All glories to Lord Sri Krsna!
With this issue, we give you an idea of where we're going and what's to come. Our goal is the same as ever—Krsna—but our outlook is in many ways new.
We're coming up with new features for Back to Godhead—and refining old ones. Read within and see what you think.
The Hare Krsna movement is getting older, wiser, more expansive, more mature. And it has run into new problems, new perplexities, new challenges.
I'm convinced that Krsna consciousness can solve all problems, resolve all perplexities, meet all challenges. So let's unfold that consciousness here, in the pages of BTG.
Arjuna was lost, bewildered, on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra. But when he surrendered to Krsna, Krsna enlightened Him, and all his problems were solved.
That's what will work in our lives too. The more we surrender to Krsna, the more our path in life becomes clear. And the more clearly we understand, the more understanding we can offer to the world.
I want to thank my senior Godbrother, teacher, and friend Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami, the Editor of BTG for twenty years, who has handed the care of the magazine over to me. In carrying out my duties, I feel fortunate to have his blessings.
The success of BTG depends on the blessings of the devotees: the blessings of Srila Prabhupada, who started it, the previous acaryas, who inspired it, and the present devotees of the Krsna consciousness movement, whom it is meant to serve and who are spreading its message.
It depends, also, on the good wishes of all its readers, who give of their time and money to receive what Back to Godhead has to offer.
Thank you for joining us—or thank you for staying with us and offering us your encouragement, suggestions, and help.
Here I'd also like to thank Mr. Santino Coppolino, of Toronto, Canada, and our longtime friend Adi Kesava Dasa. They set us up with the new desktop publishing system we're using to put out BTG. We're sure Lord Krsna is pleased with them for their service.
Thanks also to Navina Krsna Dasa and Advaita Acarya Dasa for their valuable encouragement and counsel.
And my special thanks to Mr. Shrikumar Poddar, who has selflessly shared with us his vision, experience, and expertise in magazine publishing-and whose good advice we are only beginning to follow. May Lord Krsna bless him more and more.
May Lord Krsna bless every one of our readers with transcendental dust from His lotus feet.
Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
We welcome your letters.
Come Back Soon!
This is the one magazine I usually read cover to cover as soon as it hits the mailbox! I hope to see it there again in the near future.
Patrick L. Garrison
* * *
For the past 5 to 7 years it has been an excellent reminder to me as to what my life is supposed to be for.
* * *
I hope you will come back as soon as possible. I find BTG very inspiring and have learned a great deal from it. Please do not forget me.
* * *
I feel that it's a great shame and disservice to Srila Prabhupada that you are discontinuing publishing BTG, even if it is just for a "short" time.
* * *
I wish you success and reduction of stress in your plans to reconstitute the magazine.
* * *
I have been deeply touched by the story of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, and I have been chanting the transcendental mantra for a while, introducing my friends to the benefit one can feel by thinking of purity rather than trying to get a "buzz" out of smoking, drinking, etc.
I want to find out as much as possible about Krsna and the divine wisdom that emanates from Him. I feel that by ordering BTG I can speed this process of learning up.
* * *
I'm very much in need of a subscription to Back to Godhead. Please, I'm dry spiritually and need to have that magazine for water.
* * *
I am a fallen soul seeking the mercy of Lord Krsna. Please send me information on how I may obtain a subscription to Back to Godhead magazine, as well as a listing of books I can order from the Book Trust.
Done! Thank you, Anthony. Hare Krsna. Other readers looking for information on subscriptions and books will find it on page 53 and the back cover.—Editor
* * *
Is ISKCON OK?
I feel uneasy lately about ISKCON. It appears to be disintegrating instead of expanding and growing. I hope my fears are wrong.
We hope so too! And to us the movement looks like it's expanding and growing. Lord Krsna's in control, and we look forward to wonderful things.—Editor
* * *
Holier Than Thou
Let's not see so much left-brained intellectualization and macho rationalism. Let's hear from the intuitive feminine-spiritual right hemisphere. After all, bhakti is love and devotion expressed through emotion.
BTG, as well as ISKCON, needs to be about 100% more open-minded and integrative. Krsna conscious philosophy is nonsectarian—but ISKCON policy (and BTG), though claiming to be, does not reflect it but rather portrays a condescending "holier-than-thou" attitude, as if ISKCON had a monopoly on spiritual truth and Lord Sri Krsna.
* * *
A Familiar Problem
I am 16 years old, and I discovered Krsna consciousness about a year ago. I soon became a vegetarian, and I am well associated with the local temple. I've been chanting and reading Krsna's books for a long time.
My problem is this. I want to leave home and live at a temple to become initiated and become a full-time devotee. My father is against this. If I ran away to live at the temple my father would get me and bring me back home. I don't want to wait until I'm 18 (the legal age) to become a full devotee. What do you think I should do? Should I go to a temple somewhere else in the country where he will be unlikely to find me? Please send me the answer to this important problem.
Please stay home. Finish school. Keep us both out of trouble (see page 23).
Krsna is everywhere. So you can serve Krsna wherever you may be.
Prahlada Maharaja became a devotee even in the womb of his mother. Arjuna served Krsna even on a battlefield. To serve Krsna, or God, is the natural spiritual function of the soul. So the soul can perform this function anywhere, at any time. Krsna consciousness can't be blocked by any material circumstances.
You're welcome to join the temple as soon as you're eighteen. Chant Hare Krsna, and the time will pass quickly.
After several centuries, the Industrial Revolution has left a legacy of dissatisfaction, conflict, and pollution. Srila Prabhupada advises us to stay away from the factory, live in harmony with the earth, and make our goals spiritual, not material.
Extracts from the teachings of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
GIGANTIC INDUSTRIAL enterprises" Srila Prabhupada says, "are products of a godless civilization, and they cause the destruction of the noble aims of human life."
"The more we go on increasing such troublesome industries," the more we "squeeze the vital energy out of the human being" and "the more there will be unrest and dissatisfaction of the people in general, although a few only can live lavishly by exploitation." (SB 1.8.40)
"The productive energy of the laborer is misused when he is occupied by industrial enterprises.... The production of machines and machine tools increases the artificial living fashion of a class of vested interests and keeps thousands of men in starvation and unrest. This should not be the standard of civilization." (SB 1.9.6)
Terrible Industrial Enterprises
"'Factory' is another name for hell. At night, hellishly engaged persons take advantage of wine and women to satisfy their tired senses, but they are not even able to have sound sleep, because their various mental speculative plans constantly interrupt their sleep." (SB 3.9.10)
"The dungeons of mines, factories, and workshops develop demoniac propensities in the working class." Meanwhile, "the vested interests flourish at the cost of the working class, and consequently there are severe clashes between them in so many ways." (SB 1.11.12)
"Manufacture of the 'necessities of life' in factories and workshops, excessively prominent in the Age of Kali, the age of the machine, is the summit of the quality of darkness." Why? "Because factually there is no necessity for the commodities manufactured." (SB 2.5.30)
"What is the need of an artificial luxurious life of cinema, cars, radio, flesh, and hotels? Has this civilization produced anything but quarreling individually and nationally? Has this civilization enhanced the cause of equality and fraternity by sending thousands of men into a hellish factory and the war fields at the whims of a particular man?" (SB 1.10.4)
"The real problem is how to get free from the bondage of birth, death, and old age. Attaining this freedom, and not inventing unnecessary necessities, is the basic principle of Vedic civilization...."The modern materialistic civilization is just the opposite of the ideal civilization. Every day the so-called leaders of modern society invent something contributing to a cumbersome way of life that implicates people more and more" in the cycle of birth and death." (SB 7.14.5)
"Now people are very busy trying to find petroleum in the midst of the ocean. They are very anxious to make provisions for the future petroleum supply, but they do not make any attempts to ameliorate the conditions of birth, old age, disease, and death." (SB 4.28.12)
"The materialists ... think that they are advancing. But according to Bhagavad-gita they are unintelligent and devoid of all sense. They try to enjoy this material world to the utmost limit and therefore always engage in inventing something for sense gratification. Such materialistic inventions are considered to be advancement of human civilization, but the result is that people grow more and more violent and more and more cruel." (BG 16.9)
"According to Vedic economics, one is considered to be a rich man by the strength of his store of grains and cows. With only these two things, cows and grain, humanity can solve its eating problem.... All other things but these two are artificial necessities created by man to kill his valuable life at the human level and waste his time in things which are not needed." (SB 3.2.29)
"If we have sufficient grains, fruits, vegetables, and herbs, then what is the necessity of running a slaughterhouse and killing poor animals? A man need not kill an animal if he has sufficient grains and vegetables to eat. The flow of river waters fertilizes the field, and there is more than what we need. Minerals are produced in the hills, and jewels in the ocean. If human civilization has sufficient grains, minerals, jewels, water, milk, etc., then why should it hanker after terrible industrial enterprises at the cost of the labor of some unfortunate men?" (SB 1.8.40)
"Advancement of human civilization depends not on industrial enterprises but on possession of natural wealth and natural food, which is all supplied by the Supreme Personality of Godhead so that we may save time for self-realization and success in the human form of body." (SB 4.9.62)
Srila Prabhupada cites the example of Lord Krsna's ancient city of Dvaraka. "Dvaraka was surrounded by flower gardens and fruit orchards along with reservoirs of water and growing lotuses. There is no mention of mills and factories supported by slaughterhouses, which are the necessary paraphernalia of the modern metropolis....
"It is understood that the whole dhama, or residential quarter, was surrounded by gardens and parks with reservoirs of water where lotuses grew ... All the people depended on nature's gifts of fruits and flowers without industrial enterprises promoting filthy huts and slums for residential quarters." (SB 1.11.12)
"The natural gifts such as grains and vegetables, fruits, rivers, the hills of jewels and minerals, and the seas full of pearls are supplied by the order of the Supreme, and as He desires, material nature produces them in abundance or restricts them at times. The natural law is that the human being may take advantage of these godly gifts by nature and flourish on them without being captivated by the exploitative motive of lording it over material Nature." (SB 1.8.40)
"All these natural gifts are dependent on the mercy of the Lord. What we need, therefore, is to be obedient to the laws of the Lord and achieve the perfection of human life by devotional service." (SB 1.8.40)
"Everyone is acting under the influence of material nature, and only fools think they can improve upon what God has created." (SB 7.14.7)
"The prosperity of humanity does not depend on a demoniac civilization that has no culture and no knowledge but only gigantic skyscrapers and huge automobiles always rushing down the highways. The products of nature are sufficient." (SB 5.16.24)
"Ample food grains can be produced through agricultural enterprises, and profuse supplies of milk, yogurt, and ghee can be arranged through cow protection. Abundant honey can be obtained if the forests are protected.
"Unfortunately, in modern civilization, men are busy killing the cows that are the source of yogurt, milk, and ghee, they are cutting down all the trees that supply honey, and they are opening factories to manufacture nuts, bolts, automobiles, and wine instead of engaging in agriculture. How can the people be happy? They must suffer from all the misery of materialism. Their bodies become wrinkled and gradually deteriorate until they become almost like dwarves, and a bad odor emanates from their bodies because of unclean perspiration from eating all kinds of nasty things. This is not human civilization." (SB 5.16.25)
A Higher Goal of Life
"Advancement of civilization is estimated not on the growth of mills and factories to deteriorate the finer instincts of the human being, but on developing the potent spiritual instincts of human beings and giving them a chance to go back to Godhead.... Human energy should be properly utilized in developing the finer senses for spiritual understanding, in which lies the solution of life." (SB 1.11.12)
"Nature already has an arrangement to feed us," Srila Prabhupada says. "The Lord has provided food for both the elephant and the ant....
"Therefore one who is intelligent should not work very hard for material comforts. Rather, one should save his energy for advancing in Krsna consciousness." (SB 7.14.14)
"Demons are very much interested in advancing a plan by which people will labor hard like cats, dogs, and hogs, but Krsna's devotees want to teach Krsna consciousness so that people will be satisfied with plain living and Krsna conscious advancement." (SB 9.24.59)
"The sufferings of human society are due to a polluted aim of life, namely lording it over the material resources. The more human society engages in the exploitation of undeveloped material resources for sense gratification, the more it will be entrapped by the illusory, material energy of the Lord, and thus the distress of the world will be intensified instead of diminished." (SB 2.2.37)
"Advancement of human civilization must be towards the goal of establishing our lost relationship with God, which is not possible in any form of life other than the human. One must realize the nullity of the material phenomenon, considering it a passing phantasmagoria, and must endeavor to make a solution to the miseries of life. Self-complacence with a polished type of animal civilization geared to sense gratification is delusion, and such a 'civilization' is not worthy of the name." (SB 2.2.4)
"The materialistic advancement of civilization ... ultimately ends in wars and scarcity. The transcendentalist is specifically warned to be fixed in mind, so that even if there is difficulty in plain living and high thinking he will not budge even an inch from his stark determination." (SB 2.2.3)
"All human society is meant to worship Lord Visnu [God]. At the present moment, however, human society does not know that this is the ultimate goal or perfection of life. Therefore instead of worshiping Lord Visnu, people have been educated to worship matter.
"According to the direction of modern society, men think they can advance in civilization by manipulating matter to build skyscrapers, big roads, automobiles and so on. Such a civilization must certainly be called materialistic because its people do not know the goal of life.
"The goal of life is to reach Visnu, but instead of reaching Visnu, people are bewildered by the external manifestation of the material energy. Therefore progress in material advancement is blind, and the leaders of such material advancement are also blind. They are leading their followers in the wrong way." (SB 5.1.14)
"Life is never made comfortable by artificial needs, but by plain living and high thinking." (SB 2.2.37)
The Blind Man And the Lame Man Together
"At the present moment, India may be compared to the lame man and the Western countries to the blind man. For the past two thousand years India has been subjugated by the rule of foreigners, and the legs of progress have been broken. In the Western countries the eyes of the people have become blind due to the dazzling glitter of material opulence.
"The blind man of the Western countries and the lame man of India should combine together," Srila Prabhupada says. "Then the lame man of India can walk with the help of the Westerner, and the blind Westerner can see with the help of the lame man. In short, the material advancement of the Western countries and the spiritual assets of India should combine for the elevation of all human society." (SB 4.25.15)
"One who understands the purpose of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, should seriously understand the importance of the Krsna consciousness movement and seriously take part in it. One should not endeavor for ugra-karma, or unnecessary work for sense gratification." (SB 9.24.59)
For A Full Year, we suspended publishing Back to Godhead, so that we could improve our contents, pull our finances in order, and better organize our service to our subscribers.
While we were gone, we sent a survey to ask readers for their thoughts and suggestions about BTG. Our survey called for responses to be anonymous.
One message we got was that BTG was treating its readers too much like outsiders. "The only thing I would wish for, wrote one subscriber, "is more 'intermediate' articles. We don't need to be convinced like strangers and we're not devotees—just laity, if you know what I mean."
We do know what you mean, and we're shifting our sails accordingly.
A woman from Baltimore brought up a related point: "I wonder if others would appreciate a few more articles that would help the person who is not able to live at a temple?"
They would. Here's how another reader put it: "I would like to see articles about how householder devotees who live away from the protective temple atmosphere apply Krsna consciousness to solve problems they face at home, work, and society."
Our new column "Bhakti-yoga at Home" will be a start in this direction.
In our survey we asked our readers to tell us if they were ISKCON congregational members. This turned out to be a confusing question. "How does one see about becoming a congregational member?" one reader asked.
We didn't have anything formal in mind. To us, a member of the ISKCON congregation is anyone who wants to be. But the answers showed us: We need to talk about this.
We need to talk more about how we can come closer to one another, in relationship to Krsna. As one reader put it, "I feel that as a congregation we need more unified community, interrelationship, fellowship, apart from just morning, evening, and Sunday programs."
Other readers offered related ideas. "I would like to see some advertisements of services for devotees who live outside the temple."
So our new "Resources" page tells about books, tapes, and services, especially for readers living outside the ISKCON temples. It also tells of services you might like to take part in. Another new feature—"Project Profile"—gives a closer look at a Krsna conscious service you might like to get involved with or support.
Some subscribers asked that the magazine be longer. "The size of BTG should be increased," wrote one subscriber, "if at all possible to at least 50 pages or more." (We've done it.)
Some readers think we're too shallow. "I would like the articles to go deeper," one reader told us. "Sometimes I feel like I'm eating baby food."
I sometimes feel the same way. When philosophy is boiled down to slogans and all we hear about is simplicity, ease, and bliss, I feel like I'm reading about Lollipop Land. The spiritual world has plenty of room for depth and complexity. That's more blissful.
Most readers gave us high marks for our artwork. But some said they'd seen it all before. "The thing that has disappointed me most in the last five years or so has been the over-use of old paintings and drawings. It would be wonderful if BTG could introduce new artists and new artwork." Agreed. You'll find new artists in this issue.
Some readers praised us: "I have enjoyed reading your magazine for some 17 years. I have saved all of them. I have seen and liked the changes over the years."
And, finally, some readers gave us healthy reminders:
"Please, whatever happens, do not become a 'new age' magazine. I would not want a wishy-washy yuppie California type of magazine. It would be dreadful."
Again: "I kindly request that the uncompromising nature of the ISKCON preaching be never sacrificed even if it meant loss of some subscribers."
One reader put it perfectly: "BTG must have its own integrity. It can't be all things to all people."
A Weekend in Santo Domingo
By Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
Each of our columnists focuses on a specific area of interest. But I suggested to Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami that he take on a special portfolio: "Write about whatever you want." So for each issue he'll do precisely that.—J. S.
AS A TRAVELING PREACHER, you pay your dues by the rigors of travel. While you wait an hour for that last piece of luggage to come down the conveyor belt, a woman in orange pants keeps pushing in front of you to see if her luggage has come yet. The formalities of travel—entering and exiting countries, getting your tickets and luggage right—push your attention away from Krsna. But it's all worth it when you reach the temple and talk to a roomful of devotees and friends.
A main duty of a traveling preacher in ISKCON is to encourage the devotees. This means you have to speak with conviction about Prabhupada's movement. According to Vedic etiquette, people receive a sannyasi with honor—sometimes they wash his feet and give him an honorable seat—and in return he's supposed to say something worthwhile.
