Guided by a direct vision of the Absolute Truth,
A lecture in Vrndavana, India, on April 18, 1975
by His Divine Grace
"The material miseries of the living entity, which are superfluous to him, can be directly mitigated by the linking process of devotional service. But the mass of people do not know this, and therefore the learned Vyasadeva compiled this Vedic literature, which is in relation to the Supreme Truth." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.7.6)
Knowledge means ultimately to understand the original source of everything. The scientists and philosophers are searching for the original cause. For example, the modern scientists are searching for the original cause of life. That is a good inquiry. But because they are surrounded by anarthas, superfluous things, they cannot know it As long as one is illusioned by maya [the deluding energy], he cannot have perfect knowledge.
Vyasadeva is addressed here as vidvan, full of knowledge. Vyasadeva was unhappy even after compiling Vedanta-sutra. So under the instruction of his guru, Narada Muni, he wanted to compile the last contribution to human society, a commentary on Vedanta-sutra. That is Srimad-Bhagavatam. Vedanta means "the ultimate knowledge." Veda means "knowledge," and anta means "the last contribution."
So under the instruction of Narada Muni, Vyasadeva first of all made his life perfect Because if you write books without being perfect they will not be effective. One has to become perfect before writing books. Nowadays, especially in the Western countries, people write any rascal ideas under the name of philosophy or science. They write, "Perhaps ..." or "It may be . . ." That is not the system in Vedic civilization.
In Vedic civilization, only those who are advanced in Vedic knowledge can write. Vedic knowledge is called sruti. And if you write following the principles of sruti. then it is smrti. Srila Rupa Gosvami gives this advice:
"If you pose yourself as a great devotee of Krsna without reference to the sruti, the smrti, the Puranas, and the Pancaratrika-vidhi, that is simply a disturbance."
When Narada instructed Vyasadeva, "Write something that will help people understand the Supreme," then Vyasadeva engaged himself in bhakti-yoga, devotional service. You cannot understand the Supreme Truth without engaging yourself in devotional service. Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita, bhaktya mam abhijanati. Only through devotion, submission, and surrender can you understand Krsna, not by your so-called scholarship or research work. No. Bhaktya mam abhijanati. Krsna never said. "By cultivating speculative knowledge one can understand Me." No.
Therefore Vyasadeva engaged himself in bhakti-yoga to understand the Supreme Truth. That is stated: bhakti-yogena manasi samyak pranihite 'male/ apasyat purusam purnam mayam ca tad-apasrayam. He visioned two things: purusam purnam and maya.
Purusam purnam means the complete or perfect Supreme Personality of Godhead. We are trying to become purusa, or Bhagavan, but we are not perfect. Bhagavan means purna, complete. So we cannot accept anyone as Bhagavan unless he is purna. The complete Supreme Person is Krsna.
By meditation in bhakti-yoga one can understand the Supreme Truth. Real meditation means to try to find out the Supreme Person who is within everyone. That is called yoga, and that yoga is perfect when you see Krsna. Yoga means to try to find Krsna within yourself. Krsna is there, but you have to be qualified to see Him. That is required. That is called bhakti-yoga.
In the Brahma-samhita it is said, premanjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena santah sadaiva hrdayesu vilokayanti. Seeing Krsna is not possible simply by gymnastics. One has to develop transcendental love for Krsna. When your eyes are anointed with love of God, then you can see Him within yourself twenty-four hours a day.
That is not difficult to understand. If you love someone, you always think of him; you always feel his presence. So the same is true of love for Krsna. Therefore Krsna is teaching how to develop this love for Him. He says, man-mana bhava mad-bhakto mad-yaji mam namaskuru: "Simply think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me, and offer obeisances to Me."
We are spending so much money for installing the Deities of Krsna-Balarama here. What is the purpose? The purpose is that you will be able to see Them present in this temple and therefore you can think of Them. That is very natural. If you see the Deity always, then you get His picture impressed within your mind; you will always think of Him. And the Deity is not different from Krsna. For a devotee, the Deity is Krsna Himself, identical.
We are spending so much money not for worshiping a statue. That would not be very intelligent. The Deity is directly Krsna. Therefore the temple is a sanctified place. If you follow the process of seeing the Deity regularly, your mind will be cleansed. When the mind is cleansed of all dirty things, then you can think of Krsna.
So Vyasadeva first of all made his life perfect by practicing bhakti-yoga, and then he wrote this Srimad-Bhagavatam. Therefore you will find that in Srimad-Bhagavatam each word is transcendental. Each word is full of meaning and transcendental knowledge, because the writer of this transcendental book is Vyasadeva, and he is perfect He is known as Veda-vyasa, "perfect in Vedic knowledge."
Vyasadeva saw the complete Supreme Personality of Godhead. And he also saw maya. Mayam catad-apasrayam. Maya was behind Him. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, has maya's [energies] of different kinds because He has to execute so many affairs in both the material world and the spiritual world. Just imagine! The universes are so big, and there are innumerable universes. In each universe there are innumerable planets. In each planet there are innumerable towns and cities. In each town there are innumerable living entities. And Krsna has to manage all of them. That is Krsna. Therefore He is called Paramesvara, "the supreme controller." And Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, sarvasya caham hrdi sannivisthah: "I am living in everyone's heart."
Krsna has to act in such a way that whatever we are doing is under His direction. For example, Krsna says mattah smrtih: "From Me comes remembrance." In the morning you get up. and immediately you understand that you were sleeping and that now you have to do so many things. So where has this memory come from? Krsna says, mattah: "From Me." Just imagine how busy Krsna is!
So the maya that is controlling the material world was seen by Vyasadeva. Srimati Radharani is also maya. She is yoga-maya. And Durga is maya. She is an expansion of Radharani. But Durga's business is different from Radharani's business. Durga's business is to keep the living entities covered so that they don't awaken to Krsna consciousness. That is her duty.
Vyasadeva saw the Supreme Person, and he saw maya behind the Supreme Person. Which maya? Yaya sammohito jiva—that maya which is keeping the living entities in illusion. What is that illusion? Under the influence of maya, we are identifying with the different gunas, or qualities of this material world: goodness [sattva-guna], passion [rajo-guna], and ignorance [tamo-guna]. Sattva-guna is the brahminical qualification. Someone is thinking. "I am a brahmana." Someone under the control of rajo-guna is thinking, "I am ksatriya." This misidentification is all over the world. You may not think, "I am a brahmana," but you may think, "I am an American." Or I may think I am an Indian. There is some sort of identification. Therefore the whole world is full of anarthas, unnecessary things. I am not a brahmana; I am not Indian; you are not American; you are not a ksatriya. These are all false identifications.
This misidentification is the work of maya. All living entities are under certain impressions: "I am this"; "I am that." And based on "I am this"; "I am that," they cannot make any solutions to the problems of life. The leaders have created the United Nations, but there are no solutions. Why? Because everyone is under the grip of maya, the material energy, and they are simply creating problems. This is their business.
I am spirit soul, and I do not belong to these material qualities. Still I am thinking that I am a product of the material nature. One cannot go beyond these three gunas: sattva-guna, rajo-guna, tamo-guna, or mixed. There are 8,400,000 species of living entities under the impression that "I am a dog"; "I am a plant"; "I am a fish"; "I am a mosquito"; "I am a man"; "I am a demigod"; "I am a tiger"; "I am an Indian"; "I am an American." In this way there are 8,400,000 different types of identification. Therefore we find so many forms of life. This is all the work of maya to keep us under a certain impression. And we work under a certain impression and create another situation. Then we get another body.
If in this life I create a situation like a dog's, then in my next life I will get the body of a dog. that's all. Or if I create a situation like the demigods', then I can go to the heavenly planets. But if I create a situation as an eternal servant of Krsna, they I go to Krsna. This is wanted. This is the purpose of the Krsna consciousness movement. Don't create a situation that "I am this." "I am that." Simply create this situation: "I completely understand that I have no other business than to advance in Krsna consciousness and that my only duty is to serve Krsna." This is wanted.
How one can attain this position is described in today's verse: anarthopasamam saksad bhakti-yogam adhoksaje. This is the remedy: all unnecessary things can be removed by devotional service to the Supreme Lord.
But as long as I think. "I am this," "I am that," then I am still in illusion. Thinking "I am a big gosvami or "I am a big brahmana" is also an anartha. The actual gosvami is one who has control over his senses. We have to control our senses and properly identify ourselves. We should think, "I do not belong to anything of this material infection, but I am an eternal servant of Krsna." That is called self-realization or mukti.
In the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the definition of mukti has been given: muktir hitvanyatha rupam sva-rupena vyavasthitih. Anyatha rupam means that I identify myself as this and that: "I am American"; "I am Indian"; "I am a brahmana"; "I am a gosvami." No. These are all anartha, unwanted. We are living under the wrong impression. Therefore it is said, hitvanyatha rupam—"giving up the wrong impression." And sva-rupena vyavasthitih means "situated in one's original position." That is called mukti. Mukti does not mean anything else. This is the definition of mukti. You keep yourself in your original position.
