Life after life you have acquired a new material body—automatically
A lecture in Mexico City in February 1975 by
na tv evaham jatu nasam
"Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings: nor in the future shall any of us cease to be." (Bhagavad-gita 2.12)
From this verse it is to be concluded that we are not going to die. Krsna says here that not only He, but also Arjuna and all others who were present on the battlefield will continue to exist. How shall we exist? As spirit souls, we are existing now—we've accepted a certain type of material body and are existing—and similarly, after finishing this body we'll accept another body and continue to exist.
Now, the question is, "What kind of body shall I exist in after finishing this body?" That is explained elsewhere in the Bhagavad-gita. If we like, Krsna says, we can exist in the higher planetary system, where the duration of life is very, very long and sense enjoyment is much better than in this world. This we can have if we like. We can also exist in lower-grade species like cats, dogs, insects, trees, or aquatics. We can also exist in the same way as we are existing now. Or we can exist exactly as God does, enjoying an eternal life of bliss and knowledge.
Attaining an eternal life of bliss and knowledge means attaining a spiritual body. The body we possess now—a material body—is neither eternal nor blissful nor full of knowledge. Every one of us knows that one day this material body will be finished. And it is full of ignorance. For instance. we cannot know anything about what is beyond this world. We have senses, but they're all limited, imperfect. Sometimes we are very proud and challenge, "Can you show me God'?" But we forget how weak our power of seeing is. As soon as the light is gone, our power of seeing is gone. So, the material body is imperfect and full of ignorance.
But a spiritual body is full of knowledge—just the opposite. We can get a spiritual body in our next life, but we have to develop the proper consciousness. We can develop our consciousness so that our next body will be in the higher planetary system, or so that our body will be a cat's or dog's body, or so that our body will be eternal; blissful, and full of knowledge.
The most intelligent person will try to get an eternal body full of bliss and knowledge. Then he will not have to return to this material world: yad gatva na nivartante tad dhama paramam mama [Bg. 15.6]. Even if you are promoted to Brahmaloka, the highest planet in the material world, you'll still have to come back. But if you try your best to go to the spiritual world—back home, back to Godhead—you will not come back here to accept a material body.
Now, the question may be raised, "If I am eternal, why are there so many miserable conditions of life? Why am I subjected to birth, old age, disease, and death?" These are actually intelligent questions. Krsna instructs that these miserable conditions of life are due to the material body, and that if in the future we can attain a spiritual body in His kingdom, we will be free of this suffering. Those who are engaged only in sense gratification do not care for the future; they simply want immediate facilities to enjoy this life. They are like children without the care of their parents. Children simply play the whole day, not caring for their future life, not caring to get an education.
But in the human form of life, if we are actually intelligent, we should try our best to get that kind of body in which we will not suffer birth, old age, disease, and death. This Krsna consciousness movement is educating people for that purpose.
Now, one may ask, "If I simply devote myself to Krsna consciousness, how will my material necessities be supplied?" The answer is there in the Bhagavad-gita [9.22], where Krsna says,
ananyas cintayanto mam
"For a devotee who is always engaged in My service, I supply his necessities of life." Krsna is already looking after everyone's maintenance. Eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman: "The one Supreme Person is supplying the necessities of all living entities." So for a devotee who is trying to go back home, back to Godhead, there will be no scarcity. Rest assured.
The practical example is this Krsna consciousness movement. We now have about 100 centers all over the world, with from 25 to 250 devotees in each. We have no fixed means of income, but we are spending in all the branches $80,000 per month. By the grace of Krsna we have no scarcity. Everything is supplied. People sometimes wonder, "These Hare Krsna people do not work, they do not have any profession. They simply chant Hare Krsna. How do they live?" The answer is that if cats and dogs can live by the mercy of God, His devotees can certainly live very comfortably by His mercy. There is no question of scarcity.
But for the devotee who thinks, "I have taken to Krsna consciousness, yet I am still suffering in so many ways," Krsna gives this instruction [Bg. 2.14]:
matra-sparsas tu kaunteya
"Pains and pleasures are just like the winter and summer seasons. Try to tolerate them." In the winter, cold water is painful, but in the summer the same water is pleasing. So, what is the effect of cold water? Is it painful, or pleasing? It is neither, but in different seasons, when it touches the skin, cold water seems painful or pleasing. Such pains and pleasures are coming and going; they are not permanent. Krsna therefore advises, tams titiksasva bharata: "Just tolerate." But do not forget your real business, Krsna consciousness. Of course, if there are pains we should try our best to counteract them, but even if we cannot, we should not be diverted from our devotional practices.
So, one of the main devotional qualities is tolerance. One should learn to tolerate every condition of life. For example, in India those who are actually brahmanas (now we have created some brahmanas in the Western countries) do not neglect to take a bath early in the morning simply because the weather is p inching cold. Similarly, in the scorching heat of the summer season, one should not decide, "I shall stop cooking." The kitchen may be too hot, but still we cannot give up cooking. This tolerance comes by practice. Something may be painful for one or two days, but if you practice, soon it will no longer be painful.
In the practice of Krsna consciousness, one must follow all the rules and regulations. Sometimes this may be a little painful, but we cannot give them up. We have to learn to tolerate. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has also advised us that to advance in Krsna consciousness, one should be tolerant. Trnad api sunicena: "Become humbler than the grass." So many people trample the grass, yet it does not protest. And taror iva sahisnuna: "Be more tolerant than a tree." Somebody may break a tree's branches, somebody may snatch its fruits, somebody may cut it down, but still the tree is giving you shelter, wood, fruits, and flowers. A tree is a very good example of tolerance. And then, amanina manadena: "For oneself one should desire no respect, but one should offer all respect to others." So, anyone desiring to go back home, back to Godhead, has to learn to be tolerant and forbearing. That is the instruction of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
If we practice Krsna consciousness in this way, we will become fit forgoing back home, back to Godhead. Krsna explains this in the next verse [2.15]:
yam hi na vyathayanty ete
"One who is tolerant of pains and pleasures becomes fit for going back home, back to Godhead. It is simply a question of practice. In Bengal it is said, sarire nam mahasaya jasa babe tayse: "By practice you can train your body to tolerate almost anything." For example, in the morning, when we go for our walk, we see so many people running. I cannot run. But if I practice for some days, I will also be able to run. If you practice enough, you'll be successful at anything.
So, if by practicing Krsna consciousness you can go back home, back to Godhead, why should you neglect it? That will solve all your problems. The real problems are birth, old age, disease, and death. If you can solve these problems simply by practicing some regulative principles, why don't you do it?
We are opening hundreds of centers just to give training to people so that they can practice Krsna consciousness and go back home, back to Godhead. You cannot go home, back to Godhead, so cheaply. You have to practice certain regulative principles; then you will be fit to go. They are not very difficult. In the beginning, just chant the Hare Krsna mantra. Then you'll become fit for more practice.
So, now we have a center in your city, and I request you to take full advantage of this Krsna consciousness movement and be successful in your life. Rest assured that after finishing this body, every one of us will have to accept another body. If we neglect the rules and regulations of spiritual life and are forced to accept the body of a dog, just imagine how painful that will be! But if we follow the principles of Krsna consciousness, then, as Krsna says, yanti mad-yajino 'pi mam: "Anyone engaged in Krsna consciousness comes to Me." So, practice Krsna consciousness and go back home, back to Godhead.
Devotee: [Translating from Spanish]: Can you explain a little more about developing a spiritual body?
Srila Prabhupada: Your spiritual body is already there; it is simply covered by your material body. You have to purify your consciousness, and then you will get your original, spiritual body. Krsna consciousness is a purifying process that cures a person of the disease of material life. Suppose one has a fever. The fever is not permanent. Cure the fever, and you become healthy. Similarly, cure the fever of material attachment, and you will attain your original healthy, spiritual body.
