Back to Godhead Magazine

Volume 22, Number 01, 1987


The Energies of the Absolute
"Go to Krsna Now"
The Vedic Observer
Is Krsna God?
Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out
Every Town and Village
Lord Krsna's Cuisine
Spiritual Places
The Glories of Sri Krsna
Notes from the Editor

© 2005 The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International

The Energies of the Absolute

The theory and practice of spiritualizing matter.

A lecture in Vrndavana in August 1974
by His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness

bhumir apo 'nalo vayuh
kham mano buddhir eva ca
ahankara itiyam me
bhinna prakrtir astadha

"Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence, and false ego-all together these eight constitute My separated material energies." (Bhagavad-gita 7.4)

Here Lord Krsna is explaining that He expands Himself by His material energies. Since these eight are His external energies, they are called apara, "inferior." In the next verse Krsna will explain that besides this inferior energy there is the superior energy, the living entities.

For Krsna there are no "superior" or "inferior" energies, because He is the supreme spirit soul, but for us there are superior and inferior energies. For example, electricity can produce heat, and it can cool also. A refrigerator is worked by electricity, and a heater is also worked by electricity. So, we may say, "This is heat-producing electricity, and that is cold-producing electricity." But for the powerhouse there is no such distinction: It is all simply electricity. Similarly, for Krsna there is no superior or inferior energy. This will be explained later in this chapter.

So, Krsna says that these eight energies—His external energies—are separated from Him. This means that you cannot perceive Krsna directly in these energies. The materialistic scientists cannot understand that earth is Krsna's energy, water is Krsna's energy, and fire is Krsna's energy. The scientists accept that these are different energies, but whose energies they are—that they do not know.

Krsna is explaining here that "these eight are My separated energies." We should study Krsna and Krsna's energies very intelligently and analytically. For example, if we want to know how the vast ocean has come into existence, we can understand from the Bhagavad-gita that this vast body of water has come from Krsna's energy.

Now, try to understand how Krsna's energy can produce such a large amount of water. First, consider that we produce perspiration from our body. That perspiration may be only one ounce of water, but it is produced from our body. How the water is coming out, I do not know. It is inconceivable. But it is coming out; that's a fact. So, since I am a tiny living entity, I am always limited; therefore my energy is also limited. But Krsna is unlimited. So He can produce unlimited perspiration from His body. We have to understand the ocean like that. Otherwise, it will not be possible for us to understand how such a vast amount of water has come into being.

All material elements are coming from a living entity, not from matter. For example, when the body is dead, the perspiration is not coming out, but as long as the body is living, the perspiration is there. Similarly, the source of all material elements is originally the supreme life—Krsna—not matter.

Here Krsna explains that earth, water, fire, air, and so on are His separated energies. How are they "separated"? That is explained in a different verse [Bg. 9.4]: maya tatam idam sarvam jagad avyakta-murtina. The material energies are called "separated" because in this material world you cannot directly perceive the presence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead (jagad avyakta-murtina). And then Krsna says, na caham tesv avasthitah: "I am not present there. Although the material world is made up of My energy, still I am not present there." This is the philosophy of acintya-bhedabheda, that Krsna is simultaneously one with and different from His energies.

Now, each of these eight material elements is finer than the last one. Water is finer than earth. Earth does not move, but water can move. Therefore the water is finer. But finer than water is fire, and finer than fire is air, and finer than air is ether, and finer than ether is mind, and finer than mind is intelligence, and finer than intelligence is ahankara, the ego, or identity. But even finer than the ego is the soul. The soul is of a very small magnitude, one ten-thousandth the tip of a hair (kesagra-sata-bhagasya satamsa-sadrsatmakah).

Everything is explained in the Srimad-Bhagavad-gita. If we accept it, we get full knowledge. In this chapter [7.1] Krsna says, asamsayam samagram mam yatha jnasyasi tac chrnu: "Just hear Me. Then without any doubt you can understand Me in full."

Now, out of the eight material elements, the finest is ahankara, the ego. The ego, or identity, is false when we identify with the material body, which we are not. Real ahankara is to think, aham brahmasmi: "I am spirit."

Ego cannot be abolished; it will always be there. But the ego has to be cleansed. Therefore the bhakti-marga, the path of devotional service, is a cleansing process, a clearing process (ceto-darpana-marjanam). The mind, the intelligence, the ego—everything remains, but they have to be cleansed. That is Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mission.

By chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, you'll be able to cleanse your misconception of life. Your misconception of life is to think, "I am matter." This is false ego. Actually, we are not matter. We are spirit soul. Therefore, pure ego is to know, aham brahmasmi: "I am a spirit soul." That is the beginning of understanding. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna describes this understanding as the brahma-bhuta platform—when one knows, "I am not this material body; I am a spirit soul."

So, gradually, by studying the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita and practicing them in life, we shall very easily understand atma-tattva, the science of the soul. That is the real business of human life. Unfortunately, we are not interested in understanding atma-tattva. As Sukadeva Gosvami says to Maharaja Pariksit in the Srimad-Bhagavatam [2.1.2], srotavyadini rajendra nrnam santi sahasrasah: "My dear king, for ordinary men there are many subject matters for hearing." Who is that ordinary man? Apasyatam atma-tattva: one who has no interest in seeing what he is. Everyone is under the illusion that he is the body and that his bodily interests are his prime interests. But nobody is interested in the soul. Therefore people have so many books, so many newspapers, so many magazines they like to hear and read. But they are not interested in hearing the Bhagavad-gita or Srimad-Bhagavatam, where atma-tattva, the science of the soul, is described.

Why are they not interested? Sukadeva Gosvami says, grhesu grha-medhinam: They are too absorbed in household affairs and are thinking, "This is life." They are thinking that they are happy within this material world. How? As Vidyapati, a great Vaisnava poet, has sung, tatala sai-kate vari-bindu-sama suta-mita-ramani-samaje. Suta means "children," mita means "friends," and ramani means "wife." So the happiness of material life is in society, friendship, and love. If we have many friends, and if there are a beautiful wife and nice children at home, then we think, "This is happiness; this is life." But that is not real life. Real life is to understand atma-tattva, the science of the soul. Without understanding atma-tattva, life is a failure.

We have created society, friendship, and love in this material world in order to become happy. Everyone wants to be happy because that is our natural inclination. We are part and parcel of Krsna, and He is anandamayo 'bhyasat, "by nature full of happiness." Krsna is enjoying His life with Srimati Radharani and the other gopis and the cowherd boys, and with His father and mother. All of that enjoyment is spiritual (ananda-cinmaya-rasa).

Here in this material world we create an imitation: the same lovers, friends, parents, sons—but it is all false. In the desert an animal may see a vast mass of water, but it is only a mirage, and when the animal goes to drink the water, he dies. Similarly, in this material world we are trying to become happy by society, friendship, and love, but this is a will-o'-the-wisp, a false thing. Real life is in the society of Krsna. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura therefore says, krsnera samsara kara chadi anache: "If you enter into the society, friendship, and love of Krsna, that is the perfection of life."

You will not find real happiness in earth, water, fire, air, and so on. They are Krsna's separated energies. They are a reflection, a false representation—chayeva. Chayeva means "just like a shadow or reflection." For example, when you see your face in the mirror, it is not actually your face you are seeing. It is simply the reflection of your face. Similarly, this material world is just like a reflection of the real, spiritual world. Therefore it is known as Krsna's separated energy.

Another example is a tape recording. If I speak into a tape recorder, when you play the tape my voice will come out. But that is not really my voice: it is a recording of my voice, my separated energy. With my energy I have spoken something—I have vibrated some sound—which is recorded on the tape. And when it is played back, it produces exactly the same sound, but still it is separated from me.

We should try to understand that this material world is Krsna's separated energy. Real life is in the spiritual world. Therefore the Srimad-Bhagavatam [1.1.1] says, satyam param dhimahi: "I meditate on the real truth, the Absolute Truth." Krsna is the Absolute Truth, and in the Bhagavad-gita He explains Himself. If we want to understand Krsna, then instead of speculating about Him we should accept what He teaches about Himself. Then our knowledge will be perfect.

So, the fact is that this material world belongs to Krsna—it is His separated energy—but we do not know how to use this energy for Krsna. Krsna's energy should be used for Krsna's purposes. That is the Vaisnava philosophy.

The Vaisnava philosophy never says that this world is false. Why is it false? It is not false. The Mayavadi [impersonalistic] philosopher says, brahma satyam jagan mithya: "The absolute is real; this world is false." Why is this world false? Take this temple, for example. If somebody says, "Yes, it is very nicely constructed, but it is all false," would we be happy? No. It is not false. What is this temple? It is Krsna's energy—a combination of earth, water, fire, air. This temple is made of bricks, but what is a brick? You take earth, mix it with water, and put it into the fire, and it becomes brick. And there is also air in this temple.

