History and the Machinery of War
AMERICA AND HER ALLIES have plunged into war with Iraq. As you read these words, the war may well be over, and the land of the Tigris and Euphrates, the ancient "cradle of civilization," may by now be a bombed-out graveyard.
In the newspapers, words blow around like sand in a Middle Eastern desert. Saddam Hussein is "a madman," America "can't tolerate aggression," the "international com-munity" demands that "the sovereignty of Kuwait" be restored.
Meanwhile—more sand—Iraq calls for "peace, stability, and security in the region" and vows that its en-emies will "swim in their own blood."
Beneath all the sand, of course, lies oil. The machinery of progress runs on it, billionaires swim in it, and leaders of nations are ready to fight for it, like dogs fighting over territory, bitches, and bones.
For that precious oil of progress, armies growl and bite, at once both aggressive and helpless, locked into their maneuvers by another kind of machinery, subtle, unseen, its wheels and gears turning to the vast and exquisite movements of time.
Whirring and humming, that machinery works everywhere, shuttling living beings from one lifetime to the next, weaving them in and out of history.
Someone becomes a Hussein, someone a Bush, someone a name on a dog tag. And each with a body destined, war or no war, for a slot at the end as a corpse.
And then a new body, a new name. More sand, more history.
This is the history of forgetfulness, a story stretching back to before there was America, before Kuwait and Iraq, before Mesopotamia. Before sand, before oil. It is the history of forgetfulness of Krsna.
It's the history of tiny sparks of Krsna, servants of Krsna, who forget that they are servants and crave to be masters. And soon we find them in the headlines, struggling for mastery over land and oil.
Yet the land and oil belong to Krsna, so the would-be masters can only be master thieves, bickering over how to divide fairly the lands they have stolen to exploit and enjoy. The true enjoyer is Krsna, and we will enjoy when we serve Krsna, using everything to give pleasure to Him.
For it is Krsna—not the politicians and dictators of this world—who is the true friend, the eternal friend, of all living beings. It is He who can free us from the cycle of birth and death.
The Bhagavad-gita says that when we know Krsna as the supreme owner, the supreme enjoyer, and the supreme friend of all, then we can have peace.
Otherwise, we can gear up our war machines. And the greater machinery of nature, whirring and humming away unseen, will have us blast one another to our next lifetimes with our own tools.
Accepting Srila Prabhupada
Can I accept Swami Prabhupada as my spiritual master even though I have not had the opportunity to meet with him in person because I was too young? Can I be accepted as a devotee of Swami Prabhupada through his teachings left in his books?
OUR REPLY: Srila Prabhupada lives on among us through his teachings. So by accepting these teachings we accept him as our spiritual master. Still, one essential teaching he gave us is that to become fully Krsna conscious one must accept initiation from a spiritual master still physically present in this world.
Therefore, to get the full benefit of Krsna consciousness, one should try to find a bona fide spiritual master in the disciplic succession and receive initiation from him.
The spiritual master initiates disciples during his physical presence, and after his departure his disciples initiate. In this way the disciplic succession continues. By becoming a disciple of Srila Prabhupada's disciple, one becomes linked with Srila Prabhupada and with the entire disciplic succession, all the way back to Lord Krsna Himself.
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Send Your Library Back to Godhead
I'd like to help put BTG in libraries, by Krsna's grace. Let me know what to do.
OUR REPLY: We are most eager for libraries to have subscriptions to BTG. You can visit your local library and suggest that the librarian subscribe. You may give a gift subscription to your library. Or you may like to sponsor subscriptions for several libraries.
You can sponsor library subscriptions at the special rate of $13.00. Just send us a list of the libraries you'd like the subscriptions to go to, or let us pick them for you. Send your payment and list to Arcita Dasa, c/o BTG, P.O. Box 90946, San Diego, CA 92169.
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Back to Godhead On Death Row
I write from Death Row. Here, what little one has is used to write, to prepare legal briefs, to stay in contact with a world spiraling away. BTG is to one such as I a luxury. If your resources allow you to provide a gratis subscription, I would truly appreciate it.
M. A. Jamal
OUR REPLY: Done.
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Who Is an Aryan?
One definition of Aryan is a spiritually advanced person. But does it also designate a particular race of humans? If not, then can a black or an oriental person be considered an Aryan?
OUR REPLY: According to the Sanskrit dictionary of Monier-Monier Williams, the word arya derives from the root word ar (aryanti), meaning "to praise." The Aryans, then, are the praiseworthy, honorable, respectable people, the people advanced in spiritual culture and understanding.
Historically, the land between the Himalayas and the Vindhya Hills was called Aryavarta because its people followed the principles of Aryan civili-zation. Sometimes the word Aryan is also used for the nations of Indo-European stock, who are said to have descended from the ancient king Yayati.
But the main meaning of Aryan, as you have mentioned, is "spiritually advanced." And spiritual advancement is open to anyone.
In particular, anyone can become advanced in spiritual knowledge and culture by chanting the holy name of the Lord. As stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.33.7):
aho bata sva-paco 'to gariyan
According to this verse, a person who always chants the holy name of the Lord is glorious, even if born in a degraded family of dog-eaters. Such a perSon is understood to have already performed all the Vedic austerities and sacrifices, bathed in all the sacred rivers, and studied all the Vedas. Such a person is factually an Aryan.
And, in contrast, if a person born in an exalted family gives up the principles of spiritual realization, he becomes a non-Aryan, as mentioned in Bhagavad-gita (anarya-justam asvargyam).
To be an Aryan, then, is not the exclusive privilege of a particular race. Anyone, from any race, any family, or any country of the world, can become an Aryan. The factual Aryans are those who always chant the holy name of the Lord.
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I find BTG completely transformed into an interesting and lively magazine which makes me want to be a devotee and encourages me to think more positively about ISKCON. I think your time has been well spent on revitalising it, and I congratulate you on a job well done.
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Stop Blaming ISKCON
I was taken aback not by the subject matter of "The Role of Women Today in ISKCON" [BTG January/February] but by the presentation. The sometimes defiant, sometimes defensive tone of the five women was what one would expect from a different publication.
BTG has always been Srila Prabhupada's tool for expressing the philosophy of Krishna consciousness. It was meant to awaken conditioned souls from the misidentification with their bodies and minds and educate them in spiritual thoughts and actions. Prabhupada wanted devotees to write about their realizations, yes, but with a grave and friendly attitude.
It is time to stop blaming ISKCON for our problems. It is the same as blaming Srila Prabhupada. "ISKCON is nondifferent from my body," Srila Prabhupada said.
We should grow up and take the responsibility for our own mistakes. Srila Prabhupada never told women to act like men. Nor did he tell them that their marriages should keep them from preaching. And he never told men that women cannot preach.
"There are no problems in Krishna consciousness," Srila Prabhupada said. "If there are problems, it is a creation of the mind."
Krishna consciousness is simple and joyful. If our own lives are less than joyful, then we have complicated the recipe somewhere.
Parvati Devi Dasi
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Special thanks go to Yadurani, whose article in the "Women in Krsna Consciousness" section was full of scriptural vision. Her article shone the most transcendental light on the "women's issue" and made me feel, "This person I could take shelter of." Instead of saying, "I am a female devotee," she wrote with the understanding "I am a spirit soul in a material body." Her advice gave the most practical instruction on how a woman can mold her thinking so as to return to the spiritual world as neither a man nor a woman but a servant of the Lord.
Vaijayanti Mala Dasi
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Shorter Than You Think
I would like to answer the letter written by the 16-year-old aspiring devotee having problems with wanting to live at the temple and not being of age [BTG January/February].
When I read your letter, I was surprised to hear how similar it was to mine about a year ago. I was 16 also.
I've had a very hard year, and now I'm at a boarding school. Yes, it's tough to wait to be of age, but you have to trust Krsna that He will take care of you no matter what. As I said before, I've had a difficult time this year. But I know that all I've been through and am going through is a part of His plan. Krsna has been merciful to me to allow me to still love Him, worship Him, and put my faith in Him.
Please don't run away to a temple while you're still under age. I'm sure you know about the ordeal with Robin George [BTG, January/February]. In the long run, you'll suffer and so will ISKCON. I've wanted to run away to a temple many times, but I don't want to impose any danger on the devotees.
And stay in school, no matter how hard it is. And it's very hard, I know. You've got two more years. It seems long, but it's shorter than you think.
Just keep chanting and reading Prabhupada's books every day. And maintain good, steady devotee association. That is very important.
I hope I have helped a little. You're not alone. Why don't you write to me and let's talk about Krsna.
OUR REPLY: Chant, chant, chant Hare Krsna!
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In 1981 I was fortunate to come across an issue of BTG which turned my face to the Supreme Lord Krsna. By "ajnata sukrti" [the merit of pious deeds unknowingly performed] and by the causeless mercy of Lord Krsna, I became the candidate to receive the unlimited mercy of Srila Prabhupada. Although I never had "darshana" [audience] of him,
just by associating with him in thoughts I can experience the ecstasies and blessings of his mercy. I very much wish that the same mercy of the pure devotee of Krsna be distributed all over in the form of BTG and other means. If I could be of any service in this, kindly let me know.
Dr. P. V. Patel
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Happiness Every Day
The BTG's are my reading every even-ing. Happiness is with me every day. I think it has to have something to do with chanting and thinking of Krsna as much as possible.
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Why Doesn't Krsna Come Now?
Whenever there's a decline of religion and a predominant rise of irreligion, Krishna comes down. So why doesn't He come now? His next incarnation is going to be in some 400,000 years, but by that time this world will be in big trouble. Why can't He come sooner?
OUR REPLY: Lord Krsna has come here now. In the present age, He comes in the form of His holy name. The Caitanya-caritamrta says, kali-kale nama-rupe krsna-avatara: "In Kali-yuga Lord Krsna descends in the form of His holy name." Only five hundred years ago, the Lord appeared as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to spread the movement of sankirtana, the chanting of the holy names of the Lord, as found in the maha-mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. So we can best take advantage of the Lord's presence by chanting these holy names.
Where does the search for knowledge lead
From the Teachings of His Divine Grace
Compiled by Drutakarma Dasa and Jayadvaita Swami
WHEN Sanatana Gosvami left his government post and came to Caitanya Mahaprabhu for the first time, he asked the Lord, 'What is education?' Although Sanatana Gosvami knew a number of languages, including Sanskrit, he still inquired about real education.
"'The general populace calls me highly educated,' Sanatana Gosvami told the Lord, 'and I am such a fool that I actually believe them.'
"The Lord replied, 'Why should you not think you're well educated? You're a great scholar in Sanskrit and Persian.'
"'That may be," Sanatana Gosvami said, 'but I know neither where I've come from nor where I'm going. People are calling me educated, and when they call me a great scholar. I am satisfied, but in truth I am such a great fool that I know not what I am.'
"Sanatana Gosvami was actually speaking for all of us, for this is our present situation. We may be proud of our academic education, but if asked what we are, we are not able to say." (RV, p.8).
In recounting this incident, Srila Prabhupada makes clear the defect he saw in modern education: it values mundane knowledge but offers hardly a clue to one's real identity.
"Everyone is under the conception that this body is the self, but we learn from Vedic sources that this is not so. Only after realizing that we are not these bodies can we enter into real knowledge and understand what we actually are. This, then, is the beginning of knowledge." (RV, p.8)
Srila Prabhupada further explains, "Above the senses is the mind, and above the mind is the intelligence, and above the intelligence is the soul. Thus the aim of real education should be self-realization, realization of the spiritual values of the soul. Any education that does not lead to such realization must be considered avidya, or nescience." (SI, p.9)
But today nescience prevails.
"Especially in the present age, every man is in darkness, in the bodily conception of life, not knowing anything of the spirit soul and its needs. Misguided by the blind leaders of society, people consider the body to be everything, and they are engaged in trying to keep the body materially comfortable. Such a civilization is condemned because it does not lead humanity toward knowing the real goal of life." (SB 7.6.4)
A Doggish Mentality
"If one does not ask, 'Who am I? What is the goal of my life?' but instead follows the same animal propensities as cats and dogs, what is the use of his education?
"As cats, dogs, and other animals, not knowing their true interest in life, become increasingly involved in ignorance, the so-called educated person who does not know his own self-interest or the true goal of life becomes increasingly involved in materialism." (SB 7.6.16)
"We see materialistic persons busily engaged in economic development all day and all night, trying to increase their material opulence, but even if we suppose that they get some benefit from such endeavors, that does not solve the real problem of their lives. Nor do they know what the real problem of life is." (SB 7.6.4)
The real problem, Srila Prabhupada teaches, is how to get free from the miseries of material existence. These miseries—principally birth, death, disease, and old age—come with the body but are foreign to the soul. The aim of life, then, should be to get free from these miseries and be restored to one's true spiritual nature.
