Understanding that ultimately
A lecture in Los Angeles in December 1973
"Upon hearing of Lord Krsna's returning to His abode, and upon understanding the end of the Yadu dynasty's earthly manifestation, Maharaja Yudhisthira decided to go back home, back to Godhead." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.15.32)
Yudhisthira Maharaja was very sober Yudhisthira very advanced spiritually, so when he heard how Krsna had gone back to His abode and how the Yadu dynasty had been destroyed by fighting among themselves, he thought, "Let me give up everything and surrender fully to the Lord."
So, everyone should understand that, ultimately, we have to give up this body and whatever we possess. And after giving everything up, what is next? We have to give everything up. That is a fact. If we don't give it up now, at the time of death we must give it up. As Krsna says [Bhagavad-gita 10.34], mrtyuh sarva-haras caham: "As death I take everything away." You may try to keep your possessions, but at the time of death you will have to give them all up. By force they will be taken away. Everyone should understand this.
The foolish person thinks, "My family, my nation, my society, my bank balance, my skyscraper building, my motorcar—these will save me." But that is not possible. As it is said in the Srimad-Bhagavatam [2.1.4], tesam pramatto nidhanam pasyann api na pasyati: Those who are mad do not see that everything they possess will remain behind when they die. It will not stay with them. You will be vanquished, your body will be vanquished, and everything will be lost.
Body, wife, relatives, children—all these things are temporary, but I am eternal. People do not think, "I am eternal, yet I am engaged in temporary things. So what is my eternal business?" This question they do not ask. Simply fools, mudhas.
I have experienced being a child, a boy, a young man. But now my childhood body, my boyhood body, my youthhood body are gone. I have a different body. But I know that I had a childhood body, a boyhood body, and a youthhood body. So, the conclusion is that I am eternal and this body is not eternal. It is a very simple thing. Why can people not understand? In the Bhagavad-gita [2.17] Krsna says, avinasi tu tad viddhi yena sarvam idam tatam, and antavanta ime dehah. This body is antavat, "temporary." One day it will be finished. But that thing which is spread all over the body—that will not be annihilated. What is that? Consciousness. Consciousness is spread all over the body, and Krsna says that it is immortal.
So, now we have to see whether our consciousness is absorbed in what is immortal or in what is mortal. If I am absorbed in thoughts like "This is my country," "This is my body," "This is my family," "This is my community," "This is my nation"—this is "mortal" consciousness. But "immortal" consciousness is to think, "Krsna is mine, and I am Krsna's." This is immortal consciousness. When you come to this consciousness, that is called Krsna consciousness. Then you are saved.
As long as we are absorbed in temporary consciousness, our mind will always be changing. I may accept something now, but then I will reject the same thing. This body is being manufactured according to the acceptance and rejection of the mind. Otherwise, why do you have different bodies? So many boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen, are sitting here, but no one's body is exactly like another's. No. You all have different minds, and therefore you have different bodies. This is to be understood.
Now, here it is said about Yudhisthira Maharaja, svah-pathaya matim cakre: "He decided to go back to Godhead." In other words, he meditated, "What am I? Wherefrom have I come? If I am eternal, why is my body not eternal? I would have been very happy if my body were eternal, but that is not possible. I desire that I will not die, that my body will not be vanquished. That is my desire. Therefore I will go back to Godhead and attain my eternal, spiritual body." Unfortunately, today no one is meditating upon this subject matter. They have learned some nonsense impersonal meditation.
So, now Yudhisthira Maharaja will retire. He will give up his kingdom. This is the Vedic system. However rich you may be, however prosperous you maybe, however much you are attached to your home or your nation, you have to realize, "These things are all temporary, but I am eternal. So what is my eternal function? What is my eternal duty? Where is my eternal home?" That is real meditation. And that is Krsna consciousness.
The Krsna consciousness movement is not an ordinary movement, manufacturing something for recreation. No. It is a very serious science. People are searching after some permanent place, some permanent settlement in this world. Nobody wants to die, but everyone must die. But if there is the possibility of going someplace where there is no more death, why don't you search after it? That is intelligence.
In the Bhagavad-gita [8.16] Krsna gives us information about the place where there is no more death:
If you go to the topmost planet in this universe, which is known as Brahmaloka, you will not even be able to calculate the duration of life the people enjoy there. Their day and our day are different. Their day lasts for 8,600,000 times 1,000 of our years, and they live for 100 years made up of such days. Still, even if you go to Brahmaloka-or to any other planet you must die.
Therefore, the intelligent person asks, "If I am eternal, why should I accept death? Is there a place where there is no death?" That information Krsna gives in the Bhagavad-gita [8.16]: mam upetya tu kaunteya punar janma na vidyate. "If you come to My planet, you will no longer have to come back again to this mortal world." He also says [Bg. 15.6], yad gatva na nivartante tad dhama paramam mama. "That is My supreme abode, and one who goes there never returns." That is actually what we want. In another place [Bg. 4.9] Krsna says, tyaktva deham punar janma naiti mam eti so 'rjuna: "My dear Arjuna, after giving up this body, one who knows Me never again comes into the womb of a material mother."Then where does he go? Mam eti. "He comes to Me."
In his Brhad-bhagavatamrta, Sanatana Gosvami has stated that if you become perfect in Krsna consciousness, then immediately after death you will be sent to where Krsna is enjoying His pastimes within this material world. Just as the sun is rising and setting, Krsna is enacting His pastimes on different planets in this material world. That is another feature of His activities. Because He wants to reclaim the fallen souls—and there are unlimited millions and trillions of fallen souls within this material world—He goes everywhere. As He says [Bg. 4.7],
yada yada hi dharmasya
"As soon as there is some discrepancy in the understanding of eternal life, I appear in order to teach real religion."
So, right now Krsna is teaching somewhere in this material world. There are innumerable universes, and Krsna is appearing in one of them. Krsna appeared on Janmastami in this universe, and immediately thereafter, in another universe, there was Janmastami. Then immediately thereafter, in still another universe, there was Janmastami. Therefore Krsna's activities are called nitya-lila "eternal pastimes." This means that Janmastami is always going on, His Govardhana pastime is always going on—everything He displayed when He was present on this planet is always going on in some universe.
Now it is half past seven, but somewhere else it is half past six. It is not that because the sun has passed half past six in this city, there is no more half past six. Somewhere else it is half past six. Similarly, it is not that because Krsna has now finished His Janmastami here, there is no more Janmastami. Janmastami is going on elsewhere. That is krsna-lila.
So, if you become perfect in Krsna consciousness, that means you have no more material desire. Your only desire is to serve Krsna, that's all. That is perfection. So long as you have apinch of material desire, you will have to take birth. According to your desire, Krsna will give you facility. We are making our next body by our thoughts. We have so many material thoughts, and at the time of death, whatever thought is most prominent, the next moment you will get a body like that. So if you simply think of Krsna only, then you will get a body whereby you can go to Krsna. It is very scientific and practical.
By going to Krsna's planet, you can talk with Krsna personally, you can play with Krsna personally, you can dance with Krsna. Here is a picture of the rasa dance. So, everyone can get this opportunity. When Krsna comes here, He shows practically how enjoyable is life with Him in Vrndavana. Krsna is simply jolly—anandamayo 'bhyasat. In Vrndavana life everyone is jolly. The birds, the trees, the water, the land, the cows, the calves, the cowherd boys and girls—everyone is happy simply by loving Krsna. Simply by loving Krsna.
So, when Krsna manifests His pastimes here, He invites us: "Why are you rotting in this material world? Come to Me and enjoy life eternally." That is Krsna's business. He is so kind.
What is the enjoyment in this material world? This highest enjoyment is sex life. That is not very good enjoyment, but people have accepted it as very significant. As Prahlada Maharaja says [Bhag. 7.9.45], yan maithunadi-grhamedhi-sukham hi tuccham: "The happiness of sex life is very insignificant." But for materialistic people, sex is their life and soul. They have no information that there is better pleasure, eternal pleasure. That they do not know.
Therefore there is great need for this Krsna consciousness movement, so people can understand bhagavan-marga, the way of God. The rascals do not understand what God is—they do not know of the features of God—yet still they will not accept this Krsna consciousness movement. We are declaring openly: "Here is God. Here is the form of God. He is so nice. He is so beautiful. His address is Krsnaloka. You can go there by devotional service."
"No," people say, "I don't want it." "Then what do you want?"
"I want to become a pig." "And what shall you eat?" "I will eat stool, that's all."
"Not prasadam [food offered to Lord Krsna]?"
So, what can you do? We are distributing prasadam, and people will go to eat some rascal thing in a restaurant. Just see! This is misfortune. People are very unfortunate in this age. They will accept so many wrong things. Therefore our task is very responsible. We have to canvass. We have top lead, solicit: "Please come here in this temple and learn something."
Thank you very much.
An lnformed Opinion
When her son joined the Hare Krsna movement, she didn't make any judgments without finding out for herself what it was all about.
by Clara Caprario De Tarres
Mrs. Caprario de Tarres, who holds an important position in the government of Uruguay, originally wrote the following article to counter attacks by anticult groups against the Hare Krsna devotees in that country. Her letter helped calm the criticism and enabled the devotees to freely practice Krsna consciousness.
My son Enrique is twenty three years old. About three years ago, in search of new opportunities, Enrique moved from Uruguay to the United States, to my brother's home in Texas. Once settled there, Enrique had no difficulty finding a job. Indeed, he was able to change jobs whenever he found another offering better pay and better opportunity, and so, from a material point of view, he was very satisfied. But still he found something lacking in himself.
One day he called me to tell me he had joined the Krsna consciousness movement, that he now lived in a temple in Dallas, and that he felt very happy being with the devotees. Enrique begged me not to form any opinions or make any judgments without first being informed of what the Hare Krsna movement really was. He suggested that I get in touch with the devotees in Montevideo, and he sent me their address.
Immediately I wrote to the devotees, and in a few days a young man from the temple came to my house. During a very profound and mature conversation, he explained in depth the basic precepts of Krsna consciousness. From that day I tried to read everything I could on Krsna consciousness and began regularly visiting the temple in Montevideo, where I witnessed the life of austerity and service the devotees led. For the first time in my life I saw people who tried in every possible way to obey the divine laws—to not only recognize what is sinful, but avoid sinning.
The devotees treated me with great respect. I always felt very comfortable in the atmosphere of peace and sincerity I found in the temple. I believe my feeling of well-being stemmed, above all, from the fact that every time I asked a question—for example, at the end of a class on Krsna consciousness philosophy—they would always answer with clarity and coherence. Up to now, I can say that nothing in their answers seemed to me illogical or unbelievable. It's wonderful to receive consistent answers to everything, to find that there are no mysteries, and to have the deepest questions of my soul satisfied. I believe that affords the greatest peace of mind, the greatest interior satisfaction to any person.
