one of Lord Caitanya's dearmost associates, Sri Gadadhara Pandita, to say to Lord Caitanya as He departed from the city of Jagannatha Puri on His journey to Vrndavana, "Wherever You stay is Vrndavana. Although where You stay is Vrndavana, You still go to Vrndavana just to instruct people."
Srila Prabhupada explains, "It was not essential for Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to go to Vrndavana, for wherever He stayed was immediately transformed into Vrndavana. . . . He said that His very mind was Vrndavana (mora mana—vrndavana). Because His mind was Vrndavana, all the pastimes of Radha [Lord Krsna's eternal consort and the personification of His supreme pleasure energy] and Krsna were taking place within Himself. Nonetheless, just to teach people, He visited bhauma-vrndavana, Vrndavana-dhama in this material world. In this way the Lord instructed everyone to visit Vrndavana-dhama, which is a very holy place."
The Lord departed Jagannatha Puri at the end of the night, unseen by others. Taking only two brahmana assistants with Him, He avoided the main roads and passed into the Jharikhanda forest. Caitanya's biographer, Krsnadasa Kaviraja, states that while Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was passing through the jungle, all the does and five or seven tigers came and began to follow the Lord. "Seeing the tigers and deer following Him, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu immediately remembered the land of Vrndavana. He then began to recite a verse describing the transcendental quality of Vrndavana: 'Vrndavana is the transcendental abode of the Lord. There is no hunger, anger, or thirst there. Though naturally inimical, human beings and fierce animals live together there in transcendental friendship.' When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, 'Chant Krsna! Krsna!' the tigers and deer began to dance and chant "Krsna!"'
After passing through the Jharikhanda forest, Lord Caitanya arrived in Benares and proceeded to Prayaga, finally arriving at Mathura, where forty-five centuries before, Krsna had taken birth in the prisonhouse of King Kamsa. Immediately after Krsna appeared, His father Vasudeva had carried Him across the river Yamuna to the region of Vrndavana, where Krsna displayed His childhood pastimes for the pleasure of His devotees. In Mathura, Lord Caitanya met a brahmana devotee of Lord Krsna, who served as His guide to the Vrndavana area.
Krsnadasa Kaviraja states, "The mind of Sri Caitanya was absorbed in ecstatic love at Jagannatha Puri, but when He passed along the road on the way to Vrndavana, that love increased a hundred times. The Lord's ecstatic love increased a hundred times when He visited Mathura, but it increased a thousand times when He wandered in the forests of Vrndavana. When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was elsewhere, the very name of Vrndavana was sufficient to increase His ecstatic love. Now, when He was actually traveling in Vrndavana Forest, His mind was absorbed in great ecstatic love day and night. He ate and bathed simply out of habit."
While in Vrndavana, the Lord rediscovered many important places of Krsna's pastimes. Among such places are Radha-kunda and Syama-kunda, two ponds that featured prominently in Krsna's Vrndavana pastimes five thousand years ago. When Sri Caitanya asked the local inhabitants about the location of these two places, they were not able to tell Him. By virtue of His supreme knowledge, the Lord then located the two ponds (in areas that were then being used as rice fields) and took His bath there. He prayed, "Of all the gopas [Krsna's confidential spiritual associates, the cowherd girls of Vrndavana], Radharani is the dearmost. Similarly, the lake known as Radha-kunda is very dear to the Lord because it is very dear to Srimati Radharani. In that lake, Lord Krsna and Srimati Radharani used to sport daily in the water and have a rasa dance on the bank. Indeed, Lord Krsna gives ecstatic love like that of Srimati Radharani to whoever bathes in that lake even once."
The Lord then visited Govardhana Hill. Seeing it from a distance, He was overcome with ecstasy, and when He arrived He fell down upon the ground as if mad. Dancing and chanting, He recited this verse: "O My friends, this hill supplies Krsna and Balarama [Krsna's elder brother in His Vrndavana pastimes], as well as Their calves, cows, and cowherd friends, with all kinds of necessities—water for drinking, very soft grass, caves, fruits, flowers, and vegetables. In this way the hill offers respect to the Lord. Being touched by the feet of Krsna and Balarama, Govardhana Hill appears jubilant."
In this spirit, the Lord visited all the places connected with Lord Krsna's pastimes in Vrndavana. Eventually, the Lord returned to Puri in Orissa. On the return journey He gave confidential instructions to His chief disciples, Srila Rupa Gosvami, and Srila Sanatana Gosvami. He advised them to reside in Vrndavana and reconstruct the places of Krsna's pastimes.
Krsnadasa Kaviraja states, "Srila Sanatana Gosvami collected some books about archeological excavations in Mathura, and wandering in the forest, he sought to renovate all those holy places." Sri Kavikarna-pura states in Caitanya-candrodaya: "In the course of time, the transcendental news of Krsna's pastimes in Vrndavana was almost lost. To enunciate explicitly those transcendental pastimes, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, at Prayaga, empowered Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami with the nectar of His mercy to carry out this work in Vrndavana." In addition to discovering the sites of Krsna's pastimes, Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami, along with other followers of Lord Caitanya, erected many beautiful temples that pilgrims may still visit.
