If God is impartial, why does
A lecture in Los Angeles in December 1973
"Factually this is all due to the supreme will of the Lord, the Personality of Godhead. Sometimes people kill one another, and at other times they protect one another." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.15.24)
Srila Prabhupada: Now you can read the purport
Devotee [reading]: "According to the anthropologists, there is nature's law of struggle for existence and survival of the fittest. But they do not know that behind the law of nature, there is the supreme direction of the Supreme Lord Personality of Godhead. In the Bhagavad-gita it is confirmed that the law of nature is executed under the direction of the Lord. Whenever therefore there is peace in the world, it must be known that it is due to the good will of the Lord, and whenever there is upheaval in the world, it is also due to the supreme will of the Lord. Not a blade of grass moves without the will of the Lord. Whenever, therefore, there is disobedience of the established rules enacted by the Lord, there is war between men and nations. The surest way to the path of peace is, therefore, dovetailing everything to the established rule of the Lord. The established rule is that whatever we do, whatever we eat, whatever we sacrifice, whatever we give in charity, must be done to the full satisfaction of the Lord. No one should do anything, eat anything, sacrifice anything, or give anything in charity against the will of the Lord. Discretion is the better part of valor, and one must learn how to discriminate between actions which may be pleasing to the Lord and those which may not be pleasing to the Lord. An action is thus judged by the Lord's pleasure or displeasure. There is no room for personal whims. We must always be guided by the pleasure of the Lord. Such action is called yogah-karmasu kausalam, or actions performed which are linked with the Supreme Lord. That is the art of doing a thing perfectly."
Srila Prabhupada: So, the first step in spiritual understanding is to know that there is no enjoyment in this material world, only suffering. If in the struggle for existence we are able to counteract the suffering a little bit, we take that as enjoyment. But actually there is no enjoyment. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna, the supreme authority, says that this material world is duhkhalayam, "the place for suffering." That is fact.
Now, if a person is accepting suffering as enjoyment, we would say he's insane, while the person who is trying to actually end suffering is sane. I'll give you a practical example. In the prison house, some prisoners are called first class. They are given special favor by the government. And there are third-classes prisoners also. But both of them are prisoners, and they must suffer. If the first-class prisoner thinks he can enjoy in the prison, he is fool number one. After all, a prison is not meant for comfortable life; it is meant for suffering. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura therefore sings, anadi karama-phale padi 'bhavarnava-jale taribare na dekhi upaya: "I have fallen into this ocean of material life because of my fruitive activities, and I can see no way out of this suffering."
So, we have no independence to do anything about the suffering of this prison house of the material world. Everyone is thinking, "I am independent," but that is not the fact. As Lord Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita [3.27],
"Everybody is controlled by the laws of material nature, but the foolish persons think they are working independently."
And ultimately Krsna is doing everything. As it is said in this verse of the Bhagavatam, prayenaitad bhagavata isvarasya vicestitam: "Everything is due to the will of the lord." We cannot do anything without the will of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In the civil state you cannot do anything without the sanction of the government. Similarly, without the sanction of the supreme "state," the supreme order-giver—Krsna, or God—we cannot do anything.
Here it is also said, mitho nighnanti bhutani bhavayanti ca yan mithah: "Sometimes, by His will, we kill one another, and sometimes we give protection to one another." So does this mean that at different times Krsna thinks differently, that He is partial? No. Krsna's actions are daiva, superior. Krsna is just like a high-court judge. In one case a judge will condemn somebody to be hanged, and in another case he will award someone millions of dollars. Is he partial? No. He is simply administering the law, that's all. One man has created a situation in which he should be condemned to death, and the other man has created a situation in which he will be rewarded with millions of dollars. Everything depending on one's actions.
So, we are acting in different ways, and by superior administration (daiva-netrena) we are getting different types of bodies and suffering of enjoying the consequences. This is our position. Krsna is impartial. As He says in the Bhagavad-gita, samo 'ham sarva-bhutesu: "I am equal to everyone." Otherwise, how could He be God? God is not partial—deciding whimsically that somebody should be killed and somebody else should be rewarded with ten million dollars. No. By our own work we create our own situation. That you should know.
Now, according to the state law, if I kill somebody, I should also be killed. The law of nature, or the law of God, works similarly. But we forget our past life. No one thinks, "It is because I killed this person in my past life that he is now killing me." But although we forget our past life, Krsna does not forget. And He reminds us: "This child killed you in his past life, so now you can kill him in the womb." Krsna is described as upadrasta and anumanta, "the witness and permitter." So He sees everything, and then He reminds everyone how to act in order to enjoy or suffer the fruits of their actions. Sometimes He reminds us to kill someone, and sometimes He reminds us to protect someone.
There is nothing wrong with this; it is equal justice. So don't think that because Krsna gives sanction (vicestitam) He is partial. No. He is always impartial. We are simply suffering the results of our own activities that violate the will of God. Therefore, for our own benefit we should always try to understand the will of God. That is our duty. The human form of life is an opportunity to understand the will of God. He expresses His will very clearly in the Bhagavad-gita [18.66]: sarva-dharman parityayja mam ekam saranam vraja. "Just give up all other business and surrender to Me." Nobody can say, "What is the will of God? I do not know." No, you know. And what is the result of surrendering to Krsna? He says, aham tvam sarva-papebhyo moksayisyami: "I will give you protection and relieve you from the effects of all sinful activity."
If you become nicely educated, cultured, then you get a good position in society. But if you're a rascal, you suffer. Similarly, we suffer on account of our sinful activities, and we enjoy by performing pious activities. That is nature's law, called karma-bandha. So long as we do not know what is the will of God, what is our duty, we will create our own position by sinful or pious activities, and therefore we will sometimes suffer and sometimes enjoy.
So, we must know what our duty is. That we have forgotten. Na te viduh svartha-gatim hi visnum: In the material condition we have forgotten our actual aim of life—Lord Krsna. Therefore Krsna comes here. He says in Bhagavad-gita [4.7], yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati bharata... tadatmanam srjamy aham: "When people forget their duty, I come." When we forget our duty, that is called dharmasya-glanih. Dharma is not a religious sentiment. Dharma means "one's occupational duty." This is explained in Srimad-Bhagavatam.
So, our real occupational duty is to serve the Supreme Lord. We are meant for serving Krsna, but when we forget to serve Krsna and we try to serve so many other things—our lust, our greediness, our illusion—so many problems result. We have to serve—that is our position. Nobody can be free from service. That is not possible. But we do not know where to give our service. That we have forgotten.
Kamadinam kati na katidha palita durnidesah: The human beings in ignorance are serving lust, greediness, illusion, anger—so many things they are serving. One man kills another because of lusty desire, or out of illusion. So, we are serving—there is no doubt about it—but we are serving our lust, avarice, and so on. Now we have to learn that we are being frustrated by serving all these things, and then we have to turn that service attitude toward Krsna. That is Krsna's mission. Krsna says, "You are serving already. You cannot be free from service. But your service is misplaced. Therefore just turn your service unto Me and you will become happy." That is Krsna consciousness.
A greedy man suffers because he eats more than he needs. So many diseases—diabetes, dysentery. These diseases come from eating more than required. Still, even though he is suffering, he cannot stop overeating, because he is greedy and lusty. That is the cause. If you have no appetite and still you eat, then you must suffer. You will contract some disease and suffer. That is a medical fact.
So, we are serving, but we are serving our lust and our greediness, and therefore we are suffering. We are infected with lust, greediness, illusion, fearfulness—so many things. If you steal, you will be fearful: "Oh, I may be arrested, I may be arrested." Because you have done something wrong, you are under the influence of fear. It is very easy to understand.
We are creating our situation by serving different types of desires. That's all. And sometimes we are doing something which we know we should not do. But although we have done so much to serve our lust and greediness, they are not merciful, and still they are dictating: "Go on doing this, go on doing this." We are suffering, yet still we are following the dictation of lust and greed. In this way we are creating our own karma. Any sane man will think, "For so long I have served my nasty desires, but still I am not happy, nor are my desires satisfied." The desires of the lusty man are never satiated. He has killed so many animals simply for the satisfaction of his tongue, and he may know that he should stop, but no, he will go on killing, killing, killing, killing, killing, killing. He is never satisfied. He never concludes, "I have killed so many innocent animals. No more! Let me stop." No, there is no stopping.
The biblical injunction is "Thou shalt not kill," but people will kill and kill and kill and kill, and still they want to be peaceful and satisfied. Just see! The Bible says, "Thou shalt not kill," and even though they are simply engaged in this killing business, still they want to be happy. "Therefore," Krishna says, "be killed by occasional world war." You must be killed. You have created this situation, so you must be killed. You may be an American or an Englishman or a German, this or that, and you may be very proud of your nationality, but you must be killed. This is the position of the modern civilization. Everything takes place by the will of God: isvarasya vicestitam. You have killed so many animals? Now let there be wholesale human slaughter by one atom bomb.
