Is there any validity to the idea that we're all God?
A lecture in London in August 1973
avinasi tu tad viddhi
"That which pervades the entire body you should know to be indestructible. No one is able to destroy that imperishable soul." (Bhagavad-gita 2.17)
The nature of the soul is very clearly described here. Any sensible man can understand from this verse that within the body there is an eternal soul. Lord Krsna says, avinasi tu tad viddhi yena sarvam idam tatam: "That thing which is spread all over the body is imperishable." What is spread all over the body? Consciousness. Everyone can understand this. If I pinch any part of your body, you feel pain. Why? Because consciousness is there. Pains and pleasures are felt so long as there is consciousness in the body. Sometimes we are made unconscious by drugs or by chloroform or some other anesthetic, and then we cannot feel anything.
There are three stages of consciousness: jagrati, svapna, and susupti. The first stage is wakefulness, the second is sleep, and the third is deep sleep, unconsciousness. When you are awake, your consciousness is very acute, very strong. In the sleeping state there is consciousness, but it is not so active. And in the state of deep sleep the consciousness is subdued; it is not working.
Death means that one is unconscious for a long period. Because the soul is eternal, as Krsna explains here, there is no birth and death for the soul. When the body is annihilated, the soul remains unconscious for some time—six and a half months for a human being. In other words, the soul remains unconscious for six and a half months within the womb of the mother, and then consciousness revives.
Some of you have had the experience of becoming unconscious under anesthesia. The surgical operation takes place, but you do not perceive any pain because you remain unconscious for several hours. Then, gradually you begin dreaming: From the unconscious state you come to the dreaming state. And after dreaming, you awaken. Just as you go down from the awakened state to the dreaming state, and from the dreaming state to unconsciousness, so you come up from unconsciousness to the dreaming state and from the dreaming state to awakened, full consciousness.
So, when death occurs the gross body is lost and the soul remains in the subtle body of intelligence, mind, and ego. That subtle body carries the soul to another gross body. Those who are unintelligent do not understand what the subtle body is, although it is clearly said in the Bhagavad-gita [7.4] that the subtle body is composed of mind, intelligence, and false ego. But because we cannot see the mind and intelligence, foolish rascals think that when a man dies, everything is finished.
Everyone knows he has a mind and intelligence. I know that you have your mind and I have my mind, and that you have your intelligence and I have my intelligence. But I cannot see your mind or intelligence; they are too subtle. For example, there is air in front of me now, but I cannot see it. So the gross senses cannot experience even the subtle material things, what to speak of the spirit soul.
The soul is so subtle that it is not possible to perceive it with the material senses. But the rascals simply say, "No, I cannot see the soul," and then they conclude that everything is finished at death. How can you see the soul? That is not possible. It is so minute and so subtle that you cannot see it even with the most powerful microscope.
So, here Krsna clearly says that consciousness, the symptom of the soul, is avinasi, imperishable. Previously He said to Arjuna, "You, I, and all these others existed in the past, we exist now, and we shall continue to exist in the future." That means we are all eternally individuals. In the past we were individuals, at present we are individuals, and we shall continue to be individuals in the future. There is no truth to the rascal Mayavadi philosophers' idea that after liberation we all intermingle and become a homogeneous lump. Even after we attain liberation we remain individual particles of consciousness.
As Krsna explains here in the second chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, the spirit soul cannot be cut into pieces. That means we are all individual spirit souls, eternally. It is not that we were lumped together at one time, that we have been cut into pieces, and that we are therefore now individuals. This Mayavada philosophy is false. We are individuals eternally. Krsna will explain that later in the Bhagavad-gita [15.7]: mamaivamso jiva-loke jiva-bhutah sanatanah. "The living entities in this material world are My eternal fragmental parts." This is confirmed in the Upanisads: nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam. "Of all the eternal conscious living beings, there is one who is supreme."
Yesterday we consulted the dictionary about the meaning of the word God, and one of the definitions was "the supreme being." So, we are living beings, but we are not supreme; we are subordinate. God is also a living being, but He is the supreme being. That is the difference. It is a very simple thing. You cannot say, "I am the supreme being." Yet the rascals say, "I am God." How can you be God? Are you supreme? As soon as we ask this question—"Are you supreme?"—you must answer, "No." Then how have you become God?
"The supreme being" means—and this we also looked up in the dictionary—"the highest authority." So, is any one of us the highest authority in the material world? No. Everyone is under the grip of material nature, so how can any of us be the highest authority? But the rascals imagine, "Yes, I am the highest authority. I am moving the sun and the planets." Simply rascaldom. This is their meditation—to falsely think, "I am the Supreme. I am controlling everything. The sun is moving under my direction. The seas are under my direction." This is the impersonalists' meditation.
Just try to understand how foolish they are. Will any sane man say, "I am moving the sun; I am moving the moon; I am moving the seas"? Will any sane man say that? No. Will anyone here say that you are moving the sun and the moon? Anyone? Who can say? Nobody can say this. And still these rascals are claiming, "I have become God. We are all God." This rascal atheistic philosophy has killed the whole world. So many "incarnations," so many "gods," are preaching false theories only. So many gurus—all rascals.
Take my word for it: Anyone who is speaking against the principles of the Bhagavad-gita is rascal number one. That's all. Don't give him any credit. Ask him to his face: "Do you accept Krsna to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead?" If he says, "No," tell him, "Then you are a rascal." That's all. There is no exception.
At least you must know that these socalled gods are rascals, because you know that Krsna is God, the Supreme (isvarah paramah krsnah sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah). Krsna is accepted as God by all the acaryas [spiritual teachers and exemplars] and by all the Vedic scriptures. And when He Himself was present on earth, He proved that He is God. Nobody was equal to Krsna when He was personally present. If you read the whole of the Mahabharata and the Srimad-Bhagavatam, you will find that nobody was equal to Krsna or greater than Him. Many, many demons came to fight with Him and tried to kill Him, but He killed them all. Even when He was a child, the Putana demoness came to kill Him by poisoning. She smeared poison over her breast, and when Krsna sucked it He sucked out her life. But Krsna is so kind that He gave her liberation, the position of His mother in the spiritual world.
Krsna, the supreme consciousness, is so kind. He thought, "This Putana demon is ignorant. She has come to kill Me without knowing that I cannot be killed. But I have sucked her breast as if she were My mother. Therefore she should be given the position of My mother, like Yasodamayi." This is Krsna's mercy. He felt so much obliged because of the service rendered by Putana. A mother is meant to give service to her child without any return. She gives service from the very beginning of the child's life within the womb, when she feeds him. The process is given by nature, and the mother feeds the baby. When pregnant, a mother should not eat any pungent things, because they will burn the tender skin and heart of the child. She should eat only very simple things.
But today women have no conscience. Instead of maintaining the child very nicely, thinking, "I must provide all comforts for the child in my womb," they are now killing him by abortion. There is little motherly affection in this Kali-yuga [the Age of Quarrel]. In the material world, motherly affection is considered the highest form of love. But the Kali-yuga is so polluted that mothers are even giving up their love for their children.
Just imagine the position of this age! As the Bhagavatam [1.1.10] says, mandah sumanda-matayo manda-bhagya hy upadrutah: "In Kali-yuga everyone is lazy, misguided, unfortunate, and disturbed." Therefore in this age almost no one is interested in spiritual life. The aim of life is to become immortal, to no longer be subjected to the four distressful conditions of birth, old age, disease, and death. But hardly anybody is interested. People in this age are so dull. Therefore they are described as manda—"bad" or "lazy." They do not care to know what the goal of life is.
And then, sumanda-matayah, "misguided." If someone wants to become recognized as very religious, he will accept some rascal magician as his guru, and then he will do everything he likes and eat everything he likes and become a "spiritualist." And his rascal guru will say, "Yes, you can eat anything. You can do anything. Religion has nothing to do with eating." This is going on.
The Bible explicitly says, "Thou shalt not kill." But Christians are killing. Still, they very proudly claim, "I am a Christian." What kind of Christian are you? You regularly disobey the order of Christ, and still you are a Christian?
So, whether one is a so-called Christian, Mohammedan, or Hindu, everyone has become a rascal. That's all. This is the Kali-yuga. People have created their own imaginary religious principles, and therefore they are condemned. This they do not know. The aim of human life is to realize God. But today people are so much embarrassed by their uncontrollable senses that they are going to the darkest regions of the material existence. As the Bhagavatam [7.5.30] says, adanta-gobhir visatam tamisram: "Those who cannot control their senses are going to the regions of darkness." In the Kaliyuga people cannot control their senses. They have become so unfortunate that they cannot make the little effort, undergo the little austerity, to control their senses.