Last year I went to the United States to be present at Enrique's initiation ceremony at the Hare Krsna temple in Los Angeles, where he now lives. The experience was a marvelous and unforgettable one, both for the initiation itself, as well as for the days I spent in the company of the devotees, who accepted me and treated me like an old friend.
During my stay I spoke with many young devotees who told me about their former lives, when many of them lived as hippies and drug addicts and angry punks, something I found hard to believe, looking at them as they were now—calm, serene souls dedicated to Krsna conscious spiritual life.
Some of them told me about their coming to Krsna consciousness, and of the ill will in some cases from parents whose minds were closed to everything that didn't fit their ideas or ambitions for their children. I learned that some parents attacked everything without any understanding, without even bothering to visit the temple and see what went on there, see how their son or daughter now lived. Some parents of devotees never even visited the temple or stayed some days with their children, although they were invited to do so.
This particular reaction of some parents to their children's becoming Krsna devotees was probably the only thing that clouded the happiness of these young people. Like my son, they had found satisfaction in living in a devotional way, a way of service, and they were happy with it. Naturally they want their parents to appreciate that and share their happiness, even if their parents don't take to Krsna consciousness.
I had many talks with my son, who now went by the spiritual name he had received at initiation, Caitanya Nrsimha dasa. We took long walks together in the neighborhood, and sometimes we dined at Govinda's, the devotees' vegetarian restaurant. Sometimes we sat in the temple gardens and talked at length. At all times there was a good sense of communication between us. In our family in general, we've always been close to each other, but it wasn't always that way with Enrique, perhaps because of his temperament.
But in Los Angeles everything was different; it was much better. We had no misunderstandings like before. I found him a clear-headed human being, dedicated to spiritual growth, with a grand tolerance and understanding toward everyone. I was able to ask about whatever doubts I had and about the things I didn't understand relative to his faith. His replies were all thoughtful and convincing. It proved to me the seriousness with which he studied the path he's taken.
The trip was certainly a valuable experience for me. The impression I received from talking with my son and with the devotees is that theirs is a serious undertaking, that they have deep knowledge about the life they preach, and that if a person tries to hear them out, to see them as they really are, see beyond their unconventional manners and ways, it will not be very difficult to understand and appreciate them and simply recognize that they carry the message of God.
Though we may claim to aspire for the truth,
by Kundali dasa
While listening to a recorded lecture by Srila Prabhupada, I heard him use the expression "polished animalism" to describe the mentality and lifestyle of materialistic people. The phrase brought to mind his reply, in 1968, to the editor of Back to Godhead, who had written suggesting that we publish an article telling point by point how to establish a spiritual world civilization.
In his reply, Srila Prabhupada gave twenty-two points for establishing a world order based on scientific spiritual principles. His first point was "that any civilization devoid of God consciousness, or Krsna consciousness, is no civilization at all. It is simply a polished type of animal society."
You probably know people who would bristle at Srila Prabhupada's cutting remark without stopping to consider whether or not there is truth in his claim.
"He is a spiritual person?" they might querulously ask. "Whatever his opinion, how could he speak so insensitively? Just because I don't follow him, that makes me an animal? Did he expect to win converts with this offensive bluntness?"
That's Just His Opinion
Admittedly, "polished type of animal society" and "polished animalism" are a bit hard on the ear. And coming from a person of saintly stature, they seem even harder to take. The popular image of a saint is that of someone meek, benign, someone with an extreme aversion for harsh speech, incapable of even thinking contemptibly of another. You can, then, easily imagine Prabhupada's barbed criticism offending some people's sensibilities.
In particular, I'm thinking of that class of persons—the so-called upper crust, the dons and dilettantes—who so pride themselves on being cultured and sophisticated that they consider themselves aloof from Krsna consciousness, so much so that they sometimes hide behind their socalled gentility to evade the truth of Krsna consciousness. They prefer to pawn off their conceit and their penchant for ostentation as dignified, aesthetic human virtues, or as insightful realizations on life that set them apart from Krsna consciousness.
Having put much effort into acquiring the symbols of class—art, music, travel, fashion, literature, good conversation, and, of course, wealth—they consider themselves skilled at skimming off the top the best life has to offer, and they expect to be seen with some distinction. They certainly don't expect severe derision from any quarter, least of all from the Hare Krsna community.
In actuality, the only fruit of their much vaunted sophistication is that it inhibits them from appreciating Srila Prabhupada and his teachings.
What such persons don't realize is that we cannot dictate how vital truth about ourselves may come to us. We simply cannot control when, where, why, and how it comes. Nor can we control through whom it comes. It behooves us, therefore, to be more interested in the message than in the medium.
Of course, nary a person would disagree here, but it's easier said than done. People who wallow in the illusion of material happiness conveniently try to avoid Krsna consciousness on the plea that the medium is marred in some way: "He called me a polished animal. Had he been a more benign soul and my genuine wellwisher, he would never have said such an uncouth thing about me. Anyway, that's just his opinion. Why should I care what he says?"
This response to truth—when reason, not the bearer, demands agreement—is, in the words of Thomas a Kempis, the saintly author of Imitation of Christ, "a sign of a great isolation of the mind and of much inward pride." To cast that in another way, undue sensitivity to language expressing truth about ourselves is not, as is so often misconstrued, a sign of refinement, but a sign of vanity.
We need humility to hear and benefit from an unpalatable truth about ourselves, for unless we can transcend our self-image at such crucial times, how can we mine the precious truth gems and make them into assets?
I've always relished Srila Prabhupada's bold, uncompromising approach in explaining Krsna consciousness. I savor his spirited preaching the way a movie-goer thrills at the derring-do of a screen hero. That's not to say that everything he said was easy for me to take, or that I'm prideless. It's just that his preaching was a tremendous relief from the circuitous, concessionary flattering or bluffing methods some reputed spiritual leaders employ, an approach that serves no tangible purpose—except to maintain a following for themselves.
Of course, a saintly person, a devotee of God, is a true gentleman; he's benign, sensitive, and refined in every way. Delicate sentiments have a definite place in his life and show themselves in a variety of ways: in his being sensitive to the well-being of others but taking no offense for any transgression against himself, in his not subjugating anyone for his own gain; in his being concerned that others are not ill at ease in his presence; in his not being thin skinned if his shortcomings are pointed out, but giving due consideration to the matter.
Above all, a devotee's dignity, gentility, and sensitivity show in his having a sense of honor about the truth. He stands firmly on truth, accepting as Krsna's will any consequences that may come as a result.
Thus a devotee is never duplicitous; he's straightforward in all his dealings. This is the standard of gentility set by saints down through the ages.
Time and again Srila Prabhupada showed these qualities. No matter what the situation, he pandered to no one's delusions. For example, in the heyday of hippiedom, when so-called Sufis, swamis, yogis, bodhi-sattvas, gurus, incarnations, and even the "hip" establishment priests were rationalizing drugs, sex, and homosex into their doctrines and teaching "You are It. You are God"-along came Srila Prabhupada saying, "You are not God; you are the servant of God. Any rascal who says you are God—G-o-d—he's the opposite of God—a d-o-g."
He further said that to begin spiritual life you have to be on the human platform. You must stop engaging in illicit sex like cats and dogs; stop intoxication, which only increases your ignorance; stop flesheating, which depends on merciless animal slaughter. You cannot have spiritual realization while deepening your indulgence in the material body. The two are diametrically opposed.
He taught that only a cheater would teach sensuality in the name of spirituality, and that only an insincere person—one wanting to be cheated—would listen to him.
In this way Srila Prabhupada gave us facts without frills, substance without sentiment, meaning without mush, verity without varnish. He was no weather vane. He took a stand and stood his ground with integrity, with sound reasoning and sound philosophy, and backed it with his personal example.
Because Prabhupada embodied all these qualifications, his straightforward stance was not a vice, a character flaw; rather, it was a virtue. He was a champion of the truth and therefore a paragon of sophistication.
Prabhupada's uncompromising spirit, barbed expressions and all, was not mere bravado or finger-pointing to distract us from defects in himself or in the values he stood for. Nor was it frivolity resulting from the heady effect of having thousands of followers. Nor was he simply playing to his audience, his disciples, who would naturally respond enthusiastically to all his utterances, however strong his criticism of the materialists.
His candor stemmed from his direct realization of the soul, or self, as a conscious entity distinct from the material body; his direct realization of Krsna's factual existence as the prime cause of all causes; his direct realization that the eternal function of the soul is service to Krsna in love and devotion; his direct realization that out of all the umpteen species of life, human life is a rare facility for achieving God realization; his feeling suffering at seeing the suffering of others; and his knowing the actual, viable solution to all suffering, as opposed to patchwork solutions or sentimental sympathy.
As an enlightened soul, Srila Prabhupada was keenly aware that ours is a rare opportunity to become free from ignorance and go back home, back to Godhead, and, to broadcast this urgent message, he sometimes used sharp language to cut to the core of the dense illusion enwrapping the soul. He was aware of conventional niceties, but he also knew the urgency of giving the truth as it is, for the benefit of others.
Sometimes a lifeguard, out of duty, has to knock out the drowning swimmer to save his life. Srila Prabhupada's position was similar in preaching to hard-core materialists. For the sake of accuracy he'd overstep social convention if it got in the way of clear understanding. Thus he defined truth:
Satyam, truthfulness, means that facts should be presented as they are, for the benefit of others. Facts should not be misrepresented. According to social conventions, it is said that one can speak the truth only when it is palatable to others. But that is not truthfulness. The truth should be spoken in a straightforward way, so that others will understand actually what the facts are. If a man is a thief and if people are warned that he is a thief, that is truth. Although sometimes the truth is unpalatable, one should not refrain from speaking it. Truthfulness demands that the facts be presented as they are for the benefit of others. That is the definition of truth. (Bhagavad-gita 10.4-5, purport)
Prabhupada's definition of truth is unobjectionable. Indeed, it is universal. But where is the truth in his unpalatable expression "polished animals"?
An unsatisfactory answer would make him guilty of being severe with the world for not seeing things his way, revealing him to be a person of immense vanity, a quality antithetical to saintliness.
If, on the other hand, he is found to be justified in using the term, the clear implication would be that Krsna consciousness is the alternative to animal life.
The saying "Man is a rational animal" is in firm agreement with Canakya, an Indian sage whose counsel enabled King Chandragupta to turn Alexander the Great out of India in 4 B.C. Canakya perused the voluminous Sanskrit texts of the Vedic spiritual tradition, of which Srila Prabhupada. is a modern representative, and gathered all the statements pertinent to morality. His Niti-darpana states:
In eating, sleeping, fearing, and mating man is equal to the animals. The one thing that distinguishes man from the animals is knowledge: those men who fail to pursue knowledge are animals in the guise of human beings.
