Back to godhead is the monthly journal of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. When Srila Prabhupada began the Society (in New York City, in 1966), he put into writing the purposes he wanted it to achieve. They are as follows:
1. To systematically propagate spiritual knowledge to society at large and to educate all peoples in the techniques of spiritual life in order to check the imbalance of values in life and to achieve real unity and peace in the world.
2. To propagate a consciousness of Krsna, as it is revealed in Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam.
3. To bring the members of the Society together with each other and nearer to Krsna, the prime entity, thus developing the idea within the members, and humanity at large, that each soul is part and parcel of the quality of Godhead (Krsna).
4. To teach and encourage the sankirtana movement, congregational chanting of the holy names of God, as revealed in the teachings of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
5. To erect for the members and for society at large a holy place of transcendental pastimes dedicated to the personality of Krsna.
6. To bring the members closer together for the purpose of teaching a simpler, more natural way of life.
7. With a view toward achieving the aforementioned purposes, to publish and distribute periodicals, books, and other writings.
The advances of a godless civilization are no better than . . .
A lecture in Los Angeles on December 1, 1973
tvam atmanatmanam avehy amogha-drk
"I have the very same Gandiva bow, the same arrows, the same chariot drawn by the same horses, and I use them as the same Arjuna to whom all the kings offered their due respects. But in the absence of Lord Krsna, all of them, at a moment's notice, have become null and void. It is exactly like offering clarified butter on ashes, accumulating money with a magic wand, or sowing seeds on barren land." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.15.21)
This important verse explains that everything is null and void when there is no God. The modern civilization has everything except God consciousness. Therefore at any moment this godless civilization can be finished. At any moment. As soon as there is a declaration of war, America will drop the atom bomb on Russia, and Russia will drop the atom bomb on America. Nobody will be victorious, because both of them are ready. America will be finished, and Russia will be finished. That is the situation.
So, you may make advancement of civilization—scientific improvements, economic development—but if it is godless, at any moment it can be finished. Ravana and Hiranyakasipu are good examples. They were godless demons. Ravana was a very learned scholar in Vedic knowledge and very powerful materially. He constructed his capital of gold—all the buildings and everything.
It is stated in the Ramayana that Havana's brother was the king on the other side of the globe from Ravana's kingdom and that Ravana dug a tunnel through the earth. Ravana was in Ceylon, and the other side of the globe from there is Brazil. Brazil has many gold mines. Taking all this into consideration, we can suppose that Ravana imported large quantities of gold from Brazil (this is my suggestion; I do not say there is any scientific proof) and used it in constructing big, big buildings. So, Ravana was so powerful that he built his capital out of gold. This was very wonderful.
Similarly, we can create very wonderful things, but we have to see the example of Ravana. Ravana was very advanced materially and had vast Vedic knowledge. He was the son of a brahmana. He had everything. His only fault was that he did not care about Lord Rama. That was his only fault. "Oh, who is this Rama? I don't care for Him. There is no need to perform sacrifices and rituals to be promoted to the heavenly kingdom. I shall construct a staircase up to the moon planet." This was how Ravana thought.
Similarly, like Ravana, the people of the modern civilization are trying to enjoy all kinds of material facilities without caring for God. But they should take lessons from Ravana, whose godlessness doomed him. He lost everything when he was annihilated by Rama.
Here in this verse we see that Arjuna was defeated by some cowherd men. Arjuna is lamenting, "I have the same bow and arrows with which I fought on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra. I was victorious because Krsna was sitting on my chariot. That was the only reason. But now there is no Krsna, so my weapons are useless." The lesson is that without God, without spirit, this material gorgeousness has no value.
Yesterday on our morning walk I gave the example of the well-known scientist Albert Einstein. He was a big, big scientist, but when the small sparklike soul was gone from his body, his brain was useless. And before his death he could not discover any implement or medicine to rejuvenate himself. He could not instruct his students, "My dear students, when I am on the point of death, please inject me with this medicine, and then I shall again have a nice youthful body." No, he could not discover that medicine.
It was expected that, as a scientist, Einstein could do something wonderful. But even though he might have discovered so many wonderful things, he could not discover anything to solve the real problems of his life—birth, old age, disease, and death. I challenge the scientists: "Discover something by which there will be no death. You are discovering such nice medicines. The drug shop is full of various types of medicine, but none of the medicines is able to save a man from death or prevent all disease. That is not possible."
So, the advancement of materialistic civilization without God is like the decorations on a dead body. That is stated in the Vedic literature:
"Without devotional service to Krsna, all your good fortune from being born in a very high family, your mantra chanting, your Vedic studies, and your austerities are useless—like decorations on a dead body."
For example, you American people have a big nation, and your activities are very big compared to those in other parts of the world. You have made America so nice by tapasya, austerity. It has not come about automatically; you have labored hard. But unless you engage your big activities in the service of Krsna, they are all useless.
Similarly, scientific discoveries are very popular, but what kind of popularity is that? It is like the appreciation of simple people for the decorations on a dead body. The body may be dressed in nice clothes and decorated with flowers, and this may be very pleasing to the people in general, but after all, the body is dead. It is not enjoying. You may be complacent and think, "Oh, the body of my father is decorated so nicely." But if you study scrutinizingly, what is the actual benefit of this decoration? There is no benefit.
Actually, this so-called living body is also dead. That's a fact. This body is dead from the very beginning because it is matter. Matter is always dead. So, this external body made of matter—earth, water, fire, air—is dead, but it seems to be alive on account of the small spark of spirit that is present within it. That we understand from the Bhagavad-gita: dehino 'smin yatha dehe. "There is a small spiritual spark within the body." This is the first understanding of spiritual knowledge.
When Krsna taught the Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna, Arjuna was lamenting for the body. So when Arjuna accepted Krsna as his spiritual master, Krsna advised him, "You are talking like a very learned scholar, but actually what you are saying is foolishess" (asocyan anvasocas tvam prajna-vadams ca bhasase).
Our so-called scientists are also like that. They speak as if they know everything, but the real thing they do not know. What spirit is, they do not know. They are thinking this body is everything. And according to Vedic knowledge, if one identifies himself with the body, he is an animal. He may be an M.A., B.A., or a Ph.D., but he is an animal because he does not know how the body is moving.
Because the scientists do not accept the existence of the soul, they cannot discover the difference between a living body and a dead body. When the soul is present within the body, the body moves. And when the soul leaves the body, the body no longer moves, just as when the petrol is gone, the motorcar stops. Now there is a crisis—a shortage of petrol—so how will their motorcars move? The petrol is the life of the movement of the motorcar. Similarly the spirit soul is the "petrol" of this body. Without knowledge of the soul, one is just like a cat or a dog. Cats and dogs cannot understand how they are moving, and if a human being does not understand how this body is moving, he is no better than an animal.
So, without knowledge of the soul, all your so-called education is simply decoration on a dead body. What is the profit thereof? If you do not know what the real living force within this body is, and if you simply decorate the body, you may get some applause from ordinary men, but it has no value.
We living entities are part and parcel of God, and this body is beautiful because we are within it. You may be a big scientist, philosopher, or politician, but without the soul, your body is useless. A dead body. You can give it all the titles you want—M.A., B.A., Ph.D.—but they are all useless. Suppose a man is dead, and from Oxford University somebody comes to give him a title: "Now you are a Ph.D." What is the use of such a title? Or, suppose there is a beautiful woman attractive to many people. Now, when she is dead, if she is offered to you—"Now take this body; you can use it as you like"—you will not like it. Why? The same beautiful body is lying there. Why don't you take it now? No, it is no longer attractive.
There is a story in this connection. Once a beautiful woman was being pursued by a man. He was wooing and canvassing, but she was a chaste lady. She did not agree to his proposals. But that man kept after her. So one day she said, "All right, come to me after three days. I will accept you."
Now, the next morning she began taking very strong purgatives and laxatives, and she vomited and passed stool the whole day and night. She kept all the stool and vomit in a bucket. On the third day, when the man came, he couldn't recognize her; she had become ugly from all that vomiting and passing of stool. He asked her, "Where is that woman?"
She replied, "I am the same woman. You don't recognize me?"
"No, no, you are not. She was so beautiful, and you are ugly."
"No, no, I am the same girl."
"Then why do you look so ugly?"
"Because I have separated my beauty."
"You have separated your beauty?"
"Yes, I will show you. Come here."
Then she showed him all the stool and vomit in the bucket. She said, "So, here is my beauty. Now add it to me, and then I shall again be beautiful."
This is a very good lesson. As Sankaracarya said, etam mamsa-vasadi vikaram. He is teaching renunciation: "Why are you attracted to this beautiful woman? What is her beauty? It is simply a combination of stool, urine, flesh, and bone. That's all." This is actual knowledge.
So, people are after something false—maya. Maya means "that which is not actually a fact." This so-called advanced civilization is maya. It can be finished at any second. But people do not know this. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, mrtyuh sarva-haras caham: "As death I take away everything." You may be a philosopher, a scientist, or a rich man, but as soon as death comes, you lose everything. A good example is Hiranyakasipu. He was very powerful, but as soon as Lord Nrsimhadeva appeared—everything finished. Now Hiranyakasipu had to die.
So, people do not understand that without Krsna, without God, without Krsna consciousness, they are simply wasting their time searching after false things. At the time of death everything we have accumulated in this life will be useless. Today or tomorrow or the day after, it will all be useless. But we do not care for the real thing, the spirit soul.
Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita, na hanyate hanyamane sarire: "The soul is never vanquished, even after the annihilation of the body." Still, people are so ignorant, so foolish, that they do not care to know about the soul. This is a civilization of ignorance. Therefore people are committing so many sinful acts for the satisfaction of the tongue. They are killing so many animals. Why? There are so many nice foodstuffs—vegetables, fruits, milk products—so why are people committing these sins?
The answer is that today people do not know what activities are sinful and what activities are pious. That is stated in the Bhagavad-gita: pravrttim ca nivrttim ca jana na vidur asurah. We have an inclination to accept some things and to reject other things. But the demons do not know what should be accepted and what should be rejected. Only the devotees of Krsna know these things. For example, we are advising our students to reject illicit sex, intoxication, gambling, and meat-eating and to accept the chanting of Hare Krsna.
