When we accept knowledge from
A lecture in London on August 31, 1973
dehi nityam avadhyo 'yam
"O descendant of Bharata, he who dwells in the body can never be slain. Therefore you need not grieve for any living being." (Bhagavad-gita 2.30)
In this section of the Bhagavad-gita, Krsna is explaining in so many ways that the living entity within the body is eternal, indestructible, immutable. It does not take birth, it does not die, it is always the same.
Here Krsna says, dehi nityam avadhyo 'yam dehe sarvasya bharata: "Nobody can kill the soul. who dwells in all bodies." This is very important. It is not that the soul is simply in the human body and not in other bodies. That theory is rascaldom. Krsna says, dehe sarvasya, "in every body." Even within the ant, even within the elephant, even within the gigantic banyan tree and the microbe, the soul is there.
Some rascals say animals have no soul. This is wrong. How can they say animals have no soul? Here is the authoritative statement by Krsna: dehe sarvasya. "The soul is in every body." And in another place [Bhagavad-gita 14.4] Krsna says, sarva-yonisu kaunteya murtayah sambhavanti yah: "Of all the embodied beings who appear in all the species of life." tasam brahma mahad yonir: "the source of their bodies is this material nature." And aham bija-pradah pita: "I am the seed-giving father." Without both a father and a mother, there is no offspring. So the universal father is Krsna, and the mother is either the material nature or the spiritual nature.
There are two natures: the material nature and the spiritual nature, or the inferior nature and the superior nature. (This is explained in the Seventh Chapter of Bhagavad-gita.) So, although both the spiritual nature and the material nature come from the same source, the Absolute Truth, still one is superior and one is inferior. What is the difference between the inferior and the superior natures? In the inferior nature, the material nature. God consciousness is almost nil. Persons in the mode of goodness have a little God consciousness, those in the mode of passion have less, and those in the mode of ignorance have no God consciousness. It is completely absent.
Therefore, although this material body comes from the same source as the soul, still it is inferior. And although by nature the soul is superior to the material nature, still, because he is encaged within a body made of the material nature, he forgets Krsna. This is the problem.
So those who are not rascals, those who are intelligent and in complete knowledge, do not make any spiritual distinction between a human being and an animal. As Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita [5.18],
"A learned person knows that the spirit soul is present in every body—within the first-class learned brahmana, the cow, the elephant, the dog, and the lowest kind of human being." The soul is present everywhere. It is not that simply in the human beings and the demigods there is a soul but the poor animals have no soul. No, everyone has a soul—dehe sarvasya bharata.
So, what shall we accept—the statement of Krsna, or the statement of some rascal philosopher or so-called religionist? We have to accept the statement of Krsna, the supreme authority, the supreme being. And in many places in the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says the soul is present in every body. Therefore those who are learned do not say that the animals have no soul.
Now, another point Krsna is stressing here is that the soul is eternal, that it cannot be killed. "Therefore," Krsna tells Arjuna. "it is your duty to fight. The bodies of your friends and relatives may be destroyed, but even after the destruction of the body, the soul exists. He will get another body, that's all (tatha dehantara-praptih)."
It is not that anyone can engage in killing others whimsically, however. As will be explained in the next verse, a ksatriya [warrior] can kill his enemies only when he is in a religious fight. His cause must be right; then the fighting is good. When a ksatriya kills his enemies in a religious fight, he's not sinful. Thus Krsna tells Arjuna, "Do your duty. Don't worry that you are killing your kinsmen and grandfather. Take it from Me that you cannot kill the soul: he's eternal."
Now, another important point you should note is that in every living entity, the body grows on the platform of the spirit soul. The body may be very gigantic or very small: it doesn't matter. But it grows on the platform of spirit. It is not that a spirit soul, or living force, comes into existence due to the combination of material elements. No. Matter is dependent on spirit (yayedam dharyate jagat), and therefore matter is inferior to spirit.
There are two kinds of spirit: atma and Paramatma, isvara and Paramesvara. The gigantic universe is resting on spirit—either the Supreme Spirit. Krsna. or the small spirit, the living entity. As Krsna explains [Bhagavad-gita 7.5],
apareyam itas tv anyam
"Besides the inferior, material energy, there are the living entities, who are sustaining the material universe."
Why are the gigantic planets floating weightless in the sky? Krsna says. gam avisya ... dharayamy aham ojasa: "I sustain the planets by My energy." Just try to understand: A 747 airplane with five or six hundred passengers flies in the sky without any difficulty. Why? Because the pilot is there. Don't think that it is because of the gigantic machine. No. It is because the pilot is there. The machine is also there, but the flying is dependent not on any mechanical arrangement but on the pilot If the pilot were not there, the whole machine would immediately fall down. Similarly, Krsna enters into all the gigantic planets and sustains them in outer space.
Without Krsna's entering into matter, nothing can work. Within the shell of the universe He is present as Garbhodakasayi Visnu, and therefore the universe exists. And within the body of everyone He is present as Paramatma, the Supersoul. He is not only within the body of all living entities, but also within the atom: andantara-stha-paramanu-cayantara-stham. The scientists are now studying the atom—dividing, dividing, dividing. But they are having difficulty in coming to any conclusion because they cannot find God, or Krsna, in the atom in His form as the Supersoul.
So, without Krsna's presence, nothing can exist. Therefore one who is advanced in Krsna consciousness sees only Krsna everywhere, not the outward covering. In the Caitanya-caritamrta [Madhya 8.274] it is said, sthavara-jangama dekhe, na dekhe tara murti/ sarvatra haya nija ista-deva-sphurti. There are two kinds of entities, the moving and the nonmoving. (Sthavara means "nonmoving," and jangama means "moving.") A pure devotee of Krsna sees both these kinds of entities, but he does not exactly see their forms. Rather, he sees Krsna, because he knows that within the moving entities is the living force, which is Krsna's energy, and that inert matter is also Krsna's energy. So, in everything he sees only Krsna. The Brahma-samhita [5.38] states, premanjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena santah sadaiva hrdayesu vilokayanti: "The devotee whose eyes are anointed with the salve of love of Krsna always sees Him within his heart."
Sometimes people inquire, "Have you seen God?" The answer is that one who is actually an advanced devotee is simply seeing Krsna and nothing else, within and without. The more advanced you are in Krsna consciousness, the more you'll see simply Krsna. And if you become practiced to see Krsna always, then at the time of death you'll think of Him and go back to Godhead. That is Krsna's instruction: man-mana. "Always think of Me."
Now, who can think of Krsna always? Only a devotee can think of Krsna always. Is it a very difficult task? You are seeing Krsna in the temple, chanting Krsna's name, engaging in Krsna's service. Nothing but Krsna, Krsna, Krsna, Krsna. And this twenty-four-hour engagement in Krsna consciousness means you are becoming practiced to see Krsna always. This is the purpose of the Krsna consciousness movement—to train people so that they cannot forget Krsna even for a moment. And that is Krsna's instruction in Bhagavad-gita [9.34]: man-mana bhava mad-bhakto mad-yaji mam namaskuru. "Think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me, offer obeisances unto Me."
When you see the Deity in the temple, you get the impression within your mind, and when you are out of the temple you can see the Deity within your heart if you have developed love for Krsna. Otherwise, if you only officially come to the temple, as soon as you leave you think, "Oh, it is a botheration: let me forget it." That is another thing.
The process of Krsna consciousness is meant for developing love for Krsna. Sa vai pumsam paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhoksaje: "The first-class religious system enables one to develop love for Krsna." So Krsna consciousness is the first-class, topmost religious system because it is educating people to always think of Krsna, the Supreme Lord, and to love Him. We cannot think of anyone always unless we love him. Suppose a boy and a girl are in love. Then each of them will always think of the other: "Oh, when shall we meet again, when shall we meet again?" Similarly, you can always think of Krsna if you have developed your love for Him. And by devotional service you can develop your love for Krsna. That is required.
So, even in the lower stages of animal life, Krsna is in the heart. As He says here, dehe sarvasya bharata. In another place (Bhagavad-gita 13.3) He says, ksetra-jnam capi mam viddhi sarva-ksetresu bharata. The individual soul ksetrajna, the owner of the body. but there is another ksetrajna, another owner, and that is Krsna. As the individual soul is within the body, similarly the Supersoul, Krsna, is also there. So Krsna is the owner of all bodies.
Sometimes rascals accuse Krsna: "Why did He dance with others' wives?" But He is actually the proprietor of everyone. We are not the proprietor; He is the proprietor. So if the proprietor dances with His maidservants or devotees, what is wrong there? The individual soul is in every body, but the Supersoul is the real proprietor of the body. Lord Krsna says that bhoktaram yajna-tapasam sarva-loka-mahesvaram. "I am the enjoyer and proprietor of everything" [Bhagavad-gita 5.29]. He is mahesvaram, the supreme proprietor, and also suhrdam sarva-bhutanam, the actual friend of everyone. If you have some lover, you think you are his friend, but actually you are not his friend. His actual friend is Krsna.
So if the gopis dance with their real friend, what is wrong there? But the rascals, those who do not know Krsna, say He is immoral. He is not immoral. He is doing the right thing, because Krsna is the real husband of every woman. He married 16,108 wives. Why only 16,108? If He has married sixteen billion trillion wives there would have been nothing wrong since He is every woman's real husband.
Still, those who do not know Krsna, the rascals, accuse Him of being an immoral woman-hunter. They take pleasure in painting pictures of Krsna's affairs with the gopis. But they do not paint pictures of Him killing Kamsa and other demons. These pastimes they do not like. This attitude is called sahajiya. The business of the sahajiyas, is debauchery, which they try to justify by citing Krsna's pastimes: "Krsna danced with the gopis. Krsna was immoral, so we can also be immoral. We are great devotees of Krsna because we are immoral." This is going on.