Here Canakya uses the word knowledge to mean the quality of human beings that makes them rational. And he didn't leave knowledge wide open to interpretation. He—and the Vedic sages before him—narrowed the choices down considerably by ruling out all activities pertaining to eating, sleeping, mating, and fearing. Since we have these propensities in common with the animals, the sages did not accept them as valid rational pursuits. We are rational animals only when we use rationality to pursue knowledge beyond our basic animal needs.
Virtually all human affairs—education, sports, medicine, politics, business, scientific research, economics, and entertainment, to name a few—are complex means of fulfilling, either directly or indirectly, our animal propensities.
In other words, unaware of any better use of our rational faculty, we have complicated the affairs of eating, sleeping, mating, and defense, and we regard the ability to tread our way through this complexity as sophistication, culture, and responsible discharge of our duties to self, kith, and kin. Though our ability to attain food, sleep, sex, and so on is comparable to the intelligence of the rat who learns to get through the maze to a piece of cheese, we see this instinctual ability in ourselves as some sort of exceptional knowledge or wisdom.
"Not so," says plain-speaking Srila Prabhupada. "It's only polished animal life." And a host of Vedic sages echo in agreement. And when the evidence is tallied up, their appraisal rings with the truth.
"My dear materialistic fellow," they might well say, "please tell me the substantive difference between you and the animals. After all, you eat, they eat; you sleep, they sleep; you mate, they mate; you defend your home or nation, they also defend their homes or terrain. So, complexity and technological amenities aside, how are your goals any different or better than theirs?"
The King of Knowledge
What, then, is that knowledge beyond our basic animal needs? "Knowledge of the self," Srila Prabhupada and the sages would say, implying that human beings have a distinct advantage over animals. Man can seek answers to questions that animals cannot ask: What is consciousness? Is there a purpose to life? Does God exist? If so, what's my relationship with Him?
Human life begins the moment we seriously seek answers to these questions, not before.
Srila Prabhupada classed all human inquiries under the heading God consciousness, or Krsna consciousness, because he knew that's where the answers must eventually lead. How did he know this? Because the awakening of God realization is a scientific process: it begins with sincere inquiry and, if followed to its conclusion, leads inexorably to direct realization of the spiritual self and the Supreme Person. This Krsna confirms in the Bhagavad-gita (9.2):
This knowledge is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets. It is the purest knowledge, and because it gives direct perception of the self by realization, it is the perfection of religion. It is everlasting, and it is joyfully performed.
Srila Prabhupada was a professor of this science. He was fixed in the direct perception of Krsna. This is apparent to all who invest the time to study his life and precepts. He could see how nondevotees, in their eagerness to eke out enjoyment here, concoct standards of excellence—etiquette, locution, lineage, degrees, titles, awards, and the like—to gain some distinction and heroic worth for themselves. Then, thinking they have really zeroed in on life, they become puffed up with false pride.
In reality they end up chewing what has already been chewed—eating, sleeping, mating, and defending—in so many novel, polished, complicated ways, and they forget that these are merely animal affairs.
We should not feel indignation or resentment toward Srila Prabhupada for pointing out these flaws in the materialistic demeanor. Rather, we should laud him for his temerity, for his speaking the truth as it is, despite the seeming futility, despite the risk of rejection, and for his willingness to give wisdom where ignorance sports a coating of bliss.
We should recognize that along with appreciating his giving us the truth comes the challenge to live by his definition of it. In the end, this will be the accurate indication of our sophistication, gentility, and integrity.
AT LAST!—The Krsna's Cuisine Cookbook
After almost ten years in the making, an authoritative, comprehensive
by Visakha-devi dasi
In Vrndavana, India, in the fall of 1976, Yamuna Devi, one of Srila Prabhupada's first disciples, went to see him in his room in the Krishna-Balaram temple. "The devotees have asked me to write a cookbook," she said. "I would like to present cooking as you've taught it to me."
Yamuna's sublime cooking, along with her inspired singing and Deity worship, had made her famous throughout the Hare Krsna movement. Srila Prabhupada had appreciated Yamuna's cooking expertise for years and had requested her to distribute what she'd learned to others. So it was not surprising that Srila Prabhupada thoroughly approved of the cookbook plan, and for the next four days he helped Yamuna develop her ideas for the book.
After her meeting with Srila Prabhupada, Yamuna spent four weeks on a cooking tour of India to increase the knowledge she'd already gained through years of recipe research. She met cooks in the famous sweet shops of Calcutta, in the gourmet restaurants in Bombay, and in the homes of connoisseurs. She explored the back rooms of musty bookstores to find old cookbooks, and she observed the techniques of the ubiquitous street vendors. Then she returned to her home in the woodsy part of southern Oregon.
Recipe by recipe, she began deciding what Western ingredients to use and what aspects to bring out of them in each dish. She resolved to strike a medium between the original Indian versions—generally spicy hot—and the more health-oriented Western preferences.
By 1978 she'd written 675 recipes, about eighty-five percent of which were dishes that Srila Prabhupada had either taught to his disciples himself or had instructed his cooks to learn from Indian experts. Srila Prabhupada had been pleased with Yamuna and others for mastering these often difficult dishes. "When I came to America," he once commented, "I was prepared to live on bread and potatoes. I never thought that my disciples would learn to cook like this."
In the spring of 1978, I was asked to illustrate Yamuna's cookbook with photographs. She and I had met seven years earlier, during my first trip to India, but we had not yet worked together. It turned out to be much more than a photo session. A warm, dynamic, and often humorous friendship developed around our devotional service, and through it I discovered that such a rare friendship is one of the most valuable relationships that one can have in this world. I stayed with Yamuna in the guest room of her small home and learned to milk her cow, care for her garden, worship her Deities, and, eventually, cook her recipes. And I learned how much I needed a friend like Yamuna to help me grow materially and spiritually.
Afterwards, as the years rolled by, I winced to hear of her struggles, her late night vigils as she worked to perfect the many facets of the book. So, I was pleased when I learned that Bala Books would publish her book and E.P. Dutton and Company and Angus and Robertson, Limited, would distribute it worldwide.
"I would like to see this book selling widely," Yamuna says. But her reasons are not the same as those of other authors. "I want everyone to appreciate Srila Prabhupada's standard of cooking and the culinary excellence of Lord Krsna's cuisine. From the serious cook to the casual one, anyone who is willing to try will find something wonderful in Lord Krishna's Cuisine."
I'm delighted that my good friend finally has her cookbook under her arm, and I'm sure that, given her creative flare and culinary agility, she has many more cookery books to come.
(Recipes from Lord Krishna's Cuisine: TheArt of Indian Vegetarian Cooking, by Yamuna Devi. Copyright 1987. Used by permission.)
The following dishes are favorites of Yamuna's and can be served as lunch or dinner. If you'd like a more elaborate menu, add a soup, salad, beverage—or all three. And don't forget the most important step: offer everything to Krsna with devotion.
Sauteed Spinach and Dal Noodles
Preparation time: a few minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
Serves: 5 or 6
4 medium-sized tomatoes
1. Place the tomatoes on an aluminum-foillined cookie sheet and set under a pre-heated broiler, about 6 inches away from the heat. Broil, turning, until all sides of the tomatoes are charred, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool, then remove the skins and coarsely chop.
2. Heat 2½ tablespoons of the ghee or oil in a 12-inch frying pan over moderate heat. When it is hot, add the green chilies and cumin seeds and fry until the cumin darkens a few shades. Drop in the curry leaves and asafetida and fry for a few seconds, then add the tomatoes, salt, and sugar. Stirring, cook until thickened. Remove the pan from the heat, sprinkle half of the pappadam noodles over the top, cover, and set aside for 3 minutes. Fold in the soft noodles and sprinkle with the remaining pieces. Cover and set aside.
3. Place the remaining 2½ tablespoons of ghee or oil in a large nonstick saucepan and pack the spinach and basil in the pan. Place the pan over moderately high heat, cover and cook until you hear a sizzling sound, then cook for 2-3 minutes more. Uncover and turn the leaves over with 2 forks, so that the uncooked leaves on the top switch places with the cooked leaves underneath. Uncover and cook until the water has evaporated, tossing to prevent scorching.
4. Add the noodles and tomato sauce and mix very gently. Fold in half of the sour cream. Garnish each serving with a spoonful of sour cream and a sprig of the fresh herbs.
Lemon Stuffed with Almond-Chickpea Pate
(Kabli Channa Badaam Salaad)
Preparation time : 15 minutes
Chilling time: 1 hour
4 large lemons
1. Cut off the tops of the lemons and reserve. Scoop out the pulp with a grapefruit spoon or knife until the shells are empty. Squeeze the pulp through a strainer and save the juice; discard the membranes and seeds. Trim a thin slice off the bottom of the lemons so they stand upright. Cover and chill until needed.
2. Fit a food processor with the metal blade. Turn on the motor, drop the ginger and chilies through the feed tube, and mince. Add the cheese and process until smooth. Drop in the chickpeas, sesame seeds, sour cream or creme fraiche, salt, oil or ghee, asafetida, and pepper. Process until smooth, adding up to 2 tablespoons of the reserved lemon juice for flavor and to obtain a uniform, spoonable consistency. Add the cumin seeds and pulse 2 or 3 times to crush them.
3. Fill the lemon cups, using a pastry bag fitted with a large star nozzle, or simply spoon in the pate, slightly piling it up over the edge of the cup. Sprinkle with the fresh herbs and top with the reserved caps. Place some Bibb lettuce on each plate and add the vegetable garnishes. Chill until you are ready to serve.
Cardamom Shortbread Cookies
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 1 hour
Makes: 2 dozen small bars
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1. Preheat the oven to 250°F. Cream the butter and cardamom or ginger in a mixing bowl, then gradually add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. (If you are using a dried fruit puree, work it into the sugar-butter mixture.) Combine the flour, semolina, salt, and baking powder on a sheet of waxed paper and mix well. (If you are using nuts, add them to the dry ingredients.) Add the dry mixture to the butter and work with your hands until thoroughly blended into a dough. Alternatively, place all of the ingredients in an electric mixer and, with a dough hook, mix on low speed until thoroughly blended.
2. Press into an 8 x 10-inch rectangle on an ungreased baking tray. Score the surface to make 24 cookies, and prick the surface with fork tines at 1-inch intervals. Bake for about I hour or until pale gold but not brown. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan. Carefully cut again over the scored markings. (If you want to sprinkle the surface with sugar, do so as soon as the pan comes out of the oven.)
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
Church Control Or Self-Control?
By Nagaraja Dasa
The Catholic Church in the United States is losing about $6.7 billion in donations yearly. The main reason, says Father Andrew Greeley, is that its members don't like the Church's position on marital sex.
Father Greeley, controversial author of Catholic Contributions: Sociology and Policy, says Catholics resent celibate bishops trying to control couples' sex lives. The bishops, Father Greeley complains, have too much to say about marital sex—a topic Jesus preferred not to talk about.