If we accept this path, we are going to be liberated. What is liberation? Liberation means to get out of the bondage of the material body. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita [4.9],
janma karma ca me divyam
"If one understands My transcendental appearance and disappearance and pastimes, he is liberated—he does not take another material body but comes to Me in the spiritual world." This knowledge is lacking in today's civilization. There are so many universities, educational institutions, big, big professors, scientists—all rascals. You can declare it: They are all rascals. Let them come and argue with us. As it is said in the Srimad-Bhagavatam: harav abhaktasya kuto mahad-guna. "Where are the good qualities of the atheists?" Here Arjuna is giving a practical example. He says, "I have the same arrows, the same bow, the same chariot, the same horses, and I am the same Arjuna who was being honored by many kings. But now nobody cares for me. All my qualifications are useless because Krsna is no longer here."
Therefore, your advanced civilization will be perfect when it is properly combined with God consciousness. Otherwise, it is all useless. Don't be misled by the so-called leaders. Prahlada Maharaja has declared them to be andha-yathandhair upaniyamanah: "the blind leading the blind." The people of the modern civilization are such rascals that they expect material advancement to make them happy. Recently a doctor from Sweden told me that on the average the people there are the richest in the world, but they also have the greatest percentage of suicides.
So, material wealth will not help you. We have practical experience that every nation is dissatisfied, although they may have advanced so much materially. In America, why have many of the young people become hippies? University students are becoming hippies. Why? Frustration. They think, "What is this life? Even if I become educated, what is my future? There is no future."
People do not know the actual aim of life: na te viduh svartha-gatim hi visnum. These rascals do not know that the aim of life is God realization. How can we realize God? You are given everything in the sastras [scriptures]: "There is God, His name is Krsna, His address is Vaikuntha, He has many friends. He has many lovers." But still the rascals will not understand. We are giving God's name, address, activities—everything—and inviting everyone to go to Him, but they will not listen. This is their misfortune. Krsna Himself is coming and canvassing—sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: "Give up all your nonsense and surrender to Me"—but still they are researching God. God is canvassing, and they are researching. Somebody says "There is no God." Somebody else says "God is dead; He is finished. Now we are God." These things are going on.
Why? Because everyone is trying to become happy in this material existence. That is their fault. In a library in Delhi I presented my book Easy Journey to Other Planets to one gentleman. "Oh," he said, "you have written this book called Easy Journey to Other Planets'!"
"Then I shall go and come back."
"No, the book teaches one how to go to the supreme planet, the kingdom of God. Why should you come back?"
"No, no, then I don't want to go." The rascal wants to go to Krsna's planet and then come back.
Now the scientists are sending people to the so-called moon and bringing them back. When the first astronaut from Russia was far, far above the earth, he was looking down to find Moscow: "Where is my Moscow?" You see? This is his intelligence—simply absorbed in material existence. Another example is the vulture. Vultures have very good eyesight. From several miles above the earth they can see a carcass. So, although they have good eyesight, they are only searching after a carcass. That is their business. Similarly, the so-called scientists and philosophers are very advanced, but their only business is how to become happy on this planet. That's all. Their minds are not very broad; their minds are crippled.
People are hoping against hope to enjoy this world. But they are simply decorating a dead body: "This is my apartment, this is my house, this is my country, this is my skyscraper building." And one day, mrtyuh sarva-harah: Krsna comes as death and takes everything. Hiranyakasipu is a good example. He challenged his son Prahlada, "Where is your God?" So God came as Nrsimhadeva and finished him. "Ah, here is God!"
God appears to everyone. The godless see God at death, and after seeing Him they are finished. He takes away all their possessions, all their scientific knowledge, their bank balance, their skyscraper buildings. Then they understand what God is, as Hiranyakasipu did.
But why don't you try to understand God before that moment comes? Chant Hare Krsna, see the Radha-Krsna Deities, eat prasadam—live nicely. That is real intelligence. In the Caitanya-caritamrta it is said that unless one has first-class intelligence, he cannot take to Krsna consciousness. The last-class fools and rogues cannot take it up. So by the grace of Krsna you have first-class intelligence and have taken to Krsna consciousness. Now try to continue it. Don't give it up. Don't be foolish. Continue. Then you will be happy, and all the problems of your life will be solved.
Thank you very much.
Both in living and in dying, this senior disciple of Srila Prabhupada's exemplified the essence of Krsna consciousness.
by Dvarakadhisa-Devi Dasi
On June 5, 1986, Gauri-devi dasi passed from her body in the holy land of Vrndavana, India. For seventeen years she had been devotedly serving her spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, within the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Gauri was a sincere and dedicated preacher, giving herself fully to Srila Prabhupada's mission and working tirelessly to distribute his books. Even as she became very ill with cancer in late 1984, she never lost her vigorous determination to give Krsna consciousness to others.
In 1974 Srila Prabhupada heard how the devotees were distributing his books in increasing numbers. This book distribution is called sankirtana, a direct means of glorifying the Supreme Lord, Krsna. Lord Caitanya specifically cited sankirtana as the best process of self-realization in this age. For devotees in ISKCON, a favorite form of sankirtana is the distribution of Srila Prabhupada's books, as the words of the pure devotee reveal the true meaning of the scripture and awaken our natural devotion for Krsna. Srila Prabhupada was very pleased to hear how his disciples were sincerely selling his books:
Your sankirtana reports are very encouraging, especially that one girl, Gauri dasi, who has set an all ISKCON women's record of 108 big books. This is very wonderful. Formerly this would not have been possible, but by Krsna's grace everything is becoming possible. Encourage them all to increase more and more. This book distribution is the essence of our mission.
To determinedly face the opposition of a godless society and to continue the exalted service of distributing the confidential knowledge of devotional service requires much conviction and realization. The depth of Gauri's absorption in the will of her spiritual master was exhibited most clearly, however, in the way she confronted the tremendous pain of disease and death. Rather than lament her fate or bitterly blame God, she drew upon the knowledge and example given by Srila Prabhupada and faced death fearlessly, maintaining her serene, philosophical vision until the end. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna assures us that one who remembers Him at the end of life returns to the spiritual world after quitting the body. Despite the agonizing pain of the body and the emotional trauma of leaving the world we hold so dear, the devotee who remains fixed in concentration upon the lotus feet of the Lord achieves the highest perfection of returning to the spiritual world. How Gauri drew closer and closer to Krsna in the final stage of her life is wonderful evidence of the efficacy of the process of devotional service. Here some of the devotees share their memories of Srila Prabhupada's dear book distributor, Gauri-devi dasi.
* * *
Jagad-ambika-devi dasi: One of Gauri's outstanding qualities was her desire to go out and distribute Srila Prabhupada's books, no matter what. Even when she was sick, she would go out.
You could see how she was empowered by Prabhupada in her heart to distribute books on such a high spiritual platform. She was a very special, pure preacher, and she wasn't sentimental at all. She could go all day long distributing books, and she would never repeat the same thing twice. She was very personal with each person she met. Even if the person was completely rude or obnoxious, she would still see the good in them. Practically everyone she approached, whether they took a book or not, never felt threatened by her. They always left with a good impression of Krsna consciousness.
On sankirtana she used to tell me that I must remember every person is a spirit soul, completely, eternally different from their material body. She said that we should be speaking to that spirit soul and offering something to that spirit soul. She said never to become angry in facial expressions or speech, and that we should always have qualities of compassion and mercy.
Madhu-devi dasi: Whenever Gauri chanted japa [prayerfully chanting the Hare Krsna mantra] she really called out to Krsna with intensity. Even before she knew about her terminal illness, her chanting was as if her dear life depended on it.
Nothing could stop her service to Srila Prabhupada and Krsna. She had the same mood as Srila Prabhupada for working tirelessly.
Gangamayi-devi dasi: I remember how we would be traveling and she just refused to lie down. She said she didn't want to slip into the mode of ignorance. At night she would sleep in the front seat. She would put some boxes of books between the two seats and stretch out. Although she was so austere, she always wanted to make sure we were comfortable.
Mata-devi dasi: When Jagaddhatri and I first took Gauri to UCLA in December of 1984, we knew that she was very sick. It was 10:00 P. M., and I drove as fast as I could. When you first hear the doctor say "cancer," it's quite a shock.
Gauri was in a lot of pain, but even then she would smile and ask how the sankirtana was going. She also said over and over again that she wished her body wasn't sick, so she could distribute books again.
Suruci-devi dasi: The first time Gauri got sick and went to India, her God-sisters had kirtanas and prayed to Lord Nrsimhadeva. We used to do this every Tuesday night, and we had a beautiful picture of Gauri distributing Srila Prabhupada's books at the Los Angeles airport. This picture was especially wonderful because as we sang and prayed for Gauri the activity of book distribution seemed to come to life. You could feel her presence and remember her sincerity and dedication to Prabhupada. Book distribution is the activity Gauri loved so much, and it fills one with great love and appreciation for her to remember all of her labor.
Nartaki-devi dasi: Living with Gauri and serving with her, I became very close to her. So when we found out about her illness, I immediately offered myself to help her. She allowed me to accompany her to Vrndavana, India, to help her in her final days. Of course, Krsna didn't make those her final days. He allowed her to come once again to the West.
During the time we were in Vrndavana, however, Gauri told me how uncomfortable she felt accepting service from me. Her body was becoming more and more invalid. But I saw total calmness overcome her when different devotees would come and read to her.
"Being in Vrndavana," she said, "is like being in the lap of Krsna. I feel totally protected."
Gauri had gone to Vrndavana to meet death, but Krsna had another plan. Gauri began recovering her health. With renewed strength she returned to America to continue preaching. In the summer of 1985 she headed a women's sankirtana party traveling across the country. She was as inspired and determined as ever. But once again illness forced her to realize that death was indeed near. In November she returned to Vrndavana, confident that one who dies in the sacred land of Vrndavana returns to the spiritual abode of Lord Krsna.
