Back to Godhead Magazine

Volume 23, Number 10, 1988


Beyond the Senses
Coming to Krsna
Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare...
A Leaf, A Fruit, A Flower—Part I
Who's Afraid?
Shell Collectors on Miami Beach
The Vedic Observer
Every Town And Village
Thorny Pleasure
Consider the Cows
Divorcing The Daughter Of Time
Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out
Notes from the Editor

© 2005 The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International

Beyond the Senses

A lecture in London, England, on August 24, 1973, by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.

antavanta ime deha
nityasyoktah saririnah
anasino 'prameyasya
tasmad yudhyasva bharata

"The material body of the indestructible, immeasurable and eternal living entity is sure to come to an end; therefore, fight, O descendant of Bharata." (Bhagavad-gita 2.18)

Here Krsna is convincing Arjuna that the soul is different from the body. While the soul is eternal, this body will one day be finished. However you may try to preserve the body by applying cosmetics and other things, you cannot save it. That is not possible, because the body is antavanta, perishable. (Anta means "end," and vat means "possessing.")

So Krsna is saying to Arjuna, "Your duty is to fight, but you are lamenting that the bodies of your grandfather and teacher and kinsmen will be destroyed. You think this will make you unhappy. Certainly you'll be unhappy, but even if you do not fight, their bodies will be finished today or tomorrow or a few years later. So why should you not discharge your duty?" This is Krsna's argument here.

As for the souls of Arjuna's grandfather, teacher, and others, they are eternal. The words used are nityasya uktah. Now, it is significant that Krsna says uktah. Uktah means "it is said." It is not that Krsna dogmatically puts forward some theory. No. The fact that the soul is eternal is already settled; it is already ascertained. By whom? By the Vedic literature, and by previous authorities. This is the way of presenting evidence for spiritual statements. Even Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, does not theorize. He says, "It is said; it is authorized."

Then Krsna says the soul is anasino 'prameyasya. Anasinah means "immeasurable." Of course, in the Vedic literature the measurement of the soul is given, but it is so small that you cannot measure it.

Many things are described in the Vedic literature that are beyond our experience. You are so advanced in scientific knowledge, but when dealing with Vedic knowledge you cannot say whether or not it is factual. For example, the Padma Purana gives a count of the varieties of living entities: jalaja nava-laksani. "There are 900,000 aquatic animals." You cannot say, "No, there are not 900,000. There are more." It is not possible for you to see within the water and count how many varieties of living entities are there. The biologists might investigate, but it is not possible for them to see 900,000 forms. Then the Padma Purana says, sthavara laksa-vimsati: "There are 2,000,000 varieties of trees and plants." Then, krmayo rudra-sankhyahah: "There are 1,100,000 insects"

It is a puzzling thing how the Vedic literature can state everything so precisely: "Nine hundred thousand aquatics, 2,000,000 plants and trees, 1,100,000 insects." This is realized knowledge. And we accept it. Because we accept Vedas as authority, knowledge is there, ready. If somebody asks you, "Can you say how many forms of living entities there are within the water?" it would be very difficult for you to answer. Even the biologists cannot say, although they are very expert. But because we accept the Vedic authority, we can immediately say, "There are 900,000 aquatics." Although I have never seen these forms personally, because it is stated in the Vedic literature I can give you the correct answer. So, by Vedic authority we can know things beyond our direct experience.

Sometimes rascals come and challenge. "Can you show me God?" Yes. we can show you God—provided you have the eyes to see Him. God can be seen with a different type of eyes. not with these ordinary eyes. That is stated in the sastra [scripture]: atah sri-krsna-namadi na bhaved grahyam indriyaih. Indriyah means "with these material senses." With these material senses we cannot directly experience the form of the Lord. or His qualities, or what He does. But the sastra describes the Lord's qualities, form. and activities. So you can learn of these things from the sastra.

The Vedanta-sutra says. sastra-yonitvat. Yoni means "source." Thus sastra-yonitvat means that the sastra is the source of knowledge-about the Supreme Lord. As it is said. one should be sastra-caksuh—the sastra should be one's eyes, not these blunt material eyes.

So, to know what is beyond our sense perception, we have to see through the authorized books. Acintyah khalu ye bhava na tams tarkena yojayet: "By argument one cannot understand what is beyond sense perception."

So many things are beyond our direct experience. Daily we see many planets and stars in the sky. but we have no information about them. Now the scientists are sending men to see the moon planet, but hopelessly they are coming back. Then the scientists dogmatically declare. "There is no life on any planet except Earth." This is false. We have information from the Srimad-Bhagavatam that there are people on the moon who live for ten thousand years. And what is the measurement of their year? Our six months is equal to their twelve hours, so just imagine how long ten thousand of their years is!

Actually, everyone's year is calculated differently. A small ant lives for a hundred "years." but the ant's hundred years and our hundred years are different. Similarly, our hundred years and Brahma's hundred years are different. So time is relative. according to the nature of your body.

Now, let us try to calculate the life span of Brahma by calculating his one day. Krsna says. sahasra-yuga-paryantam ahar yad brahmano viduh: "Brahma's day lasts for a thousand yuga cycles." In each cycle there are four yugas. or ages—Satya, Treta, Dvapara, and Kali—which last a total of 4,320,000 years. So one of Brahma's days (a day is morning to evening) lasts 4,320,000,000 of our years, and Brahma lives one hundred years composed of these days and equally long nights.

These things are to be understood through the sastra. Otherwise, we can have no knowledge of them. You cannot calculate on your own. nor can you go to Brahma and ask him. You cannot even go to the moon planet what to speak of Brahmaloka. It is in the remotest part of this universe. Modern scientists estimate that to go to the topmost planet would require thousands of years if one travels at the speed of light. So by direct perception we cannot understand even this material world, what to speak of the spiritual world.

As Lord Brahma says, panthas tu koti-sata-vatsara-sampragamyo vayor athapi manaso muni-pungavanam. You can go on with your mental speculation for many hundreds and thousands of years, but still it is not possible to know of the soul and God in this way. You have to learn about these subject matters from the sastra: otherwise, it is not possible to understand them.

Therefore here. when Krsna says the soul is nitya, eternal. He also says uktah, "it is said." Krsna is not presenting some dogma, although He can do so. since He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But He is teaching us that only when something is said by previous authorities, or acaryas, can you declare it. This is called parampara, the disciplic succession. You can try to understand the subject matter with your intelligence, but you cannot make any addition or alteration. That is not allowed. The science of the Absolute Truth is already settled: you cannot argue.

Now, in the previous verse Krsna said, avinasi tu tad viddhi yena sarvam idam tatam: "The power of the indestructible soul is spread all over the body." What is that power? Consciousness. This power of the soul you can perceive, but not the soul itself. The soul is so small that it is not even possible to measure it. We have no means to measure it because our material senses are too blunt. We can simply understand the presence of the soul by seeing the presence of consciousness.

When Caitanya Mahaprabhu fainted in the Jagannatha temple. Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya examined Him and concluded that there was no consciousness. because His abdomen was not moving. When you have consciousness, you breathe, and thus your abdomen moves. But because Caitanya Mahaprabhu's abdomen was not moving. Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya thought. "This sannyasi might have died." But when the Bhattacarya brought a cotton swab and put it before the Lord's nostrils, he saw that the fibers of the swab moved a little, and in this way he saw that Lord Caitanya was living.

So, everything material has a specific measurement, but as far as the soul is concerned. it is aprameyasya. immeasurable. That is why the materialistic scientists say there is no soul. They cannot detect it with their instruments.

But we have proof that there is a soul. What is that proof? The existence of consciousness. This is the proof. And in the sastra the place of the soul is also given: the heart. Isvarah sarva-bhutanam hrd-dese 'rjuna tisthati. The soul is in the heart, and Krsna is also in the heart. They remain together.

So, you can perceive the presence of the soul by the presence of consciousness, but if you want to measure the soul. that is not possible. Therefore Krsna says it is aprameya. immeasurable. Now. you may say. "Why should I believe Krsna when He says the soul is immeasurable?" The answer is that He says uktah. "It is already settled by previous authorities." In other words, there is Vedic evidence that the soul is immeasurable. Where is the Vedic evidence? In the Svetasvatara Upanisad (5.9) :

satadha kalpitasya ca
bhago jivah sa vijneyah
sa canantyaya kalpate

"The measurement of the living entity is one hundredth of one hundredth part of the tip of a hair." In the Srimad-Bhagavatam [11.16.11] there is also evidence: suksmanam apy aham jivah. Krsna Himself says. "Of minute particles. I am the jiva." These are some of the evidences in the Vedic literature that the soul is immeasurable. and we have to accept them.