So, people are missing the aim of life. Why? They are unfortunate (manda-bhagya). Only those who are very fortunate will understand, "I am eternal, imperishable. I have been put into this perishable condition due to my material body." And how to get out of it? The first step is that we have to understand that we are consciousness. Krsna is so kind that He very clearly explains this here in the Bhagavad-gita. He is helping us understand what the soul is. So, who cannot understand that there is consciousness all over the body? As Krsna says, yena sarvam idam tatam.
The impersonalists will jump to the conclusion that yena sarvam idam tatam means that they are the Supreme God. "Since God's consciousness is spread all over the universe (yena sarvam idam tatam), and Krsna here says we are yena sarvam idam tatam, therefore I am the Supreme God." But is your consciousness spread all over the universe? Both God and we are conscious, but He alone is supremely conscious. Therefore His consciousness is spread all over the universe, all over the creation.
In the thirteenth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita [13.3] Krsna says, ksetra-jnam capi mam viddhi sarva-ksetresu bharata: "I am the knower of all bodies." In other words, He is the Supersoul. What is the difference between the individual soul and the Supersoul? The soul's consciousness is spread all over one particular body. You are a soul, so your consciousness is spread all over your body. I am a soul, so my consciousness is spread all over my body. But my consciousness is not spread all over your body, nor is your consciousness spread all over my body. But God's—Krsna's—consciousness is spread over your body, my body, every body. So Krsna is the Supreme Being because His consciousness is spread all over the universe.
You cannot hide anything from Krsna. That is not possible. Krsna says, sarvasya caham hrdi sannivisto: "I am present in everyone's heart." You are making your plans with your heart and soul. But Krsna is within your heart, so you cannot hide your plans from Him. In other words, Krsna has superconsciousness.
One famous yogi tried to get superconsciousness. His philosophy was to attain superconsciousness. But you cannot get superconsciousness. It is not possible, because superconsciousness is for Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Krsna says, vedaham samatitani vartamanani carjuna bhavisyani: "I know everything, past, present, and future." Also, the Srimad-Bhagavatam [1.1.1] says, janmady asya yato 'nvayad itaratas carthesv abhijnah: "The Absolute Truth is that from whom everything is emanating, and He knows everything, directly and indirectly."
I am conscious, but I do not actually know what is within my body-how it is constituted, how many veins there are, how the blood is becoming red. I have no information. I do not know what is within this finger. I am claiming that it is my finger—"Here is my finger"—but I do not know how the finger is constituted. Therefore I am not abhijnah, all knowing. Although I am conscious, I am not abhijnah, superconscious. Only Krsna is superconscious.
And not only is Krsna abhijnah, but He is also svarat, independent. We have to consult somebody to get knowledge, but God is so independent that He doesn't have to take knowledge from anyone else. The Vedic literature also describes God as svabhaviki jnana-bala-kriya ca. His knowledge and activities are natural to Him. For example, suppose I feel some itching. Immediately my hand goes to the spot and scratches. It is not that I have to think, "Now, here it is itching; what should I do?" No. Immediately my hand comes and scratches. This is svabhaviki, "by nature," or "automatically." Similarly, when God creates, as soon as He thinks, "Let there be creation," there is creation. He hasn't got to think how to do it, to make a plan how to execute the creation, to find out where to get the ingredients. No. His energies are so perfect that as soon as He desires, everything is accomplished. That is God.
In the Bhagavad-gita [9.10] Krsna says, mayadhyaksena prakrtih suyate sa-caracaram: "Under My superintendence, material nature is producing all moving and nonmoving living entities." Krsna may order, "Prakrti [nature], immediately produce a rose," and prakrti does so immediately. The color comes, the beauty comes, the fragrance comes—everything comes. The rascals say that the flower grows automatically. It is not automatic. There is expert knowledge behind it, and that belongs to God.
Let us utilize our minute consciousness to understand the supreme consciousness, God. Although I am conscious, I am not supremely conscious. I am not all-knowing, but God is. So there is always a difference between God and ourselves. We can never be equal to God. It is impossible. Understanding this is real intelligence. Otherwise, it is all rascaldom. Don't be victims of the rascals. Hare Krsna. Thank you very much.
We're all in this together—what do we do now?
By Nagaraja Dasa
Although I was innocent, about five years ago I had to spend one day behind bars in the San Francisco city jail. Sitting on my bunk in the dingy, smoke-filled cell, I listened as the prisoners talked about freedom. That's natural, I thought. But some of them, apparently having forgotten about life outside, talked only of improving their life within the jail.
The prisoners' discussions reminded me of an analogy taught to me by my spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual master of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. The material world, Srila Prabhupada said, is a prison for the soul. All prisoners are in one of two categories: either they are materialists, or they are transcendentalists.
Most of the souls in the material world, having forgotten their original, eternal home, are materialists, concerned only with improving their material conditions. The Sanskrit word for such a person is karmi. The karmis may be moral, religious, hard-working, responsible persons, but all for material ends. The transcendentalists, however, being more advanced in knowledge, can see beyond the temporal. They are not interested in improving themselves materially, but seek full liberation from karma and the endless cycle of birth and death.
Some people disagree with the analysis that the material world is a prison for the soul. Either they say that God has sent us here not to suffer but to enjoy, or they say that if God has indeed sent us here to suffer, then He is unjust and unmerciful.
We should understand first of all that God has more intelligence than to send us to enjoy in a miserable place. The material world means suffering, not enjoyment. We suffer innumerable miseries here, including birth, old age, disease, and death. God didn't send us here to enjoy; we enjoy in our original home in the kingdom of God, which is full of uninterrupted happiness.
To think that God has unjustly sent us here to suffer is also a misunderstanding. God has given us the free will to love Him or to reject Him. Those who reject Him come to the material world. Here they don't really escape Krsna's control. Krsna controls the material world indirectly, through His material energy, which punishes the deviant soul. That punishment, however, rehabilitates the soul.
The soul's rebellion yields neither freedom nor happiness, because the material world restricts the soul's activities. As a prisoner must accept a certain dress, diet, and lifestyle, similarly the soul in the material world must accept a particular body and live according to the nature of that body. When the soul transmigrates from one body to another, he must respond to the dictates of each new body. In a dog's body he'll bark; in a bird's body he'll chirp. He has no freedom to act otherwise.
In the human form, however, the soul can decide whether to continue or end his imprisonment. We chose to come here; we can choose to leave. The karmis choose to remain, whereas the transcendentalists—the jnanis (speculators), the yogis (meditators), and the bhaktas (devotees)—choose liberation.
Most people are karmis, those who wish to remain imprisoned in the material world. They are bound by the law of karma, which assures that for each action they get a corresponding reaction. Their good acts bring them happiness; their sinful acts bring them suffering. Karmis generally do not understand this, and therefore they suffer. Like prisoners who have forgotten free life, the karmis repeatedly try to improve their material situation. They have unlimited desires to enjoy the material world, and even though the material energy repeatedly frustrates their plans, they foolishly continue to hope. Knowing no alternative to material life and its frustrations, they convince themselves that things aren't so bad.
More intelligent than the karmis are the transcendentalists, who want liberation from the bondage of karma. This is real liberation—ending the cycle of birth and death. Liberation is a popular idea nowadays, and liberation movements abound. But the liberation the transcendentalists seek—full freedom from all the miseries of material existence—is far superior. Modern liberation movements strive only to achieve the freedom to exercise the basic human rights guaranteed by most democratic constitutions: freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion. These freedoms are not the real goal of life, however, and will not satisfy the soul's desire for unlimited freedom.
Even if we secure the basic human rights, we're still stuck with old age, disease, death, and rebirth. No number of protest marches can force (or empower) any government to free its citizens from the laws of nature. We hanker for this freedom, but lacking transcendental knowledge we pursue illusory freedom within the prison. Only the transcendentalists jnanis, yogis, and bhaktas—understand the need for full liberation.
The jnanis strive for liberation through speculative philosophy; their goal is to merge their individual existence with the all-pervading spiritual existence, Brahman. By ending their individual existence, they hope to end their suffering.
The yogis strive for liberation by sense control, breath restraint, and meditation. By practicing yoga according to the rules prescribed in the Vedic literature, a yogi can perceive the Supersoul, the Lord in the heart. Absorbed in trance, the yogi is not affected by the pains and pleasures of material life.