Srila Prabhupada, the founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), following in the footsteps of Lord Caitanya and His confidential associates, also assisted in the renovation of Vrndavana as an important place of pilgrimage. He was especially eager to give Westerners the opportunity to visit Vrndavana, which lies off the main tourist routes and lacked accommodation suitable for those unaccustomed to the austere facilities preferred by Indian pilgrims. For this purpose Srila Prabhupada established the Krishna-Balaram temple and the adjoining international guesthouse, with clean, nicely furnished rooms with baths. A first-class vegetarian restaurant provides nourishing, spiritually purifying meals of krsna-prasadam, food offered to the Supreme Lord with love and devotion.
In the opulent temple itself, very much beloved by the residents of Vrndavana, are found exquisite Deities of Krsna and Balarama, who five thousand years ago played with Their cowherd friends in the very same area, called Ramana-reti. On separate altars, worshipers also may find Deities of Radha and Krsna—and of Lord Caitanya, whose visit to Vrndavana in the sixteenth century reestablished its importance as a place of pilgrimage.
The price of passage to Vrndavana cannot be calculated in monetary terms. Srila Prabhupada once said, "Sometimes, materialistic people who have no spiritual understanding go to Vrndavana as tourists. One who goes to Vrndavana with such materialistic vision cannot derive any spiritual benefit." The real price is purification of consciousness through the process taught by Lord Caitanya: chanting the Hare Krsna mantra and avoiding the sinful activities of meat-eating, gambling, intoxication, and illicit sex. Anyone can start their journey to Vrndavana by putting Lord Caitanya's process into practice in their own life. (Travel preparations can also include a visit to the nearest ISKCON temple, where you can experience the spiritual atmosphere of Vrndavana. Srila Prabhupada explains, "Because we live in the temples of Radha-Krsna and continuously hold hari-nama sankirtana—chanting of Hare Krsna—we consequently live in Vrndavana and nowhere else.")
Knowledge of Vrndavana and the opportunity to visit this important holy place are great gifts to humanity, and we are indebted to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His followers. If life is a journey, we should carefully choose our destination. Lord Caitanya taught that life's goal should be to return to Goloka Vrndavana, Krsna's eternal abode in the spiritual sky. A journey to the earthly Vrndavana can be a vital part of that greater journey.
A look at who we are, why we read the news,
by Mathuresa Dasa
Reading the newspaper this morning: Officials at the University of Nevada have OK'd a site in Reno for a sheepherder monument. Two young female tourists have drifted ashore in their disabled motorboat near Jakarta, Indonesia, after living for twenty-two days on short rations and rainwater. And Israeli foreign minister Itzhak Shamir has announced plans to release a group of Shiite Moslem prisoners. Some stories are more earthshaking than others, but apparently none of them is worth much. It will all soon be old news, and most papers will lie crumpled in wastebaskets from Jakarta to Reno.
Yet despite the fleeting value of newspaper tidings, we're hooked. Tomorrow millions of us will have our noses buried in the latest editions, again reading all about who did what when, where, and how.
We need to hear about people. That as much accounts for our addiction to the daily papers as does our need to know about events that might directly affect our lives. How does a sheepherder monument affect us anyway? In the papers we find people talking, people fighting, people buying, selling, voting, getting married, dying. It's endless. People make the news. They people the papers.
At least at some point in our lives, each of us, stepping back to survey the overall phenomenon of peopledom, has asked, "What exactly are people?" or "What is a person?" The same question may also arise in the form of "Who am I?" But it must arise, because self-examination is part of being a person.
The Bhagavad-gita declares that out of millions of human beings, one may be serious enough about self-examination to devote full time to the people, or person, question. Perhaps the late Gordon Allport was one such rare soul. In his book Personality: A Psychological Interpretation, he traced the long history of the concepts of personhood and personality and compiled a list of fifty definitions, including one of his own. Even after all that tracing, however, Allport's definition is vague—nothing I'd want to repeat here, nothing to divert your attention from those juicy headlines.
More definitive than Allport's definition was this statement of his:
Personality is one of the most abstract words in our language, and like any abstract word suffering from excessive use, its connotative significance is very broad, its denotative significance negligible.
Allport also quotes F. Max Muller
"Let us consider the word person. Nothing could be more abstract. It is neither male nor female, neither young nor old. In French it may even come to mean nobody. For if we ask our concierge in Paris whether anybody has called on us during our absence, he will reply, 'Personne, monsieur,' which means, 'Not a soul, sir."'
In short, although the terms "person," "personality," and "people" conjure up a lot of things in our minds, nobody can say for sure what a person is. The Gita therefore declares that even among those rare souls who dedicate themselves to the people question, hardly anyone obtains a perfect answer.