Devotee: You were saying that one can take birth even as a dog. How long must one reincarnate as a dog? How many births?
Srila Prabhupada: As long as you are unable to go back home, back to Godhead, you have to accept a body of a dog or a cat or some other species. There are 8,400,000 bodily forms, and you have to accept one after another. Now, make your decision whether you want to accept these different types of body or you want to get your original, spiritual body. In the spiritual body there is no more birth, old age, disease, and death, while in the material body these four miseries are continually occurring. You can get your spiritual body simply by a little cultivation of Krsna consciousness in this human form of life. But if your next life is other than human, you will have to wait perhaps millions of years to come again to this human form of life. After all, we are under the grip of the stringent laws of nature. You cannot escape them unless you come to Krsna consciousness.
Devotee: Are our reincarnations progressive or regressive?
Srila Prabhupada: Both.
Devotee: Why would we take birth as an animal?
Srila Prabhupada: Because you act like an animal.
Devotee: If one behaves badly in school, one has to stay where he is—he cannot progress. But he does not go back.
Srila Prabhupada: No, sometimes one is demoted, also. That is quite natural.
Devotee: Some people don't believe that one can lose the human form and be degraded to animal life.
Srila Prabhupada: They may not believe in the law, but the law will be enforced. Suppose somebody says, "I can commit any criminal act because I don't believe in the court's judgment." Is that sensible? You may believe or not believe, but the law will act. For example, if you contract some infectious disease, you must develop that disease. That is the law of nature. So, we are contaminating ourselves by performing so many sinful activities, and according to the laws of nature we will have to accept the appropriate material body. The material laws are not under your control; you are under the control of the material laws.
Devotee: Who is in charge of giving us our next body?
Srila Prabhupada: God. Isvarah sarva-bhutanam hrd-dese 'rjuna tisthati: God, in His Supersoul feature, is situated in everyone's heart, and He is seeing all our activities and awarding us different kinds of bodies. So, we have to accept that we are fully under control. If we childishly claim to be independent, that is foolishness.
Devotee: Do the senses—the material senses we now have—originally belong to the soul, which has been covered by the material body?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. For instance, if a man in a normal condition becomes mad, his original senses are still there, but they act abnormally. Similarly, when we are in this material world, we use our senses in an abnormal way. But when we purify our senses of material contamination by using them to serve Krsna, that is our normal condition. Sarvopadhi-vinirmuktam tat-paratvena nirmalam. When we give up all material designations and become purified, we come to our normal condition.
Devotee: What are the characteristics of a person who has realized that he's not this body?
Srila Prabhupada: He engages cent per cent in Krsna consciousness. He doesn't know anything but Krsna and service to Krsna. That is our normal condition. Thank you very much.
Whether one chants meditatively on beads or exuberantly with musical instruments, the Hare Krsna mantra is the easiest and most potent means to spiritual advancement.
by Visakha-devi dasi
"O my Lord, Your holy name alone can render all benediction to living beings, and thus You have millions of names, like Krsna and Govinda. In these transcendental names You have invested all Your transcendental energies. There are not even hard and fast rules for chanting these names. O my Lord, out of kindness You enable us to easily approach You by Your holy names, but I am so unfortunate that I have no attraction for them."—Siksastaka, Verse 2
Srila Prabhupada was once amused by a cartoon portraying a woman imploring her husband "Chant, chant, chant," and then the man replying "Can't, can't, can't." "This is the situation," Srila Prabhupada explained. "Chanting is so easy and the benefits of chanting are so great, yet simply out of stubbornness, people refuse to chant."
Chanting is easy. As Lord Caitanya says, there are no hard and fast rules. Anyone can chant at any time, in any place, under any circumstances, and without any previous qualification. All that's required is to repeat Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. These sixteen transcendental sounds compose the maha-mantra—the supreme combination of sounds for freeing one's mind from anxiety. The Narada-pancaratra states that all mantras and processes for self-realization are compressed into the Hare Krsna mantra.
Srila Prabhupada explains that the name Krsna means "the all-attractive one," and the name Rama means "the all-pleasing one." When combined with Hare, the Lord's devotional energy, the words mean "O all-attractive, all-pleasing Lord, kindly engage me in Your service." In other words, Krsna, Rama, and Hare are not sectarian names but are spiritual, surpassing all material strata—sensual, mental, and intellectual. The Lord is one, yet He has unlimited names, owing to His unlimited activities and unlimited qualities. "If you think that Krsna is the name of a Hindu God," Srila Prabhupada said, "then you can chant any bona fide name of the Lord—Allah, Buddha, Jehovah. We chant Hare Krsna because that's what's recommended in the scriptures."
Because the omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient Lord is nondifferent from His name, the benefits from chanting defy the imagination. By chanting God's names we can revive our spiritual consciousness, and when we chant purely, the Lord is present, dancing on our tongue. This quality of the Lord, to personally and fully appear when His name is vibrated, is unknown to nondevotees. And even among devotees, there is much to be realized. The scripture Caitanya-caritamrta tells that in Candapura, India, five centuries ago, a number of scholars were once discussing the glories of chanting. "By chanting the holy name of the Lord," some of them said, "one is freed from the reactions of sinful life." Others said, "Simply by chanting the holy name of the Lord, a living being is liberated from material bondage."
Also present at the gathering was Haridasa Thakura, the great devotee whose life exemplified the perfection of chanting Hare Krsna. Haridasa Thakura objected to the opinions of the scholars, saying, "These two benedictions are not the true result of chanting the holy name. By chanting the holy name without offenses, one awakens his ecstatic love for the lotus feet of Krsna. Liberation and extinction of the reactions of sinful life are two concomitant by-products of chanting the holy name of the Lord."
Haridasa explained that just as the first hint of sunlight dissipates the darkness of night, similarly the first hint of offenseless chanting dissipates the reactions of sinful activities immediately. And, as when the sun is present everything is visible, similarly when one chants the holy name offenselessly, ecstatic love of God manifests within the heart.
So, perfection is available through pure sound. The only difficulty is that either we refuse to chant, or if we do chant, we chant offensively. Refusal may come from a lack of interest or faith in spiritual life. Offenses are due to a lack of purity. But one can overcome these difficulties simply by seriously and sincerely chanting, for the holy name is self-sufficient.
Rupa Gosvami, an exalted devotee and personal associate of Lord Caitanya, expressed his appreciation of the effects of chanting the holy name: "I do not know how much nectar the two syllables Krsna have produced. When the holy name of Krsna is chanted, it appears to dance within the mouth. We then desire many, many mouths. And when that name enters the holes of the ears, we desire many millions of ears."
Except for stubbornness, there is no reason why one can't chant Hare Krsna. Chanting is so easy that even if you can't chant audibly for some reason, you can still chant within your mind and experience the potency of transcendental vibrations. And as you chant, your taste and desire to chant will increase. And your love for God will increase. So who can't chant? Only one who doesn't chant thinks "can't."
Whatever one's frame of mind or physical circumstances, one can benefit piritually by chanting Hare Krsna; no one is disqualified. In fact, a devotee in distress may be in an advantageous position, for he can call out to Krsna with true feeling. As Srila Prabhupada writes, 'A helpless man can feelingly utter the holy name of the Lord, whereas a man who utters the same holy name in great material satisfaction cannot be so sincere" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.8.26, purport).
Modern Times And Muddled Menus
Cook for Krsna and rise above religious dogmas and cultural turbulence.