So our original position is that we are part and parcel of the body of Krsna. The brahmana is the mouth of Krsna, and the ksatriyas are the arms of Krsna. The vaisyas are the abdomen of Krsna, and the sudras are the legs of Krsna. Therefore nobody should be hated. Krsna is advaya, absolute. Ordinarily we may make some distinction between the head and the leg. The leg is less important; the head is more important. But any part of Krsna is as important as any other part. So if you come to realize that you are part and parcel of Krsna, then whether you act as Krsna's leg or as Krsna's head, there is no difference.
Here in the material world we have misunderstood that because I am the head [brahmana], therefore I shall hate the legs [sudras]. But why should we think like that? We first of all offer tulasi and flowers to the legs of Krsna, not to the head. Bhakti-yoga begins from the lotus feet of Krsna. So how can you say that Krsna's legs are inferior to His head? Such a misunderstanding is called an anartha.
If we enter into the process of bhakti-yoga, these anarthas will go away. Therefore it is recommended here in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, anarthopasamam saksad bhakti-yogam adhoksaje: if you engage yourself in transcendental loving service of Adhoksaja, the Supreme Person who is beyond your sense perception, your anarthas will be finished.
When your anarthas are finished and you see every living entity as part and parcel of Krsna, that is called real Brahman realization. Every one of us is part and parcel of Krsna. So we should engage not only ourselves in Krsna's service, but we should try to engage others also, because they are also part and parcel of Krsna. Why should we exclude them? That is Vaisnavism. That is Krsna consciousness. And that is Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mission.
That mission is to be started from India. Indians especially have the opportunity to learn these Vedic sastras (scriptures), become self-realized, and introduce this Krsna consciousness throughout the world. That is Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mission.
So every Vaisnava's duty is to make his life perfect by understanding his real position and then to preach. All people throughout the whole world are ajanatah. Ajanatah means that they do not know anything. They are proud, and they think that having some material advancement of life is perfection. No, that is not perfection. Perfection is muktir. . . sva-rupena vyavasthitih—to be situated in one's own original position.
That can be done anywhere. Bhakti-yoga can be practiced in any part of the world, as we have experienced practically. What is bhakti-yoga? The first business is sravanam: you can hear. Hear about whom? Visnu. Not nonsense talks. You must hear about Krsna. You can hear anywhere. There is no specific mention that it can be heard in such and such place. You can hear anywhere. But in a holy place like Vrndavana, the hearing has a special effect.
So here we are establishing this temple. and you foreigners have taken some interest. I am very much pleased. So constantly come to the temple and hear about Krsna. Make your anarthas vanquish.
Nowadays everything that is being done is anartha, without meaning. But if we say this, people will criticize us—"Why are you using motorcars? Why are you using airplanes?" But our tactic is that we can use any so-called anartha in the service of Krsna. People have created some anartha, but we can engage even this anartha in the service of Krsna and make it meaningful. That is our business.
So it requires time to clear the anarthas. We are encumbered with so many unnecessary things. By bhakti-yoga our so-called necessities of life will decrease. Anarthopasamam. Although we are riding in motorcars, we don't think they are essential. But those who are captured by the present civilization, they think motorcars are essential. That is the difference.
Our process is that because we have to go to the United States to preach, why should we not take the airplane? Why should we waste our time? So we don't deprecate material advancement But we simply warn that you don't forget Krsna simply for the matter of material advancement. This is Krsna consciousness. We don't discourage you, but when you have invented something material, utilize it for Krsna. Don't be attached to the motorcar. But utilize it for going fast for preaching work, that's all. This is required.
This is Rupa Gosvami's advice. Don't die for want of a motorcar. But if you get the opportunity to go faster than walking, you should utilize it. This is required. Everything should be engaged in Krsna's service. That is called yukta-vairagya.
It is different from phalgu-vairagya, which means to think that because something is material, therefore it is false and must be rejected. No. It has some relationship with Krsna. That is to be seen.
What is this motorcar? Is it material? Where have they gotten this metal, iron, wood—everything? They have gotten it from Krsna. Therefore it has a relationship with Krsna. And when it is manufactured, use it for Krsna. That is yukta-vairagya. So we do not hate any products of material advancement. We can utilize everything for Krsna's service. Our only preaching is "Don't forget Krsna." That is our business. And if you have got a special talent, utilize it for Krsna.
So if you take to bhakti-yogam adhoksaje, the anarthas, the things that are not wanted, or the problems of the world, will be mitigated. People do not know this. Therefore we have to teach them. That is the purpose of the Krsna consciousness movement
Thank you very much.
The yoga most people are familiar
by Dhanurdhara Swami
The Vedic literature tells of the sage Visvamitra's failure to become self-realized after sixty thousand years of rigid yoga practice, revealing how difficult it is for even the accomplished transcendentalist to reach perfection by the process of astanga-yoga. In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna was naturally concerned when Arjuna expressed a desire to leave the battlefield for a life of meditation. When, in the Sixth Chapter, Krsna presents an analysis of astanga -yoga, Arjuna finds it too difficult, and Krsna recommends a more feasible process.
To properly understand astanga-yoga, one of the many systems of yoga described in Bhagavad-gita, one must first have a clear understanding of what yoga is.
The term yoga literally means "linking" and refers to linking one's consciousness with the Supreme. The different yogic processes are named for the particular method adopted to reawaken one's relationship with the Supreme. For example, when the linking process is predominantly through one's work (karma), it is called karma-yoga, and when it is predominantly through philosophical analysis (jnana), it is called jnana-yoga.
Astanga means "eight parts," and astanga-yoga is an eight-step process of linking with the Supreme Lord through meditation on His form within the heart. It emphasizes controlling one's mind. The materially conditioned mind is absorbed in contemplating objects of sensual pleasure: sounds, tastes, sights, and so on. By stripping the mind of external engagements and developing spiritual conviction, the advanced yogi directs his mind to an awareness of the Supersoul.
Astanga-yoga thus offers a feasible process for self-realization, and it certainly appeared to Arjuna to be a possible solution to his anxieties—that is, until Lord Krsna explained the qualifications of a prospective yoga candidate:
To practice yoga, one should go to a secluded place and should lay kusa grass on the ground and then cover it with a deerskin and soft cloth. The seat should be neither too high nor too low and should be situated in a sacred place. The yogi should then sit and firmly practice yoga to purify the heart by controlling his mind, senses, and activities and fixing his mind on one point. One should hold one's body, neck, and head erect in a straight line and stare steadily at the tip of the nose. Thus, with an unagitated, subdued mind, devoid of fear. completely free from sex life, one should meditate upon Me within the heart and make Me the ultimate goal of life. (Bhagavad-gita 6.11-14)
Although Arjuna was a great warrior of the royal family and a close friend of the Supreme Lord. Sri Krsna, because he had responsibilities in his family life and occupation he represents the common man. He therefore expresses to Lord Krsna his doubt about achieving success by a yoga process that requires one to stay in a secluded place for the rest of one's life.
Furthermore, even if such retirement were possible, who but the most elevated renunciants could tolerate the rigid manner of sitting necessary for eventual perfection? Therefore, in an honest estimation of his capabilities. Arjuna rejects the astanga-yoga process as a suitable method for his enlightenment:
O Madhusudana, the system of yoga which You have summarized appears impractical and undesirable to me. for the mind is restless and unsteady. The mind is restless, turbulent, obstinate, and very strong, O Krsna, and to subdue it I think, is more difficult than controlling the wind. (Bhagavad-gita 6.33-34)
Although Lord Krsna had spent considerable time explaining this system of yoga to Arjuna. He basically agrees with Arjuna's analysis: "O mighty-armed son of Kunti, it is undoubtedly very difficult to curb the restless mind...." Unlike Arjuna, though. Krsna does see a path to astanga-yoga's eventual success, for He adds: ". . . but it is possible by constant practice and detachment."
The question therefore arises: What is the practice for controlling the mind, for certainly almost no one in this age can observe the strict rules and regulations of astanga-yoga, which demand restraining the senses and mind, observing celibacy, remaining isolated, and so on? The answer to how astanga-yoga can be practiced successfully is found in an understanding of Vedic cosmology.
According to the Vedic literature, time in our universe proceeds in cycles of 4.300,000 years, which for our purposes can be called millennia. Each millennium is divided into four ages, called yugas, which rotate like seasons and have their own characteristics. According to the capabilities of the populace in each age, a particular practice of yoga is recommended. For example, in the Satya-yuga people live 100,000 years and are endowed with exceptional qualities of goodness. The Vedas thus enjoin, krte yad dhyayato visnum: "In Satya-yuga, meditation on Visnu [astanga-yoga] is recommended."
The Bhagavad-gita was spoken to Arjuna before the beginning of Kali-yuga, the last and most degraded part of the millennium. For most people today, even simple spiritual endeavors seem beyond them. The Vedas thus recommend, kalau tad dhari-kirtanat: "In the age of Kali, bhakti-yoga based on chanting the names of the Supreme Lord is recommended."
Although bhakti-yoga is a simple process compared to the rigors of astanga-yoga, bhakti-yoga based on the chanting of the Lord's holy name is nonetheless considered the perfection of yoga. The perfection of any yoga system is achieved when the mind becomes incapable of deviating from the Supreme. This final stage of absorption is called samadhi and is described by Lord Krsna at the completion of His description of the astanga-yoga system: "A true yogi observes Me in all beings and also sees every being in Me. Indeed, the self-realized person sees Me, the same Supreme Lord. everywhere."