In Santo Domingo today, we all sat at the feet of the sculptured form of Srila Prabhupada. Only because of Srila Prabhupada's work has Krsna consciousness spread to this country and others around the world. We've all been blessed, and we're trying to reciprocate with love. Don't forget—even the slightest Krsna consciousness can save a person from the greatest danger at death. So the traveling preacher assures the devotees, "By distributing prasadam, chanting the holy name, and giving out books, you're doing important work."
You wake up early in a tropical country, only a few days after being in a snowstorm in the north. You sit up and chant Hare Krsna. The lights don't work. From a streetlight outside you make out the form of Krsna in a painting within the room. Krsna sits playing His flute on the bank of the Yamuna, His toe in the stream.
ISKCON temples are home for the devotees who live there, and certainly for the travelers who go from temple to temple. The traveler is aware that there's no shelter in the cities of the world except the ISKCON places.
After Srimad-Bhagavatam class a devotee asks, "Should we regard everyone as a demon who doesn't accept Lord Caitanya as God Himself?" The statements of the sastra are absolute, but Bhaktivinoda Thakura, in Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu—His Life and Precepts, gave a humble, tactful reply.
We leave it to our readers to decide how to deal with Mahaprabhu. The Vaisnavas have accepted Him as the great Lord Krsna Himself. Some have considered Him as a bhakta-avatara [a divine incarnation to give out love of God] ... Those who are not prepared to go with them may accept [Him] as a noble and holy teacher. That is all we want our readers to believe.
In a similar mood, Prabodhananda Sarasvati gave advice to preachers. He said to approach the non-devotee humbly, with a straw in your mouth. Praise him for being learned in philosophy and spiritual knowledge. But then ask him: For the time being, please put aside all your knowledge and submissively hear the teachings of Lord Caitanya.
As for the actual identity of Lord Caitanya, the Caitanya-caritamrta firmly establishes that Lord Caitanya is Krsna Himself, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. So devotees in Krsna consciousness should be convinced of Lord Caitanya's identity and present it without compromise. But we must also be aware that some people can't accept it right away. So it's even more important to present the teachings of Lord Caitanya and introduce the chanting of the holy name.
We talked together about how to help the guests get more involved in the Sunday feast. One guest complained that the kirtana singing is conducted by a 'choir' and that the devotees in the temple don't really want him to sing along. This happens if the devotees sing tunes too hard to follow or play too fast, ignoring the needs of the guests. It didn't seem a problem in Santo Domingo, though. The guests eagerly sing and join in dancing.
Getting the guests to take part in eating the feast shouldn't be a problem, but if it is, then work harder to make the feast sumptuous—and be sure to serve it smartly and see that guests get as much as they want.
If we want our guests to listen to the weekly lecture, we have to know their needs and not give the same old "Sunday feast introductory talk." The maha-mantra is itself a source of unending bliss and variety and can never be exhausted. But we all know what it's like to sit through a halfhearted talk. We can use creativity and surprise in Krsna consciousness to keep menus and lectures fresh.
On Sunday afternoon we went out chanting at the beach. About nine of us stood between two refreshment stands, both blaring with the beat of Latin music. Exotic flowers bloomed on the trees, and a soft breeze blew against our faces and clothes. We sang above the noise, and soon a dozen young men and women danced and sang with us.
I couldn't tell whether they liked chanting Hare Krsna or were making fun of us. But the Dominican devotees were smiling and encouraging everyone to dance and sing.
As soon as our kirtana let up even a moment, the Latin music surged forth. But the devotees were used to it. Yadunandana Dasa handed out flyers with the maha-mantra, inviting people back for the evening feast.
The lights went out just before the Sunday lecture, so we spoke, chanted, and feasted by hurricane lamps. I asked the people who attended to promise to chant at least one round on beads every day. With guests like this, you're inspired to reach out and guide them. They seem like children, and you also feel more like a child, simpler and more enthusiastic. Santo Domingo is enlightening and inspiring, especially after a long bout in North America with debates and pressures. All glories to traveling sankirtana!
Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami is the author of a six-volume biography of Srila Prabhupada and some two dozen other books of essays, stories, and poems.
Beginnings with Prabhupada
by Yamuna Devi
I'D LIKE TO WELCOME YOU ALL to this cooking column. Vaisnavas, or devotees of Lord Krsna, have been exploring this devotional art for millennia. This is a subject of such history, depth, and importance that a lifetime of study barely scratches its surface.
My involvement with both an Indian and a vegetarian way of life began in 1966. I went to New York to attend my sister's wedding and met Srila Prabhupada, founder-acarya of a fledgling ISKCON. Arriving the day before the wedding, I was unexpectedly whisked off to a lunch at his apartment. Everything about the experience was exotic—the menu, the atmosphere, the guests, the hospitality.
The following day, I volunteered to shop and assist Srila Prabhupada with the wedding feast. Within an hour of my arrival, I was introduced to new spices and seasonings, unfamiliar ingredients, and foreign cooking techniques. Given the stationary task of shaping potato-stuffed pastries, called aloo kacauris, I observed him from the adjoining room.
Working in a narrow galley kitchen, he was organized and impeccably clean, simultaneously preparing up to four dishes at a time. His flow of activity was efficient and graceful, and, save for his instructions to me, his attention focused solely on his craft. He performed a number of tasks by hand, without the help or likely hindrance of tools. He measured each spice in his left palm before use. He hand-kneaded dough, hand-shaped dumplings, and hand-brayed fresh cheese until smooth—and, despite his advanced age, all with lightning speed. I was intrigued by his obvious satisfaction in every task he undertook. After having cooked all day, he performed the wedding ceremony that evening—the event culminating in the lavish eighteen-course feast he had prepared.
In March of 1967, within six months of our meeting, I asked Prabhupada to take me as his disciple, and thus Joan Campanella became Yamuna Devi. Off and on over the next eight years, I was fortunate enough to serve as his cook, in America, England, and India.
In the fall of 1970, Srila Prabhupada brought about twenty Western disciples to India, and I was one of the entourage. It was here that many of us began a serious study of Vaisnava cooking. For eight months we accompanied Prabhupada on extensive tours of the subcontinent. This gave his cooks the opportunity to learn from scores of famous brahmana cooks. In some cases we were the first Westerners, and certainly the first women, privileged to enter previously restricted temple kitchens. Lavish royal kitchens sometimes engage as many as fifty cooks and a hundred servers for festivals—and though India speaks thousands of dialects, kitchen language is universal.
The majority of India's more than 650 million Hindus are vegetarian. Hundreds of millions of these vegetarians are Vaisnavas, and their homes all have small temples in them. Further, there are thousands of established public Krsna temples in cities and villages across the country. Traveling with Srila Prabhupada afforded me the opportunity to visit these Vaisnava devotees and study with them.
In the future months, several articles will focus on Srila Prabhupada's kitchen pastimes or instructions. Nearly eighteen years ago, at a lunch I prepared for him in Calcutta, he casually informed me that if I didn't share this knowledge with others, I would become envious, an edict I am still trying to understand to this day.
Some months we will focus on the traditions and recipes of Vaisnava temple kitchens—Vrndavana's Sri Radha Ramana Temple or Jaipur's Sri Radha Govinda Temple. In the process, we will observe the diversities and similarities of these medieval Indian temple kitchens. We will enter the kitchens of Hare Krsna restaurants from Hong Kong to London. We will savor the atmosphere and menus created by great Vaisnava cooks in past centuries. We will focus in on subtle but essential aspects of this devotional art—internal and external cleanliness and purity. We will study the practical master classes on technique, ingredients, menu planning, organization, and serving.
And I welcome you, the reader, to send in requests for topics. Anything and everything related to Vaisnavas in the kitchen. No matter what your involvement with this study, you will be enlivened, inspired, and rewarded.
Yamuna Devi is the author of Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking, which won the highest award from the International Association of Cooking Professionals for cookbooks published in 1987 in the United States. Write to her c/o BTG.
What We're Up to
By Sri Rama Dasa
IN THIS NEW COLUMN on education in ISKCON, I hope not only to inform but to start with you a lively exchange of ideas about schooling for Krsna conscious children. In this issue and the next I'll give you an idea of what we're doing for ISKCON schooling now, and what the future looks like too. After that, I'll mainly respond to issues you tell me you want to hear about. Sometimes I'll also ask guest columnists to speak about their special concerns.
About thirty schools now tie in with ISKCON, and many more are in the planning. These differ from ISKCON's gurukulas, or children's schools, of the past because they use a variety of approaches and styles. Now, along with the traditional gurukulas, we have day schools, home education, small cooperatives of parents, and (in India) mission schools.
Several years ago, ISKCON's "Ministry of Education" evolved into what we now call our Board of Education. The board works to help diverse programs get off the ground and keep going to give school-age children a chance for a God-centered, Krsna conscious education.
Here's what the board tries to do:
First, we speak to those interested in spiritual life about the importance of a spiritual education for their children. Since ISKCON is a young movement (and short on central resources), it's mainly up to parents and local leaders to pull together the teachers, classes, and funds to make a successful school.
We encourage each community of devotees to form a local board of education, made up of teachers, parents, and ISKCON leaders, to set clear goals and work toward them together.
Whenever possible, we travel to ISKCON schools to meet with headmasters, teachers, parents, and students and offer on-the-spot help and training. We also offer guidance by mail through our Los Angeles office.
Eventually, we hope to offer step-by-step help for any kind of Krsna conscious school project—help with planning the curriculum, arranging for asrama life, choosing and training teachers, and setting up the organization to keep the school running.
Every month I get at least half a dozen letters saying, "We're a group of devotees who want to start a gurukula in our community. Please write and tell us everything we need to know about starting and running a school."
Well, that takes more than a letter. So for the last three years I've worked with Urmila Devi Dasi (of our Detroit school) on a comprehensive guide to setting up and running an ISKCON school. The guide tells about planning a curriculum, training teachers, raising funds, and other basics. The guide will be available any day now. You can write to me to reserve yourself a copy.
To train teachers, we work with ISKCON's Vaisnava Institute for Higher Education to offer a two-month intensive teacher-training course in Vrndavana, India.
Bhurijana Dasa (of our Vrndavana school) is drawing upon his experience with the course to put together a teacher-training manual, for use anywhere. The manual should be out in 1991.
Twice a year we publish ISKCON Education Journal, for parents, teachers, and other devotees involved in starting and maintaining schools. You can write me for a free sample issue (or send $10.00 for a two-year subscription).
With the next issue of the Journal we'll send a detailed booklet on preventing and dealing with child abuse, a serious danger for any child growing up in the present Age of Kali. Over the last two years we've worked closely with ISKCON's governing body to set up ways to safeguard children in ISKCON from abuse. The booklet tells about this.
Another concern: the shortage of Krsna conscious reading matter for children. Recognizing this shortage, we've begun an ambitious program for publishing. With your help, we can publish hundreds of books. We need authors, illustrators—and also donors to subsidize the costs. If you'd like to help, please let me know.
We've also started a permanent endowment fund to provide money for the work you're reading about. We'll start a fundraising drive this year.
All this is a start—but we need to do much more. I'm looking forward to the next issue, where I can tell you about some ideas for the future that excite me and make me feel glad to be part of this effort.
To get in touch with me about anything mentioned in this column, or to let me know what concerns you'd like to see addressed in future columns, please write to:
Sri Rama Dasa,
Sri Rama Dasa is chairman of ISKCON's Board of Education.
Bhakti-yoga at Home
What About the Rest of Us?
By Rohininandana Dasa
AT LAST HERE'S A COLUMN especially for us! As a loyal BTG reader for nineteen years, I've often felt the need for a forum to discuss practical, day-to-day issues that come up in our efforts to become Krsna conscious.
How to survive in a non-Krsna conscious environment? What to do when we get out of practice, feel spiritually lethargic, or suffer a crisis of faith? How to relate to friends, relatives, neighbors, and workmates, or to each other as husband and wife, parent and child, now that we have taken up spiritual life? What to do when our hus-band or wife isn't "into it" and comes home with an "adorable pup" just when we're trying to set up an altar in the front room? How to find enough time to fit everything in?
Questions such as these have become all the more pertinent for me since my family and I moved away from the vicinity of the ISKCON temples three years ago. We had many years of experience in ISKCON to draw from, and were wondering how to create a favorable environment for our spiritual survival and growth in our new setting. We realized how difficult it must be to practice bhakti-yoga at home for someone who has no background of temple life and only the high standard of an ISKCON temple as a model.
Temple organization naturally and rightly tends to cater to those who wish to live as renounced celibates. But what about the rest of us? ISKCON has been through many changes. In its infancy married devotees who moved out of the temple compound were often looked on as apostates, doomed to destruction. Later, when temples couldn't support the ever-increasing population of married devotees and their children, temple leaders changed their thinking. "Move out," they advised, "as soon as possible."
Now financially independent Hare Krsna families either live near a temple and take part in temple functions as best they can or, like the majority of BTG readers, live too far away to visit daily. We are therefore pioneers facing the question of what to do: What is the grhastha asrama, married life in Krsna consciousness? And how is it different from other marriages?
One day I was reading in the Caitanya-caritamrta about Lord Caitanya's south Indian tour. The Lord gave the same advice to all: "Remain at home, chant Hare Krsna, and try to teach others about Krsna consciousness." He told people that if they followed these simple instructions their home life would not obstruct their spiritual advancement and they would never lose His company.
Srila Prabhupada writes:
This is an opportunity for everyone. If one simply follows the instructions of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, under the guidance of His representative, and chants the Hare Krsna mantra, teaching everyone as far as possible the same principle, the contamination of the materialistic way of life will not even touch him. It does not matter whether one lives in a holy place like Vrndavana, Navadvipa, or Jagannatha Puri or in the midst of European cities where the materialistic way of life is very prominent. If a devotee follows the instructions of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, he lives in the company of the Lord. Wherever he lives, he converts that place into Vrndavana and Navadvipa. This means that materialism cannot touch him. This is the secret of success for one advancing in Krsna consciousness.
I felt happy and encouraged to read this, and I thought how ISKCON is shaping up along similar lines. Temples can be compared to Lord Caitanya's head-quarters at Jagannatha Puri, where other sannyasis, brahmacaris, and renounced householders assisted Him. "Home devotees," married or single, visit temples regularly, making a pilgrim's journey on Sundays or special occasions. Now it is left to us to understand and discuss how to practice bhakti-yoga at home within the simple framework Lord Caitanya and Srila Prabhupada have described.
Rohininandana Dasa was initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1973. He and his wife, Radhapriya Devi Dasi, whom he married in 1975, have taken part in a wide range of ISKCON's activities, especially training new devotees. They live with their three children in the south of England.
Questions We Need to Answer
By Navina Krsna Dasa
IN 1970 WHEN I WAS STILL IN COLLEGE doing graduate work in Illinois, I felt that as a person from India I was somehow expected to offer Americans some understanding of India and its spirituality. On campus, many yoga clubs had sprung up, and meditation groups were becoming popular. Words such as guru, incarnation, and of course yoga were becoming part of the daily vocabulary. Little did I realize then that I would myself become a dedicated student of the spirituality that my mother country, India, represents.
I soon found myself teaching yoga courses on campus and helping students deal with questions about yoga, meditation, and spirituality. I became a strict vegetarian, began meditation, and started seriously studying the Bhagavad-gita.
I began investigating the various teachers offering spiritual knowledge, both in India and overseas. I soon concluded that, amongst all these teachers, Srila Prabhupada was offering Indian, or Vedic, spirituality in its pure, unadulterated, and philosophically complete form.
I took great interest in what Srila Prabhupada was teaching, and for almost twenty years I've continued to do whatever I can to serve people in cultural and religious affairs, especially in our Asian Indian community.
Now I have taken on the work of helping the North American ISKCON temples coordinate their programs for the Indian community. This brings me in touch with many Indian temples and organizations, and I hope to be able to offer them my services toward bringing about greater understanding and unity and a common purpose for the benefit of all.
There are a multitude of Hindu temples and organizations all over the world, representing varied beliefs, practices, and goals. We sometimes wonder: What is Hin-duism, and who is a Hindu? Is it possible for the members of these diverse Hindu groups to find unity among themselves? I believe that it is.
I believe we can transcend those differences and find a true understanding of India and its spirituality. Indian culture has been misunderstood and mistreated for centuries, but I believe we can preserve the higher values of Indian life. More than this, we can find within ourselves the strength to offer people of all nations the gift of India's great spiritual culture.
From the Vedic scriptures we understand that in former ages the world was one unified kingdom, a kingdom of spiritual culture, with India as its capital. The Srimad-Bhagavatam tells us that even if spiritual culture declines, as it has in the present age, in India and amongst Indians it may at any time be quickly revived.
Srila Prabhupada and other great acaryas therefore dedicated great energy towards revitalizing India's spiritual culture. Srila Prabhupada repeatedly urged people from India to take advantage of their fortunate birth by making their lives perfect and then helping others perfect their lives too.
In talking with leaders of the Indian community in North America, I've found a broad range of topics that we as a community ought to deal with. And judging from what friends and devotees from other countries have told me, Indians in England and other parts of the world have similar concerns.
We are concerned not only for ourselves but also for the future of our younger generations. We are trying to transmit the Indian Vedic culture into the hearts of our young ones. But we all have our doubts. Will our descendants develop the deep understanding, commitment, and appreciation needed for the survival of a great culture? How should we train our children in these matters? If our children are losing their cultural values, are the children failing us, or are we failing them? And in either case, what should we do?
These are topics I'll be talking about in this column.
Navina Krsna Dasa (Naveen Khurana) was initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1975. Originally from New Delhi, he holds an M.S. and an M.B.A. from the University of Illinois You may write to him c/o BTG.