So, from the Vedic literature we get evidence for the size of the soul. and from our experience of consciousness we can understand the presence of the soul. Therefore how can anyone say there is no soul? This is foolishness. The w hole world is going on under this foolishness. Not only now. but in ancient times also. For example, Carvaka Muni was an atheist; he did not believe in God or the soul. Lord Buddha also said there is no soul. He knew everything because he is an incarnation of God. but he had to teach the people in that way because they were not intelligent enough to understand anything of God or the soul. Why? Because they were killers of animals.

The brains of animal-killers are as dull as stone. Such people cannot understand subtle things. Therefore meat-eating should be stopped. In order to revive the finer tissues of the brain so that one can understand subtle things, one must give up meat-eating. This is the statement of Maharaja Pariksit. He said that God consciousness, Krsna consciousness, cannot be understood by animal-killers (vina pasughnat).

You'll find that those who are animal-killers, even if they claim to be very religious. cannot understand the soul. They are simply fanatics. They cannot understand what is the soul or what is God. They have some theories and they think they are religious, but what is actually sin, what are pious activities—these things they cannot understand because they are animal-killers. It is not possible.

Therefore Lord Buddha propagated ahimsa. nonviolence. He saw that the whole human race was going to hell by this animal-killing. He thought. "Let me stop them so that in the future they may become sober." He was compassionate in two ways: First, he was very compassionate toward the poor animals who were being killed. And he was also compassionate toward the people. He thought. The w hole human race is going to hell. So let me do something." He was an incarnation of God, but because the people's brains could not tolerate the existence of the soul. he had to deny it. Thus he did not say anything about the soul or God. He said. "Never mind that animals have no soul. Just stop killing them. When I pinch you. you feel pain. so why should you give pain to others?"

Lord Buddha also denied the authority of the Vedas, because the Vedas sometimes recommend killing animals in sacrifice. Actually, the animals are rejuvenated, given a new body, but still Lord Buddha did not accept animal-killing in sacrifice. Therefore it is said, nindasi yajna-vidher ahaha sruti-jatam: "Lord Buddha criticized the sacrifices described in the Vedas." Why? Sadaya-hrdaya darsita pasughatam: "Because He was so kind and compassionate toward the animals who were being killed." That is Krsna consciousness.

God is very kind. very compassionate. He does not like to see any living entity suffer. But when there is a necessity, He can kill. His killing and our killing are different however, because He is all good. Anyone killed by Krsna immediately gets salvation.

So, here Krsna is encouraging Arjuna to fight on the basis of the eternal existence of the soul. Krsna says, "You cannot measure the soul, but the soul is there, and it is imperishable. On the other hand. the body is perishable. Even if you do not fight you cannot save the bodies of your grandfather and teacher and others. Today or tomorrow they will die. So discharge your duty and fight"

The main point Krsna wants Arjuna to understand is that he must fight that he must discharge his duty as a ksatriya [warrior] and not be overwhelmed by lamentation because of bodily destruction. In summary, Krsna tells Arjuna, "The body is different from the soul. So don't think that the soul will be killed. Just stand up and fight." This is Krsna's instruction.

Thank you very much.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Coming to Krsna

Good Intentions

Though he sought enlightenment on an isolated beach through music, meditation, and marijuana, it came to him in a way he'd never expected.

by Sarvatma Dasa

Having had some mystical experiences as a teenager that convinced me of the existence of God, I left my native country, Argentina, for Salvador, capital of the Brazilian state of Bahia, famous for its mysticism and magic. I arrived in the area without plans, money, or acquaintances and moved into a straw hut by the beach a couple of miles from the nearest fishing village and fifty miles from civilization. It was an ideal setting of palm trees, a small lake, a river of crystalline water, and the turquoise Atlantic Ocean, in year-round eighty-degree weather.

I made a new friend there. He was reading the Bible and other books about God, playing music for God, and smoking marijuana to keep in touch with "the subtle world of God consciousness." While I played saxophone and recorder, he would play guitar. We intended to satisfy God with our musical spontaneity.

I read a book by a Japanese doctor who claimed that everyone had inherent healing powers that could be awakened just by practicing austerities like fasting and chanting mantras. Since our eating depended on what God would send, fasting wasn't unknown to us, although God would almost daily send someone with something to eat, or drop some green coconuts to the ground. To try to attain enlightenment, I was already planning to undergo a forty-day fast. So I followed the Japanese doctor's program and, by the grace of God. I developed some healing powers. I could close wounds and heal minor afflictions.

My friend and hut-mate, David (as he wanted people to call him—after the biblical character), made bamboo flutes, which we decided to try selling at the artisans' market in Salvador. For the first time in months, I put on a shirt and sandals. I walked along the beach to the next village (there was no road) and caught a bus into the city.

Although the contrast between the city and the beach was shocking, my mind was peaceful because I was always thinking of finding the way to God. I walked around the market playing a flute. I sold a few and then went to the telephone company to make a long-distance call.

A young woman in a wheelchair waiting for her turn to use the phones attracted my attention. Here was a serious case I might be able to cure. Without hesitation. I went up to her and revealed my intentions.

"By the grace of God," I said, "I have some healing powers that might enable you to walk. I'm not going to touch you or charge you anything, nor is it going to hurt you to try." I waited for her answer, which came in a way I'd never expected.

"You are very kind in trying to help me," she replied, "but you should also consider that I suffer no more pain than what your body gives you. I've been in a wheelchair since birth. I have never walked; nevertheless, I've always gotten where I wanted to go. This is the body God gave me after many past lives of sinful activities; therefore I deserve it. And more important than all this," she added, "is that I, the person, live in this machine we call the body. I need spiritual, not material, help, and in spite of your good intentions, I don't think you are ready to give that yet." After saying this, she smiled and waited for my reaction.

I was dumbfounded. It took me a while to recuperate. Then I said, "What you just said sounds like the absolute truth, which I had not expected to hear from someone in your circumstances."

My experience was that many persons confined to wheelchairs were easily irritated and seemingly resentful of their condition. I asked her not to go away. I wanted to make a call and return to talk at length. She promised to wait. When I returned I pushed the wheelchair outside and asked her where we should go.

"Let's take a taxi to a restaurant," she said.

"OK." I said, thinking, Taxi? I never thought I'd ever ride in one again. I had the same feeling about going to a restaurant.

Once in the taxi she asked me if I was a vegetarian. I replied that where I lived there was no meat, so circumstantially I was. But why?

She explained that killing animals or eating them is sinful and should be avoided by all means. This made sense to me, and I promised her that I would become a total vegetarian. I could see that she was serious about spiritual life, so I asked. "Is there any other prohibition?"

"Yes. No gambling."

"Fine with me." I said. "What else?"

"No illicit sex."

I had given up sex entirely some time before, understanding that it doesn't help in the pursuit of spiritual life. So I had no problems with that either.

"What else?" I asked.

"No intoxication." she replied shyly, knowing from my long hair and beard that I was probably rather involved in this particular area.

"What do you mean by 'No intoxication'?" I asked her quickly.

"No alcohol, drugs, tobacco, coffee, tea ..."

I then admitted to smoking marijuana to keep in constant touch with God, but at the same time I began to doubt this method of God realization.

"Where did you get the philosophy you were speaking back at the phone company?" I asked.

She calmly replied. "From the Hare Krsnas."

I searched my mind for some information about the Hare Krsnas. I told her I'd read long ago in a popular magazine that their diet consisted of lettuce and walnuts and that George Harrison of the Beatles paid all the bills. I also saw them once selling books, incense, and oils at the Buenos Aires subway. She laughed at my poor description.

I then asked. "How do they get in touch with God if they don't smoke marijuana?"

"They chant Hare Krsna. Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna , Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare" she said.

