Five thousand years ago, Lord Krsna taught
A lecture in New York in March 1968
There is no difference between the teachings of Lord Caitanya and the teachings of Lord Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita. The teachings of Lord Caitanya are practical demonstrations of Lord Krsna's teachings. Lord Krsna's ultimate instruction in the Bhagavad-gita is that everyone should surrender unto Him, Lord Krsna. Krsna promises to take immediate charge of such a surrendered soul.
The Lord, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is already in charge of the maintenance of this creation by virtue of His plenary expansion, Ksirodakasayi Visnu, but this maintenance is not direct. However, when the Lord says that He takes charge of His pure devotee, He actually takes direct charge. A pure devotee is a soul who is forever surrendered to the Lord, just as a child is surrendered to his parents or an animal to its master.
In the surrendering process, one should: (1) accept things favorable for discharging devotional service, (2) reject things unfavorable, (3) believe firmly in the Lord's protection, (4) feel exclusively dependent on the mercy of the Lord, (5) have no interest separate from the Lord's interest, and (6) always feel oneself meek and humble.
The Lord demands that one surrender unto Him by following these six guidelines, but the unintelligent scholars of the world misunderstand these demands and urge the general mass of people to reject them. At the end of the Ninth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita, Krsna directly says, "Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, become My devotee, offer obeisances to Me, and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me" [Bg. 9.34]. But the scholarly demons misguide the masses of people by directing them to the impersonal, unmanifest, eternal, unborn truth rather than the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The impersonalistic, Mayavada philosophers don't accept that the ultimate aspect of the Absolute Truth is the Personality of Godhead.
If one desires to understand the sun as it is, one must first face the sunshine, then enter the sun globe, and, after entering into that globe, come face to face with the sun's predominating deity. Due to a poor fund of knowledge, the Mayavada philosophers cannot go beyond the Brahman effulgence, which may be compared to the sunshine. The Upanisads confirm that one has to penetrate the dazzling effulgence of Brahman before one can see the real face of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Lord Caitanya therefore teaches direct worship of Lord Krsna, who appeared as the foster child of the king of Vraja. Lord Caitanya also suggests that the place known as Vrndavana is as good as Lord Krsna because there is no difference between Lord Krsna's name, quality, form, pastimes, entourage, and paraphernalia and Lord Krsna Himself. That is the absolute nature of the Absolute Truth.
Lord Caitanya also recommended that the highest mode of worship in the highest perfectional stage is the method practiced by the damsels of Vraja. These damsels (gopis, or cowherd girls) simply loved Krsna without a motive for material or spiritual gain. Lord Caitanya also recommended the Srimad-Bhagavatam as the spotless narration of transcendental knowledge, and He said that the highest goal in life is to develop unalloyed love for Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Lord Caitanya's teachings are identical to those given by Lord Kapila, the original propounder of sankhya-yoga, the sankhya system of philosophy. This authorized system of yoga recommends meditation on the transcendental form of Lord Visnu even without practicing involved sitting postures. Such meditation is called perfect samadhi. This perfect samadhi is verified in Bhagavad-gita, where Lord Krsna says, "And of all yogis, the one with great faith who always abides in Me, thinks of Me within himself, and renders transcendental loving service to Me—he is most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all. That is my opinion" [Bg. 6.47].
Lord Caitanya instructed the mass of people in the sankhya philosophy of acintya-bhedabheda-tattva, which maintains that the Supreme Lord is simultaneously one with and different from His creation. Lord Caitanya taught this philosophy through the chanting of the holy name of the Lord. He taught that the holy name of the Lord is the sound incarnation of the Lord and that since the Lord is the absolute whole, there is no difference between His holy name and His transcendental form. Thus by chanting the holy name of the Lord one can directly associate with the Supreme Lord by sound vibration.
As one practices this sound vibration, he passes through three stages of development: the offensive stage, the clearing stage, and the transcendental stage. In the offensive stage one may desire all kinds of material happiness, but in the second stage one becomes clear of all material contamination. When one is situated on the transcendental stage, he attains the most coveted position—the stage of loving God. Lord Caitanya taught that this is the highest perfection of human life.
Yoga practice is essentially meant for controlling the senses. The central controlling factor of all the senses is the mind; therefore one first has to practice controlling the mind by engaging it in, Krsna consciousness. The gross activities of the mind are expressed through the external senses either for the acquisition of knowledge or the functioning of the senses in accordance with the will. The subtle activities of the mind are thinking, feeling, and willing. In accordance with one's consciousness, the individual is either polluted or clear. If one's mind is fixed on Krsna (His name, quality, form, pastimes, entourage, and paraphernalia), all one's activities—both subtle and gross—become favorable. The Bhagavad-gita's process of purifying consciousness is the process of fixing the mind on Krsna by talking of His transcendental activities, cleansing His temple, going to His temple, seeing the beautiful forms of the Lord nicely decorated, hearing His transcendental glories, tasting food offered to Him, engaging in activities for the Lord's interest, and so on. No one can bring the activities of the mind and senses to a stop, but one can purify these activities through a change in consciousness. This change is indicated in the Bhagavad-gita when Krsna tells Arjuna of the knowledge of yoga whereby one can work without fruitive results. "O son of Prtha, when you act by such intelligence, you can free yourself from the bondage to works" [Bg. 2.39]. A human being is some times restricted in sense gratification due to certain circumstances such as disease, but this kind of renunciation will not help. Without knowing the actual process 'by which the mind and senses can be controlled, less intelligent men either try to stop the mind and senses by force, or they give in to them and are carried away by the waves of sense gratification.
The regulative principles and the rules of yoga, the various sitting postures, and breathing exercises performed in an attempt to withdraw one's senses from the sense objects, are methods meant for those who are too engrossed in the bodily conception of life. The intelligent man who is situated in Krsna consciousness does not try to forcibly stop his senses from acting. Rather, he engages his senses in the service of Krsna. No one can stop a child from playing by leaving him inactive. A child can be stopped from engaging in nonsense by being engaged in superior activities. The forceful restraint of sense activities by the eight principles of yoga is recommended for inferior men. Being engaged in the superior activities of Krsna consciousness, superior men naturally retire from the inferior activities of material existence.
In this way Lord Caitanya teaches the science of Krsna consciousness. That science is absolute. Dry mental speculators try to restrain themselves from material attachment, but they generally find that the mind is too strong to be controlled and that it drags them down to sensual activities. A person in Krsna consciousness does not run this risk. One has to engage his mind and senses in Krsna conscious activities, and Lord Caitanya teaches one how to do this in practice.
Before taking sannyasa (the renounced order), Lord Caitanya was known as Visvambhara. The word visvambhara refers to one who maintains the entire universe and who leads all living entities. This maintainer and leader appeared as Lord Sri Krsna Caitanya to give humanity these sublime teachings. Lord Caitanya is the ideal teacher of life's prime necessities. He is the most munificent bestower of love of Krsna. He is the complete reservoir of all mercies and good fortune.
As confirmed in Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita, Mahabharata, and the Upanisads, He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna Himself, and He is worshipable by everyone in this age of disagreement. Everyone can join in His sankirtana movement. No prior qualification is necessary. Just by following His teachings, anyone can become a perfect human being. If one is fortunate enough to be attracted by His features, one is sure to be successful in one's mission in life. In other words, those who are interested in attaining spiritual existence can be easily released from the clutches of maya by the grace of Lord Caitanya. The Lord's teachings are nondifferent from Him.
