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Volume 22, Number 07, 1987


His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami...
Who Are You?
Meditation For the Modern Age
Dressed for Spiritual Success
Lord Krsna's Cuisine
The Vedic Observer
"I Shall Not Fight"
Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out
Every Town and Village
Celebrations Of Life
Notes from the Editor
Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare...

© 2005 The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness

We call Srila Prabhupada "his Divine Grace" because through him we receive God's grace: knowledge of the spiritual science whereby we can perfect our relationship with the Supreme Lord. Srila Prabhupada is a perfact medium for Krsna's grace.

In the summer of 1965, at the advanced age of sixty-nine, Srila Prabhupada sailed from Calcutta to America to fulfill his guru's order to bring Krsna consciousness to the West. Braving a heart attack on the way, Prabhupada arrived in Boston with a few trunks full of books, a few private belongings, and five dollars.

In the twelve years between his arrival in America and his passing away in November 1977, Srila Prabhupada made "Hare Krsna" household words across the globe. Thus he fulfilled the five-hundred-year-old prophecy that Krsna consciousness would be spread to the whole planet. He inspired his disciples to open more than a hundred temples, farm communities, vegetarian restaurants, schools, and institutes on six continents. He circled the globe fourteen times, lecturing daily and meeting with many world figures, religionists, and scholars, whom he encouraged to pursue Krsna consciousness.

Despite his busy schedule, Srila Prabhupada found time to write some seventy books on the science of Krsna consciousness. Fifty of them are translations from Sanskrit with alaborate commentaries, and they present an encylopedic treatment of India's Vedic philosophy, religion, literature, and culture. Scholars worldwide acknowledge his books as works of gifted scholarship, exceptionally valuable for understanding the science of awakening pure love for God.

One of Srila Prabhupada's most outstanding accomplishments was his bringing us the message of Bhagavad-gita intact, just as a faithful postman delivers mail without tempering with the contents.

The essence of the Gita's message is summed up in the title of the magazine Srila Prabhupada started in 1944—Back to Godhead. By perfecting our Krsna consciousness, we embodied souls can get free from the miseries of repeated birth, death, old age, and disease and go back home, back to Godhead, the spiritual world. In teaching this vital spiritual science, both by his precept and by his example, Srila Prabhupada showered us with divine grace.

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Who Are You?

You won't find out by examining your body's parts or even its color, race, nationality, sex, or occupation. The search for identity must go beyond the body and mind.

A lecture in Bombay in December 1972,
by His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness

sri bhagavan uvaca
idam sariram kaunteya
ksetram ity abhidhiyate
etad yo vetti tam prahuh
ksetrajna iti tad-vidah

"This body, O son of Kunti, is called the field, and one who knows this body is called the knower of the field." (Bhagavad-gita 13.2)

Here Lord Krsna states that the "field" of the body (the ksetra) is different from the one who knows the body (the ksetrajna). So we should know, "I am not this body; it is my body." If we analyze, we may say, "This is my hand, this is my leg, this is my head." But nobody says "I head" or "I hand." So the I," the soul, is different from the body. For example, although I am living in this apartment, I am not this apartment.

[Caption for picture: Life's a puzzle, but it can be solved. In our search for answers, we tend to overlook the essential element of our identity—the soul. But when we understand who we are, then all of life's pieces fall into place.]

But the modern civilization accepts the basic idea that "I am this body." Therefore people think, "I am an American," "I am an Indian," "I am a brahmana," "I am a man," "I am a woman," and so on. Life's a puzzle, but it can be solved. In our search for answers, we tend to overlook the essential element of our identity—the soul. But when we understand who we are, then all of life's pieces fall into place. This conception is condemned; it is the conception of the animals. A dog does not know that the soul who has obtained the body of a dog is different from the dog body. But it is a fact that although the soul is put into that condition, he's different from the body. This is the Vedic information, and this is knowledge.

If you meditate on your body, you may ask, "Am I this finger?"The answer will be "No, I am not this finger. It is my finger." Similarly, one can say, "This is my head, my leg, my body." So by simple logic we can see that we are not the body. And here it is confirmed by the supreme authority, Krsna.

Now, the sastra [scripture] says, yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke ... sa eva go-kharah: "Anyone who identifies himself as his body, which is made of three elements—mucus, bile, and air—is no better than a cow or an ass." Now, just try to understand what the modern civilization is. It is a combination of cows and asses, because everyone is thinking, "I am this body." Someone thinks, "I am an American," another thinks, "I am a Russian," and they both think, "Let us fight." This is going on. The simple knowledge that "I am not this body" is lacking.

The Vedic declaration is aham brahmasmi, "I am spirit." And also so 'ham which means "I am qualitatively one with the Supersoul, Krsna." As Krsna's form is sac-cid-ananda—eternal and full of knowledge and bliss—so I am also sac-cid-ananda, because I am part and parcel of Him. The difference is that while He is infinite, I am very minute.

A minute particle of gold is qualitatively the same as the vast mass of gold in the gold mine, and a minute drop of sea water is the same as the sea, qualitatively. It has the same chemicals. Similarly, we, being part and parcel of Krsna, are transcendental to material conditions, but we have artificially put ourselves into this material condition. This is called maya, illusion. We wanted to enjoy separately from Krsna, and therefore we have been put into a condition of illusion.

The material condition we are in is just like a dream. At night, when we dream, we forget this body. Although in the daytime I identify myself with my body, thinking, "I am an American," "I am an Indian," "I am a brahmana," at night, when I sleep, I forget whether I am an American, an Indian, or a brahmana. Sometimes in a dream we go to a very nice place full of palaces and gardens, but as soon as the dream is over we are again on our bed. You see? This is our daily experience.

So, because we wanted to imitate Krsna, He has given us a temporary place of illusion, a place that is not factual.

Sometimes we think we see water in the desert. That is illusion. There is no water, but we say, "Oh, there is a vast body of water!" And just as the foolish animals may run after the illusory water in the desert, we are running after the illusion of happiness in this material world.

There is no happiness here. At the fag end of life we are disappointed and frustrated. When we can no longer enjoy our senses, we become very much depressed. You'll find that old men who are not spiritually inclined are very morose because they cannot enjoy their senses anymore. Sometimes they take medicine to make their senses strong, but how can it be done? It is hopeless. So we should understand that we are not this body and that bodily enjoyment, sense gratification, is illusion.

In another place in the Bhagavad-gita [6.21] you'll find this verse:

sukham atyantikam yat tad
buddhi-grahyam atindriyam
vetti yatra na caivayam
sthitas calati tattvatah

[To a devotee] Find this verse and read the translation.

Devotee: There are a few verses together. "In the stage of perfection called trance, or samadhi, one's mind is completely restrained from material mental activities by practice of yoga. This perfection is characterized by one's ability to see the Self by the pure mind and to relish and rejoice in the Self. In that joyous state, one is situated in boundless transcendental happiness, realized through transcendental senses. Established thus, one never departs from the truth, and upon gaining this he thinks there is no greater gain."

Srila Prabhupada: So, all information is there in the Bhagavad-gita. If we want actual happiness, we have to purify our consciousness of everything material. That is the goal of everyone in the Krsna consciousness movement—to come to the point of pure Krsna consciousness. That consciousness can be achieved by the grace of Krsna: athapi te deva padambuja-dvaya-prasada-lesanugrhita eva hi janati tattvam bhagavan-mahimnah. Krsna cannot be understood by any method other than Krsna's method, and that method is bhakti, devotional service.

The root of the word bhakti is bhaj, which means "to offer loving service unto the Lord." And Krsna says, mahatmanas tu mam partha daivim prakrtim asritah: "Those who are broadminded take shelter of my spiritual potency and serve Me without deviation." So devotional service is for mahatmas. A mahatma is one whose atma, or mind, has been expanded. Those who are thinking in terms of family, society, nation, religion, and so on are not mahatmas. They are ksudratmas, small- or cripple minded persons. Mahatmas think in a broader way. As Caitanya Mahaprabhu said,

prthivite ache yata nagaradi grama
sarvatra pracara haibe mora nama

"In as many towns and villages as there are all over the world, My name will be celebrated." He was not thinking in terms of "My village, My country, My society." No, He was thinking in a broader way.

Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Krsna, and Krsna thinks in terms of all living entities:

sarva-yonisu kaunteya
murtayah sambhavanti yah
tasam brahma mahad yonir
aham bija-pradah pita

"Of all living entities in all species of life, I am the father" [Bg. 14.4]. This is mahatma thinking. Krsna is thinking in terms of all living entities. People sometimes say Krsna is a Hindu God. Why a Hindu God? The dictionary may say that Krsna is a Hindu God, but in the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna Himself says, "I am the father of all living entities." Why should He be the father of just Hindus or Indians? No, He is the supreme father of everyone.

Similarly, this Krsna consciousness movement is not a crippled or sectarian movement. It is a very broad movement that is inviting all living entities to come to Krsna, back home, back to Godhead.

So, we should not be cripple-minded and identify ourselves with the body. As Krsna says here, idam sariram kaunteya ksetram: "The body is the field of activities for the soul." Suppose one is body conscious. He may undergo many severe exercises, and when his body becomes very stout and strong he's happy, because he is thinking "I am this body." Similarly, by the process of Krsna consciousness you can make your body spiritually stronger. As you can make your body physically strong, you can make your body spiritually strong.

