Though we may be decorated with diplomas and degrees,
A lecture in Mexico City on February 12, 1975
na tv evaham jatu nasam
"Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be."—Bhagavad-gita 2.12
Krsna began His teaching to Arjuna by chastising him: "You do not know anything, but you are talking as if you are a learned man." This is the defect of persons without spiritual knowledge. They are proud of their learning, their knowledge, their degrees.
When Sanatana Gosvami approached Caitanya Mahaprabhu, he first of all presented himself as a person without knowledge. Sanatana Gosvami was from a very aristocratic brahmana family. He was a very learned scholar in Sanskrit and Urdu, yet still he presented himself before Caitanya Mahaprabhu as a foolish man. He said, apanara hitahita kichui na jani! gramya-vyavahare pandita, tai satya mani: 'These common men say that I am a very learned pandita, but I am such a rascal that I do not know who I am."
This is the position of everyone. You ask any learned scientist or professor, "Who are you?" He'll say, "I'm Mr. John; I'm American." Or "I am Mexican"; or "I am Indian." So this is ignorance. No one is his body. That is the first lesson of spiritual knowledge. As long as we identify with this body, thinking, "I am Mr. Such-and-such"; "I am American"; "I am Indian"—this is all ignorance. When you actually understand that you are not this body—that you are not American or Indian or Mexican but that you are spirit soul—then your spiritual education begins. In Sanskrit this understanding is called aham brahmasmi: "I am spirit soul."
The spirit soul has no connection with this material world. When one fully understands this fact—that the spirit soul is different from this material world—then he's actually learned. He is said to be situated in the brahma-bhuta stage. The symptom of one on the brahma-bhuta stage is prasannatma: he becomes jubilant, jolly. As long as one identifies with this body, he will be unhappy, full of anxiety.
Bhagavad-gita begins with this point. One should know that he is not this material body. That knowledge is lacking at the present moment throughout the whole world. Everyone is identifying with the body, just as the animals are. Therefore Krsna chastised Arjuna: "You have an animalistic concept of life, and still you are speaking like a very learned scholar. No learned scholar laments on account of this body."
It is said in Bhagavad-gita, dhiras tatra na muhyati. Dhira means "one who is sober by education"; he is not disturbed. Just like when a man dies, his relatives lament. They cry, "My father is gone; my father is no more." Or, "My son is no more." But if a person is a little sober, he can understand, "I am lamenting that my father is gone, but he's not gone. He's lying on the bed. Then why am I saying he's gone?"
Or some friend might ask, "Why are you lamenting, 'My father is gone"? He is lying here." But still he might say, "No, he's not. He may be lying there, but he's gone."
That is the puzzle: he's lying there, and he's gone. What is this contradiction? That is the point to understand about the soul.
The son is crying, "My father is gone." That means he never saw his father. He saw the body only. But at the time of his father's death, he understands that his father is not this body; he is the soul. When we come to the understanding that every one of us—although we may be in different bodies—are not these bodies but are spirit souls, then our actual knowledge begins.
Now Krsna is describing the nature of the soul. He says that whenever we sit down together, we say "I," "you," or "he." There cannot be more that these three. I can say "I," I can say "you," and I can say "he." So Krsna says in this verse, na tv evaham jatu: "Neither I, nor you, nor he—none of us—was ever born, because we are not these bodies."
Birth takes place for the body, not for the soul. It is described here that the soul does not take birth. It is not that he was not existing in the past but now has taken birth.
It is not like that—that the soul did not exist in the past but now he's existing. There are some philosophers who think like that. They think that the living symptom was not existing before, and that by the combination of matter the living force is there. But that is not the fact. The living being is there, and therefore the life symptoms are there in the body. Therefore when a man dies, because we do not know about the living force, we cry that our father or our son has gone.
We should acquire knowledge from the authority. Krsna is the authority. He says to Arjuna, "All of us—you, I, and all the others who have come to join this fighting—it is not that we did not exist in the past. We all existed in the past, we are existing now, and after so-called death, or after quitting this body, we shall still exist."
Now the question will be, "How shall I exist? As an American? An Indian? As something else?" That is a very intelligent question. First of all we have to understand that I, you, every one of us existed in the past. So how did I exist in the past, and how shall I exist in the future? The past is past; that is gone. But now I am existing as a human being, and it is my duty to understand how I shall exist in the future. That is intelligence. If we do not prepare for the next life, then we are animals.
In human society there is education. The father gives education to the child, thinking about his future. But the cats and dogs do not give any education, neither do they know the meaning of education. That is the difference between the human being and the animal.
So if we are not educated in the matter of understanding what our future will be, then we are no better than the animals. But we can have that education in this human form of life. That is stated in the Bhagavad-gita:
yanti deva-vrata devan
The process is there. You can prepare for your next life in this life.
For example, the scientists have attempted to go to the moon, but they could not go there. Why could they not go there? Even on this planet, if somebody goes from one place to another, he has to make himself fit to go there. He must know what the temperature is there so that he can dress accordingly. And hell have to take permission from the state by obtaining a visa, a passport, and so on. He will have to arrange so many things; then he can go.
It is not that all of a sudden anyone can come to your country, Mexico, without arrangement. Similarly, if you want to go to the higher planetary system, then you have to make your arrangement in this life. You cannot go to the moon by force with your tiny airplane. That is not possible.
Therefore Bhagavad-gita says, yanti deva-vrata devan. A man can go to the higher planetary systems when he has prepared himself to go there. There are millions and trillions of planets. Wherever you want to go you can go. The descriptions of these planets are given in the sastra [scripture].
But there is another description—of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is beyond this material sky. We have to receive information about where that spiritual world is. We can receive that information from Vedic literature. In the Bhagavad-gita it is said, paras tasmat tu bhavo 'nyo 'vyakto 'vyaktat sanatanah:
"There is another nature—the spiritual nature—which is beyond this material nature." The material nature is vyakto 'vyaktat, some portion is manifested and some portion is not manifested. We get information from Bhagavad-gita that the spiritual nature is beyond this manifested and unmanifested cosmic situation.
So Krsna, the supreme authority, says, yanti mad-yajino 'pi mam. If somebody cultivates Krsna consciousness, he can go to the spiritual nature. It is not difficult; you simply you have to change your mode of life. To become Krsna conscious means to be pure, to regain our original, spiritual existence.
We are pure as brahman, as spirit soul, but because we have been contaminated by the material modes of nature, our consciousness is now different. On account of different consciousness, there are three classes of men. One class of men are very intelligent, one class of men very passionate, and one class of men fools and rascals.
So to understand your promotion to the spiritual world, you have to become a first-class man. "First-class man" means brahmana. A brahmana is truthful; he is self-controlled; he is simple; he is tolerant. There are nine qualifications to become a first-class man. The preliminary qualification is that you should not become sinful. Instead of becoming sinful, you should become pious by following these four regulative principles: no illicit sex, no meat-eating, no intoxication, and no gambling.
The first principle is no illicit sex. That is forbidden. Sex is not forbidden, but illicit sex is forbidden. That is not very difficult. Everyone wants sex; that is a necessity of the body. As we want to eat, as we want to sleep, similarly there is sex desire. But if you want to become a first-class man, then don't have illicit sex. Do not have sex except in marriage.
Therefore in human society there is marriage, not in the dog society. Sex within marriage and according to regulative principles is not prohibited. That means anyone who follows these rules and regulations becomes purified and pious. Without becoming purified and pious you cannot understand God. It is said, therefore, in the Bhagavad-gita [7.28]:
yesam tv anta-gatam papam
A person who is completely free from sinful activities can become a devotee, a lover of God.
This Krsna consciousness movement is teaching human society how to become purified. There is no such restriction that this man can be purified, that man cannot be. There is nothing like that. Everyone can be purified if he so desires.
So immediately we may not be able to become purified as it is prescribed—no illicit sex, no meat-eating, no gambling, no intoxication. It may not be possible, because those who are accustomed to these things find them difficult to give up. Therefore the process given is very simple: chant Hare Krsna.
Purification is necessary. Without purification you cannot understand God. But the method we are prescribing—to chant Hare Krsna—that is very simple. Not that we are prescribing—it is Caitanya Mahaprabhu's prescription. We are simply propagating it.
So I am very glad to see that you Mexican boys, girls, ladies, and gentlemen are coming here and joining the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra. I request you to continue this procedure. Please come here, join this chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra, take prasadam [vegetarian food offered to Krsna], and go home. And surely you'll be purified and qualified for going back to home, back to Godhead. Thank you very much. Are there any questions?
Hrdayananda dasa Goswami: [Translating from Spanish] He wants to know if within marriage it is possible to achieve perfection.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The human being is meant for marriage, not the cats and dogs. If you can remain without marriage, without sex life, that is very good. But if you cannot, then marry and be a gentleman and remain peaceful.
HDG: Can a person achieve Krsna consciousness outside the temple?
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes. You have to follow the rules and regulations, that's all.
HDG: He wants to know what it is like in the spiritual world. What are the activities of Krsna there?
Srila Prabhupada: The same activities. Simply there is no sinful activity.
HDG: When one breaks the principles, can Krsna forgive him?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, Krsna can forgive you—once, twice, not regularly. [Laughter]
HDG: Sometimes people come and join our movement and follow the four regulative principles, and even so there appears to be some fault in their character in terms of their treatment of other people who come to the temple. So he says that he feels undoubtedly that by following the process, gradually the defects will be eliminated, but is there any way to more rapidly . . .