So this temple is Krsna's energy. And it is not material, because it is being used for Krsna. The Vaisnava philosophy is that Krsna's energy should be used for Krsna's purpose, and when it is, it becomes spiritual. That is our philosophy.

The impersonalists, however, think that everything in this world is false and should be rejected. Srila Rupa Gosvami describes this attitude as phalgu-vairagya, false renunciation. Here in India there is a river named Phalgu. If you go there you'll see that there is no water on the surface of the river, but if you push your hand within the sand you'll touch water. So, phalgu-vairagya means that a person renounces everything superficially, but within his heart there is a desire to become God. He gives everything up, but he cannot give up his desire. This is the philosophy of the Mayavadis—to try to become one with God.

But the devotees do not try to become either one with God or separated from God. They are satisfied in whatever condition God puts them.

So, you have to understand that although this material energy is separated from Krsna, it can be used for Krsna. And when it is, it becomes spiritual. It is no longer material. It is material only when it is used in forgetfulness of Krsna. When the karmis [fruitive workers] construct a big, big skyscraper building, their purpose is to enjoy it themselves. They are using the same things we are using to build the temple—earth, water, fire, and air. They are mixing them together to make bricks and cement. But since the building is not being used for Krsna, it is material. Only if the building is used for the purposes of Krsna is it spiritual. This is proper renunciation, yukta-vairagya.

The philosophy of Krsna consciousness is that although the elements of this material world are separated from Krsna, we can use them for Krsna and thus spiritualize them. Again the same example: A tape recorder is material, but it can be used for Krsna's purpose. That is how we are writing books—recording them on a tape recorder. This is yukta-vairagya, proper renunciation. There is no need to give up this earth, water, fire, and air, as the Mayavadi philosophers say. You can utilize them in Krsna's service. After all, it is all Krsna's energy.

Then, although this earth, water, fire, and air are Krsna's separated energies, when we reconnect them by engaging them in the service of the Lord, they become spiritual. Another example: If you put an iron rod into a fire, the rod becomes warm, warmer, warmer, warmer. Then, when it is red-hot, it is no longer an iron rod: it is fire. Similarly, although everything in this material world is separated from Krsna, if you engage the things of this world in the service of Krsna, they are no longer material: they are spiritual. This is the philosophy of the Vaisnavas.

If you always remember that everything, whatever you are using, is Krsna's energy, you will be in Krsna consciousness. We living entities are also Krsna's energy. Krsna will explain this in the next verse: apareyam itas tv anyam prakrtim viddhi me param. "There is another, superior energy of Mine. "What is that para-prakrti, that spiritual energy? Jiva-bhuta, the living entities. As matter is Krsna's energy, the spirit soul is also Krsna's energy. And there is another world, the spiritual world. That is also Krsna's energy. Everything is Krsna's energy.

So, when Krsna's material energy is engaged in the service of Krsna, it is converted into spiritual energy, exactly as the iron rod is converted into fire when held in the fire. We devotees of Krsna are attempting to engage all of Krsna's energies in His service and in this way change the material world into the spiritual world. That is the Krsna consciousness movement.

Thank you very much.

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"Go to Krsna Now"

A mother's extraordinary love for her premature son draws
those around her closer to transcendental knowledge of the soul.

by Gopamatrka-Devi Dasi

In college Carol studied psychology and sociology, preparing for social work. Living in a Catholic convent during her first two years of college, she had hoped her aspiration to serve God and humanity would find its fulfillment there. But feeling that there must be a universal platform on which all people can relate, she felt compelled to search beyond the confines of sectarian religion.

In hopes of having exposure to a variety of alternatives, Carol moved to New York City. Though she worked for some time for the United Nations and the Peace Corps, she still felt lacking. She frequented libraries and bookstores, poring over book after book of theology and philosophy. She also dabbled in kriya-yoga and Zen Buddhism and became a vegetarian.

Occasionally Carol would see the Hare Krsna devotees in Central Park. She was intrigued by them. And although at first she spoke with the devotees in a challenging spirit, upon reading a Back to Godhead magazine, she felt that here might well be the life she was looking for. She went to a Sunday feast, spent the night, and never left. In 1972 she was initiated by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and received the spiritual name Ragatmika-devi dasi.

For many years, Ragatmika dedicated herself to distributing her spiritual master's books. Daily she experienced the satisfaction of offering to countless people a practical solution to all of their problems: knowledge of the soul and service to God.

Yet Ragatmika was not merely giving out books of philosophy; she was also imbibing the same philosophy in a very deep and personal way. This became evident as her life unfolded and Lord Krsna used her to preach the beauty of spiritual life in a unique and poignant way.

In 1982 Ragatmika married a devotee named Karnapura dasa, and the two of them moved to the ISKCON community in Los Angeles. They planned to conceive a child, and in the spring of 1985, Ragatmika learned that she was pregnant.

Ragatmika had the firm conviction that within her womb was a spirit soul entrusted to her by Krsna. Because she knew from the Vedic literature that transcendental sounds could benefit even an unborn child, she would place a speaker against her abdomen and play tapes of Srila Prabhupada chanting.

The pregnancy had been difficult for Ragatmika from the start, and she was only in her fifth month when she was rushed to the hospital. She was in labor. The doctors were able to stop the contractions for some time, but they began again. At 4:40 a.m. on October 25, Ragatmika gave birth to a tiny boy.

The infant weighed just one pound and was immediately transported to the neonatal intensive care unit. Karnapura brought an auto-reverse tape recorder and placed two small speakers within his son's incubator so that the child could always hear Srila Prabhupada chanting. Dr. Dan Polk, in charge at the time, assured the parents that he had instructed the staff that the tape should be considered as much a life-saving instrument as any other device the baby required. Making the incubator into a little temple, Ragatmika decorated it with flower garlands, pictures of Krsna, and—in bold letters—the baby's name: "Nitai-prana," a name of Lord Caitanya meaning "the life air of Lord Nityananda."

Tiny Nitai-prana was smaller than an adult human hand, yet he was a perfectly formed person. Laksmi-priya, a Godsister and friend of Ragatmika's, was fascinated to note how even at such a young age the child had the same features and mannerisms as his father. When Laksmi-priya told Nitai-prana what his name was, he began waving his arms and moving his mouth. She told his parents of this, and there was much relief and laughing.

Ragatmika began regularly going to the hospital in the morning, staying until 4:00 P.M. She would sit and read to Nitai-prana, even though the doors to his incubator weren't open. She felt responsible for serving and assisting this spirit soul in his sojourn for as long as Krsna desired that he stay with them.

The staff at the hospital marveled at Ragatmika's concern for her child. Generally the parents of children so premature don't give the child so much attention. There's such a little chance of survival. Yet Ragatmika came daily, exhibiting a kind of parental love the hospital staff had never seen before. Ragatmika was always reading or playing tapes, considering the spiritual needs of the child. She also distributed prasadam (food offered to Krsna), books, and garlands to the nurses and doctors. The staff was touched, not only by Ragatmika's preaching, but by her saintly character.

The head nurse, Sue, was so curious that she arranged to become Nitai-prana's personal nurse. She was a Chinese-American, and she gave Ragatmika a pendant cut from jade that hung on a red string. In China parents traditionally put this around the neck of their child, so that he might "grow healthy and strong and keep safe and free from fear, wherever life's travels take him." Sue had been saving the pendant for her own child, but she had come to feel that it was meant for Nitai-prana. Sue became grateful for her contact with Krsna consciousness, feeling that it was what she had been seeking for years. She took pride and relish in serving Nitai-prana and made sure his tape player constantly played transcendental chants.

Ragatmika cut out a special picture of Lord Krsna for Nitai-prana's incubator. She told the nurses that it should be in Nitai-prana's view at all times. The nurses, who regularly turned the infant's little head at different times so that he wouldn't get bed sores, would also move the picture into his range of vision.

On each shift, day and night, there were about twelve nurses and three doctors. They sympathized with Ragatmika and were inspired by her.

In January Nitai-prana developed a lung disease, and the doctors predicted that he wouldn't make it out of the hospital. Upon first hearing this, Ragatmika could not refrain from crying, thinking that she would never hold her child. But then she soberly considered that if Krsna chose to put Nitai-prana into His own arms rather than hers, what was the loss? Isn't this what all devotee parents hope for-that their child makes significant progress in his journey toward God?

As February passed, Nitai-prana's lungs began to show improvement. The situation looked hopeful. Then he developed an infection in the upper chamber of his heart. Ragatmika watched as the doctors juggled the alternative treatments for this tiny infant, and she realized that there is no greater pain for a mother than to helplessly witness her child's suffering.

