A lecture in London, England, on August 28, 1973
by His Divine Grace
avyakto 'yam acintyo 'yam
"It is said that the soul is invisible, inconceivable and immutable. Knowing this, you should not grieve for the body." (Bhagavad-gita 2.25)
Lord Krsna began His teachings to Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita by saying asocyan anvasocas tvam prajna-vadams ca bhasase: "You are talking like a learned scholar, but you are lamenting for the body, which is not at all important [Bg. 2.11]. Here He says the same thing: nanusocitum arhasi. "Do not take this body very seriously. The soul is the real subject matter to be considered."
The modern civilization is concerned only with the body—just the opposite of what Krsna says. We should understand the principle that the soul is immortal and the body is temporary. The real factor is the soul. We have to take care of the soul, not the body. So far as the body is concerned, there are pains and pleasures, which come and go like climatic changes. They are not permanent. So you have to learn how to tolerate these bodily pains and pleasures (tams titiksasva) and take care of the soul. But in the modern civilization people have no knowledge of the soul, what to speak of how to take care of it. Like animals, they are absorbed in the bodily concept of life, taking much care of the body but forgetting the soul. This is the lamentable condition of the modern civilization. Simply an animal civilization. The animals simply take care of the body but have no information of the soul. So this civilization is an animal civilization, full of mudhas. Mudha means "ass."
Now, if we say this to the people in general, they'll be angry at us. But this is the actual situation. The Bhagavatam says, yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke ... sa eva go-kharah: "One who takes his body to be his self is no better than a cow or an ass." What is this body? Nothing but a bag of kapha, pitta, and vayu—mucus, bile, and air—and their by-products.
Everything in this material world is like that—a combination of material elements. Take this house, for example. What is this house? Tejo-vari-mrdam: a combination of fire, water, and earth. You take some earth, you add water, and you mix them. Then you take the mixture and put it into a fire, and it becomes brick. If you powder it, it becomes cement. Then you combine the bricks and cement and it becomes a skyscraper building.
So, everything in this material world is simply a combination of five ingredients: fire, water, and earth, plus air and sky for drying. Similarly, the body is also a combination of five elements. There is no essential difference. Because in the big skyscraper building there is no soul, it stands in one place. But the body has a soul, and therefore it moves. That is the difference. So the soul is the important thing.
In an airplane there is no soul. but the pilot becomes the "soul." He operates the controls, and therefore it moves. Without the pilot the plane would not move. Similarly, without the presence of the soul, nothing can move. Either the thing must have a soul, or some other soul must control it. Then it will move.
Therefore, the important thing is the soul, not this material body. So anyone who's accepting this material body as very important is fool number one. For example, the other day some rascals came here demanding food. They were very eager to feed the body. The said they were "starving." They didn't know that there is spiritual starvation. Physical starvation may be there, but actually that is not a problem, because there is sufficient arrangement for maintaining this material body. Real starvation is starvation of the soul. The soul is not getting spiritual food.
This meeting is meant forgiving food to the starving spirit soul. And as soon as we get some spiritual food, we become happy (yayatma suprasidati). Unless we get spiritual food, we cannot be really satisfied. Suppose you have a bird within a cage, and you simply clean the cage very nicely and cover it and paint it, while the bird within the cage is crying out of starvation. Is that very intelligent? Similarly, as spirit souls we are encaged within this body, and although we are taking great care of the bodily cage, we are starving for lack of spiritual food. We are not happy being encaged in this body, and so our natural aspiration is to get free from this encagement, as much as the bird struggles to get free from its cage.
Yesterday we learned from Bhagavad-gita that the soul sarva-gatah, "able logo anywhere." It has that freedom. Those w ho are advanced in yogic power can also move anywhere they like. There are still yogis in India who early in the morning take a bath in four holy places—Hardwar, Jagannatha Puri, Ramesvaram, and Dwaraka. Within one hour they bathe in these four places. They dip into the water in one place, and by a yogic process they come out a few minutes later a thousand miles away in another holy body of water. It's as if you were to take a dip in the Thames River here in London, and when you came out you were in the Ganges at Calcutta. This is sarva-gatah. "going everywhere." The soul has so much freedom that he can go anywhere he likes.
It is only our body that is an impediment checking our freedom. But if you get rid of this material body and are situated in your spiritual body, you can go anywhere you like. For example, Narada Muni can move anywhere. Sometimes he goes to Vaikunthaloka. the spiritual world, and sometimes he comes to this material world. Because he has a spiritual body, he's free to move anywhere.
Now the scientists are trying to travel into outer space by machine. But there is no need of a machine. As a spirit soul you have your own power. You can move anywhere very fast. Unfortunately, now this power is being checked by the material body.
Therefore, one should be very much concerned about getting the soul out of this encagement of the material body. That should be our first concern. Those who are simply concerned with this body are no better than animals. So this so-called modern civilization, having no information of the soul, is simply a pack of animals. That's all.
Modern people do not care about the results of their activities; they do not care whether they perform pious or vicious activities. That is demonic civilization. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita (16.7), pravrttim ca nivrttim ca jana na vidur asurah. The asuras are atheists, fools and rascals who do not know what is pravrtti and what is nivrtti. Pravrtti means "subject matter we should take interest in." and nivrtti means "subject matter we should not take interest in." The asuras do not know the difference.
Every living entity has two natures. spiritual and material. Materially, the inclination is toward sex enjoyment, meat-eating, and intoxication (loke vyavayamisa-madya-seva;). And the Bhagavatam says, nitya hi jantoh: These are always the tendencies for the living entity in the material world. When one is in the material world he is called jantu, "animal." Although one is constitutionally a living entity, or jiva soul, he's not called "jiva soul" when he's in the material concept of life. He's called jantu, Anyone devoid of spiritual knowledge jantu, or "animal." This is the scriptural injunction.
So as long as we continue to change from one material body to another, we remain animals. And like any animal, we are forced to tolerate so much suffering. For example, a bullock yoked to a cart must undergo so much whipping. He has to tolerate it: he cannot get out of it. Similarly, when the cows are taken to the slaughterhouse to be killed, they have to tolerate it. There is no way out. This is the position of the jantu.
Anyone who has surrendered to the material nature has to suffer. There is no way out. As soon as you accept a material body, you must suffer (klesada asa dehah). This material body means suffering. But people do not know this. They make so many arrangements and plans to become happy, to become peaceful without any miserable condition, but the rascals do not know that so long as you have a material body—whether a king's body or an ant's body—you must suffer.
Therefore Krsna says here. "Take care of the soul. Just try to understand how important the soul is. Don't lament for the body. In this body you will get so much suffering, so much comfort; it is already settled up."
Now, one may ask. "Why does one living entity get a king's body and another get a pig's body? There are so many different types of bodies. Why this variety?" Krsna explains this variety in the Bhagavad-gita [13.22]: karanam guna-sango 'sya sad-asad-yoni-janmasu. "Because the living entity associates with different kinds of material qualities, he gets different types of bodies."
Therefore our business should be not to associate with the material qualities, even the quality of goodness, sattva-guna. One who is conducted by sattva-guna has brahminical qualities—self-control, tolerance. and so on—but devotional service to Krsna makes one transcendental even to these good qualities. Even if somehow or other a person takes birth in a brahmana family and strictly executes his brahminical duties, he's still conditioned under the laws of material nature. And what to speak of others, those in the modes of passion and ignorance. Their position is most abominable. As Krsna says. jaghanya-guna-vrtti-stha adho gacchanti tamasah: "Those in the mode of ignorance sink down to a very abominable condition."
In this age of Kali almost everyone is in the mode of ignorance. In other words, almost everyone is a sudra (kalau sudra-sambhavah) This means they have no spiritual knowledge. One who knows, "I am a spirit soul: I am not this body" is a brahmana, and one who does not know this is a sudra.
Here in our Krsna consciousness movement the students are trying to understand what spiritual life is, and if somehow or other one of them understands at least that he's a spirit soul, then he becomes a brahmana. But one who does not understand this is a krpana. Krpana means "miser." Why is he a miser? Because he is wasting his valuable human form of life. These are the sastric injunctions.
So, first of all we have to become brahmanas. A brahmana knows, aham brahmasmi. "I am a spirit soul" And by such knowledge one is relieved of all anxiety (brahma-bhutah prasannatrma) If there is a burden on your head and it is taken away, you feel relieved. Similarly, the ignorance of thinking that "I am this body" is a great burden, and when we get rid of this burden, we feel relieved.
When one understands that he is not this body but rather a spirit soul, he naturally asks. "Why am I working so hard to maintain this lump of matter? Let me try for my real necessity, spiritual life." That is a great relief. Then there is no more lamenting or hankering (na socati na kanksati). This is the brahma-bhuta platform.
So, our actual business is to come to the brahma-bhuta platform. Then we will not be disturbed by bodily pains and pleasures. Actually, there is no pleasure. Simply pain. On the bodily platform pleasure means a little absence of pain. For example, suppose you have a boil. So, it is painful. But if by some medical application the pain is a little relieved, you think, "Now I am feeling happiness." But the boil is still there, so how can you be happy? We think we have discovered so many counteractions to disease—medical science, pharmaceuticals—but none of these can let you live perpetually. No, you'll have to die, sir. The "boil" is there: death.
So there is really no happiness at all in the material world. As Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita [13.9], janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi-duhkha-dosanudarsanam: "Why are you feeling happy? You have to die, after all, and you also have to accept birth, old age, and disease. As a spirit soul you are eternal, but in the material world you have to accept these sufferings."