These rascals do not know how things are going on by the will of the Lord. If the ordinary state laws declare that one who kills somebody must be hanged, do you think you can simply bluff the supreme authority, Krsna? Do you think you can go on killing, killing, killing and remain unpunished? No. You will be killed by pestilence, by famine, even within your mother's womb. In the womb there is supposed to be good protection, but there also you will be killed. Human civilization has degenerated so much that the killing business is increasing daily.
Therefore, we must submit to Krsna. We cannot remain free of the laws of God That is not possible. So we must surrender: "O Krsna, O God, I have acted sinfully for so many births, but I did not become happy. Nor am I happy at the present moment. So now I surrender unto You. You promise to give protection to those who surrender unto You, so kindly give me protection from my sinful reactions and engage me in Your service." This is the Krsna consciousness movement.
Thank you very much. Hare Krishna.
My Eureka Experience
A few lines from a little book turn a routine
by Kundali dasa
A eureka experience occurs when something routine and familiar suddenly triggers a powerful, emotionally charged realization, and you perceive as never before the depth, meaning, and significance of that particular action or statement.
You feel like the Greek mathematician Archimedes felt when, upon entering his bath one day, he suddenly discovered how to measure the density of an object by seeing the amount of water his body displaced. And like Archimedes, when you have such a stirring revelation, you may also feel like dashing through the streets shouting "Eureka! Eureka!"
I had my eureka experience one day in May 1973. I'd gotten home from work around five thirty, and as usual I performed my daily rite of watching television with the sound off, the stereo blaring at near peak volume. That was how I'd purge myself of a day at the office of White, Weld and Co., a brokerage house near Wall Street.
My roommate walked in, a big smile on his face, and tossed a booklet in my direction. In deference to the loud music, he pointed to the booklet while silently mouthing "Got that for you."
I turned down the music and retrieved the booklet from the floor. The title was Krsna, the Reservoir of Pleasure. "Thanks, Kevin," I said. "I just read a book about Krsna a few weeks ago. Three volumes. Interesting stuff."
"I saw you reading it; that's why I brought this for you. What about the magazines?"
Kevin worked in an office in mid-Manhattan, and almost daily he saw Hare Krishna devotees chanting on the streets or distributing literature in the subways. He brought me whatever literature they gave him in exchange for his occasional donations of pocket change. Over a few months I had acquired three or four Back to Godhead magazines, which I'd flipped through and tucked under the stereo.
"Mostly looked at the pictures," I said. "Some really beautiful art. You know, I thought Hare Krishna were just die-hard hippies, trying to be Siddhartha or something, but I'm really beginning to respect them."
Kevin was noncommittal. "They seem sincere," he said, "but that's not my scene."
Kevin had an innate aversion for spiritual life. He wasn't an out-and-out hedonist, mind you; he believed in the golden rule. He reckoned his observance of it took care of his end of life's bargain. He had no objection to my interest in spiritual life, however, and in his own quiet way he encouraged me by bringing me the booklet and the magazines.
While Kevin fixed dinner, I started on the Reservoir of Pleasure. I had enjoyed the other Hare Krishna books, and I was eager to see what a booklet with such a promising title would yield. My eagerness paid off right in the first paragraph:
Each of us, every living being, seeks pleasure. But we do not know how to seek pleasure perfectly. With a materialistic concept of life, we are frustrated and every step in satisfying our pleasure because we have no information regarding the real level on which to have real pleasure.
Not very earthshaking statements at first glance. In most instances I would have just kept on reading, the way Archimedes might have blithely taken his bath with no further thought about the overflowing water. But he didn't, because all at once the significance of the overflowing water overwhelmed him. Similarly, I was overwhelmed by the passage; it struck me like a blow between the eyes.
The more I thought about the import of those few sentences, the more they made sense and the more the truth of them became etched into my mind. I felt myself enter an altered state of consciousness wherein I perceived with profound clarity that these statements weren't merely true, the were absolutely true.
My thoughts gathered momentum. The experience was like a voice speaking to me from within. "This is the challenge of life," it said. "You have to search out perfect happiness. If you don't, your life will be worthless. After tonight, unless you do everything in your power to find perfect happiness, you will never be satisfied."
"That's it," I thought. "That's the whole problem of life summed up right there. Without consciously and deliberately seeking a solution to this problem, what is the value of any other endeavor? Now I understand what Socrates meant when he said, 'The unexamined life is not worth living.' "
I went into my bedroom and closed the door. I didn't want to risk Kevin's diverting my thoughts before I had fully digested them.
My eureka experience actually had it's roots in an episode that had occurred about a month earlier. I hadn't seen my parents since the previous fall, so one balmy Saturday morning I went by bus to New Jersey to spend the day with them. That evening, just before my return journey, Irwin, my stepfather, said, "Conrad, I have a little gift for you," and popped three books into my hand. They were a trilogy entitled Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
"Hare Krishna books," Irwin said with a huge grin. He was enjoying himself, getting a kick out of giving me some books by the weird Hare Krishna. "You like books on mysticism and that kind a thing, right?"
"Yeah, I even have a few Hare Krishna magazines," I replied, feigning interest in Krsna literature to appear appreciative of his gift.
Irwin was the personnel director at Saint Barnabas Hospital for Chronic Diseases, in the Bronx. He had gotten the books from his assistant, who had gotten them from a devotee in the New York Port Authority terminal. His assistant didn't want the books, so Irwin, thinking I'd be interested in reading up on Hare Krishna philosophy, had offered to take them.
Irwin opened one of the books. "Look at that," he said. "George Harrison wrote the foreword. You like him, right?"
"O, yes, he's one of my favorites. I don't know about the Hare Krishna, though. I always avoid them down where I work. I see them chanting in Central Park on the weekends; they're a little too flamboyant for me—"
"You can say that again," Mom said. "I think they're all a little weird myself. Anyway, at least reading one of their books is better than being seen with them in public."
Walking to the bus stand, I had no intention of reading the books. Although I considered myself a broad-minded spiritual eclectic—I would read any book, tract, or magazine by anyone claiming to be a spiritual luminary—my eclecticism did not extend to the Hare Krishna. Early on I had ruled them out from serious consideration. Too fanatic, I thought. Too public. Too loud about their spirituality. In my view, being spiritual was fine, but proselytizing on street corners was not. Although a part of me admired the devotees for their courage of conviction, that wasn't enough to make me want to read their books.
But a bus ride from Teaneck to New York in the late evening is boring, and I'm the type of person for whom any printed matter is grist for my reading mill. Besides, I did want to know what George Harrison had to say about the enigmatic Hare Krsna. So, despite my reluctance, I opened Volume One and started reading his "Words From Apple."
I read all the way home and on, until two the next morning. I found everything about the book fascinating: the cover, the foreword, the preface, the introduction, the illustrations, and the stories themselves. They were a summary translation from Sanskrit of Krsna's pastimes in India five thousand years ago. Srila Prabhupada's lucid commentary ran throughout the narrative. I was amazed to learn of the deep philosophy and tradition behind the people I'd seen chanting in the streets.
Reading at every spare moment, day and night, I finished all three volumes in a few days. One thing I readily appreciated was the historical account of Krsna's life. I had read Bhagavad-gita and numerous books citing the Gita, but it had never occurred to me to think of the speaker of the Gita, Krsna, as an actual historical person. He was usually portrayed as a mythical person, one whose existence was incidental, not instrumental, to the ideas in the Bhagavad-gita. It was enlightening to learn about His life, both before and after He spoke the Gita.
At the same time I made a grievous mistake. I took particular relish in identifying myself with Krsna, the way a person might vicariously enjoy the role of the hero in a story. I imagined that the descriptions of Krsna's pastimes were a sample of the kind of pastimes I would enjoy when I became enlightened and realized that I too was God.
In those days I was an impersonalist. I believed that I was God, somehow temporarily fallen into illusion and therefore forgetful of my true identity. I thought the aim of spiritual life was to realize my "godself" and merge back into the Universal Oversoul. This, I thought, was the heart of India's Vedantic philosophy, for that was the slant of virtually every book on the subject that I'd read prior to Srila Prabhupada's.
Never having encountered personalism (the doctrine that the individual souls are eternal persons and loving servants of the Supreme Eternal Person), I had wrongly assumed Srila Prabhupada to be of the same impersonal persuasion as myself. I therefore interpreted all I read in his books in impersonalistic terms.
Reading the same books now, I see clearly that the impersonal conception is a prime target of Prabhupada's strong personalistic commentary. I wonder at how I was so foolish as to twist his words to suit my preconceived notions of spirituality. I'm embarrassed to admit that despite my fascination with the pastimes, I had no solid understanding of Krsna consciousness after reading the Krsna trilogy.