Since I was already chanting some words to help with my healing powers, this made sense to me. I thought. These Hare Krsna people don't look like anyone else, so they easily could have something that no one else has, and why not exactly what I am looking for: the Absolute Truth? What wouldn't I give for that priceless gift!

I asked, "What should I do?"

"Go live with them," she said.

I felt far too ignorant of their philosophy to just walk in and say, "Well, I'm one of you now." So I proposed that we spend a few days together so I could learn the basics of Krsna consciousness. She agreed.

We took a boat across the bay from Salvador to an island where she lived with some friends. For the next few days she taught me the basic philosophy, answered my questions, and gave me a Krsna book and a volume of Srimad-Bhagavatam. She showed me japa (chanting) beads and explained many things about the devotees' life. I was fascinated. I bid her farewell and took a boat back across the bay and a bus to the temple.

I met the temple president Hankara dasa, who asked, "How did you get to know about us?" I briefly related my story, and he started explaining different aspects of the philosophy in a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish. I told him I wanted to become a pure devotee. Seated beside him was a young man with long hair (not as long as mine, but long enough to distinguish him from the shaven-headed devotees) who seemed absorbed in chanting on his beads, quite loudly, but also in listening to our conversation. I tried to appear unaffected by this strange sight.

Then came the prasadam (food that's been offered to Krsna). To the girl, prasadam was a magic word. Yet despite her descriptions of celestial, divine, delicious prasadam. I thought it was terrible. But I silently ate every thing on my plate. Later I learned that the cook was new and that the food I'd eaten, except for the bread Hankara had made, was well below standard. Still, the philosophy was so satisfying that nothing was going to discourage me from living with devotees. They let me stay overnight not in the asrama but in the reception room. with no blanket or mat or pillow. My spontaneous attraction to the philosophy made them suspicious, and they were afraid I was just there to steal something or do something crazy.

They woke me for mangala-arati, the ceremony of worshiping the Deities that begins the day. That afternoon a devotee accompanied me to my hut. I wanted to pick up my belongings and tell my hut-mate the good news: finally I'd found the process of awakening the soul from the slumber of material illusion and the torture of mental speculation. But my friend had left

The next day, I rode the night bus to Recife, a city twelve hours north of Salvador, with the president of the Recife temple and a younger devotee. I was going there to join the program for newcomers. At about 9:15 P.M. the younger devotee asked me if I was chanting Hare Krsna. "Well, nobody told me to," I said, "so I guess I'm not ready yet." He laughed, gave me his own beads as a gift and taught me how to chant. By 10:00 P.M., after chanting three rounds, I fell asleep.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare

Tap into the reservoir of pleasure. By chanting the names of God, you'll immediately be in touch with the source of all pleasure. The name Krsna means "the all-attractive person," and Rama means "the supreme pleasure." Hare is a word addressing Hara. God's devotional energy, to whom we pray to be engaged in the Lord's service. Because God is unlimited and absolute, He is fully present in the sound of His names. So, just as darkness cannot stand in the presence of light, miseries cannot affect us when we chant God's names.

Because we are spiritual and eternal, our natural state is one of unrestricted happiness. But forgetting our original positions as loving servants and devotees of Krsna, we suffer the pains of material life. By chanting God's names, we become purified of all material desires, which separate us from Krsna, and we regain entrance into the eternal, blissful, spiritual realm.

The spiritual realm is not restricted by time and space; it's always within reach. And you can experience it. Chant the Hare Krsna mantra—and taste the pleasure.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

A Leaf, A Fruit, A Flower—Part I

A Sunday Feast lecture in Detroit. Michigan, on February 8, 1987

A devotee naturally wants to please Krsna.
But what can you give a person who has everything?

By Rohininandana Dasa


It the Ninth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says: patram puspam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayacchati/ tad aham bhakty-upahrtam asnami prayatatmanah. Here God is saying that He eats the offering of someone who has devotion. It's an extraordinary thing, because God already owns everything. It's not that God needs to eat.

We sometimes even see that yogis are able to stop eating altogether. There was one great devotee during Lord Caitanya's time—Raghunatha dasa—who used to live on just a little buttermilk every other day. He lived to be about one hundred and twenty years old.

It's actually a myth that we need food, because ultimately we're spiritual. Someone thinks. "Unless I get a drink, I'll die" or "Unless I have another cigarette, I won't live until tomorrow morning." Or even a cup of tea. Sometimes we say, "Oh. I'm dying for a cup of tea" or "I'm starving." But, really, we're not starving; we're not going to die for want of these things.

So, similarly, food is another thing we think we need because we think we're this body. Of course, it's not that we don't need to eat—the body needs some food, we're not saying it doesn't—but if one comes to the point of liberation from the body, one can realize that one doesn't actually need any food. It's only the body that requires some food for it to grow. But once the body is grown up sufficiently, it's actually possible to live on surprisingly little food. Many people have done it.

Of course, it may seem a little strange my saying this, because in the Hare Krsna movement we sometimes tend to eat quite a lot, especially on festival days! But the principle is that a person in this world can actually come to the point where he doesn't really need to eat. So what to speak of God—He doesn't need to eat anything. In fact, the Lord is supremely independent. And yet He accepts our offering and He eats it.

In a sense He does "need" it, because of the love. That's the point: When there's love, the offering becomes palatable. Anything becomes acceptable if there's love. For instance, there's a story about a beautiful girl who once offered her beloved husband a garland that had some mud on it. He took it anyway and put it around his neck, in spite of the mud. He accepted it because of her love.

Krsna once made a surprise visit to the home of a devotee named Vidura. Vidura jumped up, sat Krsna down, and washed His feet. Next he tried to offer Krsna some bananas. But he was so bewildered by love that after peeling a banana he threw it away and gave Krsna the peel. And Krsna was so overwhelmed with love for His devotee that He accepted his offering.

Of course, it's not that we should just give Krsna banana peels. No. But there is a realm of loving exchange that we generally fail to touch or comprehend, a pure loving exchange in which there's no self-interest at all. There's no thought for oneself. A devotee of God thinks that he just wants to please the Lord; similarly, the Lord thinks. "I just want to please My devotee."

And it all begins by a simple thing—offering something. We can sing and offer our voices to Krsna, and we can offer other things. Krsna says, patram puspam phalam toyam: "You can offer Me a leaf or a fruit or some water or a little juice—just something small—and I'll accept it." Everyone can pick a leaf from a tree or grow a leafy vegetable. Everyone can get a flower. They grow everywhere. You can offer a prize rose or a small wild flower—or even a dandelion or a buttercup! Everyone can get some water or a little juice. So it's not the item that's so important, but the love that goes into it.

Suppose you're a parent and you come home from work with a big bag of sweets to give your child. As you approach your house, the child runs out already sucking a sweet you gave her yesterday. Suppose she takes it out other mouth—"This tastes good daddy; why don't you try it?"

How much will you be overwhelmed with affection because she is reciprocating your love! You've got a bagful of sweets. You don't eat sweets yourself. You certainly don't need the sticky sweet your child is offering. But how could you not accept? It's the most wonderful thing for parents when a child who is normally selfish, as most children are. becomes a little selfless and thinks of them.

Similarly God is the father of everyone in the universe, and if somebody offers Him something, He immediately feels overwhelmed with affection. So this is the idea. We want to try to please God. It is said in the Vedic literature, yasmin tuste jagat tustam: "If you please God, you don't have to worry about pleasing anyone else." If you pour water on the root of a tree, you don't have to worry about the twigs, leaves, and branches. Similarly, if you want to do anything for anybody else in this world, do it for God, and then everything will work out perfectly. So we try to offer our devotion solely to God. If you serve God, you will awaken some love for Him. and you will naturally want to love and serve everyone else.

We develop our love for God by accepting the things He likes and rejecting the things He dislikes. There's a saying—"Love me, love my dog." I might not even like dogs, but if I love you, then I'll say, "What a nice dog you have." If you love someone, then automatically you begin to love everything related to that person. You may take up a hobby that you didn't have before. Your loved one likes to go jogging, so you find yourself going jogging, because naturally you want to do the things that your beloved does.

Similarly, when we take up spiritual life and try to devote our lives to God, our interests change a little. We begin to think, "Well, what will please God?" We don't give up our individuality, but we surrender it. There's a difference. You may like to play hockey, but your beloved doesn't like hockey. So you may decide not to play hockey anymore. You still have the ability, but out of love you change your life style. That's the point. So Krsna consciousness takes some practice for our love to gradually awaken.

