Real knowledge begins with freedom
A lecture in London, England, on August 20, 1973
matra-sparsas tu kaunteya
"O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed." (Bhagavad-gita, 2.14)
This is a very important verse. In the previous verse Krsna said, dehino 'smin yatha dehe: "The living entity, the soul, is within the body." So the bodily pains and pleasures are not the pains and pleasures of the soul within. And when we think the bodily pain and pleasures are ours, this is simply due to our misidentification with the body.
For example, suppose you are sitting in a nice motorcar, and a man in front of you is pulling a ricksha. I have seen this in India. So, the ricksha has come in front of the nice motorcar, and the driver of the car is shouting to the man drawing the ricksha, "O ricksha, make way!" The man sitting in the motorcar is thinking that he has become a motorcar and that the man drawing the ricksha has become a ricksha. Actually, the man drawing the ricksha is a human being, and the man sitting in the nice Rolls Royce car is also a human being. But because the rascal is sitting in a Rolls Royce car, he is thinking, "I am a Rolls Royce, and he is a ricksha." This is the material conception of life—to adopt a designation according to the body instead of the soul.
So, when we get out of this bodily conception of life, that is real knowledge. Then we become a pandita, or brahmana. As Lord Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita [5.18], vidya-vinaya-sampanne brahmane gavi hastini/ suni caiva sva-pake ca panditah sama-darsinah: "One who is actually a pandita, a learned man, sees a brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater equally, because he sees that each of them is a spirit soul, not the body."
An actually learned man knows, aham brahmasmi—"I am Brahman, spirit." And he also knows that the individual Brahman, the spirit soul, is part and parcel of the Supreme Brahman. One must come to know, "I am not this body; I am spirit soul." Knowledge begins from there. If one does not reach that point—aham brahmasmi—then he is an animal. The animals think, "I am a cat," "I am a dog," "I am this," I am that." And an animallike man thinks, "I am a ricksha," "I am a motorcar." That is animalistic thinking.
But a learned person thinks, "I am not this body; I am part and parcel of the Supreme Brahman." And when you are further advanced, you can understand, "I am an eternal servant of Krsna." This is perfect knowledge.
But the beginning is to know, "I am not this body; I am spirit soul." In this modern world many rascals are passing as spiritual leaders, but they do not know the very first lesson of spiritual knowledge—that I am not this body. These so-called leaders are doing so many sinful acts for the satisfaction of the body, and still they are passing as religious or spiritual. Nobody can be spiritual or religious unless he understands his spiritual identification.
In the Bhagavad-gita the last instruction of Krsna is sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: "You rascals and fools have created so many religious systems simply on the basis of bodily differences. That is not religion. Real religion is to know that I, Krsna, am the Supreme Soul, Parabrahman, and that you are My parts and parcels. So we have an intimate relationship, like that between a father and son. It is the son's duty to obey the father; therefore you should surrender to Me, and I will protect you. That is the perfection of life."
The bodily concept of life is so strong that even big, big learned so-called religionists say that the animal has no soul. Because the human body is very much advanced and has the power to kill animals, these so-called religionists speak this nonsense—that the animals have no soul. Why do animals have no soul? What is the symptom of possession a soul? Consciousness. So if I am a conscious spirit soul within this body, why does the poor animal have no soul? He also has consciousness. So what is the essential difference between the human being and the animal that makes you say the animals has no soul?
It is very easy to understand the existence of the soul within the body. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, yena sarvam idam tatam: "The soul spreads its influence all over the body." Just as the sun spreads sunshine all over the universe, so God, the Supreme Soul, spreads His consciousness all over the creation. Similarly, since I am part and parcel of God, I am also soul, and like the sun I spread my "shining," my consciousness, all over the body (yena sarvam idam tatam).
Therefore, the proof of the soul's existence is that consciousness is spread all over my body. As soon as I pinch any part of my body, I feel pain. Therefore it is to be understood that the soul is there. When a man is going to die, the doctor examines the pulse or the heart, and if he finds that they are still beating, that is the sign the man is still living. Similarly, the proof that the soul is within my body is that I can feel pain and pleasure in my body.
So, the body in touch with consciousness feels pain and pleasure. Otherwise, what is this body? It is simply a lump of matter. Earth, water, fire, air—a combination of material elements. Suppose you make a doll out of earth and water and then dry it in the sunshine. That is fore. So, the doll is made of earth, water, and fire, but there is not soul. That is the difference between the doll and my body. You can prepare a doll with earth, water, air, fire—all kinds of material elements—but you cannot give it a soul. That is not possible. Only Krsna can provide the soul: aham bija-pradah pita.
The same principle is there when a man and woman engage in sex. The man gives the seed, and the woman gives the ingredients for developing the body of the child. Could a woman produce a child without the aid of a man? No, that is not possible, because with his seed comes the soul. And when the soul is situated in the womb of the mother, she can assist by supplying the ingredients to develop the body.
By nature's process, when one gives up this gross material body, the subtle body of mind, intelligence, and ego remains. The subtle body carries the soul to his next gross body. But where will the soul go? That is explained in the Srimad-Bhagavatam [3.31.1]: karmana daiva-netrena jantur dehopapattaye. The calculation is made by superior judgment to determine the soul's assets and liabilities, and according to this judgment he receives his next body. It is just like when a man in a business concern for some time has his record reviewed. Then his superiors judge, "Yes, this man has done nicely, so give him a promotion." But if he has not done nicely, they will say, "Oh, no, don't give him a promotion. He should be fired."
Similarly, we are getting different types of bodies according to our karma. Otherwise, why don't all living entities have the same bodily features? Why are there differences? This is common sense. Varieties of body, varieties of position, are due to one's previous activities, or karma. Again the example of the ricksha and the Rolls Royce: The poor man has only a ricksha because that is all he could purchase, but the rich man has a Rolls Royce because he has paid more. Similarly, if your activities are nice, you will be promoted to a higher standard of life, perhaps to the heavenly planets or even to Brahmaloka, the highest place in this universe. But if your activities are sinful and abominable, you will be degraded to the cats and dogs.
Our situation is based on the qualities of our body. With a first-class body you can live in the higher planetary system. With a second-class body you have to remain in the middle planetary system. And with a third-class body, you go down. In other words, you become and animal, a tree, an insect, a bird, or a beast.
All these situations of enjoyment or suffering are due to our misidentification with the body. But the soul is different from the body, and on that basis Krsna is trying to convince Arjuna to fight: "Do your duty. Your so-called grandfather and so-called guru are not their bodies. So if their bodies are killed, why should you lament? Their souls are eternal. They existed in the past, they exist at present, and they will continue to exist. Simply their bodies will change. So why are you lamenting? Because it is My desire that you fight, you will not commit any sin by killing them, and in the end you will come to Me in My spiritual abode."
So, on the whole one has to understand that we are not this body, and that when we feel bodily pains and pleasures, they are not the pains and pleasures of the soul. It is because the soul ignorantly misidentifies with the body that it feels pains and pleasures. Otherwise, the soul has no pain or pleasure in connection with the body.
In the Vedas it is said, asango hy ayam purusah: "The soul has nothing to do with the body." Still, out of ignorance the soul identifies himself with the body. Again the example of the Rolls Royce: Out of ignorance, the rascal is thinking he has become a Rolls Royce, and if the Rolls Royce is broken in some accident, he becomes overwhelmed: "O, I am lost!" This is going on.
When one becomes brahma-bhuta, actually self-realised, there is no more lamenting, no more hankering (na socati na kanksati). Since I am not this body, why should I hanker after bodily comfort? Whatever Krsna has given, that's all right. But because people are absorbed in the bodily concept, they are simply seeking bodily, sensuous enjoyment. That's all. This is the material world.
All materialists are fools and rascals, mudhas. And because they are fools rascals, they are committing sins, becoming entangled in the transmigration of the soul in different types of bodies, and perpetually suffering. As soon as you get a material body, you suffer. Whether you have a white body, a black body, or a yellow body, a man's or an animal's body, it doesn't matter: as soon as you get a material body, you must suffer. This is the punishment of nature.
At least four suffering must be there: birth, old age, disease, and death. Whether you become a king or a dog or a cat, it doesn't matter. Even if you become Lord Brahma, you must suffer these four miseries.
Therefore, our problem is how to get out of this bodily entanglement. I am a spirit soul, but somehow or other I have fallen into this entanglement of bodily transformations. Bhaktivinoda Thakura says, anadi karama-phale padi' bhavarnava-jale taribare na dekhi upaya: "Somehow or other I have fallen into this ocean of birth and death, an I do not know how to get out of it." Suppose you are thrown into the middle of the ocean. However expert a swimmer you may be, you cannot be comfortable. You have to swim all day long; otherwise, you will immediately drown. Similarly, as soon as you get yourself into this material world, you have to struggle for existence. You have to. So if you want to stop this struggle for existence, you must get out of material world. That is the problem of life.
Therefore Caitanya Mahaprabhu teaches us, ayi nanda-tanuja kinkaram patitam mam visame bhavambudhau: "My dear Lord Krsna, son of Nanda Maharaja, I am Your eternal servant, but somehow or other I have now fallen into this material ocean." (Visame means "very ferocious danger." This ocean of material existence is very dangerous.) "Although I am Your servant, somehow or other I have forgotten You and have fallen down." Then, krpaya tava pada-pankaja sthita-dhuli-sadrsam vicintaya: "Now I am seeking Your mercy. Please pick Me up and make Me a particle of dust at Your lotus feet." This should be our prayer, and we should have no other prayer.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu also teaches, na dhanam na janam na sundarim kavitam va jagad-isa kamaye: "O Lord, I don't want wealth, followers, or women." People generally pray for material benefits: "O God, give us our daily bread. Give me a nice position. Give me a nice wife." So on and so on—praying simply of material enjoyment. My Guru Maharaja [Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura] used to say that if we pray to God for all these nonsense things, we are just like a man who goes to a king for some benediction but doesn't know what to ask for. The king says, "Whatever you want, you can ask from me," and the man says, "Kindly give me a pinch of ashes." The man could have said, "Please give me half your kingdom." Why should he ask for a pinch of ashes?
So, praying to God for material things is foolishness. You may pray, "O God, give us our daily bread," but the bread is already there. Why just for you? For everyone. For all living entities the "bread," or food, is already provided by God: eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman. "The Lord provides all creatures with the necessities of life." The elephant does not go to church to pray "Give me food," yet it is supplied food in the jungle. Similarly the tiger is supplied food, and the ant is supplied food within his hole. How are they all eating, how are they living, how are they begetting offspring? God is providing everything.
