Back to godhead is the monthly journal of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. When Srila Prabhupada began the Society (in New York City, in 1966), he put into writing the purposes he wanted it to achieve. They are as follows:
1. To systematically propagate spiritual knowledge to society at large and to educate all peoples in the techniques of spiritual life in order to check the imbalance of values in life and to achieve real unity and peace in the world.
2. To propagate a consciousness of Krsna, as it is revealed in Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam.
3. To bring the members of the Society together with each other and nearer to Krsna, the prime entity, thus developing the idea within the members, and humanity at large, that each soul is part and parcel of the quality of Godhead (Krsna).
4. To teach and encourage the sankirtana movement, congregational chanting of the holy names of God, as revealed in the teachings of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
5. To erect for the members and for society at large a holy place of transcendental pastimes dedicated to the personality of Krsna.
6. To bring the members closer together for the purpose of teaching a simpler, more natural way of life.
7. With a view toward achieving the aforementioned purposes, to publish and distribute periodicals, books, and other writings.
Because God's energies are inconceivable, some philosophers conclude that He has none.
A lecture in Los Angeles in December 1973,
yada mukundo bhagavan imam mahim
"When the Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna, left this earthly planet in His selfsame form, from that very day Kali, who had already partially appeared, became fully manifest to create inauspicious conditions for those who are endowed with a poor fund of knowledge." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.15.36)
When Lord Krsna leaves this earth planet or appears here. He does so by His own potency. In the Bhagavad-gita [4.6] Krsna says, sambhavamy atma-mayaya: "I incarnate by My own potency." God has unlimited potencies (parasya saktir vividhaiva sruyate), and learned scholars and saintly persons have accepted the idea of God's potencies. There are certain philosophers, however, who are of the opinion that God has no potency. But that is not a fact. From the Vedic literatures we learn that God has unlimited potencies.
Now, how can we understand the Lord's potencies? One way is by the example of fire, which has two potencies, heat and light. A fire is in one place, but it expands its potencies of heat and light. That is within our experience; it is not very difficult to understand. Similarly, the sun also expands the potencies of heat and light. It is lying in one corner of the sky, but it expands its potencies throughout the universe. The sunshine is distributed all over the sky, all over the planetary system, and so are the sun's light and heat. The sun is 93 million miles away from us, but still we are feeling scorching heat—120 degrees, 135 degrees.
So, if even a material thing like the sun has so much potency, how much more potency must the Supreme Personality of Godhead have? His potency is acintya, inconceivable, beyond our conception. That is the statement of the Vedas:
na tasya karyam karanam ca vidyate
"The Supreme Lord has no duty to perform, and no one is seen to be greater than or equal to Him. He has unlimited varieties of energy, which act automatically" [Svetasvatara Upanisad 6.8].
This is a description of the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Person. What kind of person? A person like you, working the whole day for money? No. Na tasya karyam karanam ca vidyate: Krsna doesn't have to do anything. He is simply playing on His flute and enjoying with Radharani, that's all. He hasn't got to go to the office, to the factory. He is simply enjoying: anandamayo 'bhyasat.
And we try to imitate Krsna's enjoyment. Young boys and girls like to mix with each other and dance together. The same activities are there in Krsna's pastimes. Krsna is dancing with the gopis [cowherd girls] in the forest, and you are dancing with your girlfriend in the nightclub. But your dancing will not give you satisfaction, because it is imitation. If you want real dancing, come to Krsna. That is Krsna consciousness.
We are trying to take the misled people from illusion to reality. The Mayavadi [impersonalistic] philosophers say that there is no pleasure in dancing: "Make it zero; forget it." But we don't say that. We say that there is dancing in the original conception of the Absolute Truth. That is what the Vedanta-sutra says: janmady asya yatah. "The Absolute Truth is that from which everything has come." Whatever you are experiencing—wherefrom has it come? It has come from the Absolute. That is the meaning of "Absolute." But because here in the relative world dancing is pervertedly reflected and is not reality, you are confused, baffled.
So, our proposition is that you come to the reality. That is Krsna consciousness. The same dancing will be there. For example, here is a picture of Krsna dancing with the gopls. And because we are part and parcel of Krsna, we also like to dance with young girls. Even in old age men are dancing with young girls. In Paris there is a club for old men, all about to die. They come to the club and pay a fifty-dollar entrance fee so they can enjoy young girls and wine. They cannot actually enjoy, yet still they come. As it is said jaragate kim yuvati nari: "When one is an old man, what is the use of mixing with young girls?" Still, the old men like to mix with young girls, although they do not really enjoy. Therefore they are unsatisfied, frustrated. This is the position of those who are trying to imitate Krsna.
Krsna is so great that He is simultaneously and inconceivably present in all places. He explains this in the Bhagavad-gita [9.4]:
maya tatam idam sarvam
"By My impersonal feature I am spread everywhere. Everything is resting on Me, but I am not in everything." It is a fact that everything is resting on Krsna, just as all the planets are resting on the sunshine. It is a scientific fact that the planets are revolving on account of the heat and light of the sun.
Now, what do we mean that "everything is resting on Krsna"? Take this earth planet, for example. Everything on this planet—the trees, the rivers, the mountains, the cities, the cars—all of that is one unit, the earth planet. And there are millions and trillions of planets. How are they existing? They are existing on the sunshine. And wherefrom does the sunshine come? The sunshine comes from the sun, which comes from God. Therefore, indirectly everything depends on Krsna's potency. As he says, mat-sthani sarva-bhutani: "Everything is resting on My potency." Na caham tesv avasthitah: "But personally I am not within everything." This is acintya-bhedabheda-tattva: The Lord is simultaneously one with and different from everything. This is our philosophy.
So, our point is that Krsna, although situated in the spiritual world, works through His potencies, just as a rich man sits in his parlor and runs his business through his subordinates. He hasn't got to go personally to the office. We have seen Mr. Biria [a wealthy Indian gentleman] sitting in his home and running his business through his "potencies"—his secretaries, clerks, and so on. They are doing all the work; he hasn't got to work.
Similarly, because Krsna is the Supreme Person, He hasn't got to work personally. He is always engaged in playing His flute and dancing with the gopis. That's all. Anandamayo 'bhyasat: He is simply enjoying.
So, Krsna's potencies are working in both the spiritual and material worlds. How? I have already given the example of the sun. The sun is in the sky, and the sunshine is working. By the energy of the sunshine the leaves are coming out on the trees, and when there is no sunshine they are dropping. Everything depends on the energy of the sun. Similarly, everything depends on the energies emanating from Krsna. As explained in the Vedic literature:
"Just as a fire situated in one corner of a room fills the whole room with heat and light, so the Absolute Truth, Krsna, pervades this entire universe with His potencies." Whatever you see in this cosmic manifestation is simply a demonstration of the potencies of the Lord.
So, we take our birth and accept our death, but not independently. We are under the control of the Lord's material potency. The Lord has many potencies, which have been divided into three categories. One is called the internal potency, one is called the external potency, and one is called the marginal potency. The external potency is this material world—so many universes, so many planets, stars, and so on. These are all manifestations of Krsna's external potency. And then there is the internal potency, the spiritual world. That we cannot see; it is not within our experience. But we get information about the spiritual world from the Bhagavad-gita [8.20]: paras tasmat tu bhavo 'nyo 'vyakto 'vyaktat sanatanah. "Beyond this material nature is another nature, which is eternal." This material nature is not eternal. Take your body, for example. It is not eternal. Similarly, this gigantic "body" of the universe is also not eternal. It has a date of creation and a date of dissolution. But the spiritual nature is eternal—it is never created or annihilated.
Now, we are the Lord's marginal potency. For example, when we walk on the shore of the Pacific Ocean, some days we find that the water is covering part of the beach, and some days we see it is open. There is no water on that part. So, that part which is sometimes covered and sometimes open is called "marginal." Similarly, we being Krsna's marginal potency, sometimes we are influenced by the material nature and sometimes by the spiritual nature.
Actually, we belong to the spiritual nature, but because we are minute spirit souls we have come in contact with this material nature somehow or other. This is an incompatible position for us, and so we cannot make a permanent adjustment here. Therefore we are getting one type of body and enjoying or suffering, and then another type of body, then another, and so on.
But if we like, since we are of the spiritual nature we can transfer ourselves to the spiritual world and remain there eternally. The eternal nature of the soul is described in the Bhagavad-gita [2.20]: na jayate mriyate va kadacin . . . na hanyate hanyamane sarire. "The soul never takes birth or dies at any time." In other words, the soul is everlasting, eternal. Then what is death? Death is the annihilation of the material body, not of the soul. Therefore it is said here, na hanyate hanyamane sarire: "The soul is not dead after the annihilation of the body."
So, the conclusion is that because we are marginal—situated between the spiritual nature and the material nature—we have a tendency to come under the control of Krsna's external, material energy and identify ourselves with this temporary, material body. Actually we are spiritual; our real nature is eternal. We never take birth and never die. But on account of our contact with the material nature, we are getting material bodies, which are always changing. Thus we have accepted birth and death as natural. But that is not our real nature.
At the present moment we are under the material nature, but if we try we can get out of this covering of material nature and come to the spiritual nature. That is Krsna consciousness—to leave that marginal position and come onto the "land" so that there will be no disturbance by the "water." If you remain in the marginal position, sometimes you will be covered by water and sometimes you will be dry. But if you come a little forward to the land side, the ocean has no power to touch you.
Now, Krsna is not like us. The present verse of the Bhagavatam says that Krsna left this world, but that does not mean He left this world as we leave it. Our leaving this world means that we leave this material body and accept another material body. Now we may have an American body, and in our next life we may be in a Russian body. An American who is lighting against the Russians in this life may get a Russian body in his next life. (This is the law of nature: sada tad-bhava-bhavitah. "Whatever one thinks of at the time of death determines his next life.") And then in his Russian body he will fight with the Americans and in his next life again become an American. This is going on: bhutva bhutva praliyate. Sometimes Russian, sometimes American, go on fighting, that's all. This is called maya, illusion.
Everyone in this material world is under this illusion. The living entities are loitering in this material nature, sometimes in this body, sometimes in that body, sometimes this way, sometimes that way. Simply loitering. No one knows where to find shelter, where to find permanent life, permanent peace, permanent happiness. They are simply changing forms of government: electing one rascal, rejecting him, electing another rascal, and rejecting him. Because the candidates are all rascals, the people have no alternative but to elect a rascal. They are thinking, "By electing this rascal, we shall be happy." Andha yathandhair upaniyamanah: The people are blind, and they are accepting leaders who are also blind. What will be the profit? If you are blind and you are led by another blind man, what will be the profit? Both of you will fall down into a ditch.
