Lord Krsna describes different
A lecture in Stockholm on September 10, 1973
"The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: 'Now hear, O son of Prtha [Arjuna], how by practicing yoga in full consciousness of Me, with mind attached to Me, you can know Me in full, free from doubt.' " (Bhagavad-gita 7.1)
This is a verse from the Seventh Chapter of Bhagavad-gita, which we have published as Bhagavad-gita As It Is. There are many editions of Bhagavad-gita, and most of them have been edited to push forward the editor's own philosophical views. But we do not accept Bhagavad-gita in that light. Bhagavad-gita is spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is stated here, bhagavan uvaca. Those who are Sanskrit scholars will understand what is meant by the word bhagavan. Bhaga means "opulence," and one who possesses something is called van. So bhagavan means "one who possesses all opulences."
There are six kinds of opulence: wealth, reputation, strength, knowledge, renunciation, and beauty. If a person is very rich, he is opulent: he attracts the attention of many persons. Similarly, if a person is very influential or strong, he also attracts. If a man is very famous for his activities, he also attracts attention. If a man or woman is very beautiful, he or she attracts attention. If one is very learned, he also attracts attention.
We all possess these opulences in some small quantity. Every one of us may possess some riches, may be a little wise or a little strong. But when you find that person who possesses more opulences than anyone else, that is God. The Sanskrit word for this is asamordhva. Sama means "equal." and asama means "without being equal." And urdhva means "above." No one is equal to or greater than God. That is the definition of God. "God is great" means that nobody is equal to Him and nobody is above Him in any kind of opulence. That is called bhagavan.
Vyasadeva writes in Bhagavad-gita to describe Krsna. Bhagavad-gita is one of the chapters of Mahabharata. Mahabharata means "the history of greater India." India is the name given by Westerners. But the real name is Bharata-varsa. Bharata-varsa means not only India but the whole planet Five thousand years ago it was known as Bharata-varsa. Now the name Bharata-varsa indicates only India.
So the background of this Bhagavad-gita is that there was a worldwide fight called the Battle of Kuruksetra. Kuruksetra is a place that still exists, and there was a battle there five thousand years ago. The main parties in the fight were cousin-brothers, the Kurus and the Pandavas. Bhagavad-gita was spoken there by Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavan.
Therefore, it is said bhagavan uvaca. Krsna is teaching Arjuna bhakti-yoga. Yoga is the means by which you can contact the Supreme. Yoga means "linking." There are many yoga systems for linking ourselves with the Supreme Absolute Troth.
The Absolute Truth is realized in three phases: impersonal, localized, and personal. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam it is said that the Absolute Truth is realized by different persons according to different angles of vision. For example, if you see a mountain from a distant place, you see something cloudy. If you go nearer, then you find it is something green. And if you actually reach the mountain, then you find so many varieties. There are trees, there are houses, there are living entities, animals, everything. The object is one, but according to the vision of the person from the different distances, the same object is realized in different phases.
Therefore, the Srimad-Bhagavatam says, vadanti tat tattva-vidas tattvam yaj jnanam advayam. The object is one, but according to different understandings, somebody is realizing the Absolute Truth as impersonal Brahman, somebody is realizing the Absolute Truth as localized Paramatma, and somebody is realizing the same Absolute Truth as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Ultimately, the Absolute Truth is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavan.
Therefore, Vyasadeva, the compiler of Mahabharata, says, sri bhagavan uvaca. So in this Krsna consciousness movement we understand that Bhagavan is Krsna. He has many millions of names, but Krsna is the chief name. Krsna means "the all-attractive." God must be all-attractive. It is not that God is attractive for one person and not for another. No. God is attractive for all living entities. Therefore, you see in pictures of Krsna that He is loving the calves and cows. He is loving the trees. He is loving the gopis. He is loving the cowherd boys. For Him, for God, everyone is a lovable object because everyone is the son of God.
Krsna states in the Bhagavad-gita that there are different species of life and different forms of life. He says, "Their mother is the material nature, and I am the seed-giving father."
God is attractive for everyone, and God is equal to everyone. There is no distinction for God that here is an animal, here is a man, here is a tree. No. Every living entity is part and parcel of God. That is our understanding of God consciousness, or Krsna consciousness.
There are different processes of yoga for linking with God, out of which three are principal: jnana-yoga, hatha-yoga, and bhakti-yoga. Bhakti-yoga is the topmost That is described in the Bhagavad-gita (6.47]:
yoginam api sarvesam
Of all yogis, the yogi who is always thinking of Krsna with love and faith is the first-class yogi.
The Seventh Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita describes how to become a first-class yogi. Krsna Himself explains how it is to be done. If you want to understand God, it is better to understand from God Himself. Instead of speculating about God, it is better to understand God from the words of God.
Vyasadeva is the compiler of all Vedic knowledge, and he accepts Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Later on, all the acaryas—Ramanujacarya, Madhvacarya, Visnusvami, Lord Caitanya—they all accepted Krsna. As far as our Vedic culture is concerned. Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Here it is also said, sri bhagavan uvaca. Krsna is teaching how to become a first-class yogi in Krsna consciousness. He is saying, mayy asakta-manah partha yogam yunjan mad-asrayah. Mayi means "unto Me," and asakta means "attachment"
The Krsna consciousness yoga means to increase attachment for Krsna. That's all. Everyone has attachment for something, either for his family or for some friend or for some house or some hobby or some cats, some dogs. There is attachment. That doesn't have to be learned. Attachment is there in everyone's heart. Everyone wants to be attached to somebody else; everybody wants to love somebody else. Love does not mean oneness. For love there must be two: the lover and the beloved.
The Krsna consciousness yoga system is the means to increase your attachment for Krsna. Therefore it is said here, mayy asakta-manah partha—"gradually increasing one's attachment for Me." Krsna says one should practice this yoga system by taking shelter of Him. You can take shelter directly of Krsna, or you can take shelter of a person who has taken shelter of Krsna. That is the meaning of mad-asrayah. That is the system of parampara, disciplic succession. If you increase your attachment for Krsna, or if you increase your attachment for a person who is a devotee of Krsna, it is the same.
For example, if something is charged with electricity and you touch something else to it it also becomes electrified. We have daily experience. The wires distribute the electricity from the powerhouse, and as soon as we join the plug, immediately it is electrified. Similarly, if you carry the words of Krsna as they are carried by others in the disciplic succession, then you are in touch with Krsna. That is called yogam yunjan mad-asrayah: always being linked with Krsna.
Krsna says in this verse, "Please try to hear from Me." Krsna is speaking personally. So if we accept Bhagavad-gita as it is, as instructed by Krsna Himself, then we can understand God without any doubt.
In our present position, with blunt material senses, with four defects, it is not possible to understand what God is. We have four defects in this material condition: we commit mistakes, we are illusioned, we tend to cheat and our senses are imperfect
Every day we see the sun with our eyes, but because our senses are imperfect we see the sun as a disk, although it is thousands of times bigger than the earth. In this way if we analyze our senses, it will be found that they are imperfect. Speculation based on imperfect senses is not perfect. Therefore all the speculators—so-called scientists, philosophers, and so on—put forward theories: "Perhaps." "It may be." That means it is not perfect knowledge. But if you receive knowledge from the supreme perfect, God, that is actually perfect.
Our process is like that. In the Fourth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, Krsna says He spoke this philosophy of Bhagavad-gita first to the sun-god, who spoke it to his son Manu, who spoke to his son Iksvaku. In this way, by disciplic succession. Bhagavad-gita has come down to this earth. If we accept that disciplic succession, instead of unnecessarily interpreting Krsna's words, then we can understand Bhagavad-gita. That is the process.
Our Krsna consciousness movement is for understanding the Supreme Person, Krsna, as He is, without any interpretation. That is Krsna consciousness yoga. That can be achieved, as Krsna says, by always keeping Him in the center. If you practice this yoga, keeping Krsna in the center and always thinking of the form of Krsna, then Krsna will be revealed. This is the yoga system of Krsna consciousness.