Being engrossed in the material body, the conditioned soul increases the pages of history by all kinds of material activities. The teachings of Lord Caitanya can help human society stop such unnecessary and temporary activities. By these teachings, humanity can be elevated to the topmost platform of spiritual activity. These spiritual activities actually begin after liberation from material bondage. Such liberated activities in Krsna consciousness constitute the goal of human perfection. The false prestige one acquires by attempting to dominate material nature is illusory. Illuminating knowledge can be acquired from the teachings of Lord Caitanya, and by such knowledge one can advance in spiritual existence.
Everyone has to suffer or enjoy the fruits of his activity; no one can check the laws of material nature, which govern such things. As long as one is engaged in fruitive activity, he is sure to be baffled in his attempt to attain the ultimate goal of life. I sincerely hope that by understanding the teachings of Lord Caitanya, human society will experience a new light of spiritual life that will open the field of activity for the pure soul.
Inviting the Lord to Dinner
"If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf,
by Visakha-devi dasi
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu spent the first twenty-four years of His earthly pastimes in Navadvipa, West Bengal, where He played the perfect child, student, scholar, and householder. At the end of His twenty-fourth year, He entered the renounced order (sannyasa), completely dedicating Himself to the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna. Of course, Lord Caitanya was Krsna Himself, playing the part of a pure devotee; He was, therefore, already perfect and did not require to enter the renounced order. This was His transcendental pastime.
Sacidevi, the Lord's beloved mother, was grief-stricken by her son's renunciation. Of course, she wanted her divine son to fulfill His spiritual mission, but the thought of being separated from Him was unbearable. To resolve this problem, she requested Him to make His headquarters at Puri, a city in Orissa on the Bay of Bengal. There He would be unfettered by family ties, but because people frequently traveled between Navadvipa and Puri, Sacidevi would often hear of His activities.
Thus, although the Lord and His mother were apparently separated by hundreds of miles, strong transcendental love united them. Lord Caitanya once explained this to a devotee in Puri who was about to return to Navadvipa. The Lord spoke as follows (Sri Caitanya-caritamrta):
Take this prasadam [food offered to the Deity of Lord Jagannatha] and this cloth and deliver them to My mother, Sacidevi. I am subordinate to the love of My mother, and it is My duty to serve her in return. I am staying here in Jagannatha Puri to comply with her orders. However, at intervals I shall go to see her. Indeed, I go there daily to see her. She is able to feel My presence, although she does not believe it to be true.
Atheists and impersonalists, who think that the Supreme Lord is nonexistent or has no senses, cannot understand this pastime. To them it is simply mythology. But in actuality, Lord Caitanya's pastimes are transcendental and thus inconceivable to mundane philosophers.
The Lord promises in the Bhagavad-gita that "If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it." He is not speaking metaphorically. Because He is absolute, His hearing, seeing, and smelling are wholly identical with His eating and tasting. In other words, His senses are interchangeable: one sense can perform the function of any other. Therefore, when food is offered to the Lord with love, the Lord may physically eat the food, as He did for His exalted mother Sacidevi. Or He may eat simply by hearing the sincere prayers of His devotee or simply by glancing at the food on the plate or by smelling the aroma. In any case, the fortunate devotee who makes an offering of love directly relishes the Lord's association, just as the Lord directly relishes the love of His devotee.
Sacidevi is not an ordinary devotee, and we cannot imitate her ecstatic emotions or her intense and pure love of God. But we can follow her example. We can prepare vegetarian dishes that the Lord enjoys, offer them to Him, meditate on Him, and hope to please Him with our humble effort. If our attempt is serious and sincere—wherever and whoever we are—the Lord will surely come, for He is not hindered by time, place, circumstance, or any other material condition.
When the simple, transcendental ingredients of love and devotion are in the offering, Lord Caitanya is present. A cook can know no greater reward.
(Recipes from The Hare Krishna Book of Vegetarian Cooking, by Adi-raja dasa)
Bengali Mixed Vegetable Stew
Preparation and cooking time: 35 minutes
5 medium-size potatoes, peeled and diced
1. Heat the ghee or oil in a nonstick saucepan over a medium flame. Toss in the mustard seeds, chilies, bay leaves, and fenugreek seeds. Cover the pan to prevent the mustard seeds from jumping out. When the mustard seeds stop sputtering and the fenugreek seeds darken, add the anise seeds and ground cumin. Then immediately put in the diced potatoes. Turn the potatoes for about 8 minutes, until golden brown on all sides. Add more ghee if needed. Then add the squash and eggplant. Keep cooking and stirring for 5 more minutes.
2. Next add the peas or green beans along with the water, and cover. Cook over a medium-low flame, stirring gently every 5 minutes or so. After 15 minutes, add the sugar and salt, stir to mix, and cook slowly on the same low flame until the vegetables are tender and the sauce is thick.
3. Before offering to Krsna, garnish each portion with a lemon wedge and parsley sprig.
Cauliflower, Potato, and Curd Stew
(Alu phul gobhi paneer sabji )
Preparation and cooking time: 30 minutes
1 tablespoon ghee or vegetable oil
1. Peel and cube the potatoes, and cube the paneer. Then wash and trim the cauliflower, and cut into flowerets.
2. Heat the ghee or oil in a medium-sized saucepan over a medium flame. Toss in the mustard seeds and cover the pot. When the seeds finish popping, add the chilies, ginger, and bay leaves. Stir for 30 seconds. Now stir in the powdered spices—except for the garam masala—and immediately add the water. Bring to a rapid boil; then lower the flame and simmer gently.
3. While this liquid masala is simmering, deep-fry separately the potato cubes and the paneer cubes until they are golden brown. Then drain them. Now deep-fry the cauliflower flowerets until lightly browned and partially cooked. Put the cauliflower into the liquid masala, cover, and cook over a low flame. After 5 minutes, lift the cover, drop in the fried potatoes and paneer cubes, stir once, and cook for 2 or 3 minutes more, until all the ingredients are heated thoroughly.
4. Season with the salt and garam masala, and sprinkle in the fresh coriander or parsley leaves. Mix and offer to Krsna hot.
Peas and Curd in Tomato Sauce
Preparation and cooking time: 25 minutes
8 ounces paneer (curd)
1. Chop the tomatoes.
2. Knead the paneer well until it is smooth and soft, and then form it into grape-size balls. Deep-fry the paneer balls in ghee or vegetable oil until they are crisp and golden brown. Remove them from the ghee with a slotted spoon and drop them into a solution of 3 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons turmeric, and 2 cups warm water or whey. Let them soak.
3. In a medium-size saucepan, heat the 2 tablespoons of ghee over a medium flame. Then add the cumin seeds, followed by the minced chilies and grated ginger. When the cumin seeds are brown (in about 30 to 45 seconds), toss in the asafetida and, a few seconds later, the peas. Now add the water, cover the pan, and cook the peas until tender. Then add the tomatoes and curd balls, and cook over the same medium flame for 5 more minutes.
4. Just before offering to Krsna, add a generous squeeze of lemon, and season with the remaining salt and the garam masala.
Fried Cabbage and Potatoes
(Bandgobhi alu sabji)
Preparation and cooking time: 30 minutes
1 pound cabbage (a small head)
1. Wash the cabbage, shred it, and let it drain. With an electric coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle, grind the cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon stick into a powder and set aside.
2. Peel and cube the potatoes, and cut each tomato into 8 wedges.
3. In a nonstick saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons of the ghee or vegetable oil over a moderate flame. Put the cubed potatoes in the pan and stir-fry them, scraping the bottom of the pan frequently, until they are lightly browned. Remove them from the pan and set them aside.
