A prayer by one of Lord Caitanya's
by His Divine Grace
"Let me first offer my respectful obeisances unto Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is the ultimate goal of life for one bereft of all possessions in this material world and is the only meaning for one advancing in spiritual life. Thus let me write about His magnanimous contribution of devotional service in love of God." (Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi 7.1)
Here Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, the author of Caitanya-caritamrta, is offering his obeisances to the Lord. In each chapter he composes a new verse offering his obeisances to the Lord, and in this chapter he also offers his respect.
Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami began writing Caitanya-caritamrta when he was ninety years old, in Vrndavana, after receiving the order of the Vaisnavas and having it confirmed by Lord Krsna, Sri Madana-mohana.
This is the process for writing transcendental literature: one should write on spiritual subjects only after being authorized by superior authority. It is not ordinary writing; it is not speculation. Writings on spiritual subjects must be authoritative. Therefore Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami says, sri-caitanyam likhyate 'sya: "By the order of superior authority I am trying to describe Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu."
And what is Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu doing? Prema-bhakti-vadanyata: He is preaching prema, love of Godhead. That is the only necessity in the human form of life (prema pum-artho mohan). Of course, those who are not devotees think they have other necessities, namely dharma, artha, kama, and moksa—religiosity, economic development, sense gratification, and liberation. Generally, in the material world everyone sees his prime necessity as the gratification of his senses. Sometimes people want to satisfy their senses under the cover of religiosity. For example, one may go to a church or a temple to mitigate some material distress. The Christians go to church to solve the problem of getting their daily bread. Similarly, the Hindus and Muslims—everyone goes to the church or temple or mosque to pray for something material: "God, I am very distressed. Kindly give me relief from this distressed condition." Or, "God, I am in need of money; I am very poor. Kindly give me some money."
This is not pure devotional service. One should not become a religious person or a devotee of God for some material profit. Of course, such a materialistic devotee is better than the person who is not at all interested in God. Unless one is pious, he does not approach God. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita [7.15],
na mam duskrtino mudhah
The impious classes of men (duskrtina) never approach God. These are the mudhas, the lowest of mankind; the mayayapahrta-jnanah, those whose knowledge has been taken away by illusion; and the asuras, the demons. Such persons do not surrender to God.
But those who have a background of pious activities—such persons approach God when they are distressed. They believe that God is the friend of all living entities (suhrdam sarva-bhutanam). Actually, He is the friend of everyone, and as the Supersoul He is living with the soul in the heart. That is stated in the Vedas. Two birds are sitting on the same tree of this body. One bird is the individual soul, and the other bird is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Supersoul. In this way God is always with the individual soul and trying to turn him toward the path back home, back to Godhead. He is such a nice friend: suhrdam sarva-bhutanam.
So, if we want peace, we should understand, "Here is God, my supreme friend. He is guiding and protecting me. So why am I praying to Him for some material benefit? He knows my necessities, and He will supply what is required. Why should I bother Him by praying, 'Please give me this, please give me that.' There is no necessity: God is omniscient."
As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, "I know the necessities of My devotees, and I supply them." Yoga-ksemam vahamy aham. We want two things: to possess what we do not have, and to protect what we have. So Krsna says He does both things: "I protect whatever My devotee has, and I supply him whatever he needs." Krsna is fulfilling everyone's needs, but especially the devotees'. That is His special job.
Here in the present verse from Caitanya-caritamrta we see that Lord Caitanya is very magnanimous. Without our asking, He is offering the best benefit—krsna-prema, love of Krsna. This should be our objective. Our objective in life should be to understand God. If we simply understand what God is and what our relationship with Him is, and if we begin to act accordingly, then our life is successful. Even if we cannot finish the whole course—if we fall down from devotional service—still we are not losers.
Devotional service is a process that requires some time for one to become perfect. But even if one falls down before becoming perfect, he is not a loser. The service is so transcendental that whatever you have done, that is your asset. And if you stop—of course, that is not good—but even if you stop, whatever you have done already, that is your permanent asset. This is the benefit of devotional service.
In material affairs, if you cannot do something perfectly well, whatever you have done is all lost. But in spiritual life, whatever you have done—one percent, two percent, three percent—that is permanent. Therefore the scripture says, "Even if nondevotees do their duties very nicely, what is their profit? They remain under the stringent of nature."
Suppose that in this life I have done my duty as a politician very nicely, but in the next life I become a dog. Then what is my benefit? Whether or not you will become a dog or a god in your next life—that will not depend on you. That will depend on nature: prakrteh kriyamanani gunaih karmani sarvasah. The laws of nature are as certain as two plus two equals four. So, whatever we are doing now, we are preparing for our next life, and at death material nature will simply give us a body: "You have acted like this, so take this body." You cannot say, "No, no, I don't like this body." No, you have to take it.
As for the fruitive workers, even if they have done their so-called duties very perfectly well, what is the profit? There is no profit, because they remain under the strict control of material nature. But for the devotees, whatever little service they have done is a permanent asset. That is not controlled by nature—that is controlled by God. As He says in the Bhagavad-gita [6.41], sucinam srimatam gehe yoga-bhrasto 'bhijayate. Yoga-bhrastah means "one who has fallen from devotional service."
So, such a person is guaranteed a human life, and not only a human life but a life in a very good family. Sucinam gehe means "a perfectly well-behaved and cleansed family, a brahmana family." Suci means "very clean."
Now Krsna says that even if a devotee is fallen, he gets his birth in a suci family. For example, in our Society there are small children. You see their behaviour. They are coming, offering flowers, offering obeisances, chanting, dancing. That means they are not ordinary children. They have gotten the opportunity to take birth in the family of Vaisnavas. They are getting the opportunity of Krsna consciousness from the very beginning of life. This is sucinam gehe, birth in a pure family. Or, one may be born in a very rich family. A rich man does not have to struggle to maintain his body, so he can easily give something for the service of the Lord.
So, whether you are born in a rich family or a poor Vaisnava family, you are not the loser. Therefore we should take to Krsna consciousness and try to introduce it very nicely, and even if we fall, there is no loss. A human life is guaranteed, along with birth in a very good family. And if this is guaranteed for the fallen soul, then what to speak of those who are not fallen? Just imagine! Those who are not fallen go directly back to Godhead (tyaktva deham punar janma naiti mam eti). They are immediately transferred to the spiritual world after giving up this body.
Here it is said, hinarthadhika-sadhakam sri-caitanyam: "Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is very kind to the fallen souls." His special mission is to reclaim the fallen souls. In this age of Kali, almost 99.9 percent are fallen. Their qualification is mandah su-manda-matayah. Manda means they do not know that human life is meant for qualifying oneself in Krsna consciousness, spiritual consciousness. And even if they become interested in spiritual consciousness, they accept some bodus theory. They are misguided (su-manda-matayah). There are so many yogis and svamis—all bluffers. In the Kali-yuga people are already bewildered, and these bogus leaders come to cheat, and people fall prey to these cheaters.
Anyone who is preaching something other than God consciousness is a cheater. Real progress in life is to become God conscious. That is real progress. And without God consciousness, so-called yoga and meditation—what is the profit? Simply some bogus propaganda. It has no value. Real progress in life is to know what God is and what our relationship with Him is and how to act in that relationship.
But people do not know this. Na te viduh svartha-gatim hi visnum. They think, "By this yoga practice I shall become perfect, my material condition will improve, and so on." But that is not real progress in life. There are many rich men who enjoy material comforts without practicing yoga.
No, spiritual life does not mean that one improves his material condition of life. Spiritual life means spiritual advancement. But people take it that religion should give impetus to our material life. And when they are disgusted with material life, they want moksa, to become one with the Lord. These things are going on.
But Caitanya Mahaprabhu came to save all these fallen souls. Hinarthadhika-sadhakam. The more one is fallen, the better candidate he is for receiving the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. As Narottama dasa Thakura sings, patita-pavana-hetu tava avatara: "My Lord, You have incarnated to reclaim the fallen." Mo sama patita prabhu na paibe ara: "If that is Your mission, then please consider that I am the most fallen. So my claim is first to receive Your favor. Kindly accept me." This is how we should feel—completely fallen and helpless and dependent on the mercy of the Lord.
A person in the conditioned stage of material existence is in an atmosphere of helplessness. But the conditioned soul, under the illusion of maya, Krsna's external energy, thinks he is completely protected by his country, society, friends, and family. He does not know that at the time of death none of these can save him. He is so illusioned by maya that he does not even know the meaning of the word "save." To be saved means to save oneself from the cycle of birth and death. That is real saving. But people do not know this.
The laws of material nature are so strong that none of our material possessions can save us from the cruel hands of death. Everyone knows it. And that is our real problem. Who is not afraid of death? Everyone is afraid of death. Why? Because the living entity is not meant for dying: he is eternal. Therefore birth, death, old age, and disease are botherations for him. Because he is eternal, he does not take birth (na jayate). And one who does not take birth also has so death (na mriyate va kadacit). So the reason we are afraid of death is that our natural inclination is to live eternally.
Therefore to be saved from death is the first business of humankind. We are teaching Krsna consciousness for this purpose only. And that should be the purpose of everyone. That is the scriptural injunction. Those who are guardians—the government, the father, the teacher—should know how to save their dependents from repeated birth and death. But where is this philosophy being taught? There is no institution throughout the whole world that is teaching this philosophy except for this ISKCON movement, which is putting forward the philosophy of Krsna consciousness—not whimsically, but from authorized scripture, the Vedic literature.
We are opening centers all over the world for the benefit of human society. People do not know the aim of life. They do not know that there is a next life, after death. These things they do not know. So we are trying to teach them that there is a next life undoubtedly and that in this life you can prepare your next life. As Krsna say in the Bhagavad-gita [9.25],
yanti deva-vrata devan
You can prepare yourself for a better life in the heavenly planets, you can go to the planets of the ancestors, you can go to the planets where ghosts and other such beings reside, or you can go to the planet where Krsna lives. Everything is open to you. You simply have to prepare yourself.
Children are educated, and some of them become engineers, some become medical men, some become lawyers, and so on. Similarly, you can prepare yourself for your next life. This is not difficult to understand.
Unfortunately, people do not believe in the next life, although it is simply common sense. Actually, we can be sure there is a next life because Krsna says so, and we can also understand by a little intelligence that there must be a next life. So, our proposition is that if you have to prepare yourself for the next life, then why don't you take the trouble to prepare yourself to go back home, back to Godhead? This is our proposition.
You can prepare yourself to go to hell, or you can prepare yourself to go to heaven. It doesn't matter, because these situations are temporary. Suppose you are put in jail. When your term is finished, you are free from such life. Similarly, even if you go to the heavenly planets, when the result of your pious activities are finished, then again you must come down here to this earthly planet. In this way, sometimes you may go to higher planets, sometimes to the lower planets.
Therefore, why not go back home, back to Godhead? Krsna says, yanti mad-yajino 'pi mam: "Anyone who is Krsna conscious come to Me." So why not go to Krsna? The question may be asked, What is the benefit of going to Krsnaloka? What is the difference between going to a heavenly planet and going to Krsna's planet? The difference is that if you go to any planet other than Krsnaloka, you remain under the four material restrictions—birth, old age, disease, and death. But if you go to Krsna, then you'll never have to come down again and take a material body. There you can live an eternally blissful life of knowledge. That is the difference.
So, every intelligent man should take to Krsna consciousness, cultivate Krsna consciousness, and go back home, back to Godhead for eternal life. This message we are preaching all over the world because Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu wanted it. He wanted to deliver the fallen souls from the clutches of illusion and take them back home, back to Godhead.
When Krsna came, His mission was the same. He declared, "Simply surrender to Me, and thus you will come to Me in My spiritual abode, where you can live eternally in bliss and knowledge. Why are you rotting in this material world?"