The word ksetra means "field" or "land." By tilling the land you can produce nice grain or inferior grain, depending on how you work. The land is in your possession, and you can cultivate it as you like. Similarly, this body is "land," and I am the "tiller." By using the body in one way I can become spiritually advanced, and by using it in another way I can become materially advanced. It is up to me. To become spiritually advanced means to gradually forget that you are this material body and to realize, "I am Krsna's; I am brahman [spirit]." That is what it means to be spiritually advanced. And to become materially advanced means to think "I am this body," " I am an American," "I am an Indian," "I am a brahmana," "I am a man," "I am a woman." This is material advancement. Both ways are open to us.

We should always remember that we are now not animals but human beings. Therefore we can utilize our body according to our choice. In this chapter Krsna explains how we can utilize our body to become spiritually advanced. If we simply limit ourselves to struggling for the bodily necessities of life, we are just like the animals. Eating, sleeping, sexual intercourse, and defending—these are common to both human beings and cats and dogs. But because I am a human being, I can utilize my body to understand God. The cats and dogs cannot do this. That is the difference between a human being and an animal. And if you don't utilize your body to understand God, then you're no better than the cats and dogs.

Animal life means sinful life, and this human life is also sinful unless we come to the Krsna consciousness platform. If one acts sinfully, he may lose this human form of life. Suppose you act like the hogs and do not discriminate in the matter of eating. Hogs will eat even stool. So, in your next life you will get the body of a hog. As Lord Rsabhadeva advises His sons:

nayam deho deha-bhajam nr-loke
kastan kaman arhate vid-bhujam ye
tapo divyam putraka yena sattvam
suddhyed yasmad brahma-saukhyam tv anantam

"My dear sons, don't use this body as the hogs do—the whole day and night searching after stool to eat. Purify yourselves by austerity and come to the platform of eternal happiness."

Hogs become very stout and strong by eating stool, and then they enjoy sex without any discrimination—with their mother, sister, or anyone. The dogs also have no courtesy or shame. In the street they're having sex. And now human civilization is also coming to this. In India it has not yet come to this, but in the Western countries public sex is a common affair. Young men and women are embracing and kissing, and sometimes they're sexually engaged on the sea beach or in the garden. We have seen it.

So, practically speaking people are coming to the hogs' and dogs' life. This is their advancement of civilization. Why? On account of the bodily concept of life: "I am this body." Therefore, one should first of all understand that the soul is different from the body. The human body has been awarded to us so we can utilize it as we like. We can utilize it like the cats and dogs and hogs, or we can utilize it like a deva, a demigod. That is up to us. We have a little independence.

But the sastra says we should not utilize this body like the dogs and hogs. And if we ignore the sastra, we will suffer. As Lord Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita [16.23]:

yah sastra-vidhim utsrjya
vartate kama-karatah
na sa siddhim avapnoti
na sukham na param gatim

"Anyone who does not care for the instructions given in the sastras cannot achieve any perfection or happiness." Suppose someone doesn't care for the law of the state. What kind of man is he? He's an outlaw; he's not a respectable citizen, and he will suffer punishment at the hands of the police. Similarly, anyone who does not follow the sastras injunctions is violating God's law, and he must be punished by material nature. Therefore we have to follow the sastric injunctions if we want happiness.

The Bhagavad-gita, the Puranas, the Vedanta-sutra—these sastras are meant to help revive our Krsna consciousness. They give us transcendental knowledge. And the first, essential knowledge is to know, "I am not this body."

We have to transcend the bodily concept of life. The bodily concept of life means absorption in sense gratification. That's all. Because a person thinks "I am this body," he must try to satisfy his eyes by seeing something beautiful, and he must try to satisfy his tongue by eating so many abominable things. These things may be forbidden in the sastras, but because his tongue wants them he must eat them. So the bodily concept of life means to be forced to satisfy the gross material senses.

But gradually, by training ourselves in Krsna consciousness, we will desire more and more to satisfy Krsna. Now we are satisfying our senses—that is the result of the bodily concept of material existence. And when we train ourselves how to satisfy Krsna—oh, that is the perfection of our life. That is Krsna consciousness. Thank you very much. Hare Krsna.

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Meditation For the Modern Age

What is meditation?
How does it work?
What are its benefits?

by Drutakarma Dasa

Should you meditate?

Dr. John Heider, a psychologist, believes that meditation "is as necessary to a life of growth as regular brushing is to dental hygiene." Sounds harmless enough. But what if you were to brush your teeth with a harsh abrasive or a corrosive chemical? That would definitely be detrimental to your dental health. In the same way, how much your meditation is helping you spiritually depends on what kind of meditation you're practicing and why.

When we focus our minds on sensory input from the external world or on thoughts and feelings that arise within us, we are engaged in a type of meditation, in the broadest sense of that word. So you could say that all of us are already meditating at every moment. To help us understand this kind of meditation, let's enter briefly into the mind of Richard Morland, a college student in Boston, to see what he's meditating about.

Richard's on his way to school. Driving on roads slick from freezing rain, he's concentrating so as not to spin out or slam into someone's rear bumper. He thinks about meeting his girlfriend, Susan Johnson, for lunch today, and he smiles and feels a touch of desire coming on. But before he gets to see her, there's the chemistry midterm. That's on his mind too. Richard is applying to some top medical schools, so he's determined to finish his premed studies with the highest grade-point average he possibly can. His mind feels fatigued from the couple of hours of sleep he lost studying last night. That's all right, though: he'll make it up on the weekend. No proper breakfast this morning either, so Richard's feeling a little hungry, but then there's lunch with Susan in just three hours.

For Richard, the only bad thing about the chemistry midterm is that Fred, Susan's old boyfriend, who had even been thinking of marrying her, is going to be there. Richard's mind spins out on that for a while and then settles in on the Beach Boys tune on the radio. The song ends with news on the half hour. More hostage trouble in Lebanon. The United States has moved another carrier into the eastern Mediterranean. Richard tries to picture it—it's a few years from now; he's married to Susan; he's taken hostage; Susan, alone at home with their child, pleads for his life.

Then he starts thinking about his uncle Bob. Richard received a call from his mother last night. Uncle Bob had gone into the hospital for what he had thought was pneumonia, but it turned out to be lung cancer. Richard's father had died from lung cancer just two years before. Aunt Sarah isn't taking Uncle Bob's illness too well, so Richard's mother is going to stay with her for a while. Richard likes Uncle Bob, who was helping pay for his tuition.... God, Richard prays, God, please let him get through this. With proper medical treatment and some luck he might make it a few more years.

Richard steers the car up the ramp of the campus parking garage and parks. As he gets out of the car and starts walking to class, he suddenly feels he'd like to take a break—not just to take a vacation, but to getaway from the whole thing. But he keeps walking, and the feeling merges into the stomach numbing anxiety of his last-minute mental review for the chemistry midterm.

From the standpoint of the Bhagavad-Gita, Richard's daily flow of thoughts typifies that of a person in bodily consciousness. Such a person constantly thinks of eating, sleeping, sex, and self-protection or of things related to these four basic activities. Richard, for instance, was feeling hungry and tired, thinking about his girlfriend, and worrying about a possible car accident. Bodily consciousness also creates a widening circle of identification based on the body. One's own body is designated by sex, race, age, and so forth. And this body is connected with other bodies in relationships of family, community, and nation. Richard is involved in his own unique complex of relationships: with Susan, Fred, his mother, his relatives, his fellow Americans facing another international crisis.

Bodily consciousness also limits our activities to those involving dharma (materially motivated religion), artha (economic gain), kama (sensual pleasure), and moksa (attempts for liberation), Generally a person in bodily consciousness thinks of God only to obtain some material favor. Richard, we saw, wished God would give his uncle Bob a few more years of life. Economic concerns are also important to Richard. Though he often confides to friends that he isn't going into neurosurgery for the money; he assumes his life won't be one of poverty. His desire for sensual pleasure inspires, at least partly, his new and deepening relationship with Susan. And from time to time thoughts of liberation enter his mind: he wants to get away from it all.

Of course, it's no wonder that a person in bodily consciousness sometimes wants to "get away from it all," because the body is a storehouse for misery. The Bhagavad-gita lists four primary bodily miseries: janma (birth), mrtyu (death), jara (old age), and vyadhi (disease). For a person in bodily consciousness, these distresses insinuate themselves—sometimes subtly, sometimes with overpowering force—into every aspect of life. On turning forty eight, Brigitte Bardot said, "It's the decomposition that gets me. You spend your whole life looking after your body, and then you rot away—like that!" Richard is confronted with his father's death, his own possible death, his uncle's disease, his mother's and his aunt's' old age. His medical career will bring him into daily contact with these unavoidable components of material existence. In fact, someday a person might die under his care. We can classify material miseries in yet another way: adhyatmika (those arising from one's mind and body), adhibhautika (those inflicted by other creatures), and adhidaivika (those resulting from the forces of nature). Again, Richard, like everyone else in bodily consciousness, is suffering from each of these miseries. He and his relatives are experiencing various degrees of physical and mental discomfort. He is also worried about threats from others (Susan's old boyfriend and Middle East terrorists), and he's enduring the cold and hazards of a New England winter.

Some meditation systems promise a means to cope with the stress arising from the multipronged assaults of material miseries. Typically they are "easy" and involve little more from the practitioner than a financial commitment. But no amount of "peace of mind" gained by listening to tapes of mellow new-age music or the wind and the ocean waves can change the inevitability of old age, disease, death, and rebirth. Maintaining a superficial peace of mind in the face of these grim realities is not to one's credit. Even more pointless are meditation systems that promise the mental concentration and power to achieve' material success by influencing others, competing more successfully, defining one's goals more clearly, and so on. Any success achieved in this way is extremely temporary, vanishing without a trace at the time of death.