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 Seven: Vedic Society
by Pavanesana dasa
Part II: In last month's issue, we discussed how the Vedic literature recommends the varnasrama system, the organization of society into four social divisions (varnas) and four spiritual divisions (asramas), and we discussed the characteristics of the four varnas. Now we'll discuss the four asramas: (1) brahmacari, or student life; (2) grhastha, married life; (3) vanaprastha, retired life; and (4) sannyasa, renounced life.
The goal of Vedic society is to bring people closer to God. Attachment to God and attachment to matter are diametrically opposed. The more people are attracted to material life, the less they will be inclined to spiritual life, and vice versa. Therefore the varnasrama system stresses progressive detachment from material enjoyment
This does not mean that people in Vedic society were deprived of enjoyment. They were restricted for their own benefit from the types of sense gratification that cause suffering and continuous bondage in the cycle of birth, old age, disease, and death. And they were encouraged to enjoy in a more refined way, in accordance with religious principles. This type of pleasure is much more enjoyable and conducive to health and well-being, and it elevates one to higher consciousness and spiritual awareness, instead of degrading one to lower forms of life.
The greatest attachment in the material world is due to sexual pleasure, described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam as a tight knot binding one to this material world. Sexual activity that ignores religious principles increases one's desire to stay in the material world and decreases one's spiritual intelligence. Therefore in Vedic society sex was limited to marriage, and it was for procreation only.
Now let us analyze the functions of the four asramas:
The brahmacari asrama is student life, the first quarter of a man's life. Education in Vedic society did not consist of mere accumulation of data—facts, figures, equations, dates, formulas, and so on. Neither did it consist of speculative attempts to explain the world in terms of big bangs and primordial soups. Vedic education was intrinsically spiritual. It taught the student practical knowledge about using the material body in conjunction with the laws of God in order to live happily in this material world and to attain the goal of life, pure God consciousness.
This does not mean. however, that people in the Vedic ages had inferior material knowledge. Unlike our modern society, with its inductive attempts to gain knowledge. Vedic society derived highly developed knowledge from a perfect source: the Vedic scriptures, which emanate from God Himself. In this ancient literature we find descriptions of things modern man prides himself on having invented only recently: nuclear technology, airplanes, and space travel, to name a few.
In Vedic society boys from the age of five would receive their education from a spiritual master, or guru. They would live in his residence, called an asrama, strictly observe celibacy and sense control, and serve him with humility and dedication. The guru would teach them according to their natural inclination, or varna. At age twenty-five the student could enter the householder asrama. Girls would be educated by their parents and live at home up to the time of their marriage.
The grhastha asrama is married life. the second quarter of life. In family life there is the natural tendency to accumulate money and acquire material objects. All four asramas are for spiritual advancement, but only the grhastha asrama allows for making money. Therefore, the entire Vedic society was maintained by the householder asrama.
This may seem unfair to us today. Everyone wants to acquire as much as possible and not have to share it with others. But the Vedic system counteracts this materialistic tendency by establishing charity as the religious duty of the householder. For example, before taking his meal, the grhastha was supposed to step into the street and call out loudly three times: "If anyone is hungry, he should come and eat in my house." Only then would he and his family eat.
The grhastha understood that charity to saintly persons is not a liability but an asset in one's spiritual account. In Vedic society brahmacaris and sannyasis used to beg from the householders. Begging helped the brahmacaris and sannyasis culture humility and enabled the grhastha to use some of their money for a spiritual cause.
The householder benefited by the association of saintly persons because he received valuable spiritual instructions from them. He knew that a society without holy men and God conscious preachers, without charity and sacrifices, is a hellish situation.
The stage of retirement from family life is called vanaprastha. It is the third quarter of life. Modem society postulates the goals of life as wealth, fame, beauty, sense gratification, ample opportunity for sex, and so on. Consequently, people often continue trying to attain these things until they die. Politicians cling to their power even when they're senile or invalid. Dying businessmen pray to their doctors to prolong their life just a little so that they can finish some business. Aging film stars get face lifts in a vain attempt to trick nature.
Vedic society was based on the understanding that the spirit soul is covered by a temporary body subject to birth, old age, disease, and death, and that the soul is the real life—eternal, distinct from matter, and full of knowledge and happiness. The body, along with all material attributes like fame, wealth, and beauty, will perish sooner or later.
When the householder reached age fifty, he would enter the vanaprastha order, giving up his sexual relationship with his wife and gradually retiring from business and family life. He would travel to places of pilgrimage, often accompanied by his wife, and devote more time to spiritual practices, such as reading the holy scriptures and meditation.
Instead of increasing his attachment to matter at the end of life, he would gradually detach himself from worldly affairs. He knew that material accomplishments have no value at the time of death. When the soul transmigrates into another body, all assets like cars or bank accounts have to be left behind. A man is born without a penny, and he has to leave this world in the same condition. At death the only useful asset is knowledge of one's true self and of one's relationship with God. With this objective the retired householder would prepare himself for the final stage of life.
The renounced order, sannyasa. is the last stage of life. In Vedic society it was entirely reserved for spiritual advancement The sannyasi would leave his family in order to give up any attachment to his wife and children. He would travel without any possessions, without any insurance plan or material security, and simply depend on Krsna. His only business was to become Krsna conscious and convey his realizations to others.
The sannyasis were the spiritual leaders of society. They lived by the charity of the householders, and anyone would be honored and happy to receive sannyasis in his house, for their presence afforded an opportunity to hear realized transcendental knowledge.
The Vedic literature states that charity given to a qualified brahmana is returned a thousand times in the next life. and charity given to a fully realized devotee is returned by unlimited multiplication. And we find the following statement regarding the benefit of associating with saintly persons: "The verdict of all revealed scriptures is that by even a moment's association with a pure devotee, one can attain all success."
By their preaching, sannyasis created a potent spiritual atmosphere. Their very presence reminded the attached householders that they too would one day have to renounce their possessions—either voluntarily or at death—and that they had better prepare for this ultimate test.
Vedic society did not see life as a one-time event but as a continuous cycle. Preparation for the next life and worship of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna, were essential ingredients of social life. Simple living and high thinking enabled people to concentrate on their long-term goal of spiritual perfection and God consciousness.
Today's materialistic society is devoted exclusively to the pursuit of short-term goals. God consciousness is thought of as impractical, outdated, unrealistic, or non-progressive. But this kind of thinking has stripped people's lives of meaning and lasting values. It has created an atmosphere of anxiety, because people have nothing to live for. Society has lost its soul.
Materialistic persons desperately try to prepare for any conceivable problem or calamity. But no one is preparing for the one disaster that's sure to strike—death. Spiritual knowledge means to understand that death is not the end of all our efforts. but the final exam of one lifetime, which determines our next destination.
Spiritual culture is not a matter of East or West Indian or American. It is the eternal right of every human being, for it leads to the perfection of life. So modern life is certainly a different culture from the Vedic one. But must we follow the culture in which we were born and raised if it is entirely opposed to the progressive values of life?'
Materialistic values, even if they seem progressive, accomplish only one thing: the endless repetition of birth, old age, disease, and death. The Vedic literature tells us that all activities that do not provoke an attraction for the Personality of Godhead are nothing but a waste of time, because they obstruct us from attaining our spiritual destination.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.10) states:
Life's desires should never be directed toward sense gratification. One should desire only a healthy life, or self-preservation. since a human being is meant for inquiry about the Absolute Truth. Nothing else should be the goal of one's works.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
Mustaches And Moneybelts
by Jayadvaita Swami (Vrndavana, India)
In the ancient land of the Incas and the Aztecs, in the capital city of a country I'd rather not name, for many years an old man with a pushcart stood on the street outside our Hare Krsna temple selling bananas, oranges, apples, pineapples, and papayas. Now the fruits and the pushcart are gone, but the man is still there. And now he has a new occupation—changing dollars.
