Simply studying the "machine" of the human body is not enough.
A lecture in Philadelphia on July 14, 1975
"My dear king, the order carriers of Visnu, the Visnudutas, immediately arrived when they heard the holy name of their master from the mouth of the dying Ajamila, who had certainly chanted without offense because he had chanted in complete anxiety." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.1.30)
In your city the police are wandering in their car, and if somebody calls for the police, immediately they go to him. Similarly, the attendants of Lord Visnu are wandering throughout the universe, searching out somebody who is chanting the holy name of the Lord. If you chant the holy name of the Lord, they are very much pleased, and they immediately come.
When Ajamila called out "Narayana!" he was simply calling his son, but the attendants of Hari took notice of the chanting only, that's all. They did not care to know whether or not Ajamila meant Lord Narayana. No. Because they heard their master's name, they immediately appeared. This is clear.
So, anyone who chants the holy name of the Lord is immediately taken care of by the attendants of the Supreme Lord. Especially if one chants at the time of death—that is when the account is figured up. If you practice chanting Hare Krsna during your lifetime, naturally at the last moment of your life you will be inclined to chant Hare Krsna. It is so nice.
If in this life I practice chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, then gradually the core of my heart will be cleansed and everything will become manifest. My position, my duty, what is God—everything will become manifest (ceto-darpana-marjanam). Now, because our hearts are filled up with so much rubbish, we cannot understand the science of God. But if you practice chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, your heart will become cleansed and you will see things as they are.
And as soon as you are able to see things as they are, your material bondage is over. Now you are researching the bodily senses—finding out how they work—and doing so many things simply on the basis of the body. But as soon as your heart becomes cleansed, you will immediately understand, "I am not this body. So what is the use of studying cells and atoms, this and that? I am simply wasting my time."
Suppose I am driving a very nice car, but I am simply absorbed in the machine only. I have forgotten my destination, where I have to go, and I am busy studying the car. What is the use? You may be driving a good car, but you must know how to reach your destination. That is your main business. Knowing how the car works is secondary. Your main business is knowing how to utilize the car so you can reach your destination. That is intelligence.
So, we have fallen into this material condition, and we are occupying various forms. As long as we are in the bodily concept—thinking "I am this 'car' "—that is ignorance. What is wanted is to think, "I am not this body. I am spirit soul, and I have to utilize this body to go to my destination—the spiritual world—where I can meet the supreme spirit, God, and live in His association." Human life is meant for understanding what the Supreme Lord is, where He lives, what He does, and what our relationship with Him is. To seek to understand these things is called brahma-jijnasa, "inquiry into the Absolute Truth." That is actual education.
We are given this machine of the body, but what is the use of simply studying the machine? The sastra [scripture] says that since the machine will work until it is rotten, you shouldn't bother with the machine but should search out the Absolute Truth. But people are simply thinking, "Oh, now we have such a good machine."
The dog also has a machine. The ant also has a machine, the elephant has a machine, the human being has a machine—every living entity has a bodily machine. But the sastra says that this human machine should not be utilized like the animals'.
God has given us a human machine, and now we should utilize it to go to our destination. Nr-deham adyam ... plavam sukalpam. This nr-deha, this human machine, is very carefully made—not by me but by nature. Nature is the agent of God. I wanted to do something, and so I required a particular type of machine. God ordered nature: "This living entity wants to do such and such, so give him an appropriate machine." And she did that.
So, prakrti, or nature, gives us different types of machines. Prakrteh kriyamanani gunaih karmani sarvasah. I am not the ultimate controller of the machine, nor have I made the machine. Rather, I have been given this machine as a gift to fulfill my desires. This is our position.
Now, the sastra says, nr-deham adyam sulabham sudurlabham plavam sukalpam. This human body is a very good machine, and it is very rare. With great difficulty we have gotten this machine, because we had to come through so many other machines—the aquatics, the plants, the insects and trees, the serpents and reptiles, and then the birds and beasts. This has taken millions and millions of years. For example, we have seen trees that are standing for more than five thousand years. If you get that kind of machine, you cannot move: you have to stand in one place. We had to go through this. Foolish people do not know.
Therefore this human machine is sudurlabham, "very difficult to attain." And it is also sukalpam, "very nicely made." Those who are medical men know how nicely it is made—how the nerves are working, how the brain is working, the intestines and heart and everything is working so nicely. It is a grand machine. Therefore it is called sukalpam, "very well constructed."
And what for? Suppose you have a nice, well-constructed boat. Then you can get into it and cross over a river or ocean. Similarly, in the human "boat" we can cross over this material ocean. Life after life we have been struggling in this material ocean, but now we have a suitable boat to cross it—this human body.
The human boat is especially advantageous because the breeze is very favorable. The breeze is the sastra. When you ply your boat, if the breeze is favorable for pushing on to your destination, that is another advantage. So, we have a good boat and a good breeze. And, guru-karnadharam—the guru is the good captain who can steer the boat. He is giving instructions: "Sail like this, turn quickly this way, now that way."
So, we have a great opportunity: the boat is very nice, the captain is very good, the breeze is very favorable. But if with all these advantageous facilities we do not cross over the sea of ignorance, of material existence, then we are committing suicide (sa atma-ha). You have such a great opportunity, yet still you are remaining in this material world, repeatedly suffering birth, old age, disease, and death. Is that very good intelligence? No. That is not good.
People are being misled. They are studying the human machine, that's all. Instead of taking advantage of the machine to cross over the material ocean, they are busy studying it. And they cannot even study it completely. I may claim, "This is my body," but if somebody asks me, "How many hairs do you have on your body?" I cannot say. How I am eating something, how it is being turned into some secretion, how the secretion is becoming blood and going to the heart, how the blood is being distributed throughout the arteries and veins—I do not know any of these things. I can simply theorize.
The human machine is not under your control. The machine is made by God, or by nature. It is a very subtle machine. So if you are intelligent, you will ask, "What is the use of simply studying the machine? I have it, so let me utilize it for going to my destination." That is intelligence.
But no, people neglect to use the human machine for going to their destination, and instead they simply study it. And this is going on in the name of science. What is this nonsensical science? Simply busy in studying the machine?
This is our mistake: Although we should use our developed human consciousness for going back home, back to Godhead, we are not doing so. Why should we waste our human intelligence? Suppose you study the human machine throughout your whole life. What will you get? Can you adjust the machine so that it will not be lost, so there will be no death? All you scientists who are studying the machine, have you found any means by which there will be no death? Where is that knowledge? Death will come. You may study the machine or not study the machine, but in due course of time death will come and take you.
You cannot cure even one disease. You are embarrassed by the cancer disease. So, find out how the cells are working and how they can be changed, and then there will be no more cancer. No, that you cannot do. You go on studying and simply waste your time.
The sastra says, "Don't waste your valuable time in that way. Try to understand God. Use your intelligence for this purpose." It is also said, tapo divyam ... yena sattvam suddhyet. You have to undergo austerities so that in the future you will not be subjected to this machine. That is your business—not to study the machine, but to become independent of the machine.
As long as you are in this material world, you are desiring in a certain way, nature is supplying you a certain type of machine, then you are busy trying to fulfill your desires, then the machine breaks, and then you accept another machine. This is going on. So your problem is to stop this repetition of birth, old age, disease, and death. Come to your spiritual life. That is your business. That is the instruction of the sastra.
Everyone knows how to maintain the machine. The dog knows howto maintain his machine. He eats according to the necessity of his doggish body. Similarly, we are maintaining our human body. That is natural. The supplies are already there. You cannot manufacture them. That is the Vedic instruction: nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman. "There are millions and trillions of living entities, but there is one living entity—God—who is supplying the necessities of all the others."
We ordinary living entities have many millions of duplicates. Therefore the word nityanam is used, meaning "eternal living beings." The ordinary living beings, or jivas, are innumerable. You cannot count them. But above these innumerable living entities is one prime living entity, God. He is also a living entity, as we are. In your Bible there is the statement that "Man is made in the image of God." So, God is a living entity, and this human form is made according to the form of the Lord. The human form is an imitation; God's form is real (sac-cid-ananda-vigraha).
But you are thinking that God has no form. Why? Wherefrom did you get your form? You are daily praying, "O God, our father, give us our daily bread." So, you accept God as the supreme father. And if you have form, your father must have form. This is reasonable. Therefore, how can you say God has no form? This is all foolishness.
Suppose a child is born after the death of his father. So, simply because he has not seen his father, that does not mean he should conclude, "My father had no form." This is not a good conclusion. His mother can tell him, "Yes, my child, your father had form." This is intelligence.
So, God is a living entity, but the difference between Him and all the other living entities is that they are all dependent on Him. That's all. God is great, we are small. He is just like a father who maintains all his children. We are all children, and the supreme father maintains us.
Now one child may like to play with a motorcar toy, another with a doll, and so on. And the parents are supplying: "All right, you take this toy car, you take this doll." Similarly, we are playing like that—making plans to enjoy—and God is supplying all our necessities. But He doesn't want to do that. He says, "My dear child, you are grown up now, you have this human body. Don't play like this and waste your time. Get an education and know things as they are." That education is called brahma-jijnasa, "inquiry into the Absolute Truth." As the Vedanta-sutra says, "Now that you have the human form of life, try to understand God. That is your main business."
Unfortunately, we are misled by blind leaders. We have been engaged in studying the body, that's all. So here it is said, nisamya mriyamanasya mukhato hari-kirtanam. God very much appreciates it when we use our tongue and mouth to chant His holy name. He very much appreciates that. Because the name of God is not different from God Himself, as soon as you chant Hare Krsna you are in touch with Him.
In another place the Bhagavatam says, punya-sravana-kirtanah. Sravana means "hearing," and kirtanah means "chanting." So, one who is chanting God's name and one who is hearing God's name both are purified. Simply by chanting the name of God one can be delivered from birth and death. The example is given here—Ajamila. He was addicted to so many sinful activities, and out of fear or because of good luck he chanted "Narayana!" at the time of death. Immediately the attendants of Narayana came to deliver him. This is the great benefit of chanting the holy name of the Lord.
Hare Krsna. Thank you very much.
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna
You'd probably never think this picture shows people practicing yoga. But chanting the names of God is actually the supreme form of yoga. Of course, devotees chanting Hare Krsna certainly don't look much like yogis. At least not the kind of yogis most people think of when they hear the word. But most people, it seems, have little understanding of what yoga is really about.
Yoga is a Sanskrit word meaning "union." India's ancient Sanskrit literatures, the Vedas, explain that the purpose of yoga is to purify our consciousness so that we can re-establish our ertenal relationship with God. The sitting postures are breathing exercises most people associate with yoga are part of a certain type of yoga system—known as hatha-yoga—that was practiced thousands of years ago. By practicing hatha-yoga, great sages could completely withdraw their mind and sense from the material world and, after a very long time, find God within their hearts.