By Visakha-Devi Dasi
I was browsing in the cookery section of our local library the other day when I came across three passages that revealed a sour irony:
1. "Although thousands of years old, man's natural diet has been slandered, ridiculed, and feared by people throughout the ages. And despite its proven economy, nutritional benefits, and harmlessness toward life, the vegetarian diet has been largely ignored in the West in favor of one containing meat" (Eating for Life, by Nathaniel Altman).
2. "Flesh-eating by humans is unnecessary, irrational, anatomically unsound, unhealthy, unhygienic, uneconomical, unaesthetic, unkind and unethical" (Simple Food for the Good Life, by Helen Nearing).
3. "Another friend was a Muslim from Uttar Pradesh, known to bring beef cooked with spinach, all deliciously flavoured.... Many of us were Hindus and not supposed to eat beef. So we just pretended not to know what it was. Our fingers would work busily around the tender meat that covered the bones and our cheeks would hollow as we sucked up the spicy marrow from the marrow bones" (Indian Cooking, by Mudhur Jaffrey).
The irony? On the one hand. Westerners have given up their inherited cuisine (which, some say, is harder than changing marriage partners), to embrace vegetarianism, while on the other hand, an Indian has rejected her traditional vegetarian diet as unsubstantiated religious dogma and has delved into meat-eating with the zeal of a giddy young girl on her first date.
I can understand Madhur Jaffrey's girlish "excitement" in breaking the tenets of her religion. My father (Jewish) and my mother (Anglican) told me that when they were children they had to follow strict religious regulation. My Jewish grandmother kept two sets of silverware, turned the lights off at five on Fridays, and insisted that my father master Hebrew. My Anglican grandmother had my mother go to Church each Sunday to pray and confess, lest she risk eternal damnation. When my parents became adults, they both broke free from the grip of religious ritual and became atheists. As Srila Prabhupada writes, "Religion without philosophy is sentiment, or sometimes fanaticism...." Being untrained in the philosophical aspect of religion, and being neither sentimental nor fanatical, my parents, like Madhur Jaffrey, decided that religious practices were optional.
When one gives up religious tenets, however, and decides intellectually and philosophically what should and should not be eaten, the menu becomes most muddled. In fact, there is a growing war over the dinner table. Marilynn Marter, food writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, writes, "Your next gourmet delight may be another person's passionate political cause.... The protesters find the practices involved in the procurement of frogs' legs and production of foie gras no less disdainful than the clubbing of baby seals...." Protesters cite the cruelty of lopping off the legs of live frogs and the disruption of the ecological balance by rampant frog-killing as reasons for abstaining from frog's meat. Most people, they claim, can't distinguish frog's meat from chicken anyway.
Another group, known as FARM, objects to the mass methods used to raise such "edible animals" as chickens, cows, pigs, and turkeys. "These methods," they protest, "treat food animals no differently from feed grain—something to be planted, fertilized, watered, and harvested."
Even vegetarians, like Altman and Nearing (quoted above), wrangle. Nearing favors raw foods and avoid eggs, salt, and milk. Milk, she says, is meant for the calf, not for humans. (But she admits to occasionally succumbing to the ice-cream-eating binges she relished as a child) On the other hand, Altman doesn't mention raw foods, and the recipes in his book include eggs, salt, and milk.
For Srila Prabhupada, his predecessors, and those who follow him on the spiritual path, these ideas about what to eat and what not to eat are mental speculation, a product of philosophy without religion. "The ultimate goal is Krsna," Srila Prabhupada writes. And Krsna's desire is the sole criterion that guides the lives of His devotees and governs their diet. Steeped in the science and philosophy of Krsna consciousness, devotees of the Lord transcend emotional religious rituals and the opinions born of errant minds.
Dogma? Blind faith? Some may denigrate a devotee's faith. Yet a devotee's deep conviction rests on his educated acceptance of the Supreme Lord as the ultimate proprietor of everything, the supreme enjoyer, and the dearmost friend of all beings. A devotee follows Lord Krsna's direction and eats wholesome, well-balanced, delicious, and controversy-free meals.
(Recipes from The Hare Krishna Book of Vegetarian Cooking, by Adi-raja dasa)
Saffron Rice with Cheese Balls
(Kesar panir pulao)
Preparation time: 30-40 minutes
1 cup good-quality long-grain rice
1. Wash the rice, soak it for 15 to 20 minutes in cold water, and let it drain. Knead the panir until it is soft, and roll it into small balls. (Or press it and cut it into cubes.) Deep-fry the panir balls until they are browned all over. Drain. Dissolve the saffron and sugar in the warm milk, and put the raisins and deep-fried panir balls in the saffron-milk to soak.
2. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a large saucepan over a medium flame and stir-fry the rice for 3 minutes. When the grains become lightly toasted, pour the water and salt into the rice, bring to a boil, and cook covered over a very low flame. After 10 minutes, remove the cover and gently stir in the nuts and the saffron milk (set the panir balls aside). Be careful not to break the grains. Cover the pot and cook for 10 minutes more or until the rice is completely cooked. Then remove the cover and allow the rest of the water to evaporate by cooking it another 2 or 3 minutes.
3. Finally, dot the rice with butter and mix gently with a fork. Garnish with the panir balls and offer to Krsna hot.
Dal Croquettes in Yogurt
(Urad dal bara)
Preparation time: 30 minutes
1 ½ cups urad dal, soaked in water overnight
1. Drain the dal and blend it in an electric blender (or a grinder) with the minced chilies, asafetida, baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of the salt until it is a smooth paste. Add a little water and beat the mixture vigorously until it is so light that a drop will float on water. Set aside. Reserve ½ teaspoon of the salt and dissolve the rest in the warm water.
2. Heat the ghee in a wok or pot until it is hot but not smoking. Drop lumps of the batter, one after another, into the ghee. In seconds the baras will become round and float and begin sizzling. Fry them on all sides. They should become nicely browned in 5 or 6 minutes. Then drain them and put them in the salt water to soak. Add the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt to the yogurt, mix well, and set the yogurt aside.
3. After 20 to 30 minutes, when the baras begin to become light-colored, gently remove them and squeeze the excess water out of each one. Place them in a serving dish, cover with yogurt, and garnish with ground cumin. Offer to Krsna. Serve urad dal baras as part of a main meal or as a special treat.
Fresh Mint Chutney
Preparation time: 15 minutes
2 ounces fresh mint leaves
Wash the mint leaves thoroughly and shake them dry. Use only the leaves and the thinnest stalks; discard the thick stems. Blend all the ingredients together in an electric blender with just enough water to make a smooth paste. Chill and offer to Krsna.
For a tasty chutney using both mint and coriander leaves, mix the same ingredients, but use only 3 ounces of mint leaves. Add 3 ounces of coriander leaves, 6 ounces of roasted or deep-fried peanuts, and 4 ounces of tamarind pulp. Chill and offer to Krsna.
Vegetable and Cheese Stew
(Matar alu tarkari)
Preparation time: 40 minutes
1 tablespoon ghee or vegetable oil
1. Heat the ghee in a large saucepan over a medium flame. When it begins to smoke, toss in the cloves, cinnamon sticks, ground cardamom, and bay leaves. Stir-fry for about 30 seconds; then put in the potatoes. Fry them for 5 minutes, frequently scraping the bottom of the pan with a spatula, until they are lightly browned. Add the peas and turmeric. Stir once, pour in the water, and cook for 10 minutes with the pot covered. Then add the tomatoes, along with the grated ginger, nutmeg, sugar, and salt. Stir to mix, and cook covered for 5 more minutes.
