In Krsna's instructions to Arjuna,
A lecture in London on September 1, 1973
sva-dharmam api caveksya
"Considering your specific duty as a ksatriya, you should know that there is no better engagement for you than fighting on religious principles; and so there is no need for hesitation." (Bhagavad-gita 2.31)
Sva-dharmam. Sva means "own," and dharmam means "occupation." According to Vedic civilization, everyone has his sva-dharma. This has been misinterpreted by rascals who say that sva-dharma means anyone can discover his own religious principle. Yata mata tata patha: "Whatever you think is a religious principle, that's all right." This is going on. But that is not the meaning. Sva-dharma means "own occupation." Actually, dharma means "that which you cannot give up." You have to capture it to keep your existence.
Because we have got body and soul—two different things—we are a combination: body and soul. So sva-dharma means the occupation of the soul. In the material condition we do not understand what I am, whether I am this body or I am soul. Mostly, people do not know that they are soul, not this body.
The body is the dress, or outward covering, but so long as one is in the bodily concept of life, one has a different occupational duty according to the conception of the body. Everyone's nature is being conducted by the three modes of material nature: goodness, passion, and ignorance. Therefore, according to one's nature, there is occupational duty. That is the scientific division of society. At the present moment, there is no such division. Therefore, gradually people are becoming degraded to the lowest quality: ignorance, sudra. They are taking to the sudra principles.
Yesterday I was presented with a paper: the Indian government's scheme to help people start small-scale industries. They want to help people start small industries for making motor parts. But the government does not know that to engage people in such industrial affairs means to bring them to the sudra platform. Every government is encouraging people to become sudras. But actually, human society must be divided into four parts—brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, and sudra—just as in our body there is division: the head department, the arms department, the belly department and the legs department.
You cannot say. "Let there be only the legs department There is no use of head and arms and belly." Will that go on nicely? If you cut off all other parts and simply keep the legs, will that be a very nice proposal? The legs are required, but if you keep the body with legs only, then this kind of body is a dead body.
The head is especially required. If you cut off the head. then the body is dead. You can cut off the arms, you can cut off the legs, but if you cut off the head—or the belly, also—it will be a dead body.
So, sva-dharma means the divisions of society: the brahmana division, the ksatriya division, the vaisya division, and the sudra division. Everything is required. It is not that sudra is not required. The sudra is required, but if you make propaganda simply to make people sudras, then who will give direction? If there is no head, who will give direction?
So a ksatriya has got a very difficult task. Ksatriya means the governing division. The governing division has got a very important duty: to see that everyone is following his duty—that the brahmana is following his duty, the ksatriya is following his duty. the vaisya is following, the sudra is following.
India nowadays has become a secular government "Secular government" means one that is impartial to any religious system. But the government should not be so callous in religious principles that it lets people do whatever they like. No. The government cannot do so. The government should declare. "You are a Hindu? You execute your own system of religion. You are a Muslim? You execute your system of religion. You are a Buddhist? You follow your system of religion. You are a Christian? You follow your system of religion."
But the government cannot be callous that whatever they may follower whatever they may not do, the government is neutral. No. If anyone is professing that "I am a Hindu." then it is the governments duty to see whether he is actually executing the Hindu principles of religion. That is a secular state. If you are calling yourself a Muslim, then it is the government's duty to see whether you are actually following the Muslim principles of religion. If you are a Christian, it is the government's duty to see that you are following the Christian principles of religion. Not that "you can do whatever you like."
Similarly, if one is claiming that he is a brahmana, it is the government's duty to see whether he's strictly following the brahminical principles—sama, dama, titiksava, arjavam—whether he is strictly following how to become self-controlled, how to remain always pure, clean, suci. Another name for brahmana is suci, "always clean." Similarly arjavam, simplicity. The brahmanas' life should be very simple. They should not imitate the ksatriya s and the vaisyas and the sudras.
This is the principle: the government must see whether one is actually following the brahminical principles. So here Krsna is pointing out that "As a ksatriya you must follow your principles, ksatriya principles." What are the ksatriya principles? Dharmyad dhi yuddhac chreyo 'nyat ksatriyasya na vidyate. A ksatriya must be always prepared to insure—even by fighting—that people are keeping their own principles of religion. That is the ksatriya's duty.
If a brahmana is bluffing people, saying "I am brahmana" but acting like a sudra, immediately a ksatriya should point this out and challenge him to fight—"Why are you cheating people?" Similarly, if a ksatriya is declaring "I am ksatriya" but he's acting as a sudra, it is the ksatriya's or the government's duty to challenge him: "Why are you cheating people?"
So a ksatriya's business is always to fight, because if you are not acting nicely and I say. "You are not acting nicely," you'll be angry. If one is actually a brahmana. he must act as a brahmana. So if somebody says. "You are declaring yourself a brahmana, but you are not following the brahminical principles," he will be angry. But a ksatriya 's duty is that if the so-called brahmana is angry, he should be punished immediately. The ksatriya should challenge. Challenging means yuddhac—fight. So a ksatriya cannot be nonviolent. It is not possible. Violence is required to keep the social system strictly in order. Just like the government has violence departments: the police department, the military department. That is required to keep the society in order.
So here Krsna says. "You are a ksatriya; your duty is to fight." Dharmyad dhi yuddhac: "This fight arranged by Me on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra—because it is sanctioned by Me. it is dharma-yuddha, religious fighting." It is not like the political diplomats declaring war to keep the people in ignorance. No. It is sanctioned by Lord Krsna. Whatever is sanctioned by Krsna, that is actually dharma. I have several times given you the explanation of dharma: dharmam tu saksad bhagavat pranitam. Whatever God sanctions, that is dharma.
So God, Krsna, has personally sanctioned the Battle of Kuruksetra. Therefore it is dharma-yuddha, a religious fight It is not the ordinary fighting of diplomats and politicians. It is dharma-yuddha. Therefore Krsna says, dharmyad dhi yuddhac chreyo 'nya ksatriyasya na vidyate: "You are a ksatriya. You are fighting for the sake of the religious system. That is your first-class duty."
So the four principles must be there in the society. The brahmana will not be required to fight. A brahmana will not be required to work like a sudra. A brahmana will not be required to work like a vaisya. Therefore a brahmana can beg. Pathan pathan yajan yajan dana pratigraha. This is the brahmana's business. He must be a good scholar in Vedic literature, and he must teach others. Not that "I have learned everything; I'll not teach anything." No. A brahmana must be well versed in the Vedic literature, and he must preach also, make others brahmana. Not that "I have become brahmana. So there is no need of others becoming brahmana. There will be competition."
In India some people have become very much afraid that I am making Europeans and Americans brahmanas, so they are very much against me. They come to fight with me. In Hyderabad they came to fight. "Sir, you are making these Europeans and Americans brahmanas? This is not good." I said, "And why not?" So we had some discussion.
So actually it is not that a brahmana is made by birth. Catur-varnyam maya srstam guna-karma-vibhagasah. A brahmana is qualified by his quality and his work. Similarly, all classifications are by quality and work. This is confirmed by Narada Muni, yasya yal laksanam proktam pumso varnabhivyanjakam/ yad anyatrapi drsyeta tat tenaiva vinirdiset. Yad anyatra means that if the brahminical qualities are visible, manifest in a person of another class—even in a sudra or candala [outcaste]—tat tenaiva vinirdiset: one should accept him as a brahmana. Similarly, if one is born in a brahmana family but his qualities are like those of a sudra, he should be accepted as a sudra. This is the injunction given by Narada Muni, who is not an ordinary person. And upon this, Sridhara Swami the greatest commentator on the Srimad-Bhagavatam, has written that janma, birth, is not the chief requirement for becoming a brahmana; one must be qualified with sama, dama, titiksava, suci. Then he should be accepted.
So it is the duty of the ksatriyas to see that everyone is performing his religious duty according to his position. Unfortunately. the so-called government men are also sudras. The so-called priests are sudras. The so-called vaisyas are sudras. The whole world is now full of sudras. You cannot expect anything very nice in this situation, because everything is being conducted by sudras.
Krsna is advising Arjuna: "This is not an ordinary fight. It is dharma-yuddha, and you should accept it; you should not hesitate. After all, the soul is never killed." As long as one is in the bodily concept of life, sva-dharma means this brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, and sudra. Arjuna was a ksatriya; therefore his sva-dharma, his occupational duty, was to fight.
The real sva-dharma is spiritual sva-dharma. When you go deep into the matter—when you understand that "I am not this body, I am soul"—that is real sva-dharma. And what is the occupation of that sva-dharma? That is to be engaged in the service of the Lord. Jivera 'svarupa' haya—krsnera 'nitya-dasa.' Actually that is sva-dharma. Every soul is eternally a servant of Lord Krsna. That is spiritual sva-dharma. And material sva-dharma means this brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, and sudra.
Therefore the sva-dharma changes as soon as one is elevated to the spiritual platform. That is explained in Bhagavad-gita: sa gunan samatityaitan brahma-bhuyaya kalpate. One who is engaged in devotional service is transcendental. He has no more sva-dharma in the bodily concept of life, because he's neither brahmana nor ksatriya nor vaisya nor sudra. Caitanya Mahaprabhu has said. "I am not a brahmana: I am not a sudra; I am not a ksatriya: I am not a brahmacari: I am not a sannyasi." In this way He negated all eight items of varnasrama-dharma. Sva-dharma means varnasrama-dharma: varna and asrama. Four castes: brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, and sudra. And four spiritual orders: brahmacari, grhastha, vanaprastha, and sannyasa.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu denied that He belonged to any of them—"I am not this: I am not this: I am not that." Then what are You? Gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah. Gopi-bhartuh means "the maintainer of the gopis [Krsna]." "I am the servant of the servant of the servant of the servant of whoever is engaged in the service of the lotus feet of Krsna."
Those who are in Krsna consciousness, those who have decided to serve Krsna only, are no longer in the categories of the bodily sva-dharma of brahmana, ksatriya , vaisya, sudra, or brahmacari, vanaprastha, and so on. They are transcendental. That is confirmed in every sastra [scripture].
But as long as our bodily concept of life is not completely eradicated, we must follow the sva-dharma of the body. When one is actually advanced, he is a maha-bhagavata. We should not imitate that, but as we advance in Krsna consciousness, we become transcendental to this bodily concept of life. Krsna says, mam ca yo 'vyabhicarena bhakti-yogena sevate/ sa gunan samatityaitan brahma-bhuyaya kalpate.
So anyone who engages without any reservation in the service of the Lord is not within the eight categories of varnasrama-dharma. He is transcendental. And as a Krsna conscious person, he can act in any category by the order of Krsna. He can act as a brahmana, or he can act as a sudra, because his main business is to carry out Krsna's order. He's no longer within the category of this sva-dharma.