Confronted with the realization that life is, as the English philosopher Hobbes once observed; "nasty, brutish, and short," many people unfortunately adopt the inadvisable solution of suicide. Others adopt meditation practices that are the spiritual equivalent of suicide. Those who adopt these practices are, in effect, trying to dissolve their personalities into nothingness, though they usually express their goal in more attractive terminology: becoming one with the universe, becoming one with each other, becoming one with God (who is, in their conception, the impersonal white light). The psychology of this attempt is rooted in the grossly imperfect idea that personality and selfhood are ultimately illusory. To extinguish the self, therefore, is not the solution to the miseries arising from bodily consciousness. Rather, we must restore the self to its healthy condition.

The Bhagavad-gita states that to dissolve the self is impossible. Lord Krsna says to Arjuna on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra, "For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time." Understanding this, one experiences release from material miseries. "In the stage of perfection called trance, or samadhi," states the Gita (6.20-23), "one's mind is completely restrained from material mental activities. ... This perfection is characterized by one's ability to see the Self by the pure mind and to relish and rejoice in the Self. In that joyous state, one is situated inboundless transcendental happiness, realized through transcendental senses."

Lord Krsna also explains the natural position of the soul: "The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind" (Bhagavad-gita 15.7). The soul's constant struggle with the material body throughout many lives is unnatural, for the soul is actually part of God. The Vedas explain that the individual eternal souls are related to the Supreme Soul just as sparks are related to a fire. The souls are of the same spiritual substance as their source, the Supreme Soul, but are infinitely smaller. In their original condition, the souls are meant to exist in a relationship with Krsna in the spiritual world.

According to Bhagavad-gita, the real object of meditation is therefore the Supreme Self, Krsna. By meditating upon Krsna, the true nature of the individual self becomes automatically revealed. Consider this analogy: If you venture for a walk along the seashore on a moonless, starless night, you may not be able to see yourself or anything around you. But when the sky lightens with the first glimmer of light, then you can begin to see everything, including your own self, at first dimly and then more and more clearly as the sun rises. Self-realization works like that. To see the self—to step beyond bodily consciousness—we must first see God. The Bhagavad-gita (8.9) states: "One should meditate upon the Supreme Person as the one who knows everything, as He who is the oldest, who is Meditation the controller, who is smaller than the smallest, who is the maintainer of everything, who is beyond all material conception, who is inconceivable, and who is always a person. He is luminous like the sun and, being transcendental, is beyond this material nature."

Srila Prabhupada states, "Since the Lord is absolute, deep meditation upon Him is as good as yogic trance" (Bhag. 1.15.28, purport). When, immersed in such trance, we perfectly understand ourselves to be part of God, related to Him as His eternal servants, several important improvements in our lives naturally follow. First, we quickly become free from the material miseries outlined above. Krsna says in the Gita (12.6—7),

Those who worship Me, giving up all their activities unto Me and being devoted to Me without deviation, engaged in devotional service and always meditating upon Me, having fixed their minds upon Me, O son of Prtha—for them I am the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death. (our italics)

Even in this world, the practitioner of Krsna meditation remains undisturbed. "As a lamp in a windless place does not waver," says the Gita (6.19), "so the transcendentalist, whose mind is controlled, remains always steady in his meditation on the transcendent Self." Srila Prabhupada comments, "A truly Krsna conscious person, always absorbed in transcendence, in constant undisturbed meditation on his worshipable Lord, is as steady as a lamp in a windless place."

The system of Krsna meditation outlined in the Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic books of knowledge is variegated, embracing many forms of mental concentration. First and foremost is meditating upon the Hare Krsna mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Krsna, being nondifferent from His names, is personally present in this mantra. In Bhagavad-gita (8.7), Krsna says, "He who meditates on Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, his mind constantly engaged in remembering Me, undeviated from the path, he, O Partha, is sure to reach Me." Srila Prabhupada comments: "One's memory of Krsna is revived by chanting the maha-mantra, Hare Krsna... This mystic meditation is very easy to practice, and it helps one attain the Supreme Lord."

Just as Krsna is present in His name, He is also present in transcendental literatures that contain His instructions and narrations of His pastimes. The instructions of Krsna are found in the Bhagavad-gita, while His pastimes are contained especially in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Devotees meditate on Krsna by absorbing their minds in these transcendental literatures. The Bhagavatam recommends,

To hear about Krsna from Vedic literatures, or to hear from Him directly through the Bhagavad-gita, is itself righteous activity. And for one who hears about Krsna, Lord Krsna, who is dwelling in everyone's heart, acts as a best friend and purifies the devotee who constantly engages in hearing of Him. In this way, a devotee naturally develops his dormant transcendental knowledge.

Such reading is an easily practiced form of meditation. "Even a child," states Srila Prabhupada, "can hear and derive the benefit of meditating on the pastimes of the Lord simply by listening to a reading from the Bhagavatam that describes the Lord as He is going to the pasturing ground with His cows and friends" (Bhag. 3.28.19, purport).

We can also meditate on Krsna in His form of the arca-vigraha, the Deity in the temple. Because our present material senses are incapable of perceiving Krsna's original spiritual form, Krsna kindly consents to become visible in the form of the Deity. Srila Prabhupada states, "Nowhere in the universe are there such beautiful bodily features as those of Lord Krsna. Therefore His transcendental body has nothing to do with anything materially created" (Bhag. 1.9.33, purport). Krsna Himself says, "Those who fix their minds on My personal form and are always engaged in worshiping Me with great and transcendental faith are considered by Me to be most perfect" (Bg. 12.2).

Is the Deity simply a stone statue? Srila Prabhupada explains:

Because the elements are the Lord's own energy and because there is no difference between the energy and the energetic, the Lord can appear through any element. Just as the sun can act through the sunshine and thus distribute its heat and light, so Krsna, by His inconceivable power, can appear in His original spiritual form in any material element, including stone, wood, paint, gold, silver, and jewels, because the material elements are all His energy. (Cc. Madhya 5.97, purport)

"The Visnu forms of worship in great temples of India," Srila Prabhupada informs us, "are not, therefore, arrangements of idol worship, as they are wrongly interpreted to be by a class of men with a poor fund of knowledge; rather, they are different spiritual centers of meditation on the transcendental limbs of the body of Visnu" (Bhag. 2.1.19, purport). If one is not able to visit a temple, one can also meditate upon Krsna's form as depicted in paintings, such as those found in the pages of this magazine.

The bona fide spiritual master directs the disciple in the performance of meditation. Srila Prabhupada explains,

One should not meditate according to one's personal whims. One should know perfectly well from the authoritative sources of scriptures through the transparent medium of a bona fide spiritual master and by proper use of one's trained intelligence for meditating upon the Supersoul dwelling within every living being. (Bhag. 1.6.15, purport)

The spiritual master instructs one how to constantly meditate upon Krsna even in the performance of one's work. This functional meditation helps awaken love for Krsna and fixes one in transcendence. Every action one performs thus becomes a meditation.

"Bhagavad-gita makes it clear," states Srila Prabhupada, "that one can attain the highest perfection of spiritual life simply by offering service according to his ability, just as Arjuna served Krsna by his ability in the military art. Arjuna offered his service fully as a military man, and he became perfect. Similarly, an artist can attain perfection simply by performing artistic work under the direction of the spiritual master. If one is a literary man, he can write articles and poetry for the service of the Lord under the direction of the spiritual master" (Bhag. 3.22.7, purport).

No matter what our position, we can apply these principles and practices of Krsna meditation in our lives. Let's suppose that our friend Richard has taken up the process of Krsna meditation and incorporated it into his life. Here's his typical day now: Each morning Richard spends an hour chanting the Hare Krsna mantra on his meditation beads. Sometimes he chants indoors, and when the weather's good he goes to a nearby park.

The chanting is spiritually refreshing. Then Richard prepares breakfast: fruit, yogurt, a hot cereal. He puts everything on a special plate and places it before a picture of Krsna he keeps on top of his bookshelf. Meditating upon Krsna, he softly repeats some mantras.

After breakfast, it's time for the half hour drive to school. In the car he listens to a taped lecture on the philosophy of Krsna consciousness. Arriving at school, he spends the rest of the morning in class. He is still studying to be a neurosurgeon, but he realizes that the real cure for the miseries of disease, old age, and death lies in reawakening the soul's eternal spiritual nature in relation with the Supreme Soul, Krsna.

After class, he meets Susan for lunch. She has prepared enough for both of them—some hearty vegetarian sandwiches and carob-walnut cookies. They still plan to get married, but they see their relationship as a spiritual partnership, a way to help each other progress toward the goal of becoming free from material attachments and developing their unique personal loving relationships with Krsna. That means some restriction in the matter of sex, but they feel they have gained a great deal of mutual respect and understanding in return.

After lunch, Richard and Susan spend some time reading together from Bhagavad-gita, something they do every day. They appreciate the insights the Gita offers into their personal relationships and the world around them. On weekends Richard and Susan visit the temple, which has recently acquired some new computers, and Richard and Susan use their knowledge of computer programming to help the devotees set up a computerized accounting system. They also attend classes on the Bhagavad-gita, take part in the temple ceremonies, look at the beautifully decorated Deity of Krsna, and enjoy a feast of delicious vegetarian food that's been offered to Krsna with devotion. In this way, Richard and Susan are practicing Krsna meditation throughout the day.

Should you meditate? The answer is yes—meditate on Krsna by chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, reading Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam (there's a sample in the center section of this magazine), seeing the form of Krsna, and offering your talents in His service. And if you think you have more important things to do, the Srimad-Bhagavatam (4.22.32) offers this advice: "There is no stronger obstruction to one's self-interest than thinking other subject matters to be more pleasing than one's self-realization." So make time for Krsna meditation in your life. That might mean sacrificing something, but you will gain the highest reward.

