The loving affairs of Radha and Krsna
A lecture in Mayapur, India, on March 29, 1975
radha krsna-pranaya-vikrtir hladini saktir asmad
"The loving affairs of Sri Radha and Krsna are transcendental manifestations of the Lord's internal pleasure-giving potency. Although Radha and Krsna are one in Their identity, They separated Themselves eternally. Now these two transcendental identities have again united in the form of Sri Krsna Caitanya. I bow down to Him, who has manifested Himself with the sentiment and complexion of Srimati Radharani, although He is Krsna Himself." (Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi 1.5)
Here Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, the author of Caitanya-caritamrta, is describing another feature of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Previously, Lord Caitanya has been described as the ultimate Absolute Truth, Bhagavan. The Absolute Truth is realized in three phases, and the ultimate phase is Bhagavan, who is sad-aisvaryaih purnah, "full in six opulences. " Nowadays there are so many "Bhagavans," but they have no opulence. But the actual Bhagavan is full in six kinds of opulence—beauty, wealth, strength, fame, knowledge, and renunciation.
So, Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, has descended as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu just to bestow the topmost understanding of loving affairs with Krsna (samarpayitum unnatojjvala-rasam sva-bhakti-sriyam [Cc. Adi 1.4]). In devotional service there are different stages, although spiritually there is no difference among them. There is ultimately no difference between a devotee in the mood of servitude (dasya-rasa) and one in the mood of conjugal love (madhurya-rasa). But each devotee likes to serve the Supreme Lord according to his particular inclination. Someone wants to love Him in a neutral mood (santa-rasa), someone wants to love Him in the mood of a servant, someone wants to love Him as a friend, another as a parent, and another as a conjugal lover. While there is no spiritual difference between these phases of loving affairs, great devotees and learned scholars have given their decision that the loving affairs with Krsna in the conjugal mood—like those between husband and wife or, above those, between lover and beloved—are on the highest platform.
In the Western countries these affairs between boyfriend and girlfriend are very prominent, and in the spiritual world this relationship of lover and beloved, without marriage, is considered the highest. Whatever so-called loving affairs we see here are a perverted reflection of the loving affairs between Radha and Krsna.
In the Bhagavad-gita this perverted reflection is described as urdhva-mulam adhah-sakham: a tree with its roots up and its branches down. In other words, the material world is a reflection of the real, spiritual world. Unless this material world is a reflection, how could the roots be upward? There is a tree like this: a tree on the bank of a pond will be reflected with its roots upwards and its branches down.
This world is a reflection only, a shadow. The reality is in the spiritual world. There the topmost thing is the conjugal love between Radha and Krsna, and here the same thing, when pervertedly reflected as sexual affairs between a girl and a boy, is the lowest abomination. We should know this: In the spiritual world, for Radha and Krsna to remain as girlfriend and boyfriend is the topmost pleasure, while in the material world this same thing is most abominable.
We cannot imitate the loving affairs of Krsna and Radharani. We have to understand the facts of Their relationship, as described here: radha krsna-pranaya-vikrtir hladini saktir. "The loving affairs of Radha and Krsna are transcendental manifestations of the Lord's internal pleasure-giving potency."
The word sakti means "energy." From the Vedas we understand that the Lord, the Supreme Person, has many energies: parasya saktir vividhaiva sruyate. When Arjuna requested Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita "Kindly explain some of the energies You display," Krsna listed His different energies, and at last He concluded,
The words idam krtsnam ... jagat mean "the entire material manifestation." There are many universes in the material manifestation. We see only one universe, but there are many millions of universes (yasya prabha prabhavato jagad-anda-koti). So, Krsna says that all these universes in the material world display only one-fourth of His energy (ekamsena).
Just imagine what Krsna's energy is! And we are trying to imitate Him. So many rascals declare they are Bhagavan, but they have no idea what Bhagavan is. Innumerable universes are coming out from the breathing of Maha-Visnu, who is just a part of a plenary part of Bhagavan, Lord Krsna. When Maha-Visnu exhales, the universes come out, and when He inhales, everything goes within Him. This is Bhagavan.
This material creation is a partial exhibition of the energy of the Lord, onefourth of His energy. This material world is made of His material energy, and we are His marginal energy. But the other three-fourths of His energies are in the spiritual world, where Krsna exhibits only His spiritual energies. And when Krsna wants to enjoy, He enjoys loving affairs like those between a man and a woman.
Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura explains that the mellow of the loving affairs between a man and a woman comes from the Supreme Person. Unless the loving propensity is there in the Supreme, how can it be reflected here? This material world is only a perverted reflection of the spiritual world, so the origin of the loving propensity must be there.
The impersonalistic, Mayavadi philosophers cannot understand the spiritual loving affairs of Radha and Krsna. Because they have bitter experience of the so-called loving affairs in this material world, they think the ultimate goal must be without personality or varieties (nirvisesa). Impersonalism and voidism are of the same nature. The voidists, the Buddhist philosophers, say that ultimately everything is zero, and the Mayavadi philosophers say, "No, not zero but impersonal." Both of them are wrong. The Absolute Truth is actually personal and full of variety, but because the philosophers with a poor fund of knowledge cannot understand, they make it out to be zero or variety-less.
To clear away these false ideas, Kaviraja Gosvami says that while radha-krsna prema, the loving affairs between Radha and Krsna, are factual—they are not imagination—these affairs are different from the so-called loving affairs we experience in this world. That is to be understood. Don't be like the sahajiyas, who take radha-krsna prema to be just like ordinary lusty affairs in this material world. A verse in the Srimad-Bhagavatam states that the loving affairs of the gopis and Krsna in the rasa-lila are not an ordinary thing, and that if one can hear of them from the proper source and understand the real facts of the rasa-lila, then all the lusty desires in one's heart will vanish. There will be no more lusty desires. In other words, one will become dhira, calm and sober-minded.
Here in this material world everyone is adhira, agitated by lusty desires. But in the spiritual world everyone is dhira. They are not agitated by lusty desires. As long as we are agitated by lusty desires, we are in the material world. That is the test. As Yamunacarya says,
yad-avadhi mama cetah krsna-padaravinde
"Since I've been engaged in rendering more and more service to Krsna and getting spiritual pleasure, as soon as I think of sex life with a woman I immediately spit. I hate to think of it." This is the result of understanding the loving affairs between Radha and Krsna.
Kaviraja Gosvami explains that these affairs are a transformation of Krsna's hladini sakti, His pleasure potency. The Supreme Lord has three primary spiritual potencies: sandhini, His existence potency; samvit, His knowledge potency; and hladini, His pleasure potency. The loving affairs of Radha and Krsna are a transformation of His pleasure potency.
These loving affairs have nothing to do with the so-called loving affairs of this material world, because Krsna is Parabrahman. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna is described as Parabrahman. Arjuna says to Krsna, param brahma param dhama pavitram paramam bhavan: "You are the Supreme Brahman, the supreme abode and purifier." That is the declaration of Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita, and we should accept it. This is the parampara system, the system of disciplic succession.
The Mayavadi philosophers are after brahma-sukha, the happiness of merging with Brahman. The source of brahmasukha is Krsna, but the Mayavadis cannot reach up to that point. There are two kinds of transcendentalists: one is the Brahmavadi, or Mayavadi impersonalist, and the other is the Vaisnava, or devotee. The Vaisnavas accept the philosophy that we are servants of Krsna: jivera 'svarupa' haya—krsnera 'nitya-dasa.' And the Mayavadi philosophers falsely think that they have become one with the Supreme, that they have become Narayana. That's a misleading philosophy, and we should not accept it.
Now, Krsna being Parabrahman, what will be the platform of His loving affairs? This is to be considered. To attain brahma-sukha, spiritual happiness, many saintly persons give up everything of this material world and take sannyasa. Sannyasa means giving up everything for the Supreme. So, simply to relish a little bit of brahma-sukha, great, great saintly persons give up everything and try to purify their existence. They try to find real happiness. Every one of us is after happiness, but we are seeking happiness in the perverted reflection, where it is not possible to find it. Therefore one has to give up this perverted happiness and come to the real fact.
Our point is that since great saintly persons give up all pleasures in this material world to find pleasure in Brahman, why should Krsna, who is the Supreme Brahman, take pleasure in this material world? This is the argument. Therefore those who are thinking that Krsna enjoyed with the gopis as we enjoy in the company of many girls—such people are great fools. They have no knowledge. They're misled. Our affairs, being a perverted reflection, appear like the loving affairs of Radha and Krsna, but the reflection is different from the reality.
So we should not be misled; we should follow the teachings of Caitanya-caritamrta. We should understand that the loving affairs between Radha and Krsna are not like those between an ordinary boy and girl. And if we take Radha's and Krsna's loving affairs to be ordinary, we will be misled. Therefore the sahajiyas, those who believe that Krsna enjoys with ordinary girls, are very, very much misled.
We shouldn't be so foolish as to think we can be equal to Krsna. There is no competition for Krsna: na tat-samas cabhyadhikas ca drsyate. Nobody can be equal with Him, nobody can be greater than Him. That is Parabrahman; that is Krsna. In the Bhagavad-gita also, Krsna says, mattah parataram nanyat. "There is no entity superior to Me." We have to very carefully study Krsna.
The Krsna consciousness movement is meant to give everyone a chance to understand Krsna very scientifically. Krsna consciousness is not sentimentality. One must be very philosophically advanced to understand this scientific knowledge, or vijnana.
