Only by knowing God can we satisfy Him,
A lecture in Vrndavana on August 16, 1974
yad atra kriyate karma
"Whatever work is done here in this life for the satisfaction of the mission of the Lord is called bhakti-yoga, or transcendental loving service to the Lord, and what is called knowledge becomes a concomitant factor." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.5.35)
First of all we must know what God is; then we can try to satisfy Him.
Unfortunately, at the present moment people have only a vague idea of God, or practically no idea. What is their God? "God is good" they may say, or sometimes "God is great." But how He is great, how He is good—this nobody knows.
Without detailed knowledge of God, what question is there of bhagavat-paritosanam, satisfying God? Suppose somebody tells me, "Go satisfy Mr. Smith." But if I do not know who Mr. Smith is, where he lives, or what he does, how can I satisfy him?
So, bhagavat-paritosanam can be possible only when we actually know what God is. Otherwise, there is no question of satisfying God. We Krsna conscious devotees know what God is. Therefore satisfying Him is possible for us, not for others. Our idea of God is not vague. We know who God is, where He lives, what He does, what His name and address are, what His father's name is—everything. And because we know exactly who God is, we are competent to satisfy Him.
Who is God? Krsna.
The Bhagavatam confirms: krsnas tu bhagavan svayam. "Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead." How do we know that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead? From evidence presented by history, by authoritative scriptures, and by Krsna's actions. Everything confirms that Krsna is God.
From the historical point of view, Krsna is described as God through the Mahabharata, the history of greater India. The Vedas also describe Krsna as God. In the Yajur Veda, the name of God is given as Krsna, and His father's name is given as Vasudeva. Besides the histories and authoritative scriptures, when Krsna appeared on earth five thousand years ago, His actions proved that He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
So where is the difficulty in understanding Krsna to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead? The definition of God given by Parasara Muni is aisvarasya samagrasya viryasya yasasah sriyah jnana-vairagyayos caiva: "God is the richest personality, the strongest, the most famous, the most beautiful, the wisest, and the most renounced." Krsna is all these things. For example. He has given us the Bhagavad-gita. Who else has ever given such wise instruction throughout the whole world—throughout the whole universe? Nobody.
Krsna is so beautiful that 16,108 very, very beautiful women were attracted to marry Him. And many millions of unmarried gopis [cowherd girls] were also attracted by Krsna, the most beautiful male. One of Krsna's names is Syamasundara. He is syama, "blackish," yet He is still sundara, "very beautiful." He's so beautiful that His beauty surpasses that of millions and millions of Cupids (kandarpa-koti-kamaniya-visesa-sobham). Another name of Krsna is Madana-mohana. Madana means "Cupid," and mohana means "enchanter." Cupid enchants everyone in this world, but even he is enchanted by Krsna.
So, to satisfy God we must first of all know who He is. Now, Krsna is God according to the evidence provided by history, the authoritative scriptures, and Krsna's own activities. What more proof do you want? Is there anyone who can challenge Krsna for the post of God? Everything confirms that He is God. Then why are you still searching after God? This is foolishness—the owls' philosophy. The owl will not open his eyes to see the sun. If you say, "Just open your eyes and you will see the sun," the owl will keep his eyes shut and say, "No, there is no sun." Similarly, meditators close their eyes to search for God within, and when we say, "Here is God—Krsna," they say, "No, I'll not open my eyes."
We do not follow this owls' philosophy. We follow real philosophy. What is that real philosophy? Sruti- pramanam: We accept evidence about God from the Vedic literatures. There are many kinds of evidence, but followers of the Vedic principles accept sruti-pramanam as the foremost evidence in spiritual matters. This means that if something is mentioned in the Vedic literatures, it is accepted as fact There are four Vedas, one hundred eight Upanisads, eighteen Puranas, and the Mahabharata—all are Vedic literatures.
Now, in the Vedic literatures we find the words of spiritual authorities, such as Lord Brahma, for example. He is the best authority because he is the first living being created within the universe. At the time of creation, first of all Lord Brahma is born. He is the adi-kavi, the original learned scholar.
What does Brahma say? In the Brahma-samhita he says, govindam adi-purusam tarn aham bhajami: "I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord." He also says, cintamani-prakara sadmasu kalpa-vrksa-laksavrtesu surabhir abhipalayantam. Here Brahma is giving a description of Krsna's abode and activities. He says Krsna is very fond of tending cows (surabhir abhipalayantam). In His abode, Goloka Vrndavana, the houses are made of touchstone (cintamani-prakara-sadmasu). Touchstone is a type of stone that can turn iron into gold. These stones are used as bricks in the spiritual world. And the forests are full of desire trees (kalpa-vrksa), which can supply any kind of fruit you desire.
This is Krsna's abode. It is not like this world. Here everything is material, but there everything has the spiritual touch. That spiritual touch is described by Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita [7.10]: bijam mam sarva-bhutanam. "I am the original seed of all existences." Without the spiritual touch, there is no question of the material manifestation. Your body, my body, this material world—they are all made of earth, water, fire, air, and so on. But how are they manifested? How can a beautiful body be manifested? Because there is the spiritual touch—because the spirit soul is there in the body. Dehino 'smin yatha dehe kaumaram yauvanam jara. The external body is changing due to that spiritual touch. And that spiritual touch is Krsna.
Therefore, the origin of everything is Krsna, just as the origin of a big tree is the root. Krsna is the adi-purusa, the "original person," and sarva-karana-karana, the "cause of all causes." In a tree there are the trunk, branches, twigs, leaves, flowers, and so many other things. But the cause of the whole tree is the root. Therefore only if you water the root will all the other parts of the tree be nourished.
Here in this verse of the Bhagavatam it is said, bhagavat-paritosanam: the "root"—the Supreme Personality of Godhead—must be satisfied. If you want to maintain the tree, then the root, the original cause of the tree, must be satisfied. Similarly, everyone will be satisfied if Krsna is satisfied.
In this material world people are trying to be happy, but they do not know how to become happy. They have been put into the ocean of nescience. They may be very expert swimmers, but simply by swimming they will not be saved. They must know how to be saved, and that is by satisfying the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna.
In this verse of the Bhagavatam it is said, yad atra kriyate karma bhagavat-paritosanam: "Whatever activities you may perform, do them to satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead." There are two kinds of activities: vaidiki and laukiki. Vaidiki means "activities done according to the Vedic rituals." These include the performance of big, big sacrifices, and many other activities. We also have good experience nowadays of many laukiki activities, such as work in factories and mills, scientific research—there are so many. This is laukiki work.
So, Narada Muni does not say that simply by vaidiki activities—big, big ritualistic ceremonies—you can be happy. You can be happy even by laukiki activities, provided they are conducted for the satisfaction of Krsna. You want to develop the economic position of your country by industrial enterprises? Yes, that is also good. But bhagavat-pari-tosanam: by this work you must satisfy Krsna.
Our Krsna consciousness movement does not say you should stop anything. No. Whatever you like to do, you can do, but by your work you must try to satisfy Krsna. This is our proposal, and it is confirmed in the scriptures [Bhagavatam 1.2.13]:
atah pumbhir dvija-srestha
The Vedic literatures describe eight divisions of society according to varna and asrama [occupation and spiritual status]. But the success of the activities of all these divisions depends on satisfying Krsna.
The divisions of work must be there; otherwise society cannot go on very nicely. After all, this is the material world. If everyone becomes a brahmana [intellectual], society will not go on. There must be others. There must be ksatriyas—the statesmen, protectors, politicians, diplomats. And there must also be vaisyas—the productive class of men. Economic development is also required. Otherwise, how will human society go on? And there must also be the worker class of men. Suppose you are constructing a temple. If everyone simply chants Hare Krsna, who will construct the temple? No, there must be workers also. Everyone is required.