So why go to so much trouble? Most of us, after all, are newspaper buffs, not psychologists or etymologists. Why not just accept that persons is what we are, and that one aspect of our personalities, as evidenced by our dependence on a daily dose of newsprint, is the need to hear about other persons? Instead of bothering to define "person," let's go ahead and answer the person question by experiencing our own personhood. Give us action. Give us headlines!
But wait. Not so fast. In the Gita and other Vedic literature, Lord Krsna and the Vedic sages give us both a clear definition of "person" and an elaborate description of how to actively experience our full personhood.
The Gita's first definition is negative: a person is not the material body, not temporary flesh and bone, but an eternal individual who, for now, resides in the fleshly tabernacle, falsely identifying with it. Unlike the body, the person is indestructible and "can never be cut into pieces by any weapon, nor burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by wind" (Bg. 2.23). Our bodies, the Gita points out, change from childhood to old age, but our selves remain the same, observing the changes.
Returning to our daily paper, is this negative definition very practical? The true person, we now understand, is not a sheepherder, not a prime minister, not a young woman adrift in the Indonesian archipelago, but a resident of a particular body with which it falsely identifies. But what does this person look like? What does it do? What can we report about such a negative entity? The true person may be more durable than its bodily abode, but it isn't at all newsworthy. Again, we need action, headlines, positive identification.
So in the Gita Lord Krsna also gives us a positive definition. "All living entities," He says, "are My eternal fragmental parts" (Bg. 15.7). Krsna is the Supreme Person, the Absolute Truth, the origin of everything. All other persons, without exception, are eternally part and parcel of Him, just as leaves are part and parcel of a tree.
Thus the consummate definition of person is "an eternal part of Krsna, the Supreme Person." Since there is nothing beyond Krsna, there is no better definition than this.
What?! But we still don't know what person means. You've only told us who the Supreme Person is and where we stand in relation to Him.
But that is as far as definitions go. So now is the time to abandon definition hunting and get down to the business of experiencing our personhood. And since we are part and parcel of Krsna, the perfection of such experience is to hear about and interact with Him. Hearing about, talking about, remembering, and serving Krsna under the direction of the Vedic literature is known as bhakti-yoga, the science of getting to know the Supreme Person through devotion. As we get to know Krsna, we also understand ourselves, because we are tiny "samples" of Him.
Unlike the "negative person," Krsna and His devotees are supremely newsworthy. The Vedic literature overflows with descriptions of their activities, their fame, their teachings, their beauty, their wealth, their loving dealings. The Gita itself is one chapter in a blow-by-blow account of Krsna's successful bid to establish a peaceful, prosperous, and spiritually productive world community. And since news of Krsna is eternally relevant to every person, you never need to trash it.
So for action, for headlines, we should bury our noses in news of Krsna. Ordinary news gives us an inkling of a person's bodily experiences. But since we are not these bodies, we ought to take more interest in our spiritual potential as Krsna's servants.
Keep those presses rolling. People the papers. But let us hear about the Supreme Person and His devotees.
Christ Is Our Guru
The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place in Bhubanesvara, India, in February 1977.
Devotee: Prabhupada, you have said, "Preaching God's message is a thankless task."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, just look at Jesus Christ—crucified. What was his fault? He was simply teaching God consciousness. Of course, he was not killed. Nobody can kill the Lord's pure devotee.
Devotee: But ungrateful people tried to.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Such a great personality, the son of God. He wanted to deliver God consciousness. And in return, he was crucified. We don't take Jesus Christ as insignificant. We give him all honor. He is a pure representative of God. Of course, he directed his preaching according to time, place, and circumstance, the era and region and people's mentality. In any case, he is a pure representative of God.
Devotee: And he was able to do all his preaching in just three years, too.
Srila Prabhupada: He had so little time to preach—but still, what he did in three years is so wonderful.
Devotee: Yes. He's been world-famous for the last two thousand years.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, it is not a joke. Unless Christ is God's representative, how can he be so enduringly famous? That we know—Christ represents God.
In Melbourne, when a priest asked me, "What is your idea of Jesus Christ?" I told them, "He's our guru." This they very much appreciated. Christ is preaching consciousness of God. So he is our guru, our spiritual master. That's a fact. Don't take him otherwise. He's our guru.
And Christ's name—originally he was called "Jesus of the Christ." Isn't it so?
Srila Prabhupada: Jesus of the Father. Jesus of the Christ. And that Father, that Christ, is Krsna. Christa is simply another pronunciation of Krsna. And of course, from his teachings we can understand that Jesus Christ represents God.
Devotee: Oh, yes. What he was teaching, what he was giving to his original disciples—he gave them examples like, "The birds are not worrying about their food. And yet God is supplying all their wants. So why should you worry about your food or other needs? Simply follow God's laws and teach others to do the same. God is feeding the birds. Do you think He will not feed you?"