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has come with the same mission. His mission is not different from Krsna's, since He is Krsna Himself. But Lord Caitanya's method is to offer prema, love of Krsna. That is His magnanimity. Sri Krsna did not directly offer prema—only the preliminary condition of prema: surrender. Surrender is the beginning of prema. Unless we surrender to Krsna, we cannot develop love for Him. So surrender is the beginning of love, and Krsna demanded that we surrender to Him. So surrender is the beginning of love, and Krsna demanded that we surrender to Him.
But Lord Caitanya is so kind and magnanimous that simply in the course of His chanting and dancing He embraced everyone and gave them krsna-prema. That is His magnanimity. Therefore Srila Rupa Gosvami has offered this prayer to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu: namo maha-vadanyaya krsna-prema pradaya te. "People cannot understand Krsna, and yet You are giving them love of Krsna. Therefore I offer my humble obeisances to You, who are so magnanimous that You are freely giving krsna-prema."
If you don't know someone, how can you develop love for him? But still, Lord Caitanya is giving love of Krsna even to those who are completely ignorant of Him. So, just imagine how magnanimous Lord Caitanya is! He is giving such a nice process: simply chant Hare Krsna. You will immediately become purified, get free from material bondage, and begin your loving service to Krsna. This is Caitanya Mahaprabhu's gift.
Thank you very much.
In this world of bewildering material forms,
by Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
Jagannathah swami nayana-patha-gami bhavatu me
New York City, 1967
Someone said that Lord Jagannatha had arrived and was in Prabhupada's room. Srila Prabhupada was in San Francisco, so I went upstairs, and there was Lord Jagannatha, a three-foot-tall, black-faced, round-eyed, smiling Deity.
Unfortunately, my first impression was one of resentment. Why did we have to worship such a strange form of God? I had already accepted from Srila Prabhupada that Lord Krsna was the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and I was faithfully fixed in that. I was attached to chanting the Hare Krsna mantra and to regularly hearing from the Bhagavad-gita. And I knew that Srila Prabhupada's mission to spread Krsna consciousness was also my life's mission. But why did we now have to worship Lord Jagannatha? We had been doing fine with pictures of Krsna as youthful, attractive Govinda holding a flute and standing in a threefold-bending form beside Srimati Radharani and a cow. Why go from that to this primitive form of Jagannatha?
Of course, I had heard how Lord Jagannatha had first arrived in San Francisco, how Srila Prabhupada had asked Syamasundara dasa to carve the large Deity, how they were supposed to have a parade, and how Prabhupada had called the temple there New Jagannatha Puri. But this was New York City!
I thought that maybe my initial resentment was aroused by the envy I felt for those who now had Srila Prabhupada with them in California. Some of us had not accepted that he was not always going to stay with us on the Lower East Side. Lord Jagannatha was almost a symbol of "that temple" in San Francisco, where Srila Prabhupada was preaching now, far away from us. We were awaiting his return, loyally carrying out his instructions through the frigid Manhattan winter, and now Lord Jagannatha had arrived from California.
But Srila Prabhupada had said that we should place Jagannatha on the altar in the storefront, so I realised that my skeptical feelings were crazy. I mostly gave them up, worshiped Lord Jagannatha, and awaited Srila Prabhupada's return.
In May, when Prabhupada was back with us, I asked him about Lord Jagannatha. He explained that Jagannatha is Krsna. He was carved in that form by the demigod-sculptor Visvakarma. When Prabhupada said that, I remembered another reply he had given about Krsna's form when a boy named Bob Lefkowitz had inquired. Bob had shown Srila Prabhupada a picture of bluish Krsna with His flute, and he had asked if the painting of Krsna were done according to the artists' conceptions, since each picture looks a little different. Srila Prabhupada had answered yes, but he had also said that a bona fide picture always follow exactly the descriptions given of Krsna in the scriptures.
Srila Prabhupada now explained that although a sculptor had fashioned Jagannatha out of wood, He had consented to appear out of His own will; the sculptor had not commanded Him to do so. Lord Jagannatha appeared along with His brother Balarama and His sister, Subhadra. Being Krsna, Lord Jagannatha has a blackish face and carries a conch shell and a disc weapon. His form is sharp-angled and stubby-armed because during the special pastime of His appearance, His sculptor, Visvakarma, left—by the plan of the Lord—before finishing is work.
For further explanation, Prabhupada spoke the line jagannathah swami nayana-patha-gami bhavatu me. At my request, he then spoke it again, slowly, while I wrote down each word. Prabhupada said it was a prayer: "O Lord of the universe, kindly be visible unto me." In this prayer, he said, the devotee is praying to see the spiritual form of the Lord. We are always seeing material objects, but the devotee prays to God in the form of the Deity of Jagannatha that he may see Him as He actually is—the Lord of the universe.
This explanation seemed wonderful and valuable. Prabhupada's comment was at least as important as the verse. In my own understanding, they were inseparable. Prabhupada did not say at that time where the verse came from, and neither did I ask. I knew it was scripture, and the important thing was that it came from Prabhupada, so it was purely spiritual, a selected instruction. Now I could pray to Lord Jagannatha with the right attitude.
One of the New York devotees began carving three-inch-high Jagannathas. His wife would paint Them and then write on the back with black paint the Sanskrit prayer and the translation, "O Lord of the universe, kindly be visible unto me." They began selling these to the devotees for a few dollars, and soon it was a fad—almost everyone had Lord Jagannatha. We began wearing Him on a cord around our necks. At first Lord Jagannatha was manufactured with a metal screw eye screwed into His head, but when we realised that it was offensive, we placed Him in a comfortable cloth pouch, and the pouch was affixed to the cord around our necks.
When I wore Lord Jagannatha around my neck and walked into my place of work, the New York City welfare office on East Fifth Street, it caused quite a stir. But I considered it a part of the essential paraphernalia or identity of a devotee—to wear Lord Jagannatha, to carry japa beads, and to have a shaved head and a sikha. And the Jagannatha Swami prayer was also essential.
The prayer was composed with sympathy for a devotee who could not easily see God, even in the form of Lord Jagannatha. As Prabhupada had explained it, the spirit soul in the material world is bombarded by sense objects demanding attention. Certainly in New York City wherever I turned, there were hard barrages of material forms. I saw buildings of cement and wood and glass. Millions of flesh-and-blood bodies covered with cloth moved back and forth before my vision. Somewhere there was a patch of sky, somewhere a tree, and always the artificial, manufactured, manmade items, like asphalt roads, billboards of paper and steel and painted colours heavy trucks, goods and gadgets in store windows, newspapers, and, every few feet, rubbish—trash in cans, papers in the street, bottles, dirt...
But Jagannatha had appeared along with His prayer. And Prabhupada had explained that prayer. Now out of the plethora of material objects before me, I could look upon the small, available form of Lord Jagannatha and see Krsna. I prayed that He would reveal Himself to me in this form. By philosophical, theoretical knowledge, I could accept, on the basis of guru and sastra, that Jagannatha was Krsna, and so I was worshiping Him. But to worship with true feeling, a prayer was needed, requesting the Lord to please reveal Himself to the worshiper: jagannathah swami nayana-patha-gami bhavatu me. As I prayed to and handled Lord Jagannatha, I lost all resentment.
Later in 1967, Srila Prabhupada asked me to go to Boston to help him begin another ISKCON branch. When I moved there and took employment as a welfare case worker, I continued to carry my three-inch Jagannatha Deity to the office. But since I was a new man and Boston was not as permissive as New York City, I kept Lord Jagannatha in a box.
My worship consisted mostly of bringing Him out of the box at noon, when I would offer Him prayers and the contents of my lunch so that I would eat only krsna-prasadam. I remember sitting on a park bench in deep snow at Franklin Park Zoo and opening the box of Lord Jagannatha before my cup of cottage cheese and bananas, and I can recall looking at Him in spring and summer, at various locations as I traveled to see clients throughout the city. Sometimes I would bring Him out for a quick look—"jagannathah swami mayana-patha-gami bhavatu me"—and then return with a refreshed mind to the world of material names and forms.
At our storefront temple in Boston we had six-inch deities on the altar. When I wrote to Srila Prabhupada about my daily offerings of flowers and about my prayers to Lord Jagannatha, asking forgiveness for my mistakes, Prabhupada warmly approved. But when I locked up the deities in the storefront and went to see Prabhupada in New York, he admonished me—"What if you were to leave me along in a room?" By his guidance I was drawn into a more serious relationship with the deities.
I have been describing Lord Jagannatha in terms of private worship and temple worship, but He is most celebrated for His public appearance during the Ratha-yatra. Srila Prabhupada was eager for the festival to start as soon as possible after Jagannatha first appeared in San Francisco. It is amazing to consider his daring in this attempt to bring Ratha-yatra to the West. There is no tradition of Deity worship in Western countries and little appreciation for Indian spiritualism. But somehow, the happy, melodious chanting, the delicious free feasts, the dancing devotees, the big-wheeled, colorful, silk-topped carts, and smiling Lord Jagannatha, Balarama, and Subhadra—the pageantry of it all—have appealed to the fun-loving, parade-going, peace- and God-seeking spirit that exists in people worldwide.
Srila Prabhupada loved to repeat the good new about Ratha-yatra. The mayor of San Francisco declared it "Ratha-yatra Day" throughout the city. The police chief of Berkeley commented, "It is not a window-breaking crowd." A newspaper in London printed a picture showing the cart as a "rival to Nelson's Column." Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Calcutta, Bombay—Prabhupada loved to name the cities where the Ratha-yatra festival were held each year as evidence of the potency of the Krsna consciousness movement.
Lord Jagannatha was not meant for only a quick look by a lone devotee at his desk in the office, but He was for the millions in big cities, and His prasadam was meant for mass distribution. The inconceivable auspicious effect of Ratha-yatra is described in the sastra: "A person who sees the Lord's Ratha-yatra festival and then stands up to receive the Lord can purge all kinds of sinful results from his body" (Brahmanda Purana).
Essential evidence for the truth of Deity worship can be stated in a few sentences. One of my favorite statements is given by Srila Prabhupada in Sri Isopanisad (Mantra 5, purport):
Even if the Lord appears before us in the form of material energy, it is quite possible for Him to convert this energy into spiritual energy. Since the source of the energies is one and the same, the energies can be utilized according to the will of their source. For example, the Lord can appear in the form of the arca-vigraha, a Deity supposedly made of earth, stone or wood. Deity forms, although engraved from wood, stone or other matter, are not idols, as the iconoclasts contend.
This explains the technique by which the Supreme Lord appears in material forms as the Deity. He has inconceivable potencies, and thus He can convert His material energies into spiritual energy. As to why Krsna does this, that is also nicely explained in the same purport.
In our present state of imperfect material existence, we cannot see the Supreme Lord due to imperfect vision. Yet those devotees who want to see Him by means of material vision are favored by the Lord, who appears in a so-called material form to accept His devotees' service. One should not think that such devotees, who are in the lowest stage of devotional service, are worshiping an idol. They are factually worshiping the Lord, who has agreed to appear before them in an approachable way. Nor is the arca form fashioned according to the whims of the worshiper. This form is eternally existent with all paraphernalia. This can be actually felt by a sincere devotee, but not by an atheist.
To make it clearer, Srila Prabhupada makes a simple analogy between the Deity and a mailbox. The government post office has mailboxes in many locations, and a person can post a letter in any of those mailboxes with the same efficacy as when he brings it to the main post office. "But any old box," writes Prabhupada, "or an imitation, which we may find somewhere, will not do the work." Similarly, Krsna has authorised the arca-vigraha incarnation. He will accept service through the form of the Deity to be worshiped in the temple. It is for the convenience and accessibility of His devotee that He appears in this way.
