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Volume 21, Number 09, 1986


Prepare for Your Next Life
The Brahmacari Asrama
Baseball, Caste, and the Whole-Hog Syndrome
Lord Krsna's Cuisine
Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out
Every Town and Village
The Vedic Observer
Setting Sail with Transcendental Treasures
The Intruder
Notes from the Editor

© 2005 The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International

Prepare for Your Next Life

When we understand who we are,
we can easily solve the mysteries of reincarnation.

A lecture in London in 1973
by His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Founder Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness

dehino 'smin yatha dehe
kaumaram yauvanam jara
tatha dehantara-praptir
dhiras tatra na muhyati

"As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change." (Bhagavad-gita 2.13)

Most people cannot understand this simple instruction of Lord Krsna's. Therefore Krsna says here, dhiras tatra na muhyati. "A sober person is not bewildered by the change of bodies at death." And adhira means just the opposite—a fourth-class man, a rascal. So, those who are not gentlemen, who are uncultured, uneducated rascals, cannot understand the transmigration of the spirit soul. Otherwise, where is the difficulty?

Any sober-headed, cool-headed person can understand that I, the spirit soul, am different from the body. For example, I can remember how I have changed my body throughout my life. I can remember how, when I was a boy, I was playing and jumping. Then I became a young man, and I was enjoying life with friends and family. Now I am an old man. So, my body has changed so much, but I am still the same person, remaining. That I am different from my body is indicated in this verse by the words dehinah and deha, which are very significant. Dehinah means "proprietor of the body," and deha means "the body."

In the previous verse Krsna said to Arjuna, "All of us—you, Me, and all these soldiers and kings present here—we existed in the past, we are existing now, and we shall continue to exist in the future." This was Lord Krsna's statement. But rascals will challenge: "How was I existing in the past? I was born only in such-and-such year. Before that I was not existing. At the present time I am existing; that's all right. But as soon as I die, I will not exist. So how can Krsna say that all of us existed, we are existing, and we shall continue to exist? Isn't that false?"

No, it is not false. It is fact. As spirit souls, we are existing in different bodies, and we shall continue to exist in different bodies in the future. As Krsna says, tatha dehantara-praptih: "At death the soul transmigrates to another body." This is to be understood. I may not remember my life in a previous body, but that is another thing. Forgetfulness is our nature. But because I have forgotten something, that does not mean it did not take place. No. In my childhood I did so many things that I do not remember. But my father and mother remember. No, forgetting does not mean that things did not take place.

Similarly, death simply means forgetting what one was in the past life. That is death. Otherwise, as spirit souls, we have no death. Suppose I change my clothes. In my boyhood I wore one kind of clothes, in my youth I wore a different kind of clothes, and now in my old age, as a sannyasi I am wearing different clothes. So, one's clothes may change, but that does not mean the owner of the clothes is dead and gone. No. By this simple example, Krsna explains the transmigration of the soul.

All of us are individuals. There is no question of our mixing together. God is an eternal individual, and we are also eternal individuals: nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam. But while God does not change His body, we change ours—at least while in this material world. When we go to the spiritual world, there is no more change of body. Krsna has His eternal body, an eternal form full of bliss and knowledge, sac-cid-ananda-vigraha. Similarly, when we go back home, back to Godhead, we get a similar body. When Krsna comes to this material world, He does not change His body. Therefore His name is Acyuta, "He who never falls down." Krsna never falls into maya [illusion], because He is the controller of maya. That is the difference between Krsna and us. We are controlled by the material energy, but Krsna is the controller of the material energy. Not only the material energy, but also the spiritual energy. All energies. Everything we see, everything manifested—that is Krsna's energy, just as heat and light are the energy of the sun.

Krsna has many energies, but they have been divided into three principal ones: the external energy, the internal energy, and the marginal energy. We living entities are the marginal energy. This means we may remain under the external energy or under the spiritual energy, as we like. This is our independence. As Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita, yathecchasi tatha kuru: "Whatever you like, you can do." Krsna gives this independence to Arjuna after speaking the Bhagavad-gita. He does not force Arjuna. Force is not good, because a decision made under force will not stand. For example, we advise our students to rise early in the morning. But I do not force anyone. I may force them for one or two days, but if they do not practice it, then force is useless.

Similarly, Krsna does not force anyone to leave this material world. Here we are all conditioned souls under the influence of the material energy. Krsna comes here to deliver us from the clutches of the material energy. He sees that we are suffering so much, unnecessarily. Why unnecessarily? Because we are all part and parcel of Krsna.

Now, if the son is in difficulty, the father suffers also. Suppose a son has become mad—or, nowadays, suppose he has become a hippy. The father is very sorry that his son is not living like a gentleman, that he is living like a wretch. Similarly, we conditioned souls in this material world are suffering so much, living like wretches and rascals. So Krsna is not happy. Therefore He comes personally to teach us, yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati ... tadatmanam srjamy aham.

When Krsna comes, He comes in His original form. But unfortunately we understand Krsna as one of us. In one sense He is one of us, because He is the father and we are His sons. But He is the chief living entity: nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam. While we have a little power, He is the most powerful-supremely powerful. That is the difference between Krsna and us. No one can be equal to Krsna or greater than Him. Everyone is under Krsna; therefore everyone is a servant of Krsna: ekale isvara krsna, ara saba bhrtya. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, bhoktaram yajna-tapasam sarva-loka-mahesvaram: "I am the enjoyer; I am the proprietor of everything." That is the fact.

So, we are changing our bodies, but Krsna does not change His. One should understand this. The proof is that Krsna says, vedaham samatitani vartamanani carjuna bhavisyani: "I know the past, present, and future." For example, in the fourth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita you will find that Krsna says, "I spoke this philosophy of the Bhagavad-gita to the sun-god millions of years ago." How could Krsna remember? Because He does not change His body. This is a simple fact.

We forget things because we are changing our bodies at every moment. That is confirmed by medical science. At every second we are changing the cells in our body, and so the body is changing imperceptibly. For example, the father and mother cannot see how the body of their child is changing, but when a third person comes and sees the child, he says, "Oh, you have grown so big."

So, our body is changing imperceptibly. But I, the spiritual soul, am not changing. That is to be understood. We are all individual souls and we are eternal, but because we are changing bodies we are experiencing birth, old age, disease, and death.

Our Krsna consciousness movement is meant to get us out of this changing position and bring us to the permanent position. We are eternal, so why should we be in a changing position? We should try to answer that question. Everyone wants to live eternally; nobody wants to die. If I come before you with a revolver and say, "I shall kill you," you will immediately cry out, because you do not want to die. That is not a very good business—to die and take birth again. It is very troublesome.

That I know subconsciously. I know that if I die, I will have to again enter the womb of a mother, and nowadays mothers are killing their children within the womb. Then again I will be forced to enter the womb of another mother. This process is going on. So, to be killed, to live within the womb of a mother—these things are very troublesome. Because we have a recollection of all this trouble in the subconsciousness, we do not want to die.

Therefore the question is, Since I am eternal, why have I been put into this temporary life? This is our real problem. But the rascals have set aside the real problem. They are thinking of how to eat, how to sleep, how to have sex, how to defend. Even if you eat nicely and sleep nicely, ultimately you will have to die. That problem remains. But they don't care about this real problem, although they are very much alert to solve the temporary problems of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. These are not real problems. The birds and beasts also eat, sleep, have sexual intercourse, and defend themselves. If they know how to do all these things without having an education or a so-called civilization, what is our problem? These things are not problems. The real problem is that I do not want to die, but death comes. Why? This is our real problem.

The rascals do not know of the real problem. They think these temporary problems are most important. That Krsna explains in the next verse:

matra-sparsas tu kaunteya
agamapayino 'nityas
tams titiksasva bharata

We are faced with so many temporary problems, which we must simply tolerate. Suppose there is severe cold. This is a problem. We have to search out nice food and a fireplace, and if they are not available we are in distress. But this problem is temporary. Severe cold, winter—these come and go. They are not permanent.

My permanent problem is that due to my ignorance I am taking birth, I am becoming diseased, I am growing old, and I am dying. These are real problems. Therefore Krsna says, janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi-duhkha-dosanudarsanam: "Those in knowledge should always see the miseries of birth, death, old age, and disease."

So, our real problem is how to end transmigration from one body to another (tatha dehantara praptih). Krsna says we existed in a different body in the past, we are existing now, and in the future we shall also exist in a different body. In this way we are transmigrating from one body to another. The intelligent person asks, "What kind of body am I going to get in my next life?" That is intelligence. And if you prepare yourself, why should you be perplexed about transmigrating into a new body?

If in boyhood you prepare yourself nicely, if you become educated, then later you will get a nice job, a nice situation, and you will be happy. Similarly, if you prepare yourself in this life for going back home, back to Godhead, then where is the perplexity? There is no perplexity. We should think, "I am going to Krsna. I am going back home, back to Godhead. Then I will not have to accept another material body. I will have my spiritual body. I shall play with Krsna, dance with Krsna, eat with Krsna." This is Krsna consciousness. Prepare yourself for the next life.

A dying man cries because he knows his next life will be horrible. According to the law of karma, those who are very, very sinful cry because they see horrible things at the time of death. But those who are pious, the devotees, die without anxiety.

Foolish people may say, "Sinful men are dying, and you devotees are also dying. So where is the difference?" But there is a difference. A cat catches its kitten in its mouth, and it also catches the mouse. But there is a difference in this catching. The kitten feels pleasure—"Oh, my mother is carrying me." And the mouse is feeling its death knell—"Oh, now I am going to die!" This is the difference. Therefore, although devotees are dying and nondevotees are also dying, there is a difference of feeling at the time of death. Don't think that they are both dying in the same way.