Among Students: September, 1990
By Ravindra Svarupa Dasa
"Bodily Decrepitude Is Wisdom": The rueful line of the aging Yeats flashes into my mind as I look over the fifty or so college students sitting in rows before me. They glow with health and vigor; their faces are fresh and unlined; and they are, at this time, a quarter of a century or more my junior. For two decades now I have regularly been speaking about Krsna consciousness in colleges. When was it that the physical graces of youth became so striking to my eye? Now the mere sight of students has ruthlessly summoned my sense of bodily decrepitude, no less dismaying for appearing artfully draped in Yeats's line.
To be sure, this school—the University of Pennsylvania—is the right one for this sort of thing: she is alma mater herself. I myself was just such a student here twenty-five years ago. And so, for that matter, was my wife, Saudamani Dasi. We met as sophomores and were married—quaintly, for the 60's—between our junior and senior years. And now she sits a few feet away in an elegant sari, looking very well turned out, but showing, like me, some wear and tear about the edges, a bit nicked and scraped by the careless handling of time.
This course is called "The Cult Controversy," and I have an hour and a half to give these students some understanding of the Hare Krsna movement. Steve Dunning, the professor, also wishes to build bridges: he introduces my wife and me as alumna and -nus. The students regard us with a sharper interest: old grads in sari and dhoti. Then Steve mentions that our oldest son is currently a sophomore at the same school. Professor Dunning has sufficiently startled his students, and from my angle named what must be the sharpest spur for my pangs of age and loss: the fact that my wife and I are old enough to be parents of such Penn undergraduates is driven home by the even starker fact that we are.
I apply myself to the task at hand: to make Krsna consciousness intelligible to these students. How do I construct a bridge between two such different worlds? On one side: this pleasant Ivy League school, founded by Benjamin Franklin, where the Philadelphia aristocracy traditionally sent its offspring for a final buffing; where these days talented youth culled from around the nation learn the skills to operate successfully in the upper levels of various branches of the American establishment; a school whose most famous recent grad is, embarrassingly, the egregious Donald Trump, symbol of 80's excess.
And on the other side ISKCON, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness: like Penn, a teaching institution and, like Penn, part of an "establishment," but in this case the institution continues a tradition of sacred knowledge handed down from the beginning of creation, a tradition that once schooled the world's greatest spiritual and political leaders, a tradition that in these reduced times has spread from India across the globe in a final attempt to reestablish the normative, prescribed human culture, and, as a result of that, a tradition whose representatives find themselves in classroom and courtroom and broadcast studio to answer the name-calling that damns it as that most pernicious and pathological of misbegotten social entities: a "cult."
I tell the students that people often latch onto half-baked notions of "brainwashing" and "mind control" simply because they cannot understand why someone would choose to join ISKCON. That choice becomes intelligible, however, if one firmly grasps that a person who joins ISKCON has decided to dedicate his or her life to self-realization and hence to reject the pursuit of sense gratification. ISKCON is actually a cultural movement in that it trains one to organize and conduct all the normal activities of life to serve the one central goal of self-realization; as a result, the ideals, values, and attitudes of ISKCON members will be quite inscrutable to those acquainted only with the culture of sense gratification.
As I explain these matters I notice that the students are attending with a sympathetic interest I haven't encountered for a long time; it piques my curiosity. Neither the cultural nor the generational differences between us seem to present barriers.
It is no wonder, I go on to say, that Srila Prabhupada drew his first committed followers from the 60's counterculture. I summarize the familiar history: how through a series of seeming mischances Prabhupada ended up in 1965 on the Lower East Side, then just starting to fill with the newly hatched "hippies," "freaks," and "heads," many of whom found his storefront temple a congenial place of shelter; how Prabhupada introduced Krsna consciousness to the West Coast scene by chanting at a "Mantra Rock Dance" with the Grateful Dead at the Avalon Ball-room; how at his Haight-Ashbury temple the pre-dawn kirtanas were packed with kids coming down from a night of tripping on LSD; how every day his prasadam filled the bellies of hundreds of runaways from all over the country; how two couples he dispatched to preach in London connected quickly with the Beatles; and how the Hare Krsna mantra, arranged by George Harrison and released on Apple, became the number-one song in England.
But, I point out to the students, it is ironic that although ISKCON burgeoned within the hothouse of the counterculture, those who became committed members had to utterly forsake their milieu's ethos of drugs, sex, and rock 'n' roll. They had dropped out from straight society into the counterculture and from the counterculture into ISKCON—this double dropping out giving a message of the cultural distance they had to travel to arrive at last at Krsna consciousness.
What was the attraction? I speak from my own experience: Srila Prabhupada made self-realization clearly understandable and convinced us that it was practically possible. None of us was interested in "converting" to "a religion" or "becoming a Hindu." Rather, we became confident that self-realization is the intrinsic purpose of human life, and consequently we resolved to reject whatever baffled that purpose and to accept whatever furthered it.
What is self-realization? Something like "self-realization" is needed only if we do not, in fact, know ourselves, if we are mistaken about our identity. In my academic studies I had already encountered the first proposition of self-realization, aham brahmasmi, "I am Brahman, or spirit." But no professor ever noted what Srila Prabhupada pointed out: The corollary is "I am not this body."
Srila Prabhupada explained that we have taken up erroneous identities; nature has assembled for us a false self, the material body-mind complex, and we have identified ourselves with this alien entity, we have submerged our being into it. As a result, we lose the ability to experience ourselves as the spiritual entities we are—eternal, full of consciousness and bliss. Instead, we experience ourselves as material products, thrall to birth, old age, disease, and death.
As I speak, my sense of the class's receptive attention grows even stronger. During my recap of the history of the 60's, I could see that these events held some special significance for the students, though they were then yet to be born. It takes me a minute to understand: I had been talking about their own parents' youth. The students are children of "the children of the 60's," and these deeds are already part of the epic or legendary past. That may explain, in part, their sympathy.
There was a time when a large number of American youth saw no future for themselves in their society, and they dropped out of it. Out of that number, some, a few, saw no future for themselves in the temporary material world and became devotees of Krsna. In time, the counterculture vanished, merging back into mainstream America. ISKCON continued on, an alternative culture, growing, spreading, adapting. And all during that period, mainstream Western culture became gradually more and more open to the convictions, values, and practices of ISKCON: vegetarianism is more and more widely accepted, for example, as are ecology and the sanctity of nature, and the rights of animals. Words like guru, karma, avatara, ashram, mantra are all English. Look them up in the dictionary. The times, as Bob Dylan promised, have changed; and with that a new generation comes of age.
No one should become a teacher or a parent, Srimad-Bhagavatam says, who does not know how to save his charges from death. Human life is designed to solve the death problem, the disease problem, the old-age problem. But no one has told them, warned them. For now, enchanted by the spell of their own vitality, they are not overly troubled. Yet they too will soon come to wage in dead earnest their fatal and futile war on time. And the years will roar by like a great sucking wind, drawing the grace and vigor from their limbs. And finally there will be a tattered army of scarecrows, flapping in the wind, until they topple with a clatter into the dust.
In a memorable passage, Srila Prabhupada refers to modern universities as "slaughterhouses of the young." Their "education" is fatal because it aims only at the satisfaction of the material mind and senses. And the result is death, for death is an illusion we impose upon ourselves by our desires to enjoy in this world.
The pleasures produced by the conjunction of the senses with their objects, Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita, are in fact the source of all suffering. The reason for this is that enjoying the senses compels us to fall under the illusion that we are our bodies. Sense gratification drugs us, as it were, into a state of false consciousness. As a result, whatever befalls this body we now accept as happening to ourselves. Yet we are eternally safe and well, beyond all harm. We are like a dreamer who, although secure in his own bed, accepts a dream body as himself and, shrieking and struggling, undergoes the terrors of a nightmare. Human beings are meant to wake up and end this repeated traumatic nightmare of temporary existence.
I explain to the class how Srila Prabhupada made that possibility vividly real, how he guided us with care into the systematic practices of devotional service, and how as a result we experienced our consciousness change. We could monitor the steps of spiritual advancement, measure the decrease of lust and greed and anger as a physician measures the decreasing heat and pus and pain of an abating infection.
Prabhupada's transcendental knowledge is not only theoretical but also practical. It distinguishes the soul from mind and body not for the recreation of armchair speculators but for the formation of character and the transformation of consciousness. It does not merely teach us to accept in principle that we are eternal beings; it shows us the way to experience ourselves as eternal beings.
I describe some of our practices to the students and then lead them through the responsive chanting of Hare Krsna. I call for questions; dozens of hands shoot up. Breaking the trend of the last decade, the questions focus on the philosophy of Krsna consciousness. After half an hour of discussion the period ends, but a group stays on, munching prasadam cookies, questioning and questioning. When we break up we plan to continue the discussion in a few days, when they come to the temple for the Sunday feast.
After two hours of standing and talking my feet hurt, my back aches, and my neck is stiff—earnest of a headache to come. My body feels its age, but I feel refreshed, rejuvenated, at ease. As we make our way through the halls, afternoon light slants through sheets of smoky glass upon the crowded congregations of the young. I do not envy them. I realize I am at ease now with growing old; I feel grateful for the wisdom of bodily decrepitude. We can hold on to nothing in this world, and the pain comes from thinking we can, from grasping.
So much has vanished: As we cut through the courtyard bounded by the faceted towers of the classroom buildings, the image comes to mind of that other classroom building that stood on this same site twenty-five years ago, with its long dusky halls, tall ceiling, and high narrow windows set deep in fortress-grade stone block. Something Hall—I've forgotten its name. In it flowed and ebbed the cohorts of the young, and now it is itself demolished and replaced; so generations and worlds go by. In a vanished room in that vanished building, amid the hissing and thumping of ancient radiators, I first read the poetry of Yeats. He sang what he had heard about the soul from Plato and Plotinus:
sick with desire
I sat up, nerves tingling. I had heard the truth. And so a drop of the ancient wisdom of the human race had seeped down to me, conveyed by a poet who in the end didn't know what to do with it. Twenty-five years later I return, and everything is utterly transformed: but now, by the grace of Srila Prabhupada, I know what to do. And I teach them what Srila Prabhupada taught me, and those who hear will teach others, and in this way the unperishing transmission of timeless knowledge shall redeem all dying generations, while world after world wears by.
Life: Real and Artificial
By Sadaputa Dasa
IN SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO, a group of scientists, mainly from the Los Alamos National Laboratories, recently held a conference on "Artificial Life." The theme of the conference, which I attended, was that the essence of life lies not in biological substance but in patterned organization.
If this idea is valid, the thinking goes, life forms should be able to set themselves up through many different types of material stuff. In particular, life should be able to exist as a pattern of electronic activity in a computer.
The conference organizers, casually dressed, long-haired men in their thirties and early forties, say that artificial, computer-based life forms are developing even now—and may evolve to dominate the earth.
According to this view, the evolutionary role of man is to give birth to silicon-based life patterns that will eventually look back on him as a primitive ancestor. The conference sponsors counseled a broad-minded attitude toward such evolutionary progress: we should transcend parochial anthropocentrism and welcome advanced life in whatever form it may emerge.
But some attending scientists doubted whether a program running on a computer could properly be thought of as alive. Philosopher Elliott Sober argued that when engineers make a computer simulation of a bridge, no one would think of it as a real bridge: the simulation merely shows a picture in which computations tell us something about bridges. In the same way, when a computer simulates an organism, we see a picture in which computations tell us something about life—we're not seeing life itself.
Tommaso Toffoli, a computer scientist from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, responded to this argument. Suppose, he said, that simulated people were driving in simulated cars on a simulated bridge. If the bridge were to collapse, the people would fall to their simulated deaths.
The patterns in a faithful simulation match the patterns found in reality: the simulated people cross the simulated bridge just as real people cross a real bridge. And since these patterns, Dr. Toffoli proposed, are the essence of what is happening, we can think of the simulation the same way we think of the original.
In principle, then, if a real material scene can exhibit life, so can a simulation.
In practice, of course, present computers, operating with a single processor, are weak at matching the patterns of reality.
But Toffoli suggested that the powerful computers of the future will consist of crystallike arrays of many thousands of microminiature processors, nearly atomic in size, all computing at once. Toffoli described such computers as "programmable matter."
Indeed (though Toffoli didn't say so), we might regard matter itself, with its interacting atomic subunits, as such a computer. According to this idea, life is already a computer simulation running on the "programmable matter" of the universe itself.
Now, if life is but a computer simulation, a series of computational states, then life too must be essentially unreal. Words such as "flower," "dog," and "human" are simply names, symbols we attach to patterns of matter. This, in fact, is the Vedic understanding not of life but of the material body. In the eleventh canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Krsna says to Uddhava that the gross and subtle forms of material bodies have no existence of their own; they are only temporary patterns manifested by the eternally existing reality, the Absolute Truth.
Krsna illustrates this idea with an example: "Gold exists before it is made into gold products, and the gold remains when the products have been destroyed. The gold alone is the reality while used under various names. Similarly, I alone exist before the universe is created and after it is destroyed, and I alone exist while it is maintained....
"That which did not exist in the past and will not exist in the future has no existence of its own while it lasts.... Whatever is created and revealed by something else is ultimately only that other thing" (Bhagavatam 11.28.19, 21).
So we can look at the temporary forms of the material universe as patterns in Krsna's energy to which various names have been assigned. In essence these patterns in Krsna's material energy (bahiranga-sakti) are the same as the patterns of electrons that form and disappear in the circuitry of a computer during a simulation. So we can view the material universe as the ultimate computer sim-ulation, and Krsna as the ultimate simulator.
But seeing the material body as a succession of flickering patterns doesn't mean we should view life the same way. Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita (2.20) that the soul, the individual conscious self, eternally exists: "For the soul there is never birth or death. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain."
Tommaso Toffoli's simulated people on the simulated bridge lack one main element: consciousness. A series of computations might simulate the changes a person's body undergoes, including those in the brain. But why should patterns of electric current generate the conscious experience of these changes?
We may easily imagine that the patterns of current that make up a machine's computations may flow without conscious awareness. This suggests that if consciousness of the results of these computations exists in the computer, this must be due to some element that our understanding of computers has not yet taken into account.
Here's how some might reply: It may be hard to understand how patterns of computer states could generate consciousness, but we already know that similar patterns generate consciousness in human brains. So why can't this take place in a computer?
The answer is that we don't know in any scientific sense that patterns of brain states do generate consciousness. Resolving how such patterns might do this in brains would be just as hard as figuring out how they might do it in computers.
Bhagavad-gita provides a simple solution by postulating that consciousness in the material body is due to the presence of an entity fundamentally different from matter. Given the difficulties philosophers and scientists have run into in trying to understand consciousness as patterns of material elements, they should think about this solution.
If we tentatively adopt this solution, then we may ask: How would the nonmaterial conscious entity be linked to the material body? We can understand how this link might work by returning to Toffoli's story of the simulated bridge.
How could we introduce consciousness into the simulation? One way would be to make a "real-time" simulation, one in which the simulated events take place at the same pace as corresponding events in the real world. (One would simply need a fast enough computer.) Then one could put consciousness into the simulation by electronically linking the senses of real, conscious people with the simulated senses of the simulated people. The intentions of the conscious people would move the bodies of the people in the simulated world, and the conscious people would have the experiences the simulated people would have.
Far-fetched? Some people in computer science are already working on it. VPL Research in California is experimenting with "virtual realities" in which a person's eyes, ears, and one hand are hooked up electronically with virtual eyes and ears and a virtual hand in a simulated world. The person looks through "eye-phones," small TV screens placed directly in front of his eyes, and sees as though in the simulated world.
A "data-glove" electronically senses his hand movements, and another device the movements of his head; the resulting data control the movements of his simulated hand and head.
Thus the person experiences the simulated world through a simulated body, moves about in that body, and handles simulated objects in that world.
If it is possible to link human consciousness with an unreal, virtual body in a simulated world, why shouldn't it be possible to link spiritual consciousness with similarly unreal bodies in the "real" material world?
The Vedic philosophy known as Sankhya describes the workings of such a communications link. The third canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam describes Krsna's material energy as including an element called "false ego," or ahankara, which serves as the interface between the nonmaterial soul and the material energy. This false ego serves like the eyephones and data gloves that link a human being with a computer running a virtual reality program.
Both the material body as understood in Vedic literature and the simulated body in a computer-generated world are merely temporary patterns in an underlying substrate. But the conscious self—the real essence of the living being—has a substantial reality outside the realm of transient patterns.
In the computer-generated reality this conscious self is a human being not part of the computer system, and in the Vedic philosophy this self is a transcendental entity distinct from matter.
One lesson we can learn from the thoughts and experiments of computer scientists is that such a relationship between the self and the material world is possible. And it just might be our actual situation.
Sadaputa Dasa (Richard L Thompson) earned his Ph.D. in mathematics from Cornell University. A frequent contributor to technical journals, he is the author of several books, of which the most recent is Vedic Cosmography and Astronomy. Write to him c/o BTG in San Diego.
The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
Calcutta's Food for Life program distributes prasadam—spiritual food—to a thousand people a day. Local ISKCON life members sponsor the program.
Twenty cows will enjoy lifetime safety in a gosala (cow-protection center) ISKCON plans for the Rajpur area of Calcutta. A generous devotee donated two acres of land for the gosala.
ISKCON has acquired Bhakti-kuti, the house in Jagannatha Puri where the great teacher Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura spent his last three years on earth. ISKCON has a renewable 99-year lease. If you'd like to help renovate the holy site, write to Jayapataka Swami at ISKCON Mayapur.
Devotees are refining their knowledge and skills at courses run by ISKCON's Vaisnava Institute for Higher Education. Twice yearly in Mayapur and Vrndavana, the Institute holds one-month courses in scripture and culture. The next session starts in mid-January. For more information, see page 55.
ISKCON devotees will dedicate ISKCON's Krsna-Balarama temple in Bhubanesvara, the capital of Orissa, on January 28. A guesthouse, part of the project, is still left to finish.
The Bhaktivedanta Archives is transferring audio recordings of Srila Prabhupada onto digital audio tape. So far, two hundred of the fifteen hundred hours of recordings have been transferred. The digital tapes are for archival preservation. For distribution, the Archives has begun making recordings on compact disks.
ISKCON Miami has moved to a new location, in lively Coconut Grove.
