The most authoritative opinion on an age-old controversy.
A lecture in Vrndavana on August 13, 1974
mattah parataram nanyat
"O conqueror of wealth, there is no truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread." (Bhagavad-gita 7.7)
There are many philosophers. Some of them think the Absolute Truth is impersonal, and others say it is personal. In India the impersonalists are known as Mayavadis and the personalists are known as Vaisnavas. So, here Lord Krsna resolves the controversy about whether the Absolute Truth is impersonal or personal.
The Absolute Truth is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavan. And the conclusion of the Srimad-Bhagavatam is that Lord Krsna is Bhagavan: krsnas tu bhagavan svayam. The Rg-veda confirms this: tad visnoh paramam padam. "Visnu is the Supreme." And sada pasyanti surayah: "The demigods, or those advanced in spiritual knowledge, always look toward the lotus feet of Visnu."
But the demons do not know that Visnu is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Absolute Truth. Because they have an atheistic attitude, they cannot understand that the Absolute Truth is the Supreme Person. Na te viduh svartha-gatim hi visnum ... uru-damni baddhah. The atheists are so conditioned by the laws of nature that they cannot understand that Lord Visnu is actually the goal of life. Suppose your hands and legs are tied up. Then you cannot do anything independently. Similarly, we are so tightly tied up by the stringent laws of nature that we are not at all independent and are covered by ignorance. But we are trying to adjust things in this material world so we can be happy. This is not possible. Therefore, the sastras [scriptures] say, we do not know the real aim of our life. Everyone is selfinterested. But we do not actually know what our self-interest is. Our real selfinterest is to understand Lord Visnu: tad visnoh paramam padam. That is our life's aim.
Visnu and Krsna are the same, but there is a controversy as to whether Visnu is secondary or Krsna is secondary. According to sastra, neither is secondary. Visnu is simply an expansion of Krsna. They are not different personalities. As said in the Brahma-samhita, advaitam acyutam anadim ananta-rupam. Govinda, or Krsna, has ananta-rupam, unlimited forms.
From one candle you can light another candle, then a second candle, then a third. And while no candle is less powerful than the others, there is still an original candle. Similarly, Visnu, Rama, Nrsimha, Balarama—all are expansions of the Supreme Person, Krsna, and They are all as powerful as He. But Krsna is still the original, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Krsna therefore says here, mattah parataram nanyat—"There is no authority superior to Me." This is the conclusion of the sastra.
In another place in the Bhagavad-gita [10.2], Krsna says, aham adir hi devanam: "I am the origin of all the demigods." The principal demigods are Brahma and Siva. They are guna-avataras; they create and destroy this material world.
The material world is composed of three gunas, or qualities: goodness, passion, and ignorance. The director of the goodness department is Lord Visnu, the director of the passion department is Lord Brahma, and the director of the ignorance department is Lord Siva. But the origin of all of them is Krsna. Therefore, after describing all the main incarnations of God, the Srimad-Bhagavatam concludes [1.3.28], ete camsa-kalah pumsah krsnas tu bhagavan svayam: All the incarnations mentioned in this chapter are either expansions of Krsna or expansions of the expansions." The first expansion of Krsna is Balarama, and from Balarama expand the catur-vyuha: Sankarsana Pradyumna, Vasudeva, and Aniruddha. All these expansions are equally powerful. They are not different from each other.
So, Krsna is the origin of all incarnations of God. Isvarah paramah krsnah. The word isvara means "powerful controller." The demigods are isvaras; you are also an isvara; I am also an isvara. Anyone who has a little control over something can be called an isvara. That is the dictionary meaning. But even the topmost isvaras in this universe—namely Brahma, Visnu, and Siva—are not the supreme isvara. The supreme isvara is Krsna. That is the sastric conclusion. And Krsna Himself confirms this here: mattah parataram nanyat. "Nothing is superior to Me." Arjuna understood this conclusion, and therefore in the Bhagavad-gita [10.13-14] he said to Krsna,
ahus tvam rsayah sarve
"Not only are You personally saying that You are the Supreme, but great sages like Vyasa, Asita, Narada, and Devala also declare that You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore I have no doubt." The conclusion is that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The Krsna consciousness movement gives you an opportunity to understand who the Supreme Personality of Godhead is. There are so many societies all over the world, so many religious systems, but they cannot give an exact idea of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Some have one idea, others have another idea, but as far as we are concerned, we know that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
And that is the correct conclusion. Krsna's claim that He is the Absolute Truth is supported not only by the Vedas and the demigods, headed by Lord Brahma, and by authorities like Vyasadeva, Asita, Devala, Narada, and Arjuna, but even by Sankaracarya, although he was the leading impersonalist. He admits, sa bhagavan svayam krsnah: "Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead." And narayanah paro 'vyaktat. "Narayana [Krsna] is not a person of this created, material world."
Since all authorities declare Krsna to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead, there is no doubt about it. And here Krsna personally confirms, mattah parataram nanyat: "There is no being superior to Me." Where is the difficulty in understanding what God is? There is no difficulty. But if we are obstinate, if we do not want to understand what God is, that is a different thing.
Now, here Krsna also says, mayi sarvam idam: "Everything is in Me." It has already been explained in this chapter that Krsna has two energies—the material energy and the spiritual energy. They are like heat and light, the energies of a fire. So. Krsna is enjoying His spiritual, blissful life with His spiritual energy. He is completely spiritual, possessing a body of eternal knowledge and bliss (sac-cid-ananda-vigraha). He is anandamayo 'bhyasat, full of spiritual bliss. He is in the spiritual world, Goloka Vrndavana, enjoying ananda, spiritual bliss, with His eternal associates—the gopis; the cowherd boys; His mother, Yasoda; His father, Nanda Maharaja; and so on. This is confirmed in the Brahma-samhita, goloka eva nivasaty akhilatma-bhutah: "Krsna is in Goloka, but He is also present everywhere." As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, ekamsena sthito jagat "With but a particle of Myself I support this universe." And in the Brahma-samhita, andantara-stha-paramanu-cayantara-stham: "He is within every atom in the universe." He is also within your heart: isvarah sarva-bhutanam hrd-dese 'rjuna tisthati. In one word, without Him, nothing can exist.
Therefore here Krsna says, mayi sarvam idam: "Everything is existing in Me." The spiritual and the material energies are working in the material world. And since these two energies are emanating from Krsna, everything is resting on Him. In another place Krsna says, maya tatam idam sarvam: "I am expanded everywhere." He is expanded by His energy, just as a lamp is expanded by its light. When the illumination of the lamp is stopped, the expansion also stops.
So, whatever we see is all resting on Krsna's energy. It is working due to Krsna's energy. This is not very difficult to understand. Think about our own position. Am I this body? No, I am not this body. The body is my "house." I am living in this house. Am I the mind? No, I am not the mind. This inquiry is a meditation aimed at understanding that "I am not this body, I am not this mind," and so on. Neti, neti—"not this, not this." The conclusion of this meditation is aham brahmasmi: "I am spirit."
A particle of Brahman, spirit, is within the body. It is very small. This is the jivatma. But it is stated that in the body there is not only the jivatma but also the Paramatma, the Supersoul. They are living together. Where? Krsna says [Bg. 18.61], isvarah sarva-bhutanam hrd-dese 'rjuna tisthati. "The Paramatma is sitting within the heart of all living beings." So, if the Paramatma is within my heart and I'm sitting with Paramatma, then I am also within the heart.
Modern medical science also knows the importance of the heart. They take great care of the heart because they know that when the heart stops, everything stops. But medical science doesn't know that it is because the jivatma goes out of the heart that death occurs.
On the small scale, the whole construction of our body is dependent on the jivatma. The jivatma is so small-one ten thousandth part of the tip of a hair. Because that small particle is within this body, the body is so beautiful, it is working nicely, its brain is working—everything is going on.
The scientists are trying to find out what the living force is. Sometimes they are examining the blood, sometimes they are examining the cells, sometimes this, sometimes that. But it is all a failure because they cannot examine the jivatma. The jivatma is so small that it is not possible to hold it. You cannot even see where it is. But it is perceived that there is something within the body that is making the body work. Generally this is called the living force.
Now, this living force is spread all over the body. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita [2.17], avinasi tu tad viddhi yena sarvam idam tatam: "You cannot destroy that thing which is spread all over the body." What is that thing? Consciousness. My consciousness is spread all over my body. Therefore, as long as I am in this body, I feel pains and pleasures.
Now, I am a very, very minute particle, but Krsna is the supreme whole. So, as I am controlling this body, Krsna is controlling the whole universe. Where is the difficulty in understanding? There is no difficulty.
But we'll not understand. That is the difficulty. Here Krsna clearly says, mayi sarvam idam protam sutre mani-gana iva: "Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread." And in another place [Bg. 9.4] He says, mayi tatam idam sarvam: "By Me this whole universe is pervaded." How? That has already been explained: by His two energies, the spiritual energy and the material energy. These are expanded all over the creation. So, where is the difficulty in understanding that everything we see is simply Krsna's energy?
Those who are devotees, Vaisnavas, they can understand that everything is Krsna's energy. All of us living entities are part and parcel of Krsna. So, the combination of the living entities and matter makes up the whole creation. As Krsna says here, sutre mani-gana iva: "Everything rests on Me, as pearls are strung on a thread." The pearls are dazzling, but they're all resting on the thread. Similarly, everything is resting on Krsna. Krsna is the support.
So, the scientists may discover so many laws of nature, but they do not know that the original support of everything is Krsna. That is the Vedic conclusion. Thank you. Hare Krsna.
A Country Slice
"The elephant gets his hundred pounds, the ant his grain.
by Suresvara Dasa
"God made the country and man made the city," wrote the poet Cowper. And as one journalist remarked, "The Devil made the small town."
Or so it seemed to us a couple of years ago here in deepest Pennsylvania. At the Lions Club's annual fall parade, a local church had depicted the open sepulcher of the "RISEN SAVIOR" next to three grave markers: one for Buddha, one for Mohammed, and one for Krsna. The float had placed first, the newspaper ran a photo, and since we've yet to see a Buddhist or Mohammedan out here, the picture spoke to us like a punch in the nose.