Therefore our real problem is to get free from birth, old age, disease, and death. But these rascal modern philosophers do not know this. They think, "Death is natural, and after death everything is finished. Now, so long as I am not dying, let me enjoy." As an Indian philosopher named Carvaka Muni wrote, rnam krtva ghrtam pibet yavaj jivet sukham jivet: "As long as one lives, be happy by eating lots of ghee." According to our Indian system, enjoyment comes not from eating meat, as in the Western countries, but from eating foods cooked in ghee [clarified butter]. So Carvaka Muni recommended. "Eat foods cooked in ghee, like kacauris and samosas, and enjoy life." One may say, "I have no money, sir. Where shall I get ghee?" Carvaka answers, rnam krtva, "Beg, borrow, or steal, but get ghee somehow or other. Black market, white market, any way—get money and buy ghee, that's all. Eat as much ghee as possible. And in this way, as long as you live, live merrily."
That is also the theory of many European philosophers: "Live merrily." But at the end of his life the philosopher becomes paralyzed. Then his merriness is finished. These philosophers do not understand that there is a supreme controller. You may theorize in so many ways about how to make life happy, but you cannot be happy, sir, so long as you have a material body. Why? Because you must suffer birth, old age, disease, and death.
Therefore intelligent persons should realize that our problem is not how to achieve material happiness but how to be reestablished on our eternal, spiritual platform. As spirit souls we are eternal, but somehow or other we have fallen into this material world. Therefore we have to accept birth and death. So our problem is how to again become eternal.
But the rascal atheists do not know that there is a possibility of becoming eternal, that simply by trying to understand Krsna one can become immortal. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita [4.9] janma karma ca me divyam evam yo vetti-tattvatah / tyaktva deham punar janma naiti mam eti so 'rjuna. Even if you don't serve Krsna, if you simply understand the transcendental nature of Krsna's birth and activities, you become liberated. In other words, you become immortal.
But no, the rascals will not try to philosophically understand Krsna's position. They'll say, "We accept Krsna as a great man, but we don't accept Him as God." All right, if you accept Krsna as a great personality, why don't you accept His teachings? If you actually accept Krsna as a great personality, at least you must try to follow His instructions. But no, that they'll not do.
In Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, "You are eternal. Your business is how to achieve that eternal position. So far as the body is concerned, it is destructible. So you should not take the body very seriously." This understanding is the distinction between Vedic and modern civilization. The modern civilization is based on the bodily concept of life, and Vedic civilization is based on the spiritual concept of life—how to make spiritual advancement That is real civilization.
Thank you very much. Hare Krsna.
Vegetarians are just self-righteous vegetable-killers, some people say, and their milk-drinking implicates them in violence.
A Sunday Feast lecture in Detroit, Michigan, on February 8, 1987,
By Rohininandana Dasa
Nowadays vegetarianism is becoming popular for various economic, health, and ethical reasons; but spiritual reasons are more difficult for people to comprehend. Some people ask, "What's the difference between being a vegetarian and being a meat-eater? An animal has a soul, and a plant has a soul, and if you've got to kill the plant, then why not kill an animal? It's the same. You just killed a carrot. The carrot's dead, and the animal's dead. So what's the difference?" Suppose you're trying to convince somebody to become a vegetarian, and he says that to you. What are you going to say?
Response: There are spiritual reasons, and there are also material reasons. The spiritual reason is that you cannot offer meat to Krsna, and materially, you can argue that vegetables are not as developed.
Rohininandana dasa: Yes. The carrot has a less developed consciousness than an animal. So the amount of inconvenience you put a carrot through is considerably less than that of an animal. That's clear. You could also reply. "Well, why don't you eat a human child? If there's no difference between killing a carrot and killing a cow, then why not eat a human baby?"
Seriously, if you look at a small human baby, there is not much difference between it and an animal, is there? The animal feels a bit of pain, and the baby feels a bit of pain, so we might as well eat the human baby. But of course nobody wants to eat a human baby. "No, no, I couldn't eat a human baby. They're very different from animals. They've got different potential." So if there is such a great difference between a human baby and an animal, how much more is there between a cow and a blade of grass or a carrot? Obviously, then, there is a difference in consciousness.
The other reason is that we're "Krsna-tarians." We eat only what we offer to Krsna. We're not exactly vegetarians. We find out what Krsna wants us to offer Him. He says He wants a leaf, a fruit, a flower, or water. This means that vegetables, fruits, nuts, milk, juice, and all kinds of produce can be offered to Him and then eaten.
Question: The Bible says you can offer meat to God.
Rohininandana dasa: Not always. In Isaiah 1.11, the Lord says. "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me? I am full of the burnt offerings of rams and the fat of your fed beasts: and I delighteth not in the blood of bullocks or of lambs or of goats. . . . Bring no more vain oblations. . . . Your new moons and your appointed feasts My soul hateth. . . . and when ye spread forth your hands. I will hide Mine eyes from you. Yea, when you make many prayers. I will not hear, for your hands are full of blood." And in Isaiah 66.3: "He that killeth an ox is as he that slayeth a man. . . . Yea they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations."
You may cite other verses, where the Bible appears to recommend animal sacrifices, but could it not be that the Bible sanctions animal sacrifices for the die-hard flesh-eaters?
It's very clear, at least in the Vedic literatures, that God doesn't want us to offer Him flesh and blood, and even the Christians sense that because if you go to church on Thanksgiving you'll see wheat, apples, oranges, grapes, and other produce. You never see decorations of intestines and sheep's heads on the altar. You never see that.
But why not? It means that they can't think animal-killing is really wonderful. People sing, "We plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land." You go into the church, and there are flowers and all kinds of pleasant things. People in church don't sing. "We butcher the beasts and spill their blood"! Those unpleasant things—the decaying flesh and the screams—are out of sight and mind, far away in some secluded slaughterhouse.
Now, somebody could say. "Well, you Hare Krsna people are drinking milk, eating butter and cheese, and using ghee for cooking. In a factory farm, when the cow can't give milk anymore, she is slaughtered for her meat. By drinking milk you are supporting this system. Therefore you should become a vegan like me." What would you say then?
Response: To get the milk doesn't mean you have to kill the cow.
Rohininandana dasa: But the vegan will say, "The cow's milk is meant for her calf, and you're taking it." What do you say then?
Our explanation is that if you offer that milk to God, the cow benefits spiritually, even though she's living on a factory farm. From the Vedic point of view, it is important for human beings to have animal protein, especially if you want to cultivate spiritual life. And that animal protein comes in the form of cow's milk. Milk is actually the blood of the cow miraculously transformed into milk. The cow eats grass, the grass becomes blood, then the blood becomes milk, which we can drink as it is or prepare in many different ways.
Milk is the most miraculous of all foods. According to the Vedas, milk is meant for consumption by human beings. In fact, the Vedas say that five thousand years ago, cows gave more milk than they do today. It's incorrect to think that our breeding practices have enabled cows to produce more milk. No, it's their nature to produce much milk. The calf needs perhaps a tenth of the milk in the udder. And cows can give eight to ten gallons of milk a day. That's a lot of milk! This extra milk is meant for human consumption, to help develop fine brain tissue.
In Vedic society, every brahmana would have not only a cow but also a bull for plowing the land to produce grains. The cow is like a mother because she gives us milk. She should be protected and taken care of. In the Krsna consciousness movement we have farms, and we look after the cows with great care. In the summer we let them roam in the woods and pastures, and in the winter we house them in barns and take care of them. We don't kill them.
The Vedas describe the relationship between cows and humans. That relationship is God's arrangement for human society. If we try to figure things out for ourselves, well get so many imperfect solutions. What is the cow going to do if you don't milk her? Shell suffer great pain and eventually die. because she must be milked. A cow is actually dependent on human beings.
In the spiritual world, Krsna is taking care of the cows. One of Krsna's names is Gopala. "He who protects the cows." Another of Krsna's names. Govinda, means "He who gives pleasure to the cows." There is a natural relationship between God and the cows, and also between mankind and the cows.
In the Krsna consciousness movement we live in cities not because we want to. for no one who practices spiritual life likes to live in the middle of a city. We prefer to live in a very simple place, like the villages of India. At least I do! But the reason we're here is that we're trying to tell other people about Krsna. And therefore we have to drink the milk that's coming to us from the factory farms. We don't agree with their methods at all, but we're using their products to help bring down materialistic selfishness. And we are confident that the poor cows are greatly blessed when their milk is offered to the beautiful Deities. Sri Sri Radha-Kunjabihari [the Deities in the Detroit temple]. Does anyone have a question or a comment?
Question: Why not be vegans if we're living in the city?
Rohininandana dasa: That's a good point, but it's enough austerity just to live in these cities. We have to compromise in so many ways. Just to drive a car you've got to have tires, which are made with animal products. Practically speaking, even though you think that you're wearing vegetarian clothes, and that everything you have is vegetarian, if you analyze you will find that there are animal products in almost everything you have. The film in your camera is made from gelatin. Even vegetables are fertilized by animal bones. So there comes a point where you just have to not be too fanatical about it.
What we are basically trying to do is remove a thorn with a thorn. We're using modern technology to change modern technological society. So sometimes we have to compromise by drinking store-bought milk. But by our preaching in the cities, many people are becoming vegetarians, and therefore many cows are being saved. If you convince just one person to be a vegetarian, you're saving many animals every year.
How many animals and birds do you think an average American eats in a year? Let's say he eats twelve chickens. Does this sound reasonable? No? More? Double, then? OK. And how many pigs each year? Will he finish a whole pig? Probably. Let's say he gets through one pig. How many fish? Thirty? How many sheep? Two? How many cows? One whole cow? Two sheep, one pig, a couple of turkeys, twenty-four chickens, thirty fish, and one cow. And he may eat more bizarre things than that! Maybe you're also saving a few snails, a horse, some squirrels, and a monkey.