So, getting our material necessities is not the real problem. But these rascals are simply perplexed with this problem—how to eat, how to sleep, how to defend, how to mate. These things are already fixed up according to your karma. You should simply use your time to advance in Krsna consciousness. That is your only business. Otherwise, your life is spoiled.
You cannot improve your material situation. That is already fixed up: prakrteh kriyamanani gunaih karmani sarvasah. According to your lot, according to your karma, it has been fixed up that you will eat like this, you will sleep like this, your sex life will be like this, and you will be able to defend like this. That is destiny. By destiny these are already fixed, so don't spoil your life trying to improve these things.
As the sastra [scripture] says, tasyaiva hetoh prayateta kovido na labhyate yad bhramatam upary adhah: "You have transmigrated from so many bodies—this body to that body, this body to that body. Now that you have a human body, you can read Bhagavad-gita, you can learn from Krsna what the real problem of life is. Utilise your life for that purpose. Don't be perplexed with these problems of the body."
As Krsna says in the present verse from Bhagavad-gita, tams titiksasva: "Just try to tolerate the bodily pains and pleasures." For example, the summer season comes, and it will go away. Similarly, the winter season comes, and it will go away. So just try to protect yourself as far as possible, but don't be affected by the summer season or winter season. In India the temperature is sometimes 120 degrees during the summer. Does that mean people will stop all their work? No. Or, in the Western countries, the winter is so strong that sometimes the temperature falls below zero. Does that mean everything will be stopped? No, you have to do your duty.
Similarly, Krsna advises Arjuna, "You are afraid of the little pain that will come because you have to kill your own men. That pain is coming, and it will go, but still you have to do your duty and fight. This fight is taking place under My guidance. So you must fight. That is your duty."
Krsna says in the present verse that we should not be bothered by this matra-sparsah. Matra means "skin," and sparsah means "touch." We should not be too much concerned with bodily pains and pleasures. But ignorant people are mad after this "skin disease," headed by sex. What is sex? Simply an itching of the skin. There is an itching of the skin, and you become satisfied by scratching it. That's all. Therefore the sastra advises, visaheta dhirah: "Be sober and tolerate the itching of sex."
But these rascals who are very much attached to so-called family life are completely absorbed in this itching. They are known as grhamedhis. A grhastha is different. The grhastha knows the science of Krsna consciousness, but he is not so advanced. Therefore he lives with a wife and children, but for Krsna consciousness. And those who are not Krsna conscious, who simply live like animals with their children and wife—they are grhamedhis. The grhastha makes the best use of a bad bargain, while the grhamedhi lives like an animal, for material happiness.
And what is the happiness of the grhamedhi? Sex pleasure, that's all. Otherwise, he has no other impetus to work day and night like an ass. His only hope is that at night he will enjoy sex. That's all.
The sastra advises us to tolerate the itching of sex and in this way avoid implication in the repetition of birth and death. The best thing is to be brahmacari—no sex. Tolerate this itching. You will avoid so much displeasure, so much unhappiness in life. Otherwise, if you try to satisfy the itching sensation, you may attain a little happiness, but what is that happiness? Suppose there is some itching in your body. If you scratch it, you feel some pleasure—but then again the itching becomes even stronger. Sex is like that. So, one who is sober, advanced, will tolerate that itching sensation and be happy. He will think, "Sex is not my necessity. It is only something of the skin—my 'skin disease.' But I am not this skin; I am a soul, and my duty is to serve Krsna."
Thank you very much.
by Urmila-devi dasi
She stands by His side, sweet smile entreating
Radharani, queen of worship, beauty supreme in female form,
Can You recommend me to Your Lord, O eternal goddess?
Your hand of benediction has its lotus palm upturned.
Impersonalists are essentially of two types:
by Kundali dasa
Once, at the hermitage of a venerated guru, a disciple became enlightened after years of penance and instruction at his master's feet. "O master," he said, "I realise what you have been saying all along: God and I are one. Only by the power of illusion have I have been making a distinction between myself and God. By your kindness I am awakened. I am in union with the formless, limitless, ineffable, and eternal Supreme." When the guru indicated that the disciple had understood rightly, the disciple asked his master's blessing to go alone on a pilgrimage.
On his way, he walked down the middle of the streets, pondering the implications of his recent enlightenment. After some time he heard an elephant driver shouting from atop his elephant, "Make way for the elephant! Move out of the road!" He saw pedestrians fearfully scurrying out of the elephant's path.
"If I am God," our hero reasoned, "why should I move out of the road for an elephant? That would betray my convictions. The elephant should stand aside for me."
Before long, he and the came face to face. "Make way for the elephant," the mahout shrieked in panic, but the ascetic stood his ground. The elephant then lumbered up to him, grabbed him around the waist, and tossed him out of the way. The ascetic sustained a broken arm and some ugly bruises.
Early the next day he hobbled into his spiritual master's presence, where he related the incident. "O master," he cried at the conclusion, "just yesterday I thought I'd completely understood your teachings, but look what happened when I applied them. How could such misfortune happen to me, and on the very day I realised your instructions?"
With a slight hint of annoyance, the benign master chided, "Did you not hear God on top of the elephant telling you to move out of the way?"
This little story demonstrates one of the severe flaws in the philosophy of monism, which states that there is absolute spiritual oneness—without differentiation—among all beings, including God. As the story shows, if everyone is elevated to the status of God, only calamity can result from the confusion as to who should have the right of way when a conflict of interest arises. Since we have that problem already, monism achieves nothing except to shift the burden from the mundane to the spiritual realm.
The philosophy of monism, or impersonalism, espouses the idea that on the spiritual platform there is no variety and no individuality. There is no duality—no good and bad, hot and cold, happiness and distress—no differentiation of any kind. Hence souls attaining salvation retain no individual, personal traits whatsoever. They simply merge into an amorphous entity of pure consciousness. That is the grandest moment in the impersonalist's scheme: when he merges into this ocean of spirit.
Another way of phrasing this is to say the impersonalist's goal is to become an eternal nobody, for self-annihilation is indeed the ramification of his idea. He never puts it that way, of course, but having analysed that being somebody in this material world is to endure an existence fraught with duality and suffering, he reasons that becoming a perpetual nobody is a nifty alternative to the problems of repeated birth, disease, old age, death, wars, in-laws, taxes, sexism, racism, and any other miseries we encounter here. What could be a better solution to speeding tickets, heating and cooling bills, or jilted love affairs?
As you may have guessed, we adherents to the philosophy of Krsna consciousness disagree with the conclusions of the impersonalists, although Krsna conscious devotees and impersonalists do hold some things in common. We both say, for example, that living beings are not their bodies but are spirit souls encased in material bodies. In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna likens this situation to that of a driver in a vehicle. A driver might identify himself with his car, but at the end of his journey he gets out of the car, because the two identities are actually distinct. Impersonalists and devotees also agree that by nature the soul, like God, is eternal and full of bliss and knowledge.
All this, a dedicated impersonalist will say, adds up to the soul being God. You are God. I am God. Idi Amin is God. Adolph Hitler is God. Stalin is God, too. God in a severe state of illusion, to be sure, but God nonetheless.
And they don't stop there. Cats and dogs are also God. And butterflies, cockroaches, fleas, clams, lobsters—"Because the one spirit that moves in you and me is the same in all of them, the same chord of joy that moves all the creation." Impersonalists like to talk like that; they think it sounds supramundane.
They also like to bandy about terms like "brahman," "atman," and "om," and to quote from the Vedanta and the Upanisads. But they don't always hail from India and use Sanskrit terms. Christian impersonalists, for example, like to talk about "the Christ" within us and the "Godself" and the "I Am" and being in "the here and now" and other similar "spiritual" nomenclature. Often when they hold forth on the virtues of oneness—which some can do with wit and much apparent wisdom—they exude an aura of realisation and brilliance that can dazzle anyone not able to see through their mystique.
Impersonalists also believe that the kingdom of God is a myth. Inexplicably, they find the idea of merging into one homogeneous spiritual being—like a drop of water merging into the ocean—more attractive and far more plausible than a spiritual world of spiritual forms and unlimited variety, where the Lord and His pure devotees revel in endless pastimes and loving exchanges, as described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam and the Brahma-samhita and hinted at in all the worlds great scriptures.
The impersonalist's spiritual reality is a sort of suspended animation, where you live eternally, and maybe you are a little happy at first to get away from the tax man and the grim reaper, but nothing ever happens there. It's like an enormous wind tunnel—but with no wind.
Not even the simplest mind, living in the drabbest of worlds (in the remotest regions of the gulag, say), could imagine a more dreadful, more humdrum existence. As a friend once put it, "If that's spiritual reality, I prefer to stay here. Giving up egoism is one thing, but who wants to become an eternal nonfunctional being? That's like asking me to become an eternal bat and hang from an eternal rafter forever." Yet impersonalists will tell you with unabashed candor that their gruesome proposal is the goal of life.
There are essentially two types of impersonalists, the classic and the wishy-washy. Classic impersonalists hold that spiritual life means to culture enlightenment by philosophical study, austerity, and renunciation. These help to dismantle the false ego and to sever the knot of material attachment within the heart, so that at the time of death one can leave the material world once and for all and merge into God's existence.
Wishy-washy impersonalists say they believe the same, but they have little inclination for philosophy, penance, and renunciation. They'll openly express conviction about the soul's existence and speak with ardent longing about the day of their deliverance. In the meantime they try to live it up as best they can—with detachment, of course.
In the West, a true classic impersonalist is rare. Wishy-washies, on the other hand, proliferate. They tend to attract celebrities to their fold, which attracts the media, which attracts the public—which is not a bad cycle from the celebrity's accountant's point of view, as it confers tidy sums on the celebrity from instant bestsellerdom, television specials, speaking tours, and so forth. All of which, from a wishy-washy's perspective, is proof that he or she is on the right track spiritually. Otherwise, why all the wonderful bounty?
Impersonalism first gained a toehold in the West in the last century with Emerson and Thoreau. That became a foothold in this century, when, in the sixties and seventies, it became fashionable to take an Eastern philosophy and modify it to suit one's preferences, as part of the prevailing hippie ideology. While the sentimental hippie ideal of universal brotherhood and free sex didn't survive, the wily notion of absolute oneness did, and today it's going strong as a main pillar in the New Age ideology.
