Try as we may, we cannot avoid the frustrations of life.
A lecture in London in September 1971
In materialistic life we cannot control our senses and mind. The mind is dictating, "Enjoy your senses in this way," and we are enjoying our senses. Materialistic life means sense gratification, and this sense gratification process is going on life after life. In the many varieties of life there are different standards of sense gratification. Krsna is so kind that He has given us full liberty to gratify our senses.
We living entities are part and parcel of Krsna, and therefore we have small particles of all His desires. Our existence being a small particle of God's, we have all His qualities in a minute degree, just as a small particle of gold has all the qualities of the original gold. Therefore, our enjoying spirit exists because it is there in Krsna, the supreme enjoyer.
The Vedanta-sutra says that everything originates in Krsna. Param brahma, or the Absolute Truth, means "that from which everything is generated." Therefore our desire for sense gratification is coming from Krsna. Here is the perfect sense gratification—Krsna and His eternal consort, Radharani. Young boys and girls are similarly trying to enjoy their senses, but where is this propensity coming from? It is coming from Krsna. But the difference between us and Krsna is that because we are trying to gratify our senses in the material world, our attempts simply bring us pain and suffering, whereas Krsna's sense gratification is full of ever-increasing happiness. Krsna consciousness means to gratify your senses in association with Krsna. Then your sense gratification is perfect.
For example, if there is a nice sweetball and the finger picks it up, the finger cannot enjoy it. The sweetball has to be given to the stomach, and then the finger can also enjoy. Similarly, we cannot gratify our senses directly. But when we join with Krsna, when Krsna enjoys, then we can also enjoy. This is our position.
So, we have to purify our propensity for sense gratification. What is that purification? We cannot enjoy anything directly; we have to enjoy through Krsna. For example, we take prasadam [food offered to Krsna]. The nice prasadam, the food that is prepared, is not eaten directly—we eat it only after Krsna eats. First we offer it to Krsna, and then we eat.
What is the difficulty? There is no difficulty, but you become purified. The eating process is the same, but if you eat directly, you become materialistically encumbered. If you offer your food to Krsna, however, and then eat it, you become free from all contamination of material life.
That is stated in the Bhagavad-gita: yajna-sistasinah santo mucyante sarva-kilbisaih. Devotees take prasadam after offering it to Krsna. That is a form of sacrifice. And whatever we do in this material world that is not a sacrifice for Krsna is some sort of sinful activity, even if we do not know it.
For example, killing is sinful, even if we do not kill knowingly. When you walk down the street, you are killing so many insects. Whenever you drink water, you are also killing. Below a waterpot are many ants and microbes that are being killed. Whenever you light a fire, you burn so many small microbes. When you grind spices with a mortar and pestle, you kill many living entities. We are responsible for all this killing. Knowingly or unknowingly, we are becoming entangled in so many sinful activities.
Therefore, in the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says that you should eat only those foods that have been offered to Him in sacrifice. Then you become free from all contamination. Otherwise, if you cook so that you can personally eat, without offering your food to Krsna, you simply eat all kinds of sinful reactions. That is our position. Unfortunately, because people generally cannot control their senses, they engage in the materialistic way of life and suffer repeated birth and death in different species of life.
We do not know what our next life will be, but the next life will come. Before us there are so many species of life, and we can take birth in any of them. You can become a demigod, a cat, a dog, Brahma—there are so many forms of life. In the next life you shall have to accept one of these forms, even if you do not want to.
Suppose somebody says, "In your next life you will have to take the form of a dog or a hog." You would not like it. But the law of nature says that after giving up this body, when you are not existing in this body anymore, you will have to accept another body according to your karma. Your destiny is in the hands of nature. It is arranged by superior supervision.
You cannot order, "Give me the body of Brahma. Give me the body of Indra or a king or someone else exalted." That is not in your hands or in my hands; that will be judged by the superior agency of God, and you will be given a suitable body. Therefore, it is our duty to prepare ourselves to qualify for a body that will help us go back to Krsna. That preparation is Krsna consciousness.
Prahlada Maharaja, one of the great authorities in Krsna consciousness, says that one must take instruction from a guru, a spiritual master. But even one who has a nice guru cannot become Krsna conscious if he is determined to remain in this material world. If my determination is to remain in this material world and enjoy material life, then for me Krsna consciousness is impossible.
In the material world people engage in all kinds of political, philanthropic, and humanitarian activities—for what purpose? To make material life happy and prosperous, that's all. But this is not possible. One should understand that in the material world, however you may try to make adjustments, you cannot be happy. This is the first understanding in spiritual life: that we cannot be happy here in the material world.
To cite an example I have given many times, if you take a fish out of water, you may give it a comfortable velvet bedstead, but still the fish cannot be happy without water. Similarly, we are all spirit souls, and unless we are in spiritual life, we cannot be happy. That is our position.
But we do not know where our real happiness lies, and so we are trying to be happy here, in material conditions. We are becoming frustrated and confused. So we have to give up this hope that we shall be very happy by making adjustments in this material world. That we have to understand first of all. Then Krsna consciousness will be effective.
The boys and girls who are our students have become very frustrated with the materialistic way of life. Their fathers and guardians are not poor; there is no scarcity of food or material enjoyments. Then why are they frustrated? You may say that because India is poverty-stricken the people are frustrated, but why have American boys and girls become frustrated? This is proof that the materialistic way of life cannot make you happy. You may go for some time trying to become happy, but happiness will never come from the materialistic way of life. This is a fact.
Those who are trying to be happy by making adjustments in materialistic life cannot take to Krsna consciousness. Frustration and confusion with the materialistic way of life is the qualification to come to Krsna consciousness. These boys and girls have that good qualification.
There is a verse in Srimad-Bhagavatam that states that Krsna, to show some special favor to His devotee, sometimes takes away all the devotee's material opulences. For example, the Pandavas lost their kingdom, although Krsna was present as their friend. They lost their property, their wife was insulted, and they were driven away to the forest. Why? This question was posed by Yudhisthira Maharaja to Krsna, and Krsna replied, "This is My special favor." Sometimes we cannot understand the special favor of Krsna.
So, the frustration of these American and English youngsters with the materialistic way of life is a good qualification for accepting Krsna consciousness. Of course, one does not need to become poor to take to Krsna consciousness. But if anyone has the desire to become spiritually advanced while at the same time enjoying material life, that is not possible. These are contradictory things. You have to become determined to search for happiness only in spiritual life. That is real happiness.
This human form is especially meant for coming to that standard of spiritual life by tapasya, by voluntarily rejecting the materialistic way of life. In the history of India there were many great kings who practiced tapasya. For example, at the age of only twenty-four, Bharata Maharaja left his young wife, his young children, and his whole empire and went to the forest for meditation. There are many such instances.
In the modern civilization, however, very few people are interested in giving up materialistic life and taking up spiritual life. Materialistic life means chewing the chewed. Take, for instance, a father. He works hard to maintain his family. It is very difficult to keep a high standard of living in this age, so he must work very hard and engage his son in the same way. This happens again and again, generation after generation, so it is like chewing chewed things. Suppose you chew some sugarcane, enjoy its juice, and then throw it out into the street. Now, if someone wants to taste it to see how sweet it is, he is chewing the chewed. Similarly, we don't have very good experience with this materialistic life, this hard struggle for existence, but still we persist in trying to enjoy our senses. This is lust.
In Bhagavad-gita Krsna explains that this lust is born of the quality of passion. There are three qualities in the material world: goodness, passion, and ignorance. Because most people are in the mode of passion, they love to work hard for sense gratification. That work is considered happiness. In London you will see everyone engaged in hard work. In the morning, all the buses and trucks are traveling with great speed, and people are going to the office or factory from morning until late at night. They are working very hard, and this is what they call advancement of civilization.
Some people become frustrated; they don't want all this hard work. Hogs are also working hard day and night, thinking, "Where is stool? Where is stool?" That is their business. Therefore, in one sense this kind of civilization is a hog-and-dog civilization. It is not human civilization. Human civilization means sobriety. As stated in the Vedanta-sutra, a human being should be inquisitive to know these things:
Who am I? Why am I put into this condition of working very hard to get a little money? Why am I in this uncomfortable situation? Where did I come from? Where do I have to go?
So, Krsna consciousness is for those who have come to detest this material world. They are good candidates for developing Krsna consciousness. Then they will inquire why these men are working so hard. Prahlada Maharaja answers this in the Srimad-Bhagavatam: People are working so hard because they do not actually know what the goal of life is. Everyone knows that he is looking after his self-interest, but no one knows what his real self-interest is (na te viduh svartha-gatim hi visnu). One should know that his real self-interest is to make progress toward Visnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But people do not know this. Why don't they know it? Because they hope for happiness in this material world, which is impossible to achieve. It is good to hope for something that is possible, but if I hope for something that is never possible, that is foolishness.
We are a composition of the external and internal energies of God. The external energy consists of the gross material body of earth, water, fire, air, and ether, along with the subtle material body of mind, ego, and intelligence. Behind both gross and subtle material bodies is the spiritual soul, part of God's internal energy. Just as your body can be covered by a shirt and coat, which are external to it, so the spiritual soul is covered by the gross and subtle material bodies.
You may think that simply by having a nice shirt and coat you can be happy, but is it possible? Unless you eat nicely, unless you sleep nicely, unless you have your sense gratification, will you be happy simply by putting on a nice shirt and coat? No. That is not possible.
Similarly, it is not possible for the spirit soul to be happy by adjusting Krsna's external, material energy. You are a spirit soul. Therefore you must have spiritual food, you must have a spiritual life; then you can be happy. As you cannot be happy simply by having a nice shirt and coat, you cannot be happy simply by the materialistic way of life.
But in the modern civilization, people are struggling very hard to be happy through the manipulation of gross and subtle matter. Gross matter includes high skyscraper buildings, machines, factories, nice roads, good motorcars, and so on. Subtle matter includes such things as nice songs, poetry, and philosophy. People are trying to be happy with this gross and subtle material existence, but it cannot be.
