"Everyone must perform sacrifice,"
A lecture in London on September 5, 1973
"Acts of sacrifice, charity, and penance are not to be given up; they must be performed. Indeed, sacrifice, charity, and penance purify even the great souls." (Bhagavad-gita 18.5)
There are four stages of spiritual life: brahmacarya [celibate student life], grhastha (householder life], vanaprastha [retired life], and sannyasa [renounced life]. From the beginning of student life, brahmacarya, one must be trained how to satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The brahmacari is trained to rise early in the morning, offer fire sacrifice, study the Vedas, and then perform sankirtana, preaching the glories of the Lord. There are so many routine duties for brahmacaris, and these must be executed.
For grhasthas [householders], the first duty is to give charity. And who will accept this charity? The brahmacaris and sannyasis [renunciants]. The brahmacari may accept charity on behalf of the spiritual master, and the sannyasi may accept just enough charity for his maintenance, but no more.
A householder cannot accept charity, unless he is a brahmana. Then he may accept charity, but he cannot accumulate money. Whatever he gets, he must use as much as he needs for his maintenance and then give any extra money in charity. There is a Bengali proverb that says. "Even if a brahmana gets 100.000 rupees, he remains a beggar." Why? Because he immediately distributes it all in charity.
And for the sannyasis and vanaprasthas [retirees], tapasya is most important. Tapasya means voluntarily accepting all kinds of inconveniences. In material life one tries to avoid all inconveniences, but spiritual life means to accept many different kinds of austerities for the sake of Krsna, even at the risk of all inconvenience.
So, here Lord Krsna says, yajna-dana-tapah-karma na tyajyam: "One should never give up sacrifice, charity, and austerity." These things must be continued under all circumstances.
Now, the impersonalistic, Mayavadi sannyasis strictly follow the principles of austerity—at least those who are genuine, not false. Three times a day they take a bath. even in the severest cold; they lie down on the floor to sleep; and they always study Vedanta and Sankhya philosophy. But in spite of all these austerities, they do not approve of the worship of the Deity, the transcendental form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Because they are impersonalists, they do not worship the form of God. So the sastra [scripture] says, ye 'nye 'ravindaksa vimukta-maninas tvayy asta-bhavad avisuddha-buddhayah: "Although the Mayavadis think themselves liberated, they are averse to worshiping the lotus feet of Krsna, and so their consciousness is impure."
The Mayavadi sannyasis address one another. "Namo-narayanaya [Obeisances to Narayana]." This means that they think every one of them has become Narayana, the Supreme Lord. This is their philosophy. And from this namo-narayanaya principle. Vivekananda Swami manufactured the word daridra-narayana, "poor Narayana."
So, for the Mayavadis Narayana has become a very cheap thing: "Everyone has become Narayana; everyone has become God." And then the rascal God goes to the hospital and has an operation. They have no shame. They never think, "If I am God, why can't I cure my bodily pains? What kind of God am I?" No, this thought never occurs to them. Rather, these rascals proclaim that they are God, and there is another set of rascals who accept them as God. Vivekananda said, "Why are you searching for God? Don't you see so many Gods loitering in the street?"
No. We do not accept such a God. Our God is different Our Narayana is the real Narayana—the exalted Supreme Personality of Godhead. He cannot be compared even with such demigods as Lord Brahma and Lord Siva, what to speak of these rascal Mayavadls. As it is said,
yas tu narayanam devam
"Any person who thinks that Lord Brahma or Lord Siva is equal to Lord Narayana is a rascal." So the Mayavadis are rascals. They say, "Any demigod is as good as Visnu. You can worship any god and get the same result; it doesn't matter." They believe that ultimately the Absolute Truth is impersonal. And so you can imagine any form and meditate on that, and ultimately you will merge into that impersonal Brahman. This is their philosophy, but this is not the fact.
In the ultimate issue, the Absolute Truth is Krsna, Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Brahmeti paramatmeti bhagavan iti sabdyate: The Absolute Truth is realized in three phases—the impersonal Brahman; the localized Paramatma [Supersoul; and Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna (krsnas tu bhagavan svayam). Ultimately the Absolute Truth is Bhagavan, and there are many expansions of Bhagavan (advaitam acyutam anadim ananta-rupam). Krsna has millions and trillions of expansions. One of them is the Paramatma, the Supersoul in everyone's heart (isvarah sarva-bhutanam hrd-dese 'rjuna tisthati). And the Paramatma also resides in every atom: andantara-stha-paramanu-cayantara-stham.
So, Lord Krsna has many expansions, but they are all one, advaitam. For example, if you place millions of pots of water in the sunshine, you will find millions of suns reflected in the water. But although we see that millions of suns are reflected in the millions of pots, we know that the sun is one. Similarly, God is one, but He can expand Himself into millions and trillions of forms. There is no question of counting them.
The Mayavadi philosophy is that because God has expanded Himself into so many forms and is thus all-pervading, He is finished. This is a materialistic conception. Suppose you take a big piece of paper, tear it into small pieces, and then throw the pieces away. Then the original paper is lost; it no longer exists. That is the Mayavadi philosophy: Because God is all-pervading, He has no form.
But this is not the spiritual conception. The spiritual conception is purnasya purnam adaya purnam evavasisyate: Lord Krsna is the complete, supreme whole, and even though He expands Himself into millions and trillions of complete forms. He still remains complete. Therefore Krsna is described as avyaya, which means He is never diminished in anyway. Suppose I have one hundred pounds in my bank balance. If I take one, two, three, four, five—in this way, my bank balance will be finished. But Krsna is not like that He is so complete that although unlimited complete forms expand from Him. He still remains the complete whole. This is the statement of the Isopanisad, and this is the real conception of God.
So, unless you practice yajna [sacrifice], how will you understand this philosophy? It is not possible. In the present age, however, the ritualistic sacrifices recommended in the Vedas are not possible to execute. They are very expensive. You have to acquire so much ghee and grains, along with so many other things. Daily you have to feed so many people. This is all very difficult in this age.
Therefore Krsna has made yajna easy. As recommended in Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.5.32],
What is the yajna for the present age? Sankirtana, the congregational chanting of the holy names of God. This process was taught by the incarnation of God for the present age of Kali.
Now, one may ask. Who is the incarnation of God for the present age? The Bhagavatam says, krsna-varnam. The word varna means "category." So Krsna-varnam means that the incarnation for the present age is in the category of Krsna, not in the category of the jiva soul. In other words, He is Krsna Himself. Or, krsna-varnam can also mean "one who describes (varna-yati) Krsna." So the incarnation who teaches sankirtana is always describing Krsna or chanting the holy name of Krsna, and He is Krsna because He belongs to the category of Krsna.
The Bhagavatam also describes this incarnation as tvisakrsnam, "having a non-blackish complexion." But we know that Krsna has a blackish complexion. He is described as asitambuda-sundarangam. Asita means "black," and ambuda means "cloud." So His complexion is like a blackish cloud, but very, very, very, very beautiful. Kandarpa-koti-kamaniya: He is so beautiful that many millions of Cupids cannot be compared with Him.
So, although the incarnation who teaches sankirtana is the same as Krsna, His complexion is not blackish. Then may He be any color except blackish? No. There are fixed colors for the Supreme Personality of Godhead. When the greatly learned astrologer Garga Muni performed the birth ceremony for Krsna at Nanda Maharaja's place, he said, suklo raktas tatha pita idanim krsnatam gatah: "Nanda Maharaja, formerly this son of yours appeared three times with three different colors—white, red, and yellow. Now He has appeared in a blackish color." Therefore the incarnation for the present age must be either white, red, or yellow.
So, the complexion of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is a yellowish golden color. Also. He is always describing Lord Krsna and chanting His name, and He is in the same category as Krsna. Therefore it is understood that He is the incarnation for the present age.
Next the Bhagavatam says, sangopangastra-parsadam: "He is always surrounded by His associates and expansions." Anga means "immediate expansion." and upanga means "an expansion of the expansion," which is also known as a kala. The first expansion is called an avatara, and when there is another avatara from the first avatara. He is called a kala. Lord Caitanya appeared with His immediate expansion, Nityananda Prabhu, and with the expansion of the expansion. Advaita Prabhu, and also with Srivasa Thakura, Gadadhara Pandita, and many other devotees (gaura-bhakta-vrnda). Therefore Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has all the symptoms of the incarnation for the present age.
There is a very scientific analysis of God in the sastras. It is not that any rascal can come and declare. "I am God." This is not acceptable. We have to understand God according to the sastra. Because Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared like an ordinary man, Nimai Pandita, but was actually shown to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead, so many rascals have imitated Him: "Well, if Nimai Pandita can become an avatara, why not Gadadhara Chatterjee?" Ramakrishna's name was Gadadhara Chatterjee. He imitated Caitanya Mahaprabhu. But where is the reference in the sastra that he was God? As far as Caitanya Mahaprabhu is concerned, there are innumerable references proving that He is God—in the Mahabharata, the Srimad-Bhagavatam. the Upanisads. Therefore we accept Him as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is not that by some rascal's vote we can declare some ordinary man as God, and then he becomes God.
So, one may ask. How should we worship Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu? The Bhagavatam says, yajnaih sankirtana-prayair yajanti hi su-medhasah: "Those who are intelligent worship Lord Caitanya by the process of sankirtana, the congregational chanting of the holy names." Those whose brains are filled up with cow dung cannot understand the importance of the sankirtana-yajna. But those who have nice brain substance will perform this sacrifice. In this way they fulfill the Lord's injunction in the Bhagavad-gita: yajna-dana-tapah-karma na tyajyam. "Sacrifice, charity, and austerity should never be given up."
Sankirtana is the sacrifice for this age. You cannot give up the performance of sacrifice at any stage of life, but the sacrifices mentioned in the Vedas are not possible in this age of Kali. As the Bhagavatam says, mandah su-manda-matayo manda-bhagya hy upadrutah: In this age people may advertise that they have made so much progress, but they are misguided, lazy, unfortunate, and disturbed. This is the position of the people in this age. How can they perform Vedic ritualistic ceremonies? It is not possible.
Therefore Krsna has given us the opportunity to perform the sankirtana-yajna. In the temple, if you keep a picture of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates and perform sankirtana before them, you will become all-perfect, it is so easy.
It is said in the Srimad-Bhagavatam [12.3.52]:
krte yad dhyayato visnum
"The same result one could obtain in previous ages by other means, one can obtain in this age simply by chanting the holy names of God." In the Satya-yuga the process was meditation, in the Treta-yuga, elaborate sacrifice, and in the Dvapara-yuga, Deity worship. But in the Kali-yuga it is simply sankirtana. This is the sastric injunction.