Then she considered how easily and naturally she felt compassion for this infant because he was her child. Yet so many people were suffering all over the world—without the purification of hearing Krsna's holy name. "Where is my compassion for them?" she thought. Then she remembered Srila Prabhupada, who exhibited inconceivable compassion, far more intense and spontaneous than what any mother has for her suffering child. As Ragatmika looked upon her child, she prayed for a drop of such compassion.

The doctors decided to perform open heart surgery to remove the blood clot in Nitai-prana's heart. They had never performed heart surgery on such a tiny heart, and the chances for survival were quite slim. Ragatmika and Karnapura came to the hospital that morning with all the paraphernalia ready for cremation. Karnapura requested that the tape be played during the surgery, so that if the baby passed on, he would hear the chanting of the holy name. As Lord Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, "And whoever, at the end of his life, quits his body remembering Me alone at once attains My nature" (Bg. 8.5). One of the nurses got a tiny earphone for the tape recorder and taped the earphone to Nitai-prana's ear.

The operation was a remarkable success. When Ragatmika came to the hospital the next day, she overheard two of the doctors joking, "Gee, maybe we should use the Hare Krsna tape for this one too. Maybe it will make it a success."

When Nitai-prana was four months old, Ragatmika was able to hold him as she sat in a rocking chair. As she held him, she reflected on how the knowledge Srila Prabhupada had given her was relieving what would have been a depressing situation. Usually when we meet with reverses we blame the creator. But knowledge of the law of karma, the eternal soul, and devotional service had liberated Ragatmika from such a blunder.

Early on the morning of April 9, Ragatmika called the hospital to hear how Nitai-prana was doing, and she heard that he'd had a bad night. She had been planning to go to the hospital at 9:00 A.M., but she decided to go immediately.

Ragatmika had never seen Nitai-prana in such a bad condition. His abdomen was so distended that he looked as if he were about to burst. But his face was very peaceful. His eyes were open wide, and he was looking at his mother very deliberately. The doctors were discussing performing another operation on him, while Ragatmika stood a couple of feet behind them quietly chanting. Suddenly the heart monitor dropped dramatically. One of the doctors turned to Sue, the head nurse, and said, "I think you'd better take the mother out and tell her—he won't live much longer." But Sue disregarded the doctor's direction and motioned for- Ragatmika to come over to the bed. "Nitai-prana is leaving his body now," Sue said. Realizing the urgency, Ragatmika immediately went to Nitai-prana's side. Her voice was so choked that she became afraid that her chanting would not be clear enough for Nitai-prana to hear. As she looked intently at Nitai-prana, she pleaded with the doctors and nurses around her, "Please help me chant 'Hare Krsna' for him. Please help me chant 'Hare Krsna' for him." Sue and another nurse immediately began to chant. As soon as Ragatmika heard the chanting, she was filled with relief. She could understand that the soul's departure would be a success.

Within five minutes the monitor showed no heartbeat. Sue picked up the body of the infant and placed it in Ragatmika's arms. Ragatmika didn't know the formal prayers for a soul departing the body, but she began to speak to her departed child very clearly: "Don't be diverted by this mother-and-son relationship. Take shelter of Krsna's lotus feet, which are our only real shelter. Go to Krsna now."

The doctors and nurses were stunned. Never had they witnessed a baby dying in the presence of its parents without the parents sobbing. Ragatmika's obvious deep love and concern and her serenity impressed everyone present.

Three days after Nitai-prana left his body there was a feast at the temple in his honor. Immediately after the feast Ragatmika took some of the various dishes to her friends at the hospital, who enjoyed the sumptuous feast. She thanked the hospital staff for their endeavors and service. Many of them shed tears.

A devotee lives to relieve the suffering of others by enlightening them about the eternal nature of the soul. This enlightenment brings more than philosophical satisfaction; it relieves the bewildered soul of the agony of material existence. As Ragatmika passed through a difficult test in an exemplary, Krsna conscious way, she brought everyone in contact with her closer to Krsna. This is the glory of the Lord's devotee.

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The Vedic Observer

Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day

The Point Of Prayer

by Kundali dasa

According to a recent Associated Press article, eighty-seven percent of the people in America pray, mostly "for guidance, for family, for health, for friends and family, and in thanksgiving." Skeptics, the article said, are puzzled by the practice and "question the necessity of prayer," because they can't see why a believer should appeal to God over and over for something God, being omniscient, must already know he wants. They consider praying nothing but a lack of faith.

In defense of prayer the article cited Jesus' parable of the widow who kept returning to plead her case before a hard-hearted judge, who kept refusing her. Finally the judge gave in and heard her case. Jesus said that God similarly vindicates those "who cry to Him day and night." The author's point, of course, was to defend the practice of persistent prayer.

That's all right. But the article made no distinction between different motives in praying. As a child, for example, I prayed for various boons—a bicycle or good grades—assuming like many other people that God was my order-supplier and that the primary purpose of prayer was to petition Him for my wants. It never occurred to me that my selfish motives were rendering my prayers spiritually substandard.

Only after taking to Krsna consciousness did I come to see the lack of faith and the inherent irony in self-centered prayer. If one accepts God as eternal master, it stands to reason that the purpose of prayer should not be to ask God to serve us but to ask that He engage us in serving Him. Certainly the all-powerful Lord is capable of fulfilling His servants' every need. If we choose to remain unsurrendered and foolishly independent, why should we expect God to fulfill our faithless, selfish prayers? Are we not asking for the same blessings that He naturally bestows on His surrendered servants? Our faithlessness is demonstrated by our unwillingness to surrender to God, implying that we think Him incapable of maintaining us. If instead of praying for service we pray to Him for the fulfillment of our material needs, are we not asking Him for the same blessings we thought Him incapable of granting in the first place?

Indeed, many religionists nowadays openly exhort their followers to pray for health, wealth, education, success in business and in their love life, and on and on. These mundane goals are not even remotely concerned with awakening our dormant love of God. Plainly, this covert hypocrisy is what brought on the skeptics' acrimonious attack on prayer.

Of course, some prayer is better than no prayer, inasmuch as belief in God is better than utter defiance of God. Still, an article that purports to defend prayer ought to distinguish between praying to serve God and praying to be served by God. It ought to point out the hypocrisy in self-centered prayer.

Most of all, it should indicate precisely the kind of prayer we should "cry to Him day and night." Something, perhaps, along the lines of Lord Jesus' own prayer: "Lord, not as I will, but as Thou wilt." Or, as Srila Prabhupada taught his followers to pray, "My dear Lord, please engage me in Your devotional service."

South Africa: What's The Problem?

by Giriraja Swami

A reporter recently asked us for our position on economic sanctions against South Africa. Our reply:

All problems are caused by ignorance of spiritual knowledge and by a deficiency of love of God. Our movement is meant to enlighten the world with spiritual understanding and give people a practical method for developing transcendental love for God. We have already written a letter to the state president giving him our idea of how the problems can be solved. We are awaiting his response.

The letter to the state president:

His Honor, the State President, Mr. P.W. Botha,

Please accept my greetings and the blessings of God Almighty.

I am a disciple of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the late founder and spiritual master of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and author of numerous authoritative translations of important writings from India's Vedic literatures.

The problems in South Africa are many and complex. As national secretary for our Society in South Africa, I would like to offer some observations.

Since each individual has his own intellectual and physical capacity, the strong must protect the weak. If instead of protecting the weak, the strong exploit them, [here will be trouble. Before God we are all weak. Therefore, for the solution to our problems we must take shelter of Him.

In the Bhagavad-gita, a Vedic scripture recorded five thousand years ago, the Lord states that He is the father of every living entity. As the supreme father, He wishes well for all His children. By nature's arrangement some are stronger (or more intelligent) and others weaker. The stronger brothers must protect the weaker ones on behalf of the supreme father.

Of course, by our own ability we cannot protect anyone; only God can protect. We must help people take shelter of God. In this age the best way to attain the Lord's shelter is to chant His holy name. One can chant any name of God found in any bona fide scripture. We chant Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna. Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

When people chant the holy name of the Lord, they come into contact with the Lord, and because the Lord is all-blissful, the chanters also become happy and satisfied. On the other hand, no amount of political, social, or economic adjustment can make people happy.

It is your duty—as leader of the twenty-five million people of South Africa—to give them the Lord's association. Then they will be peaceful and happy. Otherwise their frustrations and anxieties will only increase.

For the well-being of all concerned, we recommend a vigorous program of engaging the entire population in chanting the Lord's holy names. All facilities are at your command, and if you use them in the service of God for the benefit of all, you will be blessed and the entire population will become successful.

If you are doubtful about the effectiveness of chanting God's names, why don't you try it? You have nothing to lose. And the gain is very great: you will get peace in God.

If you would like to know more about how to apply this process on a large scale, or on a personal level, we are at your service. We would also like to invite you to visit the magnificent Temple of Understanding we recently opened in Durban. In the meantime we enclose a book by our spiritual master that may help you in dealing with the difficult problems you face.