Why have people accepted this sort of civilization? Because they are led by blind leaders. That is why they're reluctant to hear about God. Though we are conducting this Krsna consciousness movement, very few are interested. But suppose we advertise some falsehood—"If you follow this path, within six months you'll become God and you'll be all-powerful." Many people would come. Such promises are made by one blind man to other blind men. Suppose a blind man says to another blind man, "All right, come, follow me. I shall help you cross this busy Mulberry Street." The leader is blind, and his follower is also blind. The result will be that they will both be hit by some car or truck and die.
Unfortunately, we are so blind that we do not know we are tied up very tightly by the stringent laws of material nature. How can we become free from this material bondage? We have to take instruction from those who are not blind, those whose eyes are open to spiritual truth and who are liberated from material bondage. You have to take instruction from such persons; then you will understand what your self-interest is. Otherwise, if you are already blind and you take instruction from another blind man, it will be impossible for you to be liberated from the material bondage.
What is the interest of a child when it is crying? It is searching after its mother's breast. Anyone who knows this immediately brings the child to his mother—"Take care of your child; he is crying." The mother takes him to her breast, and the child is immediately happy. The child cannot express what he wants, so he simply cries. But one who knows what he is crying for helps him, and the child becomes happy. Similarly, because we are part and parcel of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, we are actually crying for Him. But these false leaders, these blind leaders who do not know, are giving us stones instead of bread.
How can one be happy? I have already explained the gross external energy and the subtle external energy. Those who are interested in this gross and subtle external energy will never have their ambition of life fulfilled. Therefore, one who is interested in Krsna and in showing others the path to Krsna is the real friend to all. One who is giving Krsna consciousness is the real friend of the world. No one else can give happiness to human society. That is the statement of Prahlada Maharaja.
You cannot manufacture a process of happiness by tackling this material energy. That is not possible, because the material energy is not under your control. The material energy is controlled by the Supreme. How can you overpower the material energy? It is not possible. Krsna explains that in the Bhagavad-gita (7.14):
daivi hy esa guna-mayi
"This material energy is under My control, so you cannot overcome it by your own power. But if you surrender unto Me, you can cross over it."
All the material activities of the cosmic manifestation are going on just to bring the rebellious souls back to Godhead. That is the situation. May as stringent laws are there. Why? What is the purpose of the police force or the military force? The purpose is to keep the citizens obedient to the state. If a citizen becomes disobedient to the state laws, he is immediately put into police custody. Similarly, anyone who rebels against the superiority of God is put under the control of the stringent laws of material nature, and he suffers. That is our position.
Therefore our self-interest is to seek out the Supreme Personality of Godhead and surrender unto Him. That will make us happy. That is Prahlada Maharaja's advice and also ours: Seek out the path of Krsna consciousness and you'll become happy. You'll eat nicely, dance nicely, live nicely, and go back home, back to Godhead. Enjoy this life and the next. That is our request.
The Krsna consciousness movement is so nice. Everyone should take it seriously and try to understand it. It is authorized on the Vedic principles; it is not something manufactured or unauthorized. We are opening centers in different parts of the world to give an opportunity for people to understand their real self-interest: attaining pure devotion for Lord Krsna. That is our mission. So kindly help us and join us.
Thank you very much. Hare Krsna.
Free to Dance
"I could envision myself, floating through pink and lavender hues,
by Dvarakadhisa Devi Dasi
When I was a very young girl, I wanted to become a dancer—not an ordinary dancer, bound by the laws of gravity to thump and thud and sweat and pant, but a truly ethereal creature, breathlessly brilliant and light. I could envision myself, floating through pink and lavender hues, transforming my body into delicate strands of emotion. Audiences would be stunned, mystified, enchanted. My entire life would be dedicated to dancing—no time for grocery lists or vacuum cleaners—and although naturally I would grow up to be very beautiful, I would happily forego the messy knots of matrimony for the fulfillment of my unprecedented contribution to the world of ballet.
Within a few years, however, the world became more sharply focused, revealing the reality of a dancer's discipline. I found myself clinging shyly to the wall of the ballet studio, watching the other little girls flutter like fairies across the scuffed tile floor. My feet were not so inclined to follow the flight of my fancy; indeed, I seemed to be more securely weighted to this solid earth than most. Clouded by a myopic fog, and gifted with a singular sense of rhythm that defied conventional synchronization, I suffered through those classes with the growing realization that life must surely consist of more than this. After all (I consoled myself), why should I limit myself to a life of physical contortions? What about personal growth? What about intellectual development?
Thus the world's most exquisite ballerina was obliged to retire a full decade prior to opening night, much to her private chagrin. I thought myself to be better suited to becoming a librarian, a teacher perhaps, or a missionary in a foreign land, or maybe a civil rights activist....
How my idealistic daydreams were to suffer, as the years rolled relentlessly past! The same world that had once appeared so fresh lashed out with unexpected resistance to my hopes of a grand entrance. Sex discrimination, cut-throat competition, financial hardships—numberless varieties of ruthless exploitation, crime, and heartache combined to stifle those dreams of glory and success. Suddenly college was upon me, and despite myriad career choices, nothing seemed to reach deep enough to inspire that potential somebody cowering behind my unrealized aspirations. All I knew was what I didn't want—a long succession of ill-fitting roles prescribed by parents, spouse, employers, grandchildren, and Madison Avenue executives. I wanted to integrate the unique personal essence I knew to be myself into a life rich with significance and purpose. I desired to be the best person I possibly could be, no matter how painful or difficult the endeavor. But where to find such a lofty goal in a world of deliberate self-deception?
I found what I was looking for in a most unexpected place. When I first came into contact with the Hare Krsna devotees, I was prepared to dismiss their unorthodox practices as easily as I had rejected many others.
Yet in spite of my reservations, I was impressed by the sincere dedication of the devotees. How much they were sacrificing for their cause, yet with such obvious relish! Although their lives appeared so disciplined and austere—not at all my idea of a happy way of life—they were nonetheless the most satisfied and radiant people I had ever met. Their days were filled with color and song, yet without frivolity, for their philosophy carried the weight of responsibility and introspection. Even the smallest activity was seen in relation to the Absolute Truth. They were constantly striving to increase their already formidable sincerity and infuse their lives with a spirit of devotional meditation.
That's what I grew to treasure about the devotees, their sweet understanding that everything is meant as an offering of love to God. They saw His presence everywhere and delighted in His will as the vital center of their lives. I was attracted, not simply by an unusual style of living, but by the real experience of coming closer to someone whom I knew intuitively to be the most significant person in my life, the eternal, all-attractive Lord. I saw that all materialistic paths would cheat me of this very deep happiness of intimate exchange with Him.
Becoming a devotee was not simply another career choice, a parody of conventional occupations with an exotic cultural flavoring; it was an unveiling of the spiritual personality suffocating under layers of assumed identities. I began to perceive how I had defined my very existence according to the circumstances of my birth, and how relentlessly I was suffering from this temporal and uncertain identity. When I began to sense that all that appeared glorious in this world was but a meaningless embellishment of this basic misidentification, I decided to try this revolutionary alternative. To discover the real me, hidden beneath a mass of flesh and relative values, was something I felt could warrant lifelong dedication.
I've never regretted my decision to take up Krsna consciousness. The austerities of spiritual discipline become increasingly effortless as I gradually perceive how they are releasing me from the blind suffering of sense gratification. That longing to be free from the forces of physical gravity and social conventions now has definite direction in the path back to the spiritual world. My life might be riddled with the imperfections of my personal lack of sincerity, but I have a goal that is noble and wonderful and pure. And I even get to dance after all.
Half a mile up in the mountains of South India,
Tirumala—High Haven of Krsna Consciousness
by Kundali dasa
Krsna has millions of names. Each name denotes one of His unlimited attributes. He is Rama, the source of bliss for His devotees; He is Hari, who takes away the anxieties of His devotees; He is Paramatma, the Supersoul in the hearts of all living entities; He is also called Vyenkatesvara, the "Lord of Vyenkatacala," a chain of hills about one hundred fifty miles northwest of Madras, in South India.
Of course Krsna, being God, is the Lord of all hills. "Vyenkatacala" refers to the hills where He appeared in a self-manifested Deity form of Lord Visnu some five millennia ago. The same Deity, also known as Balaji, now resides in a temple in the town of Tirumala, nestled half a mile up in the Vyenkatacala Hills, known today as the Eastern Ghats. This Visnu temple is the most popular place of pilgrimage in all of India.
To get to Tirumala you must go into the Vyenkatacala Hills to Tirupati, a town founded by the great saintly devotee and reformer Sri Ramanuja (1017-1137). The primary function of Tirupati is to accommodate the tens of thousands of pilgrims traveling daily to and from Tirumala. Day and night a constant roar emanates from these hillsides, as bus after bus wends its way along the steep and winding mountain road.
If you arrive in Tirupati without a tour bus or some means of a ride to Tirumala, you're in for a thrill. You can always walk up the eleven-kilometer (seven-mile) footpath—it's well lighted at night. Or you might get a seat on board a local bus—one leaves Tirupati every three minutes, from 3:30 a.m. until night. If you board a bus early enough, you can arrive in Tirumala with sufficient daylight left to wait in line, see Lord Vyenkatesvara and the temple, then visit the other shrines and places of interest.
Although in Tirumala you will find much to see, your first priority will probably be to get in the long line that goes winding around the temple, from the front entrance and up into the sprawling Queue Complex, a covered stadiumlike building that holds as many as ten thousand devotees at a time, sheltering them during the long wait to enter the temple. Fortunately, because of the high altitude, the air in Tirumala is fresh, light, and cool. Even in the fierce South Indian summer the devotees are fairly comfortable while waiting to get darsana, the audience of Lord Balaji.
