Material happiness often takes the form of relieving distress.
A lecture in Toronto in June 1976
"Prahlada Maharaja said, 'My dear friends born of demoniac families, the happiness of sensual pleasure can be obtained in any form of life, according to one's past activities. We obtain such happiness, just as we obtain distress, automatically, without endeavor."' (Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.6.3)
So, our so-called declaration of independence—"There is no God, there is no controller; we can do whatever we like" is all ignorance. And in ignorance we perform so much sinful activity. In other words, we irresponsibly do anything we like, and then we become entrapped in the karmic reactions and suffer.
As we have experienced in our ordinary life, ignorance is no excuse from punishment. Suppose a child touches fire. The fire will not excuse him because he is a child. No. Whether you are a child or a grown-up man, when you touch fire it will burn. There is no excuse. Similarly, if we do something against the laws of God, knowingly or unknowingly, we have to be punished. Whether in adulthood or in childhood, whether knowingly or unknowingly, we must suffer.
Now, our suffering and enjoyment are due to the senses (matra-sparsas tu kaunteya sitosna-sukha-duhkha-dah). As long as we have this material body, with material senses, two things will be there: suffering and enjoyment. For example, take the sensation of touch. We touch many things with our skin. Sometimes this touching is painful, and sometimes it is pleasing, depending on different circumstances. Cold water is very pleasing to the skin if it is summer, but it is very painful to the skin if it is winter. The water is the same and my skin is the same, but due to seasonal changes, the same water is sometimes pleasing and sometimes displeasing. Therefore, as long as we remain in this material world, or as long as we continue in this material body, two things continue: happiness and distress. You cannot stop them. It is not possible.
Then Krsna says, agamapayino 'nityah: This happiness and distress come and go; they are temporary. Therefore we should not be very much disturbed by distress, nor should we waste our valuable time seeking so-called happiness. Yet out of ignorance, everyone is working very hard for happiness and trying to avoid distress. This is the material world.
Sometimes we see a dog running from one side of the street to the other. He's feeling some pleasure. Similarly, so-called civilized men are also "running" in their cars from this side to that side. It is simply a dog's race. We are thinking that because we are driving a car, we are civilized, but our business is simply the dog's race.
So Prahlada Maharaja's point is that we should try to understand the value of life. We should not waste our time in the dog's race, whether on four legs or on four wheels. That is the point.
Here Prahlada Maharaja addresses his friends as daityas. There are two classes: daitya and devata, or demons and devotees. Daityas do not know anything; they are just like animals, simply after sense gratification. And the devatas are fully aware of the existence of God, of their relationship with God, and of their duty with reference to God. That is the difference between the daityas and the devatas.
Because Prahlada Maharaja was to deliver the daityas, by the will of the Supreme Lord he circumstantially took his birth in a daitya family. Sometimes devotees appear in a certain family to deliver a particular community or society. Here Prahlada Maharaja's classmates were all daityas. They did not take their birth in very enlightened families.
Next Prahlada Maharaja says, deha-yogena dehinam. Deha means "body," and dehi means "the person who possesses the body." In the modern age, in this socalled civilization, people do not understand the difference between deha and dehi, the body and the spirit soul. I think 99.9% are unable to understand the difference. They think the body is everything. But that is not the fact.
There are so many different types of bodies, and each and every body is possessed by a spirit soul. And when a spirit soul is within the encagement of a particular body, he experiences a standard of happiness and distress according to that body. For example, the hog has a particular type of body, and the human being has a particular type of body. Therefore the happiness of the spirit soul encaged in the hog's body is different from the happiness of the soul in a man's body. If you give a man nice halava [a buttery toasted-grain dessert], he'll be pleased. And if you give a hog fresh stool, he'll be pleased. He'll not protest; rather, he will like it: "Oh, this stool is very nice." But a man will hate even to stand near it. Why this difference? Deha-yogena dehinam: The spirit soul (dehi) has a particular type of body (deha), and therefore he's taking pleasure in a particular type of food. As it is said, "One man's food is another man's poison."
So, every one of us is under the control of the laws of nature (karanam guna-sango 'sya sad-asad-yoni-janmasu). We are born in a particular family, under particular circumstances, with particular tastes. Why are there differences? Karanam guna-sango 'sya. The karana, the reason, is that we are associating with a particular combination of the modes of nature. For example, one person will be pleased to come here and understand bhagavata-dharma, the science of devotional service, while another person will be pleased to go to a brothel or a liquor shop. Why? Karanam guna-sango 'sya: Each one is influenced by a particular combination of the modes of nature.
Now, bhagavata-dharma is so nice that even if one is in the lowest stage, by association he can be raised to the highest stage. Therefore the practice of bhagavata-dharma should begin in childhood. As Prahlada Maharaja said at the beginning of this chapter of the Srimad-Bhagavatam:
kaumara acaret prajno
"An intelligent person should take up this bhagavata-dharma from the early age of childhood. This human form of life is very rarely achieved, and it is also temporary but it enables one to achieve the ultimate purpose of life" [Bhag. 7.6.1].
The word artha means "the purpose of life." Those who are not taking part in bhagavata-dharma have a different artha from those who are taking part. The goal of one who is practicing bhagavata-dharma is to go back home, back to Godhead. And the goal of the materialist is sense gratification. This is the difference. Materialists do not know that there is life after death, that there is eternal life, that there is eternal happiness.
Actually, in this material world there is no happiness. Everything is distress. But on account of ignorance, we accept distress as happiness. That is maya, illusion. The word ma means "not," and ya means "that." So when one is in maya, he accepts something for what it is not. Again the example of the hog: He is feeling happiness by eating stool, but it is not happiness, actually. One who is not in maya, who is not in the hog's body, says, "Oh, what nasty food he's eating!" Just in terms of food value, stool is very valuable. Scientists have analyzed it. But simply because it has very good food value, that does not mean human beings will agree to eat stool. In World War II, in the concentration camps, some human beings were obliged to eat their own stool. That is karma.
So, we must rectify our karma. And if you cultivate bhagavata-dharma, your karma can be changed (karmani nirdahati kintu ca bhakti-bhajam, Bs. 5.54). Otherwise, it is not possible. Everyone is born with the reactions of his past karma. People in modern times also do not understand that what is past, what is future, what is present. Simply animals. Like the animals, the cats and dogs, they cannot understand what is the spirit soul or what is karma. Human life should not be wasted living like the animals. As Lord Rsabhadeva says, nayam deho deha-bhajam nrloke kastan kaman arhate vid-bhujam ye: "Human beings should not waste their time working hard for sense gratification like the stool-eating hogs." [SB 5.5.1]
Therefore, the state, the father, the elderly persons, the guru-they must all be very responsible. And what is that responsibility? They must see that every person under their care is trained up in such a way that he can be elevated to the highest position. How can this be done? By bhagavata-dharma. Not otherwise. Not by karma [pious activities], jnana [philosophical speculation], or yoga [mystic meditation]. No. Simply by acting in devotional service to Krsna, bhagavata-dharma, anyone can be raised to the highest position.
Even those who are leading a very abominable life can be raised to the highest perfection by practicing bhagavata-dharma. As Lord Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita [9.32], mam hi partha vyapasritya ye 'pi syuh papa-yonayah. Papa-yoni means "sinful persons." Civilized human beings, advanced human beings, are called Aryans, and those below that are papa-yoni.
In the Aryan society there is varnasrama, a system of dividing people into four social orders and four spiritual orders. The social orders are the brahmanas [intellectuals], the ksatriyas [administrators and military men], the vaisyas [merchants and farmers], and the sudras [manual laborers]. The spiritual orders consist of the brahmacaris [celibate students], grhasthas [householders], the vanaprasthas [retired persons], and the sannyasis [renunciants]. This is the real Vedic system.
Human life begins when one observes the varnasrama regulations, by which one can elevate oneself to spiritual consciousness, or God consciousness. But people in the modern age do not know this (na te viduh svartha-gatim hi visnum). Because there is no bhagavata-dharma, no education, people are kept completely in darkness. This is the modern civilization.
Srimad-Bhagavatam [1.1.10] describes the people of this age as follows:
"In the present age of Kali men generally have a short duration of life. They are quarrelsome, lazy, misguided, unlucky, and, above all, always disturbed."
Although in the Kali-yuga one should live a hundred years, with the progress of this age the duration of life is decreasing. Nowadays almost nobody lives a hundred years. One who is eighty years old is considered an old man. But the time will come when one who is twenty years old will be considered a very old man. That time is gradually coming. This is the effect of the Kali-yuga.
The duration of life, bodily strength, mercy, memory—these things will decrease gradually. Nowadays you won't find many people with a very fertile brain, nor are people very strong physically. And mercy? There is no question of it. If somebody sees you being killed on the street, he doesn't care; he'll go on walking. There is no mercy. Even the mother has no mercy—killing her child in the womb. This is the Kali-yuga.
So there is a great necessity for preaching this bhagavata-dharma. And this is what Prahlada Maharaja is preaching to his daitya classmates. The daityas, or demons, do not understand that human life is meant for cultivating Krsna consciousness. They do not understand the value of human life. Therefore Prahlada Maharaja is teaching them about bhagavata-dharma.
He says that sense gratification is not our goal in life. He describes sense gratification as deha-yogena dehinam, "happiness in reference to the body." Another meaning of deha-yogena dehinam is "sex." One deha [body] is embracing another deha; they're kissing, they're having sexual intercourse. That is the ultimate happiness in the material world.