Though the jnanis and yogis are called transcendentalists, as long as they do not engage in devotional service to Lord Krsna, they remain susceptible to the influence of the powerful material energy. To avoid the dangers of material existence, they must escape the prison of the material world and enter the spiritual world by developing their original attitude of service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
True, the processes of jnana and yoga derive from a preliminary understanding of the eternal soul. But they fall short of the goal of complete liberation. What the jnanis and yogis don't know is that the soul is innately active. Full liberation, therefore, doesn't mean just ending material activities, but entering spiritual activities.
Granted, the jnanis and yogis are more intelligent than the karmis. At least they have understood that the material world is a place of suffering and that they should try to get out. But they're going about it the wrong way. Like prisoners who escape from jail but are eventually caught, the jnanis and yogis must eventually return to the material world. To leave the prison, a prisoner must have the sanction of the state. Similarly, to leave this material world, the soul must have the sanction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
In the Bhagavad-gita (18.55), Lord Krsna says:
bhaktya mam abhijanati
"One can understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead as He is only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of the Supreme Lord by such devotion, he can enter into the kingdom of God." By entering into the kingdom of God we become free.
Krsna will let us return to the kingdom of God when we have some activity to perform. And the only activity there is devotional service to Krsna. As a prisoner must prove that he has rehabilitated himself and can contribute to society, we must prove to Krsna that we are no longer envious of Him and want to serve Him with love and devotion in His transcendental abode.
The bhaktas (devotees) demonstrate their love for Krsna by engaging in His devotional service; thus they are already free from material actions and reactions. The devotees have no material desires and live in the material world only to benefit others. Like prison counselors, they may be within the prison, but in no way are they imprisoned. By their consciousness and their activities they are already liberated.
The bhaktas, therefore, are not as motivated to get out of the material world as they are to serve Krsna. Freedom means to live as one desires. And to live as they desire, the devotees do not need to leave the material world. They desire only to serve Krsna, which they can do in the material world. The devotees even refuse to accept any kind of liberation that might interfere with their service to Krsna. The pleasure of serving Krsna is a great ocean of bliss, and the pleasure of liberation is only a drop of that ocean. The devotees consider the liberation of merging into Brahman to be the same as going to hell. Brahman is spiritual existence, but without the spiritual activity of devotional service to Krsna. And any place devoid of spiritual activity is hell for a devotee.
The ideal place for spiritual activity is Goloka Vrndavana, Krsna's eternal abode in the spiritual world. Even though the devotee is satisfied to serve Krsna in the material world, he naturally desires to be with Krsna and Krsna's loving associates in Goloka Vrndavana. Krsna, being especially pleased with His devotee who faithfully serves Him in the material world, brings the sincere devotee back to Him at the end of the devotee's life. And He promises in the Bhagavad-gita, "After attaining Me, the great souls, who are yogis in devotion, never return to this temporary world, which is full of miseries, because they have attained the highest perfection."
A Special Month for Devotion
In Vrndavana the Festivals of the month of
by Jagatguru Swami
After the scorching heat of Indias summer season. The peacocks sing and flit parrots bathe in the rain. The crops flourish and the cows become jubilant feeding on fresh grasses Swans and cranes move peacefully among lotuses in the full reservoirs.
As autumn approaches. a festive atmosphere pervades the entire country and many celebrations are held. Some are traditional, like Diwali, the Hindu new Year. Some are ceremonial like Kojagari, the harvest festival. And sonic are religious. like Rama-vijaya, which commemorates Lord Rama's Victory over Ravana but of all the many festivals, Karttika is the best. Karttika or the festival of offering lamps in file temples of Lord Krsna, lasts the entire month of Damodara (Oct-Nov).
Although the Karttika festival is observed in all temples of Lord Krsna throughout india the greatest concentration of Karttika celebrations takes place in Vrndavana the holy land of Lord Krsna's childhood pastimes. The Karttika Festival is observed for one month contiuously and Krsna devotees come from all over India and from around the world to take part. In the evenings devotees gather in Vrndavana's many temples to sing devotional songs chant Hare Krsna. and offer burning lamps before the deity. The devotees realize that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and is not in need of their offering. The offerings benefit the devotees, who are awakening their natural love for God.
Lord Krsna is eager to accept the devotees' love and devotion. Love means to give, and the process of giving offerings to the Deity helps one develop love for God. Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita that He accepts offerings made by His devotees.
Another devotional practice of Karttika is lila-smaranam, remembering the transcendental pastimes of Lord Krsna. Devotees know that to think of Krsna always is the highest perfection of life, and during Karttika they especially meditate on Krsna's childhood pastimes, specifically the Damodara lila. In the Damodara pastime, the unconquerable Supreme Lord shows that he allows Himself to be conquered by the love of His devotees. The Srimad-Bhagavatam narrates Krsna's Damodara lila.
One day, the story goes, Krsna's mother, Yasoda was churning butter, when Krsna appeared on the scene demanding to be nursed. Yasoda stopped her work, took her son on her lap, and began feeding Him milk from her breast. Suddenly the milk on the stove began to boil over, and Yasoda hurriedly put Lord Krsna aside and ran to the kitchen. Lord Krsna, however, became very angry and immediately broke the butter pot and began to eat the butter. He even went into the courtyard and began distributing butter to the monkeys.
When mother Yasoda returned from the kitchen and found the broken butter pot, she could understand that this was the work of her naughty son. She decided to punish Him, and she began to search. When she at last found Him, He was in the courtyard feeding butter to the monkeys. Fearfully He was looking this way and that. He saw His mother coming toward Him with a stick in her hand, so He began to run. With great difficulty Yasoda caught Lord Krsna, who by now was on the point of crying. Yasoda could understand that Krsna was unnecessarily afraid, so she threw away her stick and decided to punish Krsna by binding Him around the waist with a rope.
Of course, it isn't possible for anyone to bind the Supreme Personality of Godhead, so when Yasoda went to tie the knot, the rope was two inches too short. She returned to the house for more rope, but again it was too short. Then she joined together all the available rope, but again it was too short. She was smiling, but astonished.
Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, was playing the part of an ordinary child. No one is able to bind the Supreme Lord; yet the Lord submits to the love of His pure devotees. Appreciating the labor of His mother, Krsna agreed to be bound by ropes.
By remembering this childhood pastime of Krsna the pilgrims at the Karttika festival remember that the goal of devotional service is to develop pure love for Krsna.
The Karttika month offers a special festival for the members and friends of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), for during Karttika ISKCON commemorates the passing of its founder-acarya, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. In Vrndavana, on November 14, 1977, Prabhupada gathered his disciples by his side, and with perfect humility, purity, and devotion he left the mortal world to reside with Krsna in His eternal abode, Goloka Vrndavana. Each year a festival is held on the anniversary of Prabhupada's passing.
The "Prabhupada Festival" attracts devotees from around the world. Many distinguished Vrndavana residents, mindful of Prabhupada's unparalleled work, also attend. The day is filled with remembrance of Prabhupada. Throughout the morning, Prabhupada's disciples, friends, and followers glorify his transcendental qualities and activities. At noon devotees perform a traditional arati ceremony before Prabhupada's samadhi (tomb), and more than one hundred eight vegetarian dishes are offered. Throughout the arati devotees chant the names of Krsna and Prabhupada.
In the evening, the disciples of Prabhupada gather in his rooms and, surrounding the bed from which he imparted his last instructions, speak about their spiritual master until late in the night. In the evening atmosphere of Vrndavana, the mood of separation from Prabhupada intensifies. By remembering him and his instructions, however, his disciples perceive his presence within their hearts.
In the days that follow the Prabhupada festival, the Karttika celebrations continue until the last day of the month, when everyone returns home satisfied and spiritually enriched. The Padma Purana states, "Lord Krsna may offer liberation or material happiness to a worshiper, but after executing devotional service, particularly in Vrndavana during the month of Karttika, the devotee wants only to attain pure devotional service to the Lord."
Vegetables in Vogue
We've finally acknowledged the economic and health benefits
by Visakha-devi dasi
Vegetables. They used to be those small, wet mounds relegated to the outer limits of the dinner plate. They were sneered at, scorned, ignored, and shoved around by the forks of finicky children. Finally, they're coming into vogue.
We like vegetables more these days because we understand more how good they are for us. Vegetables contain no cholesterol, little or no fat, and a wealth of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Vegetables are also affordable. They come in a variety of tastes, textures, and colors, and they combine well with grains, beans, and dairy products. So it's not so surprising that vegetable dishes often receive starring roles in carefully considered meals.