For example, a child has an inherent ability to walk, but still he must practice. He first stands up by holding onto something. Then he takes the first step. Every child goes through the same procedure. And once the child can walk, his walking becomes spontaneous. He runs around everywhere without even thinking about it. It is the same with learning to drive a car. First you have to practice, and once you know how to drive, driving becomes second nature. Similarly, we have love for God within us—nitya-siddha krsna-prema—and when our consciousness becomes purified by hearing about Krsna, we develop a desire to serve Him, which becomes spontaneous after some time.

In the Krsna consciousness movement we are trying to develop spontaneous love for Krsna. For example, we offer many things on the altar that we've cooked in the kitchen. When we're cooking, we're not thinking, "This is going to be for my pleasure." Or at least we're trying not to think like that. And we're not thinking it's going to be for my wife's pleasure, my husband's pleasure, or my child's pleasure. We're thinking that we're doing it for the pleasure of God. But it's amazing how everyone who comes to the temple on Sunday enjoys a big feast and feels very satisfied. People remark sometimes. "This is the best food I've ever tasted!"

It's not that by cooking something for Krsna others are going to suffer. Actually everyone benefits—not only the people who eat the food, but even the food itself. It may sound extraordinary, but suppose you pick an apple from a tree and offer it to God—from His point of view, the tree has offered that apple. A tree is a living soul, just like you or me. It's a spiritual person with a tree's body. So when the apple is offered, it's as if the soul in the tree is offering it. Krsna takes it like that. So the person in the tree's body benefits. When the apple is offered to Krsna on the altar in the temple or in your home, it becomes transformed. It becomes spiritualized or "Krsna-ized." If you take an iron bar and put it into a fire, it becomes "fire-ized"—red-hot. If you take it out of the fire, it will act just like fire.

Similarly, an apple becomes spiritualized when it's offered to Krsna. It may seem like an ordinary apple, but it has a greatly different effect on the person who eats it. When you take a poker out of a fire, it may seem like ordinary iron, but it acts differently when you touch something with it. So food that's been offered to Krsna becomes spiritualized, and anyone who eats it will experience his consciousness becoming purified, spiritualized.

Because God is spiritual and everything comes from Him. everything is really spiritual: it has simply become covered by a material curtain. By offering something back to God, the material curtain is removed, and the object's real spiritual potential is revealed.

Even tiny material things like atoms can release seemingly unlimited energy. From the study of quantum mechanics we learn that on the subatomic level so many amazing things go on that defy our ability to comprehend. So, though it is hard to understand, ultimately everything is spiritual. But when something is severed from God, it becomes material.

In other words, it's a question of consciousness. If I look at something in relationship to me, then I see it as material because I'm limited. Even spiritually I'm limited, what to speak of materially. The soul is infinitesimally small, or limited, whereas God is infinite, or unlimited. In fact, God is both infinite and infinitesimal. In the Vedic literature it is described that all living beings, whether in the forms of humans, trees, or bugs, are infinitesimal aspects of God. When the infinitesimal is linked up with the infinite, the infinitesimal has unlimited potential. But when the infinitesimal part of God separates from God, he is left to his limited devices. A spark in a fire shares the total heat of the fire, but if it falls out of the fire, it becomes an ember and dies.

Potentially the spark can be put back in the fire at any time and glow again, but on its own it loses its glowing quality. Similarly a soul can become almost like a dead rock. In a tree's body, for instance, the soul is in a sort of suspended animation, even though it possesses great potential spiritual energy.

Krsna consciousness is a practical process of reviving our spirituality. It is said that "You are what you eat." So if you eat spiritualized food that's been offered to Krsna, gradually your body will also become spiritualized, and you will be better able to understand God.

What to speak of understanding God, many people can't even understand that they have a soul. For persons who are very materialistic—like those who constantly eat meat—it's extremely difficult to understand the difference between matter and spirit. Anyone can say, "I love God" or "I know God." but to actually understand God is another thing. One has to have spiritualized intelligence to understand spiritual subject matters. So eating food that's been offered to God is a very important aspect of spiritual life.

(To be continued.)

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Who's Afraid?

Even if we think the horrors in the headlines will never happen to us, deep down there's a fear in all of us that hints that something is wrong.

by Dvarakadhisa Devi Dasi

Imagine you are driving alone on a desolate road at night, when suddenly the car's engine dies without a sputter. At first, perhaps you are preoccupied with the business of pulling over. finding the flashers, fiddling with the ignition key. But as your final curses fade, you realize that... Gee, it's awfully dark out here.

Armed with a flashlight, you slide from the car and open the hood. As you peer at the machinery, you hear the drone of an approaching car. Coming pretty slow, it seems. Looking for something? Then the headlights appear, washing you with a brightness nearly as unpleasant as the night. You wait as the car slows, pulling up beside you. And when you glance at the shadowy face of the driver, it seems your worst nightmare has come to life . . .

It would be nice to think that this scene will never progress further than your imagination, that looking up from the page removes you from danger. Yet every newspaper is littered with stories of horror inflicted on innocent persons like you and me. Real people, just driving home from work or school or Mom's birthday party. Real stories, with endings like rape, mutilation, and murder.

From one perspective, there is so much to fear. Yet this fear. however justified it appears, is only pervasive in conjunction with a particular state of consciousness. Ultimately, we fear the loss of our dearest possession—our own body, the basis of our identity. Peel away the layers of trivial fears, and you'll find stark fear of death underlying them all. Dying simply means the expiration of the body. But when all our love and happiness depends upon that body, death signifies the end of existence. Certainly a frightening prospect.

But reality is different. The temporary body can be compared to a vehicle. The driver steps in and out of it without losing his true self. The true person, the real you, is spiritual—an eternal being with full knowledge and limitless happiness. This self is forgotten when we identify with the physical body, and such distorted consciousness is aptly named "conditioned." We are conditioned—by repeated lifetimes submerged in our bodily identities—to view the world according to a narrow perspective: life begins with the birth of the body, is validated by the sensual experiences of the body, and ends with the body's demise. Fearfulness is rooted in this perception.

Srila Prabhupada explains while commenting on a verse in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.14.38):

Fearfulness is a sort of illusion for the living being when he is in slumber and forgetting his eternal relationship with the Lord. Since the living being is never to die by his constitution, as stated in Bhagavad-gita (2.20), then what is the cause of tearfulness? A person may be fearful of a tiger in a dream, but another man who is awake by his side sees no tiger there. The tiger is a myth for both of them, namely the person dreaming and the person awake, because actually there is no tiger; but the man forgetful of his awakened life is fearful, whereas the man who has not forgotten his position is not at all fearful.

Fear can be defeated by knowledge of the Supreme Lord and our dependent relationship with Him. A devotee is confident and fearless in this world, because even the prospect of death won't interrupt his vital exchange with his beloved Lord. His mind is always fixed on the merciful Supreme Lord, who has nothing to fear.

In further explanation of the same verse from Srimad-Bhagavatam. Srila Prabhupada concludes. "Thus the members of the Yadu dynasty [in which Krsna appeared] were fully awake in their service to the Lord, and therefore there was no tiger for them to be afraid of at any time. Even if there was a real tiger, the Lord was there to protect them."

The Lord is there to protect us, too.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Shell Collectors on Miami Beach

by Mathuresa dasa

In the morning on the shoreline
Before the sun heats up the sand
Come the shell collectors walking
One by one or hand in hand.

Before the wee-bikinied bathers
Sprawl the beach and splash the shallows
Collectors wade the water edges
As wave and moon-drawn tide allow.

No less rolling, crashing surfside
Was this ocean long ago, when
No man, some say, was here to watch
These slow waves lash the chattel sands.

Some say that men of sand-grain learning
Bearing bones to prove their lore
Speak true of times earth sheltered only
The pterodactyl and the dinosaur.

In truth, though, man has always been here
With all his hopes, his dreams, his pride.
So say the Vedic men of learning
Who stand above both wave and tide.

Not always oiled and wee-bikinied
Not always prostrate to the sun
But men on earth their dreams pursuing
Dreams unrelenting, never done.