Srila Prabhupada: If a man comes, follows the regulative principles even for some time, and again he falls down, as long as he has followed, that asset is permanent. Any spiritual asset is never lost. So, little by little by little when it is complete—cent percent—then you become liberated. The spiritual asset is never lost.
Even if a person comes to the temple and follows the regulative principles for some time and then falls down, he's not a loser; he's a gainer.
Others, who do not take this lesson, even though they may perform their so-called duties very perfectly, they are losers. So at least for some time let every one of you come here and follow the regulations. If you become perfect, it is all right. But even if you go away, whatever you have done, that is your permanent asset. That is stated in the Bhagavad-gita, sv-alpam apy asya dharmasya trayate mahato bhayat. Even that little asset can help you to become free from the greatest danger. There are many examples. They're stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Therefore in this human form of life, at least we shall try to get some spiritual assets. In the Bhagavad-gita it is stated that even if such a person falls down, he's given the chance next life to take birth in a very rich aristrocratic family or in a very pious brahmana family. So, a little spiritual asset in this human form of life will at least guarantee your next life in a very nice family. But without spiritual life there is no guarantee whether you are going to become a human being or a cat or dog.
How much can we rely on past-life
by Kundali dasa
Here is one of those truth-is-stranger-than-fiction stories you sometimes hear about. On Christmas Day, 1986, Anne McDonnell was at home in Larchmont, a New York City suburb, when a muted knock came on her front door. She opened the door and lo! there stood her husband, who had mysteriously disappeared fifteen years before.
Jim McDonnell looked much older than when she'd last seen him, in March 1971, but Anne readily recognized him. After she got over the shock of seeing Jim, Anne cried tears of joy. Then she listened in awe to Jim's story.
In the weeks prior to his disappearance, Jim had had a series of mishaps in which he badly bumped his head four or five times. A few times he fell down, and one time he suffered a concussion when he sneezed and his car went out of control and hit a utility pole. The concussion put him in the hospital for three days.
The evening he disappeared he had returned a borrowed car and had set out for home fifteen minutes away on foot. When he hadn't shown up at home an hour and a half later, Anne got worried and called the police.
The search for Jim McDonnell lasted months. Jim's wallet, with all his identification cards, was found in the borrowed car, but Jim had vanished without a trace. Regular searches at the morgues produced nothing. As the months turned into years, Anne all but gave up hope of ever seeing her husband again.
What had happened to Jim? On his way home that fateful evening in 1971, fifty-year-old Jim McDonnell blacked out. When he came to, he could remember nothing of his past. The present was his only reality. He had no clue to his identity or his home.
Somehow Jim ended up in Philadelphia, a city he had never visited. There he took a name—James Peters—off a billboard. He landed a job as a short-order cook in a luncheonette. After a year he joined the Knights of Columbus and the American Legion and became an active member of the Catholic Church. The years rolled by. Jim's new friends wondered about his past, but out of consideration they didn't pry. One friend concluded that he was either an ex-priest or an ex-criminal.
Then, on December 22, 1986, three months shy of fifteen years since he'd left home, Jim fell and bumped his head. The next day he fell and bumped his head again. On the next day, Christmas Eve, Jim awoke elated. His memory was back. He knew who he was—a postal worker from Larchmont, New York, the husband of Anne McDonnell. On Christmas Day he ended the journey he'd started fifteen years earlier.
Jim's story is not a first. There are others like it on record. I chose to tell it here because stories like his help answer a question people often raise about reincarnation: "If I lived before, why can't I remember my previous life?"
This question is usually raised by persons dubious of the soul's existence, persons who believe that we are these material bodies. They have no understanding of the difference between the soul and the body. They can't understand that the "I," or the self, is different from the body, that while the body undergoes constant change from infancy to childhood, youth, old age, and finally death, the self remains unchanged.
Neither can they accept Krsna's statement that when the body dies, the deathless soul simply changes bodies, just as we discard old garments and put on new ones.
They want proof of reincarnation, and if they could recall a certifiable past-life memory, that would be sufficient proof for them. A proven recall would leave no margin for doubt that they lived a previous life.
My point, however, is that on this important question people give undue emphasis to the role of memory. No doubt having conscious recall of a previous life would pave the way for conviction about reincarnation, but not having past-life recollections is no proof that we didn't have previous lives. For fifteen years poor Jim experienced total loss of memory in this very life. His story is proof that one's inability to dredge up certifiable past-life memories is no argument against reincarnation.
I've met people who cling to this point about not remembering their past lives as if memory were a fail-safe faculty we all have. The truth is, few of us, if any, can remember exactly what we were doing at this time a year ago, what to speak of producing a moment-by-moment account of the entire year or ten years ago or the first two years of our life or the months we lived in the womb. Why then should we expect to remember events even prior to that?
It's true that a growing number of people claim to have revived past-life memories by using hypnosis, and some of these memories are quite sensational. But there are a number of alternative explanations for that phenomenon. In fact many careful researchers believe that past-life memories apparently revived under hypnosis are nothing more than combinations of thoughts, memories, and fantasies lodged in the subconscious.
More compelling, but extremely rare, are accounts by persons who claim to have past-life memories in their normal waking state of consciousness. Some of these accounts have been carefully documented. Although these cases have been too rare to sway the majority, twenty-three percent of American adults and twenty-seven percent of British adults believe in reincarnation.
Why are there so few cases of persons who have past-life memories in their ordinary consciousness? No one really knows for sure. There could be a variety of reasons. Srila Prabhupada gave one. He said that the trauma of birth erases our memories of the past, or at least buries them so deeply in the subconscious that we can't revive them on the conscious level. After hearing how Jim's trauma erased his memory, one can see the merit in this explanation.
Ultimately, whatever the reasons we may not recall our past lives, if we could realize once and for all that not having a past-life memory does not disprove reincarnation, we could more easily understand the scheme of reincarnation. And understanding reincarnation is important, because rejection of reincarnation is tacit rejection of the soul's existence: indirectly one asserts that the material body is all in all. But this doesn't hold up when one applies logic and reason.
Everyone knows that matter is inert, lifeless. If you start with an atom and keep adding atoms, building and building, on up through the most complex combinations of molecules and compounds, at no point will you find a particular combination that generates the phenomenon we call consciousness or life.
Even without sophisticated scientific degrees, we can understand this because we all know it—matter is lifeless.
So where does life come from? What is it?
The logical answer is that life is anti-material, or spiritual; it is not material. Though we may not know all the details about the spiritual nature, still, by process of elimination, once we admit that life cannot be the result of chemical combinations, we must conclude that the spiritual nature exists.
Naturally, we can't expect to apply material procedures to learn more about the antimaterial nature. After all, why should we assume that the antimaterial nature would play by the same set of rules that govern the material nature?
For hundreds of years we in the West have relied on material science to either verify or disprove the spiritual nature's existence; we've been ignorant of the alternative to material science: spiritual science.
Besides being unaware of the spiritual science, some of us have an almost unreasoning faith in material science, a faith similar to the unreasoning and revolting kind some people in the religious community display. We're so dependent on science and so conditioned by it that any thought of deviating from or disagreeing with its claims scares us, even in areas where the mundane scientific world view cannot apply. Some of us have lost our free thinking to it. We're afraid to shrug off its dogmas, step outside of its hold, and take a look for ourselves. We're afraid to use our own intellects and come to our own conclusions. For many of us, that's too heretical to consider.
That's why some people, rather than admit the logic that consciousness is a non-material phenomenon, believe that given time scientists will manufacture life in their labs. These people have not really given deep thought to the matter. Their faith in science is automatic, blind.
That's one reason why many people aren't even mildly interested when there's an opportunity to learn something about the spiritual science—about the soul, reincarnation, and the possibility of becoming deathless or going to the spiritual world. "Spirituality is a myth," they say. "It's not scientific. No one has seen the soul."
But of course no one has seen the soul; it's not a material object. Nevertheless we can understand something about it by its symptom—consciousness. Just as in the early morning, even before we can see the sun, we see evidence of it by seeing the sun's rays on the horizon, similarly when we perceive consciousness—the "rays" of the soul—we can understand that the soul is present.
Of course, it's a simple matter to adamantly deny the spiritual nature and not allow even the theoretical possibility that an antimaterial, or spiritual, nature can exist. An owl could do the same with regards to the sun. Such blind disbelief, however, is no improvement over blind faith, as they both stem from unreason.
But—and this is a significant point—are we prepared to go all the way on the path of denial and write off the testimony of all the great saints in history as mere hysterical babble, or perhaps pathological lying?
No doubt some of us will say yes, preferring to remain card-carrying skeptics, cynics, and atheists. But some of us will not. In the interest of such virtues as humility and modesty and wisdom, and in the face of good reason, and in some cases out of a practical consideration that it's better to be safe than sorry, some of us will take to practicing the spiritual science of Krsna consciousness.
For those people, as they progress on the path of spiritual realization, and as they become professors of the spiritual science, it will become more and more apparent that reincarnation, as Lord Krsna teaches it in Bhagavad-gita, is the only system consistent with a definition of material nature as temporary and the soul as eternal. For them, the presence or absence of past-life memories will hold no significance.
Abandon all Varieties of Religion—KRSNA (Gita 18.66)
The eternal function of the soul is not to
by Drutakarma Dasa
Recently a college student told me, "I don't believe in organized religion."
"Good," I said, "neither does God."