What I did gain, however, which helped prepare me for my eureka experience, was a willingness to read more books by Srila Prabhupada. Though I hadn't properly understood the trilogy, I was convinced that Prabhupada was a genuine self-realized spiritual authority, that he wasn't just conjecturing about transcendence.
My conviction about Prabhupada's spiritual authority came in handy when I read the Reservoir of Pleasure. Because I had enjoyed the trilogy, I was more receptive—but not uncritically so—to what Prabhupada had to say.
In one sense, my realization that night was not unique. Many others have come to similar conclusions about life. That wasn't even the first time I had had thoughts about the frustration of my desires for pleasure. What made it unique were the clarity with which I saw the truth of Prabhupada's words, and the conviction that perception brought me. It galvanized me with resolve to make the search for perfect pleasure my priority. I knew I would never be able to ignore this experience and simply meander through life.
As I read on, I was that Srila Prabhupada proposed Krsna consciousness as the process for realizing perfect pleasure. All his arguments made sense to me, but I wasn't convinced yet; I wanted to study his teachings more carefully. At the same time, I decided that if accepting the path to perfect pleasure meant shaving my head, wearing robes, and singing and dancing in the street, I would do those things. They seemed a small price to pay for the thing I wanted more than anything else in the world.
I was cautious, though. I went to the Krsna temple in Brooklyn to see if devotees practiced what Prabhupada preached. I was pleased to see that they did. I read more of his books—Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Teachings of Lord Caitanya, The Nectar of Devotion, and Sri Isopanisad—and found no inconsistency in the philosophy. I started visiting the temple twice daily, attending morning and evening classes, and chanting with the devotee in Times Square.
By the end of July, I could no longer bear living a dual life, so I tendered my resignation at White, Weld and Co. In giving my reasons for quitting, I quoted the lyrics from a song by Cat Stevens that had been coursing through my mind for several months:
I don't want to work away
And I gave my closing comment: "There must be more to life than a promising future in a lucrative dog-eat-dog career on Wall Street, and I'm determined to find it." Two weeks later I moved into the temple.
That fall my eureka experience bore its first fruit. My conclusion about Srila Prabhupada being a genuine self-realized soul was confirmed in a most wonderful way, leaving me no room for doubt. He came to New York, and the devotees went en masse to greet him at the airport.
He carried himself with a childlike innocence I had never seen before; he seemed to be the humblest person I'd ever seen. Yet he was regal in his bearing—aloof, but not at all haughty. His countenance was sublime.
Right away I knew I was in the presence of a saint. I was stunned. In my thinking, saints were beings so rare as to be mythical, like unicorns. I had relegated saints to religious storybooks. I had never dreamed I would meet a real one face to face.
Along with the devotees present, I bowed to him, my head touching the floor as I recited in Sanskrit two prayers I'd learned at the temple:
I offer my respectful obeisances unto His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who is very dear to Lord Krsna, having taken shelter at His lotus feet.
Before rising, I vowed to follow Srila Prabhupada for as long as I lived. Immediately my whole being felt light, as if a great burden had been lifted off me. I felt happiness beyond anything I'd ever felt. It was an incomparably ecstatic, rapturous feeling.
To this day I have no idea why the opening passage of the Reservoir of Pleasure had such an overpowering effect on me. I have thought about it over the years, and I can think of no explanation, except a simple admission that it was Krsna's mercy.
300 Years of Barbarism
A visit to an exhibit of Philadelphia's culinary history reveals incongruity in the "city of brotherly love."
by Visakha-devi dasi
"Ages of Eating in Philadelphia," read the title to the cover story to the food section of the Philadelphia Inquirer. "An overview of 300 years of Philadelphia cuisine, "The Larder Invaded: Three Centuries of Philadelphia Food and Drink' is a gustatory tour by means of 1,200 paintings, utensils and cook-book..." the article read. As Back to Godhead's cuisine writer, I decided to go, although not without skepticism—Philadelphians undoubtedly had been eating for three hundred years, but that didn't necessarily mean they knew anything about eating.
The exhibit was located in two adjoining buildings, one belonging to the Library Company of Philadelphia—the oldest cultural institution in America—and the other to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. I entered the prestigious buildings at Locust and Thirteenth Streets and was politely ushered past four galleries of classical paintings to a sign—"Philadelphia's Taste Displayed"—marking the beginning of the exhibit.
"Turtle meat has been a highlight of Philadelphia cuisine since pre-revolutionary days, ..." the caption on the first display case asserted. I moved on to the next exhibit. "Philadelphians were more oyster crazy than most. They ate them raw, fried, stewed, pickled, broiled, even frozen (as a hangover remedy)...." I skipped "Fish" and went to the "Scrapple" display. Beneath the glass case an ancient-looking cookbook was propped open to an ancient scrapple recipe. "Scrapple: take all the useless parts from a pig's head; add the lungs, liver and heart; put into an iron pot over the fire..."
I thought I shouldn't have put so many coins in the parking meter—the exhibit was grotesque beyond my imagination. Philadelphians should be embarrassed at their history of eating, not proud of it.
Since I had time I meandered on, feeling rather disgusted, past the exhibits of catfish, sugars and spices, ice cream molds from the eighteenth century, early cookbook writers, the first Philadelphia restaurants and street vendors—until a painting in a corner caught my eye.
It was a watercolor of a parade coming down Chestnut Street, just a few blocks from Locust and Thirteenth, were I was. Men, women, and children crowded the broad streets and leaned out of the three-story houses that went off as far as one could see. They were all witnessing the "Procession of Victuallers of Philadelphia." Hundreds of uniformed men on horseback surrounded a horse-drawn double-decker cart. A band was playing on the first deck, and a man stood next to a large brown ox on the second deck. Above the ox a flag waved with the words "Fed By Lewis Clapier."
I read the caption below the painting:
On the 15th of March, 1821, the butchers opened the most notable meat fair the city had ever known. After a week's exhibition, most of the 63 head of cattle, 42 oxen, 4 bears, 3 deer, 10 goats, 8 mammoth hogs and countless sheep were slaughtered. Alive or in dressed room, the 86,731 pound of meat were paraded through Philadelphia's streets and sold within 24 hours.
I was the only person at the exhibit that day, and I stood for a long time looking at the painting. I read the artist's ornately calligraphic words beneath his painting: "The occasion that gave rise to this splendid procession was conveying the meat... which, for number, quality, beauty and variety has never been slaughtered at any one time in this, or probably in any other, country...."
As any devotee would, I saw this event as cold-blooded murder. It was immoral and heinous, and it would wreak havoc for all its vacuum-hearted participants and supporters. Srila Prabhupada writes:
Slaughter is the way of sub-humans.... The animal killers do not know that in the future the animal will have a body suitable to kill them. That is the law of nature. In human society, if one kills a man he has to be hanged. That is the law of the state. Because of ignorance, people do not perceive that there is a complete state controlled by the Supreme Lord. Every living creature is a son of the Supreme Lord, and He does not tolerate even an ant's being killed. One has to pay for it. So indulgence in animal killing for the taste of the tongue is the grossest kind of ignorance. A human being has no need to kill animals, because God has supplied so many nice things. If one indulges in meat-eating anyway, it is to be understood that he is acting in ignorance and is making his future very dark.... Human society is advancing in the wrong direction and is clearing the path to its own condemnation.
I moved on, past the exhibit of "Those Who Had Plenty and Those Who Did Not" and past the wines, ciders, and kitchen utensils of yore. I stopped again when I saw the next-to-last exhibit "Good Holy Food." Prominent was a cookbook published in 1683 by Thomas Tryon titled The Way to Health, Long Life and Happiness—entirely vegetarian. Nearby was a small tract published in 1850 called Penny Vegetarian Cookery, which "the Philadelphia Bible Society had distributed hundreds of to uplift the working masses by means of a vegetarian diet."
After I'd returned home, I called the curator of the museum and asked her why the vegetarian section of the exhibit had been labeled "Good Holy Food."
"Partly because it fit so well with the title of the last exhibit, 'Wholesome Good Food' [medicinal and mostly vegetarian]," she said. "And partly because all our vegetarian tracts in the Historical Society are religiously oriented."
I told her something of what I do and my reaction to the Procession of Victuallers. "I'm not a vegetarian," she said, "but still I found that celebration strange. After all, now we get our meat wrapped up in plastic from the market, and we don't have to encounter or think about the animal that it came form. But to have such a parade and then a slaughter—it just seems barbaric."