Without understanding the science and philosophy of Krsna consciousness, it is not possible to understand Krsna. You may ask, "Do you think all the devotees are scientists and philosophers?" The answer is yes. They may not have degrees in science or philosophy, but they have been taught by Krsna from within. If you want to learn science and philosophy, you have to approach some person who knows the subject. But the greatest scientist, the greatest philosopher, is Krsna, who is within your heart: isvarah sarva-bhutanam hrd-dese 'rjuna tisthati. And He says, tesam satata-yuktanam bhajatam priti-purvakam dadami buddhi-yogam tam. "To anyone who is a sincere devotee of Mine and always engages in My service, I give education and intelligence. I make him a scientist and a philosopher." That is the way of receiving vijnana, scientific understanding of Krsna.
You may ask, "Why does Krsna reveal this knowledge only to His devotees and not to all? If the Supreme Lord is sitting in everyone's heart, why is He especially inclined toward those who engage twentyfour hours a day in His service? Why not to others?" That is His special mercy for the devotees:
"I live in everyone's heart, but out of special mercy for My devotees I destroy their ignorance with the lamp of transcendental knowledge."
This is the process of understanding God. You cannot understand God, or Krsna, without being His faithful servant. This is the secret. If we become His faithful servant under the guidance of a proper spiritual master, we can understand Krsna and His loving affairs with Radharani, and we can understand Lord Caitanya. These things will all be revealed.
This knowledge is not acquired by mundane efforts. That is not possible. Svayam eva sphuraty adah: Krsna will reveal Himself when He is pleased with your service. Suppose it is dark outside and you want the sunshine. That is not possible. But in the morning, when the sun comes out automatically, the darkness is dissipated. Similarly, knowledge of Krsna will automatically be revealed to us if we serve Him faithfully. So we should always remain faithful servants of Krsna, and when He is pleased by our service He will reveal Himself to us. Otherwise, it is not possible to understand Him.
Thank you very much.
You might not 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 took 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 reestablish 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 the Vedas discourage us from trying to reach God through hatha-yoga. We just don't have the time or the determination. But in this age God, or Krsna, has come in the form of 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.
Are we free?
by Mathuresa Dasa
"Psyche," from the Greek word for soul, connotes an inner spirit as distinguished from its vehicle, the material body. In Greek mythology, Psyche, a personification of the soul, falls in love with Eros, the god of love. Eros later deserts her, and Psyche, brokenhearted roams the world in search of him, performing difficult tasks until at last she becomes an immortal and rejoins him.
I was not acquainted with Psyche's story when I chose, as a college freshman, to major in psychology, her namesake science, but if I had been, her plight would have touched me and spirited my studies. Like Psyche, I had a romantic desire to roam the world searching for, in my case, something I felt was missing in my own self and in the self of all human beings, something that would make me whole and fill mankind with peace and love. Like Psyche, I was ready to work hard, patiently submitting to earthly trials to achieve my goal.
In fact, I had submitted to plenty of earthly trials already. I had, for instance, lived at home with my mother and teenage sister, while my father was usually away on business. My brother was in the Marines in Vietnam. My best friend, a twelve year-old beagle, was gray and arthritic. These and countless other hardships had, I sensed, nurtured in me a natural intuitive genius, as yet untapped, for things psychological. Having paid my dues, I felt ripe for union with my missing inner self. Sort of like Psyche. Too bad we hadn't met.
In my first semester, girded with intuition and away from home at last, I leafed through my course catalog and found a course description that went something like this: "B. F. Skinner and Behaviorism ... for sophomores and other students who have completed their introductory studies in psychology and who want to begin a scientific analysis of behaviour."
Perfect. Whoever this B. F. Skinner was, my life experiences, I reasoned, would more than suffice for "introductory studies." And what to speak of sophomores, I was prepared to rub shoulders with the very best.
But B. F. Skinner, it so happened, though the very best in his field of behavioural psychology, was not, and still isn't, a beautiful maiden. Nor does his research into patterns of behaviour much resemble Psyche's search for her lover or my quest for an inner self. Skinner doesn't believe in an inner self, in a psyche as the Greeks conceived it. Skinner and other behaviourists say that the inner self and the mind, if they exist at all, are things we cannot study or measure scientifically. Only our behaviour is plainly visible. "The picture which emerges from a scientific analysis," Skinner contends, "is not of a body with a person inside, but of a body which is a person in the sense that it displays a complex repertoire of behaviour."
Skinner is famous for his experiments with caged animals. His cage, known now as a Skinner box, was equipped with a mechanism that automatically gave the animal food, water, or some other reward. A rat, for instance, might find himself in a cage with a lever and a dish, and when he pressed the lever a food pellet would fall into the dish. Using variations on this simple arrangement, Skinner was able to show how patterns of rewards and punishments control an organism's behaviour.
Skinner's idea, in short, is that we are products of our environment and consequently not responsible for our actions. We are not to blame for our failures, nor do we deserve credit for our achievements. All is done by the environment. In Beyond Freedom and Dignity, his best-known work, Skinner argues that we possess neither freedom nor dignity in the ordinary sense of those words.
This is not what I wanted to hear. If the Skinner box was an experimental model of the world as Skinner perceived it, then in Skinner's eyes, I figured, I was little better than a rat, responding predictably to food, water, and other stimuli. What irked me further was that although we were all supposedly products of our environmental cages, Skinner and other "social engineers," as he called them, could step outside their cages to study and manipulate the rest of us. I hadn't the least desire to join the ranks of the Skinnerian engineers, and besides, with my intuition flagging, I was nearly flunking the course.
Twenty years later I still disagree with much of the Skinnerian creed, but I can more easily admit that I have never been wholly free. I have my own family now, and the crying or laughter of my children, my wife's moods, the arrival of bills or checks in my mailbox, and a host of other stimuli, cause me to behave in quite predictable ways. Even if I wanted to break away, disappearing over the hill and into oblivion, wouldn't that only make me the servant of a different passion? Skinner quotes Voltaire: "When I can do what I want to do, there is my liberty, . . . but I can't help wanting what I do want."
So do I have any freedom? Or am I boxed?
In the Third Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna confirms that the environment, or nature, controls behaviour: "The spirit soul bewildered by the influence of false ego thinks himself the doer of activities that are in actuality carried out by the three modes of material nature." Nature is so fully in control, in other words, that we could say that nature, not ourselves, behaves. When "nature," or the environment, is a Skinner box, we might therefore say that the box and its controller, B. F. Skinner, are acting, not the rat, although we would have to take into account that all three—the box, the rat, and Skinner—are under the influence of a larger controlling environment.
Unlike Skinner, however, Lord Krsna makes a clear distinction between the body and the self, or the person, and between the mind, which is a subtle body, and the person. A human being, He asserts, is indeed a body with a person inside, and that person, or soul, is an eternal individual, an individual who exists both before and after the body's existence.
For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time.... He is unborn, eternal, ever existing, and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain. (Bhagavad-gita 2.20)
How do we perceive the soul? By consciousness. The consciousness that pervades our body is the soul's energy, just as sunlight is the energy of the sun.
That which pervades the entire body you should know to be indestructible. No one is able to destroy that imperishable soul. (Bhagavad-gita 2.17)
The material body and mind are temporary clothing for the eternal self, which does not mix with matter, just as oil and water do not mix. What nature controls is the gross body and subtle mind, since they are, after all, part of nature. Nature does not control our eternal self, which is part of Krsna's spiritual energy. But because we are bewildered, we, the eternal selves, identify with the material body and mind, thinking that when the body and mind act, we are acting. This is called false ego. Real ego is to think "I am an eternal person and a part of Krsna." False ego is to think "I am this material body and mind."
Just as a reflection of the sun on a pool of water moves with the movements of the pool, so the soul whose consciousness is fixed on matter appears to move with matter. The fact is, however, that the soul is aloof and—as long as it identifies with matter—inert.
But we are not forever bound to inertia and false ego. As Skinner is the creator and controller of his boxes, Krsna is the creator and controller of nature. "The material world is working under My direction," He says in the Ninth Chapter of the Gita. The universe, therefore, is a Krsna box, and Lord Krsna has kindly described how His box works and how to free ourselves from the false ego that renders us inert under the spell of material nature.
Krsna explains that nature acts in three modes: goodness, passion, and ignorance. These modes force upon the soul a variety of insurmountable desires to enjoy and control nature. The mode of goodness is characterized by the development of knowledge, and by austerity, steady determination, and sense control. The mode of passion is characterized by the attraction between man and woman, by intense longings for sense enjoyment, and by hard work to acquire material wealth. The mode of ignorance, which Krsna calls "the delusion of all embodied living beings," is characterized by sleep, indolence, madness, and intoxication.
These three modes of nature compete for supremacy over our consciousness, and one mode or another is usually prominent in an individual's behaviour throughout life, although all three are always present. In the mode of goodness there is always at least a tinge of passion and ignorance. And even in the darkest ignorance, which is the predominant mode of the lower animals, there exists a degree of passion and goodness.
The modes direct us to various kinds of enjoyment in the material world, but none of them can bring us to a full understanding of our eternal self or a full realization of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Rather, the modes distract us from selfrealization. This is because the modes are material while our selves and the supreme self are pure spirit situated in the spiritual mode of pure goodness. Pure goodness is transcendental, untouched and untouchable by the three material modes.
While the material nature is composed of three modes, the spiritual nature is composed entirely of unalloyed goodness. But the Vedic literature informs us that both natures are in fact one nature, one energy of Krsna acting in different ways. When we want to forget Krsna, His nature acts in three modes, both to assist us in that forgetfulness and to punish us with repeated birth and death, thus bringing us to our senses. When we want to remember Krsna, however, the same nature acts to encourage and assist us in the activities of pure goodness.
Activity in the mode of pure goodness is called bhakti, or devotional service to the Supreme Person. Bhakti is both means and end. As the means, the practice of bhakti cleanses us of false ego and revives our pure consciousness that we are eternal servants of Krsna. As the end, bhakti is the eternal activity of the liberated souls who are absorbed in love of God and have no other desire than to serve Him.
