Although in this age people do not even know who God is,
A Sunday Feast lecture in Atlanta on March 2, 1975
"O most munificent incarnation! You are Krsna Himself appearing as Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu. You have assumed the golden color of Srimati Radharani, and You are widely distributing pure love of Krsna. We offer our respectful obeisances unto You." (Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya 19.53)
Caitanya Mahaprabhu wanted to preach love of Krsna, love of God, not only in India but all over the world. Different religions have many different names of God, and in the Vedic scriptures there are many demigods and incarnations of God. But Krsna is the original name of God. As said in the Srimad-Bhagavatam [1.3.28], ete camsa-kalah pumsah krsnas tu bhagavan svayam. There is a list of incarnations, and at the conclusion of the list the Bhagavatam says, "In this long list there are many names, but Krsna is the original Supreme Personality of Godhead."
God is not like us—He can expand Himself Even some yogis (not these ordinary, third-class yogis), but those who have attained yogic perfection) can expand their bodies up to at most eight times. There are instances of yogis doing that. So if an ordinary yogi can do that, just imagine how much potency the Supreme Lord has for expanding Himself!
In the Bhagavad-gita [18.61] Krsna says, isvarah sarva-bhutanam hrd-dese 'rjuna tisthati: "My dear Arjuna, the Supreme Lord is situated in every living being's heart." Just imagine how many living entities there are! They cannot be counted. There are many millions of trillions, but even millions of trillions is insufficient. There is no counting them. Yet they are all part and parcel of God, and He is living within the heart of all of them. This is the unlimited potency of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Consider the sunshine, the sun globe, and the sun-god. The sun-god is within the sun globe, and the inhabitants of the sun globe are all glowing, luminous. On account of their bodies' glowing, the whole sun planet is glowing. And on account of the sun planet's glowing, the sunshine reaches us from ninety-three million miles away, and we perceive heat and light. The sun is an ordinary, material thing, but it has such great power.
So just imagine what is the potency of the Supreme Personality of Godhead! Actually, we cannot imagine what great energy He has. We cannot even estimate the temperature of the sun globe. We may try to approach the sun globe in our rockets, but before reaching it we will be finished. The temperature is so high; everyone knows it.
Now, if an ordinary thing like the sun globe is so powerful, how much more powerful must be the Supreme Personality of Godhead! We say, "God is almighty, all-powerful," but we have no idea what is meant by "all-powerful." We think, "I am somewhat powerful, so God may be ten times as powerful as I am." Somebody else may say "twenty times." "All right, let us compromise—fifty times." (Laughter.)
This kind of speculation is like the frog's speculation within the well. Once there was a frog within a well, and one of his friends came to him and said, "My dear friend, I have seen a vast mass of water, the Atlantic Ocean."
"What is that Atlantic Ocean?"
"It is vast."
"How vast? Is it ten times bigger than this well? Or twenty times? Come on!" [Laughter.]
"No, no, it is very, very vast."
So, the rascal speculation about God is like the speculation of the frog about the Atlantic Ocean. These mundane philosophers and scientists are thinking of God in that way. Dr. Frog's philosophy. Dr. Frog's philosophy will not help you understand what God is.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's preaching was to distribute love of God. This human life is especially meant for understanding what God is and loving Him. That's all. This is our only business. The cats and dogs and other lower animals—if you preach to them about Krsna consciousness, they will not understand. But human beings can understand. For example, this Krsna consciousness movement is being spread all over the world, and as you can see, here in your country people are understanding. That is the special advantage of human life.
One Christian priest in Boston was astonished to see our devotees. He issued a leaflet saying, "These Hare Krsna boys are our boys. Before they joined this movement, they did not care to see us or come to the church, but now they are mad after God." So this movement is certified by a Christian priest.
And actually, you can see the potency of Lord Caitanya's movement. I am a poor Indian; I came to America with forty rupees. I had no money to bribe these young people. [Laughter.] But now they are mad after God. It is practical. Now if you try to bribe them to leave this movement, they will not go. Many fathers and mothers have tried to induce them to go home, but they are not going.
So, what is the intoxication? These boys and girls have given up all intoxication, but they are now "intoxicated" with "Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna." This is the mercy of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. A draft-board officer came to see one of our centers. He said, "What is the facility you have given these boys who have joined the Hare Krsna movement? It must be much easier than the army." But when he investigated, he saw that these boys and girls are prohibited from engaging in illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating, and gambling. So he concluded that this movement is actually harder than the army. The army does not make these restrictions, which are very, very difficult to follow. But by the mercy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu these boys and girls are following them.
Every human being should accept the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. That is the purport of the verse Rupa Gosvami offered to Lord Caitanya upon first seeing Him: namo maha-vadanyaya. "You are the most munificent incarnation of God." Why? "You are distributing krsna-prema, love of God. People do not know what God is, yet You are distributing love of Godhead."
Ordinarily one cannot love anybody unless he knows the other party very well. Only then is there a question of love. If you and I live ten thousand miles apart, there is no question of love. For love there must be intimacy.
So, to understand God is very difficult. In the Bhagavad-gita [7.3], Krsna says,
"Out of many millions of persons, one is interested in making his life perfect. And out of all those who are actually perfect, hardly one knows Me as I am."
Perfection does not mean that I can eat whatever I like, without any restriction. Or that I have a very nice car, a very nice apartment, and a big bank balance. This is not perfection, because I remain under the grip of the laws of material nature. Prakrteh kriyamanani gunaih karmani sarvasah. Material nature is controlling me.
How is the material nature controlling? She has a machine made of the three modes of nature. Karanam guna-sango 'sya sad-asad-yoni-janmasu. People are contacting these three modes of nature and thus being "infected." We know that if we contract some disease, knowingly or unknowingly, that disease will develop. This is the law of nature. Even if you do not know when or how you contracted a particular disease, that is no excuse. You must suffer.
Similarly, there are three modes of material nature one can become "infected" by—goodness, passion, and ignorance. Not knowing about this is no excuse. If in the law court you say, "Your Honor, I did not know I would be punished for stealing," the magistrate or judge will not excuse you. And if the government law is so strict, you can imagine how strict are the stringent laws of material nature.
Knowingly or unknowingly, in this life we are being infected by a particular combination of the modes of material nature and thus creating our next body. There are 8,400,000 different varieties of life forms. Why? The answer is in the Bhagavad-gita: karanam guna-sangah. There are so many different species of life because each living entity is becoming infected with a particular combination of the qualities of material nature. This is going on perpetually. "Perpetually" means we do not know when this process began or when it will end. Therefore we say it is perpetual.
So, in this human form of life we have the great advantage of being able to study all these things—what is the living entity, how he is being infected by material nature, and how he is taking different bodies. The first thing we must understand is that we are not the body. Therefore in the very beginning of the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna tries to impress upon us that we are not this body but rather the owner or occupier of the body. This is His first instruction. If we understand this instruction, we can rise above the bodily platform.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu's movement is not on the bodily platform; it is on the spiritual platform. This He explained when He talked with Sanatana Gosvami. Sanatana asked, "What is my identity?" He was a very learned man—a minister and a brahmana. He knew Sanskrit and Urdu very well. Because the kingdom he lived in was Mohammedan, Urdu was the state language, just as during the British period the state language was English. So, Sanatana was quite conversant with Urdu, Farsi, and Sanskrit. Therefore he said to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, "Ordinary people address me as panditji, a very learned man, but I know my position. I do not know what I am. This is my position."
Now, if you ask a big, big doctor, scientist, or philosopher, "What are you?" he will say, "I am an Indian," "I am an American," "I am this, I am that." Bodily designations, that's all. He is fool number one, and still he is passing as a great scientist, a great philosopher.
If one does not know himself, what is the value of his learning? One must know his own identity. Everyone is identifying with his body: "I am Hindu," "I am Muslim," "I am Christian," "I am Indian," "I am American," "I am German," "I am English." This is why so much fighting is going on. The living entity is part and parcel of God, a spiritual spark covered by a material body. For example, we are all human beings covered by different clothes. That does not mean we are different. We are one as human beings, as inhabitants of this earth. But due to our different bodily dress, I am thinking you are my enemy, and you are thinking I am your enemy.
The Bhagavatam's conclusion is yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke sva-dhih kalatradisu bhauma ijya-dhih. . . sa eva go-kharah: "Anyone who is identifying himself with his body, and also with the land his body has taken birth in, is no better than an ass or a cow." Everyone is thinking, 'This land of my birth is worshipable." And from this mentality comes nationalism or this "ism" or that "ism." But no one thinks, "How long shall-I be allowed to occupy this body and this land?" This is ignorance.
So, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's movement starts from the understanding that we are spirit souls, eternal servants of Krsna. This is the same teaching as Krsna's in the Bhagavad-gita. There the Lord says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: "Give up your so-called man-made duties, or dharmas, and just surrender unto Me." This is real dharma, or religion—to surrender to God.
God is one. He is neither Hindu nor Muslim nor Christian. The Vedic injunction is ekam brahma dvitiyam nasti: "God is one; He cannot be two." So whether you are Hindu, Muslim, or Christian, God is one. This is to be understood.
Krsna consciousness is the science of God. Try to understand scientifically what you are and what God is and what religion is. That is Caitanya Mahaprabhu's teaching. He begins His teachings to Sanatana Gosvami by saying jivera 'svarupa' haya—krsnera 'nitya-dasa': "Every living being is an eternal servant of God." This is religion. Religion does not mean stamping oneself as a Hindu, a Muslim, or a Christian. No. Religion means to know that God is great and that we are subordinate to Him and maintained by Him. This is religion. If anyone simply knows these things—that God is great and we are subordinate, and that our duty is to abide by the orders of God—he is religious.
Unity can be established on the spiritual platform, not on the bodily platform. The United Nations is trying to unite the nations of the world, but every year the number of flags is increasing. This kind of so-called unity will never be successful. The United Nations was established many years ago to bring unity among nations. So, what has it done? It has not done anything, nor can it do anything.
If you want to be united, you have to be united on the spiritual platform. And what is that spiritual platform? The spiritual platform means to understand thoroughly that. God is great, that we are subordinate, and that God is maintaining us. All the property everywhere belongs to God, and while we can use our father's property as much as we require, we should not take more than we need and stock it.
The birds are a good example. If you put a bag of rice here, the birds will come and eat a few grains and go away. But if you put, say, one thousand bags of. wheat here and declare that anyone can take them, there will be a fight. Everyone will try to take as much as he can carry. This is human civilization: "Oh, there is so much wheat. Let me take as much as possible and stock it for tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. Let me stock it for my son, my grandson, and my great-grandson." [Laughter.]
This foolishness is going on because of a lack of spiritual consciousness. As stated in the Vedas, isavasyam idam sarvam: "Everything belongs to God." The food belongs to God, the mine belongs to God, the ocean belongs to God, the, land belongs to God, the air belongs to God—everything belongs to God. So we should feel obliged to God that He has given us so much for our maintenance. We should take as much as we need and use as much as possible in His service. This is Krsna consciousness.
Krsna consciousness is actually perfect communism. The communists think in terms of the human beings within the state, but a Krsna conscious person thinks in terms of all living beings. In the Bhagavatam it is stated that a householder, before taking his lunch, should call out on the street: "If anyone is hungry, please come to my place and eat!" And he should see that in his household even the lizard does not go hungry. Even a snake should not go hungry. This is the Vedic principle, God consciousness. The householder thinks, "Somehow or other some living entity has taken a snake's body. So at my house why should he remain hungry? Let me give him some food." Nobody likes snakes, but in the scripture it is said that one should see to it that even a snake does not go hungry.