Waiting in line to enter the temple, you'll have ample opportunity to take in one of the very fascinating features of the trip: the people. In Tirumala, you will see a greater cross section of Indian people than in any other single place in India (except for Allahabad during the Kumbha-mela, when, every twelve years, millions congregate to bathe in the Ganges). You'll see bands of gypsies, their womenfolk in colorful full skirts ornamented with tiny mirrors sewn into the fabric. Perhaps you'll encounter tribal people from the hills of Assam or from remote parts of Gujarat. You'll see wealthy, sophisticated Hindus arriving from all over the globe. You'll see acrobats, jugglers, traveling minstrels, and snake charmers; blissful ascetics, their bodies emaciated from austerities; wealthy businessmen and their families from Calcutta, Delhi, and Bombay. All these diverse peoples flow together, united in their eagerness to see the Personality of Godhead and win His grace.
Waiting in line is also a good opportunity to observe the magnificent architecture of the temple. From outside you can see the dome over the main entrance, teeming with depictions of demigods and various incarnations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna. You can also admire the dome over Lord Vyenkatesvara's altar. Thickly coated with pure gold, the dome glitters like the self-resplendent spiritual gem cintamani, of which all the buildings in the transcendental kingdom of God are made.
As the day progresses the town gets crowded. There is a perceptible difference, however, between this crowd and the kind of crowd you experience in cities like Bombay or New York. This is a peaceful crowd. The devotees have traveled hundreds, even thousands of miles to see the Deity and make their offerings of prayers and gifts; they are elated, but patient. Waiting to see the Deity, they read scripture, offer prayers to the Lord, chant on their beads, or make small talk. Thus, even though the town appears crowded and hectic, because everyone's mind is on Lord Vyenkatesvara, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the atmosphere is always spiritual. Tirumala and the kingdom of God are identical in many ways. For example, the scriptures and great devotees teach that the chief distinction between the spiritual world and the material world is that in the material world everyone is forgetful of Krsna, whereas in the spiritual world everyone is fully conscious of Krsna. In Tirumala everyone is absorbed in remembering Krsna in His four-handed form of Balaji. Certainly such a place is not of this material world.
After seeing the Deity you can tour the rest of the temple and the other buildings within the temple compound. (No cameras are allowed.) You'll find numerous statues and reliefs depicting the Lord's incarnations and pastimes. And there are shrines and statues of many great devotees. The Deity's gold and silver palanquins and other sacred paraphernalia are also on display.
That the Deity in Tirumala is a plenary form of Lord Visnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, was not always known. Traditionally, a Deity of Lord Visnu will bear in His hands certain distinguishing symbols: a lotus, a conch-shell, a discus, and a club. During the time of Ramanuja, however, in the eleventh century, Lord Vyenkatesvara's two upper hands were empty. No one knew why. It was impossible to verify the true identity of the Deity. Was this a form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead or a form of a demigod? To further complicate matters, figures of snakes, symbols of Lord Siva, are on the body of the Deity. A dispute developed. Some claimed the Deity was Lord Siva, while others insisted it was Lord Visnu.
In the midst of this feud, Ramanuja, a saint of great renown, came to Tirumala on pilgrimage. Both factions called on him to settle their dispute. Sri Ramanuja locked a gold discus and conch, symbols of Lord Visnu, in the Deity's room overnight. Next morning, all were astonished to find the conch and discus in the Deity's hands, and since that day Lord Vyenkatesvara's identity as Lord Krsna has never been questioned.
The temple of Lord Vyenkatesvara is the wealthiest in all of India, with an average income of three lakhs of rupees (thirty thousand dollars) a day. It is said that at Tirumala, Lord Visnu grants the wish of anyone who offers Him their weight in something, be it gold, fruit, cloth, or whatever. Pilgrims who make such an offering and ask a boon or blessings generally return (after achieving their desire) and make another offering to the Lord, acknowledging His kindness.
By nightfall most visitors to Tirumala are gone, accommodations for pilgrims being limited. The main facilities are down in Tirupati, an hour's drive away. With a floating population of sixty thousand people a day coming through Tirupati, the town is an almost unbelievable feat of municipal management and organization. After seeing Tirumala the devotees usually spend another day seeing the sacred sites in Tirupati. The principal temples there are the temple of Govindaraja Svami, a Visnu Deity, and the temple of Padmavati, the eternal consort of Lord Vyenkatesvara.
ISKCON in Tirupati
When ISKCON's founder-acarya, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, visited Tirumala and Tirupati in 1974, he spoke with administrators of the Vyenkatesvara temple. He encouraged them to join with ISKCON for the glorification of Lord Vyenkatesvara (Krsna) throughout the world. Indian-born Sankha-bhrt dasa heard these discussions and took heart. Over the years Sankha-bhrt dasa served in nearby Bangalore and Hyderabad. As a natural result of his preaching activities, he developed good relations with the Tirumala-Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), the board of trustees in charge of the management and development in the region. In 1981 Sankha-bhrt decided to preach in Tirupati. Mr. P.V.K. Prasad, the executive officer of the TTD at that time, provided an apartment for Sankha-bhrt and his family. Sankha-bhrt dasa and his wife began to distribute Srila Prabhupada's books and Back to Godhead magazine door to door and at the bus and train stations.
Sankha-bhrt: "My idea was to have a big book distribution program, taking the help of TTD for printing books in the South Indian languages. Later on, Srila Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja visited, and he was very impressed with the potential here for preaching. He thought we should build here, so he advised me to request Mr. Prasad to donate a hundred acres of land. Our proposal was rejected. Mr. Prasad, seeing that I was alone, felt we couldn't make use of so much land."
At every opportunity Sankha-bhrt reminded Mr. Prasad of Srila Prabhupada's vision: TTD and ISKCON working together in the service of Lord Vyenkatesvara. Gradually other devotees joined, and Sankha-bhrt expanded his preaching programs. In 1982-83, Srila Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja, director of the Bhaktivedanta Institute, the scientific preaching arm of ISKCON, arranged a "number of conferences and seminars in the local schools and colleges. This greatly impressed the people of Tirupati with the' scope and purity of ISKCON's programs for presenting Krsna consciousness on all levels and to all people.
In 1983 Mr. Prasad paid a visit to Sridhama Mayapur, the birthplace of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and the site of ISKCON's largest project in India.
Sankha-bhrt: "When Mr. Prasad returned from Mayapur, he was very enthusiastic to do something to help us. It was a crucial time, because his term as executive officer was coming to an end. I had no idea if the next officer would be as favorable as Mr. Prasad, so I said, 'Forget about the one hundred acres. I humbly beg you to give me a piece of land—whatever you can manage—and we will develop something on it.' He said, 'O.K. Tomorrow morning come early to my office. I have a place in mind.'
"The next morning I went to Mr. Prasad's office, but they told me he had gone to my apartment. I rushed back and found him with a crew of about twenty workers marking off some property and clearing the land. It was about fifty acres covered with thorns and bushes, and it was very uneven. Mr. Prasad said, 'I am allotting you this piece of land, and these people will clear it for you.' He could see I was a little disappointed because the land looked so rough and so out of the way, but he said to me, 'Don't worry. You don't know the future of this place. It will be one of the best locations in Tirupati, considering the plans for development of this city. It will be a good place for your preaching work.' He also gave seventy thousand rupees for us to build an asrama and bhajana hall."
Soon a small temple was constructed to temporarily house the Deities of Sri Sri Radha-Govinda, who had been installed in the summer of 1984. At present, Sankha-bhrt is busily raising funds for developing the property. Plans include an ornate temple, a three-hundred-room modern guesthouse, a gurukula school, and landscaped gardens.
Sankha-bhrt: "From here we will be able to preach to people all over the world—just by preaching in Tirupati. Everyone comes here on their way to Tirumala. I prayed very hard to Srila Prabhupada to make this happen, and now it is all coming to pass. In the future the bus station will be moved near here, and all the buses will go past our project on the way to Tirumala. We've hardly started our work, yet already we get several busloads of people a day. We will be able to distribute Krsna conscious books in every Indian language.
"It is significant that the TTD has given us this land. Every religious group, yoga organization, and what-have-you in India has tried to get a place here. Some have been trying for years. They want to come because to be in Tirupati is prestigious. And Tirupati is the wealthiest temple in all of India. If the TTD, which controls a lot of that wealth, decides to back some project, that project will flourish.
"But the TTD hasn't allowed any of these groups to come in. ISKCON is the exception. That's because we are preaching the scriptural conclusions without deviating, without concocting anything. We follow the prescribed dharma for the age, chanting the holy names of the Lord, and we are convincing people to live a spiritual life. The TTD trustees like us. They want us to work with them to give people real religion. Srila Prabhupada's vision is coming true."
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
Terror From The Year Zero
by Suhotra Swami
The year 1986 is proving to be a strange and terrifying year, especially for Americans living in Europe. The fear of terrorist reprisals against U.S. citizens in the wake of President Reagan's air attack on Libya is palpable. Here in Heidelberg, where I spend much of my time, the once-easygoing American military off-base housing installations have been sealed off from the surrounding German neighborhoods by roadblocks manned by armed soldiers in full combat gear. AFN, the U.S. Armed Forces Radio Network, recently aired a half-hour program instructing its listeners on what to do if, while seated peacefully in one's airline seat and quietly anticipating a happy landing in some exotic tourist mecca, "a wild-eyed kid suddenly shoves an AK-47 in your ribs."
It got so bad that American travelers began avoiding Western Europe like the plague, with Hollywood luminaries like Steven Spielberg canceling trips to the Cannes Film Festival. Despite America's recently rediscovered celluloid jingoism, swaggering body-sculpted clones of Rambo were nowhere to be seen in the traditional vacation haunts of London, Paris, and Rome. Instead, globe-trotters from the land of the free and the home of the brave were opting for more somber destinations in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, the Chernobyl reactor began spewing deadly isotopes all over the map. The harried leader of a group of thirty-one tourists from Long Island told Newsweek after the group's hasty exit from Kiev, "We came to the Soviet Union because there is no terrorism. And here we were, suddenly in the middle of a major catastrophe."