Actually, impersonalism is much older than Emerson and hippies and the New Age. We don't know when exactly it came into being, but in India, Sankara (A.D. 788-820) was the first philosopher of note to advocate it. His ideas caught on, and his doctrine of monism replaced Buddhism, which had been the prevailing religion of India since the conversion of Emperor Ashok some centuries earlier.
That impersonalism should replace Buddhism is amusing in itself, since the difference between the two is negligible. Impersonalism is sometimes referred to as veiled Buddhism, for while the Buddhists postulate that the Absolute is sunya, or void, the impersonalists say the Absolute is nirvisesa, devoid of all attributes. But to say the Absolute is something without any attributes is just a roundabout way of saying "void."
At any rate, since Sankara's time many stalwart preachers of Krsna consciousness, using the words of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna, Himself—as recorded in the Bhagavad-gita—and strong logic, have refuted the conclusions of Sankara time and again. Yet monism is so alluring that it gets more attention than the far superior personalism of Krsna consciousness. And so, although it's a doctrine riddled with contradictions and supported by no direct interpretation of any scripture, and although Sankara ultimately rejected it, impersonalism continues spreading around the globe.
One of the leading champions of personalism was Madhva (A.D. 1239-1319) a powerful scholar, Krsna conscious saint, and mistic. In his Mayavada-sata-dusani he offers one hundred scriptural arguments that shred the monistic conclusions and remove all doubt about the untenable notion of absolute oneness. In public debates also, Madhva defeated the leading Sankarites of his time.
Similarly, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu (A.D. 1486-1534) refuted the impersonalistic conclusions in numerous encounters with leading scholars of that school, most notably Vasudeva Sarvabhauma of Jagannatha Puri, who became His disciple. Unfortunately, one rarely hears about these historical episodes.
All the same, one does not have to be a scholar of Madhva's or Sri Caitanya's caliber to peg impersonalism for what it is. Just knowing a few basic precepts of Bhagavad-gita, ones even the impersonalists agree upon, is sufficient to turn the tide of monism's bad logic.
For instance, impersonalists agree with Krsna's description of the soul in the Bhagavad-gita, where He says it cannot be cut or injured by any weapon. Yet they cannot explain how we became cleaved or separated from the Absolute One into individuals in the first place, or at least how one immense, uncleavable spiritual entity fell into illusion of being many.
Indeed, impersonalists are at a loss to explain how God could fall into illusion at all, which is a serious matter, considering that this makes illusion superior to God.
At the same time, it would be unfair not to credit them for the kernel of truth in their doctrine: the oneness of God and the individual soul. Lord Caitanya taught that God and the individual souls are spiritual and eternal; hence there is qualitative oneness. He pointed out, however, that there is a quantitative difference as well. Individual souls are minute, or infinitesimal, whereas the Personality of Godhead is infinite. That's why minute souls can sometimes be overwhelmed and fall under the spell of the illusory energy. But the Lord Himself, who is the energetic source of everything, including the illusory energy, never falls under its influence. Impersonalists stress the oneness and ignore the difference.
Lord Caitanya's teaching of simultaneous oneness and difference between God and the individual souls is called in Sanskrit acintya-bhedabheda-tattva. He and His followers have given examples to illustrate this truth. One example is that of the gold nugget and the gold mine. Under chemical analysis, gold nuggets are been to be qualitatively one with a whole mine of gold, but the quantitative difference is unquestionable. If one were given the choice between the two, it's inconceivable that one would choose the nugget.
Another example is that of a spark and a fire. Though both have the quality of giving off heat and light, the quantities of the energies they emit are vastly different.
Probably the most graphic example of simultaneous oneness and difference is that of sunlight and the sun. Like the Lord, the sun is the energetic source of unlimited energy. Its rays are comparable to the unlimited souls emanating from the Lord. The rays are simultaneously one with the sun and yet different from it. We may welcome a few sunrays into our room through the window, but we would never extend the same invitation to the sun itself.
The conclusion is that although God and the living soul are qualitatively one, still God is the Supreme Soul, and the infinitesimal individual souls are constitutionally different from Him, being His eternal loving servants. Unfortunately, lacking authorised knowledge about the true nature of the soul and its relationship to God, and lacking knowledge about the spiritual world, innocent people are easily victimised by impersonalism's flattering conclusion—that we're all God.
Today, it is no doubt true that systematic atheism, aided by certain theories in science, philosophy, and psychology, presents a great threat to theism. Nevertheless, it is of little or no consolation that impersonalism, with its veneer of spirituality, is on the rise. Indeed, one might argue that it is a more insidious form of atheism, since the impersonalist acknowledges and denies God in the same breath. Monism is a convenient idea for those who want the recognition of being spiritual or religious and yet still shun their obligation to surrender to the Lord and render Him service. The Krsna consciousness movement, on the other hand, is for those who want to go beyond such a counterfeit of spiritual life.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
by Mathuresa dasa
This year both U.S. presidential candidates offer the same chicken-in-every-pot promises that have always been the mainstay of democracy. If elected, each says, economic health will reign. Even if I did eat chicken, the promises wouldn't move me, since economies appear to have minds of their own. They don't care for presidential vows.
Granting, for argument's sake, that a candidate might improve his country's, or the world's, fortunes, I've still never heard anyone promise an abundance of the most important economic commodity: rain. Those chickens can't eat dust, fellows. How can you pledge affluence when you can't guarantee that rowboats won't start running aground of the Mississippi?
Prosperity, the Bhagavad-gita reminds us, consists primarily in having an abundance of edible crops, and that depends on rainfall, which is not an asset controlled by politicans.
All living bodies subsist on food grains, which are produced from rains. Rains are produced by performance of sacrifice, and sacrifice is born of prescribed duties.—Bhagavad-gita 3.14
There is a universal government, headed by the Supreme Lord, who asserts that the material body works under His supervision, mayadhyaksena prakrtih. But like any powerful person, God has assistants. In that sense, the Vedic mantras explain, He has nothing to do: na tasya karyam karanam cavidyate. Just as the owner of an office tower doesn't mop the floors, fix leaky pipes, or even collect rent, God doesn't directly manage the universe. The heating, lighting, plumbing, irrigation, ventilation, and government of His establishment are in the hands of His empowered representatives, who are known as demigods.
Every one of us is endowed with certain individual talents, which are God's gifts, and the demigods are no exception. The difference is that their talents dwarf ours and that they, without exception, know God and remember their duty to serve and satisfy Him.
None of the demigods is running for election this fall, which is unfortunate, because rainmaking is one of their many skills. They are, however, as agents of a greater government, responsive to the needs of human beings who themselves serve and satisfy the Supreme, such service being the essence of sacrifice. "In charge of the various necessities of life," Lord Krsna informs us, "the demigods, being pleased by the performance of sacrifice, will supply all your necessities."
Pay your rent, in other words, and His agents will take care of you.
As rain brings prosperity, and as sacrifice brings rain, so sacrifice derives, the Gita concludes, from the performance of duties prescribed by the Lord in revealed scriptures. Our principal duty for this age, Vedic literature states, is to regularly chant the names of the Supreme Lord. This will please Him, satisfy His agents, and bring lasting peace and prosperity.
The only newsworthy feature of this fall's U.S. election is that neither Bush nor Dukakis understands his responsibility, as a citizen of a universal state, to perform sacrifice. Though both of them are experienced politicians, they have a stunted, primitive conception of leadership. And one of them will win the presidency!
This is frightening. I'm all for the separation of church and state, but I'd prefer to live in a state that wasn't also separated from rain.
The Taste Of Water
by Radhanatha dasa
There was a time in the United States when you could drink the water without worrying about it killing you. But those were the good old days.
When Lord Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita "I am the taste of water," He's not referring to water with all the poisons added. The taste of that water doesn't represent Krsna. It's not even good for us.
From 1973 to 1980 more than 55,000 cases of illness related to drinking water were reported in the United States. In 1982 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared 13,600 community wells substandard. The EPA estimates that sixty percent of the private wells in the United States contain dangerously high levels of mercury, lead, bacteria, and other contaminants. No one really knows the long-term effects of drinking contaminated water, because it generally takes twenty years or more for an effect—cancer, for example—to develop. But consumer advocate Ralph Nader says contaminated water is the number one problem of the 1980s.
Of course, the United States is not the only country with polluted water. Practically all developed countries are now faced with the same problem. Why are we ruining our environment in this way?
Because of greed for money and temporary happiness. Lord Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita (16.21), "There are three gates leading to hell—lust, anger, and greed. Every sane man should give these up, for they lead to the degradation of the soul." Because of impure consciousness and neglect of our spiritual live, we are jeopardizing even our physical well-being.
I've traveled throughout India, where people, although poorer materially, are generally happier because of a spiritual concept of life. Unfortunately, even in India, the people are grasping the materialistic ideals of the West, with government support. They're trying to depend on modern technology instead of Krsna for their happiness.
But all the problems in modern society stem ultimately from impure consciousness, which can be purified by bhakti-yoga "The yogis, abandoning attachment, act with body, mind, intelligence, and even the senses, only for the purpose of purification" (Bhagavad-gita 5.11). Vedic society therefore promotes simple living and high thinking, allowing people to learn about Krsna and thus purify their consciousness. This is sensible living.
Instead of polluting our environment and our lives in the mad quest for material things, we should find satisfaction in spiritual life—in chanting Hare Krsna. Why not try it? It's a lot less risky than drinking water.
Is It In The Stars?
by Pranada-devi dasi
Though Americans like astrology—with horoscope "forecasts" in practically every newspaper—they don't seem to take it too seriously. So when they heard claims that Nancy Reagan's dependence on astrology to protect her husband reduces his effectiveness in the presidential office, they protested—"Now, that's going too far!"
Although astrology is an authentic, and therefore credible, branch of Vedic knowledge, the accuracy of modern astrology can no doubt be debated. What's significant, though, is that the First Lady instinctively turned to a source of knowledge greater than her own for direction. The Vedic literature would have advised her to do the same.
Of course, learning from authorities is not a revolutionary concept; in our daily lives we routinely go to higher authorities to get knowledge—form how to fix a flat tire to how to build a bridge. The world is filled with literature and educational institutions precisely for this reason.
The President of the United States also needs authoritative guidance, and he has many sources of knowledge available to him. Yet because the President's mistakes can have immense repercussions, what he really needs is an infallible source of knowledge.