America's first Vedic college has won accreditation. Run by the Institute of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, a Krsna conscious organization, the Florida Vedic College has been approved by the Florida State Board of Independent Colleges and Universities. To write for a catalog, see page 60, under "Education."
Bhaktivedanta Manor will be off limits for public worship after 1992, according to a decision by Chris Patten, the Secretary of State for the Environment. The decision came after neighbors of the Manor, north of London, complained that pilgrims visiting for Hindu festivals disturbed the peaceful enjoyment of their village.
England's Indian community is outraged. "We'd rather lose our blood than lose the Manor as our temple," said a congregation member. The community has formed the Hare Krishna Temple Defence Movement, with branches in many areas. They are campaigning for the right to worship at the Manor until an alternative temple has been established. The shrine at Bhaktivedanta Manor is considered the most important Hindu shrine in the U.K.
Her Majesty's Government has promised to help ISKCON find a a new temple site for worshipers who will be barred from Bhaktivedanta Manor. "But we want the government to work actively with us," says Akhandadhi Dasa, president of the Manor. "They're just going to sit back, but we want them to get to the point where they think, 'We'd better help them get their place.'"
Want to help? Write a few words in ISKCON's behalf to the Prime Minister: Mrs. M. Thatcher, P.M., 10 Downing Street, London SW1, England.
Thirty thousand tourists visited ISKCON's Radha Desa temple in Belgium this summer. Historical interest and Krsna curiosity draw tourists to the temple, a chateau in the village of Septon, a hundred kilometers from Brussels.
The Dutch government is helping ISKCON's "Food for Life" distribute prasadam in Amsterdam. The government supplies butter, grains, and vegetables for the program.
A touring party of fifteen devotees has been playing to packed houses in Yugoslavia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, and Czechoslovakia.
The party offers Hare Krsna chanting, and refreshments of Krsna prasadam. Especially attractive: Krsna conscious books in the local language.
In Budapest, 800 people crowded into a hall built for 400. In Prague, 1,200 people came; in Belgrade and other Yugoslavian cities, 2,000 people; and in Bucharest, 3,500 people for two consecutive nights.
The devotees in Yugoslavia say their temples cannot accommodate all the people who want to join; the devotees encourage them to practice Krsna consciousness at home.
Devotees in Budapest have acquired a new temple building downtown. They bought the building with money they earned selling books.
Large runs of Srila Prabhupada's books have been rolling off the presses in Hungarian, Bulgarian, Czech, Serbo-Croatian, and Polish. In Serbo-Croatian, the language of Yugoslavia, all of Srila Prabhupada's Srimad-Bhagavatam is now in print. Latest printing of Polish Bhagavad-gita: 100,000 copies.
The Soviet Union now has more than one hundred ISKCON centers, large and small. In thirty-three centers, Gaura-Nitai Deities preside. These Deities are among fifty sets donated to the Soviet devotees last April by Radhapada Dasa (Sri Mahadeo Lal Tulsian), a devotee businessman in Calcutta.
Attendees at the latest Moscow Book Fair purchased 260,000 Krsna conscious hardbound books in three days. The books were all in Russian. "We can't print books fast enough to supply all the bookshop orders," says Brahma Muhurta Dasa, who oversees the printing. In 1990, the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust printed more than one million hardbound Russian books. By now, they've all been distributed.
Among other printings: 10,000 Bhagavad-gitas in Lithuanian, 50,000 in Latvian, and 100,000 each in Ukranian and Georgian.
Devotees in Durban plan to start the second phase in building their temple complex. Joining the already completed temple will be a guesthouse, children's school, meeting hall, restaurant, bhakti-yoga academy, memorial to Srila Prabhupada, and kitchen for public distribution of food.
The devotees in Mauritius are finishing their temple on their six-acre farm in northeastern Mauritius. They are building a second temple, in the center of Mauritius, on another six acres. Mauritius, home for many Hindus, lies in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar, off the southern African coast.
ISKCON Guyana has acquired twenty acres of land from the Guyanese government for use as a Krsna conscious rural community.
Donations have provided an ISKCON temple, asrama, and gurukula (children's school) in southern Trinidad. A generous Hindu donated the land—one acre—and devotees arranged the construction, mostly with donated materials.
The Supreme Court of Bolivia has ruled that ISKCON, banned in Bolivia for two years, is entitled to be legal.
Our newly started "news burst" format for these pages allows us to give you a panorama of what's going on with Krsna consciousness in different parts of the world.
For more detailed news, ISKCON puts out a monthly newspaper, ISKCON World Review. To subscribe, see page 58.
How do we find out what's going on? Mainly from devotees. So, devotees, when you have some news worth sharing, please send it on. It's enlivening for us to hear news from all over the Krsna consciousness movement. Let's keep enlivening one another.
The two most important places of pilgrimage for Hare Krsna devotees are Vrndavana (90 miles south of New Delhi) and Mayapur (90 miles north of Calcutta). In both places ISKCON has important projects. In every issue of Back to Godhead we'll bring you news of what's going on.
Srila Prabhupada's Samadhi
The samadhi (memorial) for Srila Prabhupada stands structurally complete. Now it needs finishing, inside and out.
Outside, the dome is now covered in polished marble. Matsya Avatara Dasa, a professional designer, has finished the design for the interior.
The memorial will be finished in three to five years.
"We're not going to slow it down, and we're not going to rush it," says Naresvara Dasa, chairman of the committee managing the construction fund. "We just want to do it nicely."
"The Mayapur gurukula is full," says headmaster Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami. "We can't accept any more kids until we get more asrama teachers." During last year's annual festival, twenty Western children joined the Mayapur gurukula. Sixty children were already there.
About half the children are Indian, the other half Western.
The gurukula village—a secluded palm-shaded cluster of traditional Bengali dwellings—has received about three new acres of land, for three more asramas.
Also on the new gurukula land is a new library, a two-story brick building with about one thousand books in Sanskrit, Bengali, Tamil, and English. The books are on the second floor, out of reach of the seasonal Mayapur floods.
A new German letterpress is rolling in Mayapur, printing Bengali books. Most of the text for Srila Prabhupada's books in Bengali is printed in Mayapur.
About 100 acres are under cultivation for grains, vegetables, and flowers. This takes care of most of the needs of ISKCON Mayapur. Mayapur's cows give more than enough milk for the devotees and Deities and enough ghee (clarified butter) for the Deities.
More Places to Stay
More housing will soon be available for ISKCON devotees and life members who wish to stay in Vrndavana. The Mayapur-Vrndavana Trust is designing apartments to build on 13,000 square feet of land behind ISKCON's Krsna-Balarama Temple. The Trust, established by Srila Prabhupada, recently purchased the land.
Construction of the apartments should begin this year, says Advaita Acarya Dasa, secretary of the Trust.
For more information, contact Advaita Acarya Dasa, c/o ISKCON San Diego, or Tosana Krsna Dasa, c/o ISKCON Vrndavana.
For Srila Prabhupada's samadhi, where his body is buried, construction is going slow. "It's not only slow, it's aggravating," says Tosana Krsna Dasa, who is in charge of the project.
The slowness is due to difficulty in getting marble, with which the samadhi is clad. The project has used eighty truckloads so far; fifteen more are left to go. To prepare a truckload of marble takes two months. "We do it because it's the right material, and it's getting done, but it's slow and painstaking," Tosana Krsna says.
In Makranna, Rajasthan, where the marble comes from, competition is fierce. "When any good piece of marble comes out of the ground, there's twenty people waiting for it. Everybody wants marble."
And recently Makranna was practically shut down by communal riots.
"It's difficult," says Tosana Krsna, "but the work does get done. We're just going to persevere."
On a brighter note, the eight bronze bas-reliefs sculptured for the upper level of the samadhi have come out "fabulous," Tosana Krsna says. The reliefs, each about nine feet square, are still to be put into place.
The Krsna-Balarama Deities now stand on teakwood thrones, donated by Rama Dasa Adhikari (Sri Bhupendra Patel), of Mombasa, Kenya. Rama Dasa has also arranged a silver swing for the Deities. New thrones for the other Deities in the temple are on the way, donated by Sri B.P. Patel, another devotee from Mombasa.
Following the example set in Mayapur, the gurukula in Vrndavana has set up a gurukula village on land near the ISKCON gosala.
Plenty of Prasadam
Profuse distribution of prasadam, food offered to the Deity, is becoming a regular feature at ISKCON's Krsna-Balarama temple. All guests who visit in the morning receive a big leaf-cup of halava. For guests in the afternoon it's a leaf-cup of sweet rice. (In India, disposable cups are made not of styrofoam but of leaves—abundant, cheap, and ecologically perfect.) On special occasions, guests are invited for a full feast.
The Vrndavana temple has recently been donated a van collecting grains and distributing prasadam.
Walking down the road, chanting Hare Krsna, going from village to village, town to town. This is Padayatra, "a foot journey," ISKCON's walking pilgrimage.
Lokanath Swami, 41, leads a party of some 30 devotees, Indian and foreign. It's pure and simple. In the morning they walk, and by afternoon they reach a new town or village they've selected for their stay. In the evening they hold a festival for the local people, with chanting, a short talk, and a Krsna conscious film. Then the next morning they're on the road again.
Last August the Padayatra devotees completed six years on the road. Apart from Punjab, they've touched every Indian state south of the Himalayas and west of Bangladesh.
In March last year they left Mayapur, West Bengal, and headed south. By November they reached Tirupati, in Andhra Pradesh.
Moving further, by now they're in the Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu, on India's southeastern coast.
"The purpose," says Lokanath Swami, "is to spread Krsna consciousness and experience Indian culture."
Lokanath Swami has also started devotees walking in other countries. Last June devotees started a 1,500-mile walk from Boston to Miami. The walk began at Boston's Commonwealth Pier, where Srila Prabhupada first landed in America. By now it will have reached northern Florida.
Padayatra began its trans-Europe walk in Ireland last summer. "It was a trial run," says Lokanath Swami. "Or, rather, a trial walk." The walk will resume this May in Glasgow, Scotland, and continue into England. After England the planned route goes through Holland, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and the Soviet Union as far as Moscow.
Padayatra New Zealand
Padayatra New Zealand will visit forty towns on the country's south island in January and February.
For more information about Padayatra, write to:
(Phone: 641-2349 or 641-2058)
10310 Oaklyn Drive, Potomac, MD 20854, USA
10 Soho Street, London W1, England
ISKCON takes it to the Supreme Court
By Umapati Swami and Jayadvaita Swami
ROBIN GEORGE ran away from home in 1974 to be a devotee. She lived in ISKCON temples for a year and asked the devotees not to tell her parents where she was. But Robin was only fifteen, and legal pressure forced ISKCON to send her home.
Two years later, Robin and her mother, Marcia, sued ISKCON. The devotees, they charged, had brainwashed Robin into running away. Not only that, they said, but the devotees had hid her from her parents, inflicting emotional distress on Marcia and causing the death of Robin's father, Jim.
(Jim, a longtime heart patient, had been through two heart attacks before Robin had met the devotees. He died four months after her return home.)
The jury tore into ISKCON with a $32 million judgment—one of the largest damage awards in American history. The judge reduced it to $9 million.
ISKCON appealed. But to do so it had to post a $9 million bond. Not having $9 million, ISKCON's only choice was to put six temples into the hands of a court-appointed receiver. They would be sold, if need be, to pay the judgment. The primary target: ISKCON's Western world headquarters, in Los Angeles.
In 1989, the Fourth District Court of Appeal in San Diego threw out the brainwashing charges. Robin, they said, had joined ISKCON of her own free will, under no threat or force of any kind.
The appeal court, however, left intact an award to Marcia of $2.9 million (it now comes, with interest, to $5 million). Most of this was punitive damages—punishment for "intentional infliction of emotional distress."
But the charge of false imprisonment through brainwashing had been thrown out. And that charge, the Georges' lawyer had told the jury, was "the whole nut of this case."
"It seems to me," he had said, "that if there was no false imprisonment the rest of this stuff is a lot of hogwash, because that means that Robin decided to run away from home and torment her parents and it's all her fault anyway. It just wouldn't be fair to find against the defendants in those circumstances."
ISKCON appealed to the California Supreme Court. The court refused to hear the case. The next step: an appeal to the United States Supreme Court.
ISKCON appealed to the court to have the remaining charges reduced or thrown out. The Georges appealed to have the brainwashing charges reinstated.
Meanwhile, the Georges had petitioned the original trial court to order the sale of ISKCON's properties. And on March 16, 1990, Judge James A. Jackman, who had presided over the original trial, ordered the sale to begin. Though he surely knew that the case lay before the Supreme Court, Judge Jackman wrote in his order, "Judgment in this matter is now final."
But the Supreme Court stepped in. At a special meeting, the justices voted 9-0 to overrule Judge Jackman and put the sale on hold pending their decision on whether to hear the case.
On May 10, the Supreme Court rejected the Georges' appeal for reinstatement of the brainwashing charges. The court has not yet said whether it will hear ISKCON's appeal.
What are the issues?
"This may be the most important single religious liberty case ever filed in this Court," said the National Council of Churches (NCC). The NCC and thirty-four other religious and civil rights groups have filed briefs as amici curiae ("friends of the court"), urging the Supreme Court to hear ISKCON's case.*
* The NCC represents thirty-two national religious communions, who have forty-two million members. Joining with the Council in one brief were the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Mennonite Church, and nine other organizations.
A separate brief was filed by the National Association of Evangelicals. The members of the Association include fifty thousand churches from seventy-seven denominations. They stand for fifteen million people. Joining them in this brief were three other groups, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the nation's largest Lutheran and fourth largest Protestant body (eleven thousand congregations, with 5.3 million members).
A third brief was filed by the World Hindu Assembly of North America (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) and seventeen other Hindu organizations.
ISKCON's appeal brings before the court the following issues:
Should the court allow damage suits to be used as a tool for religious persecution?
Throughout history, unfamiliar religions have been greeted with hostility, often with persecution.
"Quakers were hung in colonial Massachusetts," the NCC reminded the court. "Baptists in Virginia were jailed for preaching without a license.... Congress dissolved the Mormon Church and confiscated all its property.... At various times in our history, Catholics, Mormons, and Jehovah's Witnesses were the victims of mob violence."
And now the tort (damage) suit, said the NCC, is being used as an instrument of persecution: "Deprogramming attacked the unpopular religions retail, one convert at a time. The tort suit attacks them wholesale, millions of dollars at a time."
Especially targeted, said the NCC, are high-demand religions, those that call not just for "one hour a week on the weekend" but for fundamental changes in one's way of life.
And "Even if a religion manages to avert destruction by a single multi-million-dollar judgment, it faces destruction over time by litigation costs and a series of smaller judgments."
"This Court," the NCC continued, "first saw the tort suit as a weapon of destruction when public officials in Alabama sought to destroy the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with a series of defamation suits. [The Conference was the civil rights group of Dr. Martin Luther King.] Today, a movement of private citizens is using tort suits to destroy high-demand religions, and this Court must once again respond."
Is it right to make a religious body pay for an offense when the pleadings, arguments, testimony, and instructions to the jury mix within the offense both acts the constitution protects and acts it doesn't?
The Hare Krsna devotees, admittedly, had no right to conceal Robin from her parents or mislead them about where Robin was.
But they did have a right to persuade her to become a devotee and teach her how to practice Krsna consciousness.
Unfortunately, it's clear the devotees were made to defend themselves not just for what they might have done wrong but also—even mainly—for what they had a spiritual and constitutional right to do.
The devotees had distressed the Georges by persuading Robin of Krsna consciousness. They had taught her to chant Hare Krsna, read Bhagavad-gita, and worship Krsna—in short, they had taught her to be a devotee.
And that, more than anything, is what the devotees are being made to pay for.
But imparting spiritual teachings is something Americans have a right to do. That's what the first amendment is about.
The Georges tried to get around this by arguing that chanting was "mind control," vegetarianism was "food deprivation," Krsna consciousness was "brainwashing."
Days of testimony were dedicated to arguing that Krsna consciousness was "a pernicious evil," a "pious fraud." It was "Dracula," luring Robin "to her destruction."
In short, this was a heresy trial, in which the jury was asked to declare Krsna consciousness a "false religion" and condemn its spiritual practices as "brainwashing."
"The jury's apparent acceptance of the brainwashing evidence," said the National Council of Churches, "fatally taints the verdict in this case."
Is it right to hold church leaders liable for intentionally inflicting emotional distress when they acted on religious motives and there's no finding that they intended to harm anyone?
For "intentional infliction of emotional distress," the jury hit the Hare Krsna devotees for nearly $17 million.
But in fact the Georges had not shown—or even been required to show—that Hare Krsna devotees had intended to distress them.
The judge specifically told the jury they could make the devotees pay if the devotees had wanted to cause distress or even had known that distress would result from their conduct.
This, the court briefs said, is too much.
As the devotees appealed, "The practice of an unfamiliar religion can be expected—'known'—to produce distress in those who are committed to other religious faiths."
But this should not serve as grounds for withholding constitutional protection.
"Religious teaching often inflicts emotional distress," the NCC reminded the court. "A minister confronting a parishioner with his sins, a prophet calling a society to account, or a sermon on the risk of eternal damnation will foreseeably and sometimes intentionally inflict emotional distress. Emotional distress is often the prelude to religious conversion, and emotional distress among the convert's friends and family is often an unavoidable consequence."
To allow million-dollar judgments on these grounds, said the National Association of Evangelicals, would be to "severely erode" freedom of religion.
Is it right to impose punitive damages that will lead to seizure of church properties essential to the devotional life of people who have done nothing wrong?
Punitive damages are meant to punish, but to punish whom? If the Hare Krsna temples are seized and sold, the lash will fall on thousands of innocent devotees and worshipers who had nothing whatever to do with Robin George. They will lose their temples, their asramas, their schools.
This, the devotees appeal, is a threat to the free exercise of religion.
And if punitive awards are to be imposed, must there not be clear and convincing evidence and clear instructions about how much the award should be?