If you're interested in expanding your vegetable-cooking repertoire to include some of those starring dishes, Lord Krsna's cuisine features an incredible variety, from the simple to the elaborate. You'll find vegetables cooked whole, mashed, pureed, diced, sliced, cubed, and shredded. You'll find them baked, sauteed, steamed, boiled, and deep- or shallow-fried. You'll find eggplants, tomatoes, and sweet peppers stuffed. You'll find vegetables in high-protein dal soups, in rice dishes, in flat breads, stuffed pastries, pakoras (fritters), even cooked in sweetened milk for dessert. The possibilities are many.
The ingredients of Lord Krsna's cuisine are not difficult to obtain. Essential seasonings like coriander, fresh ginger, and green chilies are grown and sold locally in most places. And what were once gourmet vegetables, like okra and white radishes, are now in most supermarkets. While you'll still have to visit a local Indian grocery to pick up a few spices, today Lord Krsna's divine cuisine is more accessible to you than ever before.
Now, maybe you don't like following recipes. Or maybe you prefer some other cuisine. Fine. But whether you follow a recipe or your imagination, whether you cook from the Eastern tradition or the Western, whether your. meals are simple or elaborate—the crucial factor is your consciousness.
And the highest consciousness is to lovingly cook for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna. Besides making you transcendentally joyful, this Krsna conscious cooking will also gradually elevate you in spiritual life.
That's what my teacher, Yamuna-devi dasi, taught me. And she learned that from her teacher, Srila Prabhupada, the founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Before Srila Prabhupada introduced it, this type of cooking was unknown in the West. Its unique principles and its focus on pleasing Lord Krsna place it apart from and transcendental to all mundane cultures and cuisines—including Indian. Cooking for Krsna and honoring the remnants as His prasadam (mercy) is a highly evolved form of spiritual meditation.
Want to try it? Don't forget that the ingredients must be pure vegetarian. Don't forget that the most important ingredient is your consciousness. And don't forget Krsna. If you'd like to know more about the transcendental art of cooking for Krsna, of if you'd just like to share your experiences, please write me.
(Recipes from The Hare Krishna Book of Vegetarian Cooking by Adi-raja dasa)
Creamy Vegetable Soup
(Milijuli sabji ka soup)
Preparation time: 45-50 minutes
3 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil
1. Heat the ghee in a heavy saucepan over a medium flame. Fry the bay leaves, coriander, asafetida, and turmeric for a few seconds. Then immediately add the diced vegetables. Stir-fry the vegetables for 4 to 5 minutes, allowing them to brown in spots. Now add the water, salt, and pepper. Cover, and simmer over a medium-low flame (stirring occasionally) until the vegetables are tender and soft. Leave the vegetables intact if you prefer, or mash them to a puree, or blend them in an electric blender. Remember to remove the bay leaves if you blend the soup.
2. While the vegetables are cooking, heat the butter over a medium flame in a small saucepan. Add the flour and stir-fry carefully for 1 or 2 minutes until it begins to brown. Add the hot milk. Whisk the mixture constantly for about 2 minutes until the sauce is fairly thick. Mix it into the soup and heat just until boiling. Remove from the flame and offer to Krsna.
Dal and Vegetable Soup
Preparation time: 1 hour
1 cup mung dal or green split peas
1. Clean and wash the dal. Drain. Combine the water, salt, bay leaves, and pieces of cinnamon stick in a large saucepan or heavy pot and bring to a boil. Put the dal into the boiling water.
2. When the water comes to a second boil, partially cover the pot, lower to a medium-low flame, and cook for about 20 minutes or until the dal grains are quite tender. Remove any froth that collects at the top. Then put in the turmeric and butter. Drop in the cut vegetables, replace the lid, and continue cooking on the same flame until the vegetables are tender and the dal is completely broken up. Let the dal simmer while you prepare the seasonings.
3. Heat the 2 tablespoons of ghee in a small frying pan and toss in the cumin seeds and the crushed chilies. Stir once. When the cumin seeds darken, put in the grated ginger and the asafetida and fry for a few more seconds. Swirl and tilt the pan, and then pour the seasonings into the dal in one swoop. Cover the pot immediately and allow the seasonings to blend into the dal for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the flame, garnish with fresh coriander leaves and lemon wedges, and offer to Krsna hot.
Vegetable Greens Cooked in Their Own Juices
Preparation time: 30 minutes
2 pounds spinach or other leafy greens such as radish or broccoli leaves
1. Wash the vegetable greens in severa changes of water and discard the tougf stems. Let the greens drain, then chop them into small pieces. In a medium-size sauce pan, heat the ghee and fry the fennel seeds grated ginger, and minced chilies together for 30 to 40 seconds. Add the powdered spices and fry them briefly. Then immediately drop in the diced potatoes and stir fry for 8 to 10 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan as you stir. Let them brown to golden color on all sides.
2. Next, put in the chopped vegetable leaves, cover, and cook slowly for about 15 minutes or until the greens are cooked and the potatoes are soft. (Leafy greens that are juicy and cook quickly may not need additional water, but leaves that stay dry and need to cook longer will need a small amount of water.) Add the salt and lemon juice. Stir. Remove from the heat and offer to Krsna.
Preparation time: 35 minutes
1 pound assorted vegetables
1. Begin by cutting the vegetables. Green beans and peppers can be cut into pieces, carrots sliced, potatoes cubed, tomatoes quartered, and cauliflowers cut into flowerets. Heat 2 tablespoons of ghee in a saucepan over a medium flame and fry the cumin seeds, black mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, ginger, and chili. After 30 to 45 seconds, toss in the turmeric and asafetida. Then add the cut vegetables. (If you want to give your upma a special taste and texture, lightly deep-fry the cubed potatoes, sliced carrots, and cauliflower flowerets and add them to the upma at the end.) Stir the vegetables until they brown. Then add a little water to prevent scorching. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer until the vegetables are tender. While the vegetables simmer, put the water and salt in a small pot to boil.
2. Melt the butter in a 5-pint saucepan, add the semolina, and stir-fry gently over a medium-low flame, stirring every time the bottom layer of semolina appears lightly browned. It should take 10 to 15 minutes for all the semolina to turn light brown.
3. When the grains are ready and the water is boiling, put the cooked vegetables into the grains and toss in the raisins. Then pour the boiling water into this mixture. Be careful! The mixture will erupt and sputter. Lower the flame. Stir several times to break up any lumps. Then cover the pot to trap the steam. Let the upma simmer on the lowest flame. After 5 minutes, lift the lid to see if the grains have absorbed all the water. If not, stir briskly several times and cook a few more minutes uncovered. Finally, add the pepper, lemon juice, and butter. Mix again and offer to Krsna.
This is the continuation of a conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some disciples at ISKCON's farming village in New Vrindaban, West Virginia, on June 24, 1976.
Srila Prabhupada: "Bothering" someone who is going to kill himself—that is natural. Even if you don't know the other person, still, if you are a gentleman, you want to give him some protection. This is the duty of a gentleman.
Someone may say, "But most of all, you are bothering yourself. Why are you bothering yourself ?"
But as a human being, I must bother' myself. Every true human being will do that.
Even Lord Krsna comes-bothering Himself. Yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati bharata: "Whenever these people on earth become rascals and fools, I descend again and deliver them."
So those who are servants of God—they are doing the very same thing, on behalf of God. And so they are exalted, because they are doing the work of God. They're not cheating the public:
Therefore, for the sake of the people in general, I am requesting you to pursue this farming life with great enthusiasm. Help people to see this traditional, natural way of living. You must help them see how they can become happy, how they can go back to Godhead.
So advance this project—plain living, high thinking. This modern civilization is so nasty, A nasty civilization, artificially increasing the so-called necessities of life. Anartha—unwanted; unbeneficial "improvements."
Disciple: We would not have understood you if you had said that eight, ten years ago. Now we understand a little bit.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Take this electric light, for example. Now, to get light we simply grow same castor seed and take the oil. As with everything else, we get light from the earth. The modern civilization gets light from complicated electric generators. But really, they get the power from petroleum. Which means they too get their power from the earth.
The difference is this: We get our power so very simply and easily. But to search out petroleum they have to dig deeply into the earth and even bore into the ocean floor. Therefore it is called ugra-karma, horrible work. And as soon as their petroleum supply stops, everything stops.
Just consider. All you need to do is grow some castor seed, press out the oil, put it in any pot, add a wick, and the light is there. The light is there. So even allowing that you may have somewhat improved the lighting system, still, lighting is not the main necessity of your life. And to stay artificially advanced—beyond the castor-oil lamp to this modern electric lamp—you have to work so horribly hard. You have to go to the middle of the ocean and bore into the ocean floor. In this way your real, spiritual business in life is forgotten. Finished.