Of course, this is a very high ideal, but it is the complete ideal of real communism. It is not that national leaders should be concerned only with human beings. The definition of native is "one who takes birth in a particular nation." So, the cow is also a native. Then why should the cow be slaughtered? The cow is giving milk and the bull is working for you, and then you slaughter them? What is this philosophy? In the Christian religion it is clearly stated, "Thou shalt not kill." Yet most of the slaughterhouses are in the Christian countries.
This is all a misunderstanding of spiritual life. Every animal should be. given protection. That is the Vedic idea. Otherwise, by killing, killing, killing, you become entangled in sinful activities. Therefore now the women are killing their own children in the womb. This is going on.
We cannot be happy in this way, because we shall become more and more entangled in sinful actions and their resultant reactions. Then we will have to take various types of bodies, perpetually.
Therefore, we have begun this Krsna consciousness movement. By taking advantage of this movement, people can awaken to God consciousness, stop sinful activities, and become purified. Without becoming purified, one cannot understand God. It is not possible. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita [7.28],
yesam tv anta-gatam papam
"One who is completely free from sinful life can take to devotional service."
That is why we have prescribed four regulative principles: no illicit sex, no meat-eating, no gambling, and no intoxication. Especially in your country, America, you have so many nice vegetables, fruits, grains, and milk products. So why should you kill the cow? You have taken our prasadam feasts. How delicious they are! So why kill the cow?
Sometimes people argue that vegetables also have life. Yes, we admit this. But that is why we eat only prasadam, food offered to Krsna before being eaten. Whatever Krsna leaves, we take. This is our process. We don't take directly. So, while the vegetables have life, Krsna says, patram puspam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayacchati tad aham . . . asnami: "If one lovingly offers Me a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water, I will accept it." Then there is no sin in eating the vegetables.
We have invited Krsna as our guest, and He has consented to come here. So we must offer Him the foods He wants. That is proper etiquette. If some respectable guest comes to your house, you should ask him, "What would you like to eat, sir?" Whatever he asks for, you have to supply. That is the real way of receiving a guest.
So Krsna says, "Give Me food among these items: fruits, vegetables, grains, and milk products. And that also with devotion, not neglectfully. Then I will accept it." Therefore we prepare hundreds of items with these ingredients and offer them to Krsna, and you can also do that. They are all delicious and full of vitamins. Then why should you unnecessarily kill the poor animals and become vicious and sinful?
This is, Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu's teaching: Live peacefully, be a gentleman, realize God, and make your life happy in this world and the next. He wanted this teaching spread to every town, every city, every village in the world. And the Hare Krsna movement is just trying to serve Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. You can see how beneficial this Krsna consciousness is. Please don't be blind, but try to consider it a little liberally, without any—what is it called?—sophistry. Without any bias or prejudice. Don't be carried away by prejudice. Try to understand the philosophy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu and be happy.
Thank you very much.
A day in the life of a "typical" devotee shows that, along with hard work and regulation, there are freedom, satisfaction, and ever-increasing pleasure.
By Nagaraja Dasa
Many people think the members of the Hare Krsna movement have failed to join the dance of life. They think we are no longer free to experience life's Joys. "Your lives are too restricted," they say. "How can you be happy? You've given up so many of the normal pleasures of life. How can you reject all the things that everyone else holds so dear? Why are you wasting your lives?"
But devotees of Krsna don't feel they're wasting their lives, and although they have given up many things, they don't experience any lack. A devotee's life is filled with variety, though the variety is different from what materialistic persons are accustomed to. Modern society encourages us to be open-minded and to experience life to the fullest, but even the most energetic persons can't experience all the variety of this world. They have to make choices. For example, how many "open-minded" persons have experienced a Sunday Feast at the Hare Krsna temple?
Devotees are sometimes diminutively labeled "otherworldly." We still live in the world, however, and have many of the same experiences everyone else has. But because we see things differently, we don't experience them in exactly the same way as the nondevotees. We try to see everything in terms of the absolute knowledge of the Vedic literature, which is the philosophical basis for the Krsna consciousness movement. We value those things that contribute to our spiritual lives.
I'd like to describe a day in the life of a typical devotee, but it's difficult to pick one devotee and say he or she is typical. We're individuals, though we do have many things in common. For example, in Philadelphia, where I live, some devotees live in apartments in a building connected to the temple, some live in the neighborhood, and some live farther away. Some devotees work full-time directly for the temple, and others have secular jobs. To give an idea of a devotee's life—at the risk of sounding vain—I'll describe a typical day in my own life.
I'm married and live in an apartment near the temple, I work full-time for Back to Godhead magazine. My wife, Pranada-devi dasi, who works part-time for Back to Godhead, has a typesetting business and somehow manages to have time for cooking and housekeeping in our apartment. Our day begins at 3 A.M.
"Three o'clock! Why get up at such an ungodly hour?"
Precisely because it's not "ungodly"—it's godly. The Vedic literature explains that the last couple of hours before sunrise are especially conducive to spiritual practices. Anyone who rises early in the morning (not necessarily at three o'clock) can verify how one naturally feels more peaceful then than at other times of the day. The peaceful atmosphere helps us concentrate on God.
There's another reason why we get up so early: we don't want to sleep too much. Most devotees sleep six to eight hours, which is plenty for a healthy person. Sleeping is necessary to keep the body healthy, but too much sleep is unhealthy. It's also a waste of time, and time is very valuable to a devotee. People sometimes criticize us as being lazy; we seem to live a carefree life of chanting and dancing. Actually, we are very busy endeavoring to advance in spiritual realization.
Self-realization is not an easy task. It takes a lifetime of dedication to free oneself from the illusion that one is the material body. That illusion is the source of all suffering. Self-realization is so important and human life is so short that devotees want to be sure they make the best use of their time; therefore, they try not to sleep too much.
After rising, I shower, then apply tilaka (sacred clay) to my forehead and twelve other places on my body. By consecrating my body with tilaka, I remind myself that Krsna is within my body as the Supersoul, and that my body is meant for serving Him. Afterwards, I dress in the traditional Vaisnava (devotee of Krsna) clothes, a dhoti and kurta.
While applying tilaka and dressing, I like listening to a recorded lecture by His Divine Grace A C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, my spiritual master and the founder of the Hare Krsna movement. During his twelve years with us, no matter where he was, Srila Prabhupada lectured daily on the science of Krsna consciousness. Most of his lectures, as well as conversations with professors, clergymen, students, and others, were recorded. I relish hearing his voice in the early morning, declaring the immortal truths of the Vedas with complete conviction.
After dressing, I chant the Hare Krsna mantra on my beads. Like all initiated devotees I have taken a vow to chant the sixteen-word mantra nearly two thousand times daily, which takes about two hours to complete.
I chant Hare Krsna to attain pure love for God. I try to chant with devotion and hear the transcendental sound of God's names without any distracting thoughts. Since the mind is naturally restless, this is not an easy task. To chant purely takes practice. That's why I have to chant in a regulated way.
Even though my chanting isn't perfect, I have faith that by practice I can reach the stage of pure chanting, when I'll see Krsna face to face at every moment. I have that faith because the teachings of the Vedic literatures and the testimonies of many great devotees proclaim the benefits of chanting Krsna's names. Indeed, all scriptures declare the spiritual rewards of chanting God's holy names.
I chant on my beads for about an hour before walking half a block to the temple for mangala-arati at 4:15. Mangala means "auspicious," and arati is a ceremony in which a priest offers various articles to the Deities while the congregation sings prayers and songs glorifying the Lord.
For devotees who daily attend the mangala-arati, it becomes a most cherished event. I've been going daily for thirteen years now, and though we sing the same songs every day, I still love singing them. The inspiring sound of a roomful of singing voices, the fragrance of incense and flowers, the rhythms of the drums and the chiming of the cymbals create a festive atmosphere that stimulates remembrance of Krsna and of my position as His eternal servant.
The chanting begins slowly with prayers to the spiritual master and builds gradually into exuberant chanting of Hare Krsna that inspires the assembled devotees to dance and jump with joy. I feel jubilant while chanting Hare Krsna, and that's natural, because Krsna is the source of all joy. When I dance it's not artificial or contrived, nor am I in a mesmeric trance, as some people like to believe. I dance because I feel happy and because I want to please Krsna. If I feel tired or unenthusiastic, I try to chant and dance anyway, and Krsna helps me from within by giving me real enthusiasm.
After mangala-arati I complete the prescribed chanting on my beads, then spend an hour or so in my office or at home studying Srila Prabhupada's books or writing. Reading his books is extremely valuable for anyone who wants to understand the purpose of life and how to attain it. Srila Prabhupada also encouraged his disciples to write about their understanding of Krsna consciousness, so every day I try to make some time for writing.
I return to the temple by seven o'clock and wait with the other devotees for the doors to the Deities' chamber to open and reveal the Deities, freshly bathed and dressed in gorgeous garments and jewelry.
The devotees sing and offer prayers to the Deities for about ten minutes. Then the blowing of conchshells announces guru-puja, an arati ceremony in which we worship Srila Prabhupada. Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic scriptures recommend such worship of saintly representatives of God. Although many of Srila Prabhupada's disciples are now spiritual masters with disciples of their own, guru-puja in the temple is reserved for Srila Prabhupada, without whom most of us would never have heard of Krsna, what to speak of dedicating our lives to loving and serving Him. For this great benediction, devotees for generations will recognize Srila Prabhupada for his special contribution to their spiritual lives.
At guru-puja we especially pray for dedication to the spiritual master, because through him we receive the mercy of Krsna. Without the blessings of the spiritual master, one cannot make any spiritual advancement. This is emphatically stated in all the Vedic literatures. Krsna Himself says that no one can be His devotee without first becoming a devotee of His devotee. Like the mangala-arati, the guru-puja ends with enthusiastic chanting of Hare Krsna.
At 7:30 Srimad-Bhagavatam class begins. Srimad-Bhagavatam means "The Beautiful Story of the Personality of Godhead." It is the cream of the Vedic literature because it specifically deals with the activities and pastimes of Krsna. Srimad-Bhagavatam, written by Srila Vyasadeva—the compiler of all the Vedic literature—in his mature stage of God realization, contains many conclusive statements about the Absolute Truth. As one of its verses states, regularly hearing from Srimad-Bhagavatam clears all impurities from our hearts, enabling us to perfect our lives by becoming lovers of God. This essential Vedic text is excerpted in Back to Godhead each month.
In the class, we chant the day's Bhagavatam verse, which is in Sanskrit, and a devotee reads Srila Prabhupada's translation and commentary. He then speaks on the verse, saying only what is supported by the Vedic scriptures. To speak on Srimad-Bhagavatam is a great privilege, and one who does so is considered to be representing Srila Vyasadeva. He must not speak anything contrary to Vyasadeva's conclusions. I get the opportunity about once a week to give the Bhagavatam class, and I always find it to be a challenging and enlivening experience.
After speaking for about half an hour, the person conducting the class opens for discussion. Srila Prabhupada said that his followers should never be "dull-headed" but should apply their intelligence to understanding the philosophy of Krsna consciousness. In the Bhagavatam class devotees sometimes offer challenges, testing the Vedic conclusions. Or they ask for clarification on points raised by the speaker or the text. These discussions often bring about lively debates, yet they always end with the superiority of Vedic wisdom shining forth.
Following the discussion the members of our community take breakfast together, relishing prasadam (food offered to Krsna) while conversing or listening to a reading from one of our many texts on the science of Krsna consciousness. By the time breakfast is over, it's nine o'clock. Enlivened by six hours of spiritual practices, and refreshed with Krsna's prasadam, I'm ready to begin my day's work.
Other devotees are ready to start work, too. Some have duties running the temple, some of them go out for preaching, and others tend to their businesses or go to their places of employment.