So now that the animals are removed from the public eye to be killed, it is not barbaric? I thought. This is more civilized than killing the after a "splendid procession" through the city streets? The logic eluded me. Death is death, whether before the eyes of hundreds on the city's streets or behind the closed doors of the slaughterhouse. Is it not all barbarism? Yet here was an educated, well-positioned woman speaking with patent illogic.
The museum's ghastly display of violence made me think how much more people could profit form an exhibit called "Lord Krsna's Cuisine: A Timeless Transcendental Tradition." We could show the hundreds of dishes that can be made form milk and its products, and the fifty-odd enticing and enhancing spices that we use. We could give an introduction to the hundreds of thousands of meals that can be prepared from grains, vegetables, fruits, and milk products.
We could explain how this diet is more healthy, economical, humane, and conducive to spirituality than a diet that includes meat, fish, or eggs. We could explain the mentality of a devotee as he buys, cooks, offers, and serves the food, and the mentality of Lord Krsna, who accepts the vegetarian food offered to Him with love and devotion. And we could provide samples—samosas, pakoras, laddus, sandesa.
There would be nothing barbaric here, nothing illogical or inharmonious with nature. And no one would feel sorry about putting so much money in the parking meter.
(Recipes from The Hare Krishna Book of Vegetarian Cooking, by Adi-raja dasa)
Bandgobhi alu sabji
Fried cabbage and potatoes
Preparation and cooking time: 30 min
1 lb cabbage (a small head)
1. Wash the cabbage, shred it, and let it drain. With an electric coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle, grind the cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon stick into a powder and set aside.
2. Peel and cube the potatoes, and cut each tomato into 8 wedges.
3. In a non-stick saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons of the ghee or vegetable oil over moderate flame. Put the cubed potatoes in the pan and stir-fry them, scraping the bottom of the pan frequently, until they are lightly browned. Remove them from the pan and set them aside.
4. Put the remaining 2 tablespoons of ghee or vegetable oil in the same saucepan and stir-fry the grated ginger. Add the cayenne pepper and turmeric, and continue to fry for a few seconds more. Now add the shredded cabbage and fry for 3 or 4 more minutes, stirring regularly to mix it with the spices and prevent scorching. Add the tomatoes, fried potatoes, salt, sugar, and water. Cover the pan and simmer over a low flame until all the vegetables are tender.
5. Before offering to Krsna, sprinkle the previously prepared ground sweet spices over the top and mix gently.
Preparation time: 15 min
Standing time: 30 min
Rolling and cooking time: 5 min for each roti
1 1/2 cups sifted whole-wheat flour
1. Combine the flours, salt, spices, and coriander leaves in a large bowl. Rub the ghee or butter into the mixture. Gradually add warm water while mixing and kneading, until you have a smooth and elastic dough. Cover the dough with a moist cloth and set aside.
2. After 30 minutes or more, put a heavy griddle or over a medium-low flame. Break the dough into 12 parts. Take each part, form it into a ball, and roll it into a disc. Brush it with melted butter and fold it in half. Butter and fold in half again making a triangle. Roll it into a thin triangle. When the pan is hot, place a besan roti on it and cook each side for 2 or 3 minutes, using a little ghee or butter if the roti sticks to the pan. Then spread 1/2 teaspoon of ghee or melted butter over one side and rub it into the roti with the back of the spoon. Do the same with the other side. The besan roti is finished when both sides are golden-brown and freckled with red spots. Cook all 12 the same way. Offer to Krsna.
Mung Beans in yogurt sauce
Mithi ghani dal
Soaking time: overnight
Sprouting time: at least 24 hrs
Preparation and cooking time: 1 hr
1 cup whole mung beans
1. Wash the mung beans and soak them overnight. The next morning, tie them in a moist cloth and hang them for 24 hours before cooking, so they can begin to sprout. Check from time to time to make sure the cloth does not dry out.
2. Mix the chick-pea flour with the yogurt or buttermilk and set aside. Heat the ghee or vegetable oil and fry the cumin, ginger, chilies, and asafetida. When the cumin seeds darken, add the curry leaves, turmeric, salt, and sprouted mung beans. Pour the water into the pan and cook over a medium flame for 30 or 40 minutes, adding a little more water if necessary. When the beans are soft, add the yogurt or buttermilk; then add the sugar and cook for 5 more minutes. Garnish with the chopped coriander leaves. Offer to Krsna.
Mixed Vegetable Rice
Soaking and draining time: 30 min
Preparation and cooking time: 35-40 min
2 whole cloves
1. Begin by wrapping the cloves, cinnamon sticks, cumin, cardamom, and asafetida in a small piece of muslin (like a tea-bag).
2. Wash the rice, soak it for 15 minutes, and let it drain for 15 minutes. Heat the ghee or butter in a medium-size saucepan and fry the chili, grated ginger, and turmeric.
3. Now add the vegetables (except the tomatoes) and fry for 4 or 5 minutes more. Add the rice and stir for a moment. Then add the water, salt, tomatoes, and bay leaves. Stir again and bring to a boil. Suspend the little bag of spices in the rice, cover the pot, and cook over very low flame until the rice has absorbed all the water.
4. Remove the spice bag and squeeze it over the rice. Turn the rice onto a pre-heated serving dish and garnish with wedges of lemon or lime. Offer to Krsna.
Anannas ki chutni
Preparation and cooking time: 30 min
1 medium-large pineapple
1. Hold the pineapple upright and pare off the skin with a sharp knife; then dig out the eyes. Cut the pineapple lengthwise into quarters, and remove the core from each quarter. Then cut each quarter lengthwise into three strips, and cut each strip into chunks. Set the pineapple aside in a bowl.
2. Heat the ghee in a saucepan and fry the cumin seeds and chilies until they darken. Toss in the turmeric; then immediately add the pineapple chunks. After stir-frying for 4 or 5 minutes, add the water. Cover the pan. Cook over a low flame for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the cover and continue to cook until most of the liquid is cooked off. Finally, stir in the sugar and cook over the same low flame until the chutney thickens again (about 10 minutes). Offer to Krsna.
A hard look at the problems we all face.
by Visakha-devi dasi
You may have heard Krsna's devotees use the term conditioned soul, and you may have wondered what it meant. A conditioned soul is one controlled by the insurmountable forces of material nature, especially the miseries of birth, aging, disease, and death.
For us conditioned souls in the material world, all the rewards and pleasantries of life—the tender love of our friends and relatives, our homes, hobbies, studies, dinners at eight, and tennis on Sundays—all are fleeting because of these relentless impositions of nature. Some souls, desiring to attain lasting pleasure, try to become unconditioned, free from the influence of material nature.
To do this they require a qualified spiritual teacher, as well as guidebooks, like Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam, elaborate treatises on material and spiritual knowledge. Bhagavad-gita describes one aspect of knowledge as "the perception of the evil of birth, death, old age, and disease." This unabashedly pessimistic view of material life is an impetus for those who want to become unconditioned.
In the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Third Canto, this impetus is strengthened through a discussion between Lord Kapila, an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and His mother, Devahuti.
"Devahuti said: My dear Lord, please describe in detail, both for myself and for people in general, the continual process of birth and death, for by hearing of such calamities we may become detached from the activities of this material world."
In answer to her question, Lord Kapila explained in detail how the life force, the soul, enters the womb of a woman through a particle of male semen during sexual intercourse, how the fetus develops over the weeks and months of pregnancy, and how it suffers.
Owing to the mother's eating bitter pungent food, or food which is too salty or too sour, the body of the child incessantly suffers pains which are almost intolerable. Covered outside by the intestines, the child remains lying on one side of the abdomen, his head turned toward his belly and his back arched like a bow. The child thus remains just like a bird in a cage without freedom of movement.
Although scientific researchers have confirmed many of the Bhagavatam's statements about the development of the fetus, they have yet to discover how much it suffers. As we have forgotten the pain of injuries or illnesses we suffered years ago, we have similarly forgotten the pain of the fetal condition.
And what to speak of the birth itself! "Pushed downward all of a sudden by the wind that helps parturition," Kapila describes, "the child comes out with great trouble, head downward, breathless, and deprived of memory due to severe agony."
As any mother knows, the infant's miseries continue after birth. The helpless babe can't express what he wants, nor can he refuse the undesirables given him. He can't scratch himself or even move properly, and he cries from indigestion, colic, teething, teasing, and from pains that only he knows.
Just as a farmer neglects his old and worn-out animals, so, in Lord Kapila's words, "seeing the old man unable to support them, his family members do not treat him with the same respect as before." Thus old people, regarded by their relatives as too difficult to live with and care for, languish in homes for the aged. If they do stay home, "they remain just like a pet dog and eat whatever is negligently given to them." Afflicted with many illnesses, Kapila explains, they eat only small morsels of food and remain idle invalids, while their bodies dwindle and deteriorate under the imperceptible yet indomitable influence of time. The old person's body becomes a time-ravaged shell, like an abandoned house, a barren structure without facilities or comfort.