Therefore, to understand Krsna one requires a little better intelligence. Krsna says [Bhagavad-gita 7.19].
bahunam janmanam ante
"After many births one may become jnanavan." Jnanavan means "one who possesses first-class intelligence." Then? Mam prapadyate: "He surrenders unto Me." Why? Vasudevah sarvam iti: "He understands that Vasudeva, Krsna, is everything." And, sa mahatma sudurlabhah: "Such an intelligent mahatma is very rare."
There are so many rascal "mahatma" who simply change their dress and declare themselves to be God, or Krsna. Kick on their faces. A real mahatma is different from all these rascals because he knows Krsna. If you understand Krsna, you are so fortunate: brahmanda bhramite kona bhagyavan jiva/ guru-krsna-prasade paya bhakti-lata bija. There are many, many millions and trillions of living entities within this universe, and they are rotating in 8,400,000 different species of life. They are all unfortunate, simply repeating birth and death, birth and death, in different species. Out of all of them, the most fortunate get the mercy of Krsna and the spiritual master and are given a chance to know Krsna.
By the mercy of the guru and Krsna, one gets the seed of devotional service, which is planted at the time of initiation. And then one must water the seed. Suppose you get a nice seed of a tree. You have to sow it and pour a little water on it Then it will grow. Similarly, anyone who by great fortune has come into contact with Krsna consciousness, who has received the seed of devotional service, should water it What is that water? Sravana-kirtana: hearing and chanting about Krsna. So, don't be absent from the Srimad-Bhagavatam class. This hearing and chanting of topics about Krsna is watering the seed of devotional service. This is the most important thing—hearing and chanting about Krsna.
Sravana-kirtana does not mean hearing and chanting about just anything. No. One must hear and chant about Krsna. The rascals have manufactured "Kali-kirtana." Where in the scripture is there a mention of Kali-kirtana or Siva-kirtana? No. Kirtana means glorifying the Supreme Lord, Krsna. That is kirtana. Other so-called kirtanas are all nonsense. Simply hear and chant about Krsna.
Krsna should be worshiped, Krsna should be heard, Krsna should be chanted, Krsna should be remembered. In this way, you'll advance in Krsna consciousness.
Thank you very much. Hare Krsna.
Sri Vishvambhara Dayal
On August 24,1988, the anniversary of the passing of Srila Rupa Gosvami, Sri Vishvambhara Dayal, affectionately known as "Bhagatji" by hundreds of ISKCON devotees, passed away.
A resident of Vrndavana, India, the holy land of Lord Krsna's birth and childhood activities, Bhagatji was a lifelong devotee of Lord Krsna and Balarama and a dear friend of Srila Prabhupada's. He assisted Srila Prabhupada greatly in establishing and developing ISKCON in Vrndavana.
As a boy in the town of Meerut during the time of British rule in India, Bhagatji attended a school with an Irish headmaster. Almost forty years later, Srila Prabhupada brought his European and American disciples to Vrndavana, all chanting Hare Krsna. Bhagatji was amazed. The British had brought their Western influence to India, but now Srila Prabhupada was bringing Britishers, Europeans, and Americans who appreciated the philosophy, religion, and culture of India as perfectly presented by Srila Prabhupada. Bhagatji was deeply moved by this great feat of Srila Prabhupada's.
Bhagatji almost single-handedly established and developed the Bhaktivedanta Swami Gosala (a place where cows are kept and cared for) in Vrndavana, working diligently to hire and Supervise all the laborers for the construction work. He wanted very much to establish, on Srila Prabhupada's behalf, a first-class gosala in Vrndavana.
When it was time to purchase the first cows for the newly completed gosala, Bhagatji insisted that he accompany Dhananjaya dasa and Gunarnava dasa to the Govardhana Cow Market so that the ISKCON devotees would get the best deal. On a motorcycle—Gunarnava driving, Dhananjaya in the middle, and Bhagatji at the rear—they headed off to Govardhana. When they arrived, Bhagatji promptly yet carefully selected two cows for the Bhaktivedanta Swami Gosala.
Bhagatji served Srila Prabhupada and ISKCON continually. He was expert at getting things done quickly and efficiently in otherwise slow and laborious situations. When the devotees sometimes apologized for asking him to do so much, he would say that the service he was doing for ISKCON was a manifestation of his love for Srila Prabhupada and that it gave him vitality. Over the years, Srila Prabhupada often told ISKCON's leaders in Vrndavana to seek Bhagatji's advice in their local dealings.
Srila Prabhupada greatly appreciated Bhagatji's cooking, especially his capatis and would often call Bhagatji over to visit him in his room, where he would then jokingly ask Bhagatji when he was going to invite him over for prasadam. Bhagatji loved to offer prasadam to Srila Prabhupada in a spirit of loving exchange between devotees.
When Srila Prabhupada wanted to purchase the land to build a gurukula (school) next to ISKCON's temple complex in Vrndavana, he instructed Dhananjaya dasa to speak with Bhagatji about this. Dhananjaya did, and Bhagatji negotiated the purchase of the land at a very good price and then donated the money to pay for it. He said he enjoyed every minute of the struggle to get that land for building the Bhaktivedanta Swami Gurukula.
Bhagatji loved Srila Prabhupada and assisted him enthusiastically. He also loved Srila Prabhupada's disciples and relished sitting and talking about Srila Prabhupada for hours with any ISKCON devotee. He often expressed his realization of Srila Prabhupada's extraordinary spiritual position.
Those of us who knew and loved Bhagatji feel sorrow in separation from him. Yet we are sure that Lord Krsna has called him back to His eternal abode to serve in Goloka Vrindavana with the same enthusiasm he exhibited in Vrndavana here on earth.
Lord Caitanya convinced a group of religious
by Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
Five hundred years ago. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who Vedic scriptures tell us is Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, addressed a gathering of philosopher-scholars in the Indian city of Varanasi. This place, now called Benares, has long been known as a center for philosophers who hold that the Absolute Truth is impersonal.
Lord Caitanya had been challenged by these philosophers, and He agreed to attend their meeting to discuss doctrine. He pointed out that their founder, Sankara, had taken the direct meaning of the Vedanta scripture and changed it to suit his own philosophy. Lord Caitanya's presentation w as very strong and learned: the impersonalists were moved and convinced.
Their leader said. "You have pointed out our wrong interpretation of Vedanta. Would you please explain to us Your understanding of the actual meaning of Vedanta?"
Lord Caitanya then summarized the philosophy in this way:
sambandha, abhidheya, prayojana nama
"One's relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, activities in terms of that relationship, and the ultimate goal of life [to develop love of God]—these three subjects are explained in every code of the Vedanta-sutra, for they form the culmination of the entire Vedanta philosophy." (Cc. Adi 7.146)
These three principles—to come to know the Supreme Being, to learn how to serve Him, and to develop love for Him—are central to every religion. As presented by Lord Caitanya, they are simple, nondogmatic. and comprehensive. Unfortunately, most people will not take the first step, which is to inquire about their relationship with the Supreme.
The philosopher Sankara said that in observing people. we see the young playing sports and games, the grown-ups running after sex and money, and the elderly reminiscing. No one is seriously inquiring into the Absolute Truth.
Although the materialist claims that no truth exists beyond what we can perceive with our senses, questions about the Absolute Truth must arise in the heart of a real human being. Such a person is not satisfied with the proposition that the universe and all the arrangements in it have come about by accident. He wants to know something beyond just living and dying in this temporary world. As he sees the suffering brought on by material conditions, he is impelled to ask. "Is there liberation from this? Do I have to suffer? Do I have to die?" When a person has the inclination to inquire whether there is knowledge or a consciousness higher than material consciousness, if he is fortunate he will go to qualified teachers for answers.
Not everyone is qualified to give us information about the Absolute Truth, yet a great wealth of information is available, especially in the Vedic literature, which contains the world's oldest knowledge. To inquire from standard books of knowledge, like Bhagavad-gita, one must have a little faith. It should not be blind faith, but one should have enough faith to inquire and try to learn.
This then is the first stage: inquiry. One learns that yes, there is a source of all life manifested in this universe. There is a supreme being, a supreme intelligence from whom it has all come. This stage can be called the awakening of God consciousness. To know God, however, one must know his own identity. You are not your body: the body is a covering of the spirit self And you, the spirit soul, have an eternal relationship with the supreme being—God, or Krsna.
Step Two—Taking Up a Relationship
A person might well ask, "What good does it do me to understand intellectually or philosophically that there is God and that I have an eternal relationship with Him?" Therefore he has to come to the next stage, which is to take up activities of that relationship; otherwise the so-called knowledge of God is only theoretical.
For example, a man may claim to have a relationship with his country, and we may ask him what are his activities as a citizen. Does he vote? Does he pay taxes? What is his position with regard to the government? Or a man may claim a woman as his wife, but if he has no activities in that relationship, how can he claim to be a husband? In each relationship there are specific activities that define that relationship, and a relationship with God is no different. Activities in relation to Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, are called bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, and the relationship of service begins by hearing about Him and, especially, by chanting His names.
For this age the scriptures recommend chanting the mantra of the names of Krsna: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This mantra serves as a direct link with God, for as we chant His names, we associate with Him and become purified. Under the guidance of a spiritual master, we can learn how to offer our occupational work to the Supreme. The performance of our job then becomes purifying. It has a transforming effect in that it clears up doubt and misconception.
Gradually, God begins to reveal Himself through the activities of service to Him, and as we draw closer to God, we become liberated. Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita (3.9) yajnarthat karmano 'nyatra: "You should render your work as a sacrifice to God; otherwise work will bind you to this material world. Therefore do not give up your duties, but do them as sacrifice to the Supreme."