He and nearly everyone else on the block.
Roll down your car window. You'll get the latest street-market exchange rate. And on the spot you can change your local money for U.S. dollars—or vice versa. Change dollars on the sidewalk, change dollars on the road. The whole street is astir with mustaches and moneybelts and fistfuls of currency. Walk through our temple gate into our garden: on the wooden benches beneath the palm trees, the mustaches and moneybelts have spilled over from the street, and hands are swapping local currency for dollars. And it's not only our block—it's like this all over downtown.
And—whew!—what happens to the rates! The day I arrive, six hundred to the dollar; four days later, eight twenty. And tomorrow it might be up to nine hundred—or back down to four hundred.
What's going on?
A local devotee explains:
It starts up in the selvas—the jungles of the mountains, where the main crop these days is the coca plant. The buyers pay in U.S. dollars. Then the local growers come down to the city to change their dollars into money they can spend—that is, into the national currency.
And because that local money is so wobbly, everyone who's saving money wants dollars. If you're holding on to cash, you don't bank it in the national currency. You lock it up in your house somewhere—in dollars. And you change it back into local cash only as you need money to spend.
So the people from the selva are selling dollars, and everyone else is buying. And who's buying more than anyone else? The national government.
Like most Latin American countries, this one has a huge national debt. But one big advantage of being a government is that whenever you need money you can print it. Just start up the presses and roll off as much as you want. Great!
Well, not so great. You can spend that money here. But outside the country, who wants it? Those bankers you owe want dollars.
That's why the local government has men out in the street buying up all the dollars they can get. The formula is simple: print your own currency, buy dollars, pay off your debt. (Or now that you've got more money, spend it.)
Of course, you'll drive the local citizens nuts. But since when is it the government's business to make citizens happy?
This is Kali-yuga, the age of cheating and hypocrisy. And cheating begins at the top. A main role of the state, we're told in the Vedic literature, is to protect the citizens from thieves. But in this age, forget it—the leaders of the state are the thieves.
And what are these thieves mixed up in? Drugs, prostitution, gambling, killing. With all those dollars coming into the treasury, how hard do you suppose the local government is fighting the coca trade? Instead they're busy cashing in—and prostituting the national economy in the bargain.
It's two weeks later. The rates have changed again: more than eleven hundred to the dollar. The fruit seller is busy selling dollars. And this republic's economy is busy going bananas.
Now contrast this with the Vedic civilization. In the Vedic civilization people stick to simple occupations and save their time for developing their relationship with Krsna. The Vedic economy is a simple one, in which material wealth consists mainly of things people need, like land and food.
For those who want temporary luxury in this world, the perennial opulences are natural ones like land. grain, fruits, milk products, and gold. And for those who want permanent wealth, the ultimate object is the transcendent source of all opulences, Krsna.
Another week has gone by. Now the rate is eighteen hundred to the dollar. Bananas and more bananas!
Of course, ultimately what's real is what's eternal. So in that sense money, being temporary, is unreal anyway. And how stable can you expect unreality to be? The real thing is not a temporary stash of money but our eternal relationship with the Supreme Being, Krsna.
But eighteen hundred to the dollar! That's not just unreal. That's ridiculous.
Maybe my devotee friend is wrong about what's behind it. But back in the days of the Incas and the Aztecs. at least the money was gold. Nowadays the money is paper. And the Real Thing is coke.
We're already the willing servants of our families,
By Nagaraja Dasa
"Maharaja Pariksit attained the highest perfection, shelter at Lord Krsna 's lotus feet. simply by hearing about Lord Visnu. Sukadeva Goswami attained perfection simply by reciting Srimad-Bhagavatam. Prahlada Maharaja attained perfection by remembering the Lord. The goddess of fortune attained perfection by massaging the transcendental legs of Maha-Visnu. Maharaja Prthu attained perfection by worshiping the Deity, and Akrura attained perfection by offering prayers to the Lord. Hanuman attained perfection by rendering service to Lord Ramacandra, and Arjuna attained perfection by being Krsna's friend. Bali Maharaja attained perfection by dedicating everything to the lotus feet of Krsna."—Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.2.265
The Krsna consciousness movement has an important reminder for the world: we're all servants of God. You won't see throngs of people pouring into our temples every day to hear that, as people often do when all-is-one svamis flatter them that they're God. Since people really don't know much about God, they also haven't the faintest notion what it means to serve Him. But those rare souls who know God and serve Him say the pleasure they obtain is unsurpassed. After all, it is God they're serving. If you have to serve someone, why not serve the Supreme?
And we do have to serve in one way or another, though we don't like to admit it. We're always serving others—our employers, our customers, our families. If we have no one else to serve, we serve a pet.
Though to be called a servant sounds demeaning, we serve in many ways without complaint Why? Because we have a motive. We expect some reward for our service, some love or some money. We want pleasure, something we don't expect to get by serving God.
Now, what happens when we choose to serve someone other than God? Do we get the reward we expect? Not really. Not the lasting happiness we seek. If we want that, we have to offer our service to the Supreme Person, our primeval Lord and master, the reservoir of all pleasure.
This is a simple concept, which the Vedic literature explains with a couple of analogies: If you want to nourish the parts of your body, you must supply food to the stomach: if you want to water the limbs, leaves, and flowers of a tree, you have to water the root.
God, or Krsna, is the root of everything. He explains this Himself in the Bhagavad-gita: aham sarvasya prabhavo mattah sarvam pravartate. "I am the source of all material and spiritual worlds. Everything emanates from Me."
There is much evidence that Krsna is God. the Absolute Truth, the source of everything, but the best evidence is Krsna's word. Krsna's Gita has been read, honored, and even worshiped by millions of people for thousands of years. In the modern age, many great thinkers, such as Emerson. Thoreau, and Schopenhauer, have studied Krsna's teachings. Srila Prabhupada suggests that if we respect Krsna's integrity enough to study His words, we should at least theoretically accept that He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That's what He says, and indeed, only when we accept Him as such is the Gita comprehensible. "The most secret of all secrets" was perfectly clear to Arjuna because, as Krsna told him. "You are never envious of Me." When we put aside envy, we can consider what Krsna is saying.
Krsna explains that we are all part of Him, and so our satisfaction naturally comes when we serve Him. But for many people, serving God seems intangible. God seems remote. "It's not like serving the members of my family," we say, "They're right here, and it's natural to serve them. I like to do it."
Family affection is so strong, in fact that sometimes people who have lived together a long time can't bear separation from each other. My grandparents, for instance, who were married for sixty years, died a week apart. My grandmother couldn't live without her husband. If such deep attachment can develop in sixty years, how deep must be our attachment for Krsna, who is "right here," right in our hearts, forever.
When we awaken that relationship with Krsna, the all-attractive Supreme Person, then naturally well want to serve Him. It simply requires some practice, much as a child can walk by practice because the ability is already within him.
The Vedic literature describes nine ways we can serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead: hearing about Krsna, chanting His glories, remembering Him, attending Him, worshiping Him, praying to Him, serving Him through thick and thin, making friends with Him, and fully surrendering to Him. Even if done without full love, these nine aspects of bhakti-yoga ("linking with God through devotional service") will gradually bring us to maturity in our relationship with Him.
Bhakti-yoga is so powerful that the Vedic literature abounds with stories of people who became pure lovers of God by perfecting only one type of service. Sukadeva Gosvami, for instance, perfected his Krsna consciousness by reciting Srimad-Bhagavatam, and Pariksit Maharaja, who sat enthralled at Sukadeva's feet, became perfect by hearing the transcendental topics of Krsna.
Although all the processes are important and effective, hearing is the beginning and the most important. Unless we hear about Krsna and how to reawaken our love for Him, we can't even begin spiritual life. The Caitanya-caritamrta states, nitya-siddha krsna-prema 'sadhya' kabhu naya/ sravanadi-suddha-citte karaye udaya: "Love for Krsna is eternally situated within the living entity. It can be awakened by devotional service, beginning with hearing."