Rascals! Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He never dies. That's ignorance! Besides, why glorify Christ at others' expense. Call the minister!
The reverend was apologetic. Against his advice, some ladies in the church had gone ahead and arranged for the float. He confessed "pastoral neglect."
Call the newspaper!
The editor was frank: "I knew you people weren't at the parade, so I didn't think you'd notice the picture. Write us a letter and well print it."
A lively exchange of letters ensued, selling out the county paper for weeks. As Thanksgiving approached, we raised the issue of meat-eating: "Can you picture gentle Jesus—the emblem of compassion—patronizing a slaughterhouse?"
The reply really threw us. From the ox roast to the turkey shoot, from the meat house to the chicken factory, from the flower-scented valleys to the stony wooded hills (where workers and schoolboys were let out to hunt deer), came the resounding "YES!"
It was then and there we resolved to give our neighbors Food for Life.
Hare Krsna Food for Life, like other food distribution programs, arose in the cities to meet the challenge of poverty amidst plenty. By 1983 some 30 million Americans were living at or below the poverty line; about one of every eight able and willing to work was out of a job; and two to three million wandered the streets, homeless and hungry.
By God's natural arrangement, no creature in the jungle starves—the elephant gets his hundred pounds, the ant his grain. Only modern man has an economic problem. Rising hunger amidst rising surpluses—the ultimate mismanagement.
The politicians were embarrassed, but ISKCON especially—with its expanding network of temples, restaurants, and dairy farms—was ready. Between 1983 and 1986 Food for Life centers sprang up in most major cities throughout the United States and Canada. Good food, too. Freshly baked bread, piping hot curries and casseroles, crisp green salads, fruit and yogurt drinks, delicious Indian desserts—this was no crumbs for bums. What's more, it was prasadam, Krsna's mercy, a sumptuous sacrament which, the devotees knew, could arouse one's dormant, natural love for God. The devotees' enthusiasm, therefore, was boundless.
And the politicians took notice. "They can take $15,000 and do what the average food program does with $75,000 or $100,000," said a Cleveland City Councilman. "It's because of how they cook it."
Grants at the federal, state, and local levels; donations of United States Department of Agriculture surplus foodstuffs; and access to private food banks helped Food for Life expand throughout North America—and beyond. Besides ISKCON's ongoing work in India (over 12 million meals served to date), Food for Life now reaches the needy in Peru, Bolivia, Spain, France, the Philippines, Australia, Nigeria, Kenya, and remote villages in South Africa. The program seems to grow with the hunger. As one Australian clergyman put it: "Hare Krsna, I think, will be the Salvation Army of the twenty-first century."
Just a few hours' drive from us, ISKCON of Philadelphia's Food for Life program is already filling that role. Begun in 1983, the program currently feeds up to 1,500 people a week. An on-site shelter handles twenty-five homeless men nightly, offering them psychological help and job counseling. The program has a $100,000 annual budget funded by grants from the federal and city governments and Traveler's Aid. Aproposed new shelter for 100 women and children would boost the budget to $500,000, and welfare officials, noting the devotees' skill in helping the needy, are enthusiastic.
In February 1985, encouraged by the devotees' success in the big city, we completed plans to bring Food for Life to the hinterland. We had a good field. The two counties nearest our farm were filled with old-timers, many of them sick, disabled, or struggling on a fixed income. Illiteracy and unemployment were well above the national average. And with that float winning first prize, God knows we needed the public relations.
A cornucopia decorated our first newspaper ad. "FOOD FOR LIFE. Free Hot Meals Delivered To Your Door. Monday, Wednesday, Friday. All Wholesome Farm Fresh Produce And Milk Products. Sponsored By ISKCON Farm. Call 527-4101."
Mary Catherine Campbell was the first to call. We drove out to Lewistown to make the delivery and found a sweet little old black lady with a heart condition and crippling arthritis.
"I'm not black, honey, I'm colored. The Lord has many flowers in His garden. Now be a good boy and open this jar for me, would you?"
The steaming vegetables, the fresh bread and butter, the salad from the garden, the fruit from the orchard, the homemade cookies—Mary loved every bite and told all her friends. By month's end we were serving a half dozen other folks in her apartment building. And more were calling. A shut-in with terminal cancer; a pregnant mother with cerebral palsy; a little girl's divorced father who hurt his back at work, a widow who ran a kennel with her retarded son. People who had never heard of Krsna before were flocking to His Food for Life, and each new tale of suffering told us to get cooking.
By summer we were serving seventy-five people, and the community was taking notice. The newspaper ran a front-page story. The hospital started referring outpatients to us. A radio reporter hopped in our van—now emblazoned with a Food for Life logo—and did a sixty second news spot. Even the laconic old farmers, the guys with the bandanas and Casey Jones hats, were giving us the thumbs-up. They weren't sure what we believed, but they sure believed in our food.
A year had passed: 13,000 meals served, and the count was rising. To help defray the costs of the program, we tapped into a Harrisburg area food bank, but all they could offer us was Planter's Peanuts and Hawaiian Punch. We turned to the USDA. In the cities, USDA surplus regularly contributes bulk foodstuffs—like butter, flour, and cheese—to Hare Krsna Food for Life. At any time, government inspectors may come to a central distribution site and see the obvious need of the recipients. The people on our country-style program, though, were somewhat hidden. Wary of invading people's privacy, government officials left it to us to prove our recipients' need, so in May 1986 we did a survey The results:
1. Fifteen percent of our recipients were practically illiterate and couldn't fill out the questionnaire by themselves.
Those figures qualified us to receive USDA surplus, but even more heartening were the people's answers to the survey question How has Food for Life helped you? Some replies:
"I is near blind. I is mental retarded. I has diabetes. Fresh fruit and salads helps me."
"Bone disease in legs. My food stamps don't go far enough. The boys are very nice and polite. They don't make you feel small because you get help."
"Epilepsy. Sometimes we don't have any food and Food for Life helps us to stay alive. We like the boys for being themselves. Thank you for being yourselves everybody."
"Helps with meals between checks. They can bring a hundred dollar bill if they like."
"Diabetes. High blood pressure. Arthritis. Since receiving food from ISKCON farm, we have been relieved of the anxiety of not having enough to eat. Thanks for the food and for the care shown the recipients. And may God bless you."
Encouraged by the survey (and the warming weather), we decided to do something we'd never dared. Take off our hats. The shaved head, respected in India, usually shook heads in America—and out here in the woods, the lock of hair on top would make a pretty bull's eye. Yet Sri Caitanya had said that a devotee is one who, when seen, reminds one of Krsna. Simply by seeing us, people should remember who was providing everyone's food for life. The shaved head and the tilaka* [*Sacred clay marking the body as a temple of God.] decorating the forehead were the timeless trademarks of Krsna's devotee. Would folks mistake tilaka for the mark of the beast?
Only one old jezebel canceled. The rest of our recipients didn't mind at all. Not after having eaten so much prasadam. Oh, they blinked at first, and some of the kids made fun. But prasadam had touched their hearts. Anyone who gave away food like this must be God-sent. We were their friends. To some, their ministers.
As I write, we're serving 150 people thrice weekly over a hundred-mile route. At 7 A.M. Caitanya dasa starts the cooking in the temple kitchen. The main course today: spaghetti and kofta balls.** [**Deep-fried vegetable-and-batter balls in tomato sauce.]
Many nutrition experts call the Hare Krsna diet one of the healthiest in the world because its selection of lactovegetarian foods contains the most important and basic nutrients. Millions of people are hungry, and millions more are overfed but undernourished. But a properly balanced vegetarian diet easily provides higher-quality protein than a nonvegetarian one—and at much less cost.
Caitanya dasa cleans as he works. "Cleanliness is next to godliness," he says with a smile. He prepares, spices, and cooks the food to bring out the maximum in taste and nutrition. And like all good devotee cooks, he knows that the most important element—in preparation, in serving, and in offering—is to act with love for Krsna.
By 11:30 Graham, Bill, and I are rolling off in the van, anticipating the day's deliveries. Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother Ruth's we go.
Ruth says she was sorry to read that our farm's cow sign was stolen. "I know who done it," she confides. "My nephew. That boy shames me."
Ruth loves Food for Life, but sometimes her hearing confounds us.
Ruth: How much do I owe you for the strawberries?
Bill: They're free.
Ruth: Three? Three dollars for a cup of strawberries?
Bill: No, free! Did you think we were going to make you buy them?
Ruth: What? And I have to divide them! Three dollars and I have to divide them! Food for laughs. But the next stop always sobers us. Mountains of debris, poor sanitation, contaminated water, faulty diets, poorly heated and overcrowded houses. The Other America. Sign on the Eby's door: THIS HOUSE GUARDED BY SHOTGUN THREE DAYS A WEEK YOU GUESS WHICH THREE.
"My husband loves your Hindu spaghetti," says Mrs. Eby.
Mr. Eby is out of sight, embarrassed but grateful we're putting food on his table. The Ebys could never afford the school lunch for their kids, whose classmates made fun of the meager grub they brought from home. Now their kids bring Food for Life to school, and their prasadam treats are the envy of the lunchroom.
Alvin Mumma has been blind for sixteen years, and wife Lucy is blind in one eye from crippling arthritis. Surviving on Social Security, the Mummas of McAlisterville live in a tumble-down trailer with their grown son Harold.
Harold is a bona fide prasadam addict. All of our McAlisterville recipients called us because Harold told them about prasadam. The first time we served kofta balls with the spaghetti, Harold went wild. After eating his and his parents' portions, he cycled around town and ate five servings delivered to his neighbors. That made a gallon.
Prasadam changes people. One McAlisterville lady was spreading rumors that we kidnapped kids and made them work on our farm. We had lots of cats and dogs on our farm, she said, so we ground them up and threw them into the food. But when she tasted some prasadam that Harold had slipped her, she called us that night to sign up.
Another recipient used to threaten us. He said he found twigs and glass in the food; said he cut his mouth up and had to go to the hospital; showed us an old salad he said had made his daughter sick; said he would get his deer rifle out after us if we came back. His mother said he wasn't "wrapped too tight," so we didn't. A month later he called and begged us to come back. Life without prasadam was just too painful; today, he is our most respectful recipient.