At Back to Godhead's offices, I edit most of the articles that go into the magazine. Working with other members of the Back to Godhead staff, I also help plan and select articles, illustrations, captions, titles, subtitles, and so forth. I answer readers' letters, some of which are used in our "Letters" column, and I correspond with contributors to the magazine. In addition, I try to write articles regularly. It is challenging and satisfying work, and I feel fortunate to be able to contribute toward spreading Krsna consciousness.
At 1:00 p.m. I break for lunch, which Pranada has prepared at our apartment and offered to our deity of Srila Prabhupada. Then I return to the office and work until around 6:30 P.M.
Pranada and I spend the evening together reading Srila Prabhupada's books. We don't own a television. Even though there may be something of value on TV, we feel our time is better spent in the pure association of Srila Prabhupada's books. Though we read them every day, we're always gaining new appreciation and realization of Krsna consciousness from them. We're not growing tired of them.
In the evening we take a light meal, and we retire around 8:30. The next morning at three, we start the cycle again.
Though from the materialistic point of view my day may seem to lack variety, I find that if I diligently apply myself to the purifying process of Krsna consciousness, I lack no variety of satisfying spiritual experiences. There is plenty of external variety even in regulated temple life, but the real variety, the real taste, takes place internally.
Like everyone else, I want to feel that my activities have value. As an aspiring devotee of the Supreme Lord, Krsna, I know that my real worth comes from my being an eternal spirit soul, an eternal servant of Krsna. I know—both theoretically and by my experience—that as long as I serve Krsna, I'll be happy.
Everyone can serve Krsna. It's everyone's spiritual, constitutional right. If you want to serve Krsna, despite the burdens of social, professional, and family responsibilities, you will find a way. In the Krsna consciousness movement there is a whole range of services available, and as Krsna explains in Bhagavad-gita, if one cannot serve Him directly by preaching, he can give money to help the preaching work. Krsna sees this as valuable service and as the process for purifying one's ordinary work.
In many ways my situation is ideal for making spiritual advancement—I live near the temple, I work directly for spreading Krsna consciousness, and I don't have many worldly responsibilities. While the description of my day may sound simplistic or unrealistic, actually what I have described is my normal day, which changes slightly for things like taking my wife grocery shopping once a week or taking my car to a mechanic once in a while.
But no matter what your occupation, if you follow the rules and regulations for advancing in Krsna consciousness—chanting Hare Krsna regularly and refraining from meat-eating, illicit sex, intoxication, and gambling—and if you contribute in some way to the spreading of Krsna consciousness, you are a devotee. Krsna accepts your service.
Devotees try to make their lives so full of Krsna conscious activities that they have no time for things that hinder their spiritual development. People often claim to have no time for spiritual life, but if we are serious about spiritual advancement, we will find time for it by eliminating unnecessary activities from our lives.
Many activities outside Krsna consciousness may appear innocent to materialistic persons, but because such activities increase our absorption in bodily consciousness—the antithesis of Krsna consciousness—aspiring devotees avoid them. Serious students of Krsna consciousness know that such mundane activities retard spiritual advancement.
I don't go to restaurants, nightclubs, theaters, or football games, and I don't feel I'm missing anything. These so-called joys of life are insignificant compared to the pleasure I experience in my regular activities, in the association of people who are seriously trying to purify their consciousness so they can experience life—real life—to the fullest.
We aren't missing out on anything. We have experienced many things, and now we're experiencing Krsna consciousness. We're not naive. And we're not wallflowers. We're just dancing to the beat of a different drummer.
At his mother's funeral a devotee of
by Sri Nandanandana Dasa
My mother had been a kidney dialysis patient for nine years. Since the average life expectancy for dialysis patients is five years, her recent death was not unexpected. But when someone dear to you dies, you are never really ready for it. Even if you try to prepare yourself, you can't avoid the sense of loss.
For years I had wondered how I would react to my mother's death. What would I say? What would I do? I had decided years ago that no matter how I felt, I would give at least part of the eulogy at her funeral. I knew she had wanted a son who was a minister. And although I never became a minister in the conventional Western sense, my life centers on my spiritual commitments. So I thought giving part of the eulogy would be the most appropriate way of paying my last respects to her.
I always had a good relationship with my parents, and I would regularly write and phone them and visit them over the holidays. When I became a full-time devotee of Lord Krsna, they would come to visit me at the temple community where I lived. My father developed a great appreciation for prasadam, vegetarian food offered to Krsna. My mother liked my pure and simple life, as well as the Bengali sweets I would send her every so often.
When my wife, Cintamani, and I would go home for a visit, my parents would always be eager and happy to eat her delicious cooking. Cintamani would offer everything to Krsna and then serve everyone. My parents were convinced that my mother's health improved whenever she ate Cintamani's cooking.
Gradually, my mother's health became so bad, however, that my parents were not able to continue visiting us, so we always tried to visit them at least a few times a year, especially at Christmas. During the Christmas season of 1986 I had a feeling that it would be our last holiday together as a family. I tried to make sure that the last impression we had of each other as a family was a good one, with no last-minute arguments unresolved or feelings unexpressed.
A few weeks later, I got a call from my dad telling me that my mother had died. I felt sad but, at the same time, relieved. I was relieved that she no longer had to struggle with her sickly body, which had caused her so much pain. But I felt a loss. When I went home for the funeral, there was a definite emptiness to the house. All the memories and the little things I usually took for granted now had a special meaning.
At the funeral the Lutheran minister conducting the service said thoughtful and comforting things. But he also said that we do not know why God causes some of His faithful to suffer, or why some of us have to endure so much heartache and pain.
When I got up to speak, I began answering the minister's questions, basing my talk on the Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and the Upanisads, as well as the Bible. I explained the universal spiritual knowledge that the soul is eternal and transcendental to the limited, physical body. Though the body appears to die, the soul continues on to another body according to its destiny. Only the body undergoes the troubles of birth, old age, disease, and death. This suffering is one way God reminds us that this world is not our real home. Our real home is in the eternal, spiritual kingdom of God. God is our actual well-wisher and guardian. By focusing our love on Him, we can solve the most difficult problems. Regaining our love for Him is the price for returning to our eternal, spiritual home, the goal of human life.
After I had spoken, many persons told me how much they appreciated what I had said. Even persons I didn't know came forward and shook my hand, saying how much they were impressed by the eulogy. Days later people still spoke to my father about my talk and asked if I was a minister. I could understand that true spiritual knowledge, as presented in the Vedas, can relieve people of their confusion about life and their anxiety caused by not knowing what lies beyond death.
Several times over the next few days, my father told me that after I had spoken he suddenly felt better. He hadn't found anything faulty in what the minister had said, but after my talk he could understand that he had known my mother on the physical level, and that now she had gone on to another realm to continue her destiny. He understood that although he would miss her, there was no reason to grieve.
I was happy that I could help my father by giving him enlightenment through spiritual knowledge during this difficult time. And I felt increased conviction for the teachings of Krsna consciousness, so mercifully given to us by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
A Gracious Hostess
How welcoming guests can be a pleasing meditation on Lord Krsna.
by Visakha-devi dasi
The apartment door opens and you first notice a small, slender, smiling young woman, swathed gracefully in a sari. You return her smile and glance past her to a clean, brightly lit ten-by-fifteen-foot room with a varnished parquet floor, white walls broken only by two pictures, a couch at the far end, and a bookshelf/altar on the left.
Invited in, you leave your shoes on a straw mat reserved for that purpose and seat yourself comfortably on the couch with your hostess. In a moment she is up and handing you a cup of herbal tea. In the time it takes you to have one sip, she returns from the kitchen with a dish of chidwa, a deep-fried snack of flat rice, spices, and nuts.
"My husband likes chidwa," she explains, "and since it keeps well, I make a large batch of it and always have it on hand for guests."
You relax and enjoy. The chidwa tastes good; the atmosphere is pleasant; your hostess is gracious.
Your hostess, Madhumati-devi dasi, is of Indian background, but she was born in Washington, D.C. She's spent only four of her twenty-six years in India. Her father, a diplomat for India, kept her, her twin brother, and her mother with him as his duties took him to Washington, D.C., for three years, Zambia for four years, Italy for four years, Libya for one year, India for four years, and Ireland for four years.
Beginning from her eleventh year—when she was in Libya—Madhumati helped her mother cook for the thirty or forty people her father hosted from the Indian embassy every month.
Recently, memories of those dinners came back strongly, for in February last year she and her husband, Sesa dasa, moved into an apartment (where you are now seated) and within a month began having evening get-togethers at their place.
Madhumati: "At first my husband wanted to invite all the devotees in the community. I said. There's no room for all of them.' He said, 'It's all right; we'll have them sit in rows and serve them all.' But I felt uncertain of my cooking, so he agreed to invite one couple over the first time. Two weeks later we had two couples over, a week later three couples, and so it went. Then just before Mathuresa and his family moved out of town, we had a going-away party with twenty-eight people over—including ten children. Now, that was a big group for this apartment."
Madhumati begins thinking a week ahead about the menu for these gatherings, choosing complementary dishes—the rice and soup, bread and vegetable, savory, sweet, and a special dish. She often changes the menu completely as the day approaches. "It's a kind of meditation on satisfying the devotees and Lord Krsna," she says. "My husband and I feel pleased after we've served the devotees; it's an intimate way to relate with them, and we all become closer through prasadam.
"I want my guests to feel happy and appreciate the Vedic culture we've imbibed. And I would like them to serve guests this way in their homes. It's satisfying for the hosts and the guests."
By now you've finished your chidwa and tea, and it's time to go, although you'd like to stay longer. Madhumati has to baby-sit for the devotee child next door, so reluctantly you cross the room to your shoes, thinking, "Yes, I would like to create this mood in my home and have happy gatherings like the ones I just heard about, but Madhumati must come to make it complete."
(Recipes from Madhumati-devi dasi.)
Preparation time: 1 ¼ hours
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1. In a small frying pan roast the fennel seeds over a medium flame until they turn a few shades darker. Remove from the flame and set aside.
2. In a small bowl combine the turmeric, cayenne pepper, salt. sugar, ajwain, and chilies and set aside.
3. Line two plates with several thicknesses of paper towel and keep them near the frying area.
4. Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or saucepan over a high flame. Drop in a handful of shredded potato, stirring occasionally until it is golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on the paper towels. Fry the remaining potato in the same way.
5. Reduce the flame to medium. Place a handful of flat rice in a metal strainer and lower it into the hot oil. Within a minute the frothing will settle. The flat rice is done when it is crisp but not brown. Remove the strainer and place the flat rice on the paper towels to drain. Fry the remaining flat rice in the same way.
6. Fry the cashews in the same manner as the flat rice, until they are golden brown. After all the ingredients have cooled to room temperature, mix them together in a mixing bowl. Add the fennel seeds, raisins, and spice mixture and mix well. Offer to Krsna and then store in an air-tight container.
Dosa Stuffed with Spiced Potatoes
Dal soaking time: 4-6 hours
Batter standing time: 20 hours
Preparation time for stuffing and cooking: 30 minutes
½ cup urad dal
2 tablespoons ghee
1. Sort through the dal beans (to remove stones) and wash in several changes of water. Cover with 4 cups of water. In a separate bowl, wash the rice with several changes of water, then cover with 4 cups of water. Allow both to soak for 4-6 hours.
2. Drain the dal and place ½ cup of dal in a blender. Blend, stopping now and then to add 1 tablespoon of water and to push down the beans toward the blade with a rubber spatula to help the grinding. Continue adding the dal and blending until light and frothy. Transfer the dal beans to a bowl and set aside. Drain the rice, put it into the blender, and blend for about 2 minutes. Stop now and then to push the rice down toward the blades. Blend until the rice is smoothly ground. Scrape the blended rice into the bowl with the dal and stir until well mixed. Cover with a plate and set aside in a warm place for 20 hours.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons of ghee in a large frying pan over a medium flame. Add the black mustard seeds and chili and cover. After the mustard seeds finish popping, stir in the potatoes. Add the turmeric, amchur, and ground coriander. Stir-fry for 3 minutes, then stir in the lemon juice and fresh coriander and remove from the flame.