We have been asleep to devotional service for so long, though, that even after hearing about Krsna, we may still feel that serving Him is a chore. Until we are completely free of the misunderstanding that we are the number one enjoyer of this world, we can't selflessly serve the Supreme. We want to be served. We still envy God; He is still our rival. By progressive devotional service, however, we gradually understand that we are never independent to do as we please. Is anyone so independent that he doesn't have to get sick, grow old, and die? Our attempts to lord it over this world are like the attempts of a person to get pleasure by bashing his head against a wall. His only pleasure is the relief he feels when he stops. The pleasure of devotional service, however, goes beyond mere relief from material misery. As our desire to serve Krsna grows, our consciousness awakens to transcendental bliss.
When we finally revive our pure love for Krsna, we re-enter our unique, eternal relationship with Him. The relationships we live and die for in the material world are but pale reflections of the immortal relationships we can share with Krsna. We can be Krsna's servant, friend, parent, or even His lover. And Krsna is so touched by our service that unlike the bad masters of this world. He selflessly tries to serve us. Such is the sweetness of pure love.
It shouldn't be hard for us to agree to join Krsna. Because God is the source of all pleasure, nothing can compare to a relationship with Him. Some devotees who have re-entered their relationship with Krsna and are absorbed in serving Him have recorded their realizations in many beautiful prayers. King Kulasekhara of South India prayed. "O my Lord Mukunda! I bow my head before Your Lordship's lotus feet and respectfully ask for the fulfillment of my only desire: Throughout my repeated births, may I never forget You but always remember You by Your Lordship's mercy."
King Kulasekhara has realized his position as servant of Krsna. and His addressing Krsna as "Mukunda" is significant. Mukunda is a name for Krsna that means "the giver of liberation." Although King Kulasekhara knows he can obtain liberation from the material world by Krsna's grace, he doesn't care about that. He simply wants the benediction that he can always serve Krsna by remembering Him—even if he must remain in the material world.
We often find in prayers by great devotees that they decry liberation. In fact, the very word liberation, or in Sanskrit mukti, is sometimes repulsive to a devotee. That's because it often implies impersonal liberation, or merging into the effulgence of God, the liberation sought by the Mayavadis, or impersonalists. The devotee finds this idea horrifying. Prabhodananda Sarasvati says, kaivalyam narakayate: "Merging into the impersonal Brahman is worse than hell." Why? Because it denies one the opportunity to serve Krsna.
The happiness of serving Krsna is millions of times greater than that obtained by the impersonalists who enter the Brahman effulgence. One devotee says that if you multiply the happiness of Brahman liberation millions of times, it won't equal an atomic fraction of the pleasure of serving Krsna. which is an ocean of bliss.
Devotees will not give up serving Krsna for anything. There are many descriptions in the Vedic literature of impersonalists who have become devotees of Krsna—Sukadeva Gosvami and the four Kumaras are examples—but a devotee never becomes an impersonalist. In the First Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the sage Narada Muni tells Srila Vyasadeva. the compiler of Vedic literature, that even an immature devotee who falls down from his practice of Krsna consciousness will never forget the pleasure of serving Krsna. Such a person is called rasa-grahah. "one who has had a real taste."
In trying to convince people that serving Krsna is in their best interest, we are sometimes asked. "What about serving your fellow man?" People object for instance, when money that could be used for ministering to the poor is used for building opulent temples.
No one should think, though, that a devotee is callous to the suffering of others and that he's interested only in the joy he obtains by serving God. The scriptures describe devotees as krpambudhih paraduhkha-duhkhi—they are an ocean of mercy, and they feel the suffering of others as their own suffering. But the devotees know the real cause of everyone's suffering—not just the poor's—and they know the real solution. We are all suffering in this world because we have forgotten that we are eternal servants of Krsna. The cure, therefore, is to become reinstated in our original position through devotional service.
So a devotee does serve his fellow man. When he builds a beautiful temple, he wants to attract people to come there and hear about Krsna so that their spiritual lives can begin. When Lord Krsna descended five hundred years ago as Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He especially came to deliver people from their suffering. Therefore. He advised that everyone should make his life perfect by awakening his Krsna consciousness and then give Krsna consciousness to others. Although people today, who pride themselves on being "rational," might not be able to appreciate that spreading Krsna consciousness is the highest welfare work. Krsnadasa Kaviraja, the author of Caitanya-caritamrta, a famous biography of Lord Caitanya, says, "If you are indeed interested in logic and argument, kindly apply it to the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. If you do so, you will find it to be strikingly wonderful." There is no better way to serve humanity than to bring people to the service of Krsna.
And what a rare opportunity that service is! While devotional service is everyone's business in the kingdom of God. ifs very hard to come by in this underworld of birth and death. "After many births and deaths." Krsna declares in the Bhagavad-gita, "he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me. knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare." If we seek out and serve such a great soul, Krsna advises, we can very easily "learn the truth" and return to Him.
So when we hear that we're servants of God, we shouldn't be disappointed; we should be delighted. We should be all we can be, as the saying goes, by understanding the exalted position of Lord Krsna's servants and striving to become one of them.
Srila Rupa Gosvami, a leading disciple of Lord Caitanya's, has described what's required to attain pure devotional service to Krsna: "Pure devotional service in Krsna consciousness cannot be had even by pious activity in hundreds and thousands of lives. It can be attained only by paying one price—that is, intense greed to obtain it. If it is available somewhere, one must purchase it without delay."
The poems of Jayadeva so wonderfully describe Lord Krsna's pastimes that Krsna Himself—as Lord Caitanya—would swoon on hearing them.
By Satyaraja dasa
Srila Vyasadeva compiled the Vedic literature some five thousand years ago, and since then many great devotees have created literary works following the conclusions of Vyasadeva's writings and drawing on their own realizations. One such pure devotee was Jayadeva Goswami, who, in the twelfth century A.D., composed Gita-govinda, one of the greatest Vaisnava classics of all time.
Jayadeva was born in the village of Kenduli, West Bengal. His father's name was Bhajadeva, and his mother's Rama. Little is known about his early life, but it is said that he was a Sanskrit scholar at an early age and was inclined toward spiritual life. Some of his contemporaries have described him as "the incarnation of melody."
As a young man, Jayadeva went to Jagannatha Puri after visiting many holy places. There he married a girl named Padmavati, who was devoted to the Deity of Lord Jagannatha (Krsna, "the Lord of the universe"). Jayadeva also developed deep love for the Lord. Inspired by the beauty of Puri and Lord Jagannatha, he composed Gita-govinda, and it quickly became the joy of the Vaisnava community.
At the time Gajapati Purushottamadev was the provincial king. He was openly envious of Jayadeva and soon posed an ill-fated challenge. The king considered himself a master poet, on a par with Jayadeva, and composed a work entitled Abhinava Gita-govinda. One day, he summoned his advisors and asked them to widely circulate his work, in an attempt to make it more popular than Jayadeva's. The king's own men, however, ridiculed his attempt, saying that it is impossible to compare a lamp to the sun.
Still, the king was relentless. A controversy soon arose, and the brahmanas (the king's priests) decided that the matter would be settled by placing both manuscripts before the Deity of Lord Jagannatha for the night. By morning, they said, the Lord Himself would decide.
When the devotees went to greet the Deity the next day, they found Jayadeva's Gita-govinda clasped against the Deity's chest, and the king's manuscript scattered about the floor. The decision was clear.
Jayadeva's fame spread across India, his work being recited or sung in every major temple and royal court. So popular was his work that beginning in the fifteenth century, various schools of classical Indian art began to render it more than any other religious text. Gita-govinda was illustrated in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and the Punjab hills. Gujarat produced the earliest illustrated manuscript in 1450. The next significant Gita-govinda series was painted in 1590, and it is now on display in Bombay's Prince of Wales Museum.