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, he said that, didn't he? That's a fact. That is our mission: simple living and high thinking. No need for such a big bombastic economic arrangement. Depend on God's natural economic arrangements—the earth's produce and the cow's milk. And the main thing, use your priceless human life for becoming God conscious.
Devotee: So Christ was a pure devotee of God, teaching devotional principles.
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes. Sometimes people make propaganda that Christ may have eaten fish or even meat. But even if this were true, it would only have been because nothing else was available, not because he wanted to eat such abominable things for his own personal sense gratification. If nothing else were available, what could be done?
It is not that in your America—with such bountiful grains and nuts and milk and cheese—you can keep slaughterhouses and daily kill millions of poor animals on the plea of "protein," or "Christ may have eaten this." That is rascaldom.
Devotee: And because it wasn't always easy to get fresh water, people in those days used to drink a very cheap wine that was hardly alcoholic at all. Really it was just mildly fermented grape juice. They used to drink this because there was often very little fresh water.
Srila Prabhupada: Not that they made the plea, "Now we shall drink bottle after bottle of strong wine and beer and liquor and intoxicate ourselves, since Christ may have taken some grape juice."
Anyone who is preaching the Lord's glories—he is a bona fide guru or spiritual master. So how can these people today take Christ so lightly? The Vedas say, tad vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet: "Only a bona fide spiritual master can impart the Supreme Truth." Now, Christ imparted the Supreme Truth to the whole world. So how could he do this unless he is a bona fide spiritual master?
Devotee: Yes. Really we have a much better appreciation of Christ than some of his nominal followers ...
Srila Prabhupada: Better. Yes. Oh, yes.
Devotee: ... because we know that we can't just shrug him off as "God's sacrificial lamb" and use him as an excuse to go on sinning.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, if Christ is a bona fide representative of God, a true spiritual master, then we must strictly follow his instructions. So my disciples are the greatest Christians. We accept Christ as our spiritual master—we follow his instructions.
Now, if the Christians want to be reformed, we can help them reform. On the basis of the Bible, we can help them reform. There is no difficulty. Most of my disciples come from the Christian group. So the Christians can reform; they can return to following God's laws. And the Bible also recommends chanting God's holy names—the Lord's glories. This age is most degraded. So the best way to spiritual success and happiness live your life in the Lord's glories.
ISKCON Adds a Center in Thailand,
Bangkok—Hare Krishna Food for Life now makes trips to the Thai-Cambodia border here to feed Cambodian refugees. Also underway is a weekly program of food distribution at orphanages and schools.
Recently, the devotees opened a preaching center and invited Phawin Ransibrahmanakul, the head priest to the royal family, to be the honored guest. An adjunct to the established temple, the new center will serve especially as a place for dinners with businessmen, administrators, and scholars.
Devotees here are increasing their distribution of literature with the reprinting of Thai editions of Srila Prabhupada's Beyond Birth and Death and The Golden Avatar.
Church Advised to Follow the Devotees
Sydney—Dianne Feeney, a guest speaker at a national conference here of Catholic clergy, told the assembly that if they wanted to counteract the decline in the number of Catholics, they had better take to the streets, as the members of the Hare Krsna movement do.
Catholic leaders in Australia have expressed much concern that young people often have a negative view of orthodox faiths, seeing them as "irrelevant" and "too institutionalized." Feeney, who is the academic dean of the Churches of Christ Theological College, spoke in favor of a new approach.
"Eastern religions like the Hare Krsna movement," said Feeney, "are getting out into the street where young people are.... They meet them in their own territory and accept them in their own territory, then set out to reform certain types of behavior and inculcate a certain moral code."
Ms. Feeney also presented findings that twenty-five percent of the Australians accept the idea of reincarnation.
Devotees Feed Quake Victimes in Mexico
The earthquakes in Mexico City in September left unscathed two ISKCON centers. Devotees at Centro Cultural Govinda distibuted prasadam (food offered to Krsna) to thousands of the homeless.
by Satyaraja dasa
According to a recent article in The New York Times, paleoanthropology is "a science long on dramatic assertions and short on sure knowledge. Paleoanthropology draws upon the rigorous disciplines of anatomy and geology but includes so much room for conjecture that theories of how man came to be tend to tell more about their author than their subject." In other words, science and fiction have merged. But for some time now the merger has been passed off as reality.
The Times points out that despite almost one hundred years of research in evolution, paleoanthropologists have not given us a clear understanding of man and his origins. The book Missing Links is cited: "[Modern paleoanthropologists] are no less likely to cling to erroneous data that support their preconceptions than were earlier investigators."
The Times offers a sound explanation for the lack of scientific objectivity, explaining that "some theories attract more material support than others.... The finder of a new skull often seems to redraw the family tree of man, with his discovery on the center line that leads to man and everyone else's skulls on side lines leading nowhere." Despite generous funding, says the Times, "most of the evidence would fit on a billiard table."