Therefore, if you want real happiness, you must accept the leadership of a man who has eyes to see. And whose eyes are open? That is explained in the Vedic literature:
Everyone is blind, in the darkness of ignorance. So it is the guru's business to open their eyes, to help them see things as they are. That is the guru's business.
How can darkness be removed? By light. At night we cannot see. Everything is dark because the sun is not in the sky. But in the morning, as soon as the sun rises, we can see everything. Because we are in the darkness of ignorance, we cannot see things properly. The spirit soul exists and God exists, but now we cannot see them. We have to get the light of transcendental knowledge to see things as they are. That is wanted.
The Vedic literature therefore advises, tamasi ma jyotir gamah: "Don't keep yourself in darkness; go to the light." This is possible in human life. In animal life you kept yourself in darkness because there was no possibility of coming to the light. If I invite all the dogs and cats in Los Angeles to come here and hear about the Bhagavad-gita, they will not come, because they are animals. But if I appeal to the human beings, some may be interested. They should all be interested, but the times are so bad that almost nobody is interested. Still, a few people may be interested, but not the cats and dogs.
In the human form of life there is a necessity of coining to the light and making a solution to the problems of life. Therefore Krsna appears in this world. He states in the Bhagavad-glta [4.6], prakrtim svam adhisthaya sambhavamy atma-mayaya: "I appear in My transcendental form by My own energy." We are under the control of the material nature, but Krsna is not under this control. That is to be understood. Therefore, the present verse of the Bhagavatam says, jahau sva-tanva. Sva means "own," and tanu means "body." In other words, Krsna left this world in His own transcendental body.
So, when Krsna appears in this world or leaves it, He does so in His own transcendental body. For us there is a distinction between the soul and the body. I am a spiritual soul, but my body is material. This distinction is there because we are conditioned by the material body. But. Krsna is not conditioned by a material body. Therefore here it says jahau sva-tanva: "He left in His own, original, spiritual body."
One so-called scholar who does not know Krsna has written a commentary on the Bhagavad-glta in which he tries to make a distinction between Krsna's soul and His body. Krsna says [Bg. 9.34], man-mana bhava mad-bhakto mad-yaji mam namaskuru: "Just think of Me, become My devotee, offer your obeisances unto Me, and worship Me." But this rascal commentator says it is not to the person Krsna that we should offer obeisances but to the soul within Krsna. Just see how ignorant he is! He does not know that for Krsna there is no such division between His self, or soul, and His body. This fool is rascal number one, and yet he has written a commentary on the Bhagavad-gita and is accepted as a scholar. And this nonsense is going on all over the world.
Therefore Krsna says, avajananti mam mudha manusim tanum asritah: "The rascals [mudhas] think that because I appear in a human form I am an ordinary human being." And then, param bhavam ajananto: "They do not know My great potency." Still, these rascals go on explaining the Bhagavad-glta.
So, while for us there is a distinction between body and soul, for Krsna there is no such distinction. Also, there is no distinction between Krsna Himself and His Deity form made of stone. Why? Because the stone is Krsna's energy. Earth, water, fire, air—everything is Krsna's energy. That we have already explained. So, He can appear in any form, from anywhere, from anything. That is Krsna's potency. So, you have to understand what Krsna is. And as soon as you understand Krsna in truth, you become liberated: janma karma ca me divyam evam yo vetti tattvatah/ tyaktva deham punar janma naiti mam eti so 'rjuna.
Here the Bhagavatam says jahau sva-tanva: "Krsna left this world in His own, original body." Krsna does not leave His body as we leave ours. No. We are leaving one body and accepting another by the force of material nature. Prakrteh kriyamanani gunaih karmani sarvasah: Everything is happening by the force of the laws of nature. But Krsna is not under the laws of nature. Nor is there any distinction between His self and His body. This is to be understood. If somebody thinks that Krsna left His body and died like us, they are mudhas, rascals. Krsna seemed to leave His body just to befool the rascals. The rascals think Krsna is like us, and therefore, to bewilder them, Krsna leaves an illusory body so that they may go on thinking like that. But actually, here is the secret: jahau sva-tanva. "Krsna left this world in His original body."
Now, here it also says, sravaniya-sat-kathah: "Talks about Krsna are transcendental." If His body were like ours—if He had a material body—then what would be the use of hearing about His activities? We are interested in the words of Krsna in Bhagavad-gita, but if Krsna were like us, why should we be interested? Actually, by hearing about Krsna you become liberated. So He cannot possibly be an ordinary human being like us. Only the less intelligent class of men (apratibuddha-cetasam) think in this way.
The Bhagavatam verse ends with the words kalir anvavartata: "Because Krsna passed away. Kali [the present Age of Quarrel personified] got the opportunity to enter." That is to some extent a fact. But if Krsna is everything, how can He go away? Krsna can remain with you eternally. And if by becoming Krsna conscious you keep yourself with Krsna, where is the chance of Kali entering? Where is the chance? So, keep yourself always in Krsna consciousness. Kali will not be able to touch you.
Hare Krsna. Thank you very much.
"I could have appeared just like an ordinary child," the Lord said, "but you may have doubted who I really am."
Adapted by Amala-bhakta dasa from Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead,
Once, thousands of years ago, the world was overburdened by the unnecessary defense forces of different kings who were actually demons but were posing themselves as the royal order. At that time the whole world became perturbed, so the predominating deity of the planet earth, known as Bhumi, went to see Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe. Bhumi assumed the form of a cow, presented herself before Lord Brahma with tears in her eyes, and related to him the calamitous condition of the earth.
Lord Brahma became much aggrieved after hearing from Bhumi, so he, along with Bhumi and all the other demigods, journeyed to the spiritual planet of Svetadvipa, where the Supreme Lord Visnu resides. There, on the shore of the ocean of milk. Lord Brahma began to pacify Lord Visnu with prayers. Next, he sat in meditation for a while, received a message in his heart from Lord Visnu, and then broadcast it to the demigods. The message was as follows:
I, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, will appear on earth very soon along with My supremely powerful potencies. As long as I remain to execute My mission of annihilating the demons and establishing the devotees, the demigods should also remain there to assist Me. They should all immediately take birth in the Yadu dynasty, wherein I will also appear in due course of time.
After instructing and pacifying Bhumi and all the demigods with sweet words, Lord Brahma departed for his own planet, Brahmaloka.
The leader of the Yadu dynasty. King Surasena, was ruling over the district known as Mathura. Because of King Surasena's rule, Mathura became the capital city of the Yadu dynasty kings, who were all very pious.
One time, Vasudeva, the son of Surasena, just after marrying Devaki, was going home on his chariot with his bride. At that time, Kamsa, the son of King Ugrasena, to please his sister Devaki. had voluntarily taken the reins of the horses of Vasudeva's chariot. According to the custom of Vedic civilization, when a girl is married, the brother takes the sister and brother-in-law to their home. Because the bride may feel too much grief over the separation from her family, her brother goes with her until she reaches her father-in-law's house.
While the bride and bridegroom were riding on the chariot, musicians were playing jubilantly on conchshells, bugles, drums, and kettledrums to mark the auspicious occasion. The procession was proceeding very pleasingly, when suddenly from the sky a miraculous voice boomed:
"Kamsa, you are such a fool! You are driving the chariot of your sister and your brother-in-law, but you do not know that their eighth child will kill you!"
After hearing the prophecy from the sky, Kamsa, because he was very demoniac, immediately caught hold of Devaki's hair and was just about to kill her with his sword. But Vasudeva, astonished, then attempted to pacify his cruel, shameless brother-in-law and said:
"My dear Kamsa, you are the most famous king of the Bhoja dynasty. And people know that you are the greatest warrior and valiant king. How is it that you arc so infuriated that you are prepared to kill a woman—your own sister—at this auspicious time of her marriage? Why are you so afraid of death? From the very day you took your birth, you began to die. And when you do die. you will receive another body by the arrangement of material nature. Therefore, having nothing really to fear. please do not be overwhelmed by Ihe dictation of your mind and body.
But Kamsa was not at all pacified, so Vasudeva tried another tack: "My dear brother-in-law, please consider that you have no danger from your sister. The danger is to come from the sons of your sister, who are not present now. And who knows? There may or may not be sons in the future. Considering all this, you are safe for the present. But if Devaki does give birth to sons, I promise that I shall present all of them to you for necessary action."
Kamsa knew the value of Vasudeva's word of honor and was convinced by his argument. So, for the time being he desisted from killing his sister. Vasudeva was very relieved and, after praising Kamsa's decision, returned with Devaki to his home.
When the first son was born, Vasudeva immediately brought the child before Kamsa. Kamsa was pleased to see Vasudeva keeping his promise. Feeling somewhat compassionate, he said, "My dear Vasudeva, you need not give this child to me, for it is your eighth child that is supposed to kill me. You can take him back."
When Vasudeva was returning home with his first-born child, he was pleased by Kamsa's behavior. But he knew that Kamsa, who lacked self-control, could change his mind at any moment.
At that time the great sage Narada visited Kamsa, and he heard about Kamsa's returning Vasudeva's first-born child. Narada was eager to accelerate the descent of Lord Krsna. He therefore informed Kamsa that personalities in Vrndavana like Nanda Maharaja, all the cowherd men and girls, and the wives of the cowherd men, as well as Vasudeva, Surasena, and all of Vasudeva's relatives born in the Yadu dynasty, were preparing for the appearance of the Supreme Lord. Narada warned Kamsa to be careful of his so-called friends and well-wishers in those families. They were actually demigods who had taken birth in the Yadu dynasty to prepare for Lord Krsna's appearance.
Kamsa at once became alert. He understood that since the demigods had already taken birth. Lord Visnu, or Krsna, must be coming soon. Therefore, he at once arrested Vasudeva and Devaki and shackled them behind prison bars.
With in the prison Devaki gave birth to a male child year after year. And Kamsa, thinking each of the babies to be the incarnation of Visnu, killed each one of them. Though he was particularly afraid of the eighth child, after the visit of Narada he came to the conclusion that any of the children might be Krsna. Therefore, he felt it was safer to kill all the babies.
Kamsa also imprisoned his father because he was the chief king among the Yadu, Bhoja, and Andhaka dynasties. And he occupied the kingdom of Surasena, Vasudeva's father. Thus he declared himself the king of all these places.
Kamsa made alliances with other demoniac kings, until he became the strongest of leaders. Then he began to behave most hatefully toward the Yadu dynasty, in which Krsna was soon to take birth.
When Devaki became pregnant for the seventh time, a plenary expansion of Krsna known as Ananta Sesa appeared within her womb. At that time, Krsna ordered his principal potency, Yogamaya, to take birth in the village of Vrndavana, which was near Mathura. There, Rohini, one of the wives of Vasudeva, was residing at the house of Nanda and Yasoda. Not only Rohini, but many others of the Yadu dynasty were scattered all over the country out of fear of Kamsa's atrocities. Some of them were even living in mountain caves.