In this age, though, the Vedas discourage us from trying to reach God by following the hatha-yoga system. We just don't have the time or the determination. But in another way we're fotunate, because in this age God, or Krsna, has come in the form of His holy name. To associate with Him, we simply have to chant His name. The goal of yoga, union with God, is easily attained through chanting Hare Krsna. And unlike other forms of yoga, the results come quickly. So, you too can be a yogi. Just try chanting Hare Krsna—and feel yourself coming closer to God.
"According to the Vedas, population experts are wrong in their crucial assumption that. earth cannot supply the needs of a large population. If people are God conscious, there is virtually no limit to the population the earth can comfortably support."
by Drutakarma Dasa
One of the myths most strongly entrenched in the modern mind is that birth control is necessary because of the threat of overpopulation. But His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has stated: "There is no scarcity for maintenance in the material world." According to Srila Prabhupada, human society's leadership "is disturbed about the food situation and, to cover up the real fact of administrative mismanagement, takes shelter in the plea that the population is excessively increasing" (Bhag. 3.5.5, purport).
The world is far from being overpopulated. A simple calculation shows that all five billion men, women, and children on earth could be placed within the 267,339 square miles of the state of Texas, with each person occupying about fifteen hundred square feet of space.
But what about food? A study by the University of California's Division of Agricultural Science shows that by practicing the best agricultural methods now in use, the world's farmers could raise enough food to provide an American style diet for ten times the present population. And if people would be satisfied with an equally nourishing but mostly vegetarian diet, we could feed thirty times the present population.
Studies of an African famine in the early 1970's revealed that every country affected had within its borders the agricultural resources to feed its people. As Frances Moore Lappe points out in her well-researched book Food First, much of the best land was being misused for production of exportable cash crops.
Srila Prabhupada also noted this fact. During a visit to Mauritius in 1975, in a lecture attended by some of the nation's leading citizens, he stated, "So I see in your Mauritius island you have got enough land to produce food grains." He then challenged, "I understand that instead of growing food grains you are growing sugarcane for exporting. Why? You first of all grow your own eatables, and if there is time and if your population has sufficient food grains, then you can try to grow other fruits and vegetables for exporting."
Srila Prabhupada went on to say, "I have traveled to Africa, Australia, and America, and everywhere there is so much land vacant. If we use it to produce food grains, then we can feed ten times as much population as at the present moment. There is no question of scarcity. The whole creation is so made by Krsna that everything is purnam, complete."
Food resources are also wasted by improper diets. During his lecture in Mauritius, Srila Prabhupada said, "I have seen in the Western countries that they are growing food grains for the animals, and the food grains are eaten by the animals, and the animal is eaten by the man.... What are the statistics? The animals are eating food grains, but the same amount of food grains can be eaten by so many men."
Such statistics do exist. Government figures show that about ninety percent of the edible grains harvested in the United States are fed to animals that are later killed for meat. But for every sixteen pounds of grain fed to beef cattle, only one pound of meat is produced.
Srila Prabhupada concluded, "If there were one government on the surface of the earth to handle the distribution of grain, there would be no question of scarcity, no necessity to open slaughterhouses, and no need to present false theories about overpopulation" (Bhag. 4.17.25, purport).
The first person to sound the overpopulation alarm was the English economist Malthus (1766-1834), who calculated that population tends to increase much faster than the earth's limited food supply. New farmland, of which there is only so much, said Malthus, can be brought into production only slowly and with great labor and careful planning, whereas—because of the constant pressure of sex desire—people will have as many children as they are able, unless they are checked. Therefore the population is almost always pushing the limit of available food, and suffering results. Malthus summarized this with his maxim that food production increases arithmetically, while population increases geometrically.
"That population has this constant tendency to increase beyond the means of subsistence," states Malthus ". . . will sufficiently appear from a review of the different states of society in which man has existed." But according to the Vedic viewpoint, the earth can produce an almost unlimited amount of life's necessities. Restriction occurs not from overpopulation but from some other cause, namely the self-destructive attitudes and actions of the planet's population.
The science of ecology has awakened us to a greater appreciation of how different organisms and natural resources are linked in complex interdependency, and how easily this interdependency can be disturbed—as in the case of acid rain, for example. While doing research for NASA, scientist Jim Lovelock concluded that the "earth's living matter, air, oceans, and land surface form a complex system which can be seen as a single organism and which has the capacity to keep our planet a fit place for life." He calls his hypothesis the "Gaia principle," after the Greek goddess of the earth.
Lovelock himself, adhering to the principles of materialistic science, does not believe in a personified earth deity. But he does point out, "The concept of Mother Earth, or, as the Greeks called her long ago, Gaia, has been widely held throughout history and has been the basis of a belief which still coexists with the great religions." The Vedic scriptures clearly state that the earth is the visible form of the goddess Bhumi, who restricts or increases her production according to the population's level of spiritual consciousness.
"Therefore," states Srila Prabhupada, "although there may be a great increase in population on the surface of the earth, if the people are exactly in line with God consciousness and are not miscreants, such a burden on the earth is a source of pleasure for her" (Bhag. 3.3.14, purport).
So according to the Vedas, Malthus and later population experts are wrong in n their crucial assumption that earth cannot supply the needs of a large population. If people are God conscious, there is virtually no limit to the population the earth can comfortably support.
Nevertheless, Malthus did have some valuable points to make about population control. He believed that the best solution was voluntary restraint from marriage—without "vice," by which he meant any kind. of illicit sex whatsoever. Malthus specifically opposed free sex, which relies on abortion and contraception for population control. "A promiscuous intercourse to such a degree as to prevent the birth of children," he warned, "seems to lower, in the most marked manner, the dignity of human nature.... When a general corruption of morals, with regard to the sex, pervades all classes of society, its effects must necessarily be to poison the springs of domestic happiness, to weaken conjugal and parental affection, and to lessen the united exertions and ardour of parents in the care and education of their children."
The dangers Malthus warned of have come to pass. Divorce, teenage suicide, child abuse, sex crimes—all are on the rise. Neglected children from broken homes fill the courts. In the face of the dangers from herpes, AIDS, and other sexually transmitted diseases, many people—often out of fear for their lives—are limiting their promiscuity. In Africa, where in some countries promiscuity is rampant, far more people face death from AIDS than from starvation.
In his study of population in different parts of the world, Malthus took special note of India, where the process of moral restraint is recommended in the Vedic scriptures such as the Manu-samhita, the laws compiled by Manu, the forefather of mankind. Malthus noted, "In almost every part of the ordinances of Manu, sensuality of all kinds is strongly reprobated, and chastity inculcated as a religious duty." Srila Prabhupada states, "We do not find in Vedic literatures that they ever used contraceptive methods.... The contraceptive method should be restraint in sex life.... If one is fortunate enough to have a good, conscientious wife, he can decide by mutual consultation that human life is meant for advancing in Krsna consciousness and not for begetting a large number of children" (Bhag. 4.27.6, purport).
Margaret Sanger (1879-1966), a principal organizer of the modern birth control movement, once visited Gandhi in India and tried to persuade him to support a birth control program for his country. "He agreed," wrote Sanger, "that no more than three or four children should be born to a family, but insisted that intercourse, therefore, should be restricted for the entire married life of the couple to three or four occasions."
Sanger and her followers had more success with people of other religious backgrounds. The wives of some American Episcopal bishops once asked Sanger to convince their husbands about the necessity for legalized birth control. Sanger complied, and soon thereafter the bishops reversed their previous opposition. Although most Protestant and Jewish denominations approve birth control, the Catholic Church continues to oppose it. Despite much opposition from the laity—and some clergymen as well—the pope has maintained that sex other than for conception is sinful. Nevertheless, the Church still allows sex during the socalled safe period, as well as after menopause and for sterile persons. That contradiction is not present in the Krsna consciousness movement—non-procreative sex is against the Vedic principles.
Sanger had strong emotional reasons for her birth control crusade. She once saw a woman die in childbirth and resolved "to do something to change the destiny of mothers whose miseries were as vast as the sky." That is certainly a noble aspiration, but the means chosen by Sanger will not give the result she desired. They can only insure more suffering.
Sanger believed that "women should free themselves from biological slavery, which could best be accomplished through birth control." The Vedas, however, reveal our actual enslavement: every one of us—male or female—is caught up in the endless cycle of birth and death. Our real identity is that we are eternal spirit souls, now encaged in temporary material bodies subject to various miseries and the destructive influence of time. We are transmigrating from one material body to another, lifetime after painful lifetime.
Is reincarnation just a belief? According to the Vedas, it is a fact each of us must face. Even Western science has turned up evidence (in research into out-of-body experiences and memories of past lives) that strongly suggests there is a conscious part of us that survives the death experience. We return, the Vedas explain, to suffer the reactions to the activities we performed in our previous life.
Srila Prabhupada therefore warns, "Illicit sex creates pregnancies, and these unwanted pregnancies lead to abortion. Those involved become implicated in these sins, so much so that they are punished in the same way the nextlife. Thus in the next life they also enter the womb of a mother and are killed in the same way" (Bhag. 5.4.9, purport).
Because the soul is eternal, the soul denied birth by contraception and abortion does not die; he simply enters into another womb. Birth control is thus a total failure because it doesn't prevent birth. It only brings suffering for everyone involved. To protect ourselves from the harsh reactions to illicit sex, the Vedic literature proposes sexual restraint.
Margaret Sanger, and others who have followed her in the population control movement, believed that such voluntary restraint is impossible. In her autobiography Sanger quotes Baron Dawson of Penn, the court physician of Edward VII and George V, who in a speech at a congress of the Anglican Church answered the proposition by the Anglican bishops that sexual activity should be restricted to that necessary for procreation. "Imagine a young married couple in love with each other," said Dawson, "being expected to occupy the same room and to abstain for two years. The thing is preposterous. You might as well put water by the side of a man suffering from thirst and tell him not to drink it."
But what if, besides the waterpot, there were a pot of divine nectar? By drinking the nectar, the man could abstain from drinking the water and yet become relieved not only of his thirst but of all his suffering and experience a superior pleasure. In other words, if one experiences the superior pleasure of spiritual life, one can forego the lower pleasure of sex.
Commenting on a Srimad-Bhagavatam description of the spiritual world, Srila Prabhupada points out: "The men are so absorbed in Krsna consciousness that the beautiful bodies of the women cannot attract them. In other words, there is enjoyment of the association of the opposite sex, but there is no sexual relationship. The residents of Vaikuntha have a better standard of pleasure, so there is no need of sex pleasure" (Bhag. 3.15.20, purport).
Because people have generally not experienced such higher pleasure, they must be attached to sexual pleasure, especially since we live in a culture where everyone is exposed to intense sexual propaganda. The Vedic civilization, however, strongly emphasizes brahmacarya, or celibacy, and formerly every child was expected to spend the first twenty or so years of life as a celibate student of the spiritual science of God consciousness.