But shouldn't Church leaders have something to say about it? Guiding the spiritual lives of the laity is surely one of their responsibilities. And since celibacy, in principle, frees them from the encumbrances of married life, permitting them to dedicate themselves to understanding the spirit of Jesus' teachings and how best to apply his teachings in the modern context, why should the bishops be disqualified from speaking up on this topic?
Some people seem to think that the only value of religion is that if you follow the rules you'll go to heaven. With the bishops making rules that conflict with the laity's sense enjoyment, the laity is opting for an easier set of rules.
But religion is not just an arbitrary system of rules. Religion is meant for purifying us so we can love God. How can we whimsically change the rules?
The bishops are somewhat at fault for not teaching their laity that religion means spiritual life, which begins with the understanding that we're not these bodies. Those protesting the Church's policy don't seem to understand that there is a difference between bodily enjoyment and spiritual enjoyment, or that for the sake of spiritual realization they have to control their sexual desire, not give it free rein.
They don't seem to realize that a preoccupation with serving the body through sex interferes with a life of service to God. They seem to forget that while Jesus may not have said anything about marital sex, he surely had something to say about the pleasures of the flesh.
Sex is only important to a person in bodily consciousness, who doesn't understand that the body will turn to ash and the soul will live on. But a person in spiritual consciousness understands this, and he or she naturally shuns sex. That people are so disturbed by the Church's teachings on sex indicates they are very much in the bodily concept of life and are not satisfied with spiritual knowledge. They are not getting a spiritual taste from their religion.
But they shouldn't blame the religion. They should blame their own unwillingness to undergo austerity for spiritual advancement. Only by following scriptural standards can one gradually become free from sensual desire, derive a spiritual taste, and get in touch with God by developing a desire to serve Him purely, without any selfish motive based on the body.
The Krsna consciousness movement's restrictions on sex are more difficult than those the bishops advocate, which is probably one reason why more people don't take up Krsna consciousness. They are not willing to give up sex pleasure which is widely accepted as the highest material pleasure. In actuality, sex enjoyment is the greatest cause of bondage for the embodied soul—because it reinforces the bodily conception of life.
Sex is—as people often hasten to argue—natural. And childbirth is its natural result. Contraception, on the other hand, is not natural; birth control pills don't grow on trees.
We can use sex to bring a child into the world, but we must also understand our responsibility to guide that child in spiritual life. Sex with that purpose in mind is not only unrestricted, it is glorious. Krsna confirms in Bhagavad-gita: "I am sex life that is not contrary to religious principles." Religious sex invokes the presence of God. Irreligious sex only increases our entanglement in material life.
A Preference For Purity
by Kundali dasa
We've had three major scandals in leadership so far in 1987: the alleged adultery of former presidential hopeful Gary Hart; the unlawful involvement of Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North and his supporters in the Iran-contra arms deal; and the adulterous liaison and misappropriation of church funds by the televangelist Jim Bakker.
One columnist, in commenting on the public's reaction to these scandals, wrote, approvingly, "Whatever you may say about the American people, they like purity in their leaders." It certainly appears that way, judging by the public uproar caused by the scandals of Mr. Hart, Mr. Bakker, and Col. North.
Undeniably leaders in all fields have a primary responsibility to be exemplary, for, as Lord Krsna says, whatever great men do, ordinary men follow in their footsteps. That's our natural psychology, and therefore the hue and cry over these three leaders' less-than-exemplary conduct seems inevitable and appropriate.
Still, one wonders if many of the people clamoring for purity are themselves innocent of the sort of conduct they abhor in their political and spiritual leaders.
Take, for example, the reporters, columnists, and so forth who exposed Mr. Hart and hounded him out of the presidential race. Are they all more honorable as husbands or fathers than he?
Or the people outraged at the Iran-contra shenanigans. Are they all more law-abiding citizens than Colonel North?
Or the Christians in a tiff about Mr. Bakker's backsliding. Are all of them innocent of similar transgressions?
Sure we demand a higher standard from a public figure, and rightly so, but aren't we all leaders on some level, even if only as fathers or mothers?
In other words, if we were to first apply the guideline "Judge not lest you be judged," how many people could actually pit themselves against Mr. Hart, Mr. Bakker, or Col. North as better models of moral conduct?
It would be interesting to find out.
It is by all means commendable to want purity in our leaders, but what would be the practical value unless we were willing to become pure ourselves? If we did get such leaders, would we take moral directions from them. I think not.
Case in point: The other day I was visiting some relatives who are severely critical of the three persons in question. Our conversation eventually wandered into the topic of abortion, and someone said, "I can't believe it! Reagan thinks it's cheaper to have an unwanted child than to fund abortion. That's ridiculous."
"He believes abortion is taking a life," someone else responded. "He thinks continence is a better solution."
"Continence might be a solution for Nancy Reagan," said another, which drew a round of laughter. "Actually, it was probably her idea in the first place," she added, to more laughter. "But I don't think President Reagan has the right to decide what I should do with my sex life."
Except for me, more an observer than a participant, all present voiced their hearty agreement with her verdict. How could Ronald Reagan dare suggest what we should do when it comes to our sex life?
I said nothing, thinking it folly to disagree where lampooning is bliss. Similarly, in New York, where Mayor Koch advocates continence as a solution to the AIDS outbreak, his suggestion has met great resistance and has been labeled impractical.
But why? Continence is a singularly good proposal to counter problems like abortion and AIDS. It strikes right at the heart of these problems. We take drastic steps to minimize drunk driving. We campaign against smoking in the work place and in public places like buses and restaurants. If sex life presents a threat to life, either for unborn babies or AIDS victims, why not counter it with continence? Surely it would help.
But no, we think promiscuity our inviolable right no matter what its price, whether it's murder or terminal disease. Sex is sacrosanct. To advocate continence is to be received like a person holding forth about God at an atheists' convention.
We challenge moral decisions that conflict with our sense gratification, and yet we demand that our leaders be paragons of virtue.
Finally, though we supposedly want purity in our leaders, which ideally would mean leaders with saintly character, I cannot imagine a saintly person running for public office on a purity ticket and actually getting elected.
This leads me to wonder what exactly is meant by "American people like purity in their leaders."
Could it be that by purity we really mean we simply prefer not to know about their moral improprieties?
We welcome your letters.
Hare Krsna! I have heard it said that if you take just one step toward Krsna He will take a thousand steps toward you. But is the reverse true? If I take one step away from Krsna, will He take a thousand steps away from me? Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?
Now that I have remembered Krsna, I am concerned about the relative consequences should I be foolish enough to squander this human lifetime and forget Him once again.
OUR REPLY: Yes, it is said that if we take one step toward Krsna He takes a thousand toward us, but the reverse is not true.
Rather, Krsna, who in the Bhagavad-gita declares that He is the most dear friend of all living entities, accompanies us in all our wanderings in this material world as the Supersoul within our hearts. Although we are forgetful of Him, He never leaves us. If, however, we try to render Him some devotional service, we become priya, especially dear to Him, and He reveals Himself to us.
It is better to have tried to love Krsna and lost than never to have tried at all, because there is no actual loss. If you do not perfect your Krsna consciousness in this life, whatever spiritual merit you have accrued is never lost. Krsna explains in the Sixth Chapter of the Gita that a devotee who doesn't perfect self-realization in this life will continue in his next life from where he left off.
Regarding the concern you express in the last sentence of your letter—What do you think, Ron? Of course you should not squander your life. After all, what assurance do you have of a human birth next life? And even if you do get such a birth, what assurance do you have of getting the opportunity to take to Krsna consciousness? Why take needless risk? Why not take full advantage of your present opportunity?
The ability to recognize and seize opportunity when it's present is as much the formula for success in spiritual life as it is in material life. The Ramayana recommends subhasya sighram: do auspicious things immediately. Kindly give Krsna consciousness due consideration; then act as your conscience dictates. Hare Krsna.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
ISKCON Artist Displays Paintings at World Conference
Miami Beach, Florida—The Cultural Institute For Vedic Arts (CIVA), founded by Yadurani-devi dasi, one of ISKCON's original artists, recently displayed her paintings as part of a meeting of the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA) at the Fountainbleau Hilton Hotel here. The delegates came from around the world and included members of parliament, government ministers, international religious leaders, and the vice-president of Sri Lanka. The wife of the secretary general of the WCPA told a group of delegates and heads of different Florida Hindu organizations that "Yadurani's art is the most significant art of our times."
"Yadurani's paintings were originally done to illustrate Srila Prabhupada's books, published by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. Srila Prabhupada knew that art was an important way to interest people in Krsna consciousness, and "Yadurani founded CIVA to enable people to become acquainted with the ancient Vedic cultural tradition through art. As a result of the exhibition at the WCPA convention, Yadurani was invited to speak about Krsna consciousness at the convention itself, as well as at several yoga asramas and the home of the leader of the Florida Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
Many of Yadurani's paintings are on display in the spacious lobby of the temple here. known as Govinda's Vaikuntha Building. The hundreds of guests visiting the temple weekly are greatly impressed by the paintings, which help to increase their appreciation for Krsna consciousness.
U.S. Federal Prison Inmates Hear From Krsna's Devotee
Memphis, Tennessee—Rupanuga dasa, a senior disciple of Srila Prabhupada's, recently held a program in the federal prison here. The program was arranged by inmate Stephen Szili with the assistance of the head of the prisons religious programs and one of the wardens. With the approval of the prison chaplain, Stephen holds regular meetings of inmates interested in Krsna consciousness.
Stephen has known about Srila Prabhupada since 1972, but not until two years ago, while in prison, did he decide to become serious about Krsna consciousness. "Now I'm freer and happier than I've ever been," he says. "I've decided to take my failure and make it a pillar of success. By Srila Prabhupada's divine grace I know I'll never return to crime again."
Rupanuga's visit was the first by a devotee to the federal prison and was an encouraging sign that programs on Krsna consciousness can be held at other prisons with the support of the prison staff.
Swedish Museum Hosts Radha-Krsna Temple
Stockholm, Sweden—A team of Swedish Hare Krsna devotees headed by Vegavan dasa recently opened an authentic Radha-Krsna temple in the Ethnographic Museum here. The museum announced the temple's grand opening, which was reported on Swedish national radio.
The temple is part of the museum's exhibit on Indian culture and includes daily Deity worship, chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra and other devotional songs, and even the traditional Hare Krsna Sunday Feast. About half a million people will visit the museum this year and will have the opportunity to see the Deities of Sri Sri Radha-Radharamana and learn something of the essence of India's spiritual heritage.
The European division of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, which publishes Srila Prabhupada's books in nineteen languages, recently released a graph showing which of the more than fifty books have been translated from English and published in the various languages. Almost all of the books are available in German, Italian, Swedish, and French. The first seven Cantos of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, as well as several other books, are available in Polish. Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is has been published in sixteen of the nineteen languages, including Russian, Hebrew, South Croatian, and Greek.