But this is not what concerns our schools, colleges, and universities.
"Modern educators do not know the aim of human life; they are simply concerned with how to develop the eco-nomic condition of their countries or of human society." (CC 9.42)
"Modern university education practically prepares one to acquire a doggish mentality with which to accept the service of a greater master. After finishing a so-called education, the so-called educated persons move like dogs from door to door with applications for some service, and mostly they are driven away, informed of no vacancy. As dogs are negligible animals and serve the master faithfully for bits of bread, a man serves a master faithfully without sufficient rewards." (SB 2.3.19)
Where Is the Science Of the Spirit?
Srila Prabhupada contrasts this sort of training with the training offered by the Vedic culture.
"The Vedic civilization is based on spiritual education, and spiritual education is the special basis on which Bhagavad-gita was spoken to Arjuna. In the beginning of Bhagavad-gita, Krsna instructed Arjuna to understand that the spirit soul is different from the body.
dehino 'smin yatha dehe
'As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change' (Bg. 2.13). Unfortunately, this spiritual education is completely absent from modern human civilization. No one understands his real self-interest, which lies with the spirit soul, not with the material body." (9)
"There are so many departments of knowledge all over the world and many huge universities, but there is, unfortunately, no university or educational institution where the science of the spirit soul is instructed. Yet the soul is the most important part of the body; without the presence of the soul, the body has no value. Still people are placing great stress on the bodily necessities of life, not caring for the vital soul." (10)
This stress on the needs of the body, Srila Prabhupada teaches, is a sign of absence of true education.
"Education means spiritual education. To work hard in the bodily conception of life, without spiritual education, is to live like an animal ... ." (11)
And this sort of life, Srila Prabhupada teaches, is the most dangerous, because one risks transmigrating from one body to another, and even into lower species of life.
"Without spiritual education, people are kept in dark ignorance and do not know what will happen to them after the annihilation of the present body.
"They are working blindly, and blind leaders are directing them. Andha yathandhair upaniyamanas te 'pisa-tantryam uru-damni baddhah. A foolish person does not know that he is completely under the bondage of ma-terial nature and that after death ma-terial nature will impose upon him a certain type of body, which he will have to accept. He does not know that although in his present body he may be a very important man, he may next get the body of an animal or tree because of his ignorant activities in the modes of material nature." (12)
"Even influential professors and other educators say that as soon as the body is finished, everything is finished. This atheistic philosophy is killing human civilization." (13)
How so? Misled by such ignorance masked as knowledge, "people are irrespon-sibly performing all sorts of sinful activities, and thus the privilege of the human life is being taken away by the educational propaganda of the so-called leaders." (14)
"Actually the so-called teachers or leaders of material society do not really know the goal of life. They are described in Bhagavad-gita as mayayapahrta-jnana. That is, they appear to be very learned scholars, but the influence of the illusory energy has taken away their knowledge. Real knowledge means searching out Krsna." (15)
The Best Part of Education
When Srila Prabhupada speaks of Krsna, He refers to the Absolute Truth, the origin of everything, the Personality of Godhead.
Any education that does not lead one to understand Krsna, Srila Prabhupada says, is false education. "If Krsna consciousness is missing, one is simply engaged in false activities and false educational pursuits." (16)
"Everyone has dormant love for Krsna, and by culture and education that has to be awakened. That is the purpose of this Krsna consciousness movement.
"Once Lord Caitanya asked Ramananda Raya what the best part of education was. Ramananda Raya replied that the best part of education is advancement in Krsna consciousness." (17)
"If one simply becomes a teacher or professor," Srila Prabhupada writes, "but does not understand Krsna, his teaching is like the disturbing braying of an ass." (Cc. 13.29)
Srila Prabhupada concludes, "In all the schools, colleges, and universities, and at home, all children and youths should be taught to hear about the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In other words, they should be taught to hear the instructions of Bhagavad-gita, to put them into practice in their lives, and thus to become strong in devotional service, free from fear of being degraded to animal life." (SB 7.6.1)
Serving the Vaisnavas
By Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
LAST WEEK MARKED the grand opening of the second ISKCON temple in Trinidad. It's not a huge temple, but it has a high-ceilinged kirtana hall and separate rooms for men's and women's asramas. The neighbors come in the evenings for arati and lectures.
Last night I asked the temple president, Rajarsi Dasa, for a lecture topic suitable for the people of Trinidad. He said they like to hear about how forces such as the government mislead people and how to practice Krsna consciousness in the Age of Kali.
Taking that as a cue, I chose the verse that says that the Bhagavatam is "as brilliant as the sun." And I also spoke on the verse praising Vyasadeva for composing the "satvata-samhita," or book of knowledge about the Supreme Truth, to free people from miseries in the Age of Kali.
It's easy to speak here because the people know "Hindu" philosophy and expect to hear Sanskrit verses. They respect the Vedic line of teaching coming from Srila Prabhupada. So you can repeat the same examples Srila Prabhupada gave, and it doesn't bore them. For instance, last night a guest asked me, "Why is it that many people hear the Bhagavatam but don't find it relishable?" So I replied that they are licking the outside of the bottle of honey; they are unwilling to take the Bhagavatam's teachings to heart.
Today I asked Rajarsi for another topic for a Trinidad audience. He said that everyone respects the Bhagavad-gita but they hear so many misinterpretations, so I might speak on the actual conclusion of Bhagavad-gita. With this hint, I selected four popular misinterpretations and pointed out their shortcomings.
I may say that lecturing is easy, but the devotees here know how hard it is to persuade someone to become a serious practicing devotee. Trinidad is a land of frivolous sense enjoyment, even when the national economy is down. The highway billboards for Guinness Stout advertise "inner strength." Carnival and rum, pay cuts, tax climbs, hodgepodge Hinduism, calypso bacchanal—and hardly any-one is interested in Krsna.
Yet because of some remnants of Vedic culture, they come to our temple and hear respectfully.
Sunday morning, Rajarsi asked me to read selections of Srila Prabhupada from Preaching Is the Essence and comment on them. I have come to think that everything in Krsna consciousness is part of preaching. The distribution of books is the front line, but even private practices, even how a husband and wife get along together in Krsna consciousness, is part of the preaching mission.
People want to see whether the Krsna consciousness movement is sincere or hypocritical. So even the way we walk or dress or how we deal with merchants is preaching. No one need feel guilty that he or she is not preaching; everyone can take part in some way.
Prabhupada speaks of "an organized effort to turn the citizens into devotees of the Lord." So there must be deliberate work to give them books and invitations to practice Krsna consciousness. Initiated devotees also need to be sustained by sharing Krsna consciousness, encouraging one another. All this is preaching. If we keep spiritually alive, we're always preaching.
After I read from Preaching Is the Essence, one devotee told me how while out preaching he had been challenged. We devotees, someone had said, are not really compassionate; we only preach in hopes that we will get good karma.
I replied that the scriptures speak of devotees as para-duhkha-duhkhi, unhappy over the unhappiness of others. And even if a neophyte doesn't have compassion in his heart but preaches out of duty—to be blessed by his guru and Krsna—that is not wrong.
Another devotee asked, "Does a preacher's compassion have limits? How about when people are inimical?"
I said that great preachers such as Lord Jesus Christ and Lord Nityananda Prabhu had no limit to their compassion. They were ready to give their lives. On the other hand, it's natural to preach where preaching is favorable. We shouldn't needlessly preach the glories of the Lord to the faithless or inimical.
Another question: "How do we understand that within the spiritual master's order is the potency to carry it out?"
I said that this potency is something for the devotee to earn. For example, a geologist may say that within a certain area of earth, rubies are present. This doesn't mean that as soon as we scratch the ground we get gems. We have to work hard and dig. In spiritual life, as soon as you begin you benefit. But to fully realize the potency of the guru's order, we have to give our full surrender.
In the life of Srila Prabhupada we see this in perfection. When Srila Prabhupada was a young man, his spiritual master told him to become a preacher. Yet Prabhupada had to wait many years in household life. Then when he tried to spread Krsna consciousness, he went through many rejections. But Prabhupada writes, "Success or failure has no meaning for the pure devotee, who is like a soldier on the field." And in time success came to him in spreading Krsna consciousness worldwide.
The devotees liked when I stressed that preaching in Trinidad should be done especially by example. The island has only a few million people, so everyone knows what everyone else is up to. When people see a devotee they chant "Haribol." We have to act carefully so that they will become more and more confident that the devotees are sincere, peaceful, and realized in love of God. We have to beg for compassion to preach. Otherwise maya will close in on us.
On Sunday afternoon we drove to the other ISKCON temple in Trinidad. When I asked some of the devotees what they thought would be a fitting topic for the Sunday lecture, they suggested I advise the congregation not to be critical of devotees.
At first I was sorry I had asked for a suggestion. The topic sounded too pointed. If the temple devotees have some misunderstanding with their congregation, I thought, why not call an open meeting to discuss it?
But, party politics aside, the theme "don't criticize devotees" is important. Srila Prabhupada always defended his devotees from unfair criticisms. And if we are going to respect devotees, we should respect not just those in the temple but the guests also and anyone who renders any devotional service. In Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna praises "even a little advancement on this path."
Aside from special requests from temple presidents, a traveling preacher is asked to speak on a different Bhagavatam verse every day. You don't go around speaking your own thing. One day you may arrive at a temple where they're reading from the Second Canto about the universal form, and the next day, in another temple, they're talking about Krsna's rasa-lila. It's a challenge to be flexible and serve Krsna and the devotees as the situation demands.
Sometimes you're put on the spot by guests who want to debate their doubts about Krsna conscious philosophy, and sometimes the devotees also express doubts. The preacher himself is not always perfect or free from doubts. But when he faithfully represents the tradition and he answers as he has heard from his spiritual master and the scriptures, his own faith grows.
And so the traveling sannyasi has to serve wherever he goes, according to his realization. Simply by serving the Vaisnavas, the devotees, one is molded into a serviceable preacher.
Pishima, My Bengali "Aunt"
By Yamuna Devi
INDIA IS HOME to many unsung chefs. You find them in temple, household, and restaurant kitchens. They are unpublished, unpretentious, and uninterested in fame or fortune. Many work up to fifteen hours a day in the kitchen yet still find time for family and other obligations. One such person was Bhavatarini De, Srila Prabhupada's younger sister.
Before I met her in Calcutta, I learned of her through photographs and stories. During Srila Prabhupada's first visit to San Francisco in 1967, he received numerous air letters from India. A few of them, handwritten in Bengali and smelling faintly of mustard oil, came from his sister. As he sat in his rocking chair, he translated the letters into English, sometimes reflecting on his childhood pastimes with her. On more than one occasion, he spoke of her cooking abilities, though I had no inkling of her expertise. When a grainy black-and-white group photo arrived one day, she was easy to identify. Her face bore a striking resemblance to Srila Prabhupada's.
In 1972, I finally met her in Calcutta. She had come to visit her brother and eat lunch, and I was the cook. From her introduction as Pishima ("auntie" in Bengali), a festive atmosphere ensued, the Bengali conversation sprinkled with laughter. They ate their meal seated on the floor, the meal served on low tables called chonkis. As I brought in an array of Bengali courses, Srila Prabhupada and Pishima critiqued the dishes.
Interspersed in the Bengali conversation was amicable joking about everything from their childhood kite-flying to her then ample girth from too much of her own cuisine. (She insisted it was all water.) As she left, she assured me she would visit Vrndavana in the fall and teach me Bengali cooking.
Radha-Damodara temple, located in Vrndavana's Seva Kunja district, is a small compound surrounded by other buildings. The main gateway opens onto a square courtyard front-ing a central altar. Three sets of Radha-Krsna Deities are installed on the altar, the sixteenth-century Radha-Damodara Deities of Jiva Gosvami in the center. Since the early sixties, Srila Prabhupada had kept two rooms with an adjoining veranda facing the courtyard. One was his study and bedroom, the other a kitchen.
When I was entrusted with renovating his quarters, I put in a low brick wall dividing the kitchen into two areas—one for cooking and staples, the other for eating. Srila Prabhupada would sometimes sit on a low wooden seat against the longest wall. From there he could observe the cooking or gaze out a latticed window overlooking the tranquil samadhi tomb of Rupa Gosvami.
