"Because they have taken up some false duty and are working to discharge it,
A lecture in Philadelphia on July 12, 1975
sa evam vartamano 'jno
"When the time of death arrived for the foolish Ajamila, he began thinking exclusively of his son Narayana" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.1.27).
In material life everyone is situated under certain conditioning. I am situated in a certain consciousness, and you are situated in a certain consciousness. According to the modes of nature, we have different conceptions of life and different kinds of consciousness. That is material life.
Generally, materialists think life is meant for sense gratification. Everyone is planning: "I shall live like this; I shall acquire money like this; I shall enjoy like this." Everyone has a program for sense gratification.
So, Ajamila also had such a program. What was it? His program was that since he was very much attached to his youngest child, his whole attention was absorbed in how the child was moving, how he was eating, how he was talking. Sometimes Ajamila was calling him, sometimes he was feeding him . . . Ajamila's whole mind was absorbed in the activities of his child.
Not only Ajamila but everyone is absorbed in a certain type of consciousness. And what is that consciousness due to? How does it develop? As mentioned in the previous verse, Ajamila was absorbed in the activities of his son because of strong affection (sneha-yantritah). Sneha means "affection," and yantritah means "a machine." So, everyone is affected by this machine of affection. This body is a machine that is being worked by nature, and direction is coming from the Supreme Lord. We wanted to enjoy in a certain way, and Krsna has given us a certain type of body, or yantra.
For example, in America you have different makes of motorcar. Somebody wants a Buick, somebody else wants a Chevrolet, another a Ford, and all these cars are ready to buy. Similarly, our body is like a car. Somebody is a "Ford," somebody is a "Chevrolet," somebody is a "Buick." Krsna has given all of us the chance to enjoy in a certain way. He says, "Oh, you wanted this kind of 'car,' or body? Sit down and enjoy." This is our material position.
After changing our body, we forget what we desired and why we have our present body. But Krsna is situated within our heart, so He does not forget. He gives us what we want. Krsna is so kind. If someone wants a body with which he can eat all kinds of nonsense, Krsna gives him the body of a pig. Then he can eat even stool. And if someone wants a body with which he can dance with Krsna, he gets that kind of body. Now, it is up to you to decide whether you are going to get a body with which to dance with Krsna, talk with Krsna, and play with Krsna, or a body with which to eat stool and urine. In this human life we must answer this question.
Now, you may say, "I don't believe in the next life," but nature's law will act. Karmana daiva-netrena: according to how you are acting in this life, you are preparing your next body. And after death-when this body is finished-you will get another body immediately, because you have already done the fieldwork to determine what kind of body you will get.
Ajamila was taking care of his child very nicely. His whole mind was absorbed in the child. Therefore he has been described as mudha, foolish. Like Ajamila, we are forgetting that the day is coming which is called mrtyu-kale, "the time of death." We forget that. This is our imperfection.
Ajamila was so very busy as an affectionate father that he forgot about his approaching death. We are all like Ajamila. We have so many relationships-whether with affectionate friends or envious enemies-and being completely absorbed in these relationships, we are forgetting that death is ahead.
Therefore materialistic people are called mudhas. The word mudha means "rascal," "ass," "one who does not know what his actual interest is." In India we often see an ass loaded with a ton of clothing by a washerman. The ass can barely walk, but still he has to carry the load. He does not think, "I am carrying so much clothing on my back, but what interest do I have in it? Not a single cloth belongs to me." No, rather he thinks, "It is my duty to carry so much clothing." Why is it his duty? Because the washerman gives him grass. He has no sense to think, "Grass I can get anywhere. Why do I have to accept this duty?" This is the ass's mentality.
Everyone is anxious about his duty. Somebody is a politician; somebody is a householder; somebody is something else. But because they have all taken up some false duty and are working hard to discharge it, they are all asses. They are forgetting their real business.
We have to understand that death will come, that it will not avoid us. (When something is certain, we say it is "as sure as death.") So, before death comes we have to act in such away that we will attain a position in the spiritual world, Goloka Vrndavana, and live permanently with Krsna. This is our real duty.
But people do not know that (na te viduh svartha-gatim hi visnum). We are in this conditioned state of life because we are separated from the original person, Krsna. We are part and parcel of Krsna, but we have forgotten this. We are thinking we are part and parcel of America or India. This is illusion.
Somebody is interested in his country, another is interested in his society or family, and we have created so many duties in relationship to these things. Therefore, the sastra [scripture] says the rascals do not know what their actual self-interest is: na te viduh svartha-gatim hi visnum. And because they are ignorant of their real self-interest, they are durasayah-hoping for something that will never be fulfilled. They are trying to adjust things within this material world to become happy, but they do not know that as long as they remain in this material world there is no question of happiness.
In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says that this place is duhkhalayam asasvatam, "full of miseries, and temporary." In this material world we are forced to change bodies, one after another. This is misery. I am permanent (na hanyate hanyamane sarire), so why do I have to change my body? This is the question we should be asking.
To get the answer to this question, we have to receive knowledge from the perfect source. And Krsna, the supreme perfect person, is personally giving us knowledge in the Bhagavad-gita. But if we are so unfortunate that we do not take the perfect knowledge-if we concoct, speculate, create our own idea-then it is to be understood that we are durasayah, hoping for the impossible. We are thinking, "I shall be happy in this way; I shall be happy in that way." No, you shall never be happy unless you go back home, back to Godhead. This is perfect instruction.
Suppose there is a mad boy who has forsaken his father. His father is a rich man, with everything for the boy's comfort, but the boy has become a hippie. We in this material world are like that. Our father is Krsna, and we can live in His kingdom very comfortably, without any botheration or endeavor for earning money. But we have decided that we shall live here in this material world. This is the ass's mentality-mudha. We do not know what our self-interest is, and we are hoping against hope: "I shall be happy in this way; I shall be happy in that way."
Sometimes the washerman sits on the ass's back and takes a bunch of grass and puts it in front of the ass. The ass wants to take the grass, but as he moves forward the grass also moves forward. The ass thinks, "Just one step forward and I shall get the grass." Because he is an ass, he does not know that the grass is situated in such a way that he may go on walking for millions of years but will not get it. Similarly, the materialistic person does not come to his senses and understand, "For millions and trillions of years I have tried to become happy in this material world, but I will never be happy here."
Therefore, you have to take knowledge from the guru, who knows things as they are. The guru is worshiped in this way:
"I was blinded by ignorance, but my spiritual master opened my eyes with transcendental knowledge. I offer my respectful obeisances unto him."
The blind politician will promise you happiness: "Give me your vote, and I shall bring heaven for you. As soon as I become president, I will give you such-and-such benefit." So you elect Mr. Nixon-and again you become disappointed. Then you say, "Mr. Nixon, get out." And you accept another fool. This is going on. In this way you will never get the information by which you can become happy.
Wherefrom shall I get the right information? The Vedas say, tad-vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet: "If you want the right information, then go to the guru." And who is the guru? Caitanya Mahaprabhu explains, amara ajnaya guru hana: "Become a guru on My order." So a guru is one who carries the order of Krsna. (Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Krsna.) Nobody can become a guru unless he carries the order of the Supreme Lord and serves the Supreme Lord.
Unfortunately, people do not know this. Therefore anyone can come and say, "I am a guru." How have you become a guru? "Oh, I am self-perfected. I don't need to read any books. I have come to bless you." [Laughter.] The foolish rascals do not know that unless one follows the sastra, the supreme authority of Krsna, no one can become a guru. So they accept so many bogus gurus. This is going on.
You should know that a guru is one who carries the order of the Supreme Lord. This is a simple definition of guru. And any rascal who manufactures some idea cannot be guru. Immediately kick him out. Immediately. He is a rascal, not a guru. As Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, a guru is the faithful servant of God. So first you have to ask a person presenting himself as a guru: "Are you a faithful servant of God?" If he says, "No. I am God," then kick him on the face immediately. [Laughter.] Kick him out immediately: "You rascal! You have come to cheat us!"
The Vedic literature says, tad-vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet: "If you want to know the science of spiritual life, you must approach a guru." And if someone is without a guru, if he is manufacturing his own way of life, then he is a mudha, a rascal. This was Ajamila's position. He was thinking, "I am such an affectionate father; I am taking care of my little son. I am feeding him; I am patting him. I am a very faithful and honest father."
But here the Srimad-Bhagavatam says that Ajamila is a mudha, a rascal. Why? Na vedagatam antakam: because he did not realize that death was coming. He did not think, "Behind me Death is waiting, and he has come to take me." How could Ajamila's affection for his so-called son and society and family save him from death? That he could not answer.
So we must be prepared for death. We must always know that death is behind us and can at any moment capture us by the neck and drag us away. That is a fact. Is there any guarantee that you shall live one hundred years? No. If you go on the street you may immediately meet death. There may be heart failure, there may be a motorcar accident... so many dangers.
Actually, to live is wonderful. To die is not wonderful, because you are meant for death. As soon as you took your birth, you immediately began to die. Someone may inquire, "When was this child born?" and you may say. "One week ago." That means the child has died one week. We are thinking that he is living one week, but actually he has died one week. It is wonderful that he is still living, that he has not died. Death is not wonderful, because it is sure. It will come after one week or after one hundred years. Therefore we should utilize our remaining time to make a solution to the real problem of our life-that we are repeatedly dying and again accepting another body.
How will people understand this spiritual knowledge unless they come to the proper guru? Therefore the sastra says, tad-vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet: "If you want to know the real problem of your life, and if you want to be enlightened about how to become Krsna conscious, how to become eternal and go back home, back to Godhead, then you must approach a bona fide guru." And who is the bona fide guru? That we have explained:
The bona fide guru is he who follows the orders of Krsna and serves Krsna. The genuine guru never manufactures his own idea-"Do this and give me money and become happy." That is not what a real guru teaches. That is simply a process for earning money.