4. Put the remaining 2 tablespoons of ghee or vegetable oil in the same saucepan and stir-fry the grated ginger. Add the cayenne pepper and turmeric, and continue to fry for a few seconds more. Now add the shredded cabbage and fry for 3 or 4 more minutes, stirring regularly to mix it with the spices and prevent scorching. Add the tomatoes, fried potatoes, salt, sugar, and water. Cover the pan and simmer over a low flame until all the vegetables are tender.
5. Before offering to Krsna, sprinkle the previously prepared ground sweet spices over the top and mix gently.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
by Dvarakadhisa-devi dasi
We came across a disconcerting ad recently in Time magazine. Across the top of the page was a large black-and-white photograph of a schoolgirl sitting at her desk in an empty classroom. With her snub nose and pleated skirt she couldn't have been but thirteen or fourteen. She was gazing despondently into the camera, perhaps in the throes of math anxiety. But no. Below the picture was this bold caption: "Do I look like a mother to you?"
The text beneath this perplexing query explained the plight of the girl, and of millions of other fourteen-year-old girls in the United States, forty percent of whom will become pregnant before the age of twenty. Almost always unwanted, these pregnancies create an enormous burden on society, we are informed, giving rise to such problems as malnutrition, disease, unemployment, and child abuse. Moreover, says Time, the real tragedy is that each of the young mothers is "robbed of her childhood and her hope."
Certainly a sobering picture. Then the real blame for this shocking state of affairs is revealed: an "increasingly vocal and violent minority" who stand in opposition to the option of "legal and safe abortions." The ad goes on to decry the policies of these antiabortionists, who want to "outlaw abortion for all women, regardless of circumstances. Even if her life or health is endangered by pregnancy. Even if she is a victim of rape or incest. And even if she is too young to be a mother."
But let's look at the circumstances surrounding these pregnancies. Do the facts show that nearly half the teenage girls in this country will become pregnant because of rape or incest? Or that they will fall into the category of serious health risks? Of course not. How are all these children getting pregnant in the first place? How is it that fourteen-year-old girls are forced to confront the overwhelming decision of whether they should bear an illegitimate child or kill it by abortion? What is the real threat to their childhood and hope?
Sexual promiscuity has become such an accepted part of today's society that we don't even consider the enormous price we pay for such freedom. Moral restraints have disintegrated into useless reminders of archaic repression, as the sexual drive becomes an increasingly prominent expression of "self-growth." What is in reality only a minor aspect of human life has become the glamorous symbol of liberation.
Consider the influence of the media. Virtually from the time they are old enough to be propped up, children are sitting for hours a day before a television screen. Before their eyes the scene is created again and again: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, and so on. Little cartoon boy bunny rabbits chase little cartoon girl bunny rabbits. Every adult who crosses the screen appears preoccupied with pursuing the opposite sex. And every show is punctuated by sixty-second reminders of the ideals of passionate living: be active, be sexy.
Then the children enter a school system that teaches them all the principles of sex. It is assumed that they will be sexually active, and to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy they are encouraged to become familiar with various methods of birth control. (These are children who haven't even reached puberty.) By the time they hit their twelfth year, they are well informed about what is expected of them. How can we be surprised when there is "accidental" pregnancy?
Beyond the agonies of the adolescent struggling to meet the demands of an active sex life, society as a whole bears a heavy burden for its raging sexual passion. Sexual deviations such as homosexuality and incest grow increasingly common—and even acceptable. And there's a big problem of abused children, even within the family. Diseases, some uncurable, are passed by careless sexual encounters. Families are weakened as parents divorce and separate. Human relations revolve around superficial attractions. Self-gratification is a legitimate philosophy. Churches modify moral codes to placate a promiscuous congregation. All these anomalies and more are fueled by one thing: the increasing demand for free sexual expression.
Naturally, moralistic convictions that curb this widespread promiscuity are quite unpopular. Yet it has been cited by the greatest saintly persons that sexual attraction forms the very core of materialistic life. Although we are all of a sublime spiritual nature, this is forgotten when we identify with the material body. To forget your spiritual identity means that you will never see beyond the pains and pleasures of your body. If the highest happiness you know of is that which brings pleasure to the body, your desire for sex becomes very strong; its allurement keeps you blind to the possibility of spiritual elevation.
For a spiritual entity to remain trapped in such degraded consciousness is utterly stifling. Aside from the innumerable discomforts that result from unrestrained sexual activity, there is the further problem that sex never truly satisfies. You'll always feel that craving for something more. No matter how many partners you find, no matter how beautiful your body, no matter how remarkable your prowess . . . the craving will always be there. To increase sexual activity, says the Vedic literature, is to fuel the insatiable fire of material desire. It won't bring you the pleasure you want.
Learning the science of the soul and uplifting the consciousness will bring relief from the torments of sexual agitation. And simultaneously it will solve the problems that come with sexual promiscuity. Human beings are endowed with an intelligence that allows them to cultivate higher knowledge and thus become free from the shackles of sex desire. To fail to use this intelligence is to waste our most valuable God-given resource. And a society of such people is condemned to suffer the ghastly consequences of unrestrained sex: disease, abortion, child abuse, unwanted pregnancy.
Rather than teach our children artificial methods of birth control, we should teach them sense control and spiritual realization. Thus unwanted pregnancies and all the other anomalies of unrestricted sex will be eradicated, not through puritanical restraint, but through understanding of the purpose of human life.
Although spiritual realization is much more than mere antiabortion politics, one who is spiritually aware automatically respects the sacredness of all life. Such a person would never condone killing others as a matter of convenience. To the spiritually enlightened, the violence of abortion as a method of birth control is the most appalling crime. To encourage or support legal abortion, therefore, is to become implicated in the reactions for such sinfulness—reactions so severe that you would never wish them upon a fourteen-year-old girl.
Think again about the picture. Consider: "Does she look like a murderess to you?" Without transcendental knowledge, what hope does she have?
Nature's Unshakable Laws
by Batu Gopala dasa
In the aftermath of two devastating natural disasters, an earthquake in Mexico City and a volcanic eruption in Colombia, public attention was attracted briefly to the efforts of scientists trying to understand the causes of such large-scale calamities.
Some geologists study the movement of enormous masses of rock that make up the earth's crust. When these masses overlap and work against each other, tremendous stress results. The predominant theory is that if this stress is released all at once, the violent readjustment can cause an earthquake or a sudden expulsion of trapped magma from a volcano.
Is there a reliable, accurate way to predict such disasters? As yet scientists have found none. They place seismographs along known fault lines and study minute changes in the level of underground water. They observe the behavior of animals that sometimes seem to mysteriously sense an impending earthquake. They even consult psychics. Yet despite all their years of research, millions of dollars spent, and volumes of data gathered, they have not sufficiently understood the principles of nature. Therefore they were powerless to control—or even to predict—these two greatly destructive natural disasters.
Perhaps today's scientists are overlooking an obvious and important aspect of the very phenomena they study. To a student of the Vedic literature this certainly appears to be the case. There appears to be a blind spot in the investigations of the earth scientists, a blind spot that is the result of a basic error in their premises.
Scientists generally assume that earthquakes, volcanoes, and all other natural events are produced by unconscious and essentially random forces. They are confident, therefore, that given enough time and money for research, man, with his rational intelligence, can eventually prevail over the blind, mechanical processes of material nature.