* * *
ISKCON's traveling Ratha-yatra/Festival of India recently completed a summer tour with a Festival of India in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. Ratha-yatra, an ancient Indian religious and cultural festival, was introduced in the West with the first San Francisco Ratha-yatra in 1967.
This summer the festival crew, headed by Madhuha dasa, began with a Ratha-yatra parade down Boston's streets that culminated in a festival at the famous Commonwealth Park. The crew then moved on to New York for a parade down Fifth Avenue and a festival in Washington Square Park, where Srila Prabhupada first chanted in public after coming to America. The festival then went to Atlantic City, Toronto; Montreal, Boulder, Laguna Beach, Vancouver, and Los Angeles.
* * *
The Indian division of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust recently published Bhagavad-gita As It Is in Malayalam, the language spoken by most of the people of the Indian state of Kerala.
* * *
ISKCON's pada-yatra (walking pilgrimage) is now spending the rainy season in New Delhi, after' having traveled through the Himalayas during the summer. The pada-yatra left Delhi in April and visited the Himalayan shrines of Badrinatha and Kedarnatha. On the return journey the devotees passed through Chandigarh, where they held large programs, and Kuruksetra, where Lord Krsna spoke the Bhagavad-gita five thousand years ago.
From KRSNA, The Supreme Personality of Godhead,
by His Divine Grace
To reciprocate with His devotees, Krsna protects them in the most astonishing ways, such as lifting a huge mountain. Although appearantly a helpless boy, Krsna is actually the only shelter for everyone. The residents of Vrndavana spontaneously trun to Him when faced with any danger.
Krsna and Balarama once saw that the cowherd men were preparing a similar sacrifice in order to pacify Indra, the King of heaven, who is responsible for supplying water. As stated in the Caitanya-caritamrta, a devotee of Krsna has strong and firm faith in the understanding that if he is simply engaged in Krsna consciousness and Krsna's transcendental loving service, then he is freed from all other obligations. A pure devotee of Lord Krsna doesn't have to perform any of the ritualistic functions enjoined in the Vedas; nor is he required to worship demigods. Just by performing the Vedic ritualistic ceremonies or worshiping the demigods, one does not develop devotional service for Krsna. But one who is engaged fully in the service of the Lord has already finished with all Vedic injunctions.
In order to stop all such activities by His devotees, Krsna wanted to firmly establish exclusive devotional service during His presence in Vrndavana. Krsna knew that the cowherd men were preparing for the Indra sacrifice, because He is the omniscient Personality of Godhead, but as a matter of etiquette, He began to inquire with great honor and submission from elder personalities like Maharaja Nanda.
Krsna asked His father, "My dear father, what is this arrangement going on for a great sacrifice? What is the result of such a sacrifice, and for whom is it meant? How is it performed? Will you kindly let Me know? I am very anxious to know this procedure, so please explain to Me the purpose of this sacrifice."
Upon this inquiry, His father, Nanda Maharaja, remained silent, thinking that his young boy would not be able to understand the intricacies of performing the sacrifice.
Krsna, however, persisted: "My dear father, for those who are liberal and saintly, there is no secrecy. They do not think anyone to be a friend or enemy, because they are always open to everyone. And even for those who are not so liberal, nothing should be secret for the family members and friends, although secrecy may be maintained for persons who are inimical. Therefore you cannot keep any secrets from Me. All persons are engaged in fruitive activities. Some know what these activities are, and they know the result, and some execute activities without knowing the purpose or the result. A person who acts with full knowledge gets the full result; one who acts without knowledge does not get such a perfect result. Therefore, please let Me know the purpose of the sacrifice you are going to perform. Is it according to Vedic injunction? Or is it simply a popular ceremony? Kindly let Me know in detail about the sacrifice."
On hearing this inquiry from Krsna, Maharaja Nanda replied, "My dear boy, this ceremonial performance is more or less traditional. Because rainfall is due to the mercy of King Indra, and the clouds are his representatives, and because water is so important for our living, we must show some gratitude to the controller of this rainfall, Maharaja Indra. We are arranging, therefore, to pacify King Indra, because he has kindly sent us clouds to pour down sufficient quantity of rain for successful agricultural activities. Water is very important; without rainfall we cannot farm or produce grains. We cannot live if there is no rainfall. Itis necessary for successful religious ceremonies, economic development, and, ultimately, liberation. Therefore we should not give up the traditional ceremonial function; if one gives it up, being influenced by lust or greed or fear, then it does not look very good for him."
After hearing this, Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in the presence of His father and all the cowherd men of Vrndavana, spoke in such a way as to make Indra very angry. He suggested that they forego the sacrifice. His reasons for discouraging the sacrifice performed to please Indra were twofold.
First, as stated in the Bhagavad-gita, there is no need to worship the demigods for any material advancement; all results derived from worshiping the demigods are simply temporary, and only those who are less intelligent are interested in temporary results.
Second, whatever temporary result one derives from worshiping the demigods is actually granted by the permission of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is clearly stated in the Bhagavad-gita, mayaiva vihitan hi tan. Whatever benefit is supposed to be derived from the demigods is actually bestowed by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Without the permission of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one cannot bestow any benefit upon others. But sometimes the demigods become puffed up by the influence of material nature; thinking themselves all in all, they forget the supremacy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam it is clearly stated that in this instance Krsna wanted to make King Indra angry. Krsna's advent was especially meant for the annihilation of the demons and protection of the devotees. King Indra was certainly a devotee, not a demon, but because he was puffed up, Krsna wanted to teach him a lesson. He first tried to make Indra angry by stopping the Indra-puja that had been arranged by the cowherd men in Vrndavana.
With this purpose in mind, Krsna began to talk as if He were an atheist supporting the philosophy of karma-mimamsa. Advocates of this type of philosophy do not accept the supreme authority of the Personality of Godhead. They put forward the argument that if anyone works nicely, the result is sure to come. Their opinion is that even if there is a God who gives man the result of his fruitive activities, there is no need to worship Him, because unless man works, He cannot bestowanygood result. They say that instead of worshiping a demigod or God, people should give attention to their own duties, and thus the good result will surely come.
Lord Krsna began to speak to His father according to these principles of the karma-mimamsa philosophy. "My dear father," He said, "I don't think you need to worship any demigod for the successful performance of your agricultural activities. Every living being is born according to his past karma and leaves this life simply taking the result of his present karma. Everyone is born in different types or species of life according to his past activities, and he gets his next birth according to the activities of this life. Different grades of material happiness and distress, comforts and disadvantages of life, are different results of different kinds of activities, from either the past or present life."
Maharaja Nanda and other elderly members argued that without satisfying the predominating god, one cannot derive any good result simply by material activities. This is actually the fact. For example, it is sometimes found that, in spite of firstclass medical help and treatment by a first-class physician, a diseased person dies. It is concluded, therefore, that firstclass medical treatment or the attempts of a first-class physician are not in themselves the cause for curing a patient; there must be the hand of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Similarly, a father's and mother's taking care of their children is not the cause of the children's comfort. Sometimes it is found that in spite of all care by the parents, the children go bad or succumb to death. Therefore material causes are not sufficient for results. There must be the sanction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Nanda Maharaja therefore advocated that, in order to get good results for agricultural activities, they must satisfy Indra, the superintending deity of the rain supply. Lord Krsna nullified this argument, saying that the demigods give results only to persons who have executed their prescribed duties. The demigods cannot give any good results to the person who has not executed the prescribed duties; therefore demigods are dependent on the execution of duties and are not absolute in awarding good results to anyone.
Krsna further explained to His father: "We do not derive any special benefit from Indra. Even if he is there, he pours water on the ocean also, where there is no need of water. So he is pouring water on the ocean or on the land; it does not depend on our worshiping him.
"As far as we are concerned, we do not need to go to another city or village or foreign country. There are palatial buildings in the cities, but we are satisfied living in this forest of Vrndavana. Our specific relationship is with Govardhana Hill and Vrndavana forest and nothing more. I therefore request you, My dear father, to begin a sacrifice which will satisfy the local brahmanas and Govardhana Hill, and let us have nothing to do with Indra. "
After hearing this statement by Krsna, Nanda Maharaja replied, "My dear boy, since You are asking, I shall arrange for a separate sacrifice for the local brahmanas and Govardhana Hill. But for the present let me execute this sacrifice known as Indra-puja."
But Krsna replied, "My dear father, don't delay. The sacrifice you propose for Govardhana and the local brahmanas will take much time. Better take the arrangement and paraphernalia you have already made for the Indra-yajna and immediately engage it to satisfy Govardhana Hill and the local brahmanas."
Nanda Maharaja finally relented. The cowherd men then inquired from Krsna how He wanted the yajna performed, and Krsna gave them the following directions. "Prepare very nice foodstuffs of all descriptions from the grains and ghee collected for the yajna. Prepare rice, dal, then halava, pakora, puri and all kinds of milk preparations like sweet rice, rabri, sweetballs, sandesa, rasagulla, and laddu and invite the learned brahmanas who can chant the Vedic hymns and offer oblations to the fire. The brahmanas should be given all kinds of grains in charity.
"Then decorate all the cows and feed them well. After performing this, give money in charity to the brahmanas. As far as the lower animals are concerned, such as the dogs, and the lower grades of people, such as the candalas, or the fifth class of men, who are considered untouchable, they also may be given sumptuous prasadam. After nice grasses have been given to the cows, the sacrifice known as Govardhana-puja may immediately begin. This sacrifice will very much satisfy Me."
The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, therefore advised the cowherd men to stop the Indra-yajna and begin the Govardhana-puja in order to chastise Indra, who was very much puffed up at beingthe supreme controller of the heavenly planets. The honest and simple cowherd men headed by Nanda Maharaja accepted Krsna's proposal and executed in detail everything He advised. They performed Govardhana worship and circumambulation of the hill. (Following the inauguration of Govardhana-puja, people in Vrndavana still dress nicely and assemble near Govardhana Hill to offer worship and circumambulate the hill, leading their cows all around.)
According to the instruction of Lord Krsna, Nanda Maharaja and the cowherd men called in learned brahmanas and began to worship Govardhana Hill by chanting Vedic hymns and offering prasadam. The inhabitants of Vrndavana assembled together, decorated their cows, and gave them grass. Keeping the cows in front, they began to circumambulate Govardhana Hill. The gopis also dressed themselves very luxuriantly and sat on bulldriven carts, chanting the glories of Krsna's pastimes. Assembled there to act as priests for Govardhana-puja, the brahmanas offered their blessings to the cowherd men and their wives, the gopis.
When everything was complete, Krsna assumed a great, transcendental form and declared to the inhabitants of Vrndavana that He was Himself Govardhana Hill in order to convince the devotees that Govardhana Hill and Krsna Himself are identical. Then Krsna began to eat all the food offered there. The identity of Krsna and Govardhana Hill is still honored, and great devotees take rocks from Govardhana Hill and worship them exactly as they worship the Deity of Krsna in the temples. Devotees therefore collect small rocks or pebbles from Govardhana Hill and worship them at home, because this worship is as good as Deity worship.