A bhakti-yogi is naturally fixed in this vision, because out of devotion he busily engages his senses in serving the Supreme Lord. Furthermore, because of the pleasure derived from such loving devotion, his mind remains fixed even in the midst of the greatest allurements.
In contrast to Visvamitra Muni's failure to achieve success by astanga-yoga, we find the example of the great devotee Haridasa Thakura, who resisted the temptation of the Lord's illusory energy personified—an incomparably beautiful woman. Haridasa's perfection illustrates the superiority of the bhakti-yoga process of chanting the Lord's holy name. The lives of the devotees of the Lord thus confirm His last instruction about yoga in the Sixth Chapter of the Gita: "And of all yogis, the one with great faith who always abides in Me, thinks of Me within himself, and renders transcendental loving service to Me—he is the most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all. That is My opinion."
We welcome your letters.
Hare Krsna! Having read several copies of Back to Godhead, I notice you often quote the Bible regarding the eating of meat. But you neglect the best quotes. You point out that when the cow's blood is transformed into milk, it is purified and suitable for drinking. Why not cite Biblical passages like those in Genesis 9, Leviticus 17, and Acts 15, which specifically forbid blood?
OUR REPLY: Sometimes we quote the Bible because, after all, we're circulating amid a largely Judeo-Christian society. For every passage we adduce to condemn meat-eating, however, the carnivore who calls himself a Christian will cite another to justify it. The fact is, the Bible is ambiguous on this issue. After the great flood, God revised His original ban on eating flesh (Genesis 9:3), as a concession to human weakness. Despite the concessions and justifications, though, the passages you cite remind us that God is continually trying to raise us to a higher consciousness of Him.
Arjuna, the hero of Bhagavad-gita, represents the ideal level of God consciousness. Unlike the multitudes of the Old and New Testaments, he is completely submissive to the Absolute Truth. And that's what he gets. "If one offers Me with love and devotion," the Supreme Personality of Godhead tells him and all of us, "a leaf, a flower, a fruit or water, I will accept it."
For the true spiritualist meat-eating is unacceptable, as the Gita makes crystal clear. The person who chews flesh and gives thanks to God would do well to remember that the Bible begins and ends in a kingdom where the sound of slaughter is unknown. If he wants more proof, then let the flesh-eating religionist visit a slaughterhouse and hear that terrible sound. "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear" (Matthew 11:15).
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I have to congratulate you for the wonderful work you are doing in publishing such an exciting magazine. I eagerly look forward to the arrival of the magazine each month. I sincerely feel that Back to Godhead is very valuable and a step in the right direction in the process of God realization.
According to Srila Prabhupada, one needs a guru for spiritual advancement. But is it not possible to go back to Godhead by chanting the Hare Krsna mantra and following the teachings of God? Sometimes it might be difficult for people living in different parts of the world to find a real guru. I would appreciate your advice on this matter.
Prasada A. Iragavarapu. M.D.
OUR REPLY: If you chant Hare Krsna and abide by the teachings of God, it is indeed possible to go back to Godhead. But following the teachings of God means accepting a spiritual master. Krsna says in the Gita (4.34). "Just try to understand the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth."
So if we're actually following Krsna's orders, one of the first things well do is sincerely seek out a bona fide guru. This is one of the Lord's first and foremost instructions to Arjuna, as well as to all of us.
In the Eleventh Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, there is another verse, spoken by the Lord to Uddhava, describing some of the qualifications of the spiritual master: The qualification of the bona fide guru is that he has realized the conclusions of the scriptures by deliberation and is able to convince others of these conclusions. Such great personalities, who have taken shelter of the Supreme Godhead, leaving aside all material considerations, should be understood to be bona fide spiritual masters."
And there is another verse, from the Adi Purana, where the Lord describes the supreme position of service to His devotees:
"One who considers himself to be directly My devotee is not actually My devotee. But one who thinks himself the devotee of My devotee is actually My devotee."
So taking shelter of and serving the spiritual master is essential for making spiritual advancement. One important consideration to bear in mind is that Krsna wants us to come home, back to Godhead, and He's willing to train us. no matter how slow we may be. An integral part of that training is learning how to associate with and serve His devotees, who are His representatives. When we achieve the spiritual realm, we'll be serving devotees, for the Lord is not alone there. He is surrounded by millions of servants and loved ones. If we don't learn clearly how to serve His devotees in this life, then how will we be qualified to serve them in the next? We must be eager for and expert at this most important service.
You mention the difficulty of not being in close proximity with a temple or devotees. But to meet a bona fide spiritual master, you will have to associate with devotees. You might be able to do this through the mail, but Srila Prabhupada and his followers have established temples all over the world to enable everyone to associate with devotees. So you can go to the temple as much as possible, and you can invite devotees to your home. Somehow or other you have to get to know devotees, and then it will only be a matter of time before Krsna sends you a bona fide spiritual guide who'll inspire you in your spiritual life and help you in your journey back to Godhead.
His college philosophy course got him started on a search.
by Bharatasrestha dasa
Your assignment, William, is The Existence of God.' " The assignment for the term was to read original source material presenting ontological, teleological, and cosmological arguments for the existence of God, then to present an overview of the arguments orally near the end of the semester. A formal term paper was due the last day of class.
The assignment did not repulse me as much as I had feared it would. Just lately my roommate and I had had a lengthy discussion on the value of God. While freely admitting a belief in God, he practiced no religion, nor did he consider God much of an influence on his life. I, on the other hand, as an avowed atheist, was greatly troubled by the fact that so many people candidly confess a belief in a transcendent power. Why? This semester would force me to make a thorough examination of my own beliefs, in the guise of an academic exercise.
In my research, I read Anselm of Canterbury, who defined God as "that than which nothing greater can be conceived." True by definition, I thought, which is basically what an ontological argument is. Anselm's paper revolved around discussion of a verse in Psalm 14. "The fool says in his heart. There is no God." A monk named Gaunilon responded to this essay with the argument that just because one can conceive of a thing's existence, that in no way implies that the thing does in fact exist. I hastily concluded that, while the fool's statement seemed arbitrary and insupportable, there was not much support for Anselm's argument either.
Next I delved into Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica, a formidable work of some seventy volumes, all in Latin. Fortunately there are numerous books that excerpt segments dealing with each topic; these yielded enough material for me to get a glimpse into his mind and formulate his cosmological argument.
Aquinas rejected the ontological argument because it proved only that the existence of God was self-evident, but in no way did it prove that God could be evident to us. He preferred to work back from the obvious material creation. What has been created must have a creator, or in Aquinas's terms, a First Mover, a First Efficient Cause.
As I mulled this over, it occurred to me that science had come a long way toward explaining the cosmos. Also, people create. Therefore creation did not imply a transcendent creator.
I went on to David Hume. He said that God was a Maker, a maker of machines. Just as a watch has a watchmaker, so people have a people maker: God. From empirical evidence alone we can conclude that a God of some type exists. Unfortunately, to me it seemed that God had been relegated to a role that amounted to no more than a catch-all phrase to cover what we, as a civilization, had not yet discovered.
Although my project for the Introduction to Philosophy course was shaping up nicely, I was entering a period of emotional and spiritual torment. Questions like Why do I want there to be a proof of God? and Why do these great minds, whose arguments are not really "proofs," still believe in God? ran through my mind constantly. I drank a lot, sitting in my room with these books all around me, reading and rereading passages, thinking.
I did no other work. nothing. I wrote out arguments in my own words and countered them, scratching them out I wadded up the papers and tossed them about the room. I couldn't eat. My oral presentation went well, but now that the end of the semester was near, my paper had ceased being an academic exercise and had taken on a necessity all its own. I had to find an answer.
One night, unable to sleep. I typed out the questions How do I know there is a God? Who am I, and why am I here? Why do these great philosophers, Aquinas, Anselm, and Hume, persist in believing in God even though they are unable to convince anyone that God is real? Why? Why? Why?
I put this note, along with my name and phone number, in an envelope, walked over to the Episcopal church (I was raised Episcopalian), and nailed it to the church rectory door.
A few days later, the minister called and made an appointment for me to come and see him. I arrived quite early and was ushered into a tiny library to wait until he was free. I scanned the shelves, stopping at Bhagavad-gita. I started reading, and I remember that I was annoyed when I was interrupted for my meeting.
The minister was familiar to me; I had seen him at parties. He was an expert in Christology and had a house in Jerusalem. He had lived in Beirut before the violence there. He was quite amiable, but after seeing him once a week for a while. I knew he wasn't going to have the answers to my questions.
The semester ended; I got all A's. I went to the church on Christmas, which made the minister very happy, and even I felt good, participating in a nearly forgotten childhood ritual. Nevertheless, I felt no closer to the solution to my spiritual crisis, even if my emotional one had somewhat abated.
The next semester began. I entered the classroom for Communications & Performing Arts 151, and there were coupons on every desk for a free roast beef sandwich at the cafeteria. I picked one up like it was a dead rat, saying to no one in particular, "I don't eat this stuff!" A girl near me piped up, "I don't either. I'm a vegetarian." We sat next to each other, and she introduced herself as Diane but said her friends called her Dina.
As a class assignment, we had to come up with a speech topic that was of significant personal importance. She showed me her topic: "You Are Not the Body."