So, we do not say "Stop this" or "Stop that." No. The division of society into four varnas and four asramas has been scientifically done by Krsna Himself. The asramas are for spiritual advancement, and the varnas are for material advancement. We need both, because our life is a combination of spirit and matter. We have to make the best use of a bad bargain. Suppose you have a car, but it is not a very good car. Three times it breaks down. Still, you have to utilize it, though it is a bad bargain. Similarly, somehow or other we have gotten this material body. So we cannot neglect it.
We don't say, "Stop taking care of your body." No. The instruction of the six Gosvamis is anasaktasya visayan yatharham upayunjatah: "Don't be attached to fulfilling the bodily demands, and at the same time utilize the body in devotional service to Krsna." The bodily demands are eating, sleeping, sex, and defending. We should not think, "I am not this body, so I don't care for eating and sleeping." No. That is not real renunciation. This kind of renunciation is not recommended by our Krsna consciousness movement. Following the Gosvamis, we recommend that you not be attached to fulfilling the demands of the body but rather utilize the body for advancing in Krsna consciousness.
Eating is required. If you don't eat nicely, the body cannot be maintained. But don't eat too much. And don't eat just to satisfy the tongue. Why eat meat, fish, and eggs? They are unnecessary. You are a human being, and for you Krsna has given such a variety of foodstuffs: fruits, vegetables, nice rice, dal, milk, ghee. Why should you eat meat? Eating is not prohibited, but you should eat like a human being, not like the cats and dogs. That is our philosophy.
Similarly, sleeping is also necessary. You require some rest, but don't sleep twenty-six hours a day. Six to eight hours is sufficient for any healthy man. Even the doctors say that if someone sleeps more than eight hours a day, he is diseased. And those who are advancing in Krsna consciousness should reduce sleeping as much as possible, just as the Gosvamis did. They slept only one and a half or at the utmost two hours a night. And sometimes not even that.
We should try to follow in the footsteps of the Gosvamis. Go means "senses," and svami means "master." So, if we keep the title Gosvami and become the servant of our senses—godasa—that is cheating. You must be Gosvami, the master of your senses. In other words, you must have self-control.
What did the Gosvamis do? Nidrahara-viharakadi-vijitau: they conquered over sleeping (nidra), eating (ahara), and sense enjoyment (vihara). Our process is to try to follow the Gosvamis. We should keep in mind what they did. They used to pass their time chanting the Hare Krsna mantra very loudly and dancing (krsnotkirtana-gana-nartana-parau). And they were very popular with all classes of men (dhir-adhira-jana-priyau). There are two classes of men in this world: dhira and adhira. Dhira means "saintly persons," those who have controlled their senses. And adhira means just the opposite. So the six Gosvamis were popular with both classes of men. Their character was so sublime.
The only aim of this Krsna consciousness movement is to satisfy Krsna (samsiddhir hari-tosanam). Samsiddhih means "perfection." If we want perfection in our activities, we should try to satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
You may say, "I do not see the Supreme Personality of Godhead face to face. How shall I know whether I am satisfying Him or dissatisfying Him?" That you can know from your spiritual master. It is not very difficult. Yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasadah: If your spiritual master is satisfied, then you should know that Krsna is satisfied. And yasyaprasadan na gatih kuto 'pi: You cannot satisfy Krsna if you dissatisfy your spiritual master. That is not possible.
As I mentioned before, satisfying Krsna depends on knowing the science of God. So; the knowledge of God comes down from Krsna to Brahma, from Brahma to Narada, from Narada to Vyasa, and so on down to your spiritual master. And just as the knowledge has come down step by step, from one to the other, so you can satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead by going up step by step, step by step. This is the process of parampara, following the disciplic succession.
The parampara system must be maintained. And if it is maintained nicely, then, as stated here, whatever you do is for your perfection. If you try to satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead, then whatever you do is perfect. It doesn't matter what it is. The test is whether Krsna is satisfied, and whether your spiritual master is satisfied. If they are satisfied, then you are perfect.
Thank you very much. Hare Krsna.
A crystal-clear look at one of the priceless
by Dvarakadhisa-Devi Dasi
"One should chant the holy name of the Lord humbly, thinking oneself lower than a piece of straw in the street; one should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of false prestige, and always respectful to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly."
—Siksastaka, Verse 3
This recommendation was made by the Supreme Lord Himself, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who here prescribes the ideal condition for chanting His holy name. Note that He does not mention any particular qualification in terms of birthright, intellect, or social position; rather He describes an exceedingly humble frame of mind as the perfect basis for glorifying the Lord.
It sounds simple enough. After all, don't all religious scriptures advocate this sublime quality of humility? Our conception of saintliness is infused with the image of a meek and humble servant, head bent forward submissively, eyes gazing compassionately upon all fallen souls. Think of the great martyrs, humbly proclaiming their faithfulness to God as the crowd hurls stones. So humble they were that they would meet their own death without protest.
Yet how unappealing it is to consider placing ourselves in such a lowly position. Lower than a piece of straw in the street, to be trampled by everyone? More tolerant than a tree, which submits to the blazing heat of summer and the icy winds of winter without protest? What does this mean for me practically? Should I live naked on a sidewalk somewhere, enduring physical torture and social ostracism? Will this be pleasing to God? Do I have to give up all my worldly goods and beg from others? Should I humbly allow others to take full advantage of me? If someone wants my car, should I give it? If someone wants my wife, should I give her? If someone wants my allegiance, should I follow him? Does humility mean "nothing for me"?
Actually, humility means "everything for the pleasure of God." What do we have that is truly ours, anyway? We inhabit this body for some years and enjoy whatever opulence may come with it, be it talent or riches or fame. But ultimately these are all gifts from the Supreme Lord, and He can bestow or restrict them at His will. We should know that all of our wonderful qualities are but tiny borrowed plumes from God's magnificence.
Humility, as described by Lord Caitanya, is far more than an external presentation of meekness or an indiscriminate giving of one's possessions or loyalty. True humility accrues naturally to one who understands his real spiritual position. A humble devotee knows well that he is but a small spiritual spark emanating from the original, supreme being. We are forever linked to that Supreme Lord in a relationship of loving servitude. This link is never severed, although when a living entity rejects his position of servant, he falls to the material world. Under the spell of the Lord's illusory energy, the fallen spirit soul identifies with his physical body and material circumstances, forgetting his link with the Supreme Lord. Because Lord Krsna is our true source of love and happiness, we suffer greatly in this state of forgetfulness.
Humility begins when we recognize that we have become so bewildered by our infatuation with matter that we no longer realize who we are. More than a passive reaction to personal injustice, humility is a dynamic principle of exclusive devotion to the Supreme Lord and His cause. Thus a devotee is well within the bounds of humility to protect "his" body and possessions, since all is being dedicated to the service of the Lord. Not that a humble devotee must meekly hand over his money to a thief. A humble devotee knows that everything in this world is rightfully owned by God and is intended for His service and His glory. A devotee may sometimes even fight, as did Arjuna on the battlefield, yet still remain humbly serving the Lord. On the other hand, a show of humility toward others but without reference to the Supreme Personality of Godhead is not humility at all: it is arrogance.
A humble air might soothe ruffled nerves or win someone's favor, but such a superficial display has little connection with spiritual realization. I might be humble before my boss, or my landlady, or the cop leaning on my car door, but my motivation is clearly selfish. Humility is not like a fresh coat of paint covering our internal calculations for personal gain. How is it possible for even the humblest-sounding words, uttered under these circumstances, to be pleasing to God?