Thank you for your consideration.
Hare Krishna!
Yours in the service of the Lord,
Giriraja Swami

Very often people come to us and ask, What is your solution to the drug problem? What is your solution for crime? What is your solution to the hunger problem? But we offer the same solution for every problem, because we see every problem as a variation of one problem, yaya sammohito jiva: The living entities are bewildered by the illusory energy of the Lord (maya), and thus they suffer so many problems. Although the living entities are transcendental to material nature, they falsely identify with the material body and think, "I am white," "I am black." "I am dependent on so many material things."

In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Sri Krsna states that this illusory energy, consisting of the three modes of material nature (goodness, passion, and ignorance), is very difficult to overcome, but that one who surrenders unto Him can easily surpass it. Similarly, in the Srimad-Bhagavatam Srila Vyasadeva declares, anarthopasamam saksad bhakti-yogam adhoksaje: The material miseries of the living entity, which are superfluous to him, can be directly mitigated by linking with God through the process of devotional service. Therefore Srila Vyasadeva compiled the Vedic literatures to explain the science of devotional service to Krsna.

When one learns to serve Krsna, all his problems disappear. For example, take the economic problem. Where is the problem? Anywhere in the world you can cultivate the land and keep some cows. The cows give milk and fertilizer, and the bulls pull the plows and do other work. There is no problem. Krsna gives this formula in Bhagavad-gita: cows and land.

If someone asks us for the solution to the crime problem, we will give the same solution—follow bhakti-yoga, chant Hare Krsna. And by following bhakti-yoga, we also solve the health problem, because the life of the yogis Very regulated and clean, so he is naturally healthy and happy. All problems are solved in Krsna consciousness-health problems, social problems, economic problems, political problems—all problems.

So there is no problem. The only problem is that we have forgotten our eternal relationship with God, Krsna. The Isopanisad states, om purnam adah purnam idam purnat purnam udacyate: "The Personality of Godhead is perfect and complete, and because He is completely perfect, all emanations from Him, such as this phenomenal world, are perfectly equipped as complete wholes." We want to be happy, but we are incomplete. Krsna is purnam, complete. If we link with Krsna through bhakti-yoga, we become complete.

We cannot fulfill our desires through maya, material adjustment. This material world is like a great desert, and we are thirsting for happiness. If someone says, "I shall supply water—one drop," what is that drop? How can it satisfy us? That one drop is the sense gratification offered by maya in return for our illusory pursuit of material advancement of life. Due to maya we imagine we need so many material things, and when we do not have them, we think we have so many problems. But that thinking is simply maya, illusion. External arrangements can never fulfill our inner desires.

Because the general populace is bewildered by maya, they think that this material world is everything, and thus they have created so many problems. But for persons practicing bhakti-yoga there is no problem. For example, in our International Society for Krishna Consciousness we have hundreds of branches, but we have no problem—because Krsna is there. We are spending millions of dollars. From where is the money coming? Krsna is sending. We are not working in factories. We are living together—blacks, whites, Indians, Africans, Christians, and Muslims—but we have no problems. In South Africa we have a beautiful plot of land in a wonderful location, and we recently constructed a magnificent Temple of Understanding for the spiritual upliftment of all. The land was given to us for the equivalent of one dollar, and the center was built at a cost of one million dollars. We can see practically that when we come to Krsna consciousness, there is no problem. All problems are solved: Krsna is there.

"But," one may ask, "if all problems are solved just by surrendering to Krsna, by bhakti-yoga, why don't more people do it? There are many famous and intelligent persons; why don't they surrender to Krsna?" The answer is given in Srimad-Bhagavatam. People cannot take to Krsna consciousness unless they bow down to the dust of the lotus feet of the exalted devotees of Krsna, who have nothing to do with this material world. Niskincananam na vrnita yavat: Unless human society accepts the dust of the lotus feet of Krsna's devotees (in other words, unless they learn the science of serving Krsna from Krsna's devotees), they cannot turn their attention to the lotus feet of wonderful Krsna.

Therefore the devotees of the Krsna consciousness movement go from door to door and country to country just to give people the chance to take to Krsna consciousness. And if they take, all their problems will be solved.

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Is Krsna God?

Is God an idea? A quality? A white light? Or do these conceptions
ignore the most important feature of the Supreme?

By Nagaraja Dasa

In 1966 in New York City when His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was founding the Hare Krsna movement, a friend suggested he call it the "International Society for God Consciousness." But Srila Prabhupada felt that the word God was too vague. By naming his movement the "International Society for Krishna Consciousness," Srila Prabhupada was telling everyone that when he spoke of God he meant a specific person—Krsna.

To convince Westerners that Krsna is God, Srila Prabhupada had to refute a variety of misconceptions: There is no God; we are all God; God is impersonal; God is love; God is dead. Or, God is a person, but He can't be Krsna, who is, after all, either an Indian folk hero or one of the mythological Hindu gods. Despite facing such an array of ideas, Srila Prabhupada was confident of the power of the Vedic literature to convince people of the existence and identity of God. On the premise that God is unlimited, Srila Prabhupada ruled out philosophical speculation as an adequate means of understanding God. God is beyond our present powers of perception. If we want to know God, therefore, we must hear from God Himself. His revelations about Himself are recorded in the world's scriptures. The most elaborate exposition of God can be found in the Vedic literature, and the cream of the Vedic literature is Srimad-Bhagavatam.

Because Srila Prabhupada wanted to deliver convincing information about God, he had begun translating the Srimad-Bhagavatam from Sanskrit into English even before coming to the United States. Although the vast library of Vedic literature deals with a variety of subjects directly or indirectly related to God, the Bhagavatam deals exclusively with the science of God and the method by which to understand Him.

The Bhagavatam is scientific and does not demand blind faith. It presents not only an exhaustive analysis of God, but also the method for realizing Him. In the second verse the author, Srila Vyasa-deva, declares that God will reveal Himself within the heart of the serious student of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. And throughout the Bhagavatam Vyasadeva has verified his claim by recording the histories of great saints who have realized God by the method prescribed in the Bhagavatam.

The Bhagavatam gives a reasonable, step-by-step presentation of the science of God. In Srila Prabhupada's Introduction to the Srimad-Bhagavatam, he begins by defining the term God:

The Sanskrit word isvara (controller) conveys the import of God, but the Supreme Person is called the paramesvara, or the supreme isvara. The Supreme Person, or paramesvara, is the supreme conscious personality, and because He does not derive any power from any other source. He is supremely independent.

In summary then, God is the supreme person and the supreme controller, and He is completely independent. The Bhagavatam also describes God as Bhagavan, the possessor of all opulences, chief of which is His unlimited beauty. The reservoir of that beauty is His eternal, transcendental body, composed of unlimited knowledge and bliss.

These elaborations on the word God from the Srimad-Bhagavatam at once solve many philosophical problems. They especially help us evaluate the validity of various impersonal conceptions of God. For example, because God means the supreme controller. He must be a person. He cannot be impersonal, like a white light or a quality or an idea.

An impersonal energy, a "white light," cannot control the creation or any part of it, since control must be ultimately exerted by a controller, a person. The "white light" is in fact a subordinate aspect of God known as the brahmajyoti, or the impersonal Brahman. Although many people accept Brahman to be the highest manifestation of God, the Bhagavatam repeatedly declares that the Supreme Absolute Truth is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna. The Bhagavatam also states that those who think they have attained ultimate liberation by merging with Brahman are not mature in their realization and must eventually fall again to the material world. Only devotees of the supreme controller, Krsna, can attain complete liberation.

Believing that God is a quality, like love or beauty, is also impersonalism. Being the supreme person, Krsna possesses these qualities in full, but such qualities are not the complete expression of God. They are but aspects of His personality.

Nor is God simply an idea. He is the supreme controller, the person who directs the workings of the universe. He must possess intelligence, discrimination, determination, and all the other qualities that make a person an expert manager. He is the best manager. As the elaborate workings of the universe testify. God is a living, supremely intelligent person.

The atheist, of course, denies the existence of a universal controller. In his opinion the universe simply operates under a set of complex laws that do not warrant the supervision of any person. But this is contrary to common sense: Laws are made by persons. And behind every complex system within our experience we find a person. For example, the traffic in a large city flows smoothly (ideally) because of a complex system of traffic signals. A child may think the traffic lights operate independently, but an adult knows about the city government behind those traffic signals. And the city government is made of people, headed ultimately by one person. All complex systems trace back to a person. Experience leads us to assume that the extremely complex workings of the universe are controlled by a person.

That person is also controlling us. Those who deny the existence of the supreme controller cannot even prove that they themselves are free of His control. By advances in science and technology they may feel that they can ultimately control nature, but such hopes are unfounded. The unconquerable forces of old age, disease, and death are intrinsic to this material world and are dispensed by the justice department of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The atheist, despite his denial of God, will undeniably witness God's control at death.