This celibacy was not, however, a denial of the individual's innate desire for pleasure. Rather, giving up the lower pleasures of the sexual urge was merely a precondition for experiencing the higher, transcendental pleasures of the soul's spiritual love for God, who is known as Krsna, the reservoir of all pleasure.
In an atmosphere of sexual license, pregnancy is often regarded as an unwanted by-product that greatly decreases the value of sexual pleasure. The remedy that Sanger and her followers favored was contraception, rather than abortion. Sanger felt that abortion is violent, whereas contraception is somehow different. But contraception is simply a less obvious act of violence. Most contraceptive methods work on the principle of making the womb uninhabitable, by physical or chemical means, for the fertilized egg. This is actually another type of murder, operating at an earlier stage than abortion, because even at this very early stage, according to the Vedas, the soul has already been introduced into the egg.
Other methods of contraception aim at stopping either the sperm or egg from reaching the point of conception. But whether the method involves obstruction or destruction, the result is the same. "Contraception deteriorates the womb so that it no longer is a good place for the soul," warns Srila Prabhupada.
"That is against the order of God. By the order of God, a soul is sent to a particular womb, but by this contraceptive he is denied that womb and has to be placed in another. That is disobedience to the Supreme. For example, take a man who is supposed to live in a particular apartment. If the situation there is so disturbed that he cannot enter the apartment, then he is put at a great disadvantage. That is illegal interference and is punishable" (The Science of Self-Realization, pp. 49-50).
Such methods of birth control are now prominent all over the world. Reversing this situation is going to be a difficult battle, but important skirmishes are already being won. All around the world, thousands of married couples have adopted the Krsna conscious principle of voluntarily restraining from sex except for procreation, and many more thousands of single men and women have opted for total celibacy, either permanently or until they marry.
The Vedic system of birth control does not mean no sex and fewer people, but sex according to spiritual principles—and better people, be they few or many. In this regard, Malthus made a point worth noting: "I have never considered any possible increase of population as an evil, except as far as it might increase the proportion of vice and misery." If the increasing population is of good character, there will naturally be a desirable decrease in vice and misery.
But how do we insure good population? According to the Vedas, the consciousness of the parents at the time of conception determines the quality of the child. Srila Prabhupada advises, "The birth of a human being is a great science, and therefore reformation of the act of impregnation according to the Vedic ritual called garbhadhana-samskara is very important for generating good population. The problem is not to check the growth of the population, but to generate good population.... So-called birth control is not only vicious but also useless" (Bhag. 3.5.19, purport).
Srila Prabhupada further states, "This material world is created to give the conditioned souls a chance ... for going back home, back to Godhead, and therefore generation of the living being is necessary, . . . and as such one can even serve the Lord in the act of such sexual pleasure. The service is counted when the children born of such sexual pleasure are properly trained in God consciousness" (Bhag. 2.10.26, purport).
If the people are good, then no matter how numerous they are, they will be able to cooperate peacefully and, with the blessings of God, receive ample resources from Mother Earth. On the other hand, even a very limited population of bad character can make the planet into a hell. Selfish sex, aided by abortion, pills, condoms, and so on, is not going to make this world a happier place for anyone. People will continue in the cycle of birth and death, and the world will be a chaos of greed, anger, envy, and violence.
Srila Prabhupada therefore advises, "Those who are sincere souls . . . should refrain from such child-killing and should atone for their sinful activities by taking to Krsna consciousness very seriously. If one chants the Hare Krsna maha-mantra without offenses, all of one's sinful actions are surely atoned for immediately, but one should not commit such deeds again...... (Bhag. 6.16.14, purport).
At the Hare Krsna farm in Pennsylvania,
by Suresvara Dasa
Cows munch pasture under clear skies. Waves of grain restle in the summer wind. Silos flank a white barn, where a husband and wife clean stalls and get ready for the next milking. It looks like an ordinary dairy, but if the cows here could talk they would tell you differently. It's Gita-nagari, the Hare Krsna farm in central Pennsylvania, home of a novel peace project called Adopt a Cow.
"Ever wonder why humanity is always at war?" an American devotee asks a barn guest. "India's sages say that man's inhumanity to man is largely a product of man's inhumanity to animals—especially the Cow."
Generally. as soon as a cow's milk output starts to slip, modern dairymen sell her for slaughter. When they look the cow in the eye, somehow they don't see a sentient being like themselves; they see a dollar sign. "A sign," says the devotee. "of our predatory times. "
Begun in 1975, the six-hundred-acre Gita-nagari farm runs much as Indian villages have for centuries. The keystone is the cow. Like a mother, she nourishes the hundred-member community with her milk. And like a father, the bull helps till the ground to provide food. The devotees protect them for as long as they live; they will never hear the sound of the slaughterer's gun.
Man's "dominion" over the cattle, the devotees say, is clarified in the Bhagavad-gita, wherein Krsna recommends cow protection for the peace and prosperity of society.
Have Gita-nagari's cow protectors prospered? Devotees point to the farm's successes. In 1977 they managed to build their own temple, in 1980 their own school, and in 1983 the Pennsylvania Dairymen's Association commended the farm for managing the top-producing herd of Brown Swiss cows in the state.
That same year, to accommodate their hundred-plus herd, the devotees broke ground for a new barn, complete with methane digester. The cows' dung contains enough methane gas to power the whole community. But lack of funds since then has brought construction to a halt.
Nevertheless, the devotees' struggles inspired a few of their Indian friends to pull together and help. As educated Indians working in America, they appreciated the farm as a haven from the modern McDonald's culture, and they saw a chance to proclaim India's message of peace and goodwill. How could Indians at large help build a new barn for Krsna's cows? Simple. Adopt one.
In the fall of 1985, the devotees organized Adopt A Cow, placed ads in newspapers for natives of India, and sent solicitation letters to fifteen thousand Hindus in the U.S., encouraging them to "make a stand for world peace" and fulfill their religious obligation to "protect the sacred cow."
Jag Bushan Kaul and his wife, Veena, were among the first to respond. In their suburban Detroit home hangs a framed color photo of their adopted cow.
"In India, cow protection is as sacred as motherhood," says Kaul. "All of us were raised on cow's milk. When we were growing up, every family in the village kept a cow as part of the family. But in America we tend to forget our intimate relationship and debt of gratitude to the cow."
Says adopter Shyamasundar Mahajan, a physician from Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania: "In America alone, more than forty million cows and calves are slaughtered every year. This is needlessly cruel. We can live a healthy life with a properly balanced vegetarian diet. Available statistics now point to beef-eating, not smoking, as this country's greatest health hazard."
For $3,000, subscribers like Kaul and Mahajan can support a cow for life. Besides a color photo, they receive a gold certificate of adoption, a brass plaque, milk products, periodic news of the cow's progress, and a free "get-acquainted vacation weekend at the farm. A wonderful opportunity to visit with your family cow."
Other plans allow subscribers to give $30 or $ 100 monthly for a year, with option to renew. The half-million-dollar barn complex will require at least two hundred adopters; to date, about half that number have adopted cows.
Predictably, Adopt A Cow has drawn peals of laughter from the American press. "It's No Bull—Hindus Adopt Cows." Vegetarians and animal rights activists, though, have taken serious notice. Adopt A Cow ads now appear in their publications, and today most of the project's inquiries are from Americans.
Gloria Perlis is president of the Lehigh Valley Vegetarian Society, which has sponsored a bus trip to the farm, brought devotees to Allentown to cater the club's social functions, and recently adopted a cow.
"The devotees cater all our events now," says Perlis, who regularly orders cheese, yogurt, and desserts from the farm. "It's the only kind of cheese I'll eat, because it comes from animals that will never be killed."
"I wanted to stop enriching the veal industry by buying dairy products at my local Acme," says Jane Tufton, an animal rights activist from Allentown, who also receives the farm's products.
As Perlis and Tufton are well aware, veal is a by-product of the dairy industry, since it comes from calves bred to maintain milking stock. Such calves live in particularly inhumane conditions on food-industry factory farms.
If you're still wondering about the sages' link between slaughter and war, the devotees recommend a visit to a slaughterhouse—preferably a modern one, where hundreds of cows daily are bound, shot, shackled, hung, knifed, dehided, split, weighed, and shrouded for chilling coolers. Concentration camps never enjoyed such efficiency, or such good public relations. After all, the public's dinner table is the last stop on the production line.
"You have just dined," wrote Emerson, "and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity."
On my one visit to a slaughterhouse, I noted employees of many extractions—a kind of General Assembly of butchers. I thought of the United Nations, of how its buildings stand on the very spot where New York City slaughterhouses used to, and how its members have failed to keep the peace. The "progress" that produced the slaughterhouse, two world wars, and the pandemic carnage since then, has at last—summitry notwithstanding—stockpiled enough bombs to slaughter us all.
Adopt A Cow may not close the slaughterhouse tomorrow, but it can certainly help us reconsider our responsibility to this beneficent animal. And humane considerations aside, is America really more peaceful and prosperous for having entrusted the cow to a "dairy industry" perennially awash in a sea of surplus milk? Or for having discarded the bull for the tractor, partly for which she must risk her sons' lives in the Middle East to keep fuel lines open?
Says Adopt A Cow promoter Gaura Hari dasa: "The idea is to getpeople thinking of Elsie and Elmer as part of the family—not dinner. Otherwise, you can talk of peace till the cows come home."
For more information on Adopt A Cow, write or call the Gita-nagari farm. See address list on page 12.
Odd Inedibles or Divine Delights—The Choice is Yours
by Visakha-devi dasi
Upside-slime cake, slugetti, pureed slug tartare-ugh! I'll stick with my fruits and vegetables, thank you.
Beneath an azure sky, kids romp in a spectacular, sun-sparkled fountain, lively Scotsmen dance on the main stage, and crowds gather at dozens of fascinating booths—Ukranian folk art; Greek hand—weaving; wood-carving; pottery; basketry; calligraphy. It's the first annual International Village Fair, a nine-day extravaganza under a huge open-air pavilion in the most popular spot in town. And in the center of it all: live cooking demonstrations.
For two days I watch as cooks demonstrate a grotesque array of cuisines from around the world. A smiling Jamaican with glossy black hair makes refreshing ginger tea and a swordfish stir-fry. A nervous Irish lady tells of her native boiled bacon. An African-American fast-foods cook holds up a browned rib cage, and as I walk up she carves it and sprinkles on a southern spice mix. A kosher cook explains gefilte fish. A proud Iranian marinates ground veal.
The people listen and laugh, take notes, ask questions, and feel happy to be there, enjoying summery breezes and a symphony of native music, falling water, and casual cross-cultural enrichment.
"Why did you demonstrate only vegetarian foods?" I asked the surly cook from India. "Well, we have limited time," she said. "And besides, I didn't make the menu; the fair's organizers made it. I could just as well have demonstrated nonvegetarian, but they asked me to cook things like puris, pakoras, and wadas."