Similarly, our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, would always instruct those he met to continue in whatever they were doing but to do it for Krsna. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam we are advised, "Remain in your social position, but stop speculating about God. Hear about Krsna from realized sources, and you can develop the perfection of human life." This applies to anyone in any situation. In fact, any activity we may think of as material can be rendered as devotional service to Krsna. And again, the easiest way to establish one's relationship with Krsna is to add to one's regular activities the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra,
A person cannot practice other forms of yoga seriously and correctly unless he gives up his social position. He has to live in seclusion and renounce all activities associated with civilized life. Even Arjuna, a great disciple of Lord Krsna. said he could not do it. So Lord Krsna teaches bhakti-yoga, by which a person can remain in the world and become the best yogi.
Step Three—The Goal: Loving Exchanges
The third stage outlined by Lord Caitanya is the goal, the perfection of life. By performing devotional activities under rules and regulations, one gradually reaches a stage of spontaneous love of God. In the beginning a person agrees to work under the order of the spiritual master, and he takes it as an obligation. But automatically, by rendering service, the love of God dormant within comes out The activities of bhakti-yoga can be compared to the churning of milk into butter. The butter is already present in the milk; it comes out when the milk is worked.
Similarly, devotional service brings out our love of God because we are all spirit souls, each with a loving relationship with the Supreme. Through continued devotional service, one becomes more advanced in love of God, until one sees Krsna. or God, everywhere in everything.
Krsna is not just an impersonal spirit—He is a person, as much an individual as each of us. The devotee sees the individual person Krsna in all things. When he sees the sun or trees, he understands that these are the energy of God. Because he now has spontaneous affection for God, just by seeing God's energy he thinks of his beloved. Similarly, when he thinks specifically of the Personality of Godhead in His name or His form, he appreciates and worships Him as such, knowing Krsna to be the source of all things in the universe. Krsna says that in His heart He is always thinking of those devotees who are thinking of Him. In Bhagavad-gita (6.30). He says. "For one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me. I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to Me." Although this describes an advanced stage, it is the right of every living being to attain it.
In Srila Prabhupada's purport to the verse Lord Caitanya spoke to the impersonalist philosophers, he writes that if one speculates that the Absolute is impersonal, all his efforts will be wasted. Therefore, Lord Caitanya's threefold explanation is the only subject matter of all the different branches of Vedic knowledge. Whatever is discussed therein—whether yoga or karma or meditation or Vedanta—is some aspect of this threefold knowledge: to awaken our relationship with God, to take up activities in that relationship, and to enjoy the result of eternal love of God, the highest stage of existence.
On hearing Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's explanation of Vedanta-sutra, with its three steps to God, the impersonalist scholars were completely satisfied and changed their views. Through the Krsna consciousness movement Srila Prabhupada brought the teachings of Lord Caitanya to the West and thus the threefold process described by Lord Caitanya is available to everyone.
This series systematically explains some of the important philosophical concepts that form the foundation of the Vedic culture and the Krsna consciousness movement.
Lesson Two: Reincarnation
by Pavanesana Dasa
PART I: The word reincarnation is popular nowadays, and for most people it conveys a sense of the mystic and exotic. Everyone from hippies to Indian yogis and svamis to progressive thinkers has promoted the idea. Although belief in reincarnation is rejected by most Christian churches, recent polls show that tens of millions of persons in the United States alone accept reincarnation as a fact.
Despite the popularity of the idea of reincarnation, it has remained a vague concept for most people, with little bearing on even the believers' lives. The common understanding—that reincarnation means being born again as someone else—lacks clarity and lends itself to a number of false notions.
It is not possible to grasp the real meaning of reincarnation without understanding our real identity and the difference between matter and spirit. In lesson one of this series, in last month's issue, we concluded that every living entity is a spirit soul, distinct from his body. The relationship between soul and body is similar to the relationship between a driver and his car. The car is a tool to accomplish a mission determined by the driver. The driver exists independent of the car, but the car without the driver is just an inert piece of metal.
This conclusion is the first understanding of spiritual life. and building from this we can examine reincarnation. Here we'll address some frequently asked questions about reincarnation.
Q: Can I be born again as another person?
A: That depends on w hat you mean by "I." The real "I" is the soul. He's the real person, and he never changes. The soul does change bodies, however, and because the soul identifies with these bodies, he becomes, in the material sense, a new person.
Q: How is it determined what my next life will be?
A: You determine it yourself by your own actions. This is clearly explained in Bhagavad-gita (8.6):
Whatever slate of being one remembers when he quits his body, O son of Kunti, that state he will attain without fail.
What you remember at death results from the actions, thoughts, and desires of your entire lifetime. According to the Vedic literature there are 8,400,000 species of life, and you, the spirit soul, have to accept the body of a particular species according to the activities and desires of your present life.
Q: But I couldn't take an animal body!
A: Why not? Reincarnation is not limited to the human species. The difference between an animal and a human being is only the body. There is no difference between a soul in a human body and a soul in a dog's body.
According to Darwin, physical bodies evolved until they reached the human form. The Vedic literature, however, states that all forms of life have always existed, and that the soul is evolving, or migrating, from the lower forms of life up to the higher forms until it reaches the human form.
So the same soul. or the same person, who hundreds of thousands of years ago was living in the body of a reptile, fish, or bird, is now living in the body of a human being—you or me.
On the bodily platform there is very little difference between animals and human beings: The animal eats; we eat They sleep: we sleep. They mate; we mate. They defend: we defend.
If someone behaves like a dog or a pig, he can certainly take the body of such an animal in his next life.
Q: How exactly does the soul transmigrate from one body to another?
A: There are three levels of existence: the soul. the subtle body. and the gross body. The subtle body is inside the physical body like a hand within a glove. At the time of death, the soul and the subtle body (composed of mind. intelligence, and false ego) leave the gross body (composed of earth, water, fire. air. and ether, or space). The physical elements that had been temporarily assembled into a gross body then disassemble.
After leaving the body, the soul, carried by the subtle body, enters a particle of male semen by which he is placed within the womb of his next mother.
Q: So when does this new life actually begin? I specifically refer to the abortion controversy.
A: Since the soul didn't die in the first place, there is no question of "beginning." But in this case the Vedas explain clearly that the "new" life. or the development of the new physical covering of the soul. begins at the time of conception. It is impossible to kill the soul. but in the material world killing refers to the slaying of the material body. So abortion at any stage is certainly murder.
Q: Would I take my next birth in the same environment as the one I leave at death?
A: You can take a body on any planet.
Q: But there's no life on other planets!
A: That may be what you've been taught, but consider this: You can't live in the water, but a fish certainly can. You can't live in the earth, but a worm can. And you can't live in the air, but a bird can. To say that there is no life on other planets because we cannot live there is like saying there is no life in the water or in the earth because we cannot live there.
The Vedas explain that life exists everywhere. on all planets, in all universes. Whoever lives on a particular planet is obviously suited for the conditions there. Nature provides the appropriate body.
Q: So, how many times do I have to reincarnate?
A: That's up to you. You can reincarnate in an endless cycle—up and down in this material world—if you want to. But human life gives you a chance to stop that troublesome business.
Q: What happens when someone becomes an animal again?
A: The soul evolves gradually through higher and higher species until he reaches the human form. An animal is not responsible for its activities. It cannot degrade itself to a lower birth. In other words, if a tiger kills you, he does not get a reaction for this killing, because it is his nature.
But as soon as the soul reaches the human form of life, he becomes responsible for all his activities. In other words, if you kill that tiger needlessly, you will get the reaction for killing. So the human being can degrade himself through his actions, whereas the animal progresses automatically.
Q: But it seems unfair that the human being is held responsible for all his actions. Most people don't even know these universal laws that determine the reactions to their activities.
A: For this reason an enlightened or educated society has to know the laws of God. Complete knowledge is given to human society in the form of scripture. The Vedas are meant to guide the human being so that he does not violate the universal laws that govern us all.
Unfortunately, today human society is rejecting all spiritual knowledge and is priding itself on so-called advancement in science and technology. What kind of advancement is it that degrades people to animal existence in their next life?
In Vedic society the leaders had the responsibility to make sure that people were educated in spiritual science. But modern leaders don't even know that there is such a science. Therefore, the Krsna consciousness movement through the publication of Vedic literature, is stressing the spiritual education.
Q: But if people don't know the laws that determine their next life, isn't it wrong that they are affected anyway?
A: Ignorance is no excuse, just as, for example, when a child touches fire. The fire won't think, "Oh, this child doesn't know that I'm hot. I won't burn him." No, fire burns—regardless of whether or not you are aware of its burning power. Therefore the only way to avoid suffering is by spiritual education.
Q: Still, this whole system seems cruel to me. Besides, I don't see any sense in this endless cycle of reincarnation.
A: No, it is not cruel. Suffering is an impetus for the living entity to find a solution to his problems. The material world is a place of misery.
From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again. (Bhagavad-gita 8.16)
This verse explains that the material world is by nature not a pleasant place. Even if there is happiness, it is temporary: it will not last. And we cause our own suffering. Many people like to blame God for their suffering. But God wants us to return to the spiritual world, where there is no suffering.
This material world is not our home. Our situation is like that of a fish on the land. You can give the fish a TV, a Cadillac, a fancy house, but all the fish needs is the water. He doesn't care for all facilities on the land. So in the same way, temporary happiness in the material world will never satisfy us. Suffering provides the motivation to attain the goal of life—to go back to Godhead.
If someone is enjoying material happiness, generally he won't see any reason to turn to God. Unfortunately, he doesn't know that his enjoyment can't last. When the results of his pious activities are exhausted, suffering will come again, although he doesn't w ant it, Real enjoyment cannot be achieved through material senses. It can only be achieved in a spiritual way.
Q: How did we get into this cycle of reincarnation in the first place?
A: Originally all living entities are residents of the spiritual world. But they have a certain independence, and if they decide to try to enjoy without God, they are given the material world as a place to try this.
Q: But if God is all-powerful, couldn't He prevent them from doing this? Why does He let them go and suffer?
A: The natural relationship between Krsna and the living entities is love. And love cannot be forced: it must be given voluntarily. So if Krsna could force the living entities to love Him, the word love would have no meaning.