On February 27, 1986, Gauri wrote to two other friends, Virabahu dasa and his wife, Karta-devi dasi:
Krsna is being very kind to me by giving me a little more time here in Vrndavana in which to work on my relationship with the holy name and make my pleas to the Lords Gaura-Nitai to allow me to approach the love of Radha and Krsna. ... I am finding more and more it is becoming my only desire—to be able to chant Radha-Krsna uninterruptedly in ecstatic love. Why not beg for the topmost thing? There is nothing left for me to desire in this world. My body is completely finished. . . . But I am actually finding all of this because Krsna is doing everything in such a gentle way to give me plenty of time to adjust to the idea of giving up this useless body once and for all. I feel that He is just waiting for me to become completely ready, and then He will finish the whole thing off.
I have absolutely no hankering or lamentation left in my heart—at least that I am conscious of. I feel very happy and peaceful, however totally unprepared I still am for the final showdown. So whatever time Krsna gives me I feel I can use every bit of it to try to pray more sincerely.
Virabahu wrote in reply:
I can see from sastra [scripture] that you are getting a rare opportunity—afforded to great souls like Maharaja Pariksit—of being able to prepare for the "final exam" with sufficient notice. From this I understand that you have gained Srila Prabhupada's special favor and his close association. Your life has been made a complete success by your surrendered and renounced service, and the only important thing now is that you get back home, back to Prabhupada, safe and sound.
Vidya-devi dasi: One year ago, when Gauri first came to Vrndavana, she was very strong and heroic. At that time she received so much association from her Godbrothers and Godsisters and good Ayurvedic medical treatment that she appeared to be miraculously cured. Gauri often said she was grateful to Krsna for this gift of one year, as it enabled her to return to the West and finish all the things that were undone. When she returned here to Vrndavana in November, she wanted to live. She had so many plans for preaching, and therefore thoughts of death were difficult for her.
Finally, about three weeks before her passing, Gauri traveled to the cancer specialist hospital in Delhi, where they explained frankly to her that she was in the final stages.
Each day she was noticeably weaker. She spoke quietly of many things, but mostly she was now anxious for death and prayed to Krsna to make her suffering short—to quickly finish her suffering material body.
Gauri's greatest qualification in the eyes of the devotees was her sincere determination to please Prabhupada in his service to Krsna by distributing books to the fallen souls. All of Gauri's service was marked by this incredible determination. Now, with this same determination, she turned to the business of dying as Prabhupada had instructed. She often spoke of Prabhupada's perfect example of how to leave the material body. It was her desire to leave her body while preaching, as he had done. "My advancement has come from hard work," she said several times.
We told her all the devotees had come to learn from her how to die, so she must show them that even at the end one must chant the holy name. Her tongue was barely able to move, but somehow, barely audibly, she slowly chanted with us: "Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare." After this she began to smile broadly about many things.
As the days passed Gauri became more and more childlike. Now she was showing signs of complete submission. She said she knew that when she wanted only Krsna, then He would take her back.
So we could "see" small doubts and thoughts pass through her mind. Sometimes she even looked furtively from one of us to another. But somehow—with our preaching, Prabhupada's voice, and Gauri's chanting and absorption in the pictures of Srila Prabhupada—she was always able to pull her consciousness back. And again she would start to smile broadly and lie peacefully.
Several times Gauri asked who was present, and she was pleased to hear each name. At one point she asked to sit at the end of the bed. "I want to put my feet flat on the floor, see who is here, and concentrate my mind on Srila Prabhupada." As she was very weak, she began to shake uncontrollably even with our fully supporting her body. So we quickly laid her back again.
Then she asked that we lower her to the floor. She said she was already so uncomfortable she wouldn't mind. From this vantage point the assembled devotees could see her better. The kirtana consisted mainly of the devotees chanting in response to Prabhupada on the continuously playing Happening album. Dr. Narottama came and said, "One hour more." She was still conscious. We read to her from Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta about Prabhupada's passing, and this consoled her greatly. Bhaktisiddhanta dasa brought remnants from the last water Srila Prabhupada drank before leaving this world, and we gave this to her.
We brought her Deities to stand close to her, and she studied Them tearfully. We took photographs and asked her to smile for her friend in Los Angeles, Vrndavana-vilasini, which she did.
Then, finally, she asked to be rolled over on her back. At that point she opened her eyes very wide and dryly said, "This is very intense." She slowly repeated the Hare Krsna mantra two more times.
Gauri then left her body on that day, June 5, surrounded by devotees loudly chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra.
Vidya-devi dasi: It is not as if Gauri was perfect in and of herself. But she had firm faith and fixed determination to follow her spiritual master's instructions as perfectly as possible. Therefore, we personally witnessed that by the time Gauri passed from her body, she appeared to be peacefully surrendered to the divine will of Krsna.
Jagad-ambika-devi dasi: I am eternally indebted to Mother Gauri, and I know I could never repay her for her unlimited mercy and patience. I'm sure she would be pleased if I would become a pure, unalloyed, eternal preacher and book distributor like she was. I pray to follow in her footsteps.
Bread of Devotion
The uncomplicated yet productive life of a devotee is reflected in the simple and nutritious capati.
by Visakha-Devi Dasi
Every morning at 6:45 in the Philadelphia ISKCON temple kitchen, Yamaraja dasa measures ten cups of fine durham wheat flour into a large, stainless-steel bowl, adds ten cups of whole-wheat flour, nine cups of whey, and a little salt. Then he secures the bowl, full with ingredients, in its place on the large power mixer. In a few minutes he mixes and kneads the dough. In the next hour and a half, he will make that dough into one hundred eighty capatis—unleavened flat breads.
"I learned how to make capatis in the Brooklyn temple in 1973," Yamaraja told me. "At that time all the older devotees were expected to spend some time in the kitchen, and the head cook assigned me to the capati crew. We were a crew of four—one to make the dough, one to put it through a machine that rolled it into rounds, one to cook the capatis, and one to butter them. Our first capatis were stiff, burnt, and totally unappetizing. We made two hundred fifty capatis a day, and it took us about two months to get the process down." It was so difficult to keep a crew of four trained devotees together—one or another of them would change services or change temples—that after awhile the Brooklyn temple switched to making bread sticks or rolls instead of capatis. But for Yamaraja there was just no substitute for capatis.
"When Srila Prabhupada started cooking for the devotees at 26 Second Avenue in 1966, he made rice, dal, vegetables, and capatis," Yamaraja pointed out. "Prabhupada himself ate capatis throughout his stay with us. That was the simple standard he preferred. He would wonder at how Westerners could eat dry bread. Capatis are soft, tender, and moist with butter."
In the kitchen I watched Yamaraja roll his fresh dough into a rope about an inch and a half in diameter and then cut it with a knife into inch-size pieces. He took one piece in his hands, rolled it into a ball, pressed it into a small mound of flour, and rolled it out with a rolling pin until it became a disk six inches in diameter. He did a second one the same way and then, after checking his griddle to make sure it was hot enough, put both capatis on it and immediately started rolling out two more.
By the time he'd rolled out the second pair of capatis, the two on the griddle were cooked on one side. He turned them over and, after they'd cooked for a few seconds on that side, picked one up with some large tongs and placed it directly over the flame. A large bubble started forming inside the capati, and in a matter of moments that bubble enlarged until the formerly flat capati had puffed up into a six-inch ball. Yamaraja turned the puffed bread over on the flame for a second or two and then put it on the side of the stove, where it leaked steam until it was flat again. He did the same with the other capati on the griddle. Then he placed the next two capatis on the griddle and began rolling out two more.
"A devotee is concerned with simplicity as well as utility," Yamaraja said. "Generally, in modern society, particularly in the West, if something is simple in its makeup then people don't think much can be accomplished with it. Thus we see so many complicated industrial enterprises for maintaining an artificial standard of living. Capatis are symbolic of a devotee's simple lifestyle; devotees are very simple in their ways, yet very productive. In the same way, capatis are made with just flour, water, and salt, yet they are wholesome and nutritious. When they're properly made, devotees appreciate them and aren't satisfied with any substitute. To master capati- making takes practice, but it's worth it." As Yamaraja speaks, he moves rhythmically from rolling to griddle-cooking to puffing and buttering and back to rolling. He concentrates on making each one perfect. It's his personal crusade to keep capatis popular in the Hare Krsna movement.
By 8:30 A.M. Yamaraja is Finished. His capatis are offered to the Deities on the altar and are then saved until lunch, when they will be served to all devotees and guests. Yamaraja takes breakfast with the devotees and then begins his service. He's been designing and doing layout for Back to Godhead magazine since 1973—the same year he made his first capati.
(Recipes from The Hare Krishna Book of Vegetarian Cooking, by Adi-raja dasa)
Whole-wheat Flat Bread
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Standing time: 30 minutes to 2 hours
Rolling and cooking time: 2-3 minutes for each capati
Servings: 12 capatis
1 cups atta or sifted whole-wheat flour
1. Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Slowly add water, gathering the (lour together as you do, 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 for half an hour to two hours.
2. When the dough is ready, place a heavy cast-iron griddle over a medium flame. With moistened hands, knead the dough again; then shape into 12 equal-size patties. Dip them into flour and roll them out thin and even on a floured board. Make them as round as possible and about 6 inches across. Keep some plain whole-wheat flour on the side to dust the capatis as you roll them.
3. Knock the excess flour off a capati with a few slaps and place it on a preheated griddle. (You can cook several at a time if the size of your griddle allows.) When small white blisters appear on the surface of the capati and the edges begin to turn up, turn it over with a pair of flat tongs and cook the other side until the surface bulges with air pockets. Lift the capati and toast both sides over a direct flame for a few seconds until it puffs up like a ball. A finished capati should be cooked completely (no wet spots) and should be freckled with brown spots on both sides. Press the air out and brush one surface with melted butter.
To cook a capati on electric heat, let it stay on the griddle. Turn it over as many times as it takes for both sides to cook; then gently press the top of the capati all over with a soft cloth, and the capati will swell. Offer to Krsna.
Preparation time: 1 hour
1 ½ cups sifted whole-wheat flour
1. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Slowly add the water and whisk it into the flour to make a smooth pancake batter. Cover the bowl with a cloth and let stand for at least half an hour.
2. When you're ready to cook, put a griddle over a medium flame. Beat the batter again—it should be of pouring consistency. Flick a few drops of water onto the griddle. If they bounce and sputter, the griddle is ready. Pour on 4 tablespoons of batter and use the back of a spoon to spread the batter out thin with a circular motion, starting from the center. This amount of batter should make a thin dosa about 8 inches across. (The art of making dosas lies in the ability to spread the batter thin before the heat of the griddle hardens the mixture.) Cook for 2 or 3 minutes until it becomes golden-brown. Turn once. Cooking the second side takes only about half as long as the first. The second side never browns as evenly as the first.