Autumn leaves lighten the road to Lewistown. An old man rides a bicycle with baskets full of cans; another rummages a barrel for salvage. Past a golden canopy, the big valley spreads its farmlands wide. Harvest colors glisten in the sunshine, cumulus castles sail the blue. Poverty amidst plenty is doubly absurd in the country, the home of health and abundance. Who but a savage would kill or eat an animal when the earth has plenty in store? Clean air, fresh water, peace of mind—you can't buy these gifts in town. Yet most of our recipients live in these bleak industrial backwaters. They strew the valley like litter. Nature's fine: hunger, disease, despair.
Old Mr. Young sits on his porch reading one of our books. He likes prasadam almost as much as his dog, Babe, does. As soon as Babe sees the van coming, he starts roaring and dancing and wagging his tail. I toss him a bun. He leaps, catches it in midair, and has already swallowed once by the time he touches ground. He eats cookies faster.
The Starr's porch is caving in. Food for Life button clacking against my suspender buckle, I bound up the steps, knock, and (to the tune of "London Bridge is Falling Down") sing: "Hare Krsna Food for Life...."
And from inside: "Food for Life, Food for Life," and ten people roar with laughter. Mrs. Starr flings open the door. "Where's Grambo? Jane wants to learn that swami dance. Anyway, come on in."
Family members are draped everywhere. Puppies play in a pile of trash. Over the table where I set the prasadam, a fly swatter hangs from a cross. Little Bobby shoots me an obscene gesture. "I hate your damn food."
"He's mean since he broke his wrist," says Mrs. Starr, flushing. "Bobby, I want you to apologize to the man, right now."
Bobby says he's sorry and I sign his cast.
By three o'clock we're nearing the end of the line. And so are many of the old folks at Burgard Apartments and Lawler Place. Recipients here have worked hard all their lives, are more or less disabled, and now live alone on food stamps and Social Security. Their altar is the television. But a human being is meant to die thinking of God, not some sap on the soaps. Our alert recipients agree.
Mary Catherine Campbell has just returned from the hospital with a new hip. She now has six replacements in her hips, shoulders, and knees.
"They'll never replace you, Mary." "Oh, goodness gracious!" she laughs. "Only the Lord can do that." Then: "Open this letter for me, would you, Honey? Somebody slipped it under my door last night."
I open the letter and see a violent scrawl. Mary asks me to read it aloud.
"You black bitch, you been getting too much free stuff. You better work for what you get."
"THE NERVE!" The hurt in Mary's eyes turns to pity. "Anyone with that much hate inside must really be suffering. Anyway, I can't be losing sleep over it. Just leave me a salad today, Honey."
"Okay, Mary." I want to say more. Next time. "See you Friday."
Dante Molinari likes his meals unsalted. He walks with an eagle's-head cane he picked up for ten bucks at the VFW. His favorite World War II memory is pulling up to the Rhine with General Patton a week after D-day and urinating "in Hitler's backyard." Close your eyes and he's George Burns.
"The day the stock market crashed I was standing on a corner with a cop. I was a kid, a Wall Street runner. All of a sudden people started jumping out windows. I said, 'Murphy, you gotta do something He said, 'There ain't nothin' I can do.' What a mess! But my father, he didn't jump out a no window. He said, 'The good Lord will take care of us. And He did."
And at last the Sassamans. Mr. Sassaman, the image of Santa Claus, repairs lawnmowers and moonlights as a butcher's helper. He loves prasadam and says, "Hare Kwithna." But at his door today, Graham hears a stranger's voice inside.
"I'm telling you, Mr. Sassaman, they're a cult, and their food is fit for the Devil." "Then how come, whenever I go to church, all they want is money? But these people never ask me a penny for their food. It's good food, and they're good people."
"Food for Life!" Graham walks in and sets the food on the table.
The stranger's voice loudens. "I'm gonna tell him to his face. Son, you belong to a cult!"
"So did Christians till they got some political clout."
"Lord, save this boy!"
"Save yourself and eat up," says Sassaman. "This food's mighty good." "Thanks, Mr. Sassaman."
Back at the farm, our kids charge the van for leftovers. We served our thirty thousandth meal today, and the kids say that two new families called up while we were out. I smile and wonder what those church ladies are thinking about us. It was the Supreme Lord Himself who inspired that float, for strange and wonderful are His ways. And His prasadam is out of this world.
"No One Should Go Hungry"
Mukunda Goswami director of Hare Krsna Food for Life,
Profuse distribution of prasadam vegetarian food offered to krsna is integral to the Hare Krsna movement Srila Prabhupada writes in his commentary on the Caitanya-caritamrta:
In the Hare Krsna movement the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, the dancing in ecstasy and the eating of remnents of food to the Lord are very important. One may be illiterate or incapable of understanding the philosophy, but if he partakes of these three items, he will certainly be liberated without delay.
Elsewhere in the Caitanya-caritamrta Srila prabhupada explains. "actually, by eating such maha-prasadam one is freed of all the contaminations of the material condition."
Commenting on a great festival held by the saint Madhavendra Puri at Govardhana Hill in India, Srila Prabhupada explains that all the food m Govardhana Village was offered to the deity of Gopala and then distributed to everyone.
They brought all the food they had in stock, and they came before the Deity not only to accept prasada for themselves, but to distribute it to others. The Krsna consciousness movement vigorously approves this practice of preparing food, offering it to the Deity, and distibuting it to the general population. This activity should he extended universally....
Giving prasadam specifically to the poor is also an important theme in Vedic literature, the Srimad-Bhagavatam glorifies King Rantideva, who, at the point of breaking a foty-eight-day fast, fed two beggars the very food he was about to eat. Srila Prabhupada explains this selfless quality thus:
A Vaisnava [devotee of Krsna] is therefore described as being ... very much aggrieved by the suffering of others. As such, a Vaisnava engages in activities for the real welfare of human society.
In India in the early seventies Srila Prabhupada began ISKCON Food Relief (IFR). One of his mandates for the project was that "no one within ten miles of the temple should go hungry." A big task. IFR grew and fed vast numbers of India poor, but went largely unnoticed in the West.
Hare Krsna food for life was born out of two needs: first to extend the IFR concept to the west and second, to dispel certain misconceptions about the Hare Krsna movement. (In the United States, a stereotypical perception of devotees frequently surfaced. We were street chanters, airport solicitors, "cultists," or religious zealots crusading for a kind of salvation that was foreign, even suspect to the Judeo-Christian tradition.) It was important that Western society understand devotees as Vaisnavas, people who care deeply about others and who show that care though their actions.
In the West even though many original precepts and practices of the Judeo-Christian tradition are no longer extant, "religious charity" is still a widely supported phenomenon. We knew we would achieve greater public understanding by extending our many existing prasadam distribution programs to reach the hungry and destitute. ISKCON's Public Affairs Ministry decided to name the program "Hare Krsna Food for Life," remembering that Krsna is the essence of all life and that all the food would be prepared for the pleasure of Krsna
We began in 1982 with a small booth from which devotees fed 150 hungry and homeless people three days a week in downtown San Diego's Horton Plaza. Within five years the program had spanned the globe and is now active in dozens of cities worldwide. Substantial government and private donations of food, money, and other items for the program were significant signs of approval by the establishment.
In a few years Hare Krsna Food for Life had, in many regions of the world, dramitically improved the public's perception of the movement. On May 29, 1985, Mayor Goode of Philadelphia delivered the keynote address at the grand opening of that city's Hare Krsna Food for Life shelter, heralding a new development in the program's growth—shelters for the homeless. A second shelter about to open in Philadelphia will house one hundred homeless women and children.
Currently Hare Krsna Food for Life programs interface with programs for animal rights and with vegetarian groups throughout the world. Hare Krsna Food for Life regularly participates in such annual events as the Great American Meatout in the United States and the protest staged against Italy's hunting law on the first day of Italy's hunting season. Future plans include more networking with vegetarian groups, animal rights groups, and hunger-relief and shelter groups around the world, the launching of culinary and nutritional instruction programs for the needy, and more shelters for the homeless.
Cuisine and Continence
by Visakha-devi dasi
A vegetarian diet provides an often overlooked
In the course of my reading I recently learned how a vegetarian diet is closely related to continence.
"Men's interest in sex . . . may be reduced or in some cases eliminated by a totally vegetarian diet.... Because animal protein promotes a higher production of sexual secretions, large amounts of meat daily could lead to a need for more frequent orgasmic release," reports East West Magazine.
On further study I learned that this concept is not new in the West. Pythagoras, the famous Greek mathematician and philosopher, believed that a strict vegetarian diet was necessary to make continence easy and habitual. His followers (the Pythagoreans) married and had children, but also practiced continence in the same way that married Hare Krsna devotees do, refraining from sex except for procreation.
Dr. Raymond Bernard writes, "From Pythagoras, Plato and Aristotle learned the doctrines of vegetarianism and continence, to which they both adhered throughout their long lives; and Aristotle taught these doctrines to his pupil Alexander the Great, who was a strict vegetarian...."
Of course, the prospect of continence may make a vegetarian diet unattractive to many. Indeed, Freudian philosophy has so influenced modern thinking that continence is considered a health danger the cause of nervous and mental disorders—and is scorned as a product of masochism and religious superstition. Writers Aldous Huxley and John Updike judged chastity a "sexual perversion," and Updike banned it from his novels. East West Magazine acquiesces: "If after six or eight months on a mostly vegetarian diet, sexual desire has not returned, it may be wise to increase the intake of animal protein...."
However, besides Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans, some of the greatest geniuses in history practiced continence and experienced its physical, mental, and moral benefits. Among them were Newton, da Vinci, Tolstoy, Michelangelo, Raphael, Handel, Beethoven, St. Francis, Locke, Spinoza, Kant, and Gandhi.
Continence is especially important in spiritual life. Srila Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual master of the Hare Krsna movement, explains, "The highest pleasure in terms of matter is sex pleasure. The whole world is moving under its spell, and a materialist cannot work at all without this motivation. But a person engaged in Krsna consciousness can work with greater vigor without sex pleasure, which he avoids. That is the test in spiritual realization. Spiritual realization and sex pleasure go ill together. A Krsna conscious person is not attracted to any kind of sense pleasure, due to his being a liberated soul."
