Whether communist or capitalistic,
A conversation with
This conversation with Professor C. G. Kotovsky took place in Moscow in 1971. Professor Kotovsky was then head of the India Studies Department of the University of Moscow.
Srila Prabhupada: The other day I was reading the paper Moscow News. There was a Communist congress, and the president declared, "We are ready to take others' experience to improve." So I think the Vedic conception of socialism or communism will much improve the idea of communism. . . . Modern society takes the people as a whole as the proprietor of a certain state, but the Vedic conception is isavasyam idam sarvam—everything is owned by Krishna, the supreme controller. Tena tyaktena bhunjithah—you may enjoy what is allotted to you by Him. Ma grdhah kasya svid dhanam: but do not encroach upon others' property. This is the Isopanisad—Veda. The same idea is explained in the different Puranas. There are many good concepts in the Vedic literature about communism. So I thought that these ideas should be distributed to your most thoughtful men. There fore I was anxious to speak.
Prof. Kotovsky: It is interesting that here in our country there is now great interest in the history of old, old thought. From this point of view, our institute translated into Russian and published many literary monuments of great Indian culture. . . .It seems to me that in Moscow and Leningrad libraries we have nearly all the major texts of ancient Indian culture, beginning from the Vedas, the original texts in Sanskrit. For instance, in the Leningrad branch of our institute there are six or eight editions of Manu-smrti. This institute was founded in Imperial Russia in Leningrad, so in Leningrad we now have a branch of our institute dealing mainly with the history of Asiatic culture. You will find here an account of what is being translated and what studies are being done on the history of Indian religion and also the state of Indian religion, Hinduism, in Hindu India today.
Srila Prabhupada: Hinduism is a very complex topic.
Prof. Kotovsky: Oh, yes. [They laugh.] Really, to my understanding, it is not a religion from the European point of view; it is a way of life—religion, philosophy, a way of life, whatever you want.
Srila Prabhupada: This word "Hindu" is not a Sanskrit word. It was given by the Mohammedans. You know that there is a river—Indus—which in Sanskrit is called Sindhu. The Mohammedans pronounce s as h. Instead of Sindhu, they made it Hindu. So "Hindu" is a term that is not found in the Sanskrit dictionary, but it has come into use. But the real cultural institution is called varnasrama. There are four varnas (social divisions)—brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, and sudra—and four asramas (spiritual divisions—brahmacari, grhastha, vanaprastha, and sannyasa. According to the Vedic concept of life, unless people take to this system or institution of four varnas and four asramas, actually they do not become civilized human beings. One has to take this process of four divisions of social orders and four divisions of spiritual orders; that is called varnasrama. India's culture is based on this age-old Vedic system.
Prof. Kotovsky: Varnasrama.
Srila Prabhupada: Varnasrama. And in the Bhagavad-gita—perhaps you have read the Bhagavad-gita.
Prof. Kotovsky: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: There, in the Bhagavad-gita [4.13], is the statement catur-varnyam maya srstam: this system was created by Visnu [God]. So since varnasrama is the creation of the Supreme, it cannot be changed. It is prevalent everywhere. It is like the sun. The sun is a creation of the Supreme. The sunshine is there in America, in Russia, and in India—everywhere. Similarly, this varnasrama system is prevalent everywhere in some form or another. Take, for example, the brahmanas, the most intelligent class of men. They are the brains of society. The ksatriyas are the administrative class; then the vaisyas are the productive class, and the sudras are the worker class. These four classes of men are prevalent everywhere under different names. Because it is created by the original creator, so it is prevalent everywhere, varnasrama-dharma.
Prof. Kotovsky: It is interesting that in the opinion of some European and old Russian scholars, this varnasrama system is a later creation, and if you would read the old texts of Vedic literature, you would find a much more simple and agrarian society. It is the opinion of these scholars that the varnasrama system was introduced in Indian society in the late age of the Vedic era but not from the beginning. And if you would analyze the old texts, you would find that in the old classical India it was not so prevalent.
Srila Prabhupada: As far as we are concerned, it is mentioned in Bhagavad-gita. Catur-varnyam maya srstam. The Bhagavad-gita was spoken five thousand years ago, and in the Bhagavad-gita it is said, "This system of the Bhagavad-gita was spoken by Me to the sun-god." So if you take an estimation of that period, it comes to forty million years ago. Can the European scholars trace back history five thousand years? Can they go back forty million years? We have evidence that this varnasrama system has been current at least five thousand years. The varnasrama system is also mentioned in the Visnu Purana [3.8.9]. Varnasramacaravata purusena parah puman. That is stated in the Visnu Purana. Varnasrama-dharma is not a phenomenon of a historical period calculated in the modern age. It is natural. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam the comparison is given that just as in the body there are four divisions—the brain division, the arms division, the belly division, and the leg division—so by nature's way these four divisions are existing in the social body. There exist a class of men who are considered the brain, a class of men who are considered the arms of the state, a class of men who are called the productive class, and so on. There is no need of tracing history: it is naturally existing from the day of creation.
Prof. Kotovsky: You have said that in any society there are four divisions, but they are not so easy to distinguish. For instance, one can group together different social classes and professional groups into four divisions in any society; there is no difficulty. The only difficulty is, for instance, in the socialistic society—in our country and other socialist societies—how you can distinguish the productive group from the workers.
Srila Prabhupada: For example, we belong to the intellectual class of men. This is a division.
Prof. Kotovsky: Intelligent class, brahmanas. And you can also put together all the intelligentsia in that department.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Prof. Kotovsky: And administrative class.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Prof. Kotovsky: But who are the vaisyas and sudras? That is the difficulty. Because all others are workers—factory workers, collective farm workers, and so on. So from this point of view there is a great distinction, in my opinion, between socialist society and all societies preceeding socialism because in modern Western society you can group all social and professional classes in these particular class divisions—brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas, and sudras: intellectuals, productive class, owners of the productive class, owners of the productive system (factory workers, for instance), and menial workers. But here you have no vaisyas because you have administrative staffs in factories, and you can call them ksatriyas, and then there are the sudras, the workers themselves, but no intermediate class.
Srila Prabhupada: That is stated. Kalau sudra-sambhavah. In this age practically all men are sudras. But if there are simply sudras, the social order will be disturbed. In spite of your state of sudras. the brahmana is found here, and that is necessary. If you do not divide the social order in such a way, there will be chaos. That is the scientific estimation of the Vedas. You may belong to the sudra class, but to maintain social order you have to train some of the sudras to become brahmanas. Society cannot depend on sudras. Nor can you depend on the brahmanas. To fulfill the necessities of your body, there must be a brain, arms, a stomach, and legs. The legs, the brain, the arms are all required for cooperation to fulfill the mission of the whole body. So in any society you can see that unless there are these four divisions, there will be chaos. It will not work properly. It will be maya, and there will be disturbances. The brain must be there, but at the present moment there is a scarcity of brains. I am not talking of your state or my state; I am taking the world as a whole. Formerly the Indian administration was a monarchy. For example, Maharaja Pariksit was a ksatriya king. Just before his death, he renounced his royal order. He went to the forest to hear about self-realization. If you want to maintain the peace and prosperity of the whole world society, you must create a very intelligent class of men, a class of men expert in administration, a class of men expert in production, and a class of men to work. That is required: you cannot avoid it. That is the Vedic conception, mukha-bahuru-pada-jah [Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.17.13]. Mukha means "the face," bahu means "the arms," uru means "the waist," and pada, "the legs." Whether you take this state or that state, unless there is a smooth, systematic establishment of these four orders of life, the state or society will not run very smoothly.
Prof. Kotovsky: Generally it seems to me that this whole varnasrama system to some extent created a natural division of labor in the ancient society. But now division of labor among people in any society is much more complicated and sophisticated. So it is very confusing to group them into four classes.
Srila Prabhupada: Confusion has come to exist because in India, at a later day, the son of a brahmana, without having the brahminical qualifications, claimed to be a brahmana; and others, out of superstition or a traditional way, accepted him as a brahmana. Therefore the Indian social order was disrupted. But in our Krsna consciousness movement we are training brahmanas everywhere because the world needs the brain of a brahmana. Although Maharaja Pariksit was a monarch, he had a body of brahmanas and learned sages to consult, an advisory body. It is not that the monarchs are independent. In history it is found that if some of the monarchs were not in order, they were dethroned by the brahminical advisory council. Although the brahmanas did not take part in politics, they would advise the monarch how to execute the royal function. This is not too far in the past. How long ago was Asoka?
Prof. Kotovsky: That would be equal to what we call, in our terminology, ancient and medieval India.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Prof. Kotovsky: In old and feudal India—you are right—it was very open, and the major part of the high administrative staff in the legislative department were brahmanas. Even in the Mogul era there were brahmanas to advise the Muslim emperors and administrators.
Srila Prabhupada: That is a fact—the brahmanas were accepted. They formed the advisory committee of the king. For example, Candragupta, the Hindu king, was in the age of Alexander the Great. Just before Candragupta, Alexander the Great went from Greece into India and conquered a portion. When Candragupta became emperor, he had Canakya as his prime minister. Perhaps you have heard this name Canakya?
Prof. Kotovsky: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, he was a great brahmana-politician, and it is by his name that the quarter of New Delhi where all the foreign embassies are grouped together is called Canakya Puri. Canakya Pandita was a great politician and brahmana. He was vastly learned. His moral instructions are still valuable. In India, schoolchildren are taught Canakya Pandita's instructions. Although he was the prime minister. Canakya Pandita maintained his brahmana spirit: he did not accept any salary. If a brahmana accepts a salary, it is understood that he has become a dog. That is stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. He can advise, but he cannot accept employment. So Canakya Pandita was living in a cottage, but he was actually the prime minister. This brahminical culture and the brahminical brain is the standard of Vedic civilization. The Manu-smrti is an example of the standard of brahminical culture. You cannot trace out from history when the Manu-smrti was written, but it is considered so perfect that it is the Hindu law. There is no need for the legislature to pass a new law daily to adjust social order. The law given by Manu is so perfect that it can be applicable for all time. It is stated in Sanskrit to be tri-kaladau, which means "good for the past, present, and future."
