Man looks to woman, and woman looks to man.
A lecture by
Today I shall tell you the history of a boy devotee whose name is Prahlada Maharaja. He was born in a family that was stubbornly atheistic. There are two kinds of men in this world: one type is called the demon, and the other is called the demigod. What is the difference between them? The main difference is that the demigods, or godly persons, are devoted to the Supreme Lord, whereas the demons are atheistic. They do not believe in God because they are materialists. These two classes of men always exist in this world. At the present moment, due to this Age of Kali [Quarrel], the number of demons has increased, but the classification has existed since the beginning of creation. The incident that I am narrating to you occurred very, very long ago, a few million years after the time of creation.
Prahlada Maharaja happened to be the son of the most atheistic person—and the most materially powerful as well—so you will be interested to hear this history. Because the society was materialistic, the boy had no opportunity to glorify the Supreme Lord. The characteristic of a great soul is that he is very eager to broadcast glorification of the Supreme Lord. Lord Jesus Christ, for example, was very much eager to broadcast the glorification of God, but demoniac people misunderstood him and crucified him.
Prahlada Maharaja was a five-year-old boy, and when he was in school, as soon as there was a recreation period, when the teacher was off, he would say to his friends, "My dear friends, come on. We shall speak about Krsna consciousness." I am just opening a scene. This is in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Seventh Canto. The devotee Prahlada is saying, "My dear boys, my dear friends, this is the time, in this young age, to prosecute Krsna consciousness." Before that, he had held discussions with his little friends, but they said, "Oh, we shall play now. Why take up this Krsna consciousness?" In answer to this, Prahlada is stating, "If you are intelligent, then you must begin Krsna consciousness from childhood."
Srimad-Bhagavatam offers bhagavata-dharma, or scientific knowledge about God. Bhagavatam means the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and dharma means the regulative principles of understanding Krsna consciousness. This human form of life is very rare. It is a great opportunity. Therefore Prahlada says, "My dear friends, you are born as civilized human beings, so this is the greatest opportunity." Although I can't predict the exact length of my life, it's calculated that in this age the human body is meant to exist not more than a hundred years. But as the Age of Kali advances, memory, mercy, religiousness, duration of life, and all other such assets decrease.
Although human life is temporary, you can achieve the highest perfection while in this human form. Why is this so important? Because in this form you have the opportunity to understand the Supreme Lord, the all-pervading Lord. By nature's law, a human body is given to you so that you can promote yourself to the spiritual life and go back home, back to Godhead.
The ultimate goal of life is Visnu. In another verse, Prahlada Maharaja will say, "People who are interested in this material world, enamored by the material energy, do not know what the goal of human life is." Why? They have been enchanted by the glaring external energy. They have forgotten that they are spiritual energy. This is explained later on, but here he says, "This life is an opportunity to understand the ultimate goal of perfection: Visnu." Why should we be very eager to know Visnu, or God? Prahlada Maharaja gives a reason: "Visnu is the dearmost person."
We have forgotten this. We all seek some dear friend—everyone searches in this way. A man searches for dear friendship in a woman, and a woman searches for dear friendship in a man. Or else a man searches in a man, and a woman searches in a woman. Everyone searches after some dear friend, some sweet friend. Why? We want the cooperation of a dear friend who will help us. This is part of the struggle for existence, and this is natural. But we do not know that our dearmost friend is Visnu, the Supreme Lord. We are searching after some dear friend, but we do not know who this dear friend can be.
Those who have read the Bhagavad-gita will find this nice verse in the Fifth Chapter: "If you make friendship with Krsna, the Supreme Lord, then you can understand perfectly that everything that exists in this world or other worlds is all the property of Krsna. He is the proprietor and enjoyer of everything." Why are you performing austerity? Why are you performing religious rituals? Why are you giving in charity? Why do you engage in righteous activities? Whatever formulas you have manufactured are meant for pleasing the Supreme Lord, and nothing more. By your actions, by your righteous activities, when the Supreme Lord is pleased, you will get the result. If by your actions you want to gain either material happiness or spiritual happiness, if you want to live on this planet or on other planets, if you want to be a human being or you want to be a tiger, cat, or dog, whatever you like you will get. Therefore, He is the most sincere friend. Whatever you want from Him, you can get. But the intelligent man does not want anything that is materially contaminated.
In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says that one can elevate himself to the highest planet, which is known as Brahmaloka, where the duration of life is millions and millions of years. You cannot figure out the duration of life there; your arithmetic will be ineffective. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says Brahma's life is so long that 4,320,000.000 years make up one of his days. Krsna says, "Whatever position you want—from the ant up to Lord Brahma—you can have. But the repetition of birth and death will be there. But if, by discharging Krsna consciousness in devotional service, you come to Me, then you don't have to come back again to this miserable material condition."
Prahlada Maharaja says the same thing: We are searching for the dearmost friend, Krsna, the Supreme Lord. Why is He the dearmost friend? By nature He is dear. What is the dearmost thing within yourself? Have you analyzed? You are yourself the dearmost thing. I'm sitting here, but if there is a fire alarm I shall at once take care of myself: "How can I save myself?" We forget our friends. "Let me first of all take care of myself." Self-preservation is the first law of nature.
Atma, "self," in the grossest sense refers to the body. In the subtler sphere the mind is atma. And in the real sense atma means the soul. In the gross stage we are fond of protecting the body, and in a subtler stage we are very fond of protecting the mind. But above this mental, intellectual plane, where the atmosphere is spiritualized, we can understand, "I am not this mind and not this body. Aham brahmasmi—I am part and parcel of the Supreme Lord." That is the platform of real understanding.
Prahlada Maharaja says that of all living entities, Visnu is the supreme well-wisher. Therefore we are all searching for Him. When a child cries, what does he long for? He longs for his mother. But he has no language to express this. By nature, he has a body, born of the mother's body, so there is an intimate relationship with the mother's body. The child won't like any other woman. The child cries, but when the woman who is the child's mother comes and picks him up, at once he is pacified. He has no language to express all this, but the real demand is there. Similarly, we are trying to protect the body. This is self-preservation. It is the natural law of the living entity, just as eating is a natural law and sleeping is a natural law. I defend the body because within the body is the soul.
What is the soul? The soul is part and parcel of the Supreme Lord. As we want to protect the hand or finger because it is part of the whole body, similarly we try to save ourselves because this is the defending process of the Supreme. The Supreme does not need defense, but this is a manifestation of our love toward Him, which is now perverted. The finger and the hand are meant to act in the interests of the whole body. As soon as I want the hand to come here, it comes, and as soon as I want the finger to play on the drum, it plays. This is the natural position.
Similarly, we are searching for God, to dovetail our energy for the Supreme, but under the spell of the illusory, material energy we do not know it. That is our mistake. Now, here is an opportunity in human life. You have come to understand about Krsna consciousness, about your real goal of life, because you are human beings. I cannot invite some dogs to sit down here. That is the difference between dogs and human beings. A human being can understand the necessity of life. If he loses the opportunity, it is a great catastrophe.
Prahlada says, "God is the dearmost person. We have to search for God." Then what about the material necessities of life? To this Prahlada replies, "You are after sense gratification. I know that. Sense gratification is automatically achieved by contact with this body." Because a hog has a certain type of body, his sense gratification comes from eating stool, the very thing that is most obnoxious to you. At once, after evacuating, you leave to get free from the bad smell—but the hog is waiting. As soon as you evacuate, he will at once enjoy. Other animals are not attracted, because one's form of pleasure-seeking is due to one's particular body. There are different types of sense gratification according to different types of bodies. Therefore Prahlada says, "My dear friends, sense gratification is achieved according to one's particular type of body." Everyone who has a material body receives sense gratification. Don't think that the hogs eating stool are unhappy. No, they are getting fat in that way. They are very happy.
Now, if a hog can achieve sense gratification, why not a human being? But that is not our achievement. That is given by nature; the facilities of a hog's body are offered by nature, and the facilities of a dog's body are also offered by nature, or God. Why should you labor for facilities that you are destined to receive anyway by nature's law? In every form of life the bodily demands are satisfied by nature's arrangements. This gratification is arranged, just as there is an arrangement for distress. Do you like fever? No. Why does it come? I do not know. But it does come, does it not? Yes. Did you try for it? No. So how does it come? By nature. That is the only answer. Similarly, if miseries come by nature, your happiness will also come by nature. Don't bother about it. That is the instruction of Prahlada Maharaja. If you can receive the miseries of life without effort, you can also have your happiness without effort.
Then what is the real purpose of human life? You have to cultivate Krsna consciousness. Other things will be obtained by nature's law, or God's law. Even if I don't try, whatever I am to achieve because of my past work and my particular type of body will be supplied. At any stage or in any form of life, facility is given for sense gratification. As you do not try for misery, so also happiness will take place without your control. Your real concern, therefore, should be to seek out the higher goal of human life.
Thank you very much.
Satyaraja dasa addresses a gathering at the
Thank you for allowing me to speak at the 1985 Whole Life Expo. I would like to ask you all to reflect for a moment on the implications of the word whole. What does it mean to be truly whole? That is what I propose to discuss here today.
Everyone can appreciate "holistic life." Some may call it that, and some may not. But everyone tries to make his or her life as "whole" as possible. No one likes to live in a fragmented way. Accordingly, we struggle to keep a balance, making sure that there is no lack in our life. We like to feel complete, or whole.