The great Mogul emperor Akbar was an admirer of Gita-govinda and commissioned a special illustrated manuscript, one of the most important renditions ever produced. His manuscript was done in Mogul style and showed a fascinating merger of religious and cultural milieus. Radharani, for instance, Lord Krsna's eternal consort, was depicted in typical Mogul dress.
Later in life, Jayadeva became the court poet of King Lakshmanasena, the king of Bengal for the latter half of the twelfth century. The king's patronage of Jayadeva added insult to injury for Gajapati Purushottamadev, who soon resigned from his post in Puri.
Jayadeva's work became more famous as the years passed, and after he left this world, the words of his immortal Gita-govinda were inscribed on the Jaya-Vijaya doorway of the Jagannatha temple in Puri.
The most significant testament to the value of Jayadeva's work is that it was fully appreciated by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who used to have it read to Him nightly. Lord Caitanya is Krsna Himself in the role of a perfect devotee. Since God Himself is pleased with Jayadeva's work, it must be considered consummate.
Consequently, Srila Prabhupada states that Jayadeva should be counted among the mahajanas. the great souls who come to this world on behalf of the Lord to show the proper methods of devotional service. This puts Jayadeva in the company of such exalted personalities as Brahma, Narada, and Prahlada. Jayadeva's distinct position is revealed in the depth of his work. Gita-govinda deals with the intimate pastimes of Radha and Krsna, the ultimate in spiritual truth. Skillfully weaving pastoral drama with scriptural fact through the medium of Sanskrit melody, Jayadeva brings to life every nuance of spiritual love, in union and in separation.
Still, as the perfect teacher, Jayadeva is careful, for he does not want his readers to mistake the loving pastimes of Radha and Krsna for lusty exchanges. The interaction of Radha and Krsna is the most wholesome spiritual relationship, of which material relationships are but a perverted counterpart.
To prevent misconceptions, great Vaisnava teachers throughout history have recommended the reading of basic spiritual texts, such as the Bhagavad-gita, before one approaches the esoteric pastimes of Radha and Krsna. And even then, one requires the direction of a bonafide spiritual master coming in disciplic succession. Otherwise, one is sure to misinterpret the teachings. Srila Prabhupada, in fact, has written that the esoteric works of Jayadeva and others like him should be read only by liberated souls.
Jayadeva begins his Gita-govinda with a beautiful prayer, entitled Dasavatara Stotra: "The Prayer to the Ten Incarnations." In this prayer, he reminds his readers of Lord Krsna's divinity, hoping to allay their possible misinterpretation of the pastimes of the Lord recounted in the book. In the last verse of Dasavatara Stotra, Jayadeva summarizes the activities of ten incarnations of Lord Krsna:
O Lord Krsna, I offer my obeisances unto You, the Supreme Lord. You appear in the form of the following ten incarnations. In the form of Matsya, You rescue the Vedas, and as Kurma, You bear the Mandara Mountain on Your back. As Varaha, You lift the earth with Your tusk, and in the form of Nrsimha, You tear open the chest of the demon Hiranyakasipu. In the form of Vamana, You trick Bali by asking him for only three steps of land, and then You take away the whole universe by expanding Your steps. As Parasurama, You slay all the wicked kings, and as Ramacandra, You conquer the evil king Ravana. In the form of Balarama, You carry a plow, with which You subdue the wicked and draw toward You the river Yamuna. As Lord Buddha, You show compassion to all living beings, and at the end of the present age, Kali-yuga, You appear as Kalki to destroy the lowest among men.
Westerners see India's reverence for the cow as superstition,
by Krsna Dharma Dasa
Holy cow! We have all heard that expletive enough times, but what on earth is holy about the cow? I remember some years ago my mother was much maligning India for the "primitive and superstitious" practice of cow worship. To a city boy whose only contact with cows was the Sunday dinner, her criticism seemed quite sensible.
In Vedic religion there is in fact a ceremony—go-puja—extant for thousands of years, in which the cow is worshiped. But just how primitive is it? . Is the cow some kind of symbolic god?
For the Indian villager with his agrarian life, the conservation of natural resources is an integral part of daily existence. He is expert in using nature's gifts to manufacture all his requirements, from his mud hut to his homespun clothes. And protecting cows has always been the most important feature of the village conservation program; every homestead has at least one cow.
The cow and bull are indispensable in rural India, where about eighty percent of the population lives. The cow, eating only grass, happily supplies milk, which provides virtually all of the nutrients our bodies need. From milk we get cheese, curd, butter, ghee (clarified butter), whey, cream, yogurt, and an endless variety of milk-based preparations well known to experts in traditional Indian cookery. Because the cow supplies milk, she is accepted in the Vedas as our mother.
In India it is well known that cow dung has antiseptic properties, and in any Indian village one will see cow-dung patties drying in the sun to provide an excellent fuel for cooking fires. The urine of the cow is prescribed as a medicine for the liver by the Ayur-veda, the Vedic scripture on the science of healing.
The bull is also an invaluable asset to the small farmer. The strong bull enjoys working all day pulling a plow through the fields. How quaint, you may say, but not very efficient or practical these days. Well, the use of the bull may be slower than machinery, but it does not compact the soil and reduce its productivity as does heavy modern machinery. There are other problems with machinery in India, such as its inability to cope with seasonal changes and monsoons. (What to speak of the problems of finding spare parts or a mechanic.) Because the bull provides for food. he is considered our father.
In Vedic society it was recognized that a symbiotic relationship exists between man and cow. The cow produces far more milk than her calf requires. If the calf is allowed unrestricted access to the udder, mastitis will develop, which could lead to the cow's death. When the cow is done calving, she will peacefully continue to produce milk. Of course, if she's not milked, she will feel pain.
People object now about the exploitation of cows in dairies that are more like factories. The calves are taken from their mothers at birth, and the cows are slaughtered when past milking age. This is not the Vedic system, which demands that the cow be as well looked after as most people today look after their dogs. But are there any practical examples of the Vedic system in operation, where the cow is not grossly exploited and made to suffer in exchange for her milk and flesh?
Of course, rural India is one good place to look. Another example is the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), among whose principles is cow protection. Indeed, in the Bhagavad-gita cow protection is given the status of a religious principle. All ISKCON farms are dedicated to this important principle, and the results can be seen. The cows are happy and peaceful and produce abundant, creamy milk. On ISKCON farms (there are fifty worldwide), the cows and bulls capture many prizes at local shows.
One of the main purposes of ISKCON is to establish self-sufficient farming communities. The farming techniques employed are traditional and organic and as far as possible avoid the use of modern machinery. Men and animals work harmoniously together to glean just enough for survival, forgoing machines designed to produce more for profit-making. The Vedic tenet of ahimsa, or nonviolence toward all living entities, is carefully observed. Thus, of course, animal slaughter of any kind is avoided, and even a plant's life is taken only to provide subsistence. If items cannot be indigenously produced and need to be bought, excess milk can be sold to provide the necessary money. Otherwise, the milk is converted into long-lasting ghee for future use or barter.
The cow is therefore the basis of the Vedic economy and is accorded the highest possible regard. On the ISKCON Hertfordshire farm. the grounds of the United Kingdom's main temple of Krsna, ten cows are looked after by Dusyanta dasa and three or four other groundsmen.
"A man can easily maintain himself and his family with an acre or two and a cow," says Dusyanta. "This may sound idealistic, but consider the immense amount of land now given over to livestock for commercial farming. To produce one kilo of beef protein requires twenty kilos of vegetable protein as feed. We graze our cows, and each one needs only one acre. An acre of land can produce three hundred pounds of vegetable protein or twenty pounds of beef in an equal amount of time. Even day our cows each give an average of forty to fifty pints of milk. To kill these cows for food would not make economic sense."