How is a jury to know when some-one has intentionally caused distress? The NCC asked the court to set standards. ISKCON had asked that the court require evidence that the devotees had meant to cause distress. The NCC went further.
Guidelines for juries, suggested the NCC, should go beyond mere guessing about feelings and motives: those claiming injury should be required first to show objectively wrongful conduct that would cause distress—physical violence, for example, or verbal harassment for refusing to listen to a speaker's message.
And there must be standards for the amount of awards. Especially when religion is involved, the friends of the court said, allowing "sky's the limit" punitive damages invites the jury to punish people for holding strange or unpopular views. Invited to "punish Dracula," the jury voted to drive a $32 million stake into his heart.
To put things into perspective: If someone were convicted of enticing a minor into prostitution instead of bringing her to Krsna consciousness, the heaviest penalty under California law would be one year in prison and a $2,000 fine.
"The power to award punitive damages," the NCC told the court, "is the power to destroy. Even the power to award damages for emotional distress is the power to destroy. Until this Court imposes judicially administrable, objective limits on the power of juries, unpopular religious organizations will not be secure even in their right to exist."
Imposing punitive damages on ISKCON did not serve a compelling state interest but only the private advantage of a disgruntled former member.
As stated in the Williamsburg Charter, a bicentennial document celebrating religious liberty, "Limitation upon religious liberty is allowable only where the State has borne a heavy burden of proof that the limitation is justified—not by any ordinary public interest, but by a supreme public necessity..."
But what was the necessity here?
Marcia George was on a crusade. She wanted to wipe out Krsna consciousness. And she wanted US courts to help her do it.
The courts have no business lending a hand to such campaigns.
The National Association of Evangelicals questioned whether the state may ever have a legitimate interest in "runaway awards of staggering sums." But in any case, they said, state interest never ranks as truly compelling "when the award is made against a religious body because of its efforts either to share its religious message or to protect a genuinely religious conversion."
May a state make churches pay for supposed wrongs without clear rules to protect unpopular religions from hostile juries?
"Juries," the NCC pointed out, "are a majoritarian institution; they cannot be relied on to protect the rights of unpopular minorities." And "Given the evidence of rampant jury prejudice in this and other cases, ... safeguards are essential to the rights of unpopular religions."
Whipped up by inflammatory and derogatory statements, jurors may inflict "punishment awards" on a bona fide religious body. Shouldn't the right to religious freedom rule out such assaults against the beliefs and practices of an ancient and venerable religion?
This was the question asked of the court by the World Hindu Assembly of North America (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) and seventeen other Hindu organizations.
"The trial court allowed scurrilous attacks ... on beliefs and practices regarded as sacred by Hindus for centuries.... To allow this kind of outrageous behavior in American courtrooms sends a message to Hindus that they are outsiders, disfavored members of the religious community."
As the NCC told the court, "A jury willing to award $32 million against a small religious body is a jury out of control."
"Invited repeatedly to punish the petitioners for their strange beliefs and practices, the jury did just that," said the National Association of Evangelicals.
And the judge himself had shown prejudice in allowing such proceedings. "If the behavior of the jury and the bench in this case is consistent with the 'benevolent neutrality' toward all religions required by the first amendment," said the Association, "[we] dread to think what real hostility looks like."
On these and other grounds, the Hare Krsna devotees and the friends of the court urged the court to hear ISKCON's appeal.
A $5 million judgment threatens the Hare Krsna movement in America with destruction.
And as the National Council of Churches concluded, "... punitive destruction of an entire religious movement cannot be a result consistent with the First Amendment. State destruction of entire religions is something that is supposed to happen in Nazi Germany, or in medieval Europe, or in small isolated countries ruled by mad dictators. It is not supposed to happen in America."
Where do things stand now?
THE SUPREME COURT agrees to hear only a few of the cases brought before it. Last spring 212 cases came before the court, and 200 were turned away.
ISKCON's case is still pending: The justices have neither agreed to hear it nor turned it down.
But the court has agreed to hear Pacific Mutual Insurance Company vs. Haslip, a civil case that, like ISKCON's case, revolves around punitive damages. Observers say the court will probably use the case to set a standard for punitive damages—awards made not to compensate for injury but only to punish.
In America, multimillion-dollar punitive awards have become commonplace, and many would say they've gotten out of hand. "In California," reports The Wall Street Journal, "one tenth of jury verdicts now result in punitive damages." Last year's average award: three million dollars.
Punitive damages, as well as damages for "emotional distress," take on a special significance in lawsuits against religions, where they may become tools for persecution.
That the Supreme Court has put off its decision on ISKCON vs. George most likely means that the court first wants to set guidelines for punitive damages through Haslip. The court might then address the issues of religious freedom raised by ISKCON's appeal.
When the court turns to ISKCON's case, it may reduce or annul the award or send the case back down to the lower courts with clarifying instructions,
Or the court may simply refuse to hear the case The ISKCON temples would then face the auction block.
The justices will most likely rule on Haslip this January or February and then announce their decision on ISKCON's appeal. Till then, ISKCON is continuing the fight to save its temples.
For further information, or to offer your help, write to the ISKCON North American Action Committee, 1030 Grand Avenue, San Diego, CA 92109.
By Indradyumna Swami
RUPA RAGHUNATHA DASA picked me up at the Johannesburg airport in his pickup truck, marked "Hare Krishna Food for Life." We swung out of the airport and headed straight for Soweto, the African ghetto ten kilometers away.
"The kids are hungry there," he said. "The main thing in their diet is mealie-meal, a cheap cornmeal preparation.
Every day when they see our truck pull up with prasadam they literally run for their lives to get a share."
Rupa knows the kids. He lives with them. After going into the ghetto for years to distribute prasadam and work with the people, last year he decided to open a center right in the heart of Soweto. He's the only white man there.
"I don't see them as black, and they don't see me as white," Rupa said as we neared a town of shacks that spreads twenty miles.
"Just look down the road," he said.
As my eyes focused on the entrance to the shantytown, five hundred meters away, I saw fifteen or twenty kids chanting the Hare Krsna mantra and dancing, eager for our visit ... and prasadam.
"Most kids here are into crime of one form or another by the time they're ten," Rupa Raghunatha said. "But the Krsna conscious ones stay out of trouble. They've got a kind of camaraderie. When a Zulu boy takes to Krsna consciousness he right away gets his friends into it. The same for the boys from the Sotho and Pedi tribes from the north. Even when they're from different tribes they get on together pretty well.... Close the window now."
We drove past garbage dumps and open sewage on the sides of the road. In a moment we came upon the wood and tin huts, smoke rising from coal fires inside. Children played in the streets, some naked, the rest in rags.
"Many parts of Soweto now have decent housing," Rupa said. "But conditions like this brought on the riots in '76. I wasn't here, but I heard it was pretty ugly. A lot of people were killed. People wanted a revolution. They wanted change." (More recently, Soweto has become the home of the black leader Nelson Mandela.)
We pulled up near a building with a sign that read "Hare Krishna Temple Soweto."
Within minutes, hundreds of people lined up behind the truck, their hands holding plastic bowls, tin cans, and even paper sacks, waiting for prasadam.
The devotees began scooping out liberal portions of kicchari from big plastic containers.
"After they've eaten, we all go chanting through the streets," Rupa said.
"All of us?"
"Yes, they all come, hundreds of them."
Mahaprabhu and his wife, Meli, soon showed up. Both native Sowetins, they'd been the first to join Krsna consciousness full time. Their small three-room house was the first temple.
As we dished out prasadam, more Hare Krsna Sowetins arrived: Benny, Jonny, Duo, Happy, David, Sipho, all boys in their teens, their bright faces adorned with the white vertical marks of Vaisnava tilaka.
They were eager to tell of their experiences earlier that morning, when they'd gone out in a group to spread Krsna consciousness.
"Maharaja, we met one family and convinced them to chant Hare Krsna. After a while all the neighbors came too. We've brought them along for prasadam and kirtana."
Soon we were chanting and dancing through the streets of Soweto. As the crowd swelled and the holy name of Krsna went out in all directions, I remembered a verse from the Srimad-Bhagavatam:
svasty astu visvasya khalah prasidatam
"May there be good fortune through-out the universe, and may all envious persons be pacified. May all living entities become calm by practicing bhakti-yoga, for by accepting devotional service they will think of each other's welfare. Therefore let us all engage in the service of the supreme transcendence, Lord Krsna, and always remain absorbed in thought of Him."
Indradyumna Swami joined ISKCON in Detroit in 1971. He accepted sannyasa, the renounced order of life, in 1979. Since then he has spread Krsna consciousness in many parts of the world.
Lord Caitanya predicted that Krsna consciousness will spread to every town and village in the world. From issue to issue, Back to Godhead will bring you photographic reports of how it's spreading. We'll travel with Krsna conscious preachers and visit places where Krsna consciousness is alive and active. We'll take photographic journeys to holy places and look into what devotees do to realize Krsna's presence in their lives. Devotee photographers: We invite you to use your talent to show us Krsna where we haven't seen Him before. Help make Back to Godhead a showpiece for Krsna conscious photojournalism and sensitive, inspired photographic art.—J.S.
The Gaudiya Vedantist
By Dayananda Dasa and Nandarani Devi Dasi
THEIR VOICES ROSE with the sun. It was early morning in an Indian village school. The boys sat in neat rows behind palm-leaf manuscripts, committing their lessons to memory. As they chanted their grammar rules, their rhetoric lessons, and their logic aphorisms, each boy chanted loud enough to hear himself over his neighbor, resulting in a blend of high-pitched voices.
This school, attended by Baladeva early in the eighteenth century, closely resembled village schools that had existed in India for thousands of years. The system had endured because it was effective, producing brilliant and disciplined scholars, and Baladeva was among the best of them.
Before coming to school, Baladeva, the son of a merchant, had lived for several years near the Orissan town of Remuna. From there he had gone to study with the group of panditas at this school, situated idyllically on the bank of the Cilkahrada River. The lush Orissan forests and fertile fields provided ample fruits, vegetables, and grains for a wholesome, varied diet. The boys studied hard, played hard, and grew lean, healthy, and discerning.
When Baladeva graduated from school, he did not want to return home to work in his father's shop. He wanted to be a scholar—not an ordinary scholar but a true acarya, one who could teach divine wisdom. A pandita had to master logic, philosophy, medicine, or cosmology, but an acarya had to know the scriptures that impart the deepest wisdom. Baladeva decided to study philosophy and theology. He would become a Vedantist, an authority on the ancient Vedic books of knowledge. He could not think of any greater way to benefit himself or others.
In search of a preceptor, Baladeva went on pilgrimage to the tirthas (holy places), where he would meet monks and scholars. In Mysore (now Karnataka), in southwestern India, he came upon a hermitage of holy men who were also called Tirthas, followers of the saint and scholar Ananda Tirtha (A.D. 1197-1273), who was known formally as Madhva Acarya. In the monastery, or matha, Baladeva studied Vedanta and mastered the arts of debate and rhetoric. These talents would serve him well in a challenge he would later face while still a young man.
The challenge Baladeva would meet is of critical importance to the history of Gaudiya Vaisnavism, the spiritual school to which the modern-day Krsna consciousness movement belongs.
The Gaudiyas in Vrndavana
By the time Baladeva was born, the Gaudiya Vaisnavas, or followers of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, were well established in Vrndavana, the town in northern India where Lord Krsna had enacted His childhood pastimes some five thousand years earlier. But life in that area was often insecure. For thousands of years the Vrndavana-Mathura district had been periodically invaded and pillaged. Yet despite these calamities, Mathura had thrived as a center of trade and culture. Every ancient religion of northern India considered Mathura an important city.
In 1512 Lord Caitanya arrived in Mathura. He found that the places where Krsna had enjoyed pastimes were now obscured, so he spent two months locating and identifying them. Wanting to reconstruct Vrndavana and rededicate it to Krsna, He sent Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami, two of His chief disciples, to the holy city.
Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami accomplished Lord Caitanya's mission in Vrndavana. Not only did they rebuild the sacred places of Krsna's life, but they also wrote books that presented Lord Caitanya's doctrine in a way suitable for both scholars and laymen. Srila Jiva Gosvami, their nephew and disciple, continued their work. He supervised the construction of magnificent temples for the worship of Krsna, wrote exhaustive philosophical treatises on the philosophy of Krsna consciousness, and distributed the religious manuscripts of the Vrndavana Gosvamis throughout the Vaisnava world. Largely due to Jiva Gosvami's efforts, the Gaudiya Vaisnavas succeeded in establishing Vrndavana as the principal seat of Vaisnavism in northern India.
Vrndavana had always been a holy pilgrimage site, but under Gaudiya patronage it flourished as a powerful religious center for 150 years. Gaudiya gurus and temples held sway in Vrndavana, even at the time of Baladeva's arrival in the early eighteenth century.
Govinda Leaves Vrndavana
Unfortunately, the peaceful leadership of the Gaudiyas could not last. In 1669 the Mogul ruler Aurangzeb decreed that Hindu temples and carved images, or Deities, should be destroyed. Deities, priests, and pilgrims were in danger, and faithful devotees of Krsna stopped visiting Vrndavana. Many of those who had the courage to express their faith were beaten or killed.
Subsequently, the Vaisnava priests appealed to the Hindu dynasties of Rajasthan for protection for themselves and their Deities. Protection was guaranteed, and gradually the Deities migrated east, to settle in Mewar and in Amber, the old Jaipur capital. But without Deities, brahmanas, and pilgrims, Vrndavana-Mathura lost much of its glory.
One of the principal Deities of Vrndavana was Govinda, a twenty-four-inch black marble image of Krsna in His original aspect as a cowherd boy. Srila Rupa Gosvami had found Him while excavating the holy places of Vrndavana. Later, warned that Aurangzeb's army would seek to demolish Govinda's splendid seven-story temple, the priests secretly moved the Deity to Radha-kunda, a sacred pond widely known as one of the holiest places in the Mathura district.
After a year at Radha-kunda, the priests transferred their divine refugee to Kaman, a fortified city in the Mathura district, where a suitable complex could be built for Govinda. For more than thirty years He and two other Deities, Gopinatha and Madana-mohana, remained in Kaman. But most pilgrims avoided the ruling Moguls and a clan of local people called the Jats, who had risen up against the Moguls.
The Rajput kings of Amber found themselves at the pivot of the conflict between the Moguls and the Jat guerrillas. The kings allied them-selves with the Moguls against the Jats but patronized the Vrndavana Deities, whom the Moguls wanted to destroy.
Ram Singh, the king of Amber, had ordered in 1671 that Govinda be transferred to Kaman, which was then under the jurisdiction of Amber and Jaipur although it was in the Mathura district. It is said that the transfer was meant to be temporary: the Deity would return to Vrndavana when the political turmoil subsided. But Govinda did not return to Vrndavana. After thirty-three years in Kaman, He made another trip, this time to Amber.
Ram Singh had died and been followed quickly to the next life by his son, Visnu Singh. Now there sat on the throne of Amber a child-king, a precocious eleven-year-old named Jai Singh, who had been decorated in the Mogul court at Agra at the age of seven. Under the rule of Jai Singh, Govinda was transferred in 1707 to a village called Govinda-pura, just outside Amber.
The Ramanandis' Challenge
Govinda's new home had little in common with the forest of Vrndavana, where he had lived so grandly. In Vrndavana, a Vaisnava holy place, Govinda was the unchallenged Supreme Lord. His priest, who stood in the direct line of Rupa Gosvami, the acknowledged leader of the Vaisnavas in Vrndavana, had enjoyed unchallenged authority on questions about the philosophy and practice of bhakti, devotional service to Krsna.
In Amber, however, not all the Vaisnavas worshiped Krsna. During the reign of Prthviraj Singh (1503-1527), a devotee of Lord Ramacandra named Payahari Krsnadasa had settled in Galta, a valley near the present-day city of Jaipur. Payahari was a grand-disciple of Ramananda, the fourteenth-century North Indian reformer of the South Indian Vaisnava sampradaya (lineage) of Ramanuja. Payahari worshiped Sita-Rama, not Radha-Krsna.
Payahari had settled in a cave in the Galta valley. He had converted Queen Balan Bai to Ramanandi Vaisnavism, and she in turn had convinced her saintly husband, King Prthviraj, to sponsor the establish-ment of a Ramanandi monastery in Galta. Thereafter, Galta had become the northern headquarters for the Ramanuja sect.
For six generations the Ramanandi mahantas (temple heads) had enjoyed a privileged position in the Amber kingdom. But Govinda's arrival in Amber and His popularity with the royal family challenged the Ramanandi hegemony.
To Jai Singh the arrival of Govinda was especially significant. Despite the presence of many Hindu sects in his kingdom, despite his own royal obligations to maintain Vedic and Puranic ritual sacrifices, and despite the unchallengeable authority of the Ramanandi priests, Jai Singh was ultimately a devotee of Govinda. The arrival of Govinda in his kingdom was a high point in his personal spiritual quest.
The Ramanandi priests soon realized that if Govinda became the favored Deity of the king, the Gaudiya priests would assume religious authority in Amber. What would become of the Ramanandis' ascendancy?
The Ramanandis then approached Jai Singh with a complaint about the Gaudiyas. They questioned the Gaudiya lineage. In India, much is made of one's parentage. If one cannot prove natal legitimacy, one may be cast out as a bastard. The same social standard applies to religious organizations. If a religious group cannot prove its descent from one of the recognized traditions, it risks being dismissed as illegitimate.
Jai Singh wrote to the mahanta of the Gopinatha temple, Syamcaran Sarma, asking him to clarify the matter by explaining the lineage of the Gaudiya devotees. Syamcaran replied with a letter in Sanskrit, quoting various scriptures and other authorities. He explained that the Gaudiya lineage had begun with Lord Caitanya, who was the Supreme Godhead. After all, a spiritual lineage originating with God is unassailable.
Predictably, the Ramanandis were not satisfied. They said, "There are only four sampradayas, not five. Scholars have ascertained this on the basis of the Padma Purana."
It is here that our story brings us back to Baladeva.