How profound! I thought. This brief statement was a perfect expression of something I intuitively knew but had never been able to express. I muttered something about how we must be kindred souls.
About two weeks later I invited her for Sunday breakfast at a local French-style bistro. We talked about philosophy in general and God in particular. I had never met anyone who had such practical arguments. such a grasp of the issues, and all without having the repertoire of philosophical citations I had thought was necessary to discuss such topics. The next week I invited her over to my house for wine and cheese and talk. She said she didn't drink, but she would be glad to come.
She did, and while I drank all the wine, she explained about a life of service to God, how it changed one's perspective on life; how we are not bodies but eternal spirit souls, like God in quality but not in quantity; how God's existence is revealed, not deduced.
We started having lunch together. She asked me if I ever ate anything besides cheese sandwiches, and I told her I could cook well enough, but red meat seemed morally questionable. Chicken, with its sinewy, greasy structure made me vomit looking at it. And fish stank up the whole house. Besides, most meat is so full of chemicals that eating it is tantamount to self-poisoning. So I ate a lot of cheese sandwiches.
The following Saturday she arrived with all her pots and bottles and jars and a bag of groceries, announcing that she was going to prepare a vegetarian feast. She ejected my roommate and me from the kitchen and hanged about in there for a couple of hours while he and I absorbed the spring sunshine over a few beers. When the feast was ready, she presented it to us, serving us before she ate. She said it was spiritual food, called prasadam. She had me hooked. From that day on I ate nothing containing meat, fish, eggs, or even garlic and onions.
Soon after, she started referring to God as Krsna and explained about chanting, and how it not only is a healthy meditation, but it is in fact God realization.
Eureka! This was the proof! Hume said that we could know God from direct experience. There was nothing wrong with his argument; he simply had the wrong idea of what type of experience would illustrate God's existence. But since God is transcendent, it's logical that our experience should also be transcendent. Chanting is transcendental. Prasadam is transcendental. Discussing the name, fame, and pastimes of the Lord are transcendental activities.
Dina took me to the ISKCON temple in Cleveland. I was a little overwhelmed by the rambunctious young men with their funny outfits and shaved heads. But they spoke so intelligently. The temple president was genuinely friendly and interested in what I had to say, taking each point I made and showing how it was resolved by the philosophy of Krsna consciousness.
The following week he and another devotee lectured at Oberlin College, where I lived, so I invited them to come over after the lecture, bringing any students who were interested. We had prasadam and informal discussion and ended the evening around midnight with a dozen or so students, Dina, and I all participating in a cheery kirtana that lasted quite a long time.
That summer I married Dina Daya dasi in the Episcopalian church of my minister friend. The devotee priests from Cleveland performed the ceremony. The temple president lectured on the meaning of marriage as revealed in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. The minister lectured on how in the Christian religion marriage is founded upon the same principles of service and devotion to God. It seemed that the whole town came to hear. After the marriage. everyone was served prasadam in the parish hall.
In the ensuing months my new wife taught me about Deity worship and other householder responsibilities, and we made pilgrimages to many temples. Eventually I met my spiritual master and qualified for initiation.
I continue my studies of the philosophy of Krsna consciousness daily, always striving for more understanding, always conscious that the more I learn, the more I realize what I do not know. When I eventually retire from my occupation, it will be for a new life, a totally spiritual life in which my wife and I will devote all our energy to Krsna. In the meantime, we try to keep Krsna in the center of our marriage, we raise our children to be God conscious, and we contribute our time and the fruits of our labors to the spreading of God consciousness.
Hare Krsna movement is not a "For Ascetics Only" club.
By Rohininandana Dasa
Five centuries ago Lord Caitanya, who is the Supreme Lord. Krsna, Himself and the founder of the Hare Krsna movement, predicted that in every town and village around the globe God's holy names would be heard. Twenty-four years ago His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, a devoted follower of Lord Caitanya, journeyed from India to the West and began to vigorously introduce Krsna consciousness. As a result, people everywhere have encountered "the Hare Krsna experience" in the form of this Back to Godhead magazine; Srila Prabhupada's books: devotees of Krsna exuberantly chanting and dancing on the streets; devotees preaching in homes, schools, and colleges; festivals; beautiful temples; and prasadam, delicious vegetarian food that's been offered to Krsna.
Despite wide exposure to the Krsna consciousness movement, which historians and religious writers like Thomas J. Hopkins have called an ancient "social system" and a "cultural tradition," people often think that to become a member of this Society requires extreme renunciation and disinterest in the world. People tend to stay away from Krsna consciousness because of apprehension about the position of women, marriage, and family life. Many times I have been timidly asked, "Can you get married in Krsna consciousness?" when, in fact, these days you might find yourself looking over your garden wall to see a Krsna conscious couple playing with their children.
This raises more questions: If Hare Krsna devotees do get married and begin living alongside more "normal" members of society, do the devotees stop their fervent life of prayer and preaching? Is the serious practice of Krsna consciousness meant for just a few Hare Krsna devotees privileged (or condemned, as some think) to live in a few temples? And is it to be expected that most others will visit the temple in between watching TV, playing golf, or going to parties? How important is Krsna consciousness in the daily affairs of the ordinary family?
According to the Vedic literature, the age in which we are living is known as Kali-yuga, or the age of quarrel, a time of tension, disagreement, and stress. The Srimad-Bhagavatam, written five thousand years ago, predicts for Kali-yuga an atmosphere of spiritual ineptitude and consequent social decay. Things will gradually deteriorate with time, but already personal relationships are becoming fraught with difficulties. Fulfilling the dream of a happy home poses a challenge not easily met. "Burdens of love" are burdensome. Rarely do homes foster openness, good communication, respect, obedience, loyalty, and joy. Even persons who are competent outside the home find the simplest domestic problems insurmountable.
The solution to these problems lies in knowing the underlying cause of family strife: lack of a clear understanding of the goal of human life.
"But there is no goal," a mother of two once insisted to me. "There is no meaning to life."
"No meaning at all?" I queried.
"Well, the only meaning in my life is my children."
"But if your life is meaningless, how can your children make it any more meaningful?"
Of course, in daily life we do find meanings and goals to occupy and motivate us. When we awaken each morning we are flooded with considerations of wife. husband, lover, children, job, money, career, housework, or simply breakfast.
Because we are embodied souls, we tend to think of our own or others' bodily affairs as our first and foremost duty. But the Vedas say, "No. There is a much greater goal! Human life is meant for self-realization. If you occupy your days and nights with thoughts of your body and things related to it, you will waste an invaluable opportunity. And the subsequent anxiety, strain, and agitation will cause your loving relationships to disintegrate. Only the suffering will remain."
The Vedas suggest that efforts to help others that are based on the body will only aggravate the problems, and the Vedas therefore strongly recommend renunciation. Not just for a few monks either—for everyone.
"Wait a moment! What if everybody renounced the world and became a Hare Krsna? How would things go on?"
"Things would not go on." Srila Prabhupada used to retort, "at least not as you might think they should."
Yet Srila Prabhupada did not teach that everyone should move into a temple, but simply that we should renounce our tendency for selfish and vicious activities and begin practicing spiritual life at home, or wherever we may be.
"But how can renunciation help with our family problems? As I see it, there's not enough attachment bonding the husband to the wife and children."
Yes! Not enough spiritual attachment. As much as we are attached to selfish sensual pleasures, we will remain selfish in our relationships. Selfish sensuality will prevent me from being able to appreciate my partner as a person distinct from a machine to gratify my senses, and will tend to destroy our relationship, because my partner's body is limited and my desires are unlimited. Sooner or later. I will be driven by those desires to seek out another partner with a different body and the promise of fresh pleasure.
The remedy is to awaken my spiritual understanding that a person is actually a soul, who can never be satisfied by any amount of sensual pleasure, and who needs to awaken a loving relationship with the supreme soul. As it is said, a family that prays together stays together. The more materially detached we become, the more we will be able to properly care for others.
Watering the root of a tree nourishes the entire tree. Similarly, when the members of the family seek out the source of everything—God—and try to please Him, they will find their relationships nourished with peace, unity, and joy.
In the Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya-lila, Chapter 7), there is a description of Lord Caitanya's method of preaching while He traveled as a sannyasi (itinerant monk) in South India. He influenced the people to chant the holy names and converted them to Vaisnavism, the worship and service of the Supreme Lord, Krsna.
In one village a Vedic brahmana (priest) named Kurma invited Lord Caitanya to his home and begged. "My dear Lord, kindly show me favor; let me go with You. I can no longer tolerate the waves of misery caused by materialistic life."
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu replied, "Don't speak like that again. Better to remain at home and chant the holy name of Krsna always."
Srila Prabhupada comments,
It is not advisable in this age of Kali to leave one's family suddenly, for people are not trained as proper brahmacaris (celibate students] and grhasthas (spiritually-minded householders). Therefore Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu advised the brahmana not to be too eager to give up family life. It would be better to remain with his family and try to become purified by chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra regularly under the direction of a spiritual master. This is the instruction of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. If this principle is followed by everyone, there is no need to accept sannyasa. In the next verse Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu advised everyone to become an ideal householder by offenselessly chanting the Hare Krsna mantra and teaching the same principle to everyone he meets.