In Bhagavad-gita, Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, tells Arjuna, "Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me." One might wonder why God, of all persons, would tell anyone to abandon religion. The reason is this: religion, as commonly understood, gets in the way of the unique and direct personal relationship each soul can enjoy with God.
People usually accept religion because they want something from God, or because they want to avoid getting something from God—such as hellfire and brimstone. Thus religion is commonly motivated by selfishness in the form of material hope or fear.
According to the Vedic literature, religion based on material motives is not very pleasing to God, who is, after all, a person. He enjoys through personal relationships and doesn't so much like people approaching Him with ulterior motives. Even the desire to attain the promised land—though it may be in heaven instead of on earth—is based on ulterior motives: satisfaction of material desires. One might imagine God asking the selfishly motivated worshiper a question like the one we used to hear in old movies: "Do you love me for myself or for my money?"
So when Krsna tells us to abandon religion and surrender to Him, He means we must abandon all the artificial business dealings between the soul and Himself. Real spiritual life, therefore, according to Bhagavad-gita, has very little to do with what usually goes on under the name of religion. And the Srimad-Bhagavatam begins with this blunt statement: "Completely rejecting all religious activities which are materially motivated, this Bhagavata Purana propounds the highest truth, which is understandable by those devotees who are fully pure in heart."
The perfection of religion is serving God with devotion. But Krsna says in the Gita: "In the minds of those who are too attached to sense enjoyment and material opulence, and who are bewildered by such things, the resolute determination for devotional service does not take place."
In devotional service, which awakens love of God, one gets pleasure from one's relationship with God, rather than from any material or spiritual benefit one can extract from God by good behavior or prayer. Therefore Srila Prabhupada states, "Devotional service to the Lord has nothing to do with the material conception of bodily comfort."
Of course, religion as commonly understood does have its place in human life. In most cases praying to God for material benefits is certainly a step up from dog-eat-dog competition for material gratification. Unfortunately, because such religion is motivated by the desire to satisfy the senses, when the senses are satisfied religion is rejected, as history has shown us.
When I was in high school, I lived in Europe with my military family. During vacations I would travel, and I noticed that in many famous European towns the dominant building is the medieval cathedral, a reminder of a more religious age.
Now I live in southern California, and the biggest buildings in the new metropolitan skylines are the impersonal, glass-surfaced bank buildings. As Srila Prabhupada states, "Man is thriving economically, so at present he is not very interested in religion. Churches, mosques, or temples are now practically vacant. . . . This practically proves that religion is performed for some economic gains" (Bhag. 1.1.2, purport).
This is not real religion. In The Science of Self-Realization, Srila Prabhupada states,
Primarily, religion means to know God and to love Him. That is religion. Nowadays, because of a lack of training, nobody knows God, what to speak of loving Him. People are satisfied simply going to church and praying, "O God, give us our daily bread." In the Srimad-Bhagavatam this is called a cheating religion, because the aim is not to know and love God but to gain some personal profit. . . . The title "Hindu," "Muslim," or "Christian" is simply a rubber stamp. None of them knows who God is and how to love Him.
If God is worshiped at all, it is generally only as the invisible cosmic order-supplier for human demands in this world or the next. Until I learned about devotional service by reading Srila Prabhupada's books, I had a similar understanding of God—the unknown person to whom I sometimes prayed for the satisfaction of my material desires.
The cure for this misconception lies in coming to a proper understanding of our own identity and God's. As for our identity, the Bhagavad-gita teaches that we are not our temporary, material bodies; the real self is the soul within the body. The soul is by nature eternal, blissful, and full of knowledge and is meant to enjoy a direct, personal relationship with God, Krsna, who perfectly reciprocates the spiritual loving feelings of each soul. Krsna, who has a transcendental personal form, is continuously visible to perfectly self-realized souls.
In pure consciousness there is no question of being Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or Buddhist. Krsna and the lover of Krsna simply exist for each other, each constantly appearing in the other's heart. In Srimad-Bhagavatam (9.4.68) Krsna says:
sadhavo hrdayam mahyam
"The pure devotee is always within the core of My heart, and I am always in the heart of the pure devotee. My devotees do not know anything else but Me, and I do not know anyone else but them."
In Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna states, sarvasya caham hrdi sannivistah: He is situated in the hearts of all living beings as the Paramatma, or Supersoul. He also states, mamaivamso jiva-loke: all souls are part of Him. When one correctly understands these facts, one can relate equally with all living things. Srila Prabhupada states,
Since the individual soul is part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, in that sense the Lord is living in every body, and, as Supersoul, the Lord is also present as a witness. In both cases the presence of God in every living entity is essential. Therefore persons who profess to belong to some religious sect but who do not feel the presence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in every living entity, and everywhere else, are in the mode of ignorance.—Bhag. 3.29.22. purport
Herein lies the key to solving the ever-present problem of interreligious strife. In ignorance one thinks in terms of "my religion" and "your religion." But persons on higher levels of spiritual realization make no such distinctions.
When the soul is stripped of all designations and coverings, it displays its fundamental nature as a loving servant of God. Srila Prabhupada once said:
We are spirit souls—we are pure. But as soon as we leave the spiritual world and come in contact with these material bodies, our consciousness becomes covered. . . . And this is why people are fighting. They are wrongly identifying with the body and thinking, "I am German," "I am English," "I am black," "I am white," "I am this." "I am that"—so many bodily designations. These bodily designations are impurities. And so we see that sometimes artists make statues that are naked. In France, for example, they regard nakedness as pure art. Similarly. when you come to the "nakedness" of the spirit soul—without these bodily designations—that is purity. ... "I am a spirit soul part and parcel of God."
And as part and parcel of God, our business is to love Him.
So the essence of religion has little to do with ritual and reward, repentance and salvation—it has to do with the "naked soul" experiencing direct and personal love for God, without desiring anything in return.
The process for entering into a direct loving relationship with God is called bhakti-yoga, the yoga of devotion. The principle of bhakti-yoga is not faith or belief but actual experience. The soul engaged in bhakti-yoga can come into full and direct contact with Krsna.
This is the ultimate purpose of yoga—to link the individual soul with Krsna in a relationship of pure devotional service. Srila Prabhupada states, "The common religion of all classes of human beings, regardless of whosoever . . . one may be, is devotional service. Religious affiliation in terms of different countries and cultural circumstances is obviously not the common religion of the human being; rather, the basic principle is devotional service" (Bhag. 2.8.18, purport).
Devotional service is the characteristic function of the naked soul. In Srila Prabhupada's introduction to Bhagavad-gita As It Is, he describes devotional service as sanatana-dharma, the eternal occupation of the self:
The English word religion is a little different from sanatana-dharma. Religion conveys the idea of faith, and faith may change. One may have faith in a particular process, and he may change this faith and adopt another, but sanatana-dharma refers to that activity which cannot be changed. For instance, liquidity cannot be taken from water, nor can heat be taken from fire. Similarly, the eternal function of the eternal living entity cannot be taken from the living entity. Sanatana-dharma is eternally integral with the living entity. . . . When Sanatana Gosvami asked Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu about the svarupa of every living being, the Lord replied that the svarupa, or constitutional position, of the living being is the rendering of service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Devotional service means using one's senses to please the Supreme Lord, instead of praying to the Lord to satisfy one's senses. The focus is on God's desires instead of one's own self-centered desires. Srila Prabhupada writes,
Therefore, from all the evidence the conclusion is that without bhakti, devotional service, there is no question of religious principles. God is the central figure in the performance of religious principles. Almost everything going on in this world as religion is devoid of any idea of devotional service and is therefore condemned by the verdict of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Without devotional service, so-called religious principles are only cheating.—Bhag. 7.11.7, purport
In this unfortunate situation, we have, as Jonathan Swift wrote in his Thoughts on Various Subjects, "just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love, one another."
On the highest platform, religion is one, because it focuses on the one Personality of Godhead. If one pure soul is experiencing a direct, personal, loving relationship with Krsna, and another soul is also experiencing a direct, personal, loving relationship with Krsna, these souls will certainly have no grounds for dispute, for they will recognize their common center in the same Personality of Godhead.
It is only when there is a lack of direct experience of God that problems arise. When there is a lack of information and experience about who God is and how to love Him, then sectarian faith and belief come into play. Such faith and belief arise from each individual's mental condition. And since mental conditions vary, there will certainly be varieties of faith and belief. Human nature being what it is, people generally become very much attached to their particular faith or belief, so much so that they become hostile to those with different faiths and beliefs.
This kind of blind faith, which arises from incomplete, theoretical imaginations about God, is the root cause of the various religious conflicts that now rend the world. It may come as a surprise to many that a Krsna conscious person does not see himself as Hindu (see BTG 22.10). A Hindu sees himself as different from the Muslims, Sikhs, or Buddhists, and therefore we see in India a constant strain between Hindus and Muslims, and in recent years between Hindus and Sikhs.
Of course, religious strife is not confined to India. In Sri Lanka the tension is between Hindu Tamil separatists and the Buddhist majority. In the Middle East the Shiite Muslims are engaged in bitter conflict with the Sunni Muslims, and the Sunni and Shiite Muslims with the Israeli Jews. In Lebanon various Islamic, Christian, and Jewish forces are entangled in a bloody, never-ending network of conflict. And lest we think that religious violence is a third-world phenomenon, the ongoing conflict between Protestants and Catholics continues to rage in Northern Ireland.
Srila Prabhupada states, "In Calcutta during the 1947 Hindu-Muslim riots, there was more suffering because everyone was thinking, 'I am a Hindu' or 'I am a Muslim.' But if one is advanced in Krsna consciousness, he will not fight according to such conceptions. A Krsna conscious person knows that he is neither Hindu nor Muslim but the eternal servant of Krsna."