The Nurturing of Baladeva
Before the Ramanandis had complained in Amber, young Baladeva, living in Mysore, had been instructed in the Vedanta-sutra by the followers of the great Vedantist Madhva Acarya.
The word vedanta consists of two words: veda ("knowledge") and anta ("end"). So Vedanta is the culmination of Vedic knowledge. The Vedas are the oldest of the traditional Sanskrit writings compiled by Srila Vyasadeva. Vyasadeva later composed the Vedanta-sutra, which contains in terse codes the essence of the Upanisads (the philosophical hymns of the Vedas). Because the Vedanta-sutra is written in aphorisms, one needs a commentary to understand it. The oldest and most famous extant commentary is that of Sankara Acarya (A.D. 788-820).
Sankara was a monist; he believed in the ultimate oneness of the jiva (living being) and God, and he interpreted the Vedanta-sutra accordingly. After Sankara, four learned Vaisnavas stepped forward over the course of several hundred years to write Vedanta-sutra commentaries. These Vaisnavas wrote to establish the duality of the jiva and God and thus refute the monistic teaching of Sankara.
These four Vaisnava preceptors—Sri Ramanuja Acarya, Sri Nimbarka, Sri Madhva Acarya, and Sri Visnusvami—established the four acknowledged Vaisnava sampradayas. Subsequent Vaisnava religious leaders belonged to one of these sampradayas and were thus considered legitimate. Ramananda claimed that his lineage originated with Ramanuja.
We recall again that Baladeva, in Mysore, had stayed in a matha of the Madhva-sampradaya and studied the Vedanta-sutra commentary of Madhva.
He had enjoyed his education, but he enjoyed even more the application of his learning. He was exhilarated by debates; no challenge was too great for him. And he was eager for the opportunity to enlighten others. Now, after becoming a skilled lecturer and debater, Baladeva left Mysore and went to Puri, in Orissa, where he again took up residence in a Madhva matha.
At Puri, Baladeva met Radhadamodara Dasa, a brahmana from Kanyakubja (now Kanpur), in north central India. Radhadamodara was the grand-disciple of Rasikananda, a seventeenth-century preacher who had established the Gaudiya movement throughout Orissa. Radhadamodara, a scholar of Gaudiya philosophy, explained to Baladeva the position of Lord Caitanya, supporting his points with quotations from Mahabharata and Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Radhadamodara said, "Sri Krsna Caitanya is the Supreme Godhead Himself. He came to flood the world with krsna-prema, love of Krsna. Sri Caitanya was not interested in the study of many commentaries on Vedanta-sutra, for He considered Srimad-Bhagavatam, written by the same author—Vyasa—to be the natural commentary. So from the Bhagavatam and by His own example, He taught that we must serve the Supreme Lord, Krsna, and absorb ourselves in hearing about Him and glorifying Him. Sri Caitanya Himself was always absorbed in krsna-prema. Thus He saw no need to write any books."
Radhadamodara advised Baladeva to study the Bhagavata-sandarbha, by Srila Jiva Gosvami. For days Radhadamodara and Baladeva met and discussed Jiva's work. Baladeva noted that Jiva did not significantly differ from Madhva. Indeed, the philosophies of Jiva and Madhva agreed on most essential points. Still, Jiva's treatise developed Vaisnava philosophy in an elegant and logical way that deeply impressed Baladeva.
Now convinced that the Gaudiya perspective was true, Baladeva asked Radhadamodara to initiate him into the Gaudiya-sampradaya. Baladeva, however, was already an initiated Vaisnava, so Radhadamodara performed not a formal initiation but a ceremony in which Baladeva agreed to accept and serve Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as the Supreme Lord. Thus Baladeva became a member of the Gaudiya sampradaya.
Mastering Gaudiya Philosophy
Baladeva then decided to travel to Vrndavana, the spiritual center of the Gaudiya sect. But first he went to Navadvipa, where he met the Vaisnavas there and discussed philosophy with them. They all told him to study under Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura in Vrndavana. Because Baladeva was so eager to meet Visvanatha, he stayed only a short time in Navadvipa before setting out on foot to travel the eight hundred miles to Vrndavana.
Arriving in Vrndavana, Baladeva soon met Visvanatha Cakravarti, introduced himself, and explained his background and the story of his meeting with Radhadamodara in Puri. Visvanatha was gratified that Baladeva had come to study Srimad-Bhagavatam, and he suggested a suitable day for them to begin their studies. He also decided that Baladeva should study the rasa-sastras, texts of advanced devotion, with another scholar, Pitambara Dasa.
Baladeva's appetite had been whetted by reading Jiva Gosvami's Bhagavata-sandarbha in Puri. From Pitambara, Baladeva learned the esoteric meaning of the bhagavata philosophy, as found in the rasa-sastras. He then studied the Caitanya-caritamrta, Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami's biography of Lord Caitanya. The Caitanya-caritamrta is an advanced text for those who have fully studied the other Vaisnava scriptures. By completing his study of this culminating work, Baladeva qualified himself for a brilliant future as a Gaudiya scholar.
Meanwhile, in Amber the Ramanandis continued to wage ideological war against the Gaudiyas. The Ramanandis did not accept the answer that the Gaudiya mahantas had given to King Jai Singh—that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was the Supreme Lord Himself and that his sampradaya was therefore beyond doubt. The Ramanandis insisted on the principle of sampradaya catvarah, "there are only four sampradayas," implying, of course, that the Gaudiyas constituted an unauthorized fifth lineage.
In 1971 they traveled to London, where Dayananda served as the temple president. From '73 to '75 he was the headmaster at the gurukula (Hare Krsna school) in Dallas, and from '76 to '79 he and Nandarani taught Krsna consciousness in Iran. From 1982 to '84 they helped oversee the Krsna center in Washington, D.C., and since then they have been working with the Institute for Vaisnava Studies, located near Washington, D.C. The Institute researches Vaisnava thought, history, and practice.
Jiva Goswami's Tattvasandarbha, Stuart Mark Elkman (Elkman's commentary includes Bhaktivinoda Thakura's comments on Baladeva Vidyabhusana), Motilal Benarsidass, 1986.
Sri Sri Gaudiya Vaisnava Abhidana, Sri Haridas Das, Haribol Kutir, Sri Dhama Navadvipa, 1955.
History and Culture of the Indian People, Vol. VII, R. C. Majumdar and others, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay, 1974.
Mathura, A District Memoir, Frederick S. Growse, Oudh Government Press, Allahabad, 1883.
Literary Heritage of the Rulers of Amber and Jaipura, Gopal Narayana Bahura, City Palace Museum, Jaipura, 1976.
Jaipur City, A. K. Roy, (publisher and date unknown).
IN THIS NEW FEATURE, in every issue Back to Godhead will focus on one Krsna conscious project you may like to support or get involved in. We'll tell you what the goals are, who's involved, what's going on, what's blocking the way, and how you can give a hand.
Project: The Festival of India.
Spanish Fork, Utah, USA.
Madhuha Dasa, 35, from New York City. Hare Krsna devotee since 1972.
To put on Krsna conscious cultural festivals all over the USA and Canada—and give a lift to Krsna festivals already going on.
Since 1979, the Festival of India has taken part in 390 festivals. Madhuha and his fourteen-man crew arrive in a yellow 65-foot semitrailer and set up a Krsna conscious tent city of exhibits, art displays, books, music, plays, and prasadam.
These festivals have given people half a million plates of prasadam and a million Krsna conscious books and magazines.
Madhuha says the festival is "like a traveling transcendental circus." He wants to make it as big and popular as Barnum and Bailey.
"Imagine fourteen or fifteen men living in a cube the size of a walk-in closet for six months at a time," says Madhuha. "That's what it's like living in the Festival of India truck. You never have your own space or a place to go for some solitude. It's austere. But traveling to all the temples, meeting so many nice devotees, and giving people chanting and prasadam makes it nectar."
The festival travels 30,000 miles a year, and the strain is starting to tell on the trucks and equipment. To keep the festival gear in shape, Madhuha needs about $30,000 a year.
Madhuha has started an "Annual Sponsor Program." He figures that if three hundred people come forward to become annual sponsors at $100 each, this will provide the needed $30,000 to keep the festival going, so that the chanting, dancing, and feasting will continue.
How you can help
•Arrange for the festival to come to your city or town.
For further information, contact:
Madhuha Dasa, Festival of India, P.O. Box 801, Spanish Fork, Utah 84660, USA. Phone: (801) 423-2826.
The Role of Women Today in the Hare Krsna Movement
WHEN Srila Prabhupada came to the West, he undertook an extraordinary task: to transplant not just a philosophy but an entire culture, to preserve both the philosophy and its context. He carried with him not just the fruit of Vedic knowledge but its roots, its branches, its bark—the entire tree.
As with any tree, ours faces changing seasons and circumstances: floods and dry spells, easy times and hard. Some people have even tried to axe it.
But the tree grows on.
What you're about to read is talk from a few of the thousands of gardeners—the devotees—who care for that tree and depend on it for their spiritual life.
In short, enter here into a dialogue among devotees in an alive and growing spiritual movement.
The talk this time concerns the role of the movement's women, roughly half of its devotees. How are they doing? What do they need for their spiritual growth?
Over the last several years, ISKCON devotees have begun talking about what they call "the women's issue," referring to questions about what the role of women in ISKCON should be.
What are those questions? BTG asked several devotee women to define them for us.
This time, it's all women doing the talking. In future issues, we expect to hear more, both from women and from men.
by Pranada Devi Dasi
IN DISCUSSING THE ROLE of women in our movement, we must understand Srila Prabhupada's teachings and the Vedic social ideal and balance those with the precedents Srila Prabhupada himself set. It's a "hot topic," one on which even devotees may have spiritual differences of opinion.
In Vedic culture, women must be protected, they should be chaste and submissive, and they are naturally shy. Beyond this, Srila Prabhupada highlighted a woman's standing as a devotee of Krsna and a preacher in Lord Caitanya's movement.
Srila Prabhupada was expert in applying Vedic culture and spirituality to the present day, as he showed by fine tuning the roles of his disciples, both men and women. For example, he wanted his sannyasis teaching in the world, not going to the forest for severe austerities. And he wanted his women disciples spreading Krsna consciousness too, not merely practicing it for themselves.
In many ways, Srila Prabhupada adjusted the traditional Vedic culture because we're in Kali-yuga and we are a Vaisnava preaching society. Our movement is dynamic, not static; so as a young institution we face the challenge of striking the right balances.
How much should we stress that a woman be ideal in the Vedic sense? Should we stress it more than her role as a devotee or preacher? When do Vedic norms of behavior help protect women, and when do those norms slide into stereotyped definitions of shyness and submissiveness that turn women away or cut women off? Do we look at a woman's enthusiasm and competence in devotional service as a sign of good fortune or as a sign of independence and looseness?
Srila Prabhupada encouraged devotee women in all types of service. And because his vision for women was not stereotyped by traditional Vedic roles, women helped spread his movement all over the world.
But in the early '70s ISKCON adopted various changes meant, I suppose, to set a higher standard of Vedic custom. For example, in ISKCON's early years the women stood opposite (and separate from) the men during temple functions. Now they stand in the back, where it's difficult to see the Deities on the altar. Newcomers find this strange, and even cultured Indian ladies don't follow this policy, because it is foreign to them.
Other changes limited when women may lecture, offer aratis, offer flowers to Srila Prabhupada, and chant in the temple. Perhaps we should now look again at these changes, to see whether they fit what Srila Prabhupada desired.
We may also have to look again at some of our attitudes.
Srila Prabhupada spoke strongly about materialistic men and women, but he spoke differently about devotees—both men and women. But now when men in ISKCON preach about women, they often seem to speak categorically, lumping together materialists and devotees.
What is the proper understanding about devotee women? Are they unintelligent? Or, as aspiring devotees, are they more intelligent than men who fail to devote themselves to Krsna? Speakers need to take care with the messages they send out. When the message to devotee women is that they're less intelligent creatures, or agents of illusion, doesn't that sap their inspiration to become Krsna conscious? And are those messages philosophically correct? If we want Krsna consciousness to spread, here's a place for some good Krsna conscious sensitivity.
Another point: Philosophically we have to accept that women can become gurus. Yet our movement does not have any women initiating. It's certainly not because of a lack of senior women devotees. Is it due to prejudice, or is it something the Vedic tradition tells us about women's psychophysical nature? How do we understand Srila Prabhupada's statement, in several letters, that his women disciples should also initiate?
Again, right now only men serve on ISKCON's Governing Body Commission. Is there a need to add senior devotee women to provide a balance, especially to see to the needs of women and children?
Overall, the women's issue in ISKCON concerns attitudes and behavior—how do we relate to one another as devotees? We have to see one another as devotees, and then everything falls into place.
Srila Prabhupada stressed that to give women protection is essential for a progressive spiritual society. One way to judge a civilization is by how it treats its women. Does ISKCON provide women devotees the material and spiritual protection they need? We ought to make sure that it does.
This discussion within ISKCON is not an outcome of a battle of the sexes or a power struggle in the material world. It is a sincere attempt to look honestly into our hearts and correct wrongs if there are any so that we can preserve and spread Srila Prabhupada's movement in its purest, most potent form.
In ISKCON we want to do things "the Prabhupada way." So why should we let our way of life in ISKCON depart from Srila Prabhupada's standards and attitudes about women? We shouldn't and certainly we won't.
We will solve the puzzle that confronts us in the "women's issue" by looking closely at Srila Prabhupada's caring, Krsna conscious dealings with his women disciples and following his mood. ISKCON consists of Srila Prabhupada's sincere followers. Srila Prabhupada is certainly guiding us, so it's just a matter of time before we address this topic and come to the right understanding.
Srila Prabhupada likened spiritual life to a razor's edge. That razor has to be handled carefully. Each of us must continually reevaluate our internal progress, and so it is too for the movement: As a group we must always reexamine how carefully we are following Srila Prabhupada's instructions. That will insure ISKCON's purity and longevity.
The present discussion about women's roles in ISKCON is an opportunity for such a reexamination. Our movement faces questions today and will continue to face them for the next ten thousand years as we grow, mature, and flourish. And just as by carefully polishing a diamond one brings out its natural, beautiful shine, the devotees in ISKCON, by advancing in Krsna consciousness, will show more and more examples of wonderful spiritual relationships in every sphere.
The topic of women's roles in ISKCON has only recently surfaced. As more devotees become aware of the discussion, surely we will deepen our understanding.
As Yadurani Prabhu points out later, our foremost meditation has to be on taking spiritual life seriously ourselves and teaching Krsna consciousness to others. For us as individuals, nothing is more important than this. And for us as a society of devotees, nothing is more important than working cooperatively to ensure the integrity of our movement. For Krsna consciousness, the world depends on us—and we certainly won't let it down.
Pranada Devi Dasi was initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1976 in Los Angeles. She distributed Srila Prabhupada's books until 1980 and then served in publishing Krsna conscious literature. She lives with her husband and twelve-year-old son in San Diego, where she manages a company that represents overseas printers in the United States.
A House Meant For
by Sita Devi Dasi
Srila Prabhupada accepted women disciples lovingly into the familial embrace of his Hare Krsna movement, engaging us and encouraging us in all different types of service. He made us feel wanted and useful; we were devotees assisting in his endeavor to present Krsna to the world.
But something happened along the way to change ISKCON's perception of our role. It happened, I think, around 1975 or 1976, when our leaders were trying to relieve Srila Prabhupada of the burdens of management and free him to concentrate on his Srimad-Bhagavatam translation.
ISKCON began adopting new rules, those rules Pranada Prabhu talks about. Some rules were timeless guidelines for asrama life. Others, I'd say, were immature ways for twenty-year-old Westerners to handle their new attempts at celibacy.
Perhaps because it's hard for neophytes to distinguish their new spiritual realizations from their old material attitudes, some men found it easy to justify what we women joked about as the "mean swami syndrome."
And we women were emotionally and spiritually immature ourselves. We did not fully understand our roles, so we often accepted models of behavior that were not what Srila Prabhupada intended.
It's difficult for embryonic spiritual aspirants to perceive themselves as anything other than advanced. So we ISKCON devotees institutionalized patterns of behavior that to some extent made our family relationships dysfunctional.
What we need now, I suggest, are opportunities for Srila Prabhupada's disciples—men and women—to meet and formally discuss these issues so that our lines of dialogue and communication can open.
Now, wiser, I hope, both from age and from spiritual maturity, we can retrace our steps, recognize mistakes we've made along the way, and set things right.
Then, by our example we will be able to show the younger devotees Srila Prabhupada's original idea of a house in which the entire world can live.
As Srila Prabhupada fanned our infinitesimal sparks of devotional enthusiasm, we too must learn to appreciate one another's service to Srila Prabhupada, regardless of how inadequate that service might be.
As our Society develops, we should make sure it protects women from serious social neglect, makes it hard for men to abandon their wives and children, and provides support for women and children who need it. We should provide counseling to help devotees keep their marriages together, and we should see to it that devotees take their vows of marriage and sannyasa most serIously, in general ensuring that we never leave women unprotected.
I think I speak for many women who feel inclined to accept our role of being protected by men, who we in turn are inclined to serve. I don't want to usurp the managerial roles men have in our movement. I'm just searching for a clearer definition of my role within ISKCON.
Sita Devi Dasi, a devotee for twenty years, began her service as a cook in ISKCON's Buffalo temple. Her husband took sannyasa when she was 25. Since then she has served all over the world, in book publishing, book distribution, and worship of the Deity. For the last ten years she has taught in ISKCON's gurukula schools in Vrndavana and Europe. She now teaches at Bhaktivedanta Manor, near London.
Srila Prabhupada And
by Visakha Devi Dasi
BY A QUIRK OF FATE, when my family and I were living on an ISKCON farm some five years ago, I was assigned to once-a-week nursery duty. On my first day, I went to the nursery at the appointed time with my three-year-old daughter and received eight other lively three-year-olds as they were dropped off by their parents. I clapped my hands and said, "All right, children! Let's sit in a circle. We're going to have a kirtana!"