In the Bhagavad-gita [4.9], Lord Krsna says:

janma karma ca me divyam
evam yo vetti tattvatah
tyaktva deham punar janma
naiti mam eti so 'rjuna

If you simply try to understand Krsna's appearance, Krsna's activities, Krsna's worship, "pa's temple, you will go back to Godhead. These are all divine, transcendental. Even if one does not understand them but simply tries to understand, he becomes liberated from birth and death. Krsna promises this.

So become very serious to understand Krsna and remain in Krsna consciousness. Then the problems of birth, old age, disease, and death will be solved, automatically and very easily.

Thank you very much. Hare Krsna.

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The Brahmacari Asrama

Fraternity in Krsna consciousness

"As I began to spend more time with the brahmacaris, I noticed an unusual trait. They seemed to be always joyful, beyond the moody ups and downs that had plagued my spiritual quest."

by Kalakantha Dasa

"What would happen to me if I wanted to become a Hare Krsna devotee?" a young man recently asked me. The first step, I told him, would be to enter the brahmacari asrama, the status of life for single men serious about spiritual advancement. Though I am now happily married, the conversation reminded me of the years I spent as a brahmacari.

My first encounter with brahmacaris came in 1972 in Portland, Oregon. Although my parents had kindly offered me many good opportunities to establish a professional career, I kept finding "higher education" empty and unsatisfying. So, at the time, I was maintaining myself with a simple job, using my spare time to indulge my fascination with the Bible and other spiritual teachings.

One day as I was rushing around downtown Portland delivering office supplies, I was shocked by the sight of seven or eight shaven-headed, saffron-clad men dancing, playing cymbals and drums, and singing the Hare Krsna mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. I pulled over to watch, and after a few minutes one of the young men approached me with a smile and a book, Sri Isopanisad. I gave him a dollar and gratefully accepted the book.

That night in my apartment I sat down to read the Sri Isopanisad. It was intriguing because it was apparently speaking to me from a higher platform. But it was also bewildering. It seemed difficult and foreign, as were many of the other spiritual texts I had tried to read.

But this text had something extra: a person to explain it! I called the local Hare Krsna temple and arranged to meet the young man who had sold me the book.

Carrying no intentions of changing my dress or hairstyle, I entered the temple, a two-story brick house in a pleasant neighborhood. I met my exotic-looking friend and sat with him on the carpeted floor of the reception room, where we discussed Sri Isopanisad. Soon the text began to make sense to me, and I became curious about my friend's peculiar mode of life. He explained that he was a brahmacari, a celibate student devoted to spiritual study. He lived and worked under the tutelage of his guru, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder and spiritual master of the Hare Krsna movement. Curious, I asked him to tell me more about the brahmacari's life.

"Oh, I can do better than that," he said. "Come on." And he took me to the brahmacari quarters, a spotlessly clean bedroom full of bunks and lockers. On each bunk was a bookrack sporting many of Srila Prabhupada's books. Pictures of Krsna and neat, hand-printed verses from the Bhagavad-gita decorated the walls.

"Brahmacaris live as simply as possible," my friend said. The shaven head and saffron robes, he explained, indicate (to an informed observer) the status of a celibate monk. The brahmacari's appearance is traditional and designed for cleanliness and simplicity.

Later I read from the Srimad-Bhagavatam, a five-thousand year old Sanskrit text, about the classical definition of brahmacari life:

The brahmacari should live under the care of the true spiritual master, giving him sincere respect and obeisances, acting as his menial servant and carrying out his order. The brahmacari should engage himself in spiritual activities and study the Vedic literature under the direction of the spiritual master. He should collect alms daily in the morning and in the evening. Whatever alms he has collected he should offer to the spiritual master. The brahmacaris should be satisfied with eating what is absolutely necessary, he should be very expert in executing responsibilities, he should be faithful, and he should control his senses and try to avoid the association of the opposite sex as far as possible.

It didn't take long for me to observe some differences between the lives of the Hare Krsna brahmacaris and those of their traditional Vedic predecessors. Although they were enthusiastic to minimize their corporeal demands and to study and discuss the scriptures, my Hare Krsna friends also drove cars, used washing machines, and conducted an incense business to "collect alms." "Such materialism in a spiritual movement," I thought.

But was it materialism? As I learned more about the Vedic philosophy of yukta-vairagya (practical renunciation), I came to see that the brahmacaris' seeming materialism was fully spiritual. Srila Prabhupada explains that material things are material only if they are used for selfgratification. If the same material thing is used for serving God, Krsna, it becomes spiritualized. Although traditionally a brahmacari's life is one of obvious renunciation and austerity, a brahmacari, for better serving his guru, will utilize the latest advancements in technology and will live within materialistic society. By utilizing material things only in the spiritual service of Lord Krsna, he remains aloof and transcendental. When I understood that, my brahmacari friends' wristwatches, sleeping bags, tape players, and electric shavers never bothered me again.

Then I noticed another apparent discrepancy. Traditionally one guru would train ten or twelve brahmacaris. But Srila Prabhupada had accepted thousands of brahmacari disciples (what to speak of female and married disciples) all over the world. How could he offer the same intimate training to so many? I soon discovered Srila Prabhupada's method: he regularly corresponded with and met with his senior disciples and temple presidents. Younger disciples were directed to take instruction from them. (This system has continued since Srila Prabhupada's passing in 1977, with his senior disciples now initiating and training their own disciples all over the world.) More importantly, Srila Prabhupada was busily producing his English translations and commentaries on the Vedic scriptures. Through his prolific writings (he eventually published over eighty books), Srila Prabhupada was reaching thousands around the world.

As I began to spend more time with the brahmacaris, I noticed an unusual trait. They seemed to be always joyful, far beyond the moody ups and downs that had plagued my spiritual quest. They were always eager to talk with me about Krsna, and they spoke with impressive conviction and insight. Their discussions about spiritual advancement were clear and comprehensible, not the uncertain, sentimental, or sometimes fanatical stuff I always seemed to get elsewhere.

These brahmacaris were more than dry, austere yogis. They performed kirtana (congregational chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra) with authentic Indian musical instruments: mrdangas (two-headed clay drums), karatalas (brass hand cymbals), and a harmonium (a small hand-pumped reed organ). As devotees played those instruments and chanted the Hare Krsna mantra to beautiful Bengali melodies, the rock and roll musician in me came out. I decided to learn all these fascinating spiritual instruments.

Some of the brahmacaris were expert cooks. On Sundays they churned out huge pots and vats full of pleasantly spiced vegetable dishes, puris (a whole-wheat bread deep-fried in clarified butter), strawberry malpura (soft, sweet cakes floating in fruit-flavored yogurt), and various unimaginably delightful drinks, savories, chutneys, and sweets. My self-imposed vegetarian regime of millet, rice, and sprouts couldn't compare. I had no idea spiritual life could be full of such delicious variety!

As I spent more time at the temple, I was impressed with the vigor and enthusiasm with which the brahmacaris attacked their daily services. One brahmacari was in charge of purchasing. Another kept the temple accounts. Another led the daily chanting party and gave lectures in the temple. Unlike myself, they did not seem to look forward to getting the weekends off. They put in a full day every day, and they seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves in the process.

My brahmacari friend taught me about japa (chanting the Hare Krsna mantra while counting on a strand of one-hundred eight beads, one mantra per bead.) And he explained to me the four regulative principles (abstinence from meat-eating, gambling, intoxication, and illicit sex). I began practicing these prerequisites at home and soon moved into the temple. After several months I was recommended by the temple president for formal initiation. A short time later Srila Prabhupada accepted me as his duly initiated brahmacari disciple. Though I met with Srila Prabhupada only occasionally, through his books and senior disciples I developed a deep and personal relationship with him.

Recently I met a young man who told me of his experiences with another "guru." He had spent $250 (and three days sleeping in his car) for the privilege of receiving "knowledge"—a swat on the head with a peacock fan. Thus he had been "initiated." This poor fellow further explained that the more $250 swats he received, the more enlightened he would become.

How simple. A kind of freeze-dried enlightenment! No commitments. No follow-up. No personal care required. It is very easy to find a guru who can take away your money, but very hard to find one who can take your material desires. This young man's unfortunate contact with pseudo-spiritual life made me appreciate how well Srila Prabhupada and his disciples who have become gurus take care of their disciples.

I never regretted my decision to become a Hare Krsna brahmacari. Over the next ten years I drank deeply of the sublime Krsna conscious philosophy, learning Sanskrit and Bengali verses and putting them into daily practice. I learned to cook, play instruments, manage groups of people, I deliver public lectures, and perform dozens of other skills. Although I worked always without pay, my basic needs were met and my service took me throughout America, Europe, and India. I enjoyed the opportunity of sharing Krsna consciousness with all kinds of people—the rich, the poor, the learned, the simple. I've become acquainted with hundreds of other members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness from all over the world; thus I find friends nearly everywhere I go.

As much as I loved my brahmacari years, eventually I realized that I was not cut out to remain a single, celibate monk throughout life.

Brahmacari Principles In Married Life

Celibacy ties in well with the goals of brahmacari life. Preserving sexual energies endows one with a clear mind, a powerful memory, and the determination to conquer bad habits. Traditionally, brahmacari life should begin at age five, and last until twenty-five. Then the brahmacari may decide whether to remain celibate or to marry.