So, I am very pleased that you are keeping this center nicely up to our standard by performing sankirtana. Today is Radhastami, the appearance anniversary of Srimati Radharani. She is Krsna's internal pleasure potency. Krsna can expand Himself. So when He wants to enjoy, He manifests His pleasure potency from His body, and that pleasure potency is Radharani. Radharani is not an ordinary living entity: She is Krsna's personal pleasure potency, ahladini-sakti.
Radharani's only business is to please Krsna. and this should be our only business also. Samsiddhir hari-tosanam: "Your perfection is to please Krsna." And in the Bhagavad-gita [15.15] Krsna says, vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyah: The whole of Vedic literature is meant for searching out Krsna and satisfying Him.
Krsna personally comes to give you this information: sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja. "You rascal! Just give up all other engagements and surrender to Me." And what about the demigods? There are so many demigods. Should we worship them? Krsna says, kamais tais tair hrta-jnanah prapadyante 'nya-devatah: "The demigods are worshiped by persons who have lost all intelligence." There is no need to worship the demigods. As Krsna says, mam ekam saranam vraja: "Simply surrender unto Me alone." That is the sastric instruction.
So, Krsna can be worshiped through Radharani. Therefore we don't keep Krsna alone on the altar. No. We worship Radha-Krsna. First you have to worship Radharani. In Vrndavana all the devotees address one another, "Jaya Radhe!" Why? Because they know that if Radharani is pleased, Krsna will also be pleased. Radharani is the original pleasure potency of Krsna and is always absorbed in thought of Him. So when someone comes before Her to serve Krsna, She becomes so pleased—"Oh, here is a devotee of Krsna." Immediately She recommends. "My dear Krsna, here is a devotee of Yours. He is better than I am." This is Radharani's mood.
I may not be a devotee—I may be the most fallen rascal—but if I try to reach Krsna through Radharani then my life is successful. Therefore we should worship Radharani first. Instead of directly offering Krsna a flower, just put it in the hands of Radharani: "O mother Radharani, please kindly take this flower and offer it to Krsna."
"Oh," Radharani says, "you have brought a flower for Krsna. This pleases Me so much." Krsna says, patram puspam phalam toyam: "One can please Me with a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or some water offered with love." But don't offer it to Krsna directly. Just offer it through Radharani. Then She will appreciate it very much, and Krsna will accept your offering.
So, this is our philosophy: to please Krsna through Radharani. And today is the auspicious anniversary of Her appearance. Therefore you should offer flowers to Radharani and pray to Her. "Kindly be merciful and tell Your Krsna about me." Krsna is not independent; He is Radharani's property. So you have to approach Krsna through Radharani. Therefore worship Radharani very nicely and be happy.
Thank you very much. Hare Krsna.
The Agni And the Ecstasy
"I considered myself a sort of Renaissance man in my own right. But through reading Srila Prabhupada's profound works, I came to understand what I really wanted to pursue."
by Satyaraja dasa
July 10, 1975. It was a beautiful summer day. Although I was an exuberant twenty-year-old. I had no qualms about staying indoors on this occasion. I was being initiated into the ancient tradition of Krsna consciousness by my spiritual master. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. the founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
I had been working toward this for some time. When I joined the movement in 1973, my intention was to make a short experiment. I had just read Mahatma Gandhi's autobiography. Experiments With Truth, and I romanticized how I would experiment in a similar way.
Also, just before joining the movement, I had read Irving Stone's Agony and the Ecstasy, a fictionalized account of Michelangelo's life. I was fascinated by the great Renaissance man's resolve to paint the Sistine Chapel upon the request of Pope Sixtus IV. Michelangelo's work as a painter for the Pope necessitated a mood of surrender, for he considered himself primarily a sculptor.
I had fancied myself something other than a devotee of God. I was a musician, an artist, and somewhat of a scholar. So I considered myself a sort of Renaissance man in my own right. But through reading Srila Prabhupada's profound works—translations of and commentaries on the ancient Vedic literature—I came to understand what I really wanted to pursue: God's mission in this world.
Before coming to Krsna consciousness. I had read that religion originated in the East Yoga groups and meditation centers back in America, while popular, did not satisfy my urge for a way of life that was completely spiritual. I took a short trip to India but returned dissatisfied. Traditional Hinduism seemed too dogmatic, with its many gods and family-based caste distinctions. Nonetheless, I knew that Hinduism had its roots in the Vedic literature. and I became interested in this source of spiritual truth.
Knowing that the Vedas were written in Sanskrit I decided to enroll in a Sanskrit course at Queens College in New York. If I could learn the language, I reasoned, then I could interpret the texts for myself, and I wouldn't have to rely on the commentaries of popular yogis and swamis.
My professor was using Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is. I had read many editions of the Gita, but only after reading Srila Prabhupada's version was I aware that Krsna is God Himself and that the plurality of gods for which Hinduism is so infamous is a fairly recent innovation. For me, this was an important revelation: the religion upon which Hinduism rests is strongly monotheistic!
I was also surprised to learn that caste distinction as interpreted by the British—and most modern Hindus—has little to do with what is actually taught in Vedic texts. While the popular misconception holds that one fits into a specific caste according to birthright, the Vedas—and especially Bhagavad-gita—teach that one's quality and work determine one's social position. A person is considered a brahmana, for instance, by virtue of his being an intellectual, not because he is born to a brahmana father. This is clear from the Sanskrit texts themselves. So my Sanskrit course helped me see the logic of the Vedic literature and the accuracy of Prabhupada's translation and commentary.
More important for me, however, was the realization that Prabhupada was not only delivering Bhagavad-gita "as it is," but was indeed espousing original Vedic culture as it is. I knew this was what I had been looking for.
As I became more familiar with the Sanskrit language and the ancient Vedic tradition to which it belongs, I became convinced of Srila Prabhupada's authenticity. I felt compelled to visit his Hare Krsna center in New York City, which was listed in the back of my Bhagavad-gita.
Luckily, on a rainy spring day in 1973, Srila Prabhupada was lecturing at the Henry Street temple in Brooklyn. It was my first visit to the temple, and although Srila Prabhupada was always traveling, he was there on that day. I understand now that this arrangement was Krsna's mercy on me, because, being quite a skeptic, no one short of Srila Prabhupada himself could have convinced me of the validity of Krsna consciousness.
Although I came with a battery of questions regarding metaphysical reality and ontological truth, I didn't walk away disappointed. I was astounded by Srila Prabhupada's lecture. Without my asking. he had answered all my questions—and then some!
Still, I maintained a healthy skepticism. The scriptures advise that one apply logic and reason in the pursuit of truth. So for a full year I studied Srila Prabhupada's books closely, visited the temple, and asked questions. I adopted the basic practices of Krsna consciousness: I started chanting the Hare Krsna mantra on beads every day, and I avoided meat-eating, illicit sex, intoxication, and gambling.
Seeking happiness, I had formerly indulged in all of these activities. But somehow, I knew, true happiness was eluding me, no matter how successful I was in enjoying my senses. In retrospect, I think that my prior indulgence served to reinforce my resolve, for despite my sensual gratification. I was becoming less and less happy. Although I was engaging in sinful life to numb the pain of material existence, it just wasn't working. Rather, I was becoming more and more entangled. The very activities I thought were bringing me pleasure and freedom were actually the source of my misery and bondage. I was embracing as the cure that which causes the disease.
In the beginning I faltered quite a bit. But as I became more steady in following the basic rules, I could feel my consciousness becoming purified. It gradually became easier to lead a purer life. Nonetheless. although things were becoming "easier," they were still a challenge, and I didn't know if I had what it takes to make a lifetime commitment Despite this period of uncertainty, however, my experiments became more and more serious.
In 1974, I saw Srila Prabhupada lecture at the Ratha-yatra (Festival of the Chariots) in San Francisco. After the lecture, Srila Prabhupada sang and danced with the devotees in glorification of God. He was happy, and everyone who watched him knew it Here, I thought is someone who practices what he preaches. This event solidified my faith in the process of Krsna consciousness. I knew then and there that Srila Prabhupada was my spiritual guide and that I would one day be initiated by him. Whatever my reservations, I knew I had to make a commitment If I didn't I would be selling myself short.
As I became a more dedicated follower, I went out and distributed Srila Prabhupada's books on a daily basis. I wanted to share this treasure that had somehow been bestowed upon me. To this end, I joined the Sri Sri Radha Damodara Sankirtana Party, a team of devotees who were absorbed in distributing his literature and message to the world.
* * *
February 28, 1975, was a cold day in Atlanta, Georgia. We had traveled there to meet with Srila Prabhupada, who was arriving from a successful lecture tour of Caracas and Miami. I was one of some three hundred enthusiastic devotees—both old and new—who were there to greet Prabhupada. Although many of us were uninitiated, we had made a serious commitment and there was talk that initiations would be forthcoming, perhaps six months away.
For the next four days, we heard Srila Prabhupada lecture every morning, expounding the basic philosophy of Krsna consciousness with unexcelled clarity and precision. Prabhupada knew that his explanations of the fundamentals would help his young novices preach to those whom they would meet on book distribution. By hearing Prabhupada explain the fundamentals in such a masterful way, I developed confidence in my own ability to convey the same truths to others.
During those early-morning winter lectures in Atlanta, an interesting phenomenon would occur on a daily basis: As I wanted to develop a more intimate relationship with Srila Prabhupada, I would plan out several deep philosophical questions before his lecture. I had hoped that after his talks I would have the opportunity to ask these questions and revel in the spiritual exchange. Without my asking, however, he would invariably answer my questions during his lecture. Sometimes I would even purposely think of questions that had no relation to the daily topic. But the questions were always answered.
By the fourth day, I was certain that this was more than mere coincidence. I was confident that, as my spiritual master, he knew my mind even better than I. As if in confirmation of this, after his lecture, he turned to me (I was sitting only a few feet away!) and said, "Are all questions answered?"
In response, I sat there with my mouth hanging open. Of course, it was not uncommon for him to say this at the end of his lectures, but in this instance he looked right into my eyes. It was fully appropriate, and for me it had very special meaning.
Before Srila Prabhupada was to leave Atlanta and we were to continue our travels throughout the country distributing his books, Tamal Krishna Goswami, the leader of our party, asked Srila Prabhupada if he would like to meet each of us. Wanting to give us special encouragement, Srila Prabhupada agreed.