Prahlada Maharaja says that you can get this kind of happiness everywhere, whether you are in a human body or a dog's body or a hog's body. Don't think that sex happiness is less for a dog than for a human being. No. Whether one is in a hog's body or a dog's body or a man's body, the pleasure of sex is the same. For example, if you take something eatable from a golden pot and put it into an iron pot, the taste will not change. The taste is the same. It is only our misconception that if I put it into a golden pot the taste will improve. It's not a fact.
So, we are trying to become an advanced civilization by changing the "pot." That's all. But that will not change the quality of our activities. The quality will remain the same. We have to go beyond ahara-nidra-bhaya-maithunam-eating, sleeping, defense, and sex. These are necessary as far as the body is concerned, but these are also there in the lives of the dogs and cats and hogs. We have to go further. That is bhagavata-dharma. Deha-dharma, bodily activities, are the same for the cats, dogs, and human beings, but bhagavata-dharma, activities of self-realization, are for the human beings alone.
Therefore Prahlada Maharaja declares, kaumara acaret prajnah: "From the very beginning of life a human being should practice bhagavata-dharma. " Here we see these children coming to the temple. It is very good. They are associating with devotees and offering respect to the Deity and the guru. This will not go in vain. It is all recorded, and one day they'll become pure devotees. That is bhagavata-dharma.
Prahlada Maharaja is stressing that we shouldn't try very hard for sense enjoyment because it is available in any condition of life, without any effort. By superior arrangement, daiva, everyone gets a certain type of sense gratification. The hog, because he has been given the body of a hog, must eat stool. That is daiva. Similarly, cows, goats, and other four-legged animals eat grass. They'll never touch meat. But tigers, dogs, and cats will not even touch grass. They want meat. Their standard of eating, their standard of happiness, is already fixed up. It cannot be changed.
But in the human form of life we can change our standard of happiness if we take to bhagavata-dharma. For example, here are these European and American boys. They have changed their habits. How is it possible? Because they have taken to bhagavata-dharma. That is the only way. Otherwise, it is not possible. In America, the authorities admitted, "We are spending so many millions of dollars, but we cannot stop the intoxication habit, the LSD habit. How is it that this Krsna consciousness movement is stopping. it?" Yes, as soon as one joins our movement sincerely, he can very easily give up these four abominable things: illicit sex, meat eating, intoxication, and gambling. How? Because he's taking to bhagavata-dharma, Krsna consciousness.
So if you want to change the mentality of the people in the modern civilization, which at present is the dog's mentality, you cannot do it by passing resolutions in the United Nations assembly. No. You must take to bhagavata-dharma. Then everything will be all right. Otherwise, it is not possible.
Thank you very much. Hare Krsna.
God's kindness and life's hardships are an
by Kundali dasa
Once upon a time, a wicked man had a change of heart. Approaching a renowned saint, he asked, "O great saint, what shall I do to make myself worthy in the eyes of God?" The saint replied, "Be thou like thy Father in heaven." Returning home, the reformed sinner searched the scriptures diligently, then with fervor he petitioned the Lord with prayers for divine guidance that he, an uncommonly sinful soul, might now live his life in the ways of the lord. Following this our hero pulled a prank on his wife, causing her to break her back and become a lifelong invalid. He cheated his own brother out of a fortune and left him destitute. He inoculated several of his children with crippling diseases and sold his eldest daughter to a brothel, where she contracted a fatal disease. He then told his saintly mentor of his attempts to imitate the Lord in heaven. The saint severely chastised him for his misdeeds. When the man inquired as to how he had failed, the holy man was too disgusted to reply.
This odd story is adapted from Mark Twain's essay "Letters from the Earth," a diabolically witty satire on Western religion. In his essay, Twain challenges the existence of a God who is all-good, all-just, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving, all-merciful, and all-forgiving, yet who allows evil and suffering in His creation. Such a God, Twain implies, is but a whimsical product of man's mind. If God does exist, concludes Twain, He is certainly not the all-knowing, all-good, and all-powerful being His devoted fans would have us believe He is. In his personal life, Twain could not settle the issue to his satisfaction, so he opted for agnosticism: We will never know whether or not a Supreme Being exists.
Like Mark Twain (one of my childhood heroes), I too have pondered the problem of evil. My first conscious encounter with evil was at age nine, on the day we all went to a school assembly and they told us that John F. Kennedy, the President of the United States, the man who saved the Caribbean (where I lived) from dreaded communism, a man still in the prime of life, a "good" man, had been assassinated. I was stunned at first. Then I felt really rotten. Some of the kids were crying. That night my uncle pronounced judgment: JFK died "before his time." I was shocked. It seemed to be cruel in the extreme that someone should have to die "before his time. "
As I grew older and my awareness of evil and justice increased, so also did my despair. What kind of Supreme Father, I wondered, stands passively by while war, murder, racism, disease, pestilence, and catastrophe plague His children? He even allows those devoted to Him to suffer martyrdom in His name!
I searched for answers to this mystery. I found none. The pious clergymen responsible for my Christian upbringing offered no adequate solution. At best, their answers implied that as a faithful believer in Jesus Christ I should be solaced that everlasting happiness in the afterlife was guaranteed for me, whereas countless others were fated to eternal damnation. I was advised to pity and pray for the miserable hellbound souls.
Such advice wasn't much help. Once I got over the elation of having my salvation guaranteed, I did begin to feel sorry for those-many of, them my own friends and relatives-whose path led to eternal punishment in the lake of fire. That thought rekindled my original doubt: how can an all-just God and eternal damnation fit within the same reality?
By the time I was fifteen, my despair had turned to outrage. On the one hand, religion had failed to satisfy my philosophical inquiries. And on the other hand, I had grown disillusioned with those persons responsible for my spiritual guidance; they merely hid their ambition for acquisition and worldly enjoyment behind a thin veil of piety. Religion, I concluded, was no better than politics: a war of words, in which truth was irrelevant and the glib were victorious. I declared myself an atheist.
I felt relieved and free. Evil, you see, is only a problem for those who believe in a Supreme Being who is (1) omnipotent, (2) absolutely good and just, and (3) the creator of a world rife with evil. (The third attribute is clearly incompatible with the first two.) As a nonbeliever I had no such contradiction to resolve; I simply accepted evil as inherent in nature and tried to make the best of it. I was quite pleased with my realization; it freed me from God's yoke in more ways than one.
Another Solution to Evil
These examples (Mark Twain and myself) show that evil is not just a concern of theologians and philosophers wrapped up in abstract theorizing about life. The recent popularity of Harold S. Kushner's book When Bad Things Happen to Good People proves that tens of thousands of otherwise God-fearing people find evil in the world a bitter pill and are not satisfied with the standard explanation offered by their Western religious traditions. They want a solution.
The traditional explanation in the West holds that suffering is just deserts for moral improprieties, sins, acts that do not meet with the approval of our heaven1y Father. But what moral improprieties have children and innocent infants committed? How are suffering infants getting their just deserts?
To say suffering is a consequence of the original sin of Adam simply adds to the confusion. Reason tells us that if infants' afflictions are retribution for the original sin of Adam, all infants should suffer equally. But misery is doled out selectively and unevenly. In any case, as Mark Twain points out, what kind of God elects to punish children "down through the ages through the end of time for the offenses of others"?
Directly addressing these questions, Rabbi Kushner proposes that we deny the traditional theistic assertion that God is all-powerful. We may worship, love, and serve this "God-the-not-almighty," he says, but we cannot hold Him responsible for evil, since it is beyond His control. If in a pinch He sometimes cannot help us, we should not hold that against Him. Struggling to thwart evil's assaults, He has a hard row to hoe.
Kushner's denial of God's omnipotence seems harmless enough. His proposal is not as portentous for us as denying God's all-benevolence, and it does solve the problem. Or does it? If we reject God as all-powerful, why should we consider Him all-benevolent? Once we begin diminishing or redefining God to explicate our pet peeves or to suit our private notions. What is there to stop us from negating His existence entirely? Why think of Him as all anything? Or, to cast that another way, why think of Him as anything at all?
Still, even if we muster the conviction to think of God as a finite, nonabsolute Supreme Being, we have to admit that complete surrender and devotion to a less-than-perfect Deity is not such ,in attractive proposal. It's hard to conceive of a finite God conferring on his devotees the same complete shelter, peace of mind, and inspiration to surrender that an infinite, all-powerful Deity could. Fear and anxiety would continue to lurk within the devotee's heart.
A religious consciousness without a tinge of fear and anxiety is possible only when there is no compromise about the infinitude of God. To be satisfactory, therefore, a solution to the problem of evil must comprehend God to be both all-powerful and all-good. That is to say, it should reconcile three universal elements: (1) God is omnipotent. (2) God is all-good and absolutely just. (3) God is the creator of a world rife with evil.
Furthermore, an adequate solution to the problem of evil should be logical and reasonable. It should confront the reality of human suffering and not minimize it. It should include an appropriate explanation of the need for moral conduct. And it should include an appropriate explanation for religious faith.
Such a solution I found in Bhagavad-gita As It Is. I read it a few years after my proclaimed atheism and discovered that Krsna's teachings answered my questions and doubts about God and evil, as well as many other queries I had about spiritual life. I learned that service and surrender to the Supreme Personality of Godhead is not at all incompatible with the existence of evil—that evil is, in fact, a deliberate part of God's scheme.
Suffering is an insurmountable law of nature. It comes upon us, whether individually or collectively, as the reaction for some evil we inflicted in our past. This retributive law of karma gives us repeated opportunities to suffer or enjoy the fruits of our actions, from one life to the next. Caught up in an almost unending cycle of action and reaction, souls fallen from the spiritual world reincarnate—lifetime after lifetime, species after species, in different sexes, cultures, and circumstances, each in exact accordance with the good and bad activities performed during previous lives.