Though atheists may hear many reasonable arguments for the existence of God, they stubbornly hold to their belief that God does not exist. They sometimes demand, "Show me God." But if they want a direct experience of God, they must avail themselves of the proper method of obtaining that experience. The uninformed and unfounded claims of the atheists cannot influence the devotees of God, who have experienced God by dint of their adherence to godly principles.

Despite atheistic propaganda, most people still "believe" in God. Unfortunately, they often reject Krsna as God, owing to incomplete knowledge about Him. But if someone is serious about knowing God, then he or she will be eager to hear about Krsna. Give Krsna a chance. Check His credentials.

Krsna's credentials appear in many Vedic literatures. The Srimad-Bhagavatam in particular clearly and repeatedly states that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In the Bhagavatam's step-by-step presentation, the complete science of God is given in nine cantos, comprising more than two dozen volumes. The entire Tenth Canto describes exclusively the appearance and activities of Sri Krsna. Lord Krsna alone, the Bhagavatam reveals, possesses all the qualifications of God discussed in the preceding nine cantos. And all the great teachers of the Vedic literature—led by Madhvacarya, Ramanujacarya, Visnusvami, Nimbarkacarya, and Sankaracarya (who professed to be an impersonalist)—accept Krsna as God.

Some people reject Krsna as God because of their misunderstanding that the Vedic religion of India, now known as Hinduism, propounds the worship of many gods, one of them being Krsna. The Vedic religion, however, is not polytheistic. If we study the Vedic literature closely, we find that Krsna is always declared to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead. After listing many incarnations of God, the Srimad-Bhagavatam states that Krsna is the origin of all incarnations and that He alone is the Supreme God (krsnas tu bhagavan svayam). The Brahma-samhita (5.1) states, "Krsna, who is known as Govinda, is the supreme controller. He has an eternal, blissful, spiritual body. He is the origin of all. He has no other origin, for He is the prime cause of all causes." Krsna is described here as the original controller. His position is unique: There can be only one original controller, and He is God.

But Krsna does not have to personally supervise the workings of the universe. He has subordinate controllers (demigods) whom He empowers to run various functions of universal affairs.

Modern man ridicules the so-called primitive practice of worshiping a powerful aspect of material nature as if it has personal qualities. The Vedic literature, however, explains that empowered individuals known as demigods control all material phenomena. Just because we cannot see these powerful controllers doesn't mean they don't exist. We can reasonably infer their existence after studying the intricacies of material nature. The Vedic literature describes the demigods elaborately, Srila Vyasadeva's rigorous presentation of the science of God is serious and scholarly. And he describes the demigods as real persons, not as mythological characters.

The demigods control the departments of universal management. Indra controls the rain, Vayu controls the air, Varuna the water, Vivasvan the sun, and so on.

Although from our point of view these demigods are extremely powerful, they are nonetheless subordinate to Krsna. All living beings are spiritual, but they belong to two different categories. In one category there exist the unlimited Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna, and His personal expansions. In the other category are all other living entities, the innumerable infinitesimal souls. Although Lord Krsna can expand Himself into unlimited forms that possess His full potency, the demigods are not such expansions. Rather, the demigods belong to the category of the infinitesimal living entities, called jivas. The jivas may possess material bodies—like those of the demigods, for example—but Krsna's body is always transcendental. Pleased with their devotion and good qualities. Lord Krsna assigns the demigods to responsible posts in His universal government. No matter how powerful a demigod may be, however, Krsna is ultimately in control.

Despite hundreds of direct statements throughout the Vedic literature that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the Absolute Truth, some people (who profess to be followers of the Vedic literature) still contend that ultimately Krsna is not a person. They may even say that Krsna is God, but they really mean that Krsna is an incarnation of the impersonal Brahman, which they say is the ultimate truth. Krsna has realized His identity with the impersonal Brahman, they say, so now He is God. And we too can "become God" through meditation and philosophical speculation. We are all God, they say; we just have to realize it. They say that when Krsna speaks in the Bhagavad-gita about surrender to Him, He is actually telling us to surrender to "the unborn" within Him. For them, the "unborn" is greater than Krsna.

Such speculative notions betray an ignorance of the science of God. There is no difference in the Absolute Godhead between His inside and His outside. His body is purely spiritual. He is the Absolute Truth, the source of everything. He is not subordinate to any impersonal "unborn" entity. As Krsna explains, brahmano hi pratisthaham: "I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman."

And God never forgets His identity. Because He is the source of all energies, He never falls under illusion like ordinary jivas. If we were God we would not be bewildered by God's illusory energy—and we wouldn't be struggling to become God. God is always God. He doesn't need to do anything to realize that eternal truth.

Because God is a person beyond all time and space, we can never understand Him by our speculation. He can be understood only when He reveals Himself. To our great fortune. He has revealed Himself in the Vedic literature, which presents the fullest explanation of the transcendental names, forms, qualities, and activities of God. The Srimad-Bhagavatam—the crest jewel of the Vedic literature—specifically expounds the glories of Lord Sri Krsna. Those who wish to advance their understanding of God would do well to study Srimad-Bhagavatam as it is presented in English in its pure form by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

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Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out

Civilized Cruelty

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: So who cares what a rascal believes or disbelieves? For instance, a child may receive some factual information and say, "I don't believe." His mother will say, "You are a rascal. Go to your room."

So rascals may believe or not believe that they will have a next life and they must not slaughter animals. They believe or disbelieve. What is the difference? The next life is part of nature's law. Those who do not believe are mudhas, asses. And in their next life they will go to their room—Mother Nature will confine them in hog, dog, ass bodies.

Tatha dehantara-praptih. In Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna gives this simple example: Just as the soul gets new bodies in this life—first a baby body, then a child body, next a teenage body, later an adult body, and finally an aged body—so after this life, he'll get still another new body.

What is the difficulty in understanding this simple fact? We know that whatever body we have at present, it will not remain. In the womb, the soul had a very tiny body. When he emerged, he had a considerably larger body—a new body. And as time goes on, he will get another new body, and another new body, and another new body. And if at the end of this life he remains ignorant of his real, spiritual identity, then nature will force him into another womb and yet another new material body.

So it is very difficult to deal with rascals who disbelieve in the spiritual self—the soul. It is difficult to deal with these ignorant rascals. That's a fact. But you should also know that in their ignorance, whatever else they are doing in their lives is defeat. Defeat. They are missing the priceless opportunity of going back to the spiritual world. Instead, they will have to stay in this material world and accept more and more material bodies-more rounds of birth, old age, disease, and death. Ignorant rascals are automatically defeated, by their very own ignorance.

[To a disciple:] Your little baby here—does he believe he's going to get the body of a young man?

[To the baby:] Do you believe? [Laughs.]

Huh? What is your opinion? [Laughter.]

Now, those who are flesh-eaters are going to get obnoxious bodies in their next lives. For their wanton cruelty, nature will force them into the bodies of hogs and dogs.

So why don't you inform these unfortunate souls? Tell them, "Friend, you have no need to kill animals. When one of our cows dies, you can come here to our farm and take away the carcass. You'll have an ample supply of flesh, at no expense."

Disciple: That would be illegal. The government would not allow it. It would be illegal.

Srila Prabhupada: Killing is illegal, according to the law of God. But the government does not want to follow God's law. They would rather follow their own cruel whims.

On the one side, the government prohibits the flesh-eaters from eating animals who have died a natural death. On the other side, they allow the flesh-eaters to put millions of animals to most unnatural, painful death in slaughterhouses.

These rascals are in power. But legally—according to God's law—they should permit flesh-eaters to eat only animals who have died a natural death.

In India, for example, after some animal has died, people come and take the carcass away—free. They get it without any cost to themselves. They get the skin for making shoes and so forth. They get the flesh for eating. Let them cook and eat it if they want. The farmer does not charge anything.

And we would not charge anything. "Here. You can take it. Why slaughterhouses? Take this."

Disciple: Nowadays the government objects even if you let wild animals eat the carcass.

Srila Prabhupada: Oh, if jackals and foxes come and eat the carcass, the government doesn't like it? They would rather have the jackals and foxes come and eat townspeople?

You see, once these wild animals have gotten their fill on some carcass, they will not attack humans. If a wild animal is not hungry, he will not attack you. Even a ferocious tiger—if his hunger is satisfied, he doesn't attack.

So some day, when the government is made up of godly men, there will be no more slaughterhouses. And you'll be able to advertise, "Here is a cow carcass—available free." Those who are butchers and tanners can take the flesh and skins free. If they had to obtain these things from some slaughterhouse, they would have to pay. But this way, they'll make more profit.

Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, many people may object, "We don't want to eat an aged, partially decomposed carcass. The animal has to be slaughtered fresh."

Srila Prabhupada: That argument is not valid. For instance, on airplanes I have seen other passengers eating lobster. It is so decomposed, it has become exactly like pus. And this is how they eat it.

Disciple: They cannot eat an animal when it is fresh. They never eat cows fresh. They age the flesh at least three weeks; otherwise, they say, it is not tasty. [Laughter.]

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. So the flesh must be partly decomposed in any case. Therefore, just as with humans, the animals should be allowed to die a natural death.

Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, we can point out all the benefits of this ideal spiritual civilization, but many people will say, "That's all right for you, but it's just not practical for us."

Srila Prabhupada: So what is not practical for you about our system of civilization? Our system: spiritual realization and compassion—kindness toward all the Lord's creatures. And your system: civilized cruelty. Your system is also not practical for us.

(To be continued)

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Every Town and Village

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

ISKCON Zurich Hosts Indian Ambassador

Zurich, Switzerland—His Excellency Ashoke Sen Chib, Indian ambassador to Switzerland, was the honored guest at the ISKCON temple here recently. He enjoyed an evening of religious ceremonies, chanting, Bharata-natyam .dance, and drama.

The ambassador expressed his appreciation for the devotees' work in bringing the message of Krsna to Zurich. In an address to the four hundred guests present, he said, "Krsna's message is not confined to India. It is universal. Therefore, we are happy to see that in this city of wealth, Zurich, there is also a wealth of spiritual experience. The Krsna consciousness movement is a movement that does not conflict with any religion. It is a philosophy and a way of life that prevails all over the world, that makes for the victory of good over evil, duty toward man, development of one's inner being, and elevation to new heights... .This message [of Krsna consciousness] is given in the Bhagavad-gita, and this book is part of the cultural tradition not only of India, but of the whole world."

Delhi Cultural Center Ground-breaking

Delhi, India—On Janmastami day (August 27) ISKCON devotees here held a ground-breaking ceremony at their newly acquired property in South Delhi. The three-acre plot is near the ancient Kalkaji temple, as well as the new marble lotus-shaped Bahai temple. It is also very near Nehru Place, Delhi's second most important commercial center. "You could not get a better place," remarked Surabhi Swami, ISKCON's minister of architecture. "It's top land in Delhi." ISKCON's founder and spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, several times expressed his desire for a center here in wealthy South Delhi. The land cost about one hundred thousand dollars.

The new ISKCON project will be called the "Glory of India Cultural Center," and will include a temple, guesthouse, restaurant, park, and multimedia museum. Planning will go on till the summer of 1987, and construction may take another five to ten years. Portions of the project may open separately as they are completed.

The mayor of Delhi, the Honorable Sri M. S. Saathi, told the Delhi devotees, "You are adding not only to the beauty but also to the holiness of this city."

Radha-Krsna Deities Installed in Houston

Houston-Devotees here celebrated Janmastami with a grand three-day festival attended by six thousand guests and highlighted by the installation of ISKCON's second largest Radha-Krsna Deities. Srila Tamala Krsna Goswami presided over the installation, which was conducted by Gaura Kesava dasa according to traditional Vedic procedures.

On the first day of the festival, the six-foot-tall marble Deities were installed on an exquisite simhasana (throne) of teak-wood inlaid with brass. The simhasana, weighing seven tons, was carved by thirty artisans in Bombay and took six months to complete. The Deities' chamber, constructed of Italian marble and illuminated by Australian crystal chandeliers, is decorated with hundreds of ornamental bas-reliefs.

During the festival, some two hundred congregational members who had funded the temple construction and the installation ceremony participated in the abhiseka (bathing) of the Deities. The auspiciousness of the event was marked by the appearance of the constellation Rohini, which appeared over Texas at the time of the installation, just as it had appeared over Vrndavana at the time of Lord Krsna's advent fifty centuries ago.

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Lord Krsna's Cuisine

Spartan Shopping/Divine Dining

Don't let a devotee's near-empty shopping cart fool you.
There's a feast within those simple ingredients.

by Visakha-devi dasi

I picked out some fruits and vegetables from the produce section of the neighborhood supermarket and slowly maneuvered along the back of the store, looking down each long aisle to make sure there was nothing else I needed. Overhead, signs announced the products below: soft drinks, canned fruits and vegetables, coffee, cookies, cakes and snacks, pickles, salad dressings, meat, fish, and so forth. I moved on to the dairy section at the opposite side of the store, picked up some milk and yogurt, and checked out.

Except for an occasional light bulb, bag of whole wheat flour, or box of detergent, the entire middle section of the store might as well not exist for my purposes. As my spiritual master. His Divine Grace A C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, explained once in a letter, "The eating program should be nutritious and simple, not luxurious. That means capatis [unleavened bread] dal [bean soup], vegetables, some butter, some fruits, and milk. This is necessary for keeping good health." He advised his disciples that food was for keeping the body and soul together, that we should "eat to live, not live to eat." So it was by his influence that I found myself going from the fresh produce section at one end of the store to the dairy section at the other end, and skipping the fourteen fully laden shelves in between.

Out of gratitude and love, devotees offer their food to the Supreme Lord, who alone provides for all of us. In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna explains that He does not accept nonvegetarian offerings, so His devotees avoid offering anything that contains meat, fish, or eggs. Similarly, since devotees never take intoxicants, they also avoid alcoholic drinks and even tea and coffee. These basic regulations rule out for devotees a sizable percentage of the supermarket fare.

Canned fruits and vegetables are all right, but I prefer fresh: I want the food to be as tasty and attractive as possible when I offer it to Lord Krsna. I want to begin with high-quality ingredients, prepare them with Krsna in mind, and offer the dishes to Him with feeling. Canned and ready-made food, I find, interfere with that mood.

Srila Prabhupada explained, "When we cook food for ourselves, it is different from food that is prepared for and offered to Krsna. The same rice, dal, and vegetables are material for one purpose but become spiritual when they are dovetailed with Krsna.... If we are sincere in offering something to the Lord in devotional love. He will accept it."

Krsna is not in need of anything: He is the complete whole. Yet He appreciates our love for Him. And He kindly allows us to show that love. He reciprocates with us just to give us the opportunity to find the real object of our loving propensity. Our cooking (along with everything else we do) should be for Krsna's pleasure; afterwards we can enjoy the sanctified remains of Krsna's food.

On hearing all this and on seeing my half-empty shopping cart, a materialistic grocery shopper might think, "How unfortunate—she's depriving herself of some of life's pleasures." But I would explain that my spartan shopping habits don't really indicate a poor, uninteresting diet. Since I start from scratch and use the freshest ingredients, I need get only the basics when I shop: fruits, vegetables, milk and milk products, and grains.

I can make many dishes from Lord Krsna's cuisine using basic ingredients, and an accomplished cook can make hundreds more—some simple, some elaborate, but all tasty, nutritious, and varied. Moreover, these dishes are prasadam. They're Krsna-ized. And they will Krsna-ize whoever eats them.

(Recipes from The Hare Krishna Book of Vegetarian Cooking, by Adi-raja dasa)

Mixed Fried and Seasoned Tidbits


Preparation time: 30 minutes

Servings: 4-6

10 cups deep-fried puffed rice ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil for deep-frying
2 cups dried green peas, soaked overnight in water
1 cup grated potatoes
1 cup tiny cauliflower flowerets
1 cup diced skinned eggplant
¼ cup cashew nuts, slivered almonds, or pistachio nuts
¼ cup raisins
1 fresh chili, chopped
½ teaspooon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon brown sugar
¼ teaspoon asafetida
1 ¼ teaspoons salt

If the puffed rice is not already deep-fried, deep-fry it for a few seconds in smoking hot ghee and let it drain. Drain the soaked green peas thoroughly and deep-fry them for 45 seconds to 1 minute, until they swell and become crisp. Deep-fry the grated potatoes, the tiny cauliflower flowerets, the diced, skinned eggplant, and the nuts. Set them aside in a colander to drain. After all the items have drained, combine them in a mixing bowl. Add the raisins, the spices, and the sugar and mix well. Offer to Krsna.

Coconut Chutney

(Narial chatni)

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Servings: 4-6

3 cups fresh coconut or 2 cups desiccated coconut
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander leaves
2 or 3 fresh chilies, seeded and minced
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt

Break the coconut and save the coconut milk. Detach the pulp from the shell and pare off the brown skin. Cut the pulp into small pieces and blend them in an electric blender with all the other ingredients. Add enough coconut milk or water to make the mixture smooth. If you don't have a blender, grate the coconut and use a mortar and pestle or a grinding stone to make a smooth texture. As an alternative to coconut milk or water, try yogurt, which gives a creamier texture. Offer to Krsna.