One intent on spiritual advancement, therefore, should embrace a vegetarian diet and welcome the resultant subsiding of passions. In fact, one of the reasons continence has been deemed unnatural and repressive is because nonvegetarian foods tend to arouse passions to an unnatural degree. In other words, for one who is accustomed to the artificial stimulation of a nonvegetarian diet, to practice continence may appear repressive. "Of all members of the mammalian family," Dr. Bernard writes, "civilized man alone is a victim of an exaggerated and morbid sexual urge, a condition which he has inflicted, to a certain extent, on the animals which he has domesticated and which have adopted his diet...." Dr. Bernard reports that when apes are fed meats instead of their customary fruit, they become licentious and vicious.
Havelock Ellis, author of Studies in the Psychology of Sex, confirms that the sex life of civilized man is unnaturally excessive due to certain aphrodisiacal stimuli rather than to instinct; among such stimuli are tobacco, alcohol, and coffee, sexually stimulating literature, motion pictures, and conversation, and, of course, a high-protein, nonvegetarian diet.
Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, another believer in the physiological value of continence, writes, "Flesh, condiments, eggs, tea, coffee, chocolate, and all other stimulants have a powerful influence directly upon the blood; and through nervous sympathy with the brain, the passions are aroused.... When children are raised on such articles ... what wonder that they occasionally turn out bad? How many mothers, while teaching their children the principles of virtue in the nursery, unwittingly stimulate passions at the dinner table until vice becomes a physical necessity? ... Nothing tends so powerfully to keep the passions in abeyance as a simple diet...."
This facilitating of continence may be an overlooked benefit of the vegetarian diet—but it is a major one, even from a material viewpoint. Srila Prabhupada writes, "Everyone should be taught not to discharge semen unnecessarily. This is very important for all human beings. If semen is not discharged unnecessarily, one becomes extremely strong in memory, determination, activity, and the vitality of one's bodily energy."
(Recipes from The Hare Krishna Book of Vegetarian Cooking, by Adi-raja dasa)
Flat Bread Filled with Spiced Potatoes
Preparation time: 1 ½ hours
10 ounces whole-wheat flour
1. To make the dough, combine the flour and ½ teaspoon of salt in a large bowl. Slowly add water, gathering the flour together as you do so, until a soft dough is formed. Transfer the dough to a work surface and knead it for 6 to 8 minutes until it is smooth and firm. Sprinkle the ball of dough with water, cover it with a damp cloth, and set it aside.
2. Boil the potatoes until soft, rinse under cold water, peel, and mash coarse. Heat a tablespoon of ghee in a medium-size saucepan, put in the cumin seeds, and stirfry. A few seconds later, add the grated ginger, cayenne pepper, and turmeric. Stir-fry a few seconds more. Add the mashed potatoes and fry for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring all the time. Pour the lemon juice over the mixture, sprinkle in ½ teaspoon of salt, and mix thoroughly. Spread on a plate to cool.
3. When the filling has cooled, form the dough into 12 balls and roll one out into a 6-inch disk. Brush some ghee over the surface of the disk. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center. Lift the edges of the dough over the filling and twist them together. Pull off the excess dough and seal the opening by pinching it firmly. Now dust with flour, flatten into a patty, and roll out as thin as possible, being careful that the filling does not break through.
4. Grease a heavy-bottomed frying pan or griddle with ghee. Fry the paratha slowly, turning it over as many times as it takes to cook both sides. When both sides are goldenbrown with reddish spots, it is done. Remove from the pan and brush one side with melted butter. Repeat the procedure to make 12 parathas. Offer to Krsna.
Fried Potato Patties
(Alu ki tikki)
Preparation time: 40-60 minutes
5 medium-size potatoes
1. Boil the potatoes. Steam the other vegetables until they are soft. Drain the potatoes and other vegetables. Peel the potatoes; then break them into chunks and combine them in a large mixing bowl with the other drained vegetables, the spices, the lemon juice, and finally the chickpea flour. Use a fork or masher to mash all the ingredients.
2. Form the mixture into 8 patties about 1 inch thick. Then heat a heavy-bottomed frying pan over a low flame and put in a little butter or ghee. Put in several patties at a time, leaving enough room between them to insert a spatula. Cook each side for 12 to 15 minutes. When one side becomes golden-brown, work the spatula under the patty, without breaking the crust, and turn it over. If the patties are cooking too quickly, lower the heat. Offer to krsna
Preparation time: 30 minutes
½ cup chickpea flour
1. In a large bowl, mix together the chickpea flour, white flour, cumin seeds, asafetida, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Slowly add the cold water, stirring as you do, until you have a thick pancake batter. If the batter seems too thick, remember that the juice from the tomatoes will thin it. Now stir in the grated ginger and pieces of tomato and bell pepper. Set aside.
2. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a 10- to 12inch frying pan over a medium flame. Pour in enough batter to make two 4- to 5-inch pancakes at a time. It is important that the pancakes be uniformly thick; they need not be perfectly round. Cook slowly on both sides so that they become golden-brown and crisp (about 4 to 5 minutes). Finish the batter in this way, putting more butter in the pan if necessary. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the top of the pudlas. Offer to Krsna hot.
Spinach, Eggplant, Tomatoes, and Chickpeas
(Palak baingan aur channa)
Preparation time: 45 minutes
½ cup chickpeas, soaked overnight
1. Boil the soaked chickpeas in water until tender. Then set them aside to drain. Place a medium-size saucepan over a medium flame and heat the tablespoon of ghee. When it is hot, toss in the cumin seeds, minced chilies, grated ginger, ground coriander, and turmeric, in that order and in quick succession. Stir-fry for about 30 seconds; then drop in the eggplant cubes and turn them with a spoon until they are browned.
2. Now add the tomatoes and spinach. Stir to blend the spices into the vegetables. Pour in the water and add the salt. Lower the flame to medium low and simmer with the pot covered. After 10 minutes, remove the cover and fold in the chickpeas. Then dot with butter and simmer gently, stirring every few minutes, until most of the excess liquid has been cooked off. Offer to Krsna hot.
A Misleading Civilization
These are the opening remarks by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada from a conversation between him and some of his disciples that took place in Bombay on April 17, 1977.
Srila Prabhupada: From the Vedic literature we learn that the fallen soul transmigrates from body to body. He "evolves" from lower material bodies to higher bodies—from fish to plant to insect to bird to beast. And then he gets the body of a human being. Full consciousness. Now—this is the chance for understanding God.
But if the human beings are forced to remain in darkness like the animals, that is a dangerous civilization: denying the soul his priceless chance to become God realized and return to the spiritual world.
By knowing the science of God, you can get out of this continual evolutionary process. You can go to the antimaterial world—Vaikuntha, the place of no anxiety. In that world, you can actually live. Na jayate mriyate va: There you do not have to take birth, nor do you have to die. And there you can dance with Krsna. That is life. That we want. That we are seeking after.
But that life of lasting happiness is not possible here in this material world. Here you have to go through the evolutionary process again and again—body after body, birth and death, birth and death—unless you take the special human opportunity and go back to the spiritual world, back home.
If you miss this priceless opportunity, just imagine your misfortune. So this socalled modern civilization is keeping all humanity in misfortune. This civilization is cheating us out of our opportunity to understand God and surrender to Him; rather, it is keeping us trapped in the cycle of birth and death. Only in the human form of life do we get the chance to return to the spiritual world. What an opportunity! But now that opportunity is being stolen from us.
And so we are returning, lifetime after lifetime, to the miseries of birth and death: from animal to man, from man to animal—up and down. This business of dehantara-praptih—accepting new material bodies—is very dangerous. But as long as you remain in this world, you have to change your body. So stop this process. If you are really interested in science, then learn this science: how to stop changing bodies.
You may say, "Why bother'? Now I have such a rich and beautiful body—an opulent, educated, American body." Yes, but if you are so well educated, then continue in that American body forever. Why can you not? Why are you so proud of your socalled scientific education?
You are under control—in actual fact, you are under the control of God's laws. You say you have constructed this proud skyscraper? Very good. So live here forever. Why do you have to undergo death? Why can't you live here forever? But no, you will be kicked out.
Kicked out. But because you have got attachment for the skyscraper, nature may give you some slight concession. "Unfortunately, sir, you misused your human body; you ignored God and your own soul. You simply wanted to go on living in the skyscraper. All right. You can go on living in the skyscraper—as a cockroach."
Who can check this natural process? Dehantara: If you stay here in this material world, you must change out of your present body and go into another body. And after all, the cockroach body is indeed a body.
So the proprietor of the skyscraper can become a cockroach in the skyscraper. Now I am a big proprietor; next life, a cockroach. Can you check this process? Say what you will. Nature will do what she will: "Yes. Very good, sir. Rather than go back to the spiritual world, you prefer your skyscraper. Now take your skyscraper. Live here as a cockroach."
How much time the skyscraper constructor wasted! Instead of centering his life on God, no, he centered it on some huge pile of concrete. And now, though he remains in a photograph in the lobby, actually his life is in the commode. He has become a cockroach in the commode. People are worshiping his photograph in the lobby, and he is living in the commode.
This is called ignorance. What a very misleading civilization this is. So we are trying to save everyone from this misleading civilization. We are trying ourselves to be perfect, and we are trying to teach others the perfect, spiritual way of life.
In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna begins His teaching from this understanding: "You are not this material body. You have had many material bodies, but you are the inner spirit. You are a spiritual being. Now realize yourself and come back home to Me."
This civilization gives everyone a false conception. Where is the question of spiritual knowledge? Where is the opportunity to become self-realized and go back to the spiritual world? Sometimes people may talk of spiritual life, but if they remain in this false, bodily conception, all their talk of spiritual life, spiritual realization, and spiritual liberation is useless.
First of all one has to understand, aham brahmasmi—"I am not this material body; I am a spirit." And then, athato brahmajijnasa. If I am Brahman—if I am spiritual—then what is my real, spiritual nature? Thus far, I have led my life in the bodily conception, but in reality I am a spirit, part and parcel of the Supreme Spirit. So how should a spiritual being live? What is my real life, in this world and the next?
Therefore, we should convince people, "You read this book, Bhagavad-gita As It Is. You'll get all information." And actually, they will get all information.
(To be continued.)