Somehow, we sense that a complete whole is more complete than just the sum of its parts. Indeed, Webster's unabridged dictionary defines holistic in much the same way: "The view that an organic or integrated whole has a reality independent of and greater than the sum of its parts."
And so a thoughtful person is concerned with himself as a whole, his physical, mental, intellectual, and spiritual well-being. If one of these aspects of his personality is out of kilter, it throws his whole system off. He does not feel complete. The struggle for existence is thus largely a struggle for keeping perfect equilibrium among the different facets of ourselves as a whole.
The more subtle aspects of our being are generally more essential to our wholeness. If we have a physical problem—let's say we have a broken leg—that will certainly affect us. But we can still function—and we can function quite well for that matter. Now, if get more subtle—off the physical platform—and we now get onto the mental platform, a problem can get more serious. Mental equilibrium can affect the whole body—what to speak of the leg. Thus, although bodily maintenance is important, mental and intellectual maintenance is more important.
Subtler than body, mind, and intelligence is the spiritual dimension, the soul. Logically, then, this must be most important of all. And a holistic concept that neglects the soul is thus not holistic in the true sense of the word. A person who ignores his spiritual side is not whole.
Of course, the goal is to maintain all dimensions of our existence in harmony. But the comparative importance of the spiritual side cannot be denied. After all, we may claim that we are a combination of body, mind, intelligence, and soul—and this is certainly true to some degree. But the body, mind, and intelligence are always changing. We cannot claim to have the same body now that we had when we were youngsters—yet we are the same person. We do not have the same mind or intelligence—yet, again, we are the same person. You are always you. And that "you" must be the one thing that doesn't change. Acknowledging that the body, mind, and intellect are always changing, you are the soul.
This soul requires just as much nourishment as does the body, mind, or intelligence. To give great amounts of time to the maintenance of the material body—especially to the exclusion of the soul—is a great waste. One can never be happy like that. It's like cleaning a bird cage and neglecting to feed the bird within. Of course, the bird cage should be kept clean—but why waste time if you're just going to let the bird die? Clean the cage, but feed the bird. Take care of the body, mind, and intelligence, but don't neglect the soul, the spiritual dimension.
Such holistic truths were originally espoused by ancient India's Vedic literature. In the invocation to the Isopanisad, the perfection of holistic life is enunciated, as is its source:
om purnam adah purnam idam
"The Supreme Personality of Godhead is perfect and complete, and because He is completely perfect, all emanations from Him, such as this phenomenal world, are perfectly equipped as complete wholes. Whatever is produced of the complete whole is also complete in itself. Because He is the complete whole, even though so many complete units emanate from Him, He remains the complete balance."
This profound verse clearly explains why we pursue completeness, why we want to be whole. The reason, very simply, is that we are constitutionally whole. It's inherent.
As part of the Supreme Whole, God, we are whole in and of ourselves. This is the nature of spiritual wholeness—it is the exact opposite of so-called material wholeness, which isn't really wholeness at all. For instance, if you take a piece of paper and rip it into little pieces and then throw all the pieces around the room, you no longer have the original piece of paper. But spiritually it is just the opposite. If you could rip a spiritual piece of paper and throw the pieces all over, the original, whole paper would still exist! This is the way it is with God. Although He expands into the innumerable spirit souls, He still remains complete. His original position is not diminished. He remains whole.
And because the spirit souls emanate from the complete whole, they have a sort of wholeness themselves. Any quality found in God can be found in the ordinary living entity to some minute degree—hence the Biblical statement that we are made in the image of God. But our wholeness must be considered subordinate to God's. He is infinite, and we are infinitesimal.
One manifestation that shows our wholeness is subordinate to God's is our need to render service. God is wholly independent. We are not. We are dependent on Him for so many things: food, air, fire, rain—even for our body, mind, and intelligence. Our perfect wholeness is exhibited when we render service to that which sustains us.
One hand washes the other, both hands wash the face, and in this way we take care of the rest of the body, knowing full well the importance of our body as a whole. Thus, our hands "glorify" the body in that they work for the benefit or well-being of the whole body. Similarly, the living being begins to nourish himself spiritually when he starts to glorify the Lord. When one takes the time to vibrate praises of the Lord, one's overall physical, mental, and intellectual well-being is augmented by genuine spiritual well-being.
The world's original religious scriptures, the Vedic literatures, specifically recommend the chanting of the maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This is the prayer par excellence, because it asks nothing of God in return. It asks for nothing more than to be engaged in the Lord's service: "O Lord! O energy of the Lord! Please engage me in Your service." This prayer contains every aspect of the Absolute Truth and is thus the essence of holistic life in the fullest sense of the term.
Betrayed by the Basic Four
Four? Three? Whatever the count,
by Visakha-devi dasi
I remember how we learn about it in elementary school. Mrs. Pile had a colorful, authoritative chart divided into four sections—the Basic Four. Twenty-two young, innocent faces gazed at the pictures. In section one: milk, cheeses, ice cream, and pudding. In section two: a hamburger, sausages, a fried chicken leg, a boiled egg, a hot dog, and some shrimp. In section three: carrots, a slice of watermelon, broccoli, a baked potato, half an orange, and some strawberries. And in section four: lasagna, breads, tortillas, waffles, spaghetti, rice, and corn muffins.
On the far right of the chart was a smaller section of pictures: an apple pie, cookies, marmalades, and catsup. These were foods to complement, but not replace, the Basic Four. "You should eat from the four food groups every day," Mrs. Pile told us.
What a surprise when, over the years, the axiomatic Basic Four received ax-blows from nutritionists. They told us that fatty meats and fried foods may send the blood cholesterol up and cause heart attacks. Salty foods may send the blood pressure up and cause strokes. Foods without fiber can lead to cancer of the colon.
It became evident that our Basic Four convenience staples—hamburgers, French fries, even white bread—were endangering our health.
Srila Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual master of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, unequivocally toppled the Four. "Eating meat, fish, and eggs," he said, "is sinful." In fact, "Those who kill animals and give them unnecessary pain—as people do in slaughterhouses—will be killed in a similar way in the next life and in many lives to come. . . .There are many rascals who now violate their own religious principles. Judeo-Christian scriptures clearly say, 'Thou shalt not kill.' Nonetheless, even the heads of religion, giving all kinds of excuses, indulge in killing animals. And still they try to pass as saintly persons. This mockery and hypocrisy in human society bring about unlimited calamities."
Well, so much for section two. But that doesn't mean Srila Prabhupada simply left us with the "Basic Three." No. He taught us about krsna-prasadam, vegetarian food offered to Krsna with love and devotion.
Krsna-prasadam may look like traditional Indian vegetarian food: it doesn't contain meat, fish, or eggs, and it often follows traditional Indian recipes. But it qualitatively surpasses all mundane food (even the finest vegetarian cuisine) because it nourishes not only the body but also the spirit.
Prasadam purifies us. It vanquishes sinful reactions and immunizes us to the contamination of materialism. Just as a vaccine can protect us against an epidemic, so krsna-prasadam protects us from the illusion and suffering of materialistic life. Thus, one who eats prasadam readily progresses in self-realization.
A devotee of Lord Krsna—educated by his spiritual master, the scriptures, and saintly teachers—knows that all food ultimately comes from God. It cannot be produced by any man-made arrangement. And a devotee wants to please God by offering the earth's bounty—which is God's own bounty—back to Him.
Skeptics have no entrance into this divine exchange. Perhaps they place their faith in the Basic Four. The devotee, however, remains in a compact of love with Lord Krsna and eats only His prasadam.
(Recipes from The Hare Krishna Book of Vegetarian Cooking, by Adi-raja dasa)
Steamed Dal and Yogurt
Soaking and standing time: 10 hours
12 ounces channa dal, cleaned
1. Wash the dal and soak it for at least four hours. Then drain it. put it in a blender or food processor with the yogurt and water, and blend until smooth. Let it stand at least 6 hours in a warm place, covered.
2. Find a pot into which you can fit a round cake pan 8 inches across. You'll need some sort of ring to keep the cake pan off the bottom. Its center should have an opening wide enough to allow steam to reach the bottom of the pan. Put about 2 inches of water in the pot and bring to a boil.
3. Grind the fresh chilies into a paste with a little water and add to the batter. Then add the ginger, turmeric, salt, lemon juice, melted ghee, and baking powder. Mix well. Grease the cake pan with a little butter or ghee and pour in the batter. Cover the pot tightly and steam the dokla for 20 to 25 minutes or until springy to the touch.
4. To prepare the topping, heat 2 tablespoons of ghee in a small pan and fry the mustard seeds, the sesame seeds, and a pinch of asafetida. When the mustard seeds finish popping, spread these seasonings over the top of the dokla and then sprinkle over it the grated coconut and coriander leaves.
5. When cool, cut into 3-inch squares and carefully remove from the pan. Offer to Krsna.
Fried and Soaked Cheese Cubes
Soaking time: 20 minutes
10 ounces paneer (cheese) ghee or vegetable oil for deep-frying
1. Make paneer as described in BACK TO GODHEAD. Vol. 18. No. 6, and reserve 2 cups of the whey. Gather the paneer in a cheesecloth and rinse it under cold water for a few seconds. Now flatten the cheese in the cheesecloth to a thickness of about 1 inch and weigh it down evenly so the result will be a flat slab of firm cheese. Do this on top of the sink so the liquid has a place to drain. Leave it for 30 minutes.