Prof. Kotovsky: I am sorry to interrupt you, but to my knowledge all of Indian society in the second half of the eighteenth century was, by order of the British administration, under a law divergent from Hindu law. There was a lot of change. The actual Hindu law that was used by the Hindus was quite different from the original Manu-smrti.
Srila Prabhupada: They have now made changes. Even our late Pandita Jawaharlal Nehru introduced his own Hindu code. He introduced the right of divorce in marriage, but this was not in the Manu-samhita. There are so many things they have changed, but before this modern age the whole human society was governed by the Manu-smrti. Strickly speaking, modern Hindus are not strictly following the Hindu scriptures.
But our point is not to try to bring back the old type of Hindu society. That is impossible. Our idea is to take the best ideas from the original idea. For example, in the Srimad-Bhagavatam there is a description of the communist idea. It is described to Maharaja Yudhisthira. If there is something good, a good experience, why shouldn't you adopt it? That is our point of view. Besides that, modern civilization is missing one important point—the aim of human life. Scientifically, the aim of human life is self-realization, atma-tattva. It is said that unless the members of human society come to the point of self-realization, they are defeated in whatever they do. Actually it is happening in modern society, despite all economic advancement and other advancement: instead of keeping peace and tranquillity, they are fighting—individually, socially, politically, and nationally. If we think about it in a cool-headed way, we can see that in spite of much improvement in many branches of knowledge, we are keeping the same mentality that is visible in the lower animal society. Our conclusion is that this human body is not meant for working hard for sense gratification. But people do not know anything beyond that. They do not know about the next life. There is no scientific department of knowledge to study what happens after this body is finished. That is a great department of knowledge.
In the Bhagavad-gita [2.13] it is said, dehino 'smin yatha dehe. Deha means "this body." Dehinah means "the one who owns this body." Dehino 'smin yatha dehe kaumaram yauvanam jara. The dehi, the owner of the body, is within, and the body is changing from one form to another. The child has a certain type of body that changes to another type when he is older. But the owner of the body still exists throughout. Similarly, when this body is completely changed, we accept another body. People do not understand this. We are accepting different bodies, even in this life, from babyhood to childhood to boyhood to youth. That is a fact—everyone knows it. I was a child, but that childhood body is no more. I have a different body now. What is the difficulty in understanding that when this body will be no more, then I will have to accept another body? It is a great science.
Prof. Kotovsky: As you know, there are two quite opposite approaches to this problem. The approach is slightly different according to different religions, but at the same time, any religion recognizes and searches for the change-of-place experience, or transmigration of spirit. In Christian religion, in Judaism, in ...
Srila Prabhupada: I am not talking religions with you. I am talking science and philosophy. One religion may accept one way; that is not our concern. We are concerned with the point that if the owner of the body is permanent in spite of different changes of body, there should be no difficulty in understanding that when this body changes entirely, the owner of the body will have another body.
Prof. Kotovsky: Another approach is that there is no separation. There are no two phenomena—the body and the owner of the body are the same.
Srila Prabhupada [emphatically]: No.
Prof. Kotovsky: When the body dies, the owner also dies.
Srila Prabhupada: No. no. But why is there no department of knowledge in the university to study this fact scientifically'? That is my proposition—they are lacking. It may be as you say or it may be as I say, but there must be a department of knowledge to study this. Recently a cardiologist in Toronto, a doctor, has accepted that there is a soul. So there is another point of view, but our process is to accept knowledge from authority. We have Krsna's statement on this subject, and He is authoritative. Krsna is accepted as the authority by all the acaryas. The Bhagavad-gita is accepted by scholarly and philosophical circles all over the world. Krsna says:
dehino 'smin yatha dehe
"Just as the soul gives up the childhood body and comes to the boyhood body and then to youth, the soul also gives up this body and accepts another body." [Bg. 2.13] This statement is given by Krsna. the greatest authority according to our tradition of knowledge. We accept such a statement without argument. That is the way of Vedic understanding.
This propaganda is meant for creating brahmanas all over the world because the brahmana element is lacking. One who seriously comes to us has to become a brahmana. so he should adopt the occupation of a brahmana and give up the occupation of a ksatriya or sudra. But if one wants to keep his profession and also at the same time understand our movement, that is allowed. We have many professors following our movement. There is Howard Wheeler. He is a professor at Ohio State University. He is my disciple. He is continuing with his professorship, but almost all the money he is getting he is spending for this Krsna consciousness. Grhasthas, those who are in householder life outside, are expected to contribute Fifty percent of their income for our Society, keep twenty-five percent for family, and keep twenty-five percent for personal emergencies. But Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu teaches that it does not matter whether one is a grhastha (householder), or in the renounced order, or a brahmana, or a sudra. Lord Caitanya says, "Anyone who understands the science of Krsna becomes My spiritual master." The actual words in Bengali are kiba vipra kiba nyasi, sudra kene naya. Do you understand a little Bengali?
Prof. Kotovsky: A little.
Srila Prabhupada; Yes, as a vibration. Yei krsna-tattva-vetta, set 'guru' haya. "Anyone who understands this science of Krsna can become a spiritual master." [Cc., Madhya 8.128]
Prof. Kotovsky: But by creating brahmanas from different social classes of society, you deny the old prescription of the Hindu scriptures.
Srila Prabhupada: No, I establish it.
Prof. Kotovsky: According to all scriptures—the Puranas, etc.—every member of one of these four classes of varnas has to be born within it.
Srila Prabhupada: No, no, no, no.
Prof. Kotovsky: That is the foundation of all the varnas . . .
Srila Prabhupada: No, no. I am sorry.
Prof. Kotovsky: The foundation of all the varnas . . .
Srila Prabhupada: You have spoken incorrectly. With great respect I beg to submit that you are not speaking correctly. In the Bhagavad-gita [4.13] it is stated, catur-varnyam maya srstam guna-karma-vibhagasah. "These four orders of brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas, and sudras were created by Me according to quality and work." There is no mention of birth.
Prof. Kotovsky: I agree with you that this is the addition of later brahmanas who tried to perpetuate these qualities.
Srila Prabhupada: That has killed the Indian culture. Otherwise there would have been no necessity of the division of part of India into Pakistan. Not only that, but from the historical point of view this whole planet was Bharata-varsa, and it was controlled by one flag up to the time of Maharaja Pariksit. Then it gradually separated. This is history. Lately they have separated Pakistan. So Bharata-varsa is now crippled into a small piece of land. Otherwise, according to Vedic scripture, this whole planet is called Bharata-varsa. Formerly it was named Ilavrta-varsa. But since Emperor Bharata ruled this planet, it is called Bharata-varsa. So this culture, Krsna consciousness, was always existent. Consider any religion—Christian, Mohammedan, Jewish—they are at most two or three thousand years old. But you cannot trace out the beginning of this Vedic scripture. It is therefore called sanatana, eternal. This culture is for the whole human society. It is not a religious faith. Religious faith you can change, but real dharma you cannot change. Try to understand Krsna. In the Bhagavad-gita [18.66] He says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: "Give up all other forms of religion and just surrender to Me." That is real knowledge—to surrender to the Supreme. You or I—anyone—is surrendered to someone. That is a fact. Our life is by surrender, is it not? Do you agree with this point?
Prof. Kotovsky: To some extent you have to surrender.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, to the full extent.
Prof. Kotovsky: You surrender to the society, for instance. Or to the whole people.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, to the whole people, or to the state or to the king or the government or whatever you say. This surrender must be there.
Prof. Kotovsky: The only difficulty is that we cannot half surrender to a government or a king. The principal difference is of surrender to a king, to a person, or to the society.
Srila Prabhupada: No, that is only a change of color. But the principle of surrender is there. Whether you surrender to monarchy, democracy, aristocracy, or dictatorship, you have to surrender; that is a fact. Without surrender there is no life. It is not possible. So we are educating people to surrender to the Supreme, wherefrom you get all protection, just as Krsna says.
No one can say, "No, I am not surrendered to anyone." Not a single person. The difference is where he surrenders. The ultimate surrendering object is Krsna. Therefore in the Bhagavad-gita [7.19] Krsna says, bahunam janmanam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate: "After surrendering to so many things birth after birth, when one is factually wise he surrenders unto Me." Vasudevah sarvam iti sa mahatma sudurlabhah: "Such a mahatma is very rare."
Prof. Kotovsky: But at the same time it seems to me that surrender is to be accompanied by revolt. The history of mankind has proved that mankind has developed only by revolt against some kind of surrender. In the medieval age there was the French Revolution. It was revolt against surrender. But this revolution itself was surrender to the rank and file of the people. You are agreed?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Prof. Kotovsky: So it is not enough to come to a full stop. Surrender is to be accompanied with revolt against some and surrender to other people.
Srila Prabhupada: But the surrender will be fully stopped when it is surrender to Krsna.
Prof. Kotovsky: Ah, ah.
Srila Prabhupada; That is full stop—no more surrender. Any other surrender you have to change by revolution. But when you come to Krsna, then it is sufficient. You are satisfied. I'll give you an example: a child is crying, and people move him from one lap to another. Oh, he does not stop. But as soon as the baby comes to the lap of his mother—
Prof. Kotovsky: It stops.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, full satisfaction. So this surrender, these changes, will go on in different categories. But the sum total of all this surrender is surrender to maya. Therefore, in the Bhagavad-gita it is said that this is surrender, neglecting Krsna, is all maya. Either you surrender to this or to that, but final surrender is surrender to Krsna; then you will be happy. The process of surrender is there, but surrender to Krsna keeps one quite satisfied, transcendentally.
Prof. Kotovsky: Haven't you come across hostile attitudes to your teachings from orthodox Hindus or brahmanas in India?
Srila Prabhupada: We have subdued them.