If by your influence someone becomes a vegetarian, in one year you've saved all these animals. What if that person stays a vegetarian for the next thirty years? How many creatures are being saved? To be really effective we've got to situate ourselves in the cities; otherwise, if we were tucked away in the country somewhere, we would only influence a few people. But we do both. We're in the cities and also in the country. And vegetarianism is just one benefit of our work, because if a person is Krsna conscious, he's automatically going to be kind and gentle and possess all good qualities.
Question: What's wrong with eggs?
Rohininandana dasa: Well, first, they're not the most pleasant things to eat when you think about what they are: female chickens' menstrual waste products. It's not such an edible food. Of course, modern nutritionists may say how wonderful eggs are, but eggs are not the most elevated food. And in their natural condition, they should be fertilized anyway. Go to one of these factory farms and see how the chickens are suffering. Sometimes the hens are so cramped in their cages that their claws just grow around the wire. When the "farmers" come to get them out of the cages, they find that their feet are firmly clamped to the wires. And they've got so many diseases; it's an abominable life. I used to work in a place like that. I tell you, it's abominable.
Comment: Some people call eggs "liquid flesh."
Rohininandana dasa: Yes. Of course, eating eggs is not as bad as eating flesh, but it's bad enough. I remember when I was giving up eggs, it was tough because I used to like omelets. I was camping on the side of a mountain, and I got down to my last egg. I thought "Whew! What am I going to do?" I suddenly felt a surge of strength coming—"I've got to give this up!"—and I took the egg and I slung it down the mountainside. And I've never eaten another egg since. I felt very pleased after that. If you try, Krsna will help you. You'll get enough protein, you'll get enough strength, you'll be able to do it.
Especially nowadays, there are so many vegetarian cookbooks; there are so many ways of understanding good eating. How to mix your grains together—if you mix rice with dal, it increases the potency of both. It is a science. By eating meat and eggs, you get too much protein. Too much protein is bad for you.
Does that answer your question? You can't offer the egg to Krsna. We're Krsna-tarians; we offer Krsna only what He wants us to eat. We're trying to awaken our love for Krsna, which is really the important thing. It's not whether I'm a vegetarian—that's coincidental—but whether I am trying to serve God, to please God.
In the ultimate issue, if there's nothing else to eat, you can eat meat If you're starving and there's an animal, you can kill the animal and eat it. This is stated in the sastras. or lawbooks. Human life is actually more important than that of an animal, only because human life enables us to practice self-realization. Of course, if we're not practicing self-realization, then human life doesn't have any more importance than animal life.
Srila Prabhupada would often say that without rationality man is just an animal. But if the human being is trying to cultivate spiritual life, then his life is more valuable. If a tiger comes at you, you can certainly defend yourself; Krsna consciousness is practical.
But here in the United States there's no food shortage. We grow so much grain every year. In her book Diet for a Small Planet, Francis Lappe, a nutritionist, gives amazing statistics about how much grain we grow each year to feed livestock. You have to give the animal thirty pounds of grain to get one pound of flesh. You could eat the thirty pounds of grain quite easily. So it's very practical. But in today's discussion we want to concentrate more on the spiritual side of vegetarianism.
Once Srila Prabhupada took a gulabjamun in his hand—gulabjanums are ball-like sweets made out of milk powder that are fried and then soaked in a solution of rose water and honey or sugar. They are very sweet. He popped it into his mouth and said. "We're eating our way back to Godhead." So by eating, anyone can make spiritual advancement. That's a fact.
So try to give all your friends some prasadam [food offered to Krsna]. If you've got a grandmother who's dying in the hospital, take her a little prasadam, and make sure she eats it. It's said that whoever eats prasadam is guaranteed a human body in the next life. If somebody is destined to become an animal, he will get the opportunity of another human body.
And if you give an animal some prasadam, then that soul will be elevated very quickly through the different animal species back to human life again. If a soul loses his human form, it's very troublesome for him, because he must go through the different species, and it may be a long time before he gets back to human life. So if you have some leftover food, give it to the birds and other creatures in your backyard. Sometimes we take the water we've offered to Krsna on the altar and pour it on the base of a tree so it w ill benefit.
People may think this is madness, but no, it is spiritual. For one in material consciousness, spirituality seems like ignorance, and for one who is spiritually awake, material consciousness is seen as ignorance. In simple words, they say we're crazy, and we say they're crazy. So the question is, "Who is crazy?" That's the question we have to ask—who is actually crazy? Krsna says, "What is night for all beings is the time of awakening for the self-controlled, and the time of awakening for all beings is night for the introspective sage."
People who don't offer their food to Krsna have to accept karmic reaction. even if they just kill a carrot. Even if they're vegetarian, when they kill a carrot they've inconvenienced that soul. Maybe in a minor way, but still there's some inconvenience. Therefore, they have to suffer a karmic reaction. That carrot was living. It had a right to live, and I killed it for my own sensual pleasure, so I'm simply eating a sinful reaction.
No one should be proud: "I'm a vegetarian; I'm OK." Even a monkey is a vegetarian.
Being a vegetarian is not the Absolute Truth. It doesn't even save you completely from karma. You will save yourself from a tremendous amount of karma by being a vegetarian, because you won't have to suffer a reaction for every hair on the cow's body, but there is still a small reaction for killing a carrot. Offer that carrot to Krsna, however, and there's no reaction for you at all. The carrot benefits and everyone who eats your offering will benefit. Krsna says. "Whatever reaction there is. Hi take it, because you're doing it under orders."
When a soldier kills in war there's no question of any penalty, because he acted under orders. He might even get a medal. Even if the fight was a mistake—his officer made a blunder—the soldier is not punished, because he acted under superior orders. This is an analogy. We are not saying that soldiers are free from karma, but they are free from the social consequence of their actions. But if a soldier kills somebody in peacetime, he must suffer the penalty, because he has taken the law into his own hands.
Similarly, if we act under Krsna's direction, and eat only those things He recommends, there's no karmic reaction, and everyone benefits. Whereas if I start making up my own ideas, even if I'm a vegan trying to do the right thing. I'm still going to create karma. Even a vegan is still eating and therefore creating karma. He may not be inconveniencing cows, but he's inconveniencing vegetables, which are also living beings. He may also indirectly support animal slaughter by buying food from a store or company that sells animal products. But a person who follows the Lord's direction by preparing his allotted quota of food and offering it to Krsna benefits everyone.
Why stop at human beings or cows? If you're going to be humanitarian, why not think of the animals? If you're going to think of the animals, why not think of the fish'.* If you're going to think of the fish. why not think of the plants? They re also living. They also feel pain. In India, if someone is building a wall and a tree stands in the way. it's quite common to build around it. In the West, we just mow anything and everything down. Isn't that right? If a tree is growing in front of our window and is blocking the sunlight we just cut it down.
But in India, only uncivilized people do such a thing. Sometimes people build their houses around a tree. They make a courtyard for the tree with an open roof for it to get sunshine. The tree also has a right to a little space to live, a little air and sunlight. That's culture. Why kill anything unnecessarily? And we cut down whole forests in Brazil just to get beef. Whole forests so we can print Playboy magazine and The New York Times. And people chew half of a hamburger and read one or two pages of a fifty-page newspaper and just chuck it all away. No thought of any responsibility! Just by buying a materialistic magazine you're going to get a karmic reaction for all the trees that have been killed. But if you cut a tree down and you make a book about Krsna, the soul in that tree will benefit, because its wood has been used in Krsna's service.
And the book is kept Very often in India, the books are wrapped in silk cloth and kept on the altar, and when people want to read they unwrap them very carefully and offer prayers before they begin reading. And those books are passed down from one generation to another.
Does this philosophy sound reasonable? It is reasonable. A religion without reason is just a sentimental thing—"Oh, you've got to believe in this. If you don't believe in this, you're going to burn." It becomes fanaticism. But religion must have some philosophy behind it.
Similarly, philosophy on its own is just mental speculation, as when you try to figure things out on your own and become a vegan. It's a speculation, not based on any scriptural evidence, and therefore it's not perfect. It may have some degree of truth—there's something good about most things—but if you want something to be absolutely perfect, then you've got to get it from a bona fide scripture, under the guidance of a bona fide guru.
"When we told our neighbors that our son was a Hare Krsna, they were mildly interested. But when we told them that we, too, were following the principles ..."
by Len Burton
My wife and I are Hare Krsna devotees. You can tell the world—but don't tell the neighbors. That just isn't on! Seriously, that's how it is with our neighbors. Don't get us wrong: they're good people, willing to help in any household emergency, as you would expect good neighbors to.
When we moved into our present home [Brisbane, Australia] some eighteen years ago, they were quite helpful, and we found we had much in common, as we were from the same district in England. When we told them that our son Maha-yajna was a Hare Krsna, they were mildly interested, but shortly after, when we informed them that we, too, were following the principles, the suggestion of not eating meat, taking intoxication, gambling, or having illicit sex must have sent a shock wave right through the street.
In the past, on festive occasions they would share a drink with us. Now they will not share a prayer. We used to pass the time of day over the fence nearly every day, but now we seldom see them at all, and when we do there is not the casual friendliness there used to be.
But no matter: we get all the friendliness we need and much more by our association with the devotees at the Brisbane temple. We have friends from the past, but we have seldom visited them. We were too busy working to pay off the house and fill it with many things we didn't really need. Since becoming devotees we have realized how futile our past life had been and how we neglected our spiritual needs. Now, after (in my own case) fifty-seven years of conditioning, we are trying to find the humility to ask dear Lord Krsna to please bestow His mercy upon us and allow us to remain as part of His beautiful family.