Like Ajamila, everyone is simply living in a fool's paradise, manufacturing his own idea. Somebody has taken one thing as his duty, another has taken something else as his duty. But they are all fools. You must know from the guru what your real duty is.
[Srila Prabhupada addresses his disciples.] Every day you are singing guru-mukha-padma-vakya, cittete koriya aikya, ar na koriho mane asa. This is life. You accept the bona fide guru, and whatever he orders, you carry out. Then your life is successful, Ar na koriho mane asa. And you do not desire anything else. Are you not singing this daily? But do you understand the meaning? Or are you singing only? What is the meaning? Who will explain?
Devotee: "My only wish is that my mind may be purified by the words coming from the lotus mouth of my spiritual master. I have no desire but this."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Guru-mukha-padma-vakya, cittete koriya aikya. Citta means "consciousness" or "heart." The disciple must think, "I shall do what my spiritual master orders." My Guru Maharaja [Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati] told me to preach Krsna consciousness in the West. So, it is not my pride, but I can say for your instruction that I did it. Therefore, whatever little success you see, it is due to my following his order. I have no independent capacity, but I took the words of my guru as my life and soul. This is a fact.
So, everyone should do that. But if you make any addition or alteration, you are finished. No addition or alteration. You have to approach a guru-a faithful servant of God, Krsna-and take his instruction on how to serve the Lord. Then you will be successful. If you concoct-"I am more intelligent than my guru: I can make additions and alterations"-then you are finished.
Devotee: Sri-guru-carane rati, ei se uttama-gati.
Srila Prabhupada: If you want to make real progress, you must be firmly faithful at the lotus feet of your guru. Then?
Devotee: Ye prasade pure sarva asa.
Srila Prabhupada: By the guru's mercy, all desires are fulfilled. You'll find this instruction throughout the whole of Vaisnava philosophy. So, unless we become absorbed in serving a bona fide guru, we remain mudhas, asses.
Today we are reading a verse about Ajamila. Here Vyasadeva says that the rascal was absorbed in the service of his son, Narayana. Ajamila was not calling the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Narayana; he was calling his son: "Narayana, please come here. Narayana, please take this." Still, Krsna is so merciful that He took it that Ajamila was chanting His name, Narayana. Ajamila never thought, "I am going to Lord Narayana." Out of affection he simply wanted his son. But Ajamila got the opportunity to chant the holy name of Narayana, and that was his good fortune.
Ajamila is described as mudha and ajna. Mudha means "rascal," and ajna means "ignorant." Not just Ajamila but all persons in this material world are ignorant rascals because they do not care that they will have to meet death, when everything will be finished-all their plans, all their assets, everything. They do not know that. Or rather they know it, but they don't care to think of these things. Therefore everyone is mudha and ajna.
Now, when Ajamila was dying, he thought of his child. Fortunately, his child's name was Narayana. So Ajamila was delivered. But suppose I am similarly affectionate to my dog. Then what is my position? Naturally I will think of my dog at the time of death, and immediately I shall get the body of a dog. That is nature's law: yam yam vapi smaran bhavam tyajaty ante kalevaram tam tam evaiti: "Whatever you think of at the time of death will determine your next life." Ajamila was very affectionate toward his son, so he thought of him at the time of death. Similarly, if you are very affectionate toward your dog or to something else, you will think of that at the time of death. Therefore, practice chanting Hare Krsna so that at the time of death you can think of Krsna and make your life successful.
Thank you very much.
Without hearing from self-realized souls, we can easily misunderstand
by Kundali dasa
Last spring I lectured in a philosophy class at the University of Maryland. Baltimore County. The topic was India's Vedic culture. I argued that to understand the Vedic culture, in which Krsna consciousness has its roots, we in the West must resist the urge to weigh it against our values and traditions; we must let the tradition speak for itself.
Afterwards I answered questions and distributed Srila Prabhupada's books and Back to Godhead magazines. The students seemed appreciative of the opportunity to find out all they ever wanted to know about Hare Krsna.
When the class period ended, ten or twelve students approached me. Among them was a slim, keen-eyed Indian youth, whom I'd noticed frowning and shaking his head during my talk. I'd expected to hear from him when I took questions, but he hadn't said a word, except to whisper to two classmates on either side of him.
Now, accompanied by his two friends, both Indians, he spoke up.
"I'm a Hindu," he said pointedly, "but I don't follow my religion. Some things I just can't accept."
A hush came over the knot of people around me. My dilemma was obvious. If born Hindus doubted their tradition, that could cast a shadow over me and all I'd said. Still, I was confident that whatever his problem, we could resolve it with Krsna consciousness.
"What can't you accept?" I asked.
"Krsna's immorality. Why should we be moral when He did so many immoral things? From His very childhood He used to steal and cheat. Why is that?"
Krsna's so-called immorality was a familiar charge. Some people question His moral character out of genuine confusion. Others do so because they resent their obligation to observe moral law. They think, "If I have to toe the line, so must God; otherwise, I want to transgress moral codes, too."
Those who have trouble with Krsna's "immorality" usually prefer to speculate about Him rather than understand Him as He explains Himself in the Bhagavad-gita. The young man before me was a speculator.
"In the Kuruksetra war," he continued, "Krsna made Yudhisthira tell a lie, and He broke His word and attacked Bhisma after He had promised not to fight in the battle. All through His life Krsna bent the rules to suit Himself.
"When Arjuna and Duryodhana went to see Krsna to get His help in the battle, Krsna tricked Duryodhana. He said Arjuna had first choice because he sat at Krsna's feet, while Duryodhana sat at His head. But Krsna made that up on the spot, just to give Arjuna first choice, because Arjuna was His friend."
"What did they have to choose between?" I asked.
"Between having either Krsna or Krsna's armies on their side in the battle."
"Right. So do you think it mattered who chose first? Duryodhana would never have chosen Krsna. He was a materialist: he was only interested in Krsna's army. He had no faith in Krsna. When Arjuna chose Krsna, Duryodhana's only choice was Krsna's armies. Krsna let Arjuna choose first to make it easy for Duryodhana to get what he wanted. What's so bad about that?"
No reply. I turned to the other students, smiled apologetically, and explained that for obvious reasons they might not be able to follow our conversation.
"That's okay," one student said gamely. "You go ahead; we're listening." That drew a few chuckles. They were enjoying the fun.
Turning to the Indian youths, I said, "For a minute there I thought you were going to bring up the whole thing about Krsna and the gopis and His queens-"
"Oh, yes, His sixteen thousand wives. You really believe that? How could God have sixteen thousand wives?" he asked earnestly.
"Sixteen thousand one hundred eight," I corrected.
"Sixteen thousand one hundred eight-how could He be God? How could God have one standard for Himself and a different one for us?"
"That's not difficult to understand," I replied. "God is the supreme independent person. He can do whatever He likes, whenever He likes, wherever He likes. He's free to decide whether He wants one wife, a hundred thousand, or no wife. Otherwise, what do you think it means to be God? What do you think it means to be omnipotent?"
"I'm not questioning whether He is able to do it. I'm only questioning the morality of it. If He is not moral, how can He expect us to be moral?"
"Because we're under the law and He's above the law. He's above all laws- moral, natural, or otherwise. He doesn't have to be moral just to satisfy us.
"Actually, morality exists in this world because of the retributive law of karma, which gives us a choice between pious and impious activities. But it's not absolute; it only applies to mundane reality. There's no morality on the absolute, spiritual plane, where the only law is the law of love. Everything there is governed by love. That is higher than morality.
"Out of love, Krsna does many things that may seem immoral in our estimation, but they aren't. They are loving exchanges between the Lord and His pure devotees. His motives have no tinge of lust or self-gratification. He does many things for the pleasure and satisfaction of His devotees. Such pure love is beyond all morality and only exists on the spiritual plane.
"The proof is that neither the liberated souls nor the Lord suffers karmic reactions for their so-called immoral behavior; but if we imitate them, we suffer."
My questioner offered no response, but it was obvious he still couldn't accept that Krsna is transcendental to mundane morality. He was too attached to his idea of how God should be.
"Let me ask you something," I said, still trying to help him understand. "In your house, your parents make up the rules, and they expect you to follow, right?"
"Not any more. They used to, but I'm too old for that now."
"Okay, but in the days when they made the rules, what time did they have you come in at night when you were, say, eleven or twelve?"
"Did they observe that curfew as well?"
"Because," I said, "our parents are the supreme persons in our households. If they make rules for us, you don't expect, realistically, that they would be obliged to follow the same rules, do you? They might follow, of course, but it's understood that they are free to transcend them at anytime, right?"
A murmur of assent went through the group.
"That's an example of a lawmaker who is above the law," I said.
"Well ... I see what you're saying . . . But it still makes sense to me that God should be more moral than anybody."
"Okay. Suppose we all agree with you, and all the theologians in the world also agree with you, but who will enforce it? Who will make God abide by moral laws?"
"No, nobody would have to enforce it. God has to be moral-period."
"You mean by definition He would be incapable of being immoral?"
"Exactly," he said triumphantly, pleased that I had understood.
Our observers thought he'd made a good point.
"So," I asked, "you're saying Krsna can't be God, because He's immoral: He had Yudhisthira tell a lie, and He had so many wives?"
"Well, I'm not saying exactly that. I just find the whole idea of Krsna being God too fantastic, too hard to accept, that's all."
"That's because you're trying to understand God by speculating, comparing Him to yourself. But you can't understand something beyond the reach of your senses and mind by speculating. You have to try to understand God on His terms, not yours. Doesn't that make sense?"
Again no response. I took it to mean he couldn't disagree, but he wasn't ready to agree either.