When I began to look into Krsna conscious marriage, I learned that I could put my brahmacari training to good use. Married (grhastha) life should be led very simply, and scriptural study should continue. One should continue to work under the direction of the guru, and one should refrain from sex except for conceiving children. One who observes such a regulated life is known as a grhastha-brahmacari.

You might wonder what traditional Vedic culture has against sex. Isn't sex natural? Yes. But it must be regulated. Most members of the animal kingdom mate only during certain seasons, with the goal of procreation. They do not use synthetic devices or pills to prevent pregnancy, nor do they terminate inconvenient pregnancies. They are regulated through nature's laws. Human life is unique in that we must voluntarily accept the regulation of God's laws for humanity. In a vain attempt to replace spiritual happiness with natural sex pleasure, human beings go to unnatural extremes. Brahmacari life makes the conquest of sex desire both achievable and enjoyable by replacing it with the superior pleasure of spiritual awakening.

When I was considering marriage, it was good to know that though celibacy is highly valued, a brahmacari does not have to lose his spiritual qualifications if he marries. Nevertheless, a strong espirit de corps among the Hare Krsna brahmacaris helps them refrain from marriage as long as possible.

With some adaptations, the same principles of brahmacari life also apply to single women, who are known as brahmacarinis. Srila Prabhupada has left a unique legacy: a spiritual institution in the modern, materialistic world that freely gives personal, profound spiritual training to young men and women.

Why Be a Brahmacari?

When I became a brahmacari, my parents were displeased and accused me of the ultimate self-indulgence: "What good does it do the world for you to sit and meditate all day?" Eventually, though, they observed that Hare Krsna brahmacaris work hard at what they do. It's not lotus postures and nirvana all day and night. Rather, brahmacaris study, practice, and distribute Srila Prabhupada's teachings according to their sincere conviction.

Like to do some good for the world? Lord Sri Krsna Caitanya, who fathered the Hare Krsna movement in Bengal five hundred years ago, gave the recommendation: "First become perfect, then teach." Shouldn't social reform and welfare work begin at home? By learning about brahmacari life, or just by chanting Hare Krsna, we can begin to perfect our own lives. And won't that make the whole world a little better off?

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Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama 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.

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Baseball, Caste, and the Whole-Hog Syndrome

Confusing "cast" with "caste" is an innocent error, but mistaking Lord Krsna's varnasrama system for an oppressive, hereditary class structure is a far more serious blunder.

By Mathuresa Dasa

Baseball, to most anyone's mind, has little in common with the Indian caste system, which rigidly divides society into four hereditary classes. But for me there's a subtle link between the two, as the result of an injury I sustained while at bat during an impromptu after-dinner game in the early spring of 1967. My school friend Bill Lightbody was pitching, his sister and two brothers fielded, and the three Lightbody family dogs ran noisily after whoever had the ball. Selecting a likely pitch, I zeroed in and swung hard. My torso turned gracefully with the swing, but my left foot stuck tightly in some early-spring mud. The combination of twisting torso and stuck foot gracefully tore a ligament in my left knee.

Next morning the doctor drained half a cup of fluid from the swollen joint and set my leg, thigh to ankle, in a plaster cast that chafed and itched me to distraction. Three weeks later, when the doctor removed the cast, I found that my leg, though healed, was weak and shrunken from disuse and had turned an unsightly pale brown. Although a month or so of special exercises returned me to form, nevertheless I had missed most of the spring backyard season, sidelined by a freak accident and an ungainly hunk of plaster.

Indian castes also sidelined people—for life. At least that's the understanding I had gleaned from grade school courses in world history. In the caste system you were by birth either a brahmana (intellectual or priest), ksatriya (soldier or administrator), vaisya (farmer or merchant), or sudra (artisan or laborer). Caste kids, I learned, were never asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up? A fireman? A doctor? A baseball player? The President?" If Dad was a ditch-digger, caste kids dug ditches; if he was a pencil-pusher, they pushed pencils. And, cruelest of all, if a ditch-digger's son and a pencil-pusher's daughter got a crush on each other, forget it. No inter-caste marriages. In so many ways, caste designations, which were freak accidents of heredity, kept people from playing the game of life. It's not that I spent the spring evenings of 1967 silently commiserating with caste-bound Indians, but camouflaged in the underbrush of my unspoken thoughts, ''cast" and "caste" walked hand in hand.

Yes, I know, the words "cast," as in "itchy plaster cast," and "caste," as in "oppressive Indian caste system," have completely different origins. They are homophones—words that sound the same but share no etymological roots. "Cast" derives from the Middle English casten, "to throw," while "caste" derives from the Portuguese casta, meaning "race," "lineage," or "breed." But so what? A lot of people make the same mistake. Only a couple of centuries ago the two words had exactly the same spelling. And besides, even now, years after my own etymological enlightenment, I can't think of anything that better conveys the idea of the stifled hopes, shattered dreams, wasted abilities, and frustrated ambitions for which the caste system is allegedly responsible than the image of a weak, shriveled, discolored limb wrapped tightly in gauze and plaster of Paris. Cast vividly illustrates caste. Not bad for a homophone.

Correcting a Castely Mistake

Although confusing one word with another may sometimes be educational, confusing the Indian caste system with the four-class social system described in India's ancient Vedic literatures is a serious blunder.

How so? Because the Vedic literatures do not advocate a hereditary class system. Rather, they point out that in every civilized human society there is a natural division of intellectuals, administrators, businessmen, and laborers. Whether we look at ancient India or at modern Western nations, the four general occupational divisions are present, functioning within society like parts of the same body. They exist whether we recognize them or not.

The intellectual class, composed of scholars, scientists, and members of all the learned professions, is the head of the social body, providing advice, direction, and knowledge. The administrative class is the arms, organizing, policing, and protecting. The mercantile class is the stomach nourishing the body through agriculture and trade. And the working class is the legs, serving the other classes with skilled and unskilled labor.

Service, however, is the dharma, or inherent function, of all classes, not just of the workers. As the parts of our physical body cooperate for the well-being of the entire body, so each class serves society with its particular skills and capacities. Although we might correctly assert that the head is the most important part of any body, no sensible person cares only for his head. As I lay on the ground beside home plate on that spring evening, my throbbing knee had my full attention, and it continued to get special treatment until I was back on my feet and fit to play again. Pain in any part of the body draws the immediate attention of the total person. Similarly, disturbance in any of the four classes should draw the concern of the entire social body, beginning with the head.

From the Bhagavad-gita we learn that the four-class social system, known as varnasrama, exists in all places and at all times because it was created by Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, simultaneous with the creation of human society itself. Just as many theists hold that the design of the universe indicates a supreme designer and creator, so proponents of varnasrama point to the existence of a universal four-class social structure throughout history. This, they say, confirms Krsna's statement that these classes are not chance occurrences but His doing.

Krsna also, informs us in the Gita that the two primary criteria for identifying the four social classes are not birth and family tradition but qualification and work. For example, in our everyday experience a person who knows how to build with wood (qualification) and who regularly uses this skill to, say, construct houses (work) is known as a carpenter. That is his occupational service to society, his dharma. Similarly, a person who knows medical science and spends his time trying to cure diseases or to repair the torn ligaments of backyard athletes is called a doctor. Continuing in this way, we could survey any society and define innumerable classes simply by discovering the qualifications and activities required to fulfill particular social functions—banker, baker, candlestick maker, baseball player, and so on.

Easy enough. And nothing so very new. The unique contribution of the Gita and other Vedic literature is, first of all, to point out the four general occupational categories and, secondly, to recommend standards of ideal behavior for each category. The essence of all these ideal standards is that every human being should become self-realized by devoting his occupational skill to the service of Krsna, or God. Devotional service to Lord Krsna immediately raises the devotee to the transcendental platform, above the bodily conception of the self. In ordinary consciousness we think, "I am this body. I am a carpenter, a doctor, an athlete, a man, a woman. I am young, or I am old. I am Hindu, Muslim, Christian." But in devotional consciousness, or Krsna consciousness, we are able to grasp the Gita's instruction that we are not the temporary body but are the eternal individual souls within the body, and that as such we are eternal parts of Lord Krsna, the supreme soul.

While our ordinary dharma may be to serve society with our occupational skills, our sanatana (eternal) dharma begins with using those same skills to directly satisfy the Supreme Lord. In the Gita Krsna advises, "Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer or give way, and whatever austerities you perform—do that as an offering to Me." Lord Krsna has specifically designed the varnasrama social system so that each individual can easily reestablish his or her eternal relationship with God and so that society as a whole, united in the common cause of devotional service, may function as one healthy body, fulfilling both its material and spiritual needs.

Proper use of the varnasrama divisions results neither in divisiveness nor in occupational immobility, but in a oneness of purpose and in the full exercise of individual skills for Krsna's pleasure. In varnasrama, everyone has not merely an occupation or job but a calling in devotional service.

Without devotees and devotional service, the natural four-class social body has no life.

Hereditary Baseball And Other Legacies

Whether we're talking of class distinction or of spiritual elevation, birth counts for little in the Vedic scheme of things. Nevertheless, Vedic authorities acknowledge that family tradition may strongly influence one's choice of occupation. After all, it's not unusual for a boy to aspire to be "just like Daddy" and to take advantage of his father's experience in a particular field.

A baseball field, for example. Of the 1,147 men who played in the major leagues during the 1980 season, 47 (4 percent) were the sons of former major-league players. If you consider that millions of young men were competing for those major-league spots, it turns out that sons of baseball players are fifty times more likely than others to play pro ball. Of all major American sports, baseball has the highest percentage of father-son pairs. Hockey and football are next, with basketball in last place. ("The Natural Choice," Psychology Today, August 1985.)