Though an American by birth, I have an entirely different point of view on all this. I'm a member of the Hare Krsna movement and have accepted the teachings of Bhagavad-gita, which many Americans might feel presents a too-pessimistic outlook on life. In a sense, that's true—this ancient book of knowledge does describe this material world as duhkhalayam asasvatam, "a temporary, miserable place." However, in my understanding, recent events have only confirmed these wise words. Having no illusions about what to expect from this present plane of existence on which we're all situated, I'm engaged in elevating myself to the ever-blissful spiritual realm of Krsna consciousness. That I am doing mainly by preaching Krsna consciousness to others, which is the reason I live in Europe.
I'll admit to the possibility of my being too simplistic, but it seems to me that Americans have an unlimited capacity for self-delusion. Despite the shocks to our national consciousness that have been summarily delivered with pitiless regularity in Beirut, on board the Achille Lauro, and elsewhere, we are not learning the real lesson. It is not a question of a recently increasing trend of terror—the trend was firmly established way back in the year zero. Be it by bullet, bomb, or Alzheimer's disease, everybody's going to be killed by material nature.
Despite their growing sense of unease about the state of the world, Americans have not yet recognized the extent of the danger. While agonizing over the possibilities of long-awaited pleasure tours exploding in our faces, why not just admit from the outset that there is no real pleasure to be had in this tour from birth to death we call life? Let's finally recognize the simple fact that there's no security from death in this material world, wherever we may go. And let's get on with the real business of life: breaking our attachments to falsehood, and rising to meet God face to face.
Saving The Day
by Mathuresa dasa
China thinks it may need to establish time zones. The Peking Energy Association has even submitted a proposal for a daylight savings time system: turn the clocks ahead April 1, turn them back September 15.
Although wider than the continental United States, China runs wholly by Peking time. This makes things hard for people living in western regions, such as Tibet. At 10 a.m. in Peking, Tibet is still dark, and the Peking evening news arrives on the airwaves in the early afternoon.
I'll bet all this doesn't really inconvenience most Tibetans, though. They probably ignore the clock, if they have one to ignore, and get up, like most people, sometime around sunrise. And who needs the evening news anyway? It's really preposterous how some people impose on everyone else their versions of time and news.
Not that I'm anti-clock or anti-time. I own an electric snooze alarm. It features a lighted dial so I can see what time it is when one of my kids wakes up crying, and a back-up battery just in case the electricity goes out while I'm sleeping. The alarm is set for 3:30 a.m., but I always hit the snooze control twice, rising at 3:50 to shower, dress, and make it to the nearby Hare Krsna temple by 4:15.
The first service every day at the Hare Krsna temples, in whatever time zone, is mangala-arati. It begins one and a half hours before sunrise during a daily time period called brahma-muhurta. According to the Vedic literature, this brahma-muhurta period is especially favorable for spiritual advancement. One who regularly rises at this time, glorifies the Supreme Lord by chanting His names and offering Him prayers, and hears attentively about the Lord and His pure devotees from revealed scriptures makes steady progress toward the eternal kingdom of God. Brahma-muhurta at the Hare Krsna temples is an exhilarating experience no one should miss.
I can understand that a Tibetan trying to make spiritual advancement by Peking time would be in big trouble. Four o'clock in Peking must be around midnight in western China, and midnight is nowhere near brahma-muhurta. So, out of respect for Tibetans with snooze alarms set to 3:30A.M, China should definitely institute time zones.
But then again, why bother? Peking's rationale is that time zones would save electricity (all those light bulbs burning at 10 a.m. in Tibet), which could be channeled into the country's electricity-starved industries. Here we have a typical example of faulty reasoning coming from people who, due to ignoring the brahma-muhurta, are interested in material, instead of spiritual, progress. China just wants to get its textile factories humming so it can turn out more blue jeans for export to the West. This is both materially and spiritually shortsighted. China is the world's biggest producer of not blue jeans but rice, and for rice production I'm sure rising with the sun works just fine, no matter what's happening in Peking. If rice farmers wanted to they could rise an hour and a half earlier, make some spiritual progress during the brahma-muhurta, then spend the day in the paddy fields chanting the holy names.
Behind The Nuclear Nightmare
by Kundali dasa
Seven years ago I lived only an hour from the nuclear plant at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania. An accident there threatened to trigger a partial meltdown, and alarming quantities of radiation were released into the atmosphere. It was a hair-raising experience. Yet I was more frightened by the recent disaster in the Soviet plant at Chernobyl, even though it was some fifty-five hundred miles away. Thinking this over, I realized why Chernobyl was so chilling to me. You see, in the interim since Three Mile Island, I have gained a greater appreciation of Krsna's words in Bhagavad-gita. Specifically, I have a greater appreciation of His description of the materialistic mentality, which He calls demoniac, and which is responsible for the nuclear terror.
In the sixteenth chapter of Bhagavad-gita Krsna contrasts the godly and demoniac mentalities. In so doing He makes a point pertinent to atomic meltdowns and other nuclear nightmares:
The demoniac, who are lost to themselves and who have no intelligence, engage in unbeneficial, horrible works meant to destroy the world.
Commenting on this verse, Srila Prabhupada explains that although inventions such as atomic reactors and nuclear warheads are considered to be advancement of human civilization, the net result is more tension, fear, and anxiety. At the time of this writing, for instance, about eighty-four thousand people had to be evacuated because of Chernobyl, and we won't know the toll in human life and the damage to the environment in and around the Soviet Union for many years. As Srila Prabhupada has written, "Ultimately, they will invent or create something that will bring destruction to all.... Such weapons are not meant for the peace and prosperity of the world."
Of course, the materialists don't want to destroy the world. They don't set out to create nightmares such as Chernobyl or Three Mile Island. Their real motive seems far more innocuous: to make the world more livable, to harness nature and make it work for them in achieving more and more sensual pleasures from life.
But Krsna's teachings scientifically show that the materialistic outlook is based on the false assumption that the material body is the self and that to gratify the senses is the prime goal of life. Materialists—whom Krsna calls karmis because they are ensnared in the retributive law of karma—are ignorant of the self beyond the temporary body and of the purpose of human life; they do not know what is good or what is bad for them. Thus, although proud of their technological feats, they are, as Krsna says, less intelligent.
All but the most humble materialist, however, are loath to admit these facts. They prefer to concoct various atheistic theories and philosophies (which defy both reason and experience) to justify their attachments to sense gratification. They present themselves as being interested in world peace, using terminology like "the family of man," "the working classes," and so forth. But their words do not tally with their actions.
Krsna's version, on the other hand, tallies well with the deeds of these unscrupulous persons:
The demoniac person thinks: "So much wealth do I have today, and I will gain more according to my schemes. So much is mine now, and it will increase in the future, more and more. He is my enemy, and I have killed him, and my other enemies will also be killed. I am the lord of everything. I am the enjoyer. I am perfect, powerful, and happy. I am the richest man, surrounded by aristocratic relatives. There is none so powerful and happy as I am. I shall perform sacrifices, I shall give some charity, and thus I shall rejoice." In this way, such persons are deluded by ignorance.
Materialists, whether communists or capitalists, rich or poor, scientists or philosophers, altruists or misanthropes, educated or illiterate, have one common purpose: sense gratification. As long as they remain our social, economic, political, and intellectual leaders, life will continue to be fear-ridden. The plain and simple truth is that even if we manage to do away with the nuclear threat, we will still not have peace and happiness for long because the persons behind such projects as Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, in their unrelenting quest to bring nature under their rule, will continue with their "unbeneficial, horrible works."
Does Krsna give a solution?
Yes. First, before we can achieve collective peace, we must have peace within ourselves, for society can be only as peaceful as its members. Such peace cannot be legislated. It requires a change of heart, from material consciousness to Krsna consciousness. However, once we have made a commitment to effect this change in ourselves, we can try to change the hearts of others.
Krsna's formula for this change is that we acknowledge Him as the supreme beneficiary of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all the planets, and the actual benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities. He assures us that a person in such pure Krsna consciousness "attains peace from the pangs of material miseries." Any solution short of a change of heart, a relinquishing of material values for spiritual ones, insures that the nuclear nightmares or their equivalent will remain with us in one form or another, because the mentality behind them will still be with us.
Sin in the Name of Religion
This is the conclusion 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: Now, for one who is actually God conscious, where is the question of fighting or killing? Everyone is his brother. He knows God is the supreme father and we are all His sons. So one should know it for a fact—sarva-yonisu kaunteya murtayah sambhavanti yah/ tasam brahma mahad yonir aham bija-pradah pita [Bhagavad-gita 14.4]: "It should be understood that all species of life are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I, the Lord, am the seed-giving father." That is God consciousness.
And in the Christian Bible you have the specific commandment "Thou shalt not kill." Last night, a gentleman asked me, "Thou shall not kill whom?" But there is no question of whom.
If you ask "Whom?" then at least "Thou shalt not kill thy father and thy mother." And the cow is your mother, because she supplies you her milk. The cow supplies her milk, and so she is your mother. So how can you kill your mother?
Dr. Hauser: Well, some people drink other milk, too. Like goat's milk. Is the goat a mother if you drink goat's milk?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, yes. But generally we drink cow's milk. Some people may also have drunk goat's milk at times, but nobody can say, "I've never drunk cow's milk." Nobody can say this, virtually anywhere in the world. Cows are created for that purpose—supplying us milk.
But we are killing the cow, our mother. And we are killing our father, the bull. The bull is our father because he plows the fields to supply us grain. He goes out and works hard to supply us food. He is a father to us. And yet we are killing him. Therefore, we are killing our very mother and father.
The Bhagavad-gita specifically instructs us, krsi-go-raksya: We human beings must protect the cow, our milk-giving mother. Go-raksya—"protect the cow." Not go-hatya—"kill the cow." This is most sinful.