The Lord said to Yogamaya, "My plenary expansion Ananta Sesa is within the womb of Devaki. He is the source of all spiritual power and is the original spiritual master. He shall be known as Balarama. You can arrange the transfer of Ananta Sesa from the womb of Devaki to the womb of Rohini. After this arrangement, I am going to appear in the womb of Devaki, with My full potencies, as her son. And you will appear as the daughter of Nanda and Yasoda in Vrndavana."
After Ananta Sesa was transferred from Devaki's womb to Rohini's, people believed that Devaki's seventh pregnancy had been a miscarriage.
Thereafter, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, entered the heart of Vasudeva. He then transferred Himself to the heart of Devaki and from there entered her womb. It was by immaculate conception—that is, without the use of seminal discharge—that the Lord chose to appear in Devaki's womb.
When Kamsa looked at his sister and saw her glowing, transcendental beauty, he at once concluded that the Supreme Personality of Godhead had taken shelter in her womb. Kamsa then began to brood: "What is to be done with Devaki? Surely she has Visnu or Krsna within her womb, so it is certain that Visnu has come to kill me. If I kill Devaki now, Visnu will enforce His supreme will more vehemently. Besides, killing her would be a most abominable act and would spoil my reputation, for Devaki is a woman, she is under my shelter, and she is pregnant. Moreover, I would lose the results of my pious activities and the normal duration of my life. People would curse me. I might even go to the darkest region of hell." Kamsa thus meditated on all the pros and cons of killing Devaki. He finally decided not to kill her, but to wait for her child to be born and—then kill Him!
At this time Lord Brahma and Lord Siva, accompanied by great sages like Narada and followed by many other demigods, invisibly came into the house of Kamsa. They began to worship and pray to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who was within Devaki's womb. After doing so, the demigods, with Lord Brahma and Lord Siva in front of them, returned to their heavenly abodes.
When it was time for the Lord to appear, the constellations in the sky became very auspicious. In all directions there was an atmosphere of peace and prosperity: flowers bloomed, birds sang, peacocks danced, and the wind blew pleasantly. The celestials sang, danced, and offered prayers to the Lord. The demigods showered flowers from the sky. The waves at the seashore were mild, and the clouds rumbled delightfully.
Then Lord Visnu, who resides in the heart of every living being, took birth in the darkness of night, appearing before Devaki like the full moon rising on the eastern horizon.
It was obvious that He was none other than Lord Visnu, for He had four hands, which held a conchshell, a club, a disc, and a lotus flower. His chest was decorated with the mark of srivatsa, a curl of golden hair; He wore a jeweled necklace of kaustubha stone; and He was clothed in yellow silk. He looked dazzling, like a bright blackish cloud. He also wore a helmet inlaid with the vaidurya stone, sported valuable bracelets, earrings, and other similar ornaments all over His body, and had an abundance of hair on His head.
Vasudeva was struck with wonder. As he looked at his newborn baby, he was so happy that in celebration he mentally gave away thousands of cows in charity to the brahmanas. Then he bowed with folded hands and began to offer the Lord heartfelt prayers. Vasudeva was in a transcendental state, and he became completely free from all fear of Kamsa.
After Vasudeva finished his prayers, Devaki offered hers. She was very frightened because of her brother's atrocities, so she begged:
My Lord, please save me from the cruel hands of Kamsa. for You are always ready to give protection to Your servitors. My only cause of fear from my brother Kamsa is due to Your appearance. Kamsa may not know that You are already born. Therefore, I entreat You to conceal Your four-armed form so that You will not be easily recognizable, and then perhaps I can hide You somewhere from Kamsa.
But Krsna replied,
I appeared in this Visnu form just to convince you that I. the Supreme Personality of Godhead, have again taken birth. I could have appeared just like an ordinary child, but then you may have doubted who I really am. I know you are very concerned about Me and afraid of Kamsa, and to allay those fears, here is what is to be done: Father, I want you to take Me to Gokula immediately. There, you will find that Yasoda has just given birth to a daughter. You will replace her daughter with Me and then bring her daughter back here.
Having spoken thus, the Lord transformed Himself into an ordinary two-armed child and remained silent.
Vasudeva took Krsna and walked out of the prison within Kamsa's palace. By the arrangement of Yogamaya, Krsna's internal potency, all the residents of the palace were overwhelmed with deep sleep, and all the palace doors and gates, which had been locked and shackled with chains, suddenly opened.
The night was very dark, but as soon as Vasudeva took Krsna and went out, as a result of Krsna's glaring effulgence he could see everything, just as in the sunlight.
At the same time, there was thunder in the sky and severe rainfall. While Vasudeva was carry ing his son through the falling rain, Ananta Sesa appeared there in the shape of a serpent and spread His hood like an umbrella over the head of Vasudeva so that he would not be hampered by the rainfall.
When Vasudeva reached the bank of the Yamuna River, he saw that the water of the Yamuna was roaring with waves and that the whole span was full of foam. Still, in that furious feature, the river gave passage to Vasudeva, and he was able to cross it very easily.
On the other side he went to the home of Nanda Maharaja, situated in Gokula, where he saw that all the cowherd men were fast asleep. He silently entered the house without difficulty and replaced Yasoda's newborn girl with his son. Then he crossed the river again, returned to the prison, and closed all the doors and gates. He silently placed the baby girl on Devaki's lap and reclamped the shackles on himself so that Kamsa could not understand what had happened.
In Gokula, when Yasoda had given birth, she was so tired from the labor of delivery that she fell fast asleep. When she awoke, she could not remember whether she had given birth to a male or female child.
After Vasudeva reentered his cell, the gatekeepers awoke and heard the newborn child crying. They immediately hastened to Kamsa's bedroom to inform him. Kamsa jumped out of his bed and exclaimed, "Now the cruel death of my life has been born!" He became perplexed, his bodily hairs stood on end, and he hurried to the cell where Krsna had been born.
DevakI, on seeing Kamsa approaching, meekly prayed to him: "My dear brother, my child is a female. Please do not kill her. When she is of age, I promise to give her to your son as a wife. According to the omen, you are not to be killed by a female, but by a male."
Nonetheless, Kamsa was so cruel that he did not listen to Devaki's prayers. Instead, to rebuke her, he forcibly grabbed the newborn child and was just about to mercilessly dash her onto the stone floor. However, the child, Yogamaya, having miraculous powers, flew out of his hands and up into the air and mystically hovered there—as the goddess Durga. She was decorated with a gorgeous dress, flower garlands, and ornaments, and in her eight hands she held a bow, a lance, arrows, a sword, a conchshell, a disc, a club, and a shield.
Seeing the glorious child, all the demigods appeared there, presented her with gifts, and offered their respective prayers. Then the goddess said to Kamsa, "You rascal! How can you kill me? The child who will kill you has already been born somewhere within this world. So don't be so cruel to your poor sister!"
Kamsa then became overwhelmed with fear. Out of pity and guilt, he unshackled and freed Vasudeva and Devaki. Then he apologized very politely and effusively for his past atrocities against their newborn children.
When Devaki and Vasudeva saw Kamsa so repentant, they became pacified. Vasudeva then spoke to him in a very forgiving and philosophical manner. Kamsa became exceedingly pleased, and his guilt for having killed his nephews subsided. With the permission of Devaki and Vasudeva, he returned to his chambers with a relieved mind.
But the next day Kamsa called all his counselors together and narrated to them all the incidents that had happened the night before. All the counselors of Kamsa were demons and eternal enemies of the demigods, so they became depressed upon hearing their master speak of the night's events. And although they were not very experienced or learned, they began to instruct Kamsa as follows: "Dear sir, let us now make arrangements to kill all children who were born within the last ten days in all towns, counties, villages, and pasturing grounds. Let us execute this plan indiscriminately."
Thus being advised by the demoniac ministers, Kamsa, who was from the very beginning the greatest rascal, decided to follow their advice. Thereafter, for many years, Kamsa sent demons to Vrndavana to kill Krsna. But Krsna, being the Supreme Lord, easily killed all of them. Krsna's defeating the demons sent by Kamsa, as well as many of Krsna's other transcendental pastimes, are narrated in Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
Now And Then
by Rupanuga dasa
On December 12, 1986, the Wall Street Journal published the results of an attitude survey of college freshmen originally taken in 1967 and repeated in 1985. In 1967, 83 percent believed "it is essential or very important to develop a meaningful philosophy of life," and 44 percent believed "it is essential or very important to be well-off financially." In 1985, the answers appeared to indicate a reversal of attitudes: only 43 percent were more concerned about developing a meaningful philosophy of life, while 71 percent placed more emphasis on their economic development!
Were people more spiritually inclined twenty years ago, as these surveys seem to indicate? Actually, these statistics do not take into account economic changes of the last twenty years. Although the median income is nearly twice as much now as in 1967, the dollar buys much less. In more and more families both spouses work. People work all hours of the day and night, many businesses staying open very late or even twenty-four hours a day or seven days a week. Twenty years ago these were exceptions. People may be no less sensitive, intellectual, or spiritually inclined now, but for many of them earning a living has become harder and more complex. Generally, people postpone serious spiritual endeavors or inquiry into the higher purposes of life until they achieve economic stability. This helps to explain the differences between the answers in the 1967 and the 1985 surveys.
If we were asked those survey questions now, what would be our answer? Are we after more economic development or a satisfying, meaningful philosophy of life? Or do we want both? Is it possible to develop a meaningful philosophy of life without neglecting economic necessities according to our position and status? How can spiritual values be compatible with material values? To answer, one needs to analyze both.
The basis of economic development is easy enough to recognize—it's work. After all, one has to keep body and soul together by working. To work according to one's psychophysical nature is known in Sanskrit as varna.
A meaningful philosophy of life depends on our state of consciousness—how aware we are of ourselves and the world and universe before us. Our consciousness naturally expands as we mature: from awareness of mother, then father, siblings, friends, community, religion, nation, humanity, other living entities, and the world around us in general. The highest stage of consciousness is God consciousness, or, more precisely, consciousness of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That consciousness is described and analyzed in the Vedic literature, especially Bhagavad-gita.
Although this higher consciousness is natural, like learning to walk, speak, or act, it is not automatic. Rather, God consciousness, or Krsna consciousness, is awakened by certain techniques, which can be practiced anywhere in the world—even at home—by anyone.
Initially, one may doubt that one can relate one's work to spiritual values. Owing to experience, one may conclude that to make spiritual progress one must give up everything considered material.