Such scientists are materialists, seeing the universe as ownerless and driverless, moving along by dumb momentum. If we could only run fast enough, they think, we might be able to jump behind the steering wheel and take control—becoming, in effect, nature's overlords and proprietors.
Disappointing as it may be to such dreamers, however, the universe is neither ownerless nor driverless. It remains firmly and forever the property of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who has no equal and no superior. He holds absolute control over material nature, and no one, no matter how intelligent or powerful, will ever wrest that control from Him.
In the Bhagavad-gita Sri Krsna declares His sovereignty:
"This material nature, which is one of My energies, is working under My direction, O son of Kunti, producing all moving and nonmoving beings. Under its rule this manifestation is created and annihilated again and again" (Bg. 9.10).
It is thus rightfully said that not a blade of grass moves without the sanction of God. Indeed, the Supreme Lord enters every atom and controls its movements. And the massive plates of rock composing the earth's crust cannot move even an inch without His permission. The notions of the materialistic scientists are thus incomplete. While it is certainly true that natural processes are the direct cause of such phenomena as earthquakes and volcanoes, these are not blind, mechanical processes. A superior intelligence directs the seemingly random movements of nature. This intelligence is Krsna.
"But what kind of God is that?" counters the skeptics. "Why should we love or serve a God who is so merciless that He kills thousands of innocent men, women, and children?"
The "cruelty" of God is manifest in response to a living entity's forgetfulness of his own tiny subordinate position. Through the agency of karma (action, and reaction for our past good and bad deeds) we are put into situations that exactly correspond to our previous pious and sinful acts. The Supreme Lord does not relish such punishment, nor does He award it indiscriminately. Rather, it is the unfortunate consequence of our own sins.
The material world is a prison. Only those who are unwilling to follow the laws of God are placed in such an uncomfortable setting. It is a miserable place, devoid of the natural freedoms to which we, as eternal servants of God, are entitled. The Lord's purpose in incarcerating us here is merciful. Here we may live in forgetfulness of God and of our spiritual nature, since that is our primordial desire. But life here is also fraught with terrible tragedies, such as those that occurred in Mexico and Colombia. We are forced to face the fact that death and destruction are the prominent features of material existence. So natural calamities are neither accidents nor cruel, senseless acts of a capricious God.
Actually, death serves two essential functions. It gives justice, and it gives opportunity. It is by death that the individual spiritual souls are moved from one body to the next, according to their past deeds and their particular mentality. Those who are sinful, who have violated the laws of nature, or whose activities have put other living entities into unnecessary difficulty, are brought to justice by the agency of death. At the appointed time they are dragged out of their present bodies, no matter how comfortable they may have been or how well protected by earthquake-proof buildings or bodyguards.
What follows for the sinful is arraignment, trial, and sentencing, much like in our customary legal systems. In the court of the Lord of Death, however, no evidence is overlooked. Every detail, every willful deed of the defendant's life, is examined. Nor is the hand of justice ever stayed by the legal maneuvering of a tricky attorney. Justice is always served, and the condemned is placed in a new material body (perhaps in one of the lower species) to serve a term of suffering for his misdeeds.
On the other hand, death represents an opportunity for the pious living entity to improve his position. This can mean acquiring a better body and a better life, with more opportunity for material happiness.
But ultimately it is Krsna's desire that we leave the material world altogether, because it is not our real home. As eternal spiritual beings, we belong with the Supreme Person and His liberated devotees in the spiritual world, which is full of light, consciousness, and bliss. That supreme abode of Lord Krsna is eternal, and the inhabitants are never troubled by old age, disease, death, or any of the other pains of the material world. Thus death is the means by which the Krsna conscious soul sheds the temporary, miserable material body and enters eternal, blissful life.
The material world is literally meant for suffering, and last year's catastrophes in Mexico and Colombia simply magnify the fact. Even if we don't live on a fault line or near an area of volcanic activity, nature has plenty of other ways of striking us down. No one can avoid death. We should, therefore, consider our own preparedness for that final blow.
Whether it comes by earthquake, volcanic eruption, old age, or any other means, death directly represents the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Death comes either as a feared enemy who carries us to judgment or as the dearmost friend who carries us back to Godhead. Death—friend or foe? The choice is ours.
Can the seedling of spiritual freedom
by Krsna Gopala Dasa and Kirtiraja Dasa
Every human being has a need and a right to practice spiritual life. When governments deny this right, all of us are threatened. In the Soviet Union today, members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness are being incarcerated and abused for their religious views. To ignore this injustice is to call into question one's own right to live and work in freedom.
The followers of Krsna consciousness number in the hundreds of millions in India, and thousands more are practicing Krsna consciousness throughout the world. They follow the universal philosophy presented in the ancient Vedic scripture, the Bhagavad-gita.
According to Lord Krsna, the speaker of the Bhagavad-gita, human beings are not the only living creatures with rights. Every living entity is an eternal living spirit, a part of God, and thus he has a right to live. But beyond this universal right to life, the human species has special rights and responsibilities. Specifically, we human beings have the chance to develop higher consciousness and realize our original, spiritual identity.
At present this spiritual identity is covered by the illusory material nature, so that we mostly identify ourselves with the physical body. Thus we accept designations like black or white, American or Russian, man or woman. But through the teachings of Lord Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita, we free ourselves of all material designations and develop our knowledge of the self and of God. In this way not only do we improve the quality of our life in this world, but at the end of this life we can return to the spiritual world and enjoy eternal life. To come to this awareness by reading bona fide Vedic literature and by associating with devotees of Krsna is the greatest opportunity in this human form of life. To deny or obstruct a person from this is the greatest criminal act and the worst violation of human rights.
It is the duty of the government to allow and even encourage the citizens to lead a healthy life free from sin and crime. It is not the job of governments—in the name of national security or other mundane concerns—to suppress religious life.
In ancient Vedic civilization, the kings were enlightened, and providing for the citizens' spiritual life they took to be their main priority. Thus the kings were called rajarsis, learned rulers.
In the absence of enlightened government leaders, the people must themselves raise an appeal and call on those governments where oppression occurs to honor the eternal principles of religious life. This takes courage. And nowhere is this courage more evident than among the Krsna conscious devotees in the Soviet Union.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual master of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, first brought Krsna consciousness to the U.S.S.R. in June of 1971, during a brief visit to Moscow on the invitation of Grigoriy Kotovsky, head of the India Department at the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences.
While shopping for produce near Red Square one day, Srila Prabhupada's servant met two young men—one the son of an Indian diplomat; the other, Anatoli Pinyayev, a technician working at Moscow State University. Anatoli and his Indian friend accompanied Srila Prabhupada's disciple back to the National Hotel, where they met with Srila Prabhupada in his room. Anatoli approached Srila Prabhupada with reverent submission and asked questions about the philosophy of Krsna consciousness.
Srila Prabhupada explained the difference between the spirit soul and the body and described the soul's eternal relationship with Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He spoke of the Bhagavad-gita, of his network of temples around the world, and of his many young men and women disciples all practicing bhakti-yoga. He expressed his desire that Krsna conscious literature be distributed in the U.S.S.R. and that Soviet devotees meet and quietly chant Hare Krsna together.
Anatoli returned on the next two days and learned from Srila Prabhupada the principles of Indian vegetarian cooking and of offering one's food to Krsna. In Anatoli's eagerness and intelligence, Srila Prabhupada found the real purpose of his visit to the U.S.S.R. Before leaving the Soviet Union, Srila Prabhupada initiated Anatoli into spiritual life, giving him the name Ananta-santi dasa.