That's difficult proposition. Infallible knowledge seems impossible to come by. The greatest thinkers and scientists throughout history haven't been able to agree on such basic points as how our personalities develop or how our minds function. And they are unable to give us conclusive knowledge on larger, universal issues, such as where we've come from, what (or who) set the universe and its laws into motion, and so on.
Yet unerring knowledge is available—by approaching not just higher authorities, but the absolute authority: the creator, sustainer, and knower of everything, God, or Krsna.
Krsna is accepted as God by the Vedic literature, great saints, spiritual teachers, and authorities in the transcendental science. Because Hi is unlimited, His knowledge is supreme, and He is never illusioned. His instructions are given in Vedic literatures like the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam, which are therefore perfect sources of information. Taking knowledge from Krsna solve the dilemma of conflicting views, erroneous information, and general confusion, and enables us to confidentially take on the weighty responsibility of guiding our own lives, or a whole nation's.
The Vedic literature is laden with explicit, practical knowledge about every field of life, including how to govern nations. Though you or the president might not find every intricate issue of your affairs addressed there, the principles of infallible knowledge can be used as solid guideposts for making the right decisions at every turn. It is simply a matter of applying the principle to our lives, and cleansing our hearts and minds.
So while getting the signals straight from the stars may be risky, Krsna's instruction through His devotees, saintly persons, and the Vedic literature will guide us safely and accurately, not only in scheduling auspicious times to carry out an activity, but in all our thoughts, speech, and behaviour, in political, social, and private life.
Relying heavily on this transcendental guidance, rather than merely on material guidance, will never reduce our effectiveness in political office or our ability to deal with any situation in this world. Rather, we will be fully equipped to guide ourselves and our dependents while here in this world, where we are in constant fear of misfortune and suffering. And we will be able to guide them far beyond the stars, to the safe, blissful shore of the spiritual world, which is full of transcendental, absolute knowledge. Now that's really going far, Mrs. Reagan.
From Lord Caitanya's teachings—
by Drutakarma Dasa
Seeds are mysterious. When planted, these compact entities grow into complex botanical organisms that produce fruits, vegetables, nuts, flowers, and other things we value. The seed has become a potent metaphor for growth—physical, mental, and spiritual. In the sixteenth century, Lord Caitanya explained to Rupa Gosvami how a spiritual seed planted in the heart can grow into a creeper of devotional service that produces the most valuable fruit—pure love for God.
Lord Caitanya explained how one receives this valuable spiritual seed: "According to their karma, all living entities are wandering throughout the entire universe. ... Out of many millions of wandering living entities, one who is very fortunate gets an opportunity to associate with a bona fide spiritual master by the grace of Krsna. By the mercy of both Krsna and the spiritual master, such a person receives the seed of the creeper of devotional service."
In this explanation, Lord Caitanya states that before the living entity receives the devotional seed, he moves according to karma, the universal law of action and reaction. Huston Smith, a professor of philosophy at MIT, has said, "Science has alerted the Western world to the importance of causal relationships in the physical world. Every physical event, we are inclined to believe, has its cause, and every cause will have its determinate effects. India extends this concept of universal causation to include man's moral and spiritual life as well."
The law of karma provides that one receives a particular body on a particular planet, and suffers or enjoys in material existence, according to the quality of one's previous thoughts and actions.
The Vedic literature explains that there are millions of kinds of bodies the soul can inhabit, ranging from microbes to human beings. Only in the human form do we have the chance to break out of the cycle of birth and death and attain our natural state of God consciousness.
As recounted by Lord Caitanya, the karmic journey involves not only travel through different bodies but also different planets. The Vedas inform us that there are many planets beyond those we can see, all of which are inhabited. Taking birth on earth is considered good karma, because the conditions here are favourable for cultivating God consciousness. On lower planets there is too much suffering, and one must struggle for bare survival. And on the upper planets, there is so much material enjoyment that one may feel no impetus for developing God consciousness. But here we find a favourable balance of comfort and distress—enough comfort to give us the peace of mind to cultivate God consciousness, and just enough suffering to make this desirable.
We are therefore good candidates for receiving the seed of devotional service. Even so, it's a rare opportunity. Lord Caitanya told Rupa Gosvami that only one who is fortunate meets a bona fide spiritual master, who gives him the seed.
Who is the bona fide spiritual master? He is one who in his words and personal behaviour manifests perfect God consciousness. One important qualification of the bona fide spiritual master is that he appears in an authorised disciplic succession. He carefully repeats what he has heard from his spiritual master, who heard the message from his spiritual master, who heard from his, and so on. If you trace the message back far enough, you find that it originates with Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
For example, Lord Caitanya told the story of the creeper of devotion to Rupa Gosvami five centuries ago. What Lord Caitanya said was described in the sixteenth century by Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami in his biography of Lord Caitanya, Caitanya-caritamrta. This work was passed down through the chain of spiritual masters from Lord Caitanya, and in the seventh decade of the twentieth century Srila Prabhupada translated it into English. I've read the story of the creeper of devotion in Srila Prabhupada's translation of Caitanya-caritamrta, and now I am passing the story on to the readers of Back to Godhead. And perhaps someday you in turn will be repeating it to someone.
How does one meet a bona fide spiritual master? Lord Krsna is in everyone's heart as the Supersoul, and as such He is intimately aware of our innermost desires. When Krsna detects that a conditioned soul desires, perhaps even unconsciously, to re-establish a loving relationship with Him, He arranges for such a soul to meet His confidential representative, the bona fide spiritual master, who gives the bhakti-lata-bija, the seed of the creeper of devotional service.
Srila Prabhupada has given the following explanation of that seed: "Everything has an original cause, or seed. For any idea, program, plan, or device, there is first of all the contemplation of the plan, and that is called bija, or the seed. The methods, rules, and regulations by which one is perfectly trained in devotional service constitute the bhakti-lata-bija, or seed of devotional service."
The question is whether or not one will actually cultivate this seed by taking up the "methods, rules, and regulations." The choice is up to each individual. But one should recognize that if one does not cultivate the seed of devotional service, one will certainly cultivate other seeds—the seeds of material ambition.
In other words, desiring different types of material gratification, one will contemplate the methods for obtaining such gratification. One will perform a certain kind of work, following certain rules and regulations. If one desires to become wealthy as a stock broker, he'll cultivate that seed of desire by, possibly, obtaining employment in a Wall Street firm and learning to do business according to the formal rules and regulations of the Stock Exchange and the SEC. But although he'll expend great effort cultivating such a seed of material desire, the fruit he obtains won't be worth the result of his work won't carry him out of the cycle of birth and death. Only devotional service can free one from this endless suffering. So it makes sense to cultivate the seed of devotional service.
Lord Caitanya told Rupa Gosvami, "When a person receives the seed of devotional service, he should take care of it by becoming a gardener and sowing the seed in his heart. If he waters the seed gradually by the process of sravana and kirtana (hearing and chanting), the seed will begin to sprout."
"Hearing and chanting" means hearing and chanting God's holy names. God is nondifferent form His names, so Krsna is personally present in the Hare Krsna maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna , Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. By reading the mantra you have just put a drop of water on the seed of devotional service in your heart. Right now you could repeat this mantra ten, twenty, or one hundred times. That would be very good for your seed of devotional service. If you don't water the seed, it won't grow.
Hearing and chanting are natural. Unfortunately, we all spend quite a bit of time each day hearing and talking about things that really do not help us very much spiritually. We hear the office gossip—the vice-president's getting transferred, the company's being reorganised, one of the married women is carrying on with a male co-worker. We hear family talk—Aunt Beth has cancer, Uncle Bob's retiring, your cousin got arrested for selling cocaine. We talk with our husbands and wives about all kinds of things. We talk about politics, the movies. We listen to the radio and watch television. We are constantly filling our ears with all kinds of repetitious soul-deadening sounds that ultimately will not help us escape the cycle of birth and death and awaken our dormant love of Godhead, which alone can make us permanently happy.
So somehow or other we have to make time to chant the Hare Krsna mantra, to read Bhagavad-gita, and to talk about things connected with Krsna consciousness. Otherwise our creeper of devotional service will wither and die. It must be properly watered with hearing and chanting. This takes some effort and determination, which we'll get when we become convinced about how extremely important it is to water the creeper of devotion.
Undoubtedly, people tend to feel that their life is already too full, every second allocated. That means if you want to add chanting Hare Krsna to your life, you are going to have to make room for it.
How much room? First you should know that the Hare Krsna mantra is chanted in two ways: quietly, on japa meditation beads; and loudly, to musical accompaniment. Both are recommended. Initiated disciples in the Krsna consciousness movement chant the Hare Krsna mantra at least 1,728 times daily on meditation beads (that's sixteen times around a string of 108 beads and takes about two hours) and spend at least an hour each day chanting Hare Krsna congregationally, usually with mrdangas (drums) and karatalas (hand cymbals). If you are just starting out, however, you might wish to gradually build up to this level. Start with an amount of chanting you are comfortable with and can practice each day without fail. Regularity is important.
Probably an easy way for many people to make time for chanting is to cut back on the amount of television they watch. Is the quality of your life really going to suffer if you miss a couple of shows? Perhaps you don't watch much television. But if you analyse your daily schedule, you will certainly be able to identify some time that is not being spent very profitably. Eliminate the marginally important activities and substitute hearing and chanting, which can deliver immense transcendental benefit.
If you do make time to chant, and do so regularly, you will definitely notice results. Lord Caitanya said, "As one waters the bhakti-lata-bija, the seed sprouts, and the creeper gradually increases to the point where it penetrates the walls of this universe and goes beyond the Viraja River between the spiritual world and the material world. It attains brahmaloka, the Brahma effulgence, and, penetrating through that stratum, it reaches the spiritual sky and the spiritual planet Goloka Vrndavana.
But let's be honest—these days it's difficult to commit oneself to a path of action beyond the material range. We tend to be surrounded by people not at all interested in talking or acting in a purely spiritual way. Commitment is valued, but only to things like getting a degree, attaining political office, making your mark in a material way. To be sure, most people are nominally members of some religion, but their involvement is generally materially motivated, in that their intention is to get something from God or avoid undesirable situations through God's intercession.