Not done unless through tideless blessings
Of Guru-Krsna's mercy sweet
They dreamed they were not lords but servants
Sand grains at their creator's feet.

Those servant men raised loud their voices
Sang Yahweh! Allah! Krsna! Lord!
Took every creature as their brother
Drank Guru's every priceless word.

They're walking now on deathless beaches
In deathless lands of living beauty
The eternal youthful Lord their comrade
Serving Him their joyous duty.

And here along the morning shoreline
Strolling in the wave-strewn foam
The shell collectors stoop to gather
A mollusk's shattered dreams of home.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

The Vedic Observer

Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day

Donkey Loads

by Mathuresa dasa (Port Royal Pennsylvania)

The Miami Herald reports that a donkey in Bulawayo, a village in southwestern Zimbabwe, accidentally uncovered a cache of Soviet-made surface-to-air missiles. Villagers trying to rescue the creature from a dam found that a wooden box containing a missile had trapped its hind leg. According to Elephant News, a Zimbabwe military magazine, soldiers alerted by the terrified villagers found eight more missiles after scouring the dam. An officer quoted in the magazine said the live missiles were left over from the guerrilla war that led to Zimbabwe's independence in 1980.

The incident makes headlines for a somewhat undistinguished species. The Srimad-Bhagavatam uses the donkey, or ass, to illustrate the plight of persons who accept backbreaking tasks for little reward. Donkeys are not that robust yet they will carry immense loads for their masters and will accept a paltry handful of grass as payment. Although the donkey could easily find his own grass at the side of the road. altogether avoiding such menial employment, his masters won't allow it, and the foolish, weary animal resigns himself to his fate.

The Bhagavatam doesn't advocate that a human being not work hard, just that we shouldn't carry unnecessary loads for cruel masters. With a reasonable amount of labor and organization on our part nature responds with more than enough food. more than enough raw materials for clothing, shelter, and other needs.

We don't need heavy industry, which forces us into donkey labor for handfuls of grass. We don't need massive military budgets, which devour the time and hard-earned gains of our human lives. We don't need to spend trillions of dollars and rubles to launch men and weapons into outer space.

All these may appear to be attractive, noble enterprises, but they are in fact unnecessary, cruel, backbreaking loads for man to carry. There's grass at the side of the road, and unlike donkeys we have the brains to avail ourselves of it If we can't drop our loads all of a sudden, let's at least try not to accept additional weight

To this end, our thanks go out to the villagers and soldiers in Bulawayo. If not for their careful handling of those live missiles, we might have had to pay the expenses of another ass on the moon.

Land Rights: Who's Right?

by Naresvara dasa (Sydney)

"A Celebration of a Nation"—catch phrase for 1988 here in Australia. It's the two-hundredth anniversary of the arrival of the first fleet of settlers to the shores of the "new" land. The settlement was begun by a group of men from England, and included a large number of deported convicts. They cleared and developed the land, claiming it as their own. The present-day descendants of the first settlers and those who followed them to this "lucky country" are happy with their ancestors' find and are celebrating their own good fortune. They have organized cultural programs around the country, and everyone is trying to make it a year to remember.

Before the arrival of the settlers, the land was already inhabited by aborigines, who, being simple people, were no match for the sophisticated newcomers. They still consider themselves the owners of the land, however, and since the sixties they have been claiming their rights. This year they have intensified their push and are using the bicentenary to focus world attention on the issue.

So who really owns the land? We are hearing many arguments from both sides, and there seems to be no conclusion.

The very first verse of Sri Isopanisad clarifies the actual situation:

Everything animate and inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong.

By Vedic standards the argument over who owns the land is academic at best. The real owner of Australia and everything within it is the Supreme Lord. He has provided all the resources, which may be used by each person in accordance with his needs. Instead of wasting our energy in arguments, it would be more useful to become introspective about the real aim and importance of our life here in Australia and to recognize the authority of the Supreme Lord.

A birthday is a good occasion to take stock. As human beings we should accept the wisdom of the Vedas and not quarrel over material possessions that are the property of the Lord. We should be satisfied with whatever He mercifully supplies.

As Srila Prabhupada points out in his commentary on the Sri Isopanisad verse:

The root of sin is deliberate disobedience of the laws of nature through disregarding the proprietorship of the Lord. Disobedience of the laws of nature or the order of the Lord brings ruin to a human being. If one is sober, knows the laws of nature, and is not influenced by unnecessary attachment or a version, he is sure to be recognized by the Lord, and he is sure to become eligible to go back to Godhead, back to the eternal home.

This advice is of course relevant to all people of the world, not only for the people of Australia. Peaceful co-existence is possible only when we act in this way.

Lessons From The Dead Sea

by Harikesa Swami (Grodinge, Sweden)

Now the North Sea is dying. Fishes, swollen in death, float aimlessly as the killer algae spread like poison on the warm summer waves. Volunteer ecologists cruise the area collecting data and photos. Everyone sees, everyone knows, but still it seems they see and know nothing.

The obvious is before us, yet we are blind. Why? And what to do? Metaphysical questions rarely asked are becoming commonplace. "Is man an inherently evil creature devoid of common sense and decency, or is he a mere pawn in a devilish plot conceived and enacted by caustic social manipulators sinisterly devising his end?" One might wonder how such things as the pollution of our seas can occur in our enlightened society. Haven't we gone to the moon, cured man of his most troublesome diseases, and made poverty but a symptom of backward religious cultures?

Ah, were it so simple. And now reality presents itself in a form previously unthinkable: no life in the sea. Will the land soon follow suit? Will we ever wake up? It's doubtful, for a man determined not to see the obvious can avoid acknowledging even the presence of death itself.

"All right Mr. Philosopher," I hear the cynics taunting, "what is your idea? We should all just shave our heads and play with wooden beads, and everything will be fine?"

But how long can their cynical speech satisfy them, when the basic platform required to sustain life itself is on the verge of collapse? What good is an oblivious assessment of our own worth in the face of such obvious incompetence as that displayed by man in his management of the world's resources?

Krsna, the only one capable of sheltering all living beings, has explained the cause of our blindness in the Bhagavad-gita. He simply says, "It is due to lust alone." We enter this world filled with desire to exploit nature as much as we can, regardless of the cost to ourselves, others, or the world itself. Lusty to enjoy the resources of nature without restriction, man speculates that he is the supreme intelligence within the universe and that only he is capable of creating order within this mass of chaos. Blinded by such egocentric ideas as these, he creates hell on earth and calls it heaven. Pouring unlimited tons of waste into the seas—while the air is still filled with the radiation of another set of mistakes, and the land wasted by pollutants of all varieties—man, the pinnacle of evolutionary development calculates how long he can rape the environment before the cosmic policemen wake up and punish him for his crimes. Uncaring for his descendants, he concerns himself only with his body, and thus he falls victim to the same trap he unwittingly set for others in the future.

It is all due to lust alone. Who can control it? Certainly one can write in (he newspapers about the administrative miscalculations, speak about them on TV, make a counter campaign with posters, demonstrations, and strikes, while the more impassioned blow up a whaling boat or two. But without spiritual potency, one cannot change the hearts of the irresponsible controllers of a godless society. Proposing material stop-gap measures may make one feel warm within his heart, for what noble man would not like to die fighting his unjust enemies? But such righteous indignation will not save the earth from being ravaged by those whose minds are absorbed only in the objects of their lust.

Indeed, the earth is our mother, and we are raping her. Such is the culture of the advanced modern civilization. But she will not tolerate us for long, for despite her loving disposition toward her own children, soon she will teach us what suffering really means. Aren't the lessons of history clear? Man destroys cultured life, the earth, and righteousness, and the earth destroys man. And the cycles of war help reduce the burden of the earth through mass destruction of men and their cities. Soon you will see the real face of modern civilization, as it sinks into muddy pools of rotting flesh.

Only a God conscious government can change this situation. What can a government run by lusty persons change? They are themselves elected by other lusty creatures and dare not enact legislation that would place their coveted positions in jeopardy. Since the lusty citizens want sense enjoyment at almost any cost, the administrators must oblige them or risk being replaced by more submissive slaves of the senses. Who else but the governments of Europe have the power to change such total insanity as is now apparent in the North Sea?