Often Christians object to Krsna consciousness Deity worship, and they say that their own scripture, the Bible, forbids it with the declaration not to worship graven images. The Krsna conscious reply to this is that the authorised Deity is not a graven image, in the sense that the Deity's form is not concocted. "Image means imagination," Prabhupada used to say. So the injunction against idolatry is also in agreement with the Krsna conscious conclusion against any form of concocted worship. But because the Absolute Truth is the Supreme Person, the original father, He has a form, and if He likes He can appear in that form, whether in the material or the spiritual world, out of kindness for those who aspire to worship Him. Those who claim to be monotheists but who are ultimately impersonalists or voidists or atheists shy away from the direct approach to worshiping Krsna in His personal form as the Deity. But by their arguments they cannot prevent Him from His appearance as the arca-vigraha.
The sweeping generalisation that all forms of Deity worship are idolatry is based on a lack of knowledge regarding the Supreme Lord's ability and desire to appear in these worshipable forms. One time a disciple of Srila Prabhupada's visited a Protestant church along with his five-year-old son, and the child, who was accustomed to seeing Radha-Krsna worship in the temple, made a spontaneous but significant remark. When he saw the plain, empty altar in the church, the first asked his father, "Why don't they have a Deity?" But before his father could reply, the boy said, "I know—because thy are not advanced enough yet."
The boy was referring to fact that in ISKCON temples, worship of the Deity is not allowed until the temple organisation and community are established enough to maintain high standards of regulated worship. The five-year-old krsna-bhakta saw the church as awaiting further advancement before the congregation could install the form of God.
In India, newly invented groups, like the Arya Samaja, adopt the stance that Deity worship is idolatry. Prabhupada would criticise their faulty logic. "They way that God is not in the temple, that God is everywhere. But if He is everywhere, then why is He not also in the temple?"
There have been many blasphemies committed against Deity worship, as well as much mundane argument against God's presence in the arca-vigraha, but a sincere devotee deeps fixed in the parampara and continues to become purified by, whenever possible, directly serving, bowing before, dressing, bathing, and cooking for the Lord of the universe. In fact, whoever takes the authorised Deity form to be an idol is rejected by the Vedic scripture. Arce vsnau sila dhir... yasya va naraki sah: "Whoever sees the Deity in temple as an idol is condemned to a hellish condition" (Padma Purana).
Srila Prabhupada's teachings on the science of God, as well as Vedic verses that confirm Deity worship, have solidified my own convictions. I have also drawn strength and inspiration from hearing of the reciprocation between the Deity and great devotees. To His pure devotee Madhavendra Puri, Lord Krsna appeared in a vision and told him where the Deity could be found and how He could be served. In the form of the Saksi-gopala Deity, Lord Krsna spoke to a pure-hearted brahmana and then, to keep a promise, walked with him for hundreds of miles. There are innumerable other instances recorded in the authentic literature of Gaudiya Vaisnavism that testify that the Deity of Krsna is not a stone or brass idol but Krsna Himself.
One should not misunderstand Srila Prabhupada's statement, previously quoted, that those who worship the Deity are in the lowest stage of devotional service. The distinction is that a neophyte devotee sees the arca-vigraha as a representation of God, whereas a spiritually advanced devotee sees that the Deity is actually Krsna.
Lord Caitanya displayed intense ecstatic symptoms in relationship with the Deity of Lord Jagannatha. After becoming a sannyasi, Lord Caitanya journeyed to Jagannatha Puri and fainted in ecstatic trance upon seeing Lord Jagannatha. Lord Caitanya also revealed the confidential meaning of Ratha-yatra. Feeling the mood of separation from Krsna as experienced by the gopis, Lord Caitanya gazed upon Lord Jagannatha in His chariot and sang song expressing the mood of Radharani. Madhavendra Puri and Lord Caitanya were certainly great scholars of Vedanta, and they could defeat the greatest panditas in debates of philosophy and logic. Therefore, their realised experiences can never be taken as sentimentalism or fanatical idolatry. By their example, we should reverently approach the Deity in the temple and take the opportunity to praise Him in kirtanas and to serve Him with all our senses.
Though not so well known outside India,
by Satyaraja dasa
When an old college friend told me he would be teaching a course in proverbs at the New Scholl for Social Research in New York City, I immediately began to think about how I might assist him. Since his major was English literature, he was always ready to come to my rescue when I needed help preparing a college lecture on Krsna consciousness or researching for a literary project. Now I might be able to return the favor.
He had trepidation about his new course and asked me whether the Vedic tradition offered any insights into the nature of proverbs. In response, I asked him to first explain exactly what he meant by "proverbs." He told me that a proverb is an adage, a simple, short saying that sums up a profound truth.
At first, I thought of the Vedanta-sutra, terse codes that express deep philosophical wisdom. But as my friend continued to speak, citing well-known proverbs and their authors, such as Confucius and Lao Tzu, I realised that the works of Canakya Pandita, whom Srila Prabhupada quoted in almost every volume he produced, could more fittingly be called proverbs.
Srila Prabhupada often used Canakya's sayings, which are revered throughout the Indian subcontinent, to illustrate Krsna conscious ideas. For instance, in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.13.15, purport), Srila Prabhupada cites Canakya's advice that valid moral instruction should be accepted even if given by a lowborn or unqualified person. Even if gold is covered by stool, says Canakya, it is still gold.
Srila Prabhupada taught that Canakya, a great sage who lived three centuries before Christ, was a brahmana, a wise man—he even referred to him as a saint. Although Srila Prabhupada once pointed out that Canakya was not, strictly speaking, a pure Vaisnava, from Srila Prabhupada's writings it is clear that he had great respect for the Pandita's wisdom.
The more I told my friend about Canakya, the more we both realised that Canakya's works would add immensely to proverbs course. Yet my knowledge of Canakya Pandita as a historical personality left a great deal to be desired. For me, he was mostly an abstraction, a legendary soothsayer my spiritual master frequently quoted. To really help my friend, I needed to do some homework.
We went to the Forty-second Street library to research Canakya's life and times. Canakya Pandita, we discovered, is commonly known to historians as Kautilya (although he is also known as Visnugupta and Vatsyayana.) Beyond having composed volumes of proverbs, Canakya is famous for his Artha-sastra ("Treatise on Political Economy") and for counseling King Candragupta Maurya, one of Alexander the Great's chief adversaries.
Candragupta is know as Sandrocottus to Greek historians, and he is the founder of the Mauryan dynasty. In the early part of his career, he wandered the Punjab and, along with his countrymen, opposed Alexander's conquering forces. History records that it was Candragupta's chief adviser, Canakya Pandita, who actually responsible for the king's ultimate victory. In The Minister's Signet Ring, a work of the sixth century A.D. that purports to describe the last stages of Candragupta's triumph over Alexander and the Nanda princes, the king himself is depicted as a weak and insignificant youth; the real ruler of the empire was Canakya.
In 321 B.C. Candragupta conquered Magadha (South Bihar). He proceeded to annex various parts of northern India and campaigned against the Greek Selsucus Nicator, the former general of Alexander. Under Canakya's wise council, Candragupta ruled for twenty-four years. The Mauryan Empire, however, lasted some 120 years more, being led first by founding father's son, Bindusara, and then by his grandson, the famous Emperor Asoka, who eventually converted to Buddhism.
During the reign of Candragupta (321-297 B.C.), Canakya Pandita became widely known for his wisdom and scriptural knowledge. He was a simple and austere man, and deeply religious as well. A contemporary of Aristotle, who was summoned to Macedon to teach Alexander the Great, Canakya is sometimes compared to the great Greek philosopher, and at other times he has been compared to Machiavelli, for his Artha-sastra has many similarities to The Prince. Aristotle and Canakya also have common attitudes toward republican forms of government.
The most amazing thing about Candragupta and Canakya Pandita, my friend and I were soon to find out, was that both of them were predicted in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (12.1.11-12), which was compiled almost 2,500 years before their time:
nava nandan dvijah kascit
"A certain brahmana [Canakya] will betray the trust of King Nanda and his eight sons and will destroy their dynasty. In their absence the Mauryas will rule the world as the age of Kali continues."
sa eva candraguptam vai
"This brahmana will enthrone Candragupta, whose son will be named Varisara. [Bindusara]. The son of Varisara will be Asokavardhana. [Emperor Asoka]."
These ancient Sanskrit verses fully predict the essential history of the Maurya dynasty, mentioning Candragupta and his descendants by name. Although Canakya is not specifically named, there is a clear inference, and Vaisnava commentators, such as Sridhara Swami, Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, and, currently Hridayananda dasa Goswami, say his identification with the brahmana alluded to in this text is inescapable.
A great Krsna conscious teacher of the modern age, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura (1838-1914), also found this period in history to be of importance, perhaps owing to the scriptural predictions. In 1857-58, he composed a two-part English epic entitled Poried, which he intended to complete in twelve volumes. These two books, written in lucid, melodious English verse, described the wanderings of Porus, who challenged Alexander the Great and was eventually defeated by him. According to the late prominent Indologist A. L. Basham, Porus's name derives from Paurava, which would connect him with the Kuru dynasty, the family upon which the Mahabharata centers. Bhaktivinoda Thakura's work details the story of Porus and its relation to Candragupta and Canakya Pandita. The first of his two published volumes on this subject can today be found at the British Museum in London.
The Pandita's Proverbs
In the Oriental Division of the huge Forty-second Street library, my friend and I found the Canakya-niti-darpanam, a collection of Canakya-niti-darpanam, a collection of Canakya's most famous proverbs. Here are some of my favourites:
An intelligent person moves on one foot while standing on the other. One should not abandon his previous position without having duly considered a superior position.
I really liked this quote because it reminded me of my early years in Krsna consciousness. Before becoming a devotee, I wanted to be sure that life in Krsna consciousness was everything the devotees said it was. After all, if I was to give up meat-eating, intoxication, illicit sex, and gambling, I wanted to be sure that I was getting something even better in return. So I chanted, read Srila Prabhupada's books, and associated with devotees. In this way, I "duly considered" the superior position of Krsna consciousness.
One becomes liberated by knowledge, not by shaving the head.
Krsna consciousness is not superficial. Canakya seeks to warn his audience not to be mere showbottle renunciants. If a man is going to shave his head (generally a sign of renunciation), he should do it for the right reasons. In addition, Canakya was not deprecating the shaving of one's head; he himself sported the shaved head and sikha, the tuft of hair in the back. A shaven head, while external, can be a reflection of one's internal Krsna consciousness.
What good will it do if a fool studies the scriptures? What good is it for a blind person to use a mirror?
Again superficiality is rejected. This is perhaps Canakya's most endearing quality, at least from my perspective. He is not content that someone shaves his head or studies the scriptures. It is spiritual insight, which comes from the process of Krsna consciousness and learning in disciplic succession, that separates the saints from the swindlers.
It is better to give up one's life than to live with a loss of honour. For by giving up the body one experiences only momentary misery, but by living in disgrace one suffers every day.
Here Canakya explains sreyas versus preyas, or long-term versus short-term enjoyments. Even in the material world people desire things that last. Most people would rather own a home than rent an apartment. Or they would opt for a long-term relationship rather than a casual fling.
This truth carries even greater validity on the spiritual platform. "Of the existent there is no cessation." Krsna says, "and of the nonexistent there is no endurance." In other words, if something is real it will always exist.
A dream, for instance, is considered unreal. Why? Because it comes to an end. Similarly, material life comes to an end, and therefore it is considered illusory. But spiritual life is eternal. For this reason, it is considered real in an ultimate sense.
A person who gives up things that are certain and pursues things that are uncertain loses both.