Prof. Kotovsky: Ah.
Srila Prabhupada: Any orthodox Hindu may come and challenge, but we have our weapons—the Vedic literatures. So no one has come. Even Christian priests in America love me. They say, "These boys are American, Christian, Jewish, and now they are so much after God. But we could not deliver them." They are admitting it. Their fathers and their parents come to me, offer their obeisances, and say, "Swamiji, it is our great fortune that you have come here to teach God consciousness." So on the contrary, I have been well received. In India also, since you inquired of India, all other sects are admitting that before me many kinds of swamis went to the Western countries, but they could not convert even a single person to Krsna consciousness. They are admitting that. As far as I am concerned, I don't take any credit, but I am confident that because I am presenting the Vedic knowledge as it is, without adulteration, it is being effective. That is my confidence. If you have the right medicine and you administer it to a patient, you must be sure that he will be cured.
Prof. Kotovsky: How many of your one thousand disciples do you have in India itself? How many of your community do you have in India?
Srila Prabhupada: In India?
Prof. Kotovsky: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: In India there are many Krsna conscious persons—hundreds, thousands, millions. In India there is no question. There is not a single Hindu who is not Krsna conscious.
Prof. Kotovsky: Yes, I understand.
Srila Prabhupada: Vaisnavas. This is called the Vaisnava cult. You have been in India, so as it is commonly known, there are many millions of Vaisnavas. For example, this gentleman [an Indian gentleman present] is the commander of Air India airlines. He is not my disciple, but he is a Vaisnava. Krsna conscious. Similarly, in India there are millions of Krsna conscious persons. There are even Mohammedans who are Krsna conscious. At Gorakhpur University there is a Mohammedan professor who is a great devotee of Lord Krsna. So this is natural. It is said in the Caitanya-caritamrta that Krsna consciousness is everywhere, in everyone's heart. It simply has to be awakened by this process. That is all. It is there in your heart also. It is not that it is foreign to you. In everyone's heart there is Krsna consciousness. By this process we have to awaken it. It is just like the way the sun rises. It is not that all of a sudden the sun comes from nowhere. It is there, but it rises in the morning. Similarly, this Krsna consciousness is everywhere, but some way or another it is now covered. By this process it is reawakened and aroused through association.
A Dinner Discussion
Two dining companions explore vegetarianism and India's neglected cuisine.
by Visakha-devi dasi
We were eating baked eggplant halves stuffed with vegetables, chickpeas, and deep-fried panir (fresh homemade cheese). "What's this?" my companion said when she came upon her first cube of the moist, brown-crusted panir.
"It's panir." Pause. "You've never had panir before?"
If she were a bus driver or a ballerina or a librarian, her answer wouldn't have surprised me. Even if she were a diplomat or dilettante. But she's not. She's been writing about food for twenty-four years. She's written a book reviewing 186 restaurants in her area, some of them Indian. She's met cooks from around the world and reviewed countless cookbooks—her library takes up walls. Yet, somehow, panir—the delicious, high-protein treat that turns up in everything from snacks to savories to sweets in Lord Krsna's cuisine—has eluded her. And if her, then how many others?
"I think it's criminal that a person in your position and with your experience hasn't had panir before," I said. Cuisines of other countries—like Greece, France, Italy, Japan—are widely known. Why should India's be neglected? In India panir is as common as ice cream."
"But I don't see it in a negative way," she replied. "I see it as an adventure." And after tasting a little more—"I'm beginning to see how you could live on a diet like this."
I inwardly dropped my fork, jumped on my chair with arms outstretched, and yelled "Hallelujah!" But outwardly I ignored my emotions and mumbled. "Finally."
"I think if you cut this panir into long strips and smoked it, it would taste just like bacon," she said.
Although the idea of eating baconlike panir didn't attract me, I thought of how meat-eaters could benefit from eating panir instead of meat. By eating panir instead of chicken, for instance, they wouldn't ingest salmonella, the disease-causing bacteria that infests a large percentage of that meat. They also wouldn't ingest the toxic chemicals found in many seafoods, or the carcinogens of red meats. In fact, through a sensible vegetarian diet they could alleviate problems caused by high cholesterol and obesity, and would naturally feel more energetic, resilient, and buoyant.
"I'm eating less and less red meat," my friend continued. "I'm not a violent person—I don't like animal slaughter. And I accept the ecological arguments against meat-eating."
"You should tell your readers."
"I think they'll find out for themselves." she retorted, her green eyes casting a glance that made me feel my presumptuousness. "It's like AIDS. You can talk and talk about morality, but people will change only when their immorality starts to kill them. So, as people become more aware of how meat-eating is bad for their health, they'll start to give it up."
"But they need someone to show them how." I said. "It's like smoking. Everyone knows that smoking is bad for health, yet so many people still smoke. But when someone they look up to quits—and explains 'Here's how I did it, and you can do it too'—then they can follow."
"Look, we had a wine writer [at the newspaper where she works] who became allergic to wine. We can't have a food writer who becomes a vegetarian," she said.
"You have other food writers. Let them be nonvegetarian, and you be vegetarian. Variety is the mother of enjoyment."
"Oh, so you've got it all figured out."
"No. I'm ad-libbing," I said, feeling presumptuous again.
The discussion shifted to other topics and then returned to vegetarianism. I presented what is now common knowledge: "From whatever point of view you look at it—ecology, ethics, economics, religion, health, aesthetics, altruism—meat-eating is insupportable. People eat meal simply for the taste. And what's so significant about taste? It's about as significant as fashion."
"No, it's more significant. It comes from a lifetime of habit."
"OK, it's like an enduring fashion—but it's bad fashion. Yet to convince even one person of that is so difficult."
"How did you become convinced?"
"There were many factors." I said, "but an important one was that the diet appealed to my logic and reason. And when I experienced how satisfying vegetarianism could be, I was convinced."
It was really Srila Prabhupada who inspired my conviction, because not only did he explain the spiritual importance of vegetarianism, he also gave the most satisfying vegetarian diet. Yet, as he pointed out, vegetarianism is not the end of the line. "The rabbits are vegetarian," Prabhupada said. "The monkeys are vegetarian. What is the great credit for being vegetarian?" So besides showing us how to he vegetarian, Prabhupada also showed us how to remember God, Krsna, while we prepare our food, offer it to Him, and eat it. And he showed us how to make hundreds of wonderful and here-to-fore unimagined dishes—panir being one of the foremost.
(Recipes from The Hare Krishna Book of Vegetarian Cooking, by Adi-raja dasa)
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Yield: 11 ounces
8 cups whole milk
1. Heat the milk over a medium flame in a pot large enough to allow the milk to rise without overflowing. While waiting for the milk to boil, prepare the curdling agent and get a strainer ready by lining it with two layers of cheesecloth and propping it above a receptacle to collect the whey.
2. When the milk begins to rise, stir in the curdling agent. Remove the pot from the heat. Almost immediately, the spongelike panir will separate from the clear, yellow-green whey with a kind of a magical suddenness. If the whey is not clear, put the pot over the flame again and add a little more curdling agent.
3. After the curds and the whey have separated completely, collect the curds in the cheesecloth. Rinse them under cold water for half a minute to make them firmer and to remove any excess curdling agent, which would alter the taste. Then press out the rest of the liquid in one of the following ways:
• If you want firm panir for making cheese cubes or kneading into a dough, bind the panir within the cheesecloth and press it with a weight for some time. The longer it is pressed, the firmer it will be. Remove the weight, cut the panir into the desired shapes, and use as required. Panir will also become firm if you suspend it in a piece of cheesecloth and leave it to drain.
• If you need soft cheese, simply tighten the cheesecloth around the panir and squeeze out the water.
(Bhari hui sabji)
Preparation time: 45-60 minutes
6 medium-large tomatoes; or
3 tablespoons ghee
1. Wash and dry the tomatoes, then cut a "lid" off the top of each. Scoop out the pulp and force it through a strainer. Discard the seeds and save the pulp for use in the filling. Sprinkle some salt into the tomato shells and turn them upside-down to drain.
Do the same with the peppers, but discard the pulp. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise and scoop out the pulp, leaving a thick shell. Chop the eggplant pulp into tiny pieces and fry them in a small quantity of ghee or oil until they are tender. Mash and use in the filling.
2. To prepare the filling, heat the ghee in a small saucepan over a medium flame. Crumble the panir, put it into the pan, and stir-fry it for a minute or two. Then add the cooked rice and all the other ingredients. Remove the pan from the heat, fold in the sour cream, and mix the ingredients well.
3. Stuff the filling into the hollowed vegetables. The filling will stuff 6 vegetables.
4. When you stuff the tomatoes or peppers, don't forget to replace their lids. You can make a paste from a tablespoon of flour and a dash of water to help the lids stick to the top.
5. Arrange the stuffed tomatoes or peppers (or both together) in an ovenproof dish. Add 4 tablespoons of water, cover, and bake in the oven Lit 300'F for 15 to 20 minutes. Eggplants take 10 minutes longer to cook, so cook them separately.
6. Instead of baking stuffed vegetables, you can steam them in a saucepan. If you have a metal steam-rack, you can steam them over boiling water for 15 to 20 minutes. If you don't have a steam-rack, heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil or ghee and fry the bottom of the stuffed vegetables for 2 to 3 minutes. Then add several tablespoons of water, cover the pan tightly, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. For either method. make sure there is enough water at all times.
7. Sprinkle lemon juice over each serving. Offer to Krsna hot.
Deep-fried cheese balls in cream sauce
Preparation time: 30-40 min
1 lb panir
1. Knead the panir vigorously until it is smooth and soft. Add the flour, chili, fresh coriander leaves, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Knead it again to blend the ingredients evenly. Break off pieces and roll them into walnut-sized balls. Heat the ghee or oil until almost smoking hot. Deep-fry the cheese balls for several minutes until they are golden-brown and crisp. Drain and set aside.