God gave you so much energy and intelligence for attaining self-realization. First you must realize this precarious position you are in—repeatedly dying, life after life, and taking birth repeatedly in various species for more and more suffering. This is your problem, and this problem you are to solve now that you have received the human form. In human life, after all, you possess advanced intelligence. But instead of using this advanced intelligence for self-realization, modern man has used it to go from the castor-oil lamp to the electric lamp. That's all.
Just try to understand. Modern civilization—what is the improvement? And by advancing from the castor-oil lamp to the electric lamp, you have forgotten your real business. You have lost your real self.
And yet this so-called civilization goes on and on. This is called maya, illusion. For some fictitious happiness, you lose out on your real business, your whole purpose in life.
You may not admit it, but you are under the control of nature: sooner or later, you have to give up this material body. All right, you may make a very nice arrangement for living here in comfort. But nature will not allow you to live here in comfort. You must die.
And after death you are going to get yet another material body. Perhaps in this life you are working to maintain a house with high-grade electrical lamps and so forth. You are working so hard—you have got your own business. But if next life, by the laws of nature, you get the body of a dog, then what is the benefit? You cannot check the laws of nature.' So if nature rewards your business efforts with the body of a dog, what is the benefit? Hmm? What is the answer?
Disciple: Simple living, high thinking.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, but here is the charge. Now, what is your answer? In this life you may be living very comfortably. But if, due to neglecting God and your soul, in your next life you are going to be a dog, then what is the benefit?
This is the charge. Now, how will this "modern man" answer this charge? Can he deny he is going to be a dog?
Disciple: He'll say he doesn't believe it.
Srila Prabhupada: He may believe or not believe. Take this little child. He is just a little boy, so he does not know anything about his future. But his mother knows, his father knows, and I know that some day he's going to be a young man.
If he says, "No, I'm not going to be a young man," it is childish. His father and mother know that this boy is going to grow into a young man, and so he should be properly educated. That is the guardians' business.
Admittedly, a child—or one who is childish—doesn't know what he is going to become in the future. He doesn't know about his future life. But does that mean his future life is not a fact?
(To be continued.)
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Bangladesh Devotees Bring Krsna to the Masses
Bangladesh—Equipped with a new Isuzu minibus, ISKCON devotees here travel throughout the country distributing the teachings of Lord Krsna to the eager populace. In the past six months, under the direction of His Holiness Prabhavisnu Swami, the devotees have covered all of Bangladesh. Prabhavisnu Swami travels ahead of the party to arrange festivals, which attract thousands of people. The festivals include the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra, the distribution of Srila Prabhupada's books (translated into Bengali by His Holiness Bhakticaru Swami), a feast of krsna-prasadam (sanctified food prepared for and offered to Lord Krsna), and a video presentation.
Second Issue of ISKCON Review Published
Philadelphia—ISKCON Review, an interdisciplinary journal devoted to the academic study of the Hare Krsna movement has just published its second annual issue. The journal's purpose, as stated in its first issue, is "to stimulate and communicate—as well as to review—research and reflection on the Hare Krishna movement in all its aspects. It is intended both for those who have a direct interest in ISKCON as well as for those whose general interest in Hindu traditions, new religious movements, or contemporary spirituality might be served by a deeper awareness of the movement." The first issue—which reproduced papers (summarized or in full) presented at an American Academy of Religion panel titled "A Current Look at ISKCON from Inside and Outside"—has been well received by the international academic community.
The second issue of ISKCON Review contains a symposium on "Krishna Consciousness and other Religions," which includes articles by Subhananda dasa, ISKCON's director of interreligious affairs and the editor of ISKCON Review, Kenneth Rose of the Harvard Divinity School, and Dr. John A. Saliba, S. J., of the Religious Studies Department of the University of Detroit.
Also in the second issue is an article titled "Academics in Krishnaland," by Dr. Glenn Yocum of the Department of Philosophy and Religion of Whittier College. There is also a report on the ISKCON-sponsored "World Congress for the Synthesis of Science and Religion," held last January in Bombay, by Dr. Eileen Barker of the Sociology Department of the London School of Economics; an interview with the late renowned Indologist A. L. Basham; and a review-essay by Charles R. Brooks, of the Anthropology Department of the University of Hawaii, on a recently published book on the Hare Krsna movement.
ISKCON Review is sent to over one thousand academics and professionals throughout the world. For information on obtaining a copy of ISKCON Review, see "Resources," page 22.
Temple Opens In Mombassa
Mombassa, Kenya—With assistance from ISKCON life members as well as other friends from the local Indian community, a new temple opened here last April. Temple president Madhavadeva dasa oversaw the temple construction project, which was completed in one year. Friends donated most of the construction materials and handled all the planning, contracting, and building.
The temple was built to facilitate the thousands of congregational members who regularly attend ISKCON festivals here. Six thousand attended the temple opening, and hundreds of thousands witnessed the Ratha-yatra festival held in conjunction with the grand opening. The installation of the Deities of Sri Sri Rukmini-Dvarakadhisa highlighted the week of festivities.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
Statue Of Libertines
by Nayanabhirama dasa
Every morning, weather permitting, around half past five I take my morning constitutional, chanting quietly on my beads as I walk from our Brooklyn Radha-Govinda Temple on Schermerhorn Street down to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. There under the locust trees I sit on a certain bench with a view that commands most of New York Harbor, and I silently chant the Gayatri mantra. Before me rises Manhattan's burnished skyline. To my left lies Governors Island. And beyond—although this morning only a specter in the mist—stands the Statue of Liberty, lifting her golden lamp beside the "golden door." My grandparents, like other Eastern European immigrants at the turn of the century, passed through the portals of Ellis Island under the benign eyes of Lady Liberty. For them the American icon stood for freedom, equality, and opportunity. A lot to stand for. But now, with the Lady's hundredth birthday and all the commercialization that has inevitably followed, she's having to stand for an awful lot more.
Sad to say, Lady Liberty has become exploited. From silver Tiffany teaspoons to silk-screened T-shirts, from Erte sculptures to foam rubber Lady Liberty halos and torches, from the statue sculptured in ice to chopped-liver molds—from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Since funding for the restoration of the statue has come from the private sector, many of the sponsoring patrons have used the Lady to hawk their products. Advertisements have shamelessly shown Lady Liberty brandishing not only her beacon lamp but an ice cream cone, a pizza, a platter of chicken, and a Whopper!
What would Frederic Bartholdi, the sculptor, or Emma Lazarus, the poet who wrote "I lift my lamp beside the golden door," have thought to see Lady Liberty lifting a platter of chicken parts or displaying the effectiveness of an underarm deodorant?
The lamp that was once a beacon of freedom and opportunity now seems to convey a different message. The liberty the Lady now represents is no longer freedom from want, as might be indicated were she holding, say, a loaf of bread. But with the Statue of Liberty holding forth promises of junk food, we step beyond simply having enough to eat into the realm of decadence. For today's immigrant, America promises not simply freedom from hunger, but gluttony and unbridled sensuality.
For example, just a few days before Liberty Weekend the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a Georgia law criminalizing sodomy was constitutional. As was to be expected, gays across the country were outraged, seeing the Supreme Court decision as an infringement of their right to the private pursuit of happiness. Angry gays saw themselves left out of the liberty pie. As one gay-rights handbill put it, "We are being denied the very rights this Liberty Weekend is meant to celebrate."
But exactly what are our inalienable sexual rights? The sex urge is natural, and the Vedic literature explains that the sexual rights and responsibilities of human beings are to be exercised within marriage. The sex act, therefore, is primarily for procreation. Unrestricted sex (which includes homosexuality) increases the illusion of bodily identity. Sex desire is like an itch: the more you scratch it, the worse it gets.
By coincidence, I recently came across an advertisement: "Freedom from itch with Atarax." The ad showed (you guessed it) the Statue of Liberty scratching her back. Taking the itch to be the desire for sense enjoyment, this is an unwittingly apt depiction of modern America's freedom to pursue happiness: the freedom to increase the itch of sense gratification.
Under the illusion of maya, people generally think that freedom means to be able to do as they want, giving in to whatever whim and temptation their mind subjects them to. But for one on the path of self-realization, freedom means to master desires, not to serve them—to cure the itch, not to aggravate it by repeated scratching.