Nor should we use humility to seek favors from the Lord, as a kind of long-term investment—give a little tolerance now and enjoy the reward in heaven. "Yea, all of you be subject to one another, and be clothed with humility, for God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble," writes St. Peter. "Humble yourself before the mighty hand of God, that He might exalt you in time" (I Peter 5:5). But saintly qualities like humility shouldn't be adopted as a means to future glory. If we strive to become humble to get something we want, then we are missing the profound meaning of this rare quality.
The underlying basis for humility must be knowledge of our humble position in relation to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna. When we perceive how insignificant we truly are, and when we understand how we have foolishly identified with our temporal bodies and minds, then we can humbly conclude that we are indeed fallen. We need guidance to understand ourselves as spiritual and to learn to position ourselves in a devotional exchange with God. Such stirrings, or realizations, constitute the beginnings of the wonderful humility described by Lord Caitanya.
Every day we are humiliated here in the material world. Just to be here is embarrassing. For the pure soul to fall into this state is shameful. What are these bodies we hold so dear, anyway? A thin sheath of skin encasing an assortment of foul-smelling ingredients, a breeding ground for disease, and an open invitation to pain, senility, and death. Yet the bewildered spirit soul is content to build a complex identity on this arrangement of flesh and bone, thinking, "I am a white Anglo-Saxon American male," or whatever. We spend an entire lifetime serving these bodies with constant feeding, grooming, and rest, and in the end they simply become shriveled and useless.
Eventually this body will die, as all bodies do in the course of time. Then another is adopted, and another after that. Each of us has been through untold changes of body, taking birth in every species imaginable. Yet in each life we completely identify with the present material situation. Thus we are fooled again. And again.
Isn't that humbling?
In addition we are continually humiliated by the world around us. We are betrayed by faithless spouses, hurt by ungrateful children, neglected by a bureaucratic government, and so on. We are threatened by nuclear weapons in the hands of enemies we've never laid eyes on. We're forced to live in fear lest our fragile situation be overturned. One powerful wind could level our beautiful home, one slanderous remark could destroy our spotless reputation. We're driven by psychological needs to bring home a cocker spaniel for companionship or to seek a prostitute for romance or to pay strangers to listen to our troubles. How we are humbled! As we fight to preserve what little we have, time plunders. How can we be proud when our predicament is so pathetic?
When finally one has exhausted all possibilities for lasting pleasure in this world, he approaches true humility. Tolerating the blows of life as the tree tolerates heat and cold is easy when you understand that this world is not, thank God, your home. Then you can focus your desires on the spiritual world with determination and detachment.
The great Vaisnava preacher Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura composed a collection of songs that perfectly express these sincere feelings of humility and regret and the growing awakening of sublime devotion to God.
Hear, O Lord, my story of sadness. I drank the deadly poison of worldliness, pretending it was nectar.
Srila Bhaktivinoda is instructing us that although a contrite soul is remorseful for past sins, he is also full of hope. Whatever shameful activities smolder in our past may serve to remind us of our foolishness and to underscore our great fortune in being lifted from illusion. We may appreciate that without the mercy of the spiritual master and Krsna we are nothing. But this is not depression or a low self-esteem, because a humble devotee sees his real worth as a spiritual person, a servant of God.
The jewel of humility is an emblem of sincere surrender to a loving and merciful God. It is not a self-imposed torture. The deeper the spirit of humility, the deeper the feelings of love and happiness in the heart.
Verses from Srila Rupa Gosvami's Padyavali
Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda, who are Lord Krsna and Lord Balarama, appeared in India five hundred years ago in the roles of devotees of Krsna to teach love of God through the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra.
The Padyavali, an anthology of verses on the subject of devotion to Krsna, was compiled by Srila Rupa Gosvami, one of the chief disciples of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The work contains 392 verses gleaned from the writings of over 125 authors, including both Rupa Gosvami's contemporaries and previous Vaisnava poets.
padyavali viracita rasikair mukunda-
This Padyavali was written by devotees expert in the mellows of devotional service. This book contains many beautiful verses, which have been collected for the pleasure of the devotees. It illuminates the darkness of ignorance, and it is an ocean of transcendental bliss.—Srila Rupa Gosvami
1 * (Translation by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.)
Let there be all victory for the chanting of the holy name of Lord Krsna, which can cleanse the mirror of the heart and stop the miseries of the blazing fire of material existence. That chanting is the waxing moon that spreads the white lotus of good fortune for all living entities. It is the life and soul of all education. The chanting of the holy name of Krsna expands the blissful ocean of transcendental life. It gives a cooling effect to everyone and enables one to taste full nectar at every step.—Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu
2 * (Translation by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.)
My Lord, O Supreme Personality of Godhead, in Your holy name there is all good fortune for the living entity, and therefore You have many names, such as Krsna and Govinda, by which You expand Yourself. You have invested all Your potencies in those names, and there are no hard and fast rules for remembering them. My dear Lord, although You bestow such mercy upon the fallen, conditioned souls by liberally teaching Your holy names, I am so unfortunate that I commit offenses while chanting the holy name, and therefore I do not achieve attachment for chanting.—Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu
The holy name of Lord Krsna is a reservoir of all transcendental happiness. It destroys the sins of the Kali-yuga. It is the most purifying of all purifying things. It is the saintly person's food as he traverses the path to the spiritual world. It is the pleasure garden where the voices of the greatest saints, philosophers, and poets play. It is the life of the righteous and the seed of the tree of religion. May that holy name of Lord Krsna bring transcendental auspiciousness to you all.—author unknown
O Supreme Personality of Godhead, when someone desires to chant Your holy name, sins tremble in fear, the glory of material illusion faints unconscious, Yamaraja's scribe Citragupta becomes happy and gazes at the chanter's toenails with awe and reverence, and Lord Brahma prepares madhu-parka with which to worship him. O Lord, what more can we say than this?—author unknown
Lord Krsna's name is the only auspiciousness in this world. If one places it on his neck, then what is Yamaraja, the king of the other world, to him? What are Yamaraja's servants to him?—Sri Anandacarya
The attempt to attain the heavenly planets impoverishes the entire world. The desire to attain impersonal liberation brings only trouble. The regimen of yoga is dry and tasteless. What is the use of endeavors like these? I shall abandon them all and simply make my tongue chant "Krsna, Krsna."—author unknown
O Lord, just as a miser continually collects, counts, and remembers his money, in the same way let us continually collect, count, and remember Your holy names.—Sri Bhavananda
Sharing the Spirit of Christmas
The aromas wafting through Christmas kitchens
by Visakha-devi dasi
"Sharing—that's the heart of Christmas!" chimes Better Homes and Gardens. "To celebrate, people share traditions—from gift-giving to party-going—with family, friends, and acquaintances too. And food plays a special part in these yuletide activities. Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without the aroma of the festive bird and baked goods wafting through the kitchen! ... Once the sharing begins, and you've sampled our treats, you'll realize that fellowship and food go hand in hand in making your holidays memorable."
Typical December tidings? Yes. But for some, those tidings and the accompanying full-page color photo of a stuffed "festive bird" evoke a shudder. Certainly sharing is the heart of Christmas, and giving and receiving food can be a heartfelt exchange. But killing and eating living beings in the name of sharing is definitely not the spirit of Christmas.
Fellowship and sharing should be extended to all God's creatures. Just as a father is horrified to see one of his children killed, so the original father. God, is pained to see our violence toward His other creatures. Desiring to protect His family. He clearly enjoins, "Thou shalt not kill."
That should be clear enough. Still, we hear: "God put the animals here for us to eat." "We need to eat meat to get enough protein." "God didn't really mean don't kill, just don't murder." And so forth.