2. Blanch the tomatoes, peel them, and mash them to a puree. Then make a masala paste by grinding (or blending) together the coconut and all the spices except the remaining salt and coriander leaves. Heat the 2 tablespoons of ghee or oil in a medium-sized saucepan and fry this paste for about 1 minute. Now add the tomato puree, cream, coriander leaves, and remaining salt. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring often.
3. Put the kofta balls into the sauce 10 minutes before serving. Garnish each portion with a wedge of lemon or lime, and offer to Krsna.
Pan-fried seasoned cheese
(Tali hui panir)
Preparation time: 20 minutes
10 ounces panir
1. Make panir and press with a weight for 10 minutes, so that the cheese is firm but quite moist. Cut the cheese into pieces about 4 inches long, 2 inches wide, and 1/2 to 1 inch thick.
2. Make a coating for the cheese by mixing the turmeric and salt in a small dish. Press the pieces of moist panir lightly into the mixture one by one to coat both sides. The coating should be thin and even. If the coating is thick, you'll not have enough mixture to go around. Heat a tablespoon of oil or ghee in a frying pan and put in as many pieces of panir as the frying pan will easily hold. Cook them slowly, about 4 or 5 minutes on each side, until they are lightly browned and have a thin crust.
3. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and a slice of lemon or lime. Offer to Krsna.
After fifteen years, the Hare Krsna movement
by Mukunda Goswami and Drutakarma Dasa
Frustrated plainclothes KGB agents vainly tried to convince Western television and newspaper reporters to turn their cameras from fifty enthusiastic Soviet Hare Krsna followers surrounded by an even larger audience of totally fascinated Muscovites. For the first time in history Russian devotees were loudly chanting the Hare Krsna mantra in public, filling the air with the sound of drums and hand cymbals, as if to challenge the limits of General Secretary Gorbachev's new glasnost policy.
"Why don't you come across the street? I think you'll find it more interesting," said one of the KGB men, motioning to the cameramen and reporters to direct their attention to the newly opened Festival of India exhibition jointly sponsored by the Soviet and Indian governments. "We'll be the judge of what's interesting," retorted a reporter from a major London daily newspaper.
The chanting group represented devotees from throughout the vast territory of the Soviet Union. After years of quiet chanting in secret meeting places, they were finally taking their most fundamental religious practice into the streets, well aware that many who had previously done so were now confined to prisons, labor camps, and psychiatric hospitals. Indeed, they hoped this daring gesture would draw the world's attention and thus help win freedom for those in captivity and enable all Soviet Hare Krsna devotees to openly practice their chosen spiritual path. Miraculously, the chanting has continued for weeks without government interference. The imprisoned devotees are not yet free, however, and the other Russian devotees of Krsna are acutely aware that the climate of government tolerance could change in a moment. * (* Since this article was written, the climate has changed. See news stories on pages 23 and 24.)
How did it happen that thousands of Soviet citizens have become dedicated followers of the Krsna consciousness movement?
The story begins in the early summer of 1971. One day a young Muscovite named Anatoly Pinyayev, a lab technician at Moscow University, and his friend, the son of an Indian diplomat, encountered a strange sight near Red Square—a handsome white foreigner with the shaved head and robes of an Indian priest. Stopping to talk with him, they learned that his name was Syamasundara and that he was accompanying his spiritual master, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who was visiting the Soviet capital at the invitation of Professor C. G. Kotovsky, head of the department of Indian and South Asian studies at Moscow's USSR Academy of Sciences.
At Syamasundara's invitation, Anatoly and his friend eagerly returned with him to the Hotel National to meet Srila Prabhupada. Anatoly was immediately attracted to Srila Prabhupada and the philosophy of Krsna consciousness. He spent much of the next few days with Srila Prabhupada, asking questions and learning everything he could about how to practice Krsna consciousness.
Prabhupada saw in this young man an indication that millions of Russian people would be receptive to Krsna consciousnesses. He saw Anatoly as a spark that could ignite a great fire in the Soviet Union, and hoped that the training he had given him would be enough to allow Anatoly to not only become Krsna conscious himself but spread it to others in the Soviet Union.
Srila Prabhupada's hopes did not go unfulfilled. Anatoly soon became his initiated disciple, receiving the name Ananta-santi dasa. Over the next several years, he traveled throughout the Soviet Union, and by his influence hundreds of Russians—including engineers, physicists, artists, and musicians—became dedicated practitioners of Krsna consciousness.
In 1977 the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT), the world's foremost publisher of books on Indian philosophy, was invited to the prestigious Moscow International Book Fair, where BBT publications received high acclaim. The BBT returned to the fair in 1979, displaying all of Srila Prabhupada's books, and creating an even greater sensation, attracting hundreds of thousands of book lovers and spiritual seekers to its colorful exhibit.
Although officially no foreign books are allowed to be directly sold at the fair, many volumes nevertheless found their way into the hands of Soviet citizens. One man even photographed all nine hundred pages of Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is. The rare original volumes obtained at the book fair were circulated underground, and each was read by hundreds of persons, while translations copied by hand or published by underground presses reached thousands more.
Soviet officials later credited the BBT's presence at the 1979 book fair with giving the Hare Krsna movement substantial intellectual influence in the USSR. A Moscow correspondent for The New York Times reported (July 31, 1983): "[The exhibit] drew curious Russians, the books spread, and Hare Krishna was on its way in Russia."
The movement flourished, spreading to all fifteen Soviet republics. Devotees gathered secretly in apartments to chant the Hare Krsna mantra, read Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and other books by Srila Prabhupada, and feast on prasadam, spiritual vegetarian food offered to Krsna. Although the movement was underground, it experienced relatively little persecution.
But this was not to last. The rise to power of Yuri Andropov, the long-time head of the KGB, brought in an era of extreme ideological repression.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
by Dvarakadhisa-devi dasi
Ask Punch Burger to assess his chances of winning the 1988 U.S. presidential election, and he's likely to honestly reply, "Ruff!"
Punch is a real dog—of German shepherd and keeshound parentage, in fact—and he's lined up beside some one hundred forty other candidates registered with the U.S. Federal Election Commission to run in the upcoming presidential race. His campaign manager (and owner) Laura Van Sant thinks he measures up pretty well. She explains, "He's no Gary Hart: he was neutered at six months."
Van Sant registered Punch as a commentary on the quality of this year's U.S. presidential candidates. Americans love to criticize their leaders and potential leaders, and during election year parodies and satires proliferate. Yet an underlying frustration inspires the jokesters: Why can't the people of a great nation like the United States elect a great person to lead the country? Why so many mediocre candidates?
One answer, which lies in the very essence of the American political system, is that the power is in the hands of the citizens, who are for the most part blinded by selfish interests for immediate gratification and have no understanding of the actual consequences of their political demands.
This is a grave flaw of democracy, which Srila Prabhupada sometimes called "demon-crazy." People are mainly concerned with expanding their economic prowess, or in some other way adding to the comforts of life, and their attention is distracted from the loftier goal of spiritual progress, which currently has no place in politics or government leadership.
The Vedic literatures, however, while stressing that leaders must provide peace and prosperity for the citizens, also demand that leaders establish an environment for the spiritual advancement of the citizens. Leaders must convince the citizens that moral values such as nonviolence, chastity, sobriety, sensual restraint, honesty, and so on are not tenets of some particular religion, but are important qualities to be developed by anyone who understands that human life is meant for elevation in the next life.
A society of such thoughtful persons, directed by God conscious leaders, is a real human society. Human beings have no business spending all their days and nights preoccupied with the things that so absorb the animals, such as eating, mating, sleeping, and defending. Seeing human beings so bewildered, Srila Prabhupada would point out that they are indeed no better than animals. He writes:
So Srimad-Bhagavatam's categorization of the common man without any spiritual enlightenment into the society of dogs, hogs, camels and asses is not at all an exaggeration. The leaders of such ignorant masses of people may feel very proud of being adored by sue ha number of dogs and hogs, but that is not very flattering. The Bhagavatam openly declares that although a person may be a great leader of such (Jogs and hogs disguised as men, if he has no taste for being enlightened in the science of Krsna, such a leader is an animal and nothing more. He may be designated as a powerful, strong animal, or a big animal, but in the estimation of Srimad-Bhagavatam, he is never given a place in the category of men, on account of his atheistic temperament. Or, in other words, such godless leaders of dogs and hoglike men are bigger animals with qualities of animals in greater proportion." (Bhag. 2.3.19, purport)
Srila Prabhupada is not simply name-calling. He is attempting to awaken us to the reality of our present society.
In America, as in democracies all over the world, the ability to affect change lies in the hands of the people. For people to make intelligent political choices they must be able to distinguish men from dogs. If someone is promising essentially nothing more than bigger food rations, bigger fangs to show the enemies, and more opportunities for unrestricted sex (things that Punch might readily advocate), then the perceptive voter must demand something nobler. A public interested in spiritual rather than material benefits from presidential candidates can certainly help to improve the quality of our choices.
The citizens must therefore make spirituality the priority in life and in their relations with their leaders. Otherwise they will only continue to bemoan the caliber of their presidential choices.
One politician observed, "The American people have the constitutional right to be wrong"—and at this stage they are taking full advantage of this right. But, on the other hand, they also have the constitutional right to be right, if they so desire.
You Can't Beef About Karma
by Satyaraja dasa
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration last week proposed a record $2.59 million fine against IBP, alleging that in 1985 and 1986 the largest U.S. meat-packer knowingly failed to record 1,038 job-related injuries at its Dakota City, Neb., plant. The unreported cases included knife wounds, concussions, burns, hernias, fractures and carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful condition of the wrist and hand often caused by repetitive motion.
Is it mere coincidence that injuries and illnesses to this degree should befall those who slaughter animals for a living? Or is there perhaps a connection?
According to the Vedic literatures, there is indeed a connection. It is called karma, a subtle law of nature that prescribes a reaction for every action.