Further analyzing sectarian religion and distinguishing it from universal spiritual principles, Srila Prabhupada has stated:
When we are on the material platform, there are different types of religions—Hinduism, Christianity, Mohammedanism, Buddhism, and so on. These are instituted for a particular time, a particular country or a particular person. Consequently there are differences. . . .The world is anxious for religious unity, and that common platform can be achieved in transcendental devotional service. The devotional activities of the Krsna consciousness movement are completely transcendental to material considerations.—Cc. Madhya 25.121, purport
I've never felt that being in the Krsna consciousness movement is like belonging to a typical religious organization, because my vital connection is not with some bureaucratic entity but with my spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, who serves as a transparent medium connecting me with the Supreme Lord, Krsna, and as a lifelong confidential adviser and instructor. The bona fide spiritual master comes in a line of disciplic succession, or sampradaya, that descends through time from Krsna Himself, and typically a practitioner of bhakti-yoga will identify himself as a member of an authorized sampradaya.
Of course, it's natural that persons cultivating love of God should associate with each other and cooperate to systematically communicate the techniques of bhakti-yoga to others. Srila Prabhupada has created the International Society for Krishna Consciousness to provide opportunity for its members' spiritual growth and cooperation in the service of the Supreme Lord, Krsna.
Srila Prabhupada preferred to think of his International Society for Krishna Consciousness as "a cultural movement for the respiritualization of human society" rather than as a religion. One of his disciples once suggested having gold trim on the pages of his books, but Srila Prabhupada rejected the idea, fearing that people would take his transcendental teachings as sectarian religious literature.
Although Srila Prabhupada founded many temples, he was not very attached to having buildings. Like his own spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, Srila Prabhupada stated that he was prepared to sell the marble from the temples to print books explaining the philosophy of Krsna consciousness. When temples were established in different cities around the world, each one was, on Prabhupada's instruction, financially independent. He did not want to create an overly centralized organization, preferring instead to emphasize individual effort and local self-reliance.
To coordinate some of the worldwide activities of the Krsna consciousness movement, he created a Governing Body Commission, but its members were ideally to meet only once a year in Mayapur, India, the birthplace of Lord Caitanya, and set the movement's course for the coming year during a few days of discussion.
All in all, Srila Prabhupada preferred a minimum of the centralized administration that people associate with "organized religion," while at the same time he wanted the members of ISKCON to hold a unified vision of a mission for spreading Krsna consciousness all over the world.
More than anything else, Srila Prabhupada wanted people to chant the holy names of the Lord anywhere and everywhere and engage in devotional service to Krsna, because this would lead to the desired result. In this regard Srila Prabhupada writes,
After chanting the holy name of the Lord and dancing in ecstasy, one gradually sees the form of the Lord, the pastimes of the Lord, and the transcendental qualities of the Lord. ... As stated in Bhagavad-gita, bhaktya mam abhijanati: simply by devotional service one can understand everything about the Supreme Lord. If one fortunately understands the Supreme Lord in this way, the result is tyaktva deham punar janma naiti: after giving up his material body, he no longer has to take birth in this material world. Instead, he returns home, back to Godhead. That is the ultimate perfection.—Bhag. 6.3.22, purport
In the Vedic Tradition
Tamala Krishna Goswami discusses the power of drama
Well known in India are Sanskrit classical dramas devoted to Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and to His incarnations and His great devotees. These dramas, based on the epics Mahabharata, Ramayana, and Srimad-Bhagavatam, follow the rules of drama found in the Natya-sastra, the world's oldest manual on play-writing.
Recently Tamala Krishna Goswami, a senior devotee in the Hare Krsna movement, delved into this storehouse of dramatic literature and wrote two plays based on the Sanskrit dramatic form. Although composed in English, the plays conform in detail to the requirements of Sanskrit drama both in subject and in technique. This interview took place last June in New York City.
Back to Godhead: What brought about your interest in the traditional Indian theater, or Sanskrit classical drama?
Tamala Krishna Goswami: My interest in theater began in college with courses on modern drama. After joining ISKCON, I approached Srila Prabhupada with the suggestion that I might write a drama about Lord Caitanya, and Prabhupada allowed me several interviews in which he sketched Lord Caitanya's life. But nothing came of that.
Following Prabhupada's passing away in 1977, I meditated on the idea of communicating what I and others had undergone while serving him during the final year of his life. I had been his secretary and had kept a detailed diary of those days. But since Prabhupada had authorized that his biography be written by Satsvarupa Maharaja, I turned my diary over to him.
Thereafter I wrote Servant of the Servant, a semi-autobiography based on the letters Prabhupada had sent me over the years. I ended that book with the letters I had received in 1976, still thinking I'd deal separately with 1977.
After Prabhupada's biography appeared, I felt even more strongly a need to present his final activities in a format that would fully bring out the tremendous emotional impact they had on us. It was then that I conceived of writing in the dramatic genre. I began reading classical and modern Western dramas, but I felt dissatisfied because the approach was either comic or tragic, and Prabhupada's departure was neither. I started searching for a dramatic style or tradition embodying the Vedic philosophy of the soul's eternality and the meaningfulness of life—as opposed to the meaninglessness expressed in existential dramas—a tradition coinciding with the world view we have in the Krsna conscious way of life.
Then I remembered the Caitanya-caritamrta chapter dealing with Srila Rupa Gosvami's dramas, Lalita-madhava and Vidagdha-madhava. When I turned to this reference, I found important dramatic works mentioned, specifically Bharata Muni's Natya-sastra, Rupa Gosvami's Nataka-candrika, and Visvanatha Kaviraja's Sahitya-darpana. At this time—February 1984—1 went to India and acquired some books about Sanskrit drama. The more I read, the more convinced I became that I'd found the proper dramatic style to express our philosophy and the transcendental emotions we devotees feel.
One problem arose, however. In Sanskrit drama the hero cannot die, for then the play would end in an extremely painful, disconcerting way. The Sanskrit tradition never produced a formal tragedy, though a good case could be made that two dramas by Bhasa are tragic—one about Karna and the other about Duryodhana. Since the Vedic view of life is not tragic, the final portion of a full-length Sanskrit drama should deal with the complete fulfillment of the hero's desires, which in Prabhupada's case was to die a glorious death. This posed a great problem for me because I wanted to dramatize Prabhupada's departure, but the tradition forbade concluding with the hero's death. Finally I decided to put aside writing the drama.
But by this time I'd read more than fifty Sanskrit dramas and textbooks on the subject, and I felt I should put that learning to good use. When I heard Bhakticaru Swami describe Lord Jagannatha's original appearance, I thought this might be an excellent theme for a drama. Using the Sanskrit tradition I had studied, I embarked on writing Jagannatha-priya Natakam—The Drama of Lord Jagannatha. After completing that drama and gaining experience, I was able to write a second drama, entitled Prabhupada-bhakti-rasa, because I realized it would be possible to handle the theme of Prabhupada's final activities and departure while still maintaining the traditional dramatic rules.
BTG: It will be interesting to see how you did that, when the play is published. In what other respects are you guided by the Sanskrit dramatic rules?
TKG: The main purpose of drama is to convey rasa, or taste. That's the real intent of both the dramatist and the actors. Rupa Gosvami lists five primary rasas—neutrality, servitude, friendship, parental affection, and conjugal love—and seven secondary ones. Other rasacaryas, or rasa experts, have made slightly different categorizations. In any case, all the rasas an audience experiences, even dread and ghastliness, become a source of pleasure because of proper handling and aesthetic organization. Just as a dinner may have bitter and sour tastes, not just sweet ones, similarly a drama including elements of all the rasas becomes extremely satisfying to the viewer.
One rasa must dominate, the others merely assisting. Rasa is conveyed to the spectators via the emotions portrayed. The emotions that produce the main flavor of the play must be excited. Factors determining the emotions are the characters, natural expressions, fleeting sentiments, and associations (for example, the rainy season is associated with love). When the viewers grow increasingly aware of their enjoyment of the emotions, they taste the rasa, or flavor.
In my Jagannatha drama, vira-rasa, or chivalry, predominates. In the Prabhupada drama, karuna-rasa, or compassion, prevails.
The Jagannatha drama took the form of a nataka, the most extensive form of drama described by Bharata Muni. He lists ten main types of drama. The nataka is the most exalted, treating either chivalry or conjugal love in a full fashion. Since my second drama dealt with compassion, I looked for another form, but I concluded that Prabhupada's final pastimes required a full-length treatment. So even though the main rasa is compassion, I used the nataka form again.
This has a precedent in Bhavabhuti's Uttararama-carita, a very beautiful play depicting Lord Rama's lamentation after Srimati Sita-devi's departure. In an especially moving scene Rama returns to the forest where He was banished with Sita and recalls places they visited. Bhavabhuti rendered Sita as being under a spell, rather than as having disappeared into the earth, so she is able to be present with Rama invisibly. Seeing her beloved husband swooning with grief in separation from her, Sita also feels heart-breaking emotions. By her unseen touch she continually revives Rama, and the audience, seeing them lament and hearing their dialogue of warm reminiscences, experiences karuna-bhakti-rasa, the height of the emotion of compassion.
BTG: Since the Sanskrit tradition includes many kinds of fine literature and philosophy, why are you concentrating on drama to get your message across?