2. Now fold in the sour cream, coriander, almonds, and the fried panir cubes. Remove the whole spices. Offer to Krsna.
(Tamatar ka soup)
Preparation time: 30-40 minutes
4 ½ pounds firm red tomatoes
1. Wash the tomatoes and cut each one into 8 wedges. Heat the ghee in a heavy saucepan and fry the ground coriander and asafetida for a few seconds. Add the tomatoes and ½ teaspoon of salt. Adjust the flame to medium-low and cook the tomatoes for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they appear pulpy and the skins become loose.
2. Blend the tomatoes in an electric blender, or press them through a sieve, and put them back in the pan. Add the chopped coriander, sugar, pepper, cayenne, ½ teaspoon of salt, and milk.
3. Heat the butter in another saucepan and stir-fry the flour over a low flame to brown it lightly. Now slowly add the soup and continue to cook (while stirring continuously to prevent lumps from forming) until the soup thickens. Add the lemon juice and offer to Krsna hot.
Spiritual Civilization: Practical and to the Point
This is the conclusion of a conversation that took place between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples at ISKCON's fanning village in New Vrindaban, Rev kirginla, on June 24, 1976.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, this is our traditional system: to live simply, treat all the Lord's creatures kindly, and then, at life's end, go back to the spiritual world. And what is the modern rascals' system? To live lavishly, treat animals and unborn babies cruelty, and then go to hell. Their system is not practical for us. We cannot follow their system.
But anyway, if you can maintain a perfect community based on simple living and high thinking, that will be sufficient. There is no need to canvass. People will see gradually for themselves that this traditional way of life really is convenient, most practical.
Now you have received this jewel: spiritual, peaceful life. So utilize it properly. Make your life perfect. Brahmanda bhramite kona bhagyavan jiva guru-krsna-prasade paya bhakti-lata-bija: "After wandering through many universes for many lifetimes, the fortunate soul gets the mercy of a bona fide spiritual master and of krsna—and the seed of the Lord's eternal devotional service."
Now, we don't tell people, "Spiritual civilization means that you starve—you unnecessarily give trouble to your body." No. "Eat nicely. Live nicely. But live simply, so that you save time for advancing in God consciousness." That is our program. And anyone can learn it if he at all desires.
After all, even these modern rascals are human beings, endowed with human intelligence. They can learn. So we'll go on speaking the truth. But practicing it personally—that is our main business. Whether or not one of my students has a propensity for preaching, let him preach by the way he lives. Let his personal life be perfect. Let him teach by his life.
The secret is to make the Lord the center of all that you do. Become preoccupied with Krsna. Then naturally you'll not be preoccupied with your material body. Lavish your affection upon Krsna. Then you'll not lavish excessive affection upon the material body, which is, after all, temporary and not your real self.
Because people today are caught up in this misconception that the material body is the self, therefore they're misspending so much time and effort and money. Isn't that so? All on something that cannot last. Why not transfer your love to your real, spiritual self and to the Supreme Self—make Him your beloved and enjoy life with Him forever. That is our system of civilization.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, you've said that if you glorify Krsna, then your heart will become glorious and you'll feel satisfied.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. This system of civilization is not simply a fashion or a whim. It is for our benefit. By seeing and hearing Krsna glorified, you'll be satisfied. That is natural: You'll feel satisfied because factually you are a spiritual being, part and parcel of Krsna.
So show people how they can serve and glorify the Lord in their everyday life. Then they will be rid of the propensity, "Let me go to the market and find some nice new gadget or some nice new rag to glorify myself." Finished. Millions and billions of people—by glorifying the Lord, they'll feel satisfied. This is our system of civilization: everyone satisfied.
These animals who live with us on our farms—even they are satisfied. They are not afraid. If they are resting, and some of my students come near, they do not stir and become fearful. They have come to know, "These people love us. They'll not harm us. We are safe. We are at home." Any animal, be he bird or beast, can be taught this sense of safety and friendship.
Take these cows. They know all of you are their friends. Animals can understand this. You can make friends even with lions and tigers. Yes. I have seen it. At the World's Fair in New York, a man was embracing a lion, and the lion was playing with him the way a dog plays with his master. I've seen it.
Disciple: Often you see that kind of thing at the circus, as well—a man putting his head in a lion's mouth.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Disciple: If you haven't fed him, then it is dangerous. But as long as you keep him well fed. you can even put your head into his mouth.
Srila Prabhupada: Naturally. Animal means "living being, spiritual being," not some dead stone. So he can understand, "This man is giving me food—he's my friend." The feeling of love, friendship—everything is there, even in the animals.
Disciple: Everything is there except God consciousness.
Srila Prabhupada: Generally the soul can come to God consciousness only in the human form of life. But even in an animal form he can become God conscious, by associating with someone who is God conscious.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, I thought you'd once said love is impossible between humans and animals, because they belong to different species.
Srila Prabhupada: Being in the same species is very conducive to love. But love is possible between any living entity and any other—because every living entity is a spirit, part and parcel of God. the Supreme Spirit.
So genuine love requires that we center our love on God, on Krsna. That love can make this world as blissful as Vrndavana, as blissful as the spiritual world, where the human beings love Krsna, the animals love Krsna, the trees love Krsna, everyone loves Krsna—where everyone loves everyone, because Krsna is the central point. That is the perfection of civilization, the perfection of love.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Bhagavad-gita As It Is for 180 Million
Jakarta, Indonesia—Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is was recently published here in Indonesian, the language spoken by 150 million Indonesians and 30 million Malayans. The publication is a triumph for the devotees who have worked diligently to spread Krsna consciousness in Indonesia despite severe opposition from the government. Although Srila Prabhupada's books have been banned here, the devotees have taken great risk to assure that the books are available to the thousands who are eager to hear about Krsna consciousness.
Gaura Mandala Bhumi dasa, the leader of the devotees here, translated the book into Indonesian, supervised its production, set up a press, and oversaw the printing. After the successful publication of the Gita, Gaura Mandala Bhumi was deported.
Children's Padayatra in the Catskill Mountains
Lake Huntington, New York—Eighty-five elementary schoolchildren and forty adults recently took part in a historic six-mile padayatra (walking pilgrimage) here. The procession included an ox cart. Deities of Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda, distribution of prasadam (sanctified food), and exuberant chanting of Krsna's holy names.
ISKCON elementary schoolteacher Krsna Kumari-devi dasi described the event: "Lake Huntington is a small town—a post office, a bar, and a gas station. On a normal drive through, you might see one or two residents. Hoping the locals would be out, we began at 10 A.M. Before we'd gone half a mile, we'd seen more neighbors than we knew we had. Even ladies in curlers and bathrobes were running out of their homes, smiling to see us. It was the sound of the kirtana that brought them. The chanting was melodious and fervent.
"As we approached the town, where the houses were close together, a group of the children began running from house to house with Back to Godhead magazines and small bags of prasadam.
No need to ring doorbells today—everyone was already at their door or on their porch or lawn. From the lakeside cottages entire families came pouring toward the road. As we turned onto the main street, people were lined up waiting for us.
"On the eastern side of the lake are a couple of senior citizen communities. As we approached. the residents came out—caning, wheelchairing, leaning on the arms of the nurses. They waved and smiled. Some of them even cried and hugged us.
"Soon our ranks had swelled with many neighbors who put their children on the ox cart and walked along with us. When we got back to the farm, everyone enjoyed a big feast."
The Lake Huntington padayatra was modeled after ISKCON's Indian padayatra, which has been traveling throughout India for the past two years and will eventually travel to Europe and America.
Govinda's Canteen Opens in Madras
Madras, India-Devotees here recently opened a vegetarian cafeteria on the campus of D. G. Vaishnava College. Mr. P. Haridas, managing trustee of the exclusive Vaisnava college, invited the devotees to take up the management of the cafeteria, which supplies daily meals to the school's two thousand students.