The day in October when Pishima arrived, she established herself in the center of the cooking area. All of the meals in Prabhupada's Radha-Damodara kitchen were prepared on a single portable bucket stove—basically a metal bucket coated inside and out with smooth dried mud from the Yamuna River. Pishima sat stationary on the floor in front of the stove, rotating her body for a multitude of tasks—chopping, kneading, mixing, grinding, and braying—doing all the work rhythmically with her deft hands.
I asked questions in pidgin Bengali and recorded her every technique and instruction. What I didn't understand she expressed through gesture, facial expression, and gray eyes that peered through thick-rimmed glasses.
In two months she never made the same dish twice. I surmised she hadn't ever made the same dish twice in her seventy-plus years. Her cooking style classic Bengali, she was the cook-more-talk-less kind of cook who relies on high-quality produce and native ingredients. She didn't feel the need to define or create her cuisine; it was timeless. Beyond the techniques of the cooking itself, beyond even her cleanliness and purity in cooking, her food was fueled by devotion to the Lord.
In my first week as an apprentice, she gave me the singular task of grinding ingredients on a twenty-pound stone mortar called a sil-batta. Entering the kitchen daily with a basketful of wild leaves and greens, I made fresh herb and spice pastes to season dishes of vegetables, rice, and legumes. Pishima often gave me the task of grinding soaked urad dal into a velvety smooth paste, which she turned into savory fried dumplings called bada. Or I ground pounds of blanched almonds to a paste for her pepper-and-camphor-laced laddu, a kind of marzipan.
The second week I learned how to make fires of coal and cow dung, the next week coat the stove daily in mud, and so on—all Pishima-style.
For an entire week she focused on mustard oil. I returned daily from the bazaar with bottle after bottle of freshly pressed mustard oil, and she rejected them all. Finally, going with me on a shopping expedition, she insisted that the oil be pressed from black, not brown, seeds, yielding a particular aroma and an amber-gold hue. Inferior mustard oil coats the tongue with an unpleasant, greasy feel. When good, the oil is light on the tongue, leaving the palate stimulated and refreshed.
Her dishes with mustard oil exploded with vitality from hot tones reminiscent of pungent horseradish. Sometimes she mixed this aromatic oil with clarified butter for a less assertive flavor.
Pishima's culinary expertise could easily be the matter of a cookbook. In this short space, I can say very little. But I've spent hours comparing class notes with fellow students from the seventies, most prominently Srutirupa and Visakha. Perhaps one of us will take up the task of compiling her recipes and presenting them with text to illustrate her memorable Vaisnava character and way of life.
Until that happens, here's a sample Pishima recipe from her Vrndavana kitchen. She used this seasoning for a sweet glaze she spooned over crispy pan-fried cheese cutlets. I'm sure you'll find several uses for it in your favorite dishes.
The warm flavor of this dynamic seasoning is versatile. A few suggestions: Mix a touch of it with melted butter or virgin olive oil to season any steamed vegetable, rice, or whole-grain dish. You might whisk a little into fresh lemon juice and oil for a light vinaigrette. Or stir a little of the seasoning into a finished bean dish just before serving. One of my favorites is to mix a little into diced, roasted red bell peppers and yogurt cheese as a dip for vegetable cruditis.
Makes about 1/3 cup
1 walnut-size piece of fresh ginger
Peel and roughly chop the ginger root. Place in a blender or stone mortar and pestle and pound or process until grated. Add the cumin and peppercorns and process until coarsely ground. Add 3-4 tablespoons of water and grind or process until the ingredients are reduced to a loose paste, using additional water as necessary. (Can be kept refrigerated in a jar for up to 2 weeks.)
Challenges We Face
By Sri Rama Dasa
LAST ISSUE I WROTE ABOUT what is happening in ISKCON education. Now comes the hard part: I want to look a bit into the future and talk about what we need for the school system Srila Prabhupada wanted—a Krsna conscious gurukula in the modern world.
Gurukula means "the place of the spiritual master." A traditional gurukula was the home of a learned brahmana, where he gave shelter and instruction to qualified and serious students.
One problem we face now is that a traditional gurukula doesn't easily mesh with modern society. Also, ISKCON is an organization, so its school system must develop in pace with our whole institution.
While we may have many different ideas on how to address these difficulties, we must know what is essential and cannot be changed or left out. We must know how to preserve those indispensable features without which we won't have gurukula as Prabhupada wanted it.
Fortunately, Srila Prabhupada told us what a Krsna conscious school must give its students. Whatever form a school might take, this is what it must do to fulfill our Founder-Acarya's aims:
1. Gurukula must train students for a lifetime of taking part in the Krsna consciousness movement. (Since taking part may take many forms, ISKCON schools are likely to vary in their teaching approaches.)
This fourth requirement is the most controversial, because it goes against the mood of the freewheeling societies most of us have been conditioned by—and also because it is open to abuse.
The last decade of guru problems in ISKCON has made surrender to the guru a daunting prospect. But as our Society has had to face this issue, so must our schools. Getting past our material attachments is impossible without allowing the guru to mold us into shape and harden us with the fire of surrender.
Meeting these four requirements is especially difficult now because we lack the varnasrama social structure Srila Prabhupada spoke of as "the other fifty percent" of his mission, the fifty percent he had not put in place before he left. Now for us, his disciples and followers, varnasrama becomes a significant part of our mission.
Varnasrama is the system that offers each person an occupation to fit his or her personal qualities. So until our society functions within varnasrama, how can we design a curriculum? We're supposed to train students for meaningful employment in Krsna consciousness. But without varnasrama, what precisely do we train them for?
Our present schools tend to train students for a small range of engagements in the temple environment. Or they go to the other extreme and operate as Westernized schools, "with a little Krsna added."
We must have communities of ideal devotees. Otherwise, how do we train our children in the saintly qualities they need? We must have a vibrant Krsna conscious culture, or how shall we compete with the excitement and apparent opportunities of the urban-based culture of maya?
Most of all, we need stable, exemplary devotees to serve as leaders for our children, leaders who can earn the respect that engenders voluntary obedience and surrender.
Yet our educational system cannot be light-years ahead of our Society. We must be patient while ISKCON matures, and we must gradually work toward the ideal school system Srila Prabhupada envisioned.
Meanwhile, though, we can't give up and turn our children over to atheists, humanists, pseudo-religionists, and other non-Vaisnavas. Lord Caitanya strongly warned against association with nondevotees. How then can we justify making our children disciples of people ignorant of the most basic truths about life?
To build a school system is not an easy task. In the modern context, it usually calls for backing from the government or from a powerful church. Nonetheless, it's our duty to see that each of our sons and daughters has the opportunity to receive a good education from another devotee of Krsna.
Despite some failures, we do have some successful Krsna conscious schools that can serve as examples of various workable approaches. And other options, such as home schooling, have also proven workable. Parents and devotee leaders must cooperate to design and carry out school programs in each community. It's not going to be easy.
In future issues, I hope to exchange ideas with you, our readers, on how to fulfill this responsibility. Please send your comments and questions to:
Sri Rama Dasa, Chairman
Bhakti-yoga at Home
By Rohininandana Dasa
DEVOTEES TRY TO MOLD their lives around Krsna. They know that when they begin to love Lord Krsna, their hearts will bloom like flowers in the rising sun. So in the early-morning stillness, long before the postman comes, devotees are up, absorbed in spiritual practices. ** (In bhakti-yoga these are known as sadhana (literally, "the means by which to attain something") or sadhana-bhakti, the process of regulative devotional service, which includes chanting Hare Krsna, wor-shiping the Deity, studying scripture, and so on.)
Picture the scene: Your five-year-old daughter blows the conch shell to signal the start of the arati. ** (A ceremony for worshiping the Deity with offerings of incense, fans, flowers, water, singing, music, and dancing.) Family members quickly finish dressing or putting on tilaka ** (Auspicious clay marks that sanctify a devotee's body as a temple of the Lord.) and race into the temple room. ** (You may not have the space in your home to dedicate a room solely for this purpose. But try to make a temple in a space within a room, a special area.) Your seven-year-old son picks up the mrdanga ** (A double-headed drum designed to be played while one dances.)—it's his turn to lead the singing. Your daughter, ringing a bell in her left hand, be-gins to offer items to Krsna with nervous concentration. Your baby moves his arms happily as you carry him in yours. Your spouse plays karatalas ** (Small brass or bell-metal cymbals.) and sways to and fro with the rhythm of the kirtana. ** (Literally "glorification of the Lord." Devotees generally use the word to refer to congregational singing accompanied with instruments, as done in the temple or on the street.) Perhaps another family is visiting you. They join in and play instruments, clap, and dance. The tempo builds. Your small temple room begins to shake. A surprised postman glances in at the window.
Can We Do It?
You may be thinking of your own family and wondering,"Is a morning program like this possible for us?"
Changes are often difficult to make, you might think, especially one like this. Perhaps you feel pitted against inertia, your children's reluctance, or your own lack of confidence. So start small, even if at first you're alone trying to do something for Krsna's pleasure. Your decision is half the battle. At first you could simply offer a stick of incense and a flower to a picture ** (One can worship a picture of Krsna as one's household Deity.) as you sit before it chanting Hare Krsna. Then you could read a little from Bhagavad-gita or Srimad-Bhagavatam. The whole affair may take only ten or fifteen minutes, but it's a start.
Your family members may not show much interest at first, but they will sense your enthusiasm and commitment. You can let them know how important you feel Krsna conscious-ness is, and how much it would mean to share a little daily Krsna conscious time with them. Once they begin to try it, the difficulty and strangeness will soon be forgotten. Krsna consciousness is natural and easy.
Gauge the length of the different aspects of your morning program by the enthusiasm of your children—if one day they aren't enjoying the kirtana, end it quickly. They'll feel relief instead of pressure. Better things be short and sweet than drawn out and forced. You could break up a long Srimad-Bhagavatam purport into small portions, or paraphrase difficult passages. Perhaps you could alternate Srimad-Bhagavatam with days of reading Prabhupada Nectar. ** (Anecdotes about Srila Prabhupada compiled by Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami.) Anything to hold interest. As Srila Rupa Gosvami prescribes, yena tena prakarena manah krsne nivesayet: somehow or other fix your mind upon Krsna.
Parents have a great challenge. Children have largely been liberated from the seen-and-not-heard ideology. They feel a much greater sense of equality with adults today and are less fearful and suppressed. The "nuclear family" has dispensed with many traditions in family interaction.
Now each family must establish its own mini-society. And parents must clearly know what they are doing, and why, especially in spiritual life. Force a child and you risk losing him later. Srila Prabhupada often cautioned his disciples that the art of spiritual leadership means to evoke—not stifle or kill—a person's inherent tendency to serve and love Lord Krsna. So don't sacrifice the essence for external ritual. If a child's interest is awakened, if he's having fun, external things like obedience and regulation will easily follow.
Visiting the Big Temple
Once you establish your small temple at home, a visit to the big one will become more significant. Your children will feel less like spectators and more like participants. If at home they are accustomed to play karatalas and mrdanga, offer arati, lead kirtana, give class, chant japa, ** (Meditational chanting on beads.) and help pre-pare offerings of food for Krsna, visiting a place where all these things go on in grand style will inspire them with fresh enthusiasm and ideas. Back home you may notice them singing a new tune or developing their method of offering arati.
In other words, your children will see a pilgrimage to your local temple not as an outing only slightly different from a visit to a theater or circus, but as part of what's already their way of life. The spiritual culture of Krsna consciousness will be firmly rooted in their hearts. And not only will you feel satisfied to witness their spiritual growth, but you will be fulfilling your sacred duty as a parent—to give them the best start in life. As it is said, "Good beginnings make good endings."
Rohininandana Dasa lives in southern England with his wife and their three children.
The Clockwork Universe in Chaos
By Sadaputa Dasa
ON A CARIBBEAN ISLAND, a butterfly flutters briefly to the left instead of to the right. As a result, swirls of air produced by its wings move in a slightly different way than they would have. A few days later, a hurricane gradually building force in the Caribbean veers into the Florida coast instead of heading out to sea.
Could the hurricane's change in course have been caused by the altered flight of the butterfly? According to Edward N. Lorenz of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the answer is yes. ** (E. N. Lorenz, "Deterministic Non-periodic Flow," Journal of Atmospheric Science, vol. 20, pp. 130-141, 1963. R. E. May, "Simple Mathematical Models with Very Complicated Dynamics," Nature, vol. 261, pp. 459-467, 1976.) Computer simulations Lorenz has carried out suggest that the flow of air in the atmosphere may display the property of "exponential instability."