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Dressed for Spiritual Success

The fashion conscious are marveling at what a straight piece of cotton or silk can do. Devotees of Krsna have long known the spiritual advantages of the sari and the dhoti.

by Urmila-Devi Dasi

Love for God, Krsna. How wonderful it would be! Divine, universal love is all we need to save the world and conquer all difficulties. If every thought and action were saturated with love for God, surely we would realize our desire for eternal peace and happiness. "Dreams, dreams," we say, and we sigh and shake our heads. Love for Krsna and for all living entities is certainly laudable, but what does it have to do with practical things—like getting dressed in the morning?

One answer is that loving God means to think of Him always, and thinking of Krsna in all circumstances has been made simple and sublime by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who taught us to constantly chant the Lord's holy names: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. While driving, working, cleaning, studying, and yes, dressing in the morning, we can think of the beautiful form of Krsna and chant His names.

Everyone knows, however, that love is more than internal meditation. It is action. So Krsna also instructs, "Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer or give away, and whatever austerities you perform—do that, O son of Kunti, as an offering to Me."

Doing everything for Krsna may seem to be a negation of our own desires, but it's actually the way to discover our real, spiritual identity. Just as the hand gets true nourishment by serving the stomach, we will find satisfaction by pleasing our source, Krsna. In fact, we'll find much more satisfaction than if we try to delight our mind and senses independently.

Now, back to getting dressed in the morning. How do you get dressed for God?

Well, first of all, you can dress neatly, in clean and simple clothing. Simple clothing can help to foster humility and chastity, and by freeing you from the whims of fashion, it can give you more time to contemplate that it's the eternal soul, not the temporary body, that is of ultimate importance.

Devotees of Krsna traditionally dress in simple saris or dhotis—straight pieces of cotton or silk, wrapped and tied with uncomplicated elegance. And such attire is beginning to attract the fashion conscious too.

Connoisseur magazine, a publication that also advertises quarter-million dollar necklaces, glorifies the sari in its April 1986 issue. Quoting from India in Luxury, Connoisseur describes sari-clad women as "moving much more beautifully than anyone in a fashion show." The piece concludes that "The sari's radiance, vigor, and variety, produced by a single straight length of cloth, should give us in the West pause and make us think twice about the zipper, the dart, and the shoulder pad." For a devotee, we might add, a sari, being traditional Vedic attire, helps us remember Krsna.

The Detroit News recently published directions for wrapping a sari. Stating that Indian culture is "practically eternal," the News thus supported the devotees' conviction that Vedic fashion is adornment for the soul.

Alas, the dhoti hasn't fared so well in Western fashion magazines. But the dhoti also one unsewn piece of cloth, is the comfortable, versatile garment men are vainly searching for when they browse through stores full of jeans and suits in the local mall.

Endless variety, enough for all fashionable and practical purposes, is easy to achieve by varying the fabric. For a hot Indian summer, choose loosely woven cotton or silk chiffon. For a cold Michigan winter, try heavyweight silk or densely woven Egyptian cotton. Saris and dhotis can be folded and draped in many ways, changing the look of the same piece of clothing.

There are plain scarfs, embroidered saris, printed, tie-dyed, and gold-edged saris. The single- and double-ikat saris have brilliant flower and animal designs created by an ancient technique of dyeing the thread before weaving. From South India there's cotton that looks like silk; from Benares, cloth as fine as butterfly wings.

We urge everyone interested in reviving his or her natural spiritual position of love of God to constantly chant His holy names. And for simplicity and natural elegance, why not try on a sari or dhoti when you get up tomorrow? That will help you remember Krsna, who always wears a yellow silken dhoti, and bring you one step closer to loving Him.

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Lord Krsna's Cuisine

A New Friend in Philly

Putting their preconceptions aside,
two food writers find common ground.

by Visakha-devi dasi

She was expecting to hear my cymbals clanging and see my crimson sari fluttering as I pursued—wide-eyed—trying to convert her.

I was expecting to meet an aloof, highsociety lady who favored the refined dining company of dukes and baronesses.

One afternoon in mid-February, after six months and four or five terse phone conversations, I finally met Elaine Tait, senior food writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer—an alert woman in a bulky sweater and a simple woolen skirt. We sat together on a small couch in the busy lobby outside her office. By her unpretentious demeanor, she disarmed me in the first few minutes of our conversation when she told me about "Moose," her pet rabbit. Elaine said that her fondness for Moose made her want to be a vegetarian like me, but her job didn't allow it.

At that moment I mentally emptied my stock of preconceptions of her like someone emptying a bucket of muddy water. On her side, she remarked on the quality of the reproductions in Back to Godhead magazine. She seemed surprised when I told her that devotees drank milk and ate milk products but didn't eat meat, fish, or eggs and that I wasn't a cook but a photographer and writer.

Our conversation warmed, and as she spoke I inwardly laughed at my ludicrous mental image. Here was a likable, vivacious person who "wore her heart on her sleeve" (as her mother told her), had a penchant for violets, and excelled in and was devoted to her work. Despite my reticent nature and my habit of burying my heart somewhere beneath equipoise, she bore with me. After a few days she accepted an invitation to a homemade lunch.

Elaine's graciousness as a guest more than compensated for my inadequacies as a cook. When I pulled open a kitchen drawer where twenty-one spices were housed, each one in a small stainless-steel cup, her face lit up, revealing her enthusiasm for cooking. "What a wonderful idea you've given me for my new kitchen!" she exclaimed. Who wouldn't be delighted to entertain a guest who appreciates your food, your company, your child—and even your banterings with your spouse? And we in turn enjoyed Elaine's ready wit and her stories about her work with the Inquirer.

Elaine and I met again the day after her "Cooking with the Krishnas" story was published, and her first question was "Did you survive the article?" I told her that I'd read it three times and had laughed each time. It was expertly written and honest. And after all, it had been fun to meet her and fun to have her over, so it was fitting to have an article that was fun to read. But most of all, it was fun to see how we'd both tossed out our preconceptions of each other and become friends.

Cooking with the Krishnas

For devotees, there are three rewarding aspects of food: the preparation, the offering to the Gita, and the eating.

I would not have been surprised to hear drums and cymbals, to see an exotic woman swathed in a sari the color of a city sunset. Instead, Visakha Dasi (Hare Krishna women take the surname Dasi: Krishna men use the surname Dasa) arrived quietly, looking bookish. like a graduate student, in gray flannel and sensible wool stockings.

Visakha's appearance was reassuring, but she spoke in a steady, mantralike flow of words that reminded me of why I had been apprehensive about meeting with a member of the controversial religious sect. hadn't I fled from Krishna strangeness in airports, and from adherents in the streets? Hadn't I heard reports of child marriages and worse to a Krishna commune in west Virginia?

Visakha's voice betrayed no emotion—not frustration when I resisted her early telephone efforts to schedule a meeting to talk about the vegetarian cookbook she had helped prepare for the Hare Krishnas, nor satisfaction when, after several months of stalling, I surrendered and said, "OK, let's do it."

Later, when she felt more comfortable with me—and I with her—I would notice that during our conversations, her voice lifted and lowered in much the same way that mine did in normal situations. I wondered: Had my own voice seemed small and controlled to her in those early, guarded conversations?

I had agreed to meet Visakha not at her Mount Airy home or at the nearby Krishna temple on Allens Lane, but at my office. If she was going to try to convert me—and weren't Krishnas always trying to convert people?—I reasoned that I would be better able to resist on my home ground.

The following recipes appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, along with Elaine Tait's article "Cooking with the Krishnas."

Cauliflower and Green Peas

(Phul Gobhi Sabji)

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Servings: 4-6

¼ cup ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil
1 ½ teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds
1 large cauliflower, trimmed, washed, and cut into florets
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon chili powder or paprika
1 cup fresh green peas
¼ cup heavy cream, sour cream, or yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh coriander or parsley leaves, minced

1. Heat the ghee in a four- or five-quart saucepan over a medium flame for one minute. Stir in the ginger and cumin, and fry until browned. Add the cauliflower. Sprinkle with turmeric, salt, and chili powder or paprika. Stir-fry until cauliflower is slightly browned. Add the peas and about two tablespoons of water. Cover and reduce the flame to low.

2. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are almost tender. Remove the lid, raise the heat, and cook until dry. Fold in the cream, sour cream, or yogurt and sprinkle with coriander or parsley leaves. Offer to Krsna hot.

Tomato Chutney

(Tamatar Chatni)

Preparation time: 1 hour

Servings: 4-6

1½ tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
½ dried red chili pod, seeded and broken into bits
½ tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 ¼ pounds firm ripe tomatoes, cut into chunks
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons brown sugar or equivalent sweetener
1/3 cup water

1. Heat the ghee in a 2 ½ - 3-quart saucepan over a medium flame until hot. Toss in the chili bits, ginger, and mustard seeds, and fry until the seeds crackle, sputter, and pop. 2. Immediately drop in the tomatoes and stir-fry four to five minutes. Add the salt, sugar, and water, reduce the flame to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 40 to 60 minutes or until the chutney has thickened. Remove the saucepan from the flame and allow chutney to cool to room temperature. Offer to Krsna.