In the form of old age, time serves a summons of death that no one can refuse. But instead of preparing for death, senior citizens erect a lackluster fasade of painted wrinkles, dyed hair, and sporty clothes. Living on their "golden years' " retirement funds, they enjoy shuffleboard, mild surf, and shopping expeditions—until death comes and their body, along with its fasade, returns to dust.
Despite extensive medical research, sophisticated hospitals, and hard-working doctors, disease has not decreased. Just as the body must take birth and must die, so it must be wracked by one or more of myriad diseases—from arthritis to AIDS, from muscle sprains to mental imbalance. Though considered an abnormal condition, disease is actually the normal condition imposed on the bodies of all conditioned souls subjected to the impositions of nature.
"What is the most amazing thing?" a sagacious king was once asked. "The most amazing thing," the king responded, "is that although everyone knows he is destined to die, just as his relatives and friends have died, no one prepares for his own death. He acts as if he will live forever."
Time vanquishes everything material. With each rising and setting of the sun, with each passing moment, the balance of our life is being snatched away. Each passing birthday means one year closer to death.
Lord Kapila describes a dying man's final moments:
In his diseased condition, the old man's eyes bulge due to the pressure of air from within, and his glands become congested with mucus. He has difficulty breathing, and upon exhaling and inhaling he produces a sound like ghura-ghura, a rattling within the throat.
Unable to finish his plans, dissatisfied with the provisions he's made for his family, and unaware of his own fate, the dying man is as helpless as a newborn.
Our brief lifetime is likened to a bubble in the ocean. The tossing of ocean waves produces many small bubbles that stay together for some time and then separate, never to reunite. Similarly, our family, friends, and countrymen cluster like bubbles, only to be separated by death.
Although all conditioned souls, as eternal spiritual beings, are not meant to die, they are subject to death because their existence is intertwined with material nature. But it is possible to become disentangled, to solve the problem of death.
"The saints and sages," Devahuti said, "being freed from all the disturbances of the senses and mind, meditate upon the Supreme Personality of Godhead, for by His mercy only can one become free from the clutches of material nature."
Lord Kapila appreciated her realization and said.
The path of devotional service is very easy. You can execute this system without difficulty, and by following it you shall very soon be liberated, even within your present body. Persons who are not conversant with this method of devotional service to the Supreme Lord certainly cannot get out of the cycle of birth and death.
Since the conditioned soul doesn't know of the spiritual science called devotional service, he works hard and neglects to look philosophically at the causes of and cures for his miseries. But the unconditioned soul withdraws his senses from material activities and, well-equipped with knowledge and detachment, engages them fully in the service of the Supreme Lord. Anyone whose only aim is to serve the Supreme Lord under the direction of a bona fide spiritual master is liberated even within the material body. Although he will still have to satisfy the body's basic needs, he is not disturbed by the forces of material nature.
"You mean an unconditioned soul doesn't grow old, get diseases, or die?" you may ask in disbelief. Of course, from an external viewpoint he does experience these conditions. But in a higher, spiritual sense he doesn't, because he has realized that he's not the material body but the spirit soul within. Just as my wearing an old coat and blouse won't make me old, similarly the conditions of the body and mind can never actually affect the eternal soul.
So even death—the ultimate material condition—has no influence on the liberated soul. For example, when a cat holds a rat in its mouth, the rat feels terror, knowing that death is near. But when that same cat holds its kitten in its mouth, the kitten feels comfort. Similarly, when death comes for a conditioned soul, he's terrified, but for an unconditioned soul "death" means that the Lord has come to carry him back to Godhead, back to the spiritual world.
We welcome your letters.
I have tried to read Bhagavad-gita, the Upanisads, the Srimad-Bhagavatam, etc. The philosophy is very hard to internalize, to say the least. I was born into the "Hindu" religion and have almost blindly followed the customs and traditions of Hinduism for fifty years.
Difficulty has started since I started trying to interpret and read the philosophy behind Hinduism and the great books like the Gita and the Mahabharata, etc. The more I read I get more confused and it becomes even harder to undergo realization. At this point in time I feel I am grossly deluded. Hope your help will clear some of this confusion. Thank you.
Dr. H. K. Sinha
OUR REPLY: I can understand your confusion in trying to understand the philosophy of the Vedic literatures. It seems that everyone who reads the Bhagavad-gita has his own interpretation, and unfortunately many people try to present their interpretations as the absolute truth. The fact is, however, that we can learn the absolute truth only from the Absolute Truth Himself.
In other words, we cannot hear from just anyone. We have to hear from God of His representatives. Krsna clearly says in Bhagavad-gita that He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Supreme Absolute Truth. And many saints and sages confirm that He is God. Why should we try to interpret Krsna's words? He is God, and He can speak clearly for our understanding. Those who interpret Krsna's words actually misinterpret them. We should hear only from those who give us Krsna's teachings without any adulteration. Only such persons are qualified gurus. Krsna's unadulterated teachings have the potency to change our hearts and give us full realization.
This we have seen by the work of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Because he presented Bhagavad-gita "as it is," he was able to create many devotees of Lord Krsna all over the world. As a result of seeing things clearly by the mercy of Krsna and His pure representative Srila Prabhupada, these devotees are enthusiastically engaging in the service of the Absolute Truth, for the benefit of themselves and all humanity.
Please continue to read Srila Prabhupada's books and associate with the devotees. I'm sure your confusion will soon clear up.
* * *
I've wanted to ask you this question for some time, but I didn't have enough inspiration or inquisitiveness until now. What if someone says, "My scripture doesn't tell about God having a personal form, so I don't believe God has a personal form"? We can try to tell him or her all about the Vedic scriptures, but still the question will come again: "I was only taught the Bible..." Many people had the same viewpoint before they came to Srila Prabhupada. What did he say to them?
OUR REPLY: We have logical arguments to show that it is perfectly reasonable for Got to have a personal form. We'll give you one of those arguments in a moment.
As far as the Bible is concerned, Genesis states specifically that God made man in His own image and likeness. This cannot be interpreted to mean anything except that our form is fashioned after the Lord's own form.
That does not mean the Lord's form is made of material substances, such as flesh, blood, and bone. His form is completely spiritual. A mannequin is not made of the same substances as your body, but like your body it also has a form. Similarly, our form is like Krsna's, but it's not exactly the same. His form is made of spiritual energy; ours is made of material substances. We also have a spiritual form, but it is now covered by our flesh-and-blood form.
It is somewhat difficult to make a completely reasonable case for the existence of God's form strictly on the strength of the Bible. Lord Jesus, the foremost preceptor of the biblical line, said, "I have much to teach, but you are not ready to hear it." No one can reasonably assert, therefore, that merely because something is not mentioned in the Bible (Krsna's name, for example) it's automatically a falsehood. That would be very narrow, sectarian religious chauvinism, especially when a little objective study would show anyone that the Vedic science of God continues long after the Bible has stopped. Any sincere person can study that science and gain immense benefit.
Now here is the argument for the Lord's personal form: God is the Absolute Truth and the source of everything. That means that every quality, every element—every manifestation everywhere—originates in Him. Otherwise, the Absolute Truth, God, could not be described as perfect, complete, unlimited, and so forth. Now, if everything in creation originates from the Absolute Truth, the quality of personhood must also originate in Him. In other words, He must be a person.
Personhood is one of God's unlimited qualities. If you say, "No, not possibe," you immediately impose a limitation on the unlimited, which, obviously, you cannot do. To fulfill the literal meaning of Absolute Truth, we must accept the God is a transcendental person.
Our material minds find it difficult to accept such a transcendental person. But all the scriptures of the world portray God as a person, and great saints and devotees, having realized God's personality after sincere practice of devotional service, glorify Him in music, art, and poetry.
The Ultimate Science
This is the 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
Dr. Singh: Srila Prabhupada, many people would probably agree with what you say about getting knowledge. The ascending path—pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps, if you will—has to be always uncertain and incomplete. But when you can get your knowledge from a genuine authority who already possesses higher knowledge and experience—that path, the descending path, is much better. The preferable path for acquiring knowledge is the descending one.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Avaroha pantha, the descending path, is naturally superior. Why? Because aham adir hi devanam—this path of knowledge starts from Lord Krsna Himself, the origin of all knowledge. And it descends from the Lord through His bona fide representatives, godly personalities such as Brahma, Narada, and Vyasa. They're all devas, godly personalities. And Krsna says, aham adir hi devanam: "I am the very origin of all these godly personalities." Therefore, this Vedic knowledge is coming directly from Krsna through the system of parampara; or disciplic succession.