Because of this property, extremely small changes in the flow of air can quickly be amplified until they have a major impact on weather. This, says Lorenz, makes short-range weather hard to forecast, because small changes, difficult to monitor, could result in large-scale effects.
This unpredictability has been called "deterministic chaos" because it arises in systems that, from a mathematical point of view, should be strictly deterministic and predictable. The idea of deterministic chaos gives new ways of looking at the question of God's ability to act within the framework of physical laws.
During the seventeenth century, at the time of Isaac Newton, many European naturalists and philosophers held that the material world was not only created but directly controlled by God. But the publication of Newton's Principia heralded the soon to be established view that everything in nature happens in a rigidly deterministic fashion, in accordance with fixed mathematical laws.
Newton's work confirmed an image of reality that had been growing prominent in Europe since the late Middle Ages—the picture of the universe as a machine like a vast clock. According to this picture, there are only three ways in which an agency transcendental to the material world could influence the behavior of matter. These are (1) by directly interfering with mechanical cause and effect in the world-machine at various times, (2) by programming the world-machine in the beginning of time to unfold future history automatically, and (3) by simply allowing events to happen according to the mechanical laws of cause and effect.
In case (3) the elements of interference and preprogramming are both absent, and the only role of the transcendental agency is to keep things going by the laws. The viewpoint summed up by option (3) is often called deism. It contrasts with atheism, which holds that events unfold according to physical laws that require no God to sustain them.
Newton himself felt that divine intervention of type (2) was necessary for the creation of the solar system. The solar system, he thought, would not have arisen on its own. Newton also believed that intervention of type (1) was necessary to keep the solar system operating smoothly.
Many scientists and philosophers rejected Newton's theistic arguments. Newton's rival Leibniz, for example, thought of God as a perfect clockmaker who created the universal machine, set it in motion, and then had no need to intervene further in its operation.
In due course, the research of Pierre de Laplace and J. L. Lagrange buttressed the views of Leibniz. Newton had argued that the gravitational influence of the planets on one another would eventually perturb their orbits to a degree demanding divine correction. Otherwise, the solar system would fly apart. But Laplace and Lagrange showed mathematically that in an idealized Newtonian model of the planetary system the orbits would oscillate within fixed limits. So the stability of the solar system would be preserved.
As time went on, divine interventions of type (2) also began to seem more and more implausible. Newton had argued that the regular arrangement of the nearly circular planetary orbits required the "divine arm." ** (S. L. Jaki, The Relevance of Physics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966) p. 429.) (2) But Laplace suggested that this regular pattern may have formed naturally as the planets condensed by physical processes from a primordial nebula. Even though Laplace did not fully work out the mathematics of his hypothesis, it carried the day and further limited the scope allowed for God's activity within the universe.
God in the World of Modern Science
At present, as in the past, people hold a wide range of opinions on the relation between God and the material world. But many theologians in mainline denominations of Christianity tend to embrace some version of deism, which holds that God's role in the universe is limited to creating and maintaining the laws of physics.
We will explore this view by examining the teachings of John Polkinghorne, formerly a professor of theoretical physics at Cambridge University. Polkinghorne, now president of Cambridge and an Anglican priest, is an articulate spokesman for deism.
For Polkinghorne, the world is "the expression of the will of a Creator, subtle, patient, and content to achieve his purposes by the slow unfolding of process inherent in those laws of nature which, in their regularity, are but pale reflections of his abiding faithfulness." ** (J. C. Polkinghorne, One World: The Interaction of Science and Theology (Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1987) p. 80.)
Everything works by the laws of physics, but God sustains these laws, and indeed the universe would cease to exist if He were to stop doing so.
Yet Polkinghorne also takes religious experiences seriously and accepts God as a "persuading, sustaining, transforming presence in the depths of our being." ** (Ibid., p. 70.) Here one encounters a serious inconsistency in Polkinghorne's views.
What is the meaning of Polkinghorne's statement that God acts as a "transforming presence" in the depths of our being? One might say the transformations are simply internal. But if the transformations brought about by God's presence do not affect our words and actions in any measurable way, then in what sense are they real or significant. Admitting that God's transforming presence does affect our behavior, Polkinghorne would say that these behavioral changes are governed by the laws of physics. But if they are governed by the laws of physics, in what sense are they caused by a divine presence?
If God can play a meaningful role in people's lives, it seems we must also allow God to direct the flow of material processes on a regular day-to-day basis. And this would violate the laws of physics.
Polkinghorne says of the laws of atomic physics, "I could literally write them down on the back of an envelope. Yet the fact that they have such remarkable consequences as you and me speaks of the amazing potentiality contained in their structure." ** (Ibid., p. 54.) Polkinghorne holds that God created the laws of physics with this potentiality.
Granting this, one might suppose that God also endowed these laws with the potential to generate human brains programmed to produce religious experience.
One might then say that the "transforming presence" in the depths of our being is a neural process ordained by God when He first selected the terms in the differential equations of physics.
But is it meaningful to attribute such physically generated "religious experiences" to the presence of God? If the interactions of charged particles and electromagnetic fields are enough to bring forth all these manifestations, why bother to bring God into the picture at all? It seems simpler and more plausible to adopt the atheistic view: religious experience is just another natural outcome of the underlying laws of nature; and ideas about God, though generated by nature, are false.
A Positive Solution
Polkinghorne is grappling with an impossible problem. He is committed to two contradictory ideas: (1) that material events unfold according to deterministic physical laws and (2) that a transcendental supreme being is at work within the world. It is simply not possible for both of these ideas to be correct.
The root of this predicament is the belief that the laws of physics are deterministic. This belief began in Newton's era, and it persists today. Of course, the quantum theory is famous for introducing an element of indeterminism into physics. But as Polkinghorne points out, this indeterminism does not allow for nonphysical agencies to interact with living organisms. So the problem still lies with the determinism that seems inherent in classical physics.
Classical determinism, however, is an essentially illusory idea. It is not an inherent feature of the mathematics and empirical predictions of classical physics. Rather, it is an error arrived at by generalizing from a limited class of machines (such as clocks). So Polkinghorne's predicament, and more generally the predicament of Western spirituality during the last three centuries, need never have arisen.
This is where deterministic chaos comes in. In classical physics, this phenomenon is sufficiently widespread to render the behavior of many important systems completely unpredictable. And this inherent unpredictability, as we will show, simultaneously allows such systems to (1) obey the classical equations of motion within the limits of observational accuracy and (2) exhibit patterns of behavior freely selected from a wide range of options.
As a result, it is possible to re-formulate classical physics so that (1) the fundamental laws of dynamics stay essentially the same, (2) the predictions of the theory stay the same within the limits of observational accuracy, and (3) the theory has an element of indeterminism that allows extensive control over the course of events. In this form, the theory does not conflict with the idea that the phenomenal world is directly controlled by a transcendental being.
How Deterministic Chaos Works
To lay the groundwork for our model, we must first explain how deterministic chaos works. The key to understanding this is a phenomenon called exponential instability, and this can be most readily explained by an example.
Imagine firing a bullet at a solid metal sphere a few inches in diameter, and imagine that the bullet will bounce off the sphere. If you're firing from a distance of several yards, slightly changing your aim can greatly affect the direction in which the bullet bounces. If you aim directly at the center of the sphere, the bullet will bounce back towards you. But if you aim slightly off center it will bounce off to one side. The curvature of the sphere amplifies the slight change in your aim, and this greatly changes the direction in which the bullet bounces.
If there are several spheres and the bullet bounces from one to another, the change grows greater from bounce to bounce and will quickly become enormous. This is called exponential amplification.
Figures 1 and 2 show how such amplification can generate preplanned patterns in ordinary matter. In these figures we consider a simple two-dimensional model of a gas. The gas molecules are represented by disks of equal mass, which elastically collide with one another and with the rigid walls of the square chamber that encloses them.
It is easy to see intuitively why this system should exhibit exponential instability. If two disks are about to collide, the curvature of one will magnify even a slight change in direction by the other, just as we saw with the bullet bouncing from the sphere. After N collisions this magnification will rise to the Nth power. In this way, small changes in direction can quickly have large effects.
To see what can happen, consider Figure 1. The four frames show the system of bouncing disks at four successive times. In each frame the arrangement of the disks seems random, as we would expect for the molecules of a gas.
In Figure 2 we start with an initial arrangement that looks the same as in Figure 1. But it's slightly different: the directions in which the disks are moving have been systematically rotated by angles less than a millionth of a degree (too small to measure by observation).
As a result, by frame c the arrangement of disks is significantly different from that in Figure 1, and in frame d the disks have lined up in an orderly pattern we would not expect to find in a system of randomly colliding objects.
Now, let's assume that the disks in the model are about the size of air molecules (some 2 angstrom units in diameter). And let's say the disks are moving at the same average speed as air molecules at room temperature. Then the time that would elapse for the four frames in Figures 1 and 2 would be 2.75 X 10-11 seconds. From this we can see that when suitable, extremely small changes are made in the motion of the disks, planned patterns of organization can develop quickly in this system. There is every reason to think that similar effects could come about in real systems of molecules.
The key to the exponential amplification in our example is the nonlinearity in motion caused by the curvature of the disks. It turns out that in real physical systems such nonlinearity is the rule rather than the exception. We can therefore expect exponential instability and unpredictable behavior to show up in a wide variety of physical systems. Examples reported thus far include: ** (P. Cvitanovic, ed., Universality in Chaos (Bristol: Adam Hilger, 1984).) the flow of air and fluids in a wide variety of situations; oscillating chemical reactions; the beating of heart cells; a large number of electrical and mechanical oscillators; the dripping of faucets; the Newtonian three-body problem; models of nerve cells and glial cells in the brain; and models of epidemics, animal populations, and economics.
The Unmanifest And the Immeasurably Small
Deterministic chaos renders the laws of classical physics flexible instead of rigid and deterministic. So without producing measurable deviations from these laws, an unlimited intelligence with direct control over matter on a submicroscopic level could guide the course of events freely.
We can speak of this submicroscopic level as the "unmanifest," since it involves phenomena we cannot directly perceive or measure. In the classical models we are considering here, the unmanifest is the domain of immeasurably small changes in the position and velocity of particles. In other physical models (including quantum mechanical systems) one can also speak of an unmanifest level involving extremely small changes in the state of a system.
Our proposed change in the laws of physics is simply this: on the manifest, or measurable, level, leave the laws as they are, but at the unmanifest, or unmeasurable, level, allow for intelligently directed changes.
The All-Pervading Supersoul
To effectively control material phenomena through action on the unmanifest level, a controlling agency would have to make minute but precisely coordinated adjustments in the course of events at many points in space and time. Traditional conceptions of God found in cultures all over the world seem to allow for such coordinated control. One of the great perennial ideas of mankind is that God, or some aspect of God, is present everywhere in space and able to perceive and act at all locations simultaneously.
Polkinghorne retains a modified form of this idea. According to Polkinghorne, physical interactions occur in the same way everywhere because of the "abiding faithfulness" of God, who acts everywhere to sustain the laws of physics. Of course, one might argue, if all God does is sustain the laws of physics, why not simply accept the regularity of physical behavior as axiomatic? Then there would be no need to bring in the greater mystery of God to explain it. Nonetheless, Polkinghorne reflects traditional ideas by proposing that not a single electron interacts without the will of God.
Newton, at the beginning of the modern mechanistic era, held a somewhat stronger view of God's all-pervading nature. He regarded absolute space and time as the sensorium of God, through which God could perceive all phenomena, sustain the laws of physics, and also modify the course of events according to His will. ** (R. Palter, ed., The Annus Mirabilis of Sir Isaac Newton, 1666-1966 (Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press, 1970) p. 340.) Such modifications, he thought, were gross violations of natural law but would be needed from time to time to keep things running smoothly.
The Christian thinker Augustine, writing in the fourth century, described God this way: "God so fills all things as to be not a quality of the world, but the very creative being of the world, governing the world without work, sustaining it without effort. ... Unconfined to any place, He is in Himself everywhere wholly." ** (M. T. Clark, Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (N.Y.: Paulist Press, 1984) p. 409.)
Here the phrases "without work" and "without effort" could be taken to mean that God simply sustains a completely autonomous world system. But Augustine was writing in a pre-mechanistic era, and this suggests that he used these phrases to refer to God's power to control events personally, from moment to moment.