The cafeteria, known as Govinda's Canteen, received a favorable review from the Madras daily newspaper The Hindu: "The place strikes any visitor by its cleanliness.... And what is more, melodious strains pour into the hall from the speakers, as classical music and special bhajans and kirtans on Krishna are played constantly."
The students appreciate the delicious food, which is prepared for and offered to Lord Krsna before being served. The food is not only free of all meat, fish, or eggs, but in accordance with Vaisnava regulations, it also contains no mushrooms, garlic, or onions.
Mr. Haridas, a strict vegetarian and follower of Sri Vallabhacarya, offered ISKCON the cafeteria with a view toward inspiring students in spiritual goals. In a corner of the large hall, the books of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada are available in English and Tamil.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
An Eye For A Nose
by Sita-devi dasi
"What if scientists could distinguish scents with their eyes?" queries a recent report in one popular magazine. Researchers, the article goes on to explain, are trying to do just that. By using electrical and chemical sensors that mimick the action of our olfactory nerves, scientists may be able to "see" a scent by its chemical configuration.
Upon reading this, I immediately recalled the ancient prayers of Lord Brahma. Lord Brahma is the creator-engineer of our particular universe, and the Brahma-samhita is his collection of verses in praise of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna. One verse explains that each of the senses of the transcendental body of the Supreme Personality of Godhead possesses "the full-fledged functions of all the organs." In other words, the supreme scientist, Krsna, can smell with His eyes or taste with His eyes or do anything with any of His senses without any limitation or restriction.
Naturally, we try to imitate that Supreme Person. We want to experience life perfectly and fully. We long for unlimited sensual prowess, strength, and beauty, and for various powers and abilities. Frustrated by our fettered existence, we are titillated and challenged by the prospects of increased freedom. If we can learn to smell with our eyes, the article concludes, this development could "revolutionize such industries as wine, perfume, and entertainment."
Whether or not scientists will succeed in this endeavor is of little consequence, since our senses will remain limited—even if we can smell with our eyes. One wonders if our erudite scientists will ever learn to see past their noses, so to speak. Unlimited sensory freedom will be realized only when we turn from the limited activities of sense gratification to the unlimited activities of devotional service.
God has designed our bodies and senses, limited as they are, to be used in His service. We can use our eyes for beholding the form of the Lord, our ears for hearing topics of self-realization, and our tongue for praising God and His activities. Though our senses are at present limited, Lord Krsna is offering us the chance to engage in the pure spiritual activity of devotional service, an opportunity with unlimited potential.
by Mathuresa dasa
A newsletter from the Blue Cross Medical Association warning of a deadly new disease called couch fever prompts me to draw some rough parallels between physical and spiritual health.
Doctors reported a near epidemic of couch fever during the holiday season last year. In one severe case a forty-year-old man with no previous health problems woke up on New Year's Day, plopped himself down on the sofa in front of his TV, watched three consecutive football games, then went to bed for the night. He was soon in the hospital with a blood clot in his lung, a condition doctors attributed to his more than forty hours of inertia. You're right, couch fever isn't all that new; it's at least as old as television.
It's also a fictitious disease, Blue Cross reveals, a creation of concerned health experts who want to make a serious point: Prolonged inactivity can cause critical health problems.
Oddly enough, sports fans are particularly susceptible. Watching athletes chase balls across field and court tends to transform TV spectators into most unathletic worms. Captivated sports buffs lie half-buried in couch or recliner, ingesting whatever snacks are close at hand, squirming a bit with each good play.
Not everyone falls for this television catatonia, of course. Not professional athletes, who make a living from physical skill and exertion. Not the millions of health conscious persons for whom jogging is a chosen preoccupation.
But even intense physical activity is a kind of catatonia if we forget that our physical bodies are but temporary vehicles for our eternal, spiritual selves. Just as you don't get much exercise driving your car around town, so the self, or soul, remains inactive while driving the body.
We are but witnesses, observing the body's physical movements through our senses of sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing, much as the couch-bound sports fan observes his favorite team on a television screen. The soul is even less active than television viewers or automobile drivers, who can at least press a remote control button or turn a steering wheel. Between our will to bodily action and the actions themselves, the material nature, working under the supervision of the Supreme Lord, stands as the insuperable intermediary.
The Gita explains: "The spirit soul bewildered by the influence of false ego thinks himself the doer of activities that are in actuality carried out by the three modes of material nature."
Falsely identifying with our bodies, we fail to understand that, aside from willing or desiring, our spiritual selves do nothing at all in the material arena.
How do we put an end to this spiritual inactivity? By using our bodies and minds to serve Krsna, the Supreme Person. Or even by desiring to do so. Using our senses to please Krsna's senses is called bhakti-yoga, or devotional service.
From a material perspective, yes, the bhakti-yogi still does nothing at all. But employing the senses in Krsna's service gradually awakens and activates the soul's transcendental body. Furthermore, Lord Krsna appreciates the spiritual sentiments, not merely the physical efforts, of His servants, and He readily extends His own spiritual senses to reciprocate with us. Even the slightest attempt at devotional service is spiritual activity and is bound to improve our spiritual health.
Just how slight an attempt? The doctors and advisers at Blue Cross inspire another parallel.
Dr. Thomas Farrell, an ophthalmologist, suggests that to prevent your corneas from drying out during TV stupors, don't forget to blink every couple of seconds.
Dr. William R. Francis, an orthopedist, says you can avoid back problems by standing up during commercials.
And Dr. Edward J. Resnick advises that to stimulate your circulation and thus avoid blood clots—you should at least take off your shoes and wiggle your toes!
Well, it just so happens that a start in bhakti-yoga is as easy as wiggling your toes. Lord Caitanya, the father of the Krsna consciousness movement, simply asked everyone to chant the holy names of God. And Lord Caitanya's followers have published many provocative books on the science of spiritual health.
So the next time you get a minute's break from life's cathode tube, why not chant and turn a few pages. Then if the spirit moves you, try skipping a Sunday game or two so you can drop by your local Hare Krsna health center.
Longing For Longevity
By Nagaraja Dasa
Respected members of the scientific community are now coming right out and saying what we thought was on their minds all along: Science can make us immortal. Gerald J. Sussman, a professor at MIT, says, "Everyone would like to be immortal. I don't think the time is quite right, but it's close. I'm afraid, unfortunately, that I'm in the last generation to die."
And Professor Sussman is not alone in his beliefs. Scientists in the fields of cryonics (freezing bodies), artificial intelligence, genetics, and others are beginning to speak more and more confidently about the prospects of someday stopping disease, aging, and even death.
Perhaps it will be of some consolation to Professor Sussman to learn from the Vedic literatures that his generation will definitely not be the last to die. All generations before him have died, and all those after him will die. This unyielding law of nature will not succumb to the attacks of well-wishing scientists who want to liberate mankind from the throes of death.
How can I speak so confidently? Because I accept the words of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who says in the Bhagavad-gita, "I am all devouring death." And, "Time I am, destroyer of the worlds, and I have come to engage all men."
My confidence is also based on practical observation: Throughout history no one has been able to conquer death. Though modern scientists sometimes think their advanced discoveries hold the key to physical immortality, they also admit that there are innumerable factors involved in aging and death. They wonder, "How can we protect ourselves from all the advances of death?"
From the Vedic literature we learn of personalities possessing vast intelligence and stamina, and supported by the most advanced scientific knowledge, whose attempts to conquer death failed. The most famous example is the great materialist Hiranyakasipu. He received the benediction that he would not be killed by any man or beast or weapon, not during the day or night, whether inside or outside. He thought he had covered all the options, but God Himself appeared in a form that was half man, half lion and killed Hiranyakasipu with His divine nails on the threshold of the demon's palace at twilight.