Or take another example: The parents love their child. But sometimes the child wants to touch the fire out of ignorance. If he persists despite good advice, the parents may let him touch the fire once. After that experience, the child will be convinced. The parents don't do this because they want to see their child suffer, but because sometimes it is the only way to learn.
Similarly, Krsna is infallible, and the living entities are fallible. Therefore some souls choose this w ay of learning. For us it appears a long time to spend millions of births in the material world, but from the spiritual viewpoint, our stay here is just like a passing cloud.
Krsna does not cast us down here to suffer eternally. There is no such thing as eternal damnation. On the contrary, there are always great devotees, prophets, and sons of God to guide us, and Krsna Himself appears regularly to try to bring us back to Him.
Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice. O son of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion—at that time I manifest Myself. In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion. I advent Myself millennium after millennium. (Bhagavad-gita 4.7-8)
Although Krsna Himself is not always here. He leaves us the Vedic scriptures and other genuine scriptures to guide us. The Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.3.43) states:
This Bhagavata Purana is as brilliant as the sun, and it has arisen just after the departure of Lord Krsna to His own abode, accompanied by religion, knowledge, etc. Persons who have lost their vision due to the dense darkness of ignorance in the age of Kali shall get light from this Purana.
Q: Can you explain the end of this cycle of reincarnation in more detail?
A: The human body is the only form of life that enables us to end this cycle. Only in this form is the consciousness developed enough to understand the difference between matter and spirit. Animals cannot understand this. Their only business is eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. They cannot understand what the goal of life is.
But if the human being does not take advantage of this opportunity and simply engages himself in sophisticated ways of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. then he is nothing more than a sophisticated animal. The only purpose of human life is to develop one's original God consciousness. break free from the cycle of birth and death, and go back home, back to Godhead.
The process to accomplish this is called bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, which entails acting in a spiritual way according to the injunctions of the Vedic scriptures and the bona fide spiritual master. By doing so, one is no longer bound by the laws of material nature, which force one to transmigrate in the material world.
Sannyasa, the fourth stage of Vedic life,
by Dhanurdhara Swami
Renunciation is essential to spiritual life, but that doesn't mean we have to go to the forest. Living a renounced life at home begins with placing Krsna in the center of the family. By worshiping Him daily, we can master the art of performing our normal work for His pleasure.
A famous pacifist, who also wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad-gita, once said that if in fact Lord Krsna had asked Arjuna to kill, he would no longer accept the authority of Lord Krsna. But Lord Krsna does ask Arjuna to fight, and more astonishingly He supports His request with eighteen chapters of philosophy. The Bhagavad-gita is not, however, a treatise on war. A more subtle point is being made. Although every state needs a class of men to assume the duty of protecting its citizens from aggression. Lord Krsna's arguments to convince Arjuna to fight are more than a call to secular duty; they are an analysis of how to attain perfection through one's duty, even as a warrior.
The first consideration of any man seeking perfection is to become free from karma. The law of karma is similar to the physical law of motion that states that every physical action has an equal and opposite reaction. Karma has jurisdiction over human actions and allots reward and punishment. Bound by karma, one must repeatedly take birth to reap the good or bad results of one's work. Thus a person engaged in fruitive work can never attain perfection.
It was especially difficult, therefore, for Arjuna to imagine attaining perfection in the course of his work, since his duty was warfare. The reaction to killing was a dreadful prospect. Arjuna therefore concluded that only by renouncing his duty could perfection be possible.
Hearing Krsna's instruction on buddhi-yoga. Arjuna felt that his desire to renounce action was reinforced. Buddhi-yoga literally means using one's intelligence to advance in spiritual knowledge. According to his understanding of karma. Arjuna concluded that intelligence in spirituality meant renouncing work for a life of penance and philosophical pursuits. In other words, he wanted to become a sannyasi.
In one sense it is understandable that Arjuna desired sannyasa. According to the Vedas, human life is meant for self-realization, and therefore an intelligent man should certainly try to free himself from worldly duties so that his life is not diverted to temporary pursuits.
So, considering what he felt to be Krsna's instruction concerning renunciation and its obvious advantages. Arjuna became bewildered by Krsna's insistence that he achieve perfection through performance of his duties. "O Krsna," he asked the Lord. "why do You want to engage me in this ghastly warfare, if You think that intelligence is better than fruitive work?"
To encourage Arjuna to seek perfection through his work. Lord Krsna began to correct Arjuna's shallow understanding of sannyasa.
Sannyasa is not just a physical separation from home. One has to be internally detached. Krsna condemns the man who poses as a sannyasi but has not been purified of his worldly propensities by properly discharging his prescribed duties: "One who restrains the senses of action but whose mind dwells on sense objects certainly deludes himself and is called a pretender."
A pretender will not be able to maintain his apparent detachment because sannyasa is a painstaking life. The sannyasi must be satisfied to live simply, depending wholly on the gifts of nature. The pseudo mendicant without occupation but desirous of worldly comforts will be forced to beg a living at the cost of others. Such so-called renunciation for the purpose of maintenance is at no time recommended by Lord Sri Krsna. Rather, He advises Arjuna. "Perform your prescribed duty. for doing so is better than not working. One cannot even maintain one's physical body without work."
Although the perils of renunciation and the need to maintain the body certainly dampened Arjuna's aspiration for sannyasa, he was nevertheless still bewildered as to his prospects for happiness at home. He still dreaded karma. Lord Krsna therefore explained to Arjuna that work—even the work of a warrior—can be without karmic reaction: "Work done as a sacrifice for Visnu has to be performed; otherwise work causes bondage in this material world. Therefore. O son of Kunti perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain free from bondage."
Lord Krsna thus gave the key to understanding perfection at home by giving Arjuna a deeper understanding of karma. The basis of karma is that the one who is responsible for actions has to enjoy or suffer the consequences of those actions. Arjuna should now understand that responsibility for work lies not with the performer but with the one who has desired the work. Working for the satisfaction of Visnu means that one works not out of one's personal desire but out of the desire to serve God. Such a dutiful man is thus absolved of the responsibility for reaction to his work.
For example, because a soldier fights on the order of his government, he is never tried for murder, even though he may kill many enemy soldiers. On the other hand, if the same soldier kills even one man in his village in a private conflict, he will be punished severely. The real meaning of karma, therefore, is that one who acts on his own desire must accept the consequences of his action. On the other hand. the actions one performs out of duty yield no reaction.
The Bhagavad-gita thus offers a feasible process of self-realization for the common man. Nonetheless, to work for Visnu and cultivate detachment from the fruits of work is an art that needs expert guidance. Guidance is especially needed today, when one's duties, unlike Arjuna's, are not prescribed by a society dedicated to self-realization.
A good example of how Lord Krsna's principle of attaining perfection at home can be practically applied today is found in Caitanya-caritamrta, the life and teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. While touring South India, in every village Lord Caitanya visited He would inspire the people who saw Him to become God conscious. In the village of Kurmaksetra a rich brahmana invited the Lord to his home and served Him with great respect and attention. Being inspired by Lord Caitanya's association, he begged the Lord. "My dear Lord, kindly show me favor and let me come with You. I can no longer tolerate the miseries caused by materialistic life."
But Lord Caitanya did not think it advisable for one in this age of Kali to leave one's family suddenly. Rather, He advised the brahmana to remain at home, continue his duties, and try to become purified by adopting a spiritual way of life. "Don't speak like that again," the Lord told him. "Better to remain home and chant the holy name of Krsna always. Instruct everyone to follow the orders of Krsna as they are given in the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. . . . If you follow these instructions your materialistic life at home will not obstruct your spiritual advancement"
Lord Krsna's message in the Bhagavad-gita is thus applicable to all men. We should therefore consider that if even in the midst of war spiritual perfection is obtainable, then why can't perfection be achieved at home?
Chanting is easy, and it works. In fact, it is the most effective means of God realization in the world.
Here's why. God is unlimitedly powerful, and His name is Himself. When we chant God's names, God is totally present through the transcendental sound. So potent are God's names that the Vedic scriptures consider chanting the essential, universal religion of the age.
So why don't more people chant?
Maybe they's embarassed. Or busy. Or doubtful. Or maybe they think chanting is a sectarian religous practice—something only for the Hare Krsnas.
Yet what could be less sectarian than calling out to God? All the great scriptures of the world praise the holy names of God. God's names may vary from religion to religion or from culture to culture, but the person—the supreme father of all—is the same.
Don't be embarrassed. Chanting is for everyone. Don't feel you're too busy. Chanting is easy. And don't remain doubtful. Try chanting and see the results.
Chant. It's easy, effective, and universal.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
by Kamra-devi dasi (Alachua, Florida)
I was sitting in my classroom in north Florida, reviewing the day's lesson plans before class. Bees were humming outside my window, and huge white cumulus clouds drifted in the blue sky over the level countryside.
I had moved from Philadelphia only a few months before. I needed the warmth and fresh air for my health, and my sons needed some room to let off their boyish energy.
"Ah, the ideal place." I was thinking.
Suddenly I smelled something acrid. What was it? I tried to ignore it, but the smell persisted, and after a few minutes I was getting shaky and my mouth was dry. The print seemed to be lifting off the page of my lesson-plan book. My students arrived, and though I was disconcerted. I tried to leave my problems outside the classroom, as I had learned in teacher training. But something was wrong, and the beautiful scenery now appeared eerie and dismal. And as I tried to start class. I could see that the children were similarly affected.
"Go to the temple building—quick!" I told the children. "And close all the doors!" I went to the phone to dial 911.
Several weeks have now passed since that morning, when I had to deal with six emergency vehicles and eighteen or so medics and emergency volunteers. The problem had been caused by a pesticide that had drifted from a neighbor's farm during bean harvest and settled in a cloud over my classroom and home. I am since quite sobered about the seemingly perfect qualities of a beautiful countryside, and I get nervous any time there is a strange smell in the air.