And the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna's book is the same thing. Through this book—the Lord's literary incarnation—His knowledge is coming down to us still. To facilitate our knowledge-acquiring process, the Lord Himself is speaking directly to us. His own words are recorded for us in the Bhagavad-gita. There Krsna speaks directly to the human being Arjuna, and through him directly to us. Therefore, the Bhagavad-gita is the right source of knowledge.
Dr. Singh: Yesterday a doctor of agricultural science visited me. He has his Ph.D. from the University of Missouri, and we talked together for a long time. In fact, we were talking about doing some experiments together. One experiment would be to prove that the chemical reactions within the living body are different from the normal chemical reactions that we know.
In fact some famous experiments have already touched on this very point. A French scientist named Kervran says his findings are beyond our present knowledge of chemistry. In other words, the chemical reactions within the living body are so vastly different from ordinary reactions, they prove that life is nonchemical, nonphysical.
Srila Prabhupada: That is correct. It is stated in the Bhagavad-gita: life is nonchemical, nonphysical.
Dr. Singh: Yes, and we want to prove it on a purely experimental basis. It's a very simple experiment. We germinate some seeds, like barley or rice, and we calculate the amount of, let's say, calcium. Now, as a place to germinate the seed on, we use a piece of ashless, pure-cellulose filter paper, completely devoid of calcium. First, we calculate the amount of calcium present before the seed germinates. Then we germinate the seed with deionized water, again completely devoid of calcium. Once the seed germinates, we analyze the calcium content.
What Kervran found is this: The amount of calcium is much increased. So we do not know where that calcium is coming from. And this phenomenon is beyond our present knowledge of chemistry.
Srila Prabhupada: The soul has entered and has germinated the seed—and this has produced the increased calcium.
Dr. Singh: Yes. This increased calcium has to be coming from somewhere. There has to be a cause.
Srila Prabhupada: That cause is the soul.
Dr. Singh: There's another nice experiment that uses Spanish Moss, a plant common in Florida, where it grows on many kinds of trees. We found that this Spanish Moss also grows on copper wire—and when it does, amazingly it produces iron. So there are many intriguing experiments. The U.S. Department of Agriculture can perform these and help shed light on the spiritual dimension.
Srila Prabhupada: In essence, these experiments prove that life produces matter. Spirit produces matter.
Dr. Singh: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: Not that matter produces life—no. This is established: matter does not produce life. It is quite the oppoite. Life—spirit—produces matter. Only when there is spirit can these increased quantities of calcium or iron come forth.
Dr. Singh: There's another nice experiment that was done by a German scientist named Hauschka. He was studying the interaction of moonlight and plants. So he measured the amount of a particular element in, say, a flower. I don't exactly remember. And he measured the amount of that element present in the plant according to the waxing and the waning of the moon. As it turns out the element increases in the light of the full moon.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, in the Bhagavad-gita Krsna confirms that He supplies the succulence, the "juice of life," to vegetables—through the light of the moon.
Dr. Singh: Surely. And Hauschka's experiment demonstrates this whole phenomenon very graphically. You understand—a curve showing this element rising and falling with the waxing and waning of the moon.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, by the Lord's natural arrangement, the moonlight is full of living entities who interact most beneficially with the vegetation. And similarly, the brahmajyoti, or universal effulgence, is full of living entities.
Dr. Singh: So these phenomena are beyond science.
Srila Prabhupada: Not beyond. You do not know that science.
Dr. Singh: By "beyond science," I meant beyond our present science, our present scientific knowledge.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Your present science is imperfect. But this additional dimension we are discussing is within the realm of science. This is spiritual science.
(To be continued.)
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Lord Rama Float in Moomba Parade
Melbourne, Australia—At the annual Moomba parade held here recently, the Hare Krsna float, entitled "Triumph of Lord Rama," won the Lord Mayor's Award for the most entertaining entry. A crew of Melbourne devotees, led by Bhakta dasa, worked for three months to prepare the float which was based on India's ancient epic Ramayana. The float depicted Lord Rama (portrayed by Melbourne temple president Balarama dasa) and His brother Laksmana (Manu dasa), along with an army of monkey soldiers, battling Ravana, an evil multiheaded king.
As described in the Ramayana, Lord Rama attacked Ravana to free Sita, Rama's devoted wife, whom Ravana had kidnapped and was holding in captivity. At the peak of the battle, Lord Rama killed Ravana by firing an arrow into his heart.
On the float, Ravana—his five heads and four arms twisting from side to side—roared out in agony over the loudspeakers, an arrow protruding from his chest. On and around the float, Lord Rama and his monkey soldiers fought with Ravana's demonic followers. At the back of the float, two trident-wielding witches tormented Sita (Mohini-devi dasi) as she waited to be rescued by Rama. And while these scenes were being enacted, in front of the float eighty blissful devotees chanted and danced.
The premier of the state of Victoria, Mr. Cain; the mayor of Melbourne, Councilman Trevor Huggard; and 400,000 other spectators applauded as the prize-winning float moved past.
After the parade, devotees distributed ten thousand packets of prasadam (vegetarian food offered to Krsna) and thirty thousand books and magazines on Krsna consciousness to people who came to see the float.
Krsna Consciousness A Popular New Religion In West Africa
Lagos, Nigeria—Hare Krsna Food for Life has become very popular in this country, and one of the biggest radio stations in the country invites people to participate whenever the food distribution programs are held. The state police commissioner has given the devotees a special permit and provided police to maintain order at the heavily attended programs. Many individuals and companies have come forward to help sponsor the mass food distribution.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
Where's Your Heart?
by Kundali dasa
The Beef Industry Council, seeing the waning popularity of meat-eating in America, has launched a $30 million ad campaign to beef up sales. The Council's ad men recruited Cybill Shepherd, a well-known actress with a seductive girl-next-door look, to bring us the good news about the joy of eating a burger—"something so hot and juicy and so utterly simple you can eat it with your hands."
The ad never mentions the links between meat-eating and heart disease, stroke, and cancer; or medical findings that reveal how a meat diet adversely affects chemical brain functions; or, of course, the bad karma incurred because of animal slaughter and meat consumption.
Rather, Cybill's enticing message ends on this unsettling note: "I know some people who don't eat burgers. But I'm not sure I trust them."
In an interview with Family Circle magazine, however, Cybill disclosed her real position: she herself stays away from red meat.
Since hamburgers contain red meat, Cybill no doubt caused her erstwhile employers some consternation. Obviously she wasn't convinced of the message she delivered in the ad.
But her employers must be firm believers in meat-eating—fanatics practically. Because they're the ones laying out thirty million for their ad campaign, and they're the ones saying you should be leery of people who don't eat burgers.
Well, Mr. Cattle Rancher, it's a free country—if you don't happen to be a steer, that is—so I guess you're entitled to your opinion. By the same token I'd like to respond to you ad:
Really? You don't trust people who are content to live without encroaching on the well-being of other creatures? You don't trust people who are sensitive enough to feel for the plight of animals living on Auschwitz-type factory farms? You don't trust people who, when they hear the facts about meat-eating being a major cause of certain diseases and totally unnecessary for a balanced diet, are clear-headed and kindhearted enough to cut it out from their diet? You don't trust people who want to live in harmony with God's creatures? Don't you feel there's something admirable, something noble, something to be encouraged in such people?
If, as you imply, I can't trust such people, then why should I trust you? You want me to ask, "Where's the beef?" But I ask you, "Where's your heart?"
Death At The Polls
by Paramatma dasa
One point we often make in Back to Godhead is that death is everyone's worst fear. According to the results of one poll, we appear to be wrong.
At the library the other day I came across The Book of Lists. Browsing through, I read the entry under "The 14 Worst Human Fears." Someone had asked three thousand Americans, "What are you must afraid of?"
Many name more that one fear, but death was neither first, second, nor third on the list. Forty-one percent said "speaking before a group"; thirty-two percent, "heights"; twenty-two percent, "insects and bugs," financial problems," "deep water"; nineteen percent, "sickness," "death."
And, in descending order: flying, loneliness, dogs, riding in or driving a car, darkness, elevators, and escalators.
There it was in black and white—scientific proof that not only was death not the most feared of all, it only ranked a paltry fourth place.
This bit of news caused me some uneasiness. I felt the poll challenged the validity of our claim that death is the most feared. And, of course, nobody likes to find out he's been wrong about something he's believed with complete conviction. I wondered if we could dare continue touting death as number one.
I still believed our stance was correct, but how could I justify it in light of this new evidence?
I also know we were not about to change our editorial slant in Back to Godhead and start running "How to" pieces on overcoming fear of speaking before a group. Toastmaster International was already filling that need. And besides, people don't join the Hare Krsna movement for overcoming fear of public speaking.
Still pondering the poll, I returned to the temple for lunch. I mentioned the poll to some of the devotees.
"I don't see this as a proof that we're wrong," one devotee said. "I see it more as a confirmation of our philosophy."