Indian Crackers


Preparation time: 30 minutes

Servings: 4-6

2 cups sifted whole wheat or white flour
2 tablespoons caraway or sesame seeds
1 ½ teaspoons rock salt (or ordinary salt)
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons ghee or butter
ghee or vegetable oil for deep-frying
¾ cup water

1. Combine the flour, caraway seeds, salt, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Rub the 2 tablespoons of ghee into the flour. Add enough water to form a fairly firm dough. Knead well for at least 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Then set it aside for a few minutes.

2. Fill a medium-size wok two-thirds full of ghee and put it over a medium flame. While the ghee is heating, roll out the dough into a large square, ½-inch thick. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into diamonds or rectangles 2 inches long. Gently drop half of them into the hot ghee. The heat should be adjusted so that the crackers become golden-brown on both sides in 4 or 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and put in a colander to drain. Then cook the remaining crackers the same way. Offer to Krsna.

Pureed Eggplant, Spinach, and Tomatoes


Preparation time: 40 minutes

Servings: 4-6

2 pounds eggplant, peeled and diced
1 pound fresh spinach, washed, stemmed, and chopped
2 pounds tomatoes, blanched, peeled, and chopped
3 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
1 or 2 dried chilies, crushed
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon asafetida
½ cup water
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon garam masala

1. Heat the ghee in a large saucepan and fry the chilies and the ground coriander for a few seconds. Follow with all the other powdered spices, except for the garam masala, and fry a few seconds longer. Then immediately drop in the eggplant cubes. Stir-fry gently over a medium-high flame until the eggplant becomes soft and begins to release its seeds.

2. Now stir in the chopped tomatoes, spinach, and water. Mix well. Partially cover the saucepan and simmer (stirring occasionally) for about 20 minutes or until the eggplant is very soft. Turn up the flame to medium and cook for 10 more minutes, stirring frequently until the spinach, egg-plant, and tomatoes have merged into a thick velvety sauce. Finally, season with the sugar, salt, and garam masala. Mix well. Offer to Krsna.

Carrot Pudding

(Gajar halava)

Preparation time: 50 minutes

Chilling time: 30 minutes

Servings: 4-6

2 pounds fresh carrots
6 ounces butter
2 cups milk
1 ½ cups sugar
3 tablespoons almonds, lightly fried
3 tablespoons raisins
½ teaspoon ground cardamom

1. Wash the carrots, scrape them, and shred them through the small holes of a metal grater. The shreds should be fine and as long as possible. Melt half the butter in a saucepan and put in the grated carrots. Cook them uncovered over a medium flame for 10 minutes, stirring often to ensure even cooking and to prevent burning. Add the milk, sugar, almonds, raisins, and the remaining butter. Cook for 15 to 25 more minutes, until the halava thickens and forms a single mass in the saucepan.

2. Put the halava on a serving dish. As soon as it is cool enough to handle, shape it into a round cake 1 inch thick. Garnish with the ground cardamom and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Then cut into wedges and offer to Krsna.

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Spiritual Places


Where Heaven Meets Earth

Grand processions in an atmosphere of devotion draw crowds
of eager pilgrims to an ancient South Indian temple.

by Jagatguru Swami

Many factors contribute to the popularity of India's major temples. Sri Rangam, situated on the Kaveri River, is popular because of its antiquity. Badarinatha, high in the Himalayas, is famous for its geographical location. Konark, the sun temple in Orissa, is known for its unique architecture, and Vyenkatesvara, in the South Indian hill town of Tirumala, owes much of its fame to the Deity's reputation for fulfilling the requests of His worshipers. All these factors combine at Guruvayur, in the South Indian state of Kerala. Guruvayur is one of the most enchanting and glorious temples in all of India.

There are no movie theaters in the town of Guruvayur. No liquor stores. Nor night clubs. Guruvayur is a holy city, where people come to make spiritual advancement. In an atmosphere of devotion to Krsna, visitors immediately feel they have risen above this earthly world to the divine. Appropriately, Guruvayur is known as Bhuloka Vaikuntha: "where heaven meets earth."

A visit to Guruvayur, though common to devotees in India, is something very few Westerners have experienced. To witness the thousands of devoted pilgrims who come to worship Krsna every day is astounding. The faith of the pilgrims who visit Guruvayur is expressed in their earnest and sincere faces as they enter the temple. While sitting in the large open-air corridor outside the Deity's chamber, pilgrims hear priests tell about the many miracles performed at Guruvayur. With palms joined in awe and nee, the devotees pray that they too might receive the blessings of Lord Krsna.

The temple schedule begins at 3 A.M. with darsana (seeing the Deity), followed by abhiseka (bathing the Deity), and continues until 10 P.M., when the Deity takes rest for the night. Throughout the day the elaborate worship of the Deity of Lord Krsna engages the temple priests and thousands of visitors in activities of Krsna consciousness. Accompanied by music and singing, the devotees daily offer hundreds of vegetarian dishes, colorful silks and other items of opulent clothing, jeweled ornaments, garlands of flowers, and even elephants as gifts to the Deity.

During the mid-morning hours many wedding ceremonies take place, one after another. Devoted couples, believing that being married at the Guruvayur temple is a great blessing, come here from all over South India.

In the evening, varieties of classical dance, such as Bharata-natyam and Kathakali, are performed for the public. The dancers combine dance and drama to depict the pastimes of Lord Krsna. These dance traditions have existed in South India for thousands of years, and no temple function is complete without them.

The evening also brings the main event of the day: a Deity procession led by jewel- and gold-bedecked elephants. The beauty of the Deity and the grandeur of the elephants draws thousands of pilgrims to witness the procession each evening. Before the arrival of the Deity, elaborate preparations are made. Then, as the enthusiastic crowd stands expectant, a devotee blows three blasts on a conchshell. The priests quickly emerge from the Deity's chamber bearing Lord Krsna on a golden throne, which is placed on the lead elephant. Surrounded by priests bearing multicolored umbrellas and varieties of fans, by musicians playing drums, cymbals, gongs, and trumpets, and by exuberant devotees chanting the names of the Lord, the Deity is carried around the temple compound, now illuminated by ten thousand oil lamps.

After about one hour, with the circumambulation completed, the elephants return to the starting point and stand motionless while the Deity is removed from the golden throne and returned to His chamber. It is now 10 p.m., and the temple closes for the night.

Because the elephant procession is held every night of the year, the Guruvayur temple owns an elephant ranch, where thirty-six elephants are trained to perform ceremonial functions. In the history of the temple several elephants stand out as special. One of the most famous was Kesava, also know as Gajaraja, or "king of the elephants."

Kesava's unique devotion for his service at Guruvayur will not soon be forgotten. When Kesava became the leading elephant in the temple herd, he would no longer tolerate another elephant's carrying the Deity. Once, when another elephant was selected to carry the Deity in procession, Kesava became so disturbed that he attacked the other elephant and chased him away. Whenever Kesava was to carry the Deity, he would demonstrate his great eagerness to perform his service by pulling at the chains that bound his feet.

For more than fifty years Kesava served Lord Krsna at Guruvayur. During one festival, however, he became ill, just at the time of the Deity procession. His huge body began to tremble, and he was removed from the procession and taken to a nearby stable, where he fasted throughout the night. The next evening, when the conchshell blew to announce the appearance of the Deity, Kesava bowed before the temple, and amid thousands of devotees chanting and playing on musical instruments, his soul departed from his body to attain the eternal realm of Vaikuntha.

When pilgrims arrive at Guruvayur, they are reminded of Kesava by his tusks and portrait displayed above the main entrance to the Deity chamber. And throughout the city many shops sell colorful paintings of Kesava.

At Guruvayur, whether on the days of great festivals or in the moments before the evening procession, when ten thousand oil lamps are being lit, or while hearing about Kesava, the king of the elephants, the pilgrim naturally feels a growing desire to glorify the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna.