Caste baseball? Hardly. Not if ninety-six percent of all major leaguers are first generation. Moreover, sports buffs say that the high degree of career following in baseball is due to a legacy of knowledge and experience, not to genes. Baseball sons can tag along with dad to spring training, hang around the ballpark and dugout, rub shoulders with their father's friends, and thus begin to refine their own abilities at an early age. Inherited physical characteristics, experts claim, are far less important than knowledge and training. And, I can add, knowledge and training are simply means of passing along genuine qualifications, because no matter what else you have going for you, you'll never make the majors if you can't hit or throw a baseball, or if you rarely play the game. The same goes for any occupation. We're not going to allow a surgeon's son to operate on us simply out of deference to his father. When I injured my knee on that fateful night in 1967, I went to our long-time family doctor. As the Gita confirms, qualification and work are what count most.

The legacy of Vedic knowledge directs the members of society, regardless of occupation or class, to devote themselves to the Personality of Godhead, thus qualifying themselves to purely love Him. Family heritage, public and private education, and cultural tradition are only incidental. In any setting, devotion imbues an individual with transcendental qualities.

Within this overall devotional context, however, the Vedic literature recommends standards of behavior for each social class.

Most importantly, the Gita enjoins intellectuals to cultivate, among other things, peacefulness, self-control, austerity, and wisdom. Even a schoolboy doing his homework, what to speak of a scholar or scientist engaged in research work, requires a peaceful, controlled mind. Beyond this, a learned man should know the difference between the self and the body and should therefore understand that to feverishly gratify the body, as lower animals do, is not the purpose of human life. Animals are interested only in eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. While human beings also must fulfill these needs, the primary necessity of human society is self-realization. Without realization of the self and God, a human being's behavior can be no better than an animal's. As the brains of the social body, the intellectual class has a responsibility to keep human society human.

When the social brain is not self-controlled and self-realized, the rest of the social body, following suit, goes whole hog for sense gratification. This is just the opposite of devotional service. In a society centered on devotional service, everyone works cooperatively to satisfy Krsna, whereas in a whole-hog society it's ultimately every man for himself, every nation for itself, at the trough of material enjoyment. The conflicts human society faces today—between individuals, between classes, between nations—are whole-hog conflicts stemming from ignorance of the eternal soul and from the consequent animalistic greed to dominate the resources of this planet.

A four-class varnasrama society headed by a class of learned, self-controlled individuals has the potential to transform whole hogs into self-realized souls and devotees of the Supreme Person. This would eliminate, or greatly reduce, the present level of conflict.

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Lord Krsna's Cuisine

Dieting the Hare Krsna Way

When ninety percent of Americans think they are overweight,
remaining slim is no easy thing. Here's how we do it.

By Visakha-Devi Dasi

"Sixty-five million people are on a diet at any given time in America. Millions are going on and off diets, losing weight, gaining it back, giving up, feeling desperate...." ("Wellness Letter," University of California at Berkeley, Volume 1, Issue 12)

Some years ago I was with a group of devotees who were chanting, dancing, and distributing Krsna conscious books and magazines near Wall Street in New York City. Many businessmen were sitting and strolling outside, enjoying their lunch hour in the spring weather. Back to Godhead in hand, I approached one middle-aged businessman who was watching our chanting party. Before I said a word, he said, "All you people are so trim. I don't think I've ever seen a fat Hare Krsna. How do you do it?" It had never occurred to me before, but I reflected that it was true—generally devotees aren't overweight.

How do devotees do it? Certainly not by following any popular diet program. In fact, registered dieticians Dr. Michele Fisher and Dr. Paul Lachance of Rutgers University recently analyzed eleven popular diets and found that they may well endanger the health of dieters because of nutritional inadequacies or excesses. All the diets fell short—some in important vitamins and minerals, others in protein, fiber, fat, or carbohydrates, Still others were too high in cholesterol and sodium. What is the use of diets that sacrifice health to lose pounds?

Americans, especially, go to phenomenal lengths to lose fat. According to Better Homes and Gardens survey, ninety percent of Americans think of themselves as overweight. To battle the bulge, Americans spent about five billion dollars in 1985 alone on diet and fitness guides, over-the-counter diet drugs, low-calorie foods, and the like. Yet by now (a year later), ninety percent of those shed pounds have resettled on the same American hips, thighs, and paunches from where they came, keeping the population of the U.S. the world's fattest. No wonder my Wall Street businessman wondered about the devotees' physique: it's practically un-American to be normal-looking and not to be dieting.

A partial explanation of why devotees aren't overweight is their vegetarian diet. Although devotees are vegetarian not because they want to be thin, their diet of milk and milk products, vegetables, fruits, and grains is generally less fattening than a diet that includes meat. The Vegetarian Times advocates "vegetarian tactics to get thin" and lists seven reasons why these tactics are preferred to nonvegetarian ones. A vegetarian diet (1) lowers cholesterol and triglyceride levels, (2) allows you to eat "no-nos" (potatoes, beans, rice), (3) provides better balance and more variety, (4) eliminates the dangerous chemical residues in meat, (5) increases energy and slows aging, (6) reduces high-calorie protein foods in the diet by fifty percent, and (7) is the oldest, most natural way to lose weight. Vegetarian diets, unlike modern diets, easily deliver all the important vitamins and minerals, as well as protein, fiber, fat, and carbohydrates.

If devotees are overweight, they manage their overweight condition through will power and moderation, the God-given weight-control mechanisms. They regulate their diet and abstain from certain foods. Devotees generally don't go on binges due to stress, loneliness, sexual conflicts, and frustration. They don't try to solve their problems with food, using it as an escape, sedative, or solace. Neither are they bored with it or with their life-style. A devotee's lifestyle is rigorous and Spartan in certain ways, and this is conducive to health and vitality. Binging, sloth, and self-indulgence do not affect a God conscious person. Because devotees of Krsna are practiced in sense control, they are automatically practiced in weight control.

Before a meal ISKCON devotees usually recite a prayer that expresses the quagmire that the overweight—and all of us—are in:

This material body is a place of ignorance, and the senses are a network of paths to death. We have fallen into this ocean of material sense enjoyment, and of all the senses, the most voracious and uncontrollable is the tongue.
Although to conquer the tongue is very difficult, You, dear Krsna, are very kind and have sent us this prasadam just to help us. Now [at this meal] let us take this prasadam to our full satisfaction and glorify Their Lordships Sri Sri Radha and Krsna.

Trying to lose weight can seem like a Sisyphean punishment, but for one who tries his best and depends on the mercy of the Supreme Lord, anything is possible.

(Shown on the opposite page, clockwise from the top, recipes from The Hare Krsna Book of Vegetarian Cooking, by Adi-raja dasa)

Green Beans in Chickpea-Flour Sauce

(Phansi kadhi)

Preparation time: 30-40 minutes

Servings: 4-6

1 ½ pounds fresh green beans
3 ½ cups water
1 cup plain yogurt
3 ounces sifted chickpea flour
1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil
1 teaspooon black mustard seeds
½ teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon asafetida
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons salt
1 lemon, washed and quartered
2 tomatoes, each cut into 8 wedges

1. Wash and trim the beans, then snap them in half Cover the bottom of a mediumsize saucepan with I inch of water. Insert a basket steamer, then add the beans. Bring the water to a boil and cover the pan to trap the steam. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the beans darken and become tender. Drain the beans and put them aside.

2. Add the chickpea flour to the boiling water while stirring rapidly with a whisk. Then add the yogurt and bring to a second boil, stirring constantly. Boil rapidly for 15 minutes.

3. Heat the ghee in a small saucepan, and fry the mustard seeds. When they sputter, add the grated ginger, cayenne pepper, and asafetida. Turn with a spoon for a few seconds, then pour the ghee and seasonings into the kadhi sauce. Add the turmeric, sugar, lemon juice, and salt. Mix well. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring more frequently as the mixture thickens. Then fold in the beans and heat to serving temperature, stirring constantly. Garnish with wedges of lemon and tomato. Offer to Krsna.

Scrambled Cheese with Fried Tomatoes

(Tamatar panir malai)

Preparation time: 40 minutes

Servings: 4-6

1 pound panir (milk curd)
4 medium-size tomatoes, each cut into 8 wedges
2 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
1 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon chopped coriander or parsley leaves

1. Keeping the panir in the cheesecloth, rinse it under cold water for a moment, and then squeeze out some of the water.

2. While the panir is still moist, break it into 1-inch cubes and set aside. Heat the ghee in a wok or medium-size saucepan. Add the cumin seeds, and as soon as they darken (about 30 seconds) add the tomato wedges. Turn the tomato wedges gently until they are lightly browned. Put in the chunks of panir. Season with the turmeric, salt, and pepper and stir-fry gently for 2 or 3 minutes, taking care not to break the pieces of panir and tomato.

3. Finally, fold in the sour cream. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves. Offer to Krsna hot.

Bitter-Melon Stew


Preparation time: 45 minutes

Servings: 4-6

2 or 3 bitter melons (karela), green and firm
1 pound cauliflower flowerets
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 pound squash or eggplants, cubed
1 pound fresh peas or green beans, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon femigreek seeds
6 curry or bay leaves
1 ½ cups water
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
1 or 2 fresh chilies, seeded and minced
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons coriander
½ teaspoon asafetida
1 cup plain yogurt
2 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon panca masala (see below)

1. To make panca masala, mix together 2 tablespoons each of cumin seeds, black cumin seeds, black mustard seeds, anise or fennel seeds, and 1 tablespoon of fenugreek seeds. Store in an air-tight jar.