God has placed us in these bodies, and He decides when we'll change them. And change we must. Scientists generally do not accept that we must transfer at death from this body to another, because they cannot understand that the soul is different from the body. The soul animates the body for a fixed duration, and no one can extend a soul's term within a body.
Scientists manipulate the material elements in their attempts to find the secret of life. But despite repeated claims of breakthrough scientific discoveries, they have not been able to create life. Since life (the soul) is eternal, to "create life" is axiomatically impossible. Nor can there be "progress" toward an impossible goal. Scientists may be able to synthesize amino acids, but an amino acid is a far cry from a conscious being.
To God alone belongs the power and the privilege to produce life—or to prolong it. We may apparently extend a person's life, but in actuality, when our death notice is served, no amount of medical technology can save us. Death strides through the doors of even the best hospitals, past the watchful eyes of the best physicians, and makes his indisputable claim.
Though death is inevitable, our rebellion against it has a special significance: It is a sign of our spiritual immortality. The body dies, but the soul lives on, transmigrating to his next incarnation. Because of our identification with the body, however, we think that the person dies with the body.
Rather than misusing our lives in the futile attempt to attain physical immortality, we should live to gain the immortal life of the soul in union with God. Otherwise, though we may live for hundreds of years, what will we actually gain? A tree may live for thousands of years, but the value of its life is insignificant compared to the life of a person who has developed love for God and done valuable work on His behalf all over the world.
etam drstim avastabhya
"Following such conclusions, the demoniac, who are lost to themselves and who have no intelligence, engage in unbeneficial, horrible works meant to destroy the world." [Bg. 16.19]
by Drutakarma dasa
The age of atomic waeponry began before dawn on July 16, 1945, with a blinding flash on the desert flats near Alamogordo, New Mexico. Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, who had organized the intense scientific effort that led to the explosion, instantly thought of lines from one of his favorite books—the Bhagavad-gita: "The Blessed Lord said: Time I am, destroyer of the worlds..."
Today this image from the Gita retains its frightening warning power. But a closer reading of the Gita reveals a deep wisdom that may help us avoid the holocast. The Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic literature allow us to see that nuclear weapons are not an abnormal development in an otherwise healthy state of affairs. Rather, they are the inevitable fruit of the tree of modern civilization, which is firmly rooted in a thoroughly mechanistic and materialistic scientific world view.
Since nuclear weapons and the problems of nuclear war are the natural products of our science-based civilization, we must thoroughly reexamine the materialistic assumptions underlying modern science if the world is to ever become free from the threat of nuclear annihilation. Already many scientists are themselves beginning to question whether materialistic principles are really adequate to explain basic features of reality.
Limits of Science
Consider, for example, consciousness. John C. Eccles, a Nobel-prize-winning neurobiologist, states, "The ultimate problem relates to the origin of the self, how each of us as a self-conscious being comes to exist as a unique self associated with a brain. This is the mystery of personal existence." Eccles is convinced that " . . . the uniqueness each of us experiences can be sufficiently explained only by recourse to some supernatural origin."
According to the Bhagavad-gita, our unique sense of individual experience results from the presence within the material body of an eternal spiritual particle, the symptom of which is consciousness.
But today, influenced by scientific theories that deny the existence of a nonmaterial conscious self, people identify heavily with the body, thinking, "I am American," "I am Russian," "I am Israeli," "I am Palestinian," etc. Virulent nationalism and conflict are the inevitable result.
"Nationalism and chauvinism have developed in different parts of the world," writes Srila Prabhupada, "due to the cultivation of nescience by the general people. Such foolish people are drawing up various plans to render national demarcations as perfect as possible. This is ultimately ridiculous. For this purpose, each and every nation has become a source of anxiety for others. More than fifty percent of a nation's energy is devoted to defense measures and thus spoiled."
If knowledge of the factual nature of the conscious self were firmly integrated into our educational and cultural institutions, people of different nationalities could appreciate their unity on the spiritual platform. Furthermore, the overwhelming impetus toward the domination and exploitation of matter that underlies industrial civilization and culminates in the building of weapons of mass destruction would certainly be lessened. Unfortunately, modern scientists persist in ruling out, in advance, any kind of nonmaterialistic explanation of consciousness and selfhood.
Laws of Karma
Some scientists, however, are beginning to expand their conception of laws of nature. The studies of Roger Sperry, a Nobel-prize-winning brain scientist, have led him to conclude that the principle of causation has to be broadened: "We have to recognize ... different levels and types of causation, including higher kinds of causal control involving mental and vital forces that material science has always rejected."
The laws of karma, integral to Indian philosophy, would be one example of such a higher law. Huston Smith, a professor of philosophy at MIT, stated, "Science has alerted the Western world to the importance of causal relationships in the physical world. Every physical event, we are inclined to believe, has its causes, and every cause will have its determinate effects. India extends this concept of universal causation to include man's moral and spiritual life as well."
Karma has important implications regarding the threat of nuclear holocaust. A basic principle of the law of karma is that every act of violence sets off a chain of events that will eventually end in a violent reaction. In this regard, those who understand the subtle law of karma are very apprehensive about the effects of such widespread acts of violence as the killing of billions of innocent animals each year in slaughterhouses and the killing of upwards of fifty million unborn children each year by abortion.
Specifically relating animal slaughter to the threat of nuclear war, Srila Prabhupada declares, "Those who kill animals and give them unnecessary pain ... will be killed in a similar way in the next life and in many lives to come.... Therefore occasionally there are great wars. Masses of such people go out onto battlefields and kill themselves. Presently they have discovered the atomic bomb, which is simply awaiting wholesale destruction."
When we understand the laws of karma, we can more fully appreciate Einstein's statement that "all our lauded technological progress—our very civilization—is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal." Can this pathological mentality be changed? Only by a radical revision of the world's present intellectual consensus.
In his book Where the Wasteland Ends, Theodore Roszak calls for "a wholly new science, transformed from the psychic ground up." Roszak says, "No one who is not lying himself blind to the obvious can help but despair of the wellbeing that a reductionist science and power-ridden technology can bring.... On that level, we 'progress' only toward technocratic elitism, affluent alienation, environmental blight, nuclear suicide.... But there is another progress that is not a cheat and a folly; the progress that has always been possible at every moment. It goes by many names. St. Bonaventura called it 'the journey of the mind to God'.... The way back. To the source from which the adventure of human culture takes its beginning."
Srila Prabhupada, recognizing the absolute necessity of the quest for the divine, titled the monthly journal he started in 1944 Back to Godhead. Analyzing the situation of a world at war, Srila Prabhupada proclaimed, "This is actually the civilization of nescience, or illusion, and therefore civilization has been turned into militarization." He quoted the Archbishop of Canterbury: "In every quarter of the earth men long to be delivered from the curse of war.... But all our plans will come to shipwreck on the rock of human selfishness unless we turn to God. Back to God, that is the chief need of England and every other nation." Srila Prabhupada repeated the phrase "back to Godhead" thousands of times in his writings and speeches, making plain the importance he attached to this slogan.
Robert Heilbroner also proposes that modern civilization is in need of a drastic overhaul. He says this would imply "the end of the giant factory, the huge office, perhaps of the urban complex." And even more important, he stresses it is likely "that the ethos of 'science,' so intimately linked with industrial application, would play a much reduced role." What would the new order be like? Heilbroner states, "It is therefore possible that a postindustrial society would also turn in the direction of many preindustrial societies—toward the exploration of inner states of experience rather than the outer world of fact and material accomplishment."