For the next ten years, Ananta-santi traveled widely throughout the Soviet Union, preaching what he had learned from Srila Prabhupada and what he read in Prabhupada's books. In April of 1982, Ananta-santi was arrested by the K.G.B. and charged with "parasitism." He was incarcerated in Psychiatric Hospital No. Five in Moscow, escaping one month later. He continued his Krsna conscious mission for a year before he was again arrested.
Today Ananta-santi is being held in a special psychiatric hospital on the grounds of a prison near Smolensk. He receives heavy doses of neuroleptics, and this causes him to suffer greatly. His wardens refuse even to relieve him of the drug's severe physical and psychological side effects. His body is swelling and his once sharp mind is growing dull.
Other devotees of Krsna in the Soviet Union have suffered similar injustices. Olga Kiseleva (Premavati dasi), a graduate of the Philological Faculty of Moscow State University and the mother of two young girls, was arrested in August of 1983 while nine months pregnant with a third child. Premavati was taken to Matroskaya Tishina State Prison in Moscow. Her diet there was poor, and other prisoners attacked and beat her. Her baby was born with a heart defect and died eleven months later. Premavati is now a prisoner in a Soviet labor camp and is scheduled to be released on August 29, 1988.
The efforts of Ananta-santi dasa, Premavati dasi and other courageous Krsna conscious pioneers in the Soviet Union have not gone in vain. Two hundred initiated devotees—all disciples of Srila Harikesa Swami—now chant Hare Krsna and practice the principles of spiritual life in the U.S.S.R. An estimated ten thousand other Soviets, although not yet initiated, worship Krsna as the Supreme Person.
By following the regulative principles of freedom—chanting Hare Krsna and avoiding the sins of illicit sex, gambling, meat-eating, and intoxication—everyone can escape the cycle of birth and death and enjoy a life of eternity, bliss, and knowledge. To be thus liberated from the sufferings of this material world and to join Krsna on His spiritual planet is the goal of life. To defend the people's right to fully realize their identity as eternal servants of God is the solemn duty of all governments in this world. Those young devotees now practicing Krsna consciousness in the Soviet Union exemplify the highest form of courage by disseminating pure spiritual culture amid the ignorance and darkness of atheism and gross materialism.
The Siksastaka Prayers
Although widely renowned as a preceptor
by Kundali dasa
This is the last installment in a special series of articles commemorating the five-hundredth anniversary of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's appearance in Mayapur, West Bengal. By His life and teachings, Lord Caitanya inaugurated the Hare Krsna movement in India. If you'd like to learn more about India's most influential mystic saint and philosopher and the most merciful incarnation of Godhead, we suggest you read Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, an authentic account of Lord Caitanya's life and precepts. Scholars of language, philosophy, and religious history around the world consider Srila Prabhupada's seventeen-volume English translation of this Bengali classic true to the original. The volumes are available at your local Hare Krsna center.
Lord Caitanya remained on earth for forty-eight years. The first twenty-four He spent in Navadvipa, West Bengal, His birthplace. After entering the renounced order, sannyasa, He traveled on foot through north and south India for six years. His final eighteen years He spent in Puri, a holy city in Orissa. Here, in the association of His most intimate devotees, He constantly relished discussing and meditating on the most intimate spiritual pastimes of Lord Krsna and His eternal consort, Srimati Radharani, reveling in ecstatic love of God.
Sri Caitanya would celebrate His jubilance by glorifying Krsna with songs and verses composed by great devotees or by chanting Hare Krsna. These verses would in turn produce different states of transcendental mellows within His mind and body. Thus sometimes He lamented because of feeling separation from Krsna. At other times He felt powerful ecstatic emotions of anger, greed, or humility. Sometimes He felt great eagerness, at other times great satisfaction.
Day and night for twelve years these symptoms repeatedly occurred, along with various transformations in the Lord's body: His bodily hair would stand on end. His limbs would slacken, and His eyes would incessantly flood with tears. The mere recitation of a song or a verse about Krsna, and especially about Radharani, would elicit such intense symptoms of spiritual ecstasy that Sri Caitanya would become distraught and weep torrents of tears, sometimes even losing external consciousness.
Sometimes the Lord would become so absorbed in a particular emotion that He would stay up all night reciting or listening to relevant verses and relishing their transcendental tastes. On one such occasion, in the company of Svarupa Damodara and Ramananda Raya, Sri Caitanya recited the verses of His Siksastaka prayers, the only verses He composed, and commented on their meanings and emotions. "My dear Svarupa Damodara and Ramananda Raya," the Lord began, "know from Me that chanting of the holy names is the most feasible means of salvation in this age of Kali [the present age of quarrel and deceit]." After explaining further how the chanting of Krsna's names frees one from undesirable habits, awakens good fortune, and initiates "the flow of waves of love of God," the Lord quoted the first verse of His Siksastaka.
Let there be all victory for the chanting of the holy name of Lord Krsna, which can cleanse the mirror of the heart and stop the miseries of the blazing fire of material existence. That chanting is the waxing moon that spread the white lotus of good fortune for all living entities. It is the life and soul of all education. The chanting of the holy name of Krsna expands the blissful ocean of transcendental life. It gives a cooling effect to everyone and enables one to taste full nectar at every step.
Lord Caitanya explained that sankirtana, the congregational chanting of God's holy names, ultimately leads to direct association with Krsna and the rendering of devotional service in transcendental bliss. Thus sankirtana immerses one in an ocean of divine love. While thinking like this, the Lord felt transcendental lamentation and humility. Then He recited another verse:
My Lord, O Supreme Personality of Godhead, in Your holy name there is all good fortune for the living entity, and therefore You have many names, such as Krsna and Govinda, by which You expand Yourself. You have invested all Your potencies in those names, and there are no hard and fast rules for remembering them. My dear Lord, although You bestow such mercy upon the fallen, I am so unfortunate that I commit offenses while chanting the holy name, and therefore I do not achieve attachment for chanting.
In commenting on this verse, Sri Caitanya explained that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is absolute and that His names are also absolute. He appears with His numerous names and thus makes Himself easily available to any chanter of those holy names, regardless of time or place. Each name is perfect and can purify anyone's heart. Taking Himself as an average man, however, Sri Caitanya lamented His misfortune in not having any attachment for chanting the holy name of Krsna. This lamentation led Him to recite the third verse of the Siksastaka, describing how a devotee should chant so as to awaken his dormant love for Krsna.
One who thinks himself lower than the grass, who is more tolerant than a tree, and who does not expect personal honor but is always prepared to give all respect to others can very easily always chant the holy name of the Lord.
A pure devotee is prideless, giving up the passion for honor and respect. Though he is in fact a very exalted soul, he thinks himself lower than straw in the street. And like a tree, which tolerates abuse, heat, wind, rain, and yet gives fruits, flowers, and shelter without discriminating against anyone, a devotee tolerates all abuses and gives shelter to all. Knowing Krsna is present in the heart of all living beings, he offers all respect to others, even to the animals and insects. Such a humble soul is able to chant Krsna's names constantly.
As Lord Caitanya spoke on these points, deeper feelings of humility welled up within Him. The author of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, comments that a devotee fully situated in love of Godhead is so humble he never thinks himself a devotee; rather, he thinks, "I do not even have a drop of love for Krsna." Exemplifying this mentality of a pure devotee, Sri Caitanya recited the fourth verse of His composition, begging for devotional service as if He had no love for Krsna.
O Lord of the universe, I do not desire material wealth, materialistic followers, a beautiful wife, or fruitive activities described in flowery language. All I want, life after life, is unmotivated devotional service to You.