So Krsna is leaving no option for Arjuna but to fight: "This way or that way, you must fight. If you think you are not in the bodily concept, then it is My order—'You must fight.' If you think you are in the bodily concept of life, then you are a ksatriya—you must fight Both ways you must fight" This is Krsna's conclusion.
Thank you very much.
This series systematically explains some of the important philosophical concepts that form the foundation of the Vedic culture and the Krsna consciousness movement.
Lesson Four: The Law of Karma
by Panavesana Dasa
PART I: In high school I was taught in religion class that after death good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell—for eternity in both cases. One day I asked the teacher, "What happens if a baby dies? Does he go to heaven or to hell?"
My teacher replied, "He goes to heaven, of course, because he has never committed any sins."
I immediately perceived a rather gruesome derivation of this logic and formulated another question: "But, therefore, wouldn't it be best to kill all the babies right away? Then they could never commit any sins and would go straight to heaven. After all, if they grow up, there is a real danger that they will become sinners and end up going to hell."
My impertinent inquiry was greeted with indignant silence. How dare this boy ask such a question! I knew my proposal was only academic, because it violated one of the most basic religious injunctions. But still the question remained unresolved. What does happen to the baby? My proposal was obviously out of the question, but my teacher's answer got him into a logical dilemma.
About twenty years later, on my way to Knoxville, Tennessee, I saw a bumper-sticker that reminded me of this incident: "If you died tonight, would you go to heaven or hell?"
Here it was again, the same black-and-white supposition—no alternatives, no gray area, only heaven or hell.
This time I began to reflect on the matter, and I recognized that the statement implied three things:
1. There is only one life, one chance.
I had the same feeling I'd had in high school twenty years before. This didn't make sense. It wasn't logical. Why would God create someone to grow up in the crime-ridden slums of a big city, have him fight for subsistence, just to eternally vanish into hell? I thought this bumper sticker was good advertisement for atheism.
Just a few days before my trip to Knoxville, I had watched a program on TV: When Bad Things Happen to Good People, by Rabbi Kushner. He said that when something bad happens to a good person, there are, from the religious point of view, three assumptions generally made:
1. The person is good.
Rabbi Kushner proposed that out of these three options, only two at a time can go together. As soon as all three are together. a contradiction arises.
If the person is good and God is all-powerful, then God could have prevented the bad thing from happening to the good person. Consequently, God can't be all-merciful. But Kushner rejects that solution, because it would make people hate an unmerciful God.
If God is all-powerful and all-merciful, then He would never let bad things happen to good people. Consequently, the person must be bad. But obviously bad things do happen to good, innocent people. (Kushner's own son died of a disease at an early age.) After all, it's bad psychology to tell good people they must have deserved whatever happened to them, because it makes them hate themselves. So Kushner rejects that solution too.
The last possible combination is that the person is good and God is all-merciful. but He is not all-powerful. Rabbi Kushner endorses this possibility and rationalizes that bad things aren't caused by God but rather by bad people and by the forces of nature. He concludes that God is the creator, but His creation is going on somewhat independently of Him. Therefore God can't do much about the suffering, but He can help His children endure the unavoidable misery He can't prevent, and in this way He is quite helpful.
This also didn't make sense to me. If God is not all-powerful, then what is the ultimate power? If there is a power superior to God, then God is not supreme. But then, who is supreme? Who created that power God can't control? What is the ultimate refuge? An all-merciful but not all-powerful God defies the definition of God as the Supreme Being. Rabbi Kushner's theory leads to concealed atheism.
Reflecting upon these three incidents. I can appreciate the tremendous benefit of having studied the ancient Vedic scriptures for over a decade. Contrary to Western culture and philosophy, the Vedic literature establishes the law of karma, working under God's supervision, as the main guiding factor in our existence. Karma provides the only logical and spiritually sound answer to all the incidents cited above.
The word karma has at least three meanings:
1. any material activity that produces a reaction and therefore leads to the development of another body,
Everyone is constantly performing activities. either physical or mental. The Bhagavad-gita (3.5) confirms. "No one can refrain from doing something, not even for a moment."
We are all well aware of Newton's law that states that every action causes a reaction. In fact we observe the validity of this law hundreds or thousands of times every day. Without it, time would stand still—nothing could move.
Karma is simply the extension of Newton's law. Instead of dealing merely with inert objects, it applies to our actions, words, and thoughts. We can understand the mechanism of these laws in detail from the Vedic scriptures.
Understanding karma begins with understanding the condition of the spirit soul in the material world. The spirit soul is originally an inhabitant of the spiritual world. But he has a certain amount of independence and can attempt to be happy without God. This material world is created by God to provide the rebellious souls with such an opportunity.
Here the spirit soul is covered by a material body and mind. He tries to reject God's authority and attempts to control nature himself. In this process he identifies strongly with his material body and makes its gratification his goal.
Obviously, accepting the laws of karma and being an atheist don't go together. A materialistic person wants to control everything, while he maintains the notion that he himself is independent.
Yet clearly we are not controlling nature; nature is controlling us. Sometimes the weather is too hot; sometimes it's too cold. We can't change these things. Can we stop a hurricane? Can we make it rain when there is a drought?
Nobody has any control over where or when he takes birth, what kind of body he is given, or who his parents will be. Somehow or other, nature puts every one of us in our own predicament. Obviously we are not controlling everything.
Sometimes a person treated for a minor disease will die, and sometimes after doctors give up on someone, he miraculously recovers. Where is our control?
Two children may be born in the same family, they may be given the same opportunities, but one may become successful. and the other may be a failure. Everyone is trying to become happy, but not everyone succeeds. No one is trying to become unhappy, but misery comes out of its own accord, and happiness also comes to people in ways they don't expect or work for.
If we could actually control nature and our lives, everyone would be rich, happy, and healthy. But clearly there are forces controlling us. Therefore an intelligent person will try to find out w hat these forces are, how they work, and how we can benefit from them.
This is how Newton formulated his famous law. He observed the forces of nature and investigated them. He was not satisfied to know that there are forces—he wanted to know how they work. We owe to his inquisitiveness an incredible amount of technological advancement.
Similarly, if we want to find out what is beneficial for us, we have to investigate the forces that control our lives. But we have one big advantage over Newton: The universal laws we are concerned with have already been explained in the Vedic literature. and they have been confirmed by great spiritual authorities. All we have to do is study them.
The general definition of karma is that it is material activity. That means it is activity performed with attachment to the result, it is temporary, and it is done without spiritual understanding.
Material activity can be subdivided into good and bad karma:
Good karma: If the living entity acts piously, he can enjoy in this life and in future lives. The results of good karma are wealth, beauty, good parentage, health. knowledge, happiness, birth on heavenly planets, and so on.
Bad karma: If the living entity acts impiously, violating scriptural injunctions and acting according to his own whims, he has to suffer the reactions. The results of bad karma are poverty, disease, ugliness, birth on lower planets or in undesirable circumstances, and so on.
We learn from Bhagavad-gita, however, that all karma—good or bad—is always bad, because karma forces us to accept another material body. A material body in any situation brings with it the sufferings of birth, death, old age, and disease. The Vedic literature also categorizes other miseries we get on account of the material body:
1. Miseries inflicted on us by our body and mind, like disease, stress, anxiety, fear.
Because the living entity cannot stop performing activities, he cannot stop incurring karma. Every activity he performs binds him in the karmic cycle.
Everything happening to us now is the cumulative effect of our past activities from either this life or previous lives. Sometimes we enjoy; sometimes we suffer. In one life we have a human body, in another an animal body. As long as we are bound by this continuous cycle of actions and reactions, we will be forced to accept one material body after another.
Spiritual activity is performed without attachment, on behalf of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna. in full spiritual knowledge, without desire for personal sense gratification, and for the eternal benefit of the soul.
The Bhagavad-gita (3.9) defines spiritual activity thus:
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.
Spiritual activity does not produce karmic reactions. Rather, it results in one's not having to accept another material body, and it enables one to go back to the spiritual world at the time of death.
If a soldier kills people in a war on behalf of his government, he will not be punished for such killing, but rather he will receive a medal. But if the same soldier kills his neighbor on his own behalf, he will be convicted and sent to prison.
Similarly, if the living entity acts on behalf of the supreme authority. Krsna. or His representative, the spiritual master. he does not incur any sinful reactions. But if he acts on his own behalf, he will be bound in the cycle of karma.
(To be continued.)
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
Green Or Greed?
by Krsna Dharma dasa (Manchester, England)
At last it seems the world is waking up. Green politics are becoming quite the fashion now, and even the most adamant politicians are making overtures to ecology. "All Conservatives are conservationists," intoned Mrs. Thatcher, somewhat uncharacteristically, at her party's recent gathering. "We are committed to the environment." Well, at least it's a start to talk concerned, even if one's actions seem to evince a rather different outlook.
Certainly there is enough evidence to indicate the disastrous effects our consumer society is having upon the environment. Even in India, one of the last bastions of agrarian life, the facts are horrifying. Walter Schwarz, a well-known ecologist and journalist, says that a third of India's 266 million hectares of agricultural land is now wasteland because of erosion, waterlogging, or salinity—the grim effects of deforestation and modern irrigation. Another third is classed as "partially" degraded. The average Indian now has a quarter of the land he had in 1951.
It is none too soon for people to become aware of the absurdities being perpetrated in the name of progress—the atrocious rape of our planet, for which we must all accept some blame. Actually, blame is ours as soon as we become a part of the corrupt system that demands continuous and total exploitation of the earth's resources. The person who receives the stolen goods is as much a criminal as the thief. Even unwittingly from our very birth, we are all quickly caught up in a vicious chain of global misdemeanors—the baby's bottle made from oil-derived plastics, the leather shoes, the multifarious chemical drugs we swallow.
"But wait!" I hear you cry. "Don't blame me; I hate this crazy system. And as for my child, he has no idea what is going on out there; he's surely innocent."
Which brings us to the real point: what is the actual cause underlying the abuse of nature? Why has man not been content with his traditional piece of land and a few animals, gleaning just enough for his day-to-day survival?
Let's take the situation of a villager plowing over his smallholding and milking his cows. Meanwhile, elsewhere, the industrialist has set up his nuts-and-bolts factory and, in search of workers to man his enterprise, heads out to the villages. Espying our hapless villager, he promptly offers him currency to come and work for him.
Now we get to the root of the real problem. The villager is swayed by the prospect of acquiring Western-style clothes, cosmetics, cars, and so on—the trappings of a so-called successful material life, which have all been broadly advertised as necessities by the entrepreneurs who produce them. But will these items ensure his happiness and free him from suffering?. Will he ever be satisfied by any number of such possessions?