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Bolivia's President Receives Books
Bolivia's president, Dr. Victor Paz Eastenssoro, received some of Srila Prabhupada's books when he visited a Krsna consciousness booth at a fair held in Santa Cruz recently. The president's acceptance of the books was an ecouraging sign for the devotees, who have been struggling against harassment by certain government agencies for several years.
New Cookbook to be Released
New York City—E. P. Dutton, one of the top ten publishers in the United States, and Bala Books, publisher of Krsna cultural books for children, recently signed an agreement to publish and distribute Lord Krsna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking, by Yamuna-devi dasi. Bala Books will begin distributing the new cookbook early this year. It will be available in bookstores throughout the United States by October.
Yamuna-devi spent ten years compiling and testing the six hundred recipes that make up most of the nine-hundred page book. She learned much about Indian cuisine from her spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, and her extensive travels in India have added to that knowledge and experience. Her book also contains numerous anecdotes about Srila Prabhupada.
Augmenting the volume are three hundred thirty illustrations by David Baird, widely known for his drawings in the Good Housekeeping and Reader's Digest cookbooks.
Traveling Ratha-yatra Gears Up
Los Angeles—The crew of ISKCON's traveling Ratha-yatra/Festival of India is busy here preparing for another year of festivals throughout North America. Last year the traveling festival crew, headed by Madhuha dasa, held more than fifty festivals—in New York, San Francisco, Washington, D. C., Vancouver, Toronto, and many other cities.
ISKCON's founder and spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, introduced Ratha-yatra to the West in 1967 in San Francisco. (He had been observing the ancient religious festival since his childhood and saw it as an ideal way to present Krsna consciousness to the American people.) Each year the San Francisco Ratha-yatra grew larger and more popular, and Ratha-yatra spread to other North American cities.
In the mid-seventies, Jayananda dasa, who had organized the first American Ratha-yatra, was eager to fulfill Srila Prabhupada's desire that Krsna consciousness spread through the distribution of transcendental literature, prasadam (sanctified, vegetarian food), and the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra. The Ratha-yatra festival seemed the ideal way to fulfill that desire.
In 1978 in Toronto, Caru dasa and Devi-deva dasa, inspired by Jayananda's vision and by the success of the Rathayatra festivals already held in a few American cities, received a grant from the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust to start a traveling festival program that would bring Krsna conscious festivals to cities all over North America. Caru and Devi-deva went to Los Angeles, where they were assisted by Vatsala dasa, Drutakarma dasa, Vaibhavi-devi dasi, and others. The result was an impressive, transportable festival: huge chariots, informative exhibits, dioramas, a stage, a sound system, and colorful Indian tents.
Over the years the program has steadily expanded, and today residents of many North American cities consider Rathayatra and the Festival of India among the most colorful and exciting events of the year. The organizers of ISKCON's traveling Ratha-yatra/Festival of India are planning more and bigger festivals than ever this year. Watch Back to Godhead magazine for information about festivals in your area.
Are we all on the same path?
This is an extract from questions and answers that followed a lecture by His Holiness Hridayananda dasa Goswami at the University of Florida.
Hridayananda dasa Goswami: If we accept the arguments of the so-called yogis that no matter what we do we merge into the same point, then there is no question of free will, because we would all be compelled to come together, although we are acting and desiring differently. And without free will, what is the use of liberation? Liberation is meaningless without free will. Therefore the Supreme Lord, Krsna, advises us to surrender freely to Him. But if we are stubborn and want to worship someone other than the Supreme Lord, we will get an inferior result.
Question: But in Bhagavad-gita Krsna Himself says, "Everyone is on the Lord's path in all respects." Therefore it seems to me that although everyone may appear to be on a different path, actually we are on the same one path.
HDG: Yes, but you have not given the complete quotation. The other part of that verse says, ye yatha mam prapadyante tams tathaiva bhajamy aham: "I reward all men proportionately as they surrender to Me." If all paths are the same, as you say, there would be no proportionate exchange.
We should examine this concept of a "path." We should study this analogy. Let's say there's a pathway going all the way from Miami to New York City. That is a path also. And if you examine this path, you will find many thousands of cars on the highway. But are any two cars in exactly the same position? Can you say that any two cars are exactly at the same point? Of course not! And the argument that all cars end up in the same place is also false, because some cars are going one way and some are going the opposite way. Similarly, anyone can see that living beings are all in different situations in different species of life. And just as cars go in different directions, some people are becoming elevated and others are becoming degraded. Nowhere in the world do we see that people are automatically becoming perfect. Actually, the world is becoming more and more nasty, but although everyone is worried and unhappy, blind so called spiritualists go on assuring people, "There's no need to worry. Just be happy. Everything will automatically be all right."
Another practical observation is that on a highway there are many exits, and very few cars take a road to the farthest point. For example, on the highway leaving Miami many cars will stop at Atlanta; others will stop at Washington, others at Baltimore, and others at Philadelphia. But very few will take the road to the end.
Similarly, almost everyone exits prematurely from the yoga system. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says that hardly anyone finishes the path. Many people exit prematurely from the yoga path to chase the illusion of becoming God. Others exit to indulge in material sense gratification. And others consider mere contentment the perfection of life, although anyone can see that many animals are also content.
But according to Krsna and all other authorities, that is not the perfection of yoga. Perfection lies in returning to our original, eternal positions as servants of Krsna. One may argue that merely performing gross bodily exercises or silent meditation is equal to direct surrender unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, directly serving Him twenty-four hours a day in bhakti-yoga. But such an argument shows no knowledge of actual yoga and its purpose.
So, we accept that there is only one path, but that does not mean that we can immediately jump to conclusions and flatter ourselves that we are perfect. There is only one path, but that path stretches a long, long way—all the way from Krsnaloka, the highest planet in the spiritual sky, down to the wretched Patalaloka, the lowest planet within this universe. That one path winds its way up from the pit of this nasty material world, up through the antimaterial Vaikuntha planets, and all the way up to Krsnaloka and the transcendental forest where Krsna dances with the gopis in the moonlight.
It is natural for modern fools to flatter themselves that they are automatically going to the highest point regardless of their qualifications, but our practical observations of ourselves and others cannot justify this lazy and self-aggrandizing attitude. We find many people are in difficulty, and often their difficulty is increasing—unhappy people whose unhappiness increases daily. It is rare to find someone elevating himself. In this age of quarrel, Kali-yuga, we are naturally inclined to be lazy, and we are always eager to get something for nothing and cheat someone. But we should give up wishfully thinking we will automatically become perfect. We should try to deal with our situation honestly.
Our situation is that we are eternally part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, Krsna, but we are now conditioned by material nature. Being part of God, however, we do have minute independence. When we exercise our independence by surrendering to Krsna, we release ourselves from this dilemma.
On the other hand, the attempt to avoid the ominous repercussions of our sinful life by merely wishfully thinking that we are God, or that our sinful activities may be offered to God, will only prolong our entanglement and the stupor of our material life. We should admit just what we want—and take it! If someone wants Krsna, the Supreme, let him say it directly, chant it directly, and accept it directly. That is Krsna consciousness.
Therefore Krsna summarized the entire issue of spiritual life by saying that worshipers who pray to demigods, such as Durga and Siva, for material benedictions are dispatched to the planets of the demigods; worshipers of ghosts and spirits become ghosts and spirits; and those who offer everything to the Supreme Lord, Krsna, go to live eternally with Krsna. Krsna indicates that those who worship something other than God are going backward on the path. The Lord says, pravrttim ca nivrttim ca jana na vidur asurah: "Those who are demons do not know what is to be done and what is not to be done." So how can we argue that everything gets the same result? If we want to see Krsna, God, face to face, we should focus intensely on that objective.
Question: But I don't see any need to worship an external God like Krsna. To my way of thinking, since everyone has the same divine spark within, I can also be God.
HDG: Yes, we may say we are God, because things are easier said than done. But by my mere say-so can I become God? Does an ordinary man become God? If I can collect a band of naive followers, then I become an incarnation by their votes. That is the democratic spirit: incarnations of the people and by the people. But that is nonsense. In Bhagavad-gita Krsna teaches us that we can know the authentic incarnations by consulting Vedic literature, where the incarnations of Krsna are carefully catalogued.
Krsna is called Urukrama because whenever He incarnates He performs wonderful activities impossible for an ordinary man. But pseudo incarnations never do anything wonderful like Krsna. Therefore any intelligent man who studies the authoritative literature will not be cheated very easily.
Question: I don't see why we should accept any God beyond our own selves. Each person has to have his own realization, not just read about the realization of others. I have to be my own God.
HDG: Yes, you may want to be God. But what can you do? For example, if someone comes here to purchase a car from you and gives you a check for five thousand dollars, what do you immediately say to him? This is business. What's the first thing you say to him?
Response: Credit references—
HDG: Yes! Credit references. "Let me call your bank and check this out." Because one has to be polite in business, we say, "Oh, it's not that I don't trust you, but it's just our company policy. Let me call your bank and check your credit references." That's because we don't want to be cheated. Similarly, if someone claims to be God, we don't want to be cheated and waste our lives serving an imposter.
But if a man comes and gives us a check and argues with us, "No, you cannot call my bank, nor have I any credit references, but still you must take the check," will you take it?
Response: You see, what I mean is—
HDG: No, no, answer the question. Will you take the check with no references?
HDG: So if someone comes and claims, "I am God," we may politely say, "Yes, probably you are God, but our policy is to check your credit; we want to see what you can do." The activities and qualifications of God are all mentioned in the revealed scriptures.
Response: The scriptures give some idea, but they're limited because they're words. You have to get knowledge for yourself. The scriptures are material.
HDG: So first you have to concede my first point—that you can't act like God. But why do you say the scriptures are material? What is the evidence that Vedic literature is material? Material means temporary. There's no evidence that Vedic literature is temporary. It is said in Srimad-Bhagavatam that Krsna spoke this literature to Brahma billions of years ago (tene brahma hrda). Brahma was supposed to create the universe, but he was faltering until Krsna delivered the Vedic scriptures to him from within his heart. Then he could do it. And the Bhagavatam describes very clearly that long before the creation, personified Vedic knowledge existed. Great saintly persons accept these descriptions, and the Vedic literature is still going strong all over the world. "Material" refers to temporary things that have a beginning and an end. But where is the evidence that the Bhagavad-gita is temporary?