Krsna consciousness enables anyone to control the tongue, subdue the sex impulse, and quell other mundane desires. Although desires will not automatically cease, by experiencing the higher taste of Krsna consciousness one can learn to tolerate the urges of the senses and to engage the senses in the higher spiritual activity of serving Krsna. One in Krsna consciousness gives up the illusory freedom of unrestricted sensual enjoyment for the greater freedom of liberation from this world of repeated birth and death.
None For The Nuns
by Dvarakadhisa Devi Dasi
Little babies are so cute. With their bodies so soft and tiny and their bright eyes so innocent and trusting, how they pull on the heart. And when they break into their toothless smiles, how they charm. Even though babies have certain repugnant habits and seem to soil or break everything, we usually manage to overlook all that.
Not so with the care of older people. Few of us are enthusiastic to nurse an elderly invalid. Wiping drool from the mouths of infants is practically the same as wiping drool from the mouths of the aged, yet we make a distinction. The helpless child we consider to be a bundle of joy, the elderly invalid relative a burden.
This attitude toward the elderly is particularly common in the West. We see the elderly as usually sick and demanding, moving slowly when everyone else is moving fast. They can't eat the same foods as we, and they're not attractive. They can't work, yet they take up valuable space. They always want to have their say, but what can a foggy eighty five-year-old brain have to offer? Such is the utilitarian attitude of today.
Nevertheless, these are the same folks who raised us to be what we are today. So we feel some obligation to see them through to the end. Dutifully we pay the bills for the nursing home and drag the kids by on major holidays. Our children should see that aging parents are not to be abandoned.
But who cares for those people who grow old without the insurance of sons and daughters and IRAs? Who takes care of those who dedicate their lives to something greater than raising a family? Who serves those who selflessly spent their youth serving the needs of others, dedicating their active years to serving God?
Such are the questions confronting the Roman Catholic Church these days, as large numbers of nuns enter their senior years without financial support. An unreleased study by the National Catholic Council of Bishops shows a $2 billion gap between what these nuns will require for their retirement and what is available.
The sisters found, as they tried to raise money themselves, that young Catholics felt no obligation to support them. Sister Helen Sanders of the Sisters of Loretto in Louisville observes, "Lay people say, 'What the sisters did, they did in charity,' and that's true, so its kind of a hard case to make." The nuns feel uncomfortable collecting funds for what they see as a selfish interest. "The feeling always was that the less you earn, the greater is your service," explains Sister Anne Beitsinger of the School Sisters of St. Francis in Milwaukee. "It was that long-range planning that was somehow in conflict with the providence of God."
So the nuns are fighting on the brink of poverty. Some have sold cherished, long-held properties and are living in meager quarters. Some have gone on welfare "as a last resort." The bishops claim that the Church has no money and that the problem is a sociological one. But secular society is certainly not going to shoulder the burden of a particular religious denomination.
The troubled nuns are a reflection of our twisted social values, as dedicated servants of God are left to age and die in neglect. Certainly plenty of money is available for the ambitious materialist, who is able to contribute to the aggregate well-being by providing something that moves faster or saves money or dazzles the senses. These are valuable contributions in a society that moves under the steam of sensual stimulation. But to offer little more than a spirit of saintly renunciation warrants no heed in this age.
The Vedic scriptures describe an ideal society, one that appreciates the contributions of the religious order. In a Vedic society, the brahmanas, or priests, lead the entire society by living simple, pious lives and teaching the scripture. Even great Vedic kings would take instruction from the saintly brahmanas, thus insuring that the ways of man would be harmonious with the laws of God. Everyone in society benefits when sinfulness is curbed and spiritual realization becomes the goal of life. The people were able to prosper not only in this life but in future lives also, because under the guidance of the brahmanas they could accrue good karmic results. To support the brahminical class, therefore, was considered the highest form of charity.
To expect such understanding from today's "me-centered" society, wherein everyone over the age of beauty and passion is considered useless, is asking a lot. The plight of the aging nuns symbolizes the very crux of the materialistic disease: the selfish pursuit of sense gratification. In such a scheme of life, the renounced spiritualist is seen as irrelevant. Says John F. Philbin, financial director of the archdiocese of Chicago, "If they open this thing up, well see how much Christian brotherhood is really out there."
Of course, the Supreme Lord is witnessing it all, from the sacrifices of the nuns to the reluctance of the bishops and the indifference of the laymen, and He is reciprocating accordingly. There is not a shortage of money in this world, or in the wealthy Catholic Church, but there is a lack of spiritual vision. If we could see things from God's side, we would be eager to care for those who are dedicated to serving Him.
Krsna Consciousness On the Emerald Isle
by Mathuresa Dasa
Through a clearing in the trees, Prthu dasa points north across the windswept lake to a green mountain rising in the distance above the rolling Irish countryside. On that mountain, he says, a fifth-century Christian ascetic practiced austerities for forty years. Early Christians, Prthu continues, were also drawn to the security and seclusion of the many islands scattered along Lough Erne, as the lake is known. Saint Ninian, Saint Patrick, and Saint Colombo are said to have visited the island of Devinish, forty miles to the north, which was a center of Christian learning early in the Middle Ages. Ruins of a church and monastery still draw visitors to Devinish.
Prthu dasa, the leader of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in Ireland, is giving Niranjana Swami and me a tour of Inish Rath ("island fort"), ISKCON's own twenty-two acre island on upper Lough Erne. We are walking on a dirt road that circles the island, a road that Prthu and the other ISKCON devotees here built, hauling two hundred fifty truckloads of graveltruck and all-across the lake on the island's ferry. The road is three quarters of a mile long, cutting through thick woods on the north side, skirting the spacious lawns of the island's eighteenth-century manor to the south.
Prthu pauses to show us a towering redwood and a gnarled, 450-year-old oak, then leads us to the road's southernmost stretch, where, looking up across the lawns, we have a picture-book view of the manor. Two young men are climbing about, fixing brightly colored penants to the roof. Below, another devotee paints an iron gate in the garden wall, while others raise a long tent to house Sunday's festivities in case of rain. It's raining lightly now. One of the island's peripatetic peacocks loiters near the open glass doors on the manor's front terrace.
"This is my favorite spot," Prthu says, standing near a wooden folding chair on a graveled apron at the side of the road. "When I get time, I come sit and plan how to use this beautiful property in Krsna's service. From here you really get a feeling of how peaceful the island is."
With a nod of his head and a slight cordial wave of his upturned palm, Prthu offers the chair to Niranjana Swami. It's a weathered, rickety old piece of furniture, but if I read things correctly Prthu is offering Niranjana not just a chair but an honored seat on Inish Rath's planning board.
Up the lawn a stone's throw from us a group of enormous rabbits are nonchalantly hopping and nibbling. Niranjana and I wonder aloud at their size. They're as big as dogs. "Not rabbits," says Prthu instructively. "Hares."
Ignorant American tourists, we.
* * *
Prthu returns to supervising preparations for Sunday's festivities. It's Friday afternoon, and the handmade gold- and silver-plated altar from ISKCON's farm community in West Virginia still hasn't arrived. The shipping company sent it to Belgium instead of Belfast. If, as the shippers have apologetically promised, it arrives tonight, there will be only one day to unpack and assemble it.
Although alive with cooking, construction, and last-minute landscaping, the island is certainly very peaceful, a clear contrast to the bustling city of Belfast, where I have spent the previous two days.
The Belfast ISKCON temple, of course, is pleasant and anxiety-free. The graceful suburban house, which the devotees purchased earlier this year, was built at the turn of the century by a prominent Irish architect for his family. The grounds include a carefully designed rose garden, a fountain, and a pond.
Praghosa dasa, the Belfast temple president, took me on a tour of some less than-tranquil parts of the city. On Falls Road, in the heart of Belfast's best known Catholic neighborhood, where murals on the roadside walls exhort, "Brits Quit!" Praghosa pointed out a grayish armored truck with narrow bullet-proof windows—a Belfast police car. Following it was an almost identical vehicle, greenish with a turret on top, where two helmeted men with rifles stood watch. This was an army truck.
Joint patrols, with the army protecting the police, are apparently the norm, even in the most routine situations. When a local policeman came to the door of the Belfast temple to ask about a parking violation, I looked over his shoulder and saw at the end of the driveway three British soldiers in camouflage uniforms. The men carried rifles and were accompanied by a large black dog.
Belfast police stations are fortresses. One down the road from the temple occupies an entire block and is surrounded by a forty-foot-high corrugated iron fence topped with barbed wire and mounted with surveillance cameras. Three months earlier at another station IRA mortar shells killed nine policemen.