Obviously, the answer is no. He will be caught in the same upward spiral of increasing desires that grips the man who exploits him. From the Bhagavad-gita, we learn that lust, the basis of all desire, "burns like fire and is never satisfied." One who attempts to satisfy lust becomes "bound by a network of hundreds and thousands of desires."
The villager gives up producing food and sets off to manufacture metal parts or whatever. Thus those who remain working the land, now faced with producing food for those who went in search of inedible fortunes, resort to modern, assisted farming methods to better exploit the earth. If our foolish villager had resisted his lusty desires when approached by the entrepreneur, then the whole ruinous system would have halted at its outset. Thus the actual cause of the degradation discussed here is ignorance: the mistaken belief that material acquisitions will bring happiness.
Of course, this greatly simplifies what has now become a "complex society," to cite a popular phrase. But is the truth so far from this simple tale? What about ourselves? What are we striving for? If we aim to increase our material happiness by adding to our possessions and bank balance, then are we not a cog in the machine that is grinding away the earth? Who among us wouldn't choose a good post carrying a substantial wage over living off the land, with no money and all the austerities such a life would entail?
Once this has been understood, it becomes clear that no amount of scaremongering with terrible accounts of transgressions against nature will solve the problem. Even given the solution, who is going to apply it?
Actually, Krsna wants us to live a peaceful life, harmonious with nature. In the Third Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita (3.9-14), He informs us that we should live by sacrifice to produce rains and thus food grains. There is no mention of industry and other modern-day anathemas that outrage the ecology-minded. The saintly queen Kunti says in Srimad-Bhagavatam, "The cities and villages are flourishing in all respects because the herbs and grains are in abundance, the trees are full of fruits, the rivers are flowing, the hills are full of minerals, and the oceans are full of wealth." What has brought about this desirable situation? A high GNP? A low trade deficit? Good exports? No.
She continues: "And this is due to Your [Krsna's] glancing over them." The glance of the Supreme Lord—all that is required to ensure prosperity.
But how does one elicit the Lord's glance? Perhaps one good way may be to try following His suggestions on how to live, as we have already mentioned. But again, who will or even can do this? Some are already, but the numbers who daily capitulate with the advance of so-called technological progress far exceed those going back to the land. We need some incentive before we can contemplate the prospect of abandoning the comfortable amenities of modern society, illusory though they may well be.
Being the supremely intelligent person, Krsna is certainly not foolishly recommending a wholly impossible and intolerable way of life. He is completely aware that if we do not follow His edicts, we will suffer far more than if we do, a fact now being discovered by the environmentalists. Lord Krsna says, "One who does not follow in human life the cycle of sacrifice established by the Vedas ... lives in vain." By following His directives, we "become free from the bondage of fruitive actions." As all suffering is due to karma, or reactions to previous acts, freedom from karma means an end to suffering. The wealth accrued from industrial endeavors is never going to free anyone from karma, although by aspiring for a life free from suffering, the worker is in effect hoping for just that.
By developing huge capitalistic enterprises, we move away from God and His instructions and become victimized by our own greed. Life quickly becomes intolerable. In India, because of decades of power pumping for "advanced" agriculture and industry, millions of wells have dried up or become saline. Groundwater levels have fallen thirty meters in one decade. "At the national level, current patterns of agricultural development will outstrip water availability by the turn of the century," says a report by the Indian National Trust for Art and Heritage.
The need is urgent, as pointed out by many, but the answer is seen by few. We have to take note of the instructions of Krsna and act accordingly. Then we will experience real material prosperity and actual happiness. Otherwise, the consequences are too dreadful to imagine.
Duty calls a prince to leave his spiritual practices in the mountains and set an example of real renunciation—as a king.
by Bhurijana Dasa
Perhaps you've heard a tale of some wealthy person who renounced this world for the service of God. The Fifth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam relates another kind of story: that of an adept renunciant who becomes a king—on the order of the Supreme Lord. Can he resist the pleasures of palace life? Can he spiritually survive? What can today's man of the world learn from Priyavrata—a royal renunciant at the dawn of civilization?
Because Priyavrata was interested in spiritual truth—far beyond regality, treasures, and intrigues—he had allowed his younger brother. Uttanapada, to become king. After Uttanapada's death, Svayambhuva Manu, the father of Priyavrata and Uttanapada, ascended Gandhamadana Hill to persuade Priyavrata to renounce renunciation and rule the kingdom.
As father and son met, Priyavrata's teacher, the sage Narada Muni, listened attentively. Around them were grassy slopes dotted with blossoms of red, purple, and blue. The clear water in a nearby lake rippled as waterfalls spilled from mountain peaks. Other peaks stretched back in the distance. Soft, pleasant breezes were blowing.
Manu spoke first: "Rule the kingdom. Take charge. The scriptures reveal this as your duty. You have a grave responsibility to uphold, and none but you can do it."
As a dutiful son, Priyavrata was inclined to accept his father's order. Yet he was fearful. He knew of material life. Despite its promise of grandeur and thrills, it's doomed. So, why get involved? Why become attached? Priyavrata fully understood the folly of material attachment, yet he still feared pitting the strength of his realization against maya, the potent mystical force that rivets one to the temporary. even against one's better judgment.
Priyavrata felt himself fortunate to be in training under Narada Muni, a pure devotee of Krsna. Residing peacefully with Narada on Gandhamadana Hill, Priyavrata did not welcome exchanging his wealth of Krsna consciousness for an insignificant kingship within a doomed world. He thus thought it wise to remain aloof, fixed in renunciation. Priyavrata, therefore, conscientiously inquired from Manu, "I foresee my spiritual life deteriorating by accepting such a great earthly responsibility. If I take up the kingship as you are requesting, might it not divert me from my devotional service to Krsna?"
When Manu heard Priyavrata's reply—practically a refusal—he felt hopeless. Who else could rule the kingdom? Would he, in his old age, have to reoccupy the imperial throne to protect the welfare of the citizens?
As Manu sat perplexed. Lord Brahma, a pre-eminent spiritual authority and the father of Narada and Manu. arrived on Gandhamadana Hill. Startled, Narada, Manu, and Priyavrata at once stood up, spontaneously joining their palms in reverence. They intoned the appropriate Vedic hymns and offered gifts. Thus, according to the facilities available on Gandhamadana Hill, they affectionately welcomed Brahma.
Brahma glanced benignly at Narada and Manu to show his appreciation for their hospitality and then turned to the renunciant prince and smiled compassionately. "My dear Priyavrata, please listen carefully. I come carrying Lord Krsna's order. For your true welfare, accept the Lord's desire as your own. You, as well as all others, are His eternal servant. Even I must carry out the orders of the Supreme Lord, as must Manu and Narada."
How different is Brahma from modern leaders! Instead of carrying forward injunctions of God. today's leaders hold proudly to their independent skepticism, which measures progress in skyscrapers, superconductors, and bombs. And we followers blindly submit! If we continue to heed those whose promises feed our whimsical albeit cherished fantasies, our lives, wasted, will end in emptiness and despair. On the other hand, if we break from contemporary conditioning and act according to the authority and desires of Krsna. our path to perfection will be set.
But today, are trustworthy spiritual authorities available? Or should each of us fathom God's desire by obeying the subtle voices within? Quite a dangerous proposition, as, after all, much disturbance and downright evil has been perpetrated upon the world by misanthropes convinced that they carry the will of the Lord. Brahma suggests nothing so impractical to Priyavrata, as he continues to enlighten him:
"As a blind man travels best when led by a person with perfect vision or as a yoked bull pulls most effectively when commanded by his driver, one achieves the foremost benefit from life by accepting the authority of Krsna's desire, as it is revealed through the Vedic scriptures, such as the Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad-Bhagavatam, and through the words of pure spiritual masters."
Although Priyavrata readily accepted the wisdom of Brahma's instruction to dutifully work under the authority of Krsna as it descends through scriptures and spiritual masters, he nevertheless remained puzzled. Which authority should he follow? His guru, Narada, had previously advised him to remain renounced, free from material affairs, and now Brahma, the teacher of Narada, was hinting that he acquire an entire kingdom with its accompanying entourage of queens, princes, and palaces.
Krsna unravels the seemingly inherent contradiction between spiritual life and interaction with the material world in the Bhagavad-gita (18.66). The Lord explains to Arjuna:
"Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender to Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear." Thus the test of whether an activity is spiritual or material, contaminating or purifying, fit to discard or worthy to continue, is simply whether that activity is congruous with Krsna's desire. If it is, then the work is spiritual, purifying, and will draw one closer to perfection. If not, that activity, even if appearing glorious, is contaminating and will weave one tighter within the cloth of material existence.
The solution to Priyavrata's dilemma? Neglect neither authority. Narada had taught Priyavrata to remain renounced; Brahma instructed Priyavrata to become king. Staying renounced while interacting with the material world as a king requires spiritual intelligence. Sri Rupa Gosvami, a great teacher in the disciplic line from Brahma, has defined intelligence as the ability to use matter in the service of Krsna. Since when we die we leave behind all possessions, nothing really belongs to us. A true renunciant, therefore, does not "renounce" what he doesn't possess, but rather applies all to the service of Krsna, the universal proprietor.
"Do not use your position as king for your own pleasures." Brahma continued, "or you'll achieve another material body and thus remain trapped within the web of material suffering. Become king, but as Krsna's servant. Fix your mind upon pleasing Him. Become distracted neither by the kingdom's delights nor by its griefs. Tolerate their comings and goings as they appear and depart of their own course. View both the pleasures and miseries as if they were last night's dream. Remain steady in Krsna's service."
"Beware, however," Brahma warned Priyavrata, "of the mind and senses. If uncontrolled, they'll arouse you to explore the temporary, entice you to squander your life, and drag you from your goal. Thus, fear not the kingship, but fear the real enemies: an uncontrolled mind and senses. Even if one renounces and travels from one secluded forest to the next, such enemies will cause great danger. On the other hand, even if married, a man who controls his mind and senses will be as secure as a king safely protected within mighty fortress walls. Even a life with wife and children will not harm a self-satisfied, learned soul."
Controlling one's mind and senses, as well as true renunciation, is automatically accomplished if one follows the rules and regulations of spiritual life and uses everything in Krsna's service. "Therefore," Brahma explained, "one can attain real shelter only by fixing one's consciousness with devotion at the lotus feet of Krsna."