Pea Soup


Preparation time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Servings: 4-6

5 cups water
¼ cup yellow split peas
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
½ teaspoon hot green chilies, seeded and minced
2½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cassia leaf or bay leaf
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2½ tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
2 teaspoons sugar or mild honey

1. Wash the split peas and place them in a heavy saucepan with water, ginger, chilies, lemon juice, cassia leaf, turmeric, salt and one-half tablespoon of ghee. Bring to a boil over a high flame. Reduce to a medium flame, cover, and boil gently for about one hour, stirring occasionally and adding water if needed.

2. When the peas are soft, remove them from the flame, pick out the cassia leaf, and whip the peas with a rotary beater until creamy.

3. Heat the remaining ghee in a small pan over a medium flame. Stir in the cumin and black mustard seeds. Fry until the cumin seeds begin to darken. Add sweetener. Stirfry until the mixture turns reddish. Remove from the flame and pour into the peas. Stir, cover the mixture, and allow to steep for one minute. Offer to Krsna hot.

Rice Pilaf


Preparation time: 30 minutes

Servings: 4-6

4 green cardamom pods
3 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
6 whole cloves
1 ½-inch cinnamon stick
1/3 cup slivered or sliced raw almonds
1 cup basmati or other good-quality long-grain white rice
2 cups water
½ teaspoon salt

1. Lightly tap each cardamom pod with a knife handle to partially crush. Remove the seeds. Heat the ghee in a heavy 1 ½-quart saucepan over a medium flame for one minute. Add the cloves, cinnamon, cardamom seeds, and almonds, and stir-fry until the almonds begin to turn golden-brown.

2. Add the rice and stir-fry for about four minutes. Pour in the water and salt. Stir, raise flame to high, and bring water to a full boil. Immediately reduce the flame to the lowest possible setting, cover the saucepan with a fight-fitting lid, and allow the rice to simmer without stirring for 15 to 25 minutes or until all the water is absorbed and the rice is tender and flaky. Offer to Krsna hot.

Deep-fried Puffed Breads


Preparation time: 40 minutes

Servings: 14

1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup white flour
½ teaspoon salt
2½ tablespoons butter, melted
½ to ¾ cup warm water
3 cups ghee or vegetable oil for deep-frying

1. Mix the flours in a mixing bowl. Add the salt and rub in the butter with your fingertips. Slowly add water while mixing to make a medium-stiff dough. Knead the dough until smooth. Cover and allow it to rest in a warm spot for 30 minutes.

2. In a wok or saucepan, heat the ghee over a medium flame. Meanwhile, smear a few drops of ghee on a rolling pin and a rolling surface. Shape the dough into 14 smooth patties and roll each into a thin, round, even disk about 3½ inches in diameter.

3. When the ghee is hot (around 360 degrees), lower the heat to a medium flame. Carefully slip a puri into the hot ghee. The pun will sink at first, then rise to the surface and sputter. If it fails to rise, your ghee is not hot enough. Using the back of a slotted spoon, gently press the puri into the ghee until it inflates like a balloon, about 30 seconds. Fry the other side for a few seconds until it is as crisp and golden as the first side. Remove the purr and place it in a colander to drain. Cook the remaining puris the same way.

Offer to Krsna hot.

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The Vedic Observer

Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day

Saints And Swindlers

by Satyaraja dasa

At the opening of an exclusive New York art show, I overheard some of the "upper crust" discussing their respective gurus. One man was proud that his guru had won an award for being a firstrate marathon runner. One woman was aghast to find that her best friend had never seen a guru. Then—in what was the most absurd statement of the evening—another woman openly exclaimed that one could not truly appreciate a relationship with the guru unless one married him. Clearly, I thought, most people have no concept of just what a guru actually is. They have commercialized and cheapened the once-sacred relationship between the guru and his disciple.

A guru is a teacher. In all serious areas of endeavor, we require teachers. Whether you want to be a doctor, a priest, or even a plumber, if you are serious you will find a teacher. Indeed, it has been said that anyone who claims to be his own guru has a fool for a disciple.

Spirituality is no exception. The Vedic literature informs us, tad-vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet samit-panih srotriyam brahma-nistham: "To learn transcendental science, one must approach a bona fide spiritual master [guru] in disciplic succession. The bona fide spiritual master is fixed in the Absolute Truth" (Mundaka Upanisad 1.2.12). Thus the Upanisads inform us that one who wants spiritual knowledge must approach a genuine guru—he has no choice. And this is only natural. After years of material conditioning, doesn't it make sense that we would need help in approaching God? If we are actually serious about the goal, why should we deny ourselves that assistance?

But just what is a genuine guru? How can one distinguish saints from swindlers? That is also revealed in the above verse from the Vedic literature. A genuine guru is srotriyam brahma-nistham. Srotriyam indicates that the actual guru is one who has fully absorbed his guru's teachings. In other words, if everyone must approach a guru for spiritual knowledge, then the guru must have received knowledge in the same way. Thus there exists a historical succession of teachers, and a genuine guru must belong to that line. Further, the guru's teachings must agree with those of the previous spiritual masters, as well as with the holy scriptures. If they don't, something is amiss.

Another essential qualification of the guru is brahma-nistham: he must be fixed in transcendence. He doesn't just look holy—while he speaks some bogus philosophy. He must actually demonstrate realized knowledge. He must be completely devoted to God with his body, mind, and soul.

Thus spiritual knowledge, which originates with God, descends to a sincere spiritual aspirant via the guru. One might question whether or not a line of teachers can accurately pass the message from one teacher to another without change or addition. Is it possible to deliver, as does a good mailman, an unchanged and thus reliable message? Indeed it is. For not just anyone can presume to speak spiritual knowledge in succession from the past teachers. Only a person who possesses the rigorous qualifications given in the Vedic literature is fit to be accepted as guru. By assuring the qualifications of the transmitter, the Vedic process assures the pure transmission of spiritual knowledge.

A sincere student can thus receive the pure Vedic message in the same way a person might receive a mango from a number of men sitting on the branches of a mango tree. The safest way to get the most succulent mango, which is always found at the top of the tree, is to have the man at the top pick the fruit and pass it down carefully to the man below. Thus it comes down from man to man and reaches the person on the ground undamaged and unchanged. Unfortunately, at Big Apple art show openings—and almost everywhere else these days—the fruit of spiritual knowledge, having been handled roughly, is not only squashed but rotten.

An Even Hand In Alabama

by Kundali dasa

When Judge W. B. Hand banned forty-five textbooks from Alabama's public schools, many people were appalled. They thought his ruling profaned one of America's most sacred values: the separation of Church and State.

The American Civil Liberties Union and People for the American Way promptly announced plans to appeal on behalf of twelve indignant parents who wanted the books reinstated. The judge's decision, they contended, stemmed not from an impartial application of the law but from his private religious beliefs and biases. They said he used the state's authority to force his beliefs on the schools.

One typically irate response came from a citizen in Baltimore, who quoted the oath on Jefferson's memorial: "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility over every form of tyranny over the mind of man...."

The citizen commented, "The tyranny Jefferson referred to was the effort of zealous clergy to have their form of belief made official for our new nation. 'Freedom of religion' and the separation of Church and State was Jefferson's response, as it should be ours, before such appalling action as that of Alabama's Judge Hand."

Almost no one, it appears, saw which party was actually guilty of intellectual tyranny. But the evidence shows that the judge's ruling did uphold the law.

Judge Hand's decision dealt two blows to the secular humanists, who, as it turns out, were the main movers in favor of the textbooks. First he banned history texts that distorted the historical record by not mentioning America's theistic roots.

The Humanist Manifesto II, of 1973, asserts "Humanists still believe that traditional theism, especially faith in the prayer-hearing God, . . . is an unproved and outmoded faith." For them, history books with no mention of God would have been a victory and a cause for celebration. The second blow did more damage. The judge banned home-economics texts that actually espoused secular humanism's morals and ethics. The wily humanists thought they could put one over with textbooks espousing their brand of moral pabulum on the grounds that theirs was not theistic, hence not religious, hence perfectly safe for consumption by Alabama's schoolchildren.

But their strategy to poison young minds against theism failed. The whole scheme backfired. How? Evidence was produced proving that humanists consider their beliefs a type of religious faith.

The Humanist Manifesto I, of 1933, urges an understanding of "religious humanism" and proclaims the need for such a "vital, fearless and frank religion." The Humanist Manifesto II is more overtly antitheistic, but it reaffirms the same conclusions.

So, strictly in terms of precedent and the evidence before him, Judge Hand did uphold the separation of Church and State law: he kept the "religion" of humanism out of the textbooks.

An interesting aside to all this is that many people assume we Hare Krsnas would railroad our beliefs on the masses if we had the chance. People have asked me, "What would happen if a Hare Krsna took over the government and ran the whole country? Would we all have to shave our heads and chant Hare Krsna?"

They usually expect an answer like "Yes, we would consider it our first duty to make every man, woman, and child chant Hare Krsna or pay extra taxes."

But I never say that. Instead I tell them how Srila Prabhupada answered the same question. He said that whatever religious system a man professes, we would see that he follows its principles. If someone says, "I'm a Muslim," we say, "Fine. Now please follow Muslim principles." If someone says, "I'm a Christian," we want to see that he observes Christian principles.

Secular humanists have a reputation for being liberal, but judging by the events in Alabama, it's an ill-gotten distinction. At least in this case, if anyone deserves the charge of tyranny over men's minds, it's the humanists for trying to foist their unsound beliefs on Alabama's youth and then having the nerve to be outraged by Judge Hand's even-handed decision.