Walking through the downtown shopping district past the bright and crowded stores, I asked Praghosa if there was any way to tell which shoppers were Catholic and which Protestant. He shrugged and shook his head.
Inish Rath, this tranquil little island, is a two-hour drive west of Belfast. I keep wondering what Ireland's early Christian leaders would have to say about the Protestant-Catholic fighting. Irish missionaries, beginning in the fifth century, spread Christianity not only in Ireland but throughout Europe. Something of the original Christian spirit—to serve the Lord with heart, mind, and soul and to love your neighbor as yourself—must have been lost over the past fifteen centuries. Of course, relatively few people are involved in the fighting. Most are sick and tired of it.
Reporters asked Prthu about the logic of establishing Krsna consciousness in Ireland when the prevalent religious traditions were already the source of so much violence. "Religious people are not fighting," Prthu replied. "Only hypocrites are fighting. If a person is at all serious about religion—whether he's a Protestant, Catholic, Hindu, or Muslim—he would never think of harming any of God's creatures."
The Irish people appreciate this perspective on the conflict in their country. They might balk, though, to hear devotees describe what "serious about religion" means.
First of all devotees don't touch a drop of Guinness [beer] or any other intoxicant, including coffee, tea, and tobacco. And since animals are also God's creatures, devotees don't eat meat, fish, or eggs. Members of ISKCON also refrain completely from extramarital sex, and even within marriage they have sex only to beget children. Devotees do not gamble. They engage their body, mind, and words in devotional service to God, especially in chanting the Lord's holy names and in hearing His glories. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who founded the modern Krsna consciousness movement five hundred years ago, taught that constant chanting of any name of God—whether it be Christ, Krsna, Allah, or Jehovah—quickly elevates the chanter to God's transcendental kingdom. Chanting is a sure bet. No gambling needed, and no sectarian discrimination.
* * *
The island's grand opening is tomorrow. Visitors have been welcome, of course, ever since ISKCON purchased this place two years ago, and they'll be welcome from here on, too. But a well-publicized festival gives those who wouldn't ordinarily visit an excuse to come.
Most importantly, tomorrow marks the arrival and installation of the Deities of Sri Sri Radha-Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His eternal consort. Srila Satsvarupa dasa Goswami, the ISKCON Governing Body Commissioner for Ireland and spiritual master for most of the devotees here, is here at Inish Rath to preside at the installation ceremonies. Afterwards he will entrust the elaborate daily worship of Radha and Krsna to his many Irish disciples.
The Deities, who will be known here as Radha-Govinda, are four-foot-high marble statues carved in India according to strict guidelines in the ancient Vedic literatures. God's form is spiritual, not material, but when devotees model and worship a Deity following the directions of scripture, God consents to appear in the apparently material form of wood, stone, metal, etc. God is the omnipotent controller of both material and spiritual energies. He can therefore appear in stone or wood and spiritualize it, and He does so if His devotees make the proper arrangements. The Deity installation will be something very new and wonderful for the people of Ireland, although I'm sure we'll hear some uninformed charges of idol worship.
* * *
I'm sitting by the window in a second-floor room at the back of the manor. The green Irish mainland beyond the lake is enchanting, but the cool, damp weather is getting to me. I could catch a cold even in Tahiti, I'm sure. So I won't blame Ireland. Niranjana Swami is under the weather too. Between us we have exhausted the island's Kleenex reserves.
I watch somewhat guiltily as the Irish devotees, hearty and red-cheeked, install a fountain in the little pond out back.
Some firemen in a big red fire engine arrived on the ferry half an hour ago to check on a fire in one of the manor's chimneys. The fire was already out when they got here, but they have stayed to pump the muddy water out of the pond so the devotees could line the bottom with plastic sheeting. As I look down, the fire hoses are in the pond, the pump engines are chugging, water is spraying into the woods, and devotee children are running excitedly from firemen to red engine to pump to spraying water.
Prthu is out there in overalls, talking with the fire chief. Prthu is a big man. "Stout," "stocky," "husky," "rotund," "burly," "brawny"—none of these hit the mark. He's big. He has graying hair and red cheeks and looks very distinguished, even in overalls. With his arms folded across his chest he's having a relaxed, friendly conversation with the chief.
* * *
A light rain is falling, and the pond is almost empty. The children have disappeared. But the firemen are still standing by in their raincoats and boots. Prthu and half a dozen other devotees, most all of them in shirt sleeves, are unfolding large sheets of black plastic. From this scene I gather that Irish people, at least these Irish people, are more rugged than I. One of the devotees has rolled his trousers up above his knees and is wading happily through the remaining pond water to keep the end of the pump hose submerged. In the whole crowd there doesn't appear to be one sneeze, shiver, or blue lip. Caspar Milquetoast, here in his cozy second-floor room, is peeping out from the side of the window, an empty box of tissues at his feet.
Another thing I gather from the pond scene is that the family spirit, which I've heard is still very strong in Ireland as a whole, has rubbed off on the ISKCON community here. Prthu, as a staunch and affectionate senior devotee, might very well have generated such a spirit elsewhere, but it seems he got a running start in Ireland. Like a family, he and his men have greeted the fire chief and his crew. And like a family they are fixing the pond, Prthu out there with everybody else, getting soaking wet. From a handful of devotees in 1978, when Prthu first arrived in Dublin, Ireland's fulltime family now numbers seventy. Congregational members number about five hundred.
The rain has stopped. Devotees and their fireman guests are standing around the fire engine eating hot raisin cake and drinking lemon tea.
* * *
The altar arrived at midnight last night and was unpacked immediately.
The empty crates sit outside the front door, while the altar itself lies in pieces on the temple room floor. A devotee from New Vrindaban, West Virginia, is here to direct the assembly. The sounds of hammers, drills, and saws vibrate through the building.
The kitchen is packed with cooks and helpers. Last time I passed by it looked like all burners were lit. But these are just preliminary steps. The real cooking will have to begin tomorrow morning. And they're already cooking two big meals a day for the fifty or so of us on the island now! Lunch was fresh-baked bread and a thick, steaming soup made with split peas, rice, and vegetables. Forget my cold. The meals here are too good to pass up.
After lunch I walked around the circle road, stopping to help unload a boat at one of the piers—which the folks here call quays (pronounced "keez").
On this, the big day, the sun finally broke through at mid-morning and has been out most of the time since, evoking fresh shades of green from the grass and trees. Corridors of light falling from between the broken clouds are opening new vistas on the mainland.
Ferryloads of Hindu families from Dublin and Belfast, the women dressed in bright saris, began arriving early this afternoon. Many mainland neighbors are here as well, responding to invitations printed in the local papers. Everyone troops up the hill from the main quay, passing the pond and fountain. A peacock watches from a pondside flower garden. The hares are in hiding.
A BBC camera crew has interviewed Prthu and others. A helicopter—hired for the day—is taking newsmen aloft for a birds' eye view of the island.
Parents of the devotees are here too. Aniruddha's mother is making vase arrangements to decorate the not-yet completed altar. As I pass by she enlists me to find her son.
"Ask him where my leaves are," she says.
I find Aniruddha helping to put the dome on the altar. But he stops and reports to his mother. "Can't you pick them yourself, Mum? The altar's not finished, and I'm supposed to help with the Deity installation too."
Mum is adamant, so I volunteer to gather leafy branches.
The first thing I gather is Irish nettles—a big leafy handful of them. Realizing my mistake, I start again, snipping branches from a hedge of rhododendron-like bushes. Upon my return, Aniruddha's mum calls me a dear.
Nettle stings are like mosquito bites with a prickle added.
* * *
I sit eating lunch with Jim MacNulty and his girlfriend, Ellen, two students from Belfast. As we sample our plates of krsna prasadam, they question me about ISKCON. They especially want to know about the devotees' lifestyle. Ellen finally gets to the heart of it: "You're all celibate, aren't you?" she asks, leaning forward in her chair.
"No," I reply. "Only the unmarried members. I've been married for eight years. I have three children."
She nods and looks at Jim as if to say, "Well, how about that?"
Scheduled speeches this afternoon followed the program of Indian music and dance. Speakers included leaders of the Hindu community, a Franciscan friar, and professors of religious studies—a varied crew, but all full of sincere praise for ISKCON, for the sun-dappled island, for the multinational, multidenominational gathering.
Prthu was one of the speakers. He emphasized that the only way we can have brotherhood is to realize we have a common father. Brotherhood means a common father. The Krsna consciousness movement, Prthu explained, is offering detailed knowledge of the common father—His name, address, activities, and so on. Knowledge of the father will help break down the sectarian barriers men have erected.