But can a king. or even a contemporary man surrounded by earthly pleasures. neglect his selfish and sensuous desires and fix his consciousness with devotion on Krsna? Can he really use everything in Krsna's service? Yes. if he strictly accepts the practice of chanting Krsna's names. The key to success—love of Krsna—will naturally develop within his heart.
harer nama harer nama
"In this age of quarrel, there is no other way to attain spiritual perfection than chanting the holy name, chanting the holy name. chanting the holy name of the Lord." As a plant grows when watered, our affectionate relationship with Krsna flourishes the more we chant His names. Thus our inclination to serve Him increases, whether we, by our fate, are sitting on a royal throne, on a mendicant's woven mat, or behind a modern desk. We can thus act in pure consciousness, thinking, "I've been placed here by Krsna. How can I please the Lord through this work?"
With the help of Krsna. who lives within everyone's heart, all impediments to this pure consciousness will be overcome. If we are eager to hear about Krsna, well learn from the scriptures how to recognize His existence everywhere. While drinking water we'll reflect that He's the taste that quenches our thirst. If we gaze upon a flock of birds in graceful flight well appreciate Krsna's artistic sense. Well see ability as His gift, wisdom as a particle of His knowledge, and death as His unavoidable representative. All that is glorious within this world we will see as a minute fragment of Krsna's energy, as we understand that the entire universe is sustained by His potencies.
As we hear about Krsna. we'll also learn that as the supremely powerful controller. He has full capacity to perfectly please, maintain, and serve all His devotees. Thus we will clearly see the folly of limiting our love to the faulty relationships cramped within our workaday purview. And naturally our yearning to uncover our forgotten personal relationship with Krsna will increase.
To further enhance our yearning. Krsna tells us in the Bhagavad-gita (18.68-69),
ya idam paramam guhyam
na ca tasman manusyesu
"For one who explains this supreme secret [Krsna consciousness] to the devotees, pure devotional service is guaranteed, and at the end he will come back to Me. There is no servant in this world more dear to Me than he, nor will there ever be one more dear."
Caitanya Mahaprabhu similarly implored. "Instruct whomever you meet to follow the orders of Lord Sri Krsna as they are given in the Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad-Bhagavatam. In this way become a guru and liberate everyone within your land. Follow this precept, and your life at home shall not obstruct your spiritual advancement." Any sincere person who preaches according to this order of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu will achieve the Lord's blessings and become unaffected by the material influences.
We can preach by speaking about Krsna, or we can incorporate our intelligence, money, ability, or time into preaching Krsna consciousness. If one is a scholar, scientist, philosopher, or poet, he can study the energy of the Lord and employ his learning to glorify the Lord's supremacy. If one is an administrator or politician, he can establish the Lord's supremacy through statesmanship. If one is a businessman, industrialist, or agriculturalist, he can spend his money for the cause of the Lord, thinking of money as Krsna's and meant for His service.
Brahma then summarized his instructions to Priyavrata: "Seek the shelter of Krsna through carrying out His order. Thus you will always be protected by the Lord, just as a bee caught within the closed petals of a lotus flower is guarded from the blazing summer sun."
Priyavrata's brow wrinkled as he pondered Brahma's words. As the seconds passed, the chirps and squawks of birds suddenly seemed prominent. No one moved. At last Priyavrata raised his head, and a deep smile spread across his noble face as he bowed to Brahma in dutiful submission. Priyavrata would be king. He had accepted Brahma's order.
Manu first felt relief, then joy, and finally deep gratitude, as he began to worship Brahma. Narada and Priyavrata, satisfied and free from resentment, stood to watch Brahma as he departed.
Surrendered to the desire of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna, Priyavrata left the solitude and peace of Gandhamadana Hill and began governing his kingdom. He ruled according to religious principles and protected the citizens as his own begotten children. Knowing his determination, thieves and rogues fled. His piety' brought abundant rain and ample grains and fruits. No excessive taxes disturbed the citizens.
Priyavrata married, begot ten children with his wife. Barhismati, and trained them in pure devotional service. Externally he appeared like an exceptional, powerful king, enraptured by the beauty of Barhismati and entangled within the unlimited complexities, opulences, and powers of royalty, Internally. Priyavrata remained fixed in renunciation, his consciousness lovingly fastened to the lotus feet of Krsna.
After many years of ruling. Priyavrata, to teach us to avoid the fate of materialists who die thinking of wealth, wife, and home, lamented: "Alas, how condemned I have become! I have fallen into material enchantment My plight is as hopeless as that of a wanderer who has tumbled into a deep, forgotten well hidden within a farmer's unplowed acres. I have been reduced to a dancing monkey in the hands of my wife. But it is finished. I have had enough!"
Thus, toward the end of his life. Priyavrata abdicated his throne. He rejected royalty and divided his opulent kingdom among his obedient sons. Freed from material aspirations and absorbed in heartfelt Krsna consciousness, he returned to the sanctified, simple life of a renunciant Priyavrata had triumphed. He had remained renounced and pure despite his royal position—all because he understood the essence of the ancient art of work and dedicated his work completely to the lotus feet of Krsna.
He began by clarifying our philosophical concept of God; then he showed us how to spiritualize our lives.
by Hridayananda Dasa Goswami
The following is a talk given at the ISKCON-sponsored conference on religious freedom held in San Diego, November 3-4, 1988. The conference was called "Cultures in Conflict: The Hare Krsna Movement in America."
I'm going to concentrate on a little bit of straight philosophy. I've tried to isolate a few fundamental philosophical points or issues areas in which I think Srila Prabhupada made a major contribution in helping people understand very important things in life. So I'll go through these, and then I'll relate all that to the issues at hand.
Prabhupada makes a very important philosophical distinction in the introduction to his Srimad-Bhagavatam. He says that the concept of God is not the same as the concept of the Absolute Truth, although, he says, the concept of God is contained within the concept of the Absolute Truth. By discussing that distinction Prabhupada makes, we can see some very important aspects of the philosophy he presented. He says that the Absolute Truth is distinguished as being the source of all emanation, the source of all that be, that by whom or by which everything is maintained, and that in whom or in which everything comes to rest at the end, whereas we may say "God" and simply mean, as the dictionary says. "the Supreme Being."
The concept of supremacy does not necessarily imply the concept of an absolute being. It can simply mean "the greatest being." And if we use it in that sense, then we may enter into a dualistic world view in which there is a Supreme Being, but there are other beings who compete with Him. So by insisting on the concept of Absolute Truth, Prabhupada at once conceptually transcends mere dualism in his philosophy, or in his presentation of the Bhagavatam philosophy. We arrive, therefore, in the words of Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself, at the very fundamental concept of acintya-bhedabheda-tattva. This. in a phrase, is the doctrine of Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Acintya, in Sanskrit, means "inconceivable," although not "unknowable." In the Bhagavad-gita, there's an interesting verse in the Second Chapter where Krsna says that the soul is acintya, inconceivable. But—tasmad evam viditvainam—once you know that soul, you will understand that inconceivability is one of its properties.
In other words, the soul is inconceivable by our own mental efforts, our own intellectual agility, but it's not unknowable. Thus the whole realm of knowledge that comes down to us from superior beings opens to us knowledge of those things we cannot attain by our own unaided efforts.
So this inconceivable but knowable truth (acintya-bhedabheda-tattva) is that the Absolute Truth, or God, stands in a relationship with everything else in a state of simultaneous difference and nondifference. The popular metaphor is that of the sun. Plato also uses this metaphor in The Republic. The idea is that we may think of the sun and its rays as one thing—it's the sun shining—or we may think of them separately, that here is the sun in a particular point in the sky, and there are the rays in sunny California. So we may talk about the sun and the rays, or the sun shining, as one thing. This is an example of oneness and difference. The sun represents Krsna, or God, and the rays are His energy.
Krsna states in the Bhagavad-gita that the energy of God is beginningless. There is no creation from nothing. Both matter in its original form and we, the living beings, have always existed. What's accomplished by that philosophically is that one achieves the absolute harmony and unity of monism, and at the same time, one does not sacrifice our individual existence, our relationship with the Supreme, our devotion and love for God. All these very powerful ideas and experiences are not sacrificed in order to achieve an ontological unity. So the way Prabhupada explained the oneness and difference of God and His creation, in terms of the concept of Absolute Truth over and above a mere concept of a Supreme Being, was a very significant statement.
Now, we have the very well known Vedic statement: sarvam khalv idam brahma, that everything is brahma, more or less in the sense I just explained. And the Bhagavatam states: idam hi visvam bhagavan ivetaro—that God is the universe and God is not the universe, because it's His energy and He's nondifferent from His energy. The practical implication of this philosophically in terms of our daily life, or what it means to practice spiritual life, is what Rupa Gosvami called yukta-vairagya, or renunciation of this material world by offering the world unto God by using it in the proper way.
To illustrate this very simply, Prabhupada gave an example of three different reactions to money left lying in the street. The first man comes along and—no questions asked—he picks it up and takes it home. So that's an ordinary person—without too many moral dilemmas in his mind.
The second person comes along, and he wants to renounce this world. He thinks money is illusion; it's maya. So he simply walks away and leaves it there and feels he's achieved a type of moral victory.
The third person picks up the money and takes it back to the owner. Prabhupada said this is the position of the Vaisnava: because this world belongs to God, he doesn't try to exploit it for his own sense gratification, nor does he try to renounce it Logically, we can't renounce that which we don't possess. If I say, "From this day on. I renounce the Bank of America." people may say, "Well, how can you give it up? It was never yours."
So the idea is to use everything in this world for God because everything is God's energy. And Rupa Gosvami puts this little note in: yatharham, which means, "appropriately." I remember back in the "old days," people would smoke drugs and say, "Well, I'm doing this for God." So yatharham means that one should use things appropriately according to ethical and spiritual principles.
What follows from Rupa Gosvami's principle of yukta-vairagya is that spiritual life does not become a dry renunciation of this world or a hypocritical life in which I try to enjoy this world but at the same time claim to be religious, saying that God doesn't expect us to actually follow anything. What we actually have is an opportunity to engage all of our senses in spiritual life.
And this is the sense of the word yoga, which comes from the Sanskrit root yuj: "to connect to link up." Yoga means connecting all our cognitive faculties—our senses, our mind, our intelligence, our working energy—with the Absolute Truth, and by that connection, all our faculties become spiritualized. Prabhupada's popular example in this connection was that of putting an iron bar into fire—the iron begins to act like fire. So spiritual life with Prabhupada or under Prabhupada becomes a very joyous affair, in which one can eat prasadam, one can sing, one can dance, one can see the pictures of Krsna, one can work to his heart's content one can be an intellectual, a pot washer, a truck driver, a doctor, a lawyer—for Krsna, because everything is Krsna's. and everything can be used for Krsna. This concept of yukta-vairagya, or not simply giving everything up but giving everything up to Krsna, is also a logical consequence of the doctrine of the Absolute Truth's being the source of all energies.