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"I Shall Not Fight"

Having cast aside his bow and sat down on the chariot,
the mighty Arjuna, overwhelmed with grief, told Krsna ... "I Shall Not Fight"

by Visakha-devi dasi

Fifty centuries ago, on the expansive Battlefield of Kuruksetra in northern India, huge phalanxes of fully-armed troops were poised to begin a war: on one side, the powerful Kaurava brothers, determined to defend the throne they had usurped from their righteous cousins, the five Pandavas; on the other side, the Pandavas, determined to regain their inheritance.

Arjuna and the other Pandava brothers faced severe tribulations after the untimely demise of their father, Pandu. The envious Kauravas had burned their home, poisoned them, dishonored their wife, and sentenced them to fourteen years of exile. Exhibiting tolerance and humility worthy of saints, the Pandavas finally requested only five villages to rule. Though the entire kingdom was legally theirs, to avert further disagreement they made this modest proposal. The Kauravas, however, flatly refused, declaring that the Pandavas "would not be given enough land to drive a needle into." Thus war was inevitable.

The Pandavas and the Kauravas canvassed all the kings of the world, making allies for the great battle. They also approached Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Kauravas acquired Lord Krsna's large army, while Arjuna chose the Lord Himself. Although Krsna refused to take up arms in the battle, He agreed to become Arjuna's charioteer. The Lord's supremacy is not diminished by His taking this "menial" task. Rather, because Arjuna's unalloyed devotion to Krsna had endeared Arjuna to Him, Krsna desired to become subservient to Arjuna in a reciprocation of love. Devotees relish thinking of Krsna, the Lord and creator of the universe, standing on the chariot with the horse's reins in His hands, ready to obey the command of His devotee Arjuna.

At the start of the first day of the battle, both parties blew their conches, filling the sky with vibrations and filling the weak-hearted with terror. Then Arjuna, seated on his fine chariot, took up his bow and prepared to shoot his arrows at the Kauravas. Suddenly, unexpectedly, Arjuna became anxious. He told Krsna to draw his chariot between the two armies so he could see who had come to fight in alliance with the Kauravas. When he got a clear look, he was dumbfounded. There in the midst of the opposing army were his father-in-law, his father's friends, his grandfather, his grandfather's friends, his teachers, maternal uncles, brothers, sons, grandsons, friends, and well-wishers.

Just imagine yourself in Arjuna's position. If a relative or friend mistreats you, you're naturally hesitant to retaliate. Out of love, you tolerate and forgive such behavior. But Arjuna was duty-bound to help conquer an army that included friends and relatives. It was too much for him; out of affection for them, Arjuna became overwhelmed with grief. His limbs quivered, his mouth dried up, and his bow slipped from his hand. He was not a coward, but a great fighter, yet out of compassion he didn't want to kill his family, friends, and superiors.

Immediately he told Krsna he wanted to leave the battlefield. Only evil could come from killing his kinsmen, and he did not desire any subsequent victory, happiness, or kingdom. To fight such a ghastly war was sinful, and if so many noble men were slain, surely their wives and daughters would be left unprotected. Immorality would flourish, jeopardizing the venerable family heritage.

Besides possessing unrivaled prowess and military expertise, Arjuna was an exalted devotee, an intimate friend of Lord Krsna, the Supreme Person. Therefore he had godly qualities. His senses were controlled, he was detached from the false prestige associated with fame and followers, and he was soft-hearted and always conscious of moral principles. Seated on the chariot between the huge armies, Arjuna decided it would be best to allow the Kauravas to kill him unharmed and unresisting. Otherwise he was prepared to give up his royal position, as well as his claim to the throne, and live by begging.

Even these drastic ideas, however, failed to relieve Arjuna's pressing dilemma. Waves of turmoil arose in his mind because despite his resolve to become a conscientious objector, his entire life was dedicated to defending righteousness. In this battle the Pandavas' cause was undoubtedly right. Moreover, Arjuna was a natural leader, gifted with heroism, power, and determination—all the qualities needed to defend righteousness. His heritage had served to further enhance these qualities, and he had learned never to give up the work born of his own nature.

Arjuna was torn between his dedication to sacred duty and his love for his relatives and friends. Utterly perplexed and incapacitated by conflicting feelings, Arjuna surrendered to Krsna, saying, "Now I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure because of weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me clearly what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me."

But in the next breath he made a second decision—"I shall not fight"—and stopped speaking.

Lord Krsna smiled, not to mock Arjuna in his plight but as a father might smile upon hearing of his son's bad dream. As the father clearly sees that his boy's dream is simply an illusion and that its accompanying distress has no significance, so Lord Krsna saw that Arjuna was not in the real world but in a dreamlike world of misconceptions that had brought distress upon him. The Lord immediately began to shake Arjuna from his stupor by explaining the essence and purpose of life. "Krsna's teachings on the battlefield that day constitute the Bhagavad-gita, the oldest and one of the most widely read scriptures in the world.

Lord Krsna did not mince words. He first told Arjuna that he was foolish because in the highest sense—the spiritual sense—no one was going to perish in the battle. In fact, no one perishes anywhere or at any time, because the soul, the minute spiritual particle that lends vitality to the otherwise dead body, never dies. The soul is immutable and immortal; the body, mutable and mortal.

The body is an aggregate of elements animated by the soul, as much as a puppet, animated by the hand of the puppeteer, works, sings, dances, laughs, and cries. When the puppeteer finally puts the puppet down, will any sane man lament? Similarly, when the soul finally leaves the body, no educated person laments.

Of course, this does not at all encourage unnecessary killing. The Vedas prohibit the wanton killing of anyone, even an animal. Killing is abominable and is punishable by the laws of both the state and God. But just as the state authorizes its police to use force, Krsna, the supreme authority, was encouraging Arjuna to fight.

Krsna presented another argument to Arjuna: Even if Arjuna didn't believe in the existence of the soul, he still had no cause to lament. If life is born with the body and dies with it, if life is a chemical reaction (albeit the epitome of complexity), then why mourn when chemicals stop reacting? Arjuna, however, was a descendant of a civilization based on spiritual wisdom, and he certainly believed in the existence of the soul.

Krsna explained, "Arjuna, you are thinking you won't be able to enjoy the victory, happiness, or kingdom you may gain from this fight; but those are never yours to enjoy. You have the right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Perform your duty and abandon all attachment to success or failure." Arjuna was worried about the sinful reactions he would incur from the war, but Lord Krsna assured him, "If you fight for the sake of fighting, without considering happiness or distress, loss or gain, victory or defeat, you shall never incur sin."

And to remain inactive, Krsna said, is impossible. "Everyone is forced to act according to his own nature. No one can refrain from doing something, not even for a moment." To renounce his duties and capriciously take on another's activities was also not viable: "It is better to engage in one's own occupation, even though faultily, than to perform another's duty perfectly." Arjuna's so-called renunciation of the war effort was a display of his attachment: since the result of the activity would be painful for him, he decided not to act. But renunciation would entail that he become unattached to the fruits of his work, work as he was obligated, give up the desire for sense gratification, and tolerate the unpleasant situations that would occur in the course of his duty.

Just as nonviolence and all other pious activity would not relieve Arjuna's misery or solve his problem, neither would his speculations about what to do and what not to do. Lord Krsna urged him to give up all such concoctions. "To learn the truth you must approach a spiritual master, inquire from him submissively, serve him, and receive transcendental knowledge from him. Then you will realize that all living beings are part of Me and that they are in Me and are Mine."

Because Arjuna is a spirit soul, completely different from his body, he should desire to benefit the soul only. How can he derive that benefit? He must perform his duty not for his self-centered satisfaction but for the satisfaction of Krsna, the Supreme Person. A person fully situated in transcendental knowledge and unattached to the results of his endeavor is not working materially but spiritually. "Therefore, O Arjuna," Krsna says, "surrendering all your works unto Me, with mind intent on Me, without desire for gain, and free from egoism and lethargy, fight."

For Arjuna to fight for his self-aggrandizement was sinful; to be inactive or to renounce his duty was both sinful and impractical; but to fight because Krsna wanted it—that was the path of liberation and happiness.

But why did Krsna want a fight? Why did God Himself advocate force? Because to maintain society, force is sometimes necessary. Lord Krsna promises that whenever and wherever religion declines and irreligion predominates, He will protect the pious, annihilate the miscreants, and reestablish religious principles. The Lord had gathered all the miscreants at Kuruksetra; He would rid the world of the them in this one massive battle. Although Arjuna was ready to forgive the offenses perpetrated against him by his cousins, Krsna would not tolerate such injustices to His devotees. Therefore He insisted, "Fight." And at the end of Bhagavad-gita Arjuna agreed.

Even though Arjuna's opponents were offenders, when they died at Kuruksetra they still attained their original forms in the spiritual world. They died seeing and thinking of the beautiful Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna, as He drove the chariot of His friend, guided him in battle, and protected him from danger. Just as one who lives thinking of Krsna has perfected his life, so one who dies thinking of Krsna has also perfected his life. Both Arjuna—who survived the battle and the Kauravas—who didn't—became perfect. They both linked up to Lord Krsna, the all-good Supreme Person, who always acts for everyone's benefit.

Desk Soldiers

The disclosure last fall that higher-ups in the United States government sold arms to Iran, using the profits to fund the Nicaraguan contras, created a big stir.

But maybe it shouldn't have. Why should congressmen and reporters fuss over millions of dollars in secret contra aid when the Pentagon, with little or no congressional supervision, spends billions on secret weapons and espionage every year? Thirty five billion dollars annually now goes to the Pentagon's "black budget," secret accounts used for classified programs. The Iran arms deal itself may have been, indirectly at least, one of those programs, since black budget money funds the CIA, one agency allegedly involved in the Iran-contra fiasco.