The assistance rendered to us by the spiritual nature is nothing like the activities of the three modes, which force us to act contrary to our eternal constitutional identity as pure spiritual individuals. Because the three material modes are presently forcing us to serve material desires, we get a bad experience of servitude. We feel boxed. But service to Krsna in the spiritual world, assisted by the spiritual nature, is not forced service, because there we serve out of spontaneous love, and because there we are in full harmony with nature, which is as fully conscious and fully devoted to the Lord as we are.
So am I free? Or am I boxed?
I am free to choose to associate with the three modes of material nature or with the spiritual mode of pure goodness. Within the three modes, I also have some freedom to choose the mode I prefer. I can, by practice, develop in my life the mode of goodness, the mode of passion, or the mode of ignorance.
The Bhagavad-gita describes the different kinds of work, knowledge, determination, happiness, food, charity, faith, and so on characteristic of each mode. So we have some freedom, in other words, to choose which mode will dictate our desires. And if we like, we can take credit for our successes in fulfilling those dictated desires. But in any case, if I choose to maintain my false ego, I must serve the modes within the cycle of birth and death.
I may also, however, choose to develop the mode of pure goodness through the practice of bhakti in the association of pure devotees of Krsna. If I thus choose to revive my original Krsna consciousness, then I gradually regain my pure status as an eternal servant of Krsna, free to render Him varieties of devotional service with the full cooperation of His deathless spiritual nature.
The more we hear about God's unlimited qualities,
By Ajitananda Dasa
The desire for friendship is universal. It is based on our propensity to love someone. This propensity is thoughtfully explained by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in The Nectar of Devotion, one of the philosophical cornerstones of the Krsna consciousness movement. In his Preface, Srila Prabhupada writes,
The basic principle of the living condition is that we have a general propensity to love someone. No one can live without loving someone else. This propensity is present in every living being. Even an animal like a tiger has this loving propensity, at least in a dormant stage, and it is certainly present in the human beings. The missing point, however, is where to repose our love so that everyone can become happy.....That missing point is Krsna, and The Nectar of Devotion teaches us how to stimulate our original love for Krsna and how to be situated in that position where we can enjoy our blissful life.
The Vedic literature tells us that our original friend is Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In the material world, we mistakenly try to re-create our blissful, primeval relationship with Him through various temporal relationships, all of which fail to satisfy our perpetual longing for perfect friendship. Krsna, or God, is the divine fountainhead of the loving sentiment that can be seen in all living beings. The Vedas explain that God created us out of His inexhaustible desire for loving exchanges. Thus friendship with Him is the original state of the soul.
Since we are eternally part of Krsna, there is a natural intimacy between Him and us. In the Bhagavad-gita we learn that He is residing within our hearts as the Supersoul, graciously accompanying us as we wander throughout the universe, life after life, in search of lasting happiness. Unlike us, God possesses a spiritual vision that is never dimmed by material contact, and thus He is perfectly aware of our folly. As our true friend, He exhibits His kindness upon us by allowing us to learn through our own experience the futility of our efforts, and He lovingly deflects our attention back to Himself, the abode of all happiness.
Because Lord Krsna is supremely pure, His friendship is never contaminated with the selfish motives that stain material relationships. In the material world, everyone is ultimately concerned with his or her own interest. Even our friendships are part of our plan for our own enjoyment.
Lord Krsna, by contrast, is always anxious for our ultimate well-being. Although we have turned away from Him, driven by our envy of His position as the supreme enjoyer, He continues to provide all our necessities. The air, the sun, our inherent abilities, and countless other gifts are all clear indications of His good will. And Krsna's greatest expression of friendship is His association, which He generously offers us through the revealed scriptures, saints, and spiritual masters, who regularly appear throughout the millenniums to invite us back to the spiritual world.
The attractive, dynamic qualities of the soul tend to remain static in the material world because of the soul's marriage with inert matter. As a result, the thrill of material relationships diminishes quickly. We grow bored seeing the same faces day in and day out. But Krsna is never boring, for His transcendental qualities are ever fresh and ever expanding.
In the Vedas it is stated that even if the scientists could count all the grains of sand on a beach or all the atoms in the universe, they could never estimate even one drop of God's blissful, all-attractive features. The Nectar of Devotion offers an illuminating summary of Lord Krsna's spiritual qualities. By studying this great work in a spirit of devotion, we can enhance our appreciation for the Lord and thus develop the desire to know His sublime friendship.
For example. The Nectar of Devotion explains that no one is more appreciative or reciprocative than Lord Krsna, as shown in His dealings with His friends. Once, a poor brahmana named Sudama offered Krsna a few grains of rice. Because Sudama was penniless, he was unable to present his Lord with a valuable gift, as was his desire, but because his humble offering was saturated with love, Krsna eagerly accepted it and ate it with great delight. Out of deep gratitude, Krsna reciprocated with Sudama by giving him more opulence than can be imagined even by the wealthiest person in this world, and in the end Sudama was granted entrance into Krsna's spiritual abode. Hearing of Krsna's limitless capacity for appreciating and reciprocating the love of His devotees can inspire us to rekindle our friendship with Him.
Lord Krsna is also the most faithful and considerate friend. He will never abandon us or allow us to feel neglected. Although His propensity to love is so great that He desires to interact with countless living beings simultaneously. He can do so without neglecting even one of them. When Krsna was in Dvaraka, He expanded Himself, by His supreme mystic power, into many Krsnas, giving spiritual bliss to each one of His sixteen thousand queens, each of whom thought that Krsna was residing with her alone.
Another reason that God's friendship is the most desirable relationship is that it is eternal. In the material world we may sometimes form a relationship with another person that seems to be of sterling quality, but even that soon fades like a dream. At the time of death, the karma of both friends carries them far apart from one another, as strands of seaweed, meeting momentarily on the crest of a wave, are separated forever when the wave breaks to shore.
Happily, this is not the case if we befriend Krsna. The exchange between God and the living entity is never checked. Even if one begins the attempt to realize Krsna in this life and is not completely successful in his spiritual development, he begins in his next life from where he left off, until at last he achieves perfection.
Since we are all Krsna's servants, it is important for us to remember that any attempt to approach Him must be attended by a serving attitude. Just as the Lord, out of His kindness, is always busy making arrangements for His devotees' happiness, we must also try to act for His pleasure. This is the beginning of real love. And there is no loss for us if we agree to cultivate our devotional sentiments. In fact, serving Krsna is so relishable that Krsna Himself appeared in the form of a devotee, as Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, to taste this pleasure and to show us, by practical example, that there is no greater aspiration for the living being than to achieve Lord Krsna's friendship.
The Krsna consciousness movement is in the direct line descending from Lord Caitanya. It was established by Srila Prabhupada to assist those seriously interested in reviving their dormant love for God. Its doors are open to everyone. Persons who aspire for perfect friendship will certainly embrace this rare and wonderful opportunity to find lasting spiritual happiness in the eternal company of Lord Krsna, the perfect friend.
The following interview with Premavati-devi dasi, whose eleven-month-old daughter died in a Soviet labour camp, took place in Moscow in August, 1987
Interviewer: Please tell us something about the practice of Krsna consciousness in the Soviet Union.
Premavati-devi dasi: I have been a member of ISKCON in the Soviet Union for around ten years. It is very difficult to talk about the entire period while I was chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, the period when all the troubles were happening. Now we are at the beginning of a new period, when the new policy [glasnost] is becoming visible here. I am thinking that now we are meeting the new age of Hare Krsna. Having the new bright period, now it is a little bit difficult to talk about the previous dark period.
Of course, the history must be known, and people must know the truth about everything and especially about the people who were accused for nothing else except for chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. Even now I think that the main thing against me was that I spoke with Hare Krsna people in the West. No one ever accused me of anything else. I was the mother of two little children during that period, and I was chanting and reading and translating. I was very busy with my family and was not preaching so openly and widely.
Now we can preach openly on the streets; we sing on Arbat street, in the center of Moscow. We preach and sing and distribute prasadam in our houses, and now we see that Krsna shows us that everything is temporary. For instance, the hard period is over. Of course, there are some people who think in another way, that this Gorbachev period is not the thing to believe in. Maybe I am a little bit gullible, but I believe in Krsna and that He wants this time to be good for everybody. I feel that this nice period will last and develop.
Interviewer: Can you tell us something about your personal difficulties?
Premavati: I was arrested in the end of August, 1983. It was very troublesome for me. I was three-months pregnant, and I gave the court a certificate stating that it was so. I was taken to a hospital in Estonia to be sure that I was pregnant. The doctors said that I was pregnant, and I went home, but in two weeks the authorities came with a paper that stated that I was arrested. They did not care about the certificates saying I was pregnant. I thought that pregnant women would not be put into the prison, but I was wrong.
When I was put into the prison, for the first nine days I was in a common cell with around sixty persons who had committed different kinds of crime, like not having a stamp on their passport indicating that they are assigned to live in some special place. It is considered to be breaking the law. Another very strange law is that if one does not work for two months, one can be put into prison. Many persons were there for breaking these laws—not working and not having proper stamps on passports. Of course, there were also murderers and thieves. During those nine days in that cell, I was chanting, singing, and even dancing, and I did not feel so very bad.
After that I was put into another cell where ten women were. It is difficult to say we were sitting in the prison, because we were lying down all the time. There was no place to sit or to go, only to lie down. There was very bad air there. Our place to lie down was about eighty-five centimetres wide, made of iron, with an imitation pillow, iron pillow. Of course, the mat that covered the iron bed was very thin, and sometimes I felt that I was right on the iron strips. While sleeping, if I turned, I would be breathing into the face of my neighbour.
Once a day we had our time to walk in the air, but the sky was covered with a cage. We could only see the sun through the cage, and the bars of the cage were very thick. It was difficult, and I exposed my belly to the sun to try to give some energy to my future child.