Under this system of retributive law, each soul is responsible for his own vices and virtues and their concomitant joys and sorrows. Accordingly, divine justice is perfectly meted out; no one suffers or prospers undeservedly. God's boundless mercy is matched by His infinite patience, and every soul gets repeated chances to rehabilitate and redeem himself. Through the process of suffering and atonement over many births, fallen souls eventually become frustrated with the pursuit of material desires and with the rigors of repeated birth and death: sometimes in a heavenly situation, sometimes in a hellish one. Gradually, one comes to realize that material life is largely a life of immediate suffering or of anxiety in anticipation of suffering.
The human form, Krsna explains, is a rare opportunity for us to end all suffering and anxiety by unconditionally surrendering to Him, to awaken our dormant love for Him. Krsna assures us that once we reach this stage of perfection, upon giving up our present body—which is nothing but a sheath of flesh and bones covering the eternal, luminous soul—we do not take birth in this material world again, but we join Lord Krsna in the spiritual world.
In the spiritual world, evil is conspicuous by its absence. Unfortunately, people either doubt that such a nonmaterial reality exists, or they mistake it to be devoid of variety, "perfection" fraught with idleness and boredom. But the descriptions of the spiritual kingdom of God given in the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam give many details barely hinted at in other scriptures. They describe a spiritual plane that is variegated and dynamic.
We learn, for instance, that the transcendental kingdom of Krsna is filled with innumerable spiritual planets, with pastures, forests, rivers, fruits, flowers, and abodes built with spiritual gems. Here Lord Krsna expands Himself into unlimited forms to live on each planet among His innumerable pure devotees, who reside there with eternal, spiritual bodies replete with spiritual senses. Just as in this material world our enjoyment is variegated, so in the spiritual world the activities and enjoyments are endlessly variegated and pleasurable, unsullied by envy, false pride, malice, disease, and death. According to Krsna's plan, these evils are necessary here because they provide the impetus for us to desire to return back home, back to Godhead.
Point by point, Krsna's explanation of evil satisfies the minimal criteria I listed earlier. It changed my views considerably, for I could not remain an atheist in the face of a consistent resolution to all my questions.
In my attempts to propagate Krsna consciousness, I frequently meet people driven to faithlessness. Why driven? Because of their inability to reconcile an all-loving, almighty God with a world of suffering and evil. One man told me he'd become an atheist "because Hitler killed six million Jews." A relative of mine (Sue) turned from God because as a little girl she had lost her mother, a good and pious lady, to cancer. Evil cut too close for Sue, and no amount of explaining can mollify her. Like many others I've spoken with, she has objections to Lord Krsna's explanation of evil.
First objection: Why don't we remember our past lives? In fact, a growing number of people do claim to remember their past lives, but in any case the absence of such recollections by no means disproves past lives. We have forgotten so much even of this present life, especially of our infancy, what to speak of previous lives.
Second objection: To be punished for deeds we no longer remember would be pointless.
According to Krsna, however, the law of karma is not pointless and involves no caprice. The joys and sorrows we incur are proportionate to the joys and sorrows we have caused. Even without our seeing the connection between present suffering and past sins, the system of karmic retribution is nonetheless effective: it slackens our materialistic grip and stimulates our latent desires for permanence and transcendence. As we know from psychology, impressions from infancy and childhood affect the actions of the adult—even when we "forget" those impressions or they become unrecognizable to the conscious mind. Likewise, Krsna explains that knowledge stored within the unconscious from previous lives helps pry the eternal soul from his selfdefeating attachment to an existence of repeated birth, disease, old age, death, and other miseries.
Third objection: Our innate abilities are already explained by heredity. Doesn't that detract from the idea that karma and reincarnation explain an individual's talents and inclinations?
Actually, while Lord Krsna's doctrine of karma includes phenomena we usually attribute to heredity, it has the additional merit of accounting for things that heredity cannot explain; for example, vicious persons born into families of virtue, geniuses born into families of average intellect, and idiots born into families of high intellect. None of these are satisfactorily explained by heredity. The retributive law of karma, however, explains that due to some past vice or virtue, an individual has certain setbacks or talents, or takes birth in a certain family to make further progress on the path of moral and spiritual evolution.
Furthermore, heredity can be compatible with karma. Souls are fated to be born into families and situations where they are most likely to inherit the qualities due them from their past conduct. Thus character in this life is due to a combination of factors: the influence of the present family plus the character of the individual's previous life. This is clearly indicated in the Bhagavad-gita where Krsna explains that by virtue of the divine consciousness cultured in their previous life, fallen devotees take birth in the families of transcendentalists, wherein they continue to progress toward complete success in self-realization.
It should be noted that to understand karma is to remove the most formidable obstacle evil poses to theism: the suffering of the innocent. Simply stated, the innocent suffer because they are not innocent. In previous lives they performed wicked deeds that have now come to fruition. Without Krsna's explanations of karma, therefore, we would have to chalk up the suffering of, say, infants to God's caprice, or to resort to the fatuous idea that God must not be all-powerful. Or we would have to choose atheism outright.
And what of the popular view that the soul has no rebirth and thus no karma—that the soul goes around once, faces judgment, then it's off to heaven or hell? By this belief, God awards felicity to a scant few, while the rest suffer eternally—a harsh line from one believed to be the embodiment of goodness and mercy.
The Gita reconciles these anomalies. Proclaiming God's goodness and justice, it describes endless opportunities for the fallen souls. Accept the Gita's solution to evil, and God's seeming partiality and limitations, as well as the apparent chaos and injustice of life—all become a systematic plan of perfect justice. It would surely be beneficial for the Sues, Mark Twains, and Rabbi Kushners of the world to study Lord Krsna's teachings in the Gita; they offer a viable solution to an otherwise disconcerting problem.
An ancient text offers us a vision of the
by Subhananda Dasa
The article that follows is adapted from the Introduction to the recently published Bhaktivedanta Book Trust edition of Sri Brahma-samhita, a celebrated Vaisnava text. This important new publication is an expanded edition of the first English-language version of Brahma-samhita—published in India in 1932—featuring the translation and commentary of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami (1874-1937). Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, a great Vaisnava saint and scholar, was the guru of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual master of the Interntional Society for Krishna Consciousness.
The origins of the text known as Sri Brahma-samhita are lost in cosmic antiquity. According to Vedic tradition, these "Hymns of Brahma" were recited or sung countless millennia ago by the first created being in the universe, just prior to the act of creation. The text surfaced and entered calculable history early in the sixteenth century, when it was discovered by a pilgrim exploring the manuscript library of an ancient temple in what is now Kerala State in south India. Prior to the introduction of the printing press, texts like Brahma-samhita existed only in manuscript form, painstakingly handwritten by scribes and kept under brahminical custodianship in temples, where often they were worshiped as sastra-Deity, or God incarnate in holy scripture.
The pilgrim who rescued Sri Brahma-samhita from obscurity was no ordinary pilgrim, and His pilgrimage was meant not for self-purification, as is the custom, but for world-purification. He was Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu—saint, mystic, religious reformer, and full incarnation of the Supreme Lord. Sri Krsna, descending into the present epoch for the salvation of all souls.
At the time of His discovery of the text, Sri Caitanya was touring south India, preaching His message of love of Krsna and promulgating the practice of sankirtana congregational singing of the holy names of God. Sri Caitanya commenced this tour shortly after becoming a monk (sannyasi), at age twenty-four. and the tour lasted approximately two years. After a southward journey from Puri (in Orissa State) to holy places such as Sri Ranga-ksetra, Setubandha, Ramesvaram, and finally Kanyakumari (Cape Comorin), He turned northward and, traveling along the bank of the Payasvini River in Travancore State, reached the temple of Adi-kesava in Trivandrum District.
Sri Caitanya's principal biographer, Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, writes in Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya-lila, Ch. 9) that upon beholding the holy image of Adi-kesava (Krsna) in the temple, Sri Caitanya swooned in spiritual ecstasy, offered fervent prayers, and chanted and danced in rapture, a wondrous sight that was beheld with astonished appreciation by the devotees present.
After discussing esoteric spiritual matters among some highly advanced devotees, Sri Caitanya found "one chapter of the Brahma-samhita." (What we now have as Brahma-samhita is, according to tradition, only one of a hundred chapters composing an epic work lost to humanity.) Upon discovering the manuscript. Sri Caitanya felt great ecstasy and fell into an intense mystic rapture that overflowed onto the physical realm, producing a profusion of tears, trembling, and perspiration. (We would search the literature of the world in vain to find a case in which the discovery of a lost book inspired such unearthly exhilaration!) Intuiting the Sri Brahma samhita to be "a most valuable jewel," Sri Caitanya employed a scribe in handcopying the manuscript and departed with the copy for His return journey north.
Upon His return to Puri (Madhya-lila, Ch. 11), Sri Caitanya presented Brahma-samhita to appreciative followers like, Ramananda Raya and Vasudeva Datta, for whom Caitanya arranged copies to be made. As word of the discovery of the text spread within the Vaisnava community, "each and every Vaisnava" copied it. Gradually, Brahma-samhita was "broadcast everywhere" and became one of the ' major texts of the Gaudiya-Vaisnava canon. "There is no scripture equal to the Brahma-samhita as far as the final spiritual conclusion is concerned," exults Krsnadasa Kaviraja. "Indeed, that scripture is the supreme revelation of the glories of Lord Govinda, for it reveals the topmost knowledge about Him. Since all conclusions are briefly presented in Brahma-samhita, it is essential among all the Vaisnava literatures" (Madhya-lila 9.239-240).