Response: Do you really think it's eternal? After all, its just printed on temporary paper with temporary ink. In a few years it will just be dust.
HDG: That is nonsense. Bhagavad-gita is not paper and ink. Bhagavad-gita is sound vibration. For example, I am speaking, and you can write down on paper what I'm saying and distribute it. That's another thing. But where is the evidence that Bhagavad-gita has a beginning or end?
Response: It is said that the sage Vyasadeva wrote it five thousand years ago.
HDG: I have already given the example that if I speak and you record what I say and type it out, that does not mean that the day you type it out is the day the words were first spoken. These are not very substantial objections.
Question: But how do you know that Krsna was anything more than an ordinary man?
HDG: If Krsna was ordinary, how then was He able to act extraordinarily? Why did all the contemporary authorities say that Krsna is extraordinary? People argue that the descriptions can be psychologically explained. But actually such faithless demons can be psychologically explained. These fools are simply envious of Krsna. All the saintly authorities declare that Krsna is extraordinary, but the demons convince themselves that He is a myth. Why do they do that? If they are not sure, they should investigate. But they cannot stand to deeply investigate Krsna consciousness, because Krsna is actually the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Response: But that's your interpretation.
HDG: No! It is not our interpretation. It is Arjuna's interpretation—Asita's, Devala's, Narada's. It is the opinion of all the great transcendental authorities. They all insist that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. So if the great say yes and the fools says no, whom shall we believe?
Say I want to invest some money. A highly successful businessman says to invest, but a poor beggar says not to invest. Why should I listen to the poor beggar? If I do, I will also become a beggar. Similarly, who are these people who deny Krsna? They have no definite transcendental knowledge, nor any experience of real Vedic study. So what is their caliber?
Who are these critics compared to great souls like Narada and Vyasadeva? Vyasadeva simply sat down alone in a secluded place, without a tinge of material desire, and spontaneously sang hundreds of thousands of perfectly composed Sanskrit verses so beautiful that five thousand years later they are studied everywhere in the world. And his language is so sophisticated that scholars cannot surpass it. All the philosophies of the earth can be found within these verses, and at last Vyasadeva defeated all other philosophies to establish Krsna above everything as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Vyasadeva was able to pinpoint in detail our modern condition of life.
Which of these petty critics could dare presume exactly what life will be like five thousand years from now? Actually, despite their lofty notions on life, many modern philosophers and scientists have personal habits like dogs and cats. They are simply addicted to material sense gratification. But Vyasadeva was pure, uncontaminated. He was not a hypocrite; he was saintly. He was ecstatic twentyfour hours a day. So who are these critics who dare to challenge the transcendental status of Vyasadeva? Krsna demonstrated that He is God, and all the greatest spiritual authorities confirm it.
Response: Krsna may have been a very wonderful man, but—
HDG: Yes, Krsna was wonderful. So why should you think He misunderstood His own position? Krsna said over and over, "I am the Supreme God." But you say Krsna is a man. So if Krsna misunderstood Himself, how was He wonderful? Someone who does not know his own position cannot be wonderful. A man becomes wonderful by self-realization. So if Krsna is wonderful, we should accept Krsna's statement that He is God.
Response: Krsna may have understood Himself, but today we don't understand His real teaching.
HDG: That is still nonsense. Krsna spoke very clearly. Krsna said, "I am God." Srimad-Bhagavatam explains that Krsna spoke Bhagavad-gita for the least intelligent people. (Stri-sudra-dvija-bandhunam ... iti bharatam akhyanam krpaya munina krtam.) So if Krsna was speaking for the least intelligent people, which is what we are in this age, why should He speak in riddles? Riddles are for clever people. Riddles and esoteric language are not meant for slow learners. The Bhagavatam specifically states that because in this age we cannot understand the esoteric and sophisticated language of the Vedas, Vyasadeva included Bhagavad-gita in the Mahabharata. According to the simple and clear language of the Gita, Krsna is the original person, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Response: There are many editions of Bhagavad-gita.
HDG: There are not many editions according to Krsna. One must understand Bhagavad-gita as it is, as Krsna spoke it, without adding or subtracting anything. One should therefore hear the message of Bhagavad-gita from a pure devotee of Krsna, the original speaker of Bhagavad-gita.
To understand God, one needs intelligent discrimination. But people do not understand this. For example, the schools say, "If we allow everyone to come and teach his idea..." Why don't they argue this way in hiring their faculty? If there are one hundred applications to join the faculty and one man is accepted, does everyone have to be accepted? If a university admits one student, must it then admit every student? If the cafeteria serves one kind of food, does it have to serve every kind of food? The answer is no in every case. They will discriminate between different students, teachers, and foods according to their quality. If I use one book in a course, do I have to use every book in the world?
Discrimination based on ignorance is useless, but discrimination based on quality is necessary. The professor says that if he allows us to teach, he has to allow everyone. But why does he marry one girl and not another? What is your answer? Why doesn't he marry all the girls? In every other field they discriminate: in the choice of books, faculty, administration, architecture, landscaping. Even the cafeteria discriminates. Why then in our case do they suddenly say, "No discrimination. If you come, everyone must come"?
Response: Because you are a religion.
HDG: Yes, they say, "Because it is a religion, it cannot be proven." But they teach poetry, don't they? In the field of poetry, how can anything be proven? How can you prove that one poem is better than another?
Response: Simply by taste.
HDG: But how can you prove it? How can you prove Shakespeare is better than an ordinary man?
Response: You can't actually prove it because it all depends on your personal taste.
HDG: But still they make judgments.
Response: No, the schools are there to educate, not to make judgments.
HDG: Yes, they do make judgments because they offer courses in Shakespeare in every school, but there are no courses in your writings or mine. They offer courses in Beethoven. But will they offer a course in your singing? Why Beethoven and not others? Why Shakespeare and not others? What is your answer?
Response: It's because of personal taste.
HDG: No! It's not personal taste. Shakespeare is actually better. Beethoven is actually better. There's a difference in quality, and that quality can be ascertained.
Response: Then why will they not accept your knowledge?
HDG: Yes, that is what I'm asking you. But we are not trying to impose a particular religion. We are not sectarian. We are presenting a philosophy and technique that brings one to the point of God consciousness, which nullifies all sectarian designations. So the government should give us the facility to offer courses everywhere in Krsna consciousness. It is not an imposition on anyone's freedom, but it will give intelligent and serious students inquiring about the essential problems of life an opportunity to receive sublime and authoritative answers.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
by Dvarakadisa-devi dasi
Nancy Wexler is a forty-one-year old neuropsychologist who, having witnessed her mother's agonizing battle with fatal Huntington's disease, now faces a fifty percent chance of dying in the same wretched way. She is also one of the developers of a test for detecting the incurable disease. Wexler used to think she would want to know if she herself would fall victim, but now she's not so sure. She notes, "Before the test you can always say, 'Well, it can't happen to me.' After the test, if it's positive, you can't say that anymore." If the test is positive, you face certain dementia and death. Yet look at the irony. Even if you test positive, who's to say you'll live long enough to die from Huntington's disease? You—or I or Ms. Wexler—could die tomorrow.
And if the test is negative, is this a guarantee against suffering and death? There are thousands of varieties of disease, none of them pleasant, that still threaten to strike. All it takes is one blow, or one virus, to finish this fragile body.
Every living body is potentially and inevitably a dead body. Death means that the body has reached such a degenerated condition that the soul is no longer able to remain. How you come to this point is irrelevant, but one way or another, all of us are going to die.
We are living under a death sentence. If the doctor were to tell you, "You have just six months to live," how would you change your life? Would you buy a new home? Look for a better-paying job? Probably not. You'd probably focus on understanding the meaning and purpose of your existence. Since we all have the limitation that we don't know how much time we have remaining, we should consider, even in our healthiest moments, that death may be just ahead.
How to face death? The ideal attitude was shown by Maharaja Pariksit, a great saintly monarch. The Srimad-Bhagavatam relates how Maharaja Pariksit, although emperor of the world, was unfairly cursed to die by a young brahmana boy. Maharaja Pariksit accepted the curse as the will of the Lord and took advantage of his final seven days to renounce his worldly opulence and hear of the glorious Supreme Lord.
Observing strict vows of fasting and renunciation, Maharaja Pariksit left his throne and went alone to the bank of the sacred Ganges, where he met the great sage Sukadeva Gosvami. Many other sages also assembled to hear the exalted exchange between the emperor and his guru, as Maharaja Pariksit inquired on behalf of all people about the nature of the material and spiritual worlds, the position of the living entities, the power of devotional service, and, most important, the activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Srimad-Bhagavatam centers on this exchange between Sukadeva Gosvami and Maharaja Pariksit, as the king exemplifies the prime duty of a person facing death.
He expressed himself to all the sages assembled (Bhagavatam 1.19.15):
O brahmanas just accept me as a completely surrendered soul, and let mother Ganges, the representative of the Lord, also accept me in that way, for I have already taken the lotus feet of the Lord into my heart. Let the snake-bird—or whatever magical thing the brahmana created—bite me at once. I only desire that you all continue singing the deeds of Lord Visnu.
Srila Prabhupada comments on this verse:
As soon as one is given up completely unto the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, he is not at all afraid of death. The atmosphere created by the presence of great devotees of the Lord on the bank of the Ganges and Maharaja Pariksit's complete acceptance of the Lord's feet were sufficient guarantee to the king for going back to Godhead. He thus became absolutely free from all fear of death.
Death signals the end of this particular body and all its involvements in the material world, but not the end of the soul. The soul is an eternal spiritual person with a full existence beyond this temporary world. To attain that original identity, we must awaken the love for God that is always present in our hearts—although it's covered now by illusion. Through patient and submissive service to Krsna, we can rekindle that sublime love.
The most important forms of service are hearing and chanting the holy name of the Supreme Lord, Krsna, and absorbing our minds in His pastimes and attributes. Gradually our natural taste for hearing and speaking about Lord Krsna will grow, and this taste will pull us from the illusions created by the material mind and body.