I received some parcels and money from my relatives, but sometimes I did not get them because the control is very strict in the prison. If your parents or relatives make any mistake with the parcel or money, if they do not write down your proper date of birth or something—if something is wrong—then you cannot receive the money that they send. For instance, my husband isn't Russian, and all the time he made mistakes and I could not receive money at all.
Of course, everyone can understand how nervous pregnant imprisoned women can be. They should not be imprisoned at all. For all of them it was very strange. They were very nervous and not polite to one another. It was even worse than in the cell with sixty people in it.
I think that this period in prison was the most difficult, and I understand that it was so because I was pregnant and with very nervous people. All the time the women were calling to ghosts, talking with Napoleon, Pushkin, asking them about their future. They scolded one another, sometimes slapped one another. All the time they wanted to eat, because they had no parcels. Some could not receive parcels.
Sometimes we had to give people our food. There was very little food, and we were hungry all the time. We received extra eggs and extra meat and pickle, but I was not eating meat or eggs, so I was very hungry.
Then I was transported to another prison. The first prison was called Butyrskaya prison, and the other prison was a special prison for men and pregnant women. If one was to have a child in two months, she was sent there, Matrossklaya prison. At this prison the interrogators asked me when I was to have my child, and I told them, so they scheduled the court trial for just before I was to have my child. Four days after the court ended, my daughter was born.
This court was very strange for me. I felt as if I were sitting at the theatre. Somebody was playing something on the stage, and I was also a member of this play, and I could not realize it as reality. Of course, everything in this world is maya, illusion, but this court really seemed like an illusion to me. I felt it was an illusion in this great illusion of maya.
My sister came to my trial. My mother had died during the third month of my imprisonment. My sister who lives in Nigeria was called, and she received permission to come to the Soviet Union immediately. So she had an opportunity to come to the court. She was crying all the time she was sitting there, because during the court I was nine months pregnant. I could not sit for a long time. I wanted to stand or change my position. It was difficult to be there for the whole day in the courtroom, from ten in the morning to seven in the evening.
I was hungry in this new prison, and all the time I had to behave myself not the way I wanted to behave myself. Even the character analysis they gave about me during my ten months in the prison—they called me a silent person, not making contacts with people. But I consider myself just the opposite. I like to meet people, maybe speaking more than is needed. I like people. I like to speak about God, about how to come to God. I am not silent. At that time I had to make another character. I had to do it because the situation was like that.
Once I wrote a letter to another cell. That was a regular practice, because prisoners would ask each other questions. I answered the questions about my crimes, and then told them about the Hare Krsna movement. That letter somehow appeared not in the other cell but in the hands of the interrogator. After that I understood that I must be very, very silent. During the court they said that while I was in prison I was preaching. Now I understand that if I go to prison again, I will be preaching one hundred percent of the time, not just trying to be silent. I think now that it was my mistake, because they said that I was preaching when in fact I wasn't. Now I think that I could do more if I am put into prison again.
Interviewer: Could you tell us about the time you spent in the labour camp?
Premavati: When my daughter was four months old, we went to a labour camp. She was very little, and it was not good to have to move her somewhere. We went there, and after the twenty-one-day period when the child can be with its mother, I was taken away from her, and I began to work. I saw my daughter once a day for about an hour. I could have a walk with her or sit in the house, but not more than an hour. It was very little time, and after awhile I began to see that my daughter did not feel like I was her mother. It caused me to feel bad, but I could not do anything about it.
The place where my daughter was is called the House of Mother and Child. In this house there were about one hundred children whose mothers were working in the camp.
The food for the children was not bad, but there was only one nurse who had to feed about twenty-four little eaters. The nurse moved with great speed, so sometimes the babies could not eat much. I cannot understand how they did it, because I remember when I was feeding my daughters, I spent very much time. How could they feed all those little babies in an hour and ten minutes?
The most unbearable thing was that the air in this room was very bad. The mothers could not stand it, but the babies lived there all the time. Of course, the nurses tried to make ventilation by opening the windows, but that didn't help; the air was unbearable. We could not do anything.
My daughter was very nice, of nice appearance, and even in prison the nurses said that she was one of the prettiest girls. I knit her a hat, boots, and a jersey from the thread of handkerchiefs. But when we came to the camp, the authorities said it was not permitted to have jersey and boots—only hat; everything else will be given by the authorities. Of course, they gave everything, but those things were not warm, and she had no warm jersey at all.
She died because she had a lung disease. Even now I do not know exactly what happened. Many times I asked what happened, and they told me, "Afterwards, afterwards, afterwards." They did not want to tell me. Everything was all right, but she was coughing. Then there was a stomach disease in every group of babies. She also had this stomach disease along with coughing. Then the doctors said it was her lungs, pneumonia, and her heart would not work. They wanted to take her to the hospital from the nursery. When they took her, on the way to the hospital she died. They said that the last day of her life she said "Mother" for the first time. I was not there.
They made a little coffin for her. They allowed me to be before the coffin for ten minutes, and after that they did not let me stay there. The funeral was held without me. When I stood with her body, I said "Hare Krsna" and prayed to Krsna to take care of her.
Of course, it is strange that such things happen in such a great country as the Soviet Union. I think that such things as imprisoning pregnant women should not be done, not here or any place in the world, because children must have their mothers. This present period is the nicest period during my life. Everything is now so nice, but not for those babies still in prison. So I would like to appeal to all people to ask our authorities to stop imprisoning people who believe in God, who chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, which purifies themselves and the aura of the entire planet. It will be very helpful for those who are sitting in prison now.
Working in the labour camps is very hard, especially for people who are not accustomed to physical work. For intelligent people it is very difficult to be in the labour camp. There are many Hare Krsna devotees who have very serious diseases, such as Vladimir Kustrya [Vrndavana dasa], who has a lung disease and who also has no energy to work—low blood pressure. When I was in Moscow, I also had to work, and my blood pressure was very low. Once it was eighty over eighty-five. I was very exhausted during the period of working in the labour camp.
The most unbearable thing was that you could never be alone in prison. The Russian writer Dostoyevsky also wrote about this fact, that the most difficult thing is not being able to be alone. You can't even be five minutes alone. All the time you must be with people.
There are many strict rules which say that one must do this and not that, eat this and not that. From another point of view the austerity for one who is trying to be a yogi is really very nice. You understand that you can eat less, that you can wear less, you can sleep less, that the human being's energy and power is very great, much more than a person can imagine.
During this labour camp period it was difficult to chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra because there was no time, no time at all. In that camp we worked very many hours. We worked ten hours, and after that I would visit the school for sewing, and then I had to do some work for the group I was with. I made some lectures about nice behaviour and similar themes. People who had higher education were asked to speak in order to bring less-educated people to a higher standard. So I was very busy and had no time to rest at all.
Now the time is turning for the better, as I mentioned earlier. We have kirtanas in the center of Moscow, on the Arbat street, where very many people gather to sing or speak about something or do whatever they like. Painters make pictures of people. Poets are there. Hare Krsna people are also there. We are part of this Arbat movement. We sing Hare Krsna, and we answer questions.
Yesterday we saw the KGB people come to our chanting place. First they listened to our kirtanas, and then they mingled with the crowd. There were many people listening to us preach about Krsna consciousness. The KGB began to preach just the opposite: "Why are you listening to these religious speeches? Nowadays we must not believe in God." Sometimes they argued with us. I told them that I was not going to argue with them at all. My feeling is that arguments are only a waste of time. I am only telling the views of the Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad-Bhagavatam. It is Vedic knowledge, and it is not my opinion. It was a real battle between us.
Another person I had seen with the KGB came up and said, "I am a weightlifter. For fifteen years I have lifted weights. How can I be a vegetarian?" I said, "No, it is not true. You are not a weightlifter. You are with the KGB! I am sure. I know it!" Nevertheless, they were not very aggressive. It is democracy, so we are preaching and they are preaching. Yesterday it was vivid that we have the same rights to preach as they have.
It is very nice that here in Moscow we have such an opportunity, but some very sad news came from Kiev. In Kiev several devotees went on the street to have kirtana and were imprisoned for fifteen days. One mother of two little boys, whose husband was imprisoned, came to Moscow yesterday. She demonstrated, protesting to let her husband free. After that he was released, but the other people were not. They are imprisoned for what we have been doing in Moscow now for over a month. We are singing kirtanas every day, but in Kiev democracy is not so real.
Yesterday, someone returned from the beach of the Black Sea, from one little town called Kerch. He said that he was at the houses of three devotees and that they had nice altars. He said that about a week ago those houses with the altars were burned down by the militia men while the devotees were working or away. This is very bad news, militia men fighting against the Vaisnavas without any court or trial.
Now we can see that very many people are coming to be Vaisnavas, and it is very nice. We understand that these people chant and sing Hare Krsna. Anybody who does it, even a little bit, can purify himself, and it will be so nice if everybody will simply try to do it. Then if you understand the essence of the maha-mantra, if you understand that Krsna Himself comes in those sounds, you will understand God Himself, and you will feel God and you will have an opportunity to see God, really, with your own eyes. And it will be so nice for everybody, because I think everybody is eager to see God. You have an opportunity. Please chant Hare Krsna.
November 7, 1987 marked the seventieth anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. Authorities in the Soviet Union had announced in June that they would grant amnesty to or improve the situation of political and religious prisoners Although the Soviet devotees of Krsna who were being held in psychiatric hospitals were released, none of the devotees in labour camps was given unconditional amnesty. Either they completed their sentence or they were conditionally released from labour camps to compulsory labour in remote Soviet territories. They were affected by the "amnesty" only because of the worldwide campaign to broadcast their plight. It appears that the Soviets used the anniversary of the Russian Revolution to release or improve the condition of prisoners who have caused them embarrassment from people supporting their causes from abroad. In the November 1987 issue of Back to Godhead, we published an article entitled "23 Who Are not Free," which told of the devotees of Krsna imprisoned in the Soviet Union. The following is an update on the status of those twenty-three devotees.