Here the Lord decries all the standard pursuits and ambitions of persons who have no knowledge of transcendence and who sometimes scoff at the devotees of God for giving up the so-called pleasures and responsibilities esteemed by materialistic men. Lord Caitanya prays for devotional service "life after life" to show us that rendering service to God is the true desirable goal of life. Again placing Himself as a forlorn conditioned soul, Sri Caitanya entreated the Supreme Lord.
O My Lord, O Krsna, son of Maharaja Nanda, I am Your eternal servant, but because of My own fruitive acts, I have fallen into this horrible ocean of nescience. Now please be causelessly merciful to Me. Consider Me a particle of dust at Your lotus feet.
Fallen souls in this material world labor very, very hard in their attempt to lord it over nature's resources. They have no knowledge that their labor simply binds them in an intricate cycle of action and reaction, of repeated birth and death, life after life. They sentimentally think the material world a place of enjoyment, when in reality it is a place of bondage, suffering, illusion, and ignorance. Sri Caitanya teaches us that to free ourselves from this illusion we must forsake our selfish desires to enjoy wealth, women, followers; and we must humbly supplicate the Personality of Godhead to kindly reinstate us as the servants of His lotus feet.
Further humility and eagerness then awoke in Lord Caitanya, and He prayed to chant the holy name of Krsna in ecstatic love.
My dear Lord, when will My eyes be beautified by filling with tears that constantly glide down as I chant Your holy name? When will My voice falter and all the hairs on My body stand erect in transcendental happiness as I chant Your holy name?
In commenting on this verse, the Lord explains that a life without love of God is useless. He therefore prays to be accepted as the eternal servant of Krsna and to receive ecstatic love as His "salary." After speaking thus, various feelings of distress, lamentation, and humility arose in His mind, and He began speaking like a madman.
My Lord Govinda, because of separation from You, I consider even a moment a great millennium. Tears flow from My eyes like torrents of rain, and I see the entire world as void.
In His agitated, despairing state of separation from Krsna, a day seemed never to end; each moment seemed an eternity. One moment felt so excrutiatingly painful that the Lord described Himself as "burning alive in a slow fire. "Yet far from being any ordinary madness and suffering of this material world, the Lord's pain and emotion were the highest transcendental ecstasy. In the mood of Srimati Radharani—whose mind becomes agitated whenever Krsna tests Her love by feigning indifference to Her, and in whom the ecstatic symptoms of envy, eagerness, humility, zeal, and supplication would sometimes combine—Lord Caitanya recited the last verse of His Siksastaka. This verse of advanced devotion voices Radharani 's sentiments while speaking to Her close friends.
Let Krsna tightly embrace this maidservant, who has fallen at His lotus feet. Let Him trample Me or break My heart by never being visible to Me. He is a debauchee, after all, and can do whatever He likes, but He is still none other than the worshipable Lord of My heart.
Radharani is the topmost devotee of Krsna. In this verse She expresses the purest sentiments of love between lover and beloved, which is the essence of Lord Caitanya's teachings: the highest love is realized when one loves Krsna as the Lord of one's life unconditionally. Unconditional love means that the beloved may or may not reciprocate that love, but it makes no difference to the lover. This is the standard of love taught by Lord Caitanya. If Krsna derives happiness by putting His devotee in distress, that distress becomes the devotee's happiness. In other words, the only happiness for an unconditional lover is the happiness of the beloved, even at the cost of his or her own happiness.
This standard of love cannot be realized in this material world. Sometimes it is said that a mother's love is the purest love in this world, but we often see nowadays that mothers kill their own unborn children rather than tolerate inconvenience on their child's behalf. Still, even if somehow we were to catch a glimpse of unconditional love in our material relationships, the happiness of such love would be marred by fear of infidelity, disease, old age, and the other inevitable shortcomings of material existence. Finally, death separates even the most ardent lovers. Practically speaking, therefore, there is no comparison between eternal love of God and the temporary, so-called loving relationships of this material world. Transcendental love is like gold; mundane love is like iron.
Kaviraja Gosvami concludes this portion of his narrative on the life and precepts of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu by explaining that it was only to advertise the pure standard of love that the Lord came to this material world, composed the Siksastaka verses, and explained their meanings.
The Illusioned Society
This is a continuation of a conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and a guest—Dr. Christian Hauser, a psychiatrist—that took place in Stockholm in September 1973.
Dr. Hauser: Although these designations—"I am Chinese," "I am African," "I am American"—all these are false, still they sort of drive society on.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Therefore we say this society is illusioned—because it is driven on by maya, illusion.
You remember how on our morning walk I showed you an example of illusion. When we look into a pool of water, we may think we are seeing the sun—but in fact, we are seeing only the sun's reflection, an illusion.
"This is maya, illusion," I told you. In the pool there is no sun, but it appears like a sun. Exactly like a sun. And it even appears to be illuminating. Now, one who is less intelligent—he'll look and say, "Oh, here is a sun! Another sun!" So he's a madman. One who thinks the sun's reflection in a pool is the real sun—he's illusioned. He's mad.
And if one looks at all these bodies we have in this temporary world—these material reflections of our spiritual bodies—and if he thinks, "Oh, here is my real self!" he's a madman. He is in illusion.
So as you can see, our Krsna consciousness movement is truly a psychiatric movement.
Dr. Hauser: Oh, yes, yes. In a way. I ... yes.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. We are taking people out of the illusioned, dreaming state to the awakened state of spiritual consciousness, Krsna consciousness.
Dr. Hauser: But it also seems to me that by gaining this consciousness, you can skip a lot of the hard work that it takes in ordinary analysis or in group therapy, for example.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. No hard work.
Dr. Hauser: But you surely have to work a lot with yourself to gain this spiritual insight.
Srila Prabhupada: No. It is very easy. Very easy. For instance, we recommend this chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra. Anyone can chant. Even a child can chant.
Dr. Hauser: I was saying that you seem not to need specific processes directed toward insight, although you are probably after the same kind of insight as we in the field of psychiatry.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, but the traditional Vedic method is so very easy. We ask our students to refrain from four prohibited activities, namely illicit sex, gambling, intoxication, and meat-eating. Avoid these prohibited activities—and chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Chant the Lord's holy names. Then you will become sane, Krsna conscious. It is very easy.
Dr. Hauser; Yes, it sounds easy. I hope it works.
Srila Prabhupada: All around you here, you see the examples of how well it works. You see how godly and sane these students are. And what has caused this? I have not given them a bribe or anything so that they will conduct themselves in a godly way and talk favorably. [Laughter.] You can talk with them and find out the cause for their godly, sane behavior.
Dr. Hauser: Yes, I've talked to them, and that's why I'm here.
Srila Prabhupada: So you know. The process is simple and easy.
Dr. Hauser: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: And we don't charge anything. But you charge, of course, something.
Dr. Hauser: Oh, yes. [Laughter.]
Srila Prabhupada: But we don't charge anything. It's free. In 1965 I delivered this treatment to America, and now it is becoming effective all over the world.
So I think you should adopt this means. It is such a simple method: don't charge anything; simply ask people to chant the Lord's holy names and to avoid these four prohibited activities. They'll be cured.
Sarvopadhi-vinirmuktam tat-paratvena nirmalam: by following these simple spiritual means, we free ourselves from all our dreamlike, illusory designations—those dirty things that now cover our heart.
And then, hrsikena hrsikesa-sevanam bhaktir ucyate: as soon as these illusory designations are gone and we know that our bodies—temporary though they may be—belong to God, not to China or Germany or England, then we can engage our bodies in the service of the Lord. That is Krsna consciousness.
Dr. Hauser: But one ... one very normal problem that I meet very often in patients is insecurity. People lack the security to feel that they can believe in something. Always there is ... very often there is an ambivalence. "Should I believe? Should I not believe? I have a doubt." You should understand. Swaying to and fro.
Srila Prabhupada: No, you can experience. It is not a matter of belief or disbelief. Suppose you are hungry. I give you some food. I say, "You are hungry—take this food." So, when you take this food, you'll experience. "Yes, my hunger is now satisfied." It is not a matter of belief or disbelief. "I can feel it. I'm getting strength." You experience it directly.
Of course, if you don't eat the food, then how can you experience that your hunger is satisfied? You must eat. So we say, "Chant Hare Krsna." Immediately the relief begins.
(To be continued.)
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Indians President Attends ISKCON Conference
Bombay—The honorable president of India, Shri Giani Zail Singh, recently accepted the invitation of Dr. T.D. Singh (Srila Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami Sripada, one of ISKCON's present spiritual masters) to attend the last day of the World Congress for the Synthesis of Science and Religion. Dr.T.D. Singh is the director of the Bhaktivedanta Institute, which organized this historic congress here in January as part of the festivities commemorating the five-hundredth anniversary of Lord Caitanya's appearance day.
In a meeting with Dr. Singh and His Holiness Krsna-Balarama Swami last winter, President Singh promised to attend the congress. At that time he had expressed great concern for the border areas in eastern India, since he felt that the Vedic culture was being forgotten there. The younger generation there seem to have lost their feelings for the rich heritage of India, he observed. To Dr. Singh the president said, "Since you are from that area [Manipur], you should preach very strongly about the Vedic culture for the well-being of the masses. We have nothing against other religious groups, but our children should be brought up in a predominantly Vedic atmosphere."
President Singh was pleasantly surprised to know that Dr. T. D. Singh is planning to build a huge cultural center in his native district of Manipur for the propagation of Vedic culture, art, and science. Dr. Singh presented the president with a Hindi copy of Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is.
Speaking in Hindi to Krsna-Balarama Swami, President Singh said, "Science is meant for man, and man is meant for religion. 'Religion' is not an adequate translation of the term dharma. This world congress is very nice because it is combining religion and science. I always thought and meditated how religion and science should be combined. It's greatly appreciated that you have taken up such a big task."
International Crowd Converges on Mayapur
Mayapur, West Bengal—Over a thousand ISKCON devotees from five continents have registered to attend the festival here this March marking the five-hundredth anniversary of Lord Caitanya's appearance. ISKCON leaders in India will welcome both the devotees and tens of thousands of Indian pilgrims this year.
The festival begins on March 11 with an international parade through the streets of Calcutta. The parade will feature five floats depicting the pastimes of Lord Caitanya, and the devotees will carry the flags of their respective nations to demonstrate the unity of Lord Caitanya's movement.
Arriving in Mayapur the following day, the festival goers will spend the next week making outings by foot, bus, and boat to holy places in the surrounding area. Seminars on topics ranging from book distribution and computer programming to Bengali cooking and music will occupy the second week.
ISKCON's beautiful Mayapur project features carefully tended gardens decorated with fountains and ponds, and a miniature zoo with two elephants, a flock of flamingoes, and other exotic animals. Fifty new terra-cotta murals and twenty sculptural displays will delight this year's visitors, who also will take advantage of the many shops and food stands. This is the sixteenth year ISKCON devotees have traveled to Mayapur en masse to celebrate Lord Caitanya's appearance anniversary.
Fiancee Fasts, Frees Moscow Hospital Inmate
Stockholm, Sweden—ISKCON devotee Mitravinda-devi dasi (Marie-Anne Farrow) fasted for twenty-one days outside the Soviet Embassy here to secure the release of her devotee-fiance from a Moscow psychiatric hospital. Dressed in her wedding gown and carrying a large photo of Vedavyasa dasa (Valentin Z. Yurov), Mitravinda attracted the attention of journalists—and of the Soviet consul general, who tried to persuade her to end her demonstration. Mitravinda refused, and Soviet authorities later released Vedavyasa and flew him to Stockholm.
Through the cooperation of the Swedish government, Vedavyasa was able to visit the United States, where he rallied support for the release of twenty-five other devotees imprisoned in Soviet hospitals, prisons, and labor camps. Amnesty International has received information about the plight of these devotees, has adopted them all as "prisoners of conscience," and has begun work to gain their release.
Garlands, incense, elephants, jostling crowds,
By Jayadvaita Swami
Nearly as much as France differs from Italy, Germany, or Greece, Orissa differs from the other states of India. It has its own language, its own food, its own customs—and its own way of receiving the pada-yatra.
In the state of Kerala, South India, for example, as we walked into a town or village the people would receive us first with five musicians—always five—playing wooden drums and shenai. Following them would come a delegation of temple priests, chanting mantras in unison from the Vedas. Rows of young girls might line the roadside, bearing ghee lamps and tossing flower petals. Leading men would honor us with flower garlands. Sometimes temple elephants, foreheads shining with golden ornaments, would lumber forth to add more weight to the greeting.
But in Orissa, forget the elephants, forget the shenais, the orderly rows of petal-throwers. Here it's crowds—five hundred people, a thousand, maybe two thousand or more—and loud, exuberant chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Right now I'm in the southern Orissan town of Kabisurya Nagar in a crowd of maybe two thousand people. And it's only two thousand because the pada-yatra has reached today's resting place—an elementary school campus—and the police have closed the gates behind us. But on our way into town the crowds must have come to twenty thousand: five or seven Hare Krsna chanting parties . . . streets all festooned . . . welcome gates of banana trees . . . auspicious waterpots topped with mango leaves outside the doorways of people's homes . . . people jostling forward to offer garlands, incense, coconuts, full stalks of banana . . . near-riots as we pull the bananas off the stalks to throw into the crowd and people jump, shout, grab, and tumble to get them . . . Ladies line the rooftops, oscillating their tongues to make a special high-pitched cheer of appreciation that sounds like "ulu-ulu-ulu-ulu-ulu."
Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the original father of the Hare Krsna movement, spent six years traveling through south India but a full eighteen in Jagannatha Puri, the spiritual focal point of Orissa. So even today, five hundred years later, Orissa still feels Lord Caitanya's influence.
In south India we had to tell people who Lord Caitanya was. Lord Caitanya, we said, was the Supreme Lord, Krsna Himself, the Personality of Godhead, descended on earth as a devotee of Krsna to teach devotional service and relish performing it Himself. And we had to offer evidence from Vedic scriptures to prove it. Lord Caitanya, we'd also explain, had taught that the best means of self-realization in the present age is the chanting of the Vedic maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare. Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
But in Orissa, no need to tell all this. People, even common people, already know Lord Caitanya is God. They already worship Him. And they already chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra.
As we walk along the road, we're greeted by kirtana (chanting) parties of 10, 20, 50, 150. They chant the Hare Krsna mantra with fervor, and above their heads they carry posters, tacked to bamboo poles, of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu dancing with His main companion. Lord Nityananda.
Yet for the most part these kirtana singers are not what we'd consider pure devotees. Some smell of fish and sugarcane liquor. And when the chanting is over we see singers and mrdanga drum players relaxing with a smoke.
Chanting Hare Krsna can cleanse our hearts of all material dust and dirt. But tobacco, fish, and liquor just throw the dirt back on. To get the full effect of chanting we should chant under the guidance of a pure devotee of the Lord.
In Orissa, therefore, we make a special point of telling people about Lord Caitanya's most prominent modern emissary, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Though people know Gaura-Nitai (Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda), they don't yet know Srila Prabhupada. Often they've been awed to hear that some other swami, a hundred years ago, went to America bearing the torchlight of Vedic knowledge. They'd be let down to learn that the swami's mission in America was a fizzle: a hundred years later, not a single American had become Krsna's devotee, no one had adopted the Vedic culture, and today the swami and his teachings are still virtually unknown.
The real person who brought Vedic culture to the West was Srila Prabhupada. He is the one who has put more than five million copies of Bhagavad-gita—in twenty-six languages—into people's hands. It's by his efforts that thousands of Americans have become full-time devotees of Krsna. It is he who spread Krsna consciousness to Europe, Australia, Africa, Japan, and even Russia. The Krsna temples opened in the major cities of the West are his, and the Krsna devotees chanting Krsna's names in the streets of New York, Tokyo, and London are following him.
All this has been possible because Srila Prabhupada faithfully represented the message of Lord Sri Krsna, as taught by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. In Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna asks us, "Think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me, and offer your homage to Me." And Lord Caitanya showed us how to do this.
At Lord Caitanya's request, His most intimate followers explained, step by step, how to advance in Krsna consciousness. Although Lord Caitanya relished and revealed the highest sentiments of love of Godhead, what He taught was not a religion of sentimental fervor but a scientific process for developing love of Krsna. Love for Krsna, He taught, is dormant in the heart of everyone, and as we cleanse our hearts by properly hearing, chanting, and rendering devotional service, that love naturally reawakens.
In the villages and towns of Orissa, love for Krsna and Lord Caitanya is already astir—but it still has sleep in its eyes. So as our pada-yatra travels we introduce people to Srila Prabhupada and give them his books, confident that the same powerful emissary who awakened Krsna consciousness in the West can here bathe it clean, fresh, and ready to go.
Lord Caitanya desired, "People fortunate enough to be born in India should perfect their lives by Krsna consciousness and spread it for the welfare of others." With Srila Prabhupada's guidance, the people here in Orissa, already pulled toward Lord Caitanya, can learn how to systematically follow His teachings, and Lord Caitanya's desire can be fulfilled.
Avatar for All
This issue of BACK TO GODHEAD commemorates the five-hundredth anniversary of the appearance of Lord Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the incarnation of Godhead who appeared in West Bengal in 1486 to propagate the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Most of our readers will agree that Lord Caitanya, as the founder and original propagator of the sankirtana movement, deserves a place in religious history. Yet some may feel that Lord Caitanya is of interest only to His followers. He may be important to those who chant Hare Krsna, they say, but what interest is He to everyone else?"
But Lord Caitanya's pastimes and teachings are relevant to everyone. He is not a sectarian religionist. Rather, He offers a welfare program that can resolve all the anomalies we face in the modern age. By hearing of Him and following His teachings, anyone can solve all life's problems.
The Caitanya-caritamrta, a voluminous biography of Lord Caitanya composed in the sixteenth century by Krsnadasa Kaviraja, invites us to compare Lord Caitanya's work with that of any other religionist or altruist: "If you are indeed interested in logic and argument, kindly apply them to Sri Caitanya's mercy. If you do, you will find it strikingly wonderful" (Adi-lila, 8.45). Unlike the welfare performed by others, Lord Caitanya's gives eternal benefits.
We are all eternal, spiritual beings, originally full of bliss and knowledge, part and parcel of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In our unpolluted, liberated status, we eternally live with Krsna in the spiritual world, where we render the Lord transcendental loving service. But when a soul tries to enjoy independently of Krsna's desires, he must accept a material body and take birth in the material world, where he is always subject to the miseries of birth, old age, disease, and death. No material adjustment can give us ultimate shelter from these miseries.
Because the body is temporary, all efforts to preserve and protect it fail. Those who work to alleviate suffering and to improve the quality of life are certainly well-motivated. But if one has no knowledge of the spirit soul and his relationship with Krsna, one's efforts to help others will prove to be ineffective. Such an ignorant philanthropist may be compared to a rescue worker who attempts to save a drowning man but only pulls the victim's coat out of the water. Ultimately, there are no material solutions to the problems of this world. Only by cultivating scientific knowledge of spiritual truth can one really help others.
To love God is the essence of life and the heart of religion. Every true religionist, regardless of sect or custom, will acknowledge that love of God is the greatest good and the final goal of all. In the course of His lifetime, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu demonstrated this love of God, or krsna-prema, to the highest degree, and He distributed this love to everyone without regard to race, culture, or other material circumstances.
In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna explains how human society is divided into four orders: brahmanas, or priests and teachers; ksatriyas, or soldiers and administrators; vaisyas, or businessmen and farmers; and sudras, or laborers. In this natural varnasrama system of social organization, one's position in society is determined by one's characteristics. When society is organized according to this varnasrama system and Krsna is in the center, everyone advances in spiritual life.
In India today varnasrama exists in a perverted form. In this system, a person is artificially restricted by birth to a particular societal role, regardless of his characteristics. The caste system impedes spiritual advancement and burdens the citizens with false ideas of social prestige. Lord Caitanya saw that the Hindu caste system was false, and so He accepted among His most intimate associates people from the lowest caste. Indeed, He even accepted Muslims among His most confidential followers, although the Muslim and Hindu communities were in contention.
Not everyone appreciated Sri Caitanya's liberality. At one point in His preaching mission, envious caste-conscious Hindus complained to the Muslim government about Lord Caitanya's chanting and dancing, and the Muslim governor sent men to break up the Lord's chanting party. In response to this opposition, Lord Caitanya Himself led one hundred thousand of His followers to the governor's home. At first the governor was afraid of the Lord and His followers, but after the governor and Caitanya Mahaprabhu sat together and discussed the benefits that come through chanting the holy name of Krsna, the governor had a change of heart and became an active supporter of Lord Caitanya's sankirtana movement.
Lord Caitanya's benevolence transcends all sectarian divisiveness. Through the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra, anyone can develop his innate love of God and elevate himself to the transcendental position, beyond all bodily designation. And chanting Hare Krsna is easy. A person who even once utters Krsna's holy name immediately advances toward life's ultimate goal, and his chanting will stand to his eternal credit, regardless of his other activities. But to make the most rapid advancement in spiritual life, one should chant Hare Krsna in the association of devotees while abstaining from the four pillars of sinful life—eating meat, gambling, taking intoxicants, and engaging in illicit sex. By living purely and chanting Hare Krsna, one can return to the spiritual world in this very lifetime.
Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu prophesied that the chanting of Hare Krsna would be heard in every town and village in the world. In March of this year, followers of Lord Caitanya from every corner of the globe are gathering in holy Mayapur, West Bengal, the place of Lord Caitanya's birth, and there chant Hare Krsna in celebration of Lord Caitanya's appearance five hundred years ago. By chanting Hare Krsna, blacks and whites, Russians and Americans, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics all stand united in the universal, nonsectarian knowledge that while the material body and its designations are temporary, the spirit soul is transcendental and eternally related to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna. Only by becoming situated in the eternal truth of our relation with Krsna can we transcend our separatist mentalities and realize our original, global brotherhood and unity. That so many people from all over the world and from every culture can congregate in peace and with a single mind glorify the holy names of God is proof of Lord Caitanya's munificence.—SDG