In spite of the seemingly topical complexity of the text, the essential core of the Brahma-samhita consists of a brief description of the enlightenment of Lord Brahma by Lord Sri Krsna followed by Brahma's extraordinarily beautiful prayers elucidating the content of his revelation: an unearthly, beatific vision of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krsna, and His eternal, transcendental abode, Goloka Vrndavana, beyond the material cosmos. This core of the text stretches from verse twenty-nine through fifty-six, and a brief, subsequent exposition by Lord Krsna on the path of Krsna-bhakti, love of God, brings the text to a close.
The Brahma-samhita's account of Lord Brahma's enlightenment is quite interesting and can be summarized here. When Lord Garbhodakasayi Visnu desires to recreate the universe, ** (According to the Puranas the material cosmos is created and destroyed in a perpetual cycle through eternity, and so the act of creation is not a one-time affair but one that is repeated an infinite number of times.) a divine golden lotus flower grows from his navel, and Brahma is born from the lotus. As he is not born from parents, Brahma is known as Svayambhu, "self-existent" or "unoriginated." Upon his emergence from the lotus. Lord Brahma begins—in preparation for his role as secondary creator—to contemplate the act of cosmic creation ** (Once the physical universe and it's constituent parts are brought into being by Lord Visnu, Brahma's role in the creation act is to evolve the multifarious types of bodily forms (species) to be inhabited by the innumerable conditioned living beings (jivas) in accordance with their previous karma-actions performed by them during their existence in previous millennia.) but, seeing only darkness about, is bewildered in the performance of his duty. Sarasvati, the goddess of learning, appears before him and instructs him to meditate upon the kama-bija mantra (klim krsnaya govindaya gopijana-vallabhaya svaha), promising that this mantra "will assuredly fulfill your heart's desire."
Lord Brahma thus meditates upon Lord Krsna in His spiritual realm and hears the divine sound of Krsna's flute. The kama-gayatri mantra (klim kamadevaya vidmahe puspa-banaya dhimahi tan no 'nangah pracodayat), the "mother of the Vedas," is made manifest from the sound of Krsna's flute, and Brahma, thus initiated by the supreme primal preceptor Himself, begins to chant the Gayatri. As Srila Prabhupada puts it, "When the sound vibration of Krsna's flute is expressed through the mouth of Brahma, it becomes gayatri" (Teachings (of Lord Caitanya, p. 322).
Enlightened by his meditation upon the holy Gayatri, Brahma "became acquainted with the expanse of the ocean of truth." Inspired by his profound and sublime realizations, his heart overflowing with devotion and transcendental insight, Lord Brahma spontaneously begins to offer a series of poem—prayers to the source of his enlightenment and the object of his devotion, Lord Sri Krsna. These exquisite verses form the heart of Brahma-samhita.
There is nothing vague about Brahma's description of the Lord and His abode. No dim, nihilistic nothingness, no blinding bright light, no wispy, dreamy visions of harps and clouds; rather, a vibrant, luminescent world in transcendental color, form, and sound—a sublimely variegated spiritual landscape populated by innumerable blissful, eternally liberated souls reveling in spiritual cognition, sensation, and emotion, all in relationship with the all-blissful, all-attractive Personality of Godhead. Here is a sample:
I worship Govinda [Krsna], the primeval Lord, the first progenitor who is tending the cows, yielding all desire, in abodes built with spiritual gems, surrounded by millions of purpose trees, always served with great reverence and affection by hundreds of thousands of laksmis or gopis.
The commentator [Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati] reminds us that in the transcendental region of Goloka are found the same elements as are found in the mundane worlds, but in their highest purity and beauty: "trees and creepers, mountains, rivers and forests, water, movement, speech, music of the flute, the sun and the moon, tasted and taste . . ." Krsna's divine abode, Goloka Vrndavana, is a world in the fullest and realest sense.
There are those who will have difficulty with Brahma's highly graphic and personalistic depiction of the spiritual world and of the liberated state. Some, for instance, whose conception of transcendence is determined by a certain logical fallacy based on the arbitrary assumption that spirit is the literal opposite of matter (and thus that because matter has form and variety, spirit must necessarily be formless and unvariegated), conceive of ultimate reality as some sort of divine emptiness. However, any conception of transcendence that projects or analogizes from our limited sensory and cognitive experience within the material world is, by its very nature, limited and speculative and thus unreliable. No accumulated quantity of sense data within this world can bring us to knowledge of what lies beyond it. Residents of the material world cannot get even a clue of transcendence, argues our Brahma-samhita commentator, "by moving heaven and earth through their organic senses."
The Brahma-samhita teaches that transcendence, truth, ultimate reality can be apprehended only by the mercy of the supreme transcendent entity, the Absolute Truth Himself, and that perception of ultimate reality is a function not of speculative reason but of direct spiritual cognition through divine revelation. This revelation is evolved through bhakti, pure, selfless love of God. Only by such spiritual devotion can Krsna be seen: "I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord . . . whom the pure devotees see in their heart of hearts with the eye of devotion tinged with the salve of love" (Bs. 38). Further, as our commentator explains, "the form of Krsna is visible [to the eye of the pure spiritual self] in proportion to its purification by the practice of devotion."
Bhakti as a state of consciousness, then, is attained through bhakti as a practice, a discipline. For this reason, Lord Krsna, in His response to Brahma at the end of the text, summarizes the path of bhakti in five aphorisms. This devotional discipline goes beyond conventional piety. It necessitates "constant endeavor for self-realization" (Bs. 59), involving both a turning from worldliness and sense gratification and an adherence to spiritual practices and behavior, under the guidance of authorized scripture. Through such practice, then, the materialist is soon purified of his tendency toward philosophical negation and comes to understand the nature of positive transcendence.
Others will find Lord Brahma's vision of the spiritual realm problematic for a related, but perhaps more subjective, emotional reason that goes to the heart of the human condition. There is a kind of ontological anxiety, a conscious or subconscious apprehension about beingness or existence itself, that goes along with embodied life in-the-world—that accompanies the soul's descent into the temporal, endlessly changing world of matter. Material bodies and minds are subjected to a huge variety of objective and subjective discomfitures, unpleasantries, and abject sufferings. Viewed philosophically, embodied personhood, false-self (ahankara), is, to a greater or lesser degree, innately a condition of suffering.
Because personal existence has been experienced by materialists as essentially painful, writes Srila Prabhupada in his Bhagavad-gita commentary, "the conception of retaining the personality after liberation from matter frightens them. When they are informed that spiritual life is also individual and personal, they become afraid of becoming persons again, and so they naturally prefer a kind of merging into the impersonal void" (Bg. 4.10, purport). Entering the path of bhakti, however, such persons can gradually begin to experience their real, spiritual selves and a release from egoistic anxiety. In that purified state, they become able to relish Brahma's vision of blissful, personal spiritual existence in Goloka.
Still others, however, might criticize Brahma-samhita on the grounds that the text, being quite specific and concrete in its depiction, merely offers another limited, sectarian view of God and His abode—a view in conflict with other, similarly limited views. Such persons prefer a kind of genericized Deity who doesn't offend variant theological views with definable, personal attributes. Brahma-samhita, however, is not a polemic against "competing" conceptions of the Deity (except those, of course, which would deny His transcendental personhood). Vaisnava tradition does not dismiss images of the Divine derived from authoritative scripture from beyond its own cultural and conceptual borders. It respects any sincere effort at serving the Supreme Person, although it holds its own texts as most comprehensive and authoritative. It promotes neither an arrogant sectarianism that would constrain transcendence to exclusive cultural, ideational, or linguistic forms (while burning a few heretics), nor a syncretistic ecumenism that would try to pacify all claimants on the truth by departicularizing it into bland vagary. Let the syncretistsand the sectarians come together to appreciate, at least, the aesthetic magnificence of Lord Brahma's theistic epiphany.
What we are experiencing through Lord Brahma in his samhita is not mystic hallucination or quaint mythologizing or an exercise in pious wishful thinking. We are getting a glimpse, however dimmed by our own insensitivities, into the spiritual world as seen by one whose eyes are "tinged with the salve of love." We are seeing, through Brahma, an eternal, transcendental world, of which the present world is a mere reflection. Goloka is infinitely more real than the shadowy world we perceive daily through our narrow senses. Brahma's vision of the spiritual realm is not his alone. It is shared by all those who give themselves fully unto the loving service of Lord Krsna—though Brahma admits that Goloka is known "only to a very few selfrealized souls in this world" (Bs. 56). We are asked not to accept Brahma's account of transcendence uncritically and dogmatically but to avail ourselves of the spiritual discipline, bhakti-yoga, that will gradually lead us to our own experiential understanding of this highest truth.
In his commentary to the twenty-eighth verse of the Brahma-samhita Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati writes that Lord Caitanya "taught this hymn to His favorite disciples inasmuch as it fully contains all the transcendental truths regarding Vaisnava philosophy," and he asks his readers to "study and try to enter into the spirit of this hymn with great care and attention, as a regular daily function." Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's disciple Srila Prabhupada was very fond of Brahma's prayers to Lord Krsna, and there are several recordings of Srila Prabhupada singing these prayers with intense devotion. We therefore invite readers to dive deeply into the sweet, transcendental ocean of Brahma's hymns as a daily meditation.
The steward offered us "just vegetables,"
Last summer, when my husband, daughter, and I were flying to California to visit my in-laws, the steward dutifully brought our vegetarian meal: boiled potatoes, boiled carrots, and boiled corn, with salt and pepper on the side. Perhaps out of disbelief at the prisonlike meal, the woman sitting in front of us asked the steward, "What's your vegetarian menu?" With a slight shrug and a disinterested look, he answered, "Just vegetables."