We can perform three types of activity: (1) pious activity, or that prescribed by the scriptures, (2) activity motivated by our selfish desires and without reference to the scriptures, and (3) activity meant for the satisfaction of God.
Meat-eating and everything related to it—such as meat-packing—would definitely fall into the second category, called vikarma. Vikarmic activities always result in suffering. Persons involved with the meat industry are implicated in the suffering of countless animals and must therefore suffer horrible reactions under the law of karma. From the Vedic scriptures we can understand that such things as the hernias, fractures, and carpal tunnel syndromes of meat-packers are only a glimpse of what lies ahead in their karmic destiny.
The Vedic scriptures clearly condemn all the activities connected with the meat industry as among the most sinful, and the Bible, with its command "Thou shall not kill," also warns of the injustice of taking another creature's life.
Fortunately, though we may be entangled in our karma now, we can change our destiny—if we are willing to change our activities. The third kind of activity mentioned above is called akarma, meaning, literally, "without action," because this particular kind of activity—service to God—is beyond the ordinary action and reaction of this world; it is transcendental. Devotional service to God not only incurs no karmic reaction, it frees us from the reactions to our previous activities.
If one works for his own selfish ends in this world, he must naturally absorb the full reaction to his work. But if one surrenders to God, God accepts all the reactions for one's work, and one becomes free from karma.
Because the karmic penalties for working in relation to the slaughter of animals are severe, people should be discouraged from working in this way. Meat-eaters may not immediately experience the injuries and illnesses of the meat-packers, but karmic reaction will be there nonetheless. No good reaction can result from supporting the slaughter of animals.
A hard look at the Soviet commitment to human rights.
by Mukunda Goswami and Drutakarma Dasa
In 1981, in Kommunist, the official journal of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, Semyon Tsvigun, the Deputy Chairman of the KGB, wrote that "the three greatest threats to the Soviet way of life are Western culture, rock-and-roll music, and Hare Krishna."
Thus began an era of unprecedented government persecution of the Hare Krsna movement throughout the Soviet Union. With the full backing of Yuri Andropov, the new Soviet leader who had served for years as the KGB chief, the secret police launched an intensive campaign against the Hare Krsna movement. Today, under Gorbachev's stated policy of glasnost, there is an appearance of a more liberal approach to dissidents in Soviet society. Nevertheless, twenty-three Hare Krsna devotees remain confined in prisons, labor camps, and psychiatric hospitals, with no signs that they will be soon released.
The first to be arrested was Ananta-santi (Anatoli Fedorovich Pinyayev), the first Soviet Hare Krsna devotee. In September of 1980 Ananta-santi was taken into custody in Riga, the capital of Latvia, and placed in a psychiatric hospital for two weeks. At the end of April 1981, he received a phone call from a KGB agent who claimed to be someone calling on behalf of a Western devotee who wanted to see him. When Ananta-santi arrived at the agreed meeting place, he was arrested. He was then held in a psychiatric hospital for two weeks, over the protests of his friends and relatives.
The harassment continued. In June 1981 the secret police framed him with a charge of using "filthy language." He was sentenced to ten days in prison. Police raided his apartment, threatening his mother and confiscating anything related to Krsna consciousness.
In September 1981, as Ananta-santi was leaving his apartment, he was forced into a police car and taken to the Serbsky Institute of Forensic Psychiatry. Charges of "parasitism" were lodged against him, but during the course of the legal proceedings he was deemed "not responsible for his actions" and confined to Psychiatric Hospital No. 5, about forty miles outside Moscow. He remained there for five months, when he escaped.
In October of 1982, Ananta-santi was again arrested in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan in southern USSR, and was sent to a psychiatric hospital thirty miles away. Two weeks later he was sent back to Psychiatric Hospital No. 5, where he remained confined until March 1983. He was then taken to a prison in Moscow and charged with crimes under Article 227—"Infringement of Person and Rights of Citizens Under Appearance of Performing Religious Ceremonies."
While awaiting trial, he was confined to the Butyrskaya Investigations Prison. In June 1983 he was tried "in absentia" and found guilty but "nonaccountable" for his crimes. He was therefore sentenced for an "indefinite period of time" to the Smolensk Special Psychiatric Hospital. There he was continually administered haloperidol, a neuroleptic drug that caused convulsions in his facial muscles and deterioration of his mental condition. In April 1986, Ananta-santi was transferred to the Special Psychiatric Hospital in Oryol, where he remains today, undergoing the same severe treatment.
By the time of Ananta-santi's transfer to Oryol, his case had attracted worldwide attention from Hare Krsna devotees and human rights organizations. Several parcels and hundreds of letters arrived at the psychiatric hospital, where the staff responded by strapping Ananta-santi to his bed and administering sulfazine, a drug that induces a high fever, pain, and hallucinations. This treatment is typical of the abuse undergone by devotees imprisoned in Soviet psychiatric hospitals.
Recently Ananta-santi's wife asked the doctors when her husband would be released. They replied, "One's understanding of life and reality are not so quickly cured."
Conditions in labor camps, where devotees such as Vrndavana dasa (Vladimir Alekseiyevich Kustrya) are confined, are not much better. On October 31, 1984, in the village of Kurdzhinovo in the Stavropol region east of the Black Sea, a force of forty policemen simultaneously raided nine homes of members of the Hare Krsna movement. They confiscated literature, pictures of Krsna, altar incense—anything that at all appeared to be associated with India. In the aftermath of this raid, on November 14, Vrndavana dasa was arrested and, under the infamous Article 227, charged with organizing an unlawful religious group from 1978-1984, attending unlawful meetings, lecturing, and translating, printing, and distributing literature on Krsna consciousness.
At the conclusion of his trial in June 1985, the court sentenced him to five years in a particularly harsh labor camp in the Ust-Kulonskaya District. Vrndavana has refused to engage in the prescribed punishment labor, proclaiming he is innocent of any crime. As a result, in March 1987 his sentence was increased by two years and eight months, and he is forced to spend much of his time in solitary confinement in a cramped cell furnished only with a fold-down cot and a bucket for a toilet.
Vrndavana is suffering from diabetes, malnutrition, and dystrophy. He maintains his Krsna consciousness by chanting the Hare Krsna mantra many hours a day and studying Sanskrit. His wife, Udarakirti, at great risk to herself, acts as a prominent spokeswoman for the Hare Krsna movement in the USSR. They have a three-year-old daughter.
Efforts to influence Soviet authorities have not gone unrewarded. One of the most successful cases has been that of Premavati-devi dasi (Olga Khamidovna Kiseleva). A graduate of Moscow State University, where she specialized in Thai literature, Premavati is a published poet. She is married and has two daughters,
She joined the Hare Krsna movement in 1978, and her active role in propagating Krsna consciousness led to her arrest in August 1983 in Soviet Estonia. Despite her being pregnant, Premavati was sent to the Matrossklaya Tishina State Prison in Moscow, where she remained for the extensive pre-trial investigation. There she endured inadequate food, bad living conditions, and violence from other prisoners. She finally went to trial in her ninth month of pregnancy, and she was charged with various crimes under Article 227—leading an illegal religious group, translating religious literature, and being in contact with foreign agents. The trial judge said that her vegetarianism was equal to insanity and sentenced her to four years in a labor camp.
Premavati's daughter Marika was born in a prison hospital. Shortly thereafter, mother and child were sent to a special labor camp. Without explanation, the child was placed in quarantine, and Premavati was allowed to see her only one hour a day. On January 9, 1985, the prison authorities informed her that Marika was dead. Other prisoners reported that they had seen Marika the day before and that she appeared to be in perfect health.
The prison authorities proposed to Premavati that if she formally denounced her affiliation with the Hare Krsna movement, she would be released. But she adamantly refused.
By this time, through the efforts of the Committee to Free Soviet Hare Krishnas (CFSHK), Amnesty International, and other human rights organizations, Premavati's case had attracted worldwide attention.
In 1985, CFSHK representatives in Washington. D.C. presented Nancy Reagan with petitions requesting freedom for Premavati and a letter asking her to raise Premavati's case with Raisa Gorbachev, wife of the Soviet leader. After the Reagan-Gorbachev 1985 summit meetings in Geneva, a Russian Hare Krsna devotee, listening to the Voice of America in Moscow, heard a report that Mrs. Reagan had indeed spoken to Mrs. Gorbachev about Premavati. In January 1986, Soviet authorities conditionally released Premavati from the labor camp.
This sequence of events indicates that persistent efforts to focus public opinion on the plight of the imprisoned Soviet Hare Krsna devotees can influence Soviet authorities to release them.
Most of the following devotees have been officially adopted by Amnesty International as:
Prisoners Of Conscience
Visvamitra dasa (Vladimir Kritski)—Visvamitra is a computer scientist serving eight years in a strict regimen labor camp near Perm and is thirty-six years old.
Nugzar Chargaziya—Nugzar is serving two years in a labor camp.
Gagik Buniatyan—Gagik is serving a two-year sentence in a labor camp.
Alexander Levin—Alexander is currently serving four and a half years of compulsory labor in Udmurtskaya A.S.S.R. He is a twenty-six-year-old journalist.
Vakresvara Pandita dasa (Ashot Shaglamdzyan)—Vakresvara Pandita is serving two and a half years in a labor camp.
Asutosa dasa (Aleksei Musatov)—At age twenty-eight, Asutosa is indefinitely confined to the Special Psychiatric Hospital in Smolensk. He previously worked as a kindergarten guard.
Agvan Arutyunyan—Agvan is serving a three-year sentence in a labor camp.
Oleg Stepanyan—Oleg is serving two and a half years in a labor camp.
Japa dasa (Yuri Fedchenko)—A graduate in biology from Moscow State University, thirty-one-year-old Japa dasa is serving a four year sentence in a labor camp in the Stavropol Territory.
Atmananda dasa (Armen Saakyan)—Formerly a scientist at the Yerevan House of Scientists, thirty-two-year-old Atmananda is confined indefinitely in a Soviet psychiatric hospital.