Srila Prabhupada was appalled by the slaughter of thousands of cows every day in the West. To him it just did not make sense. Such a useful creature is being killed for her flesh. It is like taking an expensive car and demolishing it for its scrap value. We value our machines, but can any machine produce milk from a little grass?
Srila Prabhupada writes, "While living. the cows give service by giving milk, and even after death they give service by making available their skin. hooves, and horns, which may be used in so many ways. Nonetheless, the present human society is so ungrateful that they needlessly kill these innocent cows."
The Vedic literature tells how Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, takes the role of a cowherd boy for His pastimes. In fact, one of Krsna's names is Govinda, meaning "one who gives pleasure to the cows." Five thousand years ago, Krsna appeared as the son of the leader of a cowherd community. At that time a man was wealthy not if he had a pile of paper money but according to the number of cows and the amount of land he possessed. Krsna's community had hundreds of thousands of cows. Thus the members of the community are described as having been very rich. They paid tax to the king with ghee, cheese, and whole milk and would also barter these products for cloth and other items in the market.
The cow also appears in religious symbolism in the Vedic literature. Religion is symbolized by the form of a bull, known as Dharma. In one well-known Vedic history. Dharma was attacked by Kali, the personification of the bad qualities of this age. Kali had broken three of Dharma's legs (symbolizing cleanliness, austerity, and mercy) when the king arrived on the scene. He was immediately ready to kill Kali, who begged for his life. The king allowed Kali to live in certain places only, one of them being wherever animal slaughter was taking place.
ISKCON farms are developing in most countries, and they invite anyone to visit and see the Vedic economic system in practice. "Simple living and high thinking" is the underlying principle of ISKCON farm life. A respect for all living entities as part of God forms the basis for a life very much in harmony with nature. And for the cow, there will always be a special regard, thanks to her free and bountiful gifts.
The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
College Preaching Going Strong
Gainesville, Florida—Students in colleges and universities all over North America are regularly hearing about Krsna and receiving His prasadam (spiritual food), according to the second North American College Newsletter, published here recently by the ISKCON College Committee. The newsletter presents a summary of college preaching during the fall of 1988.
Srila Prabhupada encouraged his disciples to spread Krsna consciousness among the student community, and many devotees have taken up the task. At some colleges, devotees have held programs for many years, and their efforts are bearing fruit. Devotees from ISKCON's temple in San Diego have been holding an evening program once a week on the campus of U.C. San Diego for about seven years. Thirty to forty students attend each week and several persons have become devotees of Krsna as a result of the program. At San Diego State University, fifty to sixty students attend a similar program weekly.
Atadhvaja Swami runs the college preaching program at the University of Florida, Gainesville. Amarendra dasa, now with the ISKCON Office of Legal Affairs, started the program sixteen years ago, and it's been going on ever since. Devotees serve a thousand plates of prasadam a week on the campus plaza. A popular University of Florida T-shirt announces "cosmic lunches on the Plaza of the Americas with the Krishnas" as a main motive to attend U.F. The devotees recently bought a nine-bedroom, five-bath fraternity house, and they are renting rooms—prasadam included—to students. The renters must also follow the regulative principles (no meat-eating, no illicit sex, no intoxication, and no gambling).
M.I.T., Penn State, Michigan State, Windsor University, Boise State, Louisiana State—students on these campuses and many more are getting a real education by associating with the preachers of Lord Caitanya's sankirtana movement
Druze Eager for Srila Prabhupada's Books
Tel Aviv, Israel—Members of the Druze sect, an Arab community living in Syria, Lebanon, and Israel that practices a special closed religion of its own, are buying Srila Prabhupada's books in great quantities. For the last thousand years, the Druze have maintained their close-knit identity and distinctive faith. Their religious system is guarded in secrecy, and only a few elite members have access to their ancient scriptures. The Hare Krsna devotees in Israel have discovered, however, that the Druze believe in reincarnation and are genuinely attracted to Srila Prabhupada's books.
Although the books are in Hebrew, which most Druze don't read, a team of six Israeli devotees sells an average of twelve sets of Srila Prabhupada's books a day. The sets consist of Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Srimad-Bhagavatam (Vol. 1), Krsna book, and two volumes of Caitanya-caritamrta.
Salman Falah, the minister of education for the Druze people in Israel, recently bought a set of the Hebrew books as well as a thirty-volume English set. He is developing a thesis that the Druze religion came from Indian scriptures. He ordered fifty Hebrew sets of Srila Prabhupada's books for the institutions under his supervision.
The late Druze leader and Sanskrit scholar Kemal Jumbalat translated some of the Vedic literature into Arabic, and one of his books was about Krsna.
In Cyprus, presidents Spyzon Kypsianou and Yozpos Volsiliou, as well as government ministers, high-court judges, and other famous Greek personalities, have received Srila Prabhupada's books. Bhakta Thzasos Constantinon has produced an audio tape of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra and other devotional songs that is being well received in the Cypriot market.
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Devotees in Malaysia put on six Ratha-yatra festivals there last year, during which they distributed twelve thousand pieces of literature about Krsna consciousness and twenty thousand plates of prasadam. ISKCON Malaysia has one thousand life members, who receive a full set of Srimad-Bhagavatams, monthly Back to Godhead magazines, and a local newsletter.
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The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT) announced a fifty-percent increase in the number of big books (hardbound, 250-plus pages) distributed last year over the previous year. There was a ten percent increase in income. Owing to a significant reduction in operating costs, the BBT came close to achieving the goal set by Srila Prabhupada of spending fifty percent for book production and fifty percent for other projects. In 1988 forty-nine percent was spent on book production, half of that for reprinting.
The following books were printed: Teachings of Queen Kunti, Teachings of Lord Kapila, Teachings of Lord Caitanya, The Science Of Self-Realization, Bhagavad-gita As it Is softbound, and a twelve-volume Srimad-Bhagavatam.
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West Australia's largest newspaper, The West Australian (circulation 330,000), ran an extensive article on the devotees there. The article included an interview with Prabhavisnu Swami, ISKCON's governing body commissioner for Australia. Another favorable article appeared in Musical Express magazine, praising Gopal's vegetarian restaurant. Columnist Michael Dwyer wrote, "The Bhagavad-gita teaches that vegetarianism is good for your karma, your body, and your consciousness. So before you even consider the taste and the value, there are three very good reasons to try Gopal's."
Seeds For The Simple Life
On a small island in the Indian Ocean,
Text by Indradyumna Swami
As our plane circles over the sea preparing to land. my eye catches the glimmering isle of Mauritius, resplendent against the deep-blue water of the Indian Ocean. I think how appropriately sailors of yore called this tropical paradise "the star of the Indian Ocean." Mark Twain, upon visiting Mauritius for the first time, said, "First God saw Mauritius, then He created heaven." Charles Darwin came here, too, looking for answers to the secrets of life. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada came here in September of 1975 to give the people of this tiny island the answers to those very questions.
As our 747 jumbo jet lumbers onto the airfield. I see my Godbrothers and Godsisters atop the visitors' gallery in the airport terminal awaiting my arrival. As we taxi closer. I notice my old friend Sriniketana dasa, who came to Mauritius with a few devotees just before Srila Prabhupada's visit.
I go to the line for customs and immigration, but a young customs officer approaches me and says politely, "Please step this way to the VIP hall." Within minutes I've cleared all formalities and am riding in a car to the temple with Sriniketana dasa.
"What was that VIP treatment all about?" I ask.
"It's only natural." Sriniketana replies, smiling. "Our movement is well known and popular here."
As we drive along. I'm immediately struck by the endless fields of sugarcane. I ask Sriniketana if we also grow sugarcane at our ISKCON farm on the island.