Return to Dvaraka
At the site of Krsna's ancient-city-by the Sea, devotees celebrate the triumph of Srila Prabhupada's sankirtana Pada-yatra.
by Lokanatha Swami
Lokanatha Swami, a native of India's Maharashtra province, is the chief organiser of ISKCONs pada-yatra, a walking pilgrimage throughout India that began in Dvaraka on September 2, 1984. Here Lokanatha Swami describes the pada-yatra's triumphant return to Dvaraka three and a half years and fourteen thousand kilometres later.
March 17 Arrival
The pada-yatra party has stopped at a small farm for breakfast and Srimad-Bhagavatam class. Anticipation fills the air as we wait for the visiting devotees to arrive. More than one hundred devotees from all over the world are traveling from ISKCON's annual festival in Vrndavana to take part in the padayatra's "Return to Dvaraka" festival.
Two large buses pull up, and the highway suddenly becomes a sea of saffron and white as the devotees spill out of the buses to offer their obeisances to our pada-yatra deities of Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai (Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda) and Srila Prabhupada. Newcomers to pada-yatra are pleased to see the pada-yatra cart, the bullock carts, and the pada-yatris the devotees who have been walking on this pilgrimage through holy India. Those who have been with us before are feeling nostalgia, meeting again with pada-yatra acquaintances and reminiscing about their pada-yatra experiences.
With ecstatic kirtana, we walk to the next village, where we are warmly received by the local people. Many devotees spend the night with the pada-yatra, and the others travel by bus to Dvaraka, ending their two-day journey, from Vrndavana.
Throughout, the evening devotees pour into Dvaraka: The pada-yatra organisers, having prepared for the arrival of two hundred devotees, are surprised to see the number swell to almost four hundred. The bazaars are teeming with ISKCON members from around the world.
Dvaraka is one of the most important pilgrimage spots in India. Krsna spent one hundred years here, longer than He spent in Vrndavana and Mathura combined. While at Dvaraka He married 16,108 wives, each of whom lived in an extraordinarily opulent palace. Many of Krsna's family members, feeling intense separation from Him after He left Mathura, came to join Him in His new kingdom. To accommodate everyone, Lord Krsna borrowed land from the sea to build more palaces.
Modern-day Dvaraka is a small city with an area of sixteen square miles and a population of around thirty thousand. Situated on the Arabian Sea, the city has a climate that is temperate and salubrious.
This morning, after a joyful mangala-arati at the dharma-sala hosting the visiting devotees, we make our way with kirtana to the Samudra Narayana temple, at the confluence of the Gomati River and the Arabian Sea. There is a solar eclipse taking place. So, following Vedic custom, we bathe in these sacred waters before leaving to join the pada-yatra party for the final eight-kilometre walk into Dvaraka.
The procession consists of about 150 devotees, Laksmi the elephant, the deities' cart, and three bullock carts. Everyone is chanting and dancing spontaneously. Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai are standing majestically on Their altar, and Srila Prabhupada, seated on his vyasasana, looks like a glorious warrior returning home from victory, his foot soldiers marching alongside.
The atmosphere created by the procession reminds us of the description of Lord Caitanya's kirtana, as described in Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura's "Arunodaya-kirtana," a song usually sung in the early morning hours:
When the eastern horizon became tinged with the red that heralds the rising of the sun, the jewel among the brahmanas, Lord Gaurasundara, immediately awakened. Taking His devotees with Him, He journeyed through the towns and villages of Nadia. The mrdangas resounded "tathai, tathai," and the karatalas in that kirtana played in time. Lord Gauranga's golden form slightly trembled in ecstatic love of Godhead, and His footbells jingled. Lord Caitanya called out to the townsfolk, "Just fill your mouths with the holy names 'Mukunda!' 'Mahdava!' 'Yadava!' and "Hari!' "
As the pada-yatra procession moves toward the city of Dvaraka, its skyline predominated by the magnificent Dvarakadhisa temple, devotees relish chanting and dancing in the fresh, cool morning air.
Near the city we stop at a small roadside temple for prasadam, which is served late because of the solar eclipse. The priests say that food cooked during an eclipse is considered inedible, so the cooking was delayed. While we wait for prasadam, Sridhara Swami speaks to us about the citizens of Dvaraka. No ordinary soul can live in Krsna's land, he says. They are very special people, and they are warm and friendly. We should treat them with respect and give them a good impression of the Krsna consciousness movement.
The president of Dvaraka township, the head priest of the Dvarakadhisa temple, groups of school children, school bands, and thousands of residents of Dvaraka greet us with an enthusiastic and heartwarming reception. The local people are wide-eyed to see the same devotees, with their elephant, oxen, and cart, returning to Dvaraka with the same enthusiasm with which they left three and a half years before. They treat us like family members. The local brahmanas happily embrace our ISKCON brahmanas. Seeing foreigners following the Vedic culture and worshiping the Deity just as they are doing inspires them in their own devotional life.
Gate Inaugural Ceremony
Within a sacrificial arena, Gaura Kesava dasa performs a fire sacrifice to sanctify the ISKCON pada-yatra gate at the entrance to Dvaraka. People are amazed to hear an Australian-born brahmana chanting Vedic mantras with such accuracy. At the end of the sacrifice, firecrackers proclaim the triumphant return of Srila Prabhupada's Sankirtana Pada-yatra to Dvaraka. Kirtana surcharges the atmosphere as the procession passes through the newly opened arch.
The gate is sixty feet high and fifty feet wide. Spiral staircases inside both columns lead to viewing galleries on top. Panels depicting the life and teachings of Lord Caitanya and Srila Prabhupada will be installed above the arch.
A colourful pandal tent has been erected nearby. The sannyasis, GBCs, and kirtana party are seated on the stage, and the rest of the devotees mingle with the audience. Leaders of several Dvaraka institutions greet us with welcoming speeches, garlands, and hari-nama cadars from the Dvarakadhisa temple. Amid tumultuous applause, Shri Harsibhai Kanani, the president of Dvaraka township, presents me with a certificate of appreciation for the pada-yatra's accomplishment.
Next we honour the seven pada-yatris who walked the entire fourteen thousand kilometres. One by one they are called onto the stage, garlanded, and presented with a framed certificate. These souls are very special. As anyone who has spent time on pada-yatra knows, it is not easy to carry on day after day, year after year. It takes great determination.
News reporters and radio and television crews are present throughout the proceedings, reporting everything with sincerity and intensity.
The ceremonies completed, the devotees, feeling satisfaction, make their way to the prasadam hall for a sumptuous feast of dokhla, sabjis, puris, rice, chutneys, pakoras, srikhanda, and more. Everyone is well fed and impressed with the delicious prasadam and the efficient service.
In the evening we carry our small Gaura-Nitai Deities to the famous Dvarakadhisa temple. The seven-storyhigh temple is built on seventy-two pillars. From the temple dome waves an eighty four-foot-long multicolored flag decorated with the symbols of the sun and moon.
We are welcomed heartily by the temple pujaris. They put our small Deities on the altar and offer arati to Them. They garland the devotees, decorate their foreheads with a dot of bright red powder, and offer them maha-prasadam.
After circumambulating the temple, we walk to the festival site for the evening programme. Several thousand people crowd around the stage, which is situated near a busy marketplace. Yasomatinandana dasa introduces the ISKCON devotees from around the world to the audience. Gopala Krsna Goswami and other leaders speak on the philosophy of Krsna consciousness. Jagattarini-devi dasi enthralls the children and the adults alike with her puppet show and ISKCON cinema.
March 19 Dvaraka-mandala Parikrama
After mangala-arati the devotees chant patiently on their beads while waiting to board the reserved buses that will take them to Island Dvaraka and Sri Gopitallava. Unfortunately, things don't run so smoothly, and some of the buses depart too soon, leaving many devotees stranded and forcing them to take a government tourist bus. Consequently, devotees arrive on the island at different times.
Once we are all united again, we walk from the harbour up the hill toward the temple. The streets are lined with small shops selling painted shells, necklaces, postcards, framed pictures of the island and of Sri Dvarakadhisa, and other souvenirs. When we reach the temple, the priests request us to perform kirtana. We begin chanting, and a local tabla player joins in, sitting right in the middle of our party. The devotees chant and dance to their hearts' content.
Sitting at the exact spot where Sudama brahmana met Lord Krsna, I narrate some of the Lord's Dvaraka pastimes for the pleasure of the devotees.
In the temple courtyard, rows of devotees are served brakfast of Dvarakadhisa prasadam. Then everyone returns to the mainland.
The journey, in a large wooden motorboat, takes around twenty minutes. The Arabian Sea is calm and the breezes cooling. Devotees delight in feeding the flocks of healthy-looking sea gulls that follow the boats. Gazing out across the clear blue waters, we remember how in these depths like the remains of Sri Krsna's own city of Dvaraka.
The gardens and parks were full of various flowers of different colors and orchards that were overloaded with a variety of fruits. Beautiful birds were chirping, and peacocks were delightfully crowing. There were tanks and ponds full of blue and red lotus flowers, and some of these sites were filled with varieties of lilies. The lakes were full of nice swans and cranes whose voices resounded everywhere. In the city there were as many as 900,000 great palaces built of first-class marble with gates and doors made of silver. The posts of the houses and palaces were bedecked with jewels such as touchstone, sapphires, and emeralds, and the floors gave off a beautiful luster. The highways, lanes and streets, crossings, and marketplaces were all beautifully decorated. The whole city was full of residential homes, assembly houses, and temples, all of different architectural beauty. All of this made Dvaraka a glowing city. (Krsna, Vol. 2, p. 242)
India's recent marine archaeological expeditions have "discovered many unknown features of the historic city.... The inner and outer gateways of the protohistoric Dvaraka were flanked by circular bastions built of massive blocks of sandstone.... It can be said that Dvaraka was the largest port of the second millennium" (Dr. S. R. Rao, National Institute of Oceanography). While some persons choose to neglect evidence that supports the existence of Krsna's capital city, others use the evidence to increase their faith in the scriptures that describe Dvaraka. They don't reject the scriptures as mythology.