Like Roszak, Heilbroner, and others, Srila Prabhupada believes that the problems of modern civilization are deeply rooted in its dangerous commitment to science-based technology and industry. "The gigantic industrial enterprises are products of a godless civilization," he writes, "and they cause the destruction of the noble aims of human life.... The natural gifts such as grains and vegetables, fruits, rivers, the hills of jewels and minerals, and the seas full of pearls are supplied by the order of the Supreme.... The natural law is that the human being may take advantage of these godly gifts by nature and satisfactorily flourish on them without being captivated by the exploitative motive of lording it over material nature."
A New Direction
The solution to the problem of nuclear war is not going to be simple. Gradually, the goals and aspiration of humankind must be directed toward self-realization and genuine God consciousness. When this change of direction begins to take place, the unrestrained expansion of urban industrialism, with all its unfortunate by-products, such as the threat of nuclear annihilation, can begin to be controlled and even reversed.
The philosophy of ancient India, as expressed in books such as the Bhagavadgita, contain the essential ideas that could serve as the superstructure of a nonmaterialistic science capable of successfully challenging the materialistic world view now dominant throughout the world. In the Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic books of knowledge can be found ways of understanding the higher spiritual nature of man and the universe-not only by means of a consistent and detailed cosmology and psychology but also by a highly developed scientific system of meditational techniques, such as the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra, that radically transforms consciousness and give experimental verification of the nonmaterial.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness has also channeled resources and energies into building prototypes for a postindustrial civilization. Over the past twenty years, the Society has established more than forty successful agrarian communities worldwide. These are not merely places for growing crops and herding animals. They are communities in the full sense of the word, supporting a wide variety of arts, crafts, and appropriate technologies. A God conscious philosophy and natural way of life are both necessary if the world wants to become free from the threat of nuclear war. Anything short of this does not address the real causes of the impending catastrophe.
A young reader of Back to Godhead expresses his realizations.
by Christopher Stewart
What is the purpose of living? Why are we here, and what should we do with our lives? These questions often plague the minds of youth. In America, where materialism is especially widespread, alienation from purposeful living is quite frequent.
As a sixteen-year-old American, I know about purposelessness firsthand. I know that there is much despair and a terrible sense of worthlessness in my generation. These negative emotions cause people to plunge deeper into that which is the very source of their trouble—materialism.
The true nature of the soul is sac-cid-ananda: eternal, full of knowledge, and full of bliss. Confusion and unhappiness are not normal conditions, but these feelings arise when we forget our constitutional position as servants of God.
Secular youth tend to think the universe revolves around them. They falsely believe, more or less, that they are God. Such foolishness is called maya, or illusion. Our true home is in the spiritual sky with the Lord and His eternal associates, not within this material world. Being trapped within mundane existence instead of enjoying that for which we are intended, we naturally become perplexed. And perplexity leads to further identification with transient, material things, such as drugs, sex, possessions, and escapism. You cannot escape by diving headlong into material existence.
So how do you escape? When Lord Krsna appeared in India five hundred years ago as Lord Caitanya, He stressed the chanting of the holy names of God. The highest form of these names is manifest in the maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. By chanting these sixteen most holy words, we revive our latent memory of our true constitutional relationship to Krsna. By performing bhakti, or devotional service, we can purify our desires and prepare to go back to Godhead to be with Krsna in the spiritual sky. We are servants of the Lord, and even though He is seated in our hearts in His four-armed Visnu form of Paramatma, we always remain subservient to Him. Realizing this fact is the first step to realizing Krsna. When we have fully realized Krsna, we have fulfilled the purpose of our lives and need not ever take birth in the material universes again. Thus, by the mercy of the Supreme Lord, all sorrow is eradicated.
Realizing this, the purpose of human existence, has been the most momentous and uplifting experience in my life. Learning that I must seek Krsna and work for Him in devotion is surely my most important discovery.
I was immersed in a sea of ignorance, but Krsna extended mercy to me and permitted me to come into contact with His pure devotees and their noble way of life. I am now planning how to best serve Krsna with my life. I pray that with His mercy I will do His wishes and that I will attain Him. I know that others are as confused as I was, and I pray that they too will come to this glorious knowledge of God and escape the bewilderment that maintains their souls in maya.
We welcome your letters.
I am sixteen years old, and for some time I have been studying ISKCON and the Vaisnava way of life. I have come to the conclusion that such is the will of God and the best mode of life. Therefore I will seek it.
I am told by my instructors at school that I have an exceptional writing ability. I praise and thank Krishna for instilling this ability within me, and I wish to somehow utilize it to His glory. Therefore I have taken up writing for the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Enclosed you will find something I have written—not for my own benefit, but in the hope that it would encourage others to seek Krishna. Chistopher Stewart Matheny, West Virginia (See Christopher's article on page 29.)
* * *
It seems to me, after reading some of your Back to Godhead issues, that you are extremely prejudiced against the theory of impersonal God. I find that your prejudice is based on ignorance and misinterpretation of the impersonal theory. Yes, the impersonal theory says that you are God, but by "you," here, is not meant the human body or the individual soul. By "you," here, is meant the impersonal self, the universal soul.
It is wrong to think that the personal theory of God is the only correct one. There are several roads to Rome. My point is, everyone should be tolerant. The objective of a true guru is not to say that this path is the only correct one and ridicule other paths, but to explain and describe each path, their merits and pitfalls, and let the sishya [disciple] choose according to his own nature and bent of mind.
As devotees of the Supreme Lord, we are not prejudiced; however, we accept the conclusions of the scriptures and must point out the fallacious and offensive "logic" of the impersonalists. The impersonalists, or Mayavadis, say that God exists but He has no form: no head, no face, no arms, no legs. In other words, God can't hear, He can't speak, He can't see, He can't walk. That is the same as saying that there is no God. Therefore, Lord Caitanya, who is Krsna Himself appearing as His own devotee, says that the Mayavadis are offenders.
The conclusion that the Absolute Truth is impersonal is based on speculation, not on the teachings of the Vedic literatures, which clearly substantiate the Personality of Godhead's transcendental form. In the Brahma-samhita, for example, Lord Brahma, the director of the universe, glorifies Krsna as sac-cid-ananda vigraha, the eternal form of bliss and knowledge.
And Krsna's form is His own individual form. In the Bhagavad-gita (2.12) Krsna says that we will continue to possess our individual identities eternally. He tells Arjuna, "Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings. Nor in the future shall any of us cease to be." Krsna clearly makes a distinction between the Supreme Self and the individual self. In the Thirteenth Chapter Krsna describes two "knowers" within the body, the individual soul and the Supersoul. The Upanisads also state that there are "two birds within the tree of the body." As you have said, "you" doesn't mean the human body. But neither does "you" mean the universal soul. "You" means the individual spirit soul. And that individual soul can never be equal to God. The Vedic literatures clearly explain that God is infinite and we are infinitesimal. The impersonalists cannot understand this essential point.
Because we are small we are subject to the control of God's energy. God is called acyuta, infallible. He never falls under the influence of the material energy. In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says, daivi hy esa guna-mayi mama maya duratyaya: "The material energy is coming from Me, and the minute living entities cannot overcome it." If we were the same as Krsna, we would not be bewildered by Krsna's material energy, maya.
Krsna is never bewildered. He says in the Seventh Chapter of Bhagavad-gita, "I know everything that has happened in the past, all that is happening in the present, and all things that are yet to come. I also know all living entities; but Me no one knows." We cannot make such a claim.