3. Continue making dosas until the batter is finished, greasing the griddle only when the dosas stick. Pile them on a plate to keep them warm and moist. Offer to Krsna.
Urad dal with Spiced Yogurt
(Gujarati urad dal)
Preparation time: 1 hour
1 cup plain yogurt
1. Mix the yogurt and the brown sugar in 1 cup of water. Set aside. Clean, wash, and drain the dal. In a large saucepan bring 4 cups of water to a boil. To this water, add the urad dal, turmeric, bay leaves, and salt. Bring to a boil again and cook uncovered for 10 minutes. Remove any froth that accumulates on the surface. Stir once, cover the pot, and cook for 20 minutes over a medium-low flame until the da! beans can be mashed between two fingers. Then let simmer.
2. Put the ghee in a small saucepan over a medium flame and fry the black mustard seeds and crushed chilies. Cover the pan to prevent the mustard seeds from jumping out. When the mustard seeds have finished popping, put this masala into the yogurt and pour it into the dal. Stir to blend well. Continue cooking for 5 minutes. Offer to Krsna.
(Seb ki chatni)
Preparation time: 30 minutes
2 pounds apples
1. Wash, peel, and core the apples. Then cut them into small chunks. Heat the ghee in a saucepan over a medium flame. When the ghee begins to smoke, drop in the ginger, cinnamon sticks, anise seeds, chilies, and cloves. Stir-fry until the anise seeds darken. Immediately add the turmeric and asafetida, then the apple chunks. Stir-fry for 5 or 6 minutes to brown the apples. Then add the water.
2. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring often, until the apples are soft. Mash the apples in the pot. Add the sugar, increase the heat, and stir continuously until the chutney thickens. Offer to Krsna at room temperature.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
The Quality Of Service
by Kundali dasa
The quality of service in America is at an all-time low, say the media. Now, more than ever, the worn cliche "You just can't get good help nowadays" has a resounding ring of truth to it.
Across the land we hear the woeful tales: A plumber arrives only after your leaky pipe becomes a gush that floods the basement; a company representative leaves you on hold long enough to read this entire magazine; a banker treats your loan application like it's a demand for his personal fortune; a check-out clerk makes you feel it's your fault an item is not tagged with the price or department code; and at the restaurant the price is first class but all else is third class, or worse.
I have a tale of my own. In India last year I was held up for three days because an American airline did not inform an Indian airline, with which I had an onward ticket, that I'd arrived in Bombay, so I lost my seat and missed my connections. A mistake? Sure. And we all make one sooner or later, of course, but this time neither party accepted responsibility for the inconvenience and the expense to me and my family.
Since satisfied customers are the very bricks that build any solid service enterprise, one naturally wonders, "Why such slipshod service?"
I've heard a few explanations: "People just don't care anymore"; "It's a sign of the times; bad economy puts people on edge"; "This is the machine age; depersonalization has set in." All of these have some merit. But no analysis homes in on the problem as accurately as one based on the philosophy of Krsna consciousness.
Krsna teaches in the Bhagavad-gita that everyone in this material world is here primarily for sense gratification. That is to say, everyone came here from the spiritual world wanting to be served. No one came because of a desire to serve. Indeed, it was rebellion against serving Krsna—we became envious of Him—that got us out of His spiritual kingdom in the first place. We rejected Krsna's service, and, consequently, we had to leave the realm of pure consciousness and come to the mundane world, where we imagined we could set ourselves up as all in all. In other words, each of us came here on his own "god project."
Unfortunately our scheme is doomed. Our struggle for the post "Primary Object of Service" is very much like the fighting of nursery school kids over the same toy. I've even seen a bumper sticker that read, "The one with the most toys wins." Each child thinks he is more entitled to the toy than the others. Even if one child gets it, moments later he loses it to another. He ends up frustrated, depressed, and angry.
As adults vying for the most service for ourselves, we generally use more sophisticated—"cultured"—ways than kids: codes of dress, etiquette, modesty, and what have you. But, like everything material, the facade doesn't last. It eventually splits at the seams, and we glimpse the chaos behind.
The current crisis in the service industry is an instance of such a split. It holds no surprise for a Krsna conscious person. After all, when you consider that formerly we refused to serve Krsna, who is the all-attractive Supreme Person, the proprietor of all opulences—namely fame, wealth, beauty, knowledge, strength, and renunciation—why should we now want to serve anyone less qualified than He?
Rendering service, however, is unavoidable. Except for a distinction in motive and quality, rendering service is common to both the spiritual and the material worlds. In the spiritual world all service is rendered out of love, with full care and attention, without ulterior motive, and without cessation. Here in the material world, although the husband serves the wife, the teacher serves the student, the clerk serves the customer, the politician serves the public, and so on, the service is largely contingent on some sort of remuneration, some means to sense gratification—usually money.
Service rendered on that basis is self-serving, or selfishness, performed primarily for the aggrandizement of the servant. But even our selfish motives do not instill in us a satisfactory service attitude. Thus we have a crisis in America's service industry. That's one excellent reason why we should practice Krsna consciousness: because rendering service to others with God in the center can alone inspire us to serve with care and attention, which is the way service ought to be done, every time.
The Law And The Profits
by Mathuresa dasa
Over the past twenty years Americans have been suing each other with increasing frequency—and winning (or losing) a growing number of million-dollar settlements. Million-dollar verdicts rose from two in 1963 to 401 in 1984.
Although most of the plaintiffs in the more than 15 million civil suits filed each year have some legitimate grievance, the opportunity for easy riches lures plaintiffs and lawyers alike into using the tort system like a lottery: file the lucky suit, legitimate or not, and hit the jackpot.
Even when the grievance is clearly legitimate, awards are often outrageously high. This is particularly true when the plaintiff gets reimbursed for "pain and suffering" resulting from personal injury, from losing a relative, and so on. Pain and suffering are hard to measure, harder still to put a price on. Pain and suffering may also be invisible, and the court may have only the testimony of the plaintiff and his doctor or psychiatrist to go by. If the testimony is convincing and the judge and jury are sympathetic, the award can be astronomical.
Advocates of tort reform point out that since money can pay for medical bills, disabilities, or property damage but can't really allay pain and suffering per se, there should be a cap on awards. Colorado has already passed a law limiting compensation for pain and suffering to $250,000. In other states similar legislation is pending.
In the Bhagavad-gita Arjuna comes to a similar conclusion about the efficacy of money in eliminating suffering. Faced with the painful possibility of his relatives being killed in battle, Arjuna declares that his entire kingdom (what to speak of a few million dollars in tort awards) would appear worthless to him if his loved ones died.
Commenting on this part of the Gita, Srila Prabhupada explains that no amount of wealth can eliminate life's problems. By economic means alone we cannot succeed in making ourselves or our families happy. Even if we can afford the good things in life, we have to face the miseries of disease, old age, death, and rebirth, as well as a host of lesser afflictions—law suits among them.
Every one of us is trapped in the painful cycle of repeated birth and death. To become free from this repeated suffering we have to take shelter of Lord Krsna, as Arjuna did. "Those who worship Me," says Krsna in the Gita (12.6), "being devoted to me without deviation, ... for them I am the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death." Surrender to Krsna is the only way to escape misery.
This should be a lesson not only for plaintiffs with legitimate pain and suffering, but also for plaintiffs and lawyers who are merely playing the tort "lottery." After all, everyone is trying to escape suffering of some sort, and everyone thinks money is the solution.
For instance, an American lawyer has to pay bills, taxes, mortgages, and so on, just like everybody else. To avoid the pain and suffering of not being able to afford all these things, he has to compete with 700,000 other American lawyers (which is two-thirds of all the lawyers in the world) and he also has to charge exorbitant fees. Legal expenses eat up about two thirds of all tort settlements.
In fact, the overabundance of lawyers is often cited as the primary cause of the tort crisis. Just as having too many surgeons may lead to unnecessary operations, so having too many lawyers leads to phony lawsuits.
I have a relative who was persuaded by a lawyer to file suit against one of her former friends. "If we win," the lawyer told her, "you can get rid of your old VW bus and buy a brand new Cadillac." A year later when my relative relented and decided to call off the suit, the lawyer delivered his ultimatum: either pay my legal fees for the past year or let me finish the suit and take my fees from the settlement. So the suit was really the lawyer's from beginning to end, and the "grievance" is the lawyer's crying need for money, which he mistakenly feels will end his own pain and suffering.
So the tort crisis might diminish if plaintiffs, lawyers, judges, and juries learned to rely on the court system only for reasonable payment of tangible expenses—like medical bills and property damage—and for payment of reasonable legal fees, while learning to rely solely on Lord Krsna for the ultimate alleviation of all pain and suffering.
We welcome your letters. Write to
I am an older lady and a very long-time reader of your magazine. I Find it special and most enjoyable and have often thought to write you but hesitated, as I was not sure if I would receive a reply in this part of the world.
I would like to refer to the excerpt from Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers in Vol. 21, No. 6. I do understand Srila Prabhupada's stress in placing Krsna before all and that science at times is open to question. But I myself am glad that over the years there have been people who have questioned and found ways to assist with the daily chores of life. I would not like to go back to the conditions women had to tolerate even a hundred years ago. I am grateful for the fridge to keep my food fresh, the stove on which I can cook without stoking up with wood and coal, and the electric light with which I can sit and read my books in the lonely hours of the night—these same books that are not hand-produced but now mass-produced and within my means to buy. I have even the ability to read them. I can even fly to the other side of the world in a few hours, and you will have this letter long before a sailboat would reach you.
I felt I had to put my view, for feeling there is nothing wrong in questioning. How else can we learn?
Our reply: You refer to a conversation in which Srila Prabhupada is making the point that scientists should not claim to know more than they actually know. Because scientists have the respect of the layman, whatever the scientists speak is usually accepted as truth. So a problem arises when they assert as fact things they cannot prove. At present scientists guess about many things but pass off their speculations as scientific knowledge.