2. Remove the seeds from the bitter melons. Cut the bitter melons into 1-inch cubes. In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of ghee over a medium flame and fry the fenugreek seeds for 30 seconds, then add the cut vegetables. Add the curry leaves and stir-fry the vegetables for 5 minutes, turning them gently with a wooden spoon. Pour in the water, cover the pan, and cook for 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, use a mortar and pestle or a blender to grind together the cumin seeds, grated ginger, minced chilies, turmeric, and a few drops of water to make a smooth masala paste. Heat the remaining tablespoon of ghee in a small saucepan and stir-fry the masala paste for a minute or two. Then add the panca masala, ground coriander, and asafetida. Stir for a few seconds. Pour the remaining water into the seasonings and boil for I minute. Empty the liquid masala into the cooking vegetables and continue cooking for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every now and then until the vegetables are slightly tender.

4. Lift the lid, add the yogurt and the salt. Stir and toss gently to mix the spices and sauce evenly with the vegetables. Simmer for a few minutes uncovered. Offer to Krsna.

Steamed Spinach with Fresh Cheese

(Panir sak)

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Servings: 4-6

1 pound fresh spinach, stemmed, washed, and drained
1 tablespoon ghee or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons ground coriander
½ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pinch asafetida
3 tablespoons water
½ cup sour cream (optional)
8 ounces panir, cubed
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup sugar

1. Chop the washed and drained spinach leaves into small pieces. Heat the ghee in a saucepan over a medium flame and fry the powdered spices. Put the chopped spinach into the saucepan with the 3 tablespoons of water. Cover, and cook over a low flame for 10 minutes, until the spinach is tender.

2. Now fold in the sour cream and the cubes of panir. Add the salt and sugar, stir well, and continue cooking over a low flame for 5 more minutes. Offer to Krsna.

Cauliflower and Potatoes in Yogurt Sauce

(Alu phul gobhi ki bhaji)

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Servings: 4-6

1 medium-size cauliflower
2 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon curnin seeds
1 or 2 dried chilies, crushed
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon asafetida
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 tablespoons water
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ cup plain yogurt
¾ teaspoon gararn rnasd1d
2 firm ripe tomatoes, each cut into 8 wedges
1 lemon or lime

1. Trim the cauliflower and cut it into floweretes 1 ½ inches long by 1-inch thick. Rinse them in a colander and let drain.

2. Heat the ghee in a heavy saucepan over a medium flame. Drop in the cumin seeds and crushed chilies and fry them for 30 to 45 seconds, until the cumin seeds turn golden-brown. Add the powdered spices, fry a few seconds longer, then immediately add the cubed potatoes. Turn the potatoes for 2 or 3 minutes, letting them brown in spots. Add the cauliflower and stir-fry for another 2 or 3 minutes. Then add the water and salt and put the lid on the pan to trap the steam. Cook, shaking the pan occasionally, for 10 minutes until the vegetables are tender but still firm.

3. Stir in the yogurt and simmer for 3 minutes, until the sauce is thick. Sprinkle with garam masala and stir gently to mix. Garnish a serving with slices of tomato and a twist of lemon, and offer to Krsna.

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Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out

Back to the Simple Life and Simple Truth

This conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place at ISKCON's farming village in New Vrindaban, West Virginia, on June 24, 1976.

Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, once you said, "The tractor—this is the cause of all the trouble. It took all the young men's farm work. It forced them to go into the city and become entangled in sensuality." You said people had to leave the country and the simple life of goodness and God consciousness. And so they went to the city and got caught up in the anxious life, the mode of passion.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. In the city, people must naturally fall into the mode of passion: constant anxiety due to needless lusting and striving. In the city we are surrounded by all sorts of artificial things for agitating our mind and senses. And naturally, when we have this facility we become lusty. We take to this passionate mode and become filled with anxiety.

Disciple: The country is more peaceful. It's easier to think of spiritual life.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. There is less disease. Everything is less brain-taxing. In the country the pangs of this material world are less. So you can arrange your life for real profit. Spiritual profit. Realize God; become Krsna conscious. And if you have got a temple in your home or near your home, you have a very happy life. You work just a little—just for your food—in the spring a month and a half or so for planting, in the fall a month and a half for harvesting. And in your remaining time, you become culturally enriched. You engage all your talents and energies for realizing God. Krsna consciousness. This is ideal life.

You see the minute fibers on this flower? No other manufacturing process in this world can do this—such small fibers. And how brilliant is the color! If you study only one flower, you will become God conscious.

There is a mechanism that we call "nature." And from it is coming everything we see around us. Now, how is it that this mechanism is so perfect'? And who is it that has devised this mechanism?

Disciple: Once in London you said, "People do not know that flowers are painted. Krsna paints them with thoughts."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Most people think that by itself, unconnected with a painter, this flower has become beautiful. This is foolishness. "Nature has done it." Whose nature? Everything is being done by the natural mechanism of Krsna. Parasya saktir vividhaiva sruyate: the Lord is orchestrating everything by His innumerable, inconceivable energies.

Anyway, learn to love this natural mode of life, life in a wide-open space. Produce your own grain. Produce your own milk. Save time. Chant Hare Krsna. Glorify the Lord's holy names. At life's end, go back to the spiritual world to live forever. Plain living, high thinking—ideal life.

Modern, artificial "necessities of life" may seem to increase your so-called comfort. But if you forget life's real aim, that is suicidal. We want to stop this suicidal policy. We don't directly attempt to stop the modern advancement of technology. The so-called advancement of technology is suicidal, but we don't always talk of this. [Laughter.]

People today are extremely attached to this so-called advancement. Therefore when Lord Caitanya appeared five hundred years ago, He gave a simple formula: chant Hare Krsna. Even in your technological factory, you can chant. You go on pushing and pulling with your machine, and chant, "Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna." You can devote yourself to God. What is the wrong there?

Disciple: The leaders know that once a person starts chanting God's names, in time he'll lose his taste forth is anxious life of technology.

Srila Prabhupada: That is natural.

Disciple: So the leaders know you are sowing the seeds of their destruction.

Srila Prabhupada: Where is the "destruction"? Rather, it is construction: devote yourself to God, and live forever. This is the proper path. Follow it. You will live forever.

By our method, tyaktva deham punar janma naiti. after leaving your present material body, you don't get any more material bodies. You regain your spiritual body and go back to the spiritual world. And without this spiritual realization, tatha dehantara-praptih: when you leave your present material body, you'll have to accept another material body.

So consider the two methods of living. Which is better? The "advanced" method—accepting more material bodies. Or our "old-fashioned" method—accepting no more material bodies. Which is better?

As soon as you accept a material body, you have to suffer: birth, old age, disease, death. The material body means suffering. Therefore, if we prepare so that on leaving this present body we undergo no more suffering, that is intelligent. But if we prepare to receive another material body for more suffering, is that intelligent? Unless you understand the Lord, unless you understand Krsna, you'll have to stay in this material world and accept another body. There is no alternative.

Now our method. We understand, first, that na hanyate hanyamane sarire: when the body is finished, the soul goes on living. Unfortunately, many people have become so dull-brained that they cannot understand this simple truth. Every day of their lives, people see that a soul in an infant body is going to take on a childhood body, then a teenage body, next an adult body, and later an aged body. People see, with their own eyes, how the soul is transmigrating from one body to another body to still another body.

Nevertheless, with their dull brains they cannot understand that at death, when the aged body is finished, the soul goes on to yet another body, material or spiritual. But people cannot understand this. They are so dull-brained. They cannot make the simple distinction between the body and the soul. It will take five hundred years to teach them this simple truth—their education is so advanced.

(To be continued.)

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Every Town and Village

A look at the worldwide activities of the
International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)

President of Zanzibar Welcomes an ISKCON Guru

Zanzibar—On a recent tour of eastern and central Africa, Srila Navayogendra Swami met here with President Wakil. The president accepted copies of Bhagavad-gita As It Is and Teachings of Lord Caitanya.

The meeting, scheduled to last fifteen minutes, lasted one hour. Navayogendra Swami and President Wakil discussed the philosophy and practices of the Krsna consciousness movement and the movement's activities in Africa. The meeting with the president was broadcast on national television.

Navayogendra Swami had been visiting Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, when an Indian gentleman, inspired by Navayogendra Swami's lectures, had chartered a plane to fly the swami and a group of Hindus to Zanzibar to meet President Wakil. When the group arrived at the Zanzibar airport, members of Parliament, national television correspondents, and leading citizens welcomed Navayogendra Swami.

ISKCON Food Relief Expands in Africa, Lagos

Nigeria—ISKCON International Food Relief here recently fed an estimated 20,000 people from Nigeria and Ghana. Two hundred devotees from ISKCON centers in these two countries gathered to distribute the food.

The distribution site resembled a festival ground, as the devotees gave out free books, chanted Hare Krsna and explained the philosophy of Krsna consciousness with the help of many exhibits.

An announcer for the leading Nigerian radio station told his audience, "One might think this was the second coming of Jesus, because just as he fed the masses, so the Hare Krsnas were feeding thousands of people."

Book on ISKCON Released in England

London—Dr. Kim Knott, a research fellow at the University of Leeds, recently released a study of the Hare Krsna movement titled My Sweet Lord. Dr. Knott was commissioned by London University's Kings College to write the book as part of a series of texts on new religious movements.