If one is sinful, how can he say he is religious? Do you think a sinful man can be truly religious? Yet this is going on. In the name of religion, people are committing sins. I mean to say, this sinful killing of animals, especially cows, is the main cause of humanity's current degradation.
Veda-nisidhya-karya kare veda-mukhya mane. As Lord Caitanya said, "People are acting against every religious principle, but advertising themselves, T am religious. I believe in religion.'" These nonsensical things are going on. A Christian is going against the basic Christian principle; nonetheless he is proud of being a Christian.
Today virtually all people are like that—even the Buddhists. In Japan I asked the head of a big printing firm, "You are a Buddhist, and Lord Buddha taught ahimsa, nonviolence—no flesh-eating. Do you eat meat?"
And he said, "Yes." He admitted—"Yes, I am sorry. I eat meat."
These things are going on. Actually, no religion will allow flesh-eating. In the Mohammedan and Jewish religions also it is allowed only after offering sacrifice—and never is the flesh to be taken when wholesome fruits, nuts, grains, and milk products are available. Only in the desert, or in other words, only as a last resort. Not from a slaughterhouse.
Dr. Hauser: Pardon? Not from what?
Srila Prabhupada: A slaughterhouse. But now people are regularly maintaining slaughterhouses. These grossly sinful activities are going on.
So in our movement we have got restrictions. Anyone who comes to be a serious student—he must give up the four main sinful activities: illicit sex, gambling, intoxication, and flesh-eating. Every one of our students. Every one. First of all, he must agree to this principle. Then I accept him as my student.
Dr. Hauser: Do you use leather?
Srila Prabhupada: Generally we avoid it, since at the present time people are obtaining it by sending the animals to the slaughterhouse.
Dr. Hauser: So you don't allow it?
Srila Prabhupada: We don't use it. For instance, none of our shoes are made of leather. Today there are so many substitutes, various plastics and other things. And every one of them is nice.
But leather, in itself, it is not prohibited, because you can get it after the animal has died a natural death. Yes. In India, those who are flesh-eaters wait until after a cow has died, and then they come and clear away the carcass. Then they eat the flesh and save the bones and horns and hooves and take off the skin to make shoes, and so forth. Since they get all their supplies for nothing, they can easily make their living.
The main idea is, sooner or later the animal will die. So let us wait for that time. Why should we kill a living animal?
Dr. Hauser: Do you use leather in your drums?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, after the cow has died a natural death, that leather can be used.
Dr. Hauser: So you have leather drums?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that has been the way of making drums for thousands of years. But that leather is collected only after the animal has died a natural death. Not by killing.
So our principle is mercy. Mercy. We never needlessly kill or torment any living being. The Lord is the all-merciful, and now, in this human form, we can revive our relationship with Him. After traveling through untold millions of lower forms, now we can revive our old relationship with the all-merciful. Yes. But only if we become merciful.
Dr. Hauser: Thank you very much.
Srila Prabhupada: Hare Krsna.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Govinda's Restaurant Opens in Ecuador
Cuenca, Ecuador—ISKCON devotees recently opened a restaurant here in this large and important tourist city. The purpose of the restaurant, known as Govinda's, is to distribute prasadam (vegetarian food prepared for and offered to Lord Krsna). Distributiting prasadam is a powerful, transcendental means of spiritualizing society. Govinda's is the city's first purely vegetarian restaurant.
The devotees offer a standard menu of soy burgers, yogurt with fruit, milkshakes, vegetable curries, and sweets, as well as Brazilian, Chinese, and Italian cuisine.
Ecuadorian-born Mohana Vilasa dasa, who manages both the temple and the restaurant, says the restaurant draws many European and American tourists. They enjoy the fine food in a peaceful atmosphere and derive great spiritual benefit.
Australian Devotees Send Plea to Soviet Premier
Sydney, Australia—ISKCON devotees recently held a demonstration in front of the Russian Consulate here to draw attention to the plight of Hare Krsna devotees in the Soviet Union. The demonstrators included fifteen children from the Society's school (gurukula) in Murwillumbah. New South Wales.
The event attracted national press coverage, including four television networks and representatives of Australia's leading newspapers. After a press conference held by Cittahari dasa (ISKCON's regional secretary for New South Wales and Queensland), two gurukula boys released twenty-five white doves, one for each imprisoned devotee in the USSR.
Australia's leading daily newspaper, The Australian, ran an article by the nation's most respected religious writer, James S. Murray. In the article, "Hare Krishnas Victims of Soviet Wrath," Mr. Murray wrote, "The movement has brought KGB investigation and has led to interrogations, raids on meetings, physical violence, and eventual confinement of Krishna devotees in labor camps, psychiatric hospitals, and prisons. . . . The authenticated material supporting their claims [of persecution] is impressive."
Mr. Murray went on to describe the cases of two Russian Hare Krsna devotees. Anatoli Pinyayev, Srila Prabhupada's first Russian disciple, is now imprisoned in a special psychiatric hospital in Smolensk, where he is administered heavy, prolonged doses of the drug galoperidol, resulting in a deteriorating physical and mental condition. Olga Kiseleva, imprisoned for being a Hare Krsna devotee, gave birth to a daughter while in prison. Eleven months later the child was dead, owing to poor conditions of the prison. "She [Olga] remains separated from her husband and their two children for the offense of obeying her conscience and wanting to chant the holy names of God," Mr. Murray writes.
Two gurukula boys, Prahlada and Ramana, wrote a letter to Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev. Prahlada read the letter on prime-time national television news, capturing the hearts of millions of Australians. The letter appeared in five newspapers and in Australia's People magazine, which interviewed Prahlada and Ramana.
Ramana (eleven) and Prahlada (twelve) asked Mr. Gorbachev to let them meet him in Moscow. "For a long time now," the boys wrote, "we have wanted to visit your country, but we are a little scared about the things we have heard about Russia. We have heard some terrible things about what is happening to the parents of Hare Krsna children.... We don't think you would like it if you were punished for a belief you have." The boys told Mr. Gorbachev they would like to go to Russia and meet children, maybe even his own, to show there was no harm in the Hare Krsna life-style. The boys ended by expressing their concern about the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl.
For those who think perfection is unattainable,
By Nagaraja Dasa
Claims of perfection generally draw skeptical responses. I saw a bumper sticker that read "Christians Aren't Perfect, Just Forgiven," implying that if we claim to be perfect no one will believe it. It seems the old adage "Nobody's perfect" is as popular today as ever. Yet despite popular opinion, the Vedic literature assures us we can indeed become perfect.
Ordinarily we say that something is perfect when it does what it is supposed to do. A nut may fit a bolt perfectly. A certain gift may be the perfect one for a friend—one that genuinely satisfies him. Or we may have just eaten the perfect chili pepper—hot!
The example of the chili pepper helps illustrate the Vedic idea of perfection. The chili is supposed to be hot. You might say that to be hot is its function, the reason for its existence. In Sanskrit the function or intrinsic qualities of an object are said to be its dharma. Thus something is perfect when it displays its dharma, when its activity is consistent with its constitutional character.
We also have a dharma, an activity we are inherently meant to do. The Vedic literature explains this by first clearing up any misconceptions we may have about our identity. Without knowing who we are, knowing what we are meant to do is impossible. The Vedic literature reveals to us our eternal identity as an infinitesimal spirit soul. We are all tiny parts of the unlimited supreme spirit soul. Lord Sri Krsna. Since we are subordinate parts of God our constitutional function is to serve Him. The Vedic literature further states that the pure spirit soul originally and naturally serves God in the mood of unalloyed love. The dharma of the living entity, therefore, is to engage in pure devotional service to the Supreme Lord.
Now, does this agree with our everyday experience? Well, don't we all want to love someone? And don't we all want to be loved in return? A boy wants to love a girl, and a girl wants to love a boy. We love our children, our parents, our community, our nation, all of humanity. We even see that those who cannot express their love to other people often live with pets and invest their love in them. The desire to love is intrinsic. It comes from deep within and cannot be checked. And intrinsic to love is service. No one can claim to love without serving the loved one.
Consider the reasonableness of the Vedic declaration that we are meant to love and serve God. We feel a driving need to love and serve, but we do not find satisfaction in the temporal relationships of this world despite our honest endeavors to love and serve. Our attempts to express love and service in the limited, temporary relationships of this world are destined to fail because our love is specifically meant for God. By trying to satisfy our loving propensity independent of God, we remain imperfect.
The perfection of human life, therefore, is to attain to the stage of pure devotional service to Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. And there is a way to reach that stage. The Vedic literature describes not only the process for attaining perfection but also the various levels of perfection along the way.
The Vedas emphatically and unequivocally declare that the process for advancing from our condition of materially contaminated consciousness to the exalted state of pure consciousness, wherein one serves God with spontaneous, unadulterated love, is the chanting of the holy names of God:
harer nama harer nama
"In the present Age of Kali, the age of quarrel and hypocrisy, the only means of deliverance is chanting the holy name of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way." (Brhan-naradiya Purana)
When Krsna descended five hundred years ago as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, His specific purpose was to inaugurate the sankirtana movement—a movement meant to purify anyone who adopts the simple process of chanting the holy names of God. Lord Caitanya especially recommended the chanting of Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Not only did He spread the chanting of Hare Krsna all over India, He also empowered His disciples to continue His mission.
Although Lord Caitanya was widely renowned as a scholar, He did not write any books. He left the task of presenting the philosophical and scriptural basis of the Hare Krsna movement to His intimate disciples. Foremost among His disciples was Rupa Gosvami, an erudite scholar and former minister in the government of West Bengal. In his treatise on the science of Krsna consciousness, entitled Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, Rupa Gosvami elaborately described the stages through which one passes as he progresses in spiritual life to the ultimate perfection of pure love of God.