I continued. "Srila Prabhupada cautioned us about the futility and danger of speculating about the Absolute Truth, who is beyond our sense perceptions and speculations. He said our free thinking is futile when it comes to God, because no amount of conjecture, even if based on the best available logic or reason, can lead to any conclusive realizations, simply because our opinions about God are all unverifiable.
"But even worse than that, speculation is dangerous because if you become too enticed by your own little gems of conjecture and fail to recognize and accept transcendental knowledge as it is, that can wreak havoc with your spiritual life."
I paused to let him respond, but again he said nothing. I couldn't tell what was going on in his mind, but he was listening, and so were the others.
"By the way," I said, "do you realize that Krsna's marrying sixteen thousand one hundred eight wives is a good argument for His being God?"
Interest perked up all around.
"How is that?" he asked, squinting, trying to determine if I was serious.
"Well," I said, "do any of you know an ordinary man who could marry and maintain that many wives?"
This drew some smiles and laughs.
"But seriously," I continued, "it's a fact, isn't it? No ordinary man could do that. We may say Krsna is immoral, but nevertheless, like so many of His other feats, marrying and maintaining so many wives is far beyond anything we could do, though we might like to imitate Him. Even if we say Krsna is immoral, still. His so-called immorality is beyond our scope to imitate. So even His 'immoral' pastimes stand as proof of His supreme position.
"Furthermore, an analysis of Krsna's so-called immoral behavior shows that many persons, especially His devotees, benefit from His activities. That's why when Krsna lies or pulls a prank, devotees glorify it on stage and in art, music, and literature for generations, because by spiritual realization they fully appreciate that everything about Krsna is transcendental, supramundane. He has no tinge of selfish motive or whimsy. His devotees benefit from His actions because everything about Him is divine."
Someone then asked a question related to my talk earlier, putting an end to our discussion of Krsna's morality. Others wanted a chance to ask their questions. The three friends stayed a few moments longer, then left. As they went out the door, Srila Prabhupada's books and Back to Godheads in hand, I caught their eyes, and their spokesman gave me a polite nod, but I could see he wasn't completely satisfied.
I could empathize with him, for he had made a fairly common mistake. In my trying to understand Krsna consciousness, I had also sometimes made the mistake of not letting go of my private notions of what God can and cannot do, trying to make the Unlimited and Inconceivable compatible with my own ideas. In the face of Srila Prabhupada's invincible arguments, however, I had no choice but to give up my foolishness-or be a hypocrite.
Later on, thinking over our discussion, I remembered some examples Srila Prabhupada gave to help us appreciate the limitations of our intellect and the futility of speculating about the inconceivable.
Our speculating about the Absolute Truth, he said, is like trying to illuminate the sun with a candle.
One other example he gave was that speculating about Krsna is as futile as a five-year-old girl's attempt to understand how babies are made. In terms of her knowledge and experience, such a thing is completely inconceivable. As she grows intellectually and physically, however, she is able to understand what was inconceivable to her before.
Similarly, trying to understand the Absolute Truth by speculation is futile, because in the realm of transcendental knowledge we are as inexperienced as five-year-olds. We have to hear about transcendence from revealed scriptures and self-realized souls, and gradually, as we grow spiritually, the knowledge will germinate, grow, and ripen into full God realization.
The process of spiritual growth includes detecting and discarding one after another our many layers of speculative conceptions of God. The person who's unwilling to make that sacrifice cannot understand the unlimited and sublime transcendental autocrat-Lord Sri Krsna-as He is, no matter how much he or she tries.
Gifts From the Seed-Giving Father
When the mystery tree in our yard turned out prolific,
by Visakha-devi dasi
On a dank February day last year, my family and I moved to a rented house. We were glad to be relocated, despite the heavily-trafficked four-lane drive outside our door. In our new home a comfortable distance buffered us from our neighbors, the kids had a front and back yard to roam, and we had trees for summer shade: evergreens and a dogwood in the front, maples and oaks behind, and on the far side of the driveway-well, we didn't know what it was. After a few months it carried longish, pointy leaves.
In June we half-anticipated a quick trip to the local hospital for stomach pumping when the children insisted on eating the abundant green, olive like fruits our mystery tree produced. Then in July the olivey things got bigger and turned red. Then dark red. Then purple.
Branches that had angled up twelve or fifteen feet bowed now, laden with fruit.
I thought of plum pudding, plum pie, plum jam, plum nectar, plum jelly, plum preserves, plum ice cream. And they remained pleasant thoughts when, after my morning walks, I'd pick the biggest plums, wash them, offer them to Krsna, and eat them with breakfast, amazed at their juiciness, sweetness, and silky softness.
When we went visiting, we'd bring a bag of plums. (Were we getting more invitations than usual?) Neighbors came over and filled up a box to take home now and again. When someone did us a favor, we'd invite them to take some plums for their family. When some friends and I went to the park, we munched plums under the night sky. On Lord Balarama's appearance day, I got the longest ladder in the house and bagged the most delectable fruits for His offering. And still the tree was laden. When I walked under it to find ripe plums, my shoes would become purple from scrunching the juicy plum-carpet
Finally, around mid-August, after we'd bagged a bunch for Janmastami (Lord Krsna's appearance day), I noticed that our tree was gradually straightening up, like someone slowly rising after bending over. And by the last week of the month, it stood as before: a dozen dried-up plums dangled like huge raisins from its branches, while below, the crushed ones lay as scarred reminders of the glorious plum-laden days past.
On seeing a tree like ours, a horticulturist sees horticultural explanations for the lavish production of luscious fruits. A plum-lover sees the object of his desires. One who doesn't like plums sees nothing of much value. And a devotee sees Krsna, the seed-giving father.
A devotee thinks how no person or machine can produce a single plum (even a scrawny, dry one), which houses a seed capable of producing a plum tree, which is capable of producing hundreds of delicious plums, each one capable of producing another tree. He sees that the simple, relishable plum is a gift of the earth, the rain, the sun, and ultimately the Supreme Lord Himself. In return for this gift, we have nothing to offer but our gratitude and whatever love we can muster for Krsna, who has so kindly given it.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
8 cups plums
Pit the plums and cut them into chunks. Heat the ghee or vegetable oil in a saucepan over a medium-low flame. Add the ginger and crushed chilies, then stir-fry for one minute. Add the plums and the remaining ingredients and cook to a chunky puree. Cool and offer to Krsna.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
The Bald Truth
by Kundali dasa
Not every Hare Krsna male sports a shaved head. It's not an absolute requirement, but it's part of the tradition, and there are good reasons for it. So most Krsna conscious men prefer to shave their heads and keep the tuft in the back, called a sikha. I remember the first time my mother saw me with a shaved head. She wanted to know why.
"Because it is cleaner," I said. "Hair attracts and keeps a lot of dirt. We believe 'Cleanliness is next to godliness.' But the main reason is that shaving is an expression of surrender to the Lord."
"What does a shaved head have to do with surrender to God?" she asked archly.
"Hair is very important for people in bodily consciousness," I explained. "They associate it with youth and beauty. But in Krsna consciousness we learn that the first principle of spiritual life is to transcend identification with the body and to identify oneself as a spiritual soul.
"Because most people consider hair an essential aspect of their beauty and intrinsic to their identity, they are very attached to it. So when a man takes up spiritual life, shaving his head is a significant step. It indicates that he is very serious about surrendering, and it pleases the spiritual master to see the disciple advance in renunciation."
My mom disagreed. She harrumphed a bit, then asserted that she didn't think my point about people being attached to their hair was well founded. All the same, she admitted she liked me better with mine.
Our conversation occurred almost fifteen years ago, but it came to mind recently when I read an article on baldness. Victims of baldness can now smear on a drug that induces hair growth, or they can get hair transplants, or they can try the most recent development: scalp-reduction surgery.
In this operation strips of bald scalp are surgically removed, and the hair-bearing section of the pate is pulled up and sutured together to reduce the bald area. Afterwards, if any baldness remains, hair is implanted to fill the space.
The operation can cost as much as five thousand dollars. Still, it is much more economical than the drug treatments, which cost a thousand dollars a year. My stepfather, for instance, who started balding at thirty-four, would have spent twenty thousand dollars on drugs by now. If he lived to eighty, he would spend forty-six thousand dollars on his hair alone.
These advances in the bald wars, the article pointed out, have brought hope into the lives of some thirty million men who consider baldness a real setback, a virtual neon indicator of "lost youth and vigor."
Upon reading this, I could not help thinking. Well, Mom, there you are. After all these years, here is proof that a devotee's shaved head is surrender. Men are so attached to their hair that they are willing to pay handsomely to get it back.
To a person trained in Krsna consciousness, who understands that the body is temporary, these measures against baldness seem silly. But if you happen to identify yourself with your body, which is withering even as you read this, you'd consider the discovery of a cure for baldness a cause for celebration.
This kind of news item confirms why Srila Prabhupada referred to ours as a "misguided civilization." For without pursuing perfection in Krsna consciousness, embodied souls, trying to prolong their illusion of happiness in the material world, are obliged to engage in such trivial pursuits, instead of thinking how to end repeated birth and death altogether.
by Dvarakadhisa Devi Dasi
Years ago, my juvenile mind had it all figured out. Good people were those who lived happily within the law, working diligently and honestly, going to church on Sundays, and thinking of their children's future. Bad people, on the other hand, lived in dark places and had cruel expressions on their faces. They stole money from the good people and spent it on whiskey. Children had to be wary because bad people would try to give us candy laced with poison.
Fortunately, laws protected the good people from the bad people.
I was jolted, then, when I deciphered from one of my mother's hushed conversations the news that my uncle Rob was in jail. Uncle Rob? But he's my godfather! The clear-cut division between good and bad became blurred. Was he a good person turned bad, or had he always been bad? Or was he still good . . . sort of?