For a devotee, the remarkable thing about an event like this is to see how people all over the world eat without discrimination. A few months back, in an article called "Odd But Edible," food columnist Jim Quinn wrote, "I had the very best braised pig's intestines and the best duck foot and sea cucumber casserole I've ever tasted ... odd but edible parts of animal anatomy that delight me and a sizable majority of Inquirer readers but that lead others to write letters of intense moral fervor. Please, if you are the kind of vegetarian who thinks it's somehow worse to eat the webbing between the toes of a cute little duck than it is to eat hamburger made from the neck of a lovable, young, dewy-eyed steer, stop now. . . . Just put this article aside; you won't like it."
No, Mr. Quinn, we're not that kind of vegetarian. We agree that eating hamburger is as bad as eating duck's foot. And we think that you and other omnivores would delight in timing your next tasting experiment with the springtime Slugfest cookout held annually in Guerneville, California (population 900). For eight years locals have vied for prizes for producing the tastiest dishes made from slugs, which thrive along the banks of the nearby Russian River. Last year's winners included upside-slime cake, slugetti, and pureed slug tartare.
There are other tastes, even more available and unexplored, that Quinn and his brethren are missing—taste delights that were known to our 12,000-year-old ancestors. Archaeologist Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London, reporting of the Stone Age Britons, says, "It now looks definitely as though the humans were treated in just the same way as the animals—as food."
Certainly Quinn and the Village Fair goers would think of Lord Krsna's cuisine as dreadfully constrained. Even kosher food—which includes meat—is subject to this criticism. Two women at the fair left the kosher demonstration after a few minutes, one saying to the other, "This is the least interesting demonstration—the cuisine is too limited." So then, what of a diet that contains no meat, fish, or eggs? It must have the appeal of solitary confinement to a society girl.
As I returned from the Village Fair, I thought of the Iranian cooking pounded calf's flesh, the Afro-American sawing through ribs, and the Indian who didn't care what she cooked. I wished that the devotees had been there, showing that the "limited" ingredients of grains, fruits, vegetables, milk, and milk products can fulfill all the reasons for eating: health, strength, satisfaction, and happiness; and showing that fifty kinds of spice, fifty varieties of vegetable, fifty different grains and legumes, and dozens of different fruits and milk products can be combined to make thousands of delicious dishes.
Maybe then a few "lovers of strange cuisine," as Quinn calls them, could have been attracted to the divine delights of Krsna's normal—and spiritually uplifting—cuisine.
(Recipes from The Hare Krishna Book of Vegetarian Cooking, by Adi-raja dasa.
Chick-pea-flour and coriander-leaf tidbits
Preparation and cooking time: 45 min
2 ounces fresh coriander leaves
1. Wash the coriander or spinach leaves thoroughly and remove the largest stems. Chop the leaves into small pieces and combine in a mixing bowl with the chick-pea flour, yogurt, chilies, and salt. Slowly add water, stirring as you do, until the batter has a milk-like consistency.
2. Pour the batter into a medium-size pot and place over a medium flame. Cook gently for 15 to 20 minutes. As the batter thickens, stir frequently with a wide wooden spoon to avoid scorching. The batter is ready when a dab of it solidifies on a cool surface. Now pour the batter into a shallow cake pan (1 to 2 inches deep) and let it cool for at least 15 minutes. When it becomes firm, cut it into diamonds and deep-fry the pieces in ghee or vegetable oil until golden-brown.
3. Remove, drain, and offer to Krsna hot or at room temperature with date-and-tamarind chutney.
(See third column for chutney recipe.)
Spiced carrot croquettes
Preparation and cooking time: 25 min
4 or 5 medium-size carrots, washed and scraped
1. Grate the carrots on the fine holes of a metal grater until you have about 9 ounces of grated carrots. Put the grated carrots and all the other ingredients in a large bowl. Mix with just enough water to make a paste thick enough to hold together when deep-fried.
2. Heat the ghee or vegetable oil in a wok or saucepan over a medium flame. Pick up a lump of batter with a tablespoon. Use your finger to push the lump into the hot ghee or oil. Do this until you have 8 to 10 vadas cooking at the same time. Adjust the heat and turn the vadas often so that they become nicely browned on all sides in 4 or 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon. Drain in a strainer or colander. Offer to Krsna.
Dal croquettes in yogurt sauce
Soaking time: several hours for the dal
Preparation and cooking time: 40 min
1 cup urad dal, sorted and washed
1. Soak the dal in warm water for several hours. Drain it and grind it in an electric blender (or a grinder) with just enough water to make a thick, smooth paste. Scrape this paste into a bowl and mix in the cumin seeds, chilies, ginger, asafetida, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
2. Heat the ghee or oil in a wok or saucepan over a medium flame. Moisten your left hand and put 2 ounces of the mixture on it. Flatten it slightly with the thumb of your left hand to form a flat patty. Poke it in the center with the little finger of your right hand to make a depression. Now carefully slide it into the ghee. Because the dal is not very firm, this operation may require some practice (if it seems difficult, don't worry: you can also use a spoon to put lumps of the batter in the hot ghee). Fry the vadas for 6 to 8 minutes on each side until they become reddish-brown. Remove and drain in a colander.
3. Mix the grated coconut, fresh coriander, cayenne pepper, and the remaining salt into the yogurt and cover the vadas with this sauce. After one hour, garnish each vada by filling the dent in the center with a dab of date-and-tamarind chutney. Offer to Krsna.
Date and tamarind chutney
Khajur imli ki chutni
Preparation and cooking time: 35 min
3 ounces tamarind
1. Break the lump of tamarind into small pieces and boil them in the water for 10 minutes. Then pour the tamarind and water through a strainer. With a wooden spoon, push as much of the pulp as possible through the strainer into the water, scraping the bottom of the strainer every few seconds. Continue until all the pulp has been extracted from the seeds and fiber.
2. To this juice, add all the other ingredients. Cook uncovered over a medium flame until most of the liquid evaporates and the chutney takes on the consistency of marmalade. Offer to Krsna.
Toasted chick-pea-flour fudge
Preparation time: 30 min
1. Melt the butter in a medium-size saucepan. Stir the chick-pea flour into the butter and stir-fry it gently over a low flame, taking care not to burn it. After about 15 minutes, when the flour is lightly browned, remove the pan from the heat.
2. In another saucepan, make the syrup by boiling together the milk, water, and sugar, until a drop of syrup makes one strand between your thumb and forefinger. Stir the nuts and coconut into the syrup, and pour the syrup into the chick-pea flour. Cook and stir gently over very low heat until the mixture thickens and becomes less sticky.
3. After it cools enough to handle, form it into a square cake on a plate. When it becomes firm, cut it into pieces. Top each piece with half a cashew nut or some chopped pistachio nuts. Offer to Krsna.
On August 20, 1987, Acarya Visvambhara Gosvami, head of the Radha-ramana temple in Vrndavana, India, and a long-time friend of Srila Prabhupada and ISKCON, passed away in Vrndavana. Visvambhara Gosvami was born in Vrndavana in 1922.
The Radha-ramana temple was established almost five hundred years ago by Gopala Bhatta Gosvami, and since then the temple has been run by the ancestors of Visvambhara Gosvami, who took over the management of the temple when his father passed away in 1964. Visvambhara Gosvami had a successful law practice in Mathura, but he gave it up to devote himself fully to serving Sri Radha-ramana. He was well known and respected in Vrndavana, and served as Vrndavana's mayor for some time.
During the fifties and sixties, when Srila Prabhupada lived in Vrndavana he would visit Visvambhara Gosvami, who always appreciated Srila Prabhupada's desire to spread Krsna consciousness all over the world. He was genuinely impressed by Srila Prabhupada's accomplishments and often spoke heartfelt appreciations during the annual festival in Vrndavana commemorating Srila Prabhupada's passing away. He recognized that Srila Prabhupada had been sent by Lord Caitanya to spread Krsna consciousness around the world.
Srila Prabhupada also recognized Visvambhara Gosvami's devotion to Krsna and sent some of his disciples to learn from Visvambhara Gosvami the intricacies of Deity worship. Srila Prabhupada told them that the worship of Radha-ramana was of a high standard that they should try to emulate. Visvambhara Gosvami was eager to assist the devotees, who found his instructions about Deity worship very valuable.
Anyone who had the good fortune to associate with Visvambhara Gosvami appreciated his Vaisnava qualities. He was exceptionally humble. Even though he was the leader of a prestigious institution, with hundreds of disciples throughout India, he wanted no respect for himself. Rather, he treated everyone with the greatest respect. When ISKCON devotees were guests at his home, he would often serve them himself.
Visvambhara Gosvami was enthusiastic to spread the message of Lord Caitanya, and he took to heart Lord Caitanya's instruction that anyone born in India must make his life successful by becoming Krsna conscious and then giving Krsna consciousness to others. Visvambhara made three trips to the West for preaching, twice to the United States and once to Europe. He traveled to many Western cities, speaking at temples, colleges, and elsewhere, and meeting many important persons. When he visited New York City, he went to see the places where Srila Prabhupada first preached when he came to America. He said they were now holy places.
Visvambhara Gosvami was everyone's well-wisher. Those who knew him will feel a great loss by his absence. Indeed, the whole world suffers with the departure of a pure Vaisnava like Sri Visvambhara Gosvami, who has now returned to Krsna's eternal abode.
Excerpts from the diary of a young American on a
by Gita-Nagari Dasa
February 13, Mathura
It is 2:00 AM. Outside in the courtyard a dog is barking. We slept last night eighteen to a room in the asrama attached to the temple here at Krsna's birthsite. I retired at 9:30, and this barking dog has awakened me. Returning to sleep is impossible. This makes my third night in a row with less than five hours sleep; but, somehow one does not grow tired in Mathura. There is a weariness in my body, like you might feel after doing strenuous exercise, but not that drowsy, dull, mode-of-ignorance feeling you experience elsewhere.
As we left Mathura, our pada-yatra elephant led, followed by the kirtana party and ox-cart with the deities.
We entered the village of Madhuvana—the land that time forgot. Who can describe it! I thought the town of Vrndavana was a village, but compared to Madhuvana, Vrndavana is a big city. This is a real village. First you see the fields, then the huts, with their simple thatched roofs, In the center of the village stands the village well. There is no electricity. We enter the village 150 devotees strong. The villagers have never seen anything like its. They don't quite know what to do.
The village children follow our kirtana their faces lit with happiness and excitement. The piety of these people cannot be fathomed. Their faces are like lights in the night. The kirtana reverberates off the cement walls in the narrow village street, and ecstasy descends upon us. The austerity of the walk now seems worth it, a million times over.
We started out from Madhuvana this morning to go to Santanu-kunda. The distance is fourteen kilometers. The early morning walk was one of extraordinary beauty. We passed field after field of bright-green wheat, punctuated by tall fields of sugarcane. The road was soft and pleasing, cooling to the feet. It was like getting a foot massage.