TKG: Scholars within the Sanksrit tradition consider drama to be the most complete artistic form. Bharata Muni not only defines the laws governing ideal literary creation but precisely delineates how each work of dramatic literature should be performed. The combination of literature, musical performance, and visual representation makes the dramatic art a rich and powerful source of both delight and instruction. Gary A Tubb, the chairman of the department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies at Harvard University, discusses the value of creative literature to convey philosophical truths in his foreword to my book Jagannatha-priya Natakam. I'll read you part of his comments:
Of course, there are works of other types that also intend to instruct us and that may seem to do so more directly. The most famous explanation of differences in how these works operate is given by Abhinavagupta, the author of an influential commentary on the Natya-sastra. The authoritative scriptures, he said, educate us in a very straightforward way, after the fashion of a master, by giving us unequivocal commands. And the works of traditional history edify us more gently, after the fashion of a thoughtful friend, by putting before us examples of the actions of others in the past and of what fruits befell those actions. But the works of fine literature instruct us in the most irresistible way, after the fashion of someone we love, by giving us so much joy that we are scarcely aware of an underlying purpose.
BTG: You already mentioned Rupa Gosvami, an important figure in the modern Vaisnava tradition. Of what special usefulness is the theater to devotees of Krsna?
TKG: Rupa Gosvami was learned in the Natya-sastra and other ancient manuals of aesthetics and used the concepts of classical dramaturgy to explain the Vaisnava system of the five main rasas as moods of religious emotion. He illustrated those religious feelings in his dramatic compositions.
A Vaisnava's entire life should be a religious experience. But since life must embody all types of emotional experiences to be satisfying, the dramatist tries to lead the audience to experience emotions in the most purified way. The aesthetic organization he gives to emotions heightens and purifies the audience's experience of them.
Prabhupada writes in The Nectar of Devotion, a study of Rupa Gosvami's Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, "Whenever there is a recitation of poetry or a dramatic play on the different pastimes of Krsna, the audience develops different kinds of transcendental loving service for the Lord. They enjoy different types of ecstatic loving sentiments."
Traditionally, dramas were performed on special occasions such as religious festivals. Very often they were performed next to temples. Although it would be incorrect to say that drama was meant to be an integral part of the religious ritual, it was meant to be a supplementary part-less formal than the actual temple worship, but just as meaningful because it conveyed in a very pleasant way the same religious and philosophical message.
BTG: What about varied arts such as Bharata Natyam and Kathakali, which we sometimes see performed in the West, or the contemporary theaters in India?
TKG: All the ethnic traditions are rooted in the Sanskrit tradition, so you'll find that Kathakali, Bharata Natyam, and the Odissi dance forms, among others, all have their basis in Natya-sastra. They have just emphasized the dance and musical aspects rather than the spoken line, although certainly they convey the same themes.
Today in India, because of mass communications and regular contact with the West, interest in Western-style drama is increasing. Major cities have groups that stage not only Shakespeare and the more modern playwrights but even the works of living Western dramatists, including musicals. And since India is always rife with political and social disputes, the theaters often express those themes. Probably Rabindranath Tagore was one of the first playwrights to do this. So there are tendencies to move away from Sanskrit classical drama, including many regional theaters working in regional languages.
BTG: Srila Prabhupada once wrote an encouraging letter to a devotee-actor, saying that Lord Krsna would direct him so that one day he would be acting dramas about Krsna on Broadway. Any comment?
TKG: Prabhupada said that the purpose of all art is to please Krsna. So, if while pleasing Krsna we also reach Broadway, that will be our success. Prabhupada had very high expectations for dramatic performances and saw them as a means to communicate the philosophy of Krsna consciousness to people throughout the world. He considered drama one of the main methods to achieve what he termed a "cultural conquest."
Ultimately, the test of a good drama must be its performance. I've already seen, after the premiere of my Jagannatha drama in Mayapur and later in Calcutta, that the public takes very well to it. One theater critic wrote in his review, "The evocative and poetic language of the drama is a treat to the ears."
I'd like to see drama troupes spring up throughout the Hare Krsna movement. The most effective thing would be for local theater groups in each country to address audiences in their native languages. What's needed to bring this about, of course, are good scripts. Without a full repertoire, what's the inducement for such troupes to form? So, from my side, I'm trying to provide worthwhile material, and I hope it will inspire more and more of our members to take part in dramatic performances.
You'd probably never think this picture shows someone practicing yoga. But chanting the names of God is actually the supreme form of yoga. Of course, devotees chanting Hare Krsna certainly don't look much like yogis. At least not the kind of yogis most people think of when they hear the word. But most people, it seems, have little understanding of what yoga is really all about.
Yoga is a Sanskrit word meaning "union." India's ancient Sanskrit literatures, the Vedas, explain that the purpose of yoga is to purify our consciousness so that we can re-establish our eternal relationship with God. The sitting postures and breathing exercises most people associate with yoga are part of a certain type of yoga system—known as hatha-yoga—that was practiced thousands of years ago. By practicing hatha-yoga, great sages could completely withdraw their mind and senses from the material world and, after a very long time, find God within their hearts.
In this age, though, the Vedas discourage us from trying to reach God by following the hatha-yoga system. We just don't have the time or the determination. But in another way we're fortunate, because in this age God, or Krsna, has come in the form of His holy name. To associate with Him, we simply have to chant His name. The goal of yoga, union with God, is easily attained through chanting Hare Krsna. And unlike other forms of yoga, the results come quickly. So, you too can be a yogi. Just try chanting Hare Krsna—and feel yourself coming closer to God.
by Visakha-devi dasi
For nine months last year, my family and I lived in a rented house about a mile from the Philadelphia Hare Krsna temple. Early each morning I would walk to the temple to attend the functions there, and then walk back home, chanting Hare Krsna on my beads and relishing solitary moments on the quiet streets, when I could appreciate a little of the beauty of the Lord's creation. As Srila Prabhupada write, Sri Krsna's works are "magnificent and magnanimous. His creations both material and spiritual are all wonderful and ... are full of opulence, beauty, and knowledge" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.17, purport).
Most of the photographs on these pages were taken during those walks. The quotes that accompany the photos are from Srimad-Bhagavatam, the ripened fruit of all spiritual knowledge.
For Whom Does Your Garden Grow?
Offering the fruits (and vegetables) of one's labor
by Visakha-devi dasi
"How do you justify gardening as a Krsna conscious activity?" Janesvari's friend asked her on the phone. "I mean, it doesn't seem like a Krsna-centered activity. How do you make it Krsna conscious?"
"I don't go to great lengths to justify it," Janesvari said. "On the simplest level, just by my being fully engaged—tending my garden and orchard, growing enough to sustain a family of five, and giving produce away to numerous friends and guests—I don't have time to go to movies or watch endless TV or engage in any similarly fruitless activities. At the very least, gardening protects me from the idle-mind-devil's-workshop syndrome.
"I don't necessarily go out in my garden and think about the pastimes of Lord Rama. I think about gardening and I chant Hare Krsna. But I also find that by engaging in simple, basic activities, my whole life becomes simplified, satisfied, and my Krsna consciousness naturally grows and prospers. How can you tend a garden without a belief that there is a supreme controller? You can turn on the sprinkler, but who makes the rain?"
Janesvari's caller, a newcomer to Krsna consciousness, wasn't satisfied. After all, in Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna is explicit: "Engage your mind always in thinking of Me"; "Be fully conscious of Me"; "Always think of Me in the form of Krsna and at the same time carry out your prescribed duty . . . With your activities dedicated to Me and your mind and intelligence fixed on Me, you will attain Me without doubt."
Srila Prabhupada is equally explicit: "We should always try to mold the activities of our lives in such a way that we will constantly remember Krsna, That is Krsna consciousness, to somehow or other always think of Krsna, without forgetting Him under any circumstances. Actually this is the most basic of all regulative principles."
Is Janesvari in illusion when she curls up in a warm nook in January to pick and choose from her seed catalogues? Should someone be counseling her in March, when she plants the tiny seeds indoors? Or in June, when she transfers the seedlings to their outdoor home? And again throughout the summer months of nearly endless weeding and harvesting?
I suppose Janesvari's friend might think so, but I don't, because Janesvari is naturally and honestly following Krsna's instruction that all that we do, all that we eat, all that we offer and give away should be done as an offering unto Him. She is convinced that Lord Sri Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, that she is His servant, and that her goal is to center all life's essential activities around Him. Her spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, encouraged his householder disciples to do this and to worship Deities in their homes. And an important part of her worship is offering her home-grown produce to her household's Radha-Krsna Deities.
To Janesvari, Krsna consciousness is not an artificial addition she has tacked on to her life, as someone may add a wing to his house, nor does it oblige her to conform to a Krsna conscious stereotype. Krsna consciousness is as integral to her as cement in a foundation, as integral as her pulse. Home-gardening is a natural outgrowth of her Krsna consciousness.
Janesvari and her husband live in a spacious country home, where, besides gardening, she cooks, cleans, raises her three children, and keeps her flock of seven sheep. The sheep's wool keeps her busy spinning, knitting, and sewing in the winter months. And, astonishingly enough for me (and perhaps for other urbanites), she's satisfied. Her future plans include growing enough vegetables and fruits to last through the winter.
"Considering the time and the work," Janesvari says, her smile a little self-conscious, "it's not really a money-saving effort, but it's personal. When I give my jams or fresh vegetables away to our friends, they find them better-tasting than the store-bought brands, and they appreciate that these things came from Krsna's garden. It's the same with the sweaters I knit from the sheep's wool. They might not look better than manufactured ones, but I get the personal satisfaction of being a little more self-sufficient—as Srila Prabhupada wanted us to be, as much as is practicable."