The Vedic literature of India provides further insight into this point. The Bhagavad-gita explains that all material phenomena are created, maintained, and annihilated by a single part of Krsna, the supreme transcendental person. This part, or amsa, is known as the Supersoul, or Paramatma, and is described in the Thirteenth Chapter of the Gita. There it is stated that the Supersoul: ** (A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita As It Is (Los Angeles: The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1983) Chapter 13, texts 13-17.) (1) lies beyond material cause and effect; (2) has transcendental senses of perception and action at all locations in space and time but has no material senses; (3) is the master of material nature yet is beyond it; (4) is present inside and outside of all living beings; (5) is situated as one, even though appearing to be divided.
This description more elaborately presents some of the ideas mentioned by Augustine. First of all, it indicates that the Supersoul can perceive and act in a unified way at all points in space and time. This is precisely what our model requires. A being fully present at all locations would be uniquely suited to gather the needed data and make the needed calculations to guide the nondeterminate flux of events in any desired direction.
Of course, we do not wish to suggest that God operates by computation, as humans might imagine doing. Augustine and the Gita agree that God is able to guide material events effortlessly, like a practiced pianist improvising on musical themes without worrying about the detailed movements of his fingers. Our main point is that matter acting in accord with classical physical laws is indeed freely controllable, but the exertion of such control requires both omniscience and omnipotence. Long before the advent of modern physical theories, ancient traditions attributed such unlimited powers to God.
We can conclude, therefore, that the laws of classical physics are compatible with the idea that God directly controls the behavior of matter. The same compatibility can also be demonstrated for the laws of quantum mechanics, although the complexity of quantum mechanical theory prevents us from going into this topic here.
Of course, it has not been shown that all events in nature do conform to the known laws of physics, although many scientists assume that this must be so (or that it will be so once some final minor additions to the laws are made). If material phenomena wander from the laws of physics, that does, of course, leave room for action by God. But even if we suppose that all measurable phenomena do follow the known laws, it is still possible for the course of events to be under divine control from moment to moment.
Questions from the Field
By Rohini Suta Dasa
BY THE MERCY OF Srila Prabhupada, I have been distributing his books for many years, and I often travel to ISKCON centers to talk about this service. Because devotees face many challenges when distributing books, they naturally have questions both about techniques and, especially, about the right spiritual consciousness for a book distributor. Here are some questions devotees have asked me, along with my responses.
Q: I've been a top book distributor for the past three years. But lately I've been feeling a lack of enthusiasm to go out and distribute like I used to. People are so passionate and moving so fast. I barely have time to say hello, say a few short lines about the book, and ask for a donation. I want to spread Krsna conscious philosophy. How can I become reinspired in this service and feel satisfied with this type of preaching?
A: Sankirtana—spreading Krsna consciousness—is not a mechanical process; it is a dynamic one. So we have to arrange to live in such a way that sankirtana becomes our nature, our life and soul.
To stay enthusiastic we have to stay absorbed in Krsna consciousness by chanting Hare Krsna and taking part every day in Srimad-Bhagavatam class. And a sankirtana devotee should always associate with other sankirtana devotees. We have to pray to Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai and Srila Prabhupada that they allow us to stay always absorbed in this transcendental mission. We have to pray a lot.
Actually, on the material platform it's not possible to stop people and give them Krsna consciousness. Sometimes we're standing before a whole ocean of people and nobody stops. But when we really want to satisfy Srila Prabhupada in a pure, unmotivated way, Krsna will help.
By Krsna's mercy a sankirtana devotee can become like a magician and stop people and give them many books. A sankirtana devotee sometimes dances from person to person, smiling at them. And then they also begin to smile and dance away with books in their arms.
Q: I love distributing books, but I have a problem. When I'm going door to door I try to remind myself of the fallen, pitiful state of the conditioned souls I approach. But by this meditation I develop a feeling of superiority, thinking I'm better than them. They often sense this and get turned off. If I were sincerely humble and compassionate I don't think this would happen. What can I do?
A: We always have to think of how we came to Krsna consciousness, of the fallen condition we were in. Somehow, by the mercy of Srila Prabhupada and the devotees who follow in his footsteps, someone gave us a book or spoke to us, and we got here.
I should always think that I some-how got Krsna's mercy without deserving it. So why can't others, less fallen than I, get the mercy as well?
Q: I don't want to be a salesman and feel that I'm trying to convince people to buy something they don't even want. How can I distribute more books yet feel that I'm giving people something and not forcing anyone to take a book?
A: On the material platform we think that whether people take a book depends on whether we can convince them or force them to do it. Well, maybe we can get out some books in this way, but long term it will become tough, and we'll be dissatisfied.
To go on distributing books, one has to become transcendental, like a living Bhagavatam.
These books are not different from Krsna and Prabhupada. They're all-attractive, like a magnet. So people are naturally attracted to them. And especially when our desire is connected with the desire of Krsna and guru, Krsna will send the people who are interested.
Also: The material mind may not want these books, but the soul does. So we don't talk to the mind; we talk to the soul. When we're empowered by Krsna, we can penetrate the material coverings and reach that soul. Then we see that even people we thought would never take a book become interested and buy some.
Q: How can I avoid becoming too mechanical with people, especially when I want to reach a lot of people on the street?
A: When we become too attached to results, we forget to see people as souls, and the books as nondifferent from Krsna. That's when we become impersonal and mechanical.
So we have to set aside our own interests and motives and think about the welfare of the people we're speaking to.
The words we speak when we tell people about these books are not different from the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. So even when we're repeating the same words, what we're doing should not become mechanical.
How we chant and how we preach are a question of consciousness. So when we feel trapped in a mechanical routine, the best thing is to chant extra rounds or do some loud reading. And also speak with our sankirtana devotee associates on the street. Then we become enlightened again, and everything becomes like another world—Vaikuntha, the spiritual world.
Rohini Suta Dasa has been distributing Srila Prabhupada's books since the early seventies. He lives at the ISKCON temple in Zurich, Switzerland.
Tracing the Hindu Heritage
By Navina Krsna Dasa
A FEW MORE YEARS and the twentieth century will be over. Five thousand years have gone by since the historic times of Lord Krsna's appearance. Since then, untold stories have been written about men and women, nations, ideas, and civilizations. Mother earth has seen hundreds of chapters open and close.
Somewhere in those chapters, you and I have appeared. And as more chapters are written, we will disappear in the pages of history and be forgotten.
Today some of us are Hindus. We are proud to be Hindus. And we try hard to convince our children that they need to be good Hindus too. Of course, we don't always find it easy to explain to them why being Hindu is important and what it's all about anyway. Still, we want to stand up for Hinduism, India, temples, and other things somehow connected with our birth and heritage.
Nonetheless, it's entirely possible that a few hundred years ago, in a previous life, we lived as proud Muslims. In that life, we stood up for Islam, tried to raise our children to be good Muslims, went to the mosque, and perhaps broke down Hindu temples to build new mosques.
And before that, in some other life, who were we, what religion did we adhere to, and what did we fight for?
In this life we may be Indians, Americans, Chinese, Russians. We may be Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jews, or whatever. And so we may be friends or enemies, live peacefully or make war. But this all comes from a great misunderstanding.
Let's not just read one insignificant chapter of our existence. Let's think about all the chapters. Because now we may we see ourselves as Indians, as human beings born in India or born from Indian parents twenty, thirty, fifty, or seventy years ago. But the more we think that way, the more deeply we have failed to understand the most basic message of Bhagavad-gita.
Lord Krsna calls Arjuna a fool for identifying with his body and not understanding his spiritual nature.
And for us too, how foolish or intelligent we are depends on our own self-understanding.
When we trace back our heritage—long before we were Indians—we will understand that we are all spirit souls, parts of the Supreme Lord, Sri Krsna. At some remote time, long before we can ever hope to remember, we gave up being loyal, loving servants of the Lord. Mistakenly, we chose to leave the Lord's abode. And we ventured instead into this temporary, miserable material world to try to enjoy.
Taking on different bodies for millions of lives, we have uselessly tried to enjoy what is not enjoyable, forgetting the spiritual bliss found only in the Lord's abode.
In Bhagavad-gita (8.16) Lord Krsna tells Arjuna:
"From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again."
Lord Krsna invites us back to His abode. And He gives us the means to become free from illusion and go there. The Lord says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: "Abandon all other so-called dharma and just surrender to Me."
And if we're worried about family obligations, career, community duties, or anything else, the guidance and advice of the all-knowing Supreme Lord are available to us in Bhagavad-gita. In fact, we'll find that when we cooperate with Lord Krsna's plan, our life becomes peaceful and joyful in every way.
This message of the Bhagavad-gita is the true message of India's greatest saints. It is the real heritage of India. And now is the time for all Indians—and all followers of Vedic culture—to take advantage of this great heritage.
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.
At the Mall of Deadly Wares
By Ravindra Svarupa Dasa
THE WORLD BELIEVES with all its heart that enjoying pleasure from the senses is happiness.
Krsna says the world is wrong.
Contemplate for a moment the daily jostle and bustle of the billions in this huge hungry world, sweating and scheming and hustling for pleasure from the senses as though their lives depended on it. In cities and villages, in factories and fields, in offices and shops, in the first and the second and the third world, the great universal urge impels us on and on, and Krsna says that our "pleasure"—what we get for our trouble—is suffering.
My generation, coming of age in the sixties, thought itself liberated at last from past constraints; sexual license and unchecked consumption were the natural entitlements of freedom. We found incomprehensible the prohibitions and restrictions on sensual delight handed down by traditional religions and moralities. These strictures we blamed on "patriarchs," spiteful, sour, disappointed old men, their lips frozen in a sneer of disgust, who took revenge on the world and its youth with their "Thou shalt not's." William Blake had told us about such spoilers:
And Priests in black gowns
So now the land is replete with perpetual gardens of delight, wide sprawling malls graced with fountains and greenery, stately pleasure domes of consumption that even Kubla Khan would envy, where multiplex cinemas and video stores place before the common gaze of consumers the copulations of the stars.
But Krsna says boycott the pleasures of the senses, for they bring only suffering. They have a beginning and an end, He says, and the wise take no delight in them.
Imagine, if you will, an old-fashioned scale, a pan balance, one side holding self-realization; the other, sense gratification. When self-realization goes up, sense gratification goes down, and vice versa.
We've all encountered the modern spiritual teachers who say they offer spiritual life—self-realization, enlightenment, liberation—but do not restrict sense gratification. They are cheaters. Anyone who tells us we can successfully pursue self-realization while indulging in sense gratification is misleading us. We should look for someone truthful.
The world is systematically misleading, its traps baited. A winter's storm recently drove me into one, but it was marked openly—at least to my eyes—with the signs of mortality.
During the festive week between Christmas and New Year's Day I was driving up I-95 from Baltimore to Philadelphia, while the all-news radio station, like an oracle in evil times, gave out ominous warnings: the first major winter storm was about to break, the recession was going to get worse, in ten years AIDS would infect twenty million, and Iraq and the United States were closing toward war.
Thinking it prudent to pick up some necessities before the snows came, I exited for the Christiana Mall, just south of Wilmington. I parked far back on a crowded lot.
The mall was pandemonium. Just within the entrance a roaring two-story geyser spread a pungent cloud of chlorine gas. My eyes stung, but lounging shoppers packed the pool-side, talking and eating, without apparent ill effect.
I weaved my way into the throng, that vortex of excited, restless consciousness. They were up. The din reached a crescendo at the food court, where local adolescents preened and courted as they dined on twenty different kinds of fast food. People everywhere stood in food lines and movie lines, talking and eating.
My nerves vibrating, I left quickly, passing through the chlorine cloud again. Gratefully, I breathed the cold air deeply and began the hike to my car. From the hubbub of the mall I had entered into a deep silence, for the moist air and the heavy, low overcast deadened all sounds.
Then I ducked instinctively as I glimpsed a gigantic black shape gliding close overhead, riding across the nacreous underbelly of the clouds. I looked up, turning.
Moving slowly and silently overhead were two huge C-130's, the American military's propeller-driven troop transport. Both were painted matte black and innocent of all markings.
Looking back down the slope of the lot, I could see the entire mall before me, and beyond it a low rise of ground, which must have concealed an air base. Each plane would disappear below the rise, and then lumber up into the narrow space between the earth and the clouds, bank steeply, and circle slowly over the mall. Then it would drop behind the rise and come back up again.