We do not object when scientists or technologists tell us about a radio or a microphone, which they may know about. But when they start telling us that in the beginning there was a big bang and from that everything has come, then we must object. They have overstepped their limits and misled millions of people to believe that life comes from matter, that there is no God, and that in the ultimate analysis life is meaningless. There are many examples (evolution is one) where scientific theories are accepted as truth and as a result people are led away from God.
Another point is that for every comfort science has given us, many discomforts have also resulted. We enjoy reading by electric light, but what are the consequences? One obvious drawback is that our energy supply is rapidly becoming depleted. To solve it we come up with things like nuclear reactors—all potential Chernobyls and Three Mile Islands.
And for the so-called technological advantage of improved transportation, for example, we must accept the disadvantage of jet crashes and car accidents that kill hundreds of thousands of people every year. The automobile, with all its comforts, has brought us many discomforts: noise pollution, air pollution, hellish factories, and on and on, just so we can get around a little faster and with a little more comfort. Is it really worth it?
Our comfort and discomfort are already allotted to us according to our past good and bad acts. In other words, we're not really living any better with all these modern inventions. Because when we compare the advantages of modern technology with the disadvantages, we'll see that we're really not any happier than we would be without them.
Hearing our apparently negative outlook on technology, people naturally question, "If you're so much against technology, why do you use it?" Our answer is that the devotee can use everything in the service of God. We are not attached to the amenities created by modern technology and will not waste our energy trying to produce them. Human life is meant for understanding God not for trying to become more comfortable. But if technologists insist on producing such commodities, we will find some use for them in the service of Krsna. Then their actual value will become realized.
* * *
Hare Krsna. I'm wondering about Sri Jayadvaita Swami's article "A Journey for the Sake of Our Fathers" (BTG Vol. 21, No. 10). This offering made for the benefit of one's departed father I don't really understand. How can the soul receive the benefit of the offering if he has already left his body? Who can say where he is and what his situation is like? Also, the family connection is gone; it is a temporary bodily connection. Isn't this worship in the lower mode as stated in the Gita? If there is a possibility of offering the merit of worship to a dead father, can the merit of worship be offered to living friends and family?
Our REPLY: Krsna knows everything about where the soul is and what type of life he is in. So the devotee who wants to benefit his forefathers worships Visnu, or Krsna, who gives the benefit where it belongs. This is not ancestor worship, but worship of Krsna, so it's transcendental to all material modes.
We can benefit living friends and relatives, surely, just as we can benefit all other living beings—by giving them a chance to hear the chanting of Hare Krsna, learn more about the science of Krsna, eat delicious krsna-prasadam, and in other ways take part in the sublime process of Krsna consciousness. Krsna Himself says in Bhagavad-gita that Krsna consciousness is the highest form of worship because its merits are shared by all.
* * *
Just a quick note to thank you for the Feb/March 1987 issue of Back to Godhead. I am very pleased to see the return of the "Letters" column, and it was very helpful that you focused on the issue of personal/impersonal God. This is an issue I struggle with often. I must add that the whole magazine was interesting and stimulating, particularly the piece "On Chanting." The photography in black and white was powerful and inspiring.
Cynthia C. Kessler
As it is at last!
by Satyaraja Dasa
In 1969, my first year at New York's High School of Art and Design, I happened upon a copy of Bhagavad-gita, a battered Penguin paperback. I was intrigued. I really couldn't make heads or tails of the message, but I appreciated that it was some sort of spiritual philosophy and was written with great poetic style.
I decided to look up "Bhagavad-gita" in Webster's Unabridged Dictionary: "a philosophical poem relating a discourse between Krishna (God) and a warrior, Arjuna; it is a sacred Hindu text."
Throughout my high-school years I rummaged through old bookstores, looking for different editions of Bhagavad-gita. Some editions were versified translations, some were prose. All were alluring, and all were mysterious. The Gita, it seemed, was a book of inscrutable wisdom, of contradictory truths. Was it, for instance, a glorification of war, or a treatise on nonviolence? Was it allegory, or was it to be taken literally?
Although my friends and I were reading Hesse, Castaneda, Buber, Tillich, and many Other popular existentialist writers of the time, I maintained a special fascination for the Gita that lasted all through high school. Then, during my senior year. I picked up a copy of Bhagavad-gita As It Is, by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual master of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Here was a refreshing change. Srila Prabhupada did not explain the Gita in a metaphorical or analogical way. His approach was literal, giving the essential message of each text according to the ancient Vaisnava tradition.
I remember the day I received Bhagavad-gita As It Is as if it were yesterday, although it was fourteen years ago. I was on the train on my way home from school. I was reading a popular translation of the Gita when a Hare Krsna devotee approached me. He was asking for donations, and he was selling, of all things, copies of Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Srila Prabhupada's Gita.
What the devotee said to me I'll remember for the rest of my life. "You're reading poison!" he exclaimed. I was shocked.
"The Gita is as pure as milk," he continued, "but even milk becomes poison when touched by the lips of a serpent." I could understand that he was criticizing the particular translation I was reading. I had misgivings about this edition myself, as only the first six chapters were translated. Why would the translator leave out the remaining twelve chapters? Agreeing with the devotee that something was amiss, I accepted a copy of Bhagavad-gita As It Is, which he gave me free.
Srila Prabhupada's Gita was fabulous. Unlike other editions, it provided me with a clear understanding of the personalities involved and of the entire Bhagavad-gita. The Gita's clear and almost simple message became apparent: surrender unto Krsna, God. And Srila Prabhupada was the first to give this direct and obvious meaning of the Gita. It became apparent that many of the other translators and commentators were missing the essence of the Gita.
But I wanted to be certain. And after I enrolled in Queens College that fall, I took a course in Sanskrit. Now I would be able to compare translations. After all, Prabhupada's conclusion was obvious.
I learned that most scholars agreed with Prabhupada, praising his work as the definitive Bhagavad-gita. And his particular edition was read and accepted worldwide. His books were in ninety-five percent of America's college and university libraries and were sometimes used as course material and supplementary reading in philosophy, religion, literature, and Asian studies. Dr. Rasik Vihari Joshi, chairman of the department of Sanskrit at the University of Delhi, had said, "Indian religion and Indology will both forever remain indebted to Srila Prabhupada for making Vaisnava thought and philosophy available around the world through his translations of and commentaries on Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. Words fail to express my joy and appreciation for these excellent editions." Similarly, Dr. Samuel D. Atkins, professor of Sanskrit at Princeton University, wrote, "I am most impressed with A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's scholarly and authoritative edition of Bhagavad-gita. It is a most valuable work for the scholar as well as the layman and of great utility as a reference book as well as a textbook."
Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is, I was learning, stands as a challenge to all armchair philosophers who depart from the Gita's central teaching of devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna. Even Mahatma Gandhi, his dedication notwithstanding, is guilty of offering a metaphorical interpretation of the Gita to help authorize and popularize his philosophy of satyagraha, passive resistance.
In the Gita's Ninth Chapter Lord Krsna categorically advises Arjuna to surrender to Him and to love and worship Him only. Krsna specifically uses the Sanskrit word mam, meaning "unto Me." Yet one commentator, a renowned Indian philosopher and one-time political leader, begins his commentary on this crucial verse, "It is not to Krsna that we have to surrender. . . ."
In the Gita Krsna is telling Arjuna to surrender to Him. The Gita makes careful record of the fact that it is not metaphorical by using the words krsnat saksat kathayatah svayam (Bg. 18.75), which clearly indicate that Krsna was directly (saksat) in front of Arjuna preaching personally (svayam). Since I was studying Sanskrit at Queen's college, my knowledge of the language was developing, and it became increasingly obvious that Srila Prabhupada's Gita was the most accurate. Those interpretations that differed did so for ulterior motives—political, financial, religious, and so on. But Srila Prabhupada was a pure devotee of the Lord. Significantly, he entitled his Gita "As It Is," and he called his comments "Purports," not "Interpretations." In these purports, he gives the actual significance of the verses, the direct meaning without speculation.
Why Srila Prabhupada entitled his edition Bhagavad-gita As It Is is apparent from Krsna's statement to Arjuna in the beginning of the Fourth Chapter. Regarding Arjuna's qualification for receiving the teachings of the Gita, Lord Krsna explains that it is not that Arjuna is a great yogi, ascetic, or scholar. Rather, Krsna said, it is "because you are My devotee and My friend; therefore you can understand the transcendental mystery of this science" (Bg. 4.3). Krsna has also disclosed in the Gita that its truths can be understood only by those who are in a line of authorized devotees known as parampara, or disciplic succession. Of the four such successions recognized by the Vedic literatures, the line from Lord Brahma is flourishing, and Srila Prabhupada was the thirty-second teacher in that line, his students carrying on the message even today.
Vedic knowledge is like a family secret that has been carefully handed down through many generations. Just as present family descendants can know precisely what took place generations ago, so sincere disciples of a bona fide spiritual master can clearly receive the Gita's message of surrender to Krsna.
Ever since Charles Wilkins first translated Bhagavad-gita into English in 1785, there have been literally hundreds of translations. Until Srila Prabhupada released his Bhagavad-gita As It Is, however, not one Westerner had become a devotee of Krsna. And this is quite strange, since Lord Krsna makes it completely clear in the Gita that becoming His devotee is life's goal: "Always think of Me and become My devotee. Worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend" (Bg. 18.65).
According to Bhagavad-gita, spiritual truths reach the most sincere students by a descending process, from the scriptures themselves, the great sages, and through a genuine and qualified spiritual teacher, who guides one on the path of devotion to God. Thus the real import of the Bhagavad-gita is not to be had by incessant wrangling and a dazzling display of philosophical hermeneutics, but by surrendering to Krsna and His pure representatives in this world.
By 1973 I had found the authentic Bhagavad-gita and was convinced that Srila Prabhupada, through his books, would guide me to unravel the mystery of the Gita once and for all. As I look back on my search, I can understand that Srila Prabhupada was guiding and that Krsna had been guiding me all along from within my heart.
Beyond The School Of Illusion
At the ISKCON television network, devotees use their video skills to focus on reality.
by Visakha-Devi Dasi
"Here's your degree from The School of Illusion," said the dean of the London Film School as he handed graduate David Shapiro his master's degree on June 27, 1971. Later that day, while walking on Oxford Street, David met a devotee and received his First copy of Back to Godhead magazine. After reading it, David thought. This magazine makes sense.