In this column and in other sections of Back to Godhead magazine we regularly answer these challenges. Also, doctors, nutritionists, economists, ecologists, religionists, and others have presented compelling support for a vegetarian diet. And great Western minds from Pythagoras to Shaw have reflected on and extolled the virtues of vegetarianism.
Yet for Srila Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual master of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, being vegetarian was not enough. "Even the pigeons are vegetarian," he remarked. His standard—the one he introduced throughout the world with unprecedented success—is to use pure vegetarian ingredients and devotion for God in preparing meals. And the finished dishes are offered to Lord Krsna with love. (This attitude is called bhakti, a Sanskrit word that comes from the root bhaj, which means "to share.") Vegetarian dishes so offered are called prasadam, or "the Lord's mercy." And one who prepares them, offers them, or eats them transcends mere vegetarianism.
Certainly the vegetarian is right to refrain from "sharing" a Christmas turkey, yet even a vegetarian must kill some form of life to eat. To absolve ourselves of the reaction for killing vegetables, to purify our minds, to give strength, health, and satisfaction, and to increase our consciousness of the supreme father, from whom everything has come, we should eat only the Lord's prasadam, vegetarian food prepared for Lord Krsna and offered to Him with love. One who shares prasadam shares spiritually, and so shares the spirit of Christmas in harmony and fellowship with all of God's creation.
This month we're including some recipes that will capture the spirit of Christmas without causing unnecessary pain to other creatures. Prepare these dishes—or any other vegetarian dishes—and offer them to Krsna with devotion. You 'II be sure to have the merriest Christmas ever.
Curd Patties in Tomato Sauce
Preparation time: 1 ½ hours
½ cup ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil
1. To make the tomato sauce, heat the ½ cup of ghee in a saucepan on a medium flame and add all the spices except the salt. After a minute or two, add the tomatoes. When the tomatoes cook down a little, add the spinach and salt. Lower the flame.
2. To make the curd patties, wrap the curd in a cloth and press under a heavy weight for about five minutes. Then knead the curd on a smooth surface until it becomes almost like cream cheese. Heat the ghee (for deep-frying) in a medium-size wok over a medium flame. Shape the curd into patties and place them into the hot ghee. Cook the patties until they are golden brown, turning them as required.
3. Remove the curd patties from the ghee and add them to the tomato sauce. Simmer for at least one hour. Stir in the sour cream and offer to Krsna.
Preparation time: 1 ½ hours
1 cup milk
1. Mix ½ cup of milk, the yogurt, and the flour in a bowl and beat lightly with a whisk until smooth. Stir in the salt, cayenne pepper, and remaining milk. Let the batter stand for one hour.
2. Add half of the cheese to the batter and stir. Grease an 8-inch pie plate with vegetable shortening, 'pour in the batter, and bake in a preheated 425° oven for 30 minutes, or until puffed and brown.
3. Scatter the remaining cheese on top and bake until the cheese is melted. Cut into 12 narrow wedges and offer to Krsna.
French Salad Dressing
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Servings: 2 ½ cups
1 cup salad oil
Put all the ingredients in a blender and mix until blended. Offer to Krsna with a salad.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
4 tablespoons melted butter (not ghee)
1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium-low flame and add the sugar, asafetida, basil, and ground coriander. Saute for a minute or two and then add the chickpea flour and the white flour. Saute until brown.
2. Add the water slowly, stirring constantly. Add the salt and pepper. Offer to Krsna with mashed potatoes.
Preparation time: 40 minutes
1 cup good-quality long-grain white rice
1. Wash the rice and drain it. Peel, core, and cut the apples into chunks. Make a syrup by putting the sugar and a pinch of saffron in the water and cooking it for 30 minutes over a medium flame until it reduces to about one third its original volume.
2. While the syrup is cooking, heat the ghee in a saucepan and toss in the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and bay leaves. Stir-fry for a moment or two; then add the rice. Stir-fry for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil. Toss 2 pinches of saffron into the water, cover the pan, and cook over a low flame for 15 minutes. Then take the saucepan off the flame.
3. Make a hole in the center of the rice and place the pieces of apple and a little of the syrup in it. Add the raisins and the sliced almonds. Cover the hole with rice and pour the rest of the syrup over the top. Cover the pan again and cook over a low flame for another 15 minutes, until the rice is completely cooked. Remove the whole spices, mix gently, and offer to Krsna hot.
One-Pan Carob Cake
Preparation time: 45 minutes
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1. Heat oven to 350°.
2. Mix the flour, brown sugar, carob powder, baking soda, and salt with a fork in an ungreased square pan, 8x8x2 inches. Mix in the remaining ingredients. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Dust with powdered sugar. Offer to Krsna.
Growing Up With Krsna
From age five to twenty-three—a young man's
by Dvarakadhisa Dasa
I became a devotee of Krsna when I was only five years old.
It was 1968. My mother and I were shopping in downtown San Francisco when we saw the devotees of Krsna for the first time. They were chanting and dancing in front of a big store, and one of them approached my mother and gave her a card inviting us to attend the "Sunday Love Feast" at the temple on Frederick Street.
When we visited the next Sunday, we saw many shoes piled beside the front door. Although I didn't know it then, removing one's shoes before entering a temple is a common Eastern practice. I didn't want to take off my cowboy boots, but my mother told me that unless I did I couldn't come into the temple. I complied, but I kept looking to see if my boots were still there.
In the main room I saw many people dancing and chanting, just like the devotees we had seen downtown. There were long-haired hippies playing drums, cymbals, tambourines, guitars, and horns. One instrument in particular caught my interest: a barrellike double-headed drum. I wanted to learn to play it.
After the chanting, while a devotee was lecturing about the purpose of the Krsna consciousness movement, I sat looking at the beautiful pictures on the walls. After the lecture we all enjoyed a delicious feast of vegetarian food that had been offered to Krsna. My mother and I were already vegetarians, and we appreciated the exotic variety of dishes. My favorite was called gulabjamun—spongy balls saturated with sweetened rosewater. When I put one in my mouth, it was like a balloon filled with saffron-flavored nectar exploding at the slightest pressure from my tongue against my palate. The delicious taste of those gulabjamuns is a pleasure I've never forgotten.
My mother soon became a full-time devotee of Krsna, and we moved to Los Angeles so that I would have the opportunity to grow up with other devotee children. The Hare Krsna center in Los Angeles was at that time the headquarters of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the movement's founder and spiritual master.
One day the devotees in Los Angeles received news of Srila Prabhupada's imminent arrival. Eagerly they began cleaning the temple and decorating it with flowers, Srila Prabhupada was their chief inspiration, their living example of a perfect, saintly person. The devotees' enthusiasm as they anticipated Srila Prabhupada's arrival was tremendous. I couldn't wait to see the revered saint I had heard so much about.
Members of the Hare Krsna movement receive spiritual names at the time of initiation. Each name, although personalized and unique, indicates that the initiate is eternally the servant of Krsna, or God. When I learned that everyone I lived with had a spiritual name, I also wanted one. I kept asking my mother, "When will I get a spiritual name?" She told me to be patient.
At last Srila Prabhupada arrived, and all the devotees became jubilant. Srila Prabhupada said the Los Angeles temple should be known as New Dvaraka, after Lord Krsna's capital city of Dvaraka, on the eastern coast of India. The presiding Deities of New Dvaraka he named Dvarakadhisa (the ruler of Dvaraka) and Rukmini (Krsna's eternal consort in Dvaraka). When someone asked Srila Prabhupada what to name me, Srila Prabhupada paused for a moment and replied, "We shall name him Dvarakadhisa dasa." I felt very happy with my new name, which meant "the servant of Dvarakadhisa, Krsna." I felt I had now become part of this wonderful spiritual family.