Aside from monetary gain, there is a more subtle reason for contrived scientific conclusions and forced conceptions of man and the universe. In Evolution from Space, noted British astronomers Sir Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe assert that the chances of life's arising from some ancient random mixing of chemicals are so "outrageously small" as to be absurd "even if the whole universe consisted of organic soup." The incensed authors are amazed that although the situation is well known to geneticists, evolutionists, and paleoanthropologists, nobody seems concerned enough to "blow the whistle decisively on the false theories."
Hoyle and Wickramasinghe explain why: "If Darwinism were not considered socially desirable ... [the situation] would of course be otherwise." But when an entire society "becomes committed to a particular set of concepts, educational continuity makes it exceedingly hard to change the pattern." They conclude by offering an astute observation: "You either have to believe the concepts or you will be branded a heretic." Evolutionists thus fear that any retreat would "open the floodgates of irrationalism." In other words, even cracking the door to the only possible alternative creation by a higher intelligence-would force scientists to face all the issues that such a conclusion implies.
Those issues are elaborately dealt with in the many books of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder and spiritual master of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Thoughtful people should fully research these books. Then it will become obvious that the popular assumption that life can be fully explained through material laws is unfounded and unscientific.
From Four Legs to Forearms
by Drutakarma dasa
Scientists who believe in evolution despise nothing more than the suggestion that an intelligent designer could be responsible for the variety of living beings we see around us. They insist that the only logical explanation is that all living beings have developed from a common single-celled ancestor. But some of their arguments against design are transparently ridiculous.
One such argument appeared in a recent issue of Discover magazine. In words dripping with scorn, the author declared, "Careful study of living creatures reveals innumerable features that would never exist if species had been designed exnihilo, as the creationists claim.... A fish's fin, the flipper of a penguin or porpoise, the leg of a lizard or lamb, the wing of a bird or bat, and the well-shaped forearm of Sophia Loren: each is used for its own distinct purpose, yet all share the same basic arrangement of bones."
Comparing Sophia Loren and the fish, the author says that "there's no way, if evolution hadn't occurred, that her arm would have had any internal resemblance to a fish's. The similarity of anatomy is evidence of evolution: the fish's forelimb and Sophia's show a common ancestry."
How many people have read that passage and uncritically accepted this patently false line of reasoning? Perhaps many millions. But a simple truth is apparent: similarity of structures can also be taken as evidence for an intelligent designer.
Let's consider an example. Over the past century, the first automobiles have spawned a number of offspring. There are tractors, buses, high-performance sports cars, stretch limos, military vehicles that scurry along the seabeds, and more. All of them have similar mechanical anatomies. Yet all of them were independently designed. An intelligent engineer would not find it necessary to literally reinvent the wheel every time he designed a variation of the original motorcar. So it is quite possible that God could have come up with a basic structure for a forelimb and modified it in various ways in the design of the different bodily forms.
The idea of design rather than evolution fits in well with the fossil record, which fails to show the myriad transitional forms that would lead from a fish to Sophia Loren. George Gaylord Simpson, one of the leading figures in modern evolutionary theory, noted that fossil evidence shows all thirty-two orders of mammals appear on the scene fully developed. "This regular absence of transitional forms," he said, "is not confined to mammals, but is an almost universal phenomenon, as has long been noted by paleontologists." Some evolutionists have made some very creative suggestions for getting around this difficulty, but all in all there is to date no compelling reason to exclude intelligent design as an explanation for the origin of species.
The Vedic scriptures of India are clear on this point. Srila Prabhupada, in his commentary on the Srimad-Bhagavatam, states, "Various types of living entities were created simultaneously at the very beginning of creation. The nonsensical Darwinian theory of evolution is not applicable here."
by Mathuresa dasa
The military-industrial complex is alive and well in the United States. Experts estimate that President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative program (SDI), better known as Star Wars, will spend upwards of $1 trillion to research and build a space shield impregnable to nuclear attack.
Top corporations are heroically lending a hand. For a price, of course. Boeing gets $131 million, TRW $57 million, and Lockheed $33 million for Star Wars projects this year. AT&T eagerly offered to develop a lightning-quick battle-management computer system but, to its great disappointment, was turned down. "No competitive high-tech company can afford not to be a part of SDI," says Wolfgang Demisch, an analyst at the First Boston investment firm.
To describe the functioning of SDI, the term "military-industrial complex" is apt but incomplete. According to India's Vedic literature, human society has four principal classes: the military class, the industrial or business class, the intellectual class, and the worker class. Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, created these four classes when He created human society, so in analyzing any social phenomenon we should look for all four. In the social body, the intellectual class is the head, the military class the arms. The business class is the stomach of society, nourishing the social body by putting bread on the table. And the worker class acts as the legs of the social body, assisting the other three classes. "Military-industrial" indicates only the arms and the stomach. Aren't the legs and head important too?