Dr. Knott's writing is scholarly and objective, and her work provides a comprehensive introduction to the Hare Krsna movement. It also refutes some common misconceptions. She writes,

Looking beneath the surface of the movement has shown us three things. Hare Krsna is not a new religious group, except in the most superficial sense; it is not stuck in the cultural and social groove of the 1960s; nor is it just one of many contemporary cults.... None of these stereotypes do justice to the Hare Krsna devotees, their philosophy, and their way of life. Their religion is firmly rooted in Indian tradition. It is dynamic. It has characteristics which distinguish it from other contemporary religious groups and which qualify it to stand independently as a bona fide religion.

In researching ISKCON, Dr. Knott frequently visited the Society's centers in London and nearby Letchmore Heath. Her research convinced her of the validity and importance of the Hare Krsna movement and led her to take up its spiritual practices. She is now Kausalya-devi dasi, an initiated disciple of Srila Bhagavan dasa Goswami.

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The Vedic Observer

Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day

For God or Guinness

by Dvarakadhisa-devi dasi

Ignoring nausea, blisters, and bruises, Asrita Furman valiantly pushed on. For ten and a half hours he fought to maintain philosophical detachment: "I am not my body; I am soul."

Repeatedly he plunged forward to meet the rough pavement in yet another somersault. And then another and another and another ... eight thousand two hundred ninety in all. In this painful and peculiar fashion he covered more than twelve miles, following the reverse route of Paul Revere's famous ride.

What inspired Furman to such acrobatics? He claims the feat was an offering to his guru.

A disciple of an Indian guru for the past fifteen years, Furman was motivated by his guru's teaching that spiritual advancement is obtained by pushing the body to its limits. Eight thousand two hundred ninety consecutive somersaults on the side of the road seemed a suitable challenge.

Is this a valid process of self-realization? According to the Vedic science of self-realization, to advance spiritually means to understand the spiritual reality behind the material illusion of this world. We must understand not only our own spiritual nature but also the spiritual nature of that supreme being who is the origin of all existence. That supreme being is Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and we are His eternal servants. This is the essence of spiritual realization.

To enlighten us with spiritual knowledge, Lord Krsna teaches us, both through the scriptures and through His representative, the bona fide guru. Just as the rails of a train track must run parallel, the guru and the scripture must agree. When they do, we are guided safely and accurately toward spiritual perfection. This accord between guru and scripture legitimizes a process for spiritual advancement.

Mr. Furman did follow his guru, but since somersaulting is not authorized in the scripture as a legitimate spiritual practice, Furman's spiritual advancement is dubious. Nowhere do the scriptures indicate that the Supreme Personality of Godhead rewards sweaty gymnastics with spiritual enlightenment. Indeed, Bhagavad-gita (17.18-19) specifically warns against Such whimsical austerities:

Penance performed out of pride and for the sake of gaining respect, honor, and worship is said to be in the mode of passion. It is neither stable nor permanent. Penance performed out of foolishness, with self-torture or to destroy or injure others is said to be in the mode of ignorance.

There's nothing spiritual about enduring pain. People everywhere are tolerating miseries much greater than the bruises of Asrita Furman, and their forbearance does not necessarily bring them transcendental knowledge. We must receive transcendental knowledge by studying the revealed scriptures under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master. Otherwise we will be cheated.

In the Bhagavad-gita (17.14-16) Lord Krsna describes austerities that are essential for spiritual growth and are pleasing to Him:

Austerity of the body consists in worship of the Supreme Lord, the brahmanas, the spiritual master, and superiors like the father and mother, and in cleanliness, simplicity, celibacy, and nonviolence. Austerity of the speech consists in speaking words that are truthful, beneficial, and not agitating to others, and also in regularly reciting Vedic literature. And satisfaction, simplicity, gravity, self-control, and purification of one's existence are austerities of the mind.

Had Furman's guru recommended these Vedic austerities to his devoted disciple, then how much more valuable his determination would have been. This is not the first undertaking Furman has accepted for the pleasure of his guru. Previously he walked twenty-four miles with a milk bottle on his head, held a fifty hour hand-clapping marathon, and trekked eleven and a half miles up the side of Mount Fuji—on a pogo stick!

Although Furman's exploits have not helped him gain the favor of God, they have brought him considerable attention in the media and earned him a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, thus increasing the prevalent misunderstanding about Vedic teachings and the nature and goal of spiritual life.

The Adam Bomb

by Ravindra-svarupa dasa

This year the Reagan administration finally scrapped its observance of the unratified SALT II arms limitation treaty, while Congress allocated fresh billions for hatching a so-called "third generation "of nuclear weapons. These moves have prompted widespread fear of a steep acceleration in the arms race.

Brace yourself: we're in for it again. Here they come—more and more of 'em, and getting more scary all the time. Nuclear weapons. What to do?

Nobody likes 'em. Everybody hates 'em. Yet somehow we just can't get rid of 'em. They're more tenacious than cockroaches. And considerably more dangerous. Like those irradiated arthropods escaped from the lab in a B-grade science fiction movie, they just keep on multiplying—and evolving as they do, into more and more nightmarish and diabolical forms.

But our real-life horror show with nuclear weapons is even weirder than the movie. Weirder, because we ourselves are churning out those weapons. We—who hate them, who abhor and abominate them, whose most fervent prayer is to get rid of them—we make them. And keep on making them. And on top of that, making these weapons is what you'd have to call a rational activity. Lots of hard thinking, planning, ingenuity, cunning, goes into it. We really apply ourselves.

We make them. So it's not like the SF films—nature gone amok and out of control. It's us!

You'd have to say we have gone amok and out of control. In spite of all coolheaded, rational science and planning and organization, you'd have to say that.

It's weird. Because when you picture those guys working, so calm and serious in their crisp white coats in crisp air conditioned labs, scowling over print-outs and punching in data, exchanging information in terse bursts of jargon and diddling with some device so big and complex that maybe no one person understands all of it—seeing that, it doesn't look like anyone's out of control or insane.

But then, why can't we keep from inflicting this ever-increasing terror upon ourselves? We're running out of control for sure, even though all that rationality sometimes makes it hard for some of us to see it clearly. But when we finally face up to it, we see that this rationality actually makes it worse. What we've got here is something very, very scary: the rational organization of insanity.

Think about that, and you'll realize that it means our problem lies really deep. There is some insanity, some corruption, some evil rooted so deeply, so profoundly within us, that it can co-opt reason itself and enlist it in its service.

What is this hidden evil at the heart of the great nuclear weapons death race? What hidden diabolic energy forces us, as if against our will, to inflict upon ourselves those increasingly powerful engines of megadeath?

As it turns out, a seaman named Bill Bailey stumbled upon the answer to this question quite by accident, without even realizing it. He was shipboard in the Pacific in 1945 when word of the Hiroshima bomb reached him, and by a wonderful misunderstanding he put his finger right on the real problem, at the very dawn of the atomic age. Bill Bailey's pregnant error is recorded for posterity in Studs Terkel's The Good War, an oral history of World War II. This is what our seaman—salty language and all—says:

We're on our way to Okinawa, when we got word that the atom bomb dropped. I thought it was Adam, A-D-A-M. Somebody dropped an Adam bomb. What kinda bomb is that? They said it wiped out a city. I said, "This son of a bitch of an Adam, who the hell is he?"

Well, I know who he is—he's our common ancestor, the primordial man of Eden, who transgressed the bounds set by God and brought us to grief. That Adam, the emblem of original sin. The maker of the Adam bomb.

Now, the old primer rhyme tells us, "In Adam's Fall/We sinned all." I accept that. But the idea of original sin depicts us as guilty for something we didn't do. It is our remote forebear's crime—not ours—but still we suffer for it, inheriting his fault like a genetic defect. That would be simply unjust, and I don't buy the idea.

I say that when the Bible talks about what Adam did, it's talking about what we ourselves did. We were there "in the beginning" ourselves, because, being God's offspring and made in His image, we are not material beings but spiritual beings. So we're eternal. That's the very nature of spirit: it never comes into being; it never goes out of being. That's why in the Bhagavad-gita the soul is described not only as ajah, "unborn," and nityah, "eternal," but also as puranah, the oldest.

This means that all of us are primordial persons. When the Bible talks about Adam, then, it's actually talking about us. As a matter of fact, "adam" is simple Hebrew for "man." We can all step forward and introduce ourselves with that old palindrome: "Madam, I'm Adam."

So we're to blame. And what did we do? What's our sin at the root of it all?

We decided that we didn't want to serve God but wanted to become God ourselves. In other words, we became envious of God and wanted to take His place. That is our fall. And we are still fallen to this day because we still have that attitude.

You see, as the offspring of God, made in His image, we inherit the qualities of God—like Him, we are eternal, full of knowledge and bliss. But we possess those divine qualities in minute quantity. For we are not God. God is great and One without a second. We, His creatures, are tiny and many without number. The creator is independent, and we are dependent. The dependent many are by constitution eternal servants of the independent One, and as long as we act as servants, we remain in the kingdom of God and enjoy full divine life with Him.

But some among the innumerable, dependent souls don't like that subordination. We thought—and still think—it better to be God. We rebellious souls are sent into the material world, a place created just for us to play out our fantasies. We cannot be God—the post is filled—but here we can forget Him and work on our own little God projects.

That's why this world is so crazy and hellish. It's chock-full of people trying to make it as God—driven to be the enjoyer and the controller; mad to be the lord of all they survey. And with such a desire naturally comes envy and hate, as we plunge into an unresting struggle to own and control the resources of matter, to seize what others have and annex it to ourselves, and to defend what we've snatched against the encroachment of others.

But all this springs from the original sinful will—the desire to become the Lord. All beings born into the material world, Krsna explains in Bhagavad-gita (7.27), show the taint of this original sin in the form of desire and hate. That desire and hate breaks out everywhere, but the original desire is, Why can't I be God? And the original hate, Why should Krsna be God?