This misgiving is directly addressed by Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura (Srila Prabhupada's spiritual master) in his commentary to Text 61 of the ancient Brahma-samhita, or Hymns of Brahma. He formulates the basic question: How can one continue with worldly affairs if one is always engaged in the pursuit of spiritual happiness? And what would be the activities of such spirituality if one were required to withdraw from society?
In answer, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta explains that you don't have to withdraw. When worldly activities are performed as a basis for Krsna consciousness, they are considered subsidiary devotional, or spiritual, practices. In other words, one should begin spiritual life by considering how to organize one's worldly activities so that they are conducive to Krsna consciousness. One's worldly activities are favorable to Krsna consciousness when one meditates upon Krsna and obeys His instructions. In such a position one will not become lethargic about spiritual life even though engaged in working with agnostic or atheistic people.
Srila Prabhupada gives an example: Just as a married woman who has a paramour performs her household duties nicely so that her husband won't suspect that she is always meditating upon meeting her lover, one should do one's work conscientiously, never losing sight of the fact that one is a servant of Godhead, or Krsna.
If one's work becomes a means to such a spiritual end, then that work will eventually lose its material quality. Everything is originally spiritual because it comes from God, but when spiritual energy is covered by maya, or forgetfulness of God, it appears to be material. When so-called material things are used in Krsna's service, they regain their original spiritual quality.
Spiritual behavior or practices, technically called asrama, combine naturally with one's work, or varna. One who lives in this way is acting according to varnasrama, the system for spiritualizing one's life. The first stage of spiritual practices includes chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, studying scriptures, and serving others by passing on whatever Krsna consciousness one has understood. The purifying effects of these practices cause gradual detachment from such antispiritual habits as intoxication, nonvegetarianism, gambling, and illicit sexuality.
This is explained in the Bhagavad-gita (2.59): "Though the embodied soul maybe restricted from sense enjoyment, the taste for sense objects remains. But, ceasing such engagements by experiencing a higher taste, he is fixed in consciousness." Srila Prabhupada comments, "One who has tasted the beauty of the Supreme Lord Krsna, in the course of his advancement in Krsna consciousness, no longer has a taste for dead material things. . . . When one is actually Krsna conscious, he automatically loses his taste for pale things."
Thinking Of Grandpa
by Dvarakadhisa-devi dasi
My grandfather used to be the president of a railroad company. A tall man with a deep, booming voice, he commanded respect on the job and at home. He was the undisputed patriarch of my mother's German family, and we kids were awed by his somber presence. We loved him, though, because his deep chuckles and twinkling blue eyes emanated humor and affection.
Now he lies in a sterile hospital bed, defeated by illness and age. Nurses hardly a quarter his age bounce into the room to roll him over or poke needles into his withered arm. "Now, this might sting a little bit, Mr. Schmidt," they coo, just as he used to coo at his numerous grandchildren. He closes his eyes and prays that the end will come soon.
About thirty miles away my grandmother sits with our family in our living room, twisting her wedding band around her knobby finger. "He doesn't want to see anyone," she says. "And he doesn't want anyone to see him the way he is now. He can't move his legs. He's so weak he can't sit up, can't feed himself. He has the sweetest little nurse, but he won't even look at her. He's starting therapy now, but the doctors say his recovery will be slow because he's so depressed."
We listen, asking questions like "Do they think he'll ever walk again?" I think of my grandfather's large frame, wasted by old age and illness. I remember his expansive confidence and his kindness.
"I guess this is what it means to have a material body," I say with a sigh.
As soon as I say it, the room seems to chill, as if I had announced my grandfather's funeral plans. Mom shoots me a cold stare, and my grandmother seems ready to cry. Everyone else appears uneasy—crossing and uncrossing their legs, pursing their lips, furrowing their brows. There she goes, they think, promulgating her sectarian religious views at this most delicate family conference.
Okay, maybe it was crass of me to bring up the grimmer aspects of human experience in such a matter-of-fact way. After all, it's not just any material body wasting away in a hospital bed—it's Grandpa! To suggest some responsibility on his part for his intense suffering is a little bit too direct for my family's sensibilities.
It's just that they identify so completely with their bodies! I don't want to lecture them, but sometimes I marvel at the strength of their illusion. All of them have suffered through some bitter moments, and even the youngest children have been assaulted by health problems. But they manage to plug cheerfully along, smoothing the way with sympathy or intoxication, blithely ignoring the gradual deterioration of all they hold dear. Grandpa is dying in tremendous pain, yet they think life is wonderful.
As my grandfather lies longing for death's release, my family tries to devise methods to reawaken his zest for life. But what can they entice an eighty-year-old invalid with? Liquor? Girls? He's had everything that buckets of money could buy. Now when he thinks of his big house, his faithful employees, and the honor and respect he's received, he feels empty and sad. Nothing he accomplished in all those years is easing the pain of this: his body is falling apart, and he's finished. It's not the physical pain that's tormenting him; it's the mental anguish. Because now he sees . . .
Once my sister and I were laughing at a pudgy middle-aged lady with eyebrows painted across her forehead and piles of raven curls perched above her graying scalp. But in the middle of the laugh I suddenly felt sad. What was funny about this woman's ignorance? Of course she wasn't beautiful, but what was the difference between her illusion and my own? Anyone who accepts the material body as the self is a fool. She was a fool in her attempts to beautify her aging body. I am a fool as I worry over the wrinkles in the corners of my eyes. My sister is a fool as she ponders over what shade of lipstick to buy. And our foolishness isn't funny—it's dangerous. This foolishness guarantees us immense suffering in this life, as Grandfather will attest, and when this body is through, we'll get another, and another. And the further we deviate from self-realization, the more miserable our bodies become.
Yet what can I say to my family to help them, if even my gentle reminder of the body's temporal nature brings about such consternation? I want to tell them that Grandpa's physical condition can only get worse. Can't we tell him about the transcendental nature of the soul? And what about Grandma? She hasn't much longer herself. And what about you and me. Dad? Is it too hard to hear that we're all going to die?
Since they're my family, and since I love them, I decide to try again.
"Now that Grandpa is so sick, we can help him come closer to God," I say to my grandmother.
She smiles in appreciation, but her eyes drift away. . . .
This is a continuation of a conversation that took place between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and biochemist Thoudam Singh, Ph.D., in Bhubanesvara, India, on February 3, 1977.
Srila Prabhupada: Just try to understand. Anyone who is not a devotee of the Lord—his whole life is a drawback. He has no value. And he is condemned so much. In Bhagavad-glta Lord Krsna calls him duskrtinah, mudhah, naradhamah, mayayapahrta-jnanah: "rascal, ass, lowest of man-kind, knowledge stolen by illusion."
What can be done? A scientist who does not pursue the real science, the science of God, is condemned.
"Oh? But he has earned so many big degrees."
No. Mayayapahrta-jnanah—without knowledge of God, his knowledge is not knowledge but illusion. Finished.
Anyone who has no knowledge about this Krsna consciousness—he's so condemned. You can't give him any position. It is not possible. Pisaci paile: when a man becomes mad, what is his position?
Even someone who has become a high-court judge—if he has also become mad, he has no position. He's useless.
"Now, wait just a moment. He is a high-court judge!"
That's all right. But his present position—because he is mad—has no value.
I have seen all this with my own eyes. Some fifty years ago, near my father-in-law's house, there lived a very famous scientist. A great scholar—he'd gotten all sorts of degrees, including Ph.D., and he used to study like anything. Later, he became so mad that he would run on the street in front of my father-in-law's house, naked.
So what was his value? Just consider. This same man was so educated in so many fields of knowledge. But when he became mad and went running naked, who paid him any respect?
Now, anyone who is under the deluding influence of this material energy—he is like that. Although actually he is part and parcel of God, he has now forgotten God and his own soul. So he's mad.
And pisaci paile yena mati-channa haya, maya grasta jivera haya sei bhava udaya: When a man becomes mad, he is finished. Whatever he may speak, it is all madness. It has no importance. His words may seem important on the relative platform, but on the absolute platform they must be mad. Because the basic principle behind the words—the man himself—is mad.
Dr. Singh: The madness of the scientists may be a little different. They are mad or illusioned in that they know little of God's natural law, but they extrapolate vastly.
Srila Prabhupada: You can explain their madness in so many ways, but first try to understand the main idea: a very educated man—when he becomes mad, then he and his words have no value.
In everyday life it is like that. If a high-court judge has become mad, you cannot give him the same high position. You cannot say, "Sir, you are now mad, but that's no matter. You just come and take your exalted seat, and everything will be all right." No, that is not possible.
Of course, if by treatment you restore the man to sanity, that is another thing. Then he can work as before. You see, the person's inner potency is not finished, but as long as he shall remain mad, then his practical qualification will be finished.
Dr. Singh: That was my idea also. For example, a scientist might, let's say, decide to write an equation that describes a spherical object's shape. But if he were to take only two points, his equation would be one for a straight line. And he would delude himself and others into thinking the object not spherical but flat or straight.
In other words, in this example, although the scientist may not be running naked, he would still be mad—because he would be basing his conclusion on insufficient knowledge.
Or to put it another way, sanity means understanding that our knowledge of things is very limited. And so, we have to understand, if we extrapolate from our limited knowledge to draw sweeping conclusions—conclusions beyond our knowledge—then it all becomes . . . just becomes false.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. If we go beyond our knowledge, it is false. When we have gone beyond our knowledge, our conclusions have to be false. Our conclusions must be false—unless they come from someone whose knowledge goes beyond our own. In other words, from someone who is a bona fide authority.
We can return to a familiar example. If I am a small baby and I want to determine who is my father, that is simply beyond my knowledge. But if I receive knowledge from my mother—"Here is your father"—then my knowledge is sure to be correct. This subject matter is beyond my knowledge, but if I receive the knowledge from the right person, then my knowledge is correct.
Aroha-pantha and avaroha-pantha. To obtain knowledge, you have two paths: the ascending and descending. On the one hand you have the ascending path, on which you try to rise out of your ignorance through experience, trial and error, deduction. On the other hand you have the descending path, which means the knowledge comes down to you from persons with higher experience. The knowledge descends from higher authorities.
In this conditioned state of life—encased as we are by this material body, with its severely limited senses—there are many, many things beyond our knowledge. Therefore we have to take shelter of the descending path. This is our process. We have to take shelter of the Vedas, the scriptures. They are sruti, knowledge heard from higher authorities. This knowledge is perfect—coming from God by the system of parampara. or disciplic succession. This knowledge comes from Lord Krsna to Brahma, from Brahma to Narada, from Narada to Vyasa, and so forth. This knowledge is perfect.