A year later, in the summer of 1969, my mother and I moved to West Virginia, where ISKCON had recently acquired a large farm. Srila Prabhupada wanted his disciples to establish a primary school in this rural setting, and I was among the first ten children to attend. To be able to attend such an unusual school was exciting. I was anxious to learn. I compiled a booklet of verses from the First Chapter of Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is and a booklet of excerpts from his Teachings of Lord Caitanya and sent them both to Srila Prabhupada, to show that I was learning. He wrote back:
I have read your version of the Bhagavad-gita, first chapter, and it is very interesting to read how the armies were present on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra and how Lord Krishna became the charioteer of His friend and devotee Arjuna. Also I have read your excerpt from the Teachings of Lord Caitanya, and it was very relishable to read. So take instruction from Bhagavad-gita in this way. Your handwriting is so nice. So by printing such booklets and learning Bhagavad-gita you can then instruct others and Krishna will bless you.
Reading this personal letter from Srila Prabhupada made me feel extremely happy.
I was attracted to the temple worship of the Deities of Krsna. Of course, I was too young to tend the Deities as a priest in the temple, so I had my own, smaller Deities of Radha and Krsna. Every day I would bathe, dress, and decorate Them with jewelry and flowers. One day I even built a small temple for Them on the front lawn. I piled up red bricks on three sides to make the walls and left the front open. For a roof I used cloth. The structure was about two feet square and two feet tall. At night I went to sleep leaving my Deities in the new temple. The next morning at the break of dawn I eagerly went to see Them, but to my dismay I saw that the temple had been dismantled. Seeing a pile of horse dung, I concluded the horse must have knocked it over. I approached with apprehension, and to my relief I saw that the Deities were unharmed. At that time Srila Prabhupada was staying in New Vrindaban, so I asked him if he could purify my Deities because the horse dung had contaminated the area. Srila Prabhupada told me that my Deities weren't contaminated, that Krsna purifies everything He contacts.
In 1972 I left this rural setting and moved to Dallas. I was excited to be going to a new place and to be flying in a jet plane for the first time, but I was also a little scared to be by myself. I sat between two elderly ladies, who curiously eyed my chanting beads, saffron robes, and shaved head. When dinner was being served the ladies tried to induce me to eat steak, but I refused. I told them that I was a vegetarian and that, besides, I offered my food to God before eating. "You have to eat meat to be healthy," they told me. "Not at all," I replied. "I feel very healthy as a vegetarian, and I know many other people who are vegetarians and feel the same way! Besides, meat-eating causes all kinds of diseases later in life." I don't know if they were satisfied, insulted, or convinced, but they both fell silent.
At the Dallas school my classes increased. Sanskrit was added. When I heard that Srila Prabhupada would soon be visiting to oversee the newly opened school, my happiness knew no bounds. He came, and again I saw and felt the profound spiritual effect of his presence. One day he personally taught a Sanskrit class. The whole school of one hundred students and fifteen teachers was present. Srila Prabhupada sat cross-legged behind a desk in the rear of the classroom. He called for a volunteer. Everyone froze. I was sitting to the left of Srila Prabhupada in a row with other students my age. Seeing no one taking the initiative, I stood up, walked over, and sat to the right of Srila Prabhupada's desk. Placing a pen in my hand, Srila Prabhupada guided my hand to form the first few letters of the Sanskrit alphabet. He said, "The teacher should have the students write one page of each Sanskrit letter. They should complete ten pages a day. In this way the students will memorize the alphabet in a week." I sat back down, and Srila Prabhupada finished the lesson.
My classmates and I sometimes played "Mr. Scientist." In a lecture in the temple we had heard the example of the scientist busy in the laboratory mixing various chemicals, trying to produce life. I used to take an empty gallon bottle and dump into it every possible substance I could find—from wax stripper to milk of magnesia—to come up with a powerful potion. One time the potion started bubbling over from the neck of the bottle! A scientist may make something wonderful, but is he the ultimate controller? I learned I certainly wasn't.
Over the weekend the older children would go to the local shopping center to perform sankirtana, the congregational chanting of the holy names of the Lord. Some of us would be embarrassed to go out in public because we looked so different, dressed in the traditional Indian saffron robes and with our heads shaven except for the traditional sikha in the back. After we started chanting, however, we soon forgot our self-consciousness and instead felt eager to let people hear God's name.
I attended the Dallas school for three years, and then I was sent to India. In the town of Vrndavana, where Lord Krsna displayed His childhood pastimes five thousand years ago, Srila Prabhupada had established an international gurukula (school of the spiritual master). Srila Prabhupada wanted youngsters worldwide to be educated in the pure spiritual environment of sacred Vrndavana.
I had heard a lot of interesting things about India, and I could hardly wait to board the plane. When I arrived in Calcutta, it was very hot, over 110 degrees. I journeyed by bus from Calcutta eighty miles north to the holy city of Mayapur, on the banks of the Ganges, to attend the annual festival held in celebration of the birth of Lord Caitanya. * [*Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Krsna Himself in the role of His own devotee. He appeared five hundred years ago in India to teach love of God through the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra.] Devotees from all over the world attended this festival. Once the festival was over, I went by train to Vrndavana (ninety miles south of New Delhi) to attend the Bhaktivedanta Swami Gurukula.
I was among the first ten students in Vrndavana. Our program was simple: rise at 3:30 in the morning, wash our faces, dress in traditional dhoti and kurta, and attend the day's first arati (worship) ceremony at 4:30 a.m. Then we would go to the Yamuna River for an early morning swim.
Swimming and playing in the Yamuna was our favorite activity. If a boy misbehaved, he would have to sit on the bank and watch the others having fun in the water. After an hour we returned home in procession, chanting the Hare Krsna mantra.
Sometimes we would have as many as four mrdanga drums and eight pairs of karatalas (hand cymbals) playing simultaneously. Indian people would look in astonishment to see these young Western Vaisnavas taking up their own spiritual culture. In the West the traditional Vaisnava dress is regarded curiously, but in India it is respected.
Prior to coming to Vrndavana, I had not grasped the full Krsna consciousness philosophy. Reading philosophy had not yet appealed to me. But around age fourteen I changed. Every day after breakfast the older boys had a philosophy class. There would be a lecture followed by discussion and, often, an informal debate. Our teacher would put forward some argument and we would try to counter it. Learning philosophy in this way was stimulating and fun, and after gaining a little experience I even began giving public lectures in the temple.
During summer vacations, some students would go home to visit their parents, and others would travel to different parts of India. I particularly remember a trip to Bangalore, in southern India. Because of its elevation and climate, Bangalore is known as the air-conditioned city. During the mid-morning, we would go out in the streets to sing the holy name. It was a lot of fun, and everyone appreciated our obvious innocence and devotion. People would crowd around and eagerly buy our Back to Godhead magazines, written in the local language, Kannada.
Local gentlemen would invite us to their homes for programs in which we would sing spiritual songs and speak about Krsna. Our hosts would always welcome us very respectfully, and at the conclusion of the evening they would feed us sumptuously with prasadam. Two months passed very quickly, and it was time for us to go back to school.
After attending the Bhaktivedanta Swami Gurukula for six years, I received my Bhakti Sastri diploma, which is awarded to the intermediate student of Vedic literatures. I felt ready to become a missionary of Krsna consciousness.
A child receives the best education in the gurukula, because he learns how to live a godly life. The gurukula teacher is interested not only in the child's academic education, but also in his character. To have proper character one must have God in the center; otherwise, one will have no impetus to check his actions. God has all the wonderful qualities, such as kindness, knowledge, peacefulness, and forgiveness, and a godly person can also develop these qualities.