After landing in Okha Port, we cram into the waiting buses (there never seem to enough of them), devotees piling onto the roofs and hanging out of the doors and windows. We stop at Sri Gopitallava, where Krsna met the gopis when they came from Vrndavana to see Him. Everyone gets a chance to dig out a piece of gopicandana (clay for decorating the forehead with the tilaka sign) to take home. We then head back to the city for evening prasadam, highlighted by tonight's piece de resistance: laddus the size of tennis balls. There are more than enough for everyone.
This evening we hold a flag-hoisting ceremony at the Dvarakadhisa temple. In the courtyard, special mantras are chanted as a priest climbs the temple dome—flag emblazoned with "Hare Krishna" in hand—watched intently by all the devotees. The flag unfurls to the sound of uproarious cheering and tumultuous kirtana. A devotee turns to me and says, "This is the pada-yatra's jaya-pataka [victory flag]."
March 20, 21
Most of the visiting devotees are preparing to leave—making train or bus reservations, packing luggage, shopping, saying good-bys, packing leftover laddus for the journey. Our group gradually diminishes to just the main pada-yatra party and a handful of others who want to stay for another day or two. When we hold a meeting to discuss plans for the future of pada-yatra, I am pleased to see some new faces of people who are interested to join us for a while.
After mangala-arati, the luggage carts are loaded, the oxen decorated and hitched up, and Laksmi the elephant stirred into action. The kirtana party accompanies Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai to the Dvarakadhisa temple for a last darsana Then they rejoin the main pada-yatra procession, which proceeds along the streets, through the ISKCON pada-yatra gate, and out to the main highway. The pada-yatra is back on the road again, heading to its next destination—Allahabad, for the Kumbha-mela in January 1989.
As we leave Dvaraka for the second time, there are fifty devotees walking with the party. It is inspiring to see that those same seven pada-yatris who walked the entire fourteen thousand kilometres are still with us today. Giving testimony to the transcendental nature of the pada-yatra, these seasoned pada-yatris have not become tired of walking, but are even more enthusiastic and keen to carry on.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Soviet Devotee Speaks at White House Conference
Washington, D.C.—Vedavyasa dasa, a member of the Hare Krsna movement in the Soviet Union, and Kirtiraja dasa, director of the Committee to Free Soviet Hare Krishnas (CFSHK), were invited to attend a conference held at the White House on "Religious Rights in the Soviet Union." President Ronald Reagan opened the conference with an address to the three hundred participants, including members of the White House staff, state department and other government officials, and representatives of various human rights groups and religious organizations with membership in the Soviet Union. Everyone listened with interest when Vedavyasa—one of around ten participants selected to address the assembly—gave details of the persecution of Soviet devotees of Krsna.
Dr. Peter Reddaway, director of the Kennan Institute here and an authority on dissent, repression, and psychiatric abuse in the Soviet Union, also mentioned the plight of the Soviet devotees in his talk.
The CFSHK prepared a special thirty-two-page report that was distributed at the conference. The report includes the latest information about the persecuted devotees and letters of appeal from the Soviet devotees to President and Mrs. Reagan. The letter to Mrs. Reagan was signed by the wives of three imprisoned devotees. For a copy of the report send $5.00 to CFSHK, Almviks Gard, 15300 Jarna, Sweden.
Krsna Comics Have Arrived
Miami Beach—The Cultural Institute for the Vedic Arts (CIVA) has announced the publication of "The Advent," a thirty-two-page full color comic book, the first in a series of comic books recounting the pastimes of Lord Krsna as described in the Vedic literature and presented in the writings of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. "The Advent" relates the history of Lord Krsna's descent to earth fifty centuries ago. The episode concludes in "The Confrontation," the second volume in the series, which will be out soon.
CIVA founder Yadurani-devi dasi, the illustrator for the Krsna comics project, has done oil paintings for Srila Prabhupada's books for twenty years, and her paintings have been exhibited and appreciated across the United States. The quality of her art is evident on the pages of "The Advent," which she hopes will appeal to adults as well as children. The publication of "The Advent" marks the first time that comics on the Vedic literature have been produced in the West. For more information write or call CIVA, 2445 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, FL 33140/ (305) 532-5042.
New Book on Lord Caitanya
Brooklyn, New York—Satyaraja dasa (Steven Rosen), a frequent contributor to Back to Godhead, has written a book about Lord Caitanya entitled India's Spiritual Renaissance: The Life and Times of Lord Caitanya. The book recounts the life of Lord Caitanya and shows the practicality and efficacy of sankirtana for reviving one's innate spiritual consciousness.
Dr. Thomas J. Hopkins, chairman and professor of the department of religious studies at Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, says the book is "an excellent synopsis of the career and teachings of one of the world's greatest spiritual leaders, based on traditional devotional biographies and supplemented by views of modern scholars.... The result is a very accessible introduction to Chaitanya and his message that should inspire readers to explore the rich resources so temptingly summarized in this volume."
The book has won Satyaraja dasa an invitation to speak at a class in medieval Sanskrit poetry at Yale University. The class's professor is considering making the book required reading next term for all his students. Esoterica, the largest New Age bookstore in New York City, recently had Satyaraja do a double book-signing-for India's Spiritual Renaissance and his last book, Food for the Spirit. To obtain a copy of India's Spiritual Renaissance, write to FOLK Books, P.O. Box 400716, Brooklyn, NY 11240.
Lord Krishna's Cuisine Wins Top Award
New York City—Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking, by Yamuna Devi, one of Srila Prabhupada's first disciples, won the highest award at the IACP/Seagram Awards for the outstanding food and beverage books published in the United States in 1987. The selection was made by forty-six top food and beverage writers, editors, and cooking authorities from the 1,200-member IACP (International Association of Cooking Professionals). The IACP/hundred entries before selecting Lord Krishna's Cuisine as the winner of the Asian Cooking category, one of thirteen categories, and then as the best cookbook of the year for all categories. It is the first time in the twelve-year history of the awards that a book on Asian cooking has won the top award. And it is especially significant that it is a vegetarian cookbook.
Lord Krishna's Cuisine was published by Bala Books and is being distributed in the United States by E. P. Dutton and Company and in Great Britain by Angus and Robertson, Limited.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
Repeal Drug Prohibition?
by Mathuresa dasa
Losely organized gangs of youths in heir teens and twenties are running multi-million-dollar businesses in North American cities. They're selling heroin, marijuana, PCP, hallucinogens, and, especially, crack cocaine. Gang leaders, some of whom deal directly with Columbian producers and smugglers, can buy a kilo of cocaine for $10,000. That kilo yields 10,000 bags of crack, and a bag of crack sells on the street for $25.
The profits are enormous, but so is the danger. In Los Angeles, which has thousands of gangs and an estimated 70,000 gang members, there were close to four hundred gang murders in 1987. Uzis, AK 47 assault rifles, and other military and paramilitary weapons are common in gang arsenals.
The drug gangs are thus often better financed than the police assigned to combat them. Law enforcement officials around the country are admitting that massive attempts to suppress the drug trade have been ineffective, and many experts are likening the rise of drug gangs to the rise of the Mafia during the Prohibition, the principal difference being that the Mafia was far less violent.
The comparison to Prohibition is telling, because it hints that officials don't believe suppression will ever work. The demand for illicit drugs today is as great as or greater than the demand for illicit alcohol during Prohibition, and history tells us that the smuggling of alcohol continued until Prohibition was repealed. So although no one has come right out and said it, the message is clear: the solution to the illegal drug trade may be to repeal drug prohibition and put drug sales under government control.
The repeal of Prohibition is not the only precedent for this kind of if-you-can't-beat-'em-join-'em course of action. The lotteries now promoted by many state governments were originally introduced, at least in part, as a solution to numbers rackets and other illegal gambling. Proceeds from state lotteries now go to worthy causes like medical care for the elderly and public education instead of into the pockets of criminals. So it could be argued that state-run drug sales would put violent gangs out of business, and that the proceeds from drug sales could go toward arming the police instead of the gangs.
Vedic authorities would agree that suppression alone is rarely successful. Because we are eternal souls, part of God, or Krsna, who is the supreme soul and the reservoir of pleasure, it is our nature to seek ever-increasing enjoyment. When, in illusion, we identify with our material bodies, which are only temporary vehicles for the soul, we mistakenly look for that unlimited pleasure in our bodies. To this end, the illusioned soul has among his tendencies a predilection for four kinds of bodily activities: intoxication, sex, meat eating, and gambling.
Because pleasure-seeking itself is impossible to suppress, the Vedic literature "legalizes" these four activities, though to a very limited degree. But because these apparently pleasurable pursuits put the soul further into bodily illusion, and thus further from the unlimited pleasures of self-realization, Vedic legalization should never be construed as encouragement or approval. On the contrary, so-called legalization is meant to restrict and ultimately eliminate the activity in question.
Giving even limited sanction to harmful activities is a dangerous business. The Srimad-Bhagavatam records that Narada, a great Vedic sage, strongly reprimanded Vyasadeva, the compiler of the Vedic literature, for giving too much attention to regulated, or legalized, sense enjoyment. Narada told Vyasadeva:
The people in general are naturally inclined to [bodily enjoyment], and you have encouraged them in that way in the name of religion. This is verily condemned and is quite unreasonable.... They will accept such activities in the name of religion and will hardly care for the prohibitions.