With our limited senses, deductive knowledge has to be imperfect. But with bona fide authorities—starting from the Lord Himself—descending knowledge is perfect. The other way is all imperfect, but this way is perfect. Dr. Singh: Descending knowledge.
Srila Prabhupada: Hmm. This is perfect.
(To be continued.)
Festivals & Calendar
Krsna conscious devotees follow a spiritual calendar that divides the year into twelve months, each named for a different form of Krsna. The devotees at the Hare Krsna center nearest you will gladly tell you more about the meaning of the festivals listed here.
Month of Sridhara
August 5—Trisprsa Ekadasi. Fasting from grains and beans. Disappearance anniversary of Srila Rupa Gosvami, one of the six Gosvamis of Vrndavana. Disappearance anniversary of Srila Gauridasa Pandita, an associate of Lord Caitanya. Jhulana-yatra (swing festival) of Radha-Krsna begins.
August 9—Jhulana-yatra ends. Appearance anniversary of Lord Balarama. Fasting till moonrise, followed by feasting. Also, second month of Caturmasya begins (fasting from yogurt).
Month of Hrsikesa
(August 10-September 7)
August 16—Sri Krsna-janmastami, the appearance anniversary of Lord Krsna. Fasting till midnight. Call your local Hare Krsna temple for a schedule of events.
August 17—Appearance anniversary of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Fasting till noon, followed by feasting.
August 20—Annada Ekadasi. Fasting from grains and beans.
August 29—Appearance anniversary of Srimati Sita-devi, the consort of Srila Advaita Acarya.
September 1—Appearance anniversary of Srimati Radharani. Fasting till noon, followed by feasting.
September 4—Parsva Ekadasi. Fasting from grains and beans.
September 5—Sri Vamana-dvadasi, appearance anniversary of Lord Vamanadeva. Fasting till noon, followed by feasting. Appearance anniversary of Srila Jiva Gosvami, one of the six Gosvamis of Vrndavana.
September 6—Appearance anniversary of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. father of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura (Srila Prabhupada's spiritual master), and a pioneer in preaching Krsna consciousness in English. Fasting till noon, followed by feasting. Disappearance anniversary of Srila Haridasa Thakura, the foremost teacher of the chanting of Hare Krsna.
September 7—Third month of Caturmasya begins (fasting from milk).
Major Summer Festivals
Festival of the Chariots
August 1, 2—Montreal
August 22, 23—Vancouver
August 29, 30—Los Angeles
September 5, 6—San Francisco
Festival of India
August 8, 9—Boulder
August 15—Laguna Beach
A look at the worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
Soviet Hare Krishnas Seek Religious Freedom
Reprinted with permission of United Press International, Copyright 1987.
Moscow (April 27)—Members of the Hare Krishna sect said Monday that despite an easing of restrictions on political dissent, Soviet authorities are still detaining followers in prisons and psychiatric hospitals.
Six members of the sect traveled from across the Soviet Union to appeal to authorities to legalize their religion and stop persecution of believers. "Our godbrothers are being put into jails and mental hospitals," said a statement signed by 46 members. "We are accused of participating in a nonregistered religious-mystical sect and at the same time we are not allowed to register the group.
"We appeal to all the religious and non-religious world organizations to please support us in getting a legal position," it said. The members said they planned to deliver the appeal to authorities Tuesday.
The news conference, attended by a handful of Western reporters, was the first held by sect members, who previously were reticent to talk to correspondents. The event revealed the hope engendered by recent Kremlin reforms, but also demonstrated that some aspects of Soviet society have not changed.
Only one of the sect members gathered in the cramped apartment on the outskirts of Moscow was dressed in the orange robe commonly worn by Krishnas. None had the shaved head and ponytail often seen on followers of the 15th-century Indian religion when they gather to chant on street corners of Western cities.
"They tell us we are lawbreakers, that we refuse work, that we are anti-social," said Olga Kustra, 28, a mother and musician. "But, in fact, they don't allow us to take part in society and we can't obtain work in our specialties."
Alexander Gramov, 40, a biologist from Leningrad, said about 26 followers of the sect are in prison camps or psychiatric hospitals, sentenced mostly under article 227 of the criminal code that makes it illegal to practice a religion considered harmful to a person's rights or health.
He said one member was convicted under the article and another who was serving a term has been re-sentenced since Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev announced plans to democratize Soviet society by pardoning 140 political prisoners.
Most of the 140 dissidents released in February and March had been sentenced for anti-Soviet slander or agitation.
Soviet law prohibits religions that are not officially registered, yet the members said their requests to register have been ignored since 1982.
"We tried again to register in July 1985, but so far they have not answered us," Gramov said. "We invited them to come and visit us, to watch how we pray, what we do. They said they would phone us, but they have not."
The government maintains the fasting and chanting that are an integral part of the religion are harmful to health and promote anti-social behavior.
But the members maintain they are a positive social force because they are pacifists and vegetarians who do not consume alcohol, nicotine or illegal drugs.
The members estimated (heir numbers in the thousands, but said most only chant the prayers, "Hare Krishna," and are not active followers. Gramov said 50 people meet in Leningrad regularly to participate in religious ceremonies.
Scholar's Book Confirms ISKCON Authenticity
Lewisburg, Pennsylvania—Larry Shinn, dean of Bucknell University's College of Arts and Sciences, states in his recently published book The Dark Lord: Cult Images and the Hare Krishnas in America that ISKCON is "an authentic missionary movement from India that has all the authenticity of an Indian devotional tradition." Professor Shinn, a Methodist minister and religious scholar, has been studying the Hare Krsna movement for more than six years. During his research he interviewed one hundred thirty devotees in the United States and India and lived part time in nineteen Hare Krsna temples.
In his 230-page book, Shinn refutes the notion that the Hare Krsna movement is a cult. The devotees are not confined to one place, he notes, nor are their actions controlled. Many travel from temple to temple. And Hare Krsna devotees worship their leader not as God but as God's representative. Citing ISKCON's ancient Indian textural tradition, established priesthood, and community in India, he shows that it has all the indications of a genuine religious institution.
Professor Shinn believes that people's fears of the movement stem from their viewing ISKCON's religious practices as strange behavior. Yet, he points out, in India there is nothing peculiar about these practices.
We welcome your letters. Write to
After reading the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, I am faced with the following difficulty and shall feel very thankful if you could clarify.
The Seventh Chapter of Bhagavad-gita is entitled "Jnana-Vijnana Yoga," and the words jnana and vijnana occur about half a dozen times in the Bhagavad-gita. Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has given two interpretations: (l) Jnana refers to knowledge of self as distinguished from nonself or, in other words, knowledge that the spirit soul is not the body. Vijnana refers to specific knowledge of the spirit soul's constitutional position and his relationship to the Supreme Soul. (2) Phenomenal and numinous knowledge, which mean, respectively, "as apprehended by the mind as distinct from reality" and "which is beyond the senses and assumed by the mind, but transcendental in reality."
These two interpretations are not quite the same. Kindly let me know how you differentiate between jnana and vijnana.
Dr. M. P. Varshney
RAVINDRA-SVARUPA DASA REPLIES: I should first point out, for the sake of thoroughness in our discussion, that there is yet a third sense of jnana-vijnana given in Bhagavad-gita As It Is. I n Chapter Six, verse eight, for instance, the advanced yogi (yukta) is said to possess jnana-vijnana. Prabhupada translates jnana as "acquired knowledge," which means, he explains in the purport, "book knowledge" or "mere academic knowledge." Vijnana, or "realization," is acquired by the practical execution of Krsna consciousness under the direction of a qualified spiritual master. Vijnana, then, is practical realization through active devotional service.
Jnana is theory; vijnana is application, or practice. Vijnana, therefore, is science. (Indeed, modern Sanskritists use the word vijnana to translate the English science.) In Teachings of Lord Caitanya (p. 245) Srila Prabhupada makes the following assertion: "Knowledge [i.e., jnana} is information gathered from the scriptures, and science [i.e., vijnana} is practical realization of that knowledge." When Prabhupada says Krsna consciousness is "science," he means it is vijnana.
To summarize, we are considering three sets of renderings: jnana as (1) knowledge that "I am not this body"; (2) phenomenal knowledge; and (3) book knowledge, or theory; and vijnana as (1) knowledge that "I am a servant of Krsna"; (2) numinous knowledge; and (3) realized knowledge, or practice.
Now, how are these three sets of meanings related? Let us consider jnana first. Jnana, according to Vaisnava understanding, refers to knowledge gained through mental speculation. Its basis is sense perception; thus in Bhagavad-gita 6.46 Prabhupada translates jnani as "empiricist." Thus jnana denotes "phenomenal knowledge." When, however, such speculative knowledge rises to the attempt to understand the ultimate source of everything, it discovers at its ultimate limit the void or impersonal absolute (nirvisesa-sunyavada). The jnanis, at the most mature level of their speculation, may understand as part of their impersonal realization "I am not this body."
Such jnana is "book knowledge" or "theory" because it entails the renunciation of all work, the suppression of the senses, and the rejection of the world as false; it is intellectualist in the extreme.
Vijnana, by contrast, is "realized knowledge" because it does not come about by mental speculation and the cessation of actions but rather by engagement in active devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead—who lies beyond the impersonal aspect of the absolute encountered by the jnanis and who is indeed the source of the impersonal Brahman (brahmano hi pratisthaham). Thus the jnanis are wanting in actual transcendental experience, in realized knowledge of the Supreme Person, which does not come by one's efforts, however heroic, at mental speculation, but comes by humble service to please the Lord, who kindly reveals Himself. Prabhupada writes:
Transcendental knowledge of the absolute Supreme Being can be known if it is made known by the Lord Himself. By the mental speculation of the greatest mundane thinkers, the Absolute Truth cannot be understood. The mental speculators can reach up to the standard of impersonal Brahman realization, but factually complete knowledge of transcendence is beyond the knowledge of impersonal Brahman. Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.9.31
The jnanis who suppress their senses cannot have the practical experience (vijnana) of Krsna's transcendental form, name, qualities, and so on, because, as Rupa Gosvami states, such divine transcendental variegatedness is not apprehensible by materially contaminated senses; it can be apprehended only when the senses (beginning with the tongue) are purified by active engagement in devotional service.
Thus, vijnana as practical or realized knowledge and vijnana as knowing "I am the servant of Krsna" are related. The Sanskrit prefix vi- functions as an intensifier, and so vijnana denotes a more complete state of knowledge of the Absolute. Jnana tells us only of the qualitative oneness between ourselves and the Absolute, whereas vijnana gives us further transcendental knowledge of quantitative difference: that Krsna is para-brahman, infinitely great, and I am subordinate brahman, an infinitesimally small part, whose duty is to serve the whole.