Those who understand higher, spiritual values reject gambling. Canakya advises us not to indulge our speculative tendencies. Rather, we should approach a bona fide spiritual master and in this way be certain about the goal of life. The guru receives knowledge in a disciplic succession tracing back to Lord Krsna Himself, and thus he is able to give his disciple perfect knowledge. One who receives knowledge in this way can be certain that he will attain spiritual happiness.
Even one moment of life spent cannot be regained for millions of dollars. Therefore, what greater loss is there than time spent uselessly?
Useless time is time spent in materialistic pursuits. One cannot kill time; rather, one is killed by time. Krsna in the form of kala—time—engages all men. He prefers to engage them in His direct service, and if one is so fortunate as to be directly engaged in devotional service, Krsna consciousness, then one's time is certainly being spent usefully. And "millions of dollars" cannot come close to the value of even a second in Krsna's service, which has eternal value and unlimited promise.
One should not trust a wicked person, although he may speak sweet words. Because although there may be honey on the tip of his tongue, there is poison in his heart.
Canakya Pandita here asserts the importance of being perceptive. One should not be swayed by appearances. As it is said, "Even the devil can quote scripture." In Krsna consciousness, we are taught to not only hear what a person says, but to witness his actions as well. The scriptures make it quite clear that a saintly person behaves in a particular way. Canakya concurs, warning us not to judge someone merely by the words that emanate from his lips. The genuine saint must not only speak about God but must also live a life of devotional service to Him.
Virtuous persons and fruit-laden trees bow, but fools and dry sticks break because they do not bend.
Bowing before one's superiors and especially before the Deity of the Supreme Lord is a sign of humility, and it helps one remember one's subservient position. If one refuses to do so, it is a reflection of one's arrogance (or ignorance), and it can stifle one's spiritual progress.
A man becomes great not by sitting on some high seat but through higher qualities. Can a crow become an eagle simply by sitting on the top of a palatial building?
This is again one of Canakya's famous quotes in which he disparages superficiality and blind acceptance. Krsna consciousness is a science, and an adherent is encouraged to use logic and reason as much as faith and devotion. Just because someone adopts the posture of a big guru on a high seat doesn't mean he is a qualified spiritual master. The actual qualifications are detailed in the scriptures and by the previous saints and sages.
The sounding of the mrdanga [drum] in the kirtana is proclaiming loudly that those who have no devotion to Lord Krsna are very shameful and reprehensible. This is because the mrdanga sounds "dhiktam, dhiktam," which means "Oh, great shame! Oh, great shame!"
Herein Canakya expresses his devotion to the Supreme Person, Lord Sri Krsna. Using a Sanskrit rhetorical device, the Pandita wittily shows the great shame in wasting one's life outside the service of the Supreme Lord.
Thus reflecting on Canakya's proverbs in the light of Srila Prabhupada's teachings, I felt ready to lecture at my friend's proverbs course. Armed with a storehouse of Canakya's proverbs and the even greater storehouse of Srila Prabhupada's insights into the real meaning behind them, I felt that the hardest part of my work was already done.
Harpa's no ordinary cow, and her break
by Mathuresa Dasa
A letter has arrived at Back to Godhead's Philadelphia office from Alarka dasi, a devotee at ISKCON's temple near Jarna, Sweden. Enclosed is a clipping from Icelandair's in-flight magazine about a cow who swam 2 ½ kilometers across a near-freezing Icelandic fjord. The cow, named Harpa, broke away from the herd as she was being led to a slaughterhouse in the town of Flateyri on the shore of Onundarfjordur. Plunging into the fjord, she made land on the opposite shore an hour later, unassisted, although by that time a boat crew from the local ground-sea rescue team had caught up with her.
Gudmundar Steinar Bjorgmundsson, amazed at Harpa's feat, was waiting on the shore. He bought her on the spot and led her proudly to his farm, where she made herself at home in the barn and gratefully presented Gudmundar with an udderful of milk.
Harpa's story is truly amazing, but I wonder what in the world I am supposed to do with it. Maybe I shouldn't do anything. Between complaints that I hog too much space in this magazine on the one hand, and suggestions out of the blue for article topics on the other, I'm growing mildly schizoid anyway. And now this: a sea-going cow.
But there's hidden meaning to this letter. It is significant that devotees of Krsna should find Harpa's story important. Yes, members of ISKCON hold cows sacred. Another name for Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Govinda, "He who gives pleasure to the cows." In His original form, Krsna is a cowherd boy who spends His days tending an unlimited hers of gentle, transcendental cows with His cowherd boyfriends.
So a devotee is appalled at how human society treats the cow. The sarcastic expression "sacred cow," for example, as well as the expletive "holy cow!" pain us because they evidence a disrespect, deeply rooted in the language itself, the cow's life. Modern civilised man thinks himself too smart, too scientifically advanced, too free from superstition, artificial piety, and notions of transcendence to respect, what to speak of worship, an animal.
But we don't ask you to worship. Fact is, the cow is the mother of human society because she provides milk, which is a delicious and indispensable part of man's diet. How many tons of milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, and butter man consumes daily! And yet how many cows like Harpa are daily led to slaughter? Never mind piety or transcendence. What really concerns devotees is something much more down-to-earth, something no civilisation can ignore if it wants to survive for more than a few centuries.
It's called gratitude. In this case gratitude toward a very real mother. And it is intimately connected with other indispensable qualities, like mercy and compassion. How much more men might show civilised gratitude and compassion toward each other if they could show it toward their mother. Animal-killing is not civilised. Cow-killing is indescribably base.
So leave the cow worship to us. You need to work on preliminaries like respect for your mother and gratefulness for how she feeds you.
Which brings me to another hidden meaning in this Icelandair news clipping. I have it from reliable sources that Harpa was trained at our Jarna center. Alarka dasi spent months teaching her a bovine version of the dog paddle, then shipped her to Iceland aboard one of ISKCON's submarines, where she was to infiltrate the herd and cause an uprising in Flateyri. When her efforts failed, Harpa broke away and swam the fjord. She was picked up on the other shore by Sri Rama dasa, Alarka's husband, who was using his Bjorgmundsson alias.
Good going, team. Better luck next time, Harpa.
Saved from the Clutches of Maya
"My father and the coach at UCLA were pleased with my volleyball successes, and my mother was satisfied with my academic work. But I wondered if Krsna was pleased."
by Danavira Dasa
I was born in Los Angeles in 1949. My parents were avid volleyball players. My father had been one of America's best, and my mother had been a third-team All-American. I started playing volleyball when I was for. I passed through school easily. Sports dominated my free hors, and generally my childhood was a happy one. With adolescence came dating and more sports, and I left high school with a scholarship to UCLA.
In college my motto was "Success," and my main ambition was simply to enjoy life. My grandfather had confided once to me that "Money is God." I wasn't sure about that, but neither was I sure about God. I evolved to agnosticism.
One warm Friday evening, June 9 1970, as I strolled through the campus village, I heard someone call my name. I looked around and didn't see anyone I knew. Continuing on my way, I heard someone call again. I focused on the only possible source of the sound—a saffron-robed, shaven-headed, bespectacled man about my age standing alone between a restaurant and a cinema.
Somewhat startled, I answered, "Yes?" to which he replied, "Don't you recognise me?"
Straining to get a closer look, I realised who it was.
"Beard! Beard, is that you?" I cried.
"It's me," he said reassuringly.
Bob Searight was his real name; Beard was the nickname he'd caught during his volleyball career at UCLA for sporting an extraordinary long black beard. I had just completed my third year, and he had graduated the year before in engineering. His way of life had been awfully similar to mine; in fact, I had last seen him six months before at the beach with two girlfriends.
"What in the world happened to you?" I asked.
"I joined the Hare Krsna movement three months ago," he said.
"My God, I don't believe it!" I responded candidly.
Up to that time, me encounters with Hare Krsna were the musical play Hair and the occasional sight of a group of them dancing and chanting on Hollywood Boulevard. My date and I had chuckled as we passed the small clan of cymbal- and drum-playing devotees, who we guessed were burning incense to enhance their drug experiences. I just couldn't have cared less about them.
Bob serenely explained how he had experienced a higher consciousness that led him naturally toe renounce material pursuits, epitomised by meat-eating, intoxication, illicit sex, and gambling.
I couldn't believe Beard was saying these things. I challenged his newly discovered denials. Especially dubious was the sex stricture.
He explained how illicit sex was a waste of valuable human energy. As for his vegetarian diet—"Everything we eat," Bob explained, "should be offered first to Lord Krsna, who created everything, and who doesn't accept animal flesh. Besides, it causes senseless cruelty for the sake of our taste buds. And intoxication further bewilders the already illusioned soul into dreaming and degradation."
I fired question like bullets, but his answers were convincing, and they destroyed many of my prized conceptions. There was a certain sweetness and peacefulness in Bob's demeanor. His transformation loomed impressive and attractive.
To support his statements he quoted Bhagavad-gita As It Is and other ancient Vedic scriptures. He explained that Krsna is accepted as God my many great Vedic sages. We are all Krsna's eternal servants, and if we revive our relationship with Him through bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, our life will be sublime. He told me how Krsna had come five hundred years ago as Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu to teach the chanting of the maha-mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—as the process for self-realisation in this age.
"We are not these bodies but the eternal spiritual soul within. So all our endeavors for worldly pleasures are nonsense."
"Even volleyball?" I asked.
"Yes," he replied, "just a waste of time."
After an hour's discussion, I decided to swear of the four sinful activities Bob had mentioned. Although I was proud, I felt thoroughly defeated. But I was happy. I bought a Bhagavad-gita As It Is, by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Bob also handed me a Back to Godhead magazine and a package of Spiritual Sky incense.
We walked around the block to where a few dozen devotees were singing Hare Krsna and dancing. It was irresistible. They were surprised when I joined them and started chanting with my arms upraised just as they were doing. They invited me to a Sunday Feast at the temple, and I promised to come.
I drove home and dove into the Gita. Line after line, page after page, the wisdom issued forth like and irrepressible geyser bathing my parched heart. I used to sing a song, "What kind of fool am I, who never fell in love, ... a lonely cell in which my empty heart must dwell?" Although in my search for a perfect lover I had never thought of God as the one, now I learned that our loving propensity is properly reposed in Him alone. Other earthly relationships, based on individual or mutual gratification, are not really love but lust, at best faint reflections of our original relationship with God. Sensual desire produce frustration, karmic reactions, and more births in this world of suffering, whereas transcendental self-realisation produces eternity, knowledge, and bliss.
After reading for hours, I finally dozed off and awakened shortly after 6:00 A.M. for the Volleyball Beach Championships in San Diego. I ate a breakfast of fruit and nuts and drove two hours to San Diego, chanting Hare Krsna the whole way.
My career in volleyball had been successful: I was voted Most Valuable Player by the NCAA (National College Athletic Association) for 1970, and I was headed for the U.S. Olympic team. My father and the coach at UCLA were pleased with my volleyball successes, and my mother was satisfied with my academic work. But I wondered if Krsna was pleased.
As I stepped out onto the court for the first match, Krsna's words echoed in my head: "Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer or give away, and whatever austerities you perform—do that as an offering to Me." I picked up the ball and froze.
After a long pause, I told a teammate I couldn't play and confessed my plan to take up Krsna consciousness seriously. He graciously appreciated my resolution. Others didn't, however, and they expressed their disapproval to me as I headed toward the parking lot. Their pleas proved to be of no avail; my mind was determined.
At the Sunday Feast at the Los Angeles temple, I bowed on seeing the founder and guru of the Hare Krsna movement, Srila Prabhupada. Krsna could not have sent a more suitable person to dispel my hesitance. Even his authentic stature as a 75-year-old Indian swami, fluent in Sanskrit and the Vedic conclusions, helped disarm my resistance.