Amala-bhakta dasa (Yevgeny Lyubinsky)—Amala-bhakta is serving a four-year sentence in a labor camp. He has a wife and three small children.
Sarkis Ogadzhanyan—Sarkis is serving a two-year sentence in a labor camp.
Anatoli Samoilov—Anatoli is serving three years in a labor camp.
Sanatana-kumara dasa (Sergei Priborov)—A music instructor, Sanatana-kumara is now serving a four-year sentence in a labor camp in the Stavropol Territory.
Kamalamala dasa (Karen Saakyan)—a twenty-nine-year-old radio technician, he is confined indefinitely in a Soviet psychiatric hospital.
Rafael Dzhanashvili—Rafael, twenty-nine years old and a former ambulance aid, is being held indefinitely in a psychiatric hospital finitely in a psychiatric hospital.
Otari Nachhebiya—Otari is serving three years in a labor camp.
Sannyasa dasa (Suren Karapetyan)—Sannyasa dasa, twenty-nine years old, graduated in cybernetics from Yerevan State University. He is confined indefinitely in a Soviet psychiatric hospital.
Yamaraja dasa (Jakov Dzidzhevadze)—A thirty-two-year-old musician, Yamaraja is serving two and a half years at a labor camp in Sukhumi.
Oleg Mkrtchyan—Oleg has been sentenced to two years in a labor camp.
Dwarfs Grasping for the Moon
This is the continuation of a conversation that took place between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and biochemist Thoudam Singh, Ph.D., in Bhubanesvara, India, on February 3, 1977.
Dr. Singh: What you're saying about the scientists' simply bluffing and taking people's money—this is actually true. They are getting a lot of money from the government. The politicians tax the people very heavily and then funnel much of their money to the scientists. So the people have to work very hard, while the scientists enjoy "the good life."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Fat salaries. Especially in America.
Dr. Singh: In America, research is one of the top industries.
Srila Prabhupada: Then let them research honestly. When they become failures in their research, they must study the information in the Vedic literature. Let them study the information given by Lord Krsna and His authorized representatives—all about the nature of the self, the universe, and the Supreme Self. The scientists can test this information experimentally. Put it to the test and put it to practical use. Let this be their research. Then they will be successful.
But first, the scientists must admit their failure, and you have to prove that they are a failure. Help them see that, on balance, their research is not a success; it is a failure. They know nothing of the soul. They do not know who they are or, when this life ends, where they shall go. Simply wasting time. How can they say their research is anything but a failure?
Dr. Singh: Unfortunately, everything you're saying is true. It can all be proved just from their own results, or lack of results. Any level-headed scientist, anyone who is aware of the spiritual dimension, can use the modern scientists' own findings to prove that their understanding of reality is quite . . . fragmented at best. Dwarfed, shriveled. And wrong.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, there is no doubt. They are a failure.
Dr. Singh: There are many genuine scientific facts they don't even report. Whatever things they cannot explain—they just keep those hidden. There are many facts like that. Honest scientists have written whole volumes on the errors and defects in modern science. Whole books on all the errors and cheating.
Srila Prabhupada: All this can alert the people. We want people to look critically at all this nonsense: "Life comes from matter. . . . Matter evolves from lower forms to higher forms. . . .No need for an intelligent Supreme Spirit. . . Matter has intelligence." Rubbish.
Dr. Singh: As Dr. Richard Thompson, a mathematics Ph.D. from Cornell, has discovered, even Sir Isaac Newton cheated in his scientific work. Newton himself cheated.
Srila Prabhupada: Any materially conditioned soul must cheat. He must cheat, because he's not perfect. So to keep his prestige, he must cheat.
After all, the conditioned soul is under the sway of the material modes, especially ignorance and passion, and he is burdened by the four material defects: bhrama, pramada, karanapatava, and vipralipsa—mistakes, illusion, imperfect senses, and this propensity to cheat.
With his imperfect senses and mind, he must make mistakes—and fall prey to illusion, based on his many mistakes. Then, to hide his mistakes and illusion, he must cheat. "Oh, yes, I'm a very accomplished and knowledgeable scientist. You should heed me and pay me a fat salary."
Dr. Singh: Yes. And when someone brings out these defects—these hidden defects that usually go unexposed—these scientists become practically dumbfounded. They become very quiet.
Srila Prabhupada: They know they are cheating, so they must become quiet. Maunam samyati laksanam: as soon as they become quiet, that means they admit, "Yes, I cheated." Otherwise, they would immediately make a refutation. But they know, "Yes, on this point I have cheated." So when somebody catches them—"Here you have cheated"—then if they keep quiet, that means they admit, "Yes, I cheated."
So you are performing a great public service simply by exposing the scientists' defects. Imperfect senses, mistakes, illusion, and cheating—these are the property of every materially conditioned soul. Then what is he going to learn? And what is he going to teach? His position is imperfection, mistakes, illusion. He knows it. So if he presents himself as learned and tries to teach, he is not teaching. He is cheating.
Anyone in this material world is like this. A cheater. Only one who is a devotee of the Lord—he will hesitate: "With these imperfect senses and mind and this propensity to make mistakes and become illusioned and cheat, what I can teach?"
But one who is not a devotee—he'll go on with these four assets—rascal assets—imperfect senses, mistakes, illusion, and cheating. This is the modern scientists' position. Falsely they want to pose themselves as very learned scholars. But a sensible person will ask, "You may want to keep up your false prestige—but what right have you to mislead others?"
Dr. Singh: That is so true. Someone has to step forward and poke them. "You are extrapolating much, much more than you should. You are saying much, much more than you really know."
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes. "You are going beyond your capacity." It is like the old saying—"a dwarf grasping for the moon."
Dr. Singh: Yes. As you have pointed out, for instance, there is no foundation to these scientists' claim that life can come out of chemicals. No one has ever seen such a bizarre thing actually happening. And if we analyze from a purely scientific and logical angle, there is no way anyone can make such a silly claim.
But within their tiny little spoonful of knowledge, they are hoping to find the vast sea of reality. They know just a tiny bit, but they extrapolate very widely and draw grandiose—and false—conclusions.
Srila Prabhupada: Simply speculation.
Dr. Singh: So I think what we're saying is, "As we study reality, let's be humble and honest. First let's be honest."
Srila Prabhupada: Certainly. "How can you be dishonest and at the same time call yourself a scientist? How is that?" (To be continued.)
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Moscow's Krishna Cutoff
Reprinted with permission of the Washington Post, Copyright 1987.
Moscow (August 19)—For the old Arbat, one of this city's most famous 19th-century neighborhoods, glasnost summer has come to mean a daily festival of spontaneous street activity with artists turning out portraits on demand and strolling musicians drawing crowds with ballads that gently mocked the problems of everyday Soviet life.
But perhaps the most extraordinary phenomenon of all was the small band of Hare Krishna believers who every night since early July would gather in front of the Capital Vakhtangava Theater singing ... mantras and swaying in unison. When they finished their singing, the group members were invariably approached by curious onlookers who wanted to learn who they were and what they believed in. The conversations between atheists and believers, soldiers and hippies with long hair often lasted late into the night.
Then Monday, the tolerance that allowed such a flourishing street life reached its limit. Fifteen of the Hare Krishna followers, who had been celebrating the birthday of their spiritual founder, were taken to a local militia station and accused of violating Article 193 of the administrative code forbidding religious observances anywhere but in a church or temple.
The problem for the Hare Krishna group is that Soviet authorities have never acknowledged them as an official religious sect, even though the group has been applying for this status for the last six years.
"If we are an official group, then we are allowed to worship only in a temple," noted Alexander Dragilyov, a 21-year-old member of the group. "But if we are not an official religious group, then we should be allowed to sing on the street."
But they are not allowed, according to the message delivered by the militia Monday. The group was told that if they went back onto the Arbat to sing and dance again, they would be arrested and charged under the criminal code, Dragilyov said:
Dragilyov said the trouble actually began Sunday night when a group of youths grabbed one of the Hare Krishna banners and ran off. He said several onlookers went up to uniformed militiamen standing nearby and asked them to do something about this, and they were told, "It is not our business."
On Monday night, a group of youths Dragilyov believes were the same ones from the night before approached the chanting sect members outside the Vakhtangava Theater and turned their tape decks up to full volume. At the same time, a 15-member military orchestra positioned near the theater began to play. The Hare Krishna mantras were drowned out.
A short time later, a number of uniformed militiamen came up and took the group's members by the arms, leading them off to a nearby militia station. There they were held for three hours and made to sign documents charging them with administrative violations.
Similar actions have been taken recently against other Hare Krishna groups in the country—in Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine, and in Lithuania, Dragilyov said. According to the group's estimates, there are 2,000 members of the sect in the Soviet Union, of whom 25 are now in prison or in labor camps.
The group's problems are symptomatic of the tenuous nature of the ongoing Soviet experiment with open debate. In the days when they were peacefully singing their mantras, undisturbed by authorities, the reaction of passers-by varied, but most shared the view of one young man who said, "As long as they don't bother anyone, then what is the harm."
Sometimes arguments would break out, as a Communist Party veteran would query the young Krishna adherents about the sincerity of their values and, in Russian fashion, launch debates about Asian versus European cultures and the essence of man's spiritual needs. The gatherings had also begun to attract other religious groups, including members of fundamentalist Christian sects—all this in a society officially wedded to atheism.
Some passers-by began to wonder how long this would go on. "Something seems to be missing," said one young Russian recently, looking over his shoulder for the usually ubiquitous militiamen. Yet for most of the summer, the Arbat was relatively free of uniforms.
According to Dragilyov, the militia's sharp warning Monday is not something the group is eager to trifle with. "We won't sing on the Arbat," he said yesterday, "but we will go there and walk."
Moscow Police Break Up Hare Krishna Gathering
Reprinted with permission of The Los Angeles Times, Copyright 1987.
Moscow (August 30)—Police forcefully broke up a demonstration Saturday by activists of the Hare Krishna movement in the center of Moscow.