4. Preheat an iron skillet over a medium flame. Brush the skillet with ghee. Test the temperature of the skillet by sprinkling a few drops of water on it; if the drops sputter and vanish, it is ready.
5. Add the salt and warm water to the dal and rice mixture until it is the consistency of a light cake batter. With a ladle, place 1/3 cup of batter in the center of the pan. Using the bottom of the ladle, spread .the batter out evenly in an outward spiral motion to form a circle. Make the dosa as thin as possible. Sprinkle a tablespoon of ghee around the outer edges of the dosa and cook it for about 2 minutes until the bottom is golden red. Ease the dosa up with a spatula and flip it over. Cook for 1 minute and remove from the pan.
6. Place about 2 tablespoons of the spiced potatoes in the center of the dosa and roll the dosa as you would to make a jellyroll. Cook all the dosas in the same way and offer to Krsna hot.
Dal soaking time: 4-5 hours
Preparation time: 1 ½ hours
1 cup toovar dal
1. Sort and wash the toovar dal. Place in a bowl, cover with 3 cups of water, and let soak 4-5 hours. Drain.
2. Combine the dal, water, turmeric, and butter in a 4-quart saucepan and bring to a boil over a high flame. Reduce the flame to medium-low and then cook until the dal is soft.
3. In a small frying pan heat the ghee over a medium flame. Stir in the black mustard seeds, green chilies, and fenugreek seeds and fry until the mustard seeds sputter and pop and the fenugreek seeds darken a few shades. Add the blended tomatoes, sambar masala, and salt and cook for 5 minutes over a medium flame. Add the green beans, coconut, and tamarind concentrate and cook for another 5 minutes. Then mix this with the dal and let it cook for 10-15 minutes. Offer to Krsna.
We welcome your letters.
Please let me tell all of you there that in my opinion Back to Godhead magazine has never been better. Srila Prabhupada wanted things in ISKCON to expand, improve, etc., and surely Back to Godhead has set the standard of constant endeavor in this direction. He wanted it to be on a par with the likes of Time and Life. Actually, this magazine is already surpassing them.
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What a great magazine you have! It's a blessing to receive such inspirational messages and photos every month. As a graphic artist, I applaud your magazine's design and illustrations. Every issue is proof of the living reality of the message of Swami Prabhupada. Haribol!
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Due to my present circumstances, I cannot yet fully enter into ISKCON and become an initiated devotee. For a long time I was upset with this situation, but after speaking with the devotees about my problem, I am comforted to know that Krsna will protect me as long as I continue following the four regulative principles and chanting Krsna's holy name.
I have a few questions: (1) I often talk to friends about Krsna. But I have been wondering, is it O.K. for me as a lay person to be discussing what little I know about Krsna consciousness and distributing books on Krsna consciousness, or should I avoid such activities? (2) Is it offensive for one who is not initiated to wear tilaka? (3) Even though I am not initiated, is it appropriate for me to honor Srila Prabhupada by placing a picture of him on a vyasasana [a seat of honor reserved for the spiritual master] in my home? (4) Is it all right for a person such as me to invite Tulasi-devi into my home?
Wade A. Ryan
OUR REPLY: It is very good that you are telling others about Krsna. Don't worry that you don't know everything. If you can present what you know with conviction, that will be effective preaching. Srila Prabhupada encouraged his disciples to immediately begin preaching according to their realizations. As you preach, your realizations will increase.
Of course, preaching should also inspire you to read Srila Prabhupada's books to be better equipped to preach. If you read his books regularly, you will be able to preach nicely. The basic philosophy of Krsna consciousness is actually very simple. There may be many details in the books, and you may not be able to remember or explain everything, but if you present the basic philosophy, that will be good. You can also encourage others to read Srila Prabhupada's books. Don't be hesitant. Do it as much as you can.
As for wearing tilaka, you don't have to be initiated. But you must remember that wearing tilaka means you are declaring that you are a devotee of Krsna, so you must act like a devotee. That means, of course, that you shouldn't wear tilaka and then engage in nonsense or sinful activities. Otherwise, your desire to wear tilaka is a good sign; it shows your allegiance to Krsna.
Yes, you can worship Srila Prabhupada directly. He is the siksa-guru (instructing spiritual master) for everyone. We have to go to Krsna through the guru. If you see Srila Prabhupada as your siksa-guru, that is very good. Eventually, though, you should formally accept a spiritual master through initiation, because that is a Vedic injunction. You can feel sure that if you sincerely accept Srila Prabhupada's guidance through his books and his International Society for Krishna Consciousness, then he will help you find a bona fide spiritual master from whom you can take initiation.
You can worship Tulasi-devi in your home if your home is pure. In other words, there should be no breaking of the regulative principles there—no meat-eating, no illicit sex, no intoxication, and no gambling. If you want to worship Tulasi-devi, always remember that she is a very exalted devotee of Krsna. You should care for her as you would an ordinary plant, but there are also certain things that devotees don't do in caring for her, like using chemical insecticides, for example. We suggest you ask the devotees at the Los Angeles temple who take care of Tulasi-devi for more guidance concerning the details of her worship.
To have a pure devotee like Tulasi-devi in your home is a powerful advantage for making spiritual advancement. But just as fire is beneficial if used properly but dangerous if misused, associating with Tulasi-devi can be dangerous if you commit offenses to her. That can hurt you spiritually. So the best thing is to take ad vantage of the benefits of worshiping Tulasi-devi sincerely, while being very careful to avoid offenses.
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I would like you to explain the following statements taken from a lecture by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in the September 1987 issue of your magazine: "Now, according to the state law, if I kill somebody, I should also be killed. The law of nature, or the law of God, works similarly. But we forget our past life. No one thinks, 'It is because I killed this person in my past life that he is now killing me.' But although we forget our past life, Krsna does not forget. And He reminds us: This child killed you in his past life, so now you can kill him in the womb.' Krsna is described as upadrasta and anumanta, 'the witness and permitter.' So He sees everything, and then He reminds everyone how to act in order to enjoy or suffer the fruits of their actions. Sometimes He reminds us to kill someone, and sometimes He reminds us to protect someone."
These statements seem to allow us to justify killing. Also, in the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, "One who is not conducted by false ego and whose intelligence is not entangled, even though killing in this world, is not killing." But surely it would take a great soul to be able to tell when killing is justified. Otherwise, everyone could kill as they like, offer it to God, and consider it justified.
OUR REPLY: In these statements Srila Prabhupada is making the point that karma is retributive. In other words, we reap what we sow. As an example, he explains that if I kill someone, that person will have the opportunity to kill me in our next life. Srila Prabhupada says that the person I kill may not remember in his next life that I killed him previously, but Krsna, as the witness of everything, does remember, and He—in a sense—reminds him that he should kill me. That means the person will feel a desire to kill me, even though he doesn't realize where the desire comes from.
The interactions of the living entities according to the laws of karma are very complicated. It is impossible for us to understand how karma is working in all the events of our lives. But we shouldn't think that we have no free choice. We can't use karma as an excuse for our sinful acts. We are forced to act strictly under the laws of karma only as long as we maintain desires to enjoy the material world. Even though Krsna "reminds" me to kill someone, if I no longer desire to enjoy material life by engaging in fruitive activities, I do not have to act on that reminder. And if I do act on it, then I implicate myself in more karma.
You see, as Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, He is the source of all remembrance. If we desire spiritual life, Krsna will help us remember Him. If we want material life He will remind us how to fulfill our material desires.
As you point out, people may also want to take advantage of Krsna's statements in the Gita to justify killing. But no one can cheat Krsna. Krsna's direction is not just some impulse within one's mind. For Krsna's pure devotee, the direction is perfectly clear. As Srila Prabhupada once said, "Krsna tells me directly." So unless we are actually on the stage of receiving direct instruction from Krsna, we must be guided by Krsna's pure representative, whose symptoms are given throughout the Vedic literature. One important symptom is that he is always engaged in glorifying Krsna. And He has no selfish interests. One who claims to be acting on behalf of God must exhibit the qualities of a pure devotee.
Krsna asked Arjuna to kill on His behalf because it was part of Krsna's plan to rid the world of demoniac kings and establish God conscious leadership for the benefit of the whole world. Krsna always acts to save the fallen souls, and sometimes His mission involves killing. Of course, since the soul never dies, Krsna's so-called killing is really meant for the "victim's" purification. In this age, however, Krsna has come as Caitanya Maha-prabhu, who is Krsna in His most merciful form. Lord Caitanya doesn't kill anyone, but He kills the demoniac mentality of people in this age by inducing them to chant the holy names of God. Everyone should follow His example, as He has requested, and not concoct some program for killing on behalf of the Lord.
Yet we should still understand the philosophical point that killing can be good if the cause is Krsna's cause. Anything used in Krsna's service is good. Srila Prabhupada gave the example that a knife can be either good or bad, depending on how it is used. Out of lust a person can kill with it, but a devotee can use it to cook for Krsna. What is apparently violence may also be used for Krsna. But then it is not actually violence. For example, if you were to intentionally cut into someone with a knife, you would probably go to jail, but when a surgeon uses a knife to cut into someone—to, say, remove a tumor—then his action is certainly not violence; it is beneficial to the patient.
Arjuna's fighting was also not real violence, in the sense that it was ultimately for the good of the world. A devotee cannot perform violent acts, and Arjuna was perplexed on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra because he thought he was being asked to commit violence. Krsna had to convince him otherwise. Then for Arjuna the order to kill was clear and direct. Unless we are definitely getting direct instructions from Krsna, we shouldn't presume that we can kill on His behalf.
Man has the chance to bloom spiritually by raising
by Bhakticaru Swami
The Vedic scriptures divide consciousness into five categories, namely covered, shrunken, budding, blooming, and fully bloomed.
Trees and plants, for example, are almost inert. They fall into the "covered consciousness" category. They seem to show no sign of consciousness, but when we observe them carefully, we see they have a limited consciousness.
Other living entities, such as worms, insects, and other animals, are in "shrunken consciousness." They are not as covered as the plants, but their consciousness is not fully developed either.
Human beings have "budding consciousness." A bud appears shrunken, but it has the potential to bloom into a flower. Human consciousness has similar potential; it appears shrunken like the animal's, but humans have the innate ability to develop their consciousness to an almost unlimited extent, up to the point of knowing the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Other species do not have this special ability. That's why the Vedic scriptures consider the human form of life the most elevated. Indeed, all scriptures consider human life especially sacred.
When a human being begins to inquire sincerely about the Absolute Truth, his budlike spiritual consciousness begins to expand or evolve. That is the "blooming" state of consciousness. When as a result of his inquiry he practices regulated spiritual discipline, he evolves further and further. Finally, he attains complete God realization, the "fully bloomed" state of consciousness.
God realization is possible because the real identity of a living being is the spirit soul, not the material body. The soul is not a product of material nature; it comes from the spiritual nature. When the soul falls into the lower levels of consciousness, it becomes covered by matter—first by a subtle, or ethereal, material body made of mind, intelligence, and false ego, then by a gross material body made of earth, water, fire, air, and ether.
The bodies we perceive with our material vision are gross material bodies. Within the gross body is the subtle body, which we cannot see with our eyes but can perceive by our intelligence.
Finer than this subtle material body of mind, intelligence, and false ego is the nonmaterial soul, which animates the body. The soul is the source of consciousness, the source of life in the body. The soul is the "I." As long as the soul is in the body, the body appears alive, consciousness flows through the body, and the covered soul misidentifies the body as the self.