The good news for some is that they can now know for certain that they won't die from Huntington's disease. Yet, as Nancy Wexler says, "I wonder if I would really be that much happier if I knew I wouldn't get the disease." Who can be happy knowing that death—in whatever form—looms in the future? Only that pure soul who has embraced the lotus feet of Lord Krsna as his sole shelter can face the final moments with true peace and certitude.
A Policy For The Highest Education
by Basu Ghosh dasa
An official publication from the Indian government's Ministry of Human Resource Development informs us that the new "National Policy on Education" is geared not only for the "material" but also for the "spiritual" development of the citizens. That's an improvement: India's educational policy-makers now recognize the need for spiritual development. Without Krsna consciousness, however, that need will remain unsatisfied.
Underlying the many problems now facing India's educational planners is the prevalent mistake of accepting the self to be the temporary body and of considering the material world to be all in all. Modern education, therefore, does not teach any goal in life beyond ephemeral, materialistic goals. The new National Policy on Education may claim to be fully comprehensive from the "womb to the tomb," but without educating people about the self before the womb and beyond the tomb, education remains materialistic, and "spiritual" development remains but an empty political premise.
Spiritual development must refer to that which is beneficial for the spiritual self, the soul. The Vedanta-sutra, the Srimad-Bhagavatam, and many other Vedic texts teach that human life is especially for spiritual inquiry and development. And the Hitopadesa says that one who is busy only with eating, sleeping, mating, and defending—without spiritual development—is no better than an animal. Spiritual development, therefore, is the most essential part of a complete education. It provides a direction and a goal for the eternal soul—a definite destination for the self beyond the "tomb." To provide this missing essence, is the greatest need in modern Indian education, and educational policy-makers would do well to consider the fundamental principles of education that have been presented in the Vedic literatures and elucidated in the writings of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
The Krsna conscious approach to education does not mean that material education and development should be abandoned. Rather, in India's ancient Vedic scriptures, spiritual and vocational (material) development complement one another. The Vedic literature outlines a program of vocational training that, if implemented, could lead to much gainful employment for the mass of people and could also improve the overall management of human resources. This could also eliminate much unnecessary competition in the job market. And since it stresses balanced simple living, instead of consumerism, it will help curb the depletion of our natural resources. In other words, when human life is turned toward cultivating a destination for the eternal soul, sense gratificatory diversions and material possessions take on a new perspective. This is the God conscious, theistic world view: The world is God's property, and we (God's servants) should use it in God's service.
An atheistic world view—"I am this body; this world is for my enjoyment"—has led to much unnecessary endeavor for materialistic and hedonistic goals, which in turn has brought about a lot of suffering and but a little pleasure. For example, one effect of this world view on education is that students believe they must go all out for pleasure. Consequently, drug and alcohol abuse is high among students in Bombay, New Delhi, Bangalore, and elsewhere.
Students should learn the Upanisadic principle taught in the Isopanisad: "Everything animate and inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong." This education would go a long way toward eliminating the above anomalies.
A Krsna conscious education puts the most essential knowledge first:
"Humility; pridelessness; nonviolence; tolerance; simplicity; approaching a bona fide spiritual master; cleanliness; steadiness; self-control; renunciation of the objects of sense gratification; absence of false ego; the perception of the evil of birth, death, old age, and disease; detachment; freedom from entanglement with children, wife, home, and the rest; evenmindedness amid pleasant and unpleasant events; constant and unalloyed devotion to Me; aspiring to live in a solitary place; detachment from the general mass of people; accepting the importance of self-realization; and philosophical search for the Absolute Truth—all these I declare to be knowledge, and besides this whatever there may be is ignorance" (Bg. 13.8-12).
If this knowledge could be imparted on a mass scale in India, material, spiritual, and moral instruction would follow, and the myriad problems facing India's educational policy-makers would come under control.
Hell-Bent For Heaven
by Kundali dasa
A popping seventy-two percent of the American people rate their chances of going to heaven as "good to excellent." That's about 150 million people. The figure is based on a poll by USA Today.
"This can't be," I thought. "That would mean seventy-two percent of the people were practically saints. If this is a nation with that many saints, who are the people indulging in tobacco and alcohol, abusing drugs and having illicit sex? And who's responsible for the 1.5 million abortions per year and for making herpes and AIDS the twentieth century's bubonic plague? Who patronizes the gambling meccas and supports the merciless animal slaughter industry by consuming billions of Chicken McNuggets, hamburgers, steaks, and so on each year? Who's doing all the murdering, mugging, raping, lying, cheating, and stealing?"
Please don't misunderstand me. I'm all in favor of as many people as possible going back to Godhead. At the same time I can't help but distinguish between the poll's results and my experience. I certainly can't accept that all those sinful activities are conducted and supported by that twenty-eight percent whose chances of going to heaven rate less than good.
I showed the article to a friend and asked him what he thought. "I guess this is what advocates of human potential mean when they talk about 'incurable optimism'" he replied.
"Optimism I can understand," I said, "but this is about as realistic as missing all your classes and expecting to graduate with honors."
"But then some of them may argue that you're seeing things in terms of your values [Krsna consciousness] rather than their values [Christianity]."
"Even so," I said, "if people are serious about going to the spiritual world, whether they follow the Bible or the Bhagavad-gita, they should live by their scripture.
"Yes, of course. Otherwise there is no meaning to religion."
"Then I think it's fair to say that both the biblical and the Vedic traditions advocate detachment from the world and attachment and love for God as basic and essential for entering the spiritual world."
"So by those standards," he said, "I doubt that even twenty-eight percent would qualify, what to speak of seventy-two."
"That's right. Other than the incredible power of positive thinking, I can't fathom any basis for their optimism."
"Yeah, positive thinking. Or sheer sentimentality."
We welcome your letters.
Please send me a copy of your catalog. I found your magazine so enlightening. I especially enjoyed the article on cooking. I tried the recipes at home, and they were delicious. If you have any further information with recipes or other insights into cooking, please send them along with the catalog. At the present time I am a practicing Mormon, but I am interested in exploring alternate spiritual paths.
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What gives Jayadvaita Swami the right to judge who are pure devotees? In his article Entering Orissa (BTG Vol. 21, Nos. 2-3) he states, "Yet for the most part these kirtana singers are not what we'd consider pure devotees. Some smell of fish and sugarcane-liquor. And when the chanting is over we see singers and mrdanga drum players relaxing with a smoke." I object. We all serve God in our own way. In the Sixth Chapter of the Gita Krsna says that those who are sincere will reach the goal. God is the father of all, and He doesn't discriminate between the pure and the impure. We should follow His example and not selfrighteously pass judgements.
P. B. Patel
JAYADVAITA SWAMI REPLIES: Although Jayadvaita Swami considers himself a neophyte devotee and lacking in realization, as a servant of a learned and bona fide spiritual master, he thinks it his duty to speak the message of Bhagavad-gita as it is, as handed down from spiritual master to disciple.
In Bhagavad-gita (7.28) Lord Sri Krsna clearly tells us that the steadfast, pure devotees are those who have left behind all sins.
The four main sins, say the Vedic scriptures, are intoxication, gambling, illicit sex, and eating meat, fish, or eggs. So we consider a devotee pure only when these are cleansed from his life. One who sets out on the spiritual path but later goes astray may turn again to spiritual life in his next birth. After many such births, when free from all sins, he becomes a pure devotee and attains the supreme goal. In the verse you cite from Bhagavad-gita, Sixth Chapter, Lord Krsna uses the word samsuddha-kilbisah to point out that for perfection one must be sinless.
A person who chants Hare Krsna under proper guidance, following the regulative principles of bhakti-yoga, can cleanse his heart and reach purity and perfection quickly, even without waiting many births. Our article therefore expressed the hope that this is what the sincere people we met in Orissa would do.
If, despite one's sins, one single mindedly devotes oneself to Krsna, one must be considered saintly. Why? The Bhagavad-gita (9.31) tells us: Such a person quickly becomes righteous, free from sins.
Despite our bad habits, if we simply chant Hare Krsna with sincerity, we will be pulled toward the Lord. We shall then give up our bad habits for the higher taste of Krsna consciousness and become pure devotees.
The Bhagavad-gita explains this science of pure devotional service. So if we simply hear Bhagavad-gita from a bona fide spiritual master, as directed in the Gita itself, we'll soon come to pure consciousness, kick the fish and smoke and liquor, and attain to the kingdom of God.
Krsna is not a devotee but God Himself, and we are children of God. Krsna fully loves each of us. But some of us love smoking, drinking, woman-hunting, and meat-eating more than we love Krsna. And Krsna is no fool. As our companion in our hearts, He knows what's what and who's who, and He responds accordingly.
If God didn't discriminate between pure and impure, He'd give all of us liberation at once, regardless of what we think or do. But it's clear from Bhagavad-gita that God does judge. According to our desires and our acts, He takes some of us back to Godhead and sends others back to repeated birth and death.
Sometimes we may twinge at criticism of someone's low habits, because we may have the same habits ourselves. But Lord Sri Krsna in Bhagavad-gita and saintly teachers throughout the ages kindly point out our attachments and illusions. When we humbly recognize our mundane habits for what they are, our sincere chanting of Hare Krsna helps us overcome them. We then leave them behind, become pure devotees, and attain the perfection of life.
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I very much enjoyed Mathuresha das's article on the laws of karma (BTG Vol. 21, 4). However, I still have one major apprehension about the moral implications of a karmic theology: If we accept the existence of karma, then it means no one is an innocent victim of someone else's cruelty. To stop cruelty would therefore be wrong, because it would be interfering with the laws of nature, which are properly punishing those who deserve it.
MATHURESA DASA REPLIES: While you would be correct to say that the victims of both natural and man-made calamities are receiving the results of their karma, or past activities, it does not follow that a man or nation can perpetrate cruelty without being held accountable.
The laws of karma are the laws of God. Therefore, just as it is criminal to whimsically take enforcement of state laws into your own hands, so also a cruel person who holds that his victims are merely getting their just karmic deserts is punishable under that very system of karmic laws he is citing.
Even ordinary law courts make a distinction between "acts of God"—events beyond the defendant's control—and events for which the defendant may be held liable. The same is true of karmic judgments. In either case, a human being must take responsibility for his actions.