Though I had seen Prabhupada on several occasions, regularly listened to his tapes, and carefully studied his books, this would be the first time I would actually meet him. I was nervous and excited. While this meeting would be important and certainly pleasurable in many ways. I knew that it would deepen my commitment to the spiritual path. That prompted a sense of fear. Was I ready? The "agony and the ecstasy" motif entered my mind. Michelangelo wanted to sculpt, but in surrendering to the will of the Pope, he had sculpted a new life for himself as a painter.
My eternal spiritual father, whom I had acknowledged as such for a mere two years, was now going to enter my life in a more intimate and personal way. As our Radha Damodara Party danced through the door to his room singing the names of Krsna, I felt our relationship deepen—all of us as Godbrothers under our spiritual father, Srila Prabhupada.
One after another we were introduced to Prabhupada. We each offered him a fragrant flower, which he graciously accepted, and then we offered our prostrated obeisances. Prabhupada smiled with great delight as Tamal Krishna Goswami explained to him our respective services.
"This is Tom," Tamal Krishna Goswami said. "He fixes the buses in which the devotees travel." Prabhupada nodded approvingly. "This is Danny. He does the cleaning. Mike assists with the cooking. Bob distributes your books ..."
"Oh?" Prabhupada interrupted. "This is very nice!" It was clear that Prabhupada had a preference for seeing his books distributed. All other services were valuable in that they assisted this one service of transmitting transcendental knowledge and love of God.
I was up next. Also a book distributor, I felt somewhat confident that Prabhupada would be pleased with my service. "This is Steve." said Tamal Krishna Goswami, "and he distributes your books as well." No reaction. As I went to offer him the flower, I realized that the same phenomenon had occurred again. Since he had just expressed his delight with the previous book distributor, there was no need to say anything new to me. It was just like his answering my questions before I asked them.
Still, after a few, moments. Prabhupada looked up at me with folded hands and said, "Thank you very much." I immediately felt a spiritual reciprocation I had never felt before. He appreciated my service. And I appreciated his encouragement. In that moment I realized that I was in the presence of my spiritual father.
* * *
Four months passed. We were traveling throughout the U. S. delivering the message of Krsna consciousness. It was early July, and we were told that Prabhupada would meet us in Chicago to formally initiate those of us who were true to our vows. Seventy-five young devotees would now strengthen their link with the Vedic tradition through the holy rite of initiation, and then we would all attend the 1975 Festival of the Chariots in Chicago.
Again we spent many mornings listening to Prabhupada lecture from Srimad-Bhagavatam. This time several hundred devotees gathered in the huge hall of the Evanston temple. Prabhupada took this opportunity to expound on the life of Ajamila, a sinful person who at the time of death had saved himself by calling out the name of God: "Narayana! Narayana!"
Prabhupada enjoyed telling this story, for here the power of the holy name is evident Ajamila had named his son Narayana, a name for God, and at the time of death Ajamila called out for the boy with full sincerity. Because he called the name of Narayana. he was saved from death and was given the chance to attain spiritual perfection. "Just see," said Srila Prabhupada. This is the potency of the holy name. Even if chanted inadvertently, it has tremendous effect"
On the fourth day of Prabhupada's Chicago lectures, another miracle occurred. After repeating Narayana's name many times in telling the story of Ajamila, Srila Prabhupada fell into trance. This was something he rarely did in public. An intense silence engulfed the room. We all felt blessed to witness this transcendental phenomenon. Through purely calling out Narayana's name. Prabhupada was seeing Narayana face to face. His trancelike state and his inability to speak lasted two minutes. Although I had read about the ecstatic symptoms of a pure devotee. I was amazed to see them. Those of us who were in the room will never forget his spiritually uplifting expression.
After two seemingly eternal minutes, Srila Prabhupada said, "All right Thank you very much." He then gestured that kirtana should begin, and one of the most intense chanting sessions I had ever experienced permeated the large hall.
Then came the initiation. Anticipation filled my heart. My imagination went wild. I pictured sages in ancient times taking part in similar ceremonies on the banks of India's holy rivers. Now I would have the good fortune to follow in their footsteps. I looked forward to the exotic and colorful initiation ceremony, which includes a purificatory fire sacrifice. I had imagined this in my mind's eye for many months. The room would be filled with smoke from the flames of the ancient Vaisnava ceremony. I was familiar with the initiation procedure, for I had several months earlier been to the initiation of my senior Godbrothers. Each initiate would come before Srila Prabhupada, who would give him or her a set of chanting beads and a spiritual name. This name is usually one of the names of Krsna (or of one of His eternal associates) followed by the word dasa (for men) or devi-dasi (for women), both of which mean "servant" The name reminds the disciple that he or she is a servant of God.
Now my own initiation was about to take place. Srila Prabhupada started calling devotees one by one. There were seventy-five of us, so my fear was alleviated by the fact that I was not alone. Still, the agony-and-the-ecstasy concept ran through my mind as I thought of the sacrificial fire soon to be ignited. My entire life up to the point of initiation ran before my eyes. Knowing that in Sanskrit the fire is called the agni-hotra, I started to play mental word games: "The agni and the ecstasy." I thought This was not a time to play games, however, and I made an internal promise to be more serious.
The fire at such sacrifices is always a marvelous thing to behold. In this particular situation, however. I had mixed feelings. On the one hand. I could hardly wait for Srila Prabhupada to call my name, so we could get on with the beautiful fire sacrifice. On the other hand, I was nervous as hell! The commitment of life-long dedication is frightening. But I knew that one can get out of Krsna consciousness only what one is ready to put into it I had made up my mind.
To ease my tension. I had enjoyed watching several of Prabhupada's senior disciples spread colored dyes over the dirt mound in decorative crisscrosses just prior to the sacrifice. "What is actually being sacrificed?" I began to ask myself. Surely it was mainly my false ego, my false sense of proprietorship. I was now acknowledging that I am not God but, rather. His blissful servant
"Ah, to be a servant of God," I thought, "—this is no ordinary thing."
No sooner was I thinking in this way than I heard someone call out my name. It was Tamal Krishna Goswami. He was calling me forward to be initiated by Srila Prabhupada. I took a deep breath and approached Prabhupada's seat. As he handed me the beads, he said, "Do you know the four rules?"
"Yes," I answered. "No intoxication, no illicit sex, no meat-eating, and no gambling." I had been practicing what to say so I wouldn't muff it.
"Correct" Prabhupada said. "Follow these four principles and chant a minimum of sixteen rounds on your beads every day. Hare Krsna." Then the moment I had been waiting for: "Your name is Satyaraja."
I immediately looked over at one of my traveling mates who knew Sanskrit better than I. "It means 'king of truth.' " he said. I looked back at Prabhupada with a sense of pride. Yes, this is me—I am the king of truth!
Prabhupada looked me squarely in the eyes and revealed the handy little affix: "Dasa!"
I felt two inches tall. Here I was trying to remember that the real sacrifice was the sacrifice of my false ego, and Prabhupada had shown me. by pausing before saying "dasa." that I was still anxious to think of myself as something special. In short, I was inadvertently trying to be an imitation God. Prabhupada had lectured many times explaining that this in fact is the very reason for our material existence: the endeavor to replace the Lord and be the central enjoyer of all we survey. Prabhupada taught me a valuable lesson at the initiation by reminding me that I was merely a humble servant of "the king of truth."
As I walked away from his seat with my beads and new name—Satyaraja dasa—I also walked away from the agony-and-the-ecstasy concept The agony. I realized, was merely a product of my rebellion against God. Now, through Prabhupada's grace. I realized that I am constitutionally a servant of God. So the agony was gone. As I watched the sacrificial fire burn away. I knew all that was left was ecstasy.
Why do so many people find it hard to think of God as a person?
by Krsna Dharma Dasa
Whenever the press runs articles about faith, the idea that God might be person seems more or less abhorrent to the authors. Even those who may term themselves theists balk at the idea, offering all kinds of alternatives.
The Guardian (London) regularly prints a column dealing with different beliefs. In one article recently published, a professor of philosophy gave his opinion that it is time to discard the "old God concept of Western faiths. . . . We should now rum to the more intelligent philosophy of Advaita Vedanta." Another article, coming from a noted psychiatrist, speaks about the idea of God as being "irreconcilable with the reality of cruelty, misery and pain, ... a dangerous word (God) in any sense, giving license to persecution and murder."
These are but a couple of examples of the confusion regularly exhibited in the column. The only thing common to the writers is that they all make the same mistake. They assume, somewhat conceitedly, that because they do not know anything about God, either nothing can be known, or at least no one else knows. "I can't understand how God could be a person; therefore He can't be." But perhaps they simply have not yet encountered that knowledge. After all, there are so many things we do not know, but we can learn about them by approaching a proper teacher.
Indeed, what are we coming to? Is it so difficult to understand the nature of God? There are so many simple yet profound arguments to help us understand. For instance, just as a watch obviously has a maker, so the universe, infinitely more complex than a watch, must also have a brain behind it Or if God created man in the image of Himself, would that make God formless energy? Can we find even a single example of an act of creation not carried out by a person?
Nothing happens by chance; every thing follows the law of cause and effect Even in probability theory the word chance cannot be properly defined. If I can perfectly repeat the conditions of a dice throw for the next throw, I will get the same number. We may not be aware of the variables, but something determines the result. Fixed variables, such as loaded dice, will fix the result. There must also be an ultimate cause of all causes, and just a little thought demands that it must be a person.
Consider: Can order arise from disorder without the influence of intelligence? Do material objects tend to decay, or do they restore themselves and grow? What is our experience? How can we say that the world, with its infinite, ordered intricacies, simply developed of its own accord from a vast cauldron of boiling "primordial soup"? Or funnier still—from a mass of exploding rock.
The universe is full of laws that cannot be broken. We must submit to time—grow old and die. Everything must disintegrate and form again into new objects. The sun rises and sets with perfect precision; the stars and planets similarly move. Can there be laws without a lawmaker? Again, what is our experience?
Nowadays we even hear the absurd proposal that we are all God. But can I honestly say that everything is controlled by me? Am I omniscient, even though I cannot see beyond the walls of the room I am in? How many hairs are there on my own head? Can I create even a single atom? Clearly there is a flaw in the suggestion that I am the Supreme Being, possessed of all and perfect knowledge.
Others offer the theory that, although we are now unaware of our Godhood, we will realize our supremacy upon attaining nirvana, or some such state. We are now in illusion, but that will end when we are self-realized. But what is the meaning of our supremacy if we are overwhelmed by illusion or forgetfulness? If the force of illusion, whatever it may be, is greater than we are, how can we be supreme?