To this aim, we are following the principles and trying to give devotional service within our capabilities, though this is only a drop in the ocean. But while we are trying in our own small way to go back to Godhead, during the process we are feeling increased happiness and contentment in our lives.
Having a son who is a devotee, we would recommend to any parents who have young boys and girls who have joined or are considering joining the Hare Krsnas, Don't worry what the neighbors will think. But get down to the temple and see for yourselves what a beautiful, clean, healthy life they have. Balance this against the streets of booze, drugs, gambling, and sexual diseases, and have a mind completely free from anxiety, as we have.
My wife and I follow the old adage "Don't knock it until you've tried it." We're certainly glad we did.
Many years ago in England we lost two little boys. We had prayed to God to let them live, but our prayers were not answered. We wondered why a God who we were told was so good could allow little babies and also other good people to suffer, as so many do suffer in this world.
We just lost all spiritual feelings and immersed ourselves in forgetfulness by working for a nice house and other material things. Then we moved again and again, striving to better our lives. We eventually emigrated to Australia and Brisbane, where by Krsna's guiding hand we one day found ourselves at the Brisbane Hare Krsna temple seeing for ourselves how our son Maha-yajna was living and why he was so absorbed in love for a God we thought had let us down.
We came at first once a month to visit him, and we talked to other devotees, who were very open and answered all our questions fully. We also saw videos of the Hare Krsna activities throughout the world. We became vegetarians and increased our visits to the temple.
Then Maha-yajna went away on sankirtana [traveling for preaching], but we still visited the temple regularly, because through associating with the devotees, watching videos, and reading Bhagavad-gita, we at last understood why we had lost our little children, and why everyone suffers.
We now knew what karma means: actions and reactions. We now knew what real love of God means—not just kneeling and praying and saying. "I love you, God," but offering devotional service by dovetailing all our thoughts, words, and deeds in Krsna consciousness.
This series systematically explains some of the important philosophical concepts that form the foundation of the Vedic culture and the Krsna consciousness movement.
Lesson One: Our Real Identity
by Pavanesana Dasa
Human life is distinguished from all other forms of life by virtue of a more developed consciousness that enables us to ask questions like Who am I? Where do I come from? and What is the goal of my life? Through the process of Krsna consciousness we can explore this human potential to the highest degree.
If we were to conduct a survey by asking the question "Who are you?" we would get answers such as "I am Mr. Smith," "I am a man," "I am a woman," "I am an American," "I am a Christian," "I am a carpenter," "I am black," "I am a communist," and so on. Though people identify themselves in many different ways, none of these responses answers the question of who I am. Why? Because they refer only to the body.
We may look at our body and try to determine with which part we can identify. Are we our hands? Well. there are many people with amputated hands, and still they have retained their identity. The same holds true for arms, feet, and legs. Maybe we are the heart? But what about all the people who have received another heart? They seem to be the same person after the transplant. What about the brain? I know someone whose head was badly injured. and a good part of his skull and brain had to be removed—he is still the same person.
Now we are coming to a dead end with our research.
What is our real identity, that which distinguishes you and me so clearly from one another, even though we may look the same, have the same name, weight, height, and complexion?
Materialistic science has not come up with an answer to this question. But the world's oldest books of knowledge, the Vedas, define our identity in this way: aham brahmasmi—I am spirit. I am an eternal spirit soul. distinct from matter or the body. The Bhagavad-gita (2.20) explains:
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.
This conclusion generally provokes arguments from hardcore materialists. Therefore we will deal with some common objections in the following hypothetical discussion.
Challenge: Isn't this just the obsolete opinion of some outdated books, the imagination of uneducated, primitive people?
Reply: All authentic scriptures—Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim—proclaim the eternality of the soul. And an objective analysis will reveal that the Vedas contain the most comprehensive knowledge of spiritual subject matters. The majority of the world's population still believes firmly in the existence of the soul.
Challenge: But nobody has ever seen the soul!
Reply: If you think that only things that can be seen exist, then how do you prove that you have intelligence, feelings, love. thoughts, a nd so on? These things can't be seen either.
Challenge: But they can be perceived through the activities they generate.
Reply: Yes, and the soul's existence can be perceived—through consciousness, the symptom of the soul. Dead matter has no consciousness and therefore no soul.
Challenge: But consciousness is simply produced by the chemical reactions of the brain, and the evidence is that as soon as the brain stops functioning, there is no more consciousness.
Reply: This is a foolish argument. For example, if you watch a football game on TV and a power failure occurs, the game disappears from the screen. According to your logic, this is the evidence that the football game was produced by the TV. Actually, the machine simply transmitted the game that was going on independently of the TV. In the same way, consciousness is transmitted by the brain but not produced by it.
Challenge: But the idea of "soul" is completely unscientific.
Reply: What does science mean? You have a theory, you conduct experiments, and according to your results you prove or disprove your theory. If you want evidence for the soul, why don't you make an experiment with spiritual science? There are countless people who have obtained the result in the form of self-realization. So you too can verify the existence of the soul. But if you turn a theory down without even trying to verify it, then you are certainly most unscientific.
Challenge: But I just don't believe in the soul.
Reply: Well, you can certainly believe whatever you want, but don't pass your atheistic beliefs off as scientific truth. The existence of the soul can be verified through the proper process, and that is what Krsna consciousness is all about.
We can observe that all bodily designations are constantly changing. For example, someone may identify himself as a young male Christian carpenter with socialist ideals. But thirty years later that same person may identify himself as an old atheistic real estate agent with capitalistic ambitions. Even a person's sexual designation can change. Modern medical science can turn a man into a woman and vice versa. Besides, the cells in the body constantly change, so our physical identity changes from moment to moment Therefore we cannot establish a real, permanent identity contingent on the physical body. Only one thing remains constant: the conscious observer in the body, who is aware of the physical changes.
This becomes even clearer by examining the way we talk about the body. We say "my body," "my arm," "my foot." But who is the "I," the owner and controller of the body? It is the conscious spirit soul.
The body is a machine made of matter. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita (18.61):
The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone's heart. O Arjuna. and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine made of the material energy.
In other words, the body is like a car, and the soul is its driver. An ignorant person may see a car from a distance and think it is driving by itself. But a knowledgeable person can understand that there has to be a driver.
Matter is by nature inert and requires superior, living energy to manipulate it. Every machine needs an operator. The body consists of chemicals and does not move without the presence of the soul. The best evidence for this is that when a person dies, all bodily functions stop.
Of course, someone may say that this is due to a lack of certain chemicals. But if someone is dead you can inject chemicals all day long and he will not wake up. Once the soul is gone, the chemicals start to disintegrate, and no scientist can stop this process.
Therefore the difference between a dead body and a living body is the presence of the soul.
Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence, and false ego—all together these eight constitute My separated material energies. Besides these, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is another, superior energy of Mine, which comprises the living entities who are exploiting the resources of this material, inferior nature. (Bhagavad-gita 7.4, 5)
According to the Vedic science there are three bodies:
1. The gross body, consisting of earth, water, fire, air, and ether (space). These elements combine to form blood, flesh, bone, skin, and so on.
2. The subtle body. consisting of mind, intelligence, and false ego. Its functions are thinking, feeling, and willing (mind); decision-making and evaluating sense objects (intelligence): and illusory identification with matter (false ego).
The subtle body can be experienced in our emotions, such as love, hate, attraction and repulsion, or in our dreams, which are nothing but the subtle body acting instead of the gross body.
3. The spiritual body, or the soul, consisting of eternity, knowledge, and bliss—sac-cid-ananda. It is unmanifested, or in seed form, while encaged in a material body.
The soul is the cause of life in the sense that it makes the gross body appear alive, but actually the soul is the life itself, and the body is never alive. A hammer, for example. can perform very useful tasks and move around in so many ways. but only when it is held by the hand. In the same way. the body moves only because of the presence of the soul.
The relationship between matter, body, mind, and soul is described in Bhagavad-gita (3.42):
The working senses are superior to dull matter; mind is higher than the senses: intelligence is still higher than the mind: and he [the soul] is even higher than the intelligence.
Bhagavad-gita describes enjoyment on the physical platform as much inferior to enjoyment on the level of the pure self, the soul. From the following verses we can see that understanding our real self and the difference between matter and spirit is not merely a philosophical issue but can affect our life in a very practical way:
An intelligent person does not take part in the sources of misery, which are due to contact with the material senses. O son of Kunti such pleasures have a beginning and an end, and so the wise man does not delight in them. (Bhagavad-gita 5.22)
In the stage of perfection called trance, or samadhi, one's mind is completely restrained from material mental activities by practice of yoga. This perfection is characterized by one's ability to see the self by the pure mind and to relish and rejoice in the self. In that joyous state, one is situated in boundless transcendental happiness, realized through transcendental senses. Established thus, one never departs from the truth, and upon gaining this he thinks there is no greater gain. Being situated in such a position, one is never shaken, even in the midst of greatest difficulty. This indeed is actual freedom from all miseries arising from material contact. (Bhagavad-gita 6.20-23)
Just as the body requires material food, so the soul requires spiritual food. As long as people arc starving their soul, they will have to tolerate the consequences in the form of anger, frustration, envy, lust, greed, and hatred. These are all symptoms of bodily identification.
If the driver always fills the tank of the car, checks the oil, polishes and cleans the car nicely, but neglects to eat, soon all his efforts in relation to the car will be useless. What good is a car without a driver? Both the car and the driver have to be maintained nicely. But out of the two, the driver is more important Unfortunately, not only does our materialistic society fail to maintain the driver properly—it doesn't even know he exists!
From the spiritual point of view, a so-called normal person who identifies with his material body is as crazy as a mentally deranged person who imagines himself to be Napoleon or Hitler. Neither of them knows who he is.