3. Start a masala by heating a tablespoon of ghee or vegetable oil in a small saucepan. Stir-fry the cumin seeds, cinnamon sticks, and cloves. After about 30 seconds, follow with the powdered spices and stir-try for a few seconds more. Now pour the 2 cups of whey into the masala, add the salt, and bring to a boil; then remove from the flame. Put the fried cheese cubes into this liquid masala and allow them to soak for at least 20 minutes. Just before offering to Krsna, reheat the paneer masala, then drain off the liquid.
Preparation and cooking time: 25 minutes
7 ounces sifted chick-pea flour
Mix together the chick-pea flour, spices, salt, and cold water to make a smooth, thick paste. Heat the ghee or oil over a medium flame. Beat the paste a few seconds. Then use a spatula to force a spoonful of paste through a large-holed colander into the ghee. Now run the spatula over the bottom of the colander to scrape any remaining batter back into the bowl. Force another spoonful of paste through the holes into the ghee. Repeat until the surface of the ghee is covered with noodles. If the paste is too thin and falls in elongated drops instead of noodles, thicken it with more chickpea flour. Turn and fry the noodles until only slightly brown. They will continue to darken after you remove them from the ghee. Drain before offering to Krsna.
Note: You can also use a cloth icing bag with a small hole to make spirals or loops. If these noodles are too large, you can break them into pieces after they drain.
Preparation and cooking time: 20 minutes
You can make practically any vegetable into pakoras. Whatever vegetable you use, cut the pieces about the same size so that they cook at the same speed.
8 ounces chick-pea flour
1. Sift the chick-pea flour into a large mixing howl and add the spices, salt, and baking powder. Slowly add the cold water and whisk until you have a smooth batter thick enough to coat the vegetables.
2. Cut all the vegetables before heating the ghee. You may need to parboil large cauliflower pieces. Use other vegetables raw.
3. Heat the ghee or vegetable oil over a medium-high flame. The ghee is hot enough when a drop of hatter dropped into it rises immediately to the surface and sizzles. Now put a handful of cut vegetables into the hatter and coat them well. Put in one kind of vegetable at a time-you're going to fry each kind separately. Take the coated vegetables out of the batter one by one and put them quickly into the hot ghee until the surface of the ghee is covered. Fry for several minutes, until the pakoras are golden brown and crisp: then remove them and let them drain. Fry all the pakoras in this way, never putting in more than one layer at a time. When drained, offer to Krsna.
William James's "Soul Theory" seemed imposing at first—as imposing as William James Hall must have looked to my grandmother. As it turned out, James was pretty close to home.
by Mathuresa Dasa
Gammy, my grandmother, had a passing acquaintance of sorts with William James, the great American psychologist and philosopher. She owned a two-century-old white clapboard house on Kirkland Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and in the early sixties Harvard University erected William James Hall on the lot across the street. As a good neighbor, Harvard invited my grandmother to a party celebrating the opening of this fifteen-story concrete-and-glass home for its psychology department. Gammy crossed Kirkland Street on rickety legs, rode the elevator to the top floor of William James, and chatted with other guests while looking down dizzily on her little house. That was her passing acquaintance.
Gammy may have also played a part in introducing me to her distinguished neighbor. Since the death of her husband in 1949, she had turned down the Harvard trustees' many offers to purchase 34 Kirkland, even if she would only leave it to them in her will. I suspect that my early admission to Harvard, despite my feeble academic record, was an embellishment to the long overture the trustees dedicated to winning Gammy's heart and house. I arrived in Cambridge in the fall of 1968 and, aspiring to major in psychology, attended classes in William James Hall. I also tried to decipher, among other books, James's Principles of Psychology. That was my passing acquaintance.
After a few semesters of Harvard I signed up for a one-year leave of absence and have been absent ever since. But recently I've been renewing my acquaintance with a chapter or two of Principles of Psychology. And I've been noting that Srila Prabhupada's writings, * [*His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder and spiritual master of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, wrote over fifty volumes of translation and commentary on India's ancient Vedic literature. Srila Prabhupada's books contain a wealth of practical information in all fields of knowledge.] which I study daily, illuminate the many obscure corners of the field of psychology, especially shedding light on what James called the "Soul Theory," or the "orthodox 'spiritualistic' theory of scholasticism and of common sense."
On the first page of Principles James asserts that in psychology, the science of consciousness, there are essentially two ways to account for such things as feelings, desires, and thoughts. The first way is to consider them symptoms of a personal soul that exists separate from the physical body, detached and self-sufficient. The soul has permanent faculties for volition, reasoning, memory, imagination, and so on, and the phenomena of consciousness are manifestations of these faculties. We remember because the soul has recollective power, reason because it has reasoning power. These powers are absolute in the sense that they have no physiological components. They are "irreducible faculties." This is James's commonsense spiritualistic theory.
The second way to account for our thoughts and feelings is to say that they are not manifestations of an individual soul at all, but rather the product of certain mechanical laws. These laws influence the elements of consciousness, which are components of our brains and nervous systems, to group themselves in various patterns and forms, thus producing memories, perceptions, desires, and all the other trappings of an individual mind. According to this theory, individual ego is the final product of interactions that take place within the brain. Individual consciousness, in other words, arises from matter—gray matter.
In Chapter Six of Principles, James traces this materialistic perspective back to the theory of evolution, which posits that inorganic compounds appeared first, then lower life-forms, then animals (who possess some consciousness), then human beings (who possess a lot of it). The evolutionists' premise is that "The selfsame atoms which, chaotically dispersed, made the nebula, now jammed and temporarily caught in peculiar positions, form our brains."
Evolutionary theory is more or less acceptable, James proposes, as long as it sticks to explaining the arrangement and rearrangement of the elements of material nature. But consciousness, he says, is apparently a completely new nature. Evolution may have produced some highly complex gray matter, but we cannot observe consciousness by poking around in our cerebral cortex.
The most we can say is that certain brain conditions appear to correspond with certain conditions of consciousness. When alcohol goes to a man's head, for example, it alters his thoughts and feelings. But the exact relation between our brains and our thoughts and feelings is not clear enough for us to assert that consciousness arises from matter. Although James doesn't categorically reject the materialistic viewpoint, he devotes the sixth chapter to pointing out its flaws.
Reading Principles back in 1968, I found most of this material-spiritual stuff unintelligible. I felt I was surveying familiar ground from an alien place, like Gammy must have felt peering down at her white clapboard home from the summit of William James Hall. Nothing could be more down-home than our own selves, yet from the intellectual heights of Principles, individual consciousness looked to me like a pickled specimen. James had clarified a principle of human psychology that is very close to home for everyone, but it wasn't until I later read the Bhagavad-gita As It Is that the material-spiritual business came fully into focus.
In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, tells us straight out that we are not our physical bodies but eternal individual souls and that consciousness is the energy of the soul. As sunlight streaming through a window indicates the sun is up, so the consciousness pervading the body indicates the soul's presence. According to the Gita, thoughts and feelings are indeed manifestations of the soul's irreducible faculties. Furthermore, our very drive to survive is evidence of the soul's eternal nature. Krsna thus strongly affirms the spiritualistic theory.
The Gita and other Vedic texts further clarify the difference between matter and spirit by distinguishing, unlike James and many other Western philosophers, between mind and consciousness. Vedic sources explain that while consciousness is the soul's energy, mind as we now know it is part of a subtle material body situated within our gross, flesh-and-bone body. The soul proper does have faculties of thought, memory, and so on, but these pure faculties are now covered and distorted by the subtle body. The subtle body covers the soul like a shirt and is in turn enveloped by the "coat" of the gross body.
For the purposes of this article, however, we can accept James's equating of mind and consciousness, since it is a fact that without consciousness neither the subtle nor the gross body can function. Through consciousness the soul energizes both the subtle mind and the gross physical frame. When the soul passes away, it takes the subtle body with it and leaves the flesh and bone lifeless. The immediate source of our thoughts and feelings is the subtle mind, but the original source is the soul.
In addition to confirming and elucidating the soul theory, the Vedic literature forwards powerful arguments against the soulless materialistic perspective. Srila Prabhupada explains: If consciousness arises from matter, then modern scientists, with so many sophisticated laboratory techniques at their disposal, should be able to create consciousness from material elements. They should be able to produce at least a one-celled organism, or to restore life to a dead body. A corpse has all (or most) of the chemicals and other ingredients of a living body. So take all those ingredients, adjust and add to them as you like, and bring the body back to life. Give it consciousness. That's a tall order, but until we fill it the materialistic theory remains only a theory.
Srila Prabhupada's "Create consciousness!" challenge brought to life for me James's allegation that the chasm between matter and consciousness had yet to be bridged by experimental evidence. The challenge made it clear that today, almost a century after the publication of Principles, James's allegation still carried weight. In recent decades, scientists have synthesized amino acids and combined the human sperm and ovum outside the womb, but they still have not created any life-form, even an amoeba or a flea. They have not and they cannot, because consciousness is not built of material elements. Prabhupada's simple challenge exposed the weakness of the materialistic perspective, turned me into a spiritualist, and made James intelligible to boot.