Three days later David flew back to his home in Chicago. But curiosity made his first stop the Hare Krsna temple he had seen listed in the magazine. "The moment I walked in the door in the middle of a Bhagavad-gita class, I felt I had really come home," David recalls. "Right away I loved the Deities, the devotees, the chanting, the philosophy, and of course the prasadam [spiritual food]. I didn't want to leave, so I stayed the night."
David would have lived and worked in the temple full time, but his mother strongly objected to his spiritual leanings. To placate her, David lived in the temple but worked outside doing animation films at Crocus Company in Evanston.
One of David's first jobs was a film called Gnosis. The Greek word gnosis refers to an intuitive apprehension of spiritual truths. In the Film a ball of clay comes into a world of nothingness and creates things for itself. David saw this as directly analogous to what he was learning in the Bhagavad-gita—that the spirit soul is placed in the material world and, from its desire, creates an illusory world to enjoy. Not long after completing this film, David, now initiated and bearing the spiritual name Nrsimhananda dasa, moved to Los Angeles. Here he worked with Danny Thomas Productions, first as an assistant in the production of movies for television and eventually as a producer.
Five years later Nrsimhananda was ready to use his propensity and training fully in Krsna's service. In 1979 Nrsimhananda and Yadubara dasa founded ISKCON Television (ITV), dedicated to producing videos for spiritual enlightenment. Before long, Siddhanta dasa, an expert film editor, joined them, as did Ranadhira dasa, a marketer and writer.
"I'm fortunate to have found a way to engage in Lord Krsna's service and introduce others to Krsna consciousness," Nrsimhananda says. "Through videos, anybody can grasp the history, scope, and theological basis of Krsna consciousness and learn about His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, ISKCON's founder-acarya."
In the eight years since its inception, ITV has produced over two hundred programs, including programs on vegetarianism and reincarnation, programs on special events and special people in Krsna consciousness, and programs on international spiritual festivals, temple openings, and the devotional arts of cooking and playing musical instruments. There are even special programs for children, including puppet shows. "There's an ITV video tape for everyone, whatever one's nationality, age, interests, familiarity or unfamiliarity with spiritual life," Nrsimhananda says.
ITV's Healthy, Wealthy and Wise is used widely by cable TV companies and universities and is distributed by Vegetarian Times. In fact, many Indians, both here and in India, have seen the show and been inspired to reject their Westernized diet and again become vegetarian. And, based on that show, many Westerners have begun to look askance at their nonvegetarian diet.
This year Mauritius television stations will air ITV programs on a weekly basis, and the broadcasting network of Tamil Nadu, India, will air ITV's Ramayana drama on statewide television to an audience of eighty million. In the U. S., cable TV stations have aired ITV's thirteen-part series Inside Hare Krsna. Such exposure has evoked interest where there was none, replaced disdain with inquiries, and caused many to reexamine their preconceptions about Krsna consciousness.
Entering ITV's studio and office in Culver City two blocks from the Los Angeles Hare Krsna community, one is impressed with the commitment that Nrsimhananda and the other devotees have given to this project. On a small bulletin board next to Siddhanta's editing room, the source of the ITV devotees' motivation and inspiration is revealed in a posted letter, dated March 22, 1972. The letter is from Srila Prabhupada to one of his disciples in Los Angeles:
If we are successful in this [television] programme, then my dreamt mission of life to spread Krsna consciousness all over the world will be fulfilled. I wish to speak on the great philosophy of Bhagawat Dharma (Krsna consciousness] at least once a week on television, so if arrangement is made by you for this, then you will be doing the highest service for Krsna.
ITV videos are now distributed on sankirtana as a visual form of Prabhupada's books, and thus Srila Prabhupada's desire is being fulfilled. "Materialistic films are measured by their box-office success," Nrsimhananda explains, "but our receipts are the people who are becoming more Krsna conscious. The feedback we get enlivens us in our devotional video service for Lord Krsna."
Nrsimhananda may have graduated from The School of Illusion, but now he's producing shows on reality—shows that are touching people spiritually.
"People Are Living Like Hogs and Dogs"
This concludes the conversation that took place between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples on April 17, 1977, in Bombay
Srila Prabhupada: Today there is no full-brained man. All restless dogs and hogs. In fact, they have taken this as their first business—to become restless dogs and hogs. They are living like dogs and hogs while claiming they are highly civilized.
If you study very analytically, you'll find no essential difference between dogs' and hogs' life and that of modern man. The dogs and hogs—all day long working restlessly, on and on. Kastan kaman arhate: no end to the animals' bodily whims and their work. And in London, in New York, from early in the morning the people are driving, rushing to work. Put-put-put-put.
They cannot even get their rest at night peacefully. The anxiety is, "If I do not arrive early at the factory, I will jeopardize my salary—perhaps my whole income will be put at risk." They are always anxious. Sada samudvigna-dhiyam: nowadays people are always full of anxieties.
Why so many anxieties? Asad-grahat: they are clutching very tightly to something that will not stay—namely, this material body. All our anxiety is due to overattachment to this body.
So just consider: What is the difference between human society and hog society? Nice clothes? Then if you dress a hog in nice clothes, he becomes a human being? Unfortunately, people nowadays are after the outward dress, the outward appearance of being human beings. They do not know what is real civilization, what is real life. They do not know anything.
And when you go to give spiritual knowledge to them, they say, "Oh, we have to take knowledge from poverty-stricken India?" They do not know that this spiritual knowledge does not come from that India—that Westernized, industrially despoiled India. Rather it comes from old, Krsna conscious, full-of-knowledge, farm-and-village, prosperous India.
Those who have forsaken this spiritual knowledge—they are poverty-stricken. We who are cultivating this spiritual knowledge are not poverty-stricken.
Even from the standpoint of everyday affairs, this knowledge is so very important. Let people understand, "I am not this body—I am not Nigerian or American or Albanian or Iranian or this or that. I am pure spirit soul, part and parcel of the Supreme Soul." Then you will have, at last, your real United Nations.
Otherwise, what do you have? These restless rascals in bodily consciousness—"I am Indian," "I am Irish," "I am Lebanese"—simply barking for the last thirty years. Calling themselves "united," but blind to the real basis of unity, their spiritual identity. Blind to the simple, peaceful life. Just barking about their various bodily misconceptions.
Disciple: Several times, Srila Prabhupada, you have told people connected with the U.N. that theirs is simply an association of barking dogs. And they are always surprised to hear such a strong statement.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. But actually, it is a fact. People today are no different from some dogs barking. "I am a bulldog," "I am a terrier," "I am a collie," "I am a Greek," "I am a Frenchman," "I am a Swede." And with this misunderstanding of who they are, they waste so much energy and money and time, simply for barking about this or that bodily concern.
The result of all this barking is nothing. No United Nations. Rather, every other day sees the appearance of some new national flag. Bharam udvahato vimudhan: they have made a big bombastic arrangement for unity, but the result is nothing. Bharam udvahato vimudhan: these rascals they are simply making a big, big arrangement. The result is nothing.
And despite their obvious failure, they are determined to remain rascals. "Oh, the United Nations. What a gorgeous attempt we are making toward unity. Of course, we have no unity, but our building is adorned by 300,000 flags."
The problem is, they are offering their obeisances to their flag, not to God. Krsna says, mam namaskuru: "All of you are in fact spiritual beings, so be happy by offering your obeisances to Me." But they are thinking, "No. 'Flag namaskuru.' We must offer our obeisances to a flag." Just see what rascals they are! What will they gain by offering obeisances to some flag?
Disciple: In their next life, instead of going back to the spiritual world, they may be born as a cockroach in that same country.
Srila Prabhupada: And then their countrymen will kill them.
"No, friends, please don't kill me. I am your countryman. I am year countryman. I belong to the same nation."
"Who cares about you flies and cockroaches? We shall kill you. 'American cockroach'? Who cares about you?"
"No, you don't understand. In my past life I was a staunch nationalist. Yes, due to this material misconception and over-attachment I have now received the body of a cockroach. But please don't kill me."
If you become a cockroach, even an American cockroach, who will care about you? Will anyone show special consideration to you? But dehantara-praptih: after this body, you must accept another body. That you cannot avoid. Then what good will your nationalism do you? Now you are a great nationalist. But when you have to accept another body, how can you save yourself and not become a cockroach?
Unfortunately, your next body is not your choice. It is in another's hands. Karmana daiva-netrena: according to your actions in this body. you'll get a suitable next body by the arrangement of nature.
But that is under nature's supervision. You cannot say, "Give me a beautiful body in a very wealthy American family."
"No, no," Mother Nature will say. "You no longer have that discretionary power. You had it; you had a human life. Now you have to accept my discretion. I will now give you your new body according to your past actions, just according to how you are infected by the material modes."
So this spiritual knowledge is the greatest science. But sadly, these great educators and leaders do not know it. No one knows it. Instead of understanding that their way of life is a fallacy, they are asking whether God and the soul and the next life are a fallacy. This is their intelligence. What rascaldom!
Festivals & Calendar
Krsna conscious devotees follow a spiritual calendar that divides the year into twelve months, each named for a different form of Krsna. The devotees at the Hare Krsna center nearest you will gladly tell you more about the meaning of the festivals listed here.
Month of Trivikrama
(May 14-June 11)
June 7—Disappearance anniversary of Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana, a famous spiritual master in the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya (disciplic succession) and the author of Govinda Bhasya, an important commentary on Vedanta-sutra. Appearance anniversary of Srimati Gangamata Gosvamini, a famous woman spiritual master in the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya.
June 8—Pandava-nirjala Ekadasi. Fasting from grains and beans.
June 10—Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami's chipped-rice-and-yogurt festival at Panihati.
June 11—Snana-yatra, the bathing festival of Lord Jagannatha. Disappearance anniversary of Srila Mukunda Datta and Srila Sridhara Pandita, two great devotees of Lord Caitanya.
Month of Vamana
(June 12-July 11)
June 20—Disappearance anniversary of Srila Srivasa Pandita, one of the principal associates of Lord Caitanya.
June 22—Yogini Ekadasi. Fasting from grains and beans.