For an adult to take to Krsna consciousness is often difficult—you have to give up old habits. In Krsna consciousness everyone observes four rules: no meat-eating, no gambling, no intoxication, and no illicit sex. By abstaining from these vices one can advance in spiritual life. These four activities destroy the four pillars of pious activities. Meat-eating destroys mercy, gambling destroys truthfulness, intoxication destroys austerity, and illicit sex destroys cleanliness. One advantage of my education is that I never imbibed those sinful habits.
Now I am a young man, and I feel happy that I've been brought up as a devotee. I feel indebted to my mother, who brought me to this movement at such an early age, and to my spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, who initiated me into the life of Krsna consciousness. I've found genuine happiness in Krsna consciousness, and I feel it my duty to help others experience this wonderful state of mind beyond the pains and anxieties of material existence. Preaching Krsna consciousness gives me something to look forward to every day of my life.
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.
"It Makes No Difference What Rascals Believe"
This is a continuation of a conversation that took place between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples at New Vrindaban, ISKCON's farming village in West Virginia, on June 24, 1976.
Srila Prabhupada: So a child may not believe he will get the body of a young man. He may not know that in the future, he will have to accept another life. But can his ignorance alter the fact? He may believe or not. It makes no difference.
And similarly, if modern rascals say, "I don't believe in a next life—I don't believe I'll have a next life," their ignorance does not alter the fact. Rascals, madmen, may talk like this, but the fact—the law of nature—remains. Karanam guna-sango 'sya:
According to the way you act, according to the modes of nature in which you become enmeshed, you will receive a suitable body in your next life. The real fact is, these rascals will have to accept a body just suitable to their spiritual development, or lack of spiritual development. What they believe or do not believe makes no difference.
Disciple: But what if they object, "You want us to pull back from our industrial civilization so that we can spend more time preparing for our next life. But farm-and-village civilization might be too difficult for us. We'd rather go to the factory for eight hours and then come home and enjoy life."
Srila Prabhupada: No, you can enjoy life, just as we are. We are eating and sleeping and so forth; everyone does that in any event. But if you enjoy life in such a way that you forget your real, spiritual business in life, is that intelligent? Your real business, now that you have received this human form, is to improve your next life—regain your original, spiritual form, back home in the spiritual world.
Anyway, you are going to have a next life. Now, suppose that by your present actions, in your next life you have to accept the form of a dog. Is that success? So you must learn the real science: How, instead of becoming an associate of dogs, you can become an associate of God. That is intelligence. That is success.
Disciple: But in this present life, why is it better, for instance, if we get our lighting by growing castor seed? What if we think we'd rather get our lighting by drilling for oil? Why is growing castor seed better than drilling for oil?
Srila Prabhupada: You require lighting of some kind. All right. So you finish that lighting business as simply and quickly as possible. In the rest of your time, the time you have saved, you pursue and perfect your self-realization. You learn about your soul and your relationship with the Supreme Soul. That is the ideal life.
Take this child. He simply wants to play—not to become educated and cultured. He just wants to make some improvements on his toys or his ball-playing. It that very good intelligence?
Disciple: No, from the standpoint of education, he's pretty much wasting time. But talking about wasting time—people on farms work some awfully long hours.
Srila Prabhupada: Not on small family farms, say four acres or thereabouts. In the spring you work a month and a half or two months for planting, and in the fall perhaps a month and a half or two for harvesting. If you think improving your electrical arrangements is better than living the simple life, we have no objection. But if you forget your real, spiritual business, is that intelligent?
Disciple: It wouldn't be, no.
Srila Prabhupada: That is our proposal. Your real business in life is how to become God conscious, Krsna conscious. If simply for improving your material condition you forget your real, spiritual business, is that intelligence?
So this modern, so-called intelligence is known as duskrti. Krti means "resourcefulness." But dus means "sinful, harmful activities." You are utilizing your resourcefulness for harmful activities.
Take, for example, these modern flesh-eaters. Now, when uncivilized men living in the jungle need to eat something, they shoot arrows or throw spears at some poor animal. And the animal dies and then they eat his flesh. These modern flesh-eaters, though, instead of killing the animal by throwing a spear, have devised slaughterhouses with sophisticated machinery to kill the animal.
You may think this is an improvement. "Now we use our sophisticated machinery instead of throwing a spear. The old-fashioned method takes so much time. But now we can kill many, many animals per hour." This is your improvement?
Just consider what fools and rascals people have become. They believe their slaughterhouses are an improvement, a milestone of civilization. "When we were uncivilized, we were spearing some animal and eating his flesh. But now, although we are doing the same thing—killing some poor animal and eating his flesh—we have improved our technique for killing." This is going on as "advancement of civilization." Do you think this is advancement of civilization?
Now that you are living the simple life on this farm—now, at last, you are civilized. For instance, instead of killing the cow, you just take her milk—no killing—and then you make butter and yogurt and whipped cream and buttermilk and fried curd, all sorts of delicious preparations. This is civilization.
But killing is sinful. You have no right to kill any creature—even an ant—because you cannot give that creature back his life. So killing is against the law of nature, the law of God.
In the scriptures the Lord warns us, "Killing is an infringement on nature's law, My law. Killing innocent creatures is the most sinful activity. If you use your human resourcefulness to perform this most sinful activity, then you must suffer in your next life."
Disciple: But we modern men don't believe our slaughterhouses are sinful.
Srila Prabhupada: These nonsensical statements—"We believe ..." "We don't believe ..." If you are breaking God's most basic law—"Thou shalt not kill"—then you are a rascal. So what difference does it make, what you believe or don't believe? You are, after all, a rascal.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Delhi Suburb Gets ISKCON Temple
Delhi—Surabhi Swami, ISKCON's Minister of Architecture, used to call Punjabi Bagh, the neighborhood here where he's lived since 1981, an isolated place. Yet it has now become prominent, owing to a glittering new temple he recently opened here. The house and property were donated by Mr. and Mrs. Krishan Khanna, residents of Newark, Delaware.
Surabhi Maharaja designed a temple that would fit into the driveway. Visitors enter through a fifty-foot marble-paved walkway covered by arches overgrown with jasmine, campaka, and malati flowers. Inside the temple, one sees more marble arches, a marble floor with brass inlay, and a silver-plated altar with decorations of black marble inlaid with mother of pearl. The Deities, Radhika Radhika-ramana, are gorgeous.
The opening attracted and inspired more than five hundred people
Lord Jagannatha Arrives in Miami
Miami Beach, Florida—The deities of Lord Jagannatha (Krsna), His brother, Baladeva, and His sister, Subhadra, were recently installed here under the direction of Srila Hridayananda dasa Goswami. The deities were carved and painted in Jagannatha Puri, India, to exactly resemble the original deities at the ancient Jagannatha temple there.
Having come from India by ship, the deities arrived at the Miami temple on the same day that the original Lord Jagannatha was celebrating His famous Ratha-yatra cart festival in Jagannatha Puri.
The deities now reside at the Miami Beach temple, along with the deities of Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai and Sri Sri Radha-Brajabihari.
ISKCON Manipur Hosts Education Seminar
Imphal, Manipur—Responding to the new national policy on education adopted by the government of India, Srila Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami and the devotees of ISKCON Manipur recently organized a seminar here on the value of moral and spiritual education. Many well-known scholars attended the seminar, which was held in conjunction with the annual Janmastami celebrations. The governor of Manipur, General K. V. Krishna Rao, former chief of the Indian Army, inaugurated the seminar.