Yet James, by his own admission, was not a dedicated follower of the soul theory. He ultimately rejected both the materialistic and spiritualistic perspectives. The fault in the soul theory, James pointed out, is that it fails to explain why consciousness, though it may not be a product of matter, is affected by material conditions. If the soul is part of a different nature, then why does the material nature influence it?
James used memory as an example. Soul theorists say that memory is an absolute faculty, yet we all have practical experience that circumstances can cause our memories to fail us. I know, for instance, that my parents took me to see Gammy at 34 Kirkland Street many times during my childhood, yet I recall most of those visits only vaguely, if at all. On the other hand, one memory I do have—a Christmas visit when I was six—is crystal clear. Cambridge was deep in snow that December. In Gammy's yard I was up to my waist, and the cold white blanket turned her forsythia hedge into a grand twiggy cavern. I went caroling with my parents and some of my father's old friends, and on Christmas morning I tiptoed down the narrow spiral staircase to peek at the pile of presents in Gammy's living room.
Our memories hold on to some things better than others, and this appeared curious to James:
For why should this absolute god-given Faculty retain so much better the events of yesterday than those of last year . . . ? Why, again, in old age should its grasp of childhood's events seem firmest? Why should illness and exhaustion enfeeble it? . . .Why should drugs, fevers, asphyxia, and excitement resuscitate things long since forgotten?
Here James uses the word "absolute" in a broader sense, to mean not just "without material components" but also "unaffected by material conditions." Since memory and other faculties of the soul are undoubtedly affected, James felt that the mystery of how this could be so must haunt all spiritualists.
Although he found the soul theory to be the most logical, James concluded that even if there is a soul, all we can directly observe is consciousness, the soul's energy, and that a psychologist should therefore restrict himself to ascertaining the correspondence between brain conditions and conditions of consciousness. This conclusion, he said, was "the last word of a psychology which contents itself with verifiable laws, and seeks only to be clear, and to avoid unsafe hypotheses."
It is a tribute to James's honesty that he admits there is no way he can empirically verify whether the source of individual consciousness is a spiritual soul or a complex pattern of material atoms. But what an admission! William James, perhaps America's greatest psychologist, one of my grandmother's neighbors, and a Harvard man at that, didn't even know who he was. That's unsettling. By most standards, especially psychological standards, a person uncertain of his very identity is nuts.
In his books, Srila Prabhupada many times explains that this is the predicament of the empiricist: He refuses to rely on anything but his imperfect senses, mind, and intelligence and must therefore forever content himself with imperfect knowledge. Not only can we not conclusively identify our own selves through empirical research, but all our sensual observations are potentially faulty, leading to many "unsafe hypotheses," even in fields where conclusions are apparently verifiable.
But the solution to the empirical quandary is not to abandon (in the name of honesty) the quest for absolute truth, as James did in Principles. Lord Krsna states in the Bhagavad-gita that the perfection of empiricism, of lifetimes of research, is to understand the Absolute by surrendering to Him, serving Him with devotion, and allowing Him to reveal Himself. Since the Absolute's senses, mind, and intelligence are perfect and unlimited. His "empirical" knowledge, His observations and experiences, His teachings, are complete and without fault. For the empiricist who at least theoretically accepts Krsna as the Absolute Truth, studying the Gita in that submissive mood, all questions about both matter and spirit are fully answered.
That haunting question, for example: How can matter, or material conditions, affect the absolute, God-given, nonmaterial faculties of the soul?
The answer, simply enough, is that matter and material conditions are also God-given. According to the Gita's seventh chapter, those "self-same atoms" James talks about, the ones that made the nebula and which now form, among other things, our brains, constitute an energy of the Supreme Lord, His inferior energy. Hydrogen and helium, water and air, bricks and mortar, flesh and bone—all these are "inferior energy" because they lack consciousness and are thus qualitatively different from Lord Krsna in His original, all-cognizant, all-blissful personal form.
Krsna controls all movements of His inferior (material) energy, repeatedly creating and destroying the universe and the varieties of bodies, forms, and conditions we perceive around us. Even man's creations—his skyscrapers, motor vehicles, institutions, his works of art, his psychological treatises—come about only through God-given energies.
We spirit souls inhabiting material bodies are also an energy of Krsna's, His superior energy. We are qualitatively equal to Krsna, by nature blissful and full of knowledge. But quantitatively we are not equal. Krsna is infinite, we are infinitesimal. He is the potent, we are the potency. He is the master, and we are all, by our very nature, His servants. The superior energy, too, is fully under Krsna's control.
But we have a little freedom, a choice. We can serve Krsna directly and willingly, surrendering to His control and enjoying His blissful association, or we can rebel and be forced to serve Him indirectly, through His inferior energy. The Visnu Purana states that we are sparks of Lord Krsna, who is the supreme fire. As long as we remain within the fire, our blissful spiritual qualities blaze freely, but upon leaving the roaring flames we fall to the ground and are almost completely extinguished. The "ground" is the inferior, material energy, which the Visnu Purana calls avidya-sakti, or "ignorance energy," because it is specifically designed to delude and harass rebellious souls, fulfilling their desire to forget their spiritual identity.
So why do old age, illness, exhaustion, drugs, fever, and a host of other material conditions affect the soul? My old acquaintance, William James, posed this question, and being unable to answer, remained uncertain of the soul's existence, and thus of his own identity. But the Vedic literature answers decisively that only rebellious souls, those who have deliberately rejected the shelter of matter's controller, come under matter's influence. When the soul is in the fire of Krsna consciousness, the inferior energy cannot afflict it.
James's uncertainty is itself an affliction, a blotch of ignorance brought about by the inferior energy. James wanted proof of the soul, but he didn't know that surrender to the Supreme Soul is the only way to have it. He also, I assume, in narrowing the science of psychology to a search for the correspondence between material conditions and conditions of consciousness, wanted to find ways to liberate consciousness from the material conditions of old age, disease, and death. That is the topmost achievement for any scientist, the achievement most heralded in human society. But complete liberation from miserable conditions also requires surrender to Krsna. Or, to put it in Jamesian terms, the power of material conditions to subjugate us corresponds to our rejection of Krsna consciousness.
Down-home proof of the Vedic soul theory is available to anyone participating in the Krsna consciousness movement. Krsna assures us, again in the Gita's seventh chapter, that although overcoming His material energy is difficult, it is easy for those who have surrendered to Him.
So, surrender to Krsna. Learn the science of Krsna consciousness, practice it, and feel the inferior energy's grasp gradually loosen.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
The Intellectual Animal
by Rupanuga dasa
Eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. These propensities are common to the animal, including the human animal. Especially for humans, fulfilling these propensities creates a constant challenge: how to eat well, how to sleep comfortably, how to make more suitable arrangements for sex, and, most perplexing, how to defend against an enemy. After all, without adequate defense, the other basics could well be blown to smithereens.
On the other hand, many people don't believe such a thing could happen. In fact, many people don't seem to believe in nuclear war, as if it were something one could choose to believe in or not, like Santa Claus or the Good Fairy.
Let's be realistic. Rabbits often close their eyes when cornered by a predator, thinking to make it disappear. And everyone has heard about the proverbial ostrich hiding its head in the sand. But such attitudes are not intelligent. History shows no instance where huge stockpiles of arms have not eventually been used. The reality is upon us, and ignoring it won't change things.
At present, there are over 345 commercial nuclear power reactors in operation in 26 countries, and 52 countries have nuclear research facilities. Of course, all of these countries do not possess enrichment facilities to turn uranium into bomb-grade material right away, but there are already enough nuclear bombs between the United States and Russia to deliver the equivalent of 1,000 tons of TNT to every man, woman, and child on earth. This may explain the resistance against the MX missile: people are beginning to say, "Enough's enough."
The latest country to join the nuclear powers is India (in 1974), and Pakistan is expected to be next. Since Indian independence, India has been portrayed as a nonaligned, fast-developing third-world country. While those outside India have often shown more interest in her spiritual culture, India's leaders have been running after Western technology, showing an ambivalence toward their own heritage. Examining the shifting emphasis of India's culture from spiritual to material gives us a clue to how modern Western civilization and its imitators are producing a new enemy, which is neither black nor white, communist nor capitalist, but a subhuman creature.
In February 1936, Srila Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual master of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, delivered a speech to some prominent citizens of Bombay. The following is an excerpt:
It is said that we are passing through the age of darkness, the Kali-yuga [the age of quarrel, hypocrisy, and strife]. What is this darkness? It cannot be due to backwardness in material knowledge, because we now have more material knowledge than formerly. If not we ourselves, our neighbors at any rate have plenty of it. Therefore, we must conclude that the darkness of the present age is not due to a lack of material advancement, but that we have lost the clue to our spiritual advancement, which is the prime necessity of human life, the criterion of the highest type of human civilization. Throwing of bombs from airplanes is no advancement of civilization from the primitive, uncivilized practice of dropping big stones on enemies' heads from the tops of hills. . . . Nor does the development of a sense of pampered selfishness prove anything more than intellectual animalism. True human civilization is very different from all these states, and therefore in the Katha Upanisad [1.3.14] there is the emphatic call: "Please wake up and try to understand the boon that you now have in this human form of life. The path of spiritual realization is difficult: it's as sharp as a razor's edge. That is the opinion of transcendental scholars."