On the way we passed through Talavana forest, where there are deities of Balarama—black, with His right hand raised—and Revati, His eternal consort. Talavana forest is where Dhenukasura was killed. This demon, in the form of a giant ass, was not allowing anyone into this part of Vrndavana. The cowherd boys were attracted to the beautiful fruit trees there. So Balarama killed the demon by grasping one of his hind legs and throwing him into a tree. There are still palm trees in this part of Vrndavana; one is in the courtyard of the temple.
We then walked to Kumudavana. Kumuda means "water lily." During Krsna's pastimes beautiful water lilies grew here. Lord Kapila, an incarnation of Krsna, performed austerity here in the Treta-yuga. The Varaha Purana states that whoever bathes here will be blessed to understand the purport to the Vedic literature. I filled my canteen and rubbed the water over my body.
Near Kumudavana is Santanu-kunda, where King Santanu performed austerities to beget Bhismadeva. The kunda is now muddy and only a few feet deep, but it is the only place in the area to bathe. The village here is very poor. There is no grass, and dust is blowing all over. Many devotees are staying in tents set up on a sandy plain. I am staying in a room with pigeons flying above me here and there.
This morning we went on procession to the temple at Santanu-kunda. When we arrived—in the middle of mangala-arati—five local devotees were ringing beautifully tuned gongs and chanting mantras. Even though the simplicity of the village was reflected in the worship, the beauty of the Deity shone through—black Krsna with a flute.
Now we have arrived at Bahulavana and are camped for the day. We have walked through four of the twelve forests of Vrndavana. The Bahula-kunda is one of the nicest kundas I've seen. Clean water. This is a picturesque village, and the people are helpful and happy. They seem materially a little better off than the people at Santanu-kunda. Through a Hindi speaking devotee from Delhi I was able to talk to some of the local teenage boys.
Tonight after prasadam we had our regular evening program—kirtana, a lecture, a play, and a puppet show. All the devotees gather onstage, the villagers all around us. After an exuberant kirtana Radha-ramana dasa introduces all the Western devotees. The amazing thing is the way the people react. It is very easy to get them to chant, often with great enthusiasm. You haven't lived until you've heard a hundred Brijbasis chanting Hari Bol! at the top of their lungs.
The parikrama left Bahulavana about 9:00 A.M. for Radha-kunda and Syama-kunda. I took the opportunity to walk quite a distance ahead of the party. It was nice to be out in the countryside by myself. Upon arriving at Radha-kunda, we were told to respect but not enter this most sacred of all kundas, so I put some water on my head and then bathed with water from Syama-kunda. Many old people reside here, living out their last days in this holy place. I passed one old woman on the street who seemed one step from death. She looked at me and just said, "Jaya Radhe," but she said it in such a way, with such feeling, that it touched me very deeply. One has to be very careful around these holy places. I hope I did not commit any offenses here, either to the site or to its saintly residents.
Often I see people circumambulating Syama-kunda and Radha-kunda by offering prostrate obeisances, placing a rock before them, and then offering obeisances again. It is quite an austerity to go all the way around the two lakes this way. It takes several hours to complete. I don't think I'll try it, soft American that I am.
Today we'll walk four kilometers to Govardhana—a very short distance by pada-yatra standards—and on the way we will stop to bathe at Kusuma-sarovara, where the gopis used to pick flowers for Radha and Krsna.
This morning Lokanatha Maharaja gave a wonderful talk on the significance of Vraja-mandala pada-yatra. He read from a work written by a disciple of Gadadhara Pandita. This disciple, Narayana Bhatta, wrote twelve books on Vrndavana. He compares different parts of Vrndavana to Krsna's body. He says there are 2,500 forests in Vrndavana. Krsna's heart is Mathura, Vrndavana is his navel, Madhuvana his chest, and so on. In this way we will touch many of the parts of Krsna's body on our pada-yatra.
The path we are walking is approximately 168 miles long. In A.D. 1515 Lord Caitanya performed the Vraja parikrama. When Lord Caitanya came here, the local people did not know the significance or the location of many of the sites of Krsna's pastimes. But because Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, He knew everything about Vraja, and He revealed all the holy places so people could come here and take advantage of the supreme dhama.
Lokanatha Maharaja said that Vraja-mandala pada-yatra is a fully authorized way to get closer to Krsna. Everything we are doing—chanting, bathing, taking prasadam, kirtana, Bhagavatam class—all are fully authorized activities for getting closer to Krsna. If we adopt the right means, then we will get the correct results and will find Krsna and not maya. Here in Vrndavana we can practice the Krsna culture openly and freely, more so than anywhere else in the universe. We can dress as devotees, chant as devotees—completely and openly to our hearts content.
Today we circumambulated Govardhana Hill. This is an easy statement to make; it is another thing to actually do it—especially barefooted. We started at 6:30 in the morning and ended tonight at 5:00. We stopped at many sacred places along the way, including Manasi Ganga (the Ganges that Krsna created from His mind) and Annakuta (the spot where Indra bathed Krsna after Krsna had lifted Govardhana Hill).
February 21, 22
On our way to Kamya-vana, a sannyasi said that even if we can't see Krsna in Vrndavana, He can see us. He sees us and acknowledges that we made the pilgrimage here. Most of the time I don't want Krsna to see me—I'm so low and filled with gross desires. In the past I've even tried to hide from Krsna. But here in Vrndavana the thought that Krsna is watching gave me a thrill. It is like that here in Vrndavana.
This is a harsh land. Even now, in the middle of spring, it is ninety degrees by mid-afternoon. It is desertlike, a land where you can't find fresh, clear brooks. All the drinking water has to be dug for. But all of a sudden you remember Krsna, and sweetness overtakes you, and all the pain of this harsh climate and land seem a million miles away, and even your own body and its pains seem like they don't belong to you.
It is nighttime. The devotees are packed up right next to each other. There is no "I want this room.... I need this facility." The beauty of pada-yatra is its simplicity and its sacrifice. Everyone is sacrificing bodily comfort for the comfort of close association with devotees. In one corner, a devotee reads a book by flashlight. Another chants softly in another corner. Others walk through with japa beads in their hands. One elderly devotee comes through with a tray of hot coals and frankincense and fills the room with fragrance.
Today we left Kamya-vana, the fifth of Vrndavana's twelve forests. It was worth all the trouble of coming to India just to take the walk from Kamya-vana to Varsana, the home of Srimati Radharani. Last night it rained and broke the heat spell of the last few days. We took a path to Varsana that was completely through the countryside. There was a cool, refreshing breeze blowing, and the sand was soft and moist. We went through field after field of irrigated crops. The sun slipped over the horizon, and the clouds filtered the light through their deep-blue billows.
One feels the real Vrndavana here. There is great peace and beauty. We go into the interior farming villages that can be reached only by footpaths. The faces of these people are so pious it is a benediction just to see them. Here in the farming villages the water is fresh and clean, the crops plentiful. The villagers chant the holy names spontaneously. Everywhere it is "Jaya Radhe!" "Radhe Syama!" All the villagers greet each other like this. It's a way of life enviable to complicated Westerners.
February 25, 26
We have spent two days in Varsana. It is very peaceful and still here. Tonight, after bathing in Pilu-koti-kunda, where Radharani used to wash Her hands, I thought how nice it would be if everyone could experience this wonderful place. I composed an invitation: "My friends, walk out to the Pilu-koti-kunda and see the peacocks in the fields. It is evening, and in Varsana everything is cooling. Meet the devotees of Krsna here and join in kirtana with them. See their faces, for one look at the true devotees of Srimati Radharani in Varsana is enough to free you from all anxiety. Then join them in procession up the hill that has hundreds of worn steps climbing into the heavens. Each stone bears the footprints of millions of devotees who have walked here before you.
"At the top of the hill, look over the land of Krsna as it stretches out, panoramic, before you. See the Krsna-blue clouds hanging over the purple horizon, lightning flashing from one to another. Then turn and behold Radharani's temple, with its murals depicting the pastimes of Radha and Krsna. See the Deities of Radha and Krsna here and join in the enchanting kirtana, being sung in Their glorification. If you do this, Radharani will be pleased with you, and Her kindness on you will bring the happiness you ache for in this world."
Here in Nandagrama, Krsna lived from age eight to sixteen. He lived for His first seven years in Gokula, and for one year He lived in Chattikara, just down the road from ISKCON's Krishna-Balaram Mandir. We bathed in Pavana-sarovara, where mother Yasoda used to bathe child Krsna.
At Prema-sarovara, a little outside Varsana, Narayana Maharaja spoke on the glories of Vrndavana-dhama. He said that great persons like Brahma, Siva; and Narada are always desiring to take the dust of Vrndavana on their heads. Vrndavana is not part of the earth planet; it is the spiritual world. He said that if somehow a sinful person sneaks onto this parikrama and associates with the devotees, he will also become totally purified. By going on Vraja-mandala parikrama, one achieves the same result as that achieved by performing millions of births of sadhana-bhakti. But one must be careful not to commit offenses to the holy dhama.
This morning I went up to the main temple here at Nandagrama. It has black marble Deities of Krsna and Balarama. They are both in the threefold-bending form and are holding flutes. On Their left and right are two tall deities of Yasoda and Nanda. Radharani is also there, as well as two of Krsna's friends, Sridama and Madhumangala.
It is nice to be in Nandagrama early in the morning, chanting Hare Krsna in the place where Krsna lived. One is overcome with the timelessness, the eternity of it all, and reverence to Krsna is a natural emotion. What has to be forced in the West is completely natural here.
We spent the day in Kosi, where Srila Prabhupada came to meet Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's parikrama in the 1930's. This evening we had a huge sankirtana down the main street in town. Although the street is only about ten feet wide, it is lined with shops and packed with people. If it hadn't been for Laksmi, our elephant, I don't think we could have made our way through the teeming humanity. People came forward to give offerings to the deities—and food to the elephant.
At around four in the afternoon we arrived in Shergarh, where Lord Balarama performed His rasa dance. A small group of us has been rehearsing a play—"The Transcendental Attempts of Lord Caitanya to Reach Vrndavana." The play finally came together for a few seconds during rehearsal today. Our play ends with everyone chanting Hare Krsna, and as we were all chanting together—Japanese, Americans, South Americans, Europeans, Indians—I felt perhaps one of the most ecstatic moments I have felt since coming to Vrndavana. At least for some moments I felt a strong kinship with these devotees—these souls-and I transcended the bodily conception and felt real union in worship of Krsna.
This morning I went out to the Vrndavana countryside to chant the holy name. This part of Vrndavana, the Yamuna River basin, is the most beautiful part of Vraja I have seen—very flat and lush. There are many peacocks here. This time of year the Yamuna flows shallow, and I saw many cranes, swans, and egrets.
We have arrived at ISKCON's Krishna-Balaram Mandir, and a German devotee and I have rented a room nearby. The room is spartan, with no running water, only a pump outside. Three weeks ago I could not have thought of staying in a room like this. But now, after three weeks of pada-yatra, just to have a water pump to myself is a great luxury. We will spend three days here visiting the many holy spots in the town of Vrndavana.