Legalization alone, whether by Vedic authority or by current state governments, is really no better than suppression alone, because in the long run legalization will be taken as a stamp of approval for activities that are in fact criminal. State lotteries may benefit schoolchildren and the elderly, but they also infect everyone, including schoolchildren and the elderly, with gambling fever. The legalization of drugs would cut the bottom out of the gang-based drug market, but could also create an Orwellian nightmare—an entire society in drugged stupor.
But although legalization of drugs would by itself spell government sponsored degradation, the principal culprit in such degradation would not be a demonic Big Brother state, as Orwell would have it, but rather our own extreme poverty of spiritual knowledge and spiritual pleasure. While reprimanding Vyasadeva, Narada further instructed him:
You have not actually broadcast the sublime and spotless glories of the Personality of Godhead. That philosophy which does not satisfy the transcendental senses of the Lord is worthless.
On the other hand, that literature which is full of descriptions of the transcendental glories of the ... unlimited Supreme Lord [will bring about] a revolution in the impious lives of the world's misdirected civilization.
So according to Narada, the missing factor in both the prohibition and legalization of sense enjoyment is the glorification of the Supreme Lord, the satisfaction of His senses, which is the most pleasurable of all activities. Vyasadeva therefore responded to Narada's instructions by writing the Srimad-Bhagavatam, a work dedicated entirely to describing the glories of the Supreme Lord.
Vedic regulations, unlike current drug prohibition, are never meant as ends in themselves, but only as means to decrease our illusion and awaken us to higher spiritual pleasure. The Bhagavad-gita explains:
Though the embodied soul may be restricted from sense enjoyment, the taste for sense enjoyment remains. But, ceasing such engagements by experiencing a higher taste, he is fixed in consciousness.
We may impose restrictions on sense enjoyment, in this case on intoxication, but those restrictions do not dull our desire, or taste, for sense pleasure. Our desires are changed, revolutionized, only when we experience a higher taste.
That the higher taste exists in the practice of devotional service to Krsna is evident from the fact that thousands of Western Krsna conscious devotees easily accept the highest levels of Vedic regulations, which forbid intoxication of any sort, including even coffee, tea, or cigarettes. This is not a case of suppression. Devotees have experienced a superior pleasure and thus readily follow scriptural laws against intoxication to eliminate their former bad habits and increase their spiritual enjoyment.
But whether or not one accepts that Krsna consciousness is the higher taste, the principle remains that suppression of drugs is futile, and legalization harmful, if you have nothing better to offer. So you may prohibit or you may sanction, but to phase out drug use altogether, you have to offer drug users and dealers a superior form of enjoyment.
The Mahabharata On-Stage—But Off
by Nayanabhirama dasa
The great Sanskrit epic Mahabharata is the longest book in world literature, longer than the Bible, the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Tales of King Arthur combined. Because the Mahabharata revolves around Krsna, for years we devotees of Krsna used to fantasize: "If only Hollywood could make a movie of the Mahabharata—how wonderful it would be!" We thought Steven Spielberg could direct and arrange for special effects. Devotees even prompted the actress Hayley Mills to present the famed director with a copy of the Mahabharata. And an actor who knew of our idea told Spielberg that the Hare Krsna devotees would like him to direct a movie of one of their stories. But the kitsch meister clearly wasn't interested, replying that he knew we'd been after him for years, but that he had his own stories in his head. So much for that dream.
Although the Mahabharata still hasn't made it to Hollywood, it has made its appearance in Western theatre in a big way with the nine-hour production by Peter Brook and Jean-Claude Carriere. Unfortunately, despite the grandeur of the production, it lacks the essential ingredient of devotion to Lord Krsna. For devotees, therefore, it is a disappointment.
The Mahabharata is a compendium of Vedic philosophy and history. Centering on the global battle between the Pandava brothers and their cousins the Kurus, the Mahabharata is basically a struggle between the forces of good and evil. At the core of the epic lies the Bhagavad-gita, a pre-battle dialogue between Lord Krsna and His devotee the warrior Arjuna.
The Gita contains the essence of the Vedas, or transcendental knowledge. And although interpreters of the Gita often reduce its message to a homily to perform one's duty, its actual, essential message is to render loving service (bhakti) unto Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The nine-hour stage adaptation of the Mahabharata by Peter Brook and Jean-Claude Carriere is a prominent example of missing this essential point. Of course, this is not surprising, since in the Gita itself Krsna tells Arjuna that its most confidential message cannot be understood by those who are not devoted to Him. Although both Brook and Carriere are eminently qualified dramatists, being nondevotees they could not penetrate into the mysteries of the Gita and, hence, the Mahabharata as a whole. By their own admission, they could not comprehend the transcendental position of Krsna.
In the introduction of the published script, Carriere reveals his bewilderment. He confesses, "Krsna presented us with a special problem ... man or god? It is obviously not up to us to decide. Any theological truth, controversial by its very nature, is closed to us—our aim is a certain dramatic truth." Although admitting his ignorance of Krsna, he did not realize that by not understanding the supremacy of Krsna, he missed out on the dramatic truth as well. Without understanding Krsna's position as the prime mover of the Mahabharata (what to speak of His being the primal cause of all causes), and without understanding the great bond of love between Arjuna and Krsna, one cannot understand the Mahabharata.
What spoils the Brook/Carriere production is precisely this, that Krsna is depicted as an ordinary mortal—not only is He not given any special costume or make-up to differentiate Him from the other actors, but He is portrayed as a cunning and unscrupulous partisan. Granted, Krsna does sometimes display trickery, but it must be understood in the context of His transcendental position as the Supreme Lord. Whereas the Gita reveals Krsna as the summum bonum, and the highest morality as acting to please Him, in the Brook/Carriere stage version of the Mahabharata, Krsna is just another mysterious character.
Queen Kunti, Krsna's aunt and the mother of the Pandavas, spoke of the common man's misunderstanding of Krsna in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.8.19, 29):
You are invisible to the foolish observer, exactly as an actor dressed as a player is not recognized.... O Lord, no one can understand Your transcendental pastimes, which appear to be human and are so misleading. You have no specific object of favor, nor do You have any object of envy. People only imagine that You are partial.
Brook, like the "foolish observer" of Kunti's prayer, was also unable to recognize Krsna, and thus he had the Lord dressed as an ordinary man.
In his introduction to the published script, Brook credits his initial interest in the Mahabharata to his having attended a demonstration of Kathakali dance in Paris. He found the enactment of the episodes from the Mahabharata so strange that "I could only guess at something mythical and remote, from another culture, nothing to do with my life."
Fascinated by the story nonetheless, Brook was inspired to adapt it for the stage. But he never tried to understand the inner meaning of the Mahabharata. Rather, in an effort to make the story relevant to his own life—and, by implication, to modern man—Brook reduced the Mahabharata to a parable about nuclear weapons and the fate of the human race. True, there is some similarity between the nuclear weaponry of our day and the brahmastra weapons described in the Mahabharata. But there is also a great difference. The brahmastra would affect only a predetermined, individual target. It would not indiscriminately annihilate millions of innocent civilians. The etiquette of the Vedic martial class (ksatriyas) was such that only other warriors could be killed, and only during daylight. No itchy fingers could surreptitiously "press the button." And the brahmastra could be released only by one who was qualified by being thoroughly versed in the subtle science of sound.
According to the accounts of the Mahabharata itself, 640 million soldiers died in the eighteen-day Battle of Kuruksetra. Yet however shocking such an incomprehensible mortality statistic may be, what Brook, Carriere, and other nonbelievers fail to appreciate is that the whole battle was arranged by Lord Krsna just to rid the earth of demonic kings and to establish the righteous as the rulers of the world.
Krsna takes great pains in the Gita to explain to Arjuna how such "killing" on the battlefield was inevitable and not at all lamentable. The eternal soul can never be killed, Krsna explained; only the temporary, changing body is killed. Brook and Carriere, along with most people in the materialistic West, apparently have no understanding of this fundamental truth. Of course, Krsna's encouraging Arjuna to fight on the battlefield should never be taken as justification for killing. Even the unnecessary killing of an ant is forbidden in the Vedic literature.
By attempting to relate the Battle of Kuruksetra to the plight of modern man, Brook has misconstrued the important message of the Bhagavad-gita and the Mahabharata. Yet Bhagavad-gita is relevant to modern man—because its message, though spoken to a particular person at a particular time in a particular place, is universal and timeless. The message spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krsna, is that we should return to our original, constitutional position as His devotees. He wants everyone to love Him, worship Him, and serve Him by whatever God-given talents he or she may possess. In other words, if Peter Brook wants to make Bhagavad-gita relevant to his life, he should produce plays that glorify God and deal with man's relationship with Him.
One drama critic has suggested that one should not go to the Brook/Carriere production of the Mahabharata seeking spiritual enlightenment, just as one would not watch Cecil B. de Mille's movie The Ten Commandments to learn about the Bible. But that needn't be the case. Even if the audience doesn't share in the values and beliefs presented onstage, if the performers believe and are committed to raising the consciousness of the audience, their performances can produce that effect.
Brook himself admits the shortcomings of his production. As he once said in an interview, "The pinnacle of the Mahabharata is the Bhagavad-gita, but in our production we don't present it or have it spoken—we just have Krsna whisper it to Arjuna. You don't get cured in a theatre! But if you want to go further, there is the Gita ... and the whole rest of your life to continue your search."
Bravo! But, I ask, why not get cured in the theatre? Why not get cured of the illusory bodily conception of life? Theatre has traditionally been a place for enlightenment, instruction, and purification. Why not bring theatre back to its roots? If the masses will not read the Gita or cannot understand it, why not put its real message on stage, video, and cinema screens?