An embodied soul transmigrates from one body to another as a result of his previous activities. His every action leaves an imprint on the mind, or the subtle body, and accordingly the subtle body takes its shape.
For example, if one acts like an angel, his subtle body becomes like that of an angel. If one acts like a pig, his subtle body becomes like that of a pig. When the soul leaves the gross body at death, the subtle body carries the soul to an appropriate womb determined by the shape of the subtle body. In this way the soul transmigrates from one body to another according to the state of consciousness it has developed.
The Vedic scriptures describe that one gets a human body after transmigrating through eight million lower species. Gradually each fallen soul evolves through the various stages of consciousness—covered, shrunken, and budding. At the budding stage the embodied soul has the chance to develop fully his spiritual consciousness by awakening his relationship with God, the supremely conscious being. If he neglects that opportunity, he may again undergo transmigration through the covered, shrunken, and budding stages.
The subhuman species are engrossed in bodily consciousness. Often human beings are also, but human beings can raise themselves to higher levels. That is the main difference between man and the animals. If a man, in spite of his higher faculties, simply pursues the animal propensities of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending, he grossly misuses a wonderful gift. He misses a rare opportunity.
A human being, because of his elevated intelligence, has the freedom to choose, either to evolve spiritually and get out of material consciousness altogether or to go down to lower consciousness again.
Less intelligent persons often consider sensual enjoyment the goal of life and squander their lives struggling for objects pleasing to their senses. Their absorption in material ambitions makes lower consciousness their choice by default.
Intelligent persons realize the futility of such endeavors for bodily pleasures. They realize that everything in the material realm is temporary. By finer intelligence they understand that all attempts to enjoy end in bondage and misery. That's why throughout history our greatest thinkers were averse to material enjoyments.
But mere aversion is not enough. One maybe averse to material enjoyments and renounce the world, but the desire for enjoyment is natural. Because the soul is a minute sparklike part of the supreme enjoyer, Krsna, the soul has all His qualities in minute degree; therefore the innate tendency for seeking enjoyment is inseparable from the soul. To understand the soul is to understand that we cannot altogether suppress or eliminate desire for enjoyment.
A truly intelligent person, therefore, tries to find the standard of real enjoyment. If such a person is serious and has good fortune, he comes in touch with a genuine spiritual teacher, by whose mercy he gets to know what real enjoyment is. With the spiritual master's guidance he gets the opportunity to reestablish his long-lost relationship with God.
This awakening of the soul's dormant love of God is an absolute necessity because the soul, as a sparklike part of God, is never fully satisfied unless united with Him. This is the central message of the Vedic texts.
The Vedic scriptures advise us that even if we want to enjoy material things, instead of making independent attempts for fulfilling our desires, we should render devotional service and pray to the Lord for the fulfillment of such desires. This is not the purest standard of loving devotion, but at least it acknowledges the Lord as the supreme proprietor. Naturally, as one grows in this awareness, one realizes the need to offer everything to its true proprietor. The making of such offerings is the beginning of devotional service to the Lord.
The word devotion implies an intense, trancelike love. We experience that love by offering God objects we consider valuable or beautiful. We know how intense is the love between a young man and woman, but how often does our love for the Lord reach that high intensity? Still, the love between a man and a woman is nothing but a perverted reflection of the true love of the individual soul for the Lord.
Material nature is itself a perverted reflection of the spiritual reality. It is illusory, like a dream. The only difference is that a dream is individual while this dream called physical reality is collective. But beyond this so-called reality is the absolute reality, upon which the perverted reflection is based. When our consciousness evolves and we transcend bondage to the material body, we can develop a loving relationship with the Lord. Then we will be qualified to enter that reality, where real enjoyment is ever-present.
There is no real joy in this material world. It's only a mirage. It appears that joy is here or there, but when we run after it, it runs away from us. That's why to a greater or lesser degree, everyone is frustrated sooner or later with material life; we do not get our heart's desire. The reason for this frustration is that we are spiritual, not material.
Our craving for enjoyment is also spiritual, but having forgotten about our spiritual nature, we search in vain for enjoyment within the material world. We identify with the material body and try to enjoy matter, but we can't. Naturally we become frustrated. If you take a fish out of water and offer it all comforts on land, will it ever be happy? In the same way, we are of the spiritual nature. We can never be made truly happy by material enjoyments.
In the modern age we have made much scientific advancement, but ultimately that has confused people even more. People have become more atheistic—hence more materialistic—under the false hope that science will provide answers to our quest for happiness. Actually we see that in spite of our amenities, economic development, social security programs, and so forth, suicide, homicide, rape, abortion, and other crimes continue to increase. These are obvious symptoms of an unhappy society.
If one wants to taste factual pleasure, he must develop spiritual consciousness, which culminates in love of God. That's why every religion teaches us to pray, to call out the name of the Lord in all earnestness, so that we can become conscious of His divine form. All scriptures recommend the chanting of the Lord's holy name. The spiritual sound penetrates the coverings of matter and enables the spiritual self to see the Absolute Truth face to face. That is the topmost state of consciousness, consciousness in full bloom. It is the ultimate evolution of man. not only for today, but for all time.
This is a lecture given at last year's Kirchentag ("Day of the Church"), an annual convention of Protestant churches in Germany. Last year's convention, held in June at the University of Frankfurt, was attended by eighty thousand people, including Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and marked the first time non-Christian groups were invited to participate.
Chanting is easy, and it works. In fact, it is the most effective means of God realization in the world.
Here's why. God is unlimitedly powerful, and His name is Himself. When we chant God's names, God is totally present through the transcendental sound. So potent are God's names that the Vedic scriptures consider chanting the essential, universal religion of the age. So why don't more people chant? Maybe they're embarrassed. Or busy. Or doubtful. Or maybe they think chanting is a sectarian religious practice—something only for the Hare Krishnas.
Yet what could be less sectarian than calling out to God? All the great scriptures of the world praise the holy names of God. God's names may vary from religion to religion or from culture to culture, but the person—the supreme father of all—is the same.
Don't be embarrassed. Chanting is for everyone. Don't feel you're too busy. Chanting is easy. And don't remain doubtful. Try chanting and see the results.
Chant. It's easy, effective, and universal.
Though some scientists are realizing
by Kundali dasa
You probably have no reason to believe that your senses are unreliable sources of knowledge. Your seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, and touching faculties may deceive you occasionally—as when you see an optical illusion—but it's nothing too serious. They give an accurate picture of reality most of the time. Besides, other persons confirm this by agreeing with you about the nature of the objects and events you perceive.
But do your eyes and other senses actually give you a true picture of reality? Look closely at the picture at left. Do you see anything wrong? (Other than that balconies don't usually fly.)
In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says that our world is not an objective one; rather, it's subjective, pliant, endlessly mutable. In other Vedic literature it's explained that our senses, the very means by which we gather data about the world, are unreliable because they are prone to illusion. They don't give us direct access to an objective world; rather, they give an illusion of objectivity. Krsna calls this illusion maya.
Sometimes the concept of maya is taken to mean the world is an illusion, but that's not exactly what Krsna says. According to Him, the material world is very real, but, like a house of mirrors, its purpose is to delude us. In a house of mirrors, the house and the observer are real, but because the mirrors distort reality within the house, the images perceived within it are illusory.
Similarly, the physical world is real, you and I are real, but like the mirrors in a fun house, our material senses distort our perceptions. Being oblivious to this built-in imperfection, however, we take our distorted perceptions as reality. Since we rely on our senses all the time for access to the external world, we're no better off than a person trapped in a house of mirrors. We're continuously in illusion, or maya.
For a long time the concept of maya made little sense to us in the Western world. Few persons, even if curious about Vedic thought, gave serious attention to Krsna's doctrine of illusion. It made for interesting discussion on occasion, but few wanted to take it any further than that.
This is changing in recent years. In some circles it's now fashionable to try to reconcile various aspects of Vedic thought with the physical sciences, and a few books on this theme have gone over well with the public. The prime objective of these science-and-spirituality books has been to show similarities between the theoretical subatomic world of quantum physics and the Vedic world view. By demonstrating that Western science and hoary Eastern spirituality are moving toward the same end, these books offer hope that we may yet see a happy union of science and spirituality.
Data Reduction Systems
Still, despite any apparent agreement between Vedic thought and the new physics, and despite the increasing popularity of that view, for most people the idea that life's an illusion remains untenable, and to sold-out materialists it's downright ridiculous.
But according to Charles Tart, a psychology professor at the University of California, the doctrine of illusion is far from ridiculous. In The Psychobiology of Consciousness, a collection of papers by researchers in related fields of psychology and biology, Tart draws on his twenty-odd years of research and on the work of others to present evidence that confirms, inadvertently, Krsna's depiction of our condition as one of deep illusion.
Tart is not alone in his conclusions. Robert Ornstein and Richard Strauch, authors of The Psychology of Consciousness and The Reality Illusion, respectively, both make a case to show that our world is an illusion-generating one, in which much of the illusion mechanism is built right into the instruments we rely on to observe and analyze the world: our senses.
These up-to-date findings by various individuals and groups researching consciousness—the most essential element of our existence—show that much of what we experience as reality is in our own heads.
Our senses, rather than giving us unadulterated access to the physical world, limit how much data we receive. The resultant partial picture combines with our expectations, pre-existing beliefs and assumptions, and past experiences to give us our personally constructed reality. The sights, sounds, smells, and shapes you experience are to some degree perceptions you create yourself. Hence reality, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder.
Our senses work on the world the way a sculptor works on his block of marble. As he chisels, he discards pieces of marble and extracts his statue from a wide range of possibilities. Another sculptor may give a different interpretation to the same piece of marble. Or the same sculptor, at another time, may give it an entirely new interpretation.
So it is with physical reality: we interpret or shape it according to what we discard, and at different times we give it different interpretations. The main difference between us and the sculptor is that we are not usually as conscious of the selection process.
A familiar but good example of the selection process at work is the faces/vase drawing in Figure 1. Depending on which image you choose to discard, the drawing is either a black vase or the outline of two white faces looking toward each other. Both images are present, but you can't see them both at the same time. Consciously or unconsciously, you select one and discard the other.
Figure 2 is a similar example of the selection process at work. The picture is either a young woman or an old woman, depending on how you choose to interpret the data before you. This is usually a more difficult one than the faces/vase picture, but see if you can spot both women.
The context in which you see something also plays an important role in perception and interpretation. The middle character in Figure 3 is either a number or a letter, depending on the context you choose to see it in. Without a context you wouldn't be able to tell whether it is the letter B or the number 13.
Our senses also distort things and supply information not given. In Figure 4, for example, our eye imagines the lines that form a white triangle.
All the senses have many known deceptions. To our tongues carbonated water tastes colder than ordinary water at the same temperature. Prolonged contact with dry ice registers in the brain as a burning sensation. In addition, we know there are sound frequencies our ear cannot hear, like the dog whistle, for example. Similarly, our eyes can perceive only a small portion of the light rays that we know exist. (Figure 5).
A frog's eyes take in even less of the external world than ours do. In experiments where hundreds of colors, shapes, sizes, and movements were placed within seven inches of a frog's eyes, only four kinds of messages went from its eyes to its brain. The frogs eyes can (1) give it a general outline of the environment, (2) enable it to detect sudden movements of shadows, and (3) enable it to detect sudden decreases in light.
Predictably, the frog's fourth kind of visual response is that it can see small dark objects, like flies and other insects, approaching. A frog's eyes so limit how much the frog perceives that even within the range of seven inches, the rich and varied visual world our eyes enjoy is nonexistent to it. In a frog's world, elephants don't exist as elephants, but probably as earth-shaking shadows. Frogs—or ants or rhinos or seagulls—live their own reality illusion.