The development of a sense of pampered selfishness refers to using the human form of life and its distinctive intelligence merely to satisfy animal propensities, without developing a higher sense of spiritual existence. Intellectually, the human being can develop the concept of God realization and self-realization, whereas an animal can grasp neither. However, when such superior brain power is dedicated to decorating human life with animalism, it may be termed "intellectual animalism."
Our subhuman creature, the intellectual animal, uses his brain to perfect eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. But how much can it eat? An ordinary elephant eats more than one hundred pounds daily. How much can it sleep? An ordinary bear can hibernate for months on end. How often can it mate? Pigeons have sex thirty times daily.
But, as far as fighting goes, the intellectual animal has far outdone any other species. It cannot defend itself naturally, using teeth and nails against a stronger animal, yet it has perfected the art of killing its own kind with giant weapons far beyond the imagination of those present during Srila Prabhupada's 1936 address. During that speech Srila Prabhupada went on to say:
Thus, while others were yet in the womb of historical oblivion, the sages of India had developed a different kind of civilization, which enabled them to know themselves. . . . All of us are spiritual entities. We cannot have perfect happiness, which is our birthright, however much we meddle with the affairs of mundane things. Perfect happiness can be ours only when we are restored to our natural state of spiritual existence. This is the distinctive message of our ancient Indian civilization, this is the distinctive message of the Bhagavad-gita.
Our spiritual awakening begins when we become inquisitive about the meaning of life, the reason for death and suffering, the identity of God, and our relation with Him. In a BACK TO GODHEAD magazine article, Srila Prabhupada dramatized the human being's natural inquisitiveness beyond the animal's problems of food, sleep, sex, and defense into the real problems of life:
Why have I been put into this miserable condition? Is there any remedy for it? Is there any perpetual, eternal life? I do not want to die. I want to live very happily and peacefully. Is there a chance of this? What is that method? What is that science? When these inquiries are there and steps are taken to answer these questions, that is human civilization; otherwise it is animal civilization.
by Sita-devi dasi
A billboard along the freeway outside Atlanta reads:
Alcohol. Depression. Stress . . . Life
Life? Is this life? Alcohol, depression, and stress?
Yes, for many it is. For many, the stupor of alcohol, the numbness of chronic depression, and the pressures of unrelieved anxiety have reduced life to little more than a burden to be grimly tolerated.
That's why we have places like the Ridgeview Community Counseling Center. Such places do a lot of good. Unfortunately, the good they do is inadequate. They don't reach the root of psychological problems.
Every bona fide scripture of the world informs us that the root of all distress is forgetfulness of God. We have forgotten our eternal link with God as His servants. As soon as we forget that, all our troubles begin. The Vedic literature in particular explains how the rebellious souls enter and remain entrapped within this world of birth, death, and suffering. We mistake ourselves to be products of this material world. This is may a (illusion). Foolishly identifying with the physical body (black/ white, male/female, and so on), we fall prey to a world of pains, stresses, disappointments, frustrations, anxieties, and heartbreaks.
Spiritual life is, by contrast, blissful, eternal, and joyful. Why? One reason is that spiritual life—if it is indeed genuine—is based on an enlightened conception of the self. For example, a friend of mine recently lost his wife. He became depressed. He had many relatives and friends to console him, but his depression did not abate. As a student of the Bhagavad-gita, I could see he had no clear knowledge of the eternal nature of the self. But as soon as he tasted one morsel of truth from Bhagavad-gita—"We are spiritual; we exist after death"—he felt comforted.
Persons working at the Ridgeview Community Counseling Center and other such centers need transcendental knowledge. We are all meant to help each other. That's natural. And naturally we feel compassion when we see others suffering. But to truly help we must have truth to help with. Help and compassion fall short if they do not comprehend the real, eternal nature of the self.
"Serves You Right, Sinner"
by Mathuresa dasa
In this "Vedic Observer" section, BACK TO GODHEAD writers often refer to the laws of karma, the laws of action and reaction. In one sense, the laws of karma are any laws by which one can predict the result—or reaction—to a given event. In this broad sense, Isaac Newton's third law of motion—to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction—is a statement of how the laws of karma operate in the realm of physics. In another context, a doctor's diagnosis that our indigestion is the result of too much spicy food is based on the doctor's knowledge of the laws of karma as they relate to medical science. And although we don't normally use the word karma, we can directly observe that pollution is the karmic reaction for industrial development, venereal diseases the karmic reaction for promiscuity, imprisonment the karmic reaction for crime.
BACK TO GODHEAD writers treat karma, however, with the understanding derived from the ancient Vedic literature that all unchanging laws are creations of the supreme lawmaker, God. This perspective on universal laws is shared by religious traditions outside the direct Vedic line, and, in fact, by any person with a little common sense. Whether we are dealing with a state created by man or with the universal state, to assert that laws have no maker is foolish.
But one of the difficulties with referring to the laws of karma to explain newsworthy events is that such an explanation often sounds like we're saying "Serves you right, sinners." Even though BACK TO GODHEAD writers are careful, it's easy for readers, especially those already averse to theism, to jump to the conclusion that someone is attempting to ram piety down their throats with an iron rod of sanctimony.
Another difficulty is that, even among those who agree that natural laws are the doing of a supreme lawmaker, there is disagreement over just what those laws are and, consequently, over just who is a lawbreaker, or sinner. Christian points a finger at Muslim, who points a finger at Hindu, who points a finger at Christian—and the casual onlooker turns cynic.
How do we resolve these difficulties? BACK TO GODHEAD writers are committed to presenting the truth, just as it is presented in the Vedic literature. But as for sanctimony, the serves-you-right tone, we take great pains to avoid it. We try to diagnose an event or news item scientifically, presenting things in the light of Vedic knowledge. As a doctor's first concern is that his patients remain healthy, so members of the Krsna consciousness movement inform people of the laws of karma to help them overcome future unpleasant reactions.
Members of the Hare Krsna movement, including contributors to BACK TO GODHEAD, also avoid bickering with members of other religious faiths over the details of God's laws. We try to see the common ground—and there is plenty of it—shared by the world's religions, whose common goal is, after all, to serve and glorify the Supreme Lord. There are disagreements, of course. We assert, for example, that the Biblical injunction "Thou shalt not kill" refers to the unnecessary killing of any living being, including animals. But even in thus disagreeing with the prevailing viewpoint of modern Christians, we are accepting Jesus Christ's instructions. Similarly, we find no difficulty in accepting many of the principles enunciated and practiced by followers of Islam and other religious traditions.
Only on an individual basis can we fully resolve the difficulties that arise in trying to explain the laws of karma. Human society is always roughly divided into two camps: those who acknowledge the supreme lawmaker, and those who don't. Those who don't will always regard references to sin and karma as sanctimony. Those who do acknowledge God will, as long as they are still in the earlier stages of spiritual development, tend to squabble with members of other faiths. It is ultimately up to individuals (and groups of individuals) to come to the stage of spiritual maturity. Then they can powerfully communicate their understanding to others without forcing it upon them.
This is the continuation of a conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and a guest—Dr. Christian Hauser, a psychiatrist—which took place in Stockholm in September 1973.
Srila Prabhupada: I am prescribing, "Chant Hare Krsna." If you say, "Hare Krsna," immediately the relief begins. And if you say, "No, no, I cannot chant this Hare Krsna mantra—I don't believe in it," what can be done? That will prove to be a great misfortune.
Just consider. Someone is being asked to chant two words: Hare Krsna. But he'll not agree to chant these two words and get relief. Instead, he'll chant ten or fifteen words: "No, no, I cannot chant this Hare Krsna mantra—I don't believe in it." He won't chant the two words Hare Krsna and get relief. That is a great misfortune for the person.
Dr. Hauser: Yes. But isn't there something else beyond just the chanting? I mean ...
Srila Prabhupada: That is the beginning. It is like an ocean. Anandambudhi: an ocean of blissfulness. So first of all, come to the shore—touch the water. It is like the Pacific Ocean, with all its vastness. But come to the shore and touch the water. Then gradually you'll understand. If you remain aloof—"No, I shall not touch it"—then how can you understand what the Pacific Ocean is?
Dr. Hauser: Yes, I can see that.
Srila Prabhupada: Ambudhi means "the ocean"; ananda means "blissfulness." So anandambudhi means "the ocean of blissfulness." And anandambudhi-vardhanam: this ocean of blissfulness goes on increasing and increasing unlimitedly.
Now, how does this ocean of blissfulness go on increasing? Ceto-darpana marjanam: the more you chant the Lord's holy names, the more you cleanse your heart.
We all have got these unclean ideas, these dirty illusions—"I am white," "I am black," "I am French," "I am Chinese"—covering our heart. Fundamentally, our illusion is, "I am this body."
But by chanting the Lord's names, we cleanse away our illusion and come to the reality: "I am a spirit soul, part and parcel of the Supreme Spirit. Now let me serve Him."
So our diseased condition in this world is due to our unclean heart. In fact, disease means uncleanliness. Is it not?
Dr. Hauser: Hmm.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. So our material disease—our being in this material world to begin with—is due to our unclean heart. Therefore to cure this disease, ceto-darpana-marjanam: we have to cleanse our heart. And this is the process: chant Hare Krsna; let the Lord's holy names cleanse our heart.
Dr. Hauser: When did this movement start in the Western hemisphere?
Srila Prabhupada: My spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, asked me to revive this traditional Vedic culture in the Western world. It is not actually a question of "starting." This is the world's traditional, original culture.