Obviously I am not supreme, but something must be. Even the most primitive people offer respects to greatness. Sometimes they worship the sky, sometimes mountains, oceans, and even the rainfall upon which all life depends. In any event, there is an acceptance of superiority; there are things greater than I. This cannot be denied. The force of nature is greater, bringing transformation and death inevitably to all.
But what is the ultimate greatness? We see a beautiful painting and wonder—who painted it? But what about the original landscape? Who painted that? Rains fall, and the food by which we are nourished grows—a wonderful system. And yet no one engineered it? Great scientific brains struggle hard and yet fail to emulate even a small aspect of nature, such as the creation of a tiny amoeba.
Although I am not supreme. I still have the attribute of personality. I can think, feel, will, and desire. Could it be that I am capable of something of which God, the Supreme, is not?
These are all elementary arguments, and though they may not be all-encompassing in their logic, and though I have not addressed all the possible objections to them, an honest person will have to admit that they are sensible. Compare the simple logical points of the theistic presentation with the complex and often barely intelligible arguments made to support atheism. Which seem more credible?
It is hopeless to speculate grandly and finally conclude that there are no answers to life's big questions. The real conclusion is that our brain power is insufficient to independently arrive at the answers. We have to accept the answers of the authority on these questions: scripture.
All the scriptures speak of God as a person. Dismissing this evidence, we enter the realm of personal conjectures and find that these are endless and without agreement. Although the subject of the Absolute Truth is the most profound area of study, everyone will offer his own theory about it. If. instead of going to law college. I decided to make my own laws and set up a legal practice, would anyone come to me? But anyone will speak about God without having studied hardly one word about Him. Are we foolish enough to listen?
As devotees of Krsna, we are sometimes accused of having surrendered our intelligence to a fixed belief system. But hasn't the lawyer surrendered to a system by accepting the laws of the land, studying them, and then repeating them to his clients? We have accepted the obvious fact that God exists and have made it our business to study Him and His purpose, under the guidance of the Vedic literature and the authorized spiritual master.
It is certainly painful for us, having dedicated ourselves to a careful study of the science of God, to see people misled by the absurd postulations of part-time, speculative philosophers. Perhaps the press would be wise to examine the credentials of authors who offer opinion-forming articles in areas where they have little or no knowledge. They owe it to their readers.
We welcome your letters.
This letter is long overdue. Nevertheless, I would like to express my sincere admiration and praise to all of you for producing the wonderful magazine Back to Godhead.
I first came across this magazine about nine years ago by chance at home. I was immediately struck by the beautiful layout, the color pictures, and the articles. I had never seen any magazine so beautiful in my life. I was especially struck when I read one particular sentence—"There is more to life than eating, sleeping, mating, and defending." This sentence somehow kept ringing in my ears and spurred me (an otherwise agnostic) to Krsna consciousness.
Since then I have read many, many BTGs, and I treasure every one of them. I look forward to receiving BTG every month. Thank you very much for producing this magazine. I am eternally indebted to all of you for bringing this useless fool to Krsna consciousness by way of Back to Godhead.
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I am writing in response to the article Thorny Pleasure." by Ajamidha dasa, in Vol. 23, No. 10. I have for many years been a seeker for Truth, and for the last year I have been a subscriber to Back to Godhead, as I thought within its pages I would find some direction in my journey back to God. Of all the splendid articles presented, "Thorny Pleasure" was the one that touched my inner consciousness the most profoundly. I would like to offer my sincere gratitude to the author for all the article has done for me. Thank you.
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In Bhagavad-gita (2.34) Lord Krsna says, "For one who has been honored, dishonor is worse than death." If a man who works in a highly respectable profession and who enjoys a very high reputation is dishonored and described in many unkind words by the people in the society, he may be convinced that death is better than this life. He may pray to Lord Krsna to award him death. But if he does not die and instead continues to live this dishonored and humiliated life. what should he do? Should he commit suicide? And if he doesn't, then should he be criticized for living a dishonored life and not dying? Has Lord Krsna drawn any line—that a person can pocket insult up to this level and after that he should commit suicide? When does the saturation state of dishonor come?
Professor A. K. Agarwal
OUR REPLY: We have to understand this statement in the context of Lord Krsna's reasoning with Arjuna at this point, in the Second Chapter of the Gita. Krsna is certainly not proposing that Arjuna commit suicide. He is simply encouraging Arjuna to fight in pursuance of his duty as a ksatriya. In this verse Krsna tells Arjuna that it would be better for him to die in the battle than to live after being dishonored for leaving the battlefield out of cowardice. Krsna's telling Arjuna to fight in the battle—even if it means death for Arjuna—is certainly different from encouraging someone to commit suicide because his honor has been hurt. Nowhere does Krsna recommend committing suicide.
At this point (in the Second Chapter), Krsna is appealing to Arjuna's ksatriya spirit Later, however. Krsna will speak to Arjuna on a higher, transcendental level. He will tell Arjuna that he should rise above the duality of the material world, which includes the desire for honor and the hatred for dishonor. In the Sixth Chapter, for example. Krsna describes to Arjuna the importance of controlling the mind. He then says. "For one who has conquered the mind. the Supersoul is already reached, for he has attained tranquility. To such a man happiness and distress, heat and cold, honor and dishonor are all the same." In the Twelfth Chapter, Lord Krsna says, "One who is equipoised in honor and dishonor ... is very dear to Me." And in the Sixteenth Chapter. Krsna lists the divine qualities of godly men, ending with "freedom from the passion for honor."
As the Bhagavad-gita progresses. Lord Krsna's instructions to Arjuna become more and more sublime and confidential. As the ideal student, Arjuna was able to understand Krsna's final instruction—that everyone must surrender unto Him. Because Arjuna did this—without considering honor or dishonor—he was successful. His real success was that he fought not to protect his own honor, but for the pleasure of Krsna.
In pre-glasnost days a veteran book distributor
by Lavangalatika-devi dasi
After going through immigration at the Agosto de Sandino Aeropuerto at Managua. I stood in line to purchase $60 worth of cordovas (the local currency), which is required for anyone entering the city. Having been told, inaccurately, that everything is inexpensive in Nicaragua, I had brought only $200 in cash with me.
More important, I had two hundred copies of the Russian translation of Bhagavad-gita As It Is, by His Divine Grace A C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. I had come to give them to Russian officials and professionals stationed in Managua. At that time, the winter of 1985, it was easier and safer to distribute Srila Prabhupada's books to Russians outside the Soviet Union. The book had been newly published. I felt it was important to distribute as many copies as possible, because whenever Bhagavad-gita As It Is is translated into a new language, many new devotees j of Krsna are made.
In customs, a uniformed young lady confiscated my books. She said that customs would deliver them to the Russian embassy, but I insisted I would have to do it myself. Unfortunately, the administrator of customs had already gone home for the night, so she said I should come back the next day, as it would take that long for the books to go through the clearing house.
I took a cab and asked for the Hotel Central, the largest hotel near the airport and the only one I'd heard of. I had also been told that the rates were reasonable there. It was a very dark, humid night. The short ride on the bumpy, unlit road cost five hundred cordovas, more than $20. The hotel seemed to be empty, but they said they had no available rooms. It was just as well since the rooms cost $75 a night Obviously, I had come to the wrong place, so I took another taxi back down the dark, bumpy road that led to the city.
As I sat in the car, the surrounding darkness was suddenly fractured on all sides by explosions. It was not war but fireworks set of in celebration of the Fiesta de la Virgen de Nicaragua, a ten-day festival, my driver explained. In the yards of all the houses were little altars for the Virgin, with strings of lights and offerings of sweets, bananas, and flowers. People were visiting one another, and processions were being held. The scene reminded me of Diwali, the festival of lights in India.
I tried two more hotels, which were also full. and finally checked in at the Estrella Blana for $50 a night It was a new hotel, modern and clean, and in the lobby stood a statue of the Virgen de Nicaragua, smiling sweetly on an altar draped with red and green lights.
Finally, in my room after a long, hot day. I went to take a shower, but turning the faucet produced not a drop of water. The shower held only a tiny baby scorpion crawling on the tiles. When I called the front desk, they told me that on Tuesdays and Thursdays there was no water in Managua until 10:00 P.M. I'd have to wait two hours.
Next morning, while chanting on my beads. I heard outside my door. "Zdra-sTuite." I could hardly believe it—Russian!
I opened the door to find an elderly lady talking to a young man. I had one book that I had kept in my handbag, so I gave it to her. I told her it was book about Indian culture, including history and yoga, and that it was the favorite book of Mahatma Gandhi. She was delighted. We spoke briefly. She told me she was an engineer and that the American blockade of Nicaragua had made life very difficult there. If I accomplish nothing else while I'm here. I thought, delivering this one book makes this whole journey worthwhile.
I soon had to move to a cheaper hotel to conserve my money. Taking another taxi, I asked the driver where the downtown area was. He told me that in Managua there is none. With my limited Spanish. I learned that in 1972 a tierra moto, or earthquake, had destroyed everything, killing thousands of people. There had not been enough money to rebuild, and there was fear of building high-rise structures in the same place. Instead, clusters of low buildings appeared, a few of which were luxury developments.
Throughout the area, however, were stretches of wasteland covered with piles of rubble overgrown with grasses and junglelike vegetation. The surroundings were very disorienting. People stood in long queues for milk, meat, or buses, which were very infrequent There were also many open trucks carrying people on the pothole-filled road. A big sign by the road read, "Ne le falta a la Patria"—"Don't let your country down."
The actual city center was a newly-built covered market with rows of stalls, some piled high with fruits, including bananas and enormous papayas. There were also shoe shops. The peasant vendors were mostly women with long black braids, jeweled earrings, and colorful clothing.
My next hotel was the ruin of a former mansion and was run by a Lebanese family that had settled there. The banisters were broken, the carpet and curtains were torn, the wallpaper had peeled off, the windowpanes were broken, and the ill-fitting doors and floorboards creaked. I seemed to be the only guest, but neither this fact nor the shabby appearance of the place were reflected in the price—$35 a night. Still, I had to wait there until the next day, when I could try to get my books from the customs administrator.
I ate a papaya and later went for a walk. On one side was a residential neighborhood of well-kept houses and lawns—mostly embassies. Young people in dark-green military uniforms could be seen about. In the other direction were empty lots overgrown with tropical grass. A friendly old lady spoke to me as I passed, commenting on the irregularity of the buses.
The nearby cafe had no milk, and two boys started to follow and tease me, so I returned to my run-down hotel room and locked myself in for the night
In the morning I went straight to the customs office to claim my books. A small group of people, also waiting to get their things out of customs, were making jokes about the inefficiency of the government It seemed that in general, people were not afraid to speak their minds under the Sandinista regime, and that the paranoia pervading the Eastern Bloc countries was absent.