Consensus Reality Illusion
These are just a few relatively simple examples out of dozens, but they give us some idea how unreliable our senses are and how subjective and relative reality is. Not only does the same reality appear differently when perceived from different viewpoints—a tree seen from the air and from the ground, say—but even from a single perspective, a fixed set of data may be interpreted in more than one way. The same set of facts may appear differently to different persons, or even to the same person at different times, as in the faces/vase figure. Or the same facts may be seen differently in different settings, as in Figure 3.
All this knowledge about how the senses function—or malfunction—gives rise to a few intriguing questions: Of what we perceive, how much of it is a distortion of what's actually there? How much of the world are we not perceiving at all? And how much of it do we imagine by aural, visual, and tactile hallucinations? In short, how can we distinguish reality from illusion?
The answer is, we don't know. We'll never know. For, as the research indicates, we simply have no method for perceiving the world without its being filtered and therefore distorted by our senses. Alert to this fact, the Vedic literature sometimes uses another word to describe our condition; durga, or "prison." We are imprisoned in the illusions fed to us by our senses.
But if we don't live in an objective reality, if we are so entrenched in maya, how are we able to agree on so much of our experience? How can we even converse about objects and events in the world?
Tart explains that we can talk about reality as objective because of the high degree of agreement we share in our individual realities. From birth we condition our senses to select and interpret phenomena the same way others around us do, forming in effect a consensus reality illusion: many individuals sharing an agreed-upon way of interpreting their environment. Through this consensus illusion we perpetuate belief in an objective reality from one-generation to the next.
Stalking the Best Culture
Wherever a group of people adhere to the same consensus reality, it's called a culture. As the diverse cultures around the world testify, there are many ways of interpreting the physical world, many different consensus reality illusions. And, as with individual realities, sometimes consensus realities overlap.
Tart and other researchers, like Robert Rivilin and Karen Gravelle, co-authors of Deciphering the Senses, believe that in light of this cultural relativity, while the temptation to compare cultures in terms of best and worst is strong, it would be unfair to do so. We have no absolute criteria by which to evaluate the world's diverse cultures.
This makes sense. If our individual and collective values are ultimately relative and arbitrary, any assumption or ruling that culture A is better than culture B is more likely a result of our prejudices than an unbiased conclusion.
While this seems reasonable, it's not entirely true. If a culture existed which recognized that we live in an illusion, if it actually had a goal beyond making us snug in the illusion, and if it could train us to distinguish reality from illusion, that culture would be immeasurably better than any other. It would be the best culture.
Clearly this is a great claim to make on behalf of any culture. Nevertheless, one has to agree in principle that if such a culture existed, it could justly lay claim to being the best. The question is, does such a culture exist?
The answer is yes. It is the Vedic culture, the same culture from which the concept of maya originated. Unlike other cultures. Vedic culture is specifically geared toward ridding us of illusion. It does this by teaching a technique of living in a way that transcends the senses. As Krsna describes it, true Vedic culture trains its adherents—man, woman, and child—to penetrate the relative world to the plane of absolute reality, the spiritual world.
When you consider that no other culture makes such a claim for its masses and that our chances of getting out of maya's fun house are otherwise remote, it makes sense not pass up too hastily the opportunity the Vedic world view offers. This proposal is even more attractive when you throw in the following considerations.
An especially significant outcome of the revelation that we are inextricably snarled in illusion is that it voids the philosophers' long-standing tradition of speculating about the Absolute Truth. After all, apart from its merit as a diversion—a creative way to kill time—what's the value of our conjecturing over something beyond our ability to confirm it?
This revelation voids the physical sciences as well, at least as far as any hope that they will one day yield a definitive understanding of our existence, for our scientists are as hopelessly deluded by their senses as everyone else. For all their hypothesizing, analyzing, observing, and naming, they are no more qualified to deliver perfect knowledge than you or I.
A third and equally significant outcome of this discovery is that while we have heard "Everything is relative" many times before, we have no idea how relative everything actually is. The recognition of the reality illusion pulls all the stops on the range of possible explanations about the world. No longer can we assume that this is the best of all possible worlds and that we are the best of all beings in it.
For instance, if we can accept that in a frog's reality elephants don't exist as elephants but as earth-shaking shadows, then we can accept as reasonable the Vedic literature's assertion that demigods and other higher beings exist, and that although we might not perceive them in our reality, their actions affect our existence.
The thought that we could be so limited by our senses is humbling, but it's not preposterous when we consider the lessons learnt from the frog example. We know that in our reality an ant living in our flower bed is insignificant, but in the ant's reality we may not exist at all. And yet every time we turn on the garden hose, we may affect that ant's life. Why couldn't our position relative to the demigods be a similar one? For all we know, our rain could be a demigod's garden hose.
It's hard to believe at first that we could be that insignificant, but actually without the prospect of getting out of illusion, such as the Krsna conscious Vedic culture offers, the reality illusion reduces our existence to insignificance anyway. It reduces us to wormlike creatures that eat, sleep, mate, writhe, and contort for some time, and then die. All our achievements are but another loop and twist in the endless snarl called maya. They are laudable only until we realize they add up to zero.
Once you appreciate this, you can easily see how the assumption, based on a tacit acceptance of the body as the true self, that somehow we will create a comfortable and lasting arrangement for happiness in a temporary world is an abjectly foolish one.
This is precisely Krsna's point to Arjuna early in the Gita, and it is echoed throughout the Vedic literature. The conclusion is that the only way to get information about reality beyond our illusion is from a source unaffected by the illusion, just as a person drowning in the ocean can be saved only by someone who is not drowning.
This makes good logical sense, but it poses another problem: who qualifies as such a source? Obviously no one within the precincts of this world can claim such authority. Our discussion so far has proven this, and the Vedic literature itself pivots on the acceptance of that fact.
Nevertheless, the Vedic literature points to Krsna as the person qualified to dispense transcendental knowledge, and supports its conclusion with much good reasoning to show that He has qualifications no one else can claim, namely that He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the creator and controller of material nature. Consequently, He is never subject to any illusion, even for a moment.
Like a king, who can visit the state prison and not become a prisoner, Krsna comes to the material world but never comes under the influence of illusion. Rather, He delivers the knowledge that can liberate us from maya. This He did when He spoke Bhagavad-gita on the Kuruksetra battlefield.
In the Gita you'll find Krsna's answers to questions such as: Is it possible to transcend the senses? What is the purpose of the world of maya? Is there an absolute reality beyond this relative one? Is it possible for us to perceive that reality as it is? Arjuna, the hearer of the Gita, asserts that no one less qualified than Krsna can answer these questions and remove all our doubts.
But if it takes someone as qualified as Krsna to answer our questions, then why not consider His answers? Even if you are reticent to accept Him as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, which admittedly is no casual affair, still, as the original propounder of the doctrine of illusion, He deserves some credit for doing so. And that He did it back in an era we hardly consider civilized only makes His accomplishment all the more remarkable, credible enough in most eyes to merit a more in-depth scrutiny of His ideas.
The Lord in the heart reveals a confidential secret to the soul.
by Palika-Devi Dasi
I've been with you for a very long time. Day and night I've witnessed your actions and thoughts. I know you, but do you remember Me?
I see that another year has passed, and you duly honored the annual American traditions.. On Valentine's Day you bought your true love roses, in April you filed your tax forms, and on Mother's Day and Father's Day you expressed your gratitude. On the Fourth of July you watched fireworks, and on Halloween you went out in disguise. After a meaningful Thanksgiving you yearned to discover the uplifting revelations of Christmas. At the dawn of a new year you resolved to find lasting contentment.
But a month of the new year has elapsed, and I see you are not content. Your true love isn't true, and the lawmakers raised taxes, forcing you to a lower standard of living. Your mother and father are elderly and need hospital care. Now I see an unhappy and anxious friend.
Come closer, friend, for I have a secret to tell. This is no ordinary confidence. No, what I will reveal can free you. You say you are already free? Well, My friend, this kind of freedom you've not known. Truly this is the revelation you're looking for.
Most certainly, dear friend, you are not your body! Wait. Don't let my statement scare you. Think about it. That frame you so easily refer to as "me" is flesh, blood, and bones. After a short time it will dwindle and decay. Who are you, then? You are an eternal being., a spiritual person, who has taken only temporary residence in your present form.
Let this knowledge free you from the worldly conception you're in—that you are a man or a woman, black or white, young or old. These designations—and the yearly observances that rest on them—are fleeting and meaningless, and the hand of time moves quickly, forcing your body to age. This simple yet sublime statement—"You are not your body"—can lead you to true knowledge of yourself. You must simply realize it.
How do I know? Who am I? I am the Supersoul, and I reside within your heart as your dearmost friend, your eternal mother, father, and true love. Ever awaiting your return to Me, I speak the divine truth for your benefit. I've given this topmost knowledge in the Bhagavad-gita, where I state, "For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is not slain when the body is slain."
Friend, as you begin the second month of the new year, let this be the first day of a life reborn. Receive this knowledge humbly and inquire further into the nature of our relationship. Hear from self-realized souls, through whom I speak. They can impart this knowledge unto you. You can become free...if you so choose.
I look to the future and see a pure soul, happy, relieved, exhilarated, liberated from material bondage—and finally making a New Year's resolution come true.
Your ever well-wisher,
The Lord in the heart
by Narottama dasa Thakura
sri-krsna-caitanya prabhu doya koro more
patita-pavana-hetu tava avatara
ha ha prabhu nityananda, premananda sukhi
doya koro sita-pati adwaita gosai
ha ha swarupa, sanatana, rupa raghunatha
doya koro sri-acarya prabhu srinivasa
This is a song composed by Narottama dasa Thakura. He prays to Lord Caitanya, "My dear Lord, please be merciful to me, because who can be more merciful than Your Lordship within these three worlds?" Actually, this is a fact. Not only Narottama dasa Thakura, but Rupa Gosvami also prayed to Lord Caitanya in this way. At the time of the first meeting of Lord Caitanya and Rupa Gosvami at Prayaga (Allahabad), Srila Rupa Gosvami said, "My dear Lord, You are the most munificent of all incarnations, because You are distributing love of Krsna, Krsna consciousness." When Krsna was personally present He simply asked us to surrender, but He did not distribute Himself so easily. He made conditions—"First of all you surrender." But this incarnation, Lord Caitanya, although Krsna Himself, makes no such condition. He simply distributes: "Take love of Krsna." Therefore Lord Caitanya is approved as the most munificent incarnation. Narottama dasa Thakura says, "Please be merciful to me. You are so magnanimous because You have seen the, fallen souls of this age and are very much compassionate to them, but You should know also that I-am the-most fallen. No one is more greatly fallen than me." Patita-pavana-hetu tava avatara: "Your incarnation is just to reclaim the conditioned, fallen souls, but I assure You that You will not find a greater fallen soul than me. Therefore, my claim is first." Then he prays to Lord Nityananda. He says, ha ha prabhu nityananda premananda sukhi: "My dear Lord Nityananda, You are always joyful in spiritual bliss. Since You always appear very happy, I have come to You because I am most unhappy. If You kindly put Your glance over me, I may also become happy." Then he prays to Advaita Prabhu. Doya koro sita-pati adwaita gosai, Advaita Prabhu's wife's name was Sita. Therefore He is sometimes addressed as sita-pati. Thus Narottama dasa Thakura prays, "My dear Advaita Prabhu, husband of Sita, You are so kind. Please be kind to me. If You are kind to me, naturally Lord Caitanya and Nityananda will also be kind to me." Actually, Advaita Prabhu invited Lord Caitanya to come down. When Advaita Prabhu saw that the fallen souls were all engaged simply in sense gratificatory processes, not understanding Krsna consciousness, He felt very much compassionate toward the fallen souls, and He also felt Himself incapable of claiming them all. He therefore prayed to Lord Krsna,
"Please come Yourself. Without Your personal presence it is not possible to deliver the fallen souls." Thus by His invitation Lord Caitanya appeared. Narottama dasa Thakura prays to Advaita Prabhu, "If You will be kind to me, naturally Lord Caitanya and Nityananda also will be kind to me."