The only sane person is the one who understands his real identity as spirit soul and who can see the difference between matter and spirit. The knowledge of our real self is already there. It is an inherent part of the soul. Therefore we do not have to acquire it from somewhere else. We simply have to uncover it from within ourselves, just as one would clean a dusty mirror to see himself again. Self-realization can be accomplished by the process of Krsna consciousness. By cultivating knowledge of our real self, we realize the wonderful qualities of the soul and become happy and peaceful.
You might not think this picture shows someone practicing yoga. But chanting the names of God is actually the supreme form of yoga. Of course, devotees chanting Hare Krsna certainly don't took much like yogis. At least not the kind of yogis most people think of when they hear the word. But most people, it seems, have little understanding of what yoga is really all about
Yoga is a Sanskrit word meaning "union." India's ancient Sanskrit literatures, the Vedas, explain that the purpose of yoga is to purify our consciousness so that we can reestablish our eternal relationship with God. The sitting postures and breathing exercises most people associate with yoga are part of a certain type of yoga system—known as hatha-yoga—that was practiced thousands of years ago. By practicing hatha-yoga, great sages could completely withdraw their mind and senses from the material world and, after a very long time, find God within their hearts.
In this age the Vedas discourage us from trying to reach God through hatha-yoga. We just don't have the time or the determination. But in this age God, or Krsna, has come in the form of His name. The goal of yoga, union with God, is easily attained through chanting Hare Krsna. And unlike other forms of yoga, the results come quickly. So, you too can be a yogi. Just try chanting Hare Krsna—and feel yourself coming closer to God.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
by Satyaraja dasa (New York City)
Although it has long been known that a fetus may be affected by the mother's use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes, or her infection with diseases such as AIDS, the Los Angeles Times recently reported the story of a woman whose child became hooked on a popular TV show while in the womb. The woman watched Ryan's Hope five days a week during her pregnancy.
The child's addiction was noticed soon after birth. When cranky, the baby could be pacified only by watching the show with its mother, crying hysterically if the mother tried to calm it by any other means, such as holding her infant, singing, playing music, or rocking the baby's crib. These things may work for other kids, but not for mommy's prenatal TV junkie.
Actually, this phenomenon has been observed by researchers for over a year now. A British medical journal did a recent study with the babies of women who regularly watched a British soap—the children had the same problem.
While new in the West prenatal perceptions were documented thousands of years ago by the prophets of ancient India's Vedic culture. Prahlada, one of the greatest devotees of Krsna, is said to have attained enlightenment while still in his mother's womb by hearing the words of the saint Narada Muni. Prahlada was born a prodigy and became a great preacher of Krsna consciousness even at the age of five. Srila Prabhupada elaborates on this point (Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.7.1, purport):
When he was in the womb of his mother, Prahlada Maharaja listened to the words of Narada Muni. One cannot imagine how the baby in embryo could hear Narada, but this is spiritual life: progress in spiritual life cannot be obstructed by any material condition. This is called ahaituky apratihata. Reception of spiritual knowledge is never checked by any material condition. Thus Prahlada Maharaja, from his very childhood, spoke spiritual knowledge to his class friends, and certainly it was effective, although all of them were children.
Prahlada is not an isolated case. There are many other examples in Vedic culture. Arjuna's son Abhimanyu was born with knowledge of military science, the Mahabharata, says. because Arjuna had explained this science to Subhadra, his wife, while Abhimanyu was still in her womb. And Sukadeva Gosvami had been an impersonalist philosopher in his previous life, but when his father. Vyasadeva, narrated the secrets of Srimad-Bhagavatam while his son was yet unborn, the child came into this world as a great devotee and a preacher of the Bhagavatam philosophy.
Having heard these histories, pregnant women in the Krsna consciousness movement listen to tapes of their spiritual master and read aloud from the scriptures with the express purpose of influencing the child soon to take birth from their womb. They also try to chant Hare Krsna more intensely, for the sound of the holy name, they know, will help their newborn on the path to pure devotion. How much greater hope there is for these children than for those whose mothers have hooked them on Ryan 's Hope.
Out Of Control
by Ekacakra dasa (Lagos)
Fear that the earth is inching toward overpopulation has prompted the Nigerian government to promulgate a new national population policy emphasizing birth control. The policy was bound to generate some furor.
Most African societies believe that children are God's own bestowed wealth. In many Nigerian societies a man's worth is still measured by the number of wives he has and the number of male children. The new government policy aims at curtailing the number of children to four per mother. Women have interpreted the policy as a great disadvantage to them psychologically. "From the look of things," said one prominent woman leader, "men are already clapping their hands in triumph because the policy seems that while women can have only four children, men are free to marry as many women as possible."
The advocates and the opponents of the policy agree on two points, however the introduction of sex education in primary schools, and the use of contraception and other methods to escape pregnancy. As we would expect neither side proposes decreasing the level of sexual activity. Each just has its own idea how to overcome the problems that sex causes.
The Vedas describe that a society based on promoting sense gratification, of which sex is the pivot, is a civilization of fools, which ultimately ends in wars and scarcity. In such a society, the human energy is spoiled in a vain search after illusory happiness. The Srimad-Bhagavatam (5.5.8) says. "The attraction between male and female is the basic principle of material existence." The whole world is moving under the spell of sexual attraction. Although the Bhagavatam compares the pleasure of sex to the insignificant pleasure obtained by rubbing one's hands together to relieve an itch, persons bereft of proper insight and spiritual knowledge consider this scratching the greatest happiness.
Generally, as soon as a man and a woman unite, they become attached to one another, to their home, their money, and so on, thus perpetuating their material existence. They are described as krpana, or misers, because they want to enjoy sense gratification with all their strength, without recognizing that their bodies will deteriorate like old garments. They waste their lives sleeping and mating at night and making money during the day. Thus their whole life is spent without spiritual profit.
In the Srimad-Bhagavatam (5.5.1). Lord Rsabhadeva tells His sons:
My dear boys, of all the living entities who have accepted material bodies in this world, one who has been awarded this human form should not work hard day and night simply for sense gratification, which is available even for dogs and for hogs that eat stool. One should engage in penance and austerity to attain the divine position of devotional service. By such activity, one's heart is purified, and when one attains this position, he attains eternal, blissful life, which is transcendental to material happiness and which continues forever.
If a person wants to progress on the path of self-realization, he must try to control the forces of the material senses.
But, one may ask. if sex is that bad, why did God create it?
In the Bhagavad-gita. Krsna says: "I am sex that is not contrary to religious principles." The Vedic injunction is that sex is exclusively meant for begetting children, and parents are responsible for giving their children a spiritual education. As the Bhagavatam says. "You should not attempt to become a father or mother unless you can liberate your children from the grip of material nature." The parents should be Krsna conscious and should be determined that the innocent children entrusted under their care will not have to undergo the painful cycle of birth and death again.
The Vedic literature never sanctions indiscriminate sex, because it creates unwanted pregnancies, which lead either to unwanted children or to abortions. The Bhagavad-gita describes children born from illicit connection and those born from ungodly families as varna-sankara, unwanted progeny. This unwanted progeny makes the world uninhabitable.
The Vedas therefore recommend that instead of wasting our valuable human life seeking temporary material satisfaction. we should use it in the service of Krsna. This is possible only when we take to devotional service by hearing and chanting the glories of the Lord and by associating with His devotees. This is the path toward the perfection of life, and the decision to follow this path is the ideal policy for the people of Nigeria—and the rest of the world.
The Total Strategy
by Jagannathesvari-devi dasi (Johannesburg)
On June 16, millions of black South Africans observed the anniversary of the 1976 Soweto uprising with a nationwide strike. Although technically illegal under the present government-declared state of emergency, the strike was a statement of full-scale black support for the cause of anti-apartheid. Even though the white South African government under both internal and external pressure, is beginning to grant certain concessions to the blacks (such as improved housing, schools, roads, and utilities), still the blacks' underlying frustration continues.
The government recently renewed its state-of-emergency restrictions for a third year. Now President Botha and his generals are embarked on an ambitious plan to keep their control. Known in official circles as the "total strategy," the three-stage campaign is designed first to crush opposition at any cost, then to set about "winning hearts and minds," and ultimately to bring blacks into a power-sharing arrangement that will forestall demands for one-man, one-vote majority rule.
With their total strategy, Botha and his associates may indeed win enough support to forestall for some time the white nightmare of being driven into the sea. But all the examples of history show that no repressive government can remain in power indefinitely. Ultimately the situation reverses, and those who were exploited become the next exploiters.
The problem of interracial strife has long been prevalent. From ancient Vedic history we learn that "To stop quarreling among different peoples. Maharaja Priyavrata marked boundaries at rivers and at the edges of mountains and forests so that no one would trespass upon another's property" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.1.40). Of course, Maharaja Priyavrata is renowned in Indian history as a powerful and saintly king. We don't find anyone of his caliber in power these days. Influenced by greed and envy, leaders encourage their people to trespass on others' property, and passionate strife ensues. And the modern phenomenon of large communities of people shifting to foreign lands in search of economic betterment leads to internal friction within many nations.
If the present situation seems hopeless. there is still chance for a solution, as mentioned by Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in his purport to the Vedic verse quoted above. "If men want to live in harmony and peace, they must take to Krsna consciousness, for they cannot achieve the highest standard while absorbed in the bodily concept of life."
Because of our deep-rooted identification with our bodies—our firm belief that we belong to a certain family, community, and nation—we become totally involved in political struggles, which stand on temporary, illusory concepts. When one understands that he is an eternal soul, full of bliss and knowledge, there is no question of his wasting his life for futile political goals. In Teachings of Queen Kunti. Srila Prabhupada explains. "The children in a family all have the right to accept privileges from the father. Similarly, if everyone is part and parcel of God, if everyone is a child of God, then everyone has the right to use the property of the father."