The form of Krsna who began to eat the offerings was separately constituted, and Krsna Himself along with other inhabitants of Vrndavana began to offer obeisances to the Deity as well as to Govardhana Hill. In offering obeisances to the huge form of Krsna Himself and Govardhana Hill, Krsna declared, "Just see how Govardhana Hill has assumed this huge form and is favoring us by accepting all of the offerings." Krsna also declared at that meeting, "One who neglects the worship of Govardhana-puja, as I am personally conducting it, will notbe happy. There are many snakes on Govardhana Hill, and persons neglecting the prescribed duty of Govardhana-puja will be bitten by these snakes and killed. In order to assure the good fortune of the cows and themselves, all people of Vrndavana near Govardhana must worship the hill, as prescribed by Me."
Thus performing the Govardhana-puja sacrifice, all the inhabitants of Vrndavana followed the instructions of Krsna, the son of Vasudeva, and afterwards they returned to their respective homes.
* * *
When Indra understood that his sacrifice to be offered by the cowherd men in Vrndavana was stopped by Krsna, he became angry, and he vented his anger upon the inhabitants of Vrndavana, who were headed by Nanda Maharaja, although Indra knew perfectly well that Krsna was personally protecting them. As the director of different kinds of clouds, Indra called for the samvartaka. This cloud is invited when there is need to devastate the whole cosmic manifestation. The samvartaka was ordered by Indra to go over Vrndavana and inundate the whole area with an extensive flood.
Demonically, Indra thought himself to be the all-powerful supreme personality. When demons become very powerful, they defy the supreme controller, the Personality of Godhead. Indra, though not a demon, was puffed up by his material position, and he wanted to challenge the supreme controller. He thought himself, at devotees all protection, and they should completely depend on His mercy. Indra cursed the action of the inhabitants of Vrndavana and said, "By defying the authority of the demigods, the inhabitants of Vrndavana will suffer in material existence. Having neglected the sacrifice to the demigods, they cannot cross over the impediments of the ocean of material misery." Indra further declared, "These cowherd men in Vrndavana have neglected my authority on the advice of this talkative boy who is known as Krsna. He is nothing but a child, and by believing a child, they have enraged me."
Thus he ordered the samvartaka cloud to go and destroy the prosperity of Vrndavana. "The men of Vrndavana," said Indra, "have become puffed up over their material opulence and their confidence in the presence of their tiny friend Krsna. He is simply talkative, childish, and unaware of the complete cosmic situation, although He is thinking Himself very advanced in knowledge. Because they have taken Krsna so seriously, they must be punished, and so I have ordered the samvartaka cloud to go there and inundate the place. They should be destroyed with their cows."
Ordered by King Indra, all the dangerous clouds appeared above Vrndavana and began to pour water incessantly, with all their strength and power. There was constant lightning and thunder, blowing of severe wind, and incessant falling of rain. The rainfall seemed to fall like piercing sharp arrows. By pouring water as thick as pillars, without cessation, the clouds gradually filled all the lands in Vrndavana with water, and there was no visible distinction between higher and lower land.
The situation was very dangerous, especially for the animals. The rainfall was accompanied by great winds, and every living creature in Vrndavana began to tremble from the severe cold. Unable to find any other source of deliverance, they all approached Krsna to take shelter at His lotus feet. The cows especially, being much aggrieved from the heavy rain, bowed down their heads, and taking their calves underneath their bodies, they approached the Supreme Personality of Godhead to take shelter of His lotus feet.
At that time all the inhabitants of Vrndavana began to pray to Lord Krsna. "Dear Krsna," they prayed, "You are allpowerful, and You are very affectionate to Your devotees. Now please protect us, who have been much harassed by angry Indra."
Upon hearing their prayer, Krsna could also understand that Indra, being bereft of his sacrificial honor, was pouring down rain that was accompanied by heavy pieces of ice and strong winds, although all this was out of season.
Krsna understood that this was a deliberate exhibition of anger by Indra. He therefore concluded, "This demigod who thinks himself supreme has shown his great power, but I shall answer him according to My position, and I shall teach him that he is not autonomous in managing universal affairs. I am the Supreme Lord over all, and I shall thus take away his false prestige, which has arisen from his power. The demigods are My devotees, and therefore it is not possible for them to forget My supremacy, but somehow or other he has become puffed up with material power and thus is now maddened. I shall act in such a way as to relieve him of this false prestige. I shall give protection to My pure devotees in Vrndavana, who are at present completely at My mercy and whom I have taken completely under My protection. I will save them by My mystic power."
Thinking in this way, Lord Krsna immediately picked up Govardhana Hill with one hand, exactly as a child picks up a mushroom from the ground. Thus He exhibited His transcendental pastime of lifting Govardhana Hill.
Lord Krsna then began to address His devotees, "My dear brothers, My dear father, My dear inhabitants of Vrndavana, you can now safely enter under the umbrella of Govardhana Hill, which I have just lifted. Do not be afraid of the hill and think that it will fall from My hand. You have been too much afflicted from the heavy rain and strong wind; therefore I have lifted this hill, which will protect you exactly like a huge umbrella. I think this is a proper arrangement to relieve you of your immediate distress. Be happy along with your animals underneath this great umbrella."
Being assured by Lord Krsna, all the inhabitants of Vrndavana entered beneath the great hill and appeared to be safe along with their property and animals.
The inhabitants of Vrndavana and their animals remained there for one week without being disturbed by hunger, thirst, or any other discomforts. They were simply astonished to see how Krsna was holding up the mountain with the little finger of His left hand. Seeing the extraordinary mystic power of Krsna, Indra, the king of heaven, was thunderstruck and baffled in his determination. He immediately called for all the clouds and asked them to desist.
When the sky became completely cleared of all clouds and there was sunrise again, the strong wind stopped. At that time Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, known now as the lifter of Govardhana Hill, said, "My dear cowherd men, now you can leave and take your wives, children, cows and valuables, because everything is ended. The inundation has gone down, along with the swelling waters of the river."
All the men loaded their valuables on carts and slowly left with their cows and other paraphernalia. After they had cleared out everything, Lord Krsna very slowly replaced Govardhana Hill exactly in the same position as it had been before.
* * *
A surabhi cow from Goloka Vrndavana, as well as King Indra from the heavenly planet, then appeared before Krsna. Indra, the king of heaven, was conscious of his offense before Krsna. Therefore he stealthily appeared before Him from a secluded place. He immediately fell down at the lotus feet of Krsna, although his own crown was dazzling like sunshine. Indra knew about the exalted position of Krsna because Krsna is the master of Indra, but he could not believe that Krsna could come down and live in Vrndavana among the cowherd men. When Krsna defied the authority of Indra, Indra became angry because he thought that he was all in all within this universe and that no one was as powerful as he. But after this incident, his false puffed-up prestige was destroyed.
Being conscious of his subordinate position, he appeared before Krsna with folded hands and began to offer the following prayers.
"My dear Lord," Indra said, "being puffed up by my false prestige, I thought that You had offended meby not allowing the cowherd men to perform the Indrayajna, and I thought that You wanted to enjoy the offerings that were arranged for the sacrifice. I thought that in the name of a Govardhana sacrifice, You were taking my share of profit, and therefore I mistook Your position. Now by Your grace I can understand that You are the Supreme Lord, Personality of Godhead, and that You are transcendental to all material qualities. Your transcendental position is visuddha-sattvam, which is above the platform of the material mode of goodness, and Your transcendental abode is beyond the disturbance of the material qualities. Your name, fame, form, qualities, and pastimes are all beyond this material nature, and they are never disturbed by the three material modes. Your abode is accessible only for one who undergoes severe austerities and penances and who is completely freed from the onslaught of material qualities like passion and ignorance. If someone thinks that when You come within this material world You accept the modes of material nature, he is mistaken. The webs of material qualities are never able to touch You, and You certainly do not accept them when You are present within this world. Your Lordship is never conditioned by the laws of material nature.
"Please accept my prostrated obeisances. You are the personification of supreme knowledge. You can appear anywhere according to Your desire in any one of Your eternal forms. You are the root of all creation and the Supreme Soul of all living entities. Dut to my gross ignorance, I created a great disturbance in Vrndavana by sending torrents of rain and a heavy hailstorm. I acted out of severe anger caused by Your stopping the sacrifice which was to be held to satisfy me. But my dear Lord, You are so kind to me that You have bestowed Your mercy upon me by destroying all my false pride. I therefore take shelter unto Your lotus feet."
Thus praised by Indra, Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, smiling beautifully, said, "My dear Indra, I have stopped your sacrifice just to show My causeless mercy and to revive your memory that I am your eternal master. I am not only your master but the master of all the other demigods as well. You should always remember that all your material opulences are due to My mercy. Everyone should always remember that I am the Supreme Lord. I can show anyone My favor, and I can chastise anyone, because no one is superior to Me. If I find someone overpowered by false pride, in order to show him My causeless mercy, I withdraw all his opulences."
After instructing Indra, Lord Krsna asked him to return to his kingdom in the heavenly planet and to remember always that he is never the supreme but is always subordinate to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He also advised him to remain as king of heaven, but to be careful of false pride.
After this, the transcendental surabhi cow, who also came with Indra to see Krsna, offered her respectful obeisances unto Him and worshiped Him. The surabhi offered her prayer as follows. "My dear Lord Krsna, You are the most powerful of all mystic yogis because You are the soul of the complete universe, and only from You has all this cosmic manifestation taken place. Therefore, although Indra tried his best to kill my descendant cows in Vrndavana, they remained under Your shelter, and You have protected them all so well. We do not know anyone else as the Supreme, nor do we go to any other god or demigods for protection. Therefore, You are our Indra, You are the supreme father of the whole cosmic manifestation, and You are the protector and elevator of all the cows, brahmanas, demigods, and others who are pure devotees of Your Lordship. O Supersoul of the universe, let us bathe You with our milk because You are our Indra. O Lord, You appear just to diminish the burden of impure activities on the earth."
In this way Lord Krsna was bathed by the milk of the surabhi cow, and Indra bathed Him with the water of the celestial Ganges through the trunk of his carrier elephant. After this, the king of heaven, Indra, along with surabhi cows and all other demigods and their mothers, worshiped Lord Krsna by bathing Him with Ganges water and the milk of the surabhis. Thus Govinda, Lord Krsna, was pleased with all of them. The residents of all higher planetary systems, such as Gandharvaloka, Vidhyadharaloka, Siddhaloka and Caranaloka, all combined and began to glorify the Lord by chanting His holy name. Their wives and damsels began to dance with great joy. They very much satisfied the Lord by incessantly pouring flowers from the sky. When everything was very nicely and joyfully settled, the cows overflooded the surface of the earth with their milk. The water of the rivers began to flow and give nourishment to the trees, producing fruits and flowers of different colors and tastes. The trees began to pour drops of honey. The hills and mountains began to produce potent medicinal plants and valuable stones. Because of Krsna's presence, all these things happened very nicely, and the lower animals, who were generally envious, were envious no longer.