I told my family and friends that I planned to become a Hare Krsna devotee in six months. But the next week proved awkward, with my novice attempts at abandoning earthly possessions. I gave away some new clothes and stereo equipment to close friends, and, in an unconventional twist, I took my girlfriend to the temple for a date. I had hoped she and my friends and my parents would share my enthusiasm, but they certainly did not. They thought I was crazy.
Day by day my material attachments loosened. By chanting Hare Krsna I lost interest in intoxication, volleyball, and feminine lures. By tasting delicious krsna-prasadam I lost the taste for other foods. I was convinced that the knowledge I was receiving surpassed all other education. In short, Krsna consciousness became paramount for me.
Although I was very happy about becoming a devotee, I tried to look at Krsna consciousness objectively. My reasoning went something like this: If Krsna is real and His promises for bliss in the afterlife are valid, then accepting His instructions brings gain; conversely, rejecting them brings loss. If Krsna consciousness is not real and the soul does not exist, then afterlives are meaningless and only this life counts. If only this life counts, then gaining pleasure here is the goal. Since the pleasure I'm experiencing now is at least equal to that achieved from worldly pursuits, I have nothing to lose but everything to gain in Krsna consciousness.
I also reflected on the economics law of diminishing marginal returns, which states that the more one tries to enjoy a material things, the less one enjoys each successive unit of that thing. On the other hand, Krsna teaches that spiritual pleasure is an unlimited ocean of expanding joy. Repeated experience had convinced me of the truth of the former statement, while the latter proposition was beginning to sound tenable; undoubtedly, the more I became involved with Krsna consciousness, the more I liked it.
I moved into the temple the next Sunday. Despite the austerities, I felt at home with Krsna and His devotees. My parents felt betrayed, though. "What in God's name are you doing?" my mother asked.
I was as shocked as they were, since honestly the last occupation I'd ever expected to adopt was to be a Hare Krsna devotee. Only a week before I didn't know a svami or yogi from a fire-eater or a cartoon bear. It must have been the causeless mercy of Krsna that arranged everything so swiftly.
On my very first morning at the temple, after breakfast I reported for duties to the temple commander, Visnujana dasa. "Please go and find Ekendra," he said, "and he'll show you how to wash Krsna's cars."
I found Ekendra, a five-year-old boy outside near the cars. A little amused, I spoke up, "I'm supposed to help with the cars."
"Yes," he said, "take that bucket with the soapy water and sponge and rub of all the dirt first."
I happily did as I was instructed, somewhat marveling at the efficiency level here. We talked a bit while cleaning, and he asked me a question about Krsna philosophy. I answered, "Well, I'm not sure, but I think..."
"Don't speculate!" He interrupted.
That was first day's lesson.
The next month we all joined Srila Prabhupada in San Francisco for the annual Ratha-yatra parade and festival in Golden Gate Park. Just before the procession was to begin, someone brought Srila Prabhupada the first ten copies of the two-volume hardcover Krsna book, fresh from the printer in Japan. He showed them the crowd, drawing their attention to the one hundred pages of paintings, depicting Krsna's pastimes on earth five thousand years ago. We had only heard of these stories, and everyone was ecstatic to behold the wonderful books.
Then Srila Prabhupada said, "I'm going to sell them for $10 each. Who would like to buy?"
This was the first time I felt a little remorse about having donated all my money to the temple. I didn't have a penny. And to make it worse, a friend of mine from high school, Tom, happened to be there, and he immediately bought a Krsna book. He wasn't even a devotee! But he got the mercy anyway, directly from Srila Prabhupada's hands. In a few minutes all the copies were sold, with not one left for the author.
One of the most memorable parts of the festival was meeting Jayananda dasa, its organiser. He was a transcendental John Wayne. He was marvelous. Big, strong, and friendly, he built the forty-foot-high chariots, got the permission for the festival, arranged for the decorations, the feast, the advertising, and so on. He slept under the cart at night with a band as assistants, and he could solicit dozens of passers-by into helping with the preparations for Lord Jagannatha's festival. I asked him a question:
"How do you become happy?"
"I don't know," he innocently replied. "I'm too busy to think about it."
But he was always blissful and active, working tirelessly, and he inspired others to do the same.
After the festival, back in Los Angeles, Bob continued to nurse me during my early days, with his friendliness and quotations from scripture.
One day he announced that this day would be the most important day of his life—his initiation by a bone fide spiritual master. He received the name Madhukanta dasa. I, too, was initiated by Srila Prabhupada some months later with the name Danavira dasa, "the servant of the hero of charities."
Srila Prabhupada wrote to me, "You have a very dear friend in Sriman Madhukanta, for he has actually saved you from the clutches of Maya [illusio].... Be very firm in your vows...."
Chanting is easy, and it works. In fact, it is the most effective means of God realization in the world.
Here's why. God is unlimitedly powerful, and His name is Himself. When we chant God's names, God is totally present through the transcendental sound. So potent are God's names that the Vedic scriptures consider chanting the essectial, universal religion of the age.
So why don't more people chant?
Maybe they're embarrassed. Or busy. Or doubtful. Or maybe they think chanting is a sectarian religious practice—something only for the Hare Krishnas.
Yet what could be less sectarian than calling out to God? All the great scriptures of the world praise the holy names of God. God's names may vary from religion to religion or from culture to culture, but the person—the supreme father of all—is the same.
Don't be embarrassed. Chanting is for everyone. Don't feel you're too busy. Chanting is easy. And don't remain doubtful. Try chanting and see the results.
Chant. It's easy, effective, and universal.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Krsna consciousness Legal in the USSR
Moscow—After many years of struggle by members of the Krsna consciousness movement in the USSR, Soviet authorities have finally accepted Krsna consciousness as a legal religion recognised by the state. The legalisation is a great victory for the devotees here, many of whom have spent time in prisons, psychiatric hospitals, and labour camps for their practice of Krsna consciousness.
The Committee to Free Soviet Hare Krishnas said that the legalisation was brought about in large part by the efforts of devotees around the world whose demonstrations, letters to Soviet authorities, and work with the media have drawn attention to the plight of the Soviet devotees.
As a recognised religion, the Krsna consciousness movement can now maintain a place of worship here. The devotees are looking for a building to rent and are making plans to eventually build their own temple. Because it may take some time before the legalisation of Krsna consciousness is recognised in other areas of the USSR, many devotees will be coming to Moscow from throughout the USSR to take advantage of the religious freedom here.
Despite the legalisation, however, three devotees remain unjustly imprisoned and subjected to inhuman treatment. The Committee to Free Soviet Hare Krishnas is working to free them and asks for continued support.
Soviet Devotee Meets With Pope
The Vatican—Vedavyasa dasa (Valentin Z. Yurov), who was released from a Soviet psychiatric hospital in 1985, and several other devotees met with Pope John Paul II here in a private room knows as "the room of the holy throne." The meeting with the Pope was arranged by Father Sergio Merganzin, chairman of a freedom of religion conference held in Rome recently at which Vedavyasa spoke.
Vedavyasa presented the Pope with Russian translations of Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is and Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. On receiving the books, the Pope said, "Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna—Hare Krsna comes from Hinduism." When he was introduced to Italian-born Gaura Krsna dasa, the Pope remarked, "Hare Krsna Italiani."
Vedavyasa was released from a Soviet psychiatric hospital because of the efforts of his fiancee, Mitravinda-devi dasi, who protested in front of the Soviet Embassy in Stockholm. Since his release in 1985, Vedavyasa has been traveling around the world to talk about the persecution of Soviet devotee of Krsna.
India's Spiritual Renaissance, by Satyaraja dasa, is getting good reviews from scholars. Dr. A. N. Chatterjee, professor of history at Delhi University, said the book is "both historically accurate and spiritually uplifting." Ajjarapu Prabhakara Rao, of the National Library of India, said the book is "much needed and useful contribution to the study of Gaudia Vaishnavism." And Al-Hafiz B. A. Masrim, retired Iman (Sunni) of Shah Jehan Mosque in Working, England, said, "The non-sectarian message he brings out in Chaitanya's teachings is reminiscent of all true religions.... The essence of Chaitanya's message was non-sectarian devotion to the Supreme Lord, called by different names in different languages."
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Devotees in Regina, Saskatchewan, have moved from a large house in the downtown area to a church. They have built an altar and are raising money to install Radha-Krsna Deities. ISKCON has been in Regina for ten years, and around forty families there are life members.
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Samadhi Now!, the newsletter on the progress of the construction of Srila Prabhupada's Vrndavana samadhi, will now be published by Brahmatirtha dasa of Alachua, Florida. Money is still needed to complete the project. In North America, donations and correspondence should be sent to Brahmatirtha dasa, P.O. Box 819, Alachua, FL 32615. In Australia, to Naresvara dasa, P.O. Box 262 Botany, NSW 2019.
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On Rama-navami (March 26), Navayogendra Swami led the largest harinama sankirtana procession in the history of Udhampura, an important city in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Navayogendra Swami has been preaching in Udhampur for the last year.
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The government of Argentina has abolished all decrees that prohibited ISKCON's activities there for the past seven years. Government oppression was formerly so severe—with raids on temples and burnings of Srila Prabhupada's books—that the devotees were forced to operate under the guise of a welfare group whose only concern was to give food to the needy. They can now preach openly and have printed a Spanish edition of Bhagavad-gita As It Is. They also publish a bi-monthly magazine, entitled Atma-Tattva. The magazine is selling well, despite Argentina's suffering from one of the worst economies in the world. In Buenos Aires, devotees have opened the first Hare Krsna restaurant in Argentina.
High-tech training of Olympic athletes
by Stambha Dasa
Once every four years, human society is presented with the great spectacle called the Olympics, full of stirring images of human endeavour and achievement. In magazines and on television—even on postage tamps—everywhere are the exciting figures of exuberant young bodies running and jumping, lifting and diving, their intense exertions reaping for some the fruits of lavish praise, medals of gold, and the pleasures derived from a sense of accomplishment and honor.
As we behold any masterful performance of this sort, the rest of us may quite naturally be moved to think how thrilling it would be to perform with such speed, power, and grace, just as one might dream of playing some instrument and spontaneously producing beautiful music that gives expression to one's deepest feelings. Apart from these fantasies, though, we know that even patently gifted persons engage in countless hours of practice with expert guidance—often aided by expensive high-tech equipment—to be able to manifest such feats.
This great Olympic spectacle inspires us, then, to consider what accomplishments might be possible for us. Do we have latent abilities that might be brought forth quickly or greatly enhanced by the application of the new technologies and techniques we hear about? And would we want to do these things even if we could? Would it be worth the cost in time and energy and tension to become a gold medal winner, an accomplished specialist in some field?
In assessing the cost, we are well aware that the energy expended for results in one area is thus made unavailable for investment elsewhere. Unknown numbers of other possibilities will remain forever unrealised once we have limited ourselves to acting upon the choice that has been made. For example, one couldn't be developing a closer relationship with a friend or spouse and at the same time be pole vaulting with full concentration.
And so the thought may then arise that "Perhaps I wouldn't want to sacrifice so much of life by focusing so intensely on just one area. Maybe I should spread my resources a little thinner and gain a broader experience of the possibilities life holds." But then of course one runs the risk of becoming not merely a dilettante but someone who gradually becomes habituated to vacillation, noncommitment, and noninvolvement—another one of millions of spectators who move about like so many shadows in our society. Passively trickling into the stadiums and theatres to merely watch and perhaps dream of being like their idols, they have no real life-flow of their own, only the shining images of their stars glimmering upon the surface of their minds along with their own projected fantasies.