From age four to thirteen, Janesvari helped her mother garden in their Port Washington home in Long Island. After a lapse of fourteen years, her interest in gardening was rekindled by her father-in-law, an avid home-gardener in northern New Jersey. In her five years of having her own garden, she says she's made all the mistakes at least once.
Like devotees in Krsna conscious farm communities throughout the world, Janesvari has discovered how gardening is conducive to growth in Krsna's devotional service. She has renewed appreciation for the scriptural metaphor that compares life in Krsna consciousness to tending a creeper of devotion, which has to be watered with the sound of the holy name, and which must be carefully weeded to protect it against the weeds of desires averse to spiritual life.
And like the devotee-farmers, she is glad to be phasing out of the supermarket rat-race, "with it's meat-lined shelves," she says, "and chemical- and wax-sprayed fruits and vegetables." She's also glad to have a facility to involve her children in planting and picking, where she can teach them to appreciate life's simple pleasures, like seeing her garden grow—for Krsna.
Preparation time: 40 minutes
1 medium to large zucchini
1. Cut the zucchini in halves or thirds so that the pieces arc as wide as a bread pan. Then slice each piece lengthwise in ¼-inch slices. Steam them gently until crisp but tender. Meanwhile, slice the cheese and tomatoes in ¼-inch slices.
2. Pour the olive oil into the bread pan and repeatedly layer the zucchini, cheese, and tomato slices by standing them on their sides, moving from one end of the bread pan to the other. The result should be a pan of red, white, and green stripes. Snip fresh basil over the top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour the tomato sauce over the top. Cover with foil and bake at 350° for 20-30 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Offer to Krsna.
Fresh Tomato Soup
Preparation time: 40 minutes
8 medium-size tomatoes, each cut into 8 pieces
1. Remove the skins from the tomatoes by boiling the tomatoes in water for three minutes and then plunging them into cold water. Core the tomatoes.
2. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a saucepan over a medium flame. Add the tomatoes, apple, chili, ginger, and cumin seeds and cook for 1-2 minutes. Pour in % cup of water. Cover and reduce the flame to low. Cook gently for 20-25 minutes until the tomatoes are soft and pulpy.
3. Blend the tomato mixture in an electric blender with two cups of water.
4. Melt three tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over a low flame, add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes. Pour in the blended tomatoes, stirring as you pour, and bring to a simmer. Add the sugar and salt and continue to simmer for no more than 5 minutes. Add the cream, being careful not to let the soup boil, because it will curdle. Remove the soup from the flame, garnish with the fresh herbs, and offer to Krsna.
Fresh Apple Cake
Preparation time: 50 minutes
6 tablespoons butter
Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease an 8-inch-square pan. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until smooth and add the yogurt, vanilla, baking powder, baking soda, and spices. Beat well. Add the flour and continue mixing. The dough will be stiff. Stir in the chopped apple. Spread in the pan and bake for about 35 minutes, until done. Offer to Krsna warm, with fresh whipped cream.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
1 large cucumber
1. Combine all the ingredients except the cucumber. Whisk to mix.
2. Wash and peel the cucumber. Cut it in half lengthwise. Then cut the halves in half lengthwise. Now cut each piece into ½-inch chunks. Mix with the other ingredients. Offer to Krsna.
Preparation time: 25-30 minutes
2 pounds eggplant
Peel and cube the eggplant and boil it in a small amount of water until soft. Drain thoroughly and mash. Add all the other ingredients. Form the mixture into 1 ½-inch balls. If necessary, add more wheat germ or breadcrumbs. Fry the balls in ghee. Drain and offer to Krsna.
Cauliflower, Peppers, and Tomatoes
Preparation time: 35 minutes
2 or 3 medium-size fresh tomatoes
1. Remove the skins from the tomatoes by boiling the tomatoes in water for three minutes and then plunging them into cold water. Core the tomatoes, chop, and set aside.
2. Heat the ghee or olive oil in a medium-size saucepan over a medium flame. Add the oregano, asafetida, and green pepper and saute for a few minutes until lightly browned. Add the cauliflower. Stir, coating all the pieces of cauliflower with the spices, and cook for 5-6 minutes. Add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Stir well, lower the flame, and cover. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the cauliflower is soft It may be necessary to add a little water. Remove from the flame, stir in the sour cream, and offer to Krsna.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
ISKCON Devotees Brave the Streets Of Soweto
Soweto, South Africa—Although daily street fights here result in an average of three hundred deaths per month, Hare Krsna devotees headed by Giriraja Swami and Raghuvira dasa regularly come here at great personal risk to distribute large amounts of prasadam in the shantytowns and schools.
Hare Krishna Food for Life has thus become a familiar sight here in the largest black township in South Africa, located on the outskirts of Johannesburg.
Ajita-devi dasi, who is in charge of Food for Life in Johannesburg, comments, "In the beginning the Sowetans were very surprised to see us, as the only other nonblacks who dare enter are the military—who patrol the streets in armored trucks. But now when we drive through Soweto, people enthusiastically greet us with 'Hare Krsna, Hare Rama.' "
The devotees also distribute books here and hold public festivals every few weeks.
Food for Life Flood Relief
Durban, South Africa—During a recent flood disaster here, in which hundreds of persons lost their lives and thousands were left homeless, Hare Krishna Food for Life volunteers worked around the clock to help the homeless by distributing two thousand plates of prasadam daily. Supporters donated rice, beans, and other foodstuffs, as well as clothing and blankets, which the devotees also distributed throughout the disaster area.
Despite adverse weather and badly damaged roads, the devotees drove their Food for Life truck into many remote districts of Natal to reach the worst-hit areas, enabling thousands of people to have their first opportunity to taste prasadam and chant the names of Krsna.
Local newspapers praised the selfless work of the devotees, who were working in liaison with the Red Cross and the Kwazulu Health Department. Approximately fifty thousand plates of prasadam were distributed during the four weeks following the rains.
Devotees Meet Wife Of Ciskei's President
Bisho, Ciskei—Three Hare, Krsna devotees recently spent three hours discussing the philosophy of Krsna consciousness with Mrs. Virginia Sebe, wife of the president of this independent country of 660,000 blacks, situated within the borders of South Africa.
Mrs. Sebe had invited the devotees—Ajita-devi dasi, Kalpataru-devi dasi, and Vrajabhumi-devi dasi—to distribute prasadam at an annual gathering of six thousand Ciskenians. At Mrs. Sebe's request the devotees chanted Hare Krsna to a traditional Xhosa tune and accompanied by Xhosa instruments. The chanting was televised nationwide on the evening news.
During their meeting with Mrs. Sebe, the devotees presented her with a set of Srila Prabhupada's books. She remarked, "The world would be at peace if everyone would follow these books."
Bhaktitirtha Swami, ISKCON Governing Body Commissioner for West Africa, discusses Krsna consciousness every Tuesday evening on a prime-time television talk show in Nigeria. He was originally scheduled to appear on the program for three months, but, responding to improved ratings and to viewer interest in the program, the station renewed his contract and extended his time on the air from thirty minutes to one hour.
* * *
Bhaktitirtha Swami's motto for West Africa is, "If you can't grow it or make it, you don't need it." In that spirit, the temples under his jurisdiction make their own Deities, altars, drums, karatalas, dhotis, kurtas, cadars, beadbags, beads, oils, candles, incense, laminations, and other devotional paraphernalia. In Benin, Nigeria, the devotees recently acquired a large former post office building, which they will use for developing, expanding, and teaching cottage industries.
To help the people of West Africa incorporate Krsna consciousness into their lives, Bhaktitirtha Swami has started a Krsna conscious martial arts institute, an institute for cottage industries, and a Krsna conscious technical school.
* * *
ISKCON is becoming very popular in West Africa and is constantly in the news. One of the leading magazines in Nigeria recently ran a cover story on the Hare Krsna movement. Articles about Krsna consciousness written by devotees regularly appear in newspapers and magazines in West Africa, which also like to run "words of wisdom" by Srila Prabhupada.
* * *
Leaders of ISKCON temples in Nigeria recently presented several papers at a week-long national seminar aimed at quelling the tension between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria that has led to riots and the burning of many hotels and churches. The devotees' presentations were so well received that the devotees were the only group allowed to present papers every day. Although religious programs were banned from television after the riots, the devotees appeared frequently on television because they were seen as an important force for bringing about a better understanding between the conflicting groups.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
by Dvarakadhisa-devi dasi
The photographs show men dying of AIDS, the contours of their skeletons accentuated by the black newsprint. How articulately those eyes convey their suffering! Just a few years ago these were young men. Now, in a room of a San Francisco hospice provided for dying AIDS victims, they are counting their final days. The average length of stay here is less than one month.
Most homosexual men know someone who has died or is dying of AIDS. There are approximately forty-five thousand cases in America, most resulting from homosexual encounters. To reassure the general public, health agencies have deluged us with information about "safe sex," which will presumably allow homosexuals and heterosexuals alike to pursue active sexual lives while avoiding the AIDS infection. With a little prudence, even the most promiscuous can feel fairly well protected.