Sure enough, to make the Star Wars dream come true, SDI is counting heavily on the intellectual community for scientific breakthroughs. Thus high-tech corporations aren't alone in scurrying for SDI dollars. Scientists from Carnegie-Mellon and eight other institutions have landed a $9 million SDI contract, and a consortium of five universities has accepted $19 million to develop a power system for space weapons. The intellectual community also has its finger in the Star Wars pie-in-the-sky.
The worker class too has vested interests. It will directly benefit from the billions of dollars pumped into the industries for which it works. An old story repeats itself: It was the heavy demands on U.S. industry made by the U.S. and Allied armed forces during World War II that finally pulled the U.S. economy out of the Great Depression, sent millions of workers back to work, and prompted Charles E. Wilson, head of General Electric, to comment in 1944 that what the country needed was "a permanent war economy." Not to disappoint Mr. Wilson, Star Wars continues the tradition.
Petitions are circulating at many university campuses to block Star Wars research. Fifty-three physics professors at the University of Illinois have signed a statement condemning the SDI program as "deeply misguided, dangerous, and enormously expensive" and pointing out that space weapons research will only escalate the arms race.
Despite this warning from a part of the "head"—the intellectual class—the social body is charging forward into Star Wars. Much of the intellectual class has fallen for the lure of research contracts and is therefore encouraging, not warning against, space research. "The only ones who complain about money being thrown around are those who are not in the way of the money," says astrophysicist James Jonson, an SDI staff member. Like businessmen and corporations, many professors and universities believe that the first purpose of life is to put more bread on the table, and that they must therefore compete for SDI grants to survive. The social body appears to be quite a goon: a big stomach and hardly any brains.
The Vedic literature urges the intellectual community to research the possibilities of spiritual advancement through self-realization and devotional service to the Absolute Truth, Lord Krsna, and to teach the principles of self-realization to society at large. With the consciousness of all four social orders thus directed up toward spiritual objectives, rather than down toward the stomach, the present goony social body will tend to be less gluttonous over the Star-Wars pie and more inclined toward clear-headed planning for our national security.
Living naturally, studying the basics, cultivating
by Visakha-devi dasi
Rama-prasada's father earns ten rupees (eighty-five cents) a day as a farm laborer. He and his wife live in Narasimhapoli and regularly cross the river near their home to visit their six-year-old son in the Sri Mayapur gurukula. They're happy that Rama is studying English and other academics and is becoming a good singer. As Rama says, "If I wasn't in gurukula, I'd just play all day until I was old enough to work with my father in the fields."
Dilip Saraf's father is a life member of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) who owns four nylon thread factories. He and his wife weren't satisfied with Dilip's progress in private school, so they sent him to the Mayapur gurukula for education.
Nineteen-year-old Krsna-bhakti has been in the gurukula since 1975. His eighty year-old father is retired. Krsna-bhakti has learned fluent English and is in charge of the gurukula's kitchen, overseeing the accounting, marketing, menu planning, and supply inventory. When he graduates next year, he plans to become either an assistant teacher in the school or an assistant manager in the temple.
Krsna-bhakti, Dilip, and Rama-prasada, as well as some ninety other boys of diverse ages, economic circumstances, and cultural backgrounds (Europe, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Australia, and North and South America), live together in Mayapur's gurukula, a cluster of thirteen thatched-roof earth-and-bamboo cottages. The school is part of ISKCON's Mayapur Chandrodaya Mandir complex, located near the junction of the Ganges and Jalangi rivers, ninety miles north of Calcutta.
"This is a natural way to live," Anirdesya, the school's good-natured, lanky principal, told me as we sat on a raised earthen platform on the veranda of the cottage he shares with the older students. The sweet atmosphere and natural beauty of the cottage made me feel at home. As I peered out from where I sat beneath the low overhang of the thatched roof, I was inspired by the serene vista of lush, verdant fields stretching into the distance, bathed in the morning sunlight.
"When you use a hand pump," Anirdesya said, "you'll find the water warm in the morning and cool in the afternoon. No need for a boiler, and no trouble with breakdowns. And these traditional cottages are made entirely with local materials, so they're easy to maintain. They're also warm in the winter and cool in the summer. We don't need heaters or fans." The quaint, rustic cottages were utterly practical. And quite inviting. Especially when I compared them to the cold concrete room I'd been staying in during my four month visit to Mayapur; daily I experienced aggravations from mechanical and electrical problems with the room's modern "conveniences." I thought, "Next time I come to Mayapur, I'd prefer to stay in a cottage like this."
"We purposely preserved this relaxed, natural atmosphere," Anirdesya continued, "to help the children imbibe the transcendental culture of Krsna consciousness. Ours is a spiritual culture based on a devotional mood of service to Krsna. The activities of Lord Krsna's pure devotees spring from this mood and are expressed in many art forms.