My theory further eroded over the years, until I became attuned to the Great American Revelation: Everyone must intuit for himself what is right or wrong behavior. Integrity is based not on an absolute standard of behavior, but on the individual's tenacious belief that what he is doing is right. Civil law does not pretend to instill moral guidelines, but hovers on the periphery, mirroring what society as a whole will tolerate. Thus laws are mutable rather than rigid, and only as effective as the citizens' adherence to them.
For example, abortion and homosexuality were once illegal, abhorred by the majority of the population. Now both are commonplace. In a spirit of liberalism, behavior once considered immoral is largely accepted by society.
Such deterioration of morality is possible when state laws are divorced from God's laws. As people move further from acceptance of God's absolute authority, they forget the moral logic distinguishing good or bad behavior. A God conscious person will think. "If God says it's so, then it's for the best." But today people are prone to consider, "Well, if I don't feel bad about doing it, it must be okay." This is atheism disguised as open-mindedness. Simply because we ignore God and His expressed desires does not mean we are no longer answerable to Him.
When the only moral framework for a body of laws is society's whimsy, the laws become increasingly impotent. Something so temporal is easy to bend; why trouble ourselves to abide by laws that tomorrow may be obsolete? Laws made by man can be adjusted by man.
But our liberal adjustments pit our judgment against the will of the Lord, and our leniency boomerangs. We permit abortion, and our daughter has three by the time she's eighteen. We espouse sexual freedom, and our loved ones contract AIDS. But rather than turn to God for solutions to our problems, we further alienate ourselves with bitter exhortations: "If there's a God, why would He let this happen to me?" We ignore God when we adjust our laws, then criticize Him when we suffer the reactions.
Our suffering comes not from God, but from our own lust and greed, which mundane legislation can never subdue. People have to understand philosophically why they should discipline themselves under superior guidance. If our laws fail to promote upliftment in the spiritual consciousness of the people, slow and certain degradation is inevitable.
No one really wants a society without moral values, where people must forage like beasts for food. shelter, and sex. But we must understand that moral values are desirable specifically because they are advocated by God. As the creator, He is familiar with all the universal laws governing behavior, and therefore His recommendations carry perfect insight. The Vedic scriptures are His benevolent directions for avoiding decadence and suffering. Understanding this, we can follow not with blind faith but with the conviction that He is offering us real happiness.
If one studies the Vedic literature and carefully seeks out a spiritual guide, one can learn what is true right and wrong behavior. The spiritual master understands and teaches faith fully the desires of Krsna. The knowledge he reveals results not only in the external harmony of society, but in the internal purity of the individual. Laws guided by scripture can then be used and appreciated not as bureaucratic nuisances, but as blessed revelations from God.
Finding A Perfect Master
From a Zen master to a hatha-yogi
by Giriraja Swami
During my college years, I had the idea to attain perfection. I started reading spiritual books and learned I needed a guru. So whenever I heard about a guru anywhere—even a thousand miles away—I would go to meet him.
One guru I met was a Zen master, supposedly enlightened and certified by another enlightened master in Japan. During a weekend camp at his asrama, he held meditation sessions in which everyone had to sit up very straight and look at the wall. concentrating on some object he would give us. The master walked around with a stick, and if he thought we were falling asleep or that our minds were wandering, he'd hit us. After one such session, some of his students asked him about his becoming angry recently. "Yes, it's true," he said. "I lost my temper; I shouldn't have." I started to doubt whether he was my guru. But because I had read that a Zen master is supposed to appear ordinary, I thought, "Maybe this is part of it." Later he came to Boston. After his talk and demonstration, someone in the audience asked about Vedanta. "I have enough trouble keeping up with Zen. How do you expect me to know about Vedanta?" I thought, "He's not my perfect master."
Then a hatha-yogi came to Brandeis University, near Boston, where I was a student. He had long hair and a beard and flowing robes. He said that by yoga you could attain complete mastery over your bowels: "Ascending colon, advance! Transverse colon, advance! Descending colon, advance!" and finally, "Rectum, pass!" I was really looking for a guru, so I thought, "Anyway, maybe." From the university he went to the airport, and I drove there with some of his students to see him off. There he was—long, flowing hair, beard, draping orange robes, a flower in his hair, a twinkle in his eyes—the very picture of Indian spirituality. But on seeing him embracing his women disciples, I thought, "Well, maybe he's not the perfect master. I have to keep looking."
Then I heard of an enlightened soul, a professor of psychology at a progressive university. I wanted to see him immediately. It was a Friday—no classes the next day—so I drove for many hours. With great anticipation and eagerness I inquired about the professor. He was playing golf. "Playing golf? I thought he was supposed to be enlightened." "That is his Zen," was the reply.
The campus was full of people interested in spiritual life. Some students started to tell me about a guru who had visited the campus recently. He had said, "The guru is in the heart, where he sits on a lotus flower." From what they said I got a very strong impression that there is a divine personality in our hearts with whom we can have a sublime, personal relationship. I became very eager to meet him.
I had gotten the idea from reading books that you don't have to find the guru or choose him; he is already there. I even had a mental picture of what he looked like—and my guru didn't have hair. All the other swamis and yogis had long hair and beards, so I was thinking, "How am I ever going to meet my guru?"
One day I saw a poster on campus announcing that Swami Bhaktivedanta would be speaking on Bhagavad-gita As It Is. Although I was supposed to go to the movies that night, I wanted to hear Swami Bhaktivedanta. My friends were saying, "Why can't you be normal like other people? Why do you always have to chase after these swamis?" I really didn't want to disappoint them, so I tried to go along with their idea. But there was something inside me that kept forcing me to go to the lecture. Finally I said, "Okay, this will be the last one I go to."
My friends reluctantly came along, but because we'd been arguing, we arrived at the auditorium late and missed the lecture. Srila Prabhupada was still sitting on the stage, and Satsvarupa was leading the chanting of Hare Krsna. The devotees were also onstage, dancing in ecstasy in a circle. Some of the students in the auditorium jumped onto the stage and joined in. I also felt like going up, but I knew my friends wouldn't approve.
When the kirtana ended, the devotees announced that they needed a lift to Harvard Square in Boston. Since the movie was at Harvard Square, I invited them to ride with us, and everyone piled into my station wagon. Satsvarupa was squeezed in the back compartment with my best friend. They were discussing philosophy, my friend declaring that everything is void, and Satsvarupa insisting that there is no void in the creation of God.
When we got to Harvard Square, I let the devotees out. But as I was driving away, I realized I didn't know how to get in touch with them. I immediately stopped the car in the middle of Harvard Square and ran after them. I caught up to one of the devotees. "I want to meet the Swami," I said. He told me I could come, and he would try to arrange an appointment. An appointment? I thought, A guru isn't supposed to be busy! . . . "Well, anyway, okay, give me the address."
Meanwhile, about twenty cars had lined up behind mine and were honking their horns. I quickly noted the address of the temple. "Come at seven tomorrow night," he said.
The small temple room was already packed when I arrived. Srila Prabhupada began speaking. Because I wasn't used to his Bengali accent and because the philosophy was new to me, I had difficulty understanding. But I did hear him say that out of many thousands of men, one will seek perfection. I thought, "That's me!"
Srila Prabhupada asked for questions. I raised my hand. "There are so many swamis and masters, and each one is recommending a different method of self-realization and saying his is best. How do I know which is actually best?"
Prabhupada responded, "What is your goal? Do you want to serve God, or do you want to become God? If you want to become God, it means that now you are not God. So how can not-God become God? God is God. He is always God. He never has to become God by practicing yoga or meditation. Krsna is God. He's God when He's playing on the lap of mother Yasoda. He's God when He's speaking Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna. God is God."
Then he said, "The real guru teaches that God is in your heart and that you can become godly—but that you cannot become God."
As Srila Prabhupada spoke, I got the clear impression that he knew everything about me and was seeing right into my apartment, right to the sign on the wall where I had engraved in very ornate lettering—YOU ARE GOD.
Srila Prabhupada said gravely, "What do you think? Do you want to serve God, or do you want to become God?" I was just about to lie, but then I said, "I want to serve God, but I realize that actually I wanted to become God." Srila Prabhupada affirmed emphatically, "Yes!" I offered my obeisances. I knew that he was my spiritual master.
A devotee then brought a huge plate of prasadam to Srila Prabhupada. "I'm not God; I cannot eat all of this," quipped Prabhupada. He took a little bit and told the devotee to distribute the rest.
From that first meeting, my whole life's purpose became to bring people to meet Srila Prabhupada. I was able to do that for many years, but when Srila Prabhupada passed away, I was wondering, "What will be my service now?" because my whole service had been to bring people to Srila Prabhupada.
Now I understand that Srila Prabhupada is always present, and that by speaking of him, hearing about him. remembering him, and, most significantly, by studying his books, we can experience his presence. So I can continue doing what I was doing when he was personally present—introducing souls to Srila Prabhupada—and that is what I feel natural doing. Because I know that somehow or other, if someone comes in touch with Srila Prabhupada, his life will be successful.
Lord Caitanya visited this sacred place
by Jagatguru Swami
It was early April when our group of four devotees from the United States arrived in Calcutta. We were on pilgrimage to Kurmaksetra, a remote holy place on the southeastern coast of India.
To the people of South India, Kurmaksetra is an important holy place owing to its magnificent temple of Sri Kurma, a Deity of Lord Visnu, the Personality of Godhead, in the form of a kurma, or tortoise. Kurma-avatara is one of the ten incarnations of Godhead known in India as Dasavatara. As described in Bhagavad-gita, the incarnations of Godhead appear in this world to deliver the devotees and vanquish the miscreants.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam explains that during the early days of the universe Lord Visnu appeared as Kurma to help the demigods and demons produce the nectar of immortality by churning the milk ocean. Lord Kurma submerged Himself within the ocean, and His back became the pivot for Mandara Mountain, which was used as a churning rod. By the Lord's arrangement, the nectar produced was distributed only to the demigods.