The next verse states. "Instruct everyone to follow the orders of Lord Sri Krsna as they are given in Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. In this way become a spiritual master and try to liberate everyone in this land."
This is the sublime mission of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Many people come and inquire whether they have to give up family life to join the Society, but that is not our mission. One can remain comfortably in his residence. We simply request everyone to chant the maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna , Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. If one is literate and can read Bhagavad-gita As It Is and Srimad-Bhagavatam, that is so much the better. These works are now available in an English translation and are done very authoritatively to appeal to all classes of men. Instead of living engrossed in material activities, people throughout the world should take advantage of this movement and chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra at home with their families. One should also refrain from sinful activities—illicit sex, meat-eating, gambling, and intoxication.
Krsna in the Center
To begin one's path to perfection at home, one must simply recognize that God is the owner of the home. Thinking "my wife," "my husband," "my children," "my job, money, and career," or even "my breakfast" is a mistake.
When Srila Prabhupada introduced the Krsna consciousness movement in New York City in 1966, many young people came forward to move into the single ISKCON temple. Yet even then Srila Prabhupada was speaking about practicing Krsna consciousness at home:
According to the Vedic system, a householder works for the satisfaction of God by establishing the Deity, or form of the Supreme Lord. either as a picture or a statue. In India there are many families still (including myself when I was a family man) who install the Deity of Radha and Krsna in a room called "God's room." As a daily duty the family members rise early in the morning, open the door of God's room, offer the Lord some prayers and songs, and cleanse the room before beginning their daily affairs of taking breakfast and going to work.
Thus, with a little guidance we can easily add Krsna consciousness to our lives. We can begin serving Krsna as the Deity in small ways, and later, should we choose, we can gradually introduce more features to our worship—we can offer incense and flowers, sing, play instruments, and dance. Everyone in the family can participate. It's great fun to worship Krsna together, sing His glories, and hear about Him. And it's a potent reminder of life's ultimate goal. If we do this regularly, as the first business of our day, we will find that the influence of Kali-yuga stays outside our walls, and everything inside becomes most agreeable. Try it and see!
The sankirtana movement is a social movement Association with devotees is essential for our devotional service to Krsna to properly develop and mature. We should therefore invite devotees to our homes. When one of Srila Prabhupada's disciples got married, he asked for some special instruction. Prabhupada told him, "Whenever you take prasadam, have guests." Inviting devotee guests helps Krsna consciousness stay alive in the domestic world. The whole family can be busy preparing for their reception and entertainment. It's a Vedic tradition that a householder invite guests for the main meal of the day. If perchance no guests come. he may go into the street and call out "If anyone is hungry, please come and dine with us!"
If we extend ourselves to others like this, we won't be disturbed by the "I, me, mine" syndrome of today's nuclear families, which tends to obliterate happy relationships and destroy the potential for spiritual perfection.
I once saw a couple of Chinese illustrations of heaven and hell. In heaven many people were sitting around, each with a bowl of rice and chopsticks, and they were happily feeding each other. In hell they just fed themselves.
The devotees in the Krsna consciousness movement follow a calendar that's full of festival days. Especially on major holy days, the home can be a flurry of activity, with everyone taking part in some way. Cleaning, cooking, decorating, preparing relevant Krsna conscious pastimes or games with the children—the atmosphere can become surcharged with spiritual energy. One can either invite friends or go to their house. Everyone will be touched by a happy mood of cooperation. After all, who doesn't like festivals with good music, food, dance, song, dramas, stories, recitals, games, and loving friends to share it all?
By inviting guests for festivals, we will find our hearts becoming soft and large out of a giving spirit and our relationships with our family members and friends will become smooth and pleasing. When we understand more clearly how our homes—with their cars, babies, and gardens—actually belong to Lord Krsna, and how we are really guests in His house, we will feel a joyous, festive mood of Krsna consciousness every moment of every day. Thus the fulfillment of Lord Caitanya's prediction—that the chanting of the holy names will be heard in every town and village—will bloom like a white lotus flower in our homes and in our hearts.
There are many other ways we can place Krsna in the center of our lives and so live together in the absolute pleasure of remembrance of Him. If you like, you can get more information on these topics by visiting or writing to any Hare Krsna temple.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
by Satyaraja dasa (Brooklyn, New York)
An old theory about the origin of life is again rearing its dirty head. Why dirty? Because Sir Fred Hoyle of Cambridge University is claiming that life began with what is tantamount to a dirty snowball. And people are believing him.
When Hoyle first presented his theory, in the 1940s, it was received with skepticism and even ridicule. But when he restated his claim recently, this time with complex scientific jargon, it was accepted by many of his distinguished colleagues.
Hoyle, who has been professor of astronomy at Cambridge for well over twenty years, believes that our remote ancestors were born in "dust clouds" floating around in our galaxy. Hoyle explains that these clouds contained various bacteria and viruses. Some of them were picked up by a comet that later burst into the earth's atmosphere. At this time the lifeless earth was "seeded" with life-giving cells.
There are scientists who give credence to this theory, since they already know that the tail of a comet is made up of gas and dust, and that its tiny head also contains ice particles—"life-giving" water to nurture the bacteria the comet carries. These scientists applaud Hoyle's imaginative doctrine, which he has called "the Dirty Snowball Theory."
Hoyle's snowball dogma is about to melt, however. His opposition, even at Cambridge, is growing quite strong. Hoyle's detractors include many longtime comrades, such as Cambridge mathematics professor Stephen Hawking. Once an advocate of many atheistic, snowball-like theories himself. Hawking is now making statements that proclaim God's hand in creation. According to Hawking, if a "snowball" was "thrown," there is no reason to assume that it was not thrown by an omnipotent "God." In his recent book A Brief History of Time, Hawking uncharacteristically writes, "There are now profound implications for the role of God as Creator." Other prominent scientists, such as Tony Rothman, are also vexing Hoyle with theistic alternatives to the snowball theory.
Some of Hoyle's detractors point out that although the dust clouds floating between the stars contain chemicals that are crucial in the chain of life—including methylated gases, formic acid. and formaldehyde—none of these elements can produce life. How can formaldehyde produce a living, thinking entity? Can Hoyle. using these "life-giving elements," produce life? This is the challenge.
Srila Prabhupada similarly challenged the scientists in the 1970s. In the conversations recorded in Life Comes From Life, Srila Prabhupada says, "If life originated from chemicals, and if your science is so advanced, then why can't you create life biochemically in your laboratory?" As he did not receive an answer in his day. Hoyle's opponents do not receive an answer today. The building blocks of life do not constitute a living organism any more that a snowball constitutes the North Pole.
Yet what's even more astonishing about Hoyle's theory is that it does not even address the central and most obvious question: If our ancestors were born in dust clouds or from ice particles at the tail of a comet then where did the dust cloud and comet come from? Hoyle's hypothesis does not really answer any questions. It merely removes the problem one step.
It may be said that the dust cloud and comet are eternal—a surrogate "God," if you will—and so the question of their origin does not come into play. But observable dust clouds and comets are not eternal. In fact, they are quite ephemeral. According to Bhagavad-gita, all matter is endlessly mutable. It adopts a particular form, is subject to entropy (it inevitably breaks down), and then it dissolves or changes form. Spirit, conversely, does not begin or end. It is constant, changeless, and primeval.
And so the battle goes on. Both Hoyle and his opponents have theories about the origin of life, as little children have snowball fights to keep active during a cold winter day. In the winter of modern times, no one really wins the fight. But the sun of Lord Krsna's Bhagavad-gita has answers that can melt the hearts of all who will listen.
The Hare Krsna mantra is a sound that is nondifferent from Krsna. The sound Krsna and the original Krsna are the same. When we chant Hare Krsna and dance, Krsna is also dancing with us. Of course we may say, "Well, I do not see Him," but why do we put so much stress on seeing? Why not hearing? Seeing, tasting, smelling, touching, and hearing are all instruments for gaining experience and knowledge. Why do we put such exclusive stress on seeing? A devotee does not wish to see Krsna; he is satisfied by simply hearing of Krsna. Seeing may eventually be there, but hearing should not be considered any less important
There are things which we hear but do not see—the wind may be whistling past our ears, and we can hear it, but there is no possibility of seeing the wind. Since hearing is no less an important experience or valid one than seeing, we can hear Krsna and realize His presence through sound. Sri Krsna Himself says, "I am not there in My abode, or in the heart of the meditating yogi, but where My pure devotees are singing My glories." We can feel the presence of Krsna as we actually make progress.
—His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
Devotees Join in The Great American Meatout
Washington, D.C.—On March 20, ISKCON devotees all over the United States participated in the Great American Meatout, organized by the Farm Animal Reform Movement (FARM) to inform the public of the benefits of vegetarianism. There were more than five hundred Meatout events across the U.S.
Here in the nation's capital, devotees distributed prasadam (sanctified food offered to Krsna) in a downtown mail and catered a luncheon sponsored by vegetarian congressman Andrew Jacobs of Indiana and attended by two hundred congressmen and aides. The meal was cooked by Visakha-devi dasi and Janesvari-devi dasi. "The guests loved it," said Susan Smith, executive director of FARM, which hosted the luncheon. "Most of them asked for cookbooks."