When they were seated, I asked, "Who would like to lead?" Immediately nine eager hands shot up, straining to get my attention, accompanied by a chorus of "Me!" "Me!" "Me!" Then the little boy sitting next to my daughter leaned over to her, his hand still raised, and said, "You can't lead because you're a girl."
I was so stunned by that comment that I can't remember what happened afterwards. At what other nursery, at least in the Western world, would a child have the notion that a girl couldn't lead others in singing simply because she was a girl? I think none.
Yet here, in a community of those attempting to practice Vaisnavism, a philosophy that acknowledges the spiritual equality of all living beings in all forms of life—we were shackled with "can do's" and "cannot do's" based on the particular body the soul was housed in.
On one hand our Vaisnava scriptures give explicit rules governing womanly conduct. Yet on the other hand the ultimate purpose of these rules is to enable all men and women to grow and blossom fully in Krsna consciousness.
For me, any seeming dichotomy this might raise is resolved when I think about the example of Srila Prabhupada, the embodiment of Vaisnava scripture. Since Srila Prabhupada's departure from this world thirteen years ago, little has been written about his unique exchanges with his female followers. This was a relationship free from any tinge of mundane romance or anti-woman sentiment. Srila Prabhupada, being free from sensual desires, did not feel his vow of celibacy threatened by his young female followers. And, being free from false ego, he had no need to assert male superiority or dominance.
In the atmosphere created by Srila Prabhupada's purity, a relationship grew. On Prabhupada's side it was full of caring and a continuous attempt to fan the spark of devotional service he saw within us. On our side it was fostered by a deep feeling of Prabhupada's concern for our spiritual advancement and well-being. We were full of excitement—how to serve him, how to please him, how to surrender more fully to him and so taste a tiny bit of the Krsna consciousness he was relishing at every moment.
I dearly wish that the little boy in the nursery and all the people behind the "you can't because" mentality in his mind could have seen Prabhupada as he asked my friend and Godsister Yamuna Prabhu to lead kirtana time and time again—at gatherings of his disciples, at the homes of life members, and at programs with literally tens of thousands in attendance. Prabhupada pressed Yamuna into leading even when she had a sore throat and wanted to avoid it. He even asked me to lead once, and I can't sing worth a farthing. (Afterwards he said, "Visakha Prabhu, you have sung very nicely.") But what we could or couldn't do wasn't really a consideration. As women with Prabhupada, we held within us the most treasured knowledge: that Prabhupada wanted us to succeed. He wanted us to go back home, back to the spiritual kingdom, and he wanted us to be perpetually enlivened, determined, and patient in our quest of this goal. By his guidance, by his smile, by his selfless love for us, he all but carried us along. What stigma can shackle persons so propelled?
Pages could be filled with stories of Prabhupada's gentlemanly dealings and sweet exchanges with us women. I can only bow my head at the feet of my Lords, Sri Sri Radha Krsna, and thank Them for allowing me to have a little of Srila Prabhupada's association in this life. For without that, I couldn't understand what it means to be an aspiring woman devotee in an international society of aspiring devotees.
Visakha Devi Dasi received an Associate in Applied Science degree, with honors, from Rochester Institute of Technology in 1970. In 1971 she became a disciple of Srila Prabhupada and has served him since then through her writing, photography, and filmmaking. She is now working on a line of Krsna conscious greeting cards. She lives with her husband and daughter near the Hare Krsna temple in Alachua, in northern Florida.
"Where Are Your
by Manasa Ganga Devi Dasi
The first preaching engagement I went to after being initiated was an experience I will always remember. In the fall of 1988, I and several other devotees, armed with karatalas, mantra cards, prasadam, and books, found our way to Temple University's branch campus in center city Philadelphia. Mostly adults filled the evening class on new religious movements. Except for one unfriendly student (a voice for impersonalism), the class responded well to the talk given by Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu. The students asked thoughtful, penetrating questions. Even after 2 hours, hands were still in the air.
I was thoroughly enjoying the lively, fast-moving dialogue, especially the philosophical deftness with which Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu defeated the one baiting antagonist. But then I was jolted from my track when a woman in the class abruptly turned to me and said, "I want to address this question to the only woman member of your organization present. I have the impression that the ISKCON church is male chauvinist. I have only seen men in the role of teacher. What is the role of women in your church? Do you have a function in teaching?"
I gulped, regretting I had not chosen a less conspicuous seat. The "women's issue" in ISKCON had caused many heated discussions among devotees, and for me it was still a touchy issue. I would have preferred to avoid the topic altogether, but now I was thrust on center stage with forty people awaiting an answer.
My heart accelerated as I quickly inventoried my scanty knowledge of Krsna consciousness, looking for an answer that would satisfy both the inquirer and me. After all, the student's assessment was to the point: women had not been encouraged to take up visible leadership in our movement. How was I going to explain why this was so?
My mind sped back over the years I had spent looking for the ideal philosophy that could wipe out the suffering and exploitation that millions of women face every day. I had evolved from a feminist perspective (seeing "men and patriarchal institutions" as the enemy), through Marxism-Leninism (seeing "the capitalists and their state" as the enemy), to finally finding Krsna consciousness (seeing "maya and my own impurities" as the enemy). My goal was to find a truly harmonious society in which all people, including women, could live with mutual care and respect and flourish to their fullest potential. I had recently concluded that such a society could only be one in which we give up self-centeredness and make Krsna the center of our lives.
As I gathered myself to speak, I was struck by the irony of the moment. Even though I felt, after years of searching, that I had found my home in ISKCON, I still felt the prejudices toward women that had initiated my search for truth years earlier. But now, instead of me seeing men as the enemy, they saw me as the enemy, as "Maya Devi," or illusion personified.
To be viewed as an embodiment of sin in the eyes of some male devotees would not have been so bad if it stopped there. But because I was seen as a temptress first and a devotee second, I was subtly or overtly denied or discouraged from a host of spiritual activities that I understood to be given to me by Srila Prabhupada. A frustrating dichotomy presented itself. On one hand, I was welcomed to clean, cook, and make flower garlands, services I enjoyed. But on the other hand I was told that because I am a woman I would disturb the minds of men (that is, sexually agitate them) if in their presence I chanted japa in the temple room, led kirtana, stood up near the Deities during arati, offered puja to Srila Prabhupada, gave Srimad-Bhagavatam class, was involved in higher levels of management, and so on. This dichotomy made me feel excluded, and a little schizoid, because I wanted to excel in all activities, not just those stereotypically designated as female.
ISKCON is supposed to be a house in which the whole world can live, so there must be room for all of me, not just the part that fits the female stereotype. Srila Prabhupada taught that Lord Caitanya rejected the bodily-based caste system and affirmed spiritual enfranchisement for everyone. Enfranchisement is the heart and soul of Lord Caitanya's sankirtana movement; it is why Srila Prabhupada came to the West. Srila Prabhupada confirms that anyone can be a Vaisnava:
Sometimes persons criticize the Krsna consciousness movement because it engages equally both boys and girls in distributing love of Godhead.... But these rascals should consider that one cannot suddenly change a community's social customs.... These jealous fools who criticize the intermingling of boys and girls will simply have to be satisfied with their own foolishness because they cannot think of how to spread Krsna consciousness by adopting ways and means which are favorable for this purpose. Their stereotyped methods will never help spread Krsna consciousness. (Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, 7.32)
If Srila Prabhupada accepts women and men equally, then how do I get enfranchised and get all of me into Lord Caitanya's sankirtana movement?
Unfortunately, two years ago I didn't know how to answer that question. I acknowledged that in principle there is no service from which a woman is barred but in practice we are actually discouraged in some ways. But I felt that my answer was incomplete.
As the bell rang to end the class, I departed with the other devotees fortified with a new resolve: for the sake of preaching, I would learn to answer her question. As I continue to struggle, two years later, to follow the process Srila Prabhupada gave us, that answer is becoming clearer to me:
"Yes," I would now tell her, "there are men in ISKCON who are chauvinist in their behavior, and that's a problem that needs to be addressed, but that doesn't mean that the ISKCON church is male chauvinist. Srila Prabhupada, as a pure devotee, was above the dualities of male and female. So in that sense his teachings are radical. He brought us the gift of the Vedas, which teach that the purpose of human life is to realize that we are not these bodies but spirit souls meant for serving Krsna. The Vedas teach us how to achieve this goal and become free from sex life, which is the cause of death.
"To rise above the duality of male and female, we have to understand that the mind of the conditioned soul is perverse, because it is infused with the modes of material nature. The mind looks for so many ways to be the enjoyer, both grossly and subtly. It can even trick us into wanting to become spiritually advanced so it can enjoy having fame, respect, mystic potency, lots of followers, and so on. The conditioned mind leeches onto anything that will make it feel superior to others.
"In ISKCON, some men find mental satisfaction in thinking themselves superior to women. Well, where does this sense of superiority come from? Is Krsna speaking to us from within through the Supersoul, or is our mind subtly influenced by lust, greed, and anger because the false ego in us wants to feel important?
"To honestly determine the origin of our thoughts and feelings, we have to go to guru and sastra and carefully study what they say. A description of how our minds are conditioned is given in chapter fourteen of Bhagavad-gita, called 'The Three Modes of Material Nature.' There Krsna speaks in detail about the categories He devised for running material nature: passion, goodness, and ignorance. They fit, respectively, with the basic cycle of nature: creation, maintenance, and destruction.
"When a soul takes on a material body, he is forced to act according to one or more of these three modes. And these modes act in all sorts of complicated ways.
"The modes of nature affect everything, including human psychology. In the mode of passion, the mind jumps here and there, unable to sit still. This agitated mind, restless, active, and wanting to create, finds ultimate expression in the sex act.
"In the mode of goodness, where things are maintained, one is calm, peaceful, and reflective. Knowledge and the ability to see things as they are is possible only in this mode. It is the steppingstone to spiritual awareness.
"In the mode of ignorance, one doesn't care about anything. The mind is neither active nor reflective. It is inert. This is the state reached through intoxicants.
"By studying this chapter in Bhagavad-gita we can learn to recognize these modes in ourselves and understand how they affect us. If a man acts to assert his superiority over women, he clearly is under the influence of the modes.
"In the mode of goodness, a person, through detachment, cultivates knowledge, which brings a sense of charitable superiority over those less knowledgeable. But in passion a person aggressively jockeys for some kind of position or control over others. And in ignorance one may be angry and violent.
"From this one could deduce that a male devotee who doesn't want to hear a qualified woman give class, lead kirtana, and so on, protesting that his mind becomes agitated, is affected by the mode of passion.
"But chauvinism—the desire to feel superior to others (racially, sexually, or however)—is antithetical to spiritual life. Not only does a transcendental person see all living entities as equal parts and parcels of Krsna, but because of humility he sees all other devotees as better servants of Krsna than himself.
"With this understanding of what makes some male devotees discriminate against women, I am better able to look at myself, for I face a similar struggle: to learn to control my mind and rise above the duality of seeing men as the ones excluding me from devotional service. I must look at the source of my anger and dissatisfaction, because ultimately no one who wants to get out of this material world is unfairly denied access to the means of getting out. As soon as we sincerely desire to get out of this material world, Krsna makes every possible arrangement, and no one and nothing can stand in Krsna's way, not even the male false ego. The facility for devotional service may not always come in the form we expect, but it will be there. That Krsna guarantees.
"Naturally, tests will come, and those tests are tailor-made with uncanny precision to goad the false ego. For me, learning to avoid becoming entangled in others' false egos has been the greatest challenge I have had to face. But I believe that with Lord Caitanya's mercy it is possible to meet that challenge.
"The storehouse of knowledge that Lord Caitanya has so mercifully unlocked for us is there ever ready for plundering. By distributing the holy name to the millions of lost souls, Krsna helps us transcend the dualities of male and female caused by the modes of material nature. And if we take His mission to heart, university students will soon no longer be asking, 'Where are your women teachers?'"
Manasa Ganga Devi Dasi lives in the Philadelphia ISKCON community. She is a disciple of Ravindra Svarupa Dasa and serves as his secretary. Prior to becoming a devotee, in 1986, she received her B.A. in English from the University of North Carolina, spent six years as a community organizer in New York City, and completed a premedical curriculum at West Chester University.
by Yadurani Devi Dasi
OBVIOUSLY, HAVING THE BODY of a man or a woman is not a qualification or disqualification for spiritual activities. Srila Prabhupada wanted his women disciples to be as qualified as the men in teaching Krsna consciousness, and women should be offered full facilities for practicing Krsna consciousness and teaching it to others. This shouldn't even be a question of controversy.
But if there is some problem or apparent problem about the role of devotee women, women don't have to be worried. We can use all situations to our advantage in becoming pure devotees.
To give an example: When we go out to distribute books, some people take a book and some don't. We don't run after the ones who don't. We don't become discouraged by the no's. Instead, we concentrate on the yes's and pray to Krsna to help us be more Krsna conscious and present things better so that the no's, if He desires, will in time turn into yes's.
In the same way, if some devotee men don't want to hear us, we can go to other groups and speak to them about Krsna and train them through Srila Prabhupada's books.
We can offer our services anywhere, but who accepts our offer is up to Krsna.
The men in the temple are already hearing classes, chanting Hare Krsna, and making advancement. But other people may not be. So we can distribute books all over the world. We can preach on street corners, on television, in school auditoriums. We can invite people to the temple and speak about Krsna to them. If we have a house or apartment we can talk about Krsna to our family and neighbors. We can hold festivals and distribute books and prasadam.
If spreading Krsna consciousness is the real point, we can do it anywhere.
Krsna will recognize us. And when Krsna wants us to give a class in the temple or do other such things, He will arrange it.
We don't need to depend on any facility or position. Nor will such things guarantee our happiness or advancement in Krsna consciousness. Many devotees in the past had all sorts of facilities, but because of their own desires they left the movement, and now they have no spiritual power to speak about Krsna at all, or even to chant Hare Krsna. On the other hand, Haridasa Thakura was kept out of the Jagannatha temple, but that didn't stop him from becoming the greatest preacher of the holy name. Even Maya herself was defeated by him and became his disciple.
Sometimes we use apparent "issues" as an excuse to be angry or resentful or as an excuse not to spread Krsna consciousness. When we come up against our own limits or shortcomings, we surrender to the "they" philosophy:
They don't encourage me enough.
They don't engage me in big enough programs.
They don't accept my suggestions.
In our modern materialistic society, we're trained from childhood to blame others for our troubles. Men blame women, women blame men, managers blame workers, workers blame managers.
But we are the architects of our own fortune.
About four years ago, I complained to a friend that certain devotees were causing me misery. So she answered that I myself was the cause.
"All right," I said, "I can understand that I may have been instrumental. But can't I say that those other devotees were the cause of my suffering?"
But she insisted that I was the cause.
This was hard to believe. But I wanted to believe her, because my own way of thinking wasn't making me happy or Krsna conscious. And then I remembered a verse in Bhagavad-gita (13.21) that confirmed her statements. Purusah sukha-duhkhanam bhoktrtve hetur ucyate: every living being causes his own happiness and distress.
The benefit of understanding that we are the cause of our own problems is that we can then take responsibility for the solutions.
We cause our own problems by our "overlording mentality," the mentality of trying to control everything. We forget that Krsna is supreme. So as a father sometimes puts a bad child in a reform school to get him to become good, Krsna spins us around like a merry-go-round just to bring us to our senses.
"Well," you may say, "that's just philosophy, but then there's real life. The philosophy is general, but we're dealing with specific issues."
But that would be to lose sight of the real issue.
If we go through any difficulty because of "women's issues," it is Krsna who is putting us into difficulty, and by knowing this we can serve Him without resentment.
Sometimes it looks as if Krsna, for no apparent reason, is withholding—withholding facility, position, profit, respect, knowledge, health, the results of our work, or whatever. But Krsna does it because He knows what we need to become purified.
Srila Prabhupada once said that if a devotee has an enemy—or thinks he has an enemy—the devotee thinks, "I am trying to become Krsna conscious. Why should this person be my enemy? Oh, I know: I have some impurity, and Krsna is trying to rectify me."
At every moment, the choice is ours: We can think dull, mundane thoughts or brilliant thoughts of Krsna's pastimes and ideas for spreading Krsna consciousness. We can pray in helplessness to develop all the devotional qualities and be used as transparent instruments for Krsna's will. No one can check us.
When we chant sixteen rounds of the Hare Krsna mantra on our beads, that comes to 28,000 names. So each day we have at least 28,000 opportunities to become pure devotees.
It's up to us individually how we identify ourselves. In 1966, while reading Srila Prabhupada's books, I once misunderstood he was saying that women couldn't make as much advancement as men. I was disturbed, so I told Srila Prabhupada. And his response was "If you think you are a girl, how can you make any advancement?"
According to the law of karma, the past makes the present, and the present makes the future. At present we are suffering because of our desires to lord it over material nature.
Who knows? A man who mistreated women in his last life may come back in this life as a mistreated woman. And—who knows?—maybe when I needlessly complain, I may be mistreating someone else.
If we act in Krsna consciousness at present, our future will be Krsna conscious.
Yadurani Devi Dasi is one of Srila Prabhupada's first disciples. For more than twenty years she has painted illustrations for Srila Prabhupada's books. She is also one of ISKCON's leading book distributors and one of the few women who regularly give classes in ISKCON temples. She lives in New York, working on Krsna conscious picture books and illustrative comics in graphic novel style. Her husband took sannyasa in 1972.
Srila Prabhupada trains one of his first disciples in painting the spiritual world.
By Yadurani Devi Dasi
WHEN SRILA PRABHUPADA ASKED devotee named Ranacora in 1966 what he thought my natural skill was, Ranacora said I was an artist. But I was no artist. I had just dropped studying fine art during my sophomore year at City College in Harlem. My last term at college had culminated with an art show where all the students were able to display their best works of art. I went to see the show with a friend. When he asked me which painting was mine, I pretended to be humble.
"Just look for the worst painting in the show," I told him. He picked my painting.
But somehow Srila Prabhupada was able to engage me in painting the spiritual world. Many times my pictures were crude and even disproportionately painted, but Prabhupada accepted them. "These pictures," he would say, "are windows to the spiritual sky."