Tonight after sunset we took a short walk up to the Dauji temple. Dauji is Lord Balarama, and He is accompanied by His consort Revati. It is a very sweet temple with a wide, open courtyard. Dauji was shrouded in slight darkness, with Revati standing not by His side, but facing Him. We had a wonderful kirtana before the Deities. The locals hardly ever see foreigners, and to see us dancing in kirtana fascinates them. We try to tolerate their constant stares. No matter how many times we tell them we don't speak their language, they still speak to us a mile a minute. We remind ourselves that they are all exalted persons, being residents of Krsna's eternal home.
Today we walked from Dauji to Gokula, where Krsna lived until age seven. We stopped many times along the way to see the spots where Krsna performed His childhood pastimes.
Tonight my wife and I walked up a hill overlooking the pada-yatra deity cart and the temple where we are staying. Two kirtanas were going on below us, and in the distance a major storm was brewing and sweeping over the darkened plains. My wife turned to me and said, "I don't think we'll ever be the same again." I agreed. Vraja-mandala parikrama is permanently etched in our hearts.
Today is the last day of the parikrama. We walk down the streets of Mathura to Visrama-ghata, where our pilgrimage began, and bathe in the Yamuna River. I've lost count of how many times the sacred Yamuna has bathed my body, bathed my soul. Lokanatha Maharaja garlands all the devotees, and as I receive my garland, I touch his feet and put the dust to my head. We start out for Krsna's birthplace, and the chanting begins. I feel very fortunate as I walk through the streets of Mathura chanting Krsna's holy names. Krsna is so kind upon His devotees. I pray to become His devotee.
An open letter to a famous
by Mathuresa Dasa
Dear Professor Erikson*,
[*Erik H. Erikson, an American psychoanalyst and educator, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1970 for Gandhi's Truth: On the Origin of Militant Nonviolence.]
Nearly twenty years ago you wrote a letter to Mahatma Gandhi and published it as a chapter entitled "A Personal Word" in your book Gandhi's Truth. Since "A Personal Word" is an open letter, I'm taking the liberty to submit this open, and tardy, reply.
The "Personal Word" letter speaks to the late Gandhi as you had come to know and admire—and doubt—him through his writings and by interviewing some of his friends and followers. When you began the letter, you were halfway through Gandhi's Truth, and a disenchantment with Gandhian nonviolence was making it difficult for you to finish the book. Addressing Gandhi, you wrote:
I must now confess that a few times in your work ... I seemed to sense the presence of a kind of untruth in the very protestation of truth; of something unclean when all the words spelled out an unreal purity; and above all, of a displaced violence where nonviolence was the professed issue.
You contend, Professor Erikson, that Gandhi, the champion of nonviolence, had a violent, vindictive side to him, especially when dealing with his own family. Gandhi was, in his own words, "cruelly kind" to his wife Kasturba, and he disowned his son Harilal simply because Harilal wanted to get married. These and other examples of apparent harshness prompt you to caution Gandhi that "the future of Satyagraha is at stake ... because you seem unaware of ... an ambivalence, a co-existence of love and hate, which must become conscious in those who work for peace." Without an awareness of this ambivalence, of man's "inner ambiguities," the strict moralism of the nonviolence movement could only succeed, you said, "in driving our worst proclivities underground, to remain there until riotous conditions of uncertainty or chaos would permit them to emerge redoubled."
This is certainly a controversial analysis of Gandhi, who to this day is worshiped in India as a saint, martyr, and national hero. What I find most disturbing, however, is that you juxtapose Gandhi's alleged hidden violence with his fondness for the story of the boy named Prahlada:
You, Mahatmaji, love the story of that boy prince who would not accept the claim of his father, the Demon King, to a power greater than God's, not even after the boy had been exposed to terrible tortures. At the end he was made to embrace a red-hot metal pillar; but out of this suggestive object stepped God, half lion half man, and tore the king to pieces. You call that prince the first Satyagrahi.
I am familiar with the history of Prahlada because it is recounted in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the topmost of India's ancient Vedic literatures. Prahlada is a pure devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna. And the half-man, half-lion God is Nrsimhadeva, an incarnation of Krsna. In mentioning Gandhi's appreciation for the story of Prahlada and Nrsimhadeva you imply a parallel not only between Gandhi and the tolerant, nonviolent Prahlada, but also between Gandhi's subconscious anger and the fierce form of Lord Nrsimhadeva hidden in the pillar.
You also remark how Lord Nrsimhadeva emerged from a pillar, which you call a "suggestive object." (According to the Bhagavatam, by the way, the pillar was not red-hot iron, nor was Prahlada forced to embrace it. But these are only details.) Since you are a protege, a devotee, of Sigmund Freud, "suggestive" could only mean that the pillar was a phallic symbol and that Gandhi was therefore embroiled in an Oedipal struggle with the paternalistic British empire, feigning affectionate nonviolence but gripped deep within himself by a murderous vengeance.
You seem to have dragged not only the saintly Gandhi but Prahlada and Nrsimhadeva as well into the ambiguous, contradictory, and seamy arena of the human psyche. I fear, in other words, that in the activities of Prahlada and Nrsimhadeva, as in Gandhi's activities, you "sense the presence of a kind of untruth in the very protestation of truth, . . . of a displaced violence where nonviolence was the professed issue." I suspect that you find it contradictory, or untruthful, that Prahlada's nonviolent demeanor led to his father's violent demise. You seem to indicate that Prahlada too had an Oedipus complex, and that in acting nonviolently toward his father, he succeeded only in driving his "worst proclivities underground," where they remained "until riotous conditions of uncertainty" permitted them to "emerge redoubled" in the form of the angry Nrsimhadeva.
Perhaps I am mistaken, Professor Erikson. Perhaps I have misjudged your intentions. And certainly your discussion of the Prahlada history is a minor theme in "A Personal Word." But even so, I feel compelled to vindicate the characters of Prahlada and Lord Nrsimhadeva.
Prahlada should not be analyzed using ordinary human standards, because as a pure devotee he did not identify with his temporary human body. He correctly saw the body as a vehicle for the eternal self. Thus, unlike us, he didn't think of himself as a citizen of a particular nation, a member of a particular religion, a male, or a youth, but only as a soul surrendered to God, the supreme father.
If Prahlada had identified with his body, he would not have been able to peacefully tolerate the tortures administered by his demoniac father. And to be thus devoid of bodily consciousness, he must have been totally free from all sex desire, since sex tightens the knot of bodily identification. Prahlada therefore cannot properly be subjected to Freudian analysis and thereby assigned material, sexual motives.
One whose only motive is to serve and glorify Krsna is, according to the Bhagavad-gita's definition, a "mahatma," or great soul, and Prahlada perfectly fits that definition. Even during Hiranyakasipu's atrocities, Prahlada was chanting Krsna's glories and calmly urging his demoniac father to do the same. Prahlada knew that glorifying God frees the soul from samsara—the cruel and violent cycle of repeated birth and death. In trying to induce his father to chant, Prahlada therefore exhibited the supreme form of nonviolence. He was indeed the "first Satyagrahi." Of course, Prahlada's staunch faith in God only enraged his atheistic father, although that was not Prahlada's intention.
Not only was Prahlada not bound up in a murderous Oedipal struggle with his father, but he saw his father as he saw himself—a pure soul in a temporary body.
Prahlada neither requested nor reveled in the bloody shredding of his father. Instead, after Hiranyakasipu's death, Prahlada humbly requested Lord Nrsimhadeva to liberate Hiranyakasipu's soul from samsara. And the request was readily granted.
Even more than with Prahlada, ordinary analysis fails to illuminate the character of Lord Nrsimhadeva. Nrsirhhadeva is not the product of "a riotous condition of uncertainty," nor is He an Oedipal eruption in anyone's psychic terrain. Nrsimhadeva is nondifferent from Krsna, the fully independent and fully cognizant Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Personality of Godhead is not a product of anything, but rather produces everything from Himself.
To be exact, Nrsimhadeva is a personal expansion of Krsna, and every one of Krsna's innumerable expansions, though They are all one and the same personality, are also separate individuals. This is the absolute and inconceivable nature of the Personality of Godhead. When you or I exhibit anger or some other emotion, our friends may remark that we have become "different persons," because our personalities have to some degree been temporarily transformed. Krsna's personality also has many moods and emotions, but since He is supreme, His "different persons" have an eternal individual existence as expansions of His personality. Lord Nrsimhadeva is such an individual, so to judge Him as we would a human being is a gross blunder.
As the original person, Krsna is the origin of all the emotions we experience—such as affection and anger—and He Himself possesses feelings and emotions to a supreme degree. God is a person like us, but unlike us both His affection and His anger are unlimited, transcendental, and of equal value.
In the Prahlada pastime, for example, it appears that Krsna favored Prahlada and punished Hiranyakasipu—that He showed an ungodly, partisan spirit. But Hiranyakasipu benefited as much from Krsna's anger as Prahlada did from His affection. Krsna is the father of all living entities, and therefore, like a good father, He exhibits love and anger only for His children's benefit. Krsna Himself explains in the Bhagavad-gita that He is equally disposed to everyone but that He warmly reciprocates the service and friendship of His devotees. Thus we cannot properly criticize His anger, nor should we make a material distinction between His violent and nonviolent moods.
By all this I do not mean to say, Professor Erikson, that the Personality of Godhead cannot be the subject of your scientific scrutiny. On the contrary, for the serious student of personality, Krsna and His expansions are essential subject matters. The possibilities for research are limitless. The Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.14.7) declares:
In time, great scientists may be able to count all the atoms of the universe, all the stars and planets in the sky, and all the particles of snow, but who among them can count the unlimited transcendental qualities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead? He descends on the surface of the globe for the benefit of all living entities.
As a great scientist yourself, you could do no better than to take up the eternal occupation of mahatmas like Prahlada by analyzing and describing the unlimited character of the Absolute Truth in order to liberate all human society from the violence of samsara.
After reading about the birth of Lord Krsna in Srila Prabhupada's Krsna book, I am confused about who comes first—Krsna or Visnu. I thought Krsna was the original Personality of Godhead, but in the Krsna book Visnu appears and transforms into Krsna.
Please respond for my sake and that of others who may also be curious to know the facts.
OUR REPLY: You are right in saying we should respond for the benefit of those persons who are curious to know the facts. It is a very common—but mistaken—assumption that Lord Krsna is an incarnation of Lord Visnu. This misunderstanding is routinely made by people who jump to the Tenth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, where Krsna's pastimes are described, and neglect to read the earlier nine cantos, wherein all the groundwork for understanding the Tenth Canto is set forth.