About twenty people were dragged, pushed and pulled onto a police bus after they assembled on Gorky St. in a small park opposite Moscow City Hall to press the Hare Krishna's demand for official recognition as a religious group.
Members of the group waved to passers-by from the bus windows and chanted "Hare Krishna" as they were driven away. A mother and an infant child, along with two young women, were among those arrested.
Uniformed police, accompanied by plainclothesmen, swooped down on the demonstrators within minutes after they assembled and hustled them into a bus and a van.
Their actions Saturday contrasted with official toleration of a far larger demonstration recently by Crimean Tatars on the edge of Red Square. The Tatars, seeking return of the homeland they were expelled from in 1944, were allowed to camp overnight in a 24-hour protest outside the Kremlin walls.
Last Sunday, demonstrations also were held in the Soviet Baltic republics of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia to mark the 48th anniversary of the Hitler-Stalin pact that eventually led to incorporation of the three Baltic states into the Soviet Union.
Moscow News reported Saturday that authorities detained 86 people in the Latvian capitol of Riga during the demonstrations. It said the 86 were taken into custody for disobeying police instructions, urging people to riot and demonstrating offensive attitudes to people of other nationalities.
Six of the detainees were "punished administratively" and the remainder were released, the paper said, without elaboration.
Soviet officials have accused the Hare Krishna of being "anti-communist" and a tool of the American CIA. Hare Krishna spokesmen have denied the charges.
A group known as the Committee to Free Soviet Hare Krishnas, based in Stockholm and headed by D. V. Jakupko, said early in 1986 that 25 Hare Krishna members in the Soviet Union were either in prison or psychiatric hospitals because of their beliefs.
A Soviet weekly, Nedelys, reported in 1983 that two members of the Hare Krishnas were tried on charges of recruiting new members for the group and disseminating Krishna teachings. The articles did not indicate the verdicts or sentences, if any, the two men received.
The Stockholm group, however, said that Vladimir Kritski, now 36, was sentenced to 4 ½ years in a labor camp in December 1982, and then given an additional 4 ½-year sentence in a strict regime camp for continuing to preach Krishna teachings in jail. His co-defendant, Sergi Kurkin, was sentenced to 2 ½ years in labor camp and has since been released, the Stockholm group added.
The following letter is from Suren Karapetyan (Sannyasa dasa) and Karen Saakyan (Kamala-mala dasa), who are presently imprisoned in Armenia for practicing Krsna consciousness. The letter, written in February 1987 to other devotees in the Soviet Union, was on a tiny piece of paper that was folded many limes so that it could he smuggled out of the prison.
Dear devotees of Lord Krsna,
Please write us a letter and let us know how you are doing. Many unpleasant rumors are reaching us here. We heard that some devotees were arrested as a result of searches of their homes. These stories have not been verified, though. Some visitors told us that Petya's mother died and that he has been arrested. If you do not know about this, then please check into it and see if he needs help. Also, please see about the welfare of Gevork.
Please convey our congratulations to our friends [regarding their initiation]. Jaya, Nityananda Rama dasa! Jaya, Prana dasa! Jaya, Haridasa Thakura dasa! We are very joyful on hearing the news about them and all those who may soon also become initiated.
How are the Armens (Armen Saakyan and Armen Sarkisyan] doing? One man was brought here from the Nork District, and he told us a little about Armen. We were also glad to hear from Arsen and Aram. Please give them our heartfelt thanks and best regards. Kamalamala and I have been separated. Now I am in cell number twelve, and he is in cell number forty-three, which is on the third floor. Krsna always causes the activities of the materialists to backfire. They tried to stop our preaching by separating us, but now the number of people who are discovering the nectar of Krsna consciousness has doubled!
It looks like you received our last letter because you did not meet with Sako. You were right in doing so, because we have not received anything through him. We are suspicious of him because it appears that the letter we sent to our aunt has fallen into the wrong hands. He is the most likely person to have done this.
Did you remember to send the English Gita to that person in Moscow? If that has not been done, then please do it if it is not too much trouble for you.
What is going on with our registration [as a government-recognized religion]? In here we are getting the impression that it may soon become possible. Perhaps it is a good idea to push the authorities again. Maybe we could present a new application for registration. The best plan would be to appeal to the highest authorities. By the way, how is the democratization process going on in the Soviet society, and what is your experience of it?
Do you have any more of that maha-prasadam, especially that rice [from Jagannatha Puri]. If there is any left, please send more. Many people here have tasted it, and we also taste a tiny bit once in a while. But now there is almost nothing left. Please send us small pictures of guru and Krsna if possible. We would also very much like any information from our guru, if there is something—letters, instructions, etc.
We are eager to learn about what the devotees are doing in other cities. What is happening with those who are imprisoned? Have there been any releases? When you have an opportunity, please give our best regards to devotees from other cities. What is the news about Advaita dasa, Sarvabhauma dasa, and Saci-suta dasa?
Please tell everyone that by the grace of guru and Krsna this Krsna consciousness movement is spreading, and also by their grace we manage to follow our guru's basic instructions. It is so nice that Krsna sent us to Moscow last year, because now people are coming here from there who have heard about Krsna from people we preached to there, as well as other places, during our tour of so many prisons throughout the country.
Dear friends! Guru's mercy is so great upon those who are subjected to horrible circumstances, like prisons, etc. Without this mercy one would leave Krsna consciousness immediately. Even within this prison Maya keeps trying to do her job on us, so we can imagine what is going on outside in freedom. It looks like the time has come when, as the New Testament says, "Only those who endure the sufferings to the very end will be saved."
Stand firm, dear devotees. There is evidence that we may not have very long to wait for better times. When will the time come for all of us to meet our dear Guru Maharaja? But I must admit that I am not prepared for that event at all.
Our dear devotees, please tell our beloved Guru Maharaja that both Kamala-mala and I are begging him for one thing only—to please make us worthy servants of His Divine Grace. Otherwise, we do not see any point in living. And it does not make any difference for us where we have to stay—whether in a prison, in a special psychiatric hospital, or in so-called freedom—if we could only surrender to him and serve him to the end of our lives. We do not have any other confidential desire; neither do we hope that this desire we have can be satisfied other than through the causeless mercy of guru and Krsna.
I have made some prasadam for Guru Maharaja here. Perhaps I will send it out, but I'm not sure whether I should. Let us see what happens. It appears that we are not yet worthy to have the devotees' association, but by guru's grace perhaps we will meet all of you—maybe. In the meantime, we hope you all make nice spiritual advancement under the guidance of our dear Guru Maharaja.
* * *
The following letter is from Yakov Dzhidzevadze (Yamaraja dasa), who is imprisoned in a labor camp in the Soviet Union for being a Hare Krsna devotee.
Hare Krsna! Dear devotees,
I was very glad to receive your letter. Thank you very much for sending me the medicine. I am very happy to learn that by the Lord's grace everything is going well with the devotees there. I have heard that the number of devotees is increasing and that the situation for devotional service is becoming more favorable.
Of course, you probably want to know what it is like in our labor camp. Everything is quite well. First of all, I meet many people with whom I have conversations. There are many here who support Krsna consciousness and know the Hare Krsna mantra. There are some here who have decided to dedicate their lives to Krsna in devotional service. One young man out of these has recently been released.
Not long ago Vakresvara Pandita dasa [Ashot Setrakovich Shaglamdzyan] arrived here. He settled himself very nicely and immediately joined the spiritual program one hundred percent. In all honesty, we have plenty of service to do here for Krsna, and we are not at all worried about when we will leave this place. Krsna sent us here, and when He will consider it necessary, then we will leave. In this labor camp we feel Krsna's help very distinctly. This is due to the great mercy of our beloved guru.
Ambarisa dasa [Otari Shalvovich Nach-hebiya] and Mayuradvaja dasa [Nugzar Antizimovich Chargaziya] are in a neighboring labor camp. Everything is all right with them, and the Krsna consciousness over there is of the proper standard. The materialists want to eradicate Krsna consciousness in our country, but on the contrary their efforts have made the roots of this mighty tree of life (Krsna consciousness) even stronger, and while eliminating the weeds (insincere devotees), they contributed to the growth of new shoots (new devotees). In other words, not realizing what they were doing, the materialists were engaged by the Supreme Lord in His plan for spreading the Krsna consciousness movement on a large scale. Those whose knowledge is stolen by illusion sometimes try to extinguish Fire by throwing fuel on it.
By the way, we have been receiving enlivening news about our Armenian God-brothers. It appears they are carrying out the mission of Lord Caitanya very effectively. If you happen to get the chance. please offer our most humble obeisances unto the lotus feet of our eternal guru. Please say, "Hari bol!" to all the devotees for us.
Respectfully, your friend.
The worldwide campaign to free the Soviet
At a press conference in front of the Soviet consulate in Sydney, Australia, Prahlada dasa, the thirteen-year-old devotee whose song Mr. Gorbachev, Please Let Our Friends Go was released last year by EMI, one of the world's largest record companies, reads a statement requesting freedom for the imprisoned Soviet Hare Krsna devotees. EMI was so happy with the song's success and so sympathetic to its message that they went on to record Prahlada's album. Through the Eyes of a Child, promoting it with a rock video of the song We Want to See the 21st Century. Proceeds from record sales are funding a drive to collect a million signatures on petitions demanding that the Soviet government release Hare Krsna devotees held in prisons, labor camps, and psychiatric hospitals.
In the same spirit, devotees and friends are gathering petitions in many other countries, and the Kremlin is receiving tens of thousands of postcards bearing photos of the imprisoned devotees and requesting their release. Krsna devotee Marie-Anne Farrow, dressed in her bridal gown, announced on August 15, 1985, at a press conference in front of the Soviet embassy in Stockholm, Sweden, that she would fast there until Soviet officials released her fiance, Vedavyasa dasa (Valentin Z. Yurov), from a psychiatric hospital in Moscow. Swedish newspapers gave her hunger strike daily front-page coverage, and her image appeared on nightly television newscasts, generating tremendous sympathy among the Swedish people. In September the Soviets finally capitulated and put Vedavyasa on a plane to Stockholm.