Unfortunately, this axiomatic truth is not perceived by either the South African government or its opposition, and so the bitter struggle continues. Just as two thieves may fight over their haul, the two opposing elements are fighting over a land that does not belong to either of them. It is all the property of God. And just as one son may devise a scheme to control his brother's share of their father's inheritance, similarly Pretoria has its "total strategy" to subdue left-wing opposition.
But the real total strategy is in the hands of the supreme controller, and only a tiny part of the picture is being revealed to the politicians. Ultimately, whether they gain victory or suffer defeat, the only real and lasting victory lies in the hands of those who surrender to the creator of the complete total strategy, for they will conquer over birth and death and become eternally free from fear.
In this feature of BACK TO GODHEAD, devotees succinctly express some of the realizations they have gained through service and devotion to Lord Krsna.
Pacing the weathered wooden porch in the cool stillness of the early morning. I meditate on the sound of the mystical, primeval name "Krsna, Krsna, Krsna," as the blackness in the eastern sky slowly yields to shades of violet and soft rosy pink in the delicate light of the sun's first rays.
In the same natural way. the illusion-dark sky within my heart is blossoming in the glorious colors of transcendence from the presence of Krsna rising beyond the horizon of my material conceptions. And though He is not yet fully manifest before me. the indications of His approach are clear and certain, just as the sun is surely soon to come.
The grisly scene in my fish tank was enough to convince me that the day I had been dreading was at hand. What just yesterday had been my pet hermit crab's legs—long, bone-hard, and equipped with mean sets of pincers that had on one notable occasion caused me to scream like a tomcat in an alley brawl—now lay inert on the gravel, as harmless as a dead rattlesnake. Various other parts of his anatomy, which I could not name, were scattered about in sludgy globs. His smooth, speckled shell, now uninhabited, looked merely ornamental.
"You'll have to buy an extra shell for your crab that's larger than the one he's in now," the matronly pet shop owner had informed me when I'd bought him, "because some day soon hell get too big and have to move. About forty-eight hours after he moves, you'll see a little spot of pink in the bigger shell, and in two or three days your crab will become bigger and better than ever."
A chill had run down my spine. Something about this process seemed unnatural, almost ghoulish. Perhaps it was the picture of a blob of jelly, dispossessed of all it had once used to see and move, squirming in blind search for a larger dwelling. After all, isn't that the stuff of which horror movies are made?
It wasn't until I came to Krsna consciousness that I realized that the process of birth and death we endure is eerily similar to the disquieting phenomenon the hermit crab goes through during its life, for all of us must eventually leave the shell of our bodies and, according to our needs, attach ourselves to new ones. "As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones." Krsna explains to Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita. Until our hearts are totally purified by the practice of devotional service to Krsna, we will continue to exchange one unsuitable external dressing for another, never happy, never free, and never fulfilled.
To someone observing this pitiful situation from the spiritual world, material existence most likely seems as unhealthy and grotesque as the scene in my fish tank appeared to me. Fortunately, the advantage we have over hermit crabs is our ability to change our behavior and priorities. Through Srila Prabhupada's mercy, we can chant Krsna's holy name, grow in self-realization, and eventually throw off this material covering.
The Real Poverty
In the Vedic view, most modern men and women are spiritually poor. Raised in a society that fills them with materialistic goals, they have no idea that life's aim is spiritual realization.
Though people lament about material poverty, much of what is called poverty is miserable only to the degree that one identifies with it. There have been many saints who lived in poverty but were not at all miserable. They willingly embraced poverty. If we seriously cultivate spiritual life, we too can experience a joy that overwhelms the suffering of poverty.
Many persons living below the so-called poverty line have the basic necessities of life. Their suffering often comes from wanting things they cannot afford but that are actually unnecessary. If they had a wealth of spiritual assets, their desires for greater material assets would lessen, and they would be much happier.
The real solution to poverty, then, is devotional service to Krsna, who will not let His devotee suffer for want of the necessities of life, and who will deliver a spiritual taste that will free the devotee from attachment to material enjoyment.
Modern society convinces us to feel that we need a certain standard of luxury to be happy. But a devotee is not attracted to the glare of material success. He knows that it is temporary and unsatisfying, and he feels satisfied in his relationship with Krsna, the real necessity of life.
We can't avoid it. But what about life's non-athletic,
by Mathuresa Dasa
I was only half correct when I began to suspect, around age twelve, that life didn't make any sense, and that although I dearly wanted to be distinguished and accomplished, any accomplishment or distinction was ultimately useless and stupid. What was the value of studying math, English, Latin, and science, of making the soccer team, or of practicing the piano? Mr. Shakespeare had already said that life "is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." What more could be said or done?
I hadn't yet heard that only material life is an idiot's dream and that there are activities of self-realization that are full of pleasure and meaning. So I said and did very little.
But I was ambitious, too, and by my second year in college the gap between my ambitions and my lack of determination to fulfill them had torn my ego with a pain that only sleep and other forms of forgetfulness could soothe.
My opposite number, or one of them, was a certain classmate who was both hero and nemesis to me. He was strong and handsome, an athlete and an honor student. At our preparatory school he won the most-likely-to-succeed award. In his enthusiasm and confidence many of his classmates detected a streak of conceit, but it was hard to fault him, because we admired him, and because an honest critic had to admit envy as well. Lately, after an interval of twenty years. I have seen his by-line in prestigious magazines.
One encounter in particular, one of maybe a hundred in the six years of our distant camaraderie as classmates in a large school and a larger university, one casual exchange at lunch our sophomore year (my last year in college), remains in my memory, embalmed in liquid nostalgia.
We were sitting at a table in our dining hall with five or six other lunchers, bland food, and the ghost of midyear doldrums, the talk turning in eddies of banter around professors and courses and examinations, with undercurrents of Are we learning anything? All this work to get a job? and Is it worthwhile? The conversation dwindled and began coming to a close as one luncher stood up with his tray and facetiously offered, as a conclusion, that life was but a game.
The remark pleased me, but my hero/nemesis, in one of the bursts of sobriety and assertiveness to which he was prone, even during bull sessions, responded. "Just because life is a game doesn't mean we shouldn't enjoy playing it." Although he didn't direct this response at me. I received it with embarrassment and despair. Here he was, a player, an athlete of life, and here I was, a quitter.
It wasn't that bad, though. I valued life and had a sense of my self-worth, a sense that there was meaning if I could only find the right atmosphere for it. Nevertheless, the encounter set me thinking, and never a master of quick repartee. I gradually formulated and am still honing my answer to the "play life's game" challenge.
Here's what I should have said, given that I then knew nothing of Krsna consciousness.
I agree that we ought to play the game of life. In fact, we can't avoid playing to some degree. Even catatonia is an activity of sorts on life's playing field. We must act.
But that's the problem. In a normal game there are time-outs, and the entire game is only a part of one's life or of one's day. After the competition you head for the locker room, doff your uniform, take a shower, slake your thirst, joke around with both your teammates and your opponents, go home and have dinner with your family, get on with life's non-recreational, non-athletic business.
If, however, life itself is a game. then where are the time-outs, the relaxation, the post-game festivities? I've been playing for too long and want to go home. Where is home? "Game" means there is also real life. How do we live it?
That's what I should have said. And here's how I now answer that last question.
We live a meaningful, individual eternal life, the Gita says, not by acting to please our bodies, our minds, or even our souls, but by serving the transcendental body and senses of the Supersoul. Lord Krsna advises. "Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer or give away, and whatever austerities you perform—do that, O son of Kunti, as an offering to Me."
This advice is for our benefit The Supreme doesn't need our offerings. He is ever self-satisfied and independent.
We, on the other hand, as part of Him, can enjoy a meaningful life only by pleasing Him. Just as your finger receives nourishment by feeding your stomach, so the individual soul enjoys life by "feeding" Krsna. Your finger has unlimited value when attached to the rest of your body, but if severed from your hand it is a useless piece of flesh and bone.
Life is truly meaningless when we sever our souls from the Supersoul, and truly meaningful when we link up with Him.
Originally, the only alternative I saw to life's meaningless activities was equally meaningless inactivity. But the true alternative is enthusiastic, confident activity in Krsna consciousness. In leaving college and joining the Hare Krsna movement I did not shirk life's duties or avoid its challenges. On the contrary, having played enough, I headed for the locker room, doffed my uniform, took a shower, went home, and got down to business.
ISKCON Ratha-yatra Highlights Guyana's Immigration Day
Guyana, South America—ISKCON devotees here held their Ratha-yatra festival to coincide with national Immigration Day, a holiday organized by the government marking 150 years since persons from India first immigrated to Guyana. The program was the largest ever organized by the government here for Indians, who make up fifty percent of the population.
The festival lasted several days, and the government brought a hundred dignitaries from India, including Vice-President F. D. Sharma. Festival officials requested ISKCON devotees to greet the vice-president when he arrived at the festival by helicopter. When Agrani Swami, ISKCON Governing Body Commissioner for Guyana, introduced himself as a member of the Hare Krsna movement, the vice-president clasped his hand and shook it enthusiastically.
During the Immigration Day program, which looked like a typical ISKCON Ratha-yatra festival, the vice-president repeatedly complimented the devotees for their beautiful Ratha-yatra cart.