We were eager to visit Kurmaksetra because even though the pastimes of the Kurma-avatara have been widely portrayed throughout India's history in paintings, sculpture, literature, songs, and drama, the temple of Sri Kurma at Kurmaksetra is unique, for no other temple of Lord Kurma has ever existed.
There was another reason for our pilgrimage: we wanted to retrace the footsteps of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The Caitanya-caritamrta describes Lord Caitanya's visit to Kurmaksetra during His travels through South India almost five hundred years ago. At Kurmaksetra—as in all the places He visited—Lord Caitanya introduced the sankirtana movement by dancing in ecstasy and chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna. Krsna Krsna. Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama. Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu taught that in this age no other process for self-realization is as effective as the congregational chanting of the holy names of God.
It was typically hot and humid when we arrived in Calcutta. After refreshing ourselves at our hotel, we went straight to the Government of India Tourist Bureau and purchased four train tickets to Kurmaksetra via Sri Kakulam.
The next morning, we were up early, and by 4:30 we were in a taxi headed for Howrah Station. There is no such thing as "beating the rush hour" in Calcutta. At the Howrah bridge, which crosses the Ganges River, the cars and buses were already bumper to bumper.
At the station we struggled through the crowds and haggled with the porters over price. Once inside the train, we put our baggage under the seats and waited. The train was twenty passenger cars pulled by an old steam-powered locomotive. At 6:30 the engineer blew the whistle, and the train inched away from the platform. After around forty-five minutes the train cleared the outskirts of the city, and we enjoyed watching the Bengal countryside pass by our window.
By late afternoon we entered the state of Orissa, which marked a significant change in scenery—from lush green jungle to semi-arid plains. I took out my Bartholomew map of the Indian subcontinent and marked our route along the coast. We chanted Hare Krsna on our beads and read Bhagavad-gita as we rumbled along.
The next day an Indian gentleman entered our cabin. He wore traditional Hindu clothing, a white cotton shirt and matching pants. "Yes, you can sit here, sir," I said, pointing to the seat next to me. The gentleman sat down and introduced himself as Mr. Gopalam Dosi. Mr. Dosi said this was the first time he had ever met Western devotees of Lord Krsna. He said our meeting was God's arrangement.
When I asked Mr. Dosi where he was from, he said, "Kurmaksetra. Are you going there?" "Yes!" I replied. "We are on pilgrimage." I explained to Mr. Dosi that we were members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and that our mission was to spread Krsna consciousness all over the world. I mentioned that Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu wanted everyone born in India to preach Krsna consciousness. In a half-serious tone I suggested that Mr. Dosi might take sannyasa, the renounced order of life, and become a preacher of Lord Caitanya's movement. "Yes," he said, "that would be good. But we are householders; our duty is to stay at home."
"Perhaps you know," he continued, "Caitanya Mahaprabhu came to Kurmaksetra a long time ago. He told the people of our village to remain in their homes and chant the name of Krsna." I was surprised to hear Mr. Dosi's conviction about chanting Krsna's name, and I was especially surprised to hear him mention Lord Caitanya.
The Caitanya-caritamrta describes that when Lord Caitanya came to Kurmaksetra, He stayed in the house of a local brahmana. When the Lord was preparing to leave, the brahmana wanted to take sannyasa and travel with Him, but Lord Caitanya forbade him to do so. He instructed the brahmana to remain at home and always chant the holy name of Krsna. Lord Caitanya said, "Don't speak like that again. Better to remain at home and chant the holy name of Krsna. Instruct everyone to follow the orders of Lord Krsna as they are given in Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. In this way become a spiritual master and try to liberate everyone in this land. If you follow this instruction, your materialistic life at home will not obstruct your spiritual advancement. If you follow these regulative principles, we will again meet here, or rather, you will never lose My company."
While speaking with Mr. Dosi. we became absorbed in thoughts of Lord Caitanya's sankirtana movement and became more eager to see the temple of Sri Kurma.
Suddenly the train began to slow down. The conductor stuck his head into our compartment and announced, "Sri Kakulam! Next stop, Sri Kakulam." Mr. Dosi turned to me and said. "This is where we get off." When the train came to a stop at the platform, we parted company.
The railway station was about ten miles from the center of town. We spent the night in a hotel and were up early the next morning, intent on seeing some of the temples in Sri Kakulam before going on to Kurmaksetra. It was still a little dark when we left our room and went out onto the street, already alive with activity. People we re moving about performing their morning duties—drawing water from the neighborhood well, milking the family cow, and going to and from the temples for morning worship.
As light began to appear on the horizon, we met with a group of local chanters—three men emerged from the dawn playing musical instruments and chanting the maha-mantra. What a wonderful sight! It was as if they had appeared from the pages of Caitanya-caritamrta. At their request we joined in the chanting and continued along the road.
Shortly we came to a small neighborhood temple. After more chanting we sat down and got acquainted with our new friends. Each of the men owned a small business in the marketplace but came out on the chanting party each day before going to work. They begged us to continue with them, but we had to start for the temple of Sri Kurma, and so we bid farewell.
Boarding a fifty-two-seat bus with at least seventy-five other passengers, we began our twenty-two-mile journey to the village of Kurmaksetra. Half the passengers were pilgrims, and the other half were local farmers. The bus stopped along the road about every mile or so to either pick someone up or drop someone off. Within an hour we arrived at Kurmaksetra.
Getting off the bus, we decided to follow the flow of the other pilgrims. We walked along the narrow village streets filled with children at play and past the thatched-roof dwellings until we came to a still lake. Looking across, we got our first view of the ancient temple of Sri Kurma.
Rows of stone steps led up from the lake toward the temple. Beyond a stand of palm trees towered the temple gate and the main shrine of the Deity. Our path led us around the left bank, and as we drew nearer, many of the pilgrims began to run toward the temple as if it might vanish before they could reach it. Their enthusiasm was like that of small children about to fulfill their heart's desire.
When we reached the main entrance, many pilgrims were sitting and waiting. The temple doors were closed. It would be another hour before they opened. So, cameras in hand, we began to circumambulate the outer wall of the temple.
On the way, a village boy started to tag along. He turned out to be a guide and offered to show us around—for one rupee. On the southern side of the temple, we came upon a small shrine perched on a knoll. As we approached the shrine, the boy said, "Mahaprabhu pada, Mahaprabhu pada." I understood that he was saying, "Mahaprabhu's feet," but I wasn't quite sure what he meant. When we reached the shrine, the boy went inside and pointed, "Here." We looked inside and saw two large footprints in a marble slab. Below, an inscription in Telegu read: "Mahaprabhu visited Kurmaksetra in A.D. 1512. Caitanya footprints installed by Paramahamsa Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami in 1930."
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, the spiritual master of our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, had the shrine built to commemorate Caitanya Mahaprabhu's pilgrimage to Kurmaksetra. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta had laid the footprints in their place. As we stood by the shrine, we felt the inspiring presence of our parama-guru. Now there was a third dimension to our pilgrimage: we were following in the footsteps of Srila Gosvamis.
Suddenly, conchshells blew and the temple bells rang, announcing the opening of the temple doors. Our hearts leaped, and we ran toward the temple.
Leaving our shoes behind, we merged in the column of pilgrims passing through the massive doorway. The temple was vast—a seemingly endless array of sculptured stone columns, colonades, corridors, domes, and passageways. We crossed a large, open courtyard in which stood a bronze pillar with Garuda, the great carrier of Visnu, at the top. In an awesome mandapa (pavilion) with five hundred magnificent pillars, each with a different design, a group of musicians sat playing classical South Indian melodies. The sounds of the drums, hand cymbals, and shenai (wind instrument) created a celestial atmosphere. At the far end of the courtyard we entered a small corridor barely wide enough to allow more than two people through at a time.
Now our progress was slow. The way was dimly lit by occasional ghee lamps along the walls. The scents of ghee smoke, sandal, and camphor mixed in the air. The only sound was the murmuring of prayers as we inched our way forward through the winding passage. With only a few feet to go—the air surcharged with feelings of devotion-we stood humbly with folded hands waiting our turn.
Then we entered the ancient Deity sanctum. It was gorgeous. The room was well lit by burning torches. The walls and ceiling were adorned with colorful paintings depicting the pastimes of the ten incarnations of Visnu. From the high ceiling hung a thousand-petaled stone lotus. The highly polished black-and-white marble floor reflected everything in the room.
Bare-chested brahmana priests wearing white silk dhotis and adorned with marks of tilaka (sacred clay) on their foreheads, arms, and torsos, moved about the room as they performed their duties of administering sacred rites to the pilgrims. On the left side of the sanctum stood the main altar, covered in silver and decorated with flowers and the leaves of the tulasi plant.
There we saw the Deity of Sri Kurma, with His raised back. He was wearing a golden crown studded with valuable jewels and topped with a peacock feather, the symbol of the Visnu avataras.
To the right stood another altar, where the consorts of Lord Visnu known as Sri Devi and Bhu Devi were being worshiped in great opulence. The room was filled with the fragrance of incense, and flickering light from torches and ghee lamps danced along the ancient stone walls.
A brass chain stretching between two pillars kept us from going farther. The brahmanas were busy presenting offerings of fruits and flowers to the Deity. Suddenly one of the brahmanas noticed us and turned to us with folded hands. Removing the brass chain, he beckoned us to come closer. We were now standing right next to the altar of Sri Kurma.