But we can change our will at any time. By fully acknowledging that God is the proprietor of everything, the friend of everyone, and the enjoyer of all, we can end this stupid and vicious struggle to dominate and control each other and to possess this earth for ourselves. Now we have dedicated some of our best brains to furthering this struggle; and bestowed upon suffering humanity the ripe fruit of our original sin—the Adam bomb.

Krsna predicts in Bhagavad-gita (16.9) that persons who are envious of Him "engage in horrible works meant to destroy the world." It sure sounds like He's talking about us and our Adam bomb.

And it looks like we had better do something about it soon.

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Setting Sail with Transcendental Treasures

In the spirit of Srila Prabhupada's voyage to America in 1965,
devotees are bringing Krsna consciousness to the Hawaiian Islands.

by Visakha-devi dasi

I awoke to the sound of waves lapping near my head. Through the two skylight windows above my bunk I could see wispy clouds that seemed to bob rhythmically in the blue. After a five-year absence, again I was in Hawaii and aboard the Jaladuta II, the Hare Krsna movement's fifty-three-foot teakwood ketch.

In 1980, Narahari Swami had convinced the ship's owner to donate his handsome ketch to the Hare Krsna movement so that devotees could travel from island to island and give people spiritual food, spiritual song, and spiritual knowledge, along with sailing, swimming, and snorkeling. On this particular Wednesday afternoon in early May 1986, Narahari Swami (now the ship's skipper), four devotee-crewmembers, and I were en route to Kona Bay on the "Big Island" for a Saturday cruise program, just like the one we had held on Oahu on the previous Saturday. Bracing myself against the six foot swells that rocked our ship, and looking toward the horizon—which was unrelieved by any sign of land or life—I thought about Columbus, Magellan, and other early European explorers who had sailed for months without sighting land.

Some of those explorers were seeking a western route to India. Their aim was to fill their ships with India's treasures spices, gems, gold, and silver—and heroically return home with a vast fortune. Although explorers eventually reached India, it wasn't until twenty years ago that India's treasure reached other lands. That treasure was carried not by an explorer but by a humble emissary of Lord Krsna, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.

Srila Prabhupada's aim was not to gain fortune or fame, but to give the process of self-realization. His courage was not in facing unchartered seas but in offering spirituality to the hordes of materialists in the West. And it was in leaving his homeland, at the age of seventy for the first time, and in venturing to a land where no one knew him and where he had no support. On September 17, 1965, the steamship Jaladuta arrived in Boston Harbor. The lone mendicant aboard, who described himself as an "insignificant beggar," would, in the next twelve years, establish a worldwide spiritual movement that would astonish historians and scholars.

It was remembrance of Srila Prabhupada—his mission and journey—that inspired the devotees in Hawaii to name their ship the Jaladuta II. Just as Srila Prabhupada brought spiritual life and imparted it to whomever he met, so the devotees in Hawaii, Srila Prabhupada's representatives, wanted to continue carrying his message: "Chant Hare Krsna and make your life sublime."

Before he passed on in 1977, Srila Prabhupada encouraged some of his disciples to use a boat to propagate Krsna consciousness. In a letter, he wrote, "Your idea of having a large boat traveling from city to city is very encouraging. So if you have got the means, then go ahead and do it. Krsna conscious men aboard ship and chanting Hare Krsna is a very nice program, and the coastal people may take advantage of this transcendental vibration and be benefited."

In Hawaii a large percentage of those "coastal people" are the five million tourists who annually throng these sundrenched shores. Many an unsuspecting, lei-graced visitor has looked out from the beach at Waikiki to see the Jaladuta II's colorful mainsail with its three-foot high letters proclaiming: "Hare Krsna."

Those transcendental words have also caught the attention of journalists. Dharmayug, a Times of India publication and the largest circulated weekly in India, published color pictures of the Jaladuta 2 in its center spread, along with an article in which the author, Lallan Prasada-vyas, wrote, "I believe that of all the spiritual movements based on Indian spiritualism, the Hare Krsna movement is the strongest and is working for the welfare of mankind.... I will always remember the evening I spent on the Hare Krsna boat, and on returning to India I sometimes remember the Jaladuta II. For me this boat was a means of experiencing great happiness."

Not long after the Dharmayug article appeared, the Honolulu Advertiser published a full-page article by staff writer Jay Hartwell. "What you find after sailing and talking to the Hare Krsnas," Mr. Hartwell wrote, "is that they are a polite, friendly a group that lives and works for God...."

Mr. Hartwell also quoted Narahari Swami: "We use the best of material energy as much as possible for Krishna. By having something materially nice, we can get a full cross section of people. But if we're sailing out in some dirty little barge, who's going to come and associate with us? If it's a nice opulent boat, then nice people will come."

By now the verdant mountains of Hawaii island were on the horizon, rising out of the deep blue water. I was leaning against the main mast, squinting in the brilliant sunshine and delighted by four sleek dolphins playing near the bow. Srila Prabhupada's voice sang over the ship's speakers, and Charlie, the first mate, sat in the shade of the mainsail repairing a halyard.

Charlie had joined the Jaladuta II's crew five years ago, after seeing an article about the ship in Back to Godhead magazine. Charlie, forty-three, is a licensed captain with twenty years' boating experience. He has also had fifteen years of association with members of the Hare Krsna movement. He is devoted to the Jaladuta II.

In Charlie's eyes, the Jaladuta II has several main fronts for propagating Krsna consciousness. It attracts newcomers, and offers a change of pace to devotees from landlocked temples. The Jaladuta II's public cruises leave most passengers with a positive impression of Krsna consciousness. ISKCON's life members who come to Hawaii return home with pleasant sailing memories. And since Hawaii consists of a string of islands, the Jaladuta II is ideal for reaching people who would never go to the Honolulu temple or the Hare Krsna farm on the island of Hawaii. For Charlie the Jaladuta II is a natural niche in Krsna consciousness.

Both Narahari Swami and Charlie told me about Markandeya, a young Czechoslovakian whose experience on the Jaladuta II had convinced him to become a full-time devotee. When Srila Prabhupada came to America for the first time, he brought with him (on the original Jaladuta) a trunk containing copies of the first three volumes of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, volumes he had written and published in India. During the next twelve years he translated and published twenty-six more volumes of this classic scripture. For one year Markandeya lived and served on the Jaladuta II, during which time he read the entire set of Srimad-Bhagavatams, as well as a few of Srila Prabhupada's other books. That period of reading, service, and association with devotees had convinced him to become an initiated devotee himself.

To Srila Prabhupada, the publishing, widespread distribution, and assimilation of the timeless Krsna conscious texts form the basis of Krsna consciousness. It is also the goal and sustenance of the boating project. Srila Prabhupada wrote: "I am very pleased that you are serious to embark on such a boating project, even though it will be a huge effort and expenditure to become successful. But nevermind that; nothing is too much big if Krsna desires it. So if you are very determined that your boating idea will succeed, then Krsna will give you all encouragement and facility.... As for your maintenance, you have our books and literatures to distribute widely everywhere you go, so you should never lack for maintaining the boat."

And in another letter: "I once had a dream like this: that we would have a moving temple on the water, going from town to town. So you are making that dream come true. Thank you very much. Do it nicely and maybe I will come and join you also."

When the Jaladuta II docked in Kona Harbor, forty men, women, and children clambered aboard for a full day of sailing, kirtana, as much prasadam as they could eat, and a long swim in the clear waters. That evening one of the guests said to me, "When the Jaladuta II begins sailing from port to port distributing Srila Prabhupada's books and offering cruises to the public, I want to come too. I'd like to help make Srila Prabhupada and his ship famous throughout Hawaii."

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The Intruder

One pleasant spring night Krsna and Balarama entered the forest of Vrndavana to enjoy the company of the gopis, Their cowherd girlfriends. Suddenly, there appeared ... The Intruder

By Nagaraja Dasa

In Vrndavana, Lord Krsna's eternal abode, all the elements of nature combine to enhance the pleasure of the Lord's pastimes. When Krsna descended five thousand years ago, His transcendental home, Vrndavana, descended with Him. His early pastimes, therefore, are like windows on the spiritual world. As a king travels in state, Krsna travels surrounded by loving devotees and the transcendental atmosphere of Vrndavana, displaying His eternal pastimes for all to see.

In one of these pastimes, the deliverance of Sankhacuda, Lord Krsna encountered a powerful, envious materialist who mistook God's property to be his own. A mistake Krsna corrected in a most dramatic and instructive way.

One pleasant spring night Krsna and Balarama entered the forest of Vrndavana to enjoy the company of the gopis, Their cowherd girlfriends. The moon shone brightly amid glittering stars. Refreshing, fragrant breezes carried the aroma of mallika flowers. The songs of the peacocks, cakoras, and cuckoos filled the air. And bees, intoxicated by the fragrance of the flowers, flew here and there.

These descriptions from the Srimad-Bhagavatam reveal the variety and beauty of the spiritual world. Those who deny the existence of the spiritual world think that artists and poets have created it in their imaginations, drawing on the beautiful natural settings of the phenomenal world. The opulences of Lord Krsna's abode, however, are transcendental reality. The first verse of Srimad-Bhagavatam states that the Lord's abode "is forever free from the illusory representations of the material world." That isn't to say the kingdom of God is devoid of variety, form, and qualities. Whatever enjoyments the mundane world affords are but shadows of the untainted, unending, variegated bliss of the eternal abode of Krsna.