After satisfying Krsna, who is the Lord of all the cows in Vrndavana and who is known as Govinda, King Indra took His permission to return to his heavenly kingdom. He was surrounded by all kinds of demigods, who passed with him through cosmic space. This great incident is a powerful example of how Krsna consciousness can benefit the world. Even the lower animals forget their envious nature and become elevated to the qualities of the demigods.
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.
Srila Prabhupada: So this spiritual science is not beyond science. It is the ultimate science—vijnanam, the most practical scientific understanding.
On the one hand you have jnanam, purely theoretical understanding, like that of the big modern so-called scientists. They theorize how matter is working and how the material body is working, but they do not know how the soul is working, how he is living in the material body and controlling the material body. They do not even know their own selves.
On the other hand you have this vijnanam which is not only theoretical but also practical. Practical knowledge that you realize and understand in your own life. Knowledge of who you are, apart from your temporary material body. Knowledge of your actual, spiritual identity, and how to return, at life's end, to the spiritual world.
Therefore, in the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna affirms. jnanam te 'ham sa-vijnanam idam vaksyamy asesatah [Bg. 7.2]. "I shall now declare unto you in full this knowledge, both phenomenal and nourninous. This being known, nothing further shall remain for you to know."
So this spiritual science is not beyond science. It is the ultimate science. Explain it nicely. Then the Americans and the whole world will understand.
Dr. Singh: Yes. Honest, fair-minded scientists can help in this effort.
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes. You can go to the universities and talk with them. Present this spiritual science through scholarly writing and debate.
Formerly, learned scholars used to travel and do that. In Sanskrit it is called dig-vijaya. The scholar makes it known, "I have this knowledge." Then he challenges, "Come on. You defeat me, or I defeat you." And whoever is defeated becomes a student of the one who is victorious.
In any event. in India this was the system. You go out. travel all over the world, and if you are qualified to speak, those with Opposing views must come forward to defeat you. Or, if they are defeated, they must become followers; they must make proper acknowledgment. At the present moment, the world needs strong spokesmen for this spiritual science who can go forth and convince skeptics.
Dr. Singh: A few months ago, several of us who feel strongly about what you're saying visited MIT.
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, MIT. Shortly after my arrival in America, I went there and challenged them [laughs]; "You have so many departments of technology. Where is the department that teaches this technology—how to bring someone from death back to life?"
Dr. Singh: At MIT they have a big department of artificial intelligence. So we went just to see what they were doing. First they weren't going to allow us in. They didn't want us there.
Then we beseeched them, "We've come from far away, and we are interested in mathematics and computer science. We'd simply like to know a bit about this artificial intelligence you are pursuing."
Finally they allowed us to come in, and a Ph.D. candidate in computer science showed us all the various labs they had.
Srila Prabhupada: A huge arrangement.
Dr. Singh: Yes. Then we started talking about intelligence—what intelligence actually is. We had a roundtable discussion, and this Ph.D. candidate was telling us that by "artificial intelligence" they mean that in the future they will have cars and airplanes driven without drivers or pilots. that kind of thing. We pointed out that for true intelligence, there must be consciousness. There must be a spirit soul.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. That autopilot business can be done: they have been doing it for some time already. For instance, for years they have been launching satellites, and those satellites operate at great distances from earth, often largely with automatic mechanisms, with a kind of artificial intelligence.
So the satellites have no actual intelligence. The actual, working intelligence is to be found in the people who design and control the satellites. Not in the satellites themselves, but in the laboratories and control rooms, in these various people—these conscious, spiritual beings.
Dr. Singh: Yes. That is precisely the point. So we told the Ph.D. candidate, "This expression 'artificial intelligence'—the expression itself—is wrong. A misnomer. It shouldn't be used. 'Intelligence' implies consciousness, a soul. No consciousness—no soul—no intelligence."
Srila Prabhupada: That is correct.
Dr. Singh: These people have many plans. And they have many dollars to spend—perhaps millions on a department with only thirty-five professors and twenty-two graduate students. Finally, this graduate student admitted that they had been trying to do so many things, but that they are mostly failing in so many ways.
Srila Prabhupada: [Laughs.]
Dr. Singh: And then I said. "Why are you spending so much time like this?"
The graduate student said, "We do some work, but it's mostly for fun. To get money."
Srila Prabhupada: Just see what rascals they are!
Dr. Singh: They have to keep themselves busy doing something. Otherwise. they'll have no income.
Srila Prabhupada: That is their position—"artificial intelligence." They do not even know who they are, and they are keeping the whole world in darkness. They have no intelligence. Still, they pose themselves as intelligent and draw money. That's all. Posing themselves as intelligent amongst the fools and taking money from them. This is what is going on.
(To be continued.)
Formerly, Muslims living in the regions of Afghanistan, Baluchistan, and Persia called the Sindhu (Indus) River "Hindu" and the people living in and beyond the river valley "Hindus."
by Mathuresa Dasa
From its founding in 1966 the International Society for Krishna Consciousness has been invigorated by the participation of the Indian community, both in India and the West, and by the endorsements of Hindu organizations around the world. Many of ISKCON's Indian members, some of whom have leading roles in the Krsna consciousness movement, have worshiped Lord Krsna from their childhood and have followed all their lives, as part of their family or cultural traditions, the basic principles followed by all ISKCON members—total abstinence from non-vegetarian foods, and from intoxication, illicit sex, and gambling.
The Indians' support of ISKCON never fails to impress me and to encourage me in my own practice of Krsna consciousness. In the West especially, people tend to look at ISKCON devotees as something new, strange, and threatening, but the largescale participation of the Hindu community helps me to remember, and to convince others, that in joining ISKCON I have joined an age-old religious and cultural tradition that currently has hundreds of millions of followers.
I must honestly confess, however, that despite my growing appreciation of Hindu culture, I wince whenever I hear someone refer to Lord Krsna as "a Hindu god," to the Krsna consciousness movement as "a sect of Hinduism," or to the Bhagavad-gita, which ISKCON has published in more than thirty languages, as "the Hindu bible." By convention, or common understanding, it may be OK to call us Hindu, but a closer look shows that the designation is not wholly appropriate.
Neither in the Gita nor in any of India's Vedic literatures will you once find the word hindu. Hindu comes from the Sanskrit sindhu, which means "river," and which was specifically a name for the river that rises in the Tibetan Himalayas and flows nearly two thousand miles to the Arabian Sea, passing through present-day Jammu, Kashmir, and Pakistan—the river we today call the Indus.
Srila Prabhupada, ISKCON's founder-acarya, explained that Muslims living in the regions of Afghanistan, Baluchistan, and Persia, through a singularity of their native pronunciation, called the Sindhu River the Hindu and the people living in and beyond the river valley Hindus. Over the centuries, as Greek, Hun, Tartar, and Mogul armies marched across the Indus to conquer the subcontinent to the south, they brought the name Hindu with them and made it stick. Hindu, Hindustan, Hinduism, Hindi, and even the name India itself, all derive from a term coined by India's conquerors. Today still, for what little is understood of Indian culture, you might as well broadly define a Hindu as a person living beyond the Indus river, and Hinduism, tautologically, as what Hindus do.
But what do the "people beyond the Indus" do? What were they doing before the repeated conquest of their land, during its occupation, and now after independence? What is that complex body of religion, philosophy, and culture—situated within a crumbling social structure known as the caste system—that we call Hinduism?
Srila Prabhupada answered that India's actual culture is described in brief in the Bhagavad-gita, where Lord Krsna explains that He has created human society with four natural social classes, or varnas. These are (1) an intellectual class, (2) an administrative class, (3) a mercantile class, and (4) a laborer class. These classes, or occupational divisions, are recognized by the qualifications and activities of the individual, and they are present throughout the world, not just in India.
In addition to social classes there are four spiritual orders, or asramas, which correspond to stages in each individual's life. The spiritual orders are (1) student life, (2) married life, (3) retired life, and (4) renounced life. These spiritual orders too are visible to some extent in every human society. The first part of life is for education, after which one gets married and finds a job. Later, at the age of fifty-five or sixty, there is retirement. The renounced order is not so prominent worldwide, although in some religions men and women do renounce married life altogether to become priests, ministers, or nuns.
The entire system of social and spiritual orders is called varnasrama-dharma (dharma meaning, very loosely, duty or religion), and the Vedic literatures prescribe detailed duties for an individual according to his or her position in a particular social and spiritual division. Although this varnasrama-dharma system does indeed constitute a complex body of religion and culture, the aim of all prescribed duties is unified—to serve and please the Supreme Lord. Service to the Supreme is called sanatana-dharma, or the eternal religion. Sanatana-dharma is the common function or duty of every living entity, the thread that unites all world religions, and the essence of the varnasrama system. The Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.13) states:
The highest perfection one can achieve by discharging the duties prescribed for one's own occupation according to social divisions and spiritual orders of life is to please the Personality of Godhead.
In the Gita also, the Personality of Godhead Himself explains that the purpose of all the Vedic literatures is to know Him. So the Vedic varnasrama system, though superficially complex, is essentially simple. To simplify further, Lord Caitanya has taught that since in this age the Vedic prescribed duties are nearly impossible to follow in their exact details, the members of all social divisions should instead please the Lord by regularly chanting His holy names and by offering the fruits of their work to Him.
The Indian caste system is a perversion of varnasrama-dharma because caste is decided by birth, not by aptitudes and activities. Caste by birth is not supported by any Vedic text; nor is it a very practical idea. Can a judge's son automatically be allowed to preside in court? Does the child of every IBM executive have natural business talents? Of course not.
Another important difference between the original varnasrama system and Hinduism that has developed over time is that Hinduism recognizes no ultimate goal or conclusion. Hinduism embraces worship of both the original Personality of Godhead and the subordinate demigods, and recognizes the practice of many yoga disciplines, the performance of an array of austerities, and the execution of assorted rituals—all without ever acknowledging that the original purpose of these varied activities is to bring the widest possible variety of individuals to the transcendental platform of exclusive devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
So is ISKCON a part of Hinduism? Well, yes and no. You decide.
What's clear, though, is that the word hinduism is an outsider's term for what's going on beyond the Indus. What's going on there is a misunderstood, misapplied version of the Vedic varnasrama system, a system that ISKCON—with invaluable participation and leadership from the Hindu community—is working to establish everywhere. To establish, in other words, on both sides of the Indus.