The brahmana asked our names and began chanting Vedic hymns, requesting the Deity to bestow mercy and good fortune upon us. Then we were each given caranamrta—three drops of sacred water-in the palm of our hand. The Vedic scriptures state that whoever takes caranamrta before the Deity of Lord Visnu becomes free from the miseries of material existence and becomes eligible to enter into the eternal kingdom of God.
The head priest then came before each of us and placed upon our head a large pair of silver slippers marked with the four symbols of Visnu-the conch, disc, club, and lotus-while the other brahmanas chanted a sacred mantra: om tad visnoh paramam padam sada pasyanti surayo diviva caksur atatam/tad vipraso vipanyava jagrvamsah samindhate visnor yat paramam padam. "The abode of Lord Visnu is the supreme worshipable object of all the demigods. The Lord's lotus feet are as effulgent as the sun" (RRg Veda 1.22.20).
The brahmanas then placed fruits, flowers, and sweets from the Deity in our hands. Feeling great awe and reverence for the Lord, and grateful for the special treatment we'd received, we withdrew from the Deity room and walked down the long corridor out into the courtyard.
The moments we had spent before the Deity of Sri Kurma now seemed Fixed in eternity. We walked again to the shrine of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu's footprints and, after paying our humble respects, began our journey home.
Sri Mayapur is the sacred place where Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared and inaugurated the Hare Krsna sankirtana movement five hundred years ago. It is also the world headquesrters of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, ISKCON. To memebers of ISKCON the thought of Sri Mayapur brings visions of a sublime abode peacefully nestled by the banks of the Ganges River, and remebrance of Sri Caitanya transcendental pastimes.
But there is another side to Sri Mayapur, that of a backward rural community struggling with the vagaries of nature to eke out a living from simple farming and village crafts. Every year the inhabitants of Sri Mayapur look to the monsoon rains with both hope and apprehension. Hope—for enough rain to support their most important crop of the year. And apprehension—that those same rains might bring ravaging floods.
Last year, on August 27, their hopes were destroyed with a swift and relentless fury. The Ganges broke over the dikes and bunds holding back her swelling waters and spread quickly over the countryside, sweeping away their simple mub houses and bamboo structures and destroying their crops. Hundreds of homeless villagers rushed to the shelter of ISKCON's sturdy, multistoried structures. Within hours the water had risen to more than eight feet in places, creating the worst flood in many years.
ISKCON devotees quickly mounted a relief effort. Obtaining boats from supporters, they organized a massive food distribution program. Every day the devotees prepared and delivered to thousands of stranded villagers hundreds of pounds of nutritious kicchri (a stew of rice and beans), a favorite of the local people. The flood lasted more than thirty days, making it the longest in recent history, and throughout that time ISKCON Food Relief was present, serving more than two hundred thousand meals and saving thousands of epople from certain disaster.
Now the flood waters have receded, but the work has just begun. The flood destroyed all standing crops and hundreds of homes. The villagers of Mayapur are on the brink of complete ruin. They need our help.
The food distribution must continue. Many now go hungry except for what ISKCON Sri Mayapur provides. And only through an extensive rehabilitation program can the villagers recover from the devastation. Homes must be rebuilt; farmers need vital economic aid. All of this must be done now. It can only be done with your help. ISKCON Sri Mayapur's resources are drained. Now others must come forward to give their support.
Sri Mayapur Project, U.S.A., a non-profit, tax-exempt corporation established expressly to support the Sri Mayapur Project, has set up the Sri Mayapur Flood Emergency Relief Fund solely for channeling your contributions toward this effort. Donations to this fund will be sent to a similar fund set up in Sri Mayapur and administered by a committe of ISKCON devotees and life members.
Let us remeber the spiritual significance of Sri Mayapur. And let us remeber the special position of its residents. They need our help now. Please take a moment to complete the coupon and send your contribution today. Your Krsna conscious charity will certainly be spiritually rewarded many times over.
(The Mercy of Gaura and Nityananda)
by Locana dasa Thakura
January 11 marks the anniversary of the passing of Srila Locana dasa Thakura, a great devotee of Lord Caitanya noted for his Bengali devotional songs.
parama karuna, pahun dui jana,
bhaja bhaja bhai, caitanya-nitai,
dekha ore bhai, tri-bhuvane nai,
somsare majiya, rohili padiya,
by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
This is a song by Locana dasa Thakura. Pahun means "Lord," and dui jana means "two." Locana dasa Thakura declares that the two Lords Nitai-Gauracandra-Lord Nitai and Lord Caitanya-are very merciful (parama karuna). Saba avatara- sara-siromani. Avatara means "incarnation," and saba means "all." They are the essence of all incarnations. The specific significance of these incarnations is that prosecuting Their way of self-realization is simply joyful (kevala-ananda-kanda), for They introduced chanting and dancing. There are many incarnations like Lord Rama-and even Krsna, who taught Bhagavad-gita, which requires knowledge and understanding. But Lord Caitanya and Nityananda introduced a process that is simply joyful-which is simply to chant and dance. Therefore, Locana dasa requests everyone: bhaja bhaja bhai, caitanya-nitai. "My dear brother, I request that you just worship Lord Caitanya and Nityananda with firm conviction and faith." Don't think that this chanting and dancing will not lead to the desired goal. It will. It is the assurance of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu that one will get all perfection by this process. Therefore one must chant with firm faith and conviction (visvasa kori). But what is the process? The process is visaya chadiya, se rase majiya. If one wants to be Krsna conscious by this process, one has to give up his engagement in sense gratification. That is the only restriction. If one gives up sense gratification, it is sure that he will reach the desired goal. Mukhe bolo hari hari: one simply has to chant Hare Krsna, Hari Hari, without any motive of sense gratification.
Dekha ore bhai, tri-bhuvane nai. Locana dasa Thakura says, "My dear brother, you just try and examine this. Within the three worlds there is no one like Lord Caitanya or Lord Nityananda, because Their merciful qualities arc so great that They make even birds and beasts cry, what to speak of human beings." Actually, when Lord Caitanya passed through the forest known as Jharikhanda, the tigers, elephants, snakes, deer, and all other animals joined Him in chanting Hare Krsna. It is so nice that anyone can join. Even the animals can join, what to speak of human beings. Of course, it is not possible for ordinary men to induce animals to chant, but if Caitanya Mahaprabhu could inspire animals to chant, at least we can encourage human beings to adopt this path of Hare Krsna mantra chanting. It is so nice that even the most stonehearted man will be melted. Pasana means "stone." It is so nice that even stone will melt.
But Locana dasa Thakura regrets that he is entrapped by sense gratification. He addresses himself, "My dear mind, you arc entrapped in this sense gratification process, and you have no attraction for chanting Hare Krsna. Since you have no attraction for the lotus feet of Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda, what can I say? I can simply think of my misfortune. Yamaraja, the superintendent of death, is punishing me by not allowing me to be attracted by Lord Caitanya's movement."
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Demonstrations Held Worldwide for Soviet Devotees of Krsna
Los Angeles—On September 15, ISKCON members in more than forty cities worldwide staged demonstrations to demand the release of Hare Krsna devotees incarcerated in prisons, labor camps, and psychiatric hospitals in the Soviet Union. In Moscow fifty Soviet devotees held a press conference attended by Western reporters.
The demonstrations received widespread media coverage, including reports by international wire services, BBC radio, Voice of America, National Public Radio (USA), Radio Liberty, and many local television stations and newspapers around the world.
Back to Godhead magazine devoted its November issue to "Krsna Consciousness in the USSR." The special issue was rushed to press, and devotees were able to distribute it at many of the demonstrations, including the New York demonstration, held in front of the United Nations headquarters. During the four-hour demonstration there, devotees chanted continuously and collected hundreds of signatures on petitions requesting freedom for the persecuted Soviet devotees.
Devotees demonstrated outside the Soviet embassies in Washington, D.C.; Gothenburg, Sweden; Ottawa, Ontario; and other cities; and in Kingston, Jamaica, devotees met for more than an hour with the Soviet consul general.
The demonstrations were organized by the Committee to Free Soviet Hare Krishnas, which is working to legalize Krsna consciousness in the USSR. Although the Soviet government has released three devotees because of efforts by the committee, twenty-three devotees remain incarcerated under intolerable conditions. The committee promises that more demonstrations and other types of pressure will continue until all the Soviet devotees are given freedom to practice Krsna consciousness.
Krsna Consciousness For Calcutta Youth
Calcutta-Devotees at ISKCON's Sri Sri Radha-Govinda temple here have inaugurated-under the direction of Bhakti Raghava Swami-the Calcutta branch of the Bhaktivedanta Youth Services (BYS), a youth club meant to encourage college and high school students in the practice of Krsna consciousness. BYS members agree to chant at least two rounds of the Hare Krsna mantra on their beads daily and read from Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is at least twenty minutes a day. Members also attend training seminars every Sunday at the temple.
The motto of BYS is "Compassion, Cleanliness, Discipline, and Truthfulness," the four pillars of religion, as mentioned in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Devotees will soon be opening BYS branches in Orissa and Bihar. Sarva-jnana dasa, originally from Italy, is the director of the Calcutta BYS, which now has thirty-five members.
Madison, Wisconsin, home of the largest campus of the University of Wisconsin, with an enrollment of 45,000 students, is now also the home of a center for Krsna consciousness. Mitrasena dasa and his wife, Maharha-devi dasi, recently opened a center there and hold a program every Tuesday and Thursday at 5:30 P.M. that includes chanting, feasting, and a discourse on the philosophy of Bhagavad-gita. The center is located at 1149 E. Dayton Street. Phone: (608) 255-8883.
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ISKCON Kerala has organized a unique program for introducing schoolchildren to Krsna consciousness-an interschool quiz competition on Puranic history, consisting of questions from the Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Ramayana, and other Vedic literatures. Held around the time of Janmastami, the competition, which takes place between teams of two students, has become an annual event in several cities in Kerala. Teams that win written competitions qualify for the oral finals. Winners are awarded Srila Prabhupada's books as well as cash prizes, and the schools they represent receive trophies.