But to enact change means to create legislation that reduces sense gratification, and, more dangerously, that reduces animal slaughter, the big business of the North Sea region. This is simply not possible for lusty men concerned with pleasing their supporters, who are none other than the same persons guilty of the cited transgressions.

Therefore the Vedas say that a government should not be elected by common men. who are only concerned with self-satisfaction without consideration of the higher goals of life. The government should be guided not by politicians but by enlightened brahmanas, professors of all the socially relevant and required arts and sciences. Such professors know how to propagate a human social order without undue karmic reactions. They know' how to supply life's necessities without creating by-products that threaten man's very means of sustenance.

These concerned and spiritually devoted brahmanas. the factual well-wishers of the people, are meant to guide the leaders of state. Detached from any selfish interest, or interests born merely from the desire for economic gain, such professors of social welfare must be empowered to create legislation congenial to the proper functioning of the intimate relationship between man and nature. Without such a higher body of independent wise men, there is no hope for change. And without Krsna consciousness, there is no question of creating such an enlightened body of truly learned men.

We are not so foolish as to think that such social change can happen soon in a society dominated by lusty persons, but we request the readers of this article to remember the purport of these words and, after we are forced to chew the bitter fruits of our past foolish actions, to work toward a God conscious society guided by an enlightened group of dispassionate and learned Krsna conscious advisors.

Use back button to return.

Return to top


We welcome your letters.
51 West Allens Lane
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19119

The rural public in India is still purer, kinder, and more inclined to nonmaterialism, though poor and illiterate. To get more honest people involved in Krsna consciousness, rural India is the best. This factor might not have been hinted by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, or the ISKCON GBC [Governing Body Commission] has not yet got this idea. I request you to try to concentrate in small towns and villages.

Dr. Mure Venkata Narayana Reddy
Ghittoor, Andhra Pradesh. India

OUR REPLY: Since ISKCON is trying to give everyone a chance to take to Krsna consciousness, naturally we also include Indian villagers in our preaching plans. Srila Prabhupada clearly understood the potential for spreading Krsna consciousness in rural India. He showed this by requesting his disciples to organize a pada-yatra (walking pilgrimage) to spread Krsna's message throughout India. ISKCON's pada-yatra has already traveled more than fifteen thousand kilometers. ISKCON also has the Nama Hatta program, which sets up and oversees centers for Krsna consciousness in thousands of Indian villages. These centers are run by the villagers themselves. This program has especially blossomed in West Bengal. but it is also going on in other parts of India.

* * *

Recently I went to the Epcot Center in Florida with a friend, where we saw a 3-D motion picture presented by Kodak. Before we entered the theatre we were given special glasses to view the 3-D picture. I was immediately reminded of Lord Krsna's giving divine eyes to Arjuna (Bhagavad-gita 11.8) so that he could see His universal form. During the last decades man has made tremendous progress in science and technology. I am wondering whether it would ever be possible to invent such glasses so that common men with. of course, some minimum spiritual qualifications could see the universal form of Lord Krsna. Or is it a hundred-percent spiritual matter?

Professor A. K. Agarwal
Department of Mathematics
Pennsylvania State University
Mont Alto. Pennsylvania

OUR REPLY: You have asked an interesting question, and the answer is fairly simple: one cannot see Krsna's universal form unless Krsna shows it to him. In other words, that form is not always manifest or available for us to see. From the scriptures we learn of only a few instances when the Lord showed it. For example, Lord Vamanadeva showed it to Bali Maharaja, and Lord Krsna showed it to Arjuna. It is not an eternal form of Krsna but a temporary demonstration of His opulence, so it is not simply a matter of having a certain ability or technology to see it. It's not there unless the Lord wants to show it. And when He does show it only those whom He chooses to see it are able to do so. So that is the spiritual qualification required: one must receive Krsna's benediction.

On the other hand, there is another universal form that is mentioned in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. One can "see" that form with practice. It is not a real form, however, but a way of conceptualizing the universe as having a form. One is encouraged to think of the mountains as the Lord's bones, the rivers as His veins, the trees as the hairs on His body, and so forth. The Bhagavatam tells us that even though this form is imaginary, we can think of the universe in this way to help us get used to the idea that God has a form—but God's form is transcendental, or spiritual, not material. Imperfect philosophies and our own limited intellects tend to make us think of God as formless. So the Bhagavatam suggests that we meditate on the universe in this way to advance toward an understanding and appreciation of the personal form of God.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Every Town And Village

A look at the worldwide activities of the
International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)

Soviet Vice-Consul Inaugurates Calcutta Ratha-yatra

Calcutta, India—The Soviet vice-consul to India. Mr. Alexander Vaulin, and the wife of the Soviet consul general, Mrs. Irina Passentchouk, inaugurated ISKCON's seventeenth annual Ratha-yatra festival here, which took place on the same day as the ancient festival in Jagannatha Puri, Orissa. An estimated three million people crowded the streets to witness the parade, beginning seven days of festivities in honor of Lord Jagannatha. The festival was dedicated to ISKCON devotees in the USSR. where the government has recently recognized ISKCON as a bona fide religion.

Before the parade began, Vice-Consul Vaulin addressed a crowd of thousands, stating his belief that the acceptance of ISKCON in the Soviet Union would lead to greater friendship and understanding between India and the Soviet Union. He said that ISKCON's message of love and fellowship would foster international brotherhood.

Mr. Vaulin offered arati to Lord Jagannatha and happily received a Russian translation of Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is. As the parade began, Mr. Vaulin, accompanied by Mrs. Passentchouk, swept the road in front of Lord Jagannatha's chariot with a golden broom.

News Briefs

Govinda's Restaurant on Soho Street in London received a full-page review in What's On, London's leading weekly entertainment guide. In the article, entitled "Vegetarian Excellence in Soho." Michael Darvel, assistant editor for What's On, writes, "I think the food offered is the most attractive vegetarian cuisine I have seen." He says that even though Govinda's was around well before the current trend toward vegetarianism, "it is still one of the best places for vegetarian food in London." He explains that Govinda's is connected with the Hare Krsna temple upstairs, and that all the food is offered to Krsna before being served to customers.

* * *

Although the Tokyo ISKCON temple was destroyed by fire in May, the devotees are still preaching, using an apartment as a temple for the time being and even holding Sunday Feasts there. The women devotees wear saris to distribute the new Japanese Bhagavad-gita As It Is. The devotees perform harinama-sankirtana [congregational chanting of Hare Krsna] and distribute Srila Prabhupada's books six days a week.

* * *

ISKCON's pada-yatra. a walking tour of holy India, is scheduled to continue for at least eight more years, until the one-hundredth anniversary of Srila Prabhupada's birth. In July the pada-yatra joined the Dindi Pada-yatra in Maharastra. During this 700-year-old festival as many as 200.000 people walk and chant from Poona to Pandharpur. In October ISKCON's pada-yatra will tour the Vrndavana area and then head for Allahabad for the Kumbha-mela in January.


Plain living, high thinking. Get out of the city—away from the noise, pollution, anxiety, and madness of city life. Come back to a simpler, more natural way of life. Live close to the earth, close to God. The Hare Krsna movement has thirty-four farm communities throughout the world. These are sacred places where your spirit can unfold. And at the same time, they're realistic, practical places, where you can build a sane, stable life for yourself and, if you're married, for your family.

To find out more, get in touch with the ISKCON farm community nearest you.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Thorny Pleasure

We spend our lives working
hard to secure happiness.
It doesn't have to be that way.

by Ajamidha Dasa

Today's consumer seems to be moving away from accumulating things toward acquiring new experiences and feelings, collecting mental images with which to fill his life. Thus modern man has realized an age-old truth: enjoyment is only in one's mind.

The spirit soul, the actual living entity, is captured within a material body. He has at his disposal the intelligence, the mind, and the senses. Because the spirit soul is acting under false ego, which means he thinks himself to be the body, he never gets enough satisfaction and pleasure, however he tries. The example is given of a fish out of water—a pathetic situation. The fish does not become satisfied even if you give it the best food, the best cigar, or the softest bed. Similarly, the spirit soul has a longing for eternity, bliss, and knowledge, and his quest for these things is shown in his construction of hospitals, research laboratories, amusement parks, and so on. But eternity, full knowledge, and full bliss can never be attained by these endeavors, because the body itself is temporary, full of miseries, and full of ignorance. No one can deny that.