"No," he says, laughing. "When Srila Prabhupada visited here he encouraged us to live simply, set a good example, and become self-sufficient. When people came to visit Srila Prabhupada, he told them. 'I see that on this island of Mauritius you have enough land to produce all your own food grains. But I understand that instead of growing food grains, you are growing sugarcane for export. Why? You are dependent on food grains, like rice, wheat, and dal, so why make an attempt to accumulate money instead of growing sufficient food? First grow your own eatables. Then if there is time and your population has sufficient food grains, you can try to grow other things for export. The first necessity is that you should be self-sufficient. That is God's arrangement.' "
After a scenic one-hour drive, we turn onto Hare Krishna Road and drive past a sign that reads "ISKCON Vedic Farm."
"These five acres were donated to our Society in 1980 by our life member and friend Mr. Gowtam Teelock in the name of his father, Mr. Ramesvar Teelock," Sriniketana says. As my eye catches the construction of what is soon to become a magnificent temple, he smiles and says, "But in the beginning, there was only a stone building with a few iron sheets on top."
I soon realize that our ISKCON farm is in fact the heaven Mark Twain must have been aspiring for. Over the years, the devotees, acting on Srila Prabhupada's instructions, have planted numerous fruit trees, vegetables, spices, and grains. The orchard is full of tropical fruits: mangoes, litchis, mandarins, oranges, grapefruit, papayas, passion fruit, jackfruit, guavas, and custard apples. Banana trees are in abundance.
"The soil is so rich here," says Sriniketana, "that if you throw a mango seed on the ground, a few years later you'll have a mango tree."
"Over here we have many coconut trees," he continues, pointing to a large coconut grove. "They provide many of our necessities. No part of the tree is wasted. When the coconut is green, we drink the water inside and eat the pulp. It's very healthful. We dry the fiber of the shell and use it for polishing our floors and making brushes. We use the leaves for brooms, and when the tree is old, we use the trunk for firewood."
We get out of the car and walk past the gosala, the area where the cows are kept Sriniketana remarks, "We just got word today that we received first prize from the minister of agriculture for our cow-keeping. Our cows are the healthiest and happiest on the island. They sense they won't be killed. Cow protection is vital to the material and spiritual welfare of society. Our cows give milk, and our oxen pull the plows in the fields. Life here is much like it was when Krsna was present in Vrndavana thousands of years ago. We take care of the cows, chant Hare Krsna, and worship our Deities, Sri Sri Radha-Gokulananda."
I remark how much service the devotees are doing here.
"Yes, that's true," Sriniketana says, "They work hard, but because life's simple here, there's enough time to hear and chant about Krsna."
Sriniketana continues, "This bio-gas unit supplies all the natural methane gas we use in cooking for the entire community. We take the dung of our cows, and by mixing it with water in a special process in the unit, gas is generated. We use the residue from that process for fertilizer."
Walking by the temple, he says, "Of the seventy devotees living on the island, thirty-five live here on the farm, and most of them work on the construction of the temple. The temple was designed by our devotee architect, Arjuna dasa, who comes from a prominent Franco-Mauritian family. We hope to finish the temple within two years."
After settling in, we visit Arjuna's thatched-roof house for lunch. Arjuna built the small house for his young family and used the leaves from sugarcane fields to thatch the roof.
"We follow Srila Prabhupada's motto here," says Arjuna, " 'Simple living and high thinking.' Modem civilization is killing people's spirit and good qualities by encouraging them to pursue materialistic goals. People become entangled in the false pursuit of material enjoyment and forget the real purpose of life, Krsna consciousness. Here we live simply and depend on Krsna, who kindly provides us with all the necessities of life. And we offer Krsna the very best we have. Just like the temple we're building here—already it's attracting local villagers and tourists from all over the island."
"As I mentioned earlier." says Sriniketana, "we are well known here. A few years ago we walked to every village on the island with a group of about twenty devotees, chanting Hare Krsna and distributing prasadam [food offered to Krsna]. And even today, we are a familiar sight in the cities and towns, chanting Hare Krsna and distributing our books. We recently acquired another piece of land, on the other side of the island, near our preaching center in Quatre Borne. We want to build a temple there, too."
From the airplane, Mauritius seemed small, a tiny island in the vast ocean. But soon I begin to realize that it could easily contain the spiritual world of Krsna consciousness. I take rest for the night thinking of my preaching tour on the star of the Indian Ocean." where Srila Prabhupada sowed the seeds of simple living, high thinking, and beautiful temples to glorify the Lord.
We welcome your letters.
The tone of BTG is a problem that should be investigated. You are now publishing a magazine with clearly different voices that can range from folksy to aggressive, scholarly to pedestrian. It is not a good publishing practice.
Bhakta Nicholas Parkhurst
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Back to Godhead could be improved by allowing individual style to survive your editors. It often seems that every article was written by the same person.
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Back to Godhead is a brilliant magazine, and just by reading it, I feel inspired in my own spiritual life. The articles are full of real spiritual knowledge. I also very much enjoy the articles "Coming to Krsna," telling how people have come to Krsna consciousness. It's nice, too, when you show Hare Krsna centers from around the world.
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Who authorizes the mundane articles in BTG, like the photo article of people gambling, smoking, and drinking? I'm shocked. You give six pages to these sinful photographs and two or three inches of Srimad-Bhagavatam purports to go with them. What do you think people will remember—the pictures or the writing? Photos of sinful activities encourage more sin, no matter what you write.
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Visakha-devi dasi's photo articles are always one of my favorite features of BTG. I strongly disagree that they are mundane! With the nice quotes from Prabhupada's books, they become great preaching tools, helping us see Krsna everywhere, and they also show us Prabhupada's view of the slaughterhouse civilization of the West. I really think Prabhupada would approve of her work.
The Demoniac Mentality
This is the continuation of a conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples in New Vrindaban. West Virginia, on June 26, 1976.
Srila Prabhupada [to disciple]: Go on reading.
Disciple [reading Bhagavad-gita 16.10]: Kamam asritya duspuram dambha-mana-madanvitah/ mohad grhitvasad-grahan pravartante 'suci-vratah: "Taking shelter of insatiable lust and absorbed in the conceit of pride and false prestige, the demoniac, thus illusioned, are always sworn to unclean work, attracted by the impermanent."
Purport, by Srila Prabhupada: "The demoniac mentality is described here. The demons have no satiation for their lust They will go on increasing and increasing their insatiable desires for material enjoyment. Although they are always full of anxieties on account of accepting nonpermanent things, they still continue to engage in such activities out of illusion. They have no knowledge and cannot tell that they are heading the wrong way. Accepting nonpermanent things, such demoniac people create their own God, create their own hymns, and chant accordingly. The result is that they become more and more attracted to two things—sex enjoyment and accumulation of material wealth. The word asuci-vrtah, 'unclean vows,' is very significant in this connection. Such demoniac people are attracted only by wine, women, and meat-eating; those are their asuci, unclean habits. Induced by pride and false prestige, they create some principles of religion which are not approved by the Vedic injunctions. Although such demoniac people are most abominable in the world, by artificial means the world creates a false honor for them. Although they are gliding toward hell, they consider themselves very much advanced."
Srila Prabhupada: There are so many religious systems—"Yes, you can do whatever you like; you can eat whatever you like"—and still it is considered religion. This is demoniac. This will be explained further, hm? Pravrttim ca nivrttim ca jana na vidur acurah: "The demoniac do not know what to do and what not to do." Why? Because they do not take any standard idea. They manufacture their own ideas.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, in the Catholic Church, the early fathers upheld the principle of no flesh-eating. That's part of the historical record. In time, though, the leaders became lax and changed the restriction to no flesh-eating on Fridays. Within our lifetime, they've changed their standard again.
Disciple 2: They've changed so many things. When I was a boy, no one would have dreamed of defending homosexuality or abortion. Such things were utterly condemned. Now even some priests and nuns are openly promoting these things. The Church has lost much of its austerity and spiritual strength.
Srila Prabhupada: That is why they are selling churches. So many people are losing interest. For example, in London there are so many churches closed for lack of interest.
Disciple: Reportedly, on account of the Pope's taking such a firm stand against abortion and contraception, as many as one quarter of practicing Catholics may have reduced their practice—or may have left the Church entirely.