Dr. Hauser: For some people, it will be very difficult accepting this kind of thing as authoritative.
Srila Prabhupada: Why? At every moment, everyone is accepting something or other as authoritative—whether some scientific theory or some news report. And yet generally, whatever thing we are accepting was produced by some man's imperfect senses and imperfect mind—so that thing is imperfect.
Dr. Hauser: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: But if we go to the all-perfect Supreme Personality of Godhead, then we get something perfect, something really authoritative. Take this traditional Vedic culture. It comes from the Vedic literature of Vyasadeva, the Lord's literary incarnation. You just test for yourself. For instance, several thousand years ago, the Bhagavata Purana foretold Lord Buddha's birth—the place, the family, the date—exactly. Perfect authoritativeness.
So this chanting of the Lord's names—we are not concocting some idea. In the Vedic literature the Lord recommends this; this is authoritative.
But instead you may want to accept some other prescription for relief—something produced by some man's imperfect senses and mind. But that thing must be imperfect, because it is from someone imperfect.
Dr. Hauser: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: And yet, despite all this imperfection, still this man will put the thing forward as if it were perfect. So he is cheating.
That is going on. Recently a big professor, a Nobel Prize winner, went to Los Angeles to tout his hook on chemical evolution. His remedy for our darkness is that life begins from a certain four chemicals. And he has the effrontery to give lectures.
So one of my disciples who has a doctorate in chemistry asked this professor, "If I give you these four chemicals, will you be able to produce life?" The professor replied, "That I cannot say."
Remember, he had asserted that life begins from these four chemicals, and he had lectured for hours. And yet when he was asked, "When you actually have these four chemicals, will you be able to produce life?" he answered, "That I cannot say." Just see. He's not certain whether he'll be able to produce life. Is this not cheating?
Dr. Hauser: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: So we don't go to cheaters to get relief. We go to the Supreme Lord, and we continuously chant His holy names.
(To be continued.)
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Italians Gain Spiritual Perspective on Animal Rights
Florence, Italy—Animal-rights activists recently met at ISKCON's Villa Vrndavana rural community here to discuss the spiritual dimensions of the animal-rights movement. Participants included members of the Italian Vegetarian League, the Italian League for Animal Rights, and the Italian Antivivisection League, among others.
Somaka Swami and Gaura Krsna dasa, organizers of the conference, stressed that all living beings (not just humans) have an eternal soul and thus a right to life. The one-day conference featured an elaborate feast of krsna-prasadam (vegetarian food offered to Krsna) and a play illustrating the tragic ignorance of meat-eating.
On other fronts, ISKCON recently participated in an antivivisection demonstration in Basel, Switzerland, and was dubbed by a prominent newspaper in Atlanta, Georgia, as "the best organized vegetarian lobby" in the United States.
"Adopt a Cow" Expands from Pennsylvania Farm
Port Royal, Pennsylvania—ISKCON's Gita-nagari farm here, a self-sufficient community dedicated to God consciousness and cow protection, has received international publicity for its unique Adopt-a-Cow program.
An Associated Press story appeared in many newspapers in the United States, as well as in India and South Korea. "Hindus who find it impossible to keep a cow themselves are being offered a chance to aid their religion's most sacred animal through a farm's Adopt-a-Cow program that guarantees the animal's lifelong care," the AP story said.
The Adopt-a-Cow program was founded by a group of Hindu doctors and business men and has initially focused on the Hindu community in the United States. Letters to Hindu families across the country have been mailed, and advertisements have been placed in several Hindu publications.
The project is not restricted to the Hindu community, however. Gaura Hari dasa, Adopt-a-Cow coordinator at Gita-nagari, plans to expand advertising to publications serving vegetarians and animal-rights activists, stressing the practical contributions the cow makes to society. "The idea is to promote the principle of cow protection and to get people to think of a cow as a living person," Gaura Hari says. "We want people to think of cows as part of the family, not as dinner."
Guyana's President Receives ISKCON Books
New Amsterdam, Guyana—Desmond Hoyte, the new president of Guyana, recently met Rupa Gosvami dasa and received a garland and several ISKCON publications. The visit was arranged by Suraj Narian, a regional chairman in the government and a supporter of ISKCON projects such as the Hare Krishna Food for Life program, which has been feeding the hungry and homeless in Guyana.
Detroit Schools Host Devotee Cook
Detroit—Public school officials invited cooks from Govinda's Restaurant at the Bhaktivedanta Cultural Center here to assist in a six-month educational program on nutrition.
Mrs. Michael Thompson, the superintendent of health education, asked Mukhya-devi dasi to demonstrate vegetarian cooking to four classes—kindergarten through third grade. After each class the students enjoyed the special lunch.
Mrs. Thompson also requested Mukhya dasi to conduct a workshop for educators from thirty-nine public schools in Detroit.
"Food for Life" In the Philippines
Cebu, Philippines—The Hare Krishna Food for Life program here now serves between five hundred and a thousand meals daily to needy families and children in public places, schools, and orphanages, reported Gunamala-devi dasi, the program director. The program offers porridge, rice, and mung bean soup.
ISKCON Restaurant Named "Best of Dallas"
Kalachandji's, the Hare Krsna movement's restaurant in Dallas, placed first and second in two categories of a "Best of Dallas" contest recently. The Dallas Observer awarded the restaurant first place in the category of "unique dining experiences" and second place in "natural foods/ vegetarian restaurants." The Observer said, "The service is cordial, and the waiters (usually attired in all their saffron-robed, pony-tailed splendor) smile more than at just about any restaurant in town." Candy Buckley, selected as Dallas's best actress, chose Kalachandji's as the setting for her award photo. She posed with Ramasraddha dasa and Chota Haridasa dasa.
New Films Document Lord Caitanya's Life
Mayapur, West Bengal—Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu: The Golden Avatar, a movie on the life of Lord Caitanya, premiered here in March during the celebration of the five-hundredth anniversary of Lord Caitanya's appearance. ISKCON members from around the world, as well as crowds of Indian pilgrims, viewed the film, which is based on Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, a sixteenth-century biography of Lord Caitanya. A seventeen-volume English translation of the Caitanya-caritamrta by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual master of the Hare Krsna movement, was published in 1975 by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
Yadubara dasa, who along with his wife, Visakha-devi dasi, directs ISKCON Cinema, shot many scenes for the film in the nearby village of Maharan, where three thousand enthusiastic villagers are members of ISKCON. Yadubara, who reached the village by boat, was greeted with flower garlands, the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra, and a sumptuous Bengali feast of krsna-prasadam (vegetarian food offered to Lord Krsna). For the next two days the villagers, dressed in Indian robes and playing traditional musical instruments, participated in the filming. Life in Maharan has changed little in the five centuries since Lord Caitanya Himself led the people of this area of Bengal in the congregational chanting of the holy names of God.
Devotees from the Hare Krsna center in Bangladesh spent several days in a recording studio taping additional music for the production. Yadubara, who has been at work on this film for the past two years in the United States, has made many other films for the Krsna consciousness movement, including documentaries such as Your Ever Well-Wisher, a biography of Srila Prabhupada, and The World of Hare Krishna, a portrait of the Hare Krsna people.
Another documentary on Lord Caitanya, commissioned by the Indian government's Information and Broadcasting Ministry, is being produced by Ravi Mehera, a longtime friend of ISKCON and an accomplished filmmaker. Mehera is also closely following Srila Prabhupada's translation of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. "We want to present Lord Caitanya properly," he said. "He should not be seen as an ordinary man or even a great saint. Lord Caitanya should be seen as Lord Krsna, or God Himself."
Mehera's film was inaugurated at the Krishna-Balaram temple in Vrndavana, India, one of the major temples of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Mehera invited more than fifty devotee priests, all lifelong followers of Lord Caitanya residing in holy Vrndavana, to attend the event. Guests heard readings from passages in the Caitanya-caritamrta about transcendental dramas.
The theme of the new film is Lord Caitanya's own prediction that the chanting of Hare Krsna would spread to every corner of the world. After tracing Lord Caitanya's life story, the film shows Srila Prabhupada chanting with his Western disciples, indicating the fulfillment of Lord Caitanya's prediction.
Eons ago a wonderful incarnation of God
by Dvarakadhisa-devi dasi
Ferocious beauty. Red eyes glare out from a fearsome visage that writhes with rage. The form is massive. The powerful arms thrash in all directions. The being appears to be half man and half lion, with a huge many-headed serpent rising and coiling behind Him—a gorgeous yet forbidding halo. He is Nrsimha, attacking and killing the demoniac king Hiranyakasipu. Blood splatters, and Nrsimha, like a lion at his kill, roars victorious, His golden mane effulgent about His regal head. His anger is terrible, yet at His side stands a delicate young boy with a radiant smile. He is offering Lord Nrsimha a garland of flowers.
As a newcomer to a Hare Krsna temple, you might have been surprised to see a picture of this scene prominently displayed in the temple room or on the altar. Who is Nrsimha, and what is His connection with the peace-loving, vegetarian Hare Krsnas?
Remarkably, Lord Nrsimha ("half man, half lion") is one of the most beloved of incarnations. His special pastime is to protect all souls surrendered to Him, thus demonstrating the extraordinary bond between the Supreme Lord and His dear devotees. Nondifferent from the blackish-blue cowherd boy Krsna, who charmed the gentle residents of Vrndavana Village five thousand years ago, Lord Nrsimha proves His pure devotee can never be vanquished.
Lord Nrsimha's appearance is one of the most dramatic episodes in history, recorded exclusively and explicitly in the Vedic literature, especially in Srimad-Bhagavatam. The story takes place in a former age, many thousands of years ago. A powerful atheist named Hiranyakasipu desired immortality within this material world—a favorite pursuit of those unable to imagine an existence beyond the material realm. Hiranyakasipu longed only for wealth, power, and sensory pleasure. The very name Hiranyakasipu refers to one who is fond of gold and comfortable beds. Since material pleasures can be had only as long as one remains bound within the physical body, the natural calculation of a materialist like Hiranyakasipu would be to extend the life of the body for as long as possible. It was for such "immortality" that Hiranyakasipu hankered.
To achieve his end, he performed excruciating austerities for 36,000 years, plotting to win the favor and benediction of Lord Brahma, chief of the demigods. So grievous were his austerities that the entire universe was disturbed. Finally, the demigods begged Lord Brahma to terminate Hiranyakasipu's terrible penances.
Lord Brahma is a very powerful agent of the Supreme Lord entrusted with the responsibility of creating the entire material cosmos. He came before Hiranyakasipu, knowing his strong desire for immortality, yet he was unable to grant the benediction. Although Lord Brahma lives for many millions of years—from creation to annihilation—he also dies. Thus he was unable to give Hiranyakasipu that which he himself did not possess.
Cunningly, Hiranyakasipu then made the following request: He asked that he not be killed with any weapon, indoors or outdoors, in the daytime or at night. He also asked that he not be killed on the land or in the air, or by any beast or human being, living or nonliving. After securing these benedictions from Lord Brahma, Hiranyakasipu felt confident that he had indeed achieved a kind of immortality. Who could stop him now?
Hiranyakasipu was fueled by an intense hatred for the Supreme Lord. Formerly, when the Lord in His boar incarnation had killed Hiranyakasipu's demoniac brother, Hiranyaksa, Hiranyakasipu had vowed to avenge his brother's death. Thus he had set about conquering the universe with savage determination. He defeated the rulers of each planet, forcing great demigods to bow down and worship him. His reign was oppressive and severe, and the people lived in fear of this tyrant no one could kill. In our modern age we have some experience with dictators who create agony for their subjects, yet none has been so monstrous as Hiranyakasipu. He dominated the universe, holding it in his tyrannical grip. The helpless people prayed to the Lord for relief.
Hiranyakasipu had four sons, and of these the most wonderful was Prahlada. While in the womb of his mother, Prahlada had heard the sage Narada speaking the transcendental philosophy of Krsna consciousness. Thus he had become a spotlessly pure devotee of Lord Krsna. His character was ideal; his qualities were as exalted as his father's were abominable. Even as a child he was unattached to frivolity and sensual comforts, preferring to meditate on God's glorious activities.
Hiranyakasipu was very fond of Prahlada. This affection diminished, however, when Hiranyakasipu learned that Prahlada was instructing his schoolmates in devotional service to Lord Krsna. Hiranyakasipu called his son and, placing him on his lap, requested him to tell what he was learning in school. Prahlada serenely replied that he was understanding the folly of materialistic pursuits and the need for intelligent persons to devote their time to serving the Supreme Lord.
This reply infuriated Hiranyakasipu, who ordered that his son be killed. The order, however, proved exceedingly difficult to execute. Prahlada was thrown beneath the feet of elephants, attacked with deadly weapons, and hurled from a mountain. He was tortured and poisoned. Yet despite these attempts on his life, he remained unhurt. Throughout all his travails he simply meditated on Lord Krsna, who kept him from harm.
Hiranyakasipu could not bear this. Believing himself the ultimate controller of the universe, he could not understand why the child simply could not be killed. He grew fearful: Who was more powerful than himself? Who was supplying this child with such strength? Determined to silence Prahlada once and for all, Hiranyakasipu decided to kill him with his own hands.
While Prahlada stood submissively, his seething father rebuked him harshly. He demanded to know the source of his son's mysterious strength. Prahlada replied that the source of his strength was the same as the source of Hiranyakasipu's strength: the Supreme Lord, Krsna.
"My dear father," Prahlada advised humbly, "please give up your demoniac mentality. Do not discriminate in your heart between enemies and friends; make your mind equipoised toward everyone. Except for the uncontrolled and misguided mind, there is no enemy in this world. When one sees everyone on the platform of equality, one comes to the platform of worshiping God perfectly" (Bhag. 7.8.9).
These words served only to further outrage Hiranyakasipu. In anger, he demanded to see the Supreme Being described by his son. "But where is He?" Hiranyakasipu raged. "If He is everywhere, then why is He not present before me in this pillar? Because you are speaking so much nonsense, I shall now sever your head from your body. Now let me see your most worshipable God come to protect you. I want to see it" (Bhag. 7.8.12-13).
The unfortunate king then struck a marble pillar with his fist. A terrible noise came from deep within the pillar, and the whole universe filled with fear at the tumultuous sound. As the pillar exploded with tremendous force, the entire assembly hall suddenly filled with the immense divine form of Lord Nrsimha. Lord Nrsimha was infuriated, having witnessed Hiranyakasipu's cruelty toward Prahlada, and now His fierce eyes searched the crowd for the object of His anger.
Hiranyakasipu foolishly thought he would be able to defeat Lord Nrsimha, just as he had defeated all his other opponents. He battled fiercely against the Lord, who, for the sake of sport, allowed him the honor of extended combat. Yet Hiranyakasipu, although the most powerful creature in the universe, was simply a toy for the mighty Nrsimha. While the demigods anxiously watched, the Lord displayed His magnificent prowess in battle. Finally, having tired of the antics of His puny adversary, He lifted Hiranyakasipu onto His lap and, ripping open his abdomen with His nails, disemboweled the demon king.
Thus Lord Nrsimha finally killed Hiranyakasipu—and in such a way that all the benedictions of Lord Brahma were left intact. Hiranyakasipu was killed not by any human being nor by any beast, but by the Supreme Lord Himself, half human, half beast. Lord Nrsimha killed Hiranyakasipu on His lap, which was neither land nor sky. He killed him in the doorway of the assembly hall, which was neither indoors nor outdoors. He killed him at twilight, which was neither day nor night. And He killed him not with any weapon but with His own nails. Although Lord Krsna was not bound to honor the benedictions awarded to Hiranyakasipu, He still kept them because Brahma is His devotee. Krsna takes great pride in upholding His devotees' promises.
After Hiranyakasipu's death, Lord Nrsimha, who had so easily killed the most feared tyrant in the universe, continued to roar and rage, terrifying everyone. Everyone, that is, except Prahlada. Prahlada simply saw Nrsimha as his worshipable Lord, and he eagerly approached Him with a garland of flowers. Lord Nrsimha was deeply pleased with the faithful Prahlada, and He wanted to award the boy whatever boon he desired.
Prahlada, however, said that he was already completely satisfied in his meditation on the Lord. But, out of compassion, he thought of the welfare of his father. He requested Lord Nrsimha to please liberate Hiranyakasipu from the torment of his demoniac desires.
The Supreme Lord, Nrsimha, assured him: "My dear Prahlada, O pure one, O great saintly person, your father has been purified along with twenty-one forefathers in your family. Because you were born in this family, the entire dynasty has been purified. Whenever and wherever there are peaceful, equipoised devotees who are well-behaved and decorated with all good qualities, that place and the dynasties there, even if condemned, are purified" (Bhag. 7.10.18-19).
In today's materialistic society there is a continual battle between the atheists and the devotees. A devotee must fight—against the contamination of material desires and against the contamination of those who are controlled by such desires. The protection of Lord Nrsimha abides with those stalwart devotees who preach the glories of devotional service in a world corrupted by atheism. Lord Nrsimha gives the devotees the shelter they need to remain pure and faithful. When the threat of danger is near, devotees often chant a favorite prayer to Lord Nrsimha. The prayer is as follows:
tava kara-kamala-vare nakham adbhuta-srngam
"O Kesava! O Lord of the universe! O Lord Hari, who have assumed the form of half man, half lion! All glories to You! Just as one can easily crush a wasp between one's fingernails, so in the same way the body of the wasp Hiranyakasipu has been ripped apart by the wonderfully pointed nails on Your beautiful lotus hands."
A mother-to-be ponders karma, reincarnation,
by Visakha-devi dasi
When, one crystal-clear morning in January of 1982, my husband Yadubara and I first learned that we were parents-to-be, we had many of the usual questions first-time parents have. But since we were devotees of Krsna, the answers to our questions were based not on scientific and popular theories but on the profound and realized wisdom of the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam describes how the soul takes shelter in a particle of semen during sexual intercourse. The soul thus enters a particular mother's womb, where a particular type of body begins to develop around it.
Which particular soul enters which particular womb to develop which particular type of body is all determined by a natural arrangement called karma. Karma means the sum of a person's activities.
"What activities?" you ask. "What good or bad activities can an embryo perform?" But the soul now within the womb and developing a new body did not so recently begin his mortal sojourn. Rather, he has been in innumerable wombs and has been incarcerated within innumerable bodies, lifetime after lifetime. Each new birth the soul takes is the consequence of activities performed in previous lives.