I commuted every morning from the Bronx to Prabhupada's 26 Second Avenue temple to paint, take prasadam, and hear Srila Prabhupada's class with the other devotees. I would sit on the floor of the temple room and paint, surrounded by the canvas, the photo I was working from, newspapers on the floor, and my paints, palette, brushes, and turpentine.
Srila Prabhupada had given me a print of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His dancing party in Navadvipa, India. So I started a painting, copying from the print.
When I was halfway through this painting, Prabhupada asked me if I'd like to move my paraphernalia into a room in his quarters, in the building behind the storefront temple. I asked Srila Prabhupada if the paint and turpentine fumes would annoy him, but he assured me I would be welcome. So I moved all my things up into his quarters, where I was given my own space in his altar room.
The painting of Lord Caitanya's dancing party was developing nicely, I thought. Prabhupada asked me to paint the Hare Krsna maha-mantra at the bottom of the canvas, at the feet of the dancing party. I continued to work and in a few days was ready to paint the mantra under the Lord's dancing feet. Prabhupada watched me through the glassless window from inside his own room, where he saw guests and devotees, translated his books, and rested.
He then asked me not to paint the mantra under Lord Caitanya's feet. When I asked him why he'd changed his mind, he said, "Lord Caitanya's feet should not be above the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, even though Lord Caitanya is Krsna Himself. Because Caitanya Mahaprabhu was playing the part of a devotee, it's not proper etiquette to have the holy name of Krsna under the feet of Lord Caitanya."
Although I felt that the painting was now nearly perfect, the hands and feet were grossly out of proportion. But Prabhupada accepted the painting. He had a spiritual vision beyond my comprehension. He looked at the painting and said to all the devotees present, "Krsna has sent," meaning that Krsna Himself had arranged for me to come to the temple to paint for him.
After I finished the painting, Prabhupada gave me a print of the Panca-tattva, also brought from India. In this print, Lord Caitanya's principal associates (Sri Nityananda, Sri Advaita, Sri Gadadhara, and Sri Srivasa) stood in two descending columns below the Lord, who took the top center position. Behind them was a green background, and above Lord Caitanya's head were Radha and Krsna standing in an om sign.
I was painting all the figures, and I thought they looked pretty good. The only problem was Lord Caitanya's hair. The hair style shown on the second print differed from the hair style shown on the print of the dancing party I had just completed.
In this new picture Lord Caitanya's hair was pulled back into a topknot, with loose hair descending to His shoulders in the back. The other painting showed His hair parted in the middle and cascading to His shoulders. I asked Prabhupada which style I should use. He said to use the style with the topknot.
The painting was almost done; there were only a few details to be added. Prabhupada then told me that under each of the five persons of the Panca-tattva I should paint that person's name. Prabhupada wanted to give as much information to the viewer as possible.
Prabhupada also told me to paint an armlet around Lord Caitanya's right forearm. He said that Lord Caitanya had received this armlet from His mother on His birthday to ward off all ill luck.
Being previously practiced in New York hippiedom, I was using the dungarees I wore as a paint rag. I also smudged the frame and the glass covering the print with my paint-splattered fingers. Prabhupada saw the smudge marks and fingerprints on the frame and asked me to clean them off. The picture was nondifferent from Lord Caitanya and His associates themselves, so I should keep it as clean as possible.
When the painting was done, I went to the hardware store across the street on Second Avenue, bought some one-inch plywood boards, nailed together a frame, and painted it. Gargamuni put the framed picture on the side altar in the temple, which was previously a junked table the devotees had found on the street. One of the devotees had put a cloth over the table and started using it as the side altar.
When Prabhupada saw the large painting on the altar instead of hung on the wall, he asked that it be properly hung. He strongly repeated this request for three days, and then finally Gargamuni hung the painting nicely.
That evening, Prabhupada saw the painting on the wall and commented on it during his lecture. "Now Lord Caitanya is here. Now there should be no more nonsense in the temple. God is here, His expansion, His incarnation, His spiritual energy, and His marginal energy. Everything is here except His material energy. There is nothing material about this painting. And even if you think that it is only color, color is another of God's energies, and therefore it is also spiritual. If anyone chants Hare Krsna and dances in front of this painting, he can become fully Krsna conscious."
On the Editorial Policy of Back to Godhead
In the snowy December of 1969, in a little house in the suburbs of Boston, Srila Prabhupada met with the disciples he had chosen to be the first editors of his Back to Godhead magazine. What should the magazine be about? Here are some of the instructions he gave.
THE KRSNA CONSCIOUSNESS MOVEMENT is composed of four different stages. The first stage is to understand one's relationship with the Godhead, or Krsna. Because at the present moment the conditioned souls have forgotten themselves, they have forgotten their relationship with Krsna. Actually, the relationship is there eternally, but under the influence of maya everyone is thinking, "I'm something of this material world" and identifying himself with his body. So we have to awaken them from that illusory existence, [in which they identify with that] which they are not.
This identification with the body is the whole mistake of the modern status of life. I don't say "of modern civilization," because this mistake is coming up since the creation of this material world. Sometimes it is in greater degree and sometimes in lesser degree. In Satya-yuga [the Age of Goodness] the same condition was present, but in lesser degree. But in Kali-yuga [the present Age of Quarrel] the condition is in greater degree.
So the first business is to awaken the conditioned souls from their illusory position, in which they're thinking, "I am this body, and everything in relationship with this body is very important." (Janasya moho 'yam aham mameti.)
This idea is illusion: "I am this body, and anything in relation with this body is mine." I have a special relationship with a certain woman, so I think, "She is my wife; I cannot do without her." Or another woman, from whom I have taken birth: "She is my mother." Similarly, my father, my sons. In this way I think of country, society, at the most humanity. But all these things are illusion because they are based on bodily relationships. Yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke ... sa eva go-kharah: those who are living according to this illusory condition of life—they are compared to the cows and asses.
So our first business is to wake up the general mass of people from this illusory condition of life. Back to Godhead is especially meant for that purpose. We are pushing forward Back to Godhead so that people can come to the first status of enlightenment.
Then there will be those who are more enlightened, who are coming forward. "Swamiji," they may say, "please make me a member of your society. Please initiate me."
When one comes forward, understanding his position, he is in the second stage—training in how to awaken one's dormant love of God. That is another stage—training.
Then, when one actually has love of Godhead, he can understand the higher status of loving exchanges between Radha and Krsna and the residents of Vrndavana. This is the third stage. And the fourth stage is the paramahamsa stage, when one is always enjoying. Premanjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena santah sadaiva hrdayesu vilokayanti: when one is completely merged in the ocean of love of Godhead, he'll relish in any condition of life, because Krsna is present. "Krsna is present" means that Krsna's name is present, His form is present, His lila are present, His paraphernalia are present—everything is present. Krsna is not alone. We are not impersonalists. As soon as we say "Krsna," that means Krsna is there with His name, fame, opulence, entourage, pastimes, and so on.
So Back to Godhead generally deals with the first two stages of understanding: to awaken the relationship and to train people.
Of course, our aim is to come to the highest platform of loving exchange, but generally our propaganda should be how to convince people by reasoning, by philosophy, by science, and by argument that they're in an illusory state.
These politicians, these scientists, these philosophers—they have no advanced knowledge. Their ultimate goal is reached if they can do some humanitarian work, some welfare work. V—, A—[here Srila Prabhupada mentions some well-known Indian spiritual leaders] and so many others are doing this welfare work. And the yogis—they are trying to be self-satisfied by meditation.
But nobody is concerned with God, or Krsna. Nobody is concerned. This is the position of the world.
So under the circumstances our first business is to awaken people from this illusory condition. They are thinking that "I am this body," and that the greatest well-being is taking care of that body or bodily relationships. So we have to take them out of that illusory condition. That should be the editorial policy of our Back to Godhead.
And as far as the editors are concerned, they are supposed to know all these conclusions.
It is a very important thing, Back to Godhead. If our movement is going to be recognized as a scientific God conscious movement, then this magazine will be referred to as authorized scripture. Therefore, we have to prepare it in an authorized way. Nothing nonconclusive can be introduced in Back to Godhead. That should be our policy.
IN THE DIFFICULT TIMES after Srila Prabhupada departed this world, misunderstandings arose on a crucial issue: Who would be the next spiritual master?
Srila Prabhupada had clearly taught that he wanted all his disciples to follow his teachings, teach them to others, and thus become spiritual masters.
But by the influence of maya, illusion, a different idea soon evolved—that Srila Prabhupada had appointed eleven "pure devotees" to serve as the only gurus after him. These eleven, the idea went, should each serve as the spiritual master for a specific geographical "zone" of the world.
This zonal guru system, as it came to be called, prevailed in ISKCON for about ten years, until its falseness became clear and an ever-growing reform movement overthrew it and reasserted Srila Prabhupada's original instructions. In 1986, ISKCON's Governing Body Commission formally dismantled the system.
In the years till then, Back to Godhead sometimes reflected and supported the erroneous zonal guru system.
Here, therefore, we wish to admit this mistake. Satsvarupa dasa Goswami, editor in chief during those years, joins with me in apologizing to our readers for BTG's conformity to the "zonal guru" error. In particular, we express our heartfelt apologies for contributing to the hurts and wrongs devotees endured when ISKCON diverged from Srila Prabhupada's instructions.
May Lord Krsna henceforward keep us straight on the path of Krsna consciousness, as Srila Prabhupada taught it.
CALENDARS HAVE OFTEN been a topic of perplexity, sometimes a matter of debate, or even a cause for pitched battles. What is the correct day on which to celebrate Easter? In the second century this question formed a dividing line between disputing factions of the Christian Church.
ISKCON has till now taken its calendar from a Vaisnava almanac published in Mayapur, West Bengal. Devotees simply translated the calendar from Bengali into English and used it.
But this past year ISKCON's Governing Body, at its annual meeting, decided that ISKCON should follow a new standard, more precisely in tune with the Vedic standard.
The Vedic calendar is lunar. That is, it uses as its main unit a month that lasts one full cycle of the phases of the moon—from new moon to new moon, or from full moon to full moon.
The lunar phases influence various aspects of our world, including ocean tides, plant growth, and human physiological and psychological changes. The cycle of lunar phases takes 29.5 days.
In contrast, a solar month lasts 30.4 days (the time it takes the sun to travel through one sign of the zodiac). Modern months, of course, don't directly correlate with any astronomical events but are merely arbitrary groups of days.
The Lunar Month
In the calendar used by the Hare Krsna devotees, the month begins the day after the moon becomes full. As the moon wanes, the days of the month are numbered "first," "second," "third," and so on, until the fifteenth day, when the moon is completely dark. This is the day of the new moon. These fifteen days of the waning moon are called the "dark fortnight."
Now the moon starts waxing, and again, as the moon grows, the days are numbered "first," "second," "third," and so on. On the fifteenth day the moon is full again. These fifteen days of the waxing moon are called the "bright fortnight." The full moon marks the end of the month.
The eleventh day after the full moon and the eleventh day after the new moon are called Ekadasi. Hare Krsna devotees observe these as special days for increased remembrance of Krsna.
The Lunar Year
Twelve lunar months make a lunar year. Since a lunar month lasts 29.5 days, a lunar year lasts 12 times that long, or 354 days.
But the solar year (the time it takes for the sun to complete one full orbit) lasts 11 days longer—roughly 365.25 days. So by the solar calendar (like the ordinary one found in a date book), the lunar year will begin 11 days earlier every year.
The seasons change in pace with the movements of the sun. The lunar calendar, therefore, is out of synch with the changing of the seasons.
To synchronize the lunar and solar years, the Vedic system therefore adds an extra month about every third year. This keeps the calendar and seasons in tune.
When the various tithis, or days of observance, occur depends partly on how the moon's movements mesh with the rising and setting of the sun.
Since the time of sunrise varies from place to place on earth, so should the days on which various observances fall.
The ISKCON Calendar Till Now
ISKCON devotees all over the world have followed a calendar published by a society of devotees in Mayapur, West Bengal. This has made for simplicity—if Krsna's birthday, for example, fell on August 13, devotees worldwide would observe it on that date.
But this has not made for precision. The calendar for Mayapur takes into account what is seen in the sky from Mayapur. But what happens in the sky in other parts of the world is different. So outside the Mayapur area the Mayapur calendar is out of phase with observed astronomical reality.
The New ISKCON Calendar
This year, therefore, ISKCON's governing body decided on a new standard.
The local ISKCON centers, they said, should mark festival days by what's going on in the heavens, not by the dates on the civil calendar.
So in choosing between simplicity and precision, the GBC opted for precision.
Figuring It Out
A calendar is easy to read but tough to figure out. In old days, sages used to do it with lengthy and mysterious calculations.
Now ISKCON uses a computer, specifically an IBM 386 clone in Sweden. Devotees did extensive research in India on what goes into making a calendar, then wrote the software. The program writes a separate calendar for every ISKCON center in the world. Even for Mayapura, the calendar is more accurate than the one published in West Bengal.
What to Do with All This?
If you'd like to observe the various Hare Krsna festivals, you can get a copy of the local calendar from the Hare Krsna center nearest you.
If there's no center reasonably close but you want to follow the festival dates precisely, you can write to ISKCON's calendar department in Sweden and have a calendar especially calculated for you.
Send the name of the town and the year for which you want the calendar calculated, along with US$8.00 (make the check out to "Magnus Anderson"), to:
Alternatively, in Back to Godhead we publish the festival dates the computer has figured out for Mayapur. So you can simply follow the Mayapur calendar, as Srila Prabhupada did when he was with us.
This is ISKCON's first year with its new calendar. In the long run, let's see whether precision or simplicity prevails.
In every issue of Back to Godhead we'll tell of upcoming festivals, with a few words of explanation. And in this issue, we publish the main festivals for January and February.
THE BACK TO GODHEAD Bad Press Award honors journalism that is not merely unfavorable to the Hare Krsna movement but also biased, sloppy, misleading, irresponsible, foolish, or several or all of these.
Many journalists turn out stuff that amply qualifies. But for this, our first award, we have chosen a piece especially deserving of recognition for showing how third-rate journalism and third-rate psychiatry can work hand in hand.
The piece to which we refer was written by Lori Cidylo and published on the front page of The Psychiatric Times, "The Newspaper of American Psychiatry." The paper, meant for the continuing education of mental-health professionals, is blessed by the presence of twenty-two psychiatrists (and one lawyer) on its editorial board.
The headline said, "Destructive Cultism Gained Momentum Over Last Decade."
"Destructive cultism," of course, is not a clinical term but a buzzword used by groups opposed to what sociologists call, for lack of a better label, "new religious movements." And have those movements gained momentum? The headline says so, but the article gives no information by which to measure the supposed gain.
But let us continue.
The author begins with the obligatory gruesome reference to Jonestown—a standard journalistic ritual. She then proceeds to tar with the same brush some 3,000 alleged "cults," lumping among them, of course, Hare Krsna.
"Many mental health professionals who are experts on cultism agree" about the evils of these groups, Ms. Cidylo writes. The language is typical. "Many mental-health professionals." How many? Five hundred? One hundred? Fifteen?
And what makes one an "expert on cultism"? Does the psychiatric profession now recognize "cultism" as a field of medical expertise? Do medical schools offer courses and doctorates in "cultic studies"?
Here's an expert for you. Ms. Cidylo trots out Dr. Margaret Singer, a professor in the department of psychology at the University of California. Dr. Singer was the star witness who testified in ISKCON vs. George to support charges that mantras and austerity make for "mind control" and that Krsna consciousness is "brainwashing." (See page 23.) In more recent cases, at least two federal courts have held Dr. Singer's testimony inadmissible for failure to show scientific acceptance. ** (1. As we go to press, we learn of still another court that has turned thumbs down on Dr. Singer's expertise. Dr. Singer and some colleagues, the court noted, had submitted a report on "coercive persuasion" to the American Psychological Association. But the APA had rejected it because it "lacked scientific merit" and "the studies supporting its findings lacked methodological rigor.")
"Many mental health professionals agree," Ms. Cidylo writes. And what about the many (indeed, the majority) who don't agree? In this kind of article, those silly fools will not be heard from.
But read on, and you'll find alarming statistics from "several studies" and "random surveys," with no word on who conducted the research, where it was published, what groups were studied, what methods and criteria used. Even in a publication for professionals, footnotes, it seems, are out of style. We're just supposed to read and accept.
Ms. Cidylo treats us to the usual recitation of horror stories, with the slant, all along, that whatever is true of one group can be generalized to 3,000 others: a cult is a cult is a cult.
Cast in enough jargon—"passive-dependent personality," "ego authority," "dissociative disorder"—and it all seems to make sense.
For those familiar with such self-styled "anti-cult" groups as the Citizens Freedom Foundation and the American Family Foundation (notice the Orwellian names), this is all old news. The horror stories, the "experts," the jargon—it's standard "anti-cult" party line.
Closely looked at, ** (2. See, for example, Anthony, "Religious Movements and Brainwashing Litigation: Evaluating Key Testimony," in In Gods We Trust: New Patterns of Religious Pluralism in America (T. Robbins & D. Anthony, eds., 2nd ed., 1990).) the thinking of party line experts like Margaret Singer appears hopelessly muddy. But mud is good stuff for slinging.
And for readers of The Psychiatric Times, this mud offers another benefit: play with it for an hour, and you'll gain a certified share in the expertise.
The article, you see, has a coupon that goes with it, asking four questions (one multiple choice and three "true or false").
Together, the article and the coupon form a "learning module" that earns you one hour of "Category 1 Credit" in continuing medical education. (As a physician, you need some twenty-five units of that credit every year to keep your license.)
So tick your answers, send in the coupon, and "Gain FREE Category 1 Credit in The Psychiatric Times." (Yes, that all-caps FREE is theirs.)
But The Psychiatric Times too deserves credit—for the quality of its journalism. So, apart from the coupons, we're mailing the Editor of The Psychiatric Times a certificate, suitable for framing, honoring the Times as the first distinguished recipient of the Back to Godhead Bad Press Award. We're sure this prestigious award is well deserved.