Hare Krsna Caters Hong Kong
Hong Kong—Devotees at the ISKCON temple here, which had its grand opening in October 1987, have opened an exclusive catering service—"The Higher Taste Vegetarian Dining Club." The temple is in the heart of the city's commercial district, and soon after opening the catering service, the devotees were swamped with orders for prasadam (food offered to Krsna) in the form of spring rolls, steamed buns, sweet-and-sour dishes, and other selections from their menu of authentic Chinese cuisine. The prasadam is prepared in a kitchen at the back of the temple.
In the reception area, customers watch ISKCON Television's documentary on vegetarianism, Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise, dubbed into Cantonese. They also browse through or purchase some of the cookbooks produced by ISKCON devotees, especially the popular Chinese edition of The Higher Taste.
Customers often hear about the catering service from the devotees who go out every day in traditional Vaisnava dress to distribute Srila Prabhupada's books. Many books have already been translated into Chinese, including Bhagavad-gita; Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead; Light of the Bhagavata; and The Science of Self-Realization. A chanting party of Chinese devotees goes out twice a week into the streets of this city of six million.
Devotees Visit U.S. Federal Prison
Memphis, Tennessee—Four devotees, headed by Sankarsana dasa of ISKCON Dallas, recently held a program at the Federal Correctional Institution here. They were hosted by inmate Stephen Szili, who has followed the principles of Krsna consciousness in prison for the past three years. Stephen holds regular meetings of inmates interested in Krsna consciousness.
The program lasted from 1:00 P.M until 7:00 P.M., with forty inmates in attendance. After an enthusiastic chanting session led by Gayatri dasa (playing the inmates' mrdanga drum), Sankarsana dasa spoke on the Bhagavad-gita and answered questions. Everyone then enjoyed a feast of prasadam that had been cooked by Stephen and his friends and offered to Stephen's Deities of Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda. Many of the inmates expressed their appreciation for the joyful chanting and the interesting and authoritative explanation of the Vedic philosophy
Kamala-mala dasa, a devotee from the Soviet Union, spoke with British prime minister Margaret Thatcher on a BBC call-in radio show. He thanked the prime minister for her defense of human rights in his country. Kamala-mala was formerly incarcerated in a Soviet psychiatric hospital because of his practicing Krsna consciousness. He reminded Mrs. Thatcher that six Soviet devotees remain prisoners despite Gorbachev's reforms.
* * *
The local chapter of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, headed by Sri Chunibhai C. Patel, an ISKCON life member, played an active role in organizing this year's Ratha-yatra in Baroda, Gujarat, helping with the publicity and engaging a hundred volunteers. As has become the tradition in Baroda, the mayor, Dr. Rajendrashih Rathod (also an ISKCON life member) swept the road before the cart. Local religious leaders, including a delegation of Sikhs, garlanded Lord Jagannatha. All the main newspapers of Baroda ran front-page photos of the preparations for the parade. Special guest Sriman Aniruddhacarya Venkatacarya, 85-year-old head of the Ramanujacarya Sampradaya Matha in Baroda, joined the procession from beginning to end.
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After spending the sacred month of Kartika (October 25-November 23) walking through the twelve forests of Vrndavana, Srila Prabhupada's Sankirtana Pada-yatra (ISKCON's walking pilgrimage of holy India) will head for the Kumbha-mela in Allahabad, the site of the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers. Held in January, the Kumbha-mela is the largest religious festival in the world.
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Devotees were on hand at the beginning and at the end of Sydney's annual "City to Surf" six-mile run, which draws more than 37,000 contestants from around the world. Running past the party of chanting devotees at the beginning of the course, they waved and shouted friendly greetings. At the end of the course, devotees presented garlands to the winners of different categories, and thousands of runners received Srila Prabhupada's books. Back to Godhead magazines, and—with great appreciation—prasadam in the form of oranges and drinks.
Krsna encourages us to work for a living and,
by Dhanurdhara Swami
Once, in South India, a reporter asked Srila Prabhupada. "Sir, are you a monist or a dualist?" Sensing his pseudo intellectual tone. Srila Prabhupada responded quickly with reference to Bhagavad-gita. "What is the point of discussing such things? . . . Krsna says, annad bhavanti bhutani. Anna means 'grains.' The people have no grains. Grains are produced from the rains, and rains from sacrifice. So perform sacrifice." The point: Even while pursuing self-realization, we must solve our economic problems.
In Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna encourages Arjuna to fight as a ksatriya (soldier) as part of Lord Krsna's system of yajna, or sacrifice. Lord Krsna then describes sacrifice as anena prasavisyadhvam, "making one more and more prosperous." and esa vo' stv ista-kama-dhuk, "bestowing upon you everything desirable for living happily and achieving liberation."
Though dharma, one's occupation as prescribed in the Vedas, brings prosperity, without spiritual guidance we tend to see economic development alone as life's goal. As Jesus Christ warns. "What profiteth a man if he gains the whole world but loses his eternal soul?"
The limitations of the happiness we attain by economic, social, or political adjustment become even more clear when we understand the real problems of our life. For example, one Indian friend of mine became preoccupied with immigrating to America. Seeing his chances to be slim, he became distracted from his business. So I asked him to read the verse from Bhagavad-gita in which Lord Krsna says, janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi-duhkha-dosanudarsanam: "The man in knowledge sees that the real problems in life are birth, death, old age, and disease." I then asked him to think about these questions: Will living in America make you immune from heart disease and cancer? Don't Americans also grow old and die? Later in the week he confided to me how silly it was for him to have thought that a geographical adjustment could actually solve his real problems.
But the solutions to those real problems are not so easily discerned. In Bhagavad-gita. Arjuna faces a great dilemma: if he fights to win the kingdom, he must vanquish those loved ones with whom he wishes to enjoy his royalty, but if he renounces the war, he not only forfeits his income but neglects his religious duty as a ksatriya. The depressing prospects give him an important realization: "I can find no means to drive away this grief which is drying up my senses. I will not be able to dispel it even if I win a prosperous, unrivaled kingdom on earth with sovereignty like the demigods in heaven." In response, Lord Krsna speaks Bhagavad-gita to show that the perplexities of life can be dispelled by transcendental knowledge.
Any one of us, like Arjuna, can be led from perplexity to enlightenment by the guidance of Bhagavad-gita, while those guided only by economic ambitions are led to illusion. The Vedic histories are full of examples of men living under such illusion, and modern life gives us more examples every day. My youth brings two instances to mind.
While visiting my family during my third year at the university. I heard a news report about the industrialist Howard Hughes. America's wealthiest man. He had mysteriously isolated himself from public view for more than ten years. Fearful of disease, he had confined himself to a small suite of sterile rooms in his mansion, touching the outside world only through his servant, who, dressed in white clothes and surgical gloves, brought Mr. Hughes his carefully cooked meals three times a day. But now Mr. Hughes had died of influenza. Somehow the wry comments of the newscaster revealed that he, too, realized how foolish were Mr. Hughes's efforts to conquer disease and thwart death.
The other incident took place while I was living at our Hare Krsna center in Dallas, Texas. One day I went with another devotee to the nearby estate of the oil baron H. L. Hunt to offer him our edition of Bhagavad-gita As It Is. But his security arrangements were elaborate, and although our intentions were good, his guards rebuffed us at the gate. Unfortunately, his security men could not rebuff death. He died unexpectedly one week later.
But riches aren't necessarily evil, for utility alone determines value. For example, a knife can be used as a deadly weapon or as a craftsman's tool. Similarly, our busy activities may now distract us from spirituality, but Bhagavad-gita teaches us how to channel those same activities so that they help us solve the problems of life. Lord Krsna therefore instructs Arjuna, "Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer or give away. and whatever austerities you perform—do that, O son of Kunti as an offering to Me. In this way you will be freed from bondage to work and its auspicious and inauspicious results."
Here's how material resources can assist spiritual development: A blind man can't see. and a lame man can't walk. But the blind man can carry the lame man on his back, and together they can see and walk. Similarly, we can best solve the problems of life, both individual and collective, when our material assets are guided by spiritual eyes.
Srila Prabhupada described India as lame, for although she has great spiritual vision, she is economically weak. On the other hand, the more developed countries are blind because although wealthy, they lack guidance and vision. Srila Prabhupada preached, therefore, that the resources of the industrialized countries, used according to the spiritual insights of India, could solve the problems of the world.
He also put this principle into practice. With funds from his Western disciples, Srila Prabhupada organized the printing of more than 100 million copies of Bhagavad-gita As It Is in forty languages and arranged to distribute these books of wisdom all over the world.
Training for Transcendence
This is the continuation of a conversation between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples in New Vrindaban, West Virginia, on June 26, 1976.
Srila Prabhupada: If you scrutinizingly examine all these various godly qualities that constitute advancement of life, modern man has no idea. That is being explained in the Sixteenth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita. There is no such education in godly qualities, nor are people interested. Now higher art classes in the colleges, universities—no students will join. They are simply learning technological processes.
[To disciple:} Go on reading.
Disciple: 'Those who are situated in the transcendental nature make progress on the path of liberation. For those who are acting in the modes of passion and ignorance on the other hand, there is no possibility of liberation."
Srila Prabhupada: People say, "What do we care about liberation? It is all troublesome. You have to sacrifice so many things. We don't want liberation. It is nonsensical. You keep your liberation. We don't want it."
This is the problem. As you said earlier, to these people "liberation" means "Whatever I like I will do." But actually, one cannot do that. Still, one is thinking that he's liberated:
"Can you do that—whatever you like?"
"No, not actually."
But still he's thinking he's liberated. Therefore—rascal. Dog's life.
The dog is jumping, barking that "I'm free now." But he forgets that soon the master will call and chain him. The master will do it. But still the dog is thinking that "I'm liberated."
This is the problem. What is modern man's "liberation"? He does not know what liberation is.
Disciple [continuing the reading of the Bhagavad-gita]: "Either they will have to remain in this material world as human beings, or they will descend among the species of the animals or even lower life forms."