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The Glories of Sri Krsna

Verses from Srila Rupa Gosvami's Padyavali selected and translated by Kusakratha dasa

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.

nayanam galad-asru-dharaya
vadanam gadgada-ruddhaya gira
pulakair nicitam vapuh kada
tava nama-grahane bhavisyati

My dear Lord, when will My eyes be beautified by filling with tears that constantly glide down as I chant Your holy name? When will My voice falter and all the hairs on My body stand erect in transcendental happiness as I chant Your holy name?—Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu

naiva divya-sukha-bhogam arthaye
napavargam api natha kamaye
yantu karna-vivaram dine dine
krsna-keli-caritamrtani me

O Lord, I do not pray for heavenly happiness. I do not even aspire for liberation. Simply let, day after day, the nectar of Lord Krsna's transcendental pastimes flood my ears.—Sri Kaviratna

aho ahobhir na kaler viduyate
sudha-su-dhara-madhuram pade pade
dine dine candana-candra-sitalam
yaso yasoda-tanayasya giyate

One who daily sings the glories of Yasoda's son, Krsna, which are as cooling as sandalwood and camphor, is not troubled by the days of Kali-yuga. For him at every step there is a torrential flood of the sweetest nectar.—Sri Kaviratna

viharanto maha-mudah
kurvanti krtinah kecic
catur-vargam trnopamam

O Lord, the saintly devotees, who happily play in the nectar ocean of the narration of Your glories, consider the four purusarthas [material piety, economic development, sense gratification, and liberation] to be as insignificant as a blade of grass.—Sri Sridhara Svami

tatraiva ganga yamuna ca tatra
godavari tatra sarasvati ca
sarvani tirthani vasanti tatra

The Ganges, Yamuna, Godavari, and Sarasvati rivers, as well as all holy places of pilgrimage, reside where the transcendental topics of the infallible Supreme Personality of Godhead are narrated.—author unknown

amsalambita-vama-kundala-dharam mandonnata-bhru-latam
kincit-kuncita-komaladhara-putam saci-prasareksanam
alolanguli-pallavair muralikam apurayantam muda
mule kalpa-taros tri-bhanga-lalitam dhyayej jagan-mohanam

His handsome form gracefully bending in three places, His beautiful earrings reaching to His shoulders, the creepers of His eyebrows slightly raised, His glance crooked, His delicate lips slightly pursed, and His flower-blossom fingers moving restlessly, Lord Krsna happily enchants the entire world as He fills His flute with music under a kalpa-vrksa tree. In this way one may meditate on Lord Krsna.—author unknown

adhare vinihitam vamsam
campaka-kusumena kalpitottamsam

vinatam dadhanam amsam
vamam satatam namami jita-kamsam

A garland of campaka flowers resting on His gracefully sloping shoulders, Lord Krsna places the flute to His lips. I eternally offer my respectful obeisances to that Lord Krsna, who was victorious over Kamsa.—Sri Purusottamadeva

vyatyasta-pada-kamalam lalita-tri-bhangi
saubhagyam amsa-virali-krta-kesa-pasam
pinchavatamsam urari-krta-vamsa-nalam
avyaja-mohanam upaimi krpa-visesam

His loosened hair crowned with a peacock feather arid flowing over His shoulders, His handsome form bending in three places, and His feet crossing as He dances, the merciful and charming Lord Krsna plays His flute. Such is the Lord whom I worship.—Sri Narada

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Notes from the Editor

The Supreme Song of the Supreme Person

The Bhagavad-gita continues to enjoy wide popularity. New editions, as well as books proclaiming the universality of the Bhagavad-gita's teachings, appear regularly. Serious students of spiritual knowledge will always study the Bhagavad-gita.

One reason the Gita is so popular is that it contains the essence of the Vedic literatures. It has been said that in Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna is like a cowherd boy, milking the essence of all the Upanisads and giving that milk to Arjuna and to all mankind.

Although the Bhagavad-gita has been widely appreciated, different commentators have interpreted the Gita in different ways. The edition used by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) is the translation and commentary given by the founder-acarya of ISKCON, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada has subtitled his edition "As It Is." In his translation and commentary, Srila Prabhupada has allowed the clear meaning of Krsna's words to shine forth, unobstructed by speculative interpretations.

The basic controversy among the various interpretations is whether God is or is not a person. Different Vedic literatures describe the Absolute Truth in different features. In His supreme form, as the absolute person, Krsna is the ultimate goal of all monotheistic religions. He is also present in everyone's heart and can be seen there by the meditating yogis. Krsna also has an all-pervading, impersonal aspect, described in the Vedic literatures as the inconceivable, unmanifested Brahman.

Most scholars of the Bhagavad-gita concede that the Gita is theistic: It teaches us about the Supreme Person. So to understand the Gita, we must approach it with the attitude that Lord Krsna, the speaker of the Bhagavad-gita, is—at least theoretically—the Supreme Person Himself. As Srila Prabhupada explains in his Introduction, "We should at least theoretically accept Sri Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and with that submissive spirit we can understand the Bhagavad-gita."

Krsna's identity as the Supreme Person is established throughout the Bhagavad-gita, and to reach an impersonalistic conclusion requires fancifully interpreting and altering the meaning of the verses. The Twelfth Chapter in particular focuses on the personal/impersonal issue. Chapter Twelve begins with Arjuna asking Krsna, "Which are considered to be more perfect, those who are always properly engaged in Your devotional service or those who worship the impersonal Brahman, the unmanifested?" (Bg. 12.1) Krsna clearly explains that the worship of His personal form is best:

The Supreme Personality of Godhead said, "Those who fix their minds on My personal form and are always engaged in worshiping Me with great and transcendental faith are considered by Me to be most perfect. But those who fully worship the unmanifested, that which lies beyond the perception of the senses, the all-pervading, inconceivable, unchanging, fixed, and immovable—the impersonal conception of the Absolute Truth—by controlling the various senses and being equally disposed to everyone, such persons, engaged in the welfare of all, at last attain Me. For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifested, impersonal feature of the Supreme, advancement is very troublesome. To make progress in that discipline is always difficult for those who are embodied." (Bg. 12.2-5)

Every translator of the Gita—be he a personalist or an impersonalist—translates these verses in basically the same way. The meaning of these verses is not controversial, and once accepted, they establish that worship of Krsna in His personal form is the best way to worship.

Most impersonalists grant that there is some advantage to be gained—in the beginning stages of yoga—by worshiping the form of the Supreme Person, but they argue that the biggest realization involves merging the self with the impersonal, all-pervading Brahman. But as Krsna says in the verses quoted above, even the impersonalists ultimately come to worship Him in His personal form: "They will at last attain Me." In another verse (Bg. 7.19) He makes the same point: "After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare."

Those who apply themselves to spiritual life without worshiping Krsna have been compared to fools who try to get grain by beating empty husks of wheat. By ignoring Krsna, the impersonalist wastes his labor and misses the most valuable part of spiritual life.

Krsna's straightforward explanation that personalistic service, or bhakti-yoga, is easier than impersonal meditation should be taken very seriously. In the present age, it is especially difficult to practice impersonal meditation. The Vedic literatures describe the people of this age as short-lived, lazy, and always disturbed. People today cannot give up their worldly activities and practice severe austerities.

We should therefore be practical. We should not be armchair philosophers discussing fine points of philosophy and religion. If we are intelligent and knowledgeable, we will want to make real advancement in spiritual life and end our sufferings in this material world as quickly and easily as possible.

The easiest way to spiritual advancement in this age is by chanting the Hare Krsna mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. By chanting Krsna's holy names one can make tangible advancement in transcendental knowledge and develop pure love of God. One can also advance by worshiping the Deity, the personal form of God within the temple. As Krsna promises in the Bhagavad-gita, if one offers Him with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, He will accept it.

Each of us is eternally a person. In our thoughts, feelings, and activities we are always relating to other persons, and to worship God in His supreme personal form of Lord Krsna is easy and natural.

Because Krsna is a person, we can chant His name, offer our food to Him, and distribute that food to others as His mercy. And we can also hear His words in scriptures like the Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad-Bhagavatam. By performing these simple yet pleasing transcendental activities, one experiences Krsna's presence and so advances in spiritual understanding, ultimately arriving at the stage of pure love of God. Even the greatest proponent of impersonalistic philosophy, Sri Sankaracarya, understood that Krsna is the Supreme Person and the highest truth. At the time of his death, Sankaracarya composed a now-famous song, which he sang for his students: bhaja govinda, bhaja govinda, bhaja govinda mudha-mate. "What use will it be at the time of death, when death grabs you by the throat, if you can only think of the unmanifest, impersonal Brahman? Just worship Govinda, worship Govinda, worship Govinda." By doing so, anyone can avoid the greatest danger.—SDG

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Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

In Sanskrit, man means "mind" and tra means "freeing." So a mantrais a combination of transcendental, spiritual sounds that frees our minds from the anxieties of life in the material world.

Ancient India's Vedic literatures single out one mantra as the maha (supreme) mantra. The Kali-santarana Upanisad explains, "These sixteen words—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—are especially meant for counteracting the ill effects of the present age of quarrel and anxiety."

The Narada-pancaratra adds, "All mantras and all processes for self-realization are compressed into the Hare Krsna maha-mantra." Five centuries ago, while spreading the maha-mantra throughout the Indian subcontinent, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu prayed, "O Supreme Personality of Godhead, in Your holy name You have invested all Your transcendental energies."

The name Krsna means "the all-attractive one," the name Rama means "the all-pleasing one," and the name Hare is an address to the Lord's devotional energy. So the maha-mantra means, "O all-attractive, all-pleasing Lord, O energy of the Lord, please engage me in Your devotional service." Chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, and your life will be sublime.

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