After a short wait I was called to see the administrator. He was a young man, as most Sandinista officials seemed to be, and was very helpful. He signed the paper necessary for me to collect my books, and there was no red tape, no bribes, no corruption. I simply located my books in the customs shed and paid a small fee, equivalent to fifty cents, to the cashier.
I was then left with $50, some cordovas, and two hundred Bhagavad-gitas to distribute. I would have to distribute all of them that day, since I was to leave on the next First I went to the Russian embassy and handed a book to anyone I met on the grounds on my way to the building. The First Secretary appeared and put a stop to the initial rush of eager takers. He asked my name and why I was passing out the books. He said I should give the rest of the books to him and he would distribute them himself. I figured it was about time to leave.
I returned to the covered market and this time found several Russian shoppers, who gladly accepted books. The taxi driver helped me locate other Russian shoppers. Our operation attracted much attention—the market vendors even wanted books, so I promised I would bring Spanish editions on my next visit Since I was giving the books away, my exchanges with these people produced a mutual feeling of good will. In the parking lot was a Volkswagen van that had brought the Russians. The driver was there, and a man was seated in the rear. Full of confidence. I approached them smiling, book in hand. But the man in the back shot forward, slamming the sliding door in my face and yelling "Bbi xodit"—"Get out!"
We then drove a long way from town to a hotel where some Russian professors were staying. It was run by an American who had married a Nicaraguan girl. He had lived there for fifteen years. I left a small stack of books with the management for later distribution, as I couldn't get to see the professors.
On the way back to Managua at dusk, we gave a lift home to Jaime, one of the waiters from the hotel. He told us it normally took him four hours to go home by bus. He also complained about how it cost him the equivalent of $40 to buy a pair of pants. He lamented about how nice things used to be in the good old days before these "bastards" (Sandinistas) had ruined everything.
I was surprised to hear the last comment because in the "good old days," a few years before, the dictator Somoza used to feed his prisoners to his pet panthers. It seems people can never be satisfied. In the words of Srila Prabhupada, "The whole world is running after happiness, but there is none. The foolish animal will run after water in the desert where there is no water. The whole material civilization is like this. This is the place of suffering, and you are seeking after happiness."
Srila Prabhupada also said that people are transformed into thieves when they plan economic development for sense gratification, failing to recognize Krsna as the proprietor of everything. A ruler should be a representative of God, so that the people can automatically be blessed with all the material resources needed to support spiritual life.
After arriving back at the Estrella, I decided to distribute a bag of books to some Russian doctors who lived nearby. I stumbled in the dark along the uneven dirt path that connected their houses. A young couple invited me in to sit down and talk. In the same neighborhood, however, a heavily built woman stood at her door watching my every move, as if to say I had already gone too far.
That was my last night. Back at the hotel lobby. I sat and waited near the brightly lit statue of the Virgin of Nicaragua to see if any more Russians would walk by. A television was on in the lobby, and there was a movie about a birthday party in an American home. Children were singing "Happy Birthday," and the parents were smiling. Just as the little boy was blowing out the candles on the cake, masked gunmen suddenly burst in and shot everyone dead. Then I watched black people getting beaten up by the police, kids taking drugs, robberies, muggings, drunks—one bizarre horror after another. Though it was obviously anti-American propaganda. I thought how, sadly, these scenes are in fact part of the documentary of life in the Western world.
Suddenly the TV stopped working. The picture tube had burned out.
I had thirty books left, which I had to take back to Costa Rica in my luggage. I also left some copies with the Russian woman I had met in the hotel to give to her friends.
On leaving Nicaragua. I was thinking what a good place it is to preach Krsna consciousness, because the people are very friendly, and they are inclined to religion and enjoy festivals. The people are poor but do not seem to be repressed by the Sandinista government. I managed to reach a few Russians, but here is a whole country waiting for the mercy of Lord Caitanya's sankirtana movement.
This series systematically explains some of the important philosophical concepts that form the foundation of the Vedic culture and the Krsna consciousness movement.
Lesson Eight: Mantra Meditation
by Pavanesana Dasa
PART I: The Sanskrit word mantra means "to free the mind" from illusion. The soul can be compared to a jewel lying on the bottom of a lake. If the waves of the mind are being agitated by illusion, the water picks up mud, and the jewel cannot be seen. But if the surface of the water is calm, the jewel can be clearly seen on the bottom. Similarly, if the mind is liberated from the waves of illusion and ignorance, the pure soul will be reflected by the mind like the jewel in the calm lake.
Mantra meditation can free the mind from illusion because the mantra is a spiritual sound, unlike common, material sounds. The word water, for example, describes an object, but the word water is not identical with the object water. If you are thirsty, you may say "water" as many times as you like, but that won't quench your thirst You have to obtain the water and drink it. The word water does not have any thirst-quenching potency.
A mantra, however, has inherent power. It is not meant to describe a separate object; the mantra itself produces the result.
There are many kinds of mantra. In former times, various mantras were used to obtain different results from sacrifices. Today, mantras are being advertised and sold for purposes ranging from "becoming God" to "improving one's money-making abilities."
In the Vedic literature we find a wealth of information on mantras. The Srimad-Bhagavatam, which deals with the essence of spiritual life, rejects materially motivated religion. It therefore rejects the chanting of a mantra for purposes other than spiritual upliftment.
In the Brhan-naradiya Purana we find a very specific injunction about selecting the best mantra: "In this age of Kali there is no other means, no other means, no other means for self-realization than chanting the holy name, chanting the holy name, chanting the holy name of Krsna."
The Hare Krsna mantra is specifically mentioned in the Kali-santarana Upanisad: "After searching through all the Vedic literature, one cannot find a method of religion more sublime for this age than the chanting of Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna , Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare."
The Caitanya-caritamrta (Antya 7.11) states, "The fundamental religious system in the age of Kali is the chanting of the holy name of Krsna."
One might ask. "Is there anything wrong with other mantras?"
If a mantra has been invented or pieced together from other mantras, it simply won't have any effect If it is sold for someone's personal gain, or received by someone who is materially motivated, it won't work either. There may be effects like relaxation or stress reduction, but there will not be the transcendental effect of liberation from material bondage. In other words, there won't be a permanent spiritual effect but at best a temporary effect on the material body or mind.
Spiritual development is not cheap. Slogans like "Everybody has his own way," "All roads lead to Rome," "It is all a matter of my own intuition," "We are all God," "Any mantra is just as good as the other," and so on are only an indication of ignorance of the direct way to "Rome." If someone wants to go to Rome, he must purchase a ticket for Rome.
The Vedic scriptures provide guidance for the quickest and most effective means of self-realization or God consciousness. The Vedas describe that so-called spiritual activities which disregard authorized scriptures are an unnecessary disturbance in society. Furthermore, it is stated in the Padma Purana that if one is not properly instructed by a bona fide spiritual authority, the mantra one might have received will not have any effect.
Besides the Hare Krsna mantra, there are many other bona fide mantras used by devotees of Krsna. But the Vedic scriptures declare that simply by chanting the Hare Krsna mantra one receives the benefits of all other mantras. Therefore, chanting Hare Krsna is the most important spiritual activity.
What about other types of spiritual practices besides mantra meditation? According to the Vedas, there is a continuous cycle of four ages, with each age manifesting particular material and spiritual characteristics. In each age a particular process for self-realization is recommended.
In Satya-yuga, when people are all spiritually inclined and live a very long time, the recommended method of self-realization is meditation. In Treta-yuga, the spiritual quality of the people is diminished by twenty-five percent. The predominant process of self-realization is the performance of elaborate sacrifices. In Dvapara-yuga, characterized by half divine and half demoniac qualities, self-realization is achieved by worshiping the Deity in the temple. And in Kali-yuga, the present age, divine qualities are steadily declining toward an entirely materialistic and demoniac civilization. The only effective method for self-realization is the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra.
This is confirmed in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (12.3.52): "Whatever result was obtained in Satya-yuga by meditating on Visnu, in Treta-yuga by performing sacrifices, and in Dvapara-yuga by serving the Lord's lotus feet can also be obtained in Kali-yuga simply by chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra."
Nowadays many persons advocate silent meditation. This requires the withdrawal of the senses from all objects, complete concentration, and freedom from all bodily and mental disturbances. The Bhagavad-gita (6.13-14) specifically stipulates the necessity for complete freedom from sex desire for one who wants to perform silent meditation.
These conditions were easily fulfilled in Satya-yuga, the golden age, the age for which this process was recommended. People were by nature spiritually inclined. There were no factories, no pollution, no stress, and hardly any disease. The climate was ideal, and nature provided fruits, grains, and vegetables abundantly. The atmosphere was peaceful, and people lived long lives.
If we look at our present age, Kali-yuga, however, we find a situation extremely unfavorable for such meditation. The Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.1.10) provides us with an accurate description of the characteristics of this age: "In this iron age of Kali men have but short lives. They are quarrelsome, lazy, misguided, unlucky, and, above all, always disturbed."
Now just imagine someone trying to meditate by withdrawing his senses from all external objects. The whole day he is bombarded by advertisements designed to agitate his senses. Everywhere there are noises from cars, radios, sirens, and airplanes. His whole education has been focused on principles of sense gratification—make money so that you can enjoy.
While he is sitting and trying to meditate and forget his body, he is being painfully reminded of a lifetime of material advancement Aches and pains from lack of exercise, from the ingestion of innumerable chemicals, and from bad eating habits disrupt his meditation. If he conquers these obstacles, his mind is tirelessly racing through millions of topics, preventing his concentration. After battling all these obstacles, he faces the danger of simply falling asleep.
The Vedas do not recommend silent meditation for our present age because it is practically impossible to execute successfully. The chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra, however, works on a different principle. Instead of withdrawing the senses from all objects, we engage them actively in a spiritual way. This is much easier and more practical.
Instead of not hearing anything, we hear the transcendental sound of Krsna's name. Instead of not touching anything, we touch the chanting beads. Instead of not seeing anything, we can look at a picture of Krsna. Instead of not saying anything, we engage our tongue in vibrating the holy name of Krsna. In this way the senses are fully spiritually engaged.
Silent meditation requires a special solitary place, whereas chanting Hare Krsna can be done anywhere—at home, in the park, or even in an airplane. There are no rigid rules for this chanting. Noises and other sense objects cannot easily distract a serious chanter, since his senses are already fully occupied with the mantra.