After the pesticide incident I took a few hatha-yoga lessons from a local instructor, still intent on improving my health. As we practiced in the morning sun, he scrutinized my awkward efforts and said strongly. "Breathe deeply; oxygen is free!"
I lost my concentration. Oxygen may be free now. I thought but it wouldn't have been had I needed to go to the hospital with a mask over my face that beautiful morning the pesticide drifted in. In fact land used to be free and unspoiled, too. We don't see that now. And water isn't always free either. Like in Philadelphia. There are city water fees, and if you want some water you can drink, you have to buy it at the grocery store. So oxygen may be free for the most part but that may not last long either. We may soon have to put it on our weekly shopping lists along with the tissues and flour and drinking water.
"What is free that will stay free?" I wondered. I couldn't think of anything except the Hare Krsna mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna , Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Because the Hare Krsna mantra is not of this material realm, it can never be contaminated or used up. By chanting Hare Krsna and associating with Krsna's devotees, we can rise above bodily designations and sufferings and know our real selves as the servants of the Lord. This is more valuable than any material commodity, and yet there is no charge for it.
The chanting of Hare Krsna is satisfying and cleansing to the individual souL And it is so satisfying to Lord Krsna that if enough of us do it He will arrange that our material necessities, such as air and water, remain free and plentiful. Thus we can have peaceful lives for spiritual realization.
No To Capital Punishment: An Opinion
by Mathuresa dasa (Port Royal, Pennsylvania)
In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna teaches that the body is a temporary, lifeless piece of flesh, an inanimate vehicle that appears to be alive and conscious only because of the presence of an eternal individual soul. When the soul leaves, the body loses its life and we pronounce it dead, although in fact the body never had life of its own at any point.
On the basis of this fundamental teaching. Krsna orders Arjuna, a soldier. general, and His intimate friend, to fight and kill. "Do not lament," Krsna exhorts soft-hearted Arjuna, "for you will kill only the outer body, not the eternal person inside. Death is sure anyway, so why should you hesitate?"
Quite obviously, these are instructions that, if they fell into the hands of the wrong person, could produce horrible results. Arjuna, we have to remind ourselves, was a general, a military man poised on the brink of a battle that, as the Mahabharata recounts in great detail, had been years in the making, and that both Arjuna and Krsna had made every diplomatic effort to forestall. If General Eisenhower had, on D-Day morning, been riven with doubts about the morality and propriety of fighting and killing his dear Nazi brothers, he would have been in a position roughly analogous to Arjuna's. The Gita does not sanction killing in ordinary circumstances.
On the contrary, the primary instruction we receive from Vedic sources is that one should never unnecessarily commit violence to any living thing. Only in self-defense or in defense of one's dependents may one kill. For a soldier like Arjuna, a man responsible for many dependents, or citizens, that might entail going to war and bloodying an entire battlefield. Most of the rest of us should pass our life, if possible, without harming a flea.
And not that every war is justified, either. By Vedic standards, neither the Nazis nor the allied forces were fully justified in the deaths they caused in World War II. In fact, the whole question of when and where killing is justified often appears quite delicate, even when scriptural injunctions. Vedic or otherwise, are unequivocal.
On the question of capital punishment, for example, the Manu-samhita enjoins that a murderer be put to death, and that execution should not ultimately be considered an act of violence.
But aside from rigid adherence to scripture, we have to consider whether we can answer the objections raised by opponents of capital punishment: Isn't execution an act of cruelty equaling the murder it is designed to punish? Can we guarantee that the death penalty be administered fairly, without discrimination based on race, color, creed, or political affiliation? Does execution have any effect in deterring future murderers?
Deterrence seems to be one of the weakest objections. Obviously execution would prevent the murderer from killing again. And how could it not affect the behavior of potential criminals? American opponents of capital punishment point out that states that allow the death penalty don't have consistently lower murder rates than states that do not. But the fact is that even states with the death penalty have never executed more than five percent of their convicted murderers. Everyone would agree that an execution rate of one in twenty has no deterrent value.
Even assuming, though, that a higher execution rate would deter potential killers, can the cruelty of execution be justified? Isn't a murderer someone like you and me who got a bad break?
On this question the Vedic texts shed some new light. According to Vedic authorities, a human being, unlike an animal, is responsible for his actions not only under state laws but under the universal laws of karma, and the Manu-samhita states that the karmic punishment a murderer receives in his next life is far worse, far more cruel if you will. than the guillotine, gas chamber, electric chair, or firing squad. The Manu-samhita further asserts, however, that capital punishment by the state obviates karmic punishment in a future life. Thus the party who benefits most from an execution is not the society relieved of a criminal element, not the victim's family and friends pacified by the retribution, but the killers themselves, relieved as they are from all karmic reaction and free to start afresh in a new life.
But assuming that both karmic justice and the deterrent effect of the death penalty are facts, how can we assure ourselves that those with the power to use the death penalty would do so fairly? If we again refer to Vedic sources, we find that the leaders in Vedic history who held this power of life and death were rajarsis, or saintly kings, men who perfectly combined absolute monarchical power with wisdom and impartiality. One might contend that the saintly qualities of these kings are exaggerated, if not purely mythological. But sidestepping that debate for now, the more relevant point here is that the Vedic texts strongly associate an unwavering stand on capital punishment with its implementation by men of perfect character.
Although this counters the argument that the death penalty is itself a criminal, unsaintly act, we must face the fact that we don't have an overabundance of saintly characters in the ranks of our leaders (or any other ranks, for that matter) anywhere in the world. If the death penalty must go hand in hand with saintliness, where are those saintly hands?
We are therefore back to square one: any instruction, however valuable, can wreak havoc if misused. In the hands of a surgeon, a book on liver transplants may be an asset, but you can't let just anyone cut you open, no matter what they've read. The prescribed Vedic cure for the capital punishment controversy is available, but saintly leaders to administer the prescription aren't.
Some of the implications of the theory of general relativity,
by Radha Krsna Swami
In referring to the scientific understanding attained by the sages of ancient India, the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi once wrote. "The quality of ancient India that is most striking is the breadth of its vision, its capacity to feel at home in vast spaces, to think of great stretches of time and astronomical numbers, a capacity matched only by the mathematicians of our age."
Even thousands of years ago, India's scientific understanding of the universe was highly advanced. It was common knowledge that the world isn't flat but round, that our planet isn't the center of the universe but a mere speck within it, and that the earth wasn't suddenly created on May 23, 5478 B.C., but had existed for billions of years. This is remarkable when we consider that in the West, these facts have been accepted for only the last few hundred years.
Fortunately, modern science has been catching up and continues to make further progress every day. One of the greatest achievements of this century is Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, which, among its postulates, describes the behavior and measurement of time under factors such as gravity and velocity. Surprisingly, even such advanced concepts of physics are also found in the Vedic literature, India's ancient books of wisdom.
In the Ninth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam there is a revealing story on the workings of the theory of relativity. It is about a king named Kakudmi and his daughter Revati. When the king was planning for his daughter's marriage, he decided to go see Lord Brahma, by whose influence, he was sure, an ideal husband could be found. Lord Brahma is the chief demigod and occupies the post of the engineer-creator of this universe. His life span encompasses the duration of the entire universe. His abode, the planet Brahmaloka, is the highest in the universe. The inhabitants there are endowed with mystic powers; evil, pain, and anxiety are practically unknown; the potential for enjoyment is thousands of times greater than on earth; and spiritual advancement is easily attainable.
King Kakudmi took Revati with him and traveled to Brahmaloka, where he found that Lord Brahma was hearing a musical performance and for the moment could not talk to him. Therefore Kakudmi waited, and at the end of the show he approached Brahma, offered obeisances, and presented his request. After listening to Kakudmi, Brahma laughed loudly and said. "O king, all those whom you might have thought of as candidates for your daughter's hand died already a long time ago. Millions of years have passed since you left your kingdom. They are all dead and forgotten, and so are their sons, grandsons, and other descendants."
When the king heard this, he returned to what had been his domain and found it vacant. Just as modern archeologists discover the sites of ancient civilizations and determine the cause of their demise, such as famines, invasions, and natural disasters, Kakudmi returned to find that his descendants had long ago abandoned the kingdom because of the threat posed by their enemies.
While King Kakudmi was still in Brahmaloka, Lord Brahma advised him to offer his daughter in marriage to Lord Balarama. According to Vedic theology. Lord Balarama is an expansion of the Supreme Lord, Krsna, and assists Him in His mission to purify the entire world. After returning to his former kingdom, Kakudmi gave his beautiful daughter in marriage to Lord Balarama. Then he renounced worldly life and retired to Badarikasrama in the Himalayas, where many ascetics go to achieve spiritual perfection.
King Kakudmi experienced the influence of time in a way that agrees with Einstein's general theory of relativity. Normally we tend to regard time as absolute and constant throughout the universe. But the theory of relativity states that there is no absolute time: rather, each one of us is influenced uniquely, depending on our location and the speed with which we are moving in the universe.
To illustrate this point, there is the classic example of the twins. One twin goes off in a rocket to the nearest star outside our planetary system. Traveling at speeds near that of light (186.000 miles per second), the traveler will make the round trip in twenty-two earth years, but because of his high speed, time will affect him only partially, and upon his return he will find himself twelve and a half years younger than his brother!
Even on earth the same principle applies. A twin living at sea level will be after sixty years, six seconds younger than his brother living high in the mountains, because of the way the earth's gravity affects his own measure of time. But this variation is so negligible that it goes unnoticed.
King Kakudmi experienced the principles stated in the theory of relativity. On his journey to Brahmaloka, time influenced the king in a different way than it did his subjects and acquaintances back on earth, to the extent that he outlived generations of his descendants.
Histories like this, as found in works like the Srimad-Bhagavatam, aren't simply for supplying us with facts for a trivia game, nor are they armchair scientific statements. The overall purpose of these scriptures is to promote an existential understanding of life and to teach one how to act accordingly.