We hadn't planned on eating the airplane meal anyway, so we unpacked the lunch we had brought from the temple: fried whole-wheat breads, fried and spiced fresh cheese, cauliflower and peas in sour cream sauce (sabji), stuffed vegetable savories (samosas, pictured above), mango pickles, and sweets (sandesa and laddus). The ingredients for these dishes were simple, but a little know-how had transformed them into a delightful meal.
Am I a dreamer to expect United's menu planners to have sympathy for those vegetarian creatures who frequent their flights? They seem to think that vegetarians have renounced all palatable dishes.
Behind "Lord Krsna's Cuisine," the spiritual vegetarianism that's presented on these pages each month, lies a vast culinary art that pleases vegetarians and nonvegetarians alike. Judiciously combined, spices, vegetables, fruits, grains, and milk products can produce the gamut of textures, colors, forms, aromas, and tastes that make a meal satisfying.
Srila Prabhupada, who first brought Lord Krsna's cuisine to the West, once explained, "Simply by expert cooking, hundreds of thousands of palatable dishes can be prepared from agricultural produce and milk products. Still today in India, in Jagannatha-ksetra and other big temples, very palatable dishes are offered to the Deity, and prasadam [offered food] is distributed profusely to the public. Uncivilized men living in the jungle and being unqualified to produce food by agriculture and cow protection may eat animals, but a perfect human society advanced in knowledge must learn how to produce first-class food simply by agriculture and protection of cows."
Unlike the other passengers on the flight that afternoon, my family and I, as vegetarians, had a lot to be thankful for. We didn't have the overweight problem that plagues many who overconsume animal fats and underconsume the natural fibers found in whole grains and natural fruits and vegetables. We had ninety percent less risk of cancer and reduced chances of cardiovascular diseases. We knew we were doing our bit toward ending world hunger, as one acre of spinach, for example, produces twenty-six times more protein than an acre devoted to meat production. And we weren't hypocritically protecting some animals while eating others. (I remember how one of my relatives looked out her kitchen window and said, "Oh, there's that cat I don't like—he's the one that kills birds," and then continued stirring her chicken soup.)
And, although it may seem incredible to some, we were protecting our future. Srila Prabhupada once explained, "The animal-eaters do not know that in the future the animal will have a body suitable to kill them. That is the law of nature. In human society, if one kills a man he has to be hanged. That is the law of the state. Because of ignorance, people do not see that there is a complete state controlled by the Supreme Lord. Every living creature is a son of the Supreme Lord, and He does not tolerate even an ant's being killed. One has to pay for it."
Our variegated vegetarian diet was also providing us with all nutrients—vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates. And by eating krsna-prasadam we were making spiritual progress. But being vegetarian was a disadvantage, too. We had to tolerate the odors of sirloins and lamb chops. We had to tolerate the sight of people witlessly increasing their suffering—physically, morally, and spiritually—with every bite. We had to tolerate our feelings of compassion for the defenseless cows and lambs who gave their lives for the satisfaction of some traveler's taste buds. And we had to tolerate the misconceptions that people had about vegetarianism and the vegetarian cuisine.
I suppose the passengers who noticed us that afternoon must have thought us odd. First, instead of the much-advertised airplane fare, we'd gotten some dry vegetables. Then we'd pushed that aside and unwrapped a foreign-looking lunch.
My husband and I understood. For twenty-five years we had eaten whatever we were served, and we too had looked upon those who didn't as odd. But Srila Prabhupada had provoked our thinking. He had made us reexamine our values, our lives, and our goals, and as a result he had transformed us into devotees of Lord Krsna. As devotees, our vegetarian menu isn't "just vegetables," it's a world of its own, where nothing is lacking—from nutrition, to taste, to transcendence.
(Recipes from The Hare Krishna Book of Vegetarian Cooking, by Adi-raja dasa)
Preparation time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
1 pound white flour ¼ teaspoon salt
1. Put the white flour and salt in a bowl and slowly pour in the melted butter or ghee. Rub the butter or ghee into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Now slowly mix in the water and gather the flour together to make a dough. Knead vigorously for 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and soft but doesn't stick to your fingers. Gather the dough into a ball, sprinkle with a few drops of water, and cover with a damp cloth.
2. Peel and dice the potatoes. Either grate the cauliflower flowerets through the largest holes of a metal grater or dice them like the potatoes. Boil the potatoes and cauliflower in salted water until tender, and then drain.
3. Place a large frying pan over a medium flame and fry the cumin and fenugreek seeds in 2 tablespoons of ghee or oil. When the seeds begin to darken, toss in the grated ginger and powdered spices and fry for a few seconds more. Now put in the potato cubes. Stir-fry for 3 or 4 minutes, then add the grated or chopped cauliflower. Stir-fry for another 3 or 4 minutes. Add the peas and 2 tablespoons of water, cover, and cook for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables are tender (watch closely to prevent burning). Season with the salt and black pepper, then spread the contents of the pan on a clean surface to cool.
4. Dust the rolling surface with flour. Form the dough into 10 balls, roll out each ball to make a 6-inch disk, and cut each disk in half. Then take each half-disk and moisten its straight edge from the center to one end. Bring the two ends of the straight edge together to make a cone. Now firmly press the dry side over the wet side to seal the cone. Stuff the cone two-thirds full with filling. Then close the opening by pinching and folding the two edges together to form a pleated top.
5. Heat the ghee or oil in a deep-frying vessel over a medium flame. Fry a few samosas at a time (as many as will cover the surface of the ghee in one layer). Fry them for 10 to 15 minutes, turning them often until golden brown. Remove, drain, and offer to Krsna.
Fried Spicy Potato Swirls
Preparation and cooking time: 40 minutes
4 medium-size potatoes
1. Boil the potatoes until they are soft, then rinse them under cold water and peel them. Use a fork to mash them in a bowl with the grated coconut and the next 8 ingredients. Now spread the mixture on a surface to cool.
2. Combine the flour, turmeric, and cayenne pepper in a large mixing bowl. Rub the melted ghee into the flour, then add the water slowly, while mixing with your hand, until a dough forms. Transfer the dough to a rolling surface and knead well till it becomes soft and elastic.
3. Flour the rolling surface liberally, and then roll out all the dough into a rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. Spread the potato mixture evenly on the surface. While dusting the dough with flour to prevent it from sticking to your fingers, roll it up to make a compact roll. Use a sharp serrated knife to cut the roll into slices '/2 inch thick. Pat and form the slices so they retain their shape. Place them on a platter.
4. Heat the ghee or oil in a shallow pot. The ghee is hot enough when a pinch of dough dropped into it rises immediately to the surface and sizzles. Put several slices into the ghee. Fry them for 3 to 5 minutes, turning them over once, till they're golden brown. Offer to Krsna.
(Urad dal kacauri)
Soaking time: overnight
Preparation and cooking time: 1 hour
14 ounces white flour
1. Put the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Blend the butter or ghee into the mixture with your fingertips. Slowly add the cold water and form a soft (not wet) dough. Knead the dough vigorously for 5 minutes, then cover with a moist cloth and set aside.
2. Drain the dal and blend it in an electric blender (or a grinder) with just enough water to make a smooth paste. Heat the tablespoon of ghee in a small frying pan and fry the cumin seeds until brown (about 30 seconds). Then add the powdered spices and the pureed dal. Stir-fry for several minutes until partially cooked. Mix in the chopped coriander leaves, lemon juice, and salt. Set aside to cool.
3. Form the dough into 10 balls and divide the ddl mixture into 10 parts. With your thumb, poke a hole in each ball. Now fill each hole with one part of the dal mixture. Seal the hole, flatten the ball into a patty between your hands, and roll each one out quite thick. Put the ghee over a medium flame. After about five minutes, test the ghee by dropping a piece of dough into it. If the dough immediately rises to the surface and sizzles, the ghee is ready. Put in the kacauris and deep-fry them for about 10 minutes, until they are flaky and golden brown. Offer to Krsna.
This is a continuation of a conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and a guest, Dr. Christian Hauser, a psychiatrist, that took place in Stockholm in September 1973.
Srila Prabhupada: So that Nobel-prizewinning scientist claimed life comes from four chemicals. But when he was offered these four chemicals and asked "Will you be able to produce life?" suddenly he was not certain. This is cheating.
Dr. Hauser: He's jumping to conclusions, one can say. But not cheating.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, he is cheating. Because he cannot produce life—actually he cannot—but he's lecturing as though he could produce life from chemicals.
Dr. Hauser: Well, he may have combined the proteins that life seems made of, though he may not have produced real life.
Srila Prabhupada: But we are concerned with real life. We are concerned with real life. Here is what I say to this great scientist: "If you can produce one real, living being—not even a human being, just one small ant—then I shall think you are successful. But that you cannot do. So why do you talk nonsense? 'Life comes from these four chemicals.' You are cheating."
Why should the scientist have hedged—"That I cannot say"? He's not confident that life comes from chemicals. That means cheating. Many of these so-called scientists are doing this. They're not confident about their theories, and yet they go on giving long, long lectures. And people are such fools that they go on listening. Andha yathandhair upaniyamanah: blind followers following blind leaders into the ditch.
Dr. Hauser: Hmm. Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: But these so-called scientists will assert, "Well, as yet we have not produced life from chemicals—but we are trying, and we will do it in the future." "In the future." Anyone can promise the future. But you have heard the saying "Trust no future, however pleasant."