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The Honorable W. Wilson Goode, mayor of Philadelphia, was the keynote speaker at the opening ceremonies of the new Hare Krsna Food For Life shelter in downtown Philadelphia. The shelter will house one hundred homeless women and children, who will receive three meals a day of nourishing vegetarian prasadam (food offered to Krsna). The devotees have already been successfully running a men's shelter, and government agencies and welfare organizations have come forward with financial assistance for the new shelter.
Lord Jesus Christ, Mohammed,
by Bhakticaru Swami
According to Vedic calculation, great time spans are measured in yugas, or ages. The Vedas describe four yugas—Satya-yuga, Treta-yuga, Dvapara-yuga, and Kali-yuga-which repeat themselves in cyclical order like the four seasons. The duration of Satya-yuga is 1,728,000 years; Treta-yuga is 1,296,000 years; Dvapara-yuga, 864,000 years; and Kali-yuga, 432,000 years.
In Satya-yuga people are very pious. They almost never perform sinful activities. In Treta-yuga they are more inclined to sinful life, and even more so in Dvapara-yuga. Finally, in Kali-yuga impiety is almost completely dominant. Kali-yuga is like the winter of the yuga seasons.
The Vedic scriptures prescribe a specific kind of religious process for each of these ages. In Satya-yuga the process is meditation upon the form of the Lord. In Treta-yuga the process is offering sacrifices to the Lord. In Dvapara-yuga the process is gorgeous worship of the Deity in the temple. And in Kali-yuga the process is chanting God's holy name. Being merciful, the Lord makes the process easier in each successive age, as people become less qualified because of the increase of sinful life.
Now it is the age of Kali, the most degraded of the four ages. We can see in our own lifetime how people are becoming more sinful. Meat-eating, gambling, intoxication, and illicit sex—the four pillars of sinful life-continue to increase everywhere. We can see that as these activities increase, the world becomes more and more miserable. All scriptures recommend chanting Krsna's holy names to get free of misery.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam says that chanting is the only good thing about this age. Lord Jesus said, "Glorify the name of thy Father." Similarly, Mohammed said, "Allah alone should we glorify." These instructions are given repeatedly throughout the world's great religions.
The question arises: "What's so special about God's names?" God does not have names like ours, which are mundane sounds given to us for the sake of our physical identity. God has no need for such identification. He has no physical identity; He is completely spiritual. But according to His divine, unlimited qualities and pastimes. He has innumerable names.
For example, in the Bible He has names that describe Him as "Almighty" and "Omnipotent." Similarly, in the Sanskrit Vedic scriptures He has numerous names. The name Krsna means "all-attractive." The name Rama means "giver of supreme pleasure."
Because God has no mundane qualities, His name is not a mundane sound. It is spiritual and nondifferent from Him. And because God is absolute, His holy name is also absolute. When one chants His name, one is directly in touch with Him. When we begin chanting, however, we may not immediately feel His presence, because of our materially contaminated consciousness.
But because He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, calling on His names is the most personal and intense form of prayer. If we practice chanting sincerely, we will soon feel God's presence.
The Vedic literatures contain many mantras and prayers to the Lord, but only one maha-mantra. or great prayer. That prayer—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama. Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—addresses the Lord in His most sublime features: as Krsna, the all-attractive person, and as Rama, the giver of supreme pleasure. It means, "O all-attractive Supreme Personality of Godhead! O Supreme Enjoyer! Please deliver me from this material existence. Please engage me in Your loving devotional service."
Prayers are appeals to God to fulfill our desires. In material consciousness we pray, "Lord, give me food; Lord, give me money." But in spiritual life, instead of asking this or that for oneself, one wants to offer whatever he has to the Lord. One wants to serve Him. That's why the Hare Krsna mantra is the highest form of prayer: it makes no selfish demands on the Lord. It is simply an appeal for engagement in His devotional service.
To teach the chanting of His holy name, Krsna appeared in this age in a wonderful form. Although He is the supreme proprietor, the supreme enjoyer, the possessor of all opulences, He appeared in this age as a mendicant—Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He accepted the renounced order, traveled all over India, and taught everyone, from scholars to kings to beggars, to chant the maha-mantra with firm faith.
To say that Sri Caitanya is God is not mere sentiment, a claim I make simply because I am His follower. No. The Srimad-Bhagavatam, Mahabharata, and other scriptural sources describe His identity and predict His appearance in detail. They describe that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu descends to establish the religion of the age. During His appearance, Lord Caitanya predicted that the sankirtana movement of chanting the names of God would spread all over the world, and that has come true. Overlooking all sectarian conceptions, anyone who tries to understand Sri Caitanya's real identity can easily recognize that He is the Supreme Person.
Now, it does not matter that Sri Caitanya appeared in India. God doesn't belong to any geographical setting. He descends to bestow His mercy upon all. Wherever the Lord appears, it is for our benefit, if we follow His instructions.
Today, for example, most people in the Western world are followers of Lord Jesus Christ. They do not follow him because of where he appeared. They follow him because he is the son of God. Sincere devotees follow the Lord or His representative wherever they may appear. Devotees understand that the Lord and His representatives are actually from the divine realm and are not ordinary, mundane persons from a particular geographical area. Wherever such extraordinary persons appear in this world, that place becomes an extension of the spiritual world.
Still, if someone has difficulty accepting an "Indian" as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, that's, all right. No one should accept blindly, just on our saying so. But at least he can study the life and teachings of Sri Caitanya and see for himself whether it benefits his spiritual life. That is a practical test.
If we understand that God is our original and supreme father, it isn't difficult to understand that He wants us to go back to Him. Nor is it difficult to understand that He makes various arrangements to take us back. In this degraded Kali age, when we have all but lost our spiritual vision. His holy name is His merciful arrangement to take us back.
Through chanting the holy name one comes to understand God's form, abode, qualities, activities, and associates. On becoming fixed in transcendental knowledge, one realizes that everything belongs to God and, therefore, engages fully in His devotional service. That realization is the perfection of religion in all ages.
"Come on, Rascal Scientists"
This is the continuation of a conversation that took place between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and biochemist Thoudam Singh, Ph.D., in Bhubanesvara, India, on February 3, 1977.
Srila Prabhupada: So why is the government fostering this godless "evolution" science—this dishonesty? Because the government leaders are themselves dishonest. They want simply to accumulate money by inducing people to work in their big industries. So they are cheating the people out of their birthright: to live the simple, natural life, to become God conscious, and at life's end, to go back home to God.
The government must make sure that people develop genuine God consciousness. That is the government leaders' actual business. They should promote genuine God consciousness, strict following of God's natural laws. Anything not genuine should be finished. Nothing bogus allowed. This is real government. This we are working for.
The government leaders' business is to see that the scientific or intellectual group is giving the students a sense of the transcendent Personality of Godhead, a sense of the divine.
Dr. Singh: Nowadays, the government leaders are seeing that the intellectuals impart a sense of all-pervasive matter, with no soul and no Supreme Soul. A sense of the demoniac, one might say. It's hard to imagine these demoniac types being convinced by godly arguments.
Srila Prabhupada: Never mind. We must push forward. Gradually the whole world will see that here are first-class gentlemen and here is first-class culture. Vedic, godly culture. Real culture. We must always remember, people are inclined to this God conscious culture. It is natural. And Lord Krsna wants it.
Why should we care about some rascal's objections? Do something to spread God conscious culture. It is Krsna's business. Print books. Travel all over the world. Challenge this godless government policy.
Challenge their intellectual hirelings. "Come on, rascal scientists. You have given yourself to spreading materialism and godlessness. We shall scientifically establish the existence of the spiritual self—the soul—and God." Karmany evadhikaras te ma phalesu. It doesn't matter whether they have a change of heart or not. We shall go on with our duty.
Dr. Singh: One scientist remarked what an astonishing wealth of information on the soul we can gain from just the second chapter of the Bhagavad-gita. It's unlimited.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Very good. He's understanding these things.
Dr. Singh: For instance, we've taken this one sentence from the Gita: nainam chindanti sastrani—"The soul cannot be cut to pieces by any weapon." And we can very easily corroborate this statement from many modern scientific findings. Scientific data and the Gita agree.
Srila Prabhupada: Well, that is natural. Bhagavad-gita means "The Song of God," the Supreme Lord personally speaking. Who can be a greater authority? Hmm? Others may say whatever they like, but we know He is the greatest authority.
Dr. Singh: Another scientist and I gave a presentation at the University of Florida, to a class in physics. During our presentation, my colleague made a mathematical calculation demonstrating the probability of life arising from matter. The calculation showed that even if life were able to arise from dead matter—which of course is an absurdity—it would take something like ten to the 167 billion years.
So the physics professor—once he saw the calculation written out, he said, "That's completely wrong." And he went on like that for a while.
Then my colleague said, "Let's see how this whole calculation works, step by step." And he showed, step by step, how the calculation makes sense mathematically-how, mathematically speaking, the theory that mere matter can produce life is rubbish; it completely falls apart.
My colleague went through the calculation very methodically, and finally the physics professor admitted to being wrong about life coming from matter.
Srila Prabhupada: This is a great success. Idam hi pumsas tapasah srutasya va . . . yad-uttamasloka-gunanuvarnanam:
"Greatly learned scholars have positively concluded that knowledge culminates in the transcendental descriptions of the Lord." Nigama-kalpa-taror galitam phalam: these descriptions of the Lord are the real, ripened fruit of science.
Dr. Singh: My colleagues and I joke at the way so-called scientists call God consciousness antiscience or brainwashing. Actually, we're washing their dusty brains with genuine science.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, brainwashing in the best sense. Clearing away the godless dust and grime. These so-called scientists should be grateful. "Brainwashing"? If Krsna were present, He would have been brain-cutting. Such rascals.