This is why one child is born into good circumstances and another is not. Medical scientists may explain, for example, the cause of various birth defects. But they can't explain what causes one child to be stricken by a defect while another is not.
Who was our unborn child? What had been his or her previous incarnations? We didn't know. But we could understand, on the basis of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, that whoever the child was—for better or worse—that was our karma. Just as it is the child's karma to be born into a particular family, so it is the parents' karma to have that particular child born to them.
Yet, my husband and I knew we weren't tossing helplessly in the ocean of karma. In the ninth chapter of the Gita, Lord Krsna explains, "Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer or give away, and whatever austerities you perform—do that, O son of Kunti, as an offering to Me. In this way you will be freed from karma and its auspicious and inauspicious results." And He says in the eighteenth chapter, "In all activities just depend upon Me and work always under My protection. . . . I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions."
Although the Lord will protect His devotees from the effects of karma, He never wants them to sit idly or to act foolishly, waiting for Him to save them. Srila Prabhupada, my spiritual master and the founder and spiritual master of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, has stated, "The highest goal of human life is to work hard under the guidance of the Lord and become completely dependent on Him ... to work with valor, but at the same time depend completely on the Lord."
Srila Prabhupada instructed all his followers to purify their lives by chanting the holy names of the Lord (Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare) and to follow four regulative principles: no meat-eating, no taking of intoxicants, no gambling, and no illicit sex. He said that by following this process—which has been recommended for this age by great spiritual authorities and the revealed scriptures—we would come under the Lord's protection. He would personally free us from karma.
As parents we would thus also be free for freeing our child from karma, so that he or she would never again have to enter a mother's womb. "One who cannot deliver his dependents from the path of repeated birth and death should not become a father or a mother" (Bhag. 5.5.18). When a person has transcended all karma, both good and bad, he does not have to take another material birth in yet another material body; rather, he develops a spiritual body in the kingdom of God.
We knew that the best we could do was to offer our child what Srila Prabhupada had offered us: devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Krsna Himself declares this as the proper path: "One can understand Me as I am, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of Me by such devotion, he can enter into the kingdom of God" (Bg. 18.55).
These were some of our thoughts. As my pregnancy developed, I continued my service to Krsna, taking special care to get enough exercise, enough rest, and the right foods. Late that September, a healthy seven-and-a-quarter-pound girl was born to us. We named her Amrta dasi, meaning "servant of Lord Krsna, the immortal person." If, one day, she fully realizes the import of her name, we will feel ourselves successful parents.
One of the more important public services of the Krsna consciousness movement is to hold festivals. Our Sunday festivals usually consist of a discourse, a drama, or the celebration of a special event, such as the anniversary of the appearance of Lord Krsna or the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana. But at the heart of every Sunday festival is a feast of krsna-prasadam, vegetarian food offered to Krsna. This is the original design for Sunday festivals as conceived and implemented by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder-acarya of the Hare Krsna movement.
The first Sunday feasts were in New York. They were called "Love Feasts." Now, twenty years later, they are held at Hare Krsna centers the world over. But the format has changed little: The food is offered in love to Lord Krsna and is distributed with love by His devotees. Whoever eats this food—which is no longer ordinary food but spiritual substance—can become filled with love for God and love for all creatures. Prasadam is a powerful spiritual purifier. As stated by Lord Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita, the devotees of the Lord are released from sinful reactions because they eat prasadam. People who prepare food simply for sensual enjoyment "verily eat only sin."
The great British playwright (and vegetarian) George Bernard Shaw stated, "You are what you eat." Even vegetarians, however, incur sinful reactions if they do not offer their food to God with devotion. The worst reactions come from eating slaughtered animals—especially the cow, which Lord Krsna says is very valuable and dear to Him. To cat the cow implicates one in the murder of that animal. Even plants and fruits—the foods that are given by God to be eaten by human beings—must be sanctified before they are eaten. Therefore, we should offer our vegetarian food first to Krsna. When we eat such food, our sins are washed away and we develop love of God.
Even in material relationships, food is offered in love. The mother prepares and offers food to her children out of love for them. The exchange of food between friends is one of the most widespread exchanges of love. So why should one not offer food to the supreme beloved, Krsna? Offering food to Krsna increases one's devotion: "Please, Lord Krsna, take this food. You have provided all the plants and fruits and vegetables as food, so we want to offer this to You." Although God is never hungry and has no need to eat our tiny offering. He enjoys His devotee's expressions of love. So when we offer food to Him with love. He is very pleased.
Suppose a father is the provider of the food his family eats. If the father's little son, out of his own spontaneous feeling, wishes to offer some of the food on his plate to his father, his father is very pleased. Although the father provides all the food for his family, he appreciates his son's sentiment. Similarly, Krsna, the Supreme Father, relishes His children's offerings.
But to please Krsna in this simple way, we must know what Krsna wants. He explains in the Bhagavad-gita: "If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it" (Bg. 9.26). When such simple vegetarian foods, together with milk and grains, are offered with love, the Supreme Person is satisfied. Abominable, untouchable foods such as meat cannot be offered to God. To avoid eating unsanctified foods, we must offer to Krsna those foods He will actually eat.
The remnants of such offerings have enormous spiritual potency, as revealed in many incidents from Vedic times. The Srimad-Bhagavatam, for example, tells how the great sage Narada Muni first embarked on the path of spiritual life simply by tasting prasadam from the plates of certain exalted devotees of God.
The great sixteenth-century Bengali religious classic Sri Caitanya-caritamrta describes a similar incident. Lord Caitanya spent most of His life in the pilgrimage place of Jagannatha Puri, in Orissa. Every year His devotees in Bengal would make the long journey on foot to visit Him. The devotee in charge of caring for the needs of the pilgrims was always Sivananda Sena.
One year, as Sivananda Sena led the pilgrims out of Bengal, a dog followed along. Sivananda was very kindhearted, and he thought, "Here is a living entity who wants to go with us to see Lord Caitanya. All right." He took care of the dog throughout the journey, and each night he would give him some of his rice. When a greedy boatman told Sivananda that if he wanted to bring the dog on board he would have to pay the dog's fare, Sivananda agreed.
One day, Sivananda became involved in a lengthy discussion with an official who wanted to see his papers and ask a lot of questions. Sivananda spent so many hours presenting documents that he didn't eat that day. On returning to the camp that evening, he asked about the dog: "Did you give him his rice?"
"Oh," the servant said, "I forgot."
"Where is the dog?" Sivananda asked. But the dog had already run away.
Sivananda sent ten men out to look for the dog. Feeling responsible for the dog's safety, he fasted out of sympathy. In the morning the dog still had not returned, but the party proceeded toward Jagannatha Puri. Everyone on the pilgrimage was astonished that Sivananda Sena had become so fond of the animal.
When the pilgrims finally reached Jagannatha Puri, they immediately went to see Lord Caitanya. Lord Caitanya took them to see Lord Jagannatha, and then He sat with them and shared the Lord's prasadam. Much to the surprise of Sivananda and the other pilgrims, there among the assembly of devotees was Sivananda's dog. With His own hand Lord Caitanya was feeding the dog green coconut pulp. As Lord Caitanya fed the dog He would say, "Chant the name of Krsna!" In response the dog would say, "Krsna! Krsna!" and then eat. Sivananda Sena thought, "This is very wonderful."
The next day the dog could not be found. But this time all the pilgrims knew the dog had not just run away. They could understand that, by accepting Lord Caitanya's prasadam, the dog had received a spiritual body and had been transferred to the spiritual world. The compassion of Sivananda Sena and the mercy of Lord Caitanya had brought a dog to perfection.
If even a dog can chant "Krsna" and receive a spiritual body by eating krsna-prasadam, then certainly our lives also can be transformed.
In the Krsna consciousness philosophy, we advise everyone to offer their food to God. For example, you can prepare a small altar in your home with a picture of Srila Prabhupada and a picture of Lord Caitanya or Lord Krsna. Before that little altar, place the cooked vegetarian food and say a prayer. You can simply say, "Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare."
Another good prayer is namo brahmanya-devaya go-brahmana-hitaya ca/ jagad-dhitaya krsnaya govindaya namo namah: "I offer my obeisances to Lord Krsna, the well-wisher of the cows, the brahmanas, and the entire human society." In this way our lives will become happy and peaceful, and more and more we'll develop our love for the Supreme Person.—SDG
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
In Sanskrit, man means "mind" and tra means "freeing." So a mantrais a combination of transcendental, spiritual sounds that frees our minds from the anxieties of life in the material world.
Ancient India's Vedic literatures single out one mantra as the maha (supreme) mantra. The Kali-santarana Upanisad explains, "These sixteen words—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—are especially meant for counteracting the ill effects of the present age of quarrel and anxiety."
The Narada-pancaratra adds, "All mantras and all processes for self-realization are compressed into the Hare Krsna maha-mantra." Five centuries ago, while spreading the maha-mantra throughout the Indian subcontinent, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu prayed, "O Supreme Personality of Godhead, in Your holy name You have invested all Your transcendental energies."
The name Krsna means "the all-attractive one," the name Rama means "the all-pleasing one," and the name Hare is an address to the Lord's devotional energy. So the maha-mantra means, "O all-attractive, all-pleasing Lord, O energy of the Lord, please engage me in Your devotional service." Chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, and your life will be sublime.