June 26—Disappearance anniversary of Srila Gadadhara Pandita, one of the principal associates of Lord Caitanya. Also, disappearance anniversary of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Fasting till noon.
June 27—Gundica-marjana. Festival of the cleansing of the Gundica temple.
June 28—Lord Jagannatha's Ratha-yatra in Puri, India. Also, disappearance anniversary of Srila Svarupa Damodara Gosvami and Srila Sivananda Sena, intimate associates of Lord Caitanya.
July 7—Sayana Ekadasi. Fasting from grains and beans.
July 11—Disappearance anniversary of Srila Sanatana Gosvami, one of the six Gosvamis of Vrndavana. First month of Caturmasya begins (fasting from spinach).
A look at the worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
New Guesthouse-Resort for ISKCON Mayapur
Mayapur, West Bengal—During the annual ISKCON festival celebrating Lord Caitanya's appearance here five hundred years ago, an international gathering of devotees and guests took part in the cornerstone-laying ceremony for a 264-room guesthouse. To be called the Surabala-Ramani Mohan International Vedic Resort, the guesthouse was named after the parents of A. K. and B. K. Raya, Calcutta businessmen who donated funds for the project. The ceremony included a traditional Vedic fire sacrifice, with the chanting of purificatory mantras, and the distribution of krsna-prasadam.
The four-story guesthouse will contain three wings. The first wing, with seventy rooms, is expected to be completed by the spring of 1988. The resort will include a pavilion for serving prasadam to two thousand guests at a time. At present, ISKCON Mayapur, with its beautiful gardens and fountains, receives about forty to fifty busloads of pilgrims every weekend. About ten percent of these visitors, or about 250 guests, stay overnight. The new guesthouse promises to be another attractive feature for visitors to this holy place.
Consul General Visits Dallas Temple
Dallas, Texas—His Excellency K.K.S. Rana, consul general of India based in San Francisco, recently visited ISKCON's Dallas temple and its famous Kalachandji's Restaurant. His Excellency received a copy of Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is from temple president Navina Krsna dasa. ISKCON Life member Mr. Naryan Misra coordinated the visit.
Kalachandji's Restaurant Voted Best in Texas
Dallas, Texas—Vegetarian Times magazine recently selected Kalachandji's Restaurant, at ISKCON Dallas, as one of the best vegetarian restaurants in America. After asking its staff and correspondents to send reviews of their favorite purely vegetarian restaurants, the magazine chose Kalachandji's as "the best bet for excellent vegetarian food" in the Lone Star state.
"The ambience of Kalachandji's is magical," the article in the March issue Vegetarian Times states. "As you enter, you are greeted by the aroma of incense and a host dressed in traditional Indian garb. You can dine either indoors or on the out-door patio. Soothing Indian music plays as sari-clad women serve your meal."
The article describes the dinner offered at Kalachandji's as "more than any diner could ask for." and notes that Kalachandji's has never served the same menu twice since it opened, in 1983.
"Krsna is God," I explained.
by Kundali Dasa
The seven fifty-five Greyhound out of Baltimore was almost full when I boarded. I made my way to the only vacant seat on the side of the bus that would be out of the morning sun as we traveled north. The window seat was occupied by a well-dressed, middle-aged woman. When she saw me with my shaven head and tilaka and wearing a dhoti, she immediately averted her eyes, and a disapproving look came over her face. Maybe I should sit somewhere else, I thought. Then, What does it matter? I'm just going to sit here and read. I sat down.
The bus left the station and slowly made its way across town in the morning rush-hour traffic to Interstate 83. The stop-and-go motion caused the bus to pitch and toss like a dinghy at sea. I eased my seat back to make myself comfortable for the two-hour ride to Harrisburg.
Before I had left the Baltimore temple, a devotee had given me a copy of the latest Back to Godhead, which I planned to read during the trip—if the drive didn't lull me to sleep. I took the magazine from my bag, and, as was my habit, I flipped through the pages to see what the articles were about and to see the pictures. I turned to the front cover and spent some time admiring the art. It was a picture of Radha and Krsna, one I had never seen before.
"Who is that?" The question, a mixture of curiosity and challenge in the voice, broke my reverie. I turned to face the woman seated next to me: late forties, auburn hair, stern face in a frown. She had been looking over my shoulder.
"That's Krsna and His eternal consort, Radharani," I said.
"Who is Krsna?" More curiosity than challenge this time.
I looked at her. "He's the Supreme Personality of Godhead."
A long silence ensued.
"Krsna is God," I explained, seeing that she didn't seem to make sense of "the Supreme Personality of Godhead."
"No, He's not," she shot back. Aggressive. Sure of herself.
Uh, oh! A fundamentalist, I thought. I would have left it at that, except her tone was not so forbidding as to completely discourage me. I also remembered how Srila Prabhupada had said, "They say Krsna is not God, but when you ask, 'Who is God?' they cannot say." I decided to pursue his line of reasoning with her. "Okay." I said. "Who is God?"
"I don't know. But it's not Krsna."
"If you don't know who God is, how can you be so sure Krsna isn't God?"
"Because God doesn't look like that."
I sat up from my reclining position feigning surprise. "Am I to understand that you don't know who God is but you do know what He looks like? That doesn't—"
"I don't know what He looks like, but I'm sure He's not a blue Indian god with flowers and a flute."
"How can you be so sure?"
"Look," a hint of annoyance in her voice, "I'm old enough to be your mother, and if God was named Krsna and was blue, I'm sure I would have known that by now."
"But if you'd heard about Krsna long ago, when you were ten years old, say, would it have been easier to accept Him?"
"No, it wouldn't."
"So your age has nothing to do with it, then."
'Then what is it? You have a predisposed conviction, a sort of prejudice, that Krsna just can't be God, no matter what?"
"You have an alternative idea of God?"
Our bus was now cruising on Interstate 83, and conversation was easier without the pitching and rolling of city driving. I'd been traveling back and forth between our farm community in central Pennsylvania and our temple in Baltimore fairly often in the past six months—sometimes to run errands, but mostly to help cover some of the temple services from time to time. The regular Baltimore devotees were on the road often, and the temple was sometimes short-handed.
On my previous trips, because I'd not been very successful in stimulating interest in Krsna consciousness among my fellow travelers, I had developed a routine of reading or chanting silently during the ride. Today, when I least expected it, here was someone taking an interest in Krsna.
I broke the silence. "You don't know what God looks like, and yet you're certain He's not Krsna, right?"
I decided to take a different tack. "Let me ask you this, then. Do you agree that God is inconceivable?"
"Yes, He's inconceivable," she said with a nod.
"What do you understand by 'inconceivable'?"
She took some time figuring out her answer. "He's beyond imagination," she said finally.
"That's why you can't have a picture of God."
"True. But it's also true that if He's inconceivable and you don't know what He looks like, by the same token you can't say what He doesn't look like either. In which case, you really have to allow that He could be Krsna. At least it's a possibility. No?"
"No. If He's inconceivable," she pointed to the magazine, "I don't think you can have any picture or conception of Him at all."
I turned the magazine face down on my lap. "Okay, but let's forget about Krsna for now," I said. "Let's talk about 'God.' You believe in God, right?"
"If the creator of this universe is beyond our conception, how can we know Him?"
"Maybe we can't know Him," she replied.
"But suppose we could, how would it be possible?"
She shifted position in the seat, thinking. I fingered my beads, chanting quietly. Leaning back in her seat, she gazed out the window at the Maryland countryside rushing by at fifty-five miles an hour. "Why don't you tell me?" she said, finally, giving me a look that said, "This better be good."
"When He reveals Himself," I said. "We can know Him when He chooses to reveal Himself. Otherwise, by definition, He remains always inconceivable to our mundane mind and senses."
"So you're saying God revealed Himself as Krsna?"
"No, no, we're not back to Krsna yet. All I'm saying so far is that if there is a remote possibility for us to know inconceivable God, it's by His revealing Himself to us. Short of that, we can't really be sure. We can't know Him by our speculation and conjecture, no matter how interesting our ideas may be. Does that make sense?"
"It does, philosophically, but how does He reveal Himself?"
"Through the scriptures."
Her face lit up. She pounced. "Yes," she said emphatically. "And in the Bible the Lord tells us not to worship any graven image."
"That's true, but you agree that our knowledge of God must have a scriptural basis?"
"Okay. Now, getting back to Krsna, our scriptures—the Bhagavad-gita, the Srimad-Bhagavatam, and other Vedic literature—give us clear information of the name, identity, and form of God, His kingdom, His qualities. His activities, and His entourage. So this picture is based on those descriptions. The Vedic scriptures also advise us to worship the form of the Lord and tell how such worship should—"
"But the Bible says. Thou shalt not worship a graven image; Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.' "
"Yes, but the form of Krsna is not a graven image concocted in someone's fertile imagination; it's the actual form, based on scriptural descriptions—"
"It's not mentioned in the Bible."
"Ahh, but it is—'God made man in His own image and likeness.' "
"But it doesn't say we should paint a picture. It doesn't say God is blue and has a flute. I've never heard of any scripture that does."
"You've never heard of the Bhagavad-gita! India's bible?"
"No, and I'm not sure I accept any other scripture either."
She had raised her voice as she became more assertive, and I was aware that other passengers were trying to follow our conversation. A man and a woman in front of us, presumably husband and wife, were visibly interested in what was going on. Their seats were all the way back, their heads cocked to one side, listening. I heard the man say, "There ain't no scripture 'cept the Baable, the holy word of God." I thought he wanted to get drawn into our conversation, but my companion seemed unaffected by his statement, so I ignored him.
"Why not?" I asked. "The Bible recognizes that other scriptures are valid. And, as anyone can see, there are religious traditions besides the biblical tradition that have many saintly men and women who display the same godly characteristics as Christian saints. The Vedic tradition is full of such examples, so I don't think it's fair to reject all scriptures but the Bible."
"Then why haven't I heard about them?"
"Maybe you haven't looked into the matter deeply enough. You must have heard of the Koran, the scripture of the Muslims?"
"Yes, I've heard of the Koran, but I can't say I've researched the various scriptures." She shifted again, making herself comfortable. She seemed more at ease with me. "But still, if, as you say, Krsna is God and He is described in your scriptures, I think I would have heard about it before now. Why didn't Jesus mention Him? Jesus never said anything about God being blue or carrying a flute."