In eerie silence they banked and turned again and again over the mall. They reminded me of the vultures I'd watch in India, poky and bulky, yet graceful as they glided and turned. The mall was packed with avid, happy consumers, while overhead the C-130's rehearsed meticulously for war. Was it a portent? Would there be war? I took it, finally, as a more general—a generic—warning.
The consumers in their avidity seemed beyond reach, charmed by deadly pleasures and fatal loves. By the time I pulled up to the temple in Philadelphia, snow dusted the ground: prophecies were being fulfilled.
Disciples recall the pastimes of a pure devotee.
ONCE SRILA PRABHUPADA was speaking to a wealthy Indian woman in Malaysia. She was the wife of a government minister, and he was hoping to persuade her to help him build a temple. This was in 1971, before any ISKCON temple had been built.
As Srila Prabhupada spoke to the woman, she continually agreed and smiled. "Yes, yes, Swamiji," she said, folding her palms in pranamas.
She seemed enthusiastic about Krsna consciousness, so after a while Srila Prabhupada showed her a sketch of three altars in a temple (which eventually became the Krishna-Balaram Temple in Vrndavana, India).
Taking the sketch out of his white vinyl case, he handed it to her and said that since she appreciated the value of Krsna consciousness so much, she could assist in spreading it for the benefit of others.
"With your mercy, Swamiji," she replied, folding her palms.
"My mercy is already there," he said.
"With your mercy, Swamiji," she repeated. She was shying away.
Then Srila Prabhupada told a story: A man who had slipped into a well cried, "Help! Help! Get me out of the well!" Someone came with a rope and lowered it into the well. "Take the rope and I will pull you out!" he shouted. The person in the well cried out, "Help! Help me take the rope!"
Srila Prabhupada laughed warmly and said that the mercy of the spiritual master is already there and you can take it. But you have to take his mercy so he can pull you out of illusion. If you don't take it, what can be done?
IN FEBRUARY 1976, Srila Prabhupada was in Mayapur, having arrived a few weeks prior to the Gaura Purnima festival. As per his usual schedule, every day he took his massage in the late morning on the balcony outside his room. One morning, as he sat on a straw mat on the sunlit veranda ready to begin, he drew my attention to some sparrows making a nest. The site they had chosen was a hole in the wall behind the electrical circuit box just outside Srila Prabhupada's sitting-room window.
He said they had been disturbing him at night while he was translating his books. So before the birds could build a complete nest and settle in, I removed the bits of straw they had gathered. But as I began the massage, one of the birds returned and began to rebuild, flying back and forth with small pieces of straw.
I crumpled some paper and stuffed it into the hole to block it. So when the sparrow came back and found its access barred, it pecked, undaunted, at the paper for almost half an hour, trying to open the hole to continue its home-making. When the bird found this too difficult, it flew off and returned with its mate, and together they worked hard to remove the paper. Eventually they succeeded. By pecking and tugging in unison, they removed the paper and began to build again.
All the while, Srila Prabhupada watched without comment.
When the birds flew away to get more straw, I again filled the hole with the paper, forcing it in tight so that the sparrows couldn't remove it. Again the sparrows spent a long time trying, but this time they were unsuccessful. Eventually they accepted defeat, gave up, and left.
Srila Prabhupada then drew an interesting parallel. Even though the birds had eyes, he told me, they could not see. They were trying so hard to build their house, but they couldn't see that the person who had prevented them stood nearby watching. So they continued on in ignorance, trying to make adjustments and struggling against the superior arrangement.
In the same way, he said, materialistic persons, though having eyes, could not see how maya, the material energy, was supervising all their efforts. They simply struggled on, making adjustments, hoping to improve their life and secure their place in the material world, not understanding that maya was watching their every move and defeating them at every step.
Hari Sauri Dasa
The Gaudiya Vedantist
By Nandarani Devi Dasi and Dayananda Dasa
SUMMARY OF PART I: In the early eighteenth century, after a vigorous study of Vedanta philosophy, Baladeva Vidyabhusana accepted Lord Caitanya's teachings as the highest revelation of the Absolute Truth. Meanwhile, a sect in Rajasthan known as the Ramanandis was challenging the authenticity of Lord Caitanya's move-ment. Although the Ramanandis were flourishing under the patronage of King Jai Singh, the king favored the Gaudiyas (followers of Lord Caitanya) and was a devotee of Govinda, one of their principal Deities.
The Ramanandis alleged that Lord Caitanya's followers lay outside the four recognized disciplic lines (sampradayas) and therefore had no valid standing. If the Gaudiyas failed to defend the legitimacy of Lord Caitanya's movement, they could lose all respectability and even the right to worship Govinda. Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, the leader of the Gaudiyas in Vrndavana, saw in Baladeva the right defender for Gaudiya Vaisnavism.
JAI SINGH PREPARED HIMSELF for the religious confrontation he knew was inevitable. He collected and studied the writings of the Gaudiya sect and compared it with the writings of other Vaisnava sampradayas. He studied the Bhagavata Purana and its commentaries by Sridhara Svami, Sanatana Gosvami, and Jiva Gosvami. He pored over the Vedanta-sutra and its commentaries by Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhva, Vallabha, and Nimbarka. He explored the works of Sanatana Gosvami, Rupa Gosvami, Gopala Bhatta Gosvami, Jiva Gosvami, and Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, the principal theologians of the Gaudiya school. And he read Jayadeva's Gita-govinda, the poetry that had often evoked expressions of ecstatic love in Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Jai Singh wanted to reconcile the differences between the principal sects of Vaisnavas. He felt that these differences had no philosophical basis, so continual wrangling could serve no purpose. Having completed his research, he composed a thesis entitled Brahma-bodhini, advocating the unity of the Vaisnavas.
The king's attraction to Krsna had been sparked during his first visit to Vrndavana, as a child of seven. He had been called there by his father, the military commander of the district, who had been deputed to protect the caravans between Agra and Mathura. From that young age, Jai Singh had considered himself a devotee of Krsna. Now his study of the writings of the Vrndavana Gosvamis crystallized his sentiments. But his devotion to Radha and Krsna would be tested by the Ramanandis.
"The Gaudiyas should not worship Radha and Krsna together," the Ramanandis told him. "Radha and Krsna are not married. There is no precedent for Their being worshiped together! Sita and Rama are together, and Laksmi and Narayana, because They are married. But Radha and Krsna are not married."
Now the Ramanandis were escalating the quarrel. They not only criticized the Gaudiyas' lineage but also found fault with the Gaudiya method of worship. The Ramanandis demanded that Radha be removed from the main altar and placed in another room, to be worshiped separately.
Jai Singh sent word to the mahantas (religious authorities) of the Gaudiya temples. "You must prepare a response to the criticisms voiced by the Ramanandis of Galta Valley. I am sympathetic to your philosophy and practice, but your response must be adequate to silence the Ramanandi panditas, or I shall be forced to separate Radharani from Krsna."
The mahantas of the four major Gaudiya temples of Amber submitted their response in writing. They ex-plained that Rupa, Sanatana, and Jiva Gosvamis shared the same opinion about Radha and Krsna: They could be worshiped either as married (svakiya-rasa) or unmarried (parakiya-rasa), since both these pastimes (lila) are eternal.Wor-ship of Krsna in either lila is adequate to establish a devotee's eternal relationship with the Supreme.
The Ramanandis rejected these arguments. Fighting for their religious and political power, they again approached Jai Singh.
Because Radha and Krsna were not married, the Ramanandis complained, worshiping Them together condoned Their questionable relationship. The Ramanandis also criticized the Gaudiyas for worshiping Krsna without first worshiping Narayana.
To appease the Ramanandis, Jai Singh told them he would ask the Gaudiyas to place the Deity of Radharani in a separate room. He would also ask them to explain their breach of Vaisnava etiquette in neglecting Narayana worship, and he would ask them to prove their link with the Madhva-sampradaya.
Visvanatha Deputes Baladeva
Visvanatha Cakravarti, a scholar of great repute, lived in Vrndavana at this time. Visvanatha had been born in 1646 in a Bengali village named Saidabad, where he had spent the first years of his life. Like other aspiring young renunciants, Visvanatha had faced problems with his family, who had betrothed him at a young age to tie him to domestic life. As a married youth, Visvanatha had studied extensively, and while living with his family in Saidabad he had written brilliant commentaries on Vaisnava scripture.
During his life in Saidabad, Visvanatha had taken initiation from Radha-ramana Cakravarti and studied the Srimad-Bhagavatam and other Vaisnava scriptures with Radharamana's father, Krsnacarana Cakravarti. Radha-ramana was three generations removed from the main preceptor in their line, Narottama Dasa Thakura.
Eventually Visvanatha had left his family and gone to Vrndavana, where he had lived at Radha-kunda. He formally accepted the dress of a renunciant and was then called Harivallabha. He continued writing and preaching, and eventually he became the leader of the Gaudiya community in Vrndavana.
By the time Govinda moved to Rajasthan in 1707, Visvanatha was more than sixty years old. The aging scholar followed the Amber developments with interest. How would Govinda and His priests fare in that pluralistic environment, at the vortex of the competing forces of the young king's devotion, the Ramanandis' antagonism, and the threatening presence of so many sects?
Visvanatha regularly communicated with the mahantas of the Vaisnava temples in Amber. Although he had expected trouble from the Ramanandis, the quarrel had stewed for years before threatening the Gaudiya priests or affecting the Deity worship. Now, he knew, they despaired over the growing antagonism of the Ramanandis.
Visvanatha called for Baladeva. "We must refute the points of the Ramanandis," Visvanatha told his protege. "It will not be easy, but we can defeat them."
Baladeva was outraged by the presumptuousness of the Ramanandi critics. "Why must we establish the legitimacy of our lineage?" he demanded. "The Supreme Lord, Sri Krsna, appeared as Lord Caitanya to establish the true religion for this Age of Quarrel. When God Himself originates a religious tradition, who may dare question its legitimacy?"
"The Ramanandis do question it," Visvanatha replied, "and they rest their criticism on the statement in Padma Purana that in this age there are four sampradayas, or lines of disciplic succession. The Purana says:
The meaning is that the four Vaisnava sampradayas—Sri, Brahma, Rudra, and Kumara—purify the earth."
"Yes," replied Baladeva, "I know this verse. And the Ramanandis say that the words utkale purusottama mean that these four sampradayas have their monasteries in Orissa, in Purusottama-ksetra, the town of Jagannatha Puri.
"But the real meaning is that the Supreme Lord, Purusottama, is the quintessence of these four sampradayas. And when He appears in Kali-yuga, He lives in Jagannatha Puri, as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. So the Gaudiya lineage is not a fifth sampradaya but the essence of the four."
Visvanatha and Baladeva spent the night discussing the Ramanandis' other points of contention about Lord Caitanya's movement. They developed the strategy by which they would defeat the Ramanandis.
Visvanatha sent Baladeva with Krsnadeva Sarvabhauma to Amber. Baladeva's arrival there was unheralded. He was new to the Gaudiya community, unknown even among the Gaudiya mahantas of Amber. And he was young. No one, even of his own tradition, suspected that a philosophical giant lived within the unpretentious form of this Gaudiya holyman from Vrndavana. Baladeva had difficulty gaining audience with the king. And when he was finally able to do so, the Ramanandis in the court were ready for him.
"Sir," Baladeva said to the king, "I have come to resolve doubts about the Gaudiya-sampradaya and its methods of worship."
"Your Highness,"a Ramanandi pandita broke in, "we request to speak to him directly!"
Jai Singh turned to Baladeva. "You may speak," the king said, confident that if Krsna were indeed the Supreme Lord, Krsna would arrange for His own defense.
The Ramanandis opened with an offensive they felt sure would guarantee their authority.
"The problem," they told Baladeva, "is that you do not belong to a proper sampradaya. Therefore we cannot accept the literature written by your panditas."
"I am from the Madhva-sampradaya," Baladeva asserted confidently.
"I have been initiated in Mysore by a Tirtha of the Madhva order. But Radha-Damodara Gosvami and Visvanatha Cakravarti of the Gaudiya-sampradaya are also my gurus. They have taught me Bhagavata philosophy."
The Ramanandis were surprised.
Baladeva's Madhva initiation meant that they had to accept him as a qualified sannyasi and pandita of an authorized lineage. But they hoped his youth might indicate a lack of skill. They rallied themselves. "You may be from the Madhva-sampradaya, but the other Gaudiyas are not!"
Baladeva retained his dignity and produced a key piece of evidence. "That is the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika, written by Kavi Karnapura more than one hundred years ago. This manuscript details our lineage from Madhva." Baladeva presented the manuscript for inspection.