The solution lies in getting the fish back into the water—we have to find out the natural position of the soul. All the hospitals, laboratories, amusement parks, and schools are just part of the search for water in the desert. The living entity is by nature superior to matter and thus can never become satisfied with mere material pleasures.

One problem with material pleasure is that its opposite—distress—follows it. This world is full of dualities. No one can say what is darkness without describing its opposite. Nor has "up" any meaning without "down." So also for happiness and distress, pleasure and pain, love and hate. One follows the other. By embracing material joy, soon enough sorrow will come.

Sense gratification can be compared to embracing a cactus in a desert. I may think. "Oh, here is a nice green plant. It must be full of water!" Because I am very thirsty. I don't consider the thorns on the cactus. "Let me embrace it! Let me get some juice, some nectar! Yes, I can feel the juice running down, cooling my body." I become so overwhelmed that I don't realize that the juice is my own blood and sweat caused by the thorns and the heat.

Similarly, the living entity takes on so much trouble to reach his desired enjoyment. The student spends many years in school to get a degree and a good job. The athlete tortures his body in many ways to become the champion, and almost everyone accepts many mental and physical troubles to attract the opposite sex.

But too soon all one's hard labor for family, wealth, and fame will prove useless, as disease, old age, and death come, bringing with them the reactions for all one's deeds in this life. And who knows what one's next birth will be?

But do we have to meet such an end? Of course, if we seek solutions from those who are themselves entrapped, if we rely on fallible friends and relatives, scientists and economists, then we shall also be eaten up by eternal time. They can't give us what they themselves don't have. We have to gather information from transcendental sources.

Bhagavad-gita, spoken by Lord Krsna, the Supreme Lord Himself, and Srimad-Bhagavatam, spoken by Sukadeva Gosvami, a most confidential associate of Krsna, are the cream of Vedic literatures, an ocean of supramundane knowledge and instructions. Their waves wash away all doubts concerning transcendental reality for the sincere reader and seeker of the truth. The Krsna consciousness movement distributes these literatures, which are specifically aimed at helping the bewildered people of today come to the shore of the ocean of transcendental knowledge, where they can drink the nectar of eternity, bliss, and knowledge to their full satisfaction, thus allowing them to end their miserable material existence and return home, back to Godhead.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Consider the Cows

by Visakha-devi dasi

The sanctity of cows and bulls is a frequently misunderstood tenet of the Vedic tradition. This tenet is not grounded in mythology or sentiment. Adherents of the Vedic culture appreciate the valuable service cows and bulls render human beings by providing milk and tilling the land, and they know that, of all animals, cows and bulls are especially dear to Lord Krsna, who is also known as Govinda, or "one who gives pleasure to the cows."

Gita-nagari, a farm community of Krsna devotees in central Pennsylvania, is home for around 150 cows, bulls, and calves. These animals will never see a slaughterhouse, even when they are old and unproductive, for the devotees at Gita-nagari will not forget the service the cows once rendered and Lord Krsna's fondness for them.

The Gita-nagari scenes on these pages are accompanied by texts, sometimes paraphrased, from the writings of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada mentions cows and bulls many times in his books, sometimes indirectly, as in analogies, and other times directly, in explaining the practical functioning of an ideal agrarian community.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Divorcing The Daughter Of Time

Man's quest for the elixir of immortality goes on,
and old age continues to shatter his hopes.

by Ananta-Sakti Dasa

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?

"Not me, that's for sure," I muse while a grim countenance stares back at me from the bathroom mirror. As the years advance, crow's feet spread from the comers of the eyes, varicose veins discolor the once clear skin, and the teeth are a constant concern. In the medicine cabinet are fortifiers for the over-forties and tonics to cure falling hair—just a hint of things to come.

Old age, the "daughter of time," encroaches upon us all, whether we like it or not. This unwelcome lady is attended by many maidservants, such as deafness, arthritis, and senility. Her first flirtation staggers our steps and slackens our skin. We make futile attempts to forestall her advances with cosmetic surgery and organ transplants. Old ladies with pink permed hair and powder masks carefully disguise body odors with heavy scents and wear gloves and glittering rings to distract our eyes from their withering skin.

Alas! All this is vanity, a sad masquerade for old age. She is irresistible and compels us to surrender to her increasing demands, until as unwilling victims we are easily delivered into the hands of death.

There is nothing as effective as old age for dispelling the myth of eternal youth in this world. Even the yogi, who by virtue of breath control lives for hundreds of years—he too must eventually vacate his mortal frame.

Yet in spite of the facts being what they are, the aspiration for eternal youth is intrinsic to each of us, just as sweetness is present in each grain of sugar.

Is eternal youth an impossible dream, an imagination contrived to defeat despair? The perfect answer is given by the perfect person. Lord Krsna , God Himself. In Bhagavad-gita (2.20). Lord Krsna addresses Arjuna. His dear friend and devotee:

na jayate mriyate va kadacin
nayam bhutva bhavita va na bhuyah
ajo nityah sasvato 'yam purano
na hanyate hanyamane sarire

"For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain."

The terms young and old refer only to the temporary body and not to the soul. One who is free from bodily consciousness can discover the ever-fresh nature of the soul.

The key to this desirable state of consciousness is to understand that as spirit souls we are eternally fragmental parts of the supreme spirit soul, Lord Krsna, and that our natural relationship with Him is one of loving service. When we act on this knowledge, we can enjoy unlimited happiness in relationship with the Supreme Lord.

Lord Krsna, although the oldest person, is celebrated as nava-yauvana, an eternally fresh youth. He is Govinda. giver of pleasure to the senses, and He is Adi-purusa, the original enjoyer. Thus Krsna is the fountain of eternal youth from which we desire to drink deep. If we enter His loving service. especially by chanting His names, we gain His association and become rejuvenated.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out

Godly Qualities, Ungodly Qualities

This conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place in New Vrindaban, West Virginia, on June 26, 1976.

Disciple [reading from Bhagavad-gita As It Is, 16.1]: "The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: 'Fearlessness; purification of one's existence: cultivation of spiritual knowledge; charity; self-control; performance of sacrifice; study of the Vedas; austerity; simplicity; nonviolence; truthfulness; freedom from anger; renunciation; tranquility; aversion to faultfinding; compassion for all living entities; freedom from covetousness; gentleness; modesty; steady determination; vigor; forgiveness; fortitude; cleanliness; and freedom from envy and from the passion for honor—these transcendental qualities. O son of Bharata, belong to godly men endowed with divine nature.' "

Purport, by Srila Prabhupada: "In the beginning of the Fifteenth Chapter, the banyan tree of this material world was explained. The extra roots coming out of it were compared to the activities of the living entities, some auspicious, some inauspicious. In the Ninth Chapter, also, the devas. or godly, and the asuras. the ungodly, or demons, were explained. Now, according to the Vedic rites, activities in the mode of goodness are considered auspicious for progress on the path of liberation. ..."

Srila Prabhupada: The defect of modern civilization is that people have no idea about liberation. Nor have they any idea about the transmigration of the soul. At its very root, this civilization is defective.

People are thinking just like animals. The dog is thinking. "I am this dog body. I am born a dog and I'll die—everything finished." He cannot realize that "I can also take on a human body." He cannot realize that.

So in this modern civilization, people cannot even realize that there is a next life and we can go to other planets, such as the moon. Sarva-ga: the living entity has the tendency to travel widely, to many situations. Artificially people are trying, but they do not know the proper method. As Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita. yanti deva-vrata devan pitrn yanti pitr-vratah/ bhutani yanti bhutejya yanti mad-yajino 'pi mam "Those who worship the demigods will take birth among the demigods; those who worship the ancestors go to the ancestors; those who worship ghosts and spirits will take birth among such beings; and those who worship Me will live with Me."

People do not know this. Although they have got the tendency to go to higher planets, they do not know how to go. They do not know positively w hat are the positions of the various material planets or Vaikunthaloka, the spiritual planets. They do not know about liberation or the next life. transmigration—nothing of the sort. Simply like dogs.

Now, consider this point—whether I'm speaking rightly or wrongly. I know I am speaking the right thing, but if you disagree, then you can discuss it amongst yourselves.

Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, many people think that "liberation" has nothing to do with spiritual realization. It just means you can do anything you like—free from any consequences.