In general, people are extremely reluctant to discuss spiritual subjects. Conversation among friends and family tend to focus on purely mundane activities, and unpleasant matters such as the suffering of disease, old age, and death are politely avoided. Although many people do wonder about philosophical questions, such as nature of the self or the nature of God, who dares to bring them up in the middle of a football game or the evening news? The pressure is always on to keep your mouth shut about such things—what to speak of the pressure against actually doing something like watering your creeper by chanting the Hare Krsna mantra for an hour or two each day.
What a statement that would be! Taking time out from all the routine stereotype activities to clear your mind and meditate on the all-powerful name of God? What on earth for? No doubt it would be difficult to do so in front of unsympathetic persons. So then you have to arrange to do so elsewhere. Perhaps you go to a room where you can be alone and chant. Back out in the television room they're wondering what you're up to. But at a certain point you have to be able to rise above the social pressure not to chant and do it, convinced that it is important and beneficial. You know that if you don't water your creeper, it's going to shrivel, and your understanding of your spiritual identity will be stunted.
Don't expect much encouragement. Unless they are also Krsna conscious, your friends and family are not likely to push you to make spiritual progress. They generally want you to be like them—primarily concerned about economic and social and physical well-being. If you were to tell them you're going out to jog or work out, that's fine. But tell them you're going out to do some chanting to elevate your spiritual awareness, well...
So it would be nice to have support, but don't expect it. Pick up your beads, head out the door, and go to a park and chant for an hour. Do it every day. Others will eventually get used to it. Or maybe won't get used to it. Some people never do. That is what makes living in a community of people who are practicing Krsna consciousness attractive—there is a lot of support and encouragement for spiritual development, instead of discouragement or begrudging tolerance. The creeper of devotional service naturally flourishes in such a friendly environment.
Lord Caitanya told Rupa Gosvami: "Being situated in one's heart and being watered by sravana-kirtana, the bhakti creeper grows more and more. In this way it attains shelter of the desire tree of the lotus feet of Krsna, who is eternally situated in the planet known as Goloka Vrndavana in the topmost region of the spiritual sky. The creeper greatly expands in the Goloka Vrndavana planet, and there it produces the fruit of love for Krsna. Although remaining in the material world, the gardener regularly sprinkles the creeper with the water of hearing and chanting."
Therefore you can be moved through this world, just like everyone else, and simultaneously be experiencing your original, spiritual nature and eternal loving connection with the Supreme Lord Krsna.
Srila Prabhupada writes, "The conditioned soul within the material world can neither understand nor appreciate how a pure devotee in the material world can render confidential service to the Lord out of feelings of ecstatic love and always engage in pleasing the Supreme Lord's senses. Although seen within this material world, the pure devotee always engages in the confidential service of the Lord." If you want to experience this, keep watering your creeper with the hearing and chanting of the holy name of the Lord. Those around you may not understand—but you will understand what's happening to you as you experience increasing transcendental pleasure and satisfaction.
Beyond watering the creeper of devotion, one must protect it from disturbances. Lord Caitanya told Rupa Gosvami, "If the devotee commits an offense at the feet of a Vaisnava while cultivating the creeper of devotional service in the material world, his offense is compared to a mad elephant that uproots the creeper and breaks it. In this way the leaves of the creeper are dried up."
As we have seen, one obtains the seed of the creeper of devotional service from the bona fide spiritual master, who is a pure Vaisnava, a devotee of Krsna. The spiritual master guides one along the path of spiritual advancement. So the relationship between spiritual master and disciple is very confidential. In any intimate relationship one has to be very careful, for bad feeling may develop and poison the entire relationship. Similarly, if the disciple behaves improperly or disrespectfully toward is Vaisnava guru, he greatly hamper his spiritual progress. One must therefore guard against offenses, which are compared to a mad elephant. One of the chief offenses is to disobey the instructions of the spiritual master, especially the instructions to avoid the unwanted activities of illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating, and gambling. Lord Caitanya said, "The gardener must defend the creeper by fencing it all around so that the powerful elephant of offenses may not enter."
Lord Caitanya further told Rupa Gosvami: "Sometimes unwanted creepers, such as the creepers of desires for material enjoyment and liberation from the material world, grow along with the creeper of devotional service. The varieties of such unwanted creepers are unlimited. Some unnecessary creepers growing with the bhakti creeper are the creepers of behavior unacceptable for those trying to attain perfection, diplomatic behavior, animal-killing, mundane profiteering, mundane adoration and mundane importance. All these are unwanted creepers. If one does not distinguish between the bhakti-lata creeper and the other creepers, the sprinkling of water is misused because the other creepers are nourished while the bhakti creeper is curtailed. As soon as an intelligent devotee sees an unwanted creeper growing beside the original creeper, he must cut it down instantly."
Srila Prabhupada comments: "Sometimes these unwanted creepers look exactly like the bhakti creeper. They appear to be of the same size and the same species.... A pure devotee can distinguish between the bhakti creeper and a mundane creeper, and he is very alert to distinguish them and keep them separate."
So, progress in spiritual life is not so easy, it requires constant attention and vigilance, and most of all it requires help—the kind of help only a bona fide spiritual master can give. The spiritual master is the expert gardener who can help us properly cultivate the rare plant of the creeper of devotional service.
Lord Caitanya told Rupa Gosvami what happens if proper care is taken: Then the real creeper of bhakti-lata-bija grows nicely, returns home, back to Godhead, and seeks shelter under the lotus feet of Krsna. When the fruit of devotional service becomes ripe and falls down, the gardener tastes the fruit and thus takes advantage of the creeper and reaches the desire tree of the lotus feet of Krsna in Goloka Vrndavana. There the devotee serves the lotus feet of the Lord, which are compared to a wish-fulfilling tree. With great bliss he tastes the juice of the fruit of love and becomes eternally happy."
A look at the worldwide activities of the
Jagannatha Wins in U.S. Independence Day Parade
Washington D.C.—An estimated eighty thousand people lining Constitution Avenue here on July 4 for the U.S. Independence Day parade were blessed with the auspicious sight of Lord Jagannatha, Lord Balarama, and Lady Subhadra riding on their brilliant chariot pulled by devotees enthusiastically chanting the Lord's holy names and dancing. The transcendental spectacle so impressed the judges that they awarded the devotees a plaque for the best float in the parade, which included 105 entries.
The annual parade is seen by visitors from around the world. At least 125 devotees participated and appeared on television nationwide. Next year devotees will hold a festival after the parade, on the National Mall, where half a million people gather each year for U.S. Independence Day celebrations.
Devotee Brings Krsna To the Elderly
Murwillumbah, Australia—Satananda-devi dasi, a member of the New Govardhana farm community here and a part-time nurse at a Gold Coast old persons' home, has influenced many of the staff and residents of the home to accept the practices of Krsna consciousness. Many of the residents now wear neck beads, regularly chant the Hare Krsna mantra on beads, and wait anxiously for Satananda dasi to arrive with Deity garlands and milk sweets. At least one woman died with her neck beads on and clutching her chanting beads.
The residents of the home also like to read about Krsna consciousness. A visitor to the home will find Back to Godhead magazines in the magazine rack and Srila Prabhupada's books on shelves and lying around on chairs and tables, where they have been left temporarily, to again be taken up after a nap or a meal.
Satananda dasi has even persuaded the management to introduce a selected vegetarian diet to all residents, using recipes from cookbooks of the Krsna consciousness movement. It wasn't easy, because she had to win the support of both the management and the staff. The kitchen staff had to be educated in the art of vegetarian cooking.
The head matron at the home and many of the staff members have visited New Govardhana for Sunday Feasts and have spent a pleasant day at the farm and at Satananda's home. Some of them have become vegetarians and are becoming more and more interested in Krsna consciousness.
A group of residents organised a tour of New Govardhana and returned to the home expounding the virtues of the farm and the devotees, no doubt influencing others to appreciate Krsna consciousness. Many of them are in their nineties and will die with fond memories of Krsna.
Soviet Devotees Not Free Yet
Almviks Gard, Sweden—Despite official Soviet recognition of Krsna consciousness as a state-approved religion, the Committee to Free Soviet Hare Krishnas (CFSHK) is still concerned about the precarious situation of ISKCON members in the Soviet Union. A CFSHK spokesman has described the registration as a mixed blessing that came only after the Soviet government had failed to curtail the Krsna consciousness movement by other means.
The Moscow Society for Krishna consciousness was officially founded on June 20, but that doesn't mean the persecution is necessarily over for the Soviet devotees. "Registration actually means control," the CFSHK spokesman said. "Registered religions are always under the heavy scrutiny of the Council for Religious Affairs, and if a recognised religion violates the terms of registration, there is the ever-looming chance that registration can be revoked."
In a press release dated June 20, Soviet emigre Vedavyasa dasa, who spent time in a Soviet psychiatric hospital for his involvement with the Krsna consciousness movement, noted that "actual freedom of religion—freedom to preach in public, print and distribute religious literatures in big quantities, travel outside the USSR for religious education and pilgrimage—these and so many other things are yet required for the Hare Krsna followers in the Soviet Union."
Six devotees in the Soviet Union are still prisoners of conscience—one in prison, one in a labour camp, and four under compulsory labour.
The imprisoned devotee, Vrndavana dasa (Vladimir Kustrya), is ill because of poor conditions and mistreatment suffered while serving less than two years of a five-year labour-camp sentence. When Vrndavana's legs became swollen, making it difficult for him to walk, he refused to perform his work of cutting wood. Because of his "disobedient behaviour," he was transferred on March 25 from his labour camp in Kirovskaya Territory to a maximum security prison in Ulyanovskaya Territory, where conditions are worse. He may send one letter every two months and receive one parcel every six months.
Amala-bhakta dasa (Yeygeny Lyubinsky) has served one and a half years of a four-year sentence in a labour camp and suffers from tuberculosis. His case was brought to the attention of President and Mrs. Reagan when his wife, Svetlana, and their three children were invited to attend a reception during the Moscow summit talks at the end of May.
The CFSHK expresses guarded optimism for the future. A spokesman described a recent meeting between Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev and Patriarch Pimen, head of the Russian Orthodox Church. "During this meeting Gorbachev talked about religious freedom in the Soviet Union and how it must be respected. We are hopeful that with Gorbachev in charge, things will continue in a progressive manner," the spokesman said.