The Ramanandis again argued, "If the Gaudiyas claim descent from Madhva, then you must base your arguments on Madhva's Brahma-sutra commentary. We know that the Gaudiyas have no commentary of their own."
Baladeva thought. The Gaudiyas had never written a commentary on the Vedanta-sutra, because they accepted the Srimad-Bhagavatam as the natural commentary. Vyasa is the author of both of these works, and Lord Caitanya taught that when the author comments on his own work, his opinion is the best.
Baladeva knew that the Ramanandis would reject this argument. But he also knew that if he used Madhva's commentary he would have problems, for Madhva's commentary would not justify the style of worship practiced by the Gaudiyas. So Baladeva decided he would need to write a Gaudiya commentary himself. This commentary should be based on Madhva's, but could have some allowable differences. "I will show you our commentary," Baladeva said. "Please allow me to bring it."
"Indeed, send for it," granted the Ramanandi spokesman.
"That won't be possible," replied Baladeva. "I will require several days to write it."
The Ramanandis were stunned. Could Baladeva produce a commentary within a few days? How audacious! But if Baladeva could indeed produce it, the Ramanandis' position might be threatened. Should they grant him the time he required?
Before they could speak, King Jai Singh interjected. "Yes, the time is granted. Prepare your commentary and notify us when it is ready. You should know that unless you present a suitable commentary, we shall accept the criticisms of the Ramanandis as valid. But I shall not act on any of their demands until you have had an opportunity to present your commentary and your arguments."
Govindaji Inspires Baladeva
Baladeva left the assembly, followed by Krsnadeva Sarvabhauma. Baladeva saw himself a puppet in the hands of the Lord. He had spoken boldly in the assembly, but would the Divine Puppeteer guide his pen?
Baladeva went to Govindapura. Presenting himself before Govinda, he knelt and prayed. "O Govinda, Your devotee Visvanatha has sent me here to defend You and Your devotees, but I cannot do it! I am just a soul fallen in ignorance. If You wish, You may empower me to write a Vedanta-sutra commentary that will glorify You. If You wish, I shall write the truths I have learned from Your devotees and Your scripture. And I have faith that by Your mercy these truths will appear most logical."
Then Baladeva began to write. Pausing scarcely to rest, he wrote and prayed and wrote again. Days passed, and nights, but he did not stop. Some historians say he wrote for one month. Others say it took him only seven days.
In any event, Baladeva soon returned from Govindapura. By now, keen expectancy had been aroused in all the various parties. Jai Singh, hoping to see the Gaudiyas vindicated, was especially eager to see the commentary. The Ramanandis, however, awaited the commentary with some trepidation, hoping they could defeat it readily.
Baladeva entered the court of debate convened in Galta. He stood on one side with the Gaudiya mahantas. Facing them were the Ramanandi panditas. King Jai Singh presided, and an audience of nobles and scholars was in attendance.
With the king's permission, Baladeva rose.
"This commentary," he said, putting forward his work, "is based on Madhva's, but there are some important differences. If you examine it, you will find that it upholds the Gaudiya philosophy taught by Lord Caitanya."
A Ramanandi pandita stepped forward and received Baladeva's commentary.
"Who is the author of this work?" he asked.
Baladeva replied, "The name of the commentary is Govinda-bhasya. Govinda has inspired this work. I have given the direct meanings of the sutras according to the wish of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. And my comments are based on the teachings of my gurus."
The learned members of the Ramanandi contingent examined the first portion of the bhasya to determine whether it was as Baladeva had claimed.
A spokesman conceded, "The influence of Madhva is certainly demonstrable in this commentary, but we should examine some of the differences."
Baladeva then addressed each of the Ramanandis' objections to Gaudiya worship.
"I have expounded on every aspect of Gaudiya practice in chapter three," he said. "Since your criticisms concern our style of worship, you should turn to chapter three to see how Vyasa, the author of Vedanta-sutra, has provided for our worship.
"You object to our worship of Radha with Govinda on the superficial grounds that They are not married. In verses forty through forty-two I have presented the true position of Radha in relation to Krsna. Radha is the eternal energy of Krsna and is never separated from Him. Their relationship may be parakiya or svakiya, but that does not affect the eternality of Their union. The separation of Radha and Govinda you have effected is artificial and therefore offensive to the Lord, who holds deep affection for His female energy.
"You have criticized our predilection for worshiping only Krsna, neglecting neglecting the worship of Narayana, Visnu, which you say is mandatory for all Vaisnavas. I have addressed that point in my comments to verse forty-three. According to the Vedanta-sutra, Narayana may be worshiped in any of His forms, including Krsna. No scriptural injunction prohibits the worship of Govinda exclusive of Narayana."
Baladeva continued speaking while the Ramanandis stood defenseless. He spoke eloquently and exhaustively. A rebuttal from the Ramanandis never developed.
At the end of Baladeva's presentation, King Jai Singh waited, weighing the evidence. The Ramanandis' silence confirmed his own opinion.
He delivered his decision in a brief but conclusive statement. "The evidence supporting the Gaudiya legitimacy is unassailable. Hereafter, the Gaudiyas shall be recognized and respected as an authorized religious sect. I order the reunion of Radha with Govinda."
The Gaudiya mahantas in Amber, free at last from condemnation by the Ramanandis, celebrated by building a temple of victory on the hill overlooking the Galta valley. The temple Deity was appropriately named Vijaya Gopala, "Victorious Gopala."
At the Feet of Govinda
Baladeva returned to Vrndavana, where he assumed leadership of the Gaudiya community. He continued to write. Faithful to Jiva Gosvami and devoted to Lord Caitanya, he produced commentaries on ten principal Upanisads and nine works of the Vrndavana Gosvamis. He also wrote original works on grammar, drama, prosody, and poetics. He remained the unquestioned authority on Vaisnava theology until his death.*
With Baladeva's victory over the Ramanandis, Jai Singh was satisfied. He had found the synthesis of Vaisnava religions. And Radha had been reunited with Govinda on the altar, as She is in eternity. Jai Singh dedicated himself to Govinda and passed a long, productive life as a king and scholar.
In 1714 Jai Singh moved Govinda to the Jai Nivasa Gardens and installed Him in a garden house, where He was worshiped for twenty-one years. In 1735 the king built a temple for Govinda within the Jaipur palace compound. Jai Singh later installed Govinda as the king of Jaipur and accepted the position of minister for himself. From that time his royal seal read, sri govinda-deva carana savai jai singh sarana: "Lord Govinda, at whose feet Jai Singh takes refuge."
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).
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
Curbing The Animal Instinct
by Visnurata Dasa
SINCE A MAJOR CAUSE of car accidents is inattention, a sign like the one at a busy New York intersection—"CURB YOUR ANIMAL INSTINCT"—might be helpful. The animal instinct surely diverts many drivers. Maybe that's one reason why collisions on city streets are as common as wolf whistles.
To curb the animal instinct, we have to keep a tight rein on our senses. An animal always responds to the dictates of its senses, not caring what is proper or improper. But as the term animal instinct and the drawing on the sign imply, a human being who acts the same way misuses the most sophisticated form of existence.
Only when a human being controls his lower instincts can he perceive a more subtle and far superior instinct: the tendency to serve the Supreme Lord. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu taught that this instinct is real because the living entity is by constitution an eternal servant of Krsna.
When the propensity to serve God is misapplied, it degenerates into animal instinct. Then, rather than using the senses for a higher purpose, one becomes a servant of the senses and tries to satisfy them with pleasing objects.
Lord Caitanya taught that by the science of bhakti-yoga, which begins with the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, we can control our senses. Bhakti-yoga is a pleasing system of self-control culminating in love of God.
By chanting God's names, Lord Caitanya taught, one can immediately engage in His service. Chanting removes undesirable things from the heart. And as loving service to Krsna is reestablished, the animal instinct disappears. Lord Caitanya likens this process to cleaning dust from a mirror. With a clean heart one sees the spiritual reality of the self and its eternal master, the Superself, Lord Krsna.
When one chants perfectly—with attention and without offense—love of Godhead results. One's spiritual awareness fully awakens, and one drowns, as it were, in an ocean of bliss. One drop of this ocean, we are told, can flood the universe. And an ocean of the highest material pleasure cannot equal one drop of pure spiritual pleasure.
The pleasure of the senses—the same pleasure available to animals—cannot approach the bliss tasted by chanting Hare Krsna. And that spiritual taste can easily help us curb the animal instinct.
Another Coat of Fiction
by Dvarakadhisa Devi Dasi
THE ELDERLY WOMAN was bent over, not so much by age as by the weight of an enormous pile of books stacked between her arms.
"Whew!" she said to me, heaving the books onto the counter at the library where I work. She brushed back a silvery wisp of hair from her forehead. "I'll be right back." And without another word she toddled back around to fetch a few books more.
Boy, she must love to read, I thought. Pulling the books toward me, I glanced at the titles. Romances, every one of them. Passion for Pam. Island Woman. The Splendor of Love. These were the tacky ones the library didn't even bother to catalog. Gypsy Love. Campus Romp. And the covers—my grandmother would have taped brown paper bags over them and treated them to the trash can. I looked up to see this grandma toting another load my way.
What could she possibly get out of such books? I pictured her snuggled in her rocking chair, afghan tucked over her shoulders, rocking gently to and fro as she read about the amorous adventures of twenty-year-olds. Did her grandchildren know she was reading this stuff? After a lifetime of experience, of triumphs and sorrows, of seeing birth and now facing death, what could she possibly be gleaning from the romance of Sandy and Joe?
People in our library on a typical day check out four times more fiction than nonfiction. For three hundred pages a withered old lady may flirt about as a reckless young lover, then close the book and fetch her husband's arthritis medicine.
Madness? Not at all—we all do it. As psychologist Shelley E. Taylor writes in her book Positive Illusions, "In many ways, the healthy mind is a self-deceptive one."
Mentally healthy people, she says, enhance their self-esteem by creating flattering illusions about themselves; people who can't do it suffer an overdose of reality.
"Depressed people clearly lack the illusions that in normal people promote mental health and buffer them against setbacks," she writes. "In addition, there is now considerable evidence that depression is marked not by unrealistic pessimism but by depressive realism and the absence of illusion."
Quite a concept. Ignore the sagging flesh, the grey hair, ignore the old man snoring on the couch. Why feel bad about missing opportunities? Just imagine them. Pick up a book, if you like, and you can be there in full blush, pulse racing.
Taylor says people are more successful in their real-life undertakings when they believe, falsely or not, that they are capable of greater things. A man who sees himself as a hero, for example, is more likely to perform heroic deeds.
It makes sense: gather confidence from the illusory image, then apply it to the real world. A harmless trick, it seems, or at least preferable to dreaming up dark, discouraging illusions. As Sigmund Freud noted, "To endure life is the primary duty of all living beings. Illusion is of no value if it makes this more difficult."
But even when illusion makes things easy, how much value can it have? Positive thinking may possibly help us stave off old age. But no illusion, however well cultivated, can free us from death. And when we close our eyes to what our body is eventually coming to, we lose sight of a natural reason to become philosophical.
Pain can serve a purpose, other than to depress us. In disappointment we can turn toward the spiritual. Rather than add another coat of fiction, we can peel away the layers of falsehood and look for the essence at the core of our existence.
But instead of getting ready to face disease and death, we hide from them, and they become more terrifying.
I think of that little grandmother devouring her romances, and it saddens me to know she will soon be back for more.
By Suresvara Dasa
BIR KRSNA THE CALF loves coconut fudge, and Sita the teamstress knows it. Her pockets bulge with the sweet as she and Bir walk to the training ring. Today the calf will learn his first call: "Get up!"
The earth is soft from the recent rain. Sita carries a lash and leads Bir with a rope tied to a blue halter. The calf bounds through a cluster of gnats, then slows as they come to the ring. What's this?
The gate opens, and Bir walks in to explore. He treads the edge and sniffs the white hardwood boards. The ring is twenty-four feet in diameter. Hoofprints stud the grass and mud, the signatures of oxen training. The calf's eyes blink and widen at his new surroundings. Sita wants to reassure her charge. She strokes his head behind the ears. "Good boy, Bir."
Time to teach the call. Sita walks to the center of the ring and lets the rope slacken. She raises the lash and taps Bir on the rump ("Get up!"), goading him forward. She follows him closely, indicating with her body he should keep going. When he stops, another tap. "Get up!"