The couple in front of me started muttering to each other. I couldn't make out what they were saying, but they seemed to be disturbed by my religious views.
"I can't exactly say why the Bible doesn't mention Krsna," I said, "but I do know that it quotes Jesus as saying, 'I have much to tell you, but you are not ready for it.' Jesus never gave much detailed information about the soul or about God and His kingdom. In fact, for the little bit of spiritual teachings he did try to impart, the people had him killed. But at least we know he had more to reveal. Should we assume that knowledge was not revealed anywhere else in the world? Is God so limited that the people in the Middle East were the only ones to whom He gave some revelation or the highest revelation?" I paused, to let her consider.
"The answer is, 'no,' " she said. "He could have given knowledge elsewhere, but if you were brought up a Christian, it takes awhile to see beyond the outlook you've been trained in."
"Certainly, but let's be honest. Considering his audience and his main followers, who were not highly educated in philosophy and theology, how much could Christ actually teach? A teacher can only teach to the degree that his students—"
"I'm a teacher."
I laughed. "So you appreciate my point, then: A teacher can only teach to the degree that his students are able to assimilate his message. Christ had more to teach. If in another part of the world the audience was more qualified, it makes sense that the Lord would reveal more about Himself there."
"I can see your point, but I have a hard time accepting Krsna. If everything makes as much sense as you make it sound, it seems I would have heard of Him before."
This time the man in front of me clearly intended us to hear him. "They know how to make it soun' like it makes sense. But if it ain't in the Baable, it's the Devil's own work." His companion made sounds of agreement while nodding slowly.
Again my questioner ignored them, and I did likewise. I responded to her. "I can understand your feelings. I felt the same way when I first heard about Krsna:
'If this is so right, how come I never heard about it before?' But then I had to admit that this question can be raised whenever you first hear about anything new. It misses the point entirely. It has no bearing on whether or not Krsna is indeed God.
"Suppose you first heard about Krsna's being God when you were ten. You could say, 'Hey, how come I didn't hear about Krsna when I was nine or eight or three or two? How come it's only now? How come nobody in America heard about Krsna in 1780? Or in Europe in 1212, for that matter?'
"The real thing is that we are wandering in the material world, which is like an ocean of birth and death. If someone throws a rope to help us get out of that ocean, it's really of no value to ask, 'Why weren't you here sooner?' Better to take full advantage of the opportunity the rope provides and get out of the ocean. It's not 'Where has Krsna been all this time?' It's whether or not Krsna is in fact the Supreme Personality of Godhead."
"So you're saying we should just accept Krsna as God and we'll be in the real religion?"
"Not exactly, although that might be the conclusion. I'm saying, first you study Krsna as He explains Himself in the Bhagavad-gita. Become satisfied that Krsna is God. Then you'll easily appreciate that this is a picture of God."
For no reason I could discern, our eavesdroppers up front were now silent. I was thankful. I preferred that they would not disrupt our discussion of transcendental knowledge.
My companion asked to see the magazine, and I gave it to her, then dug into my bag for the back issues I had there. I offered them to her and introduced myself. She told me her name, Jean Mitchell. Jean and her husband were high school teachers near Harrisburg. Both were Episcopalians. For the remainder of the trip we talked intermittently about different points of Krsna consciousness while she browsed through the magazines. Jean told me she had never met a Hare Krsna person before, although she'd read about us in the news. All in all, she was very appreciative of the encounter. So was I.
Later, standing in the Harrisburg bus station, she wished me success on the path of Krsna consciousness. I thanked her and invited her to visit our local farm community, Gita-nagari.
'The trip went quickly because of our talk," she said. "I have a confession to make. I was a little annoyed when you came and sat next to me, but something made me talk to you in spite of myself. And I'm glad I did."
"I have something to confess too," I said, laughing. "I thought you looked unfriendly, and I considered moving to another seat. But since I was already sitting, I decided not to bother. I enjoyed the trip too. You never know, do you?"
We said good-bye. The next leg of my trip was uneventful, so I read the new magazine.
Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and His elder brother, Balarama, enjoy transcendental pastimes in the forests and groves of Vrndavana. Though Balarama, being Krsna's first expansion, possesses the same unlimited opulences as Krsna, He naturally desires to please Krsna by serving His lotus feet. Balarama thus sets the example for everyone to follow. Indeed, Balarama is the source of the sentiment of servitude to Lord Krsna. In the material world, although materialists want to compete with God, they are forced to serve God indirectly: they must submit to Krsna's powerful material energy. The more we forget the service of Krsna, the more we suffer in material existence. When we develop pure Krsna consciousness by thinking ourselves servants of Krsna, we immediately awaken our eternal relationship with Him and gain entrance into His ever-blissful abode. Attaining this goal is the ultimate achievement of human life.
Notes from the Editor
The Worst Age and the Best Remedy
Five-thousand-year-old predictions from the Srimad-Bhagavatam are now coming true. According to the Bhagavatam, the present age is Kali-yuga, the age of quarrel and hypocrisy. Already the qualities conducive to human goodness—qualities such as austerity, truthfulness, cleanliness, and mercy—have diminished. And they will continue to diminish as the age progresses. Materialists may consider each century more improved than the previous, but those who cherish spiritual values see the twentieth century as backward in many ways. But despite the bad features of this age, we have one great saving grace. "The age of Kali is an ocean of vices," says the Bhagavatam. "But the age contains one great quality: One can become liberated simply by chanting the holy names of Krsna."
Sankirtana, chanting the holy names of God, is a special dispensation of divine mercy for persons born into the age of Kali. For former ages the Vedic scriptures recommended more difficult spiritual disciplines: yogic meditation, opulent sacrificial ceremonies, and elaborate temple worship. Foreseeing the degradation of Kali-yuga, the sages and scriptures have recommended the chanting of God's names with this assurance: "In this fallen age all perfection of life will come to those who perform sankirtana." Men and women in the age of Kali, however, are so unintelligent that they find even the blissful and easy chanting of God's names too difficult.
In his commentary on the First Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada elaborates on the degenerative features of Kali-yuga.
In Kali-yuga, the last millennium of a round of four millenniums, the power of all material objects deteriorates by the influence of time. In this age the duration of the material body of the people in general is much reduced, and so is the memory. The action of matter also has not so much incentive. The land does not produce food grains in the same proportion as it did in other ages. The cow does not give as much milk as it used to give formerly. The production of vegetables and fruits is less than before. As such, all living beings, both men and animals, do not have sumptuous, nourishing food. Due to want of so many necessities of life, naturally the duration of life is reduced, the memory short, the intelligence meager, mutual dealings are full of hypocrisy, and so on.
Until I heard Srimad-Bhagavatam from Srila Prabhupada, I was not aware that I was living in the worst of ages. I saw many faults and problems, but I also mistook certain faults—the sexual revolution, technological amenities—to be signs of progress. Now I see the modern age as slow and degraded, missing entirely the higher purpose of life. Because of the presence of the Bhagavatam, knowledge of the real purpose of human life, self-realization, exists despite the main features of Kali-yuga.
Some features of degeneration Prabhupada mentions are lowered milk production, diminished agricultural yield, and shortage of food for men and animals. Politicians claim that natural production is increasing, but there is a great decrease in the percentage of individuals who are farming and taking care of cows.
In the Vedic culture those who farm and protect cows are the main population. But in today's society no one protects the cow. The dairymen scientifically drain the cows of milk and then kill them. The cows are milked only at their peak production time, then slaughtered. How can we hail this as increased milk production! The karmic reaction for cow slaughter far outweighs any economic benefits of efficient, modern milking. Besides, when you terminate a cow's life, you severely decrease that cow's total milk production.
Much agricultural land is used for harmful products, such as tobacco. Much farmland becomes depleted and poisoned with chemicals. All these acts are done with an attitude of godlessness. None of them are guided by the scriptural principles regarding God's proprietorship of all things in the universe.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam mentions other deteriorating effects of Kali-yuga. Marriage, says the Bhagavatam, will deteriorate to casual relationships based on sex, and a husband and wife may separate over even the slightest disturbance. A person will not be able to get justice in court unless he has money. Government leaders will be mostly thieves. Spiritual hermitages will be no different from mundane houses. Plants and herbs will be tiny, and trees will be dwarfed. Life expectancy will decrease. Seeking to escape the harassment of civilization, many people will choose to live in the wilderness. And, because this is the Age of Quarrel, dissension and violence will manifest—from petty family quarrels to international wars. For this worst of times Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.3.43) prescribes a remedy:
This Srimad-Bhagavatam is as brilliant as the sun, and it has arisen just after the departure of Lord Krsna to His own abode, accompanied by religion, knowledge, etc. Persons who have lost their vision due to the dense darkness in the age of Kali shall get light from this scripture.
Srila Prabhupada began translating Srimad-Bhagavatam into English in 1960, while the Cold War between Russia and America chilled the world. Prabhupada was convinced that the deadly struggles of the superpowers as well as the miseries of the Third World could be mitigated if Srimad-Bhagavatam were widely broadcast. With this conviction he yearned to go to the West to spread Krsna consciousness. As he wrote in one Srimad-Bhagavatam commentary: "Due to the Age of Quarrel, Kali, there is always a chance of fighting on the slightest provocation.. .. therefore there is a great need for disseminating the message of Srimad-Bhagavatam."
Because the Bhagavatam is an ancient literature, we may sometimes doubt its efficacy. Can it, for instance, resolve complicated economic and political problems? In answer to this doubt, we must remember that the Bhagavatam is on the transcendental plane. Since all living beings are also transcendental by nature, the transcendental Srimad-Bhagavatam can bring about a miraculous change.
The principles of Krsna consciousness worked in the past, when the world was dominated by Vedic, godly culture. And they are working today for millions of people. Unfortunately, there is propaganda by a section of the people to stop glorification of the Supreme Lord. The devotees of Lord Krsna, who have attained relief from some of the worst features of the age, are not discouraged. Although the odds are in favor of atheism and hedonism, a sincere devotee knows that if even a few souls can be brought out of darkness, it is a tangible gain. As stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam, "My dear Lord, pious and saintly persons who in the age of Kali hear about Your transcendental activities and glorify them will easily cross over the darkness of the age."—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.