In Srila Prabhupada's translation of Bhagavad-gita 7.2, we see the English pair phenomenal and numinous used for the Sanskrit jnana-vijnana. Now, you understand phenomenal to mean "as apprehended by the mind as distinct from reality" and numinous to mean "that which is beyond the senses and assumed by the mind, but transcendental in reality." These two definitions, however, pertain to the very specific way the philosopher Immanuel Kant used the terms phenomenal and noumenal in his metaphysics. According to Kant—and this is a very crude simplification—the phenomenal world as we can know it is already structured or ordered for us by our own mind or consciousness. Thus, there is a reality inaccessible in principle to us, absolutely beyond our apprehension, utterly unknowable. This is the "Ding an sich," the "thing-in-itself," which he also calls the noumenal reality as opposed to the phenomenal reality we perceive.
Now, Krsna was not preaching Kantian philosophy, and while Prabhupada's "phenomenal" and "numinous" obviously allude to Kant's distinction, that distinction cannot be applied too literally—as indeed the substitution of "numinous" for the Kantian "noumenal" reminds us. Let us simply say that phenomenal means the world as perceivable by mundane sense experience and mental speculation (up to some realization of the impersonal Absolute), and that noumenal or numinous refers to all that transcends such phenomenal knowledge.
The word numinous means "supernatural, mysterious; filled with a sense of the presence of divinity." Thus it also means "beyond phenomena," but it conveys in addition a more personal sense than Kant's "noumenal." It refers, indeed, to the divine realm of Goloka, where the Supreme Person, Syamasundara, whose spiritual form possesses innumerable inconceivable transcendental qualities, eternally revels in pastimes of love with His friends and lovers. That realm is directly perceived by pure devotees whose eyes have been spiritually opened by being anointed with the unguent of love of God. That is vijnana, or numinous knowledge.
Nourishing our spiritual health through an appreciation of Krsna's miracle in milk.
by Visakha-Devi Dasi
Milk has been famous as a storehouse of nutrients since long before the health-oriented 1980's began. Didn't your mother tell you that the minerals in milk help build strong bones and teeth?
In recent years, milk's status as a healthful beverage has been fortified, as more information about the value of its constituents has become known. That ubiquitous drink contains protein, carbohydrates, vitamins A, D, E, and K, calcium, niacin, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, riboflavin, and sodium, as well as other minerals.
Each of these nutrients makes an important contribution to your health. Consider protein, for example. Proteins are composed of amino acids, which build and maintain body tissues, fight off disease, transport oxygen in the blood, regulate blood sugar, aid in making the hormones that regulate our metabolism, and supply energy.
The U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance of protein is your weight in pounds times 0.4 grams of protein. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you require 60 grams of protein a day. A cup of milk contains about 8 grams of protein. By drinking two cups of milk a day. plus daily servings of cereal, bread, dried-bean soup, and rice or another grain dish, you can easily meet your protein requirements.
Although vegetarians are often accused of having protein-deficient diets, the fact is that many nonvegetarians ingest too much protein, causing a detrimental effect on their bodies. Dietician Nancy Clark, author of The Athlete's Kitchen, says, "Americans eat two or three times as much protein as they need." Pat Croce of the Philadelphia Inquirer says, "If more protein is eaten than required by our system's needs, it simply turns into unwanted fat." In addition, excess protein can result in an increased risk of dehydration, heat fatigue, and heat stroke, as well as cause diarrhea, gout, a loss of appetite, and a loss of calcium.
Calcium, also found abundantly in milk, is not something one wants to lose. Calcium is required for the blood to clot and for the heart to function normally. And it protects the teeth by neutralizing the cavity-forming acids in foods.
Also, today's health-conscious woman knows that getting enough calcium throughout her life is important for protecting bone health. Women run a high risk of developing osteoporosis, a bone degeneration disease that afflicts up to 20 million Americans with a weakened skeletal structure (brittle bones) and is a leading cause of death among older women in the United States.
The recommended daily allowance of calcium is 800 milligrams, but in 1986 the average calcium intake among women was only 650 milligrams—78 percent of the recommended amount. Proper milk intake could solve this problem, as one cup of milk contains about 300 milligrams of calcium. And besides curbing osteoporosis, calcium is also thought to lower high blood pressure and, according to some scientists, prevent cancer.
Unfortunately, however, in the United States soft drinks are more popular than milk. In fact, soft drinks are more popular than water. A recent survey showed that over the eight-year period from 1977 to 1985 soft drink consumption increased from 6 to 10 ounces per person per day, and now stands at 401 cans per person per year. Researchers from the dairy industry, in an attempt to counteract this trend and put the fizz back into their sales, are working on a carbonated version of milk that won't leave a mustache on your upper lip or a film on your tongue.
"It's a lot like club soda," says Anthony Lukas, president of Dairy Research, Inc. "It's very refreshing. Normally, milk coats the mouth, and people won't drink it to quench their thirst. But carbonated milk doesn't do that." Lukas claims that his product, which will be available late this year, will have all the nutritional value of milk—at a little higher price.
Even without the fizz, milk is relished by devotees of Lord Krsna both in the morning with breakfast and in the evening just before bed. Srila Prabhupada confirms that "there is a miracle in milk, for it contains all the necessary vitamins to sustain human physiological conditions." But beyond that, he points out, there is also a quality in milk that is yet to be discovered by scientists in their laboratories. Describing milk as "liquid religiosity," Prabhupada writes that it is effective for "maintaining the finer tissues of the brain for understanding higher aims of life." In former ages great saints often subsisted only by drinking the one or two quarts of milk that householders would donate to them each day.
Now, unfortunately, people draw milk from the cow artificially, and when there is no milk the cow is sent to be slaughtered. "These greatly sinful acts," Srila Prabhupada writes, "are responsible for all the troubles in present society. People do not know what they are doing in the name of economic development."
So, milk is important for bodily maintenance and spiritual growth. If we can appreciate milk's benefits, we will also appreciate the cows that deliver milk so generously. We can begin to view cows with affection, rather than as food. Lord Krsna Himself is fond of cows and calves, and as we develop affection for the cow and appreciation for her unique product, we will feel our minds becoming clearer and our hearts softer.
(Recipes from The Hare Krishna Book of Vegetarian Cooking, by Adi-raja dasa)
Preparation time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Chilling time: 2 hours
¼ cup short- or medium-grain white rice
1. Wash the rice and set it aside to drain. In a tall pot that can hold at least twice the volume of the milk, bring the milk to a boil; then adjust the flame so the milk is always rising and frothing but not bubbling over. To minimize the cooking time, let the milk boil vigorously, uncovered, for the first 15 minutes while you stir it rhythmically with a wooden spatula to prevent the thick milk on the bottom of the pot from scorching.
2. Drop the rice into the milk along with the bay leaves. Continue stirring. Keep over a medium flame and stir very carefully for another 20 minutes until the rice breaks up and rolls with the milk. By now the milk should be reduced to two thirds of its original volume. Stir in the sugar, almonds, and ground cardamom seeds. Cook for 5 more minutes and remove from the flame. Sweet rice should be only slightly thick when removed from the flame because it will thicken when refrigerated. Chill well—the colder the sweet rice, the better it tastes.
For other classic flavors, replace the ground cardamom seeds with a teaspoon of rose water and a few pinches of saffron powder, or season with bay leaves only and add a tiny pinch of natural camphor at the end of cooking. Offer to Krsna.
Saffron-flavored Milk with Pistachios
Preparation time: 10 minutes
4 cups milk
Bring the milk, with the saffron, cloves, and cinnamon, to a boil in a saucepan. Adjust the flame so that the milk maintains a rolling boil for 5 minutes. Then remove from the flame, stir in the honey, and discard the cloves. Sprinkle the ground pistachio nuts over the top. Offer to Krsna steaming hot
Creamed Vermicelli Pudding
Preparation time: 20-25 minutes
5 cups whole milk
1. Bring the milk to a boil; then simmer. In another saucepan melt the butter and quickly fry the cloves and half of the ground cardamom. Add the vermicelli. Stir-fry until it is lightly browned. Pour the milk into the saucepan and boil over a medium flame for 5 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the sugar and the nuts. Lower the heat. Cook for 15 minutes (stirring every few minutes to prevent scorching) or as long as needed to allow the mixture to thicken slightly. Remember that it will continue to thicken after it is removed from the flame.
2. Take the saucepan off the flame, fold in the cream, and add the rose water. Pour the khir sevian into a dish, top with the remaining ground cardamom, and offer to Krsna hot or cold.
Cheese Balls Soaked in Cream Sauce
Preparation time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Soaking time: 30 minutes
10 ounces panir (milk curd)
1. Turn the panir onto a work surface and crumble it. Using a pushing motion, knead it vigorously with the heels of your hands until it becomes smooth and your hands feel greasy. Now break off walnut-size pieces and form them into balls that are perfectly smooth and round, without any cracks.
2. Make a mixture of 1 teaspoon each of sugar, ground pistachio nuts, and ground almonds. Make a depression in the center of each cheese ball and fill it with a little of the mixture. Pinch the stuffed cheese balls closed and roll them between your hands to make them round. (If you prefer you can use the cheese balls without the filling.)
3. Mix 2 cups of water with l½ cups of sugar in a saucepan. Boil for 15 minutes, and then add a cup of water. Lower the flame to simmering and put the cheese balls into the syrup. Cover the saucepan to keep the syrup at a gently rolling boil. After 10 minutes, remove the cover. Then cook the cheese balls about 10 minutes more. They will swell to almost double their original size.
4. To see whether the cheese balls are done, tap one with your finger. If it feels soft, they are ready. Remove them from the flame, take them out of the syrup, and put them into the milk to soak for at least 30 minutes. Then remove them from the milk and put them aside.
5. Cook the milk over a high flame, stirring continuously, until it reduces to two thirds of its original volume. Add the cream and the remaining syrup, bring to a boil, and pour the mixture over the cheese balls. Sprinkle with the almond essence and ground nuts. Offer to Krsna warm or chilled.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
4 cups milk
Either bring the milk to a boil three times, being careful that it doesn't spill over, or maintain a gentle rolling boil for 5 minutes. Remove from the flame, add the sweetener, and stir until it dissolves.
You may also flavor the milk by adding one of the following: (1) 3 or 4 bruised cardamom pods, (2) a drop or two of rose water, (3) 1 table-spoon of chicory or carob powder, (4) a big pinch of ground nutmeg or cinnamon, (5) or a few strands of saffron.
Hot milk with banana and mango makes a wonderful nectar drink. Crush a ripe banana or mango into a pulp and mix into the sweetened hot milk. Add 1 tablespoon of butter, ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon, and ¼ teaspoon of ground nutmeg.