Those not so inured sense a tragic loss in this modern limbo. Apart from the health considerations of such passivity, there is a more disturbing feeling that somehow real life is being missed. The opium den's sickening-sweet scent of surrender hands about the living rooms where the self-proclaimed "couch potatoes" undergo a parody of growth in the mutagenic glow of the tube.
All too frequently confronted with this pervasive vortex of inaction, ineptitude, and ennui in our modern society, we find the hustle and bustle of the athletes a relief, and their dedication and determination to overcome their limits and set new records an inspiration and a challenge to our own acceptance of different forms of limitation.
In recent years our concepts of what is possible for human beings have been greatly expanded by the application of new methods of analysis of physical and mental processes. "We look at the human body as if it were a machine," says Dr. Charles Dillman, one of the scientists who has worked with U.S. athletes at Olympic training centers. "For us, muscles and limbs are pulleys and levers with their own measurable moments of inertia and torque. For every motion in each sport, we hope to find something close to an optimal movement of the body, whether it be the most efficient way a hockey player can accelerate on the ice or the maximum torso rotation over the high-jump bar."
Observation of the laws of physics and the application of concepts of mechanical efficiency have brought about the use of machines like the ubiquitous Nautilus, as well as a number of other devices for developing the body. Now there is even something called "Electrical Muscle Stimulation" (EMS), in which electrodes strapped to the skin deliver a mild electric current to the muscles, making them twitch and flex and thus grow bigger. Since the nerve signals that normally stimulate muscles are themselves electrical pulses, EMS can lead to enhanced muscle bulk and definition. Whether or not strength is increased as well as bulk remains a question, but this does not seem to bother many of the young professional men who form the principal clientele at most salons.
In addition to these "biomechanical" analyses of the body, there has been an increase in the analysis of the human mind that plots the competitive strategies, guides the senses, and controls the emotions of the would-be superstars. Here again we find we find many mechanistic concepts, with a great deal of computer lingo, talk of proper mental "programming," and so forth.
Noting the connections between states of relaxed concentration, with their accompanying brain-wave frequencies, and enhanced possibilities for suggestion and learning, scientists and entrepreneurs have sought to make more readily available through technology some of the great "mind-over-body" control experienced by yogis in deep meditation after prolonged physical and mental cultivation.
One of the specialists assisting U.S. athletes uses a form of visualisation called "Visual Motor Behavioral Rehearsal" to "program," as he says, mind and body to work together for the event. Flotation tanks, soothing musical tapes, and alpha-wave-producing "brain machines" are often used to create the relaxed state seen to be an important part of this process. They are also used with hypnosis and subliminal suggestions to break down undesirable emotional, behavioural, and thought patterns as a necessary preliminary to effecting desired changes in personality and performance.
Many things thus seem possible now that were scarcely dreamed-of before. In sports, for example, the concept of "EMG cloning" has recently been introduced. This technique seeks to employ procedures developed in dealing with stroke victims, whereby computer-stored electromyograms of the patterns of normal muscle activity are played back through electrodes to stimulate the muscles of the victim. In the EMG cloning concept this same principle would be applied to produce the muscle patterns of superstars in other athletes.
EMG cloning, the use of anabolic steroids, and a number of other controversial new techniques based on biomechanical analysis have caused some to wonder if we may not be awarding medals to synthetic athlete-cyborgs. Thus new fuel is added to an old controversy: Is the human body just a machine? And—even more disquieting for many—is the human brain just a computer? Is there anything we can do that machines cannot?
Back as far as the 1600s, Descartes suggested that the human body "be considered as a kind of machine," and these days the machine is widely used as a metaphor for human existence—and not surprisingly: even children play with computers now. Biomechanics, robotics, and artificial intelligence have become quite common in sports and industry, and androids and cyborgs frequently appear in science fiction books and films.
In a popular movie of a few years back, Blade Runner, the hero, played by Harrison Ford, drove off with his girl for the traditional happy ending—even though he knew she was an android! A very advanced, organic android, to be sure, a very attractive illusion of humanness with a brain-unit containing two trillion constituents. In the book version, Rachael the android tells our hero that having sex with an android is "convincing if you don't think too much about it. But if you think too much," she says, "if you reflect on what you're doing—then you can't go on ... don't think about it, just do it. Don't pause and be philosophical, because from a philosophical standpoint it's dreary."
While the thought of android sex may be somewhat dreary, the thought of being an android is downright bleak. Perhaps that's why so many people rush to take advantage of the by-products of the results of observing the machinelike nature of the human body and mind but scrupulously avoid reflecting on the implications that might spoil the show. Yet increasingly subtle analysis of the body and brain is leading us to precisely this conclusion—that we're nothing more than androids.
In fact, with the development of modern physics, our comfortable concepts of ourselves have been undermined in an even more fundamental sense. Our bodies—and, for that matter, all the physical phenomena that make up the familiar world of our experience—which at one time had seemed to be such solid physical matter, were first revealed to be congeries of atoms and molecules. Then Einstein showed that matter is a form of energy and that even the particles cannot be thought of as separate from the space that surrounds them. Now quantum theory characterises particles as only "having a tendency to exist," and matter has in effect been reduced to a kind of mathematical fiction. Our so-called real world now seems to be based upon a phantom world consisting of transformations of energy.
The parallels between these concepts in physics and the Sankhya cosmology of the Vedic knowledge, with its philosophy of maya, or cosmic illusion, have not gone unnoticed. A number of books have come out in recent years exploring those areas in which physics and "Eastern philosophy" tend to agree that the universe is really a dynamic interplay of varying aspects of energy and consciousness.
This feature of consciousness is the crucial factor for consideration. The question is not whether the human brain is like a computer. According to the Vedic philosophy, these mechanistic metaphors, though crude in their present form, are essentially correct in envisioning the human body and brain-mind as mechanisms; in fact, the word used for the body is the Bhagavad-gita is yantra, or "machine," and the subtle mental bodies are often referred to as "vehicles."
The Vedic philosophy goes beyond these manifestations of material energy, however, and describes consciousness as being of an altogether different nature. Consciousness is the symptom of the true self, referred to as atma in the Vedas. This self is a spiritual being, different from and unattached to the machinelike material bodies and minds he inhabits in material existence. The self is the constant, conscious principle underlying all the perpetually changing states of psychological consciousness, such as waking "conscious" awareness, the so-called "subconscious," and the dream state. The self is capable of things no android will ever do. The self desires, wills, and loves, although—and mark this well—when the self expresses these through the mechanisms of the material body and mind (the firing of synapses and the creation between these events and their reproduction by some analogous material mechanism becomes blurred.
The nature of the real, spiritual self is described by the terms sat, cit, and ananda. The self is eternal—he has always existed and always will. The self is full of knowledge, and the self is by nature blissful in a manner transcending all the temporary and relative forms of so-called pleasure experienced through matter.
And now here is the real point: In all our endeavors for knowledge or gold medals, we are really seeking to overcome the limitations on our natural eternality, knowledge, and happiness. We seek to become "Olympians" (godlike, immortal) because we are eternal and this imposition of death is terribly unnatural. In forgetfulness of this fact, however, and not knowing how to re-experience our original consciousness, we are forced to try symbolically to transcend the limitations of time and space by beating the clock or vaulting over a bar. Through games, in other words—be they favoured with the name "Olympic" or otherwise. But precisely because they are mere games, symbolic victories only, they cannot offer true happiness, but merely some manufactured challenges and consolation prizes in the face of inevitable death.
Our plight is that we chosen to dream of being something we are not, in a situation that obscures our true connection and relation with the greater whole of which we are all parts, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna. This material cosmos, somewhat like a multidimensional holographic projection interacting with its observer, is the stage where we act out our delusions of separateness from Krsna through a series of alter-egos, which are like the karate figures on the screen of an arcade video game with which the player identifies himself.
It is this identification with the material alter-ego that involves the consciousness of the real self in the transformations of matter, which appear to his mind and body—according to the nature of the "hardware," "software," and "programming" he has received—as pain and pleasure. These "read-outs," reflected in the consciousness of the self, where it has been projected into the material mind, are then taken by the self to be his own feelings. This false ego is the knot that binds the consciousness of the self to the play of the material energy.
Therefore, the pursuit of real "gold medal" happiness begins first with dismantling the underlying delusion and the false ego responsible for the innumerable desires for material objects and situations. These desires keep the mind constantly agitated as it schemes and plans to satisfy them, only to discover that as soon as one is satisfied another quickly pops up. As these are removed, consciousness can gradually shift to more and more refined states in which the light of truth becomes increasingly reflected. "The greatest common understanding for all yogis," the Srimad-Bhagavatam extols, "is complete detachment from matter, which can be achieved by different kinds of yoga."
In astanga ("eight-fold") yoga, the yoga that includes the exercises with which the term yoga is commonly associated in the West, this process of refinement is really a kind of progressive withdrawal of consciousness away from the grosser mechanisms like the physical organs and into increasingly subtle vehicles of mental energy. But astanga-yoga is totally impractical in our age. With the exception of a very few "gifted" yogis who have already spent many lives reaching their present levels, those endeavouring on this path—even with the assistance of such things as alpha-wave-generating "instant meditation" machines—are largely wasting time and deluding themselves.
Vedic cosmology describes the evolution of the universe as cyclic, there being a cycle of four ages, or yugas, that the universe repeatedly passes through. The age we are now in, which began approximately 5,000 years ago, is called Kali-yuga. Far from being the "Age of Aquarius" so wistfully imagined by naive New Agers, Kali-yuga is a 432,000- year-long devolution, a progressive breaking down of a universal pattern to total disorganisation.
In such a time as this, what can be done? What reasonable hope of spiritual progress is there?
In the Katha Upanisad it is stated that although there are innumerable spiritual living beings, among all of them is one supreme living entity who is the Absolute Godhead, the Lord of all. Throughout the Vedic literature it is stated that this supreme being is Krsna, the Personality of Godhead. In the Bhagavad-gita, Krsna explains that He Himself enters into the cosmic manifestation periodically as an avatara for the benefit of the conditioned souls. The avatara descends into the cloud of material energy, where the "movie lot" is manifesting and erring souls are acting out their robot romances and android adventures with special effects created by Krsna's illusory potency. By His teaching and actions the avatara re-establishes the principles that once again make clear the distinction between playing games and actual living, and that make the return to real life possible.
At the end of the previous age, just before the beginning of Kali-yuga, Lord Krsna appeared and left His instructions in the form of Bhagavad-gita, in which He asked all living entities to abandon their egoistic desires and pursuits and take up their true positions in relation to the Supreme. He promised that for anyone who did so, He would Himself cut the intricate network of chains of cause and effect (karma) that bind the conditioned soul to the wheel of repeated birth and death.
Since the beginning of Kali-yuga, however, people have been practically unable to surrender to Krsna, being victimised by ever-increasing materialism and a deteriorating environment, which combine to further the obfuscation of the soul's covered spiritual instincts. Therefore, five hundred years ago, Lord Krsna appeared again as Sri Krsna Caitanya just to teach the world how to surrender unto the Supreme Lord in this difficult age.
Lord Caitanya, popularly known as Gaura, or "golden," because of His brilliant golden aura, offered a special dispensation of the age of Kali, namely that by humbly and sincerely chanting the names of God, we can free our consciousness from contamination. Lord Caitanya taught that the name of God is the sound incarnation of God. Thus, by chanting the holy name of Krsna one can directly associate with the Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead, by sound vibration. As one does so, one's consciousness naturally becomes purified of all illusion, and one's original, formant Krsna consciousness is uncovered, just as a cloud dissipates in the presence of the mighty sun, leaving the clear sky. Furthermore, the seeds of latent reactions to one's sins are all nullified by this process, just as seeds that have been cooked will never germinate. Thus freed of all material contamination, the soul returns to the spiritual world in his original, spiritual body, where he eternally experiences the highest perfection of life and spiritual ecstasy in variegated relationships with the Supreme Lord and the liberated souls.