Since then, Vedavyasa has traveled extensively throughout the world speaking out strongly on behalf of the Soviet devotees who remain imprisoned.
At the site of the November 1985 Reagan-Gorbachev summit meeting in Geneva, Hare Krsna devotees staged massive demonstrations that drew worldwide media coverage.
At the November 1986 meeting in Vienna of the Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the international organization that monitors compliance with the human rights provisions of the Helsinki accords. Hare Krsna members again called attention to the plight of imprisoned Soviet devotees.
The Committee to Free Soviet Hare Krishnas organized protest demonstrations and staged a well-received exhibition at a human rights conference organized by Paris-based Resistance International. The committee's U.S. delegation later submitted to Congress a detailed account of Soviet violations of the human rights of Russian Hare Krsna devotees. Amnesty International continues its vigorous support for the persecuted Russian devotees, willingly providing assistance in locating arrested devotees.
Four Reasonable Rules
One criticism against devotees in the Hare Krsna movement is that they are extreme. Though most people will admit that God consciousness has a place in human life, they think it should be practiced in moderation. A Krsna conscious devotee agrees that there should be a balance between spiritual and material pursuits, but from his viewpoint the materialist is unreasonable in his stingy allowance of time and dedication for spiritual life. According to the Vedic scriptures, although a balance should be kept between material and spiritual, the favor should be on the side of the spiritual, the more important pursuit. How extreme then are the actual practices of Krsna consciousness?
A Krsna conscious person agrees to avoid four kinds of activities unfavorable to spiritual life: (1) meat-eating, (2) illicit sex, (3) intoxication, and (4) gambling. He also agrees to chant a prescribed number of holy names of God each day (about two hours' worth). One doesn't have to shave one's head, live in a commune, or wear a certain type of dress to be a devotee of Krsna. One may choose any occupation or way of life, as long as one follows the four rules and chants the Hare Krsna maha-mantra.
The four rules do not completely prohibit sex or enjoyable eating or recreation, but they do restrain these practices to bring them up to the human level, to bring them into accordance with God's laws. Nor are these rules the concoctions of a particular sect. They are universal to all great religions. Far from being extreme, these rules constitute mere sub-religious principles, necessary prerequisites for approaching the higher stages of love of God.
Consider meat-eating. In recent decades, convincing medical evidence has shown that a vegetarian diet is healthier than a diet that includes meat. Meat-eating is also economically wasteful. But more important is the ethical or religious consideration "Thou shall not kill." With even a dim conception of theism, we must admit that the helpless animals are also God's offspring, and man has not been given license to kill them just to satisfy his taste buds. A recent book by Steven Rosen, Food for the Spirit, thoroughly documents the fact that all the world's major religions advocate vegetarianism.
Avoiding meat-eating is not unreasonable or extreme. Rather, to insist that innocent animals be sacrificed to supply our food is an extreme form of human cruelty. Giving up meat-eating might seem extreme within a society of meat-eaters, but that doesn't mean it is wrong. We should follow the path of truth regardless of whether it is fashionable.
Intoxication in its various forms is a favorite escape from life's boredom and desperation. In response to the mass demand, theologians and clergymen sometimes twist the scriptures and declare that God will be satisfied if we drink or get high "in moderation." But, like meat-eating, the intoxication habit obstructs spiritual advancement.
Consider the jargon used to describe the intoxicated state: smashed, stoned, blasted, wrecked, ripped, plastered—ad nauseam. How can someone who's "plastered" be peaceful and think of his relationship with God? "But if you don't get high," people protest, "what do you do for fun?" The answer is that the human need for happiness here-and-now can be supplied by means other than chemical intoxication, which is so harmful.
Actually, the blissful state for which we hanker can be attained in the most natural way in the simple acts of daily life—when they are done in devotional service to God. Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is eternal and full of bliss and knowledge. When we connect with Him, as when chanting His holy names, we feel an ecstasy that precludes the need for intoxicants. As Srila Prabhupada writes, "When one experiences a higher taste in Krsna consciousness, he automatically loses his taste for pale things."
One of the hardest habits to give up is illicit sex, and devotees of Krsna meet perhaps their greatest resistance when they propose sexual restraint. People may agree that eating meat destroys innocent creatures, but what is the harm in sexual enjoyment? Besides, if we take sex away, then where is the pleasure? Where is the meaning to existence?
But the Krsna conscious devotees do not advocate cessation of sex life. Rather, Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, "I am sex in accordance with religious injunctions." This means that sex should be used as a form of devotional service to God. When husband and wife unite in religious marriage for conceiving children, with a promise to raise those children for their spiritual well-being, their uniting is a highly religious act.
Very few persons nowadays are willing to accept this traditional concept of sex, although it is taught in every scripture. Once again the clergymen and theologians have come to the support of the sense gratifiers and have twisted sacred texts away from their original meanings. They've made allowances for sex outside marriage and outside the reproductive act. But defying our spiritual well-being through illicit sex will not make us truly happy.
As for gambling, although it is promoted by government lotteries and casinos, it certainly earns its place among the chief vices. Gambling produces a feverish cheating mentality, a false hope of getting something without actually earning it. It becomes another distraction from the pursuit of God consciousness, another waste of human life. Fyodor Dostoevsky's autobiographical novel The Gambler shows how much gambling cost him in shame and misery, as do his letters to his wife: "Forgive me. ... I lost everything. . . .What are you going to think of me? This has shaken the very foundation of our marriage! I hate gambling."
Of course, there will be difficulty in giving up long-cherished habits. In Sanskrit this difficulty is known as tapasya, or austerity. But when we voluntarily take trouble to please God, we purify ourselves and make advancement in God consciousness. No individual or nation ever became great by being lazy. One has to take trouble to be a great inventor or a great musician; one has to sometimes give up some immediate pleasure to achieve a greater happiness.
Spiritual life also requires effort, but its gain is eternity, bliss, and knowledge, and its loss means repeated birth and death. Unfortunately, we tend to degrade ourselves by indulging in sensual habits. And influenced by atheistic propaganda, we despair of the eternal goal. When we lack education in God consciousness, and when we have no friends who joyfully practice spiritual life, then we want to give up the whole attempt at self-restraint. But if we associate with genuine devotees, we will understand the importance of giving up illicit sense gratification, and renunciation will become easy.
Aside from observing the "do not" rules, a person in Krsna consciousness agrees to regularly chant the holy names of God. But because people have lost much of religious culture, this also may seem an extreme practice. Recently at a shopping center a young man asked me about my chanting beads. I replied, "They're prayer beads, similar to what Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists, and others use." The man replied, "Isn't it boring?" For most people chanting or praying is something boring, compared to the quick thrills they can get by watching television or spending money to indulge the senses. They cannot imagine that there is intense pleasure in the simple practice of reciting the names of God. But true prayer brings the ecstasy of love of God and spares us from all the distresses of this material world.
The balance between spiritual and material is a matter of sensible budgeting. Modem civilization suffers from an imbalance on the material side. So if we can at least recognize the need for spiritual improvement, that will be a great gain. The real danger is not too-much love of God, but the loss of our souls. As Jesus Christ said, "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his immortal soul?"—SDG
ISKCON's Committee to Free Soviet Hare Krishnas has established a membership program that helps publicize the plight of the twenty-three imprisoned devotees. From the privacy of your own home here in the free world, you can help levy international pressure against the injustices endured by Soviet Hare Krsna followers. Please join the Committee to Free Soviet Hare Krishnas.
Send $21. You'll receive the famous Hare Krishna in the USSR cassette tape, a 2 ½-inch "Free the Soviet Hare Krishnas" button, and two photos of the Soviet devotees. You will also receive protest postcards with pictures of the imprisoned devotees to mail to Soviet authorities.
Send $51. In addition to receiving the above items, you will sponsor one of the imprisoned devotees. You'll receive regular and updated information about the devotee and his or her case. You'll have the chance to correspond with the devotee's friends and relatives in the USSR, and possibly directly with the imprisoned devotee.
Send your membership contribution, along with your name and address, to:
The Committee to Free Soviet Hare Krishnas, Almviks Gard, 15300 Jarna, Sweden.
I, the undersigned, present the following statement to Mr. Mikhail Gorbachev, general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and to Mr. Eduard Shevarnadze, the foreign minister:
I deeply deplore the inhuman treatment and conditions that members of the Hare Krsna movement in the USSR are being subjected to. They are being denied the basic human rights to which they are entitled under the provisions of the Soviet Constitution, as well as all the international agreements and treaties that the Soviet Union has endorsed.
I request the Soviet government to allow the members of the Hare Krsna movement to register their religion as an official state religion. I also implore the authorities to arrange the immediate release of the following Hare Krsna devotees, who are imprisoned in psychiatric hospitals, prisons, and labor camps, or have been sentenced to compulsory labor, and following their release, to permit their emigration from the Soviet Union along with their immediate family:
Agvan K. Arutyunan, Gagik S. Buniatyan, Nugzar A. Chargaziya, Jakov E. Dzhidzhevadze, Yuri A. Fedchenko, Rafael Janashviili, Suren G. Karapetyan, Olga Khamidovna Kiseleva, Vladimir G. Kritsld, Vladimir A. Kustrya, Alexander V. Levin, Yevgeny N. Lyubinsky, Oleg Mkrtchyan, Alexei A. Musatov, Otari S. Nachhebiya, Sarkis R. Ogadzhanyan, Anatoli F. Pinyayev, Sergei A. Priborov, Karen V. Saakyan, Armen V. Saakyan, Anatoli I. Samoilov, Ashot'S. Shaglomdzyan, Oleg A. Stepanyan.
Mail petition to: The Committee to Free Soviet Hare Krishnas, Almviks Gard, 15300 Jarna, Sweden.