For any type of hot milk, pour the milk from one cup to another several times. This cools it slightly and aerates it. Then offer it to Krsna.
In today's world of hypocrisy and scandal, we remember Srila Prabhupada's pure qualities and his example of genuine spiritual leadership.
by Ajitananda Dasa
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who successfully distributed the message of Lord Krsna throughout the world, was not an ordinary conditioned soul, governed by the harsh laws of material nature. Although he may have apparently exhibited commonplace characteristics, it is evident through careful study of his life that Srila Prabhupada perfectly displayed the qualities of a pure devotee of Lord Krsna.
The Vedic literature states that only one who is free from material bondage can possess these qualities in full. Such a great soul is rarely found within this material realm, and owing to his unparalleled purity and exalted status as an intimate associate of the Supreme Lord, he is worshipable by the entire world. Following are some of the qualities of a pure devotee so eminently exemplified by Srila Prabhupada.
The ultimate expression of mercy is to freely afford everyone the opportunity to develop pure love of Godhead. This Srila Prabhupada did by opening over one hundred temples, printing millions of books, and sending his disciples all over the world to teach the science of Krsna consciousness. His distribution of mercy manifested naturally as a result of his heartfelt compassion for the long-suffering conditioned souls. His mercy fell everywhere, like pleasing rain upon the burning hearts of this age.
When Srila Prabhupada lectured during the early days of the Krsna consciousness movement, he would often tell his listeners, "I have come to your country not to take anything, but simply to give." Those who were honest and sincere were able to sense Srila Prabhupada's unalloyed desire to bestow upon them the highest form of mercy, and directed by Krsna within their hearts, they voluntarily placed themselves under his guidance and protection.
Although Srila Prabhupada is now gone from our material vision, his mercy is still available. A liberated soul is not bound by time and space, and neither is his mercy. One only has to open up one's heart to receive this benediction, which is being distributed freely to everyone.
During the late 1960's, a generation of young men and women took part in a mass rebellion against the untruths that had been perpetrated upon them by governments, schools, media, and big business. At that time Srila Prabhupada arrived on the scene, boldly preaching the message of Lord Krsna. He spoke truthfully, never altering the pure message in deference to the time and circumstance to attract followers, fame, and money. In an atmosphere seething with the fumes of unrestricted sense gratification, Srila Prabhupada presented a process of spiritual life based on personal sacrifice and purification of the senses.
In those days, with the peace movement in vogue, it was extremely unpopular to speak out on behalf of any form of military activity. But rather than cater to public opinion, Srila Prabhupada spoke the truth about the Bhagavad-gita, explaining to his youthful audience that Arjuna attained spiritual perfection by fighting a war under the order of Lord Krsna. Because of Srila Prabhupada's own spiritual qualities and his straightforward presentation of Lord Krsna's message, people gradually began to understand the message and received it with great delight. Such was the powerful effect of Srila Prabhupada's truthfulness.
Srila Prabhupada's gifts to the world were filled with tremendous spiritual value. He gave us a wonderful philosophy to live by, knowledge of our true spiritual identities, beautiful Deities of Krsna to worship, the all-auspicious holy name of Krsna, and delicious krsna-prasadam (sanctified food offered to Krsna). Srila Prabhupada also gave us the spiritually enlivening association of devotees and the opportunity to develop pure love of Godhead and return to a life of eternity, bliss, and knowledge in the spiritual world.
In return for all these blessings, Srila Prabhupada asked nothing for himself. He simply asked that we refrain from sinful activities, chant Hare Krsna, and give Krsna consciousness to others. In this way, selflessly giving of himself at every step, Srila Prabhupada perfectly exhibited the magnanimous nature of a pure devotee of Lord Krsna.
Without Material Possessions
A pure devotee of Lord Krsna is always diving and surfacing in the ocean of spiritual happiness. The Vedas explain that one drop of this happiness is millions of times greater than the paltry relish afforded by material sense gratification or even the pleasure derived from liberation from material existence. A pure devotee never depends on the accumulation of material possessions for his happiness. He accepts only what is necessary to perform devotional service and maintains full awareness that these facilities are actually the property of the Lord.
During Srila Prabhupada's years Spent in Vrndavana preparing for his eventual journey to the West, he lived very simply in a tiny room in the courtyard of the Radha-Damodara temple. Alter preaching vigorously in the West for a number of years, Srila Prabhupada had access to much opulence, yet he never claimed any of it as his own and used every penny in the service of Krsna.
One is said to be desireless when his only interest lies in satisfying the transcendental senses of Lord Krsna. Desires are eternally flowing like a river from the heart of the living entity, and the process of Krsna consciousness can change the quality of those desires from material to spiritual.
Although Srila Prabhupada began his preaching work very humbly, his mission became enormously successful, and Krsna blessed him with great opulence. When a person acquires great amounts of wealth and power, he usually becomes thoroughly attached and polluted due to the strong force of his material desires. Srila Prabhupada, however, remained aloof from this contamination because of his complete absorption in the desire to please Krsna.
Indifferent to Material Acquisition
Because a pure devotee of Lord Krsna is desireless, he is naturally indifferent to material acquisition. Material facilities may come and go, but that does not concern him in the least.
Srila Prabhupada once pointed out that if he had simply sat beneath a tree and preached, very few people would have come to listen. Therefore, to effectively deliver the message of Lord Krsna, he constructed beautifully ornate temples. At no time, however, was he desirous of settling in comfortably to enjoy these facilities, choosing instead to follow a rigorous schedule of traveling and preaching that even the youngest and healthiest of his disciples could not keep pace with.
When Srila Prabhupada was instructed by his spiritual master to preach Krsna consciousness in English, he took his order as his life and soul and fixed his determination upon carrying it out diligently. Founding the Back to Godhead magazine in 1944, Srila Prabhupada single-handedly attended to its publication and distribution for many years, never once deviating from his sincere effort to please his spiritual master. As a result of Srila Prabhupada's fixed determination, all of his preaching activities were crowned with glorious success, and even now, in his physical absence, his followers carry on his work all over the world.
Without False Prestige
Srila Prabhupada's humility was inconceivably deep and heartfelt, and it inspired a generation of young men and women, who had based their lives on the rejection of authority, to willingly accept his authority. Srila Prabhupada never took credit for his many successes, always preferring to acknowledge his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, and the assistance given to him by his disciples.
During one lecture, Srila Prabhupada touched the hearts of his disciples when he stated that he considered them to be representatives of his spiritual master, sent to assist him in his preaching mission. By this expression of sincere gratitude, Srila Prabhupada displayed his mood of devout humility. Anyone pursuing the spiritual path should aspire to follow in his footsteps in this regard.
Srila Prabhupada once explained to a group of his disciples that a devotee of Lord Krsna is always grave. Upon hearing this, one devotee, a very colorful and effusive person, decided to tone down his disposition and became straight-faced in an attempt to please his spiritual master. After a few days of this behavior by his disciple, Srila Prabhupada looked at him quizzically and asked what was the matter. The disciple replied that he was trying to be grave.
At that, Srila Prabhupada laughed and explained to him that being grave means to be serious about Krsna consciousness. It has nothing to do with artificially repressing one's individuality. Srila Prabhupada himself was a most vibrant personality. His life abounded with laughter and spiritual enjoyment, yet he was always serious about Krsna consciousness. He never forgot Lord Krsna, not even for a moment, and in this way displayed perfect gravity.
In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna states that He is the friend of all living beings. As the Lord's intimate associate, Srila Prabhupada also displayed friendship to all by dint of his constant engagement in spiritual welfare activities. In the material world friendships are formed on the basis of mutual sense gratification, and when sense gratification is disturbed, the relationship is either damaged or discontinued.
Srila Prabhupada was a true friend to all, however, because he formed relationships with others motivated by his unalloyed desire to assist everyone in achieving the highest goal of life. He never desired to exploit anyone, and if there was ever an offense committed against him or some difficulty caused by others, he never took it seriously.
The scriptures state that if a disciple commits a sinful activity, the spiritual master suffers. Srila Prabhupada, out his causeless mercy, accepted thousands of disciples, and because of their inevitable transgressions he had to undergo what appeared to be suffering. In spite of this, he never withdrew his mercy and friendship. Significantly, he always closed his letters to his disciples with the words "Your ever well-wisher."
The spiritual friendship of a pure devotee like Srila Prabhupada is the rarest of gems, and it behooves us all appreciate, revere, and guard it as our life's dearest treasure.
"Krsna assures us in the Bhagavad-gita that if we want to live there He will make the arrangements. But first we must demonstrate that we are ready."
by Nagaraja Dasa
Though the spiritual world is the abode of the highest pleasure, hardly anyone wants to go there. We say we'd like to go, and we may think we are going, but our actions speak differently. Either we don't fully believe in a spiritual world, or the information we have about it hasn't inspired us to act in a way that will get us there.
Most of us, having only scanty information of the spiritual world, imagine a place where angels float on clouds and play harps and trumpets all day—a boring existence when compared to our present life, with its friendships, family relations, fancy cars, nightclubs, restaurants, and Sunday afternoon football. Without these things how can heaven be enjoyable? We even joke that hell would be better than heaven, because all our friends would be there. Fortunately, from the Srimad-Bhagavatam and other Vedic literature we get a much clearer, more inviting picture of heaven.
The spiritual world is not the creation of someone's imagination. It is God's eternal abode. Because God is a person, He has His own abode, called Vaikuntha in Sanskrit, meaning "devoid of anxiety." Being God's home, Vaikuntha possesses unlimited beauty and opulence. It's not a boring place. It is the realm of the original, spiritual forms of everything we find in the material world.
In other words, it's full of variety: birds, animals, forests, lakes, cities, airplanes, skyscrapers—everything. But they're all spiritual.
For example, in the many forests of Vaikuntha, the trees—being fully conscious living beings like everything else there—supply everything the residents desire. Cintamani, a spiritual wish-fulfilling gem, serves as construction material in Vaikuntha. The residents, unalloyed devotees of God, possess spiritual bodies that never become diseased, grow old, or die. Free from the frustrations and anxieties of material life, these eternally liberated souls enjoy unending happiness.
We conditioned souls, habituated to the dualities of happiness and distress in the material world, cannot conceive of the pleasure available to the inhabitants of Vaikuntha. Material pleasures come only from the interaction of our senses with the sense objects (sound, form, touch, taste, and smell). Since the senses and their objects are limited and temporary, the pleasures derived from their interaction must also be limited and temporary—and therefore not really satisfying to the self, which is eternal.