Rupa Gosvami, after a scrutinizing analysis of the vast library of Vedic literatures, defined nine steps to perfection: 1) preliminary faith, 2) association with devotees of the Lord, 3) engaging in regulated devotional activities, 4) becoming free from sinful habits, 5) remaining steady in self-realization, 6) acquiring a taste for hearing about the Supreme Lord, 7) attachment for Krsna consciousness, 8) ecstasy, and 9) pure love of God.
By understanding the characteristics of these nine levels of realization, the candidate for spiritual perfection can continually monitor his or her advancement. The aspirant will also be able to determine who, among those claiming to love God, exhibits the symptoms of God realization.
Each level of spiritual advancement warrants elaborate description, but for our present purpose we will simply explain the prominent characteristics.
The first level of realization is called sraddha, or the point at which one has a little faith that the spiritual path may be the solution to the problems of life. As we previously explained, the soul's innate craving for fulfillment in love can never be satisfied in the material world. No matter how hard we try to be happy, we will inevitably meet with frustration. Realizing the futility of material life, the intelligent and sincere soul will become attracted to the spiritual path.
One who has awakened his attraction to spiritual life, one who possesses a small degree of faith, will naturally want to associate with those who have already progressed to advanced stages of realization. Sadhu-sanga, associating with saintly people, is the second stage. If one is sincere, then Lord Krsna, who knows everyone's heart, will direct one to other sincere souls.
In the association of devotees one hears spiritual truth, receives spiritual instruction, develops a stronger faith in the Lord and in the process of Krsna consciousness, and prepares to make lifelong vows and to receive formal initiation from a bona fide spiritual master. The Vedic literature declares that one who wants to advance in spiritual life must accept a spiritual master. If one wants to learn some mundane subject, one requires a teacher. Certainly to even hope to understand supramundane subject matter, one requires the guidance of a God-realized spiritual master.
In the third stage one accepts a spiritual master and begins to follow his instructions. This stage is called bhajana-kriya. It is generally understood that one's spiritual life actually begins at the point of initiation. "Initiation," of course, means "beginning." At the time of initiation the disciple begins a new life, regulated by the spiritual master, a life that will enable him to advance surely and steadily toward the final goal.
Developing pure love of God is something like cultivating a plant. At the time of initiation the spiritual master gives the seed of the plant that will one day bear as its fruit pure love of God. Just as a gardener must prepare the earth before seeding it, the disciple must have already prepared his heart (by developing faith and by associating with devotees) to receive the seed of spiritual life at initiation. Now he must give the tender seedling of devotion regular care, hearing and chanting about Krsna and following the directions of the spiritual master.
The bona fide spiritual master initiates the candidate into the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra. Chanting Hare Krsna is itself sufficient for self-realization; however, one must chant properly, without offenses. One waters the delicate devotional plant by chanting Hare Krsna, but one must simultaneously pull the weeds: material desires, offenses against devotees, offenses against the holy name. The continual guidance of the spiritual master is essential to insure that the disciple applies the process correctly and thus makes steady advancement.
The fourth stage is called anartha-nivrttih, freedom from all materialistic pursuits. This has nothing to do with repression, but is a natural stage in spiritual evolution. When one regularly chants the Hare Krsna mantra and follows the program of spiritual activities prescribed by the spiritual master, one's material desires will undoubtedly diminish. Initiates in the Krsna consciousness movement vow to refrain from meat-eating, illicit sexual relations, intoxication, and gambling. Thus they immediately shun sinful habits and, by the potency of chanting Hare Krsna, gradually purge the desire to commit even the smallest sins.
Unless one is completely pure, understanding God will not be possible, what to speak of entering a loving relationship with Him. God is the supreme pure; to associate with Him we must also become pure. A genuine religious process must have the power to purify one of the tendency to sin.
The fifth stage is called nistha, steadiness. When one is freed from sinful habits, spiritual advancement is rapid and steady. Only when one abandons all desire to act independently of the order of the Lord can he attain steadiness in self-realization. If one's consciousness is not free of material desire, he will sometimes become distracted from his spiritual pursuit. One on the platform of nistha has firm faith that the single act of perfecting his devotional service to Krsna will certainly fulfill all his desires. Therefore, he is not disturbed by the desire to perform extraneous activities.
Due to his full faith in Krsna, the steadily devoted soul acquires a taste for Krsna consciousness. This taste is called ruci, the sixth stage of advancement. The transcendental taste of Krsna consciousness is far greater than any taste within our worldly experience. Krsna is the reservoir of all sublime tastes, and as one begins to reawaken his relationship with Krsna, he relishes those tastes with ever-increasing pleasure. One highly advanced devotee has revealed the depth of spiritual pleasure available in Krsna consciousness by declaring:
Since I have begun to enjoy the transcendental exchanges of love with Krsna, which are always newer and newer, whenever I remember the pleasure of past sexual activities, my lips curl and I wish to spit on the idea.
Although sexual pleasure is generally considered the highest pleasure in material life, the devotee who has attained the stage of ruci finds it repulsive.
The devotee savors such great pleasure in Krsna consciousness that he naturally becomes increasingly attached to Krsna. That attachment is the seventh level of spiritual realization, called asakti.
It is the nature of pleasurable objects that one becomes attached to them. In material life this attachment causes great anguish, because we inevitably separate from the objects of our attachment. The devotee who has attained the seventh level of realization need not fear separation from the object of his attachment, because that object is Krsna, who is ever existing and ever present. A devotee who is attached to Krsna will never give up Krsna consciousness, for nothing can sway his determination to serve his supremely attractive master. Madhavendra Puri, an eminent devotee of Lord Krsna, prays,
Let the sharp moralist accuse me of being illusioned; I do not mind. Experts in the Vedic activities may slander me as being misled, friends and relatives may call me frustrated, my brothers may call me a fool, the wealthy mammonites may point me out as mad, and the learned philosophers may assert that I am much too proud. Still my mind does not budge an inch from the determination to serve the lotus feet of Krsna, though I am unable to do it.
The pleasure experienced by the devotee in the ruci stage gradually intensifies to the point of overwhelming spiritual ecstasy, called bhava, which is the eighth level of transcendental realization. When a devotee reaches this stage, certain symptoms indicative of transcendental ecstasy appear in his body. Rupa Gosvami discusses eight symptoms: perspiration, becoming stunned, standing of the hairs on end, faltering voice, trembling, changing bodily color, tears, and devastation.
Sometimes one who has not advanced through the preceding seven stages of realization—one who is not even free from material desires—may imitate the ecstasy of an advanced devotee. Don't be fooled. Spiritual ecstasy does not come cheaply; it is the result of dedicated practice of the principles of Krsna consciousness for many, many years.
The bhava stage is the preliminary stage of love of God, because one's love for Krsna is almost mature. The ecstatic bodily transformations mentioned above are evidence of this, just as the lightening horizon is evidence of the rising sun. An even more reliable demonstration of the devotee's level of advancement can be seen in his normal activities. Rupa Gosvami describes the standard of behavior for a devotee absorbed in ecstatic love (bhava) as follows: 1) He is perseverant and forgiving. 2) He is concerned that no time is wasted outside of devotional service to Krsna. 3) He is detached from worldly affairs. 4) He is free of false prestige. 5) He has great hope for receiving Krsna's mercy. 6) He is intensely eager for Krsna's association. 7) He chants Hare Krsna with great relish. 8) He is attached to hearing descriptions of the transcendental qualities of the Lord. 9) He has deep affection for those places where the Lord resides.
Having progressed through all subordinate levels of spiritual realization, the devotee finally reaches the stage of pure love of God, known as prema. The great spiritual teachers of the Vedic tradition define prema as the stage in which one invests all of his love in one object—Krsna. At this ultimate level of spiritual perfection, the devotee is fully liberated from the influence of the material energy. Although apparently existing within this world, he is undeniably situated in the spiritual world by dint of his complete absorption in the name, form, qualities, and pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The fully matured devotee has now completely reestablished his eternal loving relationship with Krsna. He has attained perfection.
Although perfection is rare, it is nevertheless possible. In this age especially, by the inconceivable mercy of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, one can steadily and quickly progress to the ultimate goal of life by chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
The Master and the Memorizer
A student of cooking learns that a cook and
by Visakha-devi dasi
Ten years ago when I was learning to cook, I would go into the kitchen each morning after breakfast armed with several recipes written by my teacher, Yamuna-devi dasi, take a deep breath, say some prayers to my spiritual master and Lord Krsna, and begin to test the recipes. As it turned out, the recipes weren't the only thing tested.
Since I knew little about cooking, I was like a blank slate for Yamuna. I quickly learned from her that turmeric was a bright yellow powder that stained my apron and that mustard seeds were small, round, and black and went everywhere when I spilled them. But other things took more time to learn.
I remember intensely studying the jars of urad and moong dal, trying to tell one from the other—I was too embarrassed to ask Yamuna again which was which. Was cumin brownish-gray and fennel greenish, or was it the other way around? And then there were the measurements. How many teaspoons in a tablespoon, tablespoons in a quarter cup, ounces in a pound? Toward the end of the morning I was so dazed by the mental exertion that I generally forgot if I had salted a dish or not. By twelve o'clock both the dishes and the cook were finished.
We would make a lunch offering to Sri Sri Radha-Vanavihari, the Deities of Radha-Krsna Yamuna was worshiping, and then sit down together for lunch.
In one month I had tested almost two hundred recipes. It was an educational experience. Afterwards, however, a problem arose. When devotees heard that I had been cooking under Yamuna's supervision, they assumed that I had become a cook; they looked on me as Yamuna's protegee. My service took me many places, and usually, at whatever temple I visited, the devotees would assume I was an expert Vedic cook.
True, I could now tell urad from moong and cumin from fennel (fennel is greenish), but I was a recipe tester, not a cook. Give me a clear, comprehensive recipe, the ingredients, and the equipment, and I could make a reasonable facsimile of the dish. But with no recipe—watch out!