According to the Vedic scriptures and Lord Krsna's own words in the Bhagavad-gita, the two-handed form of Krsna is the original form of Godhead. Krsna says, aham adir hi devanam: "I am the origin of all the gods," and mattah parataram nanyat. "There is no truth superior to Me." All other forms of the Lord are expanded from Krsna. The Srimad-Bhagavatam states, krsnas tu bhagavan svayam: Krsna is the original form of God. This is also the verdict of Lord Brahma, Lord Siva, Narada Muni, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and many other Vedic authorities.
At the time of His appearance as Krsna, the Lord first appeared as Visnu and then changed into Krsna, but that does not mean Krsna came from Visnu. Krsna exists eternally, and His form is the origin of all other forms. Because He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, He can appear as Krsna or Visnu according to His Will.
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I have been reading Back to Godhead magazine now for a few years. I have found it very inspiring, so much so that I have erected an altar for Lord Krsna in my cell and offer whatever decent food is available. I am a vegan, so the food I receive is what Krsna wishes to be offered—no meat, fish, or eggs. I also chant Hare Krsna on homemade beads and read His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's very nice books.
The only thing I feel a bit confused about is why there has never been an article about persons practicing Krsna consciousness in jail. Here—and even more so in America, I would imagine—there are a lot of inmates who chant Hare Krsna but, alas, are not at liberty to directly engage in the Lord's service. It would be nice to read about my fellow prisoners who chant Hare Krsna.
OUR REPLY: We're happy to learn that you are a regular reader of Back to Godhead, and that you have facility in prison to worship Krsna and offer food to Him. We have no reason for not featuring an article on Krsna consciousness in the prisons, other than that no one has submitted an article on that subject. We rarely assign specific articles to be written by members of our staff. Generally we run articles submitted by our staff and devotees around the movement that they themselves have chosen to write. We print whatever is philosophically correct and meets a certain standard of readability.
Half a Million Attend Bombay Janmastami
Juhu, Bombay—More than half a million guests attended ISKCON's Janmastami celebrations here. The three-day event commemorating the anniversary of Lord Krsna's appearance also included festivities in honor of Indian Independence Day and Vyasa-puja, the appearance anniversary of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder-acarya of ISKCON. Dignitaries in attendance included Sri Vilas Sawant, Bombay's minister for urban development, who was so impressed with the temple and the festival that he expressed his desire to help ISKCON start a temple in downtown Bombay. Senior Police Inspector of Juhu Shri Shanbag and Assistant Commissioner of Police Shri Garuda also joined in the celebrations.
The programs included an annual favorite—the Children's Sunday Dramatic Workshop, which presented the play Govardhana-puja, a Kathak dance on Krsna's childhood pastimes performed by more than fifty children, and a Manipuri dance on Krsna's stealing butter. More than two hundred children competed on stage in events such as story-telling, drawing, fancy dress, and dance.
Bhakti Kala Kshetra, ISKCON Bombay's institute for the performing arts, packed the auditorium for eight days with a festival of bhajanas that included such guests and performers as Hari Om and Nandini Sharan, Arati Mukherjee, Manhar Udhas, Minoo Purshottam, Purshottam Jalota, Anup Jalota, Anuradha Paudwal, Govindprasad Jaipurwala, Nitin Mukesh, Shekar Kalyan, Vijay and Renu Chaudhary, Sanjay Khan, J. Om Prakash, and others.
During the Vyasa-puja celebrations, more than two thousand life members and friends heard and presented homages to Srila Prabhupada. Bombay Mayor Shri Ramesh Prabhoo, speaking in Marathi, commented that he would like to see the name of Juhu Road changed to Bhaktivedanta Swami Marg in honor, of Srila Prabhupada.
During the three-day festival, the devotees distributed 8,062 of Srila Prabhupada's books.
Calling attention to the plight of imprisoned Soviet Hare Krsna devotees, fifty devotees from the New Varsana farm near Auckland, New Zealand, recently held a demonstration outside a theater where a group of touring Russian dancers were performing. The devotees presented the dancers with flower garlands, as well as sweets from Gopal's restaurant. located' across the street from the theater, and asked them to deliver a petition to Mikhail Gorbhachev requesting freedom for the imprisoned Soviet devotees.
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After spending the month of Karttika in Vrndavana, the ISKCON pada-yatra is moving on to Rajasthan and Gujarat. It plans to reach the place where it began—Dvaraka, on the west coast of India—by March 1988.
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Work on Srila Prabhupada s samadhi in Vrndavana is progressing steadily. The brick structure is gradually disappearing under marble. The devotees in charge of the construction are struggling to keep the flow of high-quality marble coming in. Says project manager Tosana Krsna. "It's a war, but we're winning."
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Devotees recently opened Gopal's Restaurant in downtown Christchurch, New Zealand. Opening night was a great success attended by national press representatives, leading Christchurch council members, members of the city's legal fraternity, the professor of religious studies at Canterbury University, and the city's top restaurateurs. Christchurch's major daily newspaper, the Press, ran an impressive feature article on the restaurant that included three large color photographs.
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Back to Godhead editor in chief Satsvarupa dasa Goswami recently addressed a conference of the southeastern United States branch of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad held in Charlotte, North Carolina. Satsvarupa Maharaja spoke on the contribution of Vedic literature in the modern age. About five hundred persons attended the conference.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
by Dvarakadhisa Devi Dasi
While other women pursue the temporary rewards of wealth, fame, and slim waistlines, Sally Burton has her mind on eternal arrangements. The widow of the illustrious Welsh actor Richard Burton, Sally was reportedly disturbed by the lavish funeral arrangements of Burton's more famous partner, Elizabeth Taylor. When she further heard rumors that Liz might be contemplating claiming a place beside Burton underground, Sally took decisive action. She bought a plot next to her late husband and designed a new headstone large enough to link the couple eternally. "That's my plot," she said. "I'll be buried next to him."
To her merit, she is at least facing the fact of her own imminent death. She's considering what's important in the afterlife—proximity to her husband. Though that may seem romantic and faithful, she's neglecting one important detail: Richard Burton is not present in that cemetery in Switzerland. There is as little connection between Richard Burton and that coffin in the ground as between any random animate and inanimate objects in this world. The minute he died, Richard Burton gave up all connection to his body, his name and fame, and his wives. Now that body is the property of worms and insects. And when Sally dies, she too will lose all relationship with her body. What benefit will she gain from having their bodies rot side by side?
Our bodies are infused with life only when the spiritual energy of the soul is present within them. From the moment of conception to the moment of death, the body's activities and growth symptomize the soul's potency. As soon as the soul leaves the body, the body once again becomes nothing more wonderful than a collection of material elements, neither significant nor lovable. As the Bhagavad-gita describes, the real person is the soul, who inhabits a particular body according to karmic destiny for a given time, and then takes up residence in anew body. "As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones" (Bg. 2.22).
How differently might we live if we understood the temporality of material circumstances! There would be no need to fret over our neighbors six feet under. Nor would there be any need to become envious or possessive; whatever we are clinging to will be lost at some unspecified point in the future anyway.
Now Richard Burton has another body, another family, another spouse. He no longer remembers either Sally or Liz, so why should there be any enmity over his wormy remains? Eternal aspirations, then, should be based on the knowledge that we have a future beyond this body, and we should seriously pursue information about our destinations. This information is authoritatively provided in scriptures such as the Bhagavad-gita which clearly explains the past, present, and future of the wandering souls.
Ironically, all Sally's attempts to solidify her connection to her husband are overshadowed by uncontrollable forces. In the public fancy, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton will always be united. Building a bigger monument over Burton's gravesite won't change that. Nor can she change the superior karmic laws that allow one soul to associate with another for some time and then move on. Better she take the lesson from her husband's death and detach herself from all material calculations, meditating instead on the welfare of her spiritual self.
Tune In To Danger
by Mathuresa dasa
O n my way out the back door earlier this evening, I smelt gas and dashed to the kitchen to find that the oven was on but not lit. Through the oven window I spied four potatoes steeping peacefully but ineffectually in the fumes. After waiting for the air to clear, I relit the pilot and went to tell my wife what had almost happened to dinner.
We live in the country now. We moved last month to give our kids more room to run around, and to get away from traffic noise and from dog excreta on the sidewalks. The seclusion here is pleasing on one hand, hard to get used to on the other.
The nearest grocery store is ten miles away instead of two blocks, and the big-city newspapers arrive a day late. Without an outdoor antenna, I couldn't even pick up the six o'clock news.
Country living, O.K., but let's not flirt with barbarism: I drove to town, bought a nine-foot-tall TV antenna, hauled the contraption up thirty feet to my sloping roof and—balancing on my haunches while fighting off fits of acrophobia—strapped the thing to the chimney. After lowering myself with relief through the skylight, I ran downstairs to find, with further relief, that the TV now picked up channel eight, an NBC affiliate. Ah, civilization!
The six o'clock news says there's an "explosive" situation in the Persian Gulf, with U.S. battleships and minesweepers escorting Kuwaiti tankers through the Straits of Hormuz. Russian warships are also in the area.
What would be a Krsna conscious perspective on, or solution to, Gulf tensions? I'm not sure. Foreign warships are there because of oil, because all industrial nations depend completely on oil to keep their economies moving. If oil grew on trees, or if it were as easy to come by as water, we'd have nothing to fight over. But it only grows especially well around the Persian Gulf and a few other places, so the Gulf has to stay open and peaceful for our economies to run smoothly.
The long-term Krsna conscious solution would be to depend more on the land for our needs, including our fuel needs. The Bhagavad-gita asserts that the land is the foundation for a truly stable economy. Here in the country, fuel does grow on trees, or as trees, rather. One of my neighbors says (no, he doesn't work for the Federal Bureau of Statistics, but he's the best I can do) that one tenth of the dead trees standing in Pennsylvania forests could provide enough wood to heat every Pennsylvania home this winter. A mile away from me is ISKCON's Port Royal farm, where all the buildings are wood heated and where the devotees haven't had to cut a live tree since they bought the place twelve years ago. And this year they're cutting all felled wood with their ox-power unit: five oxen walking in a circle turn gears salvaged from a junked cement-mixer, sending a saw whirling at 2,500 rpms. Shame on chain saws. Ox power is quiet, and it runs on hay and oats.
Trouble is, you can't gear up the oxen enough to whiz down the highway at sixty miles an hour in an ox-cart. Ox-carts are safer than cars, since even in head-on collisions, which are next to impossible anyway, nobody gets hurt. For speed, though, you want a car. I can't see myself riding the 150 miles to my monthly editorial meeting in Philadelphia behind an ox team, or on a train behind a wood-fired steam engine. So I guess we still need oil.
Then again, editorial meetings are boring. The heck with them.
A broader Krsna conscious perspective on the Persian Gulf is that our world, oil or no, Persian Gulf or no, is not a safe or happy place. The potential for suffering is immense. Lord Krsna sums it up concisely: no matter what you do, this world is duhkhalayam asasvatam, temporary and full of misery. After narrowly avoiding a kitchen blowup, for instance, I risk my neck to hookup an antenna so I can watch the news. Then I tune in to learn that there's another explosive situation thousands of miles away that has much of the world on edge. If the oil-based Gulf conflict caught fire, the flames could easily spread, and millions of us might lose our potatoes, our homes, our lives.