How can these scientists dare talk about producing life in the future? There is no history that anyone has produced life from chemicals. In the past they could not do it. At present they cannot do it. So what is the guarantee that in the future they shall do it?
What do you think—that life is a product of chemicals? Do you mean to say life is a product of mere chemicals?
Dr. Hauser: That is what I've been taught, yes. About the evolution of the earth and all the different stages of life.
Srila Prabhupada: Do you think that's a fact?
Dr. Hauser: It's not a fact. I don't know whether it's a fact. I...but that's what I've been taught.
Srila Prabhupada: Then that means currently you are illusioned. You are not confident, but still you accept that theory. This is illusion.
Dr. Hauser: But...yes...but...
Srila Prabhupada: So you should apply your reason. From practical experience you should ask yourself, Is life produced from matter—or is matter produced from life?
Life cannot be produced from matter. In the Vedanta-sutra it is said, janmady asya yatah: "The Absolute Truth is that from whom, or from which, everything emanates." Now, is this Absolute Truth a living being or a dead stone? The Srimad-Bhagavatam then informs us, anvayad itaratas carthesv abhijnah: "This Absolute Truth must be cognizant." Abhijna—cognizant. In other words, if I can say, "I have created all these things within this room, " that means I must be cognizant. And how can cognizance reside in dead matter? The creator must be a living being. The origin of life must be a living being.
Where is the evidence that life has ever come from matter? Is there any evidence in history?
Dr. Hauser: No, but as we know, the evolution of life has gone through different stages of...how do you say...
Srila Prabhupada: Darwin's theory. Are you referring to Darwin's theory?
Dr. Hauser: Yes, yes.
Srila Prabhupada: That is all nonsense. Darwin was a number-one nonsense. Yes. A rascal. He has confused the whole world.
Dr. Hauser: Hmm. Why?
Srila Prabhupada: His idea about the evolution of matter. Matter cannot evolve. That is not possible.
Dr. Hauser: But evolution of life...
Srila Prabhupada: What do you mean by "life"? Life is different from matter. Life is a different energy—spirit. That is what I am saying. Life is the origin of matter. So the evolution is not of the matter.
God, the original life, has already created all these many gradations of material species, or forms, from amoeba to ant to antelope to human. "Evolution" means simply this: Once we living souls fall into this material realm, then according to your karma—the way we act—nature awards us forms that are just suitable.
Act like a relatively civilized human, and you go on receiving human bodies. Act like a dog or a hog and you receive the form of a dog or a hog. And yet even if you degrade yourself into those lower species, by God's grace and nature's law you then "evolve": upward through the millions of species, lifetime after lifetime, millions of births and deaths, until at last you regain a human form.
This human form—such a rare opportunity. Only in this human form can you realize God. You can act godly—and then at life's end go back to live with God. Only in the human form can you be one with this horrible process of devolving an evolving through the various material forms. So this is the real meaning of "evolution"" Regain your original, spiritual form. Go back home, back to Godhead, back to the spiritual world.
So the "evolution" is not of the matter, but of the life, the inner soul. That Darwin did not know. Therefore I call Darwin a number-one nonsense.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
ISKCON Guru Tours Fiji Meets Leaders
Suva, Fiji—The Right Honorable Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, prime minister of Fiji, and several government ministers recently met with one of ISKCON's present spiritual masters, Srila Tamal Krishna Goswami Gurudeva, at the home of Khur Ram Latchan, a member of Parliament. Mr. Latchan hosted a special evening reception at his home in Wainibokasi, to which he had invited government leaders to welcome Srila Gurudeva.
Srila Gurudeva often visits Fiji, where he has a number of disciples. In his address to the prime minister and five hundred other guests, Srila Gurudeva explained ISKCON's standing as a bona fide, nonsectarian religion. He described the Society's plans for developing a gurukula (a Krsna conscious school) in Lautoka by January 1988. He also said that ISKCON plans to open an orphanage, a temple complex with an adjoining guesthouse, and another restaurant—Fiji's third—that serves krsna-prasadam, vegetarian dishes offered to Lord Krsna.
Prime Minister Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara responded to Srila Gurudeva's talk by saying, "I am delighted to hear of the Society's future plans." Also present at the reception were Minister for Primary Industries Charles Walker and Minister of State of Forests Ratu Sir Josia Tavaiqia. Srila Tamal Krishna Goswami garlanded them with flowers offered to the Deity of Lord Krsna and presented the prime minister with The Hare Krishna Book of Vegetarian Cooking. The prime minister maintains a vegetarian diet, according to the Fiji Sun.
Besides meeting some of Fiji's leaders, Srila Tamal Krishna Goswami delivered public discourses on Krsna consciousness during his visit to Fiji. He lectured in Lautoka, Lambasa, Ba, as well as at the Civic Center here. At these programs the local Hare Krsna devotees performed sankirtana, the congregational chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. They also served prasadam to the guests and distributed books on Krsna consciousness. The Hare Krsna movement in Fiji has a following of twenty thousand devotees, and Vasudeva dasa oversees the movement's affairs here.
Srila Gurudeva told one of his audiences: "Many think that the well-being of the body is the equivalent of the well-being of the soul. Even the diseased and dying are still attached to the body. Yet the body is the cause of our suffering. Each of us is a spirit soul with its own form and personality. We can realize our real self in this life."
ISKCON Moves to New Temple in Bangalore, India
Bangalore, India—A Deity installation followed by a Ratha-yatra parade and a three-day festival recently made frontpage news and heralded the opening of ISKCON's new temple building in Upper Palace Orchards, a residential area here.
The new Deities of Krsna and Balarama come from the holy city of Udupi, which is located on the west coast of southern India. Udupi is famous as a place of pilgrimage because of the temple Sri Krsna Matha, which was founded by Srila Madhvacarya in the thirteenth century (See BACK TO GODHEAD, Vol. 20, No. 6). Before Their Lordships Krsna and Balarama were flown to ISKCON's new Bangalore temple, His Holiness Visvesa Tirtha Swami and His Holiness Sri Pejavara Mutt, priests at Sri Krsna Matha, performed elaborate Vedic ceremonies to invoke auspiciousness.
When the Deities arrived at Their new home, Srila Jayapataka Swami, one of the present spiritual masters in the Krsna consciousness movement, installed Them in the ISKCON temple during a fire sacrifice and bathing ceremony. Later, the local devotees distributed prasadam for six hours.
The next day, the Deities were taken on procession in Ratha-yatra carts exactly resembling those used in Udupi. Carts of this design have been a tradition in that city for seven hundred years. The ISKCON carts were designed and built by Rasanatha dasa.
His Holiness Vibhudesa Tirtha Swami, a prominent spiritual leader in Udupi, inaugurated the procession, while Minister of Tourism and Youth Services Dr. Jeevaraj Alva and Minister of Labor Sri D. Manjunatha swept the road before the carts with golden brooms. Elephants, folk dancers, chanters, and floats led the gala procession.
Minister of Health Dr. Timme Gowda, Mayor Sri B.K.M. Gowda, and Minister of Public Works Sri Deve Gowda also attended the festival.
At the three-day festival in Bangalore's largest auditorium, Srila Jayapataka Swami chanted Hare Krsna, lectured, and took written vows from hundreds of participants that stated they would chant the Hare Krsna mantra one hundred and eight times daily.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
by Drutakarma dasa
Striking meat-packers and their supporters blockaded the Geo. A. Hormel & Co. plant Monday, and Gov. Rudy Perpich called out the National Guard to prevent violence as workers crossed the picket lines.—Associated Press, Jan. 21, 1986
Governor Rudy Perpich is certainly to be commended for using the forces at his command to prevent violence at the Hormel meat-packing plant in Austin, Minnesota; however, the human-to-human violence outside the plant's gates was insignificant compared to the usual human-to-animal violence within.
Governor Perpich did nothing to prevent this violence. A government leader trained in Vedic philosophy, however, would have acted differently. He would have used the National Guard troops to shut down the meat-packing plant altogether. Such a leader would see not only human beings but also the animals as praja, or citizens. In his commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada explains, "The word praja refers to one who has taken birth within the jurisdiction of the government. All living beings, whether human, animal, or lower than animal, should be given protection."
Stopping the killing of the animals is not merely an act of compassion toward the animals. According to the law of karma, the acts of violence being carried out against the animals in the meat-packing plant will eventually generate reactions affecting humans, individually and collectively. Srila Prabhupada states, "If one kills many thousands of animals in a professional way so that other people can purchase the meat to eat, one must be ready to be killed in a similar way in his next life and in life after life. . . . According to Judeo-Christian scriptures, it is clearly said, 'Thou shalt not kill.' Nonetheless, giving all kinds of excuses, even the heads of religion indulge in killing animals while trying to pass as saintly persons. This mockery and hypocrisy in human society bring about unlimited calamities; therefore occasionally there are great wars. Masses of such people go out onto the battlefields and kill one another. At present they have discovered the atomic bomb, which is now simply awaiting wholesale destruction."
Considering the law of karma and its possible effects, we can see that protecting animals from slaughter is equivalent to protecting human beings. Labor consultant Ray Rodgers said to the strikers, "I think you should make it clear that if they want to call out the National Guard, they should call out the National Guard against the company to protect the people of Austin from what this company is doing to the city and to the people." Of course, Mr. Rodgers was saying that the National Guard should be used to force the company to accede to the demands of the striking workers so they could continue packing the bloody harvest of animal slaughter. But a consultant who understood the law of karma and what the activities of the company were really "doing to the city and its people" would have advised a different kind of protection-shutting down the plant entirely and saving the animals.