The Indian government's new policy on education identifies the need for improving educational quality. Student unrest, cheating, and alcohol and drug abuse are increasing in the schools. Seeing an impending crisis in Indian education, participants at the seminar discussed the need for moral and spiritual education.
The seminar also included sankirtana (congregational chanting of the names of God), discourses on the Vedic scriptures, and plays depicting the pastimes of Lord Krsna and Lord Caitanya.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
One More Round
by Dvarakadhisa-Devi Dasi
Alone and faceless at the far end of the bar, in a corner full of shadows, he sits in nondescript anonymity. He drinks quietly and steadily, gazing into the shadows as his thoughts play out his fantasies.
In his dream, his wife is faithful and never leaves him in fits of frustration, his only son isn't thin and pale from drugs, and his mother doesn't lie in a hospital bed, slowly dying of cancer. His eldest daughter never fled across the country to reject a family she felt beneath her, and his youngest one, the sixteen-year-old with the sweet smile, had never made that nightmarish trip to the abortion clinic to destroy the grandchild he would never see.
One more drink and his boss gratefully offers him a promotion, and after two more drinks he begins to think of his long-abandoned artistic career. He stands. He weaves his way out of the bar, pausing to clear his head in the cold night air, and drives his ten-year-old Buick back to his silent empty house.
If you ask him, he'll say he doesn't drink all that much. Not to get drunk, he says, just to relax. To relax the sharp edges of his personal relationships, to relax the tightening grip of loneliness, to relax the pressure of another day's masquerade. He thinks that it's a good, healthy way to avoid succumbing to the depression that yawns at his heels, and it helps him to sleep at night. It gets him out of that house, where the canned laughter of the television is the only cheerful sound, where disappointment and guilt stifle his very breathing. So what's wrong with a few drinks at the end of the day?
What's wrong is the sense of well-being the intoxicant generates. The sensation of pleasure with no basis in fact; the drugged complacence that enables him to accept a life of pain as satisfactory. He lives, numb to the yearnings of his deeper nature, in a tiny world of make-believe people. He'll never grasp the futility of his life as he wallows in his intoxicated stupor, and thus he will live and die with no more significance than the German shepherd chained in his backyard.
Nearly everyone seems to indulge in some kind of intoxicant. Something to wind us down or pick us up, something to take the edge off, to steady our jangled nerves. Without some kind of buffer, life can often be too harsh to endure. Even if your life is unscarred by hardship, there's boredom and emptiness to combat. Naturally we seek some release for the buildup of normal tension.
But everyone knows that six whiskey sours won't take the dent out of your new car, or pay for your son's braces, or make you attractive to your new secretary. They won't make you twenty again, nor will they diminish the flab around your waist. What they will do is distort your perception of reality so that the unpleasantness becomes insignificant. But the change is illusory; when the illusory effect wears off, you're left with the same harsh world.
People serious about spiritual life shun intoxicants. Rather than escape into a dull state of acceptance, devotees of God want to see the reality of this world. Of course, tension and anxiety threaten all of us in this world on the brink of nuclear war, where no one is safe from violence and crime, and where death lurks in everyone's future. But these anomalies simply remind one in God consciousness that happiness lies elsewhere, that as long as we linger in the material world we must endure its relentless anxieties. A person who tries to avoid problems by the dulling effects of alcohol is like the rabbit who closes his eyes when attacked.
The world we live in was created by God to guide us closer to Him. Enamored with dreams of our own supremacy and independence, we come here intending to enjoy the resources of God's creation without the central focus of God's will. This results in calamity, as rejecting the laws of Krsna brings unpleasant repercussions. People become greedy for the fulfillment of their own desires, neglecting the guidelines of the scripture. Society becomes increasingly cold and dangerous.
To return to a positive awareness of the material world and our connection with it is one major feature of self-realization. This means that we face harsh reality with the understanding that the solution is to transcend through spiritual enlightenment, not to pretend through drugs and alcohol.
A New Leash On Life
by Suci-devi dasi
I thought I'd seen it all when it came to sales pitches and advertising gimmicks. That is, until I read the Philadelphia Inquirer one Sunday and came upon a piece of advertising genius more effective than the "bandwagon appeal" and more subtle than subliminal suggestion. "Human beings and their pet dogs frequently have an uncanny resemblance," asserted the author. "The Ralston Purina Co. has latched on to this idea to promote a new pet food, and is offering a prize of $10,000 for the dog and owner that most resemble each other."
At first this contest seemed to be just one more juicy worm designed to lure suckers into the net of consumerism. The combination of proffered money and a forum in which contestants can show off themselves and their pets will certainly be irresistible. It wasn't long, however, before I began to suspect that this promotion had a lot more going for it.
An incredible, far-fetched suspicion rose, unbidden, to the forefront of my mind: Is Purina betting on reincarnation? Could it be possible? Could Ralston Purina have made an astounding leap over the status quo of the advertising business and beyond the bounds of conventionality? Crazy? Perhaps, but it seems as if Ralston Purina has taken at face value one of the most well-known scriptures in the world, the Bhagavad-gita, and is applying it directly—if perversely—in degraded, twentieth-century America. You may think I'm nuts. But look how it makes sense.
According to my wild surmise, Purina is taking to heart the Bhagavad-gita's predictions concerning the long-term prospects of those who become totally immersed in their pets. No one can deny the affinity that many people feel for their dogs. Often a dog's master or mistress will not only allow the dog to eat off the same plate, but will dress his or her pet in designer sweaters as well. Indeed, pet and pet lover often do begin to spookily resemble each other. The Bhagavad-gita (15.8) comments as follows on the fate of someone who identifies so strongly with his or her pet:
sariram yad avapnoti
"The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another as the air carries aromas. Thus he takes one kind of body and again quits it to take another." His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, further illuminates the uncomfortable future of such a person: "At the time of death, the consciousness that he has created will carry him on to the next type of body. If he has made his consciousness like that of a cat or dog, he is sure to change to a cat's or dog's body."
Ralston Purina appears to have accepted the Bhagavad-gita's assertion that the ardent pet-lover of today will most likely be the tail-wagging partaker of doggie treats and canine entrees tomorrow. As the Bhagavad-gita states, the consciousness of a person in this life definitely determines the type of body that person will take in the next. If people identify so strongly with a dog that they begin to resemble one, chances are these persons will, in their next birth, adopt a dog's body. Whether Ralston Purina is aware of it or not, this fact may well work to their advantage.
The contest creates loyal purchasers of Purina's dog food. And those purchasers who closely identify with their dogs today will find themselves on the other end of the leash tomorrow, and their previously formed brand-preference, carried over from their human existence, will naturally influence what their doting masters buy for them. Clearly, then, the Ralston Purina Company has made a sound investment in its long-term future and is likely to remain top dog in the pet-food business for many years to come.
An Open House With An Open Heart
Finding fertile ground for spiritual life in the California hills.
by Visakha-devi dasi
Treasure hunt clue: "Follow this path. Don't be led astray, and you will find: a ruler stays straight on the righteous path and always calculates what's best for human society. One who bows at the feet of such a ruler may find a useful treasure...."
May 10 was Jivananda dasa's tenth birthday, and he and five of his friends were celebrating with a treasure hunt around his home in Topanga Canyon, California. It was a warm, sunny Saturday morning, and I watched the children as they ran through tall grasses and brightly colored wildflowers. With the Santa Monica mountain range forming a giant backdrop behind the children, I had to remind myself that the scene was just twenty-five minutes from downtown Los Angeles and not in some wilderness.
Jivananda's father, Nrsimhananda dasa, had first noticed the Topanga plot of land in 1976 and, with his mother's help, had purchased it. Srila Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual master of the Hare Krsna movement, had said that there should be ten centers for bhakti-yoga in the Los Angeles area. By 1976 the large New Dvaraka complex on Watseka Avenue in Los Angeles was well established, so the time seemed right to begin another center.