Srila Prabhupada: "Ah," people will say, "—all bogus. This life is all. After this life, everything is finished. I am free." This is the problem. This is their position.
Disciple: When we speak at schools and colleges, Srila Prabhupada, we find that people cannot defeat what you are saying, They have to admit, "Yes, our society does have many shortcomings. We don't seem to know how to organize things properly, so that all our citizens can become happy."
And people also have to admit, "Yes there probably is life after death, and transmigration of the soul. And our society has this great shortcoming—that it teaches us nothing spiritual, nothing about preparing for the life after death."
Even when they reach the college level, people have quite a bit of difficulty really understanding the basic idea that "I am not this material body—I'm a spiritual being."
Srila Prabhupada: They'll understand. I'm just pointing out the difficulties of your preaching. You'll have to face all these difficulties. In the materialistic society, people have become like cats and dogs. Therefore, the business of preaching is somewhat a hard job. You have to deal with cats and dogs. But still there is hope, because they have got this human form of life.
There is hope. It is not hopeless. Don't be discouraged. But this is the job. You have to meet with cats and dogs. That is my point. When you go to preach, you must know that "I've come to preach among the cats and dogs, and I have to deal with them carefully. Otherwise, they will bark."
That was why, upon arriving in your country, I wrote a poem with an apparent air of disappointment. The idea was, "What will these people be able to understand about this sublime spiritual philosophy?"
Hm. [To disciple:} Go on reading.
Disciple: "In this Sixteenth Chapter the Lord explains both the transcendental nature and its attendant qualities and the demoniac nature and its qualities. He also explains the advantages and disadvantages of these qualities.
"The word abhijatasya in reference to one born of transcendental qualities or godly tendencies is very significant. To beget a child in a godly atmosphere is known in the Vedic scriptures as Garbhadhana-samskara. If the parents want a child in the godly qualities, they should follow the ten principles recommended for the social life of the human being. In Bhagavad-gita we have studied also before that sex life for begetting a good child is Krsna Himself. Sex life is not condemned, provided the process is used in Krsna consciousness. Those who are in Krsna consciousness at least should not beget children like cats and dogs but should beget them so that they may become Krsna conscious after birth. That should be the advantage of children born of a father and mother absorbed in Krsna consciousness.
"The social institution known as varnasrama-dharma—the institution dividing society into four divisions of social life and four occupational divisions or castes—is not meant to divide society according to birth. Such divisions are in terms of educational qualifications. They are to keep the society in a state of peace and prosperity. The qualities mentioned herein are explained as transcendental qualities meant for making a person progress in spiritual understanding so that he can get liberated from the material world."
Srila Prabhupada: So where is that institution for training people to acquire these transcendental qualities? There is no such institution. We are attempting to train people in transcendental qualities. This is the only institution. Other than our International Society, where is the institution for training people in transcendental qualities? I don't think throughout the whole world there is any institution for training the students in transcendental qualities. Who cares about transcendental qualities?
(To be continued.)
While Krsna was living at Dwaraka. He sent a message to the gopis. His cowherd girlfriends in Vrndavana, who were always lamenting in separation from Him. The message was delivered by Krsna's cousin Uddhava. because Krsna wanted Uddhava to witness the pinnacle of Krsna consciousness in the gopis' expressions of love for Him.
When Uddhava met with the gopis in a secluded place. Srimati Radharani. Krsna's favorite gopi, became so absorbed in thoughts of Him that She began talking with a bumblebee as if he were Krsna's messenger.
"Your master Krsna is exactly of your quality." Srimati Radharani said. "You sit down on a flower, and after taking a little honey you immediately fly away and sit in another flower and taste. Krsna only once gave Me the chance to enjoy with Him. but now He has left Me altogether."
Radharani's talks in separation from Krsna are symptoms of the highest transcendental ecstasy, called maha-bhava, which is possible only in the persons of Radharani and Her associates. In Radharani are found the signs of the brightest jewel of love of God.
On seeing how Radharani and the other gopis were accustomed to think of Krsna constantly in the topmost ecstasy of love, Uddhava told them. "My dear gopis, the mentality you have developed in relationship with Krsna is very, very difficult to attain, even for great sages and saintly persons, You have attained the highest perfectional stage of life. It is a great boon for you that you have fixed your minds upon Krsna and have decided to have Krsna only. Because your minds are now fully absorbed in Krsna, the Supreme Soul, universal love has automatically developed in you. I think myself very fortunate that I have been favored, by your grace, to see you in this situation."
Uddhava then read Krsna's message: "My dear gopis, please know that separation between ourselves is impossible at any time, at any place, or under any circumstances, because I am all-pervading. Transcendental knowledge of the Absolute is no longer necessary for you. You were accustomed to love Me from the very beginning of your lives. My dear gopis, to increase your superexcellent love for Me. I have purposely separated Myself from you so that you may be in constant meditation on Me."
Do I Have Time to Chant the Names of God?
We know from letters we receive at Back to Godhead that many of our readers have an interest in chanting the holy names. Lord Caitanya's example of ecstatic chanting and the explanations of God's names as given in the scriptures and Srila Prabhupada's purports have not gone in vain. All over the world, people are practicing mantra meditation, especially by chanting the maha-mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna , Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. But finding time to chant each day is sometimes very difficult. We would like, therefore, to offer words of encouragement to those who are interested in chanting and, by pointing out the ease and the importance of chanting Hare Krsna, to try moving those who are not yet interested.
In virtually any discipline, from meditation to golf, stress is laid on the necessity for regular practice. Chanting is no exception. We may already be self-disciplined to give a half hour daily to physical exercise, and of course we have to spend many hours earning a living. So if we regard spiritual progress as important, we simply have to give it some time.
The chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra has been handed down by previous spiritual masters to the people of this age, because assiduous. prolonged spiritual practices are no longer possible. But chanting is easy. We simply have to give a little time and attention: chant the mantra and hear.
If we start by giving a little time daily to chanting, it will soon become interesting and tasteful. Although there are no rigid rules in chanting, the best time for culture of the holy name is during the early-morning hours, especially before sunrise. If we chant with attention, we will find ourselves chanting more and more at different times of the day, even while driving the car, cleaning, and so on.
Those who don't agree that spiritual life is important will hardly see the need to give any time for even an easy spiritual practice. When Srila Prabhupada was just beginning the Hare Krsna movement he used to distribute his newspaper. Back to Godhead, on the streets of New Delhi, and he often met with people who told him they had "no time." Prompted by this resistance. Srila Prabhupada wrote the article "NO TIME, A Chronic Disease of the Common Man." He wrote: 'They say they are too busy in earning money for maintaining the body and soul together. But when we ask them what do they mean by the 'soul.' they have nothing to reply."
In the article, Srila Prabhupada cited the examples of several scientists and politicians who had died suddenly. Death is awaiting every one of us, he explained, so even a busy, ambitious man should calculate for this. But according to the scripture Srimad-Bhagavatam, most people are very foolish, and even though they pretend to be experts in managing time and money, they make a great miscalculation.
Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.6.14) states:
One who is too attached cannot understand that he is wasting his valuable life with the maintenance of his family. He also fails to understand that the purpose of human life. a life suitable for realization of the Absolute Truth, is being imperceptibly spoiled. However, he is very cleverly attentive to seeing that not a single farthing is lost by mismanagement.
As Srila Prabhupada writes in his "No Time" essay:
The busy man should try to know as to whither he is going. This life is but a spot in his longest sojourn, and the sane person should not be busy with a spot only. Nobody says that the body should not be maintained—but everyone should know from Bhagavad-gita that the body is the outward dress and the "soul" is the real person who puts on the dress. So if the dress is taken care of only, without any care of the real person—it is sheer foolishness and a waste of time.
Although the chanting is simple, it is a serious practice, and therefore has to be done with mental concentration. The basic requirements are that one enunciate the sound of God's names and hear with attention. If one does not practice the mantra with attention, he receives only a shadow of the holy name. The full, pure name can be chanted only by one who chants with devotion. Yet according to the scriptures, even a shadow of the name can liberate one from material suffering.
In chanting the holy name one should strive to avoid the following offenses:
1. To vilify the great devotees who have preached about the glories of the Lord.
2. To see the holy names of the Lord in terms of worldly distinction. (God is addressed by different names in different parts of the world, and all these names should be honored.)
3. To neglect the orders of the authorized acaryas, or spiritual masters.
4. To vilify scriptures of Vedic knowledge.
5. To define the holy name of the Lord in terms of one's mundane calculation.
6. To interpret the holy name.
7. To commit sins intentionally on the strength of the holy name.
8. To consider the chanting of the holy name to be equal to some auspicious material activity.
9. To instruct those who are not interested in chanting the holy name of the Lord about the transcendental nature of the holy name.
10. To become uninterested in the holy name of the Lord even after hearing of the transcendental nature of the holy name.
It is recommended that one associate with persons who are practicing the chanting and that one read authorized literature describing the glories of the holy name.
Even random reading from the Vedic scriptures will make it clear that chanting is the religious practice for the present age of Kali (the age of quarrel and hypocrisy). As stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (12.3.51). "My dear king, although Kali-yuga is full of faults, there is still one good quality about this age. It is that simply by chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, one can become free from material bondage and be promoted to the transcendental kingdom."
Hearing the glories of the holy name may remind us of the importance of chanting. But it remains up to each one of us to budget our time and give our attention to this important "commodity." Only by our choice can we avoid the ultimate embarrassment of reaching the end of life only to discover that we had "no time" for God—in which case we will have lost everything. Why not begin today by making a modest plan to try chanting the Hare Krsna mantra?—SDG