When Krsna entered the Vrndavana forest, the birds, the trees, the flowering plants, the animals—everything combined to produce the most pleasant atmosphere for His enjoyment. Among all the living entities in the Vrndavana forest on that spring evening, none were more concerned about Krsna's pleasure than the gopis. As they entered the forest they were not thinking of their own enjoyment. They were thinking only of how they could assist Krsna in His pastimes. This is spiritual love, the love of the soul for the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

People sometimes confuse spiritual love with sexual love. But the exchange of pleasure between Krsna and the gopis is not sexual. In the material world, exploitation haunts the relationships between men and women. Thus, a man loves a woman because he has something to gain from her. If she stops fulfilling his needs, separation follows, and the so-called love turns to hate. In the spiritual world, however, love is pure and is exchanged between the soul and God. As long as we remain riveted to mundane consciousness, pure spiritual love will elude us.

Spiritual love is unconditional. That is, the lover and beloved are concerned only with the other's pleasure; they seek no gain. We too can love purely, but only when through devotional service we reawaken our love for God.

Originally we are all pure lovers of Krsna, but we have turned away. Desperately we are searching for another lover to replace Him. But we never find that perfect lover; no one can replace God.

By loving and serving Krsna, the gopis were fully satisfied. They did not want anyone but Krsna, nor did they expect anything from Krsna. Krsna, therefore, was supremely satisfied with their devotion. People generally pray to Krsna for the fulfillment of material desires, but the gopis were such elevated transcendentalists that they prayed only to be engaged in Krsna's service.

Since the loving affairs of Krsna and the gopis are far beyond the ken of materialistic persons, and since only the pure in heart are allowed to enter the transcendental realm of Vrndavana and participate in Krsna's pastimes, we can readily understand the audacity of Sankhacuda, who in the very presence of Krsna and Balarama began abducting some of the gopis.

Sankhacuda was a demoniac person of great opulence, renowned for the valuable conchshell-shaped jewel adorning his forehead. Intoxicated by his own wealth, he thought Krsna was an ordinary boy enjoying the company of young girls. He thought he, not Krsna, should be enjoying these beautiful girls.

Sankhacuda demonstrates the mentality of all rebellious souls. Choosing not to assist Krsna in His pastimes, the envious living entity tries to compete with Krsna and enjoy the opulence of Vrndavana for himself. But envy has no place in Vrndavana. Thus, driven by the desire to enjoy Krsna's position, we fall to the material world.

Here, deluded by the illusory material energy, we try to enjoy God's property for ourselves. Krsna created this world; He owns it. As long as we fail to recognize that, we must remain here, trying in vain to perfectly and happily enjoy that which is not ours.

Sankhacuda thought he could enjoy without recognizing Krsna's position. But when he tried to take Krsna's place by stealing His gopis, he demonstrated the foolishness of such a mentality.

When Krsna noticed Sankhacuda leading the gopis away, He immediately began chasing him. The gopis cried out to Krsna and Balarama, who picked up big logs as They pursued. Gradually Sankhacuda began to realize that the two brothers were far more powerful than he had calculated. He left the gopis and began to flee for his life. Now Sankhacuda realized he was no match for God, who easily grabbed the demon, struck him in the head with His fist, and killed him.

Krsna's killing of demons like Sankhacuda is sometimes criticized as unbefitting God. The Srimad-Bhagavatam, however, explains that because Krsna is absolute, His killing demons is as transcendental as His loving the gopis; both derive eternal benefit. Krsna loves everyone. By killing Sankhacuda, He liberated him from material existence and guaranteed his entrance into the spiritual sky. Such is the fortune of one who is touched by the hand of the Supreme Lord. Thus Krsna extended His unlimited mercy to the envious Sankhacuda.

Krsna also extends His mercy to us. By hearing this divine pastime from the ancient Vedic literature, we can know that we are trapped in this material world with our Sankhacuda-like mentalities. We can also know that, like Sankhacuda, we are being touched by Krsna—not by His absolute and merciful fist, but by His absolute and equally merciful form of divya-lila, or transcendental pastime. Indeed, the Srimad-Bhagavatam extols hearing the transcendental pastimes of Krsna as one of the most potent means of purification and spiritual realization. Continued and faithful hearing about the Lord from a pure devotee of the Lord will destroy our Sankhacuda-like mentality and awaken our original mentality as humble, nonenvious, ecstatic servitors of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

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Notes from the Editor

The Brahmanas of Boston and the World

While preparing for a recent visit to Boston, I spoke on the telephone with the president of our Krsna consciousness temple there. He ambitiously advertises the temple's Sunday lectures, and since I was scheduled to speak, he asked me to give a title for my talk. I tried to find a catchy title and came up with "Boston Brahmanas."

When Sunday came, however, and I found myself sitting in the Boston temple room before a hundred people, I realized that my "Boston Brahmana" theme was based on a misnomer.

The first written reference to Boston brahmanas was made by Oliver Wendell Holmes. In an essay published in 1860 Holmes wrote of the "brahmin cast of New England ... the harmless and innocent, untitled aristocracy." For more than a century the phrase "Boston brahmins" was used to refer to the more cultured elements of New England society.

But when people think of brahminism today, they probably think of it as part of the so-called caste system of Indian society, that infamous, ungainly descendant of the most highly evolved of all social systems, the ancient Vedic system of varnasrama (Please see "Baseball, Caste, and the Whole-Hog Syndrome," p. 8.).

According to the Bhagavad-gita, the thoughts, actions, and propensities of everyone may be analyzed according to three modes of nature: goodness, passion, and ignorance. To the degree that people are affected by the different modes, their qualities and attributes naturally place them in one of the four social categories.

Those who are mostly influenced by the mode of goodness are brahmanas. The brahmana is spiritually aware and devoted to God, guru, and the Vedic injunctions. Intellectually and philosophically inclined, he leads a life of renunciation, morality, study, and worship. He is qualified to lead others.

Those who are mostly influenced by, the mode of passion are the ksatriyas, or society's protectors and administrators.

Those who are impelled by a mixture of passion and ignorance are the vaisyas, the merchants and farmers of society. And those who are influenced by the mode of ignorance are sudras. The sudras are not qualified with the higher characteristics but work as helpful servants to bring about the overall goals of society.

The overall goals of an ideally ordered society would not be simply to raise the standard of living—which is what today's materialistic societies are mostly about—but, most importantly, to awaken spiritual consciousness. Elevation to the spiritual platform should be the goal of all social activity.

The Krsna consciousness movement is not attempting to immediately change the topsy-turvy condition of society by introducing the authentic model of the four Vedic orders. This is not possible in the present age. The Vedic literature explains that in Kali-yuga (the present Age of Quarrel) people are so disqualified and disturbed that they are not able to follow the religious practices prescribed for other ages. Therefore, Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, manifested Himself as Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu to introduce the chanting of the names of God. This simple process, known as sankirtana (the congregational chanting of God's holy names), is a special dispensation for this unfortunate age.

The varnasrama system of social division allows the members of society to gradually elevate themselves to the spiritual platform under the direction of the brahmanas. But Lord Caitanya offers anyone from any social position immediate access to the spiritual platform. The process is the same for everyone: chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. By chanting the holy names, by distributing spiritual food, by participating in spiritual festivals, and by worshiping the Deity of Krsna, every sincere person can attain the highest platform of love of God.

This is the special system of bhakti-yoga His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada brought to the West. Srila Prabhupada did not teach that people had to first follow the rules and regulations of the four social orders as prescribed in the varnasrama system before they could be helped; rather, he began publicly chanting the holy names in New York City, In this way he elevated even the lowest and most degraded of people to live as or pure devotees of the Lord.

Although Lord Caitanya's method provides a shortcut, the varnasrama system of social divisions need not be abandoned. Today there is a great need for brahmanas. Even if society as a whole does not property respect and use the brahmanas, if even a few persons qualify themselves as brahmanas, they will be benefited, and they will be able to greatly benefit others. In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna describes the qualities of a brahmana. "Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, wisdom, and religiousness-these are the natural qualities by which the brahmanas work" (Bg. 18.42). These qualities are all conducive to self-knowledge and spiritual life. Only those who possess these qualities can help others. Those who cannot develop these qualities can receive guidance from those who have developed them. The Krsna consciousness movement, both by introducing varnasrama and by propagating the chanting of Hare Krsna; aims to respiritualize materialistic society.

A Krsna conscious person who follows the principles of bhakti-yoga can become transcendental even to a brahmana: The varnasrama social divisions belong to this material world, but the qualities of the soul belong to the spiritual world and are eternal. One may be a brahmana in this lifetime, but unless one develops pure love of God, one will have to take birth again in the material world. Only the Lord's devotees are transcendental. And by Lord Caitanya's grace, everyone can become such a devotee and transcend altogether the modes of nature. The laborer, the businessman, and the administrator can each become a pure transcendentalist. The priestly and the pious can also advance from their preliminary concepts of religion to unalloyed love of God. Such are the transformations that can take place by the practice of Krsna consciousness.

The catchy title I chose for my Sunday lecture in Boston wasn't exactly a misnomer. Srila Prabhupada has created true brahmanas in Boston. And even today, whoever regularly chants the Hare Krsna mantra and follows the four regulative principles of Krsna consciousness—no meat-eating; no gambling, no illicit sex, and no intoxication—can receive initiation, become a brahmana, and work to spread Krsna consciousness throughout the world. Such people are performing the highest welfare work of all and are the real brahmanas—whether of Boston or any other' place—and the world should recognize them for their contribution to humanity. We need not wait for the wholesale reintroduction of the Vedic social system, which isn't possible anyway in this fallen age. We can become brahmanas and more by taking up the practices of Krsna consciousness.—SDG

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