Yet reports are coming from the heart of the gay communities that even this little bit of restraint is too much. Health care officials report that it's still difficult to convince many men to abide by the "safe sex" guidelines or discuss the possibility of infection with potential sex partners. As one homosexual man said, "Sometimes I have several drinks, and then alcohol or desire just takes over. Then I think, 'Oh, God, what have I done?' "
Another man explains, "I just try to go on with the basic realization that it could happen to me, but I feel it's healthy for me just to go on [having sex]."
Dr. Neil Schram, former chairman of the Los Angeles City-County AIDS Task Force, observes, "There's a tremendous difference between education and behavioral change. Look at cigarette smoking or seat-belt use or drunk driving. People are educated about the dangers of all those things; they just never think it will happen to them. The key word is 'denial.' "
Karen Pataky, a nurse working with AIDS victims, notes, "Nothing is risk-free except abstinence, and that is simply not a viable option for most people."
People often ask us why Krsna conscious devotees consider illicit sex (defined as any sex other than that within marriage and only for procreation) to be irreligious. What's wrong with something that makes people feel good? The answer is illustrated by these men who are unable to curb their sexual appetites even in the face of contracting a deadly disease. When persons, regardless of gender or sexual preference, are so entranced by the pleasure of sex that they are unable to think rationally, then that sex desire is seriously detrimental.
If a person can't resist a few moments of pleasure even when it threatens to ruin his marriage, create unwanted children, or kill him, then surely his intelligence is stunted. Such an unfortunate, unintelligent person becomes a slave to the genitals, just as a junkie becomes hopelessly addicted to the temporary thrill of a drug. Thus the scriptures advocate restraint. Complete celibacy is best. If that is impossible, then one should be married and have sex only to produce good children.
Sexual control is not only beneficial in that one avoids the problems of AIDS or abortion or divorce, but celibacy contributes much to our physical well-being also. Srila Prabhupada, commenting on the Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.26.57), explains:
It is understood herewith that the faculty to discharge semen is the cause of death. Therefore, yogis and transcendentalists who want to live for greater spans of life voluntarily restrain themselves from discharging semen. The more one can restrain the discharge of semen, the more one can be aloof from the problem of death. There are many yogis living up to three hundred or seven hundred years by this process, and in the Bhagavatam it is clearly stated that discharging semen is the cause of horrible death. The more one is addicted to sexual enjoyment, the more susceptible he is to a quick death.
To appreciate the beauty of celibacy requires a higher vision, a vision rarely promoted in this world. People are woefully shortsighted; thus so many tragedies seem unavoidable because sense control appears impossible.
But by following the spiritual practices recommended in this age, especially the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, the members of the Krsna consciousness movement are able to refrain from illicit sex, thus protecting themselves from its adverse reactions.
In today's society, on the other hand, people lack spiritual training and often act on instinct, like animals, seeking quick pleasure. Says Dr. Schram, "It can take years to develop AIDS, and in the meantime people look and feel healthy. It's not like being able to see a tangible result of your actions the next morning." And because people are unable to perceive the horrific results of their sinful acts, thousands more will die of this disease called AIDS.
Gravity and the Grave
by Kundali dasa
Mr. Donald Eckhardt, a United States Air Force geophysicist, has a chance at leaving his mark on the world. From atop a two-thousand-foot TV antenna in Garber, North Carolina, he's been conducting sensitive measurements of gravity, and last fall he had an unexpected breakthrough. If all goes well, he'll be the discoverer of the sixth fundamental force in nature.
According to current scientific thinking, there are four fundamental natural forces: gravity, electromagnetism, the strong force (which holds the centers of atoms together), and the weak force (which makes some atoms break down in radioactive decay).
But some scientists already have evidence of a fifth force, which supposedly exerts a slight resistence to gravity over distances often to a thousand yards. Their claim is awaiting confirmation among their peers, some of whom suspect that this force might just be another aspect of gravity. Meanwhile, Mr. Eckhardt's discovery, described as "a gravity-enhancing force," is being called the sixth force.
Mr. Eckhardt is thrilled. The possibility of a fifth and sixth force is of keen interest to the Air Force, he explained, because their existence might alter the trajectory of missiles that depend on inertial guidance systems. "If we don't do a good job estimating what gravity is, we won't do a good job guiding the missiles," he said.
I'm pleased to learn of Mr. Eckhardt's progress, and I wish him all success. After all, the last thing I would want is to get blown away by a misguided missile. But I found his work interesting for another reason: I'm also concerned with gravity as a fundamental force. And yet, while Mr. Eckhardt and I appear to have this in common, we're actually worlds apart. I found the irony in this slightly amusing.
Gravity, you see, is also a fundamental force in Krsna consciousness. For in spiritual life unless one is very grave, one risks missing the distinction between matter and spirit altogether, and being unable to make that distinction, one is automatically obliged to pursue whimsical, frivolous objectives in life.
Take me, for example. Formerly, before taking to Krsna consciousness, I pursued such objectives. I lived in a daze of material desire. I wanted—among other things—riches, a house or two in the country, fancy cars, lots of friends, and a near-perpetual social life. I wanted fame, influence, recognition, and power—and ladies, too, of course. And I wanted desperately to leave my mark on the world.
I had no conception of the importance of spiritual discipline, or of the importance of gravity in the general scheme of things.
Krsna consciousness changed that, however. By reading Srila Prabhupada's books and associating with Krsna conscious devotees, I sobered up enough to appreciate that life is much too short for trivial pursuits. I now understand that any activity devoid of Krsna consciousness is either gross sense gratification—summarized as eating, sleeping, mating, and self-defense—or subtle gratification—profit, adoration, and distinction—and is therefore frivolous. And I realize that the notion of making my mark on the world is a misguided attempt to seek immortality, when, as a spiritual soul, I'm immortal by constitution.
So now I'm learning about gravity. I'm learning to discern between matter and spirit. I have a long way to go, but like Mr. Eckhardt, I'm glad I'm making progress.
Looking For Leaders
by Ajitananda dasa
People want good leaders, Unfortunately, throughout history citizens have been disappointed under the misrule of leaders who were more interested in their own desires than in the welfare of their countrymen. This is certainly the case in our modern age. Recently in the United States, for example, more than one hundred Reagan administration officials have faced allegations of questionable activities.
Misuse of power exacts a stringent toll, as when citizens must give up a significant portion of their money in taxes only to have it squandered on massive nuclear stockpiles, foolhardy scientific projects, multimillion-dollar loans that are never repaid, and many other injudicious schemes. Myriad social ills, such as war, crime, pollution, police brutality, and animal slaughter, can also be traced to poor government.
How can man overcome the curse of poor leadership that has confounded him for so long? The answer lies in his ability and determination to educate himself about the actual qualifications of a leader. A handsome face, an expensive suit, television charisma, and millions of advertising dollars don't make a leader. According to the Vedic literature, a leader must be either a pure devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, or a person sane and humble enough to take direction from such an elevated soul.
A devotee of the Lord has all good qualities and is thus competent to govern the citizens fairly, effectively, and with full compassion. Because his mind is not disturbed by the demands of his senses, or by the virulent desires for money, fame, and power, his vision is clear, and he can see what needs to be done in all situations and on every level.
Because the godly ruler is deeply devoted to the Lord, he feels great affection for all the citizens, who are sons and daughters of the same supreme father. Just as a parent is able to make judicious decisions for the benefit of his children, owing to his deep love for them, so an advanced devotee of Lord Krsna, because of his heartfelt concern for the citizens, always makes proper judgments on their behalf.
In describing the superexcellent administration of Maharaja Yudhisthira, a world emperor of a former age, Srila Prabhupada comments,
By knowing the science of Krsna, one can become the most perfect man in the world, and unless one has knowledge in this science, all qualifications and doctorate diplomas acquired by academic education are spoiled and useless. Maharaja Yudhisthira knew this science of Krsna very well, for it is stated that by continuous cultivation of this science, or by continuous devotional service to Lord Krsna, he acquired the qualification of administering the state.—(Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.12.4, purport)
It is unrealistic to expect that in this age of diverse cultures and political ideologies we could all live under one godly monarch. We can achieve the same effect, however, if we agree to educate ourselves about the spiritual qualities of a leader and elect only those candidates who cultivate these qualities and are willing to take direction from the great souls who possess them in full.
His Divine Grace A .C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was a great soul, a pure devotee of Lord Krsna who possessed all the noble qualities to be found in an ideal leader. Srila Prabhupada's books contain vital information for the perfect management of society. By understanding and applying his instructions, we can enjoy the same good results as those obtained by one living under the rule of a great king like Yudhisthira.
Throughout centuries man has placed his faith in a long succession of unqualified leaders who have led him to where he is today—overwhelmed with perplexities and poised on the threshold of nuclear extinction. His attempts at a progressive life, without deference to the desires of the Supreme Lord, have been fraught with adversity, and he sinks deeply into a network of trouble that grows more dangerous every day.
It would be prudent for us to learn from history's glaring lessons and begin at once to align ourselves and our governments with Lord Krsna's plan for our material and spiritual well-being. A sincere attempt to do so will certainly invoke the favor of Lord Krsna.
Returning to the Spiritual Platform
This conversation between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and reporters took place in Melbourne, Australia, on June 29, 1974.
Reporter 1: Your Divine Grace, often when people pursue what you term "spiritual life," they seem to forget about pursuing the things of this world—making this world comfortable.
Srila Prabhupada: Making this world "comfortable"? That will never be possible. Do you understand this? Let us say you take a fish out of-the water and put him on the land. Now, you may give the fish a lovely velvet cushion and everything nice. But will the fish be comfortable?
Reporter 1: No. He'd be out of his element.