In San Diego, devotees served twenty-three kinds of prasadam to three thousand people at the Meatout in Balboa Park. The KrishnaFest band chanted Hare Krsna throughout the day. A representative of Animal Advocates said that the devotees' exhibit was the most important one there because it was the most informative.
In Houston, devotees distributed two hundred free lunches of "meatless Texas chili" to office workers and homeless people in front of city hall. The event was reported on local radio and television. The devotees also distributed books and prasadam at the mayor's office.
In Dallas, Yudhisthira dasa appeared on the city's most popular talk show and spoke to twenty thousand Texans about vegetarianism and Krsna consciousness. Kalachandji's Restaurant at the Dallas temple, hosted 250 visitors, who received more than a thousand books and magazines.
Novel Delivers Philosophy of Gita
Dallas, Texas—The Hong Kong branch of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust has published Science of Yoga: The Story of Li Kuang Shi by Tamal Krishna Goswami, a fictional novel about Chinese culture and Krsna consciousness. This is Tamal Krishna Goswami's fourth major book and one of the few novels ever written with themes on Krsna consciousness.
The Story of Li Kuang Shi is set in New York City and reveals the dramatic contrast between the dogma of modern scientific thinking and the ageless spiritual knowledge of the Vedic literature. Li Kuang Shi, a Ph.D. candidate in biochemistry, was born in mainland China and is one of the select few to be granted full scholarship to New York's prestigious Columbia University. One day he encounters a devotee of Krsna, and what follows is a confrontation of atheism and religion, of mechanistic science and spirituality, which people of any religious persuasion will be moved by. In the light of the current turmoil in China, The Story of Li Kuang Shi is especially intriguing. The book is being translated into Chinese by Yasomatisuta dasa of ISKCON Hong Kong. For purchasing information, write to Yudhisthira dasa at ISKCON Dallas or call (214) 823-7264 or (214) 823-3078.
Lord Jagannatha's Ratha-yatra chariot rolled through downtown Auckland, New Zealand, as part of the annual Easter Show Opening Parade. Afterwards, Ramai Swami and his Transcendental Rock Band headed up a two-day program at Aotea Square, with prasadam, book distribution, face-painting, video booths, and a boutique.
* * *
ISKCON has lost the association of a valuable devotee, His Holiness Acarya Swami, who died in a car crash in central Spain on May 15.
A disciple of Sripada B. R. Sridhara Maharaja, Acarya Swami had been serving as a preacher of Krsna consciousness outside ISkCON for many years. He joined ISKCON last March at the annual Mayapur festival. Friendly, intelligent learned, and devoted, he quickly became dear to the other ISKCON devotees.
Spanish by birth, he returned to Spain after the festival to help speed the work of the Spanish branch of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. He was killed less than two weeks later.
* * *
Lord Jagannatha rode in the Martin Luther King, Jr., Parade, held annually in Atlanta, Georgia. About half a million people who had gathered to honor the slain civil rights leader saw Lord Jagannatha on His chariot.
As the chariot rolled by the reviewing stand, the emcee announced to the crowd, "Our next entry is from the Atlanta Indian community and the Atlanta Hare Krsna temple. The elaborately decorated wooden chariot celebrates the cultural unity of mankind. The Hare Krsna belief is an ancient world religion which originated in India. The Hare Krsnas have been in America since 1965. That organization distributed food to millions of starving people in India, Africa, and of course to the homeless and needy in the United States. They have quarters close to my neighborhood. They're a good group."
* * *
For the third year in a row, the New Orleans Mardi Gras parade included Lord Jagannatha's Ratha-yatra chariot. A decorated eighteen-wheel flat-bed truck carried an eight-foot-tall figure of Lord Jagannatha, smaller forms of Balarama and Subhadra, and forty devotees. Karatalas, mrdangas, bongos, an amplified keyboard, and exuberant chanting resounded from the float for the benefit of the crowd of 875,000.
* * *
The inauguration of Srila Prabhupada's Padayatra America was held in San Francisco on the last weekend in May. Mukunda Goswami, who opened the San Francisco temple in 1967, led the devotees on a tour of places connected with Srila Prabhupada's activities. Rohini Kumara Swami performed the installation of the Padayatra deities, Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundara and Srila Prabhupada.
The Padayatra began with one hundred devotees walking through San Francisco carrying the Padayatra deities and chanting Hare Krsna. After leaving San Francisco, the Padayatra headed south to Tijuana, Mexico, where the devotees are scheduled to end their California walk in the first week of September.
Padayatra America emphasizes preaching Krsna consciousness by chanting Hare Krsna, distributing Srila Prabhupada's books, and holding festivals. Plans are being made to continue the walk across the United States and then throughout Europe.
by Gaura Gadadhara dasa
1. The Body
I have seen
The lens, the retina,
The cerebrum, the cerebellum
I am not
And that meaningless skeletal grin
2. The World
Last night, in a garden. I saw
In a city I saw
I saw a soul
3. The Lord
The reductionist's cosmos
O my Lord,
Thank You, my Lord,
I am stunned realizing
Spirit is solid,
Our backs to God,
Although bound to this dimension
This is the work of the human form—
This is bhakti-yoga—
The beginning is to contemplate
The beauty found in this relative world pales
by Ajitananda dasa
People are very much enamored by the beauty of this world. The Vedic literature, however, offers us penetrating insight into the actual nature of material beauty. If people would take the time to hear from these revered sources, they would be surprised to learn that what is accepted as beauty within this world is but the pale, illusory reflection of the unlimited spiritual beauty of Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Of course, some would disagree with the idea that material beauty is false. The smitten young man sees his sweetheart as the epitome of loveliness, the scholar is moved by the rich imagery in a masterpiece of poetry, and the artist views the pastoral scenery as the handiwork of angels. In each case the viewer appreciates what he or she perceives to be true beauty. Why, then, is it said to be false?
The answer to this question is given in the Second Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, where Lord Krsna tells Arjuna, "Those who are seers of the truth have concluded that of the nonexistent there is no endurance and of the existent there is no cessation. This seers have concluded by studying the nature of both."
Material beauty is herein deemed false in the sense that its manifestation is very, very brief. It appears momentarily and then disappears like a mirage. The attractive young body becomes old and wrinkled; it dies, decays, and is eaten by worms. And the beauty of the poem. although preserved for some time in book form, must also perish, as must the flowered countryside, lost forever in the dark wells of time.
Material beauty also proves false when we look more closely or shift our perspective. If the young man, for instance, were to peel away the covering layer of skin on the alluring young body—the object of his attraction—he would immediately become repulsed, proving conclusively that material beauty is only skin deep. And the poem or country scene, appreciated at one moment as quintessential beauty, may be seen in the next as utterly devoid of all charm by the same admirer, who, having endured some emotional trauma, now sees everything much differently.
Finally, material beauty is false in that it can never fully satisfy the soul, and in time the young man desires another lover, the scholar purchases a new book of poems, and the artist goes on to view another scene, each searching for an absolute level of fulfillment that continually eludes him, even up to death.
All of these points are mentioned not to invoke a mood of gloom and despair but rather to illustrate that although our love of beauty is a perfectly natural sentiment we are looking for it in all the wrong quarters. As a miner carefully studies his maps before prospecting, we also must determine the whereabouts of true beauty if we wish to unearth this valuable treasure.
The Vedic literature tells us that the reservoir of beauty is Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the Absolute Truth, or the source of everything. The relative beauty found in this world has its origin in Him, and ultimately we must turn to Him if we wish to realize our desire to know perfect beauty. In the Brahma-samhita. Lord Brahma eloquently describes the transcendental beauty of Lord Krsna:
I worship Govinda [Krsna], the primeval Lord, who is adept at playing on His flute, whose blooming eyes are like lotus petals, whose head is bedecked with a peacock's feather, whose figure of beauty is tinged with the hue of blue clouds, and whose unique loveliness is charming millions of Cupids.
This factual description of Krsna's spiritual beauty is not a whimsical creation of Brahma's imagination. Rather, it was spoken by Brahma in a trance of self-realization, in which he saw the Lord standing before him face to face. In his next verse. Brahma continues to describe his vision, with notable reference to the eternality of Krsna's form:
I worship Govinda. the primeval Lord, round whose neck is swinging a garland of jeweled ornaments, who is always reveling in pastimes of love. whose graceful, threefold-bending form of Syamasundara is eternally manifest.
As Krsna's form is "eternally manifest" so is the beauty of that form, thus fulfilling the Bhagavad-gita's definition of reality—that which has "no cessation." Not only is Krsna's beauty eternal, but it is also ever fresh, like an endlessly blooming springtime. A devotee never tires of viewing that divine form, which is so magnificent that Krsna Himself cannot estimate it for in one moment He measures, and in the next moment it expands unlimitedly, eluding even His vast capacity to understand.
Since Krsna is the Absolute Truth. His beauty is also absolute and is never canceled or diminished by closer examination or change in perspective. His form is the vessel of pure spiritual energy—eternity, knowledge, and bliss—and it is therefore beautiful through and through. Indeed it has been compared to the radiant vaidurya gem, which, although appearing differently according to the play of light upon its numerous colored facets, is extraordinarily beautiful from whichever angle it is viewed. Thus Krsna's beauty is always appreciated by the countless pure devotees who inhabit the spiritual sky, some of whom regularly descend to this material plane to turn our attention back to Him.