Getting the Picture of God
This is a continuation of a conversation between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and reporters in Melbourne, Australia, on June 29, 1974.
Reporter 2: Your Divine Grace, the various scriptures I've read refer often to the life breath. They say the breath comes directly from God, so one path of yoga is to concentrate on the breath and then on God.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. There are various kinds of air within the body, and the soul is within the heart, floating on those airs. So one preliminary form of yoga has to do with controlling those airs. At the time of death, the idea is to elevate the soul from the heart to the brahma-randhra, a small opening at the top of the head. From there the soul goes out to any planet he desires. Naturally he'll desire to go to a spiritual planet, where he can live without material miseries and in association with God. That is the goal of yoga. But here in your country, yoga means a certain type of physical exercise. Yes.
Reporter 3: And this path of devotional yoga or bhakti-yoga that you teach—this is the path for this time, this age?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Bhakti-yoga is the real yoga. You'll find in Bhagavad-gita that when the Lord describes the yoga system, He says,
yoginam api sarvesam
"The firstclass yogi is he who is always thinking of Me [Krsna] within himself and rendering transcendental loving service to Me." The bhakti-yogi is the first-class yogi. So these students of ours are being taught how to think of Krsna always, twenty-four hours a day, without any stop. And that is first-class yoga.
Reporter 3: To think about something, don't you first have to see it?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Reporter 3: Well, are you showing your disciples Krsna?
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes. Certainly.
Reporter 3: Then what is Krsna?
Srila Prabhupada: Ask my disciples. They have already seen Krsna. Ask them. They'll tell you what Krsna is. But let me ask you, as before: if they give realized information about Krsna, will you accept it?
Reporter 3: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada [motioning]: Then see. Here is Krsna.
Reporter 3: But that's a painting.
Srila Prabhupada: That is a painting. Suppose a painting of you were there. Could I not say, "Here is Mr. Such-and-such"?
Reporter 3: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: Then what is the wrong there?
Reporter 3: Well, to paint me, the artist would have to see me.
Srila Prabhupada: No, first of all, are you in your picture or not?
Reporter 3: Yes, I am.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Similarly, Krsna is in His picture. But the difference is that people cannot talk with your picture, but we can talk with Krsna's picture. That is the difference.
Reporter 3: But some of these pictures of Krsna seem a bit different.
Srila Prabhupada: No. We are speaking of the basic principle. Krsna's blackishbluish colour is there. Krsna's flute is there. Krsna's peacock feather is there. These things are described in the sastra, the scripture. So these paintings follow the actual form of Krsna described in the scripture.
Now, take even a painting of yourself. One man may paint your face a little differently from the way another man paints it. But on the whole, your form is the same, and of course, it does not depend on the painter's conception. So Krsna's form is not dependent on the painter's conception but on the description of His features given in the scripture. Since Krsna is absolute, He and His picture are nondifferent.
Reporter 3: But if a painter were to paint a picture of me or anybody else, first he'd directly study the subject—a living subject.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. In this case, also, the subject is living. Krsna is living, and in the scripture He is described: "Krsna's colour is bluish. In His hand Krsna has got a flute. Krsna has got a peacock feather on His head." And tri-bhanga-lalitam: Krsna stands gracefully, His form curving in three places." Tri-bhanga means that when He stands, in three places His form curves. You see. syamam tri-bhanga-lalitam niyata-prakasam: "Krsna's graceful dark-bluish, threefold-bending form is eternally manifest." These are the descriptions given in the Vedas. And for instance, from these descriptions my students have painted so many pictures. From these descriptions I have simply given hints that "This picture should be like this." So they take note and make the pictures, and people very much appreciate our pictures. So you can paint pictures by consulting the scriptural authority—the Vedas—and those who have studied the Vedas. That is what we are doing. If you are intelligent, you can make genuine pictures of God like that.
Reporter 3: But still, somebody must have seen Krsna to actually paint Him.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. People have seen Krsna. For instance, when Krsna was present on this earth, so many people saw Him. Ever since then, people have built so many temples. And by worshiping the Deity in their temples, they are regularly worshiping Krsna's form—just as it is described in the Vedic literature and as the people centuries ago saw personally.
Reporter 3: But has anybody now actually seen Krsna? Now?
Srila Prabhupada: How can someone see Krsna now? One has to see through the parampara, the disciplic succession that began with those who saw Krsna. You may not have seen your grandfather. How do you know what he was like? How do you know? Your grandfather and his father you have not seen. How do you know anything about them?
Reporter 3: By your parents' telling you.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Your father has seen your grandfather. Although you may not have seen him, still, your father can describe all about your grandfather. "My father was like this, like this, and like this." What is the difficulty? So therefore, you have to receive knowledge from the authorities, the disciplic succession.
(To be continued)
"Save Earth Now!"
For as long as there has been civilization on this planet, human beings have been abusing the earth. Thinking themselves lords over all they survey, they have taken without restriction whatever they desire for sense gratification, without considering that in the future there may be nothing left. Whole species have been killed, rivers and seas ruined, and the air polluted with poisonous waste. It seems only a matter of time before mankind destroys its habitat and that of all other creatures.
Sri Isopanisad describes man's proper relationship to the earth: "Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong." Clearly, this philosophy must be applied not only to individuals but also to governments. In the purport to this verse, Srila Prabhupada says that there can be no peace if countries claim proprietorship over the resources of nature. "If they do not recognize the proprietorship of the Supreme Lord, all the property they claim as their own is stolen. Consequently, they are liable to punishment by the laws of nature." The possible agents of punishment are innumerable. The earth can be destroyed by nuclear bombs, or slowly choked to death by fumes.
The earth, which is God's energy, supplies all creatures, each taking from it according to his particular body. But among the species, human beings have a responsibility toward the earth. Man is the big brother of all other creatures. As it states in the Bible, man has "dominion" over all the animals. Although many persons take this to mean that they can kill other species, a devotee of Krsna understands that "dominion" means that man has the responsibility to protect all life on earth and to allow the different creatures to take from the earth what they need. If everyone takes only what is needed, this will guarantee the proper relationship between the planet and those who dwell on it. By Lord Krsna's grace, there is enough for everyone, but when there is misuse and the balance is disturbed, everyone's life is endangered.
We can find few modern examples of peoples who live in a healthy relationship with the earth. Native Americans, as they lived prior to the invasion of the white man, are among those who maintained a sane relationship with nature. They did not consider themselves proprietors of the land, for they believed that the land belonged to the Great Spirit, who provided it for their use. They were religious and believed that all things in nature were regulated by gods. Their religion was primitive in the sense that they prayed for material things, such as rain. A relationship with God based on personal maintenance is not the highest form of religion. But at least the native Americans lived in harmony with their environment, in a God conscious way.
The Krsna conscious devotee, concemed for all living entities, naturally advocates a proper relationship with the earth. Although devotees are transcendentalists and aspire to go back to the eternal kingdom of God, a spiritual planet, they still care about the earth. It is here that we must develop our God consciousness. And unless we live here peacefully, we will not be able to pursue spiritual life.
To prosecute God consciousness on earth, as well as to attain ecological balance, devotees recommend living simply. The Bhagavad-gita states, annad bhavanti bhutani parjanyad anna-sambhavah (Bg. 3.14): All living beings subsist on food grains, and food grains come from the rain. According to Vedic knowledge, grains grow because of rain, and rain comes from yajna, or sacrifice performed in the course of executing one's duties as taught in the Vedas. Certainly, everyone lives on the earth and takes his foodstuffs from the earth. Even meat-eaters depend on food grains, since the animals they eat live off the grains. Therefore industry is not as important as growing food. Man can actually solve his economic needs just by living on a little land and keeping cows. Living simply in relation with the land creates a natural balance between ourselves and the earth and encourages us to take only what we need.
The principle of yajna, sacrifice, points up another relationship the Krsna conscious devotees have to the earth. The first major newspaper coverage of Srila Prabhupada and the Hare Krsna movement in America appeared in a New York City newspaper, the East Village Other, with the headline "SAVE EARTH NOW!" A photo with the article showed Srila Prabhupada and the devotees chanting in Tompkins Square Park, New York. The editors, whether they meant it seriously or in fun, were saying that Prabhupada had come to preach a message to save the world.
In fact, by performing kirtana (the chanting of God's names), which is the prescribed yajna for this age, the earth can be saved. As Srila Prabhupada has written in a Srimad-Bhagavatam purport, "Ultimately, we have to depend on the production of the field and not on the production of the big factory. The field production is due to sufficient rain. Sankirtana yajna must therefore be performed to save us at least from scarcity of food supply."
Chanting the holy names of God is the best method of serving Krsna and pleasing ourselves. As food comes by yajna, so by chanting Hare Krsna people are getting food. We still must plow the earth, but if the earth is plowed and there is no God consciousness, there will be scarcity. By the public chanting of Hare Krsna, which is sankirtana-yajna, devotees are trying to safeguard the population from hunger and other difficulty.
The atheist will scoff at the idea that there is a relation between praise of God and natural production, but when there is a severe drought, the atheist can bring hundreds of tractors into the field, and he can bring forth all modern technology, but he cannot produce food. And when leaders lack God consciousness and deny that all creatures are God's offspring, they do not allow for fair distribution of food among the people of the earth.
Sankirtana yajna also means distribution of knowledge. By this yajna, devotees are performing the most important welfare activity. Some people think that the Hare Krsna devotees would be doing better if they worked in some other way to help the social condition. But pleasing God is the most important thing, and if everyone did it, so many problems would be solved.
People are taking unnecessarily from the earth and upsetting its natural balance. They should learn from Krsna what their quota is, and they should not take more than they need. Although the situation on earth is already critical, it is still not too late, provided we turn to a sane and spiritual relationship with the earth and among human beings. The current mismanagement of earth's resources will only end in ruin.—SDG