Then he prays to the Gosvamis. Ha ha swarupa, sanatana, rupa, raghunatha. Swarup refers to Svarupa Damodara, the personal secretary of Lord Caitanya. He was always with Caitanya Mahaprabhu and immediately arranged for whatever Caitanya Mahaprabhu wanted. Two personal attendants, Svarupa Damodara and Govinda, were always with Lord Caitanya. Therefore, Narottama dasa Thakura also prays to Svarupa Damodara and. then to the six Gosvamis, the next disciples of Lord Caitanya—Sri Rupa Gosvami, Sri Sanatana Gosvami, Sri Bhatta Raghunatha Gosvami, Sri Gopala Bhatta Gosvami, Sri Jiva Gosvami, and Raghunatha dasa Gosvami. These six Gosvamis were directly instructed by Lord Caitanya to spread this movement of Krsna consciousness. Narottama dasi Thakura also prays for their mercy.
After the six Gosvamis, the next acarya was Srinivasa Acarya. Actually, Narottama dasa Thakura was in the disciplic succession after Srinivasa Acarya and was almost his contemporary, and Narottama dasa's friend was Ramacandra Cakravarti. Therefore he prays, "I always desire the company of Ramacandra Cakravarti." He desires a devotee's company. The whole process is that we should always pray for the mercy .of the superior acaryas and keep company with pure devotees. Then it will be easier for us to advance in Krsna consciousness and receive the mercy of Lord Caitanya and Lord Krsna. This is the sum and substance of this song sung by Narottama dasa Thakura.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Amazon Preaching Expedition
Amazon State, Brazil—Mrs. Tarcila Mendes, wife of the governor of the Amazon state, recently offered the devotees here use of a 100-ton, 85-foot touring boat for traveling up the Amazon to distribute prasadam, Srila Prabhupada's books, and Krsna's holy names. Twenty-one devotees left from the port of Manaus for a two-month, 1,000-mile cruise aboard the Piraiba.
Indradyumna Swami, who organized the cruise, met Mrs. Mendes while traveling and preaching in Brazil. "I'd heard that she visits our preaching center in Manaus regularly," he said. "So I thought to ask her for something special. When I told her of our desire to take Lord Caitanya's sankirtana deep into the Amazon jungle, she immediately liked the idea. I requested she find a boat so we could travel by river, and she responded two days later. She had discussed the matter with her husband and decided to let us use their own boat.
"The next day when she took me to the docks, I couldn't believe my eyes. It was a three-deck touring boat that sleeps twenty people. She had outfitted it with a month's supply of foodstuffs, a ton of grains for prasadam distribution, and a crew of six men; a captain, first lieutenant, engine man, plus three deckhands."
Each day the boat plies through the jungle region, anchoring offshore when a village is in sight. The devotees then board a small boat with a fifteen-horsepower engine and go ashore.
"In this area people don't often see visitors, so you can imagine how surprised they are when they see twenty blissful devotees approaching their village chanting Hare Krsna," Indradyumna Swami said.
Despite all the facilities, including gasoline furnished by the government, the trip is not without risk. Indradyumna Swami said, "The governess told me the Amazon jungle is one of the last frontiers and quite dangerous. We soon learned that a wild jungle is always a wild jungle, and a big river is a precarious place. The first day out the captain told us that if anyone fell overboard, he'd be devoured by piranhas within three minutes."
Indradyumna Swami also mentioned tropical storms, "unlimited" mosquitoes (some carrying yellow fever and malaria), snakes, and alligators. He said, "It's not like an adventure cruise at Disney World. The heat and the humidity in the jungle have already taken their toll, and we had to send one devotee back."
But to Indradyumna Swami and the other devotees, the satisfaction is worth all the austerities and risks they encounter. "We're hoping Srila Prabhupada is pleased," he said, "and we've already experienced that chanting, dancing, and taking prasadam is as popular in the Amazon jungle as it is everywhere else in the world."
New Temple Opens In Hong Kong
Kowloon, Hong Kong—Devotees recently moved from the three out-of-the-way rented flats that have served as the temple here for the last ten years, and they have opened a new temple in the Tsim Sha Tsui business center with help from the local Indian community.
The project was made possible by the Indian Art Circle, a local group that helped raise funds through benefit concerts by famous Indian singers. The first concert, by Asha Bhosle, provided a down payment on a large flat in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong's trade and tourist center. A second concert, by Anup Jalota, helped finance the renovation plans, drawn by ISKCON's Minister of Architecture, Surabhirabhipalayantam Swami.
The grand opening, held on Govardhana-puja day (Oct. 23), included the installation of a murti (deity) of Srila Prabhupada and a ribbon-cutting ceremony by Mrs. Rani Hiranand, president of the Indian Arts Circle and chairperson for the fund-raising campaign. Tamala Krishna Goswami, ISKCON's Governing Body Commissioner for Hong Kong, and Giridhari Swami welcomed guests and dedicated the new temple.
Krsna consciousness was first introduced in Hong Kong when Srila Prabhupada visited here in the early 1970's. In 1981 the Bhagavad-gita As It Is was published in Chinese. Since then more than twenty titles have been printed, including Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead and Srimad-Bhagavatam, Cantos One and Two. Twenty Chinese devotees go out daily in Vaisnava clothing to distribute Prabhupada's books door-to-door. To date one-and-a-half million books have been distributed.
Guyana President Desmond Hoyt met recently with Agrani Swami (ISKCON's Governing Body Commissioner for the Caribbean), Bala-Krsna dasa, and Radha-kunda dasi, an ISKCON gurukula (elementary school) student. The president received Back to Godhead magazines and some of Srila Prabhupada's books. He discussed philosophy with the devotees and told them he reads Bhagavad-gita.
* * *
The Bhaktivedanta Archives is working on a project to put all of Srila Prabhupada's books and transcriptions of his lectures on compact disk. Though the manuscripts total about seventy thousand pages, they will all fit on one CD-Rom disk. The disk will no doubt be a valuable research tool. The equipment required to read the disk now costs about $1,500. Though the project could be finished in less than a year, the Bhaktivedanta Archives must raise $50,000 to complete it. Contributions are appreciated.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
It's Not Funny
by Kundali dasa
When Mikhail Gorbachev's government ran an ad campaign in the Wall Street Journal inviting Western corporations to do business in the Soviet Union, many Americans became convinced about his commitment to glasnost, his openness policy. This action of Gorbachev's, along with his seemingly greater enthusiasm than America's President for a solution to the nuclear arms race, has won him kudos in the West.
But Ronald Reagan—not to be outdone by his rival—has a new strategy for dealing with the Soviets: joking. In place of his usual heavy rhetoric against Moscow, he now tells jokes lampooning life under the hammer and sickle. The practice allows him to point up differences between the Russian and American societies, but without a harsh or antagonistic edge.
One joke Mr. Reagan enjoys telling is about the man who goes to a state agency in Moscow to buy a car. After the deal is settled, the buyer asks when he can expect delivery on the car.
"You can take delivery in exactly ten years," comes the reply.
"Good. And will I have it in the morning or the afternoon?" asks the anxious buyer.
"What will it matter ten years from today whether you get your car in the morning or the afternoon?" queries the state official.
"Well," the buyer says, "the plumber's coming that morning."
A White House aide said Mr. Reagan's joke-telling reflects his genuine sympathy for the Russian people, who he believes are getting a raw deal from their government.
The Hare Krsna devotees in Russia can attest to that. Glasnost has not opened to them yet. Twenty-three devotees have been locked up on false charges and subjected to various forms of psychiatric abuse because of their practicing Krsna consciousness. Under those circumstances, I imagine they must on occasion long for a system where they could practice the religion and life-style of their choice without official harassment, as we are able to do in America.
Nevertheless, a Krsna conscious Russian, being a transcendentalist, would look upon Mr. Reagan's oblique pointing to Russia's foibles as an instance of the pot calling the kettle black. A transcendentalist would not just look at the material disparities between the two nations and agree that one nation is so much better off than the other. That would be folly to him, like saying a heap of wet dung is better than a heap of dry dung, when, in point of fact, it's all dung.
A Krsna conscious transcendentalist sees that everyone in this world is getting a raw deal, but the rawness is not defined by how slowly the plumber or the new car comes. The rawness stems from ignorance.
Though they will rarely admit it, most people don't know the actual standard of human progress and happiness; consequently, they don't know the standard of good government either. That's why they place a higher value on the trivial achievements of one nation over another: speedier car delivery, a better phone system, one-stop supermarkets, bigger and better bombs and weapons.
Ignorant of the unique opportunity of human life—the chance to transcend the body and taste the happiness of the soul—people imagine that material amenities will solve the problems of life, when in fact they keep people in ignorance. Both the difficulties of waiting for a car in Russia and the ease and speed of acquiring one in America keep people in ignorance by distracting them from introspection that may lead to self-realization.
In either case the result is the same: People squander their human life and die ignorant of their full potential. A saintly transcendentalist sees, therefore, that ignorance is the problem everywhere.
The solution is knowledge—not material knowledge, but spiritual knowledge, which governments should provide. Instead materialistic governments keep their people in ignorance. By giving undue emphasis to nationalism, leaders distract people from the real problem. The people mistakenly place higher value on mundane achievements and conclude that one government is giving a raw deal but another one isn't.
A transcendentalist, on the other hand, sees that all versions of materialism—whether theistic consumerism or atheistic communism—are based on exploiting the planet's resources for sense gratification, and thus create a hellish condition for human society.
This brings to mind another joke Mr. Reagan is fond of telling, about the American who makes acquaintance with a Russian while on a visit to Moscow. Inevitably, the two start comparing countries.
"In America," the tourist says, "I can stand in front of the White House and yell, 'To hell with Ronald Reagan,' and nothing would happen to me."
"Well," comes the reply, "here in Moscow I can stand in front of the Kremlin and shout, 'To hell with Ronald Reagan,' too, and nothing would happen to me either."
Of course, no devotee would wish that fate on Ronald Reagan or anyone else. Yet a devotee, whether Russian or American, would ask, "What does it profit a nation if it gains the whole world but suffers the loss of its citizens' souls?"
Beyond Puppy Love
by Tivrabhakti dasa
A Buffalo, New York, man was recently sentenced to a thirty-day jail term for killing his ten-week-old mixed-breed terrier puppy, making him the first person ever to serve time in the local jail for the death of a domesticated animal.
City court judge Michael Broderick imposed the jail term on Michael Haley, 30, who broke the neck of his puppy, Bruno, and watched television as his pet slowly died.
Judge Broderick said that Haley's act was "unforgivable" and that the offense warranted a jail term because it involved the "killing of a living creature."
We would like to commend Judge Broderick for his decision, even though as devotees of Krsna, the father of all creatures, we might have suggested a stiffer punishment for Mr. Haley. Nonetheless, we hope this case will set the precedent for future cases involving the "unforgivable act of killing a living creature."
Unknowingly, the judge has touched upon a point enunciated in the pages of the spiritual classic Srimad-Bhagavatam: any living being who takes birth in a state, including human beings and animals, has the primary right to live under the protection of the government. Therefore, anyone who unnecessarily kills an animal should be punished. All living beings, in whatever shape they may be, are sons of God, and by the law of the Supreme Lord no one has the right to kill another living being.