A cook, on the other hand, can take whatever ingredients and equipment are available and make a tasty, balanced meal. A cook can apply the principles and procedures of a tradition and make innovative dishes that are still in keeping with that tradition. A cook's art is dynamic, and no matter how much she knows, she's always keen to learn more. And she applies her expertise in unexpected and pleasing ways.
Yamuna was the master, I was the memorizer. After I left her small cottage in southern Oregon, I was called upon to make breakfast daily for a group of devotees in the Los Angeles temple. Drawing on my arsenal of Yamuna's recipes, I astonished myself and everyone else with the results: boras, badas, wadas, upma, idlis, dosas, sabjis, puris, parathas. But I also began to lament how much time it took me each day to pick the recipes, gather the ingredients, and prepare and serve the meal.
Then, quite unexpectedly, my husband and I were asked to open a temple in Buttertown, a town in northern Malaysia. My husband was the temple president, and I—you guessed it—was the temple cook. Although I thought I followed Yamuna's recipes just as she had taught me, the dishes never seemed to turn out quite right. But I tried my best, offered the result before our small altar, and had the pleasure of distributing krsna-prasadam to people who had never before tasted it. They appreciated it. We talked to many people about Krsna consciousness and gave them Srila Prabhupada's books. Before long, sixty guests were attending our Sunday feast. In time we left the temple in the hands of competent Malaysian devotees and returned to our service in the United States.
It has been ten years since I've tested a recipe, and the challenge and excitement of those first days, when I was like a budding scientist performing important experiments in a laboratory, has faded. But I'm still benefiting from the experience. When my husband or I start feeling hungry, say around noon, I stop what I'm doing and make a full meal, ready by one. And while it cooks, I can usually even find time to do a few other things. At some point during those years, cooking for Krsna changed for me from a mind-boggling, time-consuming endeavor and became more natural—almost as natural as eating.
In my family we take simple, healthy prasadam. Kichari is one of our favorites. We also enjoy varieties of rices, dals, vegetables, salads, and breads. And when we feel we're eating the same thing all the time, we go across the street to Yamuna's house, because she practically never makes the same thing twice.
(Recipes from The Hare Krishna Book of Vegetarian Cooking, by Adi-raja dasa)
Seasoned Okra Slices with Coconut
(Masala Bhindi Sabji)
Preparation time: 25 minutes
1 pound fresh, tender okra
1. Rinse the okra pods and pat them dry. Cut off the two ends and slice the pods into rounds ¼ inch thick. (You can cut 2 or 3 pods at the same time.) Put the slices in a mixing bowl and sprinkle over them the turmeric, cayenne pepper, salt, and ground coriander. Toss the slices to coat them evenly with the spices.
2. Heat half the ghee in a frying pan; drop in the cumin seeds and black mustard seeds. Cover the pan for a moment to prevent the mustard seeds from popping out. Then toss in the asafetida and fry for a few seconds. Add as many of the seasoned okra as will fit in one layer. You will probably have to fry them in 2 or 3 batches. You should have an idea of how many batches it will take before you start cooking, so that you can divide the ingredients accordingly. Stir-fry each batch of okra for 3 to 4 minutes, until the pods appear to wilt and brown. For each batch, add a portion of the sugar, a portion of the remaining ghee, and a portion of the grated coconut. Keep frying and stirring until the pods turn reddish brown and are very tender. Sprinkle the lemon juice over them and offer to Krsna.
(Khati mithi sabji)
Preparation time: 40 minutes
6 ounces tamarind
1. Start by making tamarind juice as follows: Tamarind is a bean pod of a tropical tree. The brown pulp is scraped from the pods, dried, and sold in packets. To use, remove the seeds from the pulp and tear or chop the pulp into small pieces. Boil the pieces in a small amount of water for about 10 minutes, or until the pieces of pulp soften and fall apart. (Use about 2 cups of water to 8 ounces of tamarind.) Then force as much of the pulp as possible through a strainer, catching the juice in a bowl. If tamarind is unavailable, you can simulate its flavor by replacing it with a mixture of lemon juice and brown sugar.
2. Then make the masala as follows. Heat the ghee in a large saucepan and fry the cumin seeds, then the grated ginger and green chilies. Next toss in the ground pepper and the asafetida and fry for a few seconds more. Then pour the whey into the masala and simmer for a moment. Add the tamarind juice, brown sugar, pineapple chunks, sliced carrots, mango powder, paprika, and ground coriander. Allow it to boil and thicken, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.
3. Meanwhile, deep-fry the panir cubes until light brown, and set them aside.
4. Add the zucchini to the masala, cover the pan, and cook until barely tender. Then add the fried panir cubes, tomatoes, celery, and salt. Stir well. If you are using sliced green plantains, add them at this point. If you are using fried potatoes, add them after the panir cubes have soaked up some of the sauce and become juicy. Cover the pan, and cook until all the ingredients are tender. Offer it to Krsna.
Plain White Rice
Preparation time: Steamed rice: 20 minutes
Boiled rice: 15 minutes
10 ounces basmati or other good-quality long-grain white rice
This method of cooking rice is the one most often used in India. All the water, and whatever flavoring may be added, is absorbed into the rice. You will need a tight-fitting lid to keep the steam from escaping. If too much escapes, the rice will not cook thoroughly.
If you want to flavor the rice, try adding one of the following: a little lemon juice, a tiny pinch of turmeric, a few raw cumin seeds, the skin (not seeds) of a green chili, or a piece of fresh ginger.
Wash the rice, soak it, and let it drain. Bring the water and salt to a full boil in a 3-quart saucepan.
Heat the ghee in another saucepan over a medium flame and fry the drained rice, stirring for a minute or so to saturate the grains evenly with the ghee. When the grains become translucent, pour the boiling water into the rice. Let the water come to a boil again. Boil rapidly for 1 minute, stirring once to prevent the rice from forming clumps. Cover tightly. Turn the heat to the lowest setting and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes (depending on the type of rice you use), or until the rice has absorbed all the water and is tender and fluffy. Offer it to Krsna.
Boiling rice is the quickest way to cook rice. This method is therefore especially useful (but not essential) when the rice is to be mixed with other ingredients. For this method, the rice (washed or unwashed) is boiled in more water than it can absorb; drain when done.
Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the rice and boil briskly for about 10 minutes. To tell if the rice has cooked enough, withdraw a grain from the water and squeeze it between your thumb and forefinger. It should mash completely; the center should not be hard. If the center is still hard, boil the rice for a few more minutes and test again. Drain the rice in a colander, then put it into a serving bowl and dot it with butter. Offer it to Krsna.
Preparation time: 40-50 minutes
1 ½ pounds tomatoes
1. Blanch the tomatoes, puree them with 4 tablespoons of water, and set them aside. In a medium-size saucepan, heat the ghee over a medium flame and stir-fry the ginger and the next five spices for 1 minute. Put the tomatoes in the saucepan with the asafetida and salt. Mix with a wooden spoon, cover, and cook over a low flame for 20 to 30 minutes. Stir occasionally at first, then more often as the chutney thickens, until there is hardly any liquid in the pot.
2. Now stir in the sugar and raise the flame. With a quicker motion, stir the chutney for 5 minutes more, or until it has thickened to the consistency of thick tomato sauce. Discard the cloves, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick. Transfer the chutney into a bowl. You can offer it to Krsna as a dip for savories or along with a meal.
Braving jungle paths, mountain trails, and flooded fields,
by Anakadundubhi Dasa
It's six o'clock in the morning. Scores of Bengali pilgrims, bearing their clothes and blankets in bundles across their backs, hair still wet from their early-morning bath in the sacred Ganges, walk barefoot along the narrow road to the Mayapur Chandrodaya temple.
The temple is gorgeously decorated. In the center of the marble floor sits a sacrificial fireplace built of bricks and soft mud. Surrounding it are piles of luscious tropical fruits and flowers. Gaily painted clay pots bearing green coconuts and small festoons rest upon small mounds of fresh, unhusked grains. Painted rice flour motifs of conch shells, flowers, elephants, and sacred cows decorate the floor, and the Deities of Lord Caitanya and Sri Sri Radha-Krsna, resplendent in fabulously embroidered silk dresses, bear witness to all.
In the crowded temple room nearly six hundred devotees from around the world sit cross-legged on the cold floor, straining to hear Srila Jayapataka Swami shouting into the microphone to make himself heard above the voices of the excited pilgrims.
"Today we are going to award the order of sannyasa to Raghava Pandita Prabhu," he explains. "Sannyasa is not an ordinary thing. It is the act of renouncing everything that is sacred to the materialists. To accept sannyasa not only means taking a vow of lifelong celibacy, but it is the act of totally absorbing oneself in Krsna consciousness, love of God.
"I find no one more appropriate to receive this title of sannyasa than Raghava Pandita. He came here to Mayapur in 1976, on Srila Prabhupada's order. We were reluctant at first to engage him in any services that might be too physically demanding. But one day as I was speaking with him, I started to outline a plan for Nama Hatta programs that I'd been developing to revolutionize our preaching activities in India. Raghava took to it wholeheartedly, and in the following six years he traveled all over India, establishing more than one thousand centers.
"For those of you who don't already know," Jayapataka Swami shouts, "Raghava Pandita cannot even walk without the aid of crutches. But even if no transportation is available or if a particular place is very remote, he will happily walk ten or twelve miles, following jungle paths or hill trails or trudging through fields flooded by swollen rivers. To do these things, one must be detached from his bodily condition. Otherwise, how could he risk so much?
"Therefore," Jayapataka Swami concludes, "I feel it is most appropriate to award him the title of Bhakti Raghava Swami."
A priest ignites the sacred fire while chanting Sanskrit prayers. Flames leap up to lick the ceremonial spoon as the priest feeds them with clarified butter. The initiates confirm their vows, chanting prayers in response to the priest's call, and the sacrifice is completed.