"How's that?" I asked.
"Well, I think it confirms the section in the Mahabharata where Yamaraja asked Yudhisthira a series of questions: What is the most valuable possession? What is good fortune? and so on. You remember that part?"
"Yeah... sort of."
"You remember the one where Yamaraja asked, 'What is the most amazing thing of all?' "
"That's the only one I remember—where Yudhisthira replied, 'Every day death takes lives beyond counting, yet those who live don't think about their own inevitable death."
"Right, so if a poll shows that people fear speaking to a group more than they fear death, that only confirms Yudhisthira's point: people don't think about their inevitable death. That's why they're more scared of other things.
"Actually," he added, "the poll was useful. Now you know that nineteen percent of the population consider death their worst fear. Those people, at least, are more likely to appreciate the philosophy of Krsna consciousness."
"That's a good point," I said.
"One thing about these other fears." another devotee said, "is that you can make adjustments to avoid the fearful situations. If you're that scared of public speaking, you could probably avoid it—catch a cold, change professions, or something. Death is another story altogether. Who can avoid it?"
"Yes," another devotee said, "in my mind there's no comparison between fear of death and fear of public speaking. Yet you say only nineteen percent feared death the most. Just as Yudhisthira said—that's really amazing!"
Mastering The Fundamentalists
by Mathuresa dasa
People of uncommon ability often place an uncommon emphasis on fundamentals: a master cook may insist on careful measurement of quality ingredients; a prima ballerina may daily practice the simplest steps. Since dedication to fundamentals is an element of excellence, we could call those who excel in any field "fundamentalists."
We could but we wouldn't—because the news media most often use the word fundamentalist to denote a religious fanatic, a zealot eager to force his belief on you. Two hundred U.S. Marines die in a Beruit bomb blast; tourists are gunned down in the Rome airport; Sunday-morning TV viewers lose millions in an evangelical swindle—and according to news reports the perpetrators in each case are "fundamentalists."
It's too bad that religious fundamentalism has a bad name, because in religion—as in cooking or ballet—a command of fundamentals should foster a universally laudable excellence. Since religious fundamentalism instead fosters a universally unlaudable fanaticism, we should conclude that today's fundamentalists haven't truly grasped their fundamentals.
According to the philosophy of Krsna consciousness, there are in every religion first-, second-, and third-class devotees of God, and fundamentalism in its fanatic feature is the domain of the third-class, or neophyte, devotees, who tend to be in the majority. Neophytes devoutly worship God in the church, mosque, or temple, strictly practicing the appropriate rituals and following the various moral codes set down in their scriptures. Neophytes are intolerant of even superficial differences in methods of worship, and they see members of other religions as outsiders destined for hell.
Though second-class devotees may be equally strict in practicing the rituals of their religion, they have through such strict practice and through careful study of scripture achieved a broader philosophical understanding of religion's purpose. In particular, the second-class devotee worships God not only in the church, mosque, or temple but in the heart of every living creature as well. As the neophyte respects his place of worship because it is "God's house," the second-class devotee sees every living body as a residence both for an eternal, individual soul and for the Supersoul, or God.
Thus one of his "rituals" the second-class devotee practices offering respect to all living creatures, not just to his place of worship or to the members of his own denomination. For practical reasons the second-class devotee may avoid both atheists and those who, though nominally theistic, have a narrow, fanatic, sectarian, neophyte world view. But in principle, at least, the second-class devotee sees everyone equally.
On the first-class platform, the devotee does not even distinguish between the atheists and the pious or between an ignorant fanatic and a more advanced devotee. Although he can clearly see material distinctions, because of his fully mature spiritual vision he considers these distinctions superficial. By his strong conviction based on perfect realization, the first-class devotee can teach the universal spiritual principle of offering respect to the soul and the Supersoul, and thus he does not emphasize temporary differences.
The first-class devotee is therefore the genuinely laudable religious fundamentalist, since he has fully understood that all living entities, as eternal spiritual parts of God, are fundamentally equal. The second-class devotee too is a fundamentalist, though not fully mature. It is only the neophyte whose so-called fundamentalism is distasteful for its narrow sectarianism.
So whatever our denomination may be, we can reduce the ill effects of sectarian fundamentalism by following the Bhagavad-gita's instruction that we serve and follow first-class devotees, whatever their denomination may be.
From Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead
Adapted for Back to Godhead.
Betrothed to a man she loathed, Rukmini wanted to elope with Krsna. But would He consent?
The King of Vidarbha, Maharaja Bhismaka, had five sons and a young daughter known as Rukmini. Many saintly persons used to visit the king's palace, and from them Rukmini obtained information about Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Simply by hearing about the opulences of Krsna. she desired to surrender herself to His lotus feet and become His wife. All the relatives of King Bhismaka agreed that that Rukmini should be given in marriage to Krsna, and after hearing how Rukmini was a reservoir of all transcendental qualities—intelligence, liberality, exquisite beauty, and righteous behavior—Krsna Himself decided that she was fit to be His wife.
However, Rukmini's brother Rukmi arranged for her to be married to Sisupala, a determined enemy of Krsna's. When the black-eyed, beautiful Ruknini heard of this settlement, she became very morose. But, being a king's daughter, she could understand political diplomacy, and therefore she decided to take immediate steps to acquire Krsna as her husband. After some deliberation, she wrote a letter to Krsna and entrusted it to a brahmana messenger. Without delay, she sent him with her letter to Krsna's capital city of Dwaraka.
Reaching the gate of Dwaraka, the brahmana informed the doorkeeper of his mission, and the doorkeeper led him to Lord Krsna, who was sitting on a golden throne. After the messenger was duly greeted according to his brahminical status, he carefully read Rukmini's letter to the Supreme Lord:
My dear Krsna, O infallible and most beautiful one, I have heard of Your transcendental qualities. I may be shameless in expressing myself so directly, but You have captivated me and taken my heart. I am an unmarried girl, young in age, and You may doubt the steadiness of my character. But my dear Krsna, since You are the supreme lion among human beings, the supreme person among persons, any girl not yet out of her home, or any woman of the highest chastity, would desire to marry You, being captivated by Your unprecedented character, knowledge, opulence, and position.
Lord Krsna was very pleased to hear Rukmini's statement. He shook hands with the messenger and said, "My dear brahmana, I am very glad to hear that Rukmini is anxious to marry Me, since I am also anxious to get her hand. I can understand that Rukmini's brother has arranged her marriage with Sisupala in a spirit of animosity toward Me. So I am determined to give him a good lesson. Just as one can bring forth fire from ordinary wood by proper manipulation, similarly, after dealing with the demoniac princes, I shall bring forth Rukmini like fire from their midst."
When Krsna heard that Rukmini's marriage was scheduled for the following day, He decided to leave for the kingdom of Vidarbha immediately. He ordered His driver to harness the horses to His chariot and prepare for the journey, and they started at once. Within a single night they rode one thousand miles to their destination, the town of Kundina.
Krsna's elder brother, Lord Balarama, soon received the news that Krsna had left for Kundina accompanied only by a brahmana, and Sisupala was there with his ally Jarasandha and large number of soldiers. Suspecting that they would attack Krsna, Balarama took strong military divisions of chariots, infantry, horses, and elephants and rode to the precinct of Kundina.
Meanwhile, inside the palace, Rukmini was expecting Krsna to arrive. But when neither He nor the brahmana messenger appeared, she became full of anxiety and began to think how unfortunate she was. She thought, "There is only one night before my marriage day, and still neither the brahmana nor Krsna has returned. I cannot understand this."
Being the Supersoul of all living beings, Krsna could understand Rukmini's anxiety, so He sent the brahmana inside the palace to let her know that He had arrived. When Rukmini saw the brahmana, she was elated. She smiled and asked him whether or not Krsna had come. The brahmana replied, "The son of the Yadu dynasty, Sri Krsna, has arrived!" He further encouraged her by saying that Krsna had promised to carry her away without fail. Rukmini was so thrilled by the brahmana's message that she wanted to give him in charity everything she possessed. However, finding nothing at hand suitable for presentation, she simply bowed down and offered him her humble respects.
Meanwhile, Rukmini came out of the palace to visit the temple of the goddess Durga. Rukmini was dressed very beautifully, and as she proceeded toward the temple, she was very silent and grave. Her mother and girlfriends were by her side, and she was surrounded by royal bodyguards. In this way she entered the temple and offered her prayers to the deity. Ordinary people pray to Durga for material wealth, fame, strength, and so on. Rukmini, however, desired to have Krsna for her husband, and therefore she prayed to the deity to be pleased with her and bless her. Then she caught hold of the hand of one of her girlfriends and left the temple, accompanied by the others.