According to Manu-samhita ("the lawbook for mankind"), when animals are slaughtered for meat, six persons connected with the killing are responsible: the one who gives permission for the killing, the one who kills the animal, the one who sells the meat, the one who purchases it, the one who cooks it, and the one who eats it. They all become implicated in the reaction to the killing. If we give another living entity unnecessary pain, by the laws of nature we will certainly be punished by a similar pain.
So, despite Judge Broderick's intelligent decision in the Hayes case, we can't fail to note a possible hypocrisy: odds are he's a meat-eater and therefore guilty of the same crime as Mr. Haley.
We might also point out another apparent double standard: the law requires punishment for killing one species-man's best friend, the dog—but does not extend that law to the millions and billions of animals slaughtered every year and served in restaurants and at dinner tables around the world.
Still, we say "bravo" to Judge Broderick, for his decision could be the beginning of a judicial trend to stop the senseless killing of all innocent living creatures.
The Highest Law of Nature
This is the conclusion of a conversation that took place between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and biochemist Thoudam Singh, Ph.D., in Bhubanesvara, India, on February 3, 1977.
Dr. Singh: Nowadays it seems everyone has his "view."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Every rascal will give his own "view." But we don't have to accept this.
"Modern world" means "I think," "in my opinion," "in my view." This is going on. But we don't accept this.
Dr. Singh: We hear these very words all the time from so-called scientific authorities. "In my opinion." "In my view."
Srila Prabhupada: In your opinion. In your view. But first of all, who are you? A soul shackled inside a material body, totally under the control of the material laws. So what is the value of your view?
This is ahankara, false ego. Ahankara-vimudhatma kartaham iti manyate: one wants to give his view when he thinks, foolishly, "I am this big, proud material body. I am something." Kartaham iti manyate: he thinks, "I am doing such great things." But actually he is vimudha, a great ass. He does not understand that in fact he is not the material body, and that material nature—not he—is carrying out his so-called great activities.
In fact, material nature is pulling him around by his ear: "Come here. Lie down and sleep." And he has to lie down and sleep. He's so independent. So what is the value of his "view"?
Prakrteh kriyamanani gunaih karmani sarvasah. As Lord Krsna explains, "The spirit soul bewildered by false ego thinks himself the doer of activities that in reality are being carried out by the modes of material nature." He doesn't realize that he is totally under the control of nature.
Now, you rascal scientists, just try to understand. From the spiritual world you have fallen into this prison, this material world. You have your prison uniform, this material body. So shall I have to accept your view? You are a fallen criminal, and I have to accept your view? What is the value of your view?
Dr. Singh: These rascal scientists are so arrogant. They won't listen.
Srila Prabhupada: Make them listen. "What is the value of your proud view? You have become a criminal. You are being punished. And we have to accept your view?"
Again, what is the value of this materially imprisoned living entity's view? No value. At least we Krsna conscious, God conscious, people will not accept it. This position we shall maintain. "No 'view' from you, sir. Only Krsna's view shall we accept—only God's view."
That's all. "Who are you to propound some view, rascal scientist? Your view? We don't give your view any value." Stick to this point. And maintain it scientifically. Then it will stand. Don't compromise.
Mattah parataram nanyat kincid asti dhananjaya. "I am the supreme truth," the Lord says. "There is no truth superior to Me." This is the Supreme's view. The Supreme's view we shall accept.
Why accept some puny rascal's view? We are getting knowledge from the supreme person—nobody is greater than Him; nobody is equal to Him. So why shall we accept some puny nonsensical rascal's view?
All over the world, people are becoming godless cats and dogs in the mere dress of human beings. So para-upakara: we have to rescue them from this nonsense and make them truly happy—restore their God consciousness. The first step is to disprove their nonsensical pseudoscientific "view" that life comes from matter, with no need for the soul or the supreme soul. This is simply incorrect.
Dr. Singh: How true. This materialistic view is incorrect. So we are holding these nonsensical ideas—this pseudoscience—under the light of honest scientific scrutiny. And we're showing that it is all wrong.
Srila Prabhupada: That is required. Now, as you say, sometimes scientists bring data to amplify the God conscious understanding. And that is nice. We can employ their data to restore people's sense of God.
Dr. Singh: Yes. Unfortunately, pseudo-scientists often use the phrase "the laws of nature" to imply a universe without a lawmaker. So to suggest the lawmaker, we can say, "the higher laws of nature."
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes. These so-called scientists—they do not even know all the laws of nature.
Dr. Singh: They don't know all the natural laws. They know only a few,
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. And they do not know who the lawmaker is. They do not know that the laws of nature can be changed by the lawmaker. It is just as we see in ordinary, mundane governmental affairs: today something is the law, but tomorrow the government can change it. So this is the real meaning of God: the supreme governor, the person who makes the natural law—and who can change it.
Krsna says, daivi hy esa guna-mayi mama maya duratyaya: "No one can overcome My natural laws." And then He goes on to say, "But anyone who surrenders unto Me—he can cross beyond My natural laws." That is the difference between the ordinary being and the supreme being. God can change the laws.
For example, Krsna's natural law states that if you have sinned, you must suffer. Now, you and I are not God; so if we break His law and commit sin, we must suffer. That's all. But Krsna can change the law and say, aham tvam sarva-papebhyo moksayisyami: "Even though you have sinned, I will deliver you from the resultant suffering. Don't be afraid. Simply surrender to Me."
How can Krsna say this? He can say this because He is the Supreme. So here is God realization. Here is the supreme science: to realize, "Yes, all around me I see so many natural laws that no one can change. Certainly I cannot change them. I am under the laws of nature. Therefore, let me search out that one person who is above the laws of nature—that one person who made the laws and can even change them. I must make Him the goal of my life."
Dr. Singh: That's why it seems best to say "the higher laws of nature."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. And be sure to mention the highest law of nature: God, the lawmaker—who can do anything, even change the laws—requests us, "Just become My devotee and surrender to Me. I'll protect you."
The Meaning of the Mahabharata
As the Festival of India spreads around the world, epics such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata grow in popularity. For example, a recent dramatic rendition of Mahabharata was acclaimed as "a triumph of sustained inspiration and high intelligence." Devotees of Lord Krsna are particularly pleased to see the Mahabharata made popular, since Mahabharata is known as "the Veda of Krsna" and contains the Bhagavad-gita as its most important chapter. But as with all spiritual subject matters, the original intention of the Vedic epics must be preserved. If in a rendition of Mahabharata the scripture is misunderstood, one goes away from it thinking that Krsna is but an incidental character or a faulty human being.
Mahabharata literally means "the story of the greater kingdom of Bharata-varsa." It describes the history of the ancient world empire, formerly known as Bharata-varsa. Comprising some one hundred thousand couplets, the Mahabharata is the longest poem in world literature. The epic relates how the pious Pandava brothers overthrew the demoniac dynasty of the Kurus. The Kurus had cheated the five Pandavas of their right to the throne, exiled them to a forest and, on their return, denied them their land. The work centers on the ensuing eighteen-day battle between the Kurus and their cousins, the Pandavas.
The Mahabharata is Vedic scripture, but it was especially composed for the uneducated classes. The essence of what is presented in Vedanta-sutra as terse philosophical codes is given in the Mahabharata as a saga of palace intrigues, chivalry, and the loves of heroes and heroines. But the Mahabharata should never be treated as a mundane literature or as fiction. The status of the Mahabharata is described in Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.4.25):
Out of compassion, the great sage Vyasadeva thought it wise to edit the Vedas in order to enable men to achieve the ultimate goal of life. Thus he compiled the great historical narration called the Mahabharata for the less intellectual masses.
The statement that the Mahabharata is intended for the less intelligent should not be considered a slur on either the work or its audience. The profound subjects of the Vedas had to be carefully explained even to the greatest sages. Unless one practices yoga and purifies one's mind and senses, one cannot understand the Absolute Truth. The ultimate goal of Vedic knowledge is to know Lord Krsna as the Personality of Godhead, but this Personality is rarely understood. Therefore for the general mass of people the powerful, kind-hearted sage Vyasadeva presented the Mahabharata. This does not make the Mahabharata less important, but rather, as Srila Prabhupada writes, "In this age, the Mahabharata is more essential than the original Vedas."
The purpose of the Mahabharata is to administer the philosophy of the Vedas, and therefore within the Mahabharata the summary Veda, known as Bhagavad-gita, was placed. Srila Vyasadeva is the author of all the Vedic literatures, and he is considered an incarnation of Lord Krsna. So Vyasadeva and Lord Krsna, who are both on the transcendental plane, collaborated in doing good to the fallen souls of this age by giving Bhagavad-gita, the essence of all Vedic knowledge. It is the first book of spiritual values and contains all the sublime teachings of the Upanisads and the Vedanta-sutra, but in a way that can be assimilated quickly and easily.
Still, Vedic literature must always be understood with the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master or pure devotee. One of the most critical issues to be understood rightly is the identity of Lord Krsna. Although Krsna is repeatedly addressed in the verses of Bhagavad-gita as "Sri Bhagavan" (the Supreme Personality of Godhead), nondevotees often try to dismiss Krsna or relegate Him to minor importance. This gross misinterpretation renders the actual meaning of Bhagavad-gita incomprehensible. Sri Krsna states the conclusion of Bhagavad-gita: "Give up all religion and surrender to Me. I will release you from all the reactions to your sins; do not fear." Without understanding that Krsna is the Supreme Truth and the object of devotion, we miss the Bhagavad-gita's unifying goal.
Although Bhagavad-gita is the essence of Mahabharata, set within the epic like a jewel within a ring, the activities of the Pandavas take up more verses than the direct activities of Krsna. This is in tune with Vyasadeva's intent: to give his readers interesting instructions that bring them to the level of understanding Bhagavad-gita. Yet whenever Krsna does appear in the Mahabharata, we should understand that He is the same Supreme Person who speaks the Bhagavad-gita. The Pandavas never misunderstood Krsna to be an ordinary person, and neither should we. But commentators throw doubt on some of Krsna's activities in the Mahabharata, such as His advising Maharaja Yudhisthira to tell a lie.
When Krsna asked His devotee Yudhisthira to lie, Yudhisthira hesitated because he had never told a lie. Krsna was testing His devotee, and only because of Yudhisthira's ultimate surrender to Krsna did he keep his reputation as a pure devotee of the Lord. Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and all His actions are absolute. When to the mundane vision He appears to steal butter from the householders in Vrndavana, when He dances at night with the gopis, or when He asks Yudhisthira to transcend ordinary morality, these are all lila, or pastimes, of the Supreme Lord. They are not acts that can be imitated.
In presenting Mahabharata, Vyasadeva intended to give spiritual instruction, and yet he was criticized by his spiritual master, Narada, for his undue emphasis on ordinary topics. Narada said that human beings already have a strong inclination to act for sense gratification, and if this is sanctioned by religion, then it will be a great disservice to humanity and to God.
Narada therefore advised Vyasa to compile another scripture, which would be free of all material forms of religion, and which could elevate people to pure love of God. Vyasadeva then meditated and received the divine vision for describing the ultimate Vedic scripture, Srimad-Bhagavatam.
In an age where time is short and we cannot pore over voluminous scriptures, we should concentrate on scriptures that can elevate us directly to pure love of God. Bhagavad-gita, the essence of Mahabharata, will serve this purpose excellently. For further study, Srimad-Bhagavatam gives us the full pastimes and teachings of Lord Krsna. And when we find time to read the Mahabharata, it should be with an understanding that Krsna is the Supreme Lord. Having understood this conclusion from the Bhagavad-gita, we can then enjoy readings or theatrical renditions of Mahabharata, provided they are performed by those who know the conclusion of the Vedic literature.—SDG