Up From The Ordinary
To gain fame and recognition, he wanted to become a pop music star. But he thought his ultimate perfection would come by merging into the "Supreme Oneness."
by Gaura-Nitai Dasa
I was born and raised in Syracuse, a city in central New York state known for, if anything, its university. With my two older brothers—one two years older and the other thirteen years older—I was brought up in a lower middle-class environment mostly by my mother, since our alcoholic father was practically always drunk and hardly ever at home. My mother would occasionally go to church on Sunday and sometimes insist that I go with her. But as a child I was disillusioned by religion, because I noticed so much hypocrisy in so-called religious people, including my mother.
As we were growing up, my brother who was closest to my age would enjoy harassing me and making me fight with him. Naturally, he would mostly win, being bigger and stronger than me, and I would sometimes get so frustrated that I would cry to my mother or my older brother, whom I respected almost as a father. I was always rather thin and generally shorter than most of my peers in school. I was shy and reclusive and had only a few close friends. I began stuttering in the first grade and never got over it. I envied those persons who were popular and attractive. I dreamed of winning popularity by becoming a popular music star.
While I was in high school, I joined the local drum and bugle corps, the Syracuse Marauders. I had an inclination toward percussion instruments, but since I'd never had any formal training in playing drums or reading music, I wasn't placed on the drum line but was put on the simpler cymbal line. I remember thinking how much fun it was being with the group, traveling with them to play in parades or competitions. It was exciting to show of my skill at twirling the twenty-inch cymbals. I began to feel like I already was a music star. Since I was one of only three cymbal players in our corps of about forty young people, everyone had to notice me!
After graduating from high school in June, 1972, I worked during the day and a took a couple of college courses in the evening. Two years later, looking for a basis for some kind of solid career, I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. I worked in satellite communications.
In my time at the base I taught myself how to read and write music. Even as a child I had made up melodies and lyrics, dreaming of the day when I could cut a record. On one base where I was stationed overseas, a few of my friends and I formed a pop band, and we would perform in the base service club on weekends. I would sometimes sing lead while playing drums. After three and half years I decided not to make a career of the Air Force. I still wanted to be a big music star. In May, 1978, at the end of my four-year enlistment, I was honorably discharged.
Soon after my discharge I purchased a set of drums, thinking ahead to the time when I would use them professionally. I lived with my mother then, so I was somewhat restricted in my drum practicing. But she had an old upright piano, and I would practice my songs and write new ones using this piano. Occasionally a few friends would come over and we would play music together. I knew I wasn't a great drummer, and I'd had very little practical experience with playing piano and no formal voice training, but still I was sure I was destined to "make it" in my life and be something above the ordinary.
Besides playing music, I liked to read about unusual happenings, like UFO's, the Bermuda Triangle, ghosts, reincarnation, and so on. I had come across the word karma in my readings on reincarnation, and I came to the conclusion that my karma is OK. It didn't seem as bad as that of others I knew and admired, including pop stars. So, as I was gaining more and more confidence in myself as a singer and musician, I thought, "Why not take the big step and make a record?"
I neatly wrote down seven or eight of my best songs on professional-looking song paper and mailed them to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., to have them copyrighted. Then I went to a local recording studio and recorded the songs for an album. The studio had the usual multi-track recording system, where one could record different instruments and voices on separate tape tracks and later blend them together. It took me a month and cost $1,000 to complete the recording.
I wasn't really satisfied with the results, but I went to New York City with some copies of my record in hopes of capturing the interest of some of the bigger record companies. The receptionists were generally rude and so busy that I couldn't even get in the door. I began to think, "There must be hundreds of guys like me in New York who are trying to do the same thing." I began to get discouraged, feeling insignificant. After a few days, I went back to Syracuse and to the student-run Syracuse University radio station to see if they would play my record. They played a couple of selections on the air, but I didn't get the recognition I was looking for.
Then I saw a music contest advertised in a popular music magazine. Among the prizes was a chance to record with a major recording company. I entered my album—along with an entry fee—and waited. I never got a reply, or even an acknowledgment. My pride was crushed.
I was still reading about things like karma and reincarnation, and I came to an understanding that this life wasn't the all-in-all, and that the perfection of my life was to some day, or in some future life, to merge with the "Supreme Oneness," from where we originated. I went to a meditation session where a svami was asking everyone to sit silently with eyes closed and meditate. I can't remember what we were supposed to "meditate" on, but I do remember that soon after attending the session I received an invitation to attend a weekend meditation session in the country with the same svami, but I would have to pay $200.00 to attend it. Thinking it was too much money, I decided not to go, although I retained my interest in merging in oneness.
Soon after this I met a couple of Hare Krsna devotees in a parking lot as I was going to my car. They were friendly young men, and I was immediately impressed with their honesty. I was also impressed with what they were explaining about the literature they were selling. I felt I needed some genuine enlightenment, as well as some encouragement in my quest for my ultimate goal of becoming one with the Supreme, so I gave a donation and took a Back to Godhead magazine and a book called Srimad-Bhagavatam. The devotees also invited me to their "Sunday Love Feast" in Manhattan.
Days after we parted I still remembered with relish and amazement my meeting with these two devotees. "Even in these modern times," I thought, "there are still people who live a God-centered life and who aren't hypocrites." I wrote a letter to their temple praising the devotees in hopes that they would get rewarded. I also expressed my sincere appreciation for the literature they had given me. I had learned from it that trying to become one with God was for less intelligent persons, because to become one with God was actually impossible anyway: we are eternally His subordinate parts.
A couple of weeks after sending the letter, I got a phone call from a devotee at the New York temple telling me that they were very happy to receive my letter and that the temple president had even read it to the assembled devotees during the morning announcements in the temple. Naturally I was very pleased to hear this news. But when my caller said that some devotees would like to visit me at my apartment in Syracuse, I was reluctant at first because I knew it would mean that I was committing myself more than I wanted to at that time. It would mean I would agree to be preached to. In other words, it would mean I was becoming one of them. Later I thought, "What harm could one visit do? I could always tell them not to come back if I wasn't really interested in what they were doing." So, when the devotee called back, I agreed that they could come.
Three devotees from the Manhattan temple arrived in their mobile home. Being shy, I was touched by their friendliness and boldness. I was thinking, "These people must really believe in what they teach, because they're walking around very casually with their traditional robes and shaved heads, as if it were a natural, normal thing."
On and off for a couple of years I had been trying to be a vegetarian, for health reasons only, but after tasting the vegetarian meal they cooked, I knew it was something special. They showed me how to prepare vegetarian meals and offer them to Krsna before I ate. I distinctly remember that afterwards, as I began to offer my food as they had suggested, everything I ate really tasted better than before. They also explained a little bit about the importance of chanting Krsna's holy names and gave me a strand of beads to chant on. They suggested that I chant the Hare Krsna mantra a fixed number of times every day for a while, gradually increasing the number, as I was able, up to the goal of chanting around the stand of 108 beads 16 times each day.
I enjoyed their company and looked forward to future visits. Shortly thereafter, I was visited on two occasions by different devotees from the same temple. Although they were still practically strangers, I nevertheless trusted them. I allowed them to spend the night, I went out on shopping errands for them, and when I went to work I allowed them to stay in my apartment. I could understand that these people didn't have the anxieties or the material desires that everyone else in the world has. They were satisfied with the simple things they had, and they were happy.
Of course, I was looking for happiness, but I wasn't convinced that I could taste the level of happiness and peace they had. I was thinking, "Are they happy because of some type of brainwashing, as the newspapers sometimes say? Is this really a genuine religious movement?"
Still, I was eager to tell others about what I'd learned from the devotees and their books. An acquaintance of mine at work was a member of a more popular religious organisation. He wanted me to come to their meetings and hear from them, but I felt more inclined toward associating with the Hare Krsna devotees because their teachings made more sense to me than the other group's teachings. The devotees' teachings seemed more rational. And, as fare as I could see, the devotees were actually trying to live what their scripture taught and were not hypocritical. My acquaintance finally suggested that I pray to the Lord to give me an indication as to who He is.
I followed his suggestion, and with as much sincerity as I could muster, I prayed. I promised the Lord that I would take up very seriously the process of religion indicated by Him for the rest of my life. I didn't receive any direct answer from a supernatural force, but I took it that God was giving me an indication by allowing me to come into contact with the Hare Krsna devotees, who seemed to be very dedicated to living a sinless life. I appreciated that they were not eating meat and justifying it in the name of religion. I had realised before that going back to God at the end of this life was not as easy as some were professing, and that one would have to actually become purified in all his heart before he would be accepted by the Lord.
As it turned out, it was only a few months from the time I met the devotees in the parking lot to when I moved into their temple in New York. I voluntarily gave practically everything I owned to the temple, including my car, my bank account, and my drums, without any regret whatsoever. I wanted to keep the promise I had made to the Lord. By this time, I had already been daily chanting sixteen rounds of the Hare Krsna mantra on my beads and following the four regulative religious principles: no meat-eating, no illicit sex, no intoxication, and no gambling.
I have no regrets in coming to Krsna consciousness, except that I didn't come sooner. Now I am able to sing and play percussion instruments every day, and the more I do these things, trying to do so with real love and devotion for Krsna, the more He takes notice of me. And as the Lord is merciful to me in this way, I come closer to Him and become something above the ordinary.
Srila Bhakti-raksaka Sridharadeva Goswami Maharaja
Srila Prabhupada's revered Godbrother and friend Sripada Bhakti-raksaka Sridhara Maharaja, the senior sannyasi in the Gaudiya Matha and the founder-acarya of Sri Caitanya Saraswata Math in Navadvipa, West Bengal, passed away at 5:48 A.M. on August 12 at the age of 93. He was the last remaining sannyasa disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, the founder-acarya of the Gaudiya Matha. He passed on to the spiritual world surrounded by his followers and calling on the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu.
Sripada Sridhara Maharaja, raised in a village of Sanskrit-speaking brahmanas in Hapaniya, West Bengal, joined the Gaudiya Matha in 1927, after completing his study of law at Calcutta's Presidency College. He received the name Ramendra Sundara from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta at the time of his initiation. Thereafter, he preached extensively throughout India, and in the 1920s he discovered the site on the banks of the Godavari River in South India where Lord Caitanya and Ramananda Raya had held their famous conversation recorded in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta went there to install the impressions of Lord Caitanya's feet in a shrine and awarded Ramendra Sundara with a new name, Ramananda dasa, in honor of his affinity for the teachings of Ramananda Raya.