Srila Prabhupada: That is rascaldom. That is rascaldom. For instance, in a prison, if a prisoner thinks that he can do whatever he likes, that is rascaldom. That is going on. This modern civilization is rascaldom. Everyone is seeing daily that he's under the control of material nature. and still he thinks that "I can do whatever I like." That is rascaldom.

Disciple: The so-called Christian conception of salvation is based not so much on attraction for the transcendental reality as on fear of hell.

Srila Prabhupada: This may be the official Christian conception, but the mass of people are not even afraid of hell. They do not even know what hell is. Because they are living in hell already.

You remember the humorous story. When a miner in Sheffield, England, heard some preacher's description of hell, he remained undisturbed.

"So hell is damp and dark? Oh, well, it is damp and dark here in our mine. What is the difference between hell and our mine?"

When the miner was informed that in hell there is no newspaper, only then did he become disturbed.

"Horrible! How can anyone live without a newspaper?"

So people's hellish condition is here now. Earlier, some of you were describing about the hellish conditions in factories. So people are working in factories—what do they care about hell?

"Even if I go to hell. I will get a good salary, that's all. Money is required. Then I can drink nicely."

But the transcendental reality is here also. Krsna's standard is here. But this transcendental qualification, abhayam sattva-samsuddhih, fearlessness and purification of one's existence—"What is that?" It does not appeal to people. It does not strike them at all. And yet in the Lord's estimation, these qualities are the high qualities. Is it not?

"Fearlessness and purification of one's existence." the Lord requires of us. But who is fearless? Everyone is fearful. Fearlessness is a godly quality, but today who understands it? Ahara-nidra-bhaya-maithunam ca: rather, all that people understand is eating, sleeping, mating, and defending, or fearing. This is animal life. To eat, to sleep, to have sex, and to become fearful—this is animal life. And so Krsna says one has to become fearless. But who cares about it? People are thinking that to become fearless means to keep a gun. Of course, that is also one way. [Laughter.]

And as for purification of one's existence, here also people do not know anything. When someone falls sick he wants to go to a doctor and become purified. But his whole life is impure—that he doesn't know. You see, Because people's very existence is impure, they are subjected to birth, death, old age, and disease. That they do not know.

(To be continued.)

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Notes from the Editor

Divine and Demoniac

According to the Bhagavad-gita (16.6), here are two kinds of created beings: "One is called the divine and the other demoniac." The Sanskrit for "divine" is sura, which denotes the theist, whereas asura means "atheist." The consequences of belonging to one or the other of these two classes is very serious, and perhaps for this reason many persons try to look for a middle ground, such as agnosticism or impersonalism.

It is unfortunate that nowadays theism is often described as mere faith. Sometimes it is contrasted with modern science, as if science were verifiable truth, and religion simply blind faith. Yet physicists, chemists, and mathematicians also require faith in the axiomatic principles of their systems. Similarly, faith is required for beginning to hear the science of God from the bona tide spiritual master and from the Vedic literatures. But faith is not everything. In theism there is certainly a verifiable process whereby one can know his advancement in spiritual life.

I can recall my own position as a professed agnostic and how I became convinced of theism by Srila Prabhupada. My case was a typical example of how the bona fide spiritual master can create faith in the faithless.

Srila Prabhupada attacked my doubts from many fronts. In the beginning I did not accept the Vedic scriptures as absolute proof, but I was interested in hearing reasonable explanations. Srila Prabhupada explained that God is the supplier and maintainer of life in the universe. All around us we find an expert arrangement for water, light, and food. Water is stored in the oceans, but when it is needed for human use, it is evaporated into the clouds and delivered as distilled water.

Similarly, there are natural supplies of heat and food. These supplies are not produced by man, and neither is it feasible to say that they all come about by chance. Rather, the universe is maintained by very exact management. If the sun were to deviate from its orbit and come even slightly closer to the earth, all life would be annihilated in fire; if the sun were to go slightly farther away from the earth, everything would become frozen to death. The abundant evidence of supply and control strongly indicates the presence of an intelligent force behind life and nature. Examples like these had occurred to me even before I met Srila Prabhupada. but when I heard them from him. with his conviction and deep appreciation of the Supreme Lord. they had a new effect on me.

Before I met Srila Prabhupada. I had only a vague awareness of the Vedic scriptures. I had heard that they were the oldest spiritual writings on earth. From Srila Prabhupada I began to gradually understand their comprehensiveness. For example, the Vedas discuss two types of transcendental knowledge: impersonalism and personalism. Although the Vedas declare both to be features of the Absolute Truth, the personal feature of God is revealed as the highest. (See Bhagavad-gita As It Is, 12.1-3) The science of the atma, or soul, the laws of karma, the varieties of yoga. the ultimate goal of eternity, bliss, and knowledge—all these and much more is given in the Vedic texts. The more I heard the Vedic wisdom, the better I liked it.

Vedic scriptures not only teach us that the Supreme Personality of Godhead exists, but they inform us of God in His original, confidential form as Lord Krsna. From Srila Prabhupada I also learned of the eternal abode of Krsna. where He engages in pastimes of love with His pure devotees.

Srila Prabhupada further explained that the present millennium is known as Kali-yuga. an age of degradation. But the Supreme Lord has given a benediction to the people of Kali-yuga in the form of the chanting of the holy names of God, the Hare Krsna mantra. The chanting is a special way to approach Lord Krsna by which even less qualified persons become successful.

In addition to hearing logical examples from the spiritual master and learning the Vedic scriptures from him. I received further blows to my atheistic doubts when I learned about the disciplic succession of great spiritual teachers. The names and lives of many persons who have succeeded in becoming liberated from the ungodly nature are given throughout the Vedic literature. I learned of great philosophers, such as Narada and Vyasa, who could analyze the difference between matter and spirit, and who found out the Absolute Truth by strength of intellectual reasoning as well as mystic devotion. I also read of yogis, like Brahma and Kardama, who transcended the relative material world through meditation and were able to directly associate with Krsna and His internal energies.

When I learned of sages like Vyasa, the compiler of the Vedas, and Sukadeva Gosvami his son. who spoke the science of God in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, and as I began to realize that there is a long chain of teachers after them that extends into the modern age, with writers such as Madhva (A.D. 1239-1319). Ramanuja (A.D. 1017-1137). and Lord Caitanya and His followers. I began to consider these gurus the best examples to follow. My affection for Western writers and thinkers paled in comparison to my growing appreciation for the poets, saints, and military heroes of the theistic Vedas.

The greatness of the sages themselves is therefore another evidence of the existence of God as the Supreme Person, exactly as stated in the Vedic literature. As Srila Prabhupada used to say. "We should not think that sages like Vyasadeva would insert fairy tales or mythologies into their literature."

Besides reading the teachings and the authentic histories of the ancient sages. a person is fortunate if he can actually meet a bona fide spiritual master. Before I met Srila Prabhupada. I was an asura, not only because of my intellectual doubt about God. but also because I was addicted to the ungodly habits of the asuras. Indeed, I fit the description given in the Bhagavad-gita—"Those who are demoniac do not know what is to be done and what is not to be done. Neither cleanliness nor proper behavior nor truth is found in them."

But by following the teachings of Srila Prabhupada. I soon was able to give up at least the gross manifestations of sinful activities, such as illicit sex, intoxication, and meat-eating, and I prepared myself for the real work of human life—to act in devotional service for the pleasure of the Supreme.

Regarding the serious consequences of belonging either to the godly or the ungodly class, Srila Prabhupada writes in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.8.31):

At the present moment throughout the entire world, the atheists are extremely numerous. . . . Thus the material world is becoming more and more godless, and consequently everything is in a disturbed condition. If this continues, the Supreme Personality of Godhead will certainly take action, as He did in the case of the demon Hiranyakasipu. . . . The demons should therefore be careful and curtail their godless civilization. . . . Otherwise they are doomed. . . . The godless civilization can be destroyed at any moment.

Since the stakes are so high, it behooves an intelligent person to look thoroughly into the available information on theism, even if it means going outside traditional Western sources. In an age characterized by irreligion, the Krsna consciousness movement is serving humanity by reminding us of the validity and importance of the theistic way.—SDG

Use back button to return.

Return to top