Further analysis of material pleasures shows that they give only respite from our normally distressful condition. The material world, by its very nature, gives us distress: our own bodies and minds trouble us; business competitors, government officials, foreign governments, insects, dogs, and all sorts of other creatures harass us; and excessive heat, excessive cold, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and other unconquerable forces of nature torment us. No one is exempt from these miseries. They constantly attack, and if we can momentarily overcome them—or even forget about them—we think ourselves happy.
Spiritual pleasure is in another category altogether. In the spiritual world everyone derives pure happiness by serving God, Krsna. Such service is the innate function of the soul. Once one tastes the happiness derived from that service, one automatically spurns even the highest material pleasure. A great devotee has explained that even one drop of pleasure obtained from devotional service to Krsna far exceeds an ocean of material pleasure. Thus Vaikuntha, which is permeated by service to Krsna, is the abode of unlimited pleasure.
Because we all want pleasure, when we hear from authorized sources that Vaikuntha offers it unlimitedly, we should naturally want to go there. And we can if we want to. In fact, we were all there originally, but we left. Why? Because we didn't fit in.
To live in Vaikuntha, we must be like its other inhabitants. Because of their full devotion to God, they never consider their own welfare; selfish desires do not exist there. The devotees serve Krsna and each other in total selflessness. Were we to enter Vaikuntha to fulfill our own desires, we would create a disturbance to the inhabitants, who are absorbed in satisfying Krsna's desires. So even though we may claim that we want to go to the kingdom of God, how many of us are ready to live as its residents do?
As evidenced by our deeds in this world, most of us would rather live some other way. We'd rather be selfish than selfless. We'd rather go to Las Vegas for the casinos or to the Bahamas for the sun and surf. Travel agents sell plenty of tickets to these places. But few people want to go where everyone selflessly serves the Supreme Personality of Godhead without personal interests. Krsna assures us in Bhagavad-gita that if we want to live there He will make the arrangements. But first we must demonstrate that we are ready.
We're in the material world because we're not ready; we want to enjoy the kingdom of God without God. Krsna created us to enjoy with Him. That's our eternal service, and it's blissful—it's ecstatic! But we don't want it. We don't want to serve Krsna, because we covet His position. We want to enjoy here. Our original, pure consciousness—our Krsna consciousness—is infected with the impure desire to enjoy the material world without Krsna.
Without overcoming this disease of material consciousness, we'll never want to go back to Vaikuntha. But if we sincerely desire eternal happiness, we must go back there. We'll need to recover our spiritual health.
That means we'll need a guru, a spiritual doctor who is going to ask us to do things we may not like. Patients usually dislike their medicine, but if they take their medicine and follow the regimen the qualified doctor prescribes, they'll be cured.
Similarly, the spiritual master, guided by scripture, prescribes the activities—which, like medicine, may sometimes appear distasteful—that will restore our original, healthy condition. If, on the other hand, we try without proper guidance to enter God's spiritual kingdom, we'll be in a precarious position because we have not properly qualified ourselves.
For example, many people think they are leading a good life and will go to the kingdom of God after death. They feel no need to accept a spiritual master or the scriptures. They have their own conception of what "good" is. Certainly we may try to be good and hope God will grant us entrance into His abode after death. But what happens if our idea of goodness is inaccurate? What happens if it falls short of the mark? According to Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam, the standard of goodness required of the inhabitants of Vaikuntha far exceeds the characteristic piety of good people in this world.
Philosophers have long debated whether there exists an absolute standard of goodness. Nowadays, people tend to favor the idea that goodness is relative to the individual, as the common expression "Whatever is right for you is all right" indicates. But what I think is right and what you think is right are not necessarily the same thing.
It's reasonable and practical, therefore, to accept a definition of goodness from an authority. For example, we don't run society on the premise that everyone is right. Rather, our lawmakers set up standards of acceptable behavior for those who want to enjoy the benefits of living in society. Then, even if a citizen doesn't like the laws, he must either submit to them or risk punishment; they are not relative.
Similarly, God makes His laws, and we're liable for punishment if we violate them—knowingly or unknowingly. This may seem unfair, but the same principle applies in the state: ignorance of the law is no excuse. To live in the state we must know its laws; to live in this world, which God created, we must know His laws. As human beings, with higher intelligence than the animals, we must accept that responsibility.
Fortunately, we can easily find out God's laws, His standards of goodness, because the scriptures reveal them. So we should not reject the scriptures and invent our own religious path. As the Srimad-Bhagavatam states, dharmam tu saksad bhagavat-pranitam: God Himself enunciates religious principles. Religion essentially means God's method for us to approach Him. Since we are in the subordinate position (He knows us but we don't know Him), we must accept His direction on how to approach Him. That acceptance is the symptom of true goodness.
So if we really want to be good, if we really want to go to heaven, then we ought to let our actions speak the same as our words. That is the price for going back to the kingdom of God.
Notes from the Editor
Hindus in the West: The Challenge to Spiritual Roots
Many Indians now living in Western countries have become successful at their occupations, and they hope their children will become even more successful. In the United States the Indian population is one of the wealthiest minorities, with many leading professionals in various fields. There is not much doubt that the Indians in the West can succeed materially. But the challenge remains: will they be able—and willing—to retain their cultural origins?
As a Krsna devotee of American origin, I have Indian friends both in the West and in India, and I share their concerns. At a recent conference of the Visva Hindu Parisad held in North Carolina, two of these concerns were the subjects of lectures: (1) "The Relevancy of Vedic Literature in the Modern Age" and (2) "The Effect of Karma on Youth." I would like to express my realization on these topics from the Krsna conscious viewpoint.
It is proper for any religionist to assess whether his or her spiritual upbringing is keeping pace with modern life. But the assessment should not be superficial or too strongly swayed by current fashions. The fact is, "There is nothing new under the sun." Vedic literatures describe four problems that prevent all human beings from attaining happiness—birth, death, old age, and disease.
In the thousands of years since the Vedic literatures were presented to mankind, no one has been able to get free of these miseries, despite the advances of science, politics, or philosophical speculation. Although particular diseases may have been subdued by medicine and technology, many new diseases have arisen. No one has prevented death, and the introduction of nuclear weapons has greatly increased the probability of mass violence and death. Therefore, the statement of Bhagavad-gita that human life is duhkhalayam asasvatam, unhappy and temporary, should be taken as a permanent fact. It is not a truth that belongs only to the East or West, just as the sun is not a product of East or West.
Vedic literature is certainly relevant, because it addresses humanity's age-old problems and presents profound solutions. The Vedas explain how we can transcend the anxieties of temporary existence and live more peacefully in this life by cultivating our spiritual life. More important, by the process of bhakti-yoga we can develop love of God, conquer the dilemma of death, and gain eternal life.
Though the Vedic literatures are the oldest scriptures in the world, the followers of the Vedas should not think that the "ancient" truths have been outdated or replaced. Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his appreciation of Bhagavad-gita, stated, "It is nothing small or unworthy, but large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence which in another age and climate had pondered and thus disposed of the same questions which exercise us." Similarly, Aldous Huxley described the Upanisads as "perennial philosophy." And Henry David Thoreau spoke of "the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad-gita, in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial."
My Indian friends may consider me presumptuous to warn them not to think of Vedic scripture as dispensable. After all, I am a come-lately to Krsna consciousness; they were born into it. Many Indians feel very confident that no matter how much they become Westernized, they will never lose their original scriptural ideas. Even if out of social pressure they compromise spiritual practices, many say, "I can always think of Krsna." They show considerable anxiety, however, about whether their offspring will be able to keep the valuable roots of Indian spirituality.
Karma and Youth
Spiritual realization is not something parents or well-wishers can force upon youth. Karma, the inevitable law of cause and effect, operates upon the young as well as the old. Therefore, in the original Vedic culture spiritual training always began at the earliest possible age. Young students became adept at yoga, meditation, and appreciation of the epic literatures such as Mahabharata and Ramayana.
Although Indian parents may want their children to appreciate the values of Vedic culture, the parents are often disappointed. Young people are more interested in preyas, immediate pleasures, than in sreyas, pleasure received by sacrificing immediate gains in favor of long-term, spiritual ones. Although young people may sometimes forego an evening's fun at the cinema to study for exams, rarely do they sacrifice in favor of spiritual life. More of ten they indulge in excessive, sinful practices. For although youth is a time of great opportunity, it is also a time of uncontrolled senses. How, then, can Indian parents instill within their children an appreciation for Vedic culture?
Appreciation for spiritual life comes only when we are able to associate with persons who are self-realized and who live according to spiritual truths. On the other hand, if we hear the speculations of nondevotees about the heroes of Vedic culture, such as Lord Krsna, Lord Rama, the Pandavas, and Hanuman, then we may come to regard them as mythical or irrelevant. Only the learned, God-conscious teachers and saintly persons can infuse us with the conviction that the personalities in the Vedic histories were real persons—persons of the highest standard, whose words and deeds should be followed by all humanity.
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada transplanted the Vedic culture, almost in its entirety, to countries throughout the world. By introducing Krsna consciousness in Western countries through books and temple worship, Srila Prabhupada proved that Vedic culture is not only for Hindus.
Lord Caitanya also predicted that the day would come when the names of Krsna would be chanted in every town and village of the world. Because many pioneer teachers since Lord Caitanya have worked for the realization of this vision, we now see persons adopting Vaisnava habits, lifestyle, and philosophy in places where Vedic culture was undreamt-of before.
If Indians in Western countries avail themselves of the association of the Westerners who have also become Krsna conscious, this will provide a natural inspiration for everyone. Certainly the Western devotees will find their own convictions solidified when they make friends with Indians who have imbibed the Vedic ways from birth.
And the Indians, perhaps especially the young, may take heart to see Westerners giving up the glittering attractions of hedonism and staunchly defending Vedic knowledge against the onslaught of atheistic speculations. The more such association takes place, the more the Indian and Western devotees of Krsna can be assured that Vedic spiritual life will certainly endure throughout the world, despite the challenges of modern life.—SDG
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Tap into the reservoir of pleasure. By chanting the names of God, you'll immediately be in touch with the source of all pleasure. The name Krsna means the all-attractive person, and Rama means the supreme pleasure. Hare is the form of addressing Hara, God's devotional energy, to whom we pray to be engaged in the Lord's service. Because God is unlimited and absolute, He is fully present in the sound of His names. So, just as darkness cannot stand in the presence of light, by chanting God's names, all miseries go away.
Because we are spiritual and eternal, our natural state is one of unrestricted happiness. But forgetting our original positions as loving servants and devotees of Krsna, we suffer the pains of material life. By chanting God's names, we become purified of all material desires, which separate us from Krsna, and we regain entrance into the eternal, blissful spiritual realm.
The spiritual realm is not restricted by time and space; it's always within reach. And you can experience it. Chant the Hare Krsna mantra—and taste the pleasure.