The Gulf-conflict danger is larger scale, since it's the tempers of heavily armed nations that could explode, not just a few oil tankers or refineries—what to speak of one stove. But danger is danger, and a fall from the roof or a faulty pilot light could put me in just as bad shape as a world war. If we want to avert the danger of the Persian Gulf conflict, we should consider simpler, land-based energy sources, however quaint wood heat and ox power might sound to us now. But that alone won't give us total safety.
Perhaps, however, in quainter times we'd be more inclined to avert altogether the dangers of this irreparably miserable and temporary world by raising our mental antennas for reception of the Gita's directions to a world that is eternal and full of pleasure.
This is the continuation of a conversation that took place between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and biochemist Thoudam Singh, Ph.D., in Bhubanesvara, India, on February 3, 1977.
Dr. Singh: Srila Prabhupada, what you say about modern scientists is quite accurate, Even though they know they have imperfect senses, make mistakes, and become illusioned, most are still eager to present themselves as big authorities and take big salaries. Dishonesty. And worse, they teach this dishonesty to their students.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Dr. Singh: Millions of students. The students see, "Oh, even though this man has imperfect senses and makes mistakes and becomes illusioned, he still passes himself off as an exalted authority and gets away with the bluff. He makes his living by bluffing. So it appears I'll have to bluff, also. The 'scientific method.' "
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Naturally the scientists spread the bluffing, the cheating. They understand that to be successful in their dishonesty, everyone else must become dishonest.
"Life evolves from matter," the scientists teach us. No need to mention the soul or the Supreme Soul, the creator. "That would be religious sentimentalism—unprovable. We must adhere to our scientific method—everything provable." But has anyone proved—ever—that life can come from matter? These scientists cannot create even a single blade of grass. And yet we have to tolerate their "life-evolves-from-matter" rubbish. This godless, irrational bluff. This dishonesty.
So save all these millions of students. If you can prove that these so-called scientists are actually dishonest—cheaters—that will be a very great service.
Dr. Singh: Yes, we can prove all these things in scientific journals such as Scientific American.
Srila Prabhupada: Surely. During my college days, in 1916 or 1917, Calcutta University had an issue of Scientific American with a very memorable drawing. It showed that, ironically, modern man knows how to construct huge skyscrapers—but he does not know who he is. Modern man has no knowledge of his soul.
So here was this man expertly constructing the intricate iron framework of some skyscraper. And yet he was utterly unaware of his very self. Unaware that he himself is the spiritual resident within the framework of the material body. He was mistaking himself to be the bodily framework, just as foolishly as if he had mistaken himself to be the skyscraper.
The drawing was thoughtful. The idea was that this man did not know who he was or what would happen in his next life. Nothing. Mudho 'yam nabhijanati loko mam ajam avyayam: as Lord Krsna says, the foolish know neither the Lord's superior, spiritual nature nor their own, original place in that spiritual nature.
In this priceless human life, the soul can regain his place in the spiritual world—his eternal inheritance. Instead, he engages in flimsy, transitory activities, materialistic activities that will force him to stay in this material world for life after life of suffering. So he is losing his priceless opportunity to become eternally liberated.
Therefore, we have to save the bewildered soul. These materialistic activities—constantly striving after mundane profit, adoration, and distinction—these are not important. The important thing is to know yourself. Before you are forced to leave your present material body and accept another, come to know yourself and the Lord—so that when that death moment comes, He will deliver you from more material bodies and more suffering. Prepare yourself, so that He will take you back to His eternal, spiritual abode.
But today people are misled. They are captivated by these huge iron structures. Such foolishness. At the time of death, how will this iron structure help you? It will remain—but you will be dragged into your next life, and your next material body, for more suffering.
According to the subtle situation you have created in this life—according to the state of your mind, intelligence, and ego—in your next life you will have to accept a corresponding gross situation. A new gross body—an all-new body, with all-new varieties of suffering. You are lost.
Dr. Singh: Here in India, at least, most people have held on to this spiritual perspective. They're not so easily fooled by so-called. advanced thinking. Here, even scientists tend to be God conscious.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Anyone who receives a birth in India—he gets this chance to live in the motherland of spiritual culture because in his prior life, he pursued spiritual culture. Virtually everyone in India is God conscious.
Dr. Singh: Yes—including even many of the scientists. But the government here criticizes the scientists for putting so much stock in God and spiritual culture.
In fact, the government even sponsored some kind of International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life from Chemicals. The government wants to keep pushing this rubbish about all of us merely "evolving" from dead matter, with no need for a creator.
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes. Dishonesty, including scientific dishonesty, originates from the government. The government leaders are trying to discourage people from becoming God conscious.
Dr. Singh: Yes, they are very discouraging.
Srila Prabhupada: Today the government leaders are generally big industrialists as well. So of course they are worrying: "If people become God conscious, they will go back to the simple life of farms and villages, with no need for heavy industry. Then whom shall we get to work in our factories? This God consciousness will ruin all our industrial enterprises.
"In place of God consciousness, we shall maintain an elite of scientists to promote 'the scientific method': Forget God. Better not discuss God and the soul. Let us simply absorb ourselves in matter."
A dangerous government. It is the duty of the government to help people become God conscious and spiritually realized. Instead, they are fostering the opposite atmosphere: "Forget God. Forget your soul. Work like hell. And go to hell."
(To be continued.)
Who is Prabhupada?
When a first-time reader of Back to Godhead sees the photos of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and reads his essays, he sometimes asks, "Where does your spiritual master live?" But if the reader notices the statement on the inside cover that "He passed away in 1977," he might then conclude, "Oh, he's dead." A new reader might also think Back to Godhead is advocating a personality cult.
All of these casual impressions are uninformed. And an important function of Back to Godhead, therefore, is to give clear information about Srila Prabhupada and his teachings, which are important to everyone because they carry the message of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Because Srila Prabhupada is a Vaisnava, a pure devotee of God, he did not die, even though he "passed away" in 1977. The permanency of the Vaisnava is expressed by the nineteenth-century teacher Bhaktivinoda Thakura:
He reasons ill who tells that Vaisnavas die
A bona fide spiritual master is undying because his instructions are eternal. Srila Prabhupada wrote in the dedication of his first book, "To my spiritual master, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. He lives forever by his divine instructions, and the follower lives with him."
Srila Prabhupada did not teach his own concoctions but spoke and wrote on the basis of Bhagavad-gita, the science of the relation of the soul to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As the Bhagavad-gita's teachings are immortal, so the teacher of Bhagavad-gita is also imperishable. This is true of all teachers who live according to the scriptures.
The Vedic knowledge Srila Prabhupada taught was first taught at the beginning of material creation, when the Supreme Lord enlightened Lord Brahma, the first created being in the universe. Although Lord Brahma learned many departments of spiritual and material knowledge, the topmost instruction was bhakti-yoga, devotional service to the Supreme Lord, Sri Krsna. Brahma passed on these teachings to his disciples, who in turn passed them on to their disciples down through the canturies
One of the notable devotees in this line was Madhvacarya (A.D. 1239-1319), who is recognized as a great propounder of Vaisnava philosophy. When Lord Krsna descended in His form as Lord Caitanya five hundred years ago in Bengal, or Gauda-desa, He appeared as a disciple in the line of Madhvacarya. Followers of Lord Caitanya are therefore known as the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Sampradaya. Srila Prabhupada's own spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, who ordered Srila Prabhupada to teach Krsna consciousness in the West, appeared in this disciplic succession. The movement represented by Lord Caitanya and His followers is also known as the sankirtana movement because of its emphasis on the chanting of the holy names of God (Hare Krsna) as the most important method of God realization in this age.
Srila Prabhupada is therefore one of many faithful teachers in disciplic succession, and yet he is outstanding even among spiritual masters. Professor Harvey Cox, a noted Harvard theologian, said of Prabhupada: "In one sense Srila Prabhupada was not at all 'original' . . . , but one who incarnates an ancient tradition.... Yet, it must be added, Srila Prabhupada was also a unique person.... [He] is only one of thousands of teachers. But in another sense, he is one in a thousand, maybe one in a million."
Srila Prabhupada's essays and lectures regularly appear in Back to Godhead, because he founded the magazine, in 1944. Moreover, he founded the worldwide Krsna consciousness movement, ISKCON, which had been predicted by past Vaisnava acaryas who yearned to see Lord Krsna's teachings spread outside the boundaries of India.
By reading Prabhupada's articles in Back to Godhead, one is introduced to his teachings. In the beginning of each issue of the magazine, we present a lecture by Srila Prabhupada. These lectures reveal how Prabhupada assimilated the complex Vedic teachings and presented them in a way comprehensible to ordinary people, but without losing the potency of bhakti-yoga. Srila Prabhupada gave us such a wealth of spoken and written material, all in English, that Back to Godhead is able to continually give new presentations of Vedic knowledge through his realized words.
Srila Prabhupada's most important contribution was his books. Not only did he translate Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and other Vedic scriptures, but he also wrote clear purports that assimilate the commentaries of the most prominent Vaisnava acaryas. So through Prabhupada we receive the distilled wisdom of hundreds of centuries. In addition to his scholarly and faithful renditions of the conclusions of the previous teachers, Prabhupada added his own realizations as a pure devotee of Krsna and a world teacher. A taste of this is given each month in Back to Godhead, through the Srimad-Bhagavatam insert.
Another aspect of Prabhupada appears monthly as "Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out." Here we see Srila Prabhupada in an impromptu mood conversing on topical themes. In "Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out," His Divine Grace decries cheaters in religion, politics, and science. His statements are not "shooting from the hip," but based always on Vedic evidence. Thus, we get eternal Vedic knowledge applied to the crises of the late twentieth century.
As followers of Srila Prabhupada, we feel love for him, and gratitude. But our desire to share his teachings with the readers of Back to Godhead is not sentimental. Prabhupada always taught us that he was a representative and servant of Krsna. He never made absurd claims that he was God or that everyone could become God. In the preface to his Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Srila Prabhupada wrote, "Some say it is a great fortune for the Americans that I have started the Krsna consciousness movement. But actually the original father of this movement is Lord Krsna Himself."
Prabhupada deflected attention away from himself and toward Lord Krsna. Yet Krsna says that one cannot transcend the cycle of birth and death and go back to the eternal, spiritual world unless one serves Him through His devotees. As He states in the Adi Purana, "Those who are directly My devotees are actually not My devotees. But those who are devotees of My servant are factually My devotees."
In keeping Srila Prabhupada at the center of Back to Godhead, we are following this instruction of Lord Krsna. We hope that by reading the teachings of Srila Prabhupada, the readers will establish their relationship with him and come into direct association with the Supreme Personality of Godhead.—SDG