Although Kali-yuga is full of faults, there is still one good quality about this age. It is that simply by chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, one can become free from material bondage and be promoted to the transcendental kingdom.—Srimad-Bhagavatam 12.3.51
The Technique of Chanting Hare Krsna
There are two ways of chanting. One is called japa, and the other is called kirtana. Kirtana is congregational chanting, often accompanied by traditional Vedic instruments, and japa is individual chanting.
Anyone can chant Hare Krsna. Education, age, or financial status don't matter. The chanting is free and can be done successfully by children, adults, or old people.
The best time for japa is in the early morning hours, when the atmosphere is still quiet and the mind is not yet preoccupied with daily activities. If that is not possible, any time will do. Simply repeat the mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna , Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—softly but distinctly. You should pronounce the mantra in such a way that you can hear it clearly.
Devotees chant with beads, both for counting and to help their concentration. Hold your beads in your right hand, between the thumb and middle finger, beginning after the big center bead. Chant the mantra once on each bead. By the time you get back to the big bead, you will have chanted the Hare Krsna mantra 108 times. This is called one "round." Then turn the beads around and start the second round. (Don't go over the center bead, which is known as "the Krsna bead.") In the beginning, one round may take you fifteen minutes or so. When you get used to the chanting, however, you will probably chant one round in six to eight minutes.
You can begin with one round a day and gradually increase. Initiated devotees in the Hare Krsna movement chant sixteen rounds every day. This takes about two hours. Once you chant a certain number of rounds daily, never go below this number. It is far better to chant two rounds every day than eight rounds one day and none the next. Regulation is important in making spiritual progress.
The main principle of chanting is to listen attentively to the sound of the mantra. The mantra is chanted by the tongue and immediately caught by the ear. If any distracting thoughts come into your mind, just focus your full attention on the sound of the Hare Krsna mantra, and the thoughts will leave. Just try to hear the mantra, and the purifying effect will take place.
(To be continued.)
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
Joy of microwaving?
by Patricia Allard (Philadelphia)
The microwaveable hot-fudge sundae—if it's not already available in your local supermarket, it will be soon, no doubt Why? Because some of us want it.
The health effects of microwaved food are often the subject of colorful debate, but the propelling motive behind the introduction of custom-designed micro-foods is obvious: it's a matter of convenience. Preparing dinner seems a drudgery to most of us these days. We want to bypass the slicing, dicing, spreading, and baking. We're fixed on the only pleasurable aspect of the cooking event we remember: eating.
Arriving home from work. we can whip up a special microwave feast of double-cheese pizza, French fries, vanilla milk shake, and Dutch chocolate supreme bundt cake in a minimal nine minutes and thirty seconds. The only labor involved is in opening and closing the microwave oven door. "Ready in minutes!" "Easy!" and "Gets you out of the kitchen fast!" are attractive product descriptions that reflect the demand for instant gratification.
Devotees of Krsna aren't after instant gratification, but that doesn't mean the amenities of modern technology can't have a place in their lives too. We welcome simplicity and efficiency as we create delicious dishes for the enjoyment of Krsna, who has provided all the fruits, grains, vegetables, dairy products, and spices.
Still, although a devotee may use a variety of utensils to prepare a festive offering for Krsna, he's not so anxious about cutting his labor down to forty-five seconds on High, for the time he spends in the kitchen is an expression of his love for Krsna.
After the devotee presents Krsna the cuisine with devotion, he eats the purified offering, thus satisfying his spiritual and physical hunger. A person attempting to become God conscious eliminates the drudgery of cooking by remembering the significance of preparing a meal for his supreme father.
by Sthita-dhi-muni dasa (Los Angeles)
Social trends are currently moving toward traditional family values. Ms. Faith Popcorn (that's really her name), president and founder of BrainReserve, a Manhattan firm specializing in detecting consumer trends, attributes America's return to Mom-and-Pop ethics to a backlash from the excesses of the recent past The fear of AIDS is the coup de grace, prompting a return to stable, long-term relationships. But in a Philadelphia Inquirer interview, Ms. Popcorn warns that as soon as an AIDS cure is discovered. "There's going to be such a major sexual revolution out there it's going to make the seventies look like nothing. People will be dissolving marriages; they'll be running around; they'll be doing . . . everything possible."
While the accuracy of Ms. Popcorn's prediction remains to be seen, her observations hint at an undeniable aspect of the nature of living beings: our attraction for excitement and pleasure cannot be repressed. Vedic literature describes the pursuit of happiness as the prime symptom of man's individual, spiritual consciousness. Since we eternally yearn for pleasure, the trick is to strive for rewarding engagements that will not leave us—and our society—with a crushing material hangover.
Constant repetition quickly turns even the most stimulating activities dull and stale. So modern society has developed the desperate habit of latching on to one fad after another, endlessly replacing last year's car with this year's sleeker version. A current example: Sixty years ago it was enough to repeal the constitutional amendment prohibiting whiskey and beer; now there's debate over the legalization of cocaine and marijuana.
One may wonder. Since society does not encourage the pursuit of spiritual achievement why not just go whole hog for sense pleasure? Why have any restrictions at all?
Indeed, puritanical moralizing falls short in keeping most people content To effectively discourage disruptive social activities, a more enticing substitute must first be offered. The Vedic literature gives insight into a superior pleasure inherent in our eternal, spiritual identity. As explained in the Bhagavad-gita (5.21). "A liberated person is not attracted to material sense pleasure but is always in trance, enjoying the pleasure within. In this way the self-realized person enjoys unlimited happiness, for he concentrates on the Supreme." Thus. the most desirable spiritual experiences are achieved by those who reawaken the soul's eternal relationship with the Supreme Soul, commonly known as God, who in His most attractive form is known in Sanskrit as Krsna.
In this regard, there's a famous quote from a Vaisnava saint, Yamunacarya, who says, "Since I have been engaged in the transcendental loving service of Krsna, realizing ever-new pleasure in Him, whenever I think of sex pleasure I spit at the thought, and my lips curl with distaste."
Since the highest pleasure in ordinary affairs is found in sex enjoyment, a materialist experiences despondency without its inspiration. But for a mature devotee like Yamunacarya, the pleasure of Krsna consciousness makes even the mere thought of sex enjoyment comparatively unpleasant and distracting. Yamunacarya regulated life wasn't just a defensive reaction to society's moral pressures, but a natural by-product of a happy life.
Convinced that a life of spiritual engagement is a happy life, the members of the Hare Krsna movement encourage others to chant the names of God, offer their food to Him with gratitude and love, and act for progressive devotional development These are spiritual activities that men of all races, creeds, and nations can wholeheartedly take up for the gain of the individual and the entire human society. By these practices, even a spiritual neophyte can quickly loosen his attachments for frustrating worldly addictions.
If society could become as preoccupied with spiritual achievement as it is with scientific discoveries that lift sexual and other kinds of social restriction, not only would morality and the family remain secure for posterity, but a taste of real happiness could be achieved that previously could only be yearned for.
The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
North American Summer Festivals In Full Swing
Spanish Fork, Utah—In ten years, ISKCON's Festival of India, based here under the direction of Madhuha dasa, has put on 350 festivals in cooperation with temples and individuals throughout North America. The Festival of India is a traveling exhibition of the world of Hare Krsna. It includes educational displays describing Vedic concepts such as karma and reincarnation, many beautifully decorated tents and booths full of spiritual paintings, photographs, gifts, prasadam, and books, and a portable stage and professional sound system. A huge tractor trailer carries it all.
The inspiration for the Festival of India came from Srila Prabhupada, who wrote, "If we perform many festivals in all our centers around the world, many times during the year, then the general populace will become very much favorably inclined toward us, and that will push on the sankirtana movement in the best way."
This year, the Festival of India began its summer of festivals in North America in grand style at the Westheimer Art Festival, held April 8-9 in Houston. Sarvabhauma dasa of ISKCON Houston was able to obtain free use of a half-acre site for the Festival of India during the Art Festival. The site, facing the festival's main thoroughfare—and thus allowing tens of thousands of people to hear the chanting of Krsna's holy names—would normally have cost thousands of dollars.
From Houston, the Festival of India went to Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, then to California, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. The schedule for July and August is as follows: Taste of Chicago Festival (June 28-July 5); Montreal Ratha-yatra (July 8-9); Toronto Ratha-yatra (July 15-16); Detroit Festival of India (July 22-23); Los Angeles Ratha-yatra. (August 5-6); San Francisco Ratha-yatra (August 13); Vancouver Ratha-yatra (August 19-20); Sri Krsna Janmastami (Vancouver, August 24-25).
Anyone who would like to introduce people to the cultural and philosophical roots of the Krsna ckonsciousness movement can sponsor a Festival of India celebration. For information, get in touch with Madhuha dasa, P.O. Box 801, Spanish Fork, UT 84660. Phone: (801) 423-2826.
Bhaktivedanta Manor Locked in Struggle
Letchmore Heath, England—Despite several attempts to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution with the Hertsmere Council, Bhaktivedanta Manor is locked in an intense struggle for its right to continue to function as a fullfledged ISKCON center. The Council hopes to stop all public use of the temple. An inquiry into the dispute is being conducted by the Department of the Environment, a central government ministry.
The Hertsmere Council has demanded that all visitations to the Manor cease. They have also demanded that the buildings not be used for "religious business storage," thus attempting to prevent the devotees from keeping Srila Prabhupada's books on the premises.
Bhaktivedanta Manor is the place of worship for thousands of Hindus in the London area. Devotees are gathering support from the Hindu community as well as from members of Parliament. World-famous Indian singer Anup Jalota flew in from India on Diwali to perform a benefit concert for the Save the Temple Campaign. About L40,000 was raised. In July Indian cricket star Sunil Gavaskar will take part in a ten-mile charity walk from Wembley to the Manor to raise money for the campaign.
The Department of the Environment will decide the future of the Manor later this year.
Satyaraja dasa, a frequent contributor to Back to Godhead [see "The Agni and the Ecstasy" in this issue], has published a book of conversations between himself and the Reverend Alvin V. P. Hart, a noted Christian theologian and Episcopal priest. Reverend Hart is presently serving as chaplain and supervisor of clinical pastoral education at St Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York City.
The 105-page book, entitled East-West Dialogues: An Interreligious Encounter, contains edited excerpts from discussions between Satyaraja dasa and Reverend Hart held over the last four years. "The lively and friendly interdisciplinary communication found within these pages," says Reverend Hart in the Introduction, "will have its greatest appeal in the hearts of those who seriously desire to understand their neighbors." Copies can be obtained from FOLK Books, P.O. Box 400716, Brooklyn, NY 11240-0716. The cost is $4.95 plus $1.00 for shipping and handling (add $2.00 for Canada and overseas).