Then the result of this is that because God is anandamaya, or "full of bliss," by connecting all of one's cognitive faculties with God, one experiences pleasure and joy through the senses, the mind, and the intelligence, and life itself becomes blissful. That bliss, or that spiritual ecstasy, is the basis of giving up our propensity to exploit the material world. Krsna states in the Bhagavad-gita: param drstva nivartate, by experiencing the higher taste, or experiencing something better, one can give up something inferior.
We all have the experience of giving up our toys; something we thought perhaps, we'd never be able to do. But at a particular point we all gave up our toys. In the same way, by experiencing Krsna, one can give up the lower taste of what Krsna calls samsparsa-ja-bhoga, the pleasure derived by bringing the senses into contact with matter in different ways. At that point the devotee, or the Vaisnava, no longer sees the Absolute Truth simply as an object of his pleasure, but becoming purified by contact with Krsna—just like the iron that became fire—by that purification, one understands oneself to be the eternal servant of God.
There's a very important statement in the Caitanya-caritamrta that Prabhupada would often quote: Krsna-bhakta—niskama, ata eva 'santa'/ bhukti-mukti-siddhi-kami, sakali 'asanta.' That means that all these people are not peaceful: those who still desire bhukti, ordinary material happiness—beautiful women, a nice house, money, and all these things; those who desire mukti, the salvationists, who see religion as a means to achieve one's own salvation; or those who desire siddhi, who want to derive mystic powers. Krsnadasa Kaviraja said approximately five centuries ago that—sakali—all these people are asanta: they're still not peaceful. They're disturbed by some desire to get something for themselves, even if it's such a noble desire as the desire for salvation. Whereas he said, Krsna-bhakta—krsna-bhakta—niskama ataeva 'santa': those who simply want to please the Lord without any personal desire—they're santa. They've come to the liberated platform, because they're self-satisfied. They only want to please Krsna without anything in return.
This leads me to another point a very, very important statement that Srila Prabhupada would frequently quote. It's the second of the eighteen thousand verses from the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Vyasadeva says. dharmah projjhita-kaitavo 'tra: This scripture rejects all kaitava-dharma, cheating religion, religion in which we approach God not out of love, not to serve Him, but to get something from Him."
This is very much like the Socratic, or Platonic, dialogue The Euthyphro, where Socrates asks Euthyphro what religion means, and Euthyphro says it means to worship the gods and then enjoy their rewards. Socrates correctly says, "This is more business than religion or piety."
So exactly in this sense, real religion, in Prabhupada's statement whether it's Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism—any bona fide tradition—has as its ultimate goal love of God, and at that point the love is selfless. One is not worshiping God to get anything in return. One has full confidence and full satisfaction in the act of serving God. In fact there's a statement—jivera 'svarupa' haya—krsnera 'nitya dasa'—that the constitutional position of the living being is to serve God.
So what happens to someone who actually believes all this and practices it and realizes it? After we lecture, people often ask us, "What if everyone were to become like you?" To answer the question of what is the effect on a person who's successfully "brainwashed" in the Krsna consciousness movement I wanted to introduce what I consider a significant analytic scheme that would be a very fruitful starting point for sociological, ethical, and psychological analysis. And that is the constant theme in the Bhagavad-gita of the three modes of material nature.
Krsna takes a lot of time talking about this. It's not overtly theological. Very briefly, Krsna says that there are three primary qualities of life, which mix in innumerable permutations, just like the primary colors. These three fundamental qualities of life are the qualities of goodness, passion, and ignorance.
The good person is a more-or-less enlightened person. He or she is gentle, humble, kind to all creatures; works with a sense of duty, without ambition or lust or greed; works simply for the benefit of others; is very peaceful, self-satisfied, and so on—the good person.
Beneath this is the passionate person, who's very ambitious and greedy, who seeks name and fame, prestige, power, money, and all these things, but seeks them in the context of a social life, or by following the rules. But he's seeking personal aggrandizement, which, of course, is most of what's going on nowadays in this country.
Then beneath this there's the ignorant person. Krsna gives his symptoms as being lazy, unproductive, and so on. Society has programs for such people—drug addicts, people who have a very serious psychological problem, who are suicidal, who can't really even maintain themselves. This is the mode of ignorance.
In the context of the brainwashing discussion, what I wanted to introduce is that one of the main problems in this whole discussion is that the American people, or people in general, don't really have any objective way to discuss qualities of life. Our civilization has produced many ways of quantifying life. but when we come to quality of life, we're a little gun-shy because we think that no one should impose his values on anyone else. But I would suggest that Krsna has presented here a nontheological—you may say it's metaphysical. but not strongly theological—framework in which we can evaluate the quality of life. I'd like to read in that context a description from Krsna of the person in the mode of goodness, because it's stated that to become spiritually advanced. one at least has to come to the material quality of goodness.
These are some statements from Krsna. He says, vidya-vinaya-sampanne brahmane gavi hastini/ suni caiva sva-pake ca panditah sama-darsinah [Bhagavad-gita 5.18]. This is the definition of a learned person, a pandita. Krsna says, "The humble sages, by virtue of true know ledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant a dog, and a dog-eater [outcaste]." In other words, a learned person is one who sees everyone equally.
Here's Prabhupada's purport to this verse: "A Krsna conscious person does not make any distinction between species or castes. The brahmana and the outcaste may be different from the social point of view, or a dog, a cow, and an elephant may be different from the point of view of species, but these differences of body are meaningless from the viewpoint of a learned transcendentalist. This is due to their relationship to the Supreme, for the Supreme Lord. by His plenary portion as Paramatma, is present in everyone's heart. Such an understanding of the Supreme is real knowledge."
Then we find another statement by Krsna: atmaupamyena sarvatra samam pasyati yo 'rjuna/ sukham va yadi va duhkham sa yogi paramo matah [Bhagavad-gita 6.32]. Translation: "He is a perfect yogi who, by comparison to his own self, sees the true equality of all beings, in both their happiness and their distress. O Arjuna!"
And finally there's Krsna's direct statement upon knowledge in the mode of goodness, the world view of a person in the quality of goodness. Krsna says, sarva-bhutesu yenaikam bhavam avyayam iksate/ avibhaktam vibhaktesu taj jnanam viddhi sattvikam "That knowledge by which one undivided spiritual nature is seen in all living entities, though they are divided into innumerable forms, you should understand to be in the mode of goodness" [Bhagavad-gita 18.20].
And Prabhupada says, "A person who sees one spirit soul in every living being, whether a demigod, human being, animal, bird, beast aquatic, or plant possesses knowledge in the mode of goodness. . . . To see that one superior nature, the living force, in every body is to see in the mode of goodness. That living energy is imperishable. . . ."
What I would like to suggest here is that it is actually the quality of goodness, as Krsna calls it, that is the real basis of the ethical life and of egalitarianism, which is certainly a metaphysical concept empirically totally nonverifiable—the equality of human beings, and what to speak of all life. The quality of goodness leads to that state, whereas a person in passion—the ambitious, greedy, or proud person—sees people as different. There are friends, enemies, good guys, and bad guys. There's "us and them." This is the symptom of passion.
So if we want to come to an enlightened society—beyond simply making appeals to be good—there must actually be scientific or practical programs by which people can be brought to goodness. The programs Srila Prabhupada instituted for the Krsna consciousness movement are meant for doing just that.
The nationalist, the musician, the parent—the depth of their feelings hints at the power of love of God.
by Dvarakadhisa Devi Dasi
I could foresee during my pregnancy that I was approaching a turning point in my life. I went through those days mentally noting. "I won't be able to do this. I won't be able to do that." I observed mothers struggling with hefty babies, strollers, and diaper bags. "That will be me," I shuddered. But somehow I never expected the cadence of my life to alter dramatically. I supposed that I would remain unchanged, except for the additional baggage.
Well, I was so wrong. From the day my daughter was born I realized how superficial my previous conceptions of motherhood had been. Sure there were the well-publicized endless chores, a lot of ga-ga-ing, and discussions on diaper rash—things that had been totally disdainful before. But how those changes were dwarfed by the revolution in my heart as I became increasingly enamoured of the tiny girl. Those weary first days spent rocking, pacing, and pampering seemed to flow along in one great wave of affection. However tiresome the activities, they seemed so sweet because of my love for my daughter.
Having come to understand, with some chagrin, what little I knew of maternal love before becoming a mother, I can also comprehend that there are many varieties of love of which I have no experience. I can't tell you. for instance, of the fierce patriotism that inspires someone to die for his country. Nor can I understand why anyone would spend hours a day playing the violin. From my dispassionate vantage point, I can't penetrate the core of such heartfelt emotion.
These examples of love—for a nation or music or a child—flourish here in this world. But they are not perfect love, because they depend on circumstantial arrangements by which the lover extracts pleasure from the beloved object. I love my daughter because . . . well, because she's my daughter. It's a happenstance of our bodily relationship. In material love, which is dependent on the body, when the intimacy arranged by circumstance is lost, the emotion eventually evaporates.
Someone might protest that one person can love another for an entire lifetime, and that death itself cannot severe the attachment So how can you call it temporary, material love?
When speaking of the eternal spirit soul. we have to consider that there are many, many lifetimes. We may fondly recall our beloved even after his or her body perishes, but what about our loved ones in our previous life? Or hundreds of lives? Who can remember all those distant relationships? The spirit soul is propelled into innumerable bodies, each with its particular passions, yet all is ultimately forgotten. Such is the nature of material love.
Beyond this fundamentally ephemeral love is real, spiritual love, the natural love every spirit soul feels for the transcendent Supreme Lord, Krsna. Although every living entity has the potential to develop deep, eternal exchanges of love with the source of all pleasure Himself, such love is rarely seen in this world. Yet the scriptures offer a glimpse of how intimately the Lord deals with the pure-hearted souls who reserve all love and affection for Him alone.
A famous example is the five Pandava brothers. The story of their pastimes as Lord Krsna's cousins is magnificently told in the epic Mahabharata. Srila Prabhupada explains their special relationship with the Lord:
Lord Krsna is everything to unalloyed devotees like the Pandavas. The Lord was for them the Supreme Lord, the spiritual master, the worshipable Deity, the guide, the chariot driver, the friend, the servant the messenger, and everything they could conceive of. And thus the Lord also reciprocated the feelings of the Pandavas . . . . The Pandavas were so malleable to the will of the Lord that they could sacrifice any amount of energy for the service of the Lord, and by such unalloyed determination they could secure the Lord's mercy in any shape they desired. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.6.16, purport)
Although such sublime love is also our own spiritual legacy, it can be regained in full only when the heart is cleansed of all conflicting lovable objects. How can we join the Lord, unhampered, in His spiritual pastimes, if we are yearning after the lesser pleasures offered in the material arena?
Furthermore, simply to announce one's love for the Lord is but a hollow declaration unless one is indeed dedicated to His glorification and service above all else. The example of the Pandavas indicates that the Supreme Lord may be served in many ways, but always in accordance with His will.
The scriptures show us the pure devotees' love so that we might reverently worship them, not so that we can attempt superficial imitation. We might as yet be unable to taste the sweetness of pure love for God, but we can still derive true spiritual benefit by submissively hearing of that pure love. "Simply by appreciating the dealings of the Lord with His pure devotees." Srila Prabhupada writes, "one can attain salvation."
Still, what is the fate of those of us deeply entrenched in temporal, illusory relationships? Should those real feelings be denied, repressed, abandoned? Well, that's hardly a realistic solution, since love is a primary nutrient of the human psyche. And even more than that, it is intrinsic to the soul. We won't be awarded transcendental love for God simply by denying feelings of affection, or by harboring them secretly. The apparent absence of overt material attachments doesn't necessarily indicate spiritual consciousness; it may simply be material neurosis. A better choice would be to accept the feelings of love in perspective. As my love for my daughter has so enriched my life, despite the pains of self-sacrifice, how much more would love for God enhance my existence? What unimaginable magnitude of pleasure must there be in that sublime relationship with Him! We can crave that experience and strive for it earnestly. And when we and those with whom we have material relationships embrace devotion to Krsna as a common goal, our union becomes a powerful, transcendental vehicle toward the ultimate realization of love of God.
Today I am entranced by my little girl's activities, always thinking of her needs and desires. This love of the mother for the child was cited by Srila Prabhupada as the closest thing in the material world to pure love. Compared to other kinds of love in this world, it is selfless, unconditional, fulfilling. Yet even this is not the real love of the spirit soul. not the love that will free me from misery and death. That pure, spiritual love, which is infinite and eternal, is the special benediction of the Supreme Lord upon one who qualifies himself through sinless service. It is for a taste of that love that I pray.
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna
You might not think this picture shows someone practicing yoga. But chanting the names of God is actually the supreme form of yoga. Of course, devotees chanting Hare Krsna certainly don't took much like yogis. At least not the kind of yogis most people think of when they hear the word. But most people, it seems, have little understanding of what yoga is really all about
Yoga is a Sanskrit word meaning "union." India's ancient Sanskrit literatures, the Vedas, explain that the purpose of yoga is to purify our consciousness so that we can reestablish our eternal relationship with God. The sitting postures and breathing exercises most people associate with yoga are part of a certain type of yoga system—known as hatha-yoga—that was practiced thousands of years ago. By practicing hatha-yoga, great sages could completely withdraw their mind and senses from the material world and, after a very long time, find God within their hearts.
In this age the Vedas discourage us from trying to reach God through hatha-yoga. We just don't have the time or the determination. But in this age God, or Krsna, has come in the form of His name. The goal of yoga, union with God, is easily attained through chanting Hare Krsna. And unlike other forms of yoga, the results come quickly. So, you too can be a yogi. Just try chanting Hare Krsna—and feel yourself coming closer to God.
The Quest for Synthesis
The opposition between religion and science is a modern phenomenon—and a critical problem for humanity.
by Ravindra-Svarupa Dasa
The following is Part I of a paper presented at the World Congress for the Synthesis of Science and Religion, held January 9-12, 1986, in Bombay. The paper was originally entitled "The Contribution of Bhagavata-dharma Toward a 'Scientific Religion' and a 'Religious Science.' "
In the Bhagavad-gita (15.15), Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, says vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyah. The usual English renderings go something like "By all the Vedas I alone am to be known." Such translations properly take the first word, vedaih, as denoting that collection of venerable Sanskrit works held authoritative by the ancient civilization of India. So we can correctly understand Krsna's assertion in this way: If you study the Vedic texts thoroughly and carefully, you will discover that He, the Supreme Person, is directly or indirectly the only subject taught
Although our understanding thus stated is correct, it falls short of expressing the intended meaning. The text, however, offers a clue to its full understanding in the deliberate resonance between the first and last words: vedaih and vedyah. They are, of course, cognates, both derived from the root vid, "to know." The word veda simply means "knowledge," and the writings that expound knowledge are, therefore, called Veda. Thus, the full meaning of Krsna's statement is better conveyed in this way: "By all processes of knowledge, I alone am to be known." And, considering that the Sanskrit vid has the same sense as the Latin scire, we can also convey Krsna's intention with these words: "All science is just a searching after Me."
Here, then, we have two renderings: "By all the Vedas I alone am to be known," and "By all processes of knowledge—all science—I am to be known." There is much to be noted about the difference between them. The second, to us today, is a far more powerful, and probably far more interesting. assertion. The first falls short of conveying as much to us, for we automatically think of the Vedas as writings of a particular kind, namely "scripture," relevant only to an activity of a particular kind, namely "religion," and specifically to a religion of a particular kind, namely "Hinduism."
But clearly those who first learned and taught Bhagavad-gita did not understand themselves to be dealing with "scripture of the Hindu religion." In their context, the Vedas were simply repositories of knowledge, a comprehensive encyclopedia of all ascertained truth. In our modern context, they have become "scripture"—which means something else. Similarly, for Krsna and Arjuna, to follow the Vedas was not to "practice a religion," as we understand the expression, but rather to live life so as to realize one's full human potential in thought in feeling, and in action.
Today we think of "religion" as a specialized kind of enterprise, set over against the rest of human life, a kind of addendum or extra in human culture. The development of this concept of religion is a product of modern secularization, as Wilfred Cantwell Smith has shown. The modern West has been formed by secularization, that process which has sought to convey more and more natural and human territory from the jurisdiction of the divine and annex it firmly to the sovereign operation of autonomous human reason and enterprise.
In a secular culture there can be much "religion," but, by common consent, religion is kept in its place and does not intrude itself into the central societal concerns, such as the pursuit of knowledge or wealth. It is relatively common, for example, to hear a scientist make this pronouncement: "Yes, I believe in God, but as a scientist I cannot consider that." This epitomizes secularization.
I think those of us gathered here to explore possibilities for the synthesis of science and religion recognize that the present estrangement between them constitutes a critical problem for the modern world. Indeed, this problem, in various guises, can be seen as the central quandary of Western culture since the Renaissance. Science sundered from religion is blind, unable to guide human life according to ultimate ends; religion sundered from science is lame, incapable of conveying its vision into the thick of our actual commerce with the world.
The religion and science of modernity, conceived in mutual disjunction, embodied in separate institutions, and grown to conscious self-definition over against one another, have both emerged historically as handicapped and unwholesome caricatures of the whole they ought to be: the single human enterprise we may call either a truly religious science or a truly scientific religion.
To appreciate the meaning, therefore, of Krsna's Bhagavad-gita statement, we have to try to overcome our secularized consciousness and think ourselves back into a culture that possessed the unity we now lack. To us, the questions of the final conclusion of the Vedas and the final conclusion of science are different kinds of questions and have no bearing on each other. I would like to explore the possibility that they have a great deal to do with each other and suggest a way in which the Bhagavad-gita may make an important contribution to our quest for synthesis.
We have before us two ways of understanding Krsna's statement, according to whether we take vedaih as referring to the beliefs of a particular religious tradition or to the human quest for knowledge as such. Taking this disjunction as the starting place, I will first explore what Krsna is claiming in reference to the Vedic tradition and then see how that may bear upon the universal quest
I will use the words "veda" and "Vedic" to refer not just to the four seminal works that go by that name (the Rg, Sama, Yajur, and Atharva Vedas), but also to the vast and diverse supplementary literature that has grown up around them. Those who profess adherence to the Vedas comprise a large and bewildering array of traditions. These traditions developed into highly sophisticated, and often quite specialized, schools of thought each with its ancient lineage of illustrious teachers; its own arsenal of special practices and techniques, in which students, through intense cultivation. frequently attain stunning virtuosity; each with its own formidable library of commentaries, commentaries on commentaries, and so on, much of which, presupposing a knowledgeable reader, is composed with great compression in extremely technical, specialized vocabulary, and so remains virtually unintelligible to the uninitiated.
The Vedas are likened by their adherents to the kalpa-vrksa, the celestial tree that liberally produces any sort of fruit desired, and this bountiful proliferation of diverse Vedic schools, in intense pursuit of specialized ends. shows the aptness of the metaphor. At the same time, all schools considered it axiomatic that the Vedas ultimately taught a single siddhanta, i.e., final end or purpose. This state of affairs—a multiplicity of variant traditions with a shared conviction of ultimate unity—naturally led the thinkers of ancient India to engage in the exercise that has become so vital to the fate of the world today: to analyze diverse world views comparatively and adjudicate among them.
Viewed in this light the Bhagavad-gita can be seen as an essay in comparative religion—bearing in mind that the word religion here is systematically misleading. The Bhagavad-gita itself uses the word dharma, which has been translated as "truth," "religion," "duty," "path," "righteousness," and so on. In its broadest sense, dharma denotes a way or form of life that possesses its own integrity and validity by virtue of being centered on truth.
As we have seen, out of the Vedas there had emerged a variety of schools, each with powerful and persuasive advocates of its own dharma. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna surveys them: the practice of Vedic ritualistic yajna, or sacrifice; the disinterested performance of worldly duties; the propitiation of various devatas, or controlling demigods; the attainment of trance of self-realization through physiological mastery, sensory withdrawal, and mental concentration; the ascent to absolute consciousness through philosophical discrimination and world-renunciation—these are some of the main ones.
In essence, the Bhagavad-gita acknowledges the truth and validity of the various Vedic dharmas, yet at the same time holds that the particular knowledge and realization offered in each dharma attains to its completion in Krsna (vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyah). Since all Vedic dharmas are thus but various indirect ways to Him. Krsna accordingly offers Arjuna the opportunity to make a short work of it and come directly to the final end. Sarva-dharman parityajya;, He instructs: "Just abandon all other dharmas"; mam ekam saranam vraja—"and come to Me alone for shelter" (18.66). In this way, Bhagavad-gita teaches that the ultimate dharma is unalloyed loving service to the supreme personal feature of the Absolute Truth.
Now, a deep study of the way the Bhagavad-gita reaches its conclusions, as undertaken by teachers of the Bhagavata school of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, brings to light a certain paradigm of human spiritual and poetic development as a dialectical process consisting of three principal phases or moments. I shall call these three phases (or spiritual platforms) karma, jnana, and bhakti.
Karma, in this context denotes those rationally organized activities aimed at acquiring "the good things of life" for ourselves and those we identify with ourselves. Thus, we labor to gain secure and continuous possession and enjoyment of health and vitality: of land and goods and money; of grace, charm, and beauty, both animate and inanimate; of love, honor, and repute; and the like.
The section of the Vedas called the karma-kanda provides for such ends. Central to this enterprise was an extremely highly developed activity of the sort now referred to as "ritual"—in particular, the yajna, or sacrifice. The Vedic yajna was an elaborate and painstaking endeavor in which the learned and expert performers (rtvij), working according to the Vedic paradigm (tantra), had to arrange correctly the detailed paraphernalia (prtag-dravya) at precisely the proper place (desa), and, at the right time (kala), build the fire (agni) and conduct the sacrifice itself (kratu), carrying out all the prescribed procedures (dharma) and reciting the correct verbal formulae (mantra) with perfect precision. If—and only if—everything were flawlessly executed according to most exacting standards of correctness, then the benefits for which the sacrifice was performed would accrue to the patron—the sponsor—of the sacrifice (yajamana).
It is easy to see how the form of life that centered itself upon the Vedic yajna became a cult of technique. For mastery of technique was the key to power. By constructing a microcosmic image of the cosmos, and duplicating in fine the act of creation, the properly performed yajna gathered, condensed, and localized the power of the cosmos itself—and so put this power into the hands of those adept at technique. Those who mastered yajna mastered the cosmos. This ethos of mastery through technique attained explicit expression in the writings of the Karma-mimamsa, the philosophical school that took yajna as the prime Vedic dharma.
Now, in the mantras recited at sacrifice. the names of various devatas—controlling demigods—are invoked, and it would seem that these mantras summoned the favor of the gods, and the sacrifice achieved its results by propitiating them. Not so, claims the Karma-mimamsa. The mantras and the procedures are potent in and of themselves, and they evoke the gods in order to compel them or their specific powers. Indeed, the gods themselves are sustained by the power of sacrifice. As for a supreme God, the Karma-mimamsa school either denies His existence or declares His irrelevance.
Thinking of this way of life as a "religion," using terms such as "rite," "ritual," "ritual act" etc., impedes our comprehension of what is going on. But if we can view it on its own terms, then we see at once that essentially the same form of life is reincarnated, as it were, today in the culture of science and science-centered humanism.
The practice of yajna is science—an archaic science, but science nonetheless—i.e., an enterprise centrally concerned with acquiring mastery of practical techniques for the direct control and domination of nature for human benefit. This is not to minimize differences, of course. But the performer of the sacrifice, the rtvij, is far more like today's scientist than today's priest. We should understand, for example, that when the rtvij took great pains to observe what we call "ritual purity," he was, in his own mind, establishing the required mental preconditions for the efficacy of his mantras. Even though we may not believe that thought can act on matter over distance (unless we are persuaded by some experiments in psychical research), the acts of the rtvij are still intelligible to us as "establishing controlled laboratory conditions."
Another interesting feature of this Vedic tradition is how the fascination or obsession with the power of technique gave rise to the depersonalization or disenchantment of the world. Technique cannot give direct mastery if there are higher controlling beings—God or the gods—who stand in the way. Therefore God or the gods are denied—if not written out of the ontology, then denied the effective exercise of any controlling power. In this, of course, we see anticipated the exact process that accompanied the rise of modern science in Europe.
The stage of spiritual development I call karma rises out of the natural need to maintain our physical well-being; and in every culture karmic activity is present It is endemic to human life.
Yet there are times when the karmic ethos attains particularly full development, and a cult of technical power over nature dominates human culture, defining the means and ends of life. The karmic ethos then attains full and coherent historical self-expression, and is thus epitomized—as in the Vedic karma-kanda tradition and in the culture of natural science in the West.
When the cultivation of karma attains such complete development, in individuals or in cultures, it tends in time to engender a reaction or counterculture. This antithetical moment I call jnana.
The reaction springs from acute disappointment in technique. When one possesses all the goods provided by technique and yet remains unsatisfied and unfulfilled, he realizes that "the good things of life" are not good enough and what is good enough is beyond technique.
Now, such disappointment can—and often does—produce sterile and unproductive pessimism or cynicism, but within the cult of technique there also develops an impetus toward knowledge—knowledge not merely for control but for its own sake, and where this has become prominent, the encounter with the limits of technique is fruitful.
Those within the culture of technique who become drawn to the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake inevitably find themselves engaged in a search for first or ultimate principles; for the one that engenders or contains the many; for the single, elegant law that explains everything explicable, and so on. They become preoccupied, in short, with the Absolute Truth. This truth has its own compelling fascination for the researcher, and when he approaches that truth, he encounters a limit, a barrier, which, in principle, his knowledge cannot breach. He realizes that what lies beyond the barrier, of which he cannot in principle speak but must remain silent, is the final goal of his quest.
The simultaneous encounter of the limit of technique on two fronts—in providing both knowledge and well-being—gives the strongest impetus to the formation of a culture of jnana. As the antithetical phase to world-mastering karma, jnana becomes a search for transcendence conceived as world negating. In the noetic realm, transcendence is indicated by means of negation, by the systematic elimination of all concepts and categories of phenomenal existence—which means, ultimately, of all language, all thought itself. Western theology knows this pursuit as the via negativa, or apophatic theology. In the jnana-kanda section of the Vedas, the procedure is characterized as neti neti, i.e., "not this, not that."
In the realm of value, jnana expresses its opposition to karma through the culture of renunciation—a thoroughgoing rejection of the world, its activities, and its supposed goods. Thus, in both the noetic and the valuative realms, rejection or negation is the keynote.
In the Sanskrit literature of this tradition, knowledge (i.e.. the via negativa) and renunciation are wed into a single frequently encountered compound: jnana-vairagya. Those who engaged in the intense cultivation of jnana-vairagya testify to an eventual dissolution of phenomenal selfhood and a breaking through phenomenal existence into a transcendent state, which, although strictly beyond description, is spoken of as a total merging into absolute existence and consciousness, a unity without diversity or distinction. This state, being absolute, is the sole reality; there is no other existence beside it, to relate to it. Thus, the phenomenal world is denied—in philosophy, it is eliminated altogether from the ontology or granted a kind of illusory, provisional semi-existence.
The theory of illusion, in its most extreme form. sees not only the gods but also God. i.e., the Supreme Person, as products of illusion, to be employed or tolerated in practice as convenient fictions. Indeed, valid objects of worship, all ultimately factitious, can be arbitrarily many, and one's own self, any favored controlling demigod, or the cosmos itself can serve.
Another impetus toward the formation of jnana is provided by a culture of karma that has fallen into gross excess and abuse. Thus in India, the eventual corruption of the Vedic karma-kanda cult of sacrifice provoked the most radical development of jnana in the form of the Buddhist reaction. Rejecting the Vedas altogether, the Buddha inaugurated a tradition that has produced the world's most thoroughgoing negative theology. This extreme form of jnana eventually worked its way back into Vedic tradition through Sankaracarya.
(To be continued.)
The second part of this essay will show how the West itself has for the last two centuries been undergoing an attempt at moving from the culture of karma to the culture of jnana. In the West, the historical establishment of a culture of karma is known to us under the name of the "Enlightenment." The "counter-Enlightenment" and the ensuing "Romantic movement" exemplify, in reaction, a culture of jnana. Both cultures are still struggling fruitlessly with each other today. An analysis of the spiritual conditions of the West shows why progress does not take place. However, the final stage of bhakti has been introduced from the outside; and it can be embraced directly, in spite of the failed karma and jnana of the West. This will resolve the pathological split between religion and science in our time.
The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
ISKCON Festival at Miami's Asia Fest
Miami, Florida—ISKCON devotees here recently participated in AsiaFest, a million-dollar exhibition to promote Asian-American tourism and trade. ISKCON's contribution to the event was organized by Yadurani-devi dasi, a long-time artist for the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust and founder of CIVA: The Cultural Institute for the Vedic Arts.
When Yadurani dasi first heard about the exhibition, which was expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people, she saw it as an ideal opportunity to exhibit CIVA's collection of Krsna-related art. Although the participation fee for AsiaFest was $7,000, when Yadurani dasi told organizer Burton Wolfe about the art exhibit, he waived the entire fee.
All Yadurani needed was a tent and that led her to Madhuha dasa, leader of ISKCON's Traveling Festival of India, which is the mainstay of most of the Ratha-yatra festivals in North America. What began as a chance for a transcendental art exhibit gradually grew into a full-scale Hare Krsna festival, including the Miami Beach temple's Gitavali bhajana band; Bharata-natyam dancer Deva Deva dasa; cooking demonstrations; theater; puppet shows; Govinda's Gift Store; and the Festival of India's exhibits on reincarnation, vegetarianism, Deity worship, Srila Prabhupada, and more.
While Yadurani dasi painted at the art exhibit, where thirty-five original oil paintings were on display, many people came to get her autograph on posters of her paintings. Devotees distributed prasadam (food offered to Krsna) and Srila Prabhupada's books to thousands of people. Although the AsiaFest organizers were at first skeptical of ISKCON's participation, they were changed by the spiritual atmosphere and by witnessing festival-goers' enthusiasm for ISKCON's exhibits. At the end of the festival, the second-in-charge (who had been the most skeptical in the beginning) told Yadurani, "You were all fabulous. Thank you for your patience, your kindness, your music, your food, and everything. We couldn't have done it without you.
Michigan magazine, the Sunday supplement of the Detroit News, printed a cover story on the Detroit devotees called "Kindred Spirits." The cover photograph shows Apurva dasa chanting, with his nine-month-old son, Amala-purana dasa, clapping along. The nine-page article includes sixteen full-color photographs and stresses the devotees' life of sacrifice and austerity amid the opulence of the Detroit temple.
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ISKCON devotees participated in the week-long Diwali festival in Trinidad. Because half of the population is of Asian-Indian descent the festival is attended by tens of thousands of people. ISKCON had a stage, an exhibition tent, Gaura-Nitai Deities, dioramas, books, prasadam, plays, and chanting. On the last day of the festival, devotees chanted from 7:00 P.M. until 2:00 AM., with the crowd still demanding more.
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On World Food Day, the minister of agriculture for Mauritius honored ISKCON's Vedic farm there with a cash prize for their cow protection program. The farm has a bio-gas plant that was the subject of a recent program on the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation. "The cows and bulls were integral parts of the Vedic economic system," says Giriraja Swami. "The cow produces milk and the bull provides labor. Even the dung can be used, as demonstrated at the ISKCON Vedic farm."
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Devotees in Guyana are bringing Krsna consciousness to the people there with a Pada-yatra (walking festival) along the main highway. The route stretches east to west along the coast, where most of the population lives. The people are enthusiastically receiving the devotees and attending the evening programs of chanting and distribution of prasadam and Srila Prabhupada's books.
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ISKCON New Zealand is sponsoring cultural programs for bringing Indian artists to New Zealand. The first performance featured Bharata-natyam dancer Chandra Bhanu and sitar player Pandit Giriraja. Devotees sold prasadam and Srila Prabhupada's books in the lobby. After his appearance, Pandit Giriraj said, "I am now going to make it my mission to tell people throughout the world of the excellent work Srila Prabhupada's movement is doing for our culture and spiritual philosophy."
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The Final Pastimes of Srila Prabhupada, a drama by Tamala Krishna Goswami, is now available from ISKCON Dallas (write, or call 214-823-7264). The hardbound, 120-page book includes ten original illustrations. Garuda dasa, director of the Institute for Vaisnava Studies, writes in the Foreword, "The present work, which grew out of experiences recorded in the author's diary of Prabhupada's final activities and words, captures the feelings and thoughts that went through the hearts and minds of many disciples as they struggled to take care of their spiritual master during the moments that led to his departure."
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Agrani Swami, ISKCON's Governing Body Commissioner for the Caribbean, says, "Devotees have successfully organized many large-scale programs in Guyana, but the spiritual impact of the Pada-yatra exceeds them all. Wherever we go, people provide accommodations. Hindu associations invite us into their temples and attend our programs to hear Lord Caitanya's philosophy. People compete to sponsor our evening festivals, and we get many more invitations than we can accept."
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: Srila Prabhupada, the Gita verse we've just read is very striking. Lord Krsna says that with their materialistic views, "the demoniac, who are lost to themselves and have no intelligence, engage in unbeneficial, horrible works meant to destroy the world."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Krsna says ugra-karmanah: these people are performing horrible works. The factory—this is ugra-karma, a horrible work.
In reality, only a little karma, a little work, is required. You simply see to it, for instance, that some wheat is growing. A little tilling—that is sufficient
What is the use of opening a big, big factory? That is ugra-karma. How has it helped? How has it helped that people are kept in some factory, simply for earning their livelihood.
Just a little work will provide people's needs. Nature has given so much facility. You can grow a little food anywhere. The cows are there in the pasturing ground. Take their milk and live peacefully. Why do you open factories? What is the use? You are simply keeping yourselves in a hellish condition.
So this is the description given by Krsna in Bhagavad-gita. Now discuss these points.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada. Krsna says demoniac leaders are engaging in unbeneficial, horrible works meant to destroy the world. And you said this statement anticipates nuclear weapons. These words of Krsna are so true.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. God is speaking. Krsna is speaking.
Disciple: In college I was studying nuclear energy and thinking it would save the world—that by nuclear energy our leaders could give us bigger corn, bigger tomatoes, and . . .
Srila Prabhupada: Bigger deaths. The ultimate result of these rascals' work is bigger deaths. Everything must be big. Formerly, during some conflict, only a few men were dying: now, many hundreds of thousands will die. Bigger deaths. During your college days, you did not consider that these big leaders were bringing bigger deaths?
Disciple: In a way, Srila Prabhupada. It was very frustrating, because from every so-called good thing these people were trying to do, so many more bad things were coming forth.
Srila Prabhupada: Karma jagat. The law of karma, which governs this material world, is that if you want to make a house, then somewhere you have to cut trees down. Somewhere you have to destroy—only then can you make your house. You have to "adjust" things like that. So in reality, you cannot create. You create your house by destroying somewhere else. Is it not? So where is your creation? Real creation is God's creation. Without destroying anything. He has created everything. But if you want to create, then somewhere you have to destroy. That is the law of karma.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, as you know, in Chapter Seven of the Gita, Krsna describes rascals with the word duskrtina. And as you explain in the Purport, duskrtina indicates merit and intelligence. Misused, of course, yet very real merit and intelligence.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, intelligence. For example, after destroying a tree. you use your intelligence to construct a house. So you have intelligence. There is no doubt. A human being must have intelligence. But that intelligence is given to him for getting out of the clutches of birth, death, old age, and disease. Unfortunately, the so-called modern man is not using his intelligence for that purpose. Therefore, he is a duskrtina, a rascal.
Intelligence he has got. We don't say that modern man is unintelligent, that he is a complete fool. No. He has got intelligence. But he is utilizing that intelligence for duskarya, work which he should not have done.
There are karya and duskarya, proper work and bad work. Man's intelligence was given so that he could get relief from these clutches of birth, death, old age and disease. But that intelligence he's not utilizing. He's opening a factory and creating a completely different atmosphere, a bad atmosphere. Therefore, he is a rascal. To open a factory requires intelligence. All sorts of complicated machines have to be coordinated. So intelligence is there. But how is this intelligence being used? To keep people in a hellish condition of life. Therefore, modern man is a duskrtina, an intelligent rascal.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, it's amazing. People have become so shortsighted. For instance, they open a factory for some kind of economic development but they're not thinking of the factory's ill effects. Water pollution, air pollution, noise pollution, stress, broken families, delinquency, drugs, crime—so many things.
Srila Prabhupada: Therefore Krsna calls them duskrtinas, and then He calls them mudhas, asses.
Disciple: At the same time, Srila Prabhupada. Krsna also says, mattah smrtir jnanam—"Everyone's intelligence comes from Me alone." So some might criticize that Krsna Himself is misleading people, giving people faulty intelligence.
Srila Prabhupada: You wanted to do something, so Krsna gives you the intelligence to do what you wanted. If you want to manufacture a very complicated machine. Krsna will give you that intelligence: "All right do like this. Here is how to manufacture."
But you'll not hear Krsna when He says, sarva-dharman parityajya: "You rascal, give up all this and surrender to Me." That is real intelligence. But you'll not do it.
(To be continued.)
We should not be envious of Krsna. Because He is the origin of everything, He has the unchallengeable right to enjoy in any way He likes. In Goloka Vrndavana, Krsna's home in the spiritual world, everything and everyone is an expansion of His internal potency and thus exists for His pleasure only. Krsna eternally enjoys an unlimited variety of relationships with His devotees. Although all of Krsna's devotees are full of love for Him. He is especially conquered by the unconditional love of the gopis, the cowherd girls of Vrndavana. The gopis are willing to give up everything to serve Krsna, and for this Krsna is ever indebted to them. Because their happiness comes only from serving Krsna, they demonstrate the epitome of love of God. The loving affairs of Krsna and the gopis are on the absolute, transcendental plane, and we can never understand them in our present impure state of consciousness. If we take pleasure in hearing of Krsna's pastimes with His devotees, however, we too will one day gain entrance into the blissful, pristine realm of Krsna consciousness.
Reply to a Grieving Mother
A recent "Notes from the Editor" essay, "The Power of Prayer," drew a response from a grieving mother, who wrote as follows:
I read your article on prayer and sadly found no answer to a question that was plaguing me. I would not call myself a "church woman," but I have always honored God in my heart.
Even a person with full transcendental knowledge may grieve when he is separated from a loved one. But his solace is to remember the instructions of the Bhagavad-gita: "For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He is not slain when the body is slain." Lord Krsna spoke these words not as armchair discussion but as crucial advice to the grief-stricken Arjuna, who was anticipating the mass slaughter of all his friends and relatives in warfare. The meaning is that the beloved person who has died, or who is about to die, doesn't actually face extinction. The soul is immortal, and therefore even after the demise of the body, the atma, or spirit-self, lives on in another life—either in this mortal world or in the spiritual world.
Although Lord Krsna was very compassionate to His friend Arjuna, He also mildly admonished him for his grief and said. "While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor for the dead" (Bhagavad-gita 2.11).
But perhaps hearing precepts on immortality is not enough when one is feeling the pain of loss. We want to know why death had to occur to our loved one, especially when it seems to be a premature death. Here again, Vedic knowledge helps us with definite, nonsentimental information. A person takes birth in a particular body and family and lives for a certain duration of time based on his or her karma. Karma is the law of action and reaction.
As His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada writes, "According to one's desire and activities, material nature places one in various residential quarters. The being himself is the cause of his attaining such residential quarters and his attendant enjoyment or suffering. But once placed in some particular kind of body, he comes under the control of nature." Therefore, because of sinful or inauspicious acts we committed toward others in a past life, we may have to die prematurely in our present life. But this in turn diminishes our bad karma, so that in the future we no longer have to suffer for our past misdeeds. The karmic results of our own actions are carried out by inexorable laws beyond our power to control.
When a person is faced with traumatic losses, his faith is tested. Those who fail the test, owing to a lack of knowledge about atma, karma, and the Supreme, may become agnostics or atheists. But one who knows from authorized Vedic sources the reality of life and death moves even closer to God at times of death. When we approach the death of a loved one, or when we come close to our own death, we can see it as nature's way of showing us that life is short and that soon all our attempts at happiness in the material world will be finished. Our shock at meeting death shows us that we have been living in illusion.
Our emotional confusion makes us think that God has done something wrong to us when death takes away a loved one. Actually, Lord Krsna wants to deliver us from ever facing death again. But liberation from death can be achieved only when we revive our original God consciousness. The living entity is originally an eternal, blissful servant of God, and his residence is in the kingdom of God, the spiritual world. But because of envy of God, we have fallen to this material world, where we try to carry out our plans for self-centered, material enjoyment. Unfortunately, instead of enjoyment, we meet with suffering and death.
Lord Krsna does not want us to remain in a suffering condition, and so He comes to this world in different incarnations and sends His representatives, just to teach us how to go back to home, back to Godhead, where we are free of repeated birth and death. As Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita (4.9), "One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode. O Arjuna." Just as Arjuna applied these teachings in battle, so they can be applied by a grieving mother in the case of her seventeen-year-old daughter, or by any of us.
But sometimes a survivor becomes unreasonable and unable to hear good instruction. For example, one time a grieving mother asked Gautama Buddha if he could bring her young son back to life. Buddha said that he would try to help her, but first he requested her to gather some grains from all the houses in the local village. He stipulated, however, that she should bring grains only from houses in which no death had occurred. The woman became hopeful of regaining her dead son and set out to gather grains. But at each house, when she asked whether any death had occurred there, the residents said that recently or in the past death had occurred in their house. Gradually, the woman began to learn the lesson: Death occurs to all, and so we should not grieve or attempt to change the inevitable.
Krsna consciousness similarly teaches that "One who has taken birth is sure to die, and after death one is sure to take birth again. Therefore, in the inevitable discharge of your duty, you should not lament" (Bhagavad-gita 2.27). But beyond this, Lord Krsna teaches liberation from death, through bhakti, or loving service to the Supreme Lord. By association with devotees and scriptures, we can learn this art. If during this present lifetime we can perfect love of God, then death will have no dominion over us. When we realize that we are not these bodies but joyful, eternal servants of Krsna, then death itself becomes our release from suffering and our entrance into eternity, bliss, and knowledge.—SDG