If we could make a trip in time similar to King Kakudmi's, disappearing from home and suddenly reappearing in the same place a few thousand years later, we would see everything so changed that we would be forced to see our lives in a completely different light. During such a journey, many nations would have been created and destroyed; whole dynasties and clans would have lived and died; life styles and popular notions would have come and gone; geological and ecological upheavals would have taken place repeatedly. Witnessing these changes, we would naturally ask, "What is there in life that is worth pursuing because it doesn't fade away with time?"
In the Bhagavad-gita (2.16). Sri Krsna says, "Those who are seers of the truth have concluded that of the nonexistent there is no endurance, and of the existent there is no cessation. This they have concluded by studying the nature of both." We usually place too much value on the particular situation around us—on our family, community, life style, skills—and take our background and place in time in absolute terms. But Lord Krsna teaches us that these are all temporary and unimportant, and thus He describes them as "nonexistent."
Our trip in time would confirm the conclusions of learned sages, including King Kakudmi. By placing too much emphasis on our material life, we lose sight of our real self, the soul, which represents our real. eternal existence. By cultivating spiritual knowledge, we can awaken that real self, understand our nature beyond the "relativity" of this temporal world, and enter the realm of eternal spiritual existence. Attaining this is the purpose of life. And this is what the process of Krsna consciousness. beginning with the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra, is meant to help us achieve.
Devotees Welcome Peace Cruise
Natchez, Mississippi—For the past twenty-five years, fifty Americans have been traveling to the Soviet Union each summer to join one hundred Russians in a peace cruise down the Volga River. This year fifty Russians joined one hundred Americans on a cruise down the Mississippi River. When the famous paddlewheeler Delta Queen docked here on its way from St. Louis to New Orleans, ISKCON devotees took part in the welcoming ceremonies, presenting the Russian visitors with Russian Krsna books and Bhagavad-gitas.
Rupa Vilasa dasa, former headmaster of the ISKCON's gurukula (school) in Vrndavana, spoke first in a series of "Prayers for Peace" presented by the different religions of the Natchez area and by Russian Orthodox Archbishop Agafangar, a cruise member. Rupa Vilasa read Srila Prabhupada's essay The Peace Formula, which explains how to achieve lasting peace through Krsna consciousness.
During the press conference that followed, Jnanagamya dasa asked reporters from the U.S.S.R., "Why are devotees of Krsna still being held in labor camps and prisons in the Soviet Union?" A reporter from Izvestia, the second largest paper in the Soviet Union, answered, "The policies of glasnost are the reversal of such previous policies. I hope the devotees will be freed very soon, even while the Peace Cruise is going on. They should not be held, for they have done nothing wrong."
The devotees spoke with several persons from the Soviet Union who expressed concern for the incarcerated devotees. Russian cosmonaut Gorgy Grechko promised to help, but he needed the names of the imprisoned devotees. Jnanagamya dasa phoned Ranganatha dasa, president of ISKCON New Orleans, who went down to meet the cruise when it docked in New Orleans. He delivered a list of the imprisoned devotees' names and locations to a Russian reporter, who promised to give it to the cosmonaut.
Temple Donated to ISKCON in Gujarat
Vallabha Vidyanagar, Gujarat—On Janmastami, the anniversary of Lord Krsna's appearance, devotees installed the Deities of Sri Sri Radha-Giridhari here in the former home of Sri Fulabhai Girdharbhai Patel. A couple of years ago, the 85-year-old Mr. Patel had a dream in which he heard devotees chanting Hare Krsna in his home. A voice told him to donate his house to the Hare Krsna devotees for a temple of Radha-Krsna. At that time Mr. Patel had never heard of ISKCON. Two days later ISKCON devotee Rajasuya dasa came to see Mr. Patel to ask about renting part of his house. Mr. Patel told him enthusiastically, "I don't want to rent you part of the house—I want to give you the whole house!"
Before he passed away, Mr. Patel saw the plans for the temple room that would be built in his former house, which has twenty rooms and was at one time used as a hostel.
Vidyanagar is a college town with twenty-five thousand students. Every day about a hundred students visit the temple, which is run by Bhakti Raghava Swami, founder of the Bhaktivedanta Youth Services in Calcutta.
Industrialist Sri K. K. Patel, of the Nirma washing powder group, laid the cornerstone for ISKCON's new project in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, which will include a temple, a guesthouse, a community hall, and vegetarian restaurants. Sri R. K. Trivedi, the governor of Gujarat, presided over the function, which was attended by five thousand persons. Fifty thousand attended the Janmastami celebrations at ISKCON's present temple in Ahmedabad.
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Despite a strike of all rail and road transportation in Madhya Pradesh, India, on Janmastami day eighty thousand persons attended the festivities at ISKCON's Hyderabad temple. Among the special guests were the governor of Madhya Pradesh, Kumudben M.Joshi, and the international head of the Ramakrishna Mission, Swami Ranganathananda.
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The world-famous singer Anup Jalota inaugurated the three-day Janmastami festival at ISKCON's temple in the Punjabhi Bagh section of New Delhi. The festival was televised for one hour on a national network program.
From the Vedic literature: the history of
by Drutakarma Dasa
Long ago, the normally peaceful wise men of a Vedic kingdom forcibly deposed an intolerably corrupt ruler. But instead of replacing him with another unprincipled politician (as has so often happened in the history of the world), they selected a perfect chief executive to command the state. The story of this ancient coup d'etat holds many lessons for the people of nations victimized by unworthy leaders.
Once, King Anga, unsuccessful in his attempt to perform a great religious sacrifice, addressed the brahmana priests, "Kindly tell me what offense I have committed. The demigods are neither taking part in the sacrifice nor accepting their shares." In those days demigods, such as Indra, the god of heaven, would descend from higher planets to take part in rituals performed by saintly monarchs.
The head priests said, "O king, in this life we do not find any sinful activity, but we can see that in your previous life you performed sins due to which you have no son." They then advised King Anga to pray to the Supreme Lord, who is superior to the demigods. They said that when Lord Visnu would come to fulfill the king's desire for a son, the demigods would accompany Him.
King Anga accepted this proposal; so the priests offered oblations to Lord Visnu, who is seated in the hearts of all living entities as the Supersoul. Lord Visnu is a direct expansion of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna.
While King Anga was offering oblations into the sacred fire, a person wearing white robes and a golden garland appeared suddenly from the flames. He was carrying a golden pot filled with rice boiled in milk. Taking permission from the priests. King Anga offered a portion of the rice preparation to his wife, Sunitha.
The queen, who was the daughter of death personified, soon became pregnant by her husband and gave birth to a son. From the Vedic literature we learn that generally a daughter inherits the qualities other father, and a son inherits those of his mother. Accordingly, the son born to the good king Anga acquired the undesirable traits of his maternal grandfather.
The child's name was Vena. As a youth he used to take his bow and arrows to the forest and kill innocent deer. He was so cruel that he would sometimes kill his playmates, as if they were animals. King Anga punished Vena to reform him, but he was unable to bring his son to the path of gentleness.
The king thought "Persons who have no son are certainly fortunate. They don't have to suffer the unbearable unhappiness caused by a bad son."
But then he considered, "A bad son is better than a good one. A bad son creates a hellish home from which an intelligent man becomes very easily detached." According to Vedic civilization, the true purpose of life is to realize one's eternal relationship with the Supreme Lord, Krsna. But if one becomes overly occupied with family duties, one can lose sight of this ultimate goal. Therefore the Vedas advise married persons to detach themselves from the burdensome duties of family life when they reach the age of fifty, so they can devote their remaining years to self-realization.
Thinking over all this. King Anga could not sleep, and in the dead of night he got up from bed and left the palace. He gave up all attraction for his opulent kingdom and, unseen by anyone, silently left for the forest.
When the citizens found out that King Anga had departed, they began to search for him. They could find no trace of him, however, and returned to the city, where all the sages of the country had assembled. With tears in their eyes, the citizens told the sages that they were unable to find the king anywhere.
With no one to maintain law and order, criminals began to disturb society. So the sages called for Queen Sunitha. and with her permission they installed her son, Vena, on the throne. All the ministers, however, disagreed with the decision of the sages. They knew that Vena was too severe and cruel to be a good ruler. And sure enough, as soon as Vena ascended the throne he became overwhelmed with pride. He mounted his chariot and, like an uncontrolled elephant, began to travel throughout the kingdom, causing the sky and earth to tremble wherever he went.
But even though Vena had many bad qualities, there was one thing to his credit—out of fear of him the thieves and rogues ceased their predatory acts.
At one point, however, King Vena forbade the brahmana priests to perform any more sacrifices. He stopped all kinds of religious rituals. Today this same policy is being carried out by atheistic governments all over the world. Even in America, where there is technically freedom of religion, the government has banned prayer from the public schools, outlawed the teaching of God-centered explanations of science, and legalized the killing of unborn children within the wombs of their mothers.
After observing King Vena's atrocities, the sages concluded that the people of the world were in great danger. Although sages did not generally become involved in politics, the crisis was now too severe for them to ignore. Therefore they consulted among themselves about what to do.
The sages said. "We appointed this Vena king of the state to give protection to the citizens, but now he has become their enemy. But before we take action against him. let us first try to pacify him."
Concealing their anger, the sages said. "Dear king, we have come to give you good advice. You should not be the cause of spoiling the spiritual life of the general populace. If you do so, you will certainly fall down from your royal position."
King Vena proudly replied. "Those who out of gross ignorance do not worship the king, who is actually the Supreme Personality of Godhead, experience happiness neither in this world nor in the world after death. For this reason, O sages, you should abandon your envy of me and worship me."
"This impious and impudent man does not deserve to sit on the throne at all." declared the sages. "He is so shameless that he has dared to insult the Supreme Personality of Godhead." Then, without using any weapon other than sound, the sages killed King Vena.