"Lord Caitanya taught that this transcendental culture is already within the heart of every living being. It is not artificially taught or imposed from without but must simply be uncovered, or evoked, by the purifying process of bhakti-yoga.
"To this end, each child in our school, in addition to taking standard academic courses, practices bhakti-yoga, just as Lord Caitanya exemplified in His own life. And we encourage each child to develop in his particular field of interest and to offer his activity to Lord Krsna with devotion.
"Everyone has a natural genius in some particular activity. You or I, for instance, couldn't mend shoes as well as a cobbler. However seemingly exalted or lowly one's propensity is, if it's allowed to flourish, it gives rise to a satisfying and practical way to awaken one's love for Krsna."
As we sat talking, the boys kept coming to Anirdesya for their assignments mrdanga (clay drum) lessons, bhajana (devotional singing) classes, preparing for the daily fire sacrifice, cleaning, and so on. The academic term had just ended, and the boys were preparing for the thirteenth annual Mayapur pilgrimage festival, which draws hundreds of devotees from around the world. On the desk in front of Anirdesya were many sheets of paper, neatly arranged in rows. Each sheet bore a particular boy's name, class schedule, and new duties. Gradually Anirdesya became busy counseling and directing students.
In the meantime, I studied the school's course offerings and spoke to a number of students. Dilip Sarif told me how he wakes up at 4 A.M. along with all the other boys, bathes, dresses, and attends mangala-arati in the temple. After that he has time for mantra meditation and some gardening before a class in spiritual philosophy at seven. There's- a big breakfast at eight, and from nine to twelve o'clock (during the school term), he has classes in math, Hindi, English, and natural science. By the time he washes his clothes and bathes, it's time for lunch. In the afternoon he attends geography and history classes, has a two-hour break to play with his friends, and goes to the evening temple program. Before bedtime there's hot milk and fresh homemade bread. On the weekends, when many guests come to the temple, Dilip helps in the gift store, and when the next school term starts in a month, he'll be adding the management course to his schedule. While other students, like Rama-prasada, are sponsored by a devotee, and still others, like Krsna-bhakti, receive a full scholarship from ISKCON, Dilip's parents pay for his education.
Dilip is ten years old; he's in the primary level educational program. The secondary level, for twelve-year-olds and up, is called Varnasrama College. Varna refers to the four occupational divisions inherent within every human society: intellectuals, administrators, businessmen, and laborers (although they may not be so distinctly defined). And asrama refers to the four spiritual divisions of society: celibate students, householders, retirees, and renunciants.
The boys twelve and over may either continue a full academic schedule or begin vocational training. "At first a teenager will want to do everything," Anirdesya told me. "He'll sign up for fifty classes, and gradually, by trying them one after another, he'll realize there are only two or three he wants to pursue seriously. Just like when we opened the martial arts course, half the school signed up for the first term. The second term the enrollment dropped to fifteen. And that's where it has remained, because those fifteen boys are suited to it. They're steady and enthusiastic.
"The boys gravitate toward their own specialty," Anirdegya continued, "just as a hungry man gravitates toward food. They may not be able to analyze their psychophysical conditioning, but they find what they like to do and keep at it." He said that he keeps an open mind about which extracurricular activities a student should take, and he's often surprised to see a boy doing well in an activity he would have thought unsuitable for him.
The gurukula students in Mayapur are preparing for their future roles in society by performing simple character-building austerities and cultivating qualities like honesty and compassion. "This self-control, combined with varied spiritual engagements, is ideal for awakening one's spiritual consciousness," Anirdesya said. "In later years these students will be satisfied, because they'll be doing what they always wanted to do for Krsna."
Srila Prabhupada established Mayapur as the world headquarters of ISKCON and as "a world center for teaching spiritual life." He wanted to fulfill his spiritual predecessors' vision of a spiritual city here in the holy place of Lord Caitanya's birth. He wanted to show the world how material and spiritual life can be harmonized for the advantage of everyone. His followers, both in Mayapur and around the world, are working toward that goal. Certainly graduates of the Mayapur Varnasrama College will have plenty of engagement in planning, constructing, and maintaining this international transcendental city.
Srila Prabhupada once noted how the Mayapur students saw all their activities—whether soccer, sweeping, or Sanskrit—as fun. He said this was the proper attitude: a devotee does any service for Krsna and sees it as transcendental recreation.
The Mayapur gurukula students I spoke with were in many ways like any other students. Some wanted to be teachers, some managers, some computer programmers, tailors, electricians, and so on (all of which will be needed in the Mayapur city). But there was one big difference: these students wanted to perfect their particular service for pleasing Lord Krsna and their guru.
Guru (as in gurukula) refers, of course, to the spiritual master, the representative of God. Kula means "place." Gurukula, therefore, is the place where the spiritual master teaches his students how to attain freedom from the cycle of birth and death. The spiritual master must be expert in training his students, regardless of their social or occupational status, as exemplary citizens, ever mindful of the purpose of human life. This is the business of gurukula. This is the culture of the soul.
My spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, would always close his letters to his disciples with the phrase "Hoping this meets you in good health. . . ." Of course, everyone wishes good health to those they love. But what actually constitutes good health? There are many different opinions.
For years Americans have heard that a balanced diet trust include meat. The National Academy of Sciences has long recommended minimum daily requirements of vitamins and minerals. But controversy abounds. Recently the Academy advised lower recommendations. The American Heart Association advocates stricter dietary controls. Evidence from the American Medical Association linking a vegetarian diet to better health prompted the treat and dairy industy to advocate a slackening of government supervision of diet.
It isn't surprising that in the face of today's many divergent views on health the public takes its own course. Time and time again we engage in activities that we know are hazardous to our health. As' psychiatrist Norman Tamarkin attests, "We don't take care of ourselves, we drug ourselves, we overeat, we don't exercise enough; It's bound to have a depressing effect. It generally lessens our resistance to emotional stresses as well as physical viruses."
To live a satisfying life in perfect health is possible, but one must have actual knowledge of the body and the soul and of the purpose of health. This knowledge is given in the Vedic literature. By turning to the Vedas, we can go beyond the confusion caused by shortsighted views of health and happiness.
In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna; the Supreme Personality of Godhead, explains that although we are eternal by nature, we are presently dwelling inside temporary material bodies. It is by ignorance and illusion only that we accept the body, which is so prone to disease and discomfort, to be our self.
To render loving devotional service to Krsna is the ultimate goal of life, and it is toward that end only that we should maintain good health. To remain fit in body and mind in order to better practice Krsna consciousness is the ultimate purpose of health. We should not keep healthy just so we can better enjoy sex or gain an edge on our business competitors. Rather than pursue those shortterm, illusory pleasures, we should keep healthy for the pleasure of Krsna.
Essential to health is diet. But whose authority are we to trust when it comes to selecting a diet? In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna describes various diets and their effects.
Everything in the material world, Lord Krsna explains, acts under the influence of three factors, or forces, known as the three modes of material nature. These three modes—goodness, passion, and ignorance—and their interactions create the great variety of thoughts, feelings, and sensory perceptions that we experience in material consciousness. Just as the three primary colors—yellow, red, and blue—combine to produce all other colors, so the three modes of material nature—goodness, passion, and ignorance—combine to create all the varieties, gradations, and nuances of our experience. And that includes diet.
In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna explains, "Foods in the mode of goodness increase the duration of life, purify one's existence, and give strength, health, happiness, and satisfaction" (Bg. 17.8). These palatable and nourishing foods include grains, milk products, fruits, and vegetables. Foods that are overly bitter, sour, salty, dry, or hot are in the mode of passion. These foods disturb the mind and cause disease. We also read, "Food cooked more than three hours before being eaten, which is tasteless, stale, putrid, decomposed, and unclean, is enjoyed by people in the mode of ignorance."
In commenting on these verses, Srila Prabhupada writes, "The purpose of food is to increase the duration of life, purify the mind, and aid bodily strength. This is its only purpose."
So we should not eat just to gratify our tongues; rather, we should eat to have strength and vitality for serving Krsna. This is a very important factor in maintaining health. And the foods that give the most vitality are those which maybe eaten in natural form, such as fruits and vegetables prepared in salads or lightly steamed. (It is best to eat sparingly of fried foods and sweets.) By dieting according to Krsna's instructions, we can best appreciate the purpose of eating. And of course everything one eats should first be offered to Krsna.
Good health results naturally when we live and eat in a regulated, spiritual lifestyle. When the mind is filled with spiritual thought and is thus free from greed and envy, the body will naturally be healthy and lustrous. The ancient sage Kardama Muni exhibited such a state of health even while practicing severe physical austerities:
His body shone most brilliantly, though he had engaged in austere penance for a long time. He was not emaciated, for the Lord had cast His affectionate sidelong glance upon him, and he had also heard the nectar flowing from the moonlike words of the Lord. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.21.45-47)
Devotees practicing Krsna consciousness today enjoy similar health. Srila Prabhupada, in Krsna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, describes the benefits of Krsna consciousness to mental and physical health as follows:
We have practical experience of this with our students in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Before becoming students, they were dirty-looking, although they had naturally beautiful personal features; but due to having no information of Krsna consciousness, they appeared very dirty and wretched. Since they have taken to Krsna consciousness,' their health has improved, and by following the rules and regulations, their bodily luster has increased.
Good health is the natural condition of the body, as is Krsna consciousness, and as one practices bhakti yoga, one's health improves naturally. By chanting Hare Krsna and by avoiding sinful habits such as meat-eating, intoxication, illicit sex, and gambling, one can achieve far better results than he would by any concocted health program.—SDG