Srila Prabhupada: Similarly, we living entities are spirit soul. So being in this material body in this material world—this means we are out of our element.
But unfortunately, our system of education is so dull that the authorities do not know that we are not this body—we are spirit soul. They are presenting themselves as big, big philosophers and big, big statesmen and big, big social planners. Yet they are forgetting the real thing: that we are not this body but spirit soul. Today even the leader is accepting this material body as his real self. And he is thinking, 'These bodily comforts will make me happy." But that cannot be. Because the body and its comforts are made of matter—and we are spirit soul.
Consider the same example: if you take the fish from his natural environment, the water, and put him on the land, hell never be happy. Similarly, as long as you continue to have this material body, you cannot enjoy real, eternal happiness. And you will have so many problems. The main problems are birth, death, old age, and disease. And these problems are due simply to having this material body.
Therefore, an intelligent man should know that "I am not this body; I am spirit soul. My natural field of activities is on the spiritual platform. If I can somehow return to the spiritual platform, then I will be happy." So the sum and substance of this Krsna consciousness movement is to educate people in how to be situated on the spiritual platform, how to be happy.
Reporter 2: Your Divine Grace, do you think that chanting the Hare Krsna mantra is the only way to achieve this liberation from matter? Is chanting the only way to be "situated on the spiritual platform"?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Chanting the Hare Krsna mantra means chanting the holy names of Krsna, the Supreme Lord, and Radha, or Mother Hara, the Lord's personified spiritual energy. So chanting Hare Krsna means you come into direct association with the Lord by taking shelter of His spiritual energy. Hare Krsna: "O Lord, please engage me in Your devotional service. O devotional, spiritual energy of the Lord, please let me take shelter of You." Being situated on the spiritual platform means you take shelter of the Lord's spiritual energy.
For instance, when you approach a heater, you are taking shelter of the heater's heating energy. Similarly, when you approach Krsna, you are taking shelter of His spiritual energy.
Or take the example of the sun, the great fiery planet. When you approach the sun, you are taking shelter of the sun's heating and lighting energy. Is it not? When you are in the sunshine, in one sense you are in the sun. Of course, in another sense you are not actually in the sun—because the sun's fiery temperature is so high that had you been actually in the sun, you would have been immediately blown up, burned into ashes. But still, when you take shelter of the sunshine, you take shelter of the sun.
So Krsna, the Supreme Lord, is situated as the supreme fire. Whatever we are experiencing is a spark of His energy. And just as we can enter into the sun's all-pervasive fiery energy, even though the sun itself is ninety-three million miles away, so similarly, even though the Lord is very far away, we can take shelter of the Lord's all-pervasive spiritual energy simply by chanting His holy name—because Krsna, being absolute, is not different from His name. Therefore, if you chant the Hare Krsna mantra without offense, then you directly associate with Krsna. This is liberation from matter. Spiritual liberation, situation on the spiritual platform.
Reporter 2: In all the scriptures that I have read, it's said that the disciple must remember God's name constantly. So you say that the Hare Krsna mantra contains God's name. How do we know this?
Srila Prabhupada: How do you know your name?
Reporter 2: My parents gave it to me.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. You relied on your mother and father, on parental authority. Similarly, you have to learn the Lord's name by relying on spiritual authority.
Reporter 2: From the scriptures.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Reporter 3: Srila Prabhupada, what about other religions, like Christianity and . . .
Srila Prabhupada: There is no second religion. There is only one. That is the right idea; that is genuine God consciousness.
Now, as soon as you designate "Christian," "Hindu," "Muslim," that is upadhi—it falls short of the genuine spiritual conception. Just as God is one person, so genuine religion is one thing. Designated religion—conceiving of "our Christian God" or "our Hindu God"—falls short.
For example, now you are in a black coat. Tomorrow you may be in a white coat. So I could designate you as "black Mr. Such-and-such" or "white Mr. Such-and-such." But there is no need, because you are not actually that black or white coat. That black or white coat is not you, but simply a circumstance.
Similarly, due to our so-called sophisticated mind, we say "Christian religion," "Hindu religion." To describe some particular historical circumstance we may use these designations. But religion is one thing. It means to glorify God's holy name and abide by His laws. That is the spiritual platform
(To be continued.)
Male Ego and God Consciousness
Psychologists are observing that the modern male is caught in a bind: he is pressured to be tough and independent, and yet he is expected to be a sensitive partner to his wife.
But the trends of the 1980's don't favor the "sensitive man." He who was once considered an admirable, caring person is now called a wimp. The image of Hollywood's Rambo pressures men to live up to an impossible standard of masculinity. As a result of this bind, men are more and more becoming out of touch with their real selves. Beneath a veneer of machismo often lies a troubled man. As one psychologist reports, 'The diagnosis of chauvinism is superficial. Closer examination of a man's behavior reveals a powerfully masochistic, self-hating and often self-destructive style."
The Krsna conscious philosophy and way of life can offer solutions to this male dilemma. The Bhagavad-gita informs us that all persons, whether male or female, have an identity beyond the temporary bodily role. This permanent identity is called atma, spirit soul. The Bhagavad-gita instructs us how to live out our social duties as man or woman and at the same time get in touch with our permanent relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Knowledge of the atma must be combined with knowledge of the supreme atma, the Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna. God, or the Supreme Being, contains both male and female aspects, but He is the ultimate enjoyer, known in Sanskrit as purusa, or "male." In human society, both men and women seek the dominant role as the enjoyer. Everyone strives to be the purusa, but in the absolute sense a mere mortal can never become the predominator. We are all predominated. While living in this world, we are under the control of the material energy, and even if we attain liberation from birth and death, we then accept the eternal loving supremacy of the Personality of Godhead. So once a man understands that he is not the supreme purusa, he can relieve himself from a heavy burden of false ego.
This is not just theory. A life dedicated to God consciousness can fulfill a man's drive for courageous acts while allowing full expression of his capacity for gentleness and caring. This harmony is realized in the lives of saintly persons of all religious paths.
We observed this in the life of our spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada acted with great courage by coming to America with no money or patronage. With lone determination he began the Krsna consciousness movement in New York City. And as his movement successfully developed worldwide, Srila Prabhupada often seemed like a general on the battlefield, directing men and resources. He was never depressed or daunted by obstacles to the spreading of his mission.
On the other hand, those who met Srila Prabhupada were impressed by his childlike innocence and gentleness. He was never too busy to chat with children, to give medical and domestic advice to his disciples and friends, or to stop to admire a flower. Srila Prabhupada once advised one of his disciples who was about to leave for preaching in Bangladesh, "Go with the courage of an Englishman and the compassion of a Bengali mother."
One might say that the saintly ideal is just as unattainable as the perfect macho image, and therefore to attempt it will create another kind of pressure. Granted, most of us cannot attain the stature of a saint. But Prabhupada encouraged everyone, declaring that taking to God consciousness is easy and sublime, since it is an awakening of our original nature. Attempts to become a supermale are artificial, and whatever success we may attain is temporary. But attainment of our spiritual life is natural, and the gains are never lost.
When a man tries his best to serve God, he adopts practices that require sensual restraint and dutifulness—noble forms of masculine strength.
At the same time, spiritual practice brings out the softer, compassionate side of a person. Through worship of God and service to the spiritual master, a man refines his sensibility.
Spiritual life is not stereotyped. There are many different roles that may be fulfilled by a God conscious person. In the lives of great teachers such as Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha, we see the ultimate: an empowered person who combines the heroism of a preacher with the compassion of a mother—ready to face persecution, while offering protection to all suffering souls. We also have saintly examples in the lives of persons who fulfilled more worldly roles, such as the kings of Vedic times or even ordinary workers who dedicate their occupational efforts in the service of God through karma-yoga (action in Krsna consciousness). The Vedic social scheme provides a way, known as varnasrama, whereby a man or a woman can engage his or her talents in the service of God under the direction of the spiritual master.
Simply putting God in the center of one's life drastically diminishes the pressures to behave as a Rambo and the fears of being called a wimp. If we associate with persons who are God conscious, such friends will not exert bizarre pressures on us to perform as "purusas." And if we are God conscious, we will not be disturbed by the demands of materialistic persons that we behave in a chauvinistic way.
In the Vedic scripture Srimad-Bhagavatam, there is a story of a king who once made fun of the great saint Jada Bharata. Unaware of the spiritual stature of Jada Bharata, the king was employing him as a palanquin bearer. While carrying the king, the saint was concerned not to step on ants along the way, and therefore he walked somewhat awkwardly and jostled the king. The king then rebuked him, "What's the matter? Are you too weak?" To these words Jada Bharata replied as follows:
My dear king and hero, whatever you have spoken sarcastically is certainly true. . . . You have said that I am not stout and strong, and these words are befitting a person who does not know the distinction between the body and the soul. The body may be fat or thin, but no learned man would say such things of the spirit soul. ... As far as the spirit soul is concerned, I am neither fat nor skinny; therefore you are correct when you say that I am not very stout. Also, if the object of this journey and the path leading there were mine, there would be many troubles for me, but because they relate not to me but to my body, there is no trouble at all.—Bhag. 5.10.9
Even if one is not prepared to make a dramatic increase in commitment to spiritual life, a little spiritual understanding will give him relief. If a person just begins to understand the atma, he will know that he is neither a man nor a woman, but an eternal servant of God. Even if we can only occasionally meditate on this eternal identity, we will get solace from the clashing pressures created by illusory persons in the illusory material world.—SDG