Faced with these wonderful possibilities, will we then remain "couch potatoes," languishing amid the stage props of maya, dreaming of fool's gold, or will we truly "go for the gold"—the greatest happiness of all, awarded by the merciful Golden Avatara? The choice is ours.
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 3: Your Divine Grace, you're saying we can see the Lord only by consulting the scriptures and the succession of bonafide spiritual masters. But supposedly, Lord Krsna is eternal, or indestructible. So surely He must be existing today. Which means we should be able to see Him now.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, Krsna is existing. For instance, the sun is existing, but at night you have no eyes to see the sun. That does not mean the sun does not exist. It is your deficiency—at night you cannot see the sun.
Srila Prabhupada: Whatever it may be. The thing is, although the sun is always existing, you require qualification to see the sun at night. Similarly, although Krsna always exists, you must be qualified to see Him in the night of this material world.
That qualification is described in the Brahma-samhita: premanjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena santah sadaiva hrdayesu vilokayanti. Those who are saintly persons and in ecstatic love with Krsna—they are seeing Him twenty-four hours a day. That is not very difficult to understand. If you love somebody, you are seeing him or her always. Is it not?
Reporter 3: That's so.
Srila Prabhupada: So seeing Krsna requires the qualification of love. Then Krsna will be visible twenty-four hours a day. He'll talk with you. These things are described. Tesam satata-yuktanam bhajatam priti-purvakam dadami buddhi-yogam tam: "To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give intelligence." That means He talks. "I give intelligence." Unless He talks, how can He give intelligence—"You do this"? So you have to qualify yourself to see and hear Krsna. But Krsna is always present.
Reporter 5: Your Divine Grace, there are many svamis and gurus and religious people throughout the world. How does one know which is the true guru—the one who can help one qualify oneself to see and hear Krsna?
Srila Prabhupada: One who knows Krsna—he is the true guru. Otherwise, he's a rascal. That's all.
Reporter 5: But what is the test of a true guru?
Srila Prabhupada: He will describe about Krsna. He will ask you to become a devotee of Krsna. His business is to propagate consciousness of Krsna. That is the symptom of the guru.
Reporter 7: Srila Prabhupada, if we don't know what Krsna is and still we get a bona fide spiritual master, then what do we call that? Our good fortune?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. That is stated in Caitanya-caritamrta: brahmanda bhramite kona bhagyavan jiva guru-krsna-prasade paya bhakti-lata-bija: "The living entity is wandering throughout the universe, life after life. By the mercy of the guru and Krsna, he gets the seed of devotional service to the Lord." [To disciple:} Read the explanation given in The Teachings of Lord Caitanya.
Disciple: "Within this brahmanda, or universe, there are innumerable living entities, ..."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Disciple: " . . . and according to their own fruitive activities they are transmigrating from one species of life to another, and from one planet to another. In this way their engagement in material existence is being continued since time immemorial. The living entities are atomic parts and parcels of the Supreme Spirit. There is, however, a measurement for the length and breadth of the atomic spiritual spark. It is said in the commentary to Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.87.36) that if you divide the tip of a hair into one hundred parts, and again if you divide one part of that into another one hundred parts, such one-ten-thousandth part of the tip of a hair is the length and breadth of the individual soul. This is also confirmed in the Vedas, in the Svetasvatara Upanisad.
"The atomic magnitude of the individual living entity is again described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.87.30), as follows: 'O Supreme Truth! If the living entities were not infinitesimal living sparks of the Supreme Spirit, then each minute spark would be all-pervading, and there would be no necessity of its being controlled by superior power.' "
Srila Prabhupada: That is very important. Otherwise, if you the living entity were equal to the Supreme Being, then, for example, you could talk of everything that is going on in another's mind or body. But you cannot say what I am thinking. I cannot say what you are thinking. Therefore, you and I are not all-pervading. We are limited. That is the position of the living entity. This is a very nice example. [To disciple:] Go on.
Disciple: " 'But if the constitution of the living entity is accepted as being the minute part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, then automatically he becomes a controlled living entity under supreme energy or power. This is his constitutional position. Therefore, if he remains as he is created in that natural position, he can attain full freedom.' "
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. We are created as being controlled. So instead of aspiring to become the controller, if we remain controlled, that is our natural position. But some rascals—they are trying to become the controller.
"I am supreme. By meditation I have become God?"
But if you are God, then how have you become a dog?
This is going on. These cheating, so-called gurus—do they not say, "I am God"? Do they not say, "I am God, you are God, everyone is God"?
Reporter 3: Some might say that, but . . .
Srila Prabhupada: So some so-called gurus do say that. I am talking about that "some." Not all of them are foolish. So these foolish persons—they say that "I am God, you are God, everyone is God." That is foolishness. We are not God. We are part and parcel of God. We are qualitatively one with Him—but we are not the Supreme Being.
(To be continued)
We welcome your letters.
Congratulations for the special issue of Back to Godhead devoted to Krsna consciousness in the USSR. It was most timely and has served to focus people's attention on the antagonistic attitude of the Russian authorities toward the devotees of God. The four regulative principles followed by the Hare Krsna devotees are a guarantee of their exemplary behaviour. Moreover, the chanting of Hare Krsna maha-mantra is not only good for those who chant, but also serves as a blessing for those who happen to listen to it. Such a group of peaceful and God-loving people could only be an asset to any society.
Dr. D. R. Sharma
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We and many of our friends who receive or look at your magazine have been feeling for some years that an improvement is needed, and finally it is time to let you know in writing. We would like more of the beautiful and cosmic pictures of Lord Krsna in full color. We feel that that is the paramount purpose of your magazine, to focus of Him, and that far too much space is give to unnecessary pictures of our modern world or other concepts, many of which are ugly. If you were to include more of the most magnificent pictures each month, and preferably none of the other silly concepts or objects of criticism, you would find that the fulfillment and fruit of your purpose would come better and sooner.
Taansen and Shirsha Sumeru
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I appreciated Mathuresa dasa's article "The Acre/Cow Theory" [May issue], yet the tone of the essay (though it was very humorous and personal) indicated that the author is one of the devotees who still have some doubts that simple living can work comfortably outside of India or some other third-world country, such as the Philippines.
Self-sufficiency need not be very austere and difficult. Sure some hard work is required in the beginning, but please don't even jestingly speak of "perishing before the end of the summer" or "freezing to death" the first winter. I realise that Mathuresa may have been employing a literary device to win the sympathy of the readers, but still I feel we should all rather boldly put forth the conclusion, which has been confirmed by Srila Prabhupada, that a man can live quite easily without any modern conveniences, just by working six or eight weeks a year. And this can be done even in cold climates. People must simply learn the art.
MATHURESA DASA REPLIES: While I don't doubt that simple living with an acre of land and a cow can work, I don't know of even one Western devotee of Krsna who is living that way. Even if someone has land and a cow, he relies on machinery and outside jobs. This is also the common experience outside of the Krsna consciousness movement.
So although my jesting may have been a literary device, it is also a matter of honesty to admit that I personally (like other devotees) have not been willing or able to practice the lifestyle we all agree is ideal.
If I can't yet practice what I preach, the preaching is empty, and self-effacements is necessary if I am to be heard at all. We need an example of a devotee putting the acre/cow theory into practice.
What can Krsna consciousness possibly
by Caitanya-Rupa-Devi Dasi
Several times lately I have come upon an attitude best summed up in the following letter I receive from a friend:
As a child I was an altar boy in the Catholic Church. In my teens I studied with the Franciscan monks, and in my 20's I was reading the Koran and worshiping Allah. at around age 25 I became a born-again Christian and three years later found myself a pastor preaching to hundreds on a radio program. Based on my extensive experiences with different religions, I can understand that they are basically all the same. Each has a set of standards to reach the same goal, perfection, and each thinks its way is the only way. I got some literature from one of your temples recently with pictures of the devotees laughing and dancing, and I thought, Here it is again, the same propaganda I used write for the Church. "Just join us and do what we say and you can also be happy and perfect." So although I think Krsna consciousness is one of many paths to God, I don't believe it is superior to any other religion.
While my friend makes some good points, he has some basic misunderstandings about Krsna consciousness.
First of all, let's examine the word religion. In Sanskrit, the word most often used for religion is dharma. But dharma denotes more than just a particular sect one joins for worshiping God. Dharma literally means "the essence of a thing," it's reason for being. The dharma of sugar is sweetness; the dharma of fire is heat. The ancient Vedas of India, the oldest scriptures on earth, give this explanation for the dharma of human being: "The supreme occupation [dharma] for all humanity is that by which men can attain to the loving devotional service unto the transcendental Lord" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.6).
In other words, the duty of every human being is to love and serve God. It doesn't matter whether one is a Christian, a Buddhist, a Hindu, or a member of any other group. If he is being taught and is practicing religious principles, then he is on the spiritual path and will make progress toward God. But Krsna consciousness is more than just a sectarian religion. In Krsna consciousness one can learn the highest knowledge of the Absolute Truth, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and that knowledge is essential for one to progress toward the goal of awakening pure love for God.
It is not possible to love someone unless you know something about that person. If I were to tell you that I have a friend whom you are really going to love, but I don't tell you anything about this friend—what his interests are, what he likes and dislikes, how he looks, what kind of person he is—it would be very difficult for you to love him, wouldn't it? Similarly, it isn't possible for us to fully love God (and thus want to be reunited with Him in loving service) unless we know exactly who it is we are supposed to love.
The Vedic scriptures give this concise definition of God: "Learned transcendentalist who know the Absolute Truth call this nondual substance Brahman, Paramatma, or Bhagavan." Thus it is explained that God, whose eternal form is composed of knowledge and bliss, has three features. Brahman is His impersonal feature, what many call the "white light," or the energy of God. One who realises the Brahman feature of God attains eternity but no knowledge or bliss. In the Caitanya-caritamrta it is stated that what is described as impersonal Brahman is but the effulgence of the body of the Supreme Person.
The next feature of God is Paramatma, or the Supersoul. God is within the heart of every living entity, traveling with the individual souls from body to body as they try to enjoy in this material world. Yet Paramatma is but a portion of God, and realisation of Him brings one eternity and knowledge but not full bliss.
The highest realisation of God is of Bhagavan, or the Supreme Person. As we are persons with forms, relationships, and activities, God is also. In fact, He is the source of all other persons, as He is the original creator of everything and everyone. It is only in the Bhagavan feature of God that eternity and full knowledge and bliss are present.
Many religionists accept that God is a person, but beyond that they don't have much knowledge of what kind of person He is. They may know that He is powerful or great, but that alone will not enable them to love God as they would love someone in this world whom they know intimately. For intimate knowledge of God, we must again turn to the Vedas.
God comes to this material world in many incarnations to accept the service of His devotees and teach them how to return to Him. But the original name of God is Krsna, "the all-attractive one." In His highest feature God, or Krsna, lives in the spiritual world, known as Goloka Vrndavana, and has loving relationships with His devotees in five ways: (1) in neutrality, as one who is adored; (2) in servitude, as one who is served with great awe and reverence; (3) in friendship, in which He plays with boyfriends much as children play in this world; (4) in parental affection, in which He becomes the loving child under the protective care of His devotees; and (5) in conjugal love, in which He shares the most intimate reciprocation with His confidential devotees as lover or husband. (This conjugal relationship is not the same as relationships in the material world. Since God is pure, His relationships also pure and untainted by lust.)