Queen Sunitha became very much aggrieved at the sight of her dead son's body and decided to preserve it by applying certain ingredients and chanting mantras.
Some time later the sages noticed that society was again in a state of chaos. Talking among themselves they said, "Since the king is dead, rogues and thieves have become active." Although the sages could have immediately intervened to punish the criminals—as when they had killed King Vena—they decided not to use their special powers. They arrived at another solution.
The sages decided to produce another king—from the body of Vena, who despite his own bad qualities, was from a line of good kings. To do this they first generated an unsightly being called Bahuka from the lower part of Vena's body. His complexion was dark, his eyes reddish. He immediately absorbed all the results of King Vena's sinful activities.
From the upper part of Vena's body the sages generated a male and a female empowered with potencies of the Supreme Lord. The male was an incarnation of the ruling potency of Lord Krsna, and the female an expansion of the goddess of fortune.
The sages said, "The male will be able to spread his reputation throughout the world. His name will be Prthu, and he will be the first among kings. The female has such beautiful qualities that she will beautify the ornaments she wears. Her name will be Arci, and she will accept King Prthu as her husband."
Sages and demigods came to earth from all over the universe to witness Prthu's coronation. King Prthu and Queen Arci, who were both exquisitely dressed, appeared as brilliant as fire. The demigods offered the new king many wonderful gifts.
Then professional reciters began to praise the king. But Prthu said. "O gentle reciters, offer such prayers in due course of time, when the qualities of which you have spoken actually manifest themselves in me."
But instructed by the sages, the reciters continued to praise the king. They could understand his identity as an empowered representative of the Supreme Lord. In considering their descriptions of King Prthu's qualities, we can gain insight into the character of a perfect ruler.
First the sages said that the king would himself follow religious principles and take steps to insure that the citizens would also follow them. He would punish the irreligious and the atheists. In the present age, we sometimes see that a government, in the name of a secular state, will allow people to freely engage in irreligious behavior. By committing sinful activities, such as eating meat gambling, taking intoxicants, and engaging in illicit sex aided by contraceptives and abortion, the population becomes implicated in the laws of karma and undergoes suffering in the form of wars, epidemics, famines, and so forth. In this way people suffer many miseries in this life and remain entrapped in the cycle of birth and death.
The reciters said the king would engage the population in performing sacrifice to the Supreme Lord and thus insure a plentiful supply of natural food and other resources. The modern industrial civilization does not actually provide the necessities of life. Food is produced in the Fields, by God's arrangement and not in factories. The raw materials used in manufacturing—such as air, water, minerals, and oil—are all supplied by the Supreme Lord. When these natural gifts are taken without acknowledging their source and used simply for sense gratification, the Lord restricts the supply. We can acknowledge the source of these resources by sacrifice, and the sacrifice recommended in the Vedic scriptures for this age is the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. By performing this sacrifice, the population will enjoy adequate supplies of natural gifts for a simple life dedicated to the cultivation of spiritual knowledge.
The reciters then said that the king would fairly collect taxes and disburse them to the public in times of need, just as the sun-god evaporates water from the ocean and returns it to the earth in the form of rain. In the present age, however, burdensome taxes are always increasing and are spent on lavish salaries for government administrators. This unfair taxation makes people dishonest and they try to hide their income. Eventually the state will not be able to collect enough taxes to meet its huge military and administrative expenses. At that time. the whole economic system and governing apparatus will collapse. This is already beginning to occur.
The sages said the king would consider all living beings as dear to him as his own self. Today most heads of state are meat-eaters, as are their citizens. They advertise their concern for the welfare of others while allowing the slaughter of hundreds of millions of innocent creatures.
The sages then declared that King Prthu would be compared to a lion. Unless rogues and thieves are afraid of the chief executive, there cannot be peace and prosperity in the state. The sages also stated that the king would consider himself the servant of the devotees of the Lord and would rule his kingdom according to their good advice. He would also accept private spiritual instruction from them.
Upon accepting the throne. King Prthu had to confront many problems, including a scarcity of food grains. Many of the citizens had become skinny from starvation. Therefore they came before the king and said. "You are not only a king. but the incarnation of God as well. Therefore, O king of all kings, please arrange to satisfy our hunger."
King Prthu determined that the people were not at fault; rather, for some reason the earth was withholding her bounty. He therefore threatened the earth deity, who, after worshiping King Prthu as an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, explained that she had been withholding her bounty because of the sinful activities of some of the population. Then, because of King Prthu's intervention, she began to supply every living entity with its proper food.
The king then initiated a series of one hundred sacrifices. Lord Visnu was pleased to appear at these sacrifices along with demigods and sages. In response the earth produced abundant supplies of all natural resources. When the heavenly king Indra saw the sacrifices, however, he feared that King Prthu would surpass him in fame and opulence. He therefore began to interfere with the sacrifices, and King Prthu prepared to take strong action against him. But on the advice of Lord Brahma, the chief of the demigods, he desisted.
Then Lord Visnu appeared in the arena of sacrifice along with Indra and said, "My dear King Prthu, Indra, the king of heaven, has disturbed your execution of one hundred sacrifices. Now he has come with Me to be forgiven by you. Therefore excuse him." King Prthu did as the Lord requested.
Lord Visnu then said, "My dear King Prthu, if you continue to protect the citizens according to the instructions of the learned brahmana authorities, as they are received by disciplic succession—by hearing—from master to disciple, and if you follow the religious principles laid down by them, without attachment to ideas manufactured by mental concoction, then every one of your citizens will be happy and will love you, and very soon you will be able to see such already liberated personalities as the four Kumaras: Sanaka, Sanatana, Sananda, and Sanat-kumara." King Prthu sincerely accepted the instructions of the Lord and offered Him devotional prayers. The Lord then departed for His own abode.
The king then entered the gates of his capital city, where he was welcomed by his joyous citizens. King Prthu advised his citizens to worship the Supreme Lord by engaging their minds, words, and bodies in His service along with the results of their occupational duties. He also advised them to obey and worship the pure devotees of the Lord, saying, "By regular service to the brahmanas and Vaisnavas, one can clear the dirt from his heart and thus enjoy supreme peace and liberation from material attachment."
After hearing King Prthu speak so nicely, the sages, demigods, and citizens declared that sinful King Vena had been delivered from the darkest region of hellish life by the action of his son, King Prthu. The four Kumaras, who were as brilliant as the sun, then arrived there. Seeing the four sages descend from the sky, the king received them with proper respect and worship. The king asked the Kumaras how those in this material world could achieve the ultimate goal of life. Sanat-kumara replied:
It has been conclusively decided in the scriptures, after due consideration, that the ultimate goal for the welfare of human society is detachment from the bodily concept of life and increased and steadfast attachment for the Supreme Lord, who is transcendental and beyond the modes of material nature. One has to make progress in spiritual life by not associating with persons who are simply interested in making money and in sense gratification. One should mold his life in such a way that he cannot live in peace without drinking the nectar of the glorification of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One can be thus elevated by losing the taste for sense enjoyment.
Sanat-kumara requested the king to always engage in devotional service to the Supreme Lord. King Prthu obeyed this instruction, and thus even though surrounded by royal opulence, he was able to lead a life of detachment and spiritual advancement.
By his wife Arci, Prthu begot five sons. He pleased the citizens by his rule and became famous all over the universe for his good qualities. At the end of his life, he transferred power to his sons and left with his wife for the forest, where he strictly followed the regulations of retired life. He underwent severe austerities just as seriously as he had governed the state. He ate only leaves and fruit and eventually subsisted only upon air. Queen Arci assisted him in his practice of austerities. Because other pleasure in serving her exalted husband, she felt no difficulty in the forest.
By performing austerities Prthu became steadfast in spiritual life, worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead twenty-four hours a day. In due course of time, Prthu Maharaja was able to fix his mind firmly upon the lotus feet of Krsna. Practicing the mystic yoga system, he raised his soul to the top of his skull. After merging the various elements of his body with the totality of the natural elements, he gave up his body.
Queen Arci took the body of her husband and placed it on a fiery pyre on the top of a hill. Srila Prabhupada comments, "The queen was aware that her husband was not dead.... When a living entity transfers from one body to another, a process generally known as death, a sane man does not lament, for he knows that the living entity is not dead but is simply transferred from one body to another."
After placing her husband's body in the fire, she herself entered the flames. Observing the devoted queen's brave act, the demigods and their wives showered flowers and offered prayers. The wives of the demigods said, "All glories to Queen Arci. Just see how this chaste lady, Arci, by dint of her inconceivable pious activities, is still following her husband upwards, as far as we can see."
King Prthu and Queen Arci ascended to the spiritual world, Vaikuntha, in spiritual airplanes. They ascended in spiritual bodies, their material bodies having been consumed by the fire of the funeral pyre.
The sage Maitreya, narrating this history in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, said, "Any person who describes the great characteristics of King Prthu with faith and determination—whether he reads of them himself or helps others to hear of them—is certain to attain the very planet Maharaja Prthu attained. In other words, such a person also returns home to the Vaikuntha planets, back to Godhead."
This article gives a brief summary of the history of King Prthu. A complete account is found in the Fourth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, available from the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
Righting an Upside-down Civilization
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.
Disciple [reading Bhagavad-gita As It Is, 16.4]: "Pride, arrogance, conceit, anger, harshness, and ignorance—these qualities belong to those of demoniac nature, O son of Prtha."
Purport, by Srila Prabhupada: "In this verse, the royal road to hell is described. The demoniac want to make a show of religion and advancement in spiritual science, although they do not follow the principles. They are always arrogant or proud in possessing some type of education or so much wealth. They desire to be worshiped by others and demand respectability, although they do not command respect. Over trifles they become very angry and speak harshly, not gently. They do not know what should be done and what should not be done. They do everything whimsically, according to their own desire, and they do not recognize any authority. These demoniac qualities are taken on by them from the beginning of their bodies in the wombs of their mothers, and as they grow they manifest all these inauspicious qualities."