Krsna's absolute nature is also such that anything connected with Him, be it His name, form, words, pastimes, or paraphernalia. also exhibits His superlative beauty. In Srila Prabhupada's book Krsna, this remarkable feature of Krsna's personality is apparent in the following statement by a devotee, in which the beauty of the Lord's flute-playing is feelingly described:
My dear friends, Krsna is so beautiful that the goddess of fortune always remains on His chest and He is always adorned with a golden necklace. Beautiful Krsna plays His flute in order to enliven the hearts of many devotees. He is the only friend of the suffering living entities. When He plays His flute, all the cows and other animals of Vrndavana, although engaged in eating, simply take a morsel of food in their mouths and stop chewing. Their ears raise up and they become stunned. They do not appear alive but like painted animals. Krsna's flute-playing is so attractive that even the animals become enchanted, and what to speak of ourselves.
All of these features combine to make Krsna's beauty fully satisfying. While material beauty offers momentary pleasure to the senses. Krsna's spiritual beauty touches the very soul of the living being. thrilling him with a pleasure so wonderful that once having relished it he can never give it up. Srila Rupa Gosvami has therefore advised,
My dear friend, if you still have any desire to enjoy the company of your friends within this material world, then don't look upon the form of Krsna, who is standing on the bank of Kesi-ghata. He is known as Govinda, and His eyes are very enchanting. He is playing upon His flute, and on His head there is a peacock feather. His whole body is illuminated by the moonlight in the sky.
The more a devotee appreciates Krsna's beauty, the less he falls for the flickering attractions of this material world. Once, Haridasa Thakura, a great devotee of the Lord, was chanting Hare Krsna alone, absorbed in the beauty of the Lord's holy name. An alluring young prostitute appeared and tried to divert him from his vow of chanting Krsna's names 300,000 times daily. Haridasa's attraction to Krsna's beauty was so deep, however, that he remained unaffected by her advances. Instead, he converted the prostitute into a virtuous devotee greatly attached to the beauty of Krsna.
Although descriptions of Krsna's beauty are fascinating, we may rightfully wonder how we can overcome our own attraction to the world's enticements and achieve the coveted vision of Krsna's spiritual beauty. We can begin by remembering that even the flickering beauty of this world has its origin in Krsna. The sunrise, the fragrant flower, the taste of water, or anything else of value can remind us of Krsna and thus act as an agent for our spiritual enlightenment.
Furthermore, by hearing and chanting about Krsna in the company of devotees and by worshiping His Deity form in the temple, we can accelerate our spiritual advancement. This combination of pleasurable devotional activities will very surely and effectively raise us to the platform of pure love for Krsna, enabling us to view Him face to face and enjoy the nectar of His moonlike beauty.
Roundup at Olduvai
by Mathuresa dasa
A the helicopter descended through the dawn light near Olduvai Gorge, Eleanor Doting checked her seatbelt. Had her son Vincent arrived safely? He had insisted on parachuting in the day before to have extra time alone with Rocky, his younger brother.
Why did Vincent always have to jump into things? At age ten he campaigned at school for JFK, even though she explained to Vincent a hundred times that his classmates couldn't vote. At eighteen he left college to join some hippies in California, and a couple of years later he wrote to say he was living at the Hare Krsna temple in Paris.
Paris no less! Within minutes she had booked a flight, and within days they were sitting together on a park bench near the Eiffel Tower, where she'd caught up with him chanting and dancing with his shaven-headed friends.
"Vincent, come home. You can have anything you want. I'll even give you money for marijuana. I'll ..."
"But Mom. I never smoked ..."
"Sure you didn't, deary. Why not come back with me? I have a plane ticket for you."
"But Mom, you can see me here all you want And I'll visit you next Christmas, promise."
" 'Visnu dasa,' Mom. I have a new name."
Visnu dasa indeed! Well, he had in fact come to visit that Christmas, and every year after that too. She freely admitted that he (still Vincent to her) had a better head than Rocky, who had taken forever to finish grad school, only to join the Peace Corps in Africa, for heaven's sake. Rocky later returned to New York and made decent money designing software. But the boy never shaped up, always wore old jeans and flannel shirts, kept a long beard, and drank too much. And now, for the love of Pete, he was back in Africa—"looking for his roots"!
So this time she had booked a flight to Dar-es-Salaam instead of Paris, she was chasing Rocky instead of Vincent and she'd had to rent a helicopter to boot. If Harry Doting were alive to see what she was doing with his hard-earned money...
This time she had asked for Vincent's help, which was also a first. She'd had to, because Rocky now had some crazy idea about staying forever in Africa, and she knew Vincent was a good talker, with a more sober, logical head since joining Hare Krsna. She should know. Didn't she patiently listen to him "preaching" to her for hours every Christmas?
After resting through the heat of the day, Mrs. Doting mounted something resembling a mule and, with her guide, found Rocky's camp near the bottom of the gorge early that evening. She heard voices coming from a lamplit tent.
"It's all guesswork." Vincent was saying, "They dig up a few pieces, a tiny fraction of the earth's surface, and they figure they can tell us what happened here millions and billions of years ago."
"Why not?" Rocky replied. "Geologists call it 'the stratigraphic column.' It's the layers of rock that have been piled up since the very beginning."
"But look," said Vincent. "Most scientists accept only the stratigraphic evidence that supports their theories. They ignore findings that indicate modern man existed millions of years ago. Still other scientists say that since ninety percent of the sedimentary layers may have eroded away, the stratigraphic column is a useless tool."
"But you look," said Rocky. "Right here on page twenty-eight of my book . . ."
Mrs. Doting could contain herself no longer. "That's the trouble with you," she shouted, bursting through the tent flap. "Ever since you dug that silly old textbook out of the attic, you've been saying you could find your roots—your 'lost ancestors.' for goodness sake—in some jungle."
Recovering from the surprise entrance, the boys offered their mother a seat.
"It is our roots," Rocky insisted, "our origins ..."
"But you can't know for certain what happened even a thousand years ago," said Vincent "what to speak of a million or a billion, by digging the ground. It's a hoax. Your own book says that the science of geology didn't produce a coherent model of earth's history until after 1960. So in less than thirty years you and a few geologists have mapped out millions of centuries? I wouldn't swallow it even if you'd been working ten times that long."
"It's that silly book and a few others he's been reading." Mrs. Doting chided from her perch on a camp cot.
"Well, in all fairness," said Vincent tapping his Bhagavad-gita, "I too have a book that talks of remote origins. Here in the Fourth Chapter you can read that the Gita and highly intelligent followers of the Gita have been around for at least 120 million years. Look, here's how it's calculated."
Rocky wouldn't look. "That's your religion," he scoffed. "You just believe whatever your religion tells you. That's blind faith."
"And you don't have blind faith that a handful of men have pieced together a believable history of the earth in just a few years from a few rocks? The difference is that the Gita isn't guesswork. It's been handed down unchanged for millions of years. Your holy geologists change every day to account for their so-called evidence. Does the truth change every day, or does it stay the same eternally?"
"Well, I don't know if Rocky will ever change," said Mrs. Doting, missing the point by a mile, as usual. "Here he is way down in this dusty pit when he could be making big money back home. And all this 'roots' business. Tell me, is life meant for roots or for . . ."
"Yes, life is meant for finding our roots, Mom," said Vincent. "But you won't find anything conclusive by digging in this gorge. Life's too short and we're too faulty. We've got to discover a perfect source of knowledge."
"Ah. Perfection," said Rocky sarcastically.
"But that's what you're looking for, what you claim to have found—and in a bunch of scattered digs and a few broken bones. You look for broken bones. I'll look for a perfect person to give me perfect knowledge from a perfect book."
Mrs. Doting sighed and let the boys continue, hoping Vincent would win out.
Not that she was taking sides. She just didn't want Rocky living way out here in the wilds. Whatever Vincent's Gita said, at least it brought him home for Christmas, and visiting him didn't require a mule.
False Pride in a Foolish Age
This exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples and guests took place during a morning walk in Hamburg, in December 1969.
Srila Prabhupada: So last night at the lecture, our explanation of spiritual life was all right?
Disciple: Oh, yes, Srila Prabhupada. And there would have been even more people present but this is the week for the big world-championship football matches. So everyone tries to see those matches. Either they stay home and watch the matches on television, or they go out to the stadium. Everyone wants to see them.
Srila Prabhupada: Because they have been taught like that What is their fault? They have not been taught the importance of human life. They have been taught "Eat, drink, be merry, and enjoy." That's all.
And then in your next life, become a dog. That's all. But people do not know. They simply say, "Never mind. I shall become a dog. After all, in my next life I will forget everything."
In the universe there are so many planets, so many different standards of life. But people know nothing. They do not know anything.
Guest: But beings on the other planets may have forms more spiritual than ours.
Srila Prabhupada: No. They have material forms. For instance, although you cannot live within the water and only the fish can live within the water, still, a fish's body is not spiritual. It is material. Likewise, you cannot go to the sun planet, because for you that is a foreign atmosphere. But there are living entities who live on the sun planet. They have got their suitable material body.
Guest: But I think for the people all this is difficult to understand.