A few times and Bir has made the connection between the tap and the call. "Good boy, Bir. Come here ..." The calf walks over to Sita, who kneels and holds up a piece of fudge. A crumb falls on the kerchief crowning her hair, flaxen from the sun. A flick and a lick and Bir has it, his lotus eyes beaming. They are making a pact, animal and human, sealed in mud and trust.
At three months, Bir is the youngest calf at Gita-nagari, the Hare Krsna farm community in central Pennsylvania. Unlike his brethren in modern "factory farms," Bir will never suffer the "veal-crate fate." Every year, more than one million male calves are born into darkness, and kept there, chained round the neck in a stall so tiny they can neither stand up nor turn around. To keep their flesh pale and tender, they are denied sunlight, exercise, and even solid food. Their liquid diet of growth stimulators, antibiotics, powdered skim milk, and mold inhibitors gives them an iron deficiency that satisfies the consumer's demand for light meat, sold as "premium" or "milk-fed" veal.
After three months of living in diarrhea, at an age when they could be trained to work, they are butchered.
Bir is learning remarkably fast. Sita doesn't have to follow him so closely anymore. Just the call and a tap and he moves forward. Has he learned his lesson well enough to move without the lash?
Sita looks Bir in the eyes and raises the lash. "Bir ... get up!"
The calf takes a few steps forward, then stops.
A swat on the rump and off he goes at the end of the rope, now circling behind her. Out of eye contact, he starts to slow, then speeds up again at the sound of the call. Sita beams. "Broke to the word" on the first lesson! Out comes the rest of the fudge. "Good boy, Bir. Very good boy."
To the modern farmer, Sita and Bir are an anachronism, a picture in a history book. The caption reads: "Here's how our farmers used to raise bulls—for work!"
But has it been a good deal, the ox for the tractor? His muscle for the engines that roar and pollute and suck up gasoline at soaring prices? His legs for the giant wheels that crush and compact? His enriching manure for chemical fertilizers that exhaust the earth and contaminate the water table? His labor for his meat, whose industry signals the decline of our health? Such is the progress of science without religion.
Factory farming finds its antithesis in the animal liberation movement. Disgusted by man's exploitative dominion over animals, many animal rights advocates hold that animals should not have to work for humans and that humans have no right to use animal products.
The genuine advocate is often a vegan. Appalled by the dairy industry's collusion with the slaughterhouse, he shuns the cow's milk as well as her meat. There is an irony here. A cow produces an average of ten times more milk than a calf can consume. To deny humanity her milk is really to deny that she is our mother. And hence the possibility that we might treat her as such.
The same with the bull. To deprive humanity of his labor is to obscure his natural relation to us as a father, who tills the ground to provide food. This is the grave error of religion without science, for as soon as man stops working the ox, he wants to kill him. It is no accident that the technology that produced the tractor also produced the slaughterhouse.
The vegan rightly challenges exploitation and murderous abuse. Yet decades, even centuries, of abuse do not preclude the possibility of kindly use. And that is what Krsna's cowherds have to offer.
In a field near Sita and Bir, Rasala Dasa, Sita's husband, works a team of oxen tedding hay. After hay is cut, it is tedded, or fluffed up, so air can circulate through it for faster drying. Frequent rains have made the cutting especially thick. The oxen pull a long-fingered device that grabs the hay and throws it up in the air. Rasala walks on their left side, calling commands so they go straight over the rows. Rasala rests the oxen periodically as the sun nears the meridian. They will finish the field before it sets.
Sure a tractor can do more—more harm than good! In a couple of years Bir will join the oxen, spared the veal crate and the steer market. To work him in devotional service is to synthesize science and religion.
"The Vedic way is to farm with the ox," writes ISKCON farm historian Hare Krsna Dasi, "as humanity has done for thousands of years, and as much of the world is still doing—small-scale, personal, noncapitalistic, nonexploitive farming. We don't have to ruin the world to produce food. We can live a simple, sweet agricultural life, as Krsna Himself demonstrated.
"This doesn't mean we have to be primitive, either. There is a large role for developing appropriate technology—like ox-powered energy generators and methane digesters—beyond strictly agricultural applications."
Granted, the golden calf of historical progress is a tough idol to topple. Yet listen to the Vedic view of the earth when Krsna visited some fifty centuries ago. "The clouds showered all the water that people needed, and the earth produced all the necessities of man in profusion. Due to its fatty milk bag and cheerful attitude, the cow used to moisten the grazing ground with milk" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.10.4).
"The years like great black oxen tread the world," wrote the poet W. B. Yeats, "And God the herdsman goads them on behind." Time will tell if our modern world can recover the good life Krsna gave us. But doers like Rasala and Sita can't wait for the world. Working oxen is too rewarding.
"There's a new moon coming," says Sita with a twinkle. "Get up!"
Suresvara Dasa, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, has lived at Gita-nagari for ten years.
The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust has published four new books by Srila Prabhupada. The Journey of Self-Discovery and A Second Chance come from his lectures. Message of Godhead was written before he came to the West. And Civilization and Transcendence comes from an interview by Bhavan's Journal, an Indian periodical.
Forthcoming: Narada-bhakti-sutra, begun by Srila Prabhupada and completed by Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami and Gopiparanadhana Dasa.
The Bhaktivedanta Archives has released the final seventeen volumes of its collection of Srila Prabhupada's conversations. The conversations, transcribed from tapes, fill thirty-five volumes. (See Resources on page 57.)
Devotees in Toronto appear on Vision Television Network every Saturday afternoon. VTN has an audience of 80,000.
America's only Hare Krsna radio station has completed seven years of broadcasting and has renewed its license for seven years more. The station is KHQN, in Spanish Fork, Utah.
The New Orleans Rathayatra festival took place February 12, as a feature of the annual Mardi Gras.
Twenty Rathayatra festivals are planned for the Soviet Union this summer. Festivals will take place in the capitals of most of the Soviet republics. Last summer, the festivals enlivened fifteen Soviet cities.
In Moscow, five hundred Soviet devotees brought the festival through busy Gorky Park on a Sunday afternoon.
During the festival in Leningrad, forty devotees were initiated—complete with a Vedic fire sacrifice—in Dvortzovaya Square, where in 1917 the Bolsheviks had gathered for the October Revolution.
Devotees in Moscow have moved in to their first officially rented temple, ten minutes by metro from the center of the city. Moscow now has some one hundred devotees. Twenty-five go out daily to sell Krsna conscious books. On Sundays, seventy devotees go out chanting on the Arbat, the main tourist street of the city.
More than sixty cities now have devotees active. Their main work: distributing Srila Prabhupada's books.
The latest language to have Krsna conscious books: Moldavian. The Moldavian republic lies in the southwestern part of the Soviet Union, adjoining Romania.
Devotees in Bombay celebrated their annual Rathayatra festival on February 16.
ISKCON Chandigarh held its second Rathayatra this past fall. Despite widespread civil unrest, the government lifted curfews just before the festival date and allowed the festival to go on. Thousands of Chandigarh residents attended.
ISKCON has opened a large temple in Silchar, the third biggest city in Assam. The temple is near the heart of the city.
ISKCON Sydney's Food for Life Center served its two-millionth free meal in November. Local dignitaries attended a celebration in King's Cross Park to honor the event.
Devotees have completed their temple at the New Gokula farm in New South Wales. The Deities from the temple in North Sydney moved to the new temple, which opened in early February.
The Adelaide temple has moved to a 24-room Victorian mansion in the suburb of Semaphore. The building has a large garden, space for a restaurant, and rooms for guests.
Devotees in Perth have renovated a large turn-of-the-century house, making it into a temple and asrama. Since 1985, devotees have run a successful restaurant in Perth, on the west coast of Australia.
Sixteen thousand dollars a year has been granted to the ISKCON temple in Canberra for programs to give out prasadam. The grant also provides a new van and twice-weekly use of the Civic Youth Center. At these Youth Center programs, guests enjoy a full Krsna conscious evening of kirtana, videos, philosophy, and prasadam.
The grant was awarded by the government of Australia's capital territory.
Two huge white bullocks led ISKCON's second annual Rathayatra in Coolangatta, Queensland. At the end of the four-mile procession, 2,000 people enjoyed prasadam and a festival at the beach.
A radio station in Christchurch broadcasts Krsna conscious news, music, and discussion for half an hour every Saturday morning.
An ISKCON Life Member has given land in Kuala Lumpur for a temple. Plans call for a four-story building, with meeting rooms, a prasadam hall, a gurukula, kitchens, guest rooms, and a library.
ISKCON centers have recently opened in Johore, Bahru, Sitiawan, and Kulim.
The Hare Krsna temple in Johannesburg has moved to a new location, a six-story building downtown.
Students in fourteen South African universities attended recent scientific lectures by Rasaraja Dasa of the Bhaktivedanta Institute. He spoke at schools in Durban, Johannesburg, and Capetown.
A crowd of 200,000 took part in ISKCON's Rathayatra festival in Durban, in the last week of December. Some 100,000 people enjoyed full plates of prasadam.
Here's news from the two places most sacred to Hare Krsna devotees: Mayapur (90 miles north of Calcutta) and Vrndavana (90 miles south of New Delhi).
The developing master plan for the Mayapur city came under review at the annual meeting of ISKCON's Governing Body, in early February. Proposed temple designs were also submitted. More about this in our next issue.
Naresvara Dasa, who has worked for ISKCON's Mayapur project for many years, has been appointed co-director. He joins longtime director Jayapataka Swami. Harikesa Swami is now the director for temple construction.
Mayapur's householder enclave is expanding. Four families have moved into recently completed apartments. Four apartments are being built for householder devotees from northern Europe. And other devotees plan to build houses in the same area, on land near the prasadam pavilion.
The Mayapur project is also building ten low-cost apart-ments for local Mayapur devotees.
The plans are ready for a new kitchen and prasadam hall. Construction is waiting for funds.
New Conveniences for Pilgrims
A permanent structure now offers public toilets and showers for pilgrims. It was built by donations from the Nahata family of Calcutta.
Permission for Press Building
Plans are set for a Bhaktivedanta Book Trust building, to be located on the main road, near the existing bank. The building will house a new offset press. Once the press is installed, the Bengali printing for Srila Prabhupada's books will be done in Mayapur.
Work on Srila Prabhupada's samadhi, where his body is buried, has been slowed by north Indian civil conflicts over Ayodhya.
The construction managers for the Vrndavana samadhi and the memorial samadhi in Mayapur are now working closely together to share expertise and resources.
A two-month teacher-training course and a one-year bhakti-sastri scriptural course will begin in July. The courses will be sponsored by the Vaisnava Institute for Higher Education. For information, write to Bhurijana Dasa, VIHE, Bhaktivedanta Swami Gurukula, Bhaktivedanta Swami Marg, Raman Reti, Vrindaban (Dist. Mathura), U.P. 281 124, India.
Enrollment of students at the gurukula has doubled, to seventy. Twenty-seven boys have joined from Nepali brahmana families and five boys from Malaysia. The parents of the Malaysian boys were impressed by gurukula students who toured Malaysia last year.
Two new teachers—Navadvipa Dasa and Vrndavana Vilasini Devi Dasi—have joined the gurukula staff.
Architects have finished the plans for a new guesthouse and apartments, to be built on land owned by the Mayapur-Vrndavana Trust.
Old Bull Dies
Prajapati, ISKCON Vrndavana's original bull, who lived in ISKCON for 20 years, has died. Devotees took the old bull on a funeral procession to the River Yamuna with chanting of Hare Krsna.
ISKCON's guesthouse has become increasingly popular with European visitors. And since December, devotees say, Israeli visitors have been especially numerous.
The Padayatra party, ISKCON's "foot pilgrimage" in India, has now traveled south past Ramesvaram, on the far southeastern coast in Tamil Nadu, near the island nation of Sri Lanka. Ramesvaram is said to be the place where Lord Ramacandra crossed to Lanka on a bridge built by monkeys to battle the demon Ravana.
Continuing south, the party should reach Kanniya Kumari, at the southernmost tip of India, by the first week of April. Then they will start moving north, on India's western coast. They will visit the Adi Kesava temple, where Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu discovered the ancient hymns of the Brahma-samhita. Then they will enter the state of Kerala.
Their first big stop in Kerala will be Trivandrum, the site of the large, impressive temple of Ananta Padmanabha, Lord Visnu, who reclines on His serpent bed, Sesa Naga. From the navel of this Visnu form of the Lord appears the lotus that is the birthplace of the demigod Brahma, the first created person in the universe.
Traveling Through Lord Caitanya's Abode
In February, a separate Padayatra toured Navadvipa, West Bengal, the area