In January 1928, in Allahabad, he met Srila Prabhupada during the time of the Kumbha-mela festival at a program at Srila Prabhupada's house. When he met Srila Prabhupada again, in 1932 in Vrndavana, he had become Bhakti-raksaka Sridhara Maharaja. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta had given him this name in recognition of his expertise in penetrating the essence of scriptural conclusions.
In the early 1930s, Srila Prabhupada helped Sridhara Maharaja establish the Bombay branch of the Gaudiya Matha. Later, while Srila Prabhupada was living with his family in Calcutta, Sridhara Maharaja and Bhaktisaranga Maharaja lived in the same building. They would discuss Srimad-Bhagavatam and go out together to preach.
Many years later, when Srila Prabhupada's preaching had become successful, Srila Sridhara Maharaja often expressed his appreciation. Once, upon Srila Prabhupada's returning to India, Sridhara Maharaja remarked, "Our Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja has done a miracle! Thakura Bhaktivinoda conceived and Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura began to translate this conception into action. And we find that through Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja, in his last days, it has been fulfilled to such a great extent. We are happy, we are glad, we are proud."
Srila Sridhara Maharaja established temples in Navadvipa, Calcutta, and Hapaniya. Widely respected for his scholarship, he wrote several books in Bengali, Sanskrit, and English.
The international Vaisnava community deeply regrets the passing of Sripada Sridhara Maharaja, but we take solace in the conviction that this pure devotee has entered the eternal pastimes of Lord Caitanya.
Kirtana in Kwazulu
"The local chief was simply too suspicious to grant us permission to enter his domain, but I knew that Lord Caitanya would not have brought us here without a reason."
by Indradyumna Swami
Sitting in an office in Durban, South Africa, we anxiously awaited a message from the chief of the Zulu nation, Gutasha Bhutalezi. We had managed to contact one of his local chieftains earlier that day with our urgent request: our local chapter of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness had received a large donation of rice, beans, and vegetables the day before, and we needed permission from Chief Bhutalezi to enter the Zulu homelands and distribute it to the needy people. Devastation floods had hit the area some months ago, and we had information that many people were still struggling to survive.
Suddenly the chief minister's reply appeared on the screen of the telex machine. "Kwazulu government has no objection to distribution of food by your organisation to needy people in Kwazulu. I suggest you contact the township manager at Ntuazuma and the magistrate in Nawedwe to help you make suitable arrangements. Signed: The Secretary of the Chief Minister."
I grabbed the telex as we ran out the door; it would be invaluable in convincing local chieftains of our intent. They would naturally be suspicious because the Zulu homelands, known as Kwazulu, are rarely visited by outsiders.
As our four-wheel-drive jeep and Hare Krsna Food for Life van pulled out of our temple grounds in Durban, bound for Ndwedwe, two days drive north toward Mozambique, my heart beat faster, eager for the adventure ahead. By Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mercy, we were taking the sankirtana movement deep into the ancient homelands of the Zulus.
Five hundred years ago Lord Caitanya, the incarnation of God for this age, predicted tat the chanting of Hare Krsna would go to every town and village of the world. In our small way we were helping to fulfill that prophecy by traveling to the arid lands of the Zulus. We did not know what we could expect, but we hoped they would accept our gifts of mercy: the holy names of Krsna, and krsna-prasadam.
After three days of driving, we crossed into Kwazulu, and the paved roads ended abruptly. Clouds of dust billowed in through the open windows as we slowed our pace because of the rough terrain. Though the dust soon covered us, we kept the windows open for some relief from the hot African sun that beat down mercilessly. Our party of ten devotees soon depleted the water tanks strapped to the sides of the van and jeep.
After some time the first village appeared on the horizon. Thinking it wise to send some scouts ahead, I directed two of our African devotees, Jagat Guru dasa and Bhakta Alain, to go forward and meet the chief. After an anxious two hours, they returned with despondent faces. They had forgotten to take the telex, and as I had suspected earlier, the local chief was simply too suspicious to grant us permission to enter his domain. Knowing, however, that Lord Caitanya would not have brought us here without a reason, I grabbed the telex, some prasadam, and one of Srila Prabhupada's books and jumped back into the jeep with the two devotees. "Let's go back to the village," I said, "I want to meet the chief."
As we entered the village the simple surrounding revealed the difficult life of the people. To be sure, the Zulus had incorporated much of modern civilisation; but it wasn't evident here in this rural village. They were poor.
When the road ended, we proceeded to the chief's residence on foot. His guards approached us anxiously, but soon submitted to our requests to meet their leader. After some time, the chief appeared at the door and asked us to enter. When we showed him the telex and explained our proposal, he cheerfully agreed and asked his men to take us to the village school.
The headmistress was informed of our intentions and soon had all one thousand children assembled in the school courtyard. Wide-eyed boys and girls looked intently at Giriraja Swami as he stood before them to explain our presence. "We are all children of God," he said, his words being translated into Zulu by Jagat Guru dasa. "God is great and we are very small. We are meant to glorify and serve God, and in this age the chanting of the holy name of God, Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna , Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, is the simplest and most sublime way of knowing Him." The children stared back with curious looks. "Therefore we would like to ask you to chant Hare Krsna along with us."
He taught them the mantra word by word, and they began repeating it. Within a few minutes the assembly was resounding with the holy names. I looked on, stunned by the spontaneity of the children and their teachers in accepting the chanting so eagerly. The Zulu children, accustomed to dancing as part of their traditions, soon began to follow the flowing steps of the devotees, creating a great cloud of dust that rose into the air.
After a full hour of kirtana, the teachers lined the children up as we distributed khichri, a preparation of rice, beans, and vegetables, to our hungry hosts. One thousand plates were served out, and many children came back for more.
Later that evening, as we drove out of the dusty compound in the dark, hundreds of grateful children ran behind us chanting "Krsna! Krsna!" Our first attempt had been a success. I prayed that other successes would follow.
Late that night our caravan rolled into the second village, a good six-hour drive down the road into a fertile valley. As there was no electricity, the shadows danced in the flickering candlelight coming from the small huts, creating an eerie welcome to our tired party.
Soon curious faces appeared from the shadows, and a contingent of villagers came forward to meet us. This time, however, I took the initiative to explain our program and our success earlier that day. To my great relief the local chief was more than happy to welcome us. In fact, we received VIP treatment that night by being given special quarters: two rooms with hard-packed dirt floors and two armed guards at the doors in case of trouble. Within minutes we were all sound asleep.
After rising early the next morning and bathing from the local pump, we proceeded with our morning program of kirtana and classes. The melodious chanting of Hare Krsna soon attracted curious onlookers, who took up the chanting along with us. I remembered an appropriate verse by Srila Rupa Gosvami, one of Lord Caitanya's most intimate disciple:
"I offer my most respectful obeisances unto Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He is the most merciful incarnation of Krsna because He freely bestows love of God upon everyone." Here in the homelands of Zulu the mercy of Lord Caitanya was readily available through the process of chanting Hare Krsna, and the people were eagerly accepting.
Later that morning, in cooperation with the chief, we organised a sankirtana party, chanting Hare Krsna throughout the village. Soon hundreds of people joined us, and by noon we numbered well over a thousand. Bringing the kirtana party back to the residence of the chief, we distributed prasadam the everyone who accompanied us. Plate after plate of khichri went into eager hands. Then the chief came forward and expressed his gratitude. "You are welcome here at any time," he told us. I assured him that we would return.
And so it went, day after day, village after village. Soon, our food supplies exhausted, we were obliged to turn back and retrace our path. As we passed the numerous villages we had visited, to our pleasant surprise many children would often appear on the road waving and chanting, "Hare Krsna! Hare Krsna!" We would be back, we told them.
How could we afford not to? They were so eager for Krsna consciousness—and we were eager to spread the chanting of Hare Krsna. Our sankirtana safari was coming to an end, but the effect of Lord Caitanya's mercy were just beginning for the people of Kwazulu.
Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare
Whether we call God Buddha, Jehovah, Allah, Yahweh, or Krsna, the names of God stand as the source of every article we can put a name on.
As the old expression goes, "What's in a name?" Srila Prabhupada gives an illustration about the use of material names compared to chanting God's names. He explains that we can chant any name, for example "water," but no matter how many times we repeat "water," our thirst still won't be quenched. We'll just get bored—and thirstier. Yet if we chant the holy names of God, as in the maha-mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—because God and His name are nondifferent we will achieve God.
Krsna's presence must remain hidden to those who rest their faith in material names. Srila Prabhupada has written:
The whole material creation is a jugglery of names only; in fact, it is nothing but a bewildering creation of matter like earth, water and fire. The buildings, furniture, cars, bungalows, mills, factories, industries, peace, war or even the highest perfection of material science, namely atomic energy and electronics, are all simply bewildering names of material elements with their concomitant reactions of the three modes. Since the devotee of the Lord knows them perfectly well, he is not interested in creating unwanted things for a situation which is not at all reality, but simply names of no more significance than the babble of sea waves.—(Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.2.3, purport)
Just to help establish these babblings, paid government servants assign registered trade marks and copyrights for names. Advertising firms and public relations agencies are paid to promote names and create fame for them.
But God is transcendental, and He's not trying to get a piece of the action. He has no need to sue anyone who uses His name. He is never depleted by any infringement. Rather, because He feels sorry that we're missing the responsibility of using our human intelligence, He appears in this age as Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu to establish the chanting of His holy names.
Lord Caitanya prayed, "O my Lord, Your holy name alone can render all benediction to living beings, and thus You have hundreds and millions of names like Krsna and Govinda. In these transcendental names You have invested all Your transcendental energies."
While we mix in this world with names like John, Ashok, Mikhail, and Suzanne, our names usually don't reveal anything of our real identity. They're ust more material sounds to add to the babble. Yet Krsna's names describe His transcendental attributes and favourite activities, and we can relish His qualities and enter into His pastimes through His names.
What's in a name? Well, if you are asking about the names of God, you won't find the answer in any college textbook. Sure, the linguists have analysed every word ever uttered. And they have a very high regard for the use and maintenance of language. They are seeking a sort of perfection. Yet everything that they're searching for, that we're all searching for, is in Krsna's names.—Karuna-devi dasi
Is the Soul Unlimited?
This is the conclusion of a conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and reporters in Melbourne, Australia, on June 29, 1974.
Srila Prabhupada: So we are living beings. But we are not the Supreme Being.
Reporter 3: And yet God is inside us.
Srila Prabhupada: God is inside, outside—everywhere.