Srila Prabhupada: They are trained up to be fools. [Laughter.] How will they understand? They are simply fools. eating flesh and becoming like tigers and dogs. That's all. A tiger may be very strong, but what kind of brain has he got? No brain. [Laughter.]
To have a brain, one must be a brahmana. Samo damas tapah saucam: as Krsna explains in Bhagavad-gita, real intelligence means one must be peaceful, self-controlled, austere, and pure. To truly have a brain, one must be qualified spiritually. A tiger may attack me and kill me—he is very strong. But that does not mean he has got a better brain than me.
Guest: Yes, yes, I see.
Srila Prabhupada: So the modern civilization is making tigers—discovering the atomic bomb and teaching people how they can be physically strong and kill others. They are busy only in these things: the dog's business—how to attack another dog. That's all.
Guest: Your Diving Grace, this will be a very nice area here for your spiritual community.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, yes.
Guest: And I think you will provide a very. very good example for the people around here.
Srila Prabhupada: But the so-called advanced human beings—they come here for hunting. They come here to shoot animals.
Srila Prabhupada: The animals—they are living peacefully in their own atmosphere. And these people—they come to kill them. This killing business has become very prominent at the present moment, and therefore so many humans are being killed in the very womb of their mother. Abortion—children killed. That people do not know. Nature will not excuse you. You are killing; you'll be killed within your mother's womb. You'll never see the light of the sun. You will go on being killed, life after life—as many lives as the number of animals you have killed. People do not know.
And the time will come in this age when there will be no food, and man will kill man and eat. That time is coming. Yes. They are now killing animals, but animals live on these grasses and grains. When there are no more grasses and no more grains, where will people get animals? They'll kill their own sons and eat them. That time is coming.
Nature's law is that you grow your own food. But people are not interested in growing food. They are interested in manufacturing bolts and nuts.
Guest: Manufacturing . . . ?
Srila Prabhupada: Bolts and nuts.
Guest: Yes, yes, yes. I see.
Srila Prabhupada: Factories. Big, big factories. So in time they will have to eat bolts and nuts. Where will they get food grains? They thought, "Let us eat the animals and manufacture bolts and nuts." But then, when all the animals are gone—then what will they eat?
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, the scientists are making artificial food. So they're not very worried.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, yes. That is why I'm talking of bolts and nuts. That "artificial food" means bolts and nuts. Somebody told me that the scientists have manufactured artificial butter, and when people ate it they were vomiting. There is already ample butter supplied. Why are these rascals interested in manufacturing artificial butter to show off their scientific brains?
Just see what rascals they are! They think they can get unlimited quantities of butter, huh?—just as Krsna was stealing unlimited quantities of butter from His mother and throwing it to the monkeys. Butter can be produced by the Lord's cows, so that everyone can eat sumptuously. But no. "Kill the animals, eat artificial butter, and vomit." That's all. Just see their intelligence. And they are proud of their advanced civilization.
All Men—and Women—Can Know God
Loma Hoffman, a Back to Godhead reader, wrote, "I was intrigued to read in the last issue that there existed a woman spiritual master in the Vaisnava tradition, named Srimati Gangamata." But Lorna complained that Srila Prabhupada omits mention of women in his writings. She quoted a sample:
" 'We can know God, however, because He has communicated with men ...,' " and added. "Has Lord Krsna not communicated also with countless women and children?"
"I would join your movement tomorrow," Loma continued, "if it weren't for this solid wall of misogyny that I encounter at every rum. I find your magazine, and most of the individuals I've met to be fairly friendly to women. The problem is Prabhupada."
But in the samples Loma quoted, Srila Prabhupada intended no neglect of women. When he writes that God has "communicated with men," Prabhupada is employing the convention that men or mankind includes women and children. Nowadays, of course, statements that employ the male gender are no longer seen as sufficient for addressing all humanity. A writer is expected to use neutral statements referring to "all persons" or else mention them specifically as men and women.
But although Prabhupada's prose employs the older convention, it is unfair to accuse him of not including women in his invitation for all spirit souls to render loving service unto Krsna. Srila Prabhupada was born in the late 1800s and educated in the early part of this century, before such changes in convention took place. Only in the quite recent past have writers and the reading public considered words like he and mankind to be exclusively addressed to men.
Conventions of the English language aside, we should understand that Srila Prabhupada was very liberal in his distribution of Krsna consciousness, especially to women. Vedic culture emphasizes that women should be protected. Without neglecting this important principle. Srila Prabhupada took a giant step forward by encouraging women to participate as active preachers in the important work of spreading Krsna consciousness.
When Srila Prabhupada came to America, his free distribution of Krsna consciousness was revolutionary. In a purport in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (5.6.3) he explains his departure from the very strict separation of men and women that existed in traditional Indian society:
In our Krsna consciousness movement it has been very difficult to disassociate ourselves from women in our Society, especially in Western countries. We are therefore sometimes criticized, but nonetheless we are trying to give everyone a chance to chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra and thus advance spiritually.
Prabhupada's attitude toward women was not demeaning or belittling. He saw them as equal to men:
Since both boys and girls are being trained to become preachers, these girls are not ordinary girls but are as good as their brothers who are preaching Krsna consciousness. Therefore to engage both boys and girls in fully transcendental activities is a policy intended to spread the Krsna consciousness movement . . . We are thoroughly instructing both men and women how to preach, and actually they are preaching wonderfully. .. . Both men and women are preaching the gospel of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Lord Krsna with redoubled strength. (Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila 7.32. 37, purports)
By a superficial reading of Srila Prabhupada's purports, one might think that Prabhupada considered women allurements to make men fall into illusion. But the fact is that both women and men are lures for the opposite sex. When Srila Prabhupada or any bona fide Vedic teacher says that woman is the cause of a man's fall-down, he actually means that woman is the downfall for a man and that man is the downfall for a woman:
In these instructions of Lord Kapiladeva it is explained that not only is woman the gateway to hell for man, but man is also the gateway to hell for woman. It is a question of attachment A man becomes attached to a woman because of her service, her beauty, and many other assets, and similarly a woman becomes attached to a man for his giving her a nice place to live, ornaments, dress, and children. As long as either is attached to the other for such material enjoyment the woman is dangerous for the man, and the man is also dangerous for the woman. But if the attachment is transferred to Krsna, both of them become Krsna conscious and then marriage is very nice. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.31.42, purport)
Prabhupada, therefore, gave the Krsna consciousness movement the legacy of equality for women. It is also a fact that ISKCON is undergoing considerable soul-searching in trying to apply these principles in the context of modern society and at the same time faithfully follow the Vedic scriptures. At present, members of ISKCON are engaged in much discussion over this issue, and the public is also curious about what direction we will take regarding feminism.
Among the different opinions expressed by Krsna conscious devotees, here is one I received in a letter from Kaisori dasi from Boston:
I don't think that the position of women in ISKCON is much different from their position in any industrialized society. ISKCON may, perhaps, give a little more scope for demeaning women, although it is not really part of our philosophy or culture. But our main problem is that we are members of, and therefore influenced by, Western industrialized society.
Kaisori goes on to say that in traditional Vedic culture women had a strong role to play because they were involved in the economic base of maintaining the families. She writes,
As we examine Vedic culture, we can see that while men pastured the cows (in the case of vaisyas), women dealt with the by-product of cow protection: milk. They churned butter, made yogurt and did whatever was necessary to preserve the quantity of milk (which was their wealth). They used it for the family or prepared the excess for sale. In this sense, women were partners.
Kaisori's point is that industrialization has changed all that Now the economic base of the family is no longer centered in the home, and that leaves women in a double bind. They are forced to either leave their children or no longer participate in the economic survival of the family. If they don't go out and work, they are sometimes seen as less productive. And if they do renounce taking care of their children, then they suffer greater anxiety.
In ISKCON, for example, if a woman has a child, she may be seen as not able to take part in the vital work of the community. So we in ISKCON are dealing with the same problem as industrialized women outside of ISKCON: whether to work or to care for the children.
The Vedic conception is that women should be mothers, that it is glorious to be a mother, and a religious duty. According to one Vedic saying, "Women become beautiful only after having a child." But if after having a child, they are treated by men as less productive or as useless members of the community—then what to do? Kaisori writes,
I think the answer lies in the move toward self-sufficiency in rural farm projects. Then women can again take part in serving to fulfill the needs of family and community, in a respectful, anxiety-free way, with their children in tow. This will, of course, also be a struggle, because we are not trained to live like this. It requires simple living and high thinking and a real dedication to social change, even within ISKCON. It is a gradual process.
Of course, this is just one approach to a many-faceted problem. But Lorna Hoffman and others shouldn't think ISKCON is complacently sitting back with prejudiced attitudes toward women. If ISKCON is seen by some as behind the times in accepting women, they should not blame the teachings of Srila Prabhupada. He did more than anyone to give women a chance for equal participation in the most important aspect of human endeavor: devotional service to God.
ISKCON does not intend to imitate extreme forms of feminism that bear the materialistic stamp, but by sincere dialogue and by trying to work out problems, devotees are making progress. If we succeed, then Lord Krsna and Srila Prabhupada will be pleased with us—because surely they intended that all men and women should live together happily in Krsna consciousness, in this life and in the next.—SDG