Srila Prabhupada: So here is your answer as to how modern civilization is defective. Everyone thinks "liberation" means he can do whatever he likes. And that is the definition of a demoniac person. Now you can discuss this point.
Disciple: We can see that this modern civilization has turned everything upside-down. What Krsna describes as exalted qualities they think of as degraded. What Krsna describes as degraded, demoniac qualities they think of as exalted.
Srila Prabhupada: Therefore preaching is required.
Disciple: Many people feel godly qualities are a sign of weakness. The demoniac qualities are a sign of strength.
Srila Prabhupada: "Heroism." The demoniac qualities constitute "heroism."
Disciple: Yes. "heroism." In this purport, Srila Prabhupada, you perfectly describe our student life. As students, we were doing everything whimsically. Or we simply accepted bad things.
Srila Prabhupada: For that reason Prahlada Maharaja recommends, kaumara acaret prajno dharman bhagavatan iha: students should be trained up in Krsna consciousness. That is what Prahlada Maharaja recommends. Currently, from the very beginning of student life, one is trained up as a demon. So many things have to be reformed by pushing on Krsna consciousness. So we have to do all this.
[To disciple:] Go on reading.
Disciple [reading from Bhagavad-gita. 16.5]: 'The transcendental qualities are conducive to liberation, whereas the demoniac qualities make for bondage. Do not worry, O son of Pandu, for you are born with the divine qualities."
Purport, by Srila Prabhupada: "Lord Krsna encouraged Arjuna by telling him that he was not born with demoniac qualities. His involvement in the fight was not demoniac, because he was considering the pros and cons. He was considering whether respectable persons such as Bhisma and Drona should be killed or not, so he was not acting under the influence of anger, false prestige, or harshness. Therefore he was not of the quality of the demons. For a ksatriya. a military man, shooting arrows at the enemy is considered transcendental, and refraining from such a duty is demoniac. Therefore there was no cause for Arjuna to lament. Anyone who performs the regulative principles of the different orders of life is transcendentally situated."
Srila Prabhupada: Discuss this point.
Disciple: People say that "Your understanding is arbitrary. You allow the possibility of a 'godly war' and say that for a bona fide military man, fighting and killing are exalted, but we think war is degraded. We think everyone should be peaceful. That's our idea of a good man."
Srila Prabhupada: Our understanding of the divine qualities and the demoniac qualities is not arbitrary. It is given by Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. So it is not arbitrary. This knowledge is given by the Supreme's order. How can people say it is arbitrary? Then what is the use of referring to Bhagavad-gita? Yes, things must not be arbitrary or whimsical. Therefore we make reference to Bhagavad-gita—the lawbook. When a judge gives his verdict he does not give it arbitrarily. There are lawbooks. So there is no question of "arbitrary." The reference is there. How can you say it is arbitrary? But if you don't care about the scriptural verdict then you'll never be successful. In this same chapter you'll find the verse beginning yah sastra-vidhim utsrjya.
Disciple: Yah sastra-vidhim utsrjya vartate kama-karatah/ na sa siddhim avapnoti na sukham na param gatim: "But he who discards scriptural injunctions and acts according to his own whims attains neither perfection, nor happiness, nor the supreme destination."
Srila Prabhupada: So we are not giving anything arbitrary.
Disciple: That's quite easy to see, Srila Prabhupada. By following the authority of Lord Krsna, people really do become happy. And by merely following their whims, people really do become miserable.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. So the result is there—even in this life we can see it. And what to speak of beyond this life.
Disciple: But people may counter that even in a godly war, it's hard to feel happy.
Srila Prabhupada: In a godly war, such as the Battle of Kuruksetra, bona fide military men feel happy. Take Arjuna, Drona, Bhisma—they felt happy. Otherwise, they could not have fought. They were not like these modern soldiers, who, when they are attacked, go away. Real ksatriyas, godly military men, are not like that. They are determined that "I'll either lay down my life or gain victory." That is their attitude. Do you think they are afraid of fighting? They are not afraid of fighting. Yuddhe capy apalayanam—"not fleeing in battle." That is a real ksatriya, a real military man. That is real training.
(To be continued.)
The Power of Prayer
Atheists think that a prayer to God is sheer imagination. But for centuries, thousands of sincere practitioners have accumulated definite evidence of the positive results of prayer. The serious doubt regarding prayer is not whether God can hear and respond, but whether the things people pray for are worthwhile. According to St. Teresa of Avila. "More tears are shed in this world from prayers that are answered than from those that go unanswered." Those who pray, therefore, need more than the conviction that the Supreme can fulfill our desires. Before we approach God with our requests, we ought to become educated as to what to pray for. The pure devotees of the Lord can teach us this ultimate truth.
One form of popular prayer emphasizes the pragmatic results. These "prayers" are actually nontheistic. As advised by psychologists, a person who believes strongly in his prayer can awaken from within his own subconsciousness huge stores of confidence and power and thus achieve his desired goal. Dale Carnegie, in his books on positive thinking, likes to narrate stories of people like the unsuccessful salesman who in desperation resorted to prayer and the next day was able to convince many customers to buy his vacuum cleaners. In such "prayers" the Personality of Godhead is hardly even acknowledged.
Another shortsighted type of prayer comes from those who believe in God but who are interested not so much in Him as in getting a bit of His opulence. Most prayers fall into this category, as the supplicants request health, riches, family happiness, and so on from a God whom they ask to function as a supreme order supplier. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna declares that persons who come to Him asking for material (and therefore temporary) benefits are sukrtina, or pious. They are certainly better than those who never approach the Supreme, for although prayers for material benefits are ultimately foolish requests, the sukrtinas get into the habit of approaching the Supreme, and thus they may purify themselves for higher communion with God.
An example of a successful sukrtina is Dhruva Maharaja, whose prayers are described in the Vedic scripture Srimad-Bhagavatam. Dhruva prayed to God in a spirit of revenge against his parents, and he requested the most opulent kingdom that had ever been awarded to a mortal being. After performing severe austerities. Dhruva gained the audience of Lord Visnu (a form of Lord Krsna. the Supreme Personality of Godhead). But when the Lord asked Dhruva what he wanted, Dhruva said, "Now that I have seen You, my Lord, I am fully satisfied, and I do not want anything else."
This should be the goal of all prayer to attain loving service of the Supreme Lord, with no other desire. Lord Caitanya prayed, "I do not want to enjoy beautiful women, nor do I want wealth or many followers. All I want is Your causeless devotional service in my life, birth after birth."
On hearing a prayer of full surrender and devotion to God, we may think, "That is a beautiful sentiment, but it's only for the rare pure devotee, the saint" Yet we are all eternal, pure souls, part of the Supreme Lord. Because of the influence of illusion, we have lost our original connection with God and are wandering in the material world, suffering repeated miseries and continuing in illusion. The sincere call to God to be reconciled with His will is not just the practice of a saint; it is indeed the need of all fallen living entities.
When we think that we are independent and don't really need God, and don't need to pray, then we are in the most dangerous illusion. Sometimes our illusion is smashed by bitter suffering, or the truth may be revealed to us by association with pure devotees. When this happens we may realize that we are actually tiny, helpless creatures striving to survive but doomed to bodily annihilation. When a conditioned soul realizes his dangerous and fallen position, he deeply wishes to reform. Since all of us, to different degrees, are in the category of "fallen," we all need to pray to Lord Krsna. But we cannot become reconciled with the Lord unless we receive His special mercy. We may pray, therefore, "My dear Lord, although I am unworthy to receive your special mercy to be relieved of false ego, I beg You to please give me the qualities of love and surrender. Please give Your gift of mercy and relieve me of my impurities. Please reconcile my heart to Yours. If You do not give me Your mercy. I shall be lost."
True prayer is not mechanical recitation but the sincere cry of the contrite heart. When through prayer one receives even the first inclination of his revived association with Krsna, one wants to call on Him constantly and remain in the soothing shelter of His protection. It is for this reason that Krsna conscious spiritual masters recommend that we chant the holy names of God, especially the Hare Krsna mantra, as often as possible. (Kirtaniya sada harih: "One should always chant the name of Lord Krsna.") The Hare Krsna mantra is itself a prayer invoking good fortune and petitioning the Lord, "O energy of God, O Supreme Lord, please engage me in Your service."
Prayers of spontaneous pure devotion may take different forms, such as prayers of petition, praise, adoration, and thanksgiving. Krsna is known as Uttamasloka. which means "one who is praised with beautiful prayers." The Vedic scriptures contain many excellent prayers, which can be recited by devotees seeking union with the Supreme. At the end of one excellent prayer to Lord Krsna, which is offered in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (4.24.76) by Lord Siva, it is stated, "Although rendering devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and worshiping Him are very difficult, if one vibrates or simply reads this prayer, he will very easily be able to invoke the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead." In his commentary to this verse, Srila Prabhupada states. "Any devotee of Lord Krsna can attain all perfection simply by offering prayers to Him."
One should recite the excellent prayers given in the scriptures, and one should also call upon God with one's own feelings, thoughts, and words. The child-devotee of Lord Krsna named Prahlada Maharaja realized that the Lord is actually interested only in our devotion. Therefore even if we are unqualified to compose uttamasloka prayers, we can please the Lord if we are sincere. Srila Prabhupada states, "Despite whatever limitations you have, if you express feelingly, 'My God! My Lord!' that will be accepted."
The real purpose of prayer is not to gain material resources or even spiritual salvation for oneself. The power of prayer comes w hen we call to Krsna out of a desire to do His will. Such pure prayers are not means to the end but are themselves loving exchanges between the Lord and His pure devotees. Whether we call on Him from the darkness of our fallen state in the material world, or whether we praise Him in the midst of His liberated associates in the kingdom of God, the pure prayer is the same: "Please engage me in Your service"—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna , Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.—SDG