All the princes and visitors who had come to Kundina for the marriage were assembled outside the temple to see Rukmini. When the princes, who were especially eager to see her, caught sight of Rukmini leaving the temple, they were struck with wonder. Indeed, they thought she had been especially manufactured by the Creator to bewilder them! She appeared to be just a youth not more than thirteen or fourteen years old. Her body was well constructed, the middle portion being thin. The beauty of her high cheeks and pink lips was enhanced by her scattered hair and different kinds of earrings, and around her feet she wore jeweled lockets. All in all, the bodily luster and beauty of Rukmini, which was specifically intended to attract the attention of Krsna, appeared as if painted by an artist perfectly presenting beauty following the description of great poets.
Although the princes gazed upon her beautiful features, she was not at all proud. Her eyes moved restlessly, and when she smiled very innocently, her teeth appeared just like lotus flowers. Expecting Krsna to take her away at any moment, she proceeded very slowly toward her home. The motion of her legs was just like that of a full-frown swan's body, and her ankle bells tinkled very mildly.
The princes assembled there were so overwhelmed by Rukmini's beauty that they almost became unconscious, and they fell from the backs of their horses and elephants. Full of lust, they hopelessly desired Rukmini's hand, comparing their own beauty to hers. Srimati Rukmini, however, was not interested in any of them. In her heart she was simply expecting Krsna to come and carry her away. As she adjusted the ornaments on the fingers of her left hand, she happened to look upon the princes. Suddenly she saw that Krsna was among them. Although Rukmini had never seen Krsna before, she was always thinking of Him, and thus she had no difficulty recognizing Him.
Ignoring the other princes, Krsna immediately took Rukmini and placed her on His chariot. He then proceeded slowly, without fear, taking Rukmini away exactly as a lion takes a deer from the midst of jackals. Meanwhile, Balarama appeared on the scene with the soldiers of the Yadu dynasty.
Jarasandha, who had previously been defeated many times by Krsna, began to roar, "How is this? Krsna is taking Rukmini away from us without any opposition! What is the use of our being chivalrous fighters? My dear princes, just look! We are losing our reputation by this action! It is just like a jackal's taking booty from a lion!"
All the princes, led by Jarasandha, then became very angry at Krsna for kidnapping Rukmini. They stood up and properly armed themselves with their bows and arrows. However, as they began to chase after Krsna on their chariots, horses, and elephants, the soldiers of the Yadu dynasty turned and faced them. Terrible fighting between the two belligerent groups ensued. The princes opposing Krsna were all very expert fighters, and they shot their arrows at the Yadu soldiers just as a cloud splashes the face of a mountain with torrents of rain. Determined to defeat Krsna and recapture Rukmini from His custody, Jarasandha and his companions fought with Krsna's army as severely as possible. Rukmini was seated by Krsna's side on His chariot. She became fearful when she saw the arrows of the opposing party raining onto the faces of the soldiers of Yadu, and she looked at Krsna, grateful that He had taken such a great risk alone. She felt very sorry. Krsna understood, and He encouraged her with these words: "My dear Rukmini, don't worry. Please rest assured that the soldiers of the Yadu dynasty will kill all their opponents without delay."
Lord Balarama and the commanders of the Yadu soldiers did not tolerate the defiant attitude of Jarasandha's army. They started to strike them with their arrows. As the fighting progressed, the princes and soldiers of the enemy began to fall from their horses, elephants, and chariots.
When the enemy found that they were gradually being defeated, they thought it unwise to risk losing men for the sake of Sisupala. They felt that Sisupala himself should have fought to rescue Rukmini from the hands of Krsna, but when they saw that Sisupala was not competent to fight with Krsna, they decided not to lose their strength unnecessarily. Therefore they ceased fighting and dispersed.
Rukmini's brother Rukmi, however, was very agitated. He was determined to personally teach Krsna a lesson. He drew his bow and forcefully shot three arrows directly against Krsna's body. Then he condemned Krsna, saying, "You are the most abominable descendant of the Yadu dynasty. Stand before me for a minute so I can teach You a good lesson! You are carrying away my sister just like a crow stealing clarified butter meant for use in a sacrifice. You are proud of Your military strength, but You cannot fight according to regulative principles. You have stolen my sister, so now I shall relieve You of Your false prestige. You can keep my sister in Your possession only as long as I do not pin You to the ground with my arrows."
Upon hearing all these crazy words from Rukmi, Lord Krsna immediately shot an arrow and severed Rukmi's bowstring. Rukmi then took up another bow and shot another five arrows at Krsna. Attacked for a second time by Rukmi, Krsna again severed his bowstring. Again Rukmi took up a bow, and yet again Krsna cut its string. Having run out of bows, Rukmi took the assistance of swords, shields, tridents, lances, and similar other weapons used in hand-to-hand combat. But Krsna destroyed them all in the same way as before. Repeatedly baffled in his attempts, Rukmi finally took his sword and ran very swiftly toward Krsna, just as a fly hurtles toward a fire. As soon as Rukmi reached Him, Krsna cut his weapon to pieces, took out His own sharp sword, and prepared to kill him. But Rukmini, understanding that Krsna was not going to excuse her brother, fell down at the Lord's lotus feet. In a very grievous tone, trembling with fear, she began to plead with Him: "Please do not kill my brother just before the auspicious time of our marriage. I am happy to get You as my husband right at the last moment before my marriage to Sisupala, but I do not want our marriage to cost my elder brother's life. After all, he loves me, and he simply wants me to marry someone who, according to his calculations, is a better man than You."
At Rukmini's request, Lord Krsna grew compassionate and agreed not to kill the foolish Rukmi. At the same time, He wanted to give him some slight punishment. So He tied Rukmi up with a piece of cloth and snipped at his mustache, beard, and hair, leaving some spots here and there.
Krsna then brought Rukmini to Dwaraka and married her according to the Vedic rituals. All the inhabitants were happy on this occasion, and in every house there were great ceremonies. The citizens of Dwaraka were so pleased that they dressed themselves with the nicest possible ornaments and garments and presented gifts to the newly married couple. The story of how Krsna kidnapped Rukmini was poeticized, and the professional readers recited it everywhere. In this way, all the inhabitants of Dwaraka were extremely jubilant, seeing Krsna, the Supreme Lord, and Rukmini, the goddess of fortune, peacefully united.
Two Views On Chanting Hare Krsna
The chanting of Hare Krsna brings different responses from different people. Some love to chant; others think it's nonsense. By now millions of people have heard devotees chant Hare Krsna, but many still know very little about the chanting. What is it, and how did it get here?
The chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra was mostly unheard-of outside India until His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada introduced it to the West, starting in New York City in 1966. Attracted by Prabhupada's chanting, a few persons joined him and began to take it up seriously. Most people, however, regarded the chanting as alien to Western civilization. One poet-scholar even suggested to Srila Prabhupada that he might to better to invent a more "American" mantra.
But as we often explain in Back to Godhead, the chanting of Hare Krsna is nonsectarian. It does not belong only to the Indians, and neither does it exclude Christians, Muslims, or followers of other philosophies. All the great scriptures of the world praise the holy names of God, even though His name may very from one country to another. According to the Vedic scriptures, the chanting of God's names is the most suitable method for attaining love of God, especially in the present age, when people are unable to perform more difficult spiritual disciplines.
Because most people continue to look upon public chanting as odd or disturbing, even the members of the Krsna consciousness movement sometimes shy away from it. But at heart devotees know that public kirtana is one of the best means of praising the Supreme Lord: it not only purifies the chanters, it benefits all those who hear.
I would like to share my own recent experience of chanting with devotees in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. In addition—and in contrast—I will include a nondevotee's impression as described by a columnist in the Atlanta Journal, of the same chanting. My account:
We parked the van on the eight floor of Macy's parking building. On the street, the sky was clouded with smoke from nearby smokestacks, and the air was fouled form truck and car exhaust. Balabhadra dasa said, "It's like you said in your class this morning: wherever human beings gather they pollute the place."
The next day an article about our chanting appeared in the Atlanta Journal, in a column by Frances Cawthon. Her human interest sketch "Cultures Clash on Downtown Street at Midday" told of an old woman's incredulous responses to the devotees' chanting. Some excerpts:
The Hare Krishnas were bouncing around energetically in front of the downtown C&S Bank, their faces covered with joy and strategic makeup, the partially shaved heads of the men gleaming with oily perspiration in the midday sun. Lunch time office workers wove their way past, mostly averting their eyes...
Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare
Tap into the resivoir of pleasure. By chanting the names of God, you'll immediately be in touch with the source of all pleasure. The name Krsna mans "the all-attractive person," and Rama means "the supreme pleasure." Hare is a word 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, miseries cannot affect us when we chant God's names.
Because we are apiritual and eternal, our natural state is 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 seperate 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.