An allegory from the Srimad-Bhagavatam
by Visakha-devi dasi
When we view the world around us through the eyes of the scriptures, our understanding of it changes. The scriptures tell us that because nothing is permanent in this material world, that which appears desirable-like wealth, fame, strength, or beauty is ultimately not, because it is not retainable. Whatever our material assets, they will be wrested from us in time. Therefore we should shift our focus from the transient to the permanent, from matter to spirit. To illustrate this point and impress it upon us, the Fifth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, chapters thirteen and fourteen, describe "The Material World as the Great Forest of Enjoyment," summarized as follows:
Vanik, a poor merchant, was determined to make money. He bravely ventured into a dense forest intending to collect wood to sell in the city at a good profit. But that forest was quite mysterious. Through its cascades of creepers Vanik glimpsed a mirage: his dear wife and children were healthy, happy, peaceful; they were welleducated, well-behaved, and touchingly affectionate to him.
This is the beginning of a scriptural analogy that explains some of the perplexities of material life. In Sanskrit vanik means "merchant" and represents every spiritual soul in the material world. The soul is transcendental to material life and enjoys transcendental pleasures but, when incarcerated within the body, identifies with it and with the mind. Forgetful of his actual identity, the soul seeks happiness in material circumstances.
As Vanik left his home to explore the forest, so the soul, the living being, left God's kingdom to find pleasure in the material world. The forest's tangled creepers are likened to the living being's desire for profit, praise, and prestige; the mirage is his pipe dream of future happiness.
Spurred by his wonderful vision, Vanik went deeper into the strange forest, enthusiastically collecting wood. But before long a breeze made some dry trees rub together and start a fire. The flames grew quickly, bearing down on Vanik. He could have escaped by turning back, but instead he pressed on—only to be met by rogues and thieves. Vanik sought shelter in a well, but it was already inhabited—by jackals. He fled further, his feet pierced by the thorns and pebbles on the path, while overhead a huge hill loomed forebodingly.
The forest fire represents the threefold miseries of life: miseries caused by natural disturbances, by other living entities, and by his own mind and body. The rogues and thieves are the embodied soul's senses' longing for sense gratification. Shelter in the dark well is the hope he has for happiness in family life, and the jackals inside the well are his family members, who spend his wealth without consideration. The hill is his extensive and troublesome social responsibilities—the house, clothing, entertainment, and modern amenities he's expected to provide. The thorns and pebbles are the tribulations of establishing respect and prestige in society.
As Vanik continued to struggle along, a whirlwind sprang up and blinded him with dust. Rats and flies pestered him, and the harsh sounds of owls and crickets pained his ears. Worse yet, he stumbled upon some cannibals and had to run for his life, but the powerful embrace of a python stopped his escape and all but squashed out his life. He lay unconscious on the forest path.
The whirlwind's dust is the blinding passion that sometimes overcomes the conditioned soul and forces him to enjoy illicit sex. The rats and flies are envious enemies who disturb his life unnecessarily. The harsh sounds are the tax collectors, who demand large tax payments and, when they come for collecting taxes, are the cannibals that force him to run for his life. The python is sleep that binds him in forgetfulness.
When Vanik had recovered from the python's attack, he was hungry, thirsty, and still tired, but the trees' fruits were poisonous, the rivers were dry, and a forest fire was quickly approaching. Despite all this, his attention was diverted by some playful monkeys—until a lion attacked him, and again he had to run for his life. Vicious animals, like buzzards, herons, vultures, and crows, feigned friendliness but were insincere and too insignificant to help anyway. Finally Vanik, thoroughly morose at not having achieved his life's goal fell into a mountain cave and died.
Satisfying hunger with poisonous fruits is like trying to become happy by enjoying sense gratification. Because the soul is spiritual, material sense gratification leaves him vacant. But without knowing why he feels vacant, he hungrily searches for sensual pleasures and is poisoned by lust and greed.
As one who is thirsty is frustrated by a dry river, so he who wants spiritual life is frustrated when he approaches so-called swamis, priests, and evangelists who concoct their own methods of salvation. Turning to such charlatans and the bogus organizations they run is like jumping into a dry river-it results in increased suffering. Sometimes, however, one will find a genuine spiritualist and will learn to worship the Supreme Lord. But if he is unable to stick to spiritual principles, he falls into the company of low-class men who are compared to monkeys. Monkeys are always frivolous and infatuated with sex. Such monkeylike people forget that their short lives will soon be over and that they will have nothing to show for it.
A lion's attack means death is coming, and seeking protection among carnivorous birds is like seeking shelter in man-made gods. Such "gods" are too insignificant to save anyone, including themselves, from life's unhappiness, from fear of death (the mountain cave), and from death itself.
By seeing through scriptural eyes, one can understand that lasting happiness is not to be found in the material world. Happiness is innate within us. But because we lack knowledge of our spiritual nature, we seek happiness in material activities, without considering the suffering that accompanies our endeavors. Instead of venturing farther into the material forest as Vanik did, let us return back from whence we came. Let us return home to the kingdom of God.
Seeing the Good
I recently discussed with a friend the importance of trying to see good in all persons. But my friend doubted: "Isn't it a fact that some people are actually bad?" It occurred to me that I should have first defined what I mean by good. Positive thinking must be more than vague sentiments.
According to Vedic knowledge, any thought or act progressive to spiritual life is good. And spiritual life may be defined simply—but accurately—as that which is pleasing to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as enunciated in the recognized scriptures. For practical guidance in spiritual life we should also follow the example and advice of God's representatives, those who have attained to a state of pure goodness.
It is difficult to find someone who is one hundred percent good, someone completely in accord with God's wishes. In the Bhagavad-gita the Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna, admits, sa mahatma sudurlabhah. The mahatma, who is completely in the spiritual energy of God, is very rarely found in this world. But do we have to wait until we find one hundred percent goodness before we recognize and encourage good acts? A more realistic approach is to appreciate sincere attempts at spiritual life, even in a person who has flaws.
An incident in the life of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada exemplifies this positive but realistic outlook. In 1973 Prabhupada received a letter from a woman named Lynne Ludwig, who had encountered two of his young disciples in California. She complained that they had "a very negative outlook toward the people they meet." Moved by her genuine concern, Srila Prabhupada wrote her a thoughtful letter. He acknowledged that his followers may have acted in an indiscreet way, and he asked her to please forgive them. At the same time Srila Prabhupada pointed out the saving grace in the behavior of his devotees:
To give up one's life completely for serving the Supreme Lord is not an easy thing, and maya, or the illusory, material energy, tries especially hard to trap those who have left her service to become devotees. Therefore, in order to withstand the attack of maya and remain strong under all conditions of temptation, some who are inexperienced devotees in the neophyte stage of devotional service will sometimes adopt an attitude against those things or persons which may possibly be harmful or threatening to their tender devotional creepers. They may even overindulge in such feelings just to protect themselves, and thus they will appear to some nondevotees, who are perhaps themselves still very much enamored by the material energy of maya to be negative or pessimistic.
Prabhupada went on to state that when a devotee of God actually comes to the mature stage, then he becomes "constantly enlightened, always positive, not negative, as you say. The advanced devotee is the friend of everyone."
So far I have discussed seeing the good in those who have accepted the spiritual path, even if they are immature. But what about persons who may not believe in God? What about persons who flagrantly disobey the basic commandments? And what about the animals and plants? Should we see God only in theistic human beings?
In fact, the vision by which one sees everyone as equally good is the vision of the topmost theist. As Lord Krsna declares in the Bhagavad-gita (5.18), "The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater [outcaste]."
The enlightened sage can see everyone equally because he doesn't see in terms of bodily coverings. He sees the spirit soul within. He sees that even animals are eternal spirit souls, but because of their previous bad karma, they have been forced to enter a species of life with a very limited consciousness. But all souls are equal, and therefore no one has a right to kill. When applied in this way, the attempt to see the good in others becomes a very crucial and practical basis for personal ethics.
There is another important reason why we should see everyone as equal: Everyone is equally a servant of God, equally subject to His supreme will. Lord Krsna declares in the Bhagavad-gita (4.11), "As all surrender to Me, I reward them accordingly. Everyone follows My path in all respects, O son of Prtha." From the viewpoint of God, therefore, everyone is His eternal part and parcel, and everyone may become His eternal associate again in the spiritual world.
But what about seeing the bad? Certainly systems of morality, philosophy, and religion teach an important distinction between sinful and unsinful acts. There are laws of God, or laws of nature, and anyone who defies them receives punishment through the law of karma: The proof of this is that some spirit souls have taken birth in lower species, where they suffer more misfortune than others. But even when we acknowledge karma, that does not condone our taking a negative attitude toward "sinners." A God conscious person, who has actually developed traits of goodness, hates not the sinner but the sin—the destructive act itself.
Those who have gained a conviction about the equality of all beings have the added responsibility to try to help others come to the higher understanding. We should all strive to see the good in others and to help them bringout their best. This is expressed in the Bhagavad-gita (3.26), "Let not the wise disrupt the minds of the ignorant who are attached to fruitive action. They should be encouraged not to refrain from work, but to work in the spirit of devotion."
If we want to promote good in the world, we cannot blindly believe that all acts are equally good. But we can see that everyone is good at heartbecause he is constitutionally part of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A learned person, therefore, seriously tries to follow the path of goodness and introduces it to others.
Furthermore, real goodness is not the transient happiness we enjoy by our senses. That which is good must be eternal, and therefore it is attained by reviving our relationship with God. We can promote goodness by glorifying God through philosophy, art, science, music, and innumerable other methods. Mundane attempts at "doing good" deteriorate into moralistic meddling and schemes for others' welfare, which end in failure.
Transcendental, positive thinking is not a Pollyanna pose, nor does it mean seeing through rose-colored glasses. It is a broad vision that includes and encompasses the bad and elevates us to our original state of eternal happiness. Seeing the good, therefore, means to love all beings in God's creation. Even if pure goodness cannot be immediately achieved, the smallest attempt at goodness creates auspiciousness in the world. If we are able to face our own weaknesses, as well as the widespread corruption and evil in the world, and yet go on working for the cause of good, only then can we realize the happiness of the mahatma, the great-hearted servant of God and humanity.—SDG
Chanting is easy, and it works. In fact, it is the most effective means of God realization in the world. Here's why. God is unlimitedly powerful, and His name is Himself. When we chant God's names, God is totally present through the transcendental sound. So potent are God's names that the Vedic scriptures consider chanting the essential, universal religion of the age. So why don't more people chant? Maybe they's embarassed. Or busy. Or doubtful. Or maybe they think chanting is a sectarian religous practice—something only for the Hare Krsnas. Yet what could be less sectarian than calling out to God? All the great scriptures of the world praise the holy names of God. God's names may vary from religion to religion or from culture to culture, but the person—the supreme father of all—is the same. Don't be embarrassed. Chanting is for everyone. Don't feel you're too busy. Chanting is easy. And don't remain doubtful. Try chanting and see the results. Chant. It's easy, effective, and universal.