Black-budget programs are various: research and development of nuclear bombers, including the Stealth bomber; training of dolphins for under water espionage; mapping out war strategies. Some experts worry that these and other black-budget projects will crowd out defense spending for such relatively mundane items as boots and bullets. Billions have already been spent on plans for World War IV.

Yep, four. Gotta think ahead. These war plans include the use of robots in radioactive battlefields while commanding generals speed down interstate highways in lead-lined trucks, orchestrating—with the help of the latest satellite technology—the firing of nuclear warheads.

What should alarm us more than the mere secrecy of the black budget is that military leaders, while still expecting the respect and honor due to heroes, are using the money to shirk one of their most basic duties.

How shirk? In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna explains that a primary duty of military leaders is yuddhe capy apalayanam—not to run from the battlefield.

But what to speak of running, in the event of world war how many Pentagon leaders will eversee a battlefield?—except via satellite. Very few. At best they'll be racing along interstates in their lead-lined trucks, sending newly drafted GI's to the front, or sending millions of civilians to their deaths.

Modern nuclear weapons target civilians. In that sense they are a retreat from battle. Opposing military leaders, instead of confronting each other directly, threaten each other's civilian populations with nuclear annihilation. The arms race thus becomes a contest in depravity: each new and more powerful warhead signals to the enemy how little respect you (a Pentagon or Kremlin strategist) have for innocent human life and challenges him to have less. All this while you, a Pentagon or Kremlin strategist, risk your own life hardly at all.

In light of this depravity, should we want to abolish the military altogether? No. The Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic texts do not recommend pacifism, at least not across the-board. Vedic authorities assert that there will always be a class of martially spirited men who aspire to positions of power and leadership and whose skills are essential to the health of the social body. The Sanskrit name for these men—ksatriya—is significant. Ksat means "harm," and trayate means "deliver." The military is necessary, in other words, to deliver human society from harm. True ksatriyas are due respect, honor—maybe even a few dollars for their black budgets—because they put their lives on the line to protect civilians.

That's what modern leaders claim to be doing. They're delivering us from communism or from capitalism or from atheism or from religious fanaticism. But if the cost of delivery is our lives, not theirs, or if the cost is a $35-billion black budget—more than the United States spends on education or the environment—then what kind of delivery is that?

Even if we live, have we really been delivered'? The Gita says that deliverance ultimately means deliverance from the greatest danger (trayate mahato bhayat), which is the danger not of communism or capitalism but of taking birth again and again in this material world. Communists, capitalists, fanatics, and the faithless are all in danger of suffering perpetually in the cycle of birth and death. Since freedom from this cycle comes only by rendering devotional service to the Supreme Lord, the ksatriya's prime duty is to create a peaceful social atmosphere conducive to devotional service.

Peaceful social atmosphere. That's a goal everyone should agree on. even without appreciating the importance of devotional service. And peace is not something you get by threatening the entire human race with nuclear war. If the world's military leaders want to fight over just how to establish peace, then they should go back to the world of boots and bullets—a relatively mundane world for sure, but one where it's possible to reduce the chances of indiscriminate, wholesale slaughter.

So let's demand that our modern protectors strap on their boots, load their guns, choose an unpopulated battlefield, and charge into—instead of away from—battle.

It'll be hard for them to give up their missiles, satellites, and lead-lined trucks. But if they agree to do it, we'll promise not to chide their cowardice. Or question their black budgets.

—Mathuresa dasa

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Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out

Modern Science: Simply Bluffing

This conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and Thoudam Singh, Ph.D., took place in Bhubanesvara, India, on February 3, 1977

Dr. Singh: Many of my scientific cotleagues say that intelligence is simply a molecular interaction within the brain.

Srila Prabhupada: Some molecular interaction may be occurring, but the interaction is not simply molecular. Intelligence has to do with the soul, not simply with the brain.

Dr. Singh: They say the brain is the source of intelligence.

Srila Prabhupada: No. Take electricity, for example. Electricity moves between gross elements and through a gross wire. But the electricity itself—it is not those elements, not that wire. It is subtle.

Dr. Singh: Yes, it is subtle, but—

Srila Prabhupada: You cannot see this subtle thing directly; you can see it only when it interacts with something gross. But the subtle thing is independent and distinct from the gross things.

Dr. Singh: That is actually true. That's a fact. For example, when we speak of Newton's law of gravitation, we can establish a mathematical formula, but we do not know how gravitation acts.

Srila Prabhupada: Not directly seen.

Dr. Singh: Yes. Even though gravitation does exist, we can't really see it. Modern science admits that. Newton himself admitted that.

Srila Prabhupada: So although we cannot see the soul directly, why not admit that it exists? The soul is the most subtle, but we can see it through its effects. So why not admit it exists?

Dr. Singh: Yes. Far too many scientists have lef the soul out of their discussion of reality. Instead, they try to reduce reality to matter. And yet we see the existence of the soul. It is beyond our comprehension, but it exists. We should not ignore the soul simply because it is inconceivable.

Srila Prabhupada: Actually the soul is conceivable, because we can understand much about it by observing the way it interacts with matter. Yet largely the soul is outside our experience.

Dr. Singh: Yes.

Srila Prabhupada: So the soul is not inconceivable. It is conceivable.

Dr. Singh: Oh, yes. Again, if we take the example of physical phenomena and laws, we can perceive that they exist, but precisely how they exist we do not know.

Srila Prabhupada: That is another thing. But you have to admit they exist. And we have to accept that the soul exists.

Dr. Singh: Yes. That is the missing point in modern science.

Srila Prabhupada: The mind exists, the intelligence exists, the sense of ego exists, the soul exists-although they are not entirely perceivable by our gross senses.

Dr. Singh: So consciousness, the soul, exists—independent and distinct from matter.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. This you have to bring into the scientists' discussion. Now they should begin to inquire, How does the soul enter the subtle material situation? How does the soul create and enter a subtle or mental body? And how does this subtle body create the gross situation, the gross body?

At the present moment, the scientists are stressing the gross situation. But the subtle situation—they have no knowledge. And yet the subtle situation can be perceived.

Dr. Singh: Yes, that is true.

Srila Prabhupada: So you have to convince other scientists. This subtle mental, intellectual, and psychological situation is so very important. It can carry the soul to the spiritual world. But one has to make himself fully spiritualized, fully devoted to the Lord. At the time you pass from your gross body, if you have made your subtle body fully spiritualized, then it will carry you to the spiritual world.

So just consider how critically important is this Krsna conscious culture, this spiritual culture. Just consider. And yet these so-called scientists who are setting society's cultural tone—they know nothing of this true culture. Nothing.

We can perceive two energies—para and apara, the higher and lower—spirit and matter. And we get confirmation from Lord Krsna. In Bhagavad-gita He discusses His two energies in these very terms, para and apara: higher and lower—spirit and matter. So the soul in the material world is situated between this apara, or inferior, material energy and the para, or superior, spiritual energy. This subtle situation, his subtle body, is his medium back to the spiritual world. If the soul makes his subtle body—his mind, intelligence, and self-identification, or ego—spiritualized, then he goes to the spiritual world.

You see? If the soul spiritualizes his mind and intelligence and ego—if he focuses them on his actual, spiritual identity and his loving relationship with Krsna the Supreme Spirit—then he will be transferred to the spiritual world. This you have to prove or demonstrate in scientific terms. These pseudoscientists are seeing simply the gross situation, the gross body. That's all.

They see the gross body functioning for some time and then ceasing to function, and they think, "This person was living, but now he is s living no more." No, the soul is always living. But now he is being carried to another situation, another life, by the subtle situation he created in this life.

These pseudoscientists are thinking, "This gross situation, this gross body, is finished—everything is finished." That's not the fact. Krsna confirms, tatha dehantara praptir dhiras tatra na muhyati: "As the soul passes, in this lifetime, from a childhood body to a teenage body to an old-age body, so at the time of death he passes into still another body."

Dr. Singh: That is a drawback in modern science.

Srila Prabhupada: Without this spiritual perspective, everything they say is a drawback. Simply bluffing. Harav abhaktasya kuto mahad-gunah; anyone who does not use his human intelligence to spiritualize himself, to become a devotee of the Lord—his whole life is a drawback.

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Every Town and Village

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

Italy's All Krsna Radio Broadcasts Nationwide

Florence, Italy—Radio Krishna Centrale has been steadily gaining popularity since the station began in 1984. RKC, a nine station network reaching nearly all parts of the country, is now on the air twentyfour hours a day and features almost thirty programs. Some of the programs include classes on Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, The Nectar of Devotion, and Krsna book. The first show of the day, Apertura e Mantra ("Opening, and Chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra"), invites listeners to chant japa (soft chanting with prayer beads) for half an hour along with a tape of Srila Prabhupada chanting. Radio Cucina ("Radio Kitchen") teaches people how to cook vegetarian meals, and Offerta del Cibo teaches them how to offer their food to Krsna and why it is important. Listeners are encouraged to place their meals before the radio while Sanskrit mantras are chanted; thus the food becomes prasadam (sanctified food offered to Krsna). Finestra Aperta ("Open Window") is a call-in show that takes about ten calls during the hour program, answering questions about RKC's programs and the philosophy and lifestyle of the Krsna consciousness movement.

American-born Mirabhai-devi dasi, who has been broadcasting with Radio Krishna Centrale since its inception, explains, "I like to give the listeners an idea of what Krsna consciousness can be—it's life, joy, it's culture, it's dance, its music." And Italians like their introduction to Krsna consciousness through RKC. Once when RKC temporarily went off the air, the station received many calls from concerned listeners. Mirabhai says, "People would call us up practically crying and say. 'When will you be back on? What can I do'?' One man called and said, 'The one good thing that there is, and then they take it away from you!' "

Mirabhai explains her rewarding experience of working with RKC: "Sometimes I meet people who have heard me on the air, and they tell me something they've learned or how their life has changed by listening to RKC. ... I have learned that through the radio we can actually reach out and touch the hearts of people in a very profound way."