Your statement "several roads to Rome" conveys a popular idea, but the statement is misleading. First we must understand what "Rome" is; then we can discuss whether there are various ways of getting there. By "Rome" I assume you mean the Absolute Truth. The highest aspect of the Absolute Truth, as explained in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, is the personal form of God, Lord Sri Krsna, who says in the Bhagavad-gita, mattah parataram nanyat: "There is no truth superior to Me." And, contrary to what others may claim, He says later that there are indeed different paths but they don't lead to the same place. "Those who worship the demigods go to the demigods.... Those who worship Me come to Me." Earlier, in the Fourth Chapter, Krsna says that He rewards each of us according to our surrender. Not everyone gets the same result. Some roads lead to Rome, but some lead to the penitentiary.
The members of the Hare Krsna movement accept the words of Krsna as irrefutable truth. All the great teachers in the Vedic tradition have accepted Bhagavad-gita as authoritative Vedic literature. The Bhagavad-gita is the essence of Vedic knowledge. The words of Krsna—not our own bent of mind—are authority. The real guru must present Krsna's teachings without compromise, and the disciple must accept them as absolute truth. Arjuna demonstrates the proper way to accept the guru: He surrenders to Krsna for instructions. And Krsna Himself says that one must accept the spiritual master, inquire from him submissively, and render service to him because the spiritual master has seen the truth. If the guru actually possesses absolute knowledge, what right does the disciple have to pick and choose according to his "bent of mind"? The disciple is in ignorance. He must simply receive transcendental knowledge from the perfect spiritual master.
The members of the Krsna consciousness movement, under the guidance of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, accept only the direct purport of the Vedic literature as it has been explicitly enunciated in the Bhagavad-gita by the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, Lord Sri Krsna, who says, vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyah: "By all the Vedas I am to be known."
The goal of life is to reawaken our original love for God. The Mayavadi philosophy hinders the soul's progress by telling him that he is God. This is a grave injustice. One who carefully studies the Vedic literatures under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master, however, will surely understand that Krsna is the Supreme Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and the ultimate goal of life.
Admit Your Faults
In a recent article in Newsweek magazine, columnist Meg Greenfield protests our amoral dealings nowadays. Although we are in general quick to condemn others, says Greenfield, "where the concept of wrong is really important-as a guide to one's own behavior or that of one's own side in some dispute—it [our condemnation] is missing." mother words, we don't like to admit we're wrong. Greenfield describes a number of evasive tactics we use to avoid owning up to our mistakes.
One tactic is to think that what you did was not bad or wrong—just stupid. Instead of admitting you did something wrong, you simply say you acted stupidly. You can still pride yourself on being right while conceding to being imperfect and prone to human error. Another tactic is to excuse yourself by thinking you were not physically or mentally up to par. Or you might try to get off the hook by blaming the circumstances, or by saying the offended party "asked for it." Greenfield Concludes that the "'still, small voice' of conscience has become far too small and utterly still."
Although I appreciate Ms. Greenfield's analysis, I find the solution she hints at—listening more to the "still, small voice" of conscience—to be simplistic. Some people, even while committing great mistakes, claim they are listening to the voice within. Mahatma Gandhi was a great advocate of heeding ones innervoice. Yet he admitted to sometimes committing "Himalayan blunders," and he at times sorrily regretted having listened to his inner guide.
Who is to say whether the mind's inspirations and inclinations are actually morally right? The motives behind our actions may be very subtle and intricate. Moreover, moral opinions differ from person to person, culture to culture. Just desiring to "do good" and to "act right" does not guarantee that you will always be "good" and "right."
The Vedic literature explains that a person should not depend only on conscience to determine right and wrong. Rather, there are three objective Vedic guidelines for right action: ones own spiritual master, or guru; the Vedic literatures themselves: and the statements of great, selfrealized saints throughout history. These three sources of guidance provide a natural system of checks and balances by which one can distinguish clearly right from wrong. When these three sources are consulted in a mature and responsible way, one can confidently chart a course of right action.
The first index reading one should lake is the instruction of the spiritual master. Spiritual masters are of two types: the guru within the heart (God Himself) and the external guru (the pure devotee and representative of God). Although these two gurus are in accord, the instructions of the external guru should be ones prime criterion. Here's why.
Alter Krsna creates the universe, He expands Himself as the Supersoul within the heart of every living entity. As Supersoul. Krsna directs the movements of all living entities according to their desires and their previous activities (karma). Certainly God is within the heart of everyone, but this does not mean that every "small voice within" is divine, the will of God. Only a pure, very advanced transcendentalist, one who is determined to serve God with all his energies, can receive transcendental instructions from the Lord within his heart. Therefore, we should hear from the external spiritual master. Krsna Himself instructs us in the Bhagavad-gita to do so: "Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The spiritual master can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth." The spiritual master can confirm whether ones plans and inspirations do in fact originate from the Supersoul and not one's own mind.
The qualifications of the bona fide guru, or spiritual master, are described in the Vedic literatures. He has imbibed Krsna consciousness in disciplic succession and is fully engaged in the service of Krsna with his body, mind, and words. The spiritual master is completely free from all selfish desires. His only concern is to satisfy the desires of the Supreme Lord. He speaks only what is in the scriptures, and he takes responsibility for directing the lives of his disciples back to Godhead.
Our second index reading is the Vedic literature. This is the standard "lawbook" its codes forming the basis of right and wrong; as well as the basis for the words and deeds of a bona fide guru. The Vedic writings detail the myriad aspects of morality. They are based on the desires of God and are God's instructions for guiding the fallen living entities back to Him. Through the Vedas God reveals His will for all mankind.
All of us in this material world are subject to four basic defects. (1) Our senses are imperfect. (2) We are subject to illusion. (3) We commit mistakes.(4) We have the tendency to cheat. The Vedic literature is transcendental sound, free from these defects. Although Lord Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself and is therefore supremely independent to act in any way He pleases, He nevertheless refers to Vedic literature as the standard authority. In the Gita, for instance, He cites the Vedanta-sutra. As for those who act independently of scriptural injunctions, He warns, "But he who discards scriptural injunctions and acts according to his own whims attains neither perfection, nor happiness, nor the supreme destination" (Bg. 16.23).
The third source of Vedic moral instruction comprises the self-realized Vedic authorities, who live in strict accordance with the instructions of their guru and the injunctions of the Vedic literature. We naturally seek advice when making important decisions, and this is especially important in spiritual matters. It is important to confide in saintly persons and to hear their advice and suggestions on moral questions. By taking counsel from highly qualified, morally upright authorities, by consulting the revealed scriptures, and by hearing submissively from one's own spiritual master, one is sure to always do what is morally right and pleasing to God.
We cannot, of course, be perfect. Mistakes will happen. And when we make mistakes, it is always best to honestly admit them. That is the sign of a good person, and it requires humility. We should not be so proud or so partisan that we cannot admit our wrongs.—SDG
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
In Sanskrit, man means "mind" and tra means "freeing." So a mantrais a combination of transcendental, spiritual sounds that frees our minds from the anxieties of life in the material world.
Ancient India's Vedic literatures single out one mantra as the maha (supreme) mantra. The Kali-santarana Upanisad explains, "These sixteen words—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—are especially meant for counteracting the ill effects of the present age of quarrel and anxiety."
The Narada-pancaratra adds, "All mantras and all processes for self-realization are compressed into the Hare Krsna maha-mantra." Five centuries ago, while spreading the maha-mantra throughout the Indian subcontinent, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu prayed, "O Supreme Personality of Godhead, in Your holy name You have invested all Your transcendental energies."
The name Krsna means "the all-attractive one," the name Rama means "the all-pleasing one," and the name Hare is an address to the Lord's devotional energy. So the maha-mantra means, "O all-attractive, all-pleasing Lord, O energy of the Lord, please engage me in Your devotional service." Chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, and your life will be sublime.