Of course, it is not very likely that any of today's government leaders will act to stop animal slaughter. But then it's also not very likely that we're going to see an end to needless violence in human society, either. That's the price of ignorance about the laws of karma. The only remedy is to educate the people about these things. And that's what the Krsna consciousness movement is trying to do.
The Unnecessities Of Life
by Mathuresa dasa
The bulbs I purchased on sale last fall and planted in my tiny sidewalk flower bed bloomed profusely this spring in almost weekly waves of yellow or violet or red. April showers bring May flowers, and from right after the snows' melt I've had modest yet elegant clusters of buttercups, daffodils, and tulips. It was so easy. A few minutes to dig the bed and bury the bulbs was all.
Out beyond my own sidewalk cropland, the state of agriculture grows complex and dismal for many. The Farmers Home Administration says that 27,000 farms are nearing bankruptcy. The total American farm debt is $213 billion.
It seems particularly cruel that farmers, who have chosen such a simple, honest way of life, and who have such direct access to a very real, tangible kind of wealth, should suffer poverty. Plowing and cultivating the land, living close to nature, working with the sun and rain—farmers produce all our necessities. Wheat and rice, fruits and vegetables, milk and butter—is there any wealth more valuable than agricultural wealth? We can survive—prosper!—without stock markets, paper money, gold and silver, even without cars and factories and air pollution. But what would we do without farms and orchards and dairies?
The Vedic literature therefore strongly asserts that real wealth is measured not in dollars and cents but in land and cows. The land yields grains, cotton, wood, and other products for our food, clothing, and shelter. The cows produce milk and butter. The bulls can be harnessed to plow our fields and haul our loads. Just try to envision an imaginary landscape where the fields produce luxury cars, televisions, and other gadgets, where money grows on bushes, and where cows give bucketfuls of gas and oil. Paradise? No, just the opposite. There is a Vedic saying that the trees in hell are made of solid gold.
In 1964, while commenting on the first canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada wrote:
If there is enough milk, enough grains, enough fruit, enough cotton, enough silk, and enough jewels, then why do the people need houses of prostitution, slaughterhouses, cinemas, and so on? What is the need of an artificial luxurious life of cinema, cars, radio, flesh [meat], and hotels? Has this civilization produced anything but quarreling individually and nationally? Has this civilization enhanced the cause of equality and fraternity by sending thousands of men into a hellish factory and the war fields at the whims of a particular man? (Bhag. 1.10.5, purport)
An especially disturbing aspect of the farm crisis is the suicides that have accompanied the despair of bankruptcy, foreclosure, and farm auctions. While these deaths are too few and far between to be statistically significant, they nonetheless indicate how dedication and attachment to a piece of land and a noble, age-old way of life can run deep—deeper in many ways than dedication to an ordinary job or business. That these few suicides drew national attention indicates that farming and farmers are still close to the heart of urbanized man. The farmer's vocation is itself a kind of wealth—one that, again, we cannot simply measure in dollars and cents.
The poverty of today's farmers is an outgrowth of the poverty of modern civilized man in his attraction to the "unnecessities" of life—rapid transportation and communication, leisure activities and entertainment, home automation, and so on. Such materialistic trappings add little to our satisfaction and nothing to our spiritual advancement. Spiritual advancement, or increased devotion to the Supreme Person, is the purpose of human life, the only objective that can give us happiness. Agriculture and cow protection are the two principal features of a timeless, God-given economic system, one that is designed to support a society based on spiritual values. Land and cows will generously and peacefully sustain a life-style centered on God realization, but not a life of mechanization, exaggerated sense gratification, and materialism. This is as true for the lone farmer as it is for society in general. The farmer bereft of spiritual values and goals may find himself buried in debt, while his wealth of grains and milk products piles up in silos and warehouses, too plentifully supplied by the Supreme Lord to garner a good price on the open market. Materialistic society—farmers included—is finding itself buried under a pile of technological gadgets, industrial wastes, and broken lives. Meanwhile, the simple agrarian life, with its natural counterpart, the endeavor for spiritual advancement, is becoming an anachronism.
As a city slicker and daffodil-grower, I'm not the ideal person to fire off a manifesto on agrarian life. But a manifesto isn't what's needed anyway. What we need is clear thinking about wealth and about priorities, thinking based on the revealed scriptures, which give reliable directions for material and spiritual prosperity.
Does it shock you that Vedic culture existed outside India so long ago?" Ta asked me, "No," I said. "Veda means knowledge, and true knowledge is everybody's birthright."
by Satyaraja Dasa
While viewing a recent exhibit at New York's Asia Society, I met an extremely interesting fellow named Ta Khan, a Cambodian war refugee. Although Ta was familiar with Eastern religion, his knowledge of the Krsna consciousness movement was minimal. He had heard about Vedanta, yoga, sanatana-dharma and so on, but like most people who frequent the Asia Society, he had only a theoretical knowledge of these things. And he was completely unaware that thousands of Westerners had adopted the Krsna Conscious life-style.
I was standing before a beautiful painting from Akbar's court when Ta approached me. "Are you a devotee of Krsna?" he asked. But before I could answer, he stammered, "Ohh! Y-you're American!"
"Devotion to Krsna is the. eternal function of the soul," I assured him, "and it transcends cultural designations." We continued to look at the exhibit together. Soon he turned again to me, obviously anxious to speak, but he seemed unsure of where to start.
Hoping to make it easy for him, I explained, "Krsna is God. Actually, there is one God, but He is revealed by different prophets according to the intellectual and spiritual capacities of a given culture." I could see he was attentive and eager to hear more.
"No matter where you are born," I continued, "God can come to you. It's not that Krsna can come only to a Hindu. If you're sincere, He'll search you out. He will either come personally, or He'll send His pure representative." I concluded my little sermon: "When His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada came to Western shores in 1965, he brought Krsna with him."
Ta seemed pleased. "I know exactly what you mean," he ventured. Then with increased confidence he said, "Krsna came to me in Cambodia."
I thought he was referring to the local concept of God in his country, and I asked, "What form did the Lord come in? What's His name in your land?"
"Oh, He came as Krsna and also as Rama. He came in the form of the world's largest Visnu temple." Now he had caught my interest.
"Wait a minute," I protested. "The largest Visnu temple is in Sri Rangam, in south India."
"That's the largest in India," he corrected me, laughing, "but the largest in the world is called Angkor Wat, and that is in Cambodia."
"You may like to joke," Ta said, his face set with gravity, "but when I was a child my father took me to this massive Visnu temple, and I have never forgotten the experience. We prayed to leave Cambodia"—he looked at me earnestly. "Life there was so hard. I made a vow before Visnu that if I ever got out, I would search for His devotees and learn how to worship Him."
As Ta spoke, tears came to his eyes. It occurred to me that here was a genuine recipient of Lord Visnu's mercy. For that matter, so was I. America, for all its opulence, is as unlikely a place to find devotion to Krsna as Kampuchea (Cambodia).
We went to sit in the Asia Society cafeteria. I was completely fascinated by Ta's experience at Angkor Wat. I wanted to know more. I shared my lunch of krsna-prasadam with him. He shared his past with me. A member of the Asia Society overheard bits of our conversation and suggested we go through their private book collection; he was certain he had once encountered some literature on Angkor Wat. And sure enough, we were excited to find quite a bit of literature on the subject.
Ta had told me that the name Angkor Wat means, roughly, "the new place," and we read that "the new place" used to be called, of all things, Yasodapura. I was familiar with the name Yasoda It's the name of Krsna's mother. It seems the temple was constructed in her honor. I had to know more.
As we read on, we learned that south India's Sri Rangam is indeed considered the largest Visnu temple in India—but Angkor Wat is bigger still. Ta smiled, proud of his country. "Visnu is still worshiped in Sri Rangam," I said, trying once again to defend India's sanctity, "but Angkor Wat has long since become a Buddhist shrine." But I knew my defense was insubstantial and irrelevant—Angkor Wat still stands as one of the world's most monumental offerings to God.
The massive Visnu temple apparently was constructed by the Palava dynasty under King Suryavarman II's patronage. The Palavas were mostly Vaisnavas, Krsna conscious devotees, and with their great missionary spirit brought Vedic culture from India to many lands.
Angkor Wat, the crown jewel of Palava masterworks, dominates the plain where the Khmer empire—heir to the kingdoms of Funan and Chenla—flourished from the ninth century A.D. Built over a span of some forty years, the temple is one of the world's most elaborate religious masterpieces, surpassing even the most elegant Christian cathedrals in splendor and magnitude. Worship of Visnu engaged thousands under its roof until the fall of the Palava dynasty in the fifteenth century, at which time, with the transferral of culture, it became a tribute to Lord Buddha. Today, the temple is being partly protected from its most lethal enemy, water, by a network of hidden drains emplaced there in the 1960s.
As Ta read the description of Angkor, it brought back memories of his homeland and of his vow to search out the devotees of Visnu.
"Its epic symmetries," he read to me, "begin with the outer gallery, which runs in a circumference of half a mile. Within the gallery, sculptures in bas relief retell the pastimes of Visnu and Rama." What Ta and I were most happy to read, however, is that Lord Krsna's pastimes are also depicted on the walls of the great structure. As we read this in an old copy of National Geographic (Vol. 161, No. 5, May 1982), we began to feel closer, as if his background in Kampuchea and my involvement with the Krsna consciousness movement were interrelated. Somehow, they were.
"Does it shock you that your Vedic culture existed outside India so long ago?" Ta asked me.
"No," I confessed. "I can understand that Vedic culture is our birthright. Veda means 'knowledge,' and true knowledge is everybody's birthright. If something is indeed true, it must be true everywhere and for everyone—just like the sun. There's no question of a Cambodian sun or an American sun—the sun is the sun. Vedic knowledge is like that. It is true for everyone. It is the Absolute Truth.
It was getting late. Ta was reflective. Although we had only met earlier that day, we were already old friends. He repeated his story to me; he spoke of his ordeal in Kampuchea; he reminisced about his visit to the Visnu temple. His prayers did not go unanswered, he told me. Not only was he able to flee Kampuchea with his life, but he was led to Visnu's devotees. I was embarrassed. I realized that he was referring to me. And I, in turn, became even more grateful to Srila Prabhupada, who spread the teachings of Krsna consciousness all over the world so that I could be led to Visnu's devotees.
Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare
Chanting these sixteen words gradually destroys all the ill effects of this age of quarrel and hipocrisy. "Krsna" and "Rama" are names of God. "Hare" is the most intimate and effective way of addressing or invoking God. And since God is absolute, He and His names are one, so you're in His company whenever you chant. Try it—alone or with friends. Silently or at the top of your lungs. Chant the Hare Krsna mantra. It's free. It works.
"An unsuccessful yogi may be born
Text by Visakha-Devi Dasi
This verse, spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna, gives assurance that the yogi is never overcome by inauspiciousness. Even if he falls from the yogic path, still he is fortunate, for in his next life he will enter a family of transcendentalists, or devotees. Such a birth, the Lord says, is certainly rare.
But devotees of Krsna should not let this statement go to their heads. "I don't think of my children as special any more than any other mother," Nirupama, a devotee for fifteen years and mother of seven, told me. Her first child was born before she and her husband had heard of Lord Krsna, and the child gave her parents cause for deep introspection. The day after the child's birth, Nirupama's husband spent several hours standing at the nursery window, looking at his newborn. He went to Nirupama. "What are we going to do now?" he asked. "We must give her something more than we've been able to find. We've got no meaningful way of life to offer her."
Nirupama agreed. She'd been teaching in public school and was so disillusioned by the experience that she'd decided never to expose her children to such an educational system.
When their first daughter was just six weeks old, Nirupama and her husband met a devotee and began chanting the Hare Krsna mantra. Soon after that they were initiated, and Nirupama's husband, Bahudaka dasa, became president of the Hare Krsna center in Vancouver. For years the first children had few playmates. But gradually the community developed. Today the temple boasts a fully staffed private elementary school for fifty students on eight acres of woodsy land in an area called Burnaby, eleven miles from downtown Vancouver.
"We think our kids are fortunate because they've had devotional training from the beginning of their lives," Nirupama said. "And they're attending our devotee-run school. So they've got a solid, secure foundation to develop love of God.
"But we don't want them to become proud, thinking that they're something special," she continued, "because although they're fortunate now, they can always become unfortunate by losing their desire for spiritual life. We feel responsible not just for their well-being, not just for their academic and moral training, but also for seeing that their aspirations are not mundane but spiritual."
Some people think that devotee children, far from being fortunate, are actually unfortunate: they're indoctrinated, or "brainwashed," with spirituality before they can choose the path of life they want.
Others, like Dr. Benjamin Spock, author of the international bestseller Baby and Child Care, disagree. In his book Dr. Spock writes that formerly—before the authority of religion was superceded by that of science—people felt that their main function was to serve God, carrying out His supreme purposes as revealed by religion. "Fortunate are the parents with a strong religious faith," Dr. Spock declares. "They are supported by a sense of conviction and serenity in all their activities." The children of such parents don't have the idea that life is meant for fulfilling mundane desires. Rather, they are exhorted to overcome their base nature and thus become pleasing in the eyes of God.
"The capacity for idealism, creativity, and spirituality is latent in all children," Spock says. "Whether they will realize them all will depend on their parents. If parents have aspirations, then their offspring will continue to be inspired by their pattern.... If, on the other hand, parents have no interests beyond their bodily needs, their children's estimate of them will gradually shrink and they won't try to go beyond their parents' level."
Spock also points out that people today who don't have faith in religion are doubly deprived, because they don't have much faith in man, either. Parents with such doubts flounder along with their children in disillusionment and disenchantment.
Krsna consciousness, however, offers both children and adults the highest aspirations, along with a practical process for attaining them. Since devotee parents are striving to reach the noblest of goals, their children are inspired by their conviction. Thus the "idealism, creativity, and spirituality" Dr. Spock describes as latent in all children can blossom.
Although devotee parents may not emphasize that their children have a rare birth, others sometimes see it. Two devotee teachers in Vancouver, for instance, told me that when they take their students to a nearby park to play, inevitably a few people will come up to them and make favorable remarks about the radiance and happiness of the children.
Children born into a family of devotees are fortunate. Not only do they have the opulence of wise and devoted parents, but they also have the brightest of futures:
On taking such a birth the unsuccessful yogi revives the divine consciousness of his previous life, and he again tries to make further progress in order to achieve complete success. By virtue of the divine consciousness of his previous life, he automatically becomes attracted to the yogic principles-even without seeking them. And when the yogi engages himself with sincere endeavor in making further progress, being washed of all contaminations, then he attains the supreme goal." (Bhagavad-gita 6.43-45)
The Blight at the End of the Chunnel
The political heads of England and France recently announced their sanction of "the biggest construction job of the century," the building of a railroad tunnel beneath the English Channel to link the Continent with Britain. The new tunnel, or "chunnel," as it is called, will be at least ten years in construction and will cost $7.5 billion. It will reduce travel time between London and Paris from four hours to three hours and fifteen minutes.
The concept is not a new one. More than a century ago Henry David Thoreau, writing in Walden, gave his views on the subject of international chunnelling:
We are eager to tunnel under the Atlantic and bring the Old World some weeks nearer to the New, but perchance the first news that will leak through the broad flapping American ear will be that Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough ...
The English Chunnel promises to be yet another distractingly pretty toy. We pursue material happiness while neglecting self-realization. But we should think, Do technological breakthroughs really improve the quality of life? Is driving my car underneath the English Channel that big of a deal? Or are such diversions just distracting me from serious things?—like solving the problems of repeated birth and death and suffering. Better to become Krsna conscious and realize our eternal identity as servants of God. By acting in our original positions as the servants of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead; each of us will find the perfect happiness that has for so long eluded us.
Material development and Krsna consciousness are compatible—provided one endeavors only for the pleasure of Krsna. To build a great temple or cathedral to glorify the Supreme is as spiritual as prayer and meditation. And if express ways and tunnels can be used to facilitate the distribution of transcendental knowledge, so much the better. But our priorities should be clear, our lives sane and balanced. We should not pursue material development with such blind ferocity that we find ourselves with neither the time nor the energy to understand the goal of life.
Ideally, economic development should proceed as a by-product of our increasing spiritual awareness. As the great sage Prahlada Maharaja once said, "Endeavors merely for sense gratification, material happiness, or economic development are not to be performed, for they result only in a loss of time and energy with no actual profits. If one's endeavors are directed toward the development of Krsna consciousness, one can surely attain the spiritual platform of self-realization. There's no such benefit from engaging oneself just in economic development."
It is our leaders' responsibility to provide the citizens of the world with facility to become Krsna conscious. In former ages, government leaders lived up to this responsibility and provided for the citizens both materially and spiritually. This is balanced government, and the Vedic classic Srimad-Bhagavatam gives many accounts of heads of state who knew how to maintain that balance. According to Vedic vision, balanced government is imperative. And any government that promotes material advancement at the cost of spiritual realization is unbalanced. A life devoid of spiritual discipline, spiritual values, and the cultivation of spiritual knowledge is so stunted and onesided as to be regarded by the Vedic literature as subhuman. Today's materialistic societies, therefore, despite apparent progress, are a conglomeration of so many stultified lives misled by shortsighted leaders into unfulfilling materialistic pursuits.
A spokesman for the Channel Tunnelling Group said the ambition of the tunnel's financiers is "to make billions." And, of course, the political ramifications should be exhilarating for opportunists in both England and France. The Chunnel's champions, lacking spiritual realization, are content to shuttle the citizenry back and forth at high speeds in the darkness of ignorance. They encourage the people to live like animals, oblivious to life's spiritual essence, and to enter yet another life of suffering. Like Ravana's efforts to erect a staircase to heaven, the grandiose plan of the politicians and financiers to build the English Chunnel epitomizes society's wasteful pursuit of a material happiness it will never find.
Rather than inviting private corporations to bid for the rights to construct this tunnel, government leaders should invite authorities on spiritual knowledge to discuss the goal of life and the process for freeing oneself from death. In this way the citizens will be protected from unscrupulous exploitation and will be able to take advantage of the human form of life.
The human birth is very rare. Out of all the species of life, the human form offers the full opportunity to understand matter and spirit and to develop one's innate love of Lord Krsna. We should not waste our valuable opportunity. A human being should not be a royal edition of a beast, nor should our cities be places where people rush about like cats and dogs merely to eat, sleep, mate, and defend. Our time would be better spent in hearing about Krsna, in reading Krsna conscious books, in talking about Krsna, in working for Krsna, in worshiping Krsna, and in chanting His holy name: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
The frenetic bustle of contemporary culture leaves us with little time and no direction for spiritual life. On the other hand, "plain living and high thinking," in the words of the English poet William Wordsworth, are conducive to a satisfying life of spiritual development. And at the conclusion of a life of spiritual endeavor one can become free of the temporary material body and its miseries and return to the spiritual world to serve Lord Krsna eternally in bliss and knowledge.—SDG