Nrsimhananda chose the pyramid shape for the Topanga center, and in 1978, long before all the finished work had been done on the first of their three pyramids, Nrsimhananda, his wife, Mohana, and their son, Jivananda, moved in. For their house-warming ceremony they posted large signs along the six-mile route from the Pacific Coast Highway to the Pyramid Center and spent several days at nearby Santa Monica Beach performing kirtana (singing the Hare Krsna mantra and dancing) and distributing invitations. The following Sunday they received fifty guests. And about that many have been coming every Sunday since.
Nrsimhananda divides his days between maintaining and expanding the Pyramid Center and managing and directing ITV (ISKCON Television), the video arm of the Hare Krsna movement. In the morning, after the regular temple services, he may be found tending fruit trees in the gardens, cleaning the temple floors, or supervising construction of additional living quarters for the devotees. Later he's usually editing scripts or shooting video productions in the Culver City ITV office, just a block from ISKCON's New Dvaraka community. Nrsimhananda's wife, Mohana, is as energetic and enthusiastic as he is. She hosts numerous visitors to the Pyramid Center and also serves as principal of the New Dvaraka Elementary School. She recently gave birth to another son.
Since Nrsimhananda and Mohana began the center eight years ago, a number of devotees and aspiring devotees have lived with them. At present three husband-and-wife teams and three single men stay there. They are a harmonious crew, dedicated to assimilating and presenting Krsna consciousness as it is, and dedicated to following Srila Prabhupada's teachings by making their home into a temple.
As Nrsimhananda explained, "By keeping an open house for Krsna I've realized that I've also begun to keep an open heart for Krsna." Last year Mohana's brother visited the Pyramid Center and, inspired by its success and potential, helped purchase an adjacent acre for the center's gardens and for future development. Now a narrow path winds through the two-acre property, and one who walks that path for the first time is repeatedly startled by magnificent sculptures of the incarnations of Krsna that all but emerge from the bushes along the way—Buddha, Kalki, Nrsimhadeva, Krsna and Balarama, and Sita-Rama. The sculptures were cast on site and finished by the devotees.
It was under and around these sculptures that Jivananda and his friends found their treasures while playing their Krsna conscious game—a search around the feet of the divine King Rama rewarded one boy with a ruler that had a calculator built into it.
The devotees at the Pyramid Center surrender their activities, assets, and thoughts to Krsna. As a result their lives are becoming anxiety-free and sublime. This process and its result is expressed in a Bengali song by a great nineteenth-century pioneer of the Krsna consciousness movement:
manasa deho geho jo kichu mor
"Mind, body, and family, whatever may be mine, I have surrendered at Your lotus feet, O youthful son of Nanda [Krsna]! In good fortune or in bad, in life or at death, all my difficulties have disappeared by choosing those feet of Yours as my only shelter."
Synthesizing Meditation and Work
Those who choose a full-time religious vocation sometimes ponder whether to enter an order that emphasizes meditation or one that emphasizes active missionary work. Even Gautama Buddha and St. Francis of Assisi doubted at first which spiritual path to pursue. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, in founding the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, also dealt with this problem and offered a dynamic solution.
The Vedic scriptures may appear to be equivocal on this point. In the Bhagavad-gita, Krsna recommends living in seclusion—in the Sixth Chapter and again in the Thirteenth Chapter. Yet He also says that His dearmost servant is he who spreads Krsna consciousness to others. Lord Caitanya also asked His followers to help Him distribute the fruits of love of God.
The Cistercian monk and author Thomas Merton found the choice between prayer and preaching to be a lifelong struggle. One writer describes Merton's success: "He attained the seemingly impossible integration of unlimited apostolic drive with undivided devotion to contemplation." But Merton's biographer, John Griffin, finds this statement misleading, as if Merton had achieved the resolution without tension or conflict. Griffin writes, "It created profound tensions: no, the tensions were finally created by his need to go deeper, deeper... to go deeper into silence and solitude, to be completely alone with God and completely naked before God...."
In such difficult matters, the Vedas advise us to follow the ways of authorities. Yet, as noted, the scriptures can appear contradictory. The truth of religious principles resides in the hearts of self-realized souls, and we should follow their path.
In creating the modern monastic order known as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Srila Prabhupada prescribed a unique combination of contemplative life and vigorous preaching. Starting in America, he began ISKCON communities, both urban and rural, wherein he balanced the inward aspect of spiritual life with the outward.
Through the "morning program" Srila Prabhupada gave his devotees a way to daily deepen their personal meditation on Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Before dawn ISKCON devotees go to the temple for a congregational service of singing God's names. They then chant privately on their beads for a prescribed period of time. Chanting the Hare Krsna mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—is recommended in the Upanisads and Puranas as the best means of attaining God consciousness in the present age. Since God and His name are the same, chanting Hare Krsna is pure meditation. And unlike most other forms of yoga (such as hatha-yoga), this chanting can be practiced in almost any situation with relative ease—whether you're alone or with a group, or even if you're traveling or working. By stressing the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra, Srila Prabhupada provided a synthesis of intense meditation and active work.
After morning chanting, devotees attend a class in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. The class is followed by a discussion. Thus, through a spiritually power-packed five morning hours, each devotee seeks his or her personal relationship with Krsna in a protected and solitary setting. After the morning program, a devotee may engage in different kinds of outward activity—and with the spiritual strength to do it. If one is unable to live within a temple community, the same morning program may be conducted in one's own home.
Prabhupada also encouraged his disciples to take pilgrimages to holy places in India, such as Vrndavana and Mayapur, which are especially conducive to direct communion with the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Yet because ISKCON's special mission is to save all forgetful souls in Kali-yuga, the devotees are very busy and involved in outgoing activities. In fact, people sometimes think that the devotees are just another kind of materialist, because they are so busily engaged in places such as the city streets, where they chant the holy name.
One reason a devotee may hesitate to go out into the world for preaching is his fear of becoming contaminated by worldly association and of thus losing his spiritual standing. Once one of Srila Prabhupada's disciples asked him if a preacher of Krsna consciousness could be contaminated by the karma of those persons to whom he was preaching. Srila Prabhupada explained that a preacher is like a physician. Just as a physician can avoid contracting a contagious disease from one of his patients, so a preacher can avoid being "infected" by the materialistic persons among whom he preaches. If the doctor becomes infected, Srila Prabhupada said, then no one will be cured. Like a doctor, a devotee must take the necessary precautions. Then he will be immune.
That immunity is the blessing of God. But the devotee must earn this blessing of immunity by balancing the outward missionary activities with internal, meditative ones. Then he will be able to successfully meet all demands.
One may question whether an ISKCON devotee is engaging in solitary worship, since the morning program is conducted in the association of devotees. But when the Bhagavad-gita enjoins that a spiritualist should avoid people, it refers to the avoidance of materialistic people. The intimate association of materialistic people is detrimental, but the association of like-minded devotees is considered even better than solitude.
According to the Vedas, he who meditates alone in a holy place is called a bhajananandi, while the person who moves in human society for preaching purposes is called a gosthyanandi. The bhajananandi is revered for his saintliness, but the gosthyanandi, who takes all personal risks to spread the word of God, is considered more dear to Krsna. The preacher is not so much interested in his own salvation but has developed the compassionate attitude of Krsna Himself, and so he works to bring others back to Godhead. Even though the preacher mixes with sinful people, he is immune to contamination, because he always follows the spiritual practices. He mixes with nondevotees only to tell them about Krsna and to help them, if they are inclined, to practice bhakti-yoga.—SDG