It also betrays a shallow understanding of karma for a witness to glibly say that the victims of either natural or man-made disasters simply suffered their fate, and that we therefore could not have done anything to help them.
There is much we could have done, because karma and karmic reactions are changeable.
The best way to change our karma is to directly render devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna, who in the Bhagavad-gita promises to liberate His devotee from all karmic reaction. Krsna is the karmic lawmaker, and He therefore has the power to commute or nullify our karmic sentences. Furthermore, as long as we remain servants of the lawmaker, there is no chance of our breaking His laws and accruing further karmic reaction.
So those who know the laws of karma are neither callous toward suffering nor complacent toward cruelty. But they understand that economic, political, and altruistic attempts to help their fellow man are in the long run doomed to failure unless they are coupled with programs to change their fellow man's karma.
What do devotees of Krsna have to show
by Visakha-devi dasi
The unrelieved grayness of the sky seemed to cast a pall over everything during a leafless, lifeless, mid-January morning in Moundsville, West Virginia. The town was almost vacant, and I wondered if perhaps today were some holiday I'd forgotten about. Then I noticed a store I had passed many times: "M & M Carpets, Inc." A large sign above the door read: "Since 1971."
"1971," I thought. "That's just a few years back. What's that to proudly advertise?" Then I was jolted—it's sixteen years gone!
Sixteen years. What had I achieved in that time? Messrs. M & M had obviously built a small but viable retail carpet business, something they were proud of. What had I to be proud of?
In one sense the comparison was unfair: my goal differed radically from theirs. My goal was not for an establishment, not for fortune or prestige. My goal was to rid myself of material desires and to thus become qualified to go back to Godhead.
My spiritual master, His Divine Grace A C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, writes,
Vedic literatures state that there is nothing superior to the abode of the Supreme Godhead, and that that abode is the ultimate destination. When one attains to it, he never returns to the material world.. . . Every one of us has to go back home, back to Godhead. If we do so immediately and voluntarily, we save time; otherwise we waste time.
It so happens that 1971 is the year that Srila Prabhupada initiated me. He explained to me then that to become qualified to go back to Godhead, one must hear about Lord Krsna, chant His holy names and serve Him and His devotees. Although I was a neophyte in spiritual understanding, Srila Prabhupada's attractive presence and teachings, my husband's encouragement, and the association of other devotees had given me faith to set out on the spiritual path. My husband and I were with Srila Prabhupada in India at the time, and I saw that the villagers there made no great endeavor for economic development. They were satisfied with whatever they had. Often even the street sweepers were devotees, and in the evening, after their work and a bath, they would sit down to chant the names of God and worship the Deity. Happiness, I began to understand, was in self-realization, not in self-aggrandizement. What was the use in being unnecessarily ambitious?
This concept was confirmed in Srila Prabhupada's books. For example, when Kuvera, the treasurer of the demigods, offered the devotee Dhruva Maharaja untold riches, Dhruva said, "Please bless me that I may have unflinching faith in the lotus feet of Krsna." And when Lord Nrsirhhadeva, Lord Krsna's incarnation as half man, half lion, offered Prahlada Maharaja whatever boon he wanted, Prahlada said, "What should I ask from You? My father was a great materialist, so great that the demigods feared his anger. Yet You have finished him in one second. What then is the value of material power and opulence? Please engage me in the service of Your servants. That is all I want".
As this knowledge and this mood of surrender gradually strengthened my spiritual ambitions, my material ambitions waned. I accepted that—from a material view—even after a lifetime of spiritual activity (what to speak of sixteen years) one may not have much to show for it. There were examples in the Vedic tradition of devotees who were rich both spiritually and materially, but there were also examples of advanced devotees who had (and wanted) nothing more than a tree to live under and some cloth to wear. If Lord Krsna chose to bestow wealth upon a devotee, the devotee accepted it as the Lord's spiritual gift, and if the Lord chose not to, the devotee accepted that also.
It became clear to me that assets and accomplishments not used in Krsna's service are of no enduring benefit. In fact, for the beginning transcendentalist, material possessions and qualifications are distractions from spiritual life: "Your Lordship can easily be approached, but only by those who are materially exhausted. One who is on the path of material progress, trying to improve himself with respectable parentage, great opulence, high education, and bodily beauty, cannot approach You with sincere feeling" (Bhag. 1.8.26).
But now, in 1987, I didn't feel fully qualified to go back to Godhead. Had I wasted my time? Was I simply a two-time loser, with no position in either the material sphere or the spiritual? No. In the words of Lord Krsna "In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.... A transcendentalist engaged in auspicious activities does not meet with destruction either in this world or in the spiritual world; one who does good is never overcome by evil" (Bg 2.40, 6.40).
In other words, even though I hadn't attained perfection in my Krsna consciousness, still I was not a loser. Material activities and their results end with the body. But any work begun in Krsna consciousness has a permanent effect, even if not finished. Therefore, although my work in Krsna consciousness was incomplete, I was still successful.
This is not merely consolation for those who don't make the grade; it's transcendental truth. One in devotional service has a spiritual account with accruing assets that can never be diminished. Srila Prabhupada writes, "One percent done in Krsna consciousness bears permanent results, so that the next beginning is from the point of two percent.... I didn't know what percentage I was up to, but whatever it was, it was mine eternally and it was gradually propelling me back to Godhead.
As it turned out, that January day wasn't a holiday. The bleakness and cold had kept people home. I did my errand for the devotees and considered that since I was initiated into spiritual life in 1971, in many ways my life had begun then. I was "since 1971." And one day I would have a lot to show for it.
"Did Shakespeare Know the Lord?"
Joseph Gallagher, a liberal clergyman serving in Baltimore, is the author of Diary of a City Priest. In his chronicle for 1979 he noted, "One morning I preached on some of the secrets life had taught me about itself." But after his sermon a young girl approached him and said she would have preferred quotes from the Bible to the quotes he used in his talk. "Did Shakespeare know the Lord?" she inquired.
Father Gallagher writes:
I suddenly realized that I was facing a person whose narrow kind of religion I loathe. I told her that Catholic tradition regards God as the author of the second book, too—creation and the gifted human beings who see life in their own special way and talk about it with a special beauty and power. I cited St. Ambrose's belief that whatever truth is spoken it is spoken by the Holy Spirit. I doubt that I converted her.
I can sympathize both with Father Gallagher and the girl. Father Gallagher's broad vision is somewhat reminiscent of the vision of enlightened devotees of the Lord. As Lord Krsna says, "For one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, I am never lost to him nor is he ever lost to Me." The pure devotee, who sees God everywhere, certainly sees Him within empowered human beings. Empowered beings derive their special potency (sakti) from God. In the Tenth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, empowered beings are referred to as vibhuti incarnations of God. Such a literary genius as Shakespeare could be regarded as a vibhuti incarnation, in that he manifests a tiny fragment of Krsna's poetic and dramatic prowess.
Religion that restricts God to the church or temple or to one particular scripture is religion of a lower order. An advanced devotee of God will see the object of his devotion not only in the temple or church but also in the hearts of all God's creatures. Some sectarian Christians think that Krsna conscious devotees are devil worshipers, because Vedic scriptures describe ethics of spiritual life apparently different from the teachings of Christ. Such persons are narrow-minded and misinformed, and I welcome Father Gallagher's ecumenical spirit and his attempt to appreciate God wherever He appears.
God's creation, in all its aspects, glorifies the creator. Its as if all existence were within the pages of the holy scriptures. When my spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, was asked if St. Joan of Arc was in the Srimad-Bhagavatam he replied that she wasn't within the traditional twelve cantos of Srimad-Bhagavatam. He explained, however, that authentic writings describing her activities were Vedic, since all knowledge derives from the Vedas. Certainly there is no loathsome narrow-mindedness in such a view.
Of course the question still remains, "Did Shakespeare know the Lord'?" And the answer would have to be, "No." At least, he didn't glorify God directly, despite thousands of eloquent words. Therefore, although Shakespeare's capabilities seem almost Godlike, he nevertheless failed in the most important mission of a writer: to specifically glorify the Personality of Godhead. Srila Prabhupada writes in his commentary on the First Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam:
Not only ordinary literatures devoid of the transcendental qualifications of the Lord are condemned, but also Vedic literatures and speculations on the subject of impersonal Brahman when they are devoid of devotional service. When speculation on the impersonal Brahman is condemned on the above grounds, then what to speak of ordinary fruitive work which is not meant to fulfill the aim of devotional service?
Sensitive persons—many empowered writers, artists, and so on—sense that human life is a tragedy. Most people try to hide the unpleasant facts of our death-bound existence; therefore. the deeper realizations expressed by poets and writers may serve to awaken people to a reality deeper than surface attempts for sense gratification. This attempt to pierce through the superficiality of materialistic life is, at least indirectly, service to truth; therefore it is a preliminary form of God consciousness. But we must progress beyond this preliminary stage to the stage of understanding our spiritual nature and our relationship with God.
Those who follow the path of Krsna consciousness recognize the special potency of the world's great scriptures (the Bible, Koran, Gita, Torah, and so on) to raise human consciousness to the platform of eternal liberation. Among the many sacred scriptures of the world, however, the Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad-Bhagavatam hold a special place, since they give the fullest presentation of the science of God, including confidential revelations about how to develop pure love of God. And certainly authorized preachers have the responsibility to quote scriptures and to speak about the. Personality of Godhead, not just "the secrets life had taught me about itself.—SDG
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Chanting is easy, and it works. In fact, it is the most effective means of God realization in the world.
Here's why. God is unlimitedly powerful, and His name is Himself. When we chant God's names, God is totally present through the transcendental sound. So potent are God's names that the Vedic scriptures consider chanting the essential, universal religion of the age. So why don't more people chant? Maybe they're embarrassed. Or busy. Or doubtful. Or maybe they think chanting is a sectarian religious practice—something only for the Hare Krishnas.
Yet what could be less sectarian than calling out to God? All the great scriptures of the world praise the holy names of God. God's names may vary from religion to religion or from culture to culture, but the person—the supreme father of all—is the same.
Don't be embarrassed. Chanting is for everyone. Don't feel you're too busy. Chanting is easy. And don't remain doubtful. Try chanting and see the results.
Chant. It's easy, effective, and universal.