These relationships are known as rasas. The relationships we have with other living beings on earth are all attempts to rekindle the feelings we experienced in our rasas with Krsna in the spiritual world. But in the material world our friends move away, our parents grow old and die, and our spouses divorce us. Thus the only truly perfect relationship we can have is with God, who will never grow old, never leave us, and never die. The happiness we are searching for life after life in relationship after relationship is only to be found in our original relationship with the Supreme Person, Krsna.
Therefore, since Krsna consciousness teaches this fullest knowledge of God in His topmost feature, it is described in the Bhagavad-gita (9.2) in this way:
This knowledge is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets. It is the purest knowledge, and because it gives direct perception of the self by realization, it is the perfection of religion. It is everlasting, and it is joyfully performed.
By chanting Hare Krsna and singing and dancing in the company of like-minded devotees, one gets the realisation within his own heart that glorifying the Lord is indeed the supreme religion and the easiest way to return back home to the spiritual world and be with Him.
My friend stated that other religions also say, "Just join us ... and be happy and perfect." But one can judge a thing by its result. Many religions point out the path back to God, but they can also be examined as to how quickly they can lead one to the supreme destination. By chanting Hare Krsna one can feel his material desires decreasing day by day, and thus Hare Krsna devotees are easily able to follow the strict religious principles of no meat-eating, no gambling, no intoxication, and no illicit sex, which most religionists find it impossible to follow. Yet only by avoiding these pillars of sinful life and concentrating on activities that please the Lord can we ever hope to rejoin Him. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, "Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear." Therefore, Krsna consciousness is more than just a religion. It is the topmost science of God consciousness, and we welcome anyone and everyone to sample it and see what we mean.
In this new feature of BACK TO GODHEAD, devotees succinctly express some of the realisations they have gained through service and devotion to Lord Krsna.
The Sports Page
I was looking through a copy of the international Herald Tribune when a devotee entered the room. Hurriedly, I folded the newspaper and put it aside. But my eye caught this sports headline: "Reds Robinson Misses Perfect Game by One Strike."
I didn't have time to read the story, but it come back to me while chanting Hare Krsna on my beads. "What is a perfect game?" I thought. "Does that mean that only twenty-seven batters faced him and no one got on base? It doesn't mean that he has to strike them all out, does it? Then how did he miss a perfect game by only one strike? Was it still a no-hitter?"
In this way I dallied, until I thought, "What does it matter? Robinson's near-perfect game is already lost in oblivion. Even if he did pitch a perfect game, as some have done, what does it matter?"
But I had to think about it while chanting the holy names. And it seemed like a symbol of the unnecessary flotsam and jetsam that floats around in my consciousness and prevents me from undivided attention to chanting the holy names of Krsna. Or course, we cannot escape the signs and notices of the world. But too much interest in them, mulling over things that cannot really help us at the time of death, things that cannot help us toward devotion to God, peeking unnecessarily into what is going on ...
Especially for the neophyte devotee, who cannot pretend that he sees God everywhere, an exertion of mental discipline is required. And when unwanted thoughts enter the mind because of its flickering nature, Lord Krsna advises, "It is undoubtedly very difficult to curb the restless mind, but it is possible by constant practice and by detachment" (Bhagavad-gita 6.35).
—Satsvarupa dasa Goswami
Meditations From New Ramana-reti * (ISKCON's farm community near Gainesville, Florida.)
It inspires me so to see their strong, beautiful bodies yoked together pulling the plough, tuning the earth. In this way the oxen work, and the lotus-eyed cows give their milk to assist the men who love and protect them. Together, in a perfect, sacred arrangement, with no need of machines and no fear of slaughter, they serve God.
* * *
Sadly ironic, our neighbours raise cattle for slaughter, and they had this gigantic bull who used to graze two hundred feet from my door. For some reason I was strangely fascinated by him and would walk over to stand under the trees by the fence and watch him while I chanted, amazed at how incredibly ugly he was (compared to our beautiful, beloved cows).
Then I thought that this Hereford, unloved and bred specifically for slaughter, might be a butcher reaping what he had sown. And that's why he's so extremely ugly and unfortunate. But still, I like this guy and would sing to him in the afternoons and tell him to surrender to Krsna.
But today, rainy, gray, and bleak, I noticed he was gone—his butchered corpse on the barbarians' fine china dinner plates, his soul trapped in another womb. I hope he'll learn his lesson and take my advice.
As you drive from the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, you see them—castles of shimmering glass, marble, and concrete. They stand around like Gandharva-puri, dreams on the barren plain.
And very when often I visit Dallas I see a car accident on Route 35. Today also we had to slow down when we saw sparkling flares on the road. Two police cars were blocking the road, and there was an ambulance. The first disabled car was not so badly smashed, but beyond it the other car was four feet off the ground, wrapped around a concrete pole. The car was astride the safety barrier, the front hanging over the side, the rear on the freeway. The driver's side was mangled and ripped, the steering wheel embedded in the driver's seat.
So the Krsna temple is to teach us that the Gandharva-puri will vanish along with all the people—it's just a play of mirrors, a manipulation of matter to make us think that false is real. And it ends in a crack-up—not just for one out of ten thousand, but for everyone who rides.
The temple teaches us that there is a real puri, Vaikuntha, where there are no bone-smashing accidents and no anxiety of death. In Vaikuntha everyone loves and serves Krsna. In the material world, the temple bravely declares war against the surrounding maya, but it Vaikuntha everyone and every place is in accord with the worship of Radha-Krsna.
—Satsvarupa dasa Goswami
Lord Jagannatha's Ratha-yatra is a chance for everyone to taste the joy and variety of spiritual life.
You've never seen anything like it! Unless of course, you've been to one before. Ratha-yatra, the festival of the chariots, is an ancient celebration that draws our hearts away from the distractions of temporary material life and back to Krsna, our original, eternal friend. Ratha-yatra gives us a taste of the happy life we're all looking for.
It's chance to absorb our senses—which, with their insatiable demands, bind us to material existence—in spiritual life. Our ears fill up with the holy names Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna , Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare; our eyes gaze on the colourful chariots with their billowing canopies, the exhibits, the entertainment, and the people—so many happy people—who've come for a day with Krsna; our noses catch the wafting fragrances of incense and flowers; and our tongues delight in the sumptuous feast of krsna-prasadam—savories, sweets, succulent vegetables, and more.
And we learn something at Ratha-yatra. We learn—not just theoretically, but practically, if we allow ourselves—that real happiness comes from remembering God and serving Him in the way He likes best: by hearing and chanting His names. We learn that spiritual life isn't dry renunciation. Spirit is alive, and spiritual life is real life, life without the grit.
Taste it for yourself. The next time Ratha-yatra comes your way—or even if it's out of your way—don't miss it. Come, join in the celebration, and spend a day in the soothing light of Krsna consciousness.
The First Big Mistake
When Bhagavad-gita As It Is, with translation and commentary by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, was first published in 1968, a reviewer remarked, "The criticism of the world is harsh." Since then many persons who have heard lectures or read articles by devotees of the Krsna consciousness movement have had a similar response. People are sometimes set back when they hear Krsna conscious speakers say, "The whole world is in ignorance" or "Most people are no better than cats and dogs." Are these statements slanderous? Or is there a factual, philosophical basis for such condemnation?
One should know at least that the strong statements about the world's ignorance are not the creations of Srila Prabhupada or his enthusiastic followers. Rather, the strong criticism comes straight from the scripture Bhagavad-gita and its speaker, Lord Krsna, who is accepted throughout Vedic literatures as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Therefore the criticism is compassionate and instructive. It is the reprimand of the experienced teacher who has every right to tell us, "Why don't you learn? Stop making the same mistake!" Humanity's big mistake is the failure to learn the most elementary lesson of spiritual knowledge—that the self is something different from the body.
In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna begins His discourse by informing His disciple Arjuna, "You are not your body; you are the soul within." Therefore, from the viewpoint of the Gita all so-called knowledge that is unaware of this primary lesson is really ignorance. The mistake might be compared to an initial error made in simple arithmetic. If a serious mistake is made in the beginning of a calculation, then additional developments based on that model will also carry along the same mistake.
Similarly, when one thinks that his real self is his body, he makes his goal of life the satisfaction of his senses. Then all his endeavors, whether in building an empire or in pursuing less grand attempts at self-satisfaction, will be based on the bodily concept of life. But such endeavors, which include mental speculation based on identification with the body, cannot give true self-satisfaction, nor can they give knowledge of the Absolute Truth, which is beyond the mind and senses.
The teacher who possesses absolute knowledge therefore reprimands, "You are all ignorant fools." For a further sampling of this, we can refer to the Vedic scripture Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.84.13):
A human being who identifies this body made of three elements (mucus, bile, and air) with his self, who considers the byproducts of the body to be his kinsmen, who considers the land of his birth worshipable ... is to be considered like an ass or a cow.
Similar statements about the animallike dullness of people who do not know the difference between the body and the spirit are available by the thousands in the pages of Vedic scriptures.
The criticisms made by Lord Krsna and the Vedic sages are not aimed at a particular class of person, and they are certainly not meant in a sectarian religious spirit. Rather, the instructions are offered as a universal science. As Srila Prabhupada used to say, "Krsna consciousness is not religion in the usual sense; it is science." By "science" Srila Prabhupada meant the science of the self, the science of God consciousness.
In the Bhagavad-gita science. Lord Krsna teaches Arjuna that the spirit soul is the permanent self (atma) within the body, whereas the body itself is an external covering. Then by building on the primary lesson that we are not these bodies, Krsna goes on to teach that the soul continues to live even after the death of the body. This is called transmigration. Krsna teaches many further lessons, culminating in pure bhakti-yoga, or devotion to the Supreme Lord. But unless one learns the primary lessons, he cannot go on to the advanced studies.
By thoughtful self-observation anyone can become aware of the existence of the self beyond the body. For example, we don't think of our foot or head or any part of our body as "me," but as "my foot," "my head," "my body." We should naturally ask, "Then who am I? Who is that self—myself—beyond the body and beyond even the mind?"
We get another indication that the self is different from the body when we attend a funeral. We may see a grieving widow crying out, "He's gone! My husband is gone!" She says that her husband is gone, yet the body is lying there, looking much the same as it did a few days before. Who is gone at death? It is the real person, the self, who is different from the body it animates.
Thinking on our own, we can get a faint awareness or the higher, spiritual self, but because we are conditioned by material existence and because the science of the soul is a subtle science, we must receive guidance from the Supreme Lord and the spiritual master before we can gain more certain self-knowledge.
We do not expect that a hard-core materialist will switch his concerns from bodily to spiritual simply on the basis of this one brief essay. But we wish at least to make it clear why the Vedic teachers and the Bhagavad-gita do not bow to, or even respect, the activities or artists, scientists, politicians, and other welfare workers who are adored by the worldly. As long as a person makes such a basic mistake as thinking that the self is the body, how can a transcendentalist consider him intelligent?
Devotees of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna, are aware that this ignorance is deeply entrenched within the material consciousness. As Lord Krsna states, "Deluded by ignorance, the whole world does not know Me, who am above this material world and inexhaustible." The devotees are not callous to the world's ignorance but work to spread spiritual values, because they are aware that material life in the bodily conception is the source of all miseries.
Lord Krsna's criticism of worldly illusion should not be seen as an exaggeration or a harsh insult but as calling a spade a spade. From the viewpoint of the Vedas, the world is full of sufferings, but these are actually needless. They are caused by a repetition of the same dumb mistake: the identification of the self with the body.
The Vedic sages ask us to give the Bhagavad-gita a patient, impartial hearing. They say that if we are honest, we may also come to the conclusion that we are among the fools and rascals, and from the humble admission we can take the first significant step toward correcting the big mistake. Then we can go on to find freedom from sufferings caused by ignorance.—SDG