In the Bhagavad-gita the Lord speaks very definitely: Jnanam te 'ham sa-vijnanam. . .jnatavyam avasisyate. "I shall now declare unto you in full this knowledge, both phenomenal and numinous. This being known, nothing further shall remain for you to know." Science means to comprehend and convey knowledge of the supreme scientist. That's all. Apart from that, who cares about your so-called scientific "view"?
Dr. Singh: Should we avoid the word view?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. In real science, everything is absolutely certain, because we receive our knowledge from the Absolute. And in our experimentation we corroborate and amplify this knowledge that we have received from the Absolute.
So we're not speaking of some "view." As soon as you say "view," this or that puny-minded rascal will come forward to give his "view." Simply confusion.
Another name for the Lord is Brahman-the supreme, all-embracing mind. Through the scriptures He has already given us all information. So how can there be some other "view"?
Dr. Singh: Still, the scientists want to have their own "view."
Srila Prabhupada: But we say, "You do not know. Here is the Lord's knowledge, the real knowledge. Your so-called knowledge is simply speculation. Your 'view' has no value."
(To be continued.)
We welcome your letters.
I am seventeen years old, and for the last year I have been reading Back to Godhead and various books on Krsna consciousness. I've greatly enjoyed them. I have come up with many questions, but out of all of them I have chosen two.
First, why do you worship God (Krsna) in the form of a statue? Is God not everywhere we look and even within us? Why must we bow down to something of clay or rock?
Second, are Srila Prabhupada and his disciples who have become bona fide teachers worshiped by bowing down to them, or by creating statues of them and worshiping those? If so, why?
I would he honored if you would explain these things to me and thus solve my problems.
Judith Ann Gavin
OUR REPLY: Your first question is one often raised by persons of Judeo-Christian background, largely because of the commandment against worshiping graven images. We also accept this commandment. The process of Krsna consciousness is based on scripture. A devotee never acts whimsically. Even one who has attained spiritual perfection must continue to follow scriptural injunctions.
The scriptures of the Vedic tradition direct us to make authorized forms of the Lord from material elements. By certain prayers and devotional rituals we invite the Lord-for whom nothing is impossible-to accept our service through those forms. Although the Deity may appear to be a lifeless statue, in many instances the Deity has openly reciprocated His devotee's service and devotion.
The omnipotent Personality of Godhead is fully capable of making spirit into matter and matter into spirit. Therefore, he can easily appear in the home or temple of His loving devotees in His Deity form. In our present materially contaminated state we cannot see God in His original, spiritual form. He therefore mercifully comes before us in a form we can see. By learning to see God-and develop love for Him-as the Deity, we will eventually be able to see Him everywhere.
Of course, one may not arbitrarily fashion a form and worship it as God. One has to worship the authorized form, just as, for example, in mailing this letter to you, I have to deposit it in an authorized mailbox. I cannot put it in any box that happens to be on the sidewalk and expect it to be delivered to you.
To worship a concocted form as the Deity is idolatry. One has to consult the scriptures and worship according to their directives. That purifies the heart of a devotee and prepares him or her for rendering direct, personal services to Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
There are numerous important points to be made in this connection, but that would take many pages. I want to answer your other question as well. I refer you, therefore, to the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta and the Srimad-Bhagavatam, both translated into English by Srila Prabhupada, for further explanations of the philosophy of Deity worship, as understood by the great saintly devotees in our line since time immemorial.
Now for your second question. Lord Krsna Himself teaches that the disciple should accept the spiritual master to be as good as God because he is God's representative. Understanding that the guru is the instrument of divine grace, the disciple bows in humility at his feet, thus attracting the merciful glance of the Lord.
In our modern world, people tend to overreact when they see that a guru accepts a disciple's display of humility. And they generally fail to appreciate that the guru also has a spiritual master, to whom he bows in all humility. But humility is the crown jewel of all spiritual qualities. It is the principle by which saintly persons conduct themselves in a spiritual society or culture.
That's why the disciples of spiritual masters after Srila Prabhupada continue to practice bowing before their spiritual masters. We do not worship the new gurus in "statues," however, because this is generally not practiced while the guru is still present. After he goes to the spiritual world, his disciples may continue to remember and worship him in a deity form. Far more important, however, is that the disciple carry out the order of the spiritual master and help him spread Krsna consciousness all over the world.
The Romance of Spiritual Life
I recently received a letter from a man in India who likes to read the biography of Srila Prabhupada, as well as "the history, and if I may say so, the romance of ISKCON [the International Society for Krishna Consciousness]." His use of the word romance was interesting. It made me think of ISKCON as an indomitable spirit, despite its ups and downs, and that those who are sincerely participating in ISKCON are high-spirited knights of faith.
There is an undeniable urge for spiritual life in the heart of every human being. When we respond to this call, it is our best love story, our most heroic and mysterious adventure. Some say that an organized religious movement cannot embody the purity and liveliness of the spiritual quest. But as spiritual romance is possible individually, it is also possible in communities and internationally.
To protect the true spirit of a religious institution, its members must struggle to reform its imperfections, and they must never forget that they are responding to the sublime call to the higher nature. Spiritual life calls one to give up the temporary material world and to live an entirely different way. As Bhagavad-gita (8.20) states, "Yet there is another nature, which is eternal and is transcendental to this manifested and unmanifested matter."
Every one of us has sometimes felt the urge to quit the oppressive world of material reality and seek something better. Maybe we thought of going to live as a recluse in the mountains, as expressed victoriously in the poems of many hermits:
In solitude by the brushwood gate
To think we could become a North American hermit or Himalayan yogi covered with deerskin was fictional romance. But Srila Prabhupada has given us Lord Caitanya's sankirtana movement. Now a devotee can pursue spiritual life to his heart's content, even while living in a city, with a family and a job. Spiritual life is as down-to-earth as the everyday practice of chanting Hare Krsna according to quota and avoiding the four pillars of sinful life—meat-eating, intoxication, illicit sex, and gambling.
Still, although spiritual life is readily available, there will no doubt be obstacles. For example, when persons, even spiritually minded ones, try to work together, there may be disagreements. And there will be disagreements between sects, and especially between spiritually minded persons and the materially minded. One may also be faced with corruption in the name of religion, and even slander against one's own sincere efforts. But the jewel mine of spiritual truth remains inexhaustible, always open for those who seek freedom from birth and death.
True spiritual life is the greatest adventure. By comparison, external adventures-such as sky-diving, running for political office, making war-seem childish or insane. Satisfied in the pursuit of the higher goal, even the neophyte transcendentalist is sure he will never go back to his old ways.
Giving up the world, becoming enlightened and free of anxieties, seeking and finding God-these are the goals for the high-spirited human beings. Literatures such as the Srimad-Bhagavatam encourage us to try for this with all our hearts, and never again remain stuck in the blind well of materialistic life.
A poem by Mirabhai, "Why Mira Can't Go Back to Her Old House," states, "Approve me or disapprove me; I praise the lifter of Govardhana Hill day and night. I take the path that ecstatic human beings have taken for centuries."
Madhavendra Puri, a fifteenth-century spiritual master, also took this path, even though his friends and relatives didn't approve:
Let the sharp moralist accuse me of being illusioned; I do not mind. Experts in Vedic activities may slander me as being misled, friends and relatives may call me frustrated, my brothers may call me a fool, wealthy mammonites may point me out as mad, and the learned philosophers may assert that I am much too proud; still my mind does not budge an inch from the determination to serve the lotus feet of Govinda, though I am unable to do it
And when five-year-old Prahlada was asked by his demoniac father, "What is the best thing you have learned in school?" Prahlada replied:
O best of the asuras, king of the demons, as far as I have learned from my spiritual master, any person who has accepted a temporary body and temporary household life is certainly embarrassed by anxiety because of having fallen into a dark well where there is no water but only suffering. One should give up this position and go to the forest. More clearly, one should go to Vrndavana, where only Krsna consciousness is prevalent, and one should take shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.—Bhag. 7.5.5
The romance of spiritual life is not all celebration and praise. There is a bitter-sweetness to renunciation, to the degree of one's attachment to the false, material forms. The relatives of a latter-day Madhavendra Puri may resort to "deprogramming." Latter-day Mirabhais are sometimes dragged back to their houses, and their love for Krsna is severely tested. When this happens, the exasperated devotee may think, "How can Krsna expect me to give up the whole world?" But these obstacles are also part of the romance. How else can we prove to the Supreme Lord that we want to go back to Godhead, except when we resist the opposition in whatever form it takes?
I was thankful to be reminded that ISKCON is a romantic adventure. But whether it be considered romantic or realistic, Krsna consciousness is the absolute truth, and we must pursue it.
This sense of an imperative is mentioned by Lord Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita (6.47) when He describes the yogi as bhajate yo mam, "rendering transcendental service to Me." In his commentary to this verse Srila Prabhupada writes:
The English word "worship" cannot be used in the same sense as bhaja. To worship means to adore, or to show respect and honor to the worthy one. But service with love and faith is especially meant for the Supreme Personality of Godhead. . . . Every living entity is part and parcel of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and thus every living entity is intended to serve the Supreme Lord by his own constitution. Failing to do this, he falls down.
When we deny the inner call to render transcendental loving service, we deny the voice of God, and that is the greatest loss. To remain mundane is to undergo repeated miseries of transmigration through the species. Missing out on love of God is the ultimate failure. Reflecting on these matters, I wrote this prayer: "May Lord Krsna, who is in our hearts, bless us with the yearning to assist Him in the perfection of His loving affairs. And may we do this by assisting Srila Prabhupada in his mission of worldwide sankirtana."—SDG