Later that afternoon I left the main temple and crossed the fields to the Mayapur boys' school compound, where Bhakti Raghava Swami—with more than eight hundred fifty members from his various centers—was staying. I made my way to the smallest of the huts. There I found Bhakti Raghava Swami sitting in the cool stillness, his face and shoulders illuminated by the thin shafts of sunlight shining through the bamboo lattice window behind him.
Brushing off my congratulations, he eagerly began to speak about the Nama Hatta program. We walked outside together—he on his crutches—as he described how his party of devotees was systematically visiting every town and village in Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, and Bangladesh. When the party arrived in a town, they would invariably be invited to people's homes. These people would be encouraged to develop their home into a temple and to preach door to door, distributing books, pamphlets, and prasadam (spiritual food). In this way, Bhakti Raghava Pandita had opened one thousand preaching centers, transforming the lives of thousands of people.
Yet when he spoke there was no hint of self-importance, but a sense of wonder at how the predictions of the great spiritual teachers were coming to pass. In the late nineteenth century Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura had envisioned a splendid city populated by Vaisnavas right here in Sridhama Mayapur, a place where devotees from all over the world could gather together and chant Hare Krsna and glorify Lord Caitanya.
Bhakti Raghava Swami and I had been walking around together for almost one hour before it occurred to me how difficult it must be for him, walking with crutches on India's rough roads. He had been lame in his right leg since his youth, but in March 1984 he lost the leg in a bomb blast when he tried to stop a band of armed robbers from stealing the worshipable Deities of the Mayapur Chandrodaya Mandir. I asked him if it caused him much inconvenience.
"Well, at least my leg doesn't get in the way anymore," he joked. "But seriously, I just try to use whatever energy the Lord has given me in His service. If I were to lament, I would not accomplish anything."
I remembered visiting Bhakti Raghava Swami in a village hospital the day after the bombing incident. He had been lying on a small bed in a drab, unpainted four-by-eight-foot room. I'd brought him some fruits and flower garlands. Scores of local people who had heard about the incident crowded into the room, staring at him in disbelief.
"Should I tell them to leave?" I asked.
"No, it's all right. I'm used to it," he replied, weak from loss of blood. He proceeded to preach to the crowd in fluent Bengali. "Here is evidence that this temporary body is simply a source of misery. Don't waste your lives trying to make a comfortable material situation. It can all be taken away within a moment—as you can see. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared here in Bengal five hundred years ago to teach us to chant the maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This chanting is a call to the supreme soul, Krsna, to free us from material energy and accept us within His spiritual energy. So please take up this chanting."
He fell silent, exhausted. The people were amazed that a person in such a painful condition could speak so eloquently. And this was a Westerner, speaking their language and telling them what they should have already known. Many bowed down to offer this saint their respects. My eyes filled with tears of pride and admiration.
Night was now closing in as we returned along the raised dirt road to the temple to attend an awards ceremony for the members of the Nama Hatta program. It was dark by the time we arrived at the temple, and decorative street lamps illuminated the roads. Thousands of pilgrims crowded into the temple grounds. The temple was already packed.
Raising his voice above the loud splash of the fountain, Bhakti Raghava Swami commented, "Lord Caitanya has given the most sublime and practical process for realizing our eternal spiritual identity, so that we can cease the illusion of falsely identifying with the temporary material body. We simply have to chant the holy names of Krsna. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura wrote in one of his famous songs, jiv krsna das e visvas, korle to' ar duhkho nai. 'O spirit soul, if you just realized that you are the eternal servant of Krsna, all your problems would be removed.' The purpose of the Nama Hatta is to distribute this knowledge all over India, and all over the world."
As he spoke, I saw intense compassion and determination in his eyes. I was reminded of a verse written by Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, the sixteenth-century biographer of Lord Caitanya: Even though a devotee may be lame, by keeping complete faith in Lord Caitanya, he will be able to cross mountains.
The Appearance of Lord Krsna
Five thousand years ago Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, appeared on earth to attract the people of the world back to Him. This year the annual celebration of Lord Krsna's birthday, Janmastami, falls on August 27. Janmastami is perhaps the most widely celebrated of all the religious holidays of India, and each year, regardless of sectarian affiliation, hundreds of millions of Indians attend the temples, hold festivals, and worship in their homes. Now, owing to the work of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, many people of many nations are learning the significance of Janmastami.
The birth and activities of Lord Krsna are transcendental, even when they appear ordinary and material. But for those who are hearing about Lord Krsna for the first time, there may appear to be contradictions about His birth. For example, if He is the eternal God, the source of everything, why does He have a mother and father?
Or we may also question the relevance of Krsna's birth: Can it help us with our immediate concerns in today's world? Even a great devotee, Queen Kunti, expressed bewilderment about the birth of Lord Krsna. In her prayers in the Srimad-Bhagavatam we find: "It is bewildering, O soul of the universe, that You take birth, although You are the vital force and the unborn."
The apparent contradiction is solved when we understand the true nature of Godhead and the true nature of the soul. Krsna Himself explains in the Bhagavad-gita that He, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is eternal. All other living entities, being part and parcel of Him, are also eternal. In other words, we are like God in that in our original position we are free of birth and death. But there is a difference between ourselves and God. We are tiny individual souls, subject to falling under the illusory influence of Krsna's material energy, maya. He never comes under the spell of the material world, which is His creation. So when He chooses to come into the material world, He is not forced to do so, as are the individual souls. Krsna's "birth" is not the incarnation of a spiritual soul within a material body. Krsna descends into this world in His eternal, spiritual form. "Although I am unborn and My transcendental body never deteriorates ... I still appear in every millennium in My original transcendental form." (Bg. 4.6)
Even Arjuna, Krsna's intimate friend and the disciple to whom Krsna taught the Bhagavad-gita, was at first puzzled by Krsna's appearance in the world. When Krsna informed Arjuna that He had first taught the Bhagavad-gita many thousands of years ago to the sun-god, Vivasvan, Arjuna raised his doubt. Arjuna knew Krsna as his contemporary friend. How could Krsna be referring to a talk He had had with a person who lived thousands of years ago? "Many, many births both you and I have passed," Lord Krsna replied. "I can remember all of them, but you cannot."
Even if we theoretically accept that God appears on earth by His own spiritual power, we may ask why He chooses to come here. Krsna certifies that the material planets are all "places of misery where repeated birth and death take place." Why then does He leave His superior, blissful abode for this one? Krsna directly answers this in the Bhagavad-gita (4.7-8):
Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, and a predominant rise of irreligious practice—at that time I descend Myself. To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I Myself appear, millennium after millennium
To teach the universal religion, the Personality of Godhead appears in numerous forms, or incarnations, such as Lord Rama, Lord Buddha, Lord Jesus Christ, and Muhammad. There are many bona fide representatives of God, as revealed in the scriptures of the world. But when God appears as Krsna, He appears in His original form as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In all cases the mission is the same: to lead people to God consciousness and obedience to the principles of religion. Sometimes Krsna Himself appears, and sometimes He sends one of His sons or servants to represent Him.
Since Krsna can do His work in any of these empowered forms, we may ask why He comes in His original form. That appearance in His original, eternal form of Krsna is His causeless mercy, bestowed upon the living entities so that they can concentrate on the Supreme Lord as He is and not on mental concoctions or imaginations, which impersonalistic, speculative philosophies wrongly think the Lord's forms to be. Also, Lord Sri Krsna comes in His original form to mitigate the anxieties of the pure devotees, who are very anxious to see Him. This is the prime purpose of Krsna's appearance.
Still, one may doubt, "Krsna's appearance may be pleasing to His pure devotees, but what has this to do with me?" Most people are more concerned with their own birthdays, the birthdays of friends and family members, or the birthdays of national heroes. Being without spiritual realization, they focus their love on temporary objects; they cannot imagine the significance of Krsna's appearance. Even those who attend the temples of Lord Krsna on Janmastami sometimes take it as a ritual. But if, by the grace of Krsna's devotees, one comes to understand the significance of Krsna's appearance in the world, it is the greatest gain. As it is stated in the Bhagavad-gita, "One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in the material world, but attains My eternal abode." (Bg. 4.9)
To know everything about God is impossible. But if we become even a little faithful in hearing about the appearance of Krsna, the ensuing transcendental knowledge can free us from repeated birth and death. As Prabhupada has stated, "One who can understand the truth of the appearance of the Personality of Godhead is already liberated from material bondage, and therefore he returns to the kingdom of God immediately after quitting the present material body."
On Janmastami the Krsna consciousness movement holds gala festivals in all of its centers, and the public is invited. These festivals consist of presentations and celebrations—through drama, art, music, and dance—of the divine birth of Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. There is joyous kirtana (the congregational singing of the Hare Krsna mantra and other songs) and a huge feast. Please join with the devotees of Krsna, have a good afternoon or evening, and receive the tremendous spiritual benefit of understanding more about Krsna's appearance and activities in this world. Consult our address list (see pg. 20-21) for the Hare Krsna center nearest you.—SDG
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
In Sanskrit, man means "mind" and tra means "freeing." So a mantrais a combination of transcendental, spiritual sounds that frees our minds from the anxieties of life in the material world.
Ancient India's Vedic literatures single out one mantra as the maha (supreme) mantra. The Kali-santarana Upanisad explains, "These sixteen words—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—are especially meant for counteracting the ill effects of the present age of quarrel and anxiety."
The Narada-pancaratra adds, "All mantras and all processes for self-realization are compressed into the Hare Krsna maha-mantra." Five centuries ago, while spreading the maha-mantra throughout the Indian subcontinent, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu prayed, "O Supreme Personality of Godhead, in Your holy name You have invested all Your transcendental energies."
The name Krsna means "the all-attractive one," the name Rama means "the all-pleasing one," and the name Hare is an address to the Lord's devotional energy. So the maha-mantra means, "O all-attractive, all-pleasing Lord, O energy of the Lord, please engage me in Your devotional service." Chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, and your life will be sublime.