Srila Prabhupada: Where have they gone? [Laughter}
Disciple: Well, they have given up going to church, at least.
Disciple 2: Their life has become hopeless.
Srila Prabhupada: No. Why do you say "hopeless"? There is certainly hope: there is Krsna consciousness.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, this verse really captures today's situation. The asuci-vratah—those who have made an unclean, materialistic vow—receive much respect. And yet genuine devotees of the Lord receive little, if any.
Srila Prabhupada: It is very fortunate that the materialists are not crucifying devotees. Lack of respect is one thing. But they crucified Lord Jesus Christ—they were so respectful. Because he was preaching God consciousness, he was crucified. What was his fault? He was talking of God: therefore he was crucified, with government approval.
Srimad-Bhagavatam predicts, dasyu-dharmabhih: as this age progresses, the government itself will consist of rogues and thieves. And just as rogues and thieves take your property away by force, so the government will take your property away by excessive taxation. Already, so many innocent people are being harassed.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, if we all naturally desire to live, why do people perform so many horrible acts that will destroy both others and themselves?
Srila Prabhupada: They are thinking that they can go on existing by putting others out of existence. In this material world, every one has to struggle for existence. But they do not know how to exist. That is their foolishness. Everyone wants to go on existing, because actually he is eternal. He doesn't want to be destroyed. That is his natural inclination. But he does not know how to go on existing eternally. So we are giving the formula: if you want to exist eternally, come to Krsna consciousness. We are giving the right information. But people want to go on existing in the wrong way. That is not possible.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, why does a demoniac person seem to want to exist by putting others out of existence?
Srila Prabhupada: That is simply the demoniac mentality. They are happy when others are unhappy. And when others are happy, they are unhappy.
But the devotee of the Lord is para-duhkha-duhkhi—he's happy only in seeing the happiness of others, and unhappy only in seeing the unhappiness of others. That is Krsna consciousness. That is natural.
We often gain a new appreciation For Krsna consciousness by observing someone trying to understand—independently of Vedic knowledge—a concept that is perfectly expressed in Vedic literature. I found this recently, while reading a book on theology. In Search of Deity: An Essay in Dialectical Theism, by John Macquarrie. Macquarrie was discussing the tendency for the religious and philosophical forms of theism to come into conflict:
Although the strongly personalist and even anthropomorphic language serves to keep before the worshiper that sense of affinity with the Divine Being which we have seen to be essential to belief in God and which is the business of religion to encourage and enhance, reflective members of the religious community' have looked for ways of expressing theism that would be more satisfying intellectually. In general, they have tried to move away from images to concepts and to express theism as a philosophical doctrine.
But as Macquarrie points out, "It is not easy to see how the religious and philosophical forms of theism can be integrated. . . . Attempts to prove the divine existence may only sow doubts rather than provide certitude. The whole enterprise may seem to have become a theoretical matter and to be cut off from the practical business of living. . . ."
While reading this I thought how well the integration of devotion and intellect has been achieved in Krsna consciousness. Srila Prabhupada was well aware of the possible dilemma. He used to say, "Philosophy without religion is dry mental speculation. And religion without philosophy is sentimentality or fanaticism." The synthesis is revealed in the very name bestowed on the Krsna consciousness movement's founder-acarya—"Bhaktivedanta."
Bhakti is the religion of divine ecstasy and emotional love of God. The Srimad-Bhagavatam (2.3.24) states, "Certainly that heart is steel-framed which, in spite of one's chanting the holy name of the Lord with concentration, does not change when ecstasy takes place, tears fill the eyes, and the hairs stand on end." In the Caitanya-caritamrta (Adi 7.88-90). Krsnadasa Kaviraja relates how Lord Caitanya was instructed about ecstasy by His spiritual master, Isvara Puri. Isvara Puri said, "When one actually develops love of Godhead, he naturally sometimes cries, sometimes laughs, sometimes chants, and sometimes runs here and there just like a madman. . . . These are various natural symptoms of ecstatic love of Godhead, which cause a devotee to dance and float in an ocean of transcendental bliss while chanting the Hare Krsna mantra."
The object of a devotee's bliss is Lord Krsna Himself, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Through bhakti a devotee enters into a personal, living relationship with Krsna, either as a servant, friend, parent, or lover. And even in the beginning stages, the devotee is able to see God personally in His Deity form within the temple.
Some people misunderstand the symptoms of advanced devotees to be sentimental displays. There is also a class of sentimental devotees, known as sahajiyas, who take everything very cheaply and never wish to study the philosophy of Vedanta-sutra and the Puranas. Their sentimental version of bhakti, however, is not the real thing. Srila Prabhupada writes:
Thus it is to be understood that a Vaisnava should be completely conversant with Vedanta philosophy, yet he should not think that studying Vedanta is all in all and therefore be unattached to the chanting of the holy name. A devotee must know the importance of simultaneously understanding Vedanta philosophy and chanting the holy names.
"Vedanta" refers to knowledge of the Absolute Truth gained by philosophical discussion, as contained in the scripture Vedanta-sutra. There is no shortage of philosophical inquiry in the Vaisnava sampradaya. The great philosophers such as Madhva and Ramanuja, as well as Lord Caitanya and His disciples such as Jiva Gosvami, Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami, testified to this. Any serious student of religion and philosophy who studies these great masters cannot come away with the opinion that there is a lack of intellectual conceptualization among the genuine Vaisnavas.
But this intellectualism is never dry or speculative, nor does it lead to an impersonal conclusion. It is based on the truth given in the Vedas by the original philosopher-saints, especially Srila Vyasadeva, the literary incarnation of God, who compiled all the Vedas. Vaisnava theology is never one man's speculation but the expansion of an unbroken disciplic succession.
The philosophy of Krsna consciousness expressed by Lord Caitanya is the culmination and synthesis of centuries of Vaisnava thought. His teachings are called acintya-bhedabheda-tattva. "the simultaneous and inconceivable oneness and difference of God and His energies." Previous Vedic philosophers often debated whether the Absolute Truth is an impersonal concept or the Supreme Person. According to the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the Absolute Truth can be considered in any one of three aspects: the impersonal energy, the localized form of God in the heart, and the Supreme Personality of Godhead (Sri Krsna).
Lord Caitanya acknowledged both the personal and the impersonal. Drawing from the Vedic scriptures as evidence. He taught that God is a completely transcendental being, but since all the material worlds are His energy. He is also immanent within the worlds. A lover of God can therefore sense His full presence even in the smallest atom of existence, while at the same time worshiping God in His transcendental form in the spiritual world. This realization is inconceivable to an ordinary person but can be understood through bhakti, or devotion. Thus the philosophy of acintya-bhedabheda-tattva unites the philosopher's search for the perfect theology with the pure devotee's desire to approach God in an ecstatic union of love.
Those who seriously take to Krsna consciousness prepare themselves by simultaneously following the paths of bhakti and Vedanta. The ordinary devotee cannot imitate the display of ecstatic emotion of the advanced devotee, and neither can most of us expect to master the dialectics of Vedanta on a par with Madhvacarya and other intellectual giants. Nevertheless, by reading the Bhaktivedanta purports and by chanting Hare Krsna (alone and in the company of devotees), any human being can develop his dormant love of God and become learned in the science of God.
In reviewing the differences between devotional and philosophical theism, Macquarrie shows them to be in tension and expresses the need for their synthesis:
Perhaps there will always be a tension between images of God and concepts of God, between religious or biblical or revealed theology and philosophical or natural theology, and perhaps different types of mind will always lean toward the one side or the other, but we would make a mistake if we tried to eliminate either one of them. They belong dialectically together within theological reflection on God.
This desired union has been given to all humanity by Lord Caitanya. in the compatible practices of chanting, dancing, feasting, and studying the philosophy of acintya-bhedabheda-tattva.—SDG