Reporter 6: Your Divine Grace, who do you think Jesus Christ was?
Srila Prabhupada: Now, let us finish one idea at a time. Jesus Christ said that he is God's son. That's all right.
Reporters: But if you take a drop of water and you merge it back into the ocean . . . this is an example that is often given by these various masters . . . that if you take a drop of water and you put it into the ocean, that drop becomes one with the ocean.
Srila Prabhupada: The drop of water becomes the ocean?
Reporter 3: No. But it becomes merged in that ocean.
Srila Prabhupada: That's all right. Merging is different. But the ocean remains the ocean.
Reporter 3: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: And you remain the drop. That's all. Now, take your material body—earth, water, fire, and so on. When you pass away and this body becomes decomposed, its present form will not remain. Does this mean that your body will become the totality of universal elements?
Reporter 3: No. But surely the body is different from the soul.
Srila Prabhupada: So that body is a drop in the totality of material elements. That does not mean your body has become the totality of material elements. Similarly, a drop of ocean water is a drop always. It does not become the ocean. It appears that it is mixed with the ocean. But "mixed" does not mean the drop will ever become the ocean. That is not the fact.
Reporter 6: When they say the drop mixes with the ocean . . .
Srila Prabhupada : Yes.
Reporter 6: ... it's like the human, finite form merging with the infinite, and then it acquires the powers of the infinite.
Srila Prabhupada: No. "Mixes" or "merges" means something less. This example is given. Let us say a green bird enters into a tree which is also green. So although to my eyes it appears that the bird has mixed or merged into the tree, actually that is not the fact. Or take an airplane. You look into the sky and see an airplane flying along. Then, after some time, you look and see there is no airplane. You see only the sky. To your eyes, it may appear that the airplane has mixed or merged into the sky. But of course, the airplane has not merged. It cannot merge. The airplane is keeping its identity, just as the bird is keeping his identity.
Reporter 3: Your Divine Grace, is the human soul limited or unlimited?
Srila Prabhupada: Limited.
Reporter 3: Limited?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Reporter 3: It has boundaries and . . . ?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Because you are in fact limited; therefore you are under the control of material nature. That is being explained in these examples of the bird and the airplane. For instance, the bird is limited. Now, if he keeps his limited existence, that is nice. But if, unnecessarily, he wants to become unlimited, that is artificial. How can it be?
Reporter 3: I seem to remember reading a particular chapter of the Bhagavad-gita that said ... I can't quite remember what chapter it was, but it said that. . . Krsna was talking to Arjuna . . . and it said that Krsna said to Arjuna, "When you realize Me"—or when you realise God, Krsna—"you will see the whole creation inside Me...."
Srila Prabhupada: Hm?
Reporter 3: "You will see the whole creation within Me and within yourself." Is that a true translation?
Srila Prabhupada: One of my disciples can give you the accurate translation.
Disciple: "You will see all beings in Me. And you will see Me in all beings."
Srila Prabhupada: So what is that? Does it mean that all beings are Krsna?
Reporter 3: The translation that I read also said, "You will see Me within yourself."
Srila Prabhupada: As Paramatma. or Supersoul, Krsna is within everyone's heart. Isvarah sarva-bhutanam hrd-dese 'rjuna tisthati. But that does not mean everyone is Krsna. You are in this room. That does not mean you are this room.
Reporter 3: So we are in God, and God is in us?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Without God we would have no existence.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, here is the exact translation of that verse in Bhagavad-gita As It Is. "A true yogi observes Me in all beings and also sees every being in Me. Indeed, the self-realized man sees Me everywhere."
Srila Prabhupada: So without God we would have no existence. That's all. That we live in Him does not mean we become Him. Constitutionally, we are His part-and-parcel servants, and we have to serve Him.
Reporter 5: Your Divine Grace, do you think that every human being will become liberated?
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes. When people learn this great science of God realisation and self-realisation that Krsna has given in Bhagavad-gita, then He promises they will be liberated. Janma karma ca me divyam evam yo vetti tattvatah/ tyaktva deham punar janma naiti mam eti so 'rjuna: "One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna." You see? Krsna guarantees it.
Reporter 3: Your Divine Grace, thank you very much for your time.
Srila Prabhupada: Hare Krsna.
Ecumenism—Diplomacy or Sincere Exchange?
Almost all religions pursue some sort of exchange with other religious sects. They may do it to further the aim of their own sect, to quell violence among fanatics, to cooperate in efforts for humane work, or for many other reasons. Perhaps the purest and most worthy purpose for persons of different religions to come together is to help one another in the individual attempt at attaining love of God. Having taken part recently in conversations with Christian professors and clergymen in the United States and Europe, I would like to discuss some of the more positive aspects of ecumenism, and how the Krsna consciousness movement can contribute.
According to religions scholar Huston Smith, there are two kinds of religionists, whom he calls "lumpers" and "choppers." Lumpers find the common element in different religions and bring them together, and choppers look for differences. But even among lumpers there are different opinions as to the real purpose of ecumenism. In Frankfurt, Germany, I met Professor Edmund Weber of Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, who said, "I am not as much interested in comparative religion as cooperative religion."
Dr. Weber spoke of the need for religionists to cooperate to help solve world problems. He gave the example that many people in the world do not have the basic necessities of daily food, clothing, and shelter. One of the main reasons for this, he said, is that nations who enjoy a higher standard of living are denying, either directly or indirectly, those who do not have enough.
So religious leaders can set the example in this regard by living simply. Certainly Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu did this throughout His life, as did St. Francis of Assisi and Gautama Buddha. Although religious persons are entitled to use wealth in the service of God, the money they receive should clearly be for Him, not for the sense gratification on the churchmen. Only if the religious people act in this way can they honestly preach to other that material wealth is not the highest sign of God's favour and that we should share what we have.
Religious representatives can also cooperate by encouraging seminars among members of the different religions. In these meetings, they can discuss how to solve such down-to-earth problems as achieving successful matrimony, keeping faith in times of ordeal, and controlling one's material desires. An immense amount of experience has been gathered by pastoral counseling, and religious workers of different traditions can share the viewpoints of the different scriptures.
The most important goal for a religious person is to develop love of God. This can also be a subject of ecumenical exchange. Although one must be convinced of the truth of one's own religious path, one should be humble enough to admit the possibility of benefiting by a spiritual exchange with like-minded souls. It is in this area that the Krsna consciousness movement may be able to offer its most useful service to ecumenism. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada often met in this way with representatives of different religions, and he recommended it for his followers. He stated in a letter in 1974:
Just today we spoke at a seminary in Melbourne, Australia, and the young Franciscan monks listened very respectfully. When speaking to Christians we never say our religious system is better than theirs but we speak on the principles of love of God, sa vai pumsam paro dharmo. They become convinced and pleased to hear our explanations of God consciousness based on the Vedic conclusion.
When I used to travel with Srila Prabhupada as his secretary, I noticed two specific suggestions he offered to Christians. One was that they should worship God by chanting His holy name. The importance of singing and meditating on the names of God, especially in this age, is stressed in Vedic literature, and Srila Prabhupada took it to be a universal principle. He suggested that Christians could either chant the names of God as found in the Hare Krsna mantra, or that they could chant the name of Jesus Christ. Srila Prabhupada also pointed out an interesting etymological similarity between the names of Christ and Krsna.
Another suggestion Srila Prabhupada never tired of giving was that the Bible advocates refraining from animal slaughter, and that this is the real sense of the commandment "Thou shalt not kill." Srila Prabhupada didn't attempt to convince Christians to give up their religion, but he made suggestions like these, as to how they could become "better Christians." And as he indicates in his letter about the Franciscans, Christians usually liked to hear these suggestion form Srila Prabhupada.
Some of the practices of Krsna consciousness may seem peculiar to the Vaisnava sect, such as offering all of one's food to God before eating it, worshiping the form of Krsna on the altar, or studying the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita and other Sanskrit scriptures, but an intelligent "lumper" will be able to appreciate even these practices as carrying the universal essence of bhakti, or devotion to God. Similarly, how could a Vaisnava refuse to accept the great commandment of Jesus Christ: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with a all your soul and with all your mind, and love your neighbours as yourself"?
An in-depth study of scriptures will show that in every religion the essence is bhakti. Religions usually teach lesser forms of worship for those persons who are very much attached to material desires, but the scriptures always make it clear that the ultimate goal is devotion to God. The scriptures of the Krsna consciousness movement promote only bhakti. Although the Vedas do give prescriptions for those on the paths of karma (material desires) and jnana (mental speculation), scriptures such as the Srimad-Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita are meant for those who are after the highest goal of life, pure love of God. Thus it is stated in the beginning of Srimad-Bhagavatam, "This scripture completely rejects all religious activities that are materially motivated."
And in the conclusion of the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna states, "This scripture completely rejects all religious activities that are materially motivated."
And in the conclusion of the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna states, "Give up all activities performed in the name of religion and just surrender unto Me. I will release you from all sinful reactions. Do not be afraid."
Aside from the benefit religionists can gain from hearing one another's scriptures, there is also the benefit of personal example. The symptoms of love of God have been analysed in the scriptures, and they include qualities such as humility, renunciation, kindness to all creatures, and being fixed in the Absolute Truth. To find these qualities in a devotee of God is always an inspiration for one who is aspiring to the spiritual path. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu states that personal example is the most important manifestation of religious truth: "The scriptures and great learned sages are not always in agreement with one another. Consequently there are different religious principles. But a devotee's behaviour establishes the true purpose of religious principles."
The same point is also stated in the Mahabharata:
Dry arguments are inconclusive. A great personality whose opinion is not different from other's is not considered great sage. Simply by studying the Vedas, which are variegated, one cannot come to the right path by which religious principles are understood. The solid truth of religious principle is hidden in the heart of an unadulterated, self-realised person. Consequently, as the sastras confirm, one should accept whatever progressive path the great saints advocate.
One can associate with great saints through their writings and teachings. And although one may say that there are no great saints today, there are sincere devotees trying to follow the path of pure devotion to God. The Vedic scriptures declare that the association of such devotees, even taken in small amounts, is very beneficial.
Some religious leaders will continue to shy away from ecumenism, and some will indulge in it only for diplomacy, but the opportunity is open for deeper and more sincere exchanges. One should not be afraid that he will lose his own faith in such exchanges, but he should try to share whatever genuine God consciousness he has realised by serving his spiritual master and scriptures. We can use all the help we can get.—SDG