New Zealand's Leader Attends
Auckland Temple Ground-breaking

Auckland, New Zealand—Devotees here recently celebrated the ground-breaking ceremony fair the first Vedic-style temple in Australasia. In attendance was Mr. David Lange, New Zealand's prime minister, along with seven hundred other guests and dignitaries. In his address the prime minister spoke of the devotees' dedication and commended their efforts at the New Varsana farm in Huapai. Later, while visiting ISKCON's gurukula (school) during a tour of the farm, Mr. Lange told reporters that he had never seen such intelligent, happy children; he called them "ISKCON's success story."

During the ground-breaking ceremony, leading members of the Indian Association of New Zealand also addressed the crowds and thanked the devotees for providing such a culturally rich temple as a place of worship. Devotees performed a fire sacrifice and, following Vedic custom, placed a golden Deity of Ananta Sesa in the ground to support the temple. The festivities included bhajanas (devotional music), traditional Indian dance, and a sumptuous vegetarian feast.

The temple will consist of a large octagonal main hall, a reception area, office space, kitchens, dining rooms, and child care facilities, most of which should be completed by March 1988.

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Celebrations Of Life

These Hare Krsna summer festivals and parades draw thousands for a taste of spiritual bliss.

Every one of us is inherently joyful. We want to sing and dance, to laugh and love, because we are not material beings but spiritual souls. As souls, being minuscule parts of God, we are meant to be joyful, just as God is joyful. And to the extent that we are God conscious, we can feel that each day is a transcendent, joyful celebration—whether a solitary internal one or a splendid public one.

This summer—and every summer—devotees bring their celebrations to the streets and parks. Why? For the pleasure of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. And for the pleasure of all of us, His energies.

Devotees have been holding these summer festivals for many years, and thousands of people look forward to them as the highlight of their summer. The most widely known celebration is Ratha-yatra, or the Festival of the Chariots, a two-thousand-year-old tradition commemorating the time when Lord Krsna left His opulent kingdom to return to His most intimate devotees in His rural childhood village. During Ratha-yatra, Krsna in His form as Jagannatha ("Lord of the universe") is pulled through the streets in a towering chariot while His devotees sing, dance, and play musical instruments. And at the end of the procession—dramas, puppet shows, exhibits, films, and feasting.

Other summer celebrations include the Festival of India, a traveling exhibition on the culture and history of spiritual India; Janmastami, the appearance day of Lord Krsna; and Vyasa-puja, the appearance day of the founder-acarya of the Hare Krsna movement, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

We invite you, gentle reader, to join in these celebrations of life—celebrations that heighten our spiritual awareness, that remind us we are of another world. By immersing ourselves in these celebrations of real life, we can transcend this world and enter the other one—the spiritual world—where every step is a dance, every word a song, and laughter and love never cease.

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Notes from the Editor

Guided Tours of Spiritual India

Although it makes sense to purchase airline tickets or make hotel reservations through reputable firms, when tour companies try to give spiritual instructions, let the customer beware!

For example, Indrama, a magazine for tourists to India, recently carried a lead article titled "The Indian Trinity." Because tourists to the East are often curious about spirituality, the tour people want to satisfy them, but "The Indian Trinity" only proves the poor results of describing esoteric topics in an unauthorized way. The author, named Krishna Caitanya, completely reversed the standard purport of the Vedic scriptures concerning the existence of God and the demigods. A caption in large type summarized the essay:

Philosophical exploration is one aspect of man's search for a solution to the riddle of existence. The other and more fascinating is poetic legend. It is the second which gave birth to Hindu mythology. Symbolic ideas gain precision when the Deity is given form, says the author.

The telling phrase here is "says the author." In this case, the author has no credentials as a spiritual teacher or practitioner, but he gives his opinion that God is a myth. Of course, impersonal and atheistic interpretations of Vedic scriptures existed long before the tourist business, so we cannot blame Indrama for presenting the popular misconception. They are simply trying to live up to their slogan, "India packaged for you!"

But what do the Vedic scriptures actually say about "The Indian Trinity"? Is it true that when the scriptures portray God as a person it's to be taken as a mythological, poetic invention? Are the accounts of Visnu, Krsna, Siva, and Brahma only make-believe? Is the ultimate truth something beyond personality? The author of "The Indian Trinity" article holds the opinion that God is poetic myth, but the Vedic scriptures do not. Sri Krsna, declared throughout the Vedas to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead, specifically addressed this subject in the most authoritative and widely read Vedic scripture, Bhagavad-gita (7.24-25):

Unintelligent men, who do not know Me perfectly, think that 1, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, was impersonal before and have now assumed this personality. Due to their small knowledge, they do not know My higher nature, which is imperishable and supreme. I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent. For them I am covered by My internal potency, and therefore they do not know that I am unborn and infallible.

Thus the scriptures declare that God has unlimited eternal, blissful forms. In His original form in the spiritual world He is Krsna or Visnu. And when He expands as demigods to perform the administrative work of managing the material universe, He is Siva or Brahma. This viewpoint is held by all the acaryas, or teachers of the Vedas, who accept the Vedic scriptures as perfect guides for spiritual knowledge and who have written learned commentaries that guide the spiritual destiny of India. Teachers such as Ramanuja (A.D. 1017-1137), Madhvacarya (A.D. 1239-1319), and Lord Caitanya (A.D. 1486-1534) never misinterpreted the Vedas in a way to describe the Supreme Being or even the demigods as metaphorical or legendary. Neither did Srila Vyasadeva, the compiler of the Vedic scriptures, waste his time by telling concocted stories. Therefore, persons who want to find the hidden treasures of India's spiritual life should go to these direct sources: the scriptures and their authorized guides.

You can dovetail the desire for sightseeing in India with a desire for spiritual knowledge if you follow bona fide guides and stop at spiritual centers, such as the ISKCON temples located throughout India. ISKCON's Krishna-Balaram temple in Vrndavana, the site of Krsna's pastimes and one of India's most important spiritual places, is only an hour from Agra, the site of the Taj Mahal. So you can visit Krsna's birthplace either before or after your tribute to the Taj. Thousands of architecturally charming Krsna temples grace Vrndavana, and ISKCON's guesthouse offers comfortable accommodations along with an experience of genuine spiritual life. Devotees at ISKCON's Vrndavana center hold continuous melodic chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. And even if you can only stop briefly, you can enjoy eating krsna-prasadam (food offered to Lord Krsna) at ISKCON's purely vegetarian restaurant.

Another important spiritual center is the birthplace of Lord Caitanya, in Mayapur, West Bengal. Writers have described rural West Bengal to be the most beautiful natural scenery in all of India. The ISKCON temple there includes a 3-acre garden, a 25-foot-tall fountain, a natural-environment zoo, large and comfortable guesthouses where delicious Bengali-style vegetarian cuisine is served, and association with ISKCON devotees from around the world. The Mayapur temple draws 1,500 tourists weekly, most of them coming especially to see the Deity forms of Radha and Krsna and to bathe in the Ganges, just a short walk from the temple.

At ISKCON centers in cities such as New Delhi, Bombay, and Madras, you can experience India's urban life and at the same time get in touch with the eternal wisdom of the Vedas.

If you're inclined to hiking and roughing it, you can join the ISKCON pada-yatra, a walking pilgrimage that has been traversing India for two and a half years. The pada-yatra, with its ox-drawn cart and pet elephant, is currently making its way to Badrinath, high in the Himalayas. Spiritually-minded walkers are always welcome.

Even if you can't travel to India, you can still experience the real India through the scriptures. But just as you shouldn't travel with improper guides, you cannot learn about spiritual India through superficial commentators. The translations of the classics—Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Caitanya-caritamrta—by His Divine Grace A C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, along with his clear philosophical purports, are available in more than thirty languages. By studying the Bhaktivedanta purports, you can meet the yogis, rsis, and other great personalities from Vedic literature, such as Vyasadeva, Lord Brahma, and Lord Siva. And most important, you can hear of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna. The Bhagavad-gita (4.9) describes the benefits of hearing about Krsna:

One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.

We needn't reject slogans such as "India packaged for you!" or "Discover India, Discover Yourself" But we should take tours guided by the sages and the saints. It is the mission of ISKCON to lead serious persons through the realms of Indian spirituality.—SDG

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Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare

The holy name of Krsna is transcendentally blissful. It bestows all spiritual benedictions, for it is Krsna Himself, the reservior of all pleasure. Krsna's name is complete, and it is the form of all transcendental experience. It is not a material name under any condition, and it is no less powerful than Krsna Himself. Since Krsna's name is not contaminated by the material qualities, there is no question of its begin involved with maya [illusion]. Krsna's name is always liberated and spiritual; it is never conditioned by the laws of material nature. This is because the name of Krsna and Krsna himself are identical."

—Padma Purana

Because God, or Krsna, is unlimited, the glories of His holy name are innumerable. The verse at left explains that chanting God's name is a genuine spiritual experience. Because God and His name are identical, the name of God is not a mundane sound vibration. Therefore, to call sincerely on Krsna's divine name gives us immediate association with Him, the Supreme Pure, and that association purifies our hearts. It's no wonder, then, that all the world's greatest scriptures emphasize the importance of praising thr holy name of the Lord.

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