Prthu's talk is helping me to see how Inish Rath, the "island fort," has now become a fortress in the highest sense. In Belfast the police stations were fortified with high walls and barbed wire to repel IRA attacks. But the police, the IRA, the British troops and British government, and all other parties involved in the ongoing conflict were themselves under attack from yet another source: maya, or illusion. They were surrounded by the illusion that they belonged to different families, nations, and religions. And that ignorance was pelting all of them, defeating their hopes for eternal meaning in the temporary world of birth and death.
The principle is universal. Our familial, national, and religious designations are temporary, because they are based on our temporary material bodies. Within each body, however, resides an eternal soul, an indestructible individual person who is part and parcel of God. The eternal function of the soul is to serve and glorify God. When we properly execute this function, all our temporary designations fall into perspective. Thus we can interact with each other on the spiritual platform, no matter how greatly we may differ materially.
So Inish Rath is a fortress against sectarian illusion, a place where devotees of all faiths can meet to glorify the Supreme Lord and to enjoy the ongoing discovery of our common interest in serving Him.
I'm driving back to Dublin with Uddhava, president of the Dublin ISKCON temple. My flight to New York leaves tomorrow.
We pass the town of Kells, once home to the intricately illuminated Book of Kells, an eighth-century copy of Gospels written in Latin. Such a valuable Christian heritage here in Ireland, now deluged with sectarian ignorance and two million daily pints of Guinness.
The Irish branch of ISKCON was founded in Dublin in 1978, but when the government removed ISKCON's charitable status a few years later, devotees were temporarily forced to concentrate their efforts in Northern Ireland. Petitions from the Hindu community, as well as from scholars, religionists, and politicians familiar with the movement, quickly rectified the situation, and again ISKCON is expanding here. Uddhava shows me the architectural plans for remodeling a downtown building the devotees are arranging to purchase and use as a temple and restaurant.
This evening the BBC of Northern Ireland aired coverage of the Inish Rath opening. I missed the show. Now, on the evening news I hear talk of Prince Andrew's wedding in two days. The London police are alert to see that terrorists—whether Irish, Lebanese, Libyan, or whoever—don't spoil the festivities. They've even engaged a pair of dogs to sniff the wedding chapel for plastic explosives. Sectarian violence grips the world, not just Ireland.
Pessimists With a Solution
On the occasion of his sixty-fifth birthday, the Duke of Windsor said, "The older I get, the more cynical I get.... I just think things are going to get worse." He also worried about the kind of world his grandchildren would inherit. He was a pessimist.
Ronald Reagan, on the other hand, is known to be a great optimist. "Our people [of America] have triumphed over every adversity," he said recently. Walter Mondale, Reagan's rival at the polls in 1984, said, "Give Reagan credit for one thing: He's uncanny in his ability to create a sense of feeling good, of enhancing the American spirit, of pumping up the American sense of worth."
Optimists and pessimists are at opposite poles. Both consider their views to be realistic. The optimist genuinely believes that our world is the best of all possible worlds, that the universe is improving, and that good ultimately triumphs over evil. The pessimist, on the other hand, disdains such a view. Describing playwright Samuel Beckett, The Guardian stated, "He is a realist who has looked at the history of mankind and seen our sad past for what it is—a long catalog of disasters: wars, massacres, genocide, holocaust, man inflicting incredible cruelties on others because of some difference in color, race, creed or tribe, his cruelty matched only by his stupidity." There is little hope for reconciling the two opposing viewpoints, and there is much bad feeling between the two camps.
The Krsna consciousness viewpoint has been described both as pessimistic and as optimistic. Optimists criticize the devotees for pointing out that life is full of misery and that attempts to enjoy are ultimately frustrating. The optimists feel the devotees are falsely denying themselves the joys of life.
Pessimists, on the other hand, criticize the devotees for being naive. They consider spiritual activities to be impractical for solving the world's problems.
One in Krsna consciousness is actually both pessimistic and optimistic. He is pessimistic about material enjoyment, but he is optimistic about serving Krsna and about the power of that service to provide the satisfaction material life promises but doesn't deliver.
In the Bhagavad-gita (8.16) Krsna says, "From the highest planet down to the lowest, all are places of misery where repeated birth and death take place." Life in the material world is nothing to be optimistic about.
The devotee doesn't romanticize. He knows that pleasure is inevitably followed by misery and lamentation. All material happiness is spoiled by the inevitable pains of birth, old age, disease, and death. The Bhagavad-gita says this material world is duhkhalayam, a place of misery. And this conclusion is not just the product of someone's jaded or disappointed outlook. The inevitability of suffering is a fact all honest people must acknowledge.
This is not only the viewpoint of Bhagavad-gita but of all great saints. Consider Krsna, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed—none of them ever said this material world was our real home and could be made a very happy place. Rather, they all pointed to how the material world is a vale of tears and to the need for renunciation, knowledge, and service to God.
So in this sense, Krsna consciousness, like any genuinely spiritual perspective, has its pessimistic side. In fact, until a person understands that life is temporary and full of miseries, he cannot make spiritual advancement. Some commentators who have superficially studied the Vedic literature declare that the Vedas are "life-negating." They think that Krsna conscious people, by restricting themselves from natural, animal pleasures and leading a life dedicated to God, are saying no to life. But this is not a fact. Krsna consciousness says no only to that which is actually full of suffering and is actually negative. But this "no" is necessary before saying yes to real happiness, the right of every individual soul. We have to say no to the inferior to embrace that which is superior.
Now, the difference between a Krsna conscious person and a die-hard pessimist is that a Krsna conscious person recognizes an enduring truth, one that will outlast the suffering of this world. This differs from the view of Samuel Beckett, who saw life as "our fear of anonymity, of being born, going through the trauma of our life span, dying, and being forgotten, all record of ever having existed soon lost forever." The Krsna conscious person points beyond all this to factual spiritual truth: There is an eternal world, a world that doesn't perish even when all in this world is destroyed. As Krsna explains in Bhagavad-gita (8.20), "Yet there is another unmanifest nature, which is eternal and is transcendental to this manifested and unmanifested matter. It is supreme and is never annihilated. When all in this world is annihilated, that part remains as it is."
The devotee knows that at the end of this life he will return home to Godhead. As Krsna promises in the Bhagavad-gita, "To those who are constantly devoted to Me and worship Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.... One who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again."
Thus the devotees' optimism is not based upon naive assertions about making this material world a wonderful place. It is not, for example, the optimism of "Reaganism," which offers "a vision in which Americans can have it all: world leadership, economic growth manship, without guilt or hard choices." Says Reagan, "Americans have only to believe in their own dreams." The optimism of the devotee is based on factual knowledge of the eternal self, which is transcendental to material suffering.
Although the pessimists and the optimists look disdainfully upon each other, neither can do anything to change the state of affairs in this world. Theirs is an armchair debate, the pessimists ridiculing the "crackpot optimists" and the optimists scoffing at the "dreary, jaded pessimists." But the devotees in Krsna consciousness relieve people from the cycle of birth and death. After taking realistic stock of the pessimistic view of life, they actually transform the world with positive, transcendental knowledge.
This synthesis of both the optimistic and the pessimistic was expressed by Lord Caitanya: "Wake up, sleeping souls! I have brought the medicine for destroying the illusion of maya. Pray for this Hare Krsna mantra and chant it."
By propagating the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—Lord Caitanya inaugurated the method of developing love of God in this age. Thus Lord Caitanya's followers mercifully approach those who are suffering, not simply to make a doomsday statement, but to offer hope.—SDG
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
In Sanskrit, man means "mind" and tra means "freeing." So a mantrais a combination of transcendental, spiritual sounds that frees our minds from the anxieties of life in the material world.
Ancient India's Vedic literatures single out one mantra as the maha (supreme) mantra. The Kali-santarana Upanisad explains, "These sixteen words—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—are especially meant for counteracting the ill effects of the present age of quarrel and anxiety."
The Narada-pancaratra adds, "All mantras and all processes for self-realization are compressed into the Hare Krsna maha-mantra." Five centuries ago, while spreading the maha-mantra throughout the Indian subcontinent, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu prayed, "O Supreme Personality of Godhead, in Your holy name You have invested all Your transcendental energies."
The name Krsna means "the all-attractive one," the name Rama means "the all-pleasing one," and the name Hare is an address to the Lord's devotional energy. So the maha-mantra means, "O all-attractive, all-pleasing Lord, O energy of the Lord, please engage me in Your devotional service." Chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, and your life will be sublime.