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Gunagrahi Goswami and Danavira dasa, two of ISKCON's senior preachers, have started KRISHNAFEST, a traveling festival party of devotees dedicated to spreading Lord Caitanya's sankirtana movement to every town and village. The program actually began forming in May of last year, with the devotees taking part in Festivals of India and Ratha-yatras in New York, Atlantic City, Boston, Toronto, Ann Arbor, Dallas, Denver, San Diego, Guadalajara, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Vancouver.
KRISHNAFEST will often be working in conjunction with ISKCON's Festival of India. KRISHNAFEST emphasizes preaching through harinama-sankirtana, book distribution, prasadam distribution, Krsna conscious drama, and other aspects of Vaisnava culture.
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As a result of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms, things are improving in Lithuania for Hare Krsna devotees. Lithuanian devotee Avadhuta dasa says they now sometimes have the chance to preach Krsna consciousness "almost officially." In December the devotees held a program at the Palace of Trade Unions in Vilnius. The event was arranged by the Public Theater, headed by philosopher V. Kazlauskas. The devotees distributed Srila Prabhupada's books and krsna-prasadam, lectured about Krsna consciousness, showed slides, and had discussions with the guests.
"The people have become really more interested in Krsna consciousness and enjoyed our show very much," said Avadhuta dasa. "We hope that despite the still-low standard of Soviet democracy, it wasn't our last official show."
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Twenty-two ISKCON devotees from India and the West took part in the two-week Haridas Samelan, a gathering of devotees from various Vaisnava sampradayas (disciplic successions) held in Udupi, South India, last February. Udupi is the headquarters of the Madhvacarya-sampradaya. Vibhudesa Tirtha Swami, head of the principal temple in Udupi, invited the ISKCON devotees to the Samelan and served them prasadam and arranged for their accommodations. Each evening the ISKCON devotees danced enthusiastically and chanted the holy names of Krsna before attentive crowds of residents and pilgrims.
An answer to the question:
by Ranacora Dasa
People often ask me why I changed my faith from Christianity to worship of Krsna. They ask what made me give up Christianity. I am always quick to answer that I never "gave up" Christianity. The principal instruction Jesus gave was to love God, and I believe I can best do that by worshiping and serving Krsna.
What is it that makes Krsna more attractive or meaningful to me than the God of the Bible? Well, first of all, as a devotee of Krsna I believe in only one God. and He is the same Supreme Person whether He appears in the Vedic scriptures of India or the Bible of the West, although He may be known by different names. So by worshiping Krsna I don't reject the God of the Bible: I simply get to know Him from a different perspective.
The Vedas teach that God appears many times in this world in different places and different ages. Each time He comes for the same reason: to reveal Himself to His lost children and to lead them back onto the right path.
When Krsna came into this world five thousand years ago, in northern India, He showed the symptoms of God Himself. Krsna performed many supernatural feats and displayed many facets of His character, but He is best remembered for His childhood, as the darling son of Yasoda, playing in the forest of Vrndavana with His friends.
I sometimes hear, "How can God be a cowherd boy playing in the forest?" But why not? Why should He be an old man in the clouds, as He is so often depicted in Western religious art. Can't He be an innocent and playful child?
In fact, isn't it logical to suppose that God, being eternal, without beginning or end, never gets old.
Of course, we have to get old, because we are bound by the laws of birth and death. But not Krsna—He is the one who made the laws, and He is not bound by them. When Krsna was on earth, He never appeared to age beyond youth, although he lived here for 125 years.
Krsna played in the forest as a child, surrounded by His devoted childhood friends. But He was not an ordinary child, and they were not ordinary friends. The Vedic scriptures say that only after many lifetimes of pious acts did those souls get a chance to play with Krsna as children.
Once, Krsna's friends complained to His mother that He had been eating clay. Krsna denied the story, and so His mother asked Him to open His mouth. When Krsna obeyed, Yasoda saw the entire creation within it She saw the elements of earth, water, fire, and air, as well as all living creatures and the rest of creation. She even saw herself with her son on her lap.
Seeing all these things, she became bewildered and confused and began to wonder who she really was and if Krsna were actually her child. But then Krsna, feeling sorry for her, closed His mouth, and she once more became overwhelmed with love for her beautiful son and forgot what she had seen. Yasoda took Krsna on her lap and began to feed Him just like an ordinary boy, convinced through love that He was actually her son and was dependent upon her for protection.
Who can fail to be attracted by the wonderful stories of Krsna? Indeed, the name Krsna means "all-attractive." He attracts everyone to Him, and He is easy to love. Later, when Krsna spoke the famous Bhagavad-gita, the essence of the Vedic scriptures. He made a special promise: anyone who becomes His devotee, surrendering his life fully to Him as His servant, will always be protected by Him. "Do not fear." Krsna said. "I will free you from all your sins, and you will come to live with Me eternally."
Preaching Krsna Consciousness in Communist Kerala
by Jagannatha-Krsna Dasa
The journey from Delhi to Trivandrum on the Kerala Express train was the most beautiful visual experience of my recent travels in India. I'd half-thought such natural beauty-existed only in wildlife documentaries. Hour after hour of panoramic scenes of lush fields, steep, majestic mountains capped in thick fog, and archaic canals canopied by palm trees whizzed by to elicit "oohs" and "aahs" from this neophyte traveler.
The Trivandrum ISKCON temple, my first destination, was small and empty. Only the pujari (priest) was there to greet me. Everyone else was out on sankirtana, distributing Srila Prabhupada's books and preaching the philosophy of Lord Caitanya. I picked up a drum and sat down before the Deities to chant until lunchtime.
On my way to the temple from the station. I had noticed an alarming phenomenon: huge, brightly-colored icons of Stalin, Marx, Engels, and Lenin littering every available bit of wall space. Everywhere I turned I saw enormous bulletin boards decorated with the Communist hammer and sickle.
"Isn't South India supposed to be the last remaining land of living Vedic culture?" I asked myself. "Isn't the Communist credo diametrically opposed to any form of religion or spiritual culture?" I was eager to discuss these gaping discrepancies with someone who understood Kerala.
Kerala has a Communist government. Boasting the highest literacy rate of any state in the country. Kerala is known not for industry or technology but for its religious and intellectual culture and its crops—pepper, cardamom, coffee, tea, peanuts, betel, bananas, and coconuts. Scores of famous and wealthy temples of Krsna dot the map, and there is a long history of Christian missionary activity here. Yet it somehow seemed incongruous to me that Communism, and the commitment to staunch atheism it propounds, could flourish in such a religiously rich society.
I started surveying devotees and non-devotees alike to gain more understanding. Sarvaisvarya dasa, president of ISKCON Trivandrum, had the most insightful perspective: "Most Keralites have an illogical mental complex of intellectualism, religious piety, impersonalism, and Communism. It's a dangerous combination because they can quote any amount of scripture to support their position. Kerala is a poor state, so the Communist ideal—which in its original Vedic form is actually good—is alluring to them. On the other hand, when we preach Krsna consciousness effectively, with a scientifically satisfying foundation, they love it"
Yet without exception, all of the strangers I asked about this perplexing social atmosphere seemed blindly faithful or uninformed.
"What do you think about this 13th Annual Communist Congress?" I would ask them, taking advantage of the many party meetings held during my visit.
"Oh, yes. Marxism is good. I'm a Marxist" they would invariably reply.
"Do you also believe in God?" I'd pry.
"Oh, yes. I'm a Hindu."
"And what do you know of Marxism?" I'd ask.
Silence. I was not surprised, since I have seen that people often believe in something without knowing much about it.
I could see that faith, sometimes blind, was a constant. The only variable was the object: Krsna or Stalin, Lenin or Christ. It seems that all of us—even the staunch atheists—are forced to accept someone as our master.
Sarvaisvarya, a young brahmacari (celibate student), is an expert manager and competent leader. The twelve or so devotees of the small Trivandrum temple are working hard to spread Krsna consciousness. They support themselves only by the distribution of Srila Prabhupada's books. They understand the need for a highly systematized and novel approach for attracting the Keralite intelligentsia to Krsna consciousness, which is the only sane alternative to atheistic Communism's ideal of artificial classlessness.
The devotees of ISKCON Trivandrum have fashioned a unique and effective preaching strategy. It's called "Yoga for the Modern Age." Week-long seminars, erudite devotee-scholars elucidating the scriptural conclusions, intensive lectures soundly defeating misinterpretations of the ancient Vedic philosophy, and free prasadam (sanctified food) add up to a successful and persuasive presentation of the philosophy of Krsna consciousness. Held throughout South India, the Yoga for the Modem Age program is a dynamic undertaking, with special appeal to students and the scientifically minded. Affecting the lives of thousands, the program has borne many ripened fruits. "After the courses, the participants can judge for themselves what is guru and what is God," Sarvaisvarya says.
Here are some remarks from participants:
"I am enlightened by the courses, and I now understand that I am not this body but a spirit soul. For acquiring knowledge we have to accept a spiritual master, and the best yoga is obviously bhakti. Krsna is clearly the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and in Kali-yuga (the present age of quarrel], the highest religious activity is nama-sankirtana, the chanting of the holy names of God."—C. Gopinatha, Calicut bank manager.
"I request you to conduct this course again and again."—P. Baskaran, Government Model High School principal.
"As Christians we appreciate your giving spiritual knowledge in its original form. We hope that you'll conduct courses like this in the future in our town of Alleppey. We want to learn more about the Bhagavad-gita, the Puranas, and so on."—P.O. Paul and V.D. Joseph, secretaries, Cooperative Urban Bank of India.
Sarvaisvarya has also masterminded an installment scheme for selling Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is in mass quantities. The results have mushroomed, since many more people, though normally unwilling to spend much money on a handsomely-bound book, can afford the minimal monthly fees. The devotees distribute thousands of pieces of literature monthly. Fifty percent of all profits are reinvested in a bank account used for the publication of more books in the local language, Malayalam.
For the kids, too, there is Krsna conscious learning and excitement. Every year during Vedic holidays the devotees organize schoolwide "rolling trophy" awards for the best artwork depicting various pastimes of Krsna and His devotees. There is also a "Vipra" competition to select the most scripturally learned students. The competition is steep. Questions like "From whom did Ravana acquire the ability to fly (puspaka-vimana-siddhi)?" could stump even senior Vaisnava scholars. And in the "Rasa" competition, children compete for the "Best Dressed" award, their elaborate costumes revealing the grandeur of Vedic history. Participation in these diverse programs keeps everyone remembering Krsna and His pastimes.
Every day, all day long, bright-faced children carrying schoolbooks and lunch boxes visit the ISKCON temple to honor Krsna's prasadam and caritamrta (bathing water), shouting, "Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare!" at the top of their lungs. With attractive smiles and polite demeanor, they ask for small photos of Krsna with a calendar printed on the back. Thus even they have a chance to distribute Krsna consciousness to their family and friends.
Wherever I walked in Kerala, beaming children ran up to me, greeting me with folded hands and an enthusiastic "Hare Krsna! Namaskaram, Swami!" I was reminded of how Srila Prabhupada said that you could test an entire pot of rice by the condition of a single grain. From the children. I could understand that South India, and especially Kerala, is still a very civilized place, where God consciousness is still revered and spiritual culture could prevail.
I could see that faith, sometimes blind, was a constant. The only variable was the object: Krsna or Stalin, Lenin or Christ. It seems that all of us are forced to accept someone as our master.
The Demoniac Way of Life
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: So those who are devoted to the Lord believe they'll become happy by seeing others becoming happy.
[To Disciple:] Read the next verse.
Disciple [reading from Bhagavad-gita 16.11-12]: "The demoniac believe that to gratify the senses is the prime necessity of human civilization. Thus until the end of life their anxiety is immeasurable. Bound by a network of hundreds of thousands of desires and absorbed in lust and anger, they secure money by illegal means for sense gratification."
Srila Prabhupada: "Illegal." Read the purport.
Disciple: "The demoniac accept that the enjoyment of the senses is the ultimate goal of life, and this concept they maintain until death. They do not believe in life after death, and they do not believe that one takes on different types of bodies according to one's karma, or activities in this world. Their plans for life are never finished, and they go on preparing plan after plan, all of which are never finished. We have personal experience of a person of such demoniac mentality who, even at the point of death, was requesting the physician to prolong his life for four years more because his plans were not yet complete. Such foolish people do not know that a physician cannot prolong life even for a moment. When the notice is there, there is no consideration of the man's desire. The laws of nature do not allow a second beyond what one is destined to enjoy.
"The demoniac person, who has no faith in God or the Supersoul within himself, performs all kinds of sinful activities simply for sense gratification. He does not know that there is a witness sitting within his heart. The Supersoul is observing the activities of the individual soul. As it is stated in the Upanisads, there are two birds sitting in one tree; one is acting and enjoying or suffering the fruits of the branches, and the other is witnessing. But one who is demoniac has no knowledge of Vedic scripture, nor has he any faith; therefore he feels free to do anything for sense enjoyment, regardless of the consequences."
Srila Prabhupada: Now discuss.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, one of America's richest men. Howard Hughes, just recently died. And reportedly he had been keeping himself in a very disheveled and pathetic condition, with long hair and beard and long nails. There were sores all over his body. So despite all his billions of dollars, he died quite miserably. Just before he left his body, he lamented, "I think I've made a mistake."
Srila Prabhupada: What had he done in his life?
Disciple: In his younger days he designed and raced airplanes. And he flew around the world to help establish commercial air routes. Later he gained control over Trans World Airlines.
In addition, he ran huge machine-tool and aircraft companies and treated other companies—other people, really—quite ruthlessly. After World War II. Congress held an investigation in which they proved he had bribed government officials to give weapons contracts to him. Now it has also come out that in 1968 he requested the newly elected Nixon Administration to keep the Vietnam war going. His weapons were of course killing thousands of people, but he just couldn't stop. He was making too much money.
Besides all that, he produced and directed movies. In the 1930s and 1940s he helped introduce "sexploitation" films, with actresses wearing very revealing clothing. And he had many affairs, too, with all sorts of movie starlets. At the end of his life he didn't mix with women so much, though. He became depressed, utterly despondent. He lived like a hermit and was extremely afraid of germs.
Srila Prabhupada: Hm?
Disciple: He became like a hermit. He withdrew into himself. No one knew very much about him. He was very mysterious. And toward the end, he didn't at all have what we would call a life of sense gratification. He maintained a staff of doctors and clinicians to protect him from death. He spent his last days haunted by fear.
Bhagavad-gita's description of the demoniac is perfect. Most of Hughes's fortune they figure he amassed by illegal methods, such as paying off government officials to give big contracts to, for instance, his aircraft company.
He had holdings in Las Vegas and was involved in all sorts of mysterious maneuvers. It appears he got much—if not most—of his money illegally.
So gradually he became more and more fearful of the outside world, until in his old age he became terrified of germs. He was deathly afraid he would catch some disease that would do him in. As a result he arranged to live within hermetically sealed rooms, with artificially filtered air and light so that no germs could enter, and he would wear specially de-germed clothing.
Srila Prabhupada: Apparently he did not realize that he was breeding germs within his own body.
Disciple: Yes, Srila Prabhupada. Even with all his billions of dollars, he could not escape death. He used unlimited quantities of money to get rid of germs, but it was all a failure.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. If he had actually gotten rid of the germs, then how was it that he died?
Disciple: He supposedly said something to the effect that "I have achieved so many things in this life. But I really don't know what this life was all about. I think I've made a mistake."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, it was a mistake.
Is Old Age Inevitable?
Ai article in The Times of London, entitled "Slowing Down the March of Time," gave an update on research at an institute of experimental gerontology. According to a spokesman, "Some enigmas of aging are beginning to be unraveled by remarkable advances in medical research. . . . Growing old, in the traditional sense, is not inevitable. We are already developing ways to counter it" The author goes on to say that although research has been going on for a century, specific factors that cause aging "remain frustratingly elusive." But aging is a crucial problem, because the aging populations, sometimes known as "gray-haired societies," are dramatically increasing:
The extra demand on health and social services, as well as the need to find treatments for diseases of old age—particularly senile dementia—will be enormous. Hence the urgency of the question: "What causes us to grow old?"
Before trying to relate the Vedic solution to this current social problem, I would like to first explain the Vedic view of old age and the Vedic remedy. This topic is discussed in great detail in the Fourth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. The Bhagavatam is the history of Vedic civilization with attention to the incarnations of Godhead and His pure devotees. In one section, an allegory is told of a king named Puranjana, who symbolizes all conditioned souls in this material world. The sage Narada Muni describes how King Puranjana tried to enjoy himself to the fullest extent but was eventually attacked by a woman named Jara, who is the symbol of old age.
There is no way to overcome the influence of Jara in material life. Any Utopian idea that old age or death can be eliminated will never come about. Birth, death, disease, and old age are the four miseries of material life. Although scientists may work to try to alleviate these things and may appear to make a little progress, these natural miseries can never be removed. The Vedic approach is therefore different. We work to remove the very foundation of all these miseries, which is material existence itself. That approach will be more profitable than working within a concept that we can achieve a deathless or painless state within this temporary material life.
According to Srimad-Bhagavatam, we cannot slow down the march of time. There is a verse that states, "Both by rising and by setting, the sun decreases the duration of life of everyone, except for one who uses the time by discussing topics of the all-good Personality of Godhead" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.17). This especially refers to wasting time. Any time wasted can never be retrieved; even a million dollars cannot buy a minute back. Whatever one's duration of life, it's eventually vanquished. For the materialist, old age is therefore a signal that he has wasted his life. He thought he could be happy by omitting spiritual life and indulging in material pleasures, but when invalidity comes, it's not only too late for material happiness, but it's very difficult to make progress in Krsna consciousness.
The story of Puranjana is told by the sage Narada. Narada says that Jara once approached him with lusty desires but she couldn't attack him because he was a brahmacari, a celibate. This means that persons who remain celibate like Narada do not grow old in the way ordinary persons do. They tend to live longer and without so many pains. Srila Prabhupada states in this section of the Bhagavatam:
If a person is Krsna conscious, he can work like a young man even if he is seventy-five or eighty years old. Thus the daughter of Kala (time) cannot overcome a Vaisnava. Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami engaged in writing Caitanya-caritamrta when he was very old, yet he presented the most wonderful literature about the activities of Lord Caitanya. Srila Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami began their spiritual lives at a very old age, that is, after they retired from their occupations and family lives. Yet they presented many valuable literatures for the advancement of spiritual life. . . . Thus Jara, the effect of old age, does not harass a devotee.
This was certainly true in the life of Srila Prabhupada. He was very jolly and active with his writing and preaching until he departed at the age of eighty-two. Although his example is extraordinary, others can follow and be much more successful than people who are struggling with material formulas to get through old age.
One who engages in spiritual practices throughout his life will not necessarily be immune from old-age diseases, but he will most likely not have such severe problems. The occurrence of senile dementia is rare in a person who is enlivened and enlightened with spiritual consciousness. Krsnadasa Kaviraja was in his nineties when he wrote the Caitanya-caritamrta. He writes there, "I have now become too old and disturbed by invalidity. While writing, my hands tremble. I cannot remember anything, nor can I see or hear properly. Still I write, and this is a great wonder."
So the debilitating condition may come, but it won't take away the higher consciousness, because one has been practicing higher consciousness all his life. But if one waits until the end of life to try to chant Hare Krsna, then the debilitation will overcome him.
So although the scientists may eventually be able to retard the degenerative diseases and extend the human life span, that isn't the real problem. The latter part of life is significant not merely for trying to prolong sense pleasure, but it's the time that must be used—even if earlier years weren't fully used—for spiritual life. To spend the remaining days reminiscing and becoming fearful of approaching death, or thinking that one is useless in material society, is the greatest misfortune. The Vedic scriptures are teaching us that elderly people should be sane enough and brave enough to leave behind all material entanglements and concentrate on preparing themselves for what comes next—death and the next life.—SDG
It is due to a lack of knowledge that people say that God is dead, that there is no God, and that we have no relationship with God. These thoughts have been compared to the thoughts of a man haunted by a ghost Just as a haunted man speaks all nonsense, when we become covered by the illusory energy of God we say that God is dead. But this is not a fact.
Therefore, we need this chanting process to cleanse our heart Take to this simple process of chanting the Hare Krsna mantra. In that way, in your family life, in your club, in your home, on the road—everywhere—chant Hare Krsna, and this darkness covering your heart, covering your real position, will be removed. Then you'll understand your real constitutional position.
Simply chant Hare Krsna. It is the easiest and most sublime process. This is recommended, practical, and authorized. So take it. Accept it in any condition of life. Chant There is no expenditure, there is no toss. We are not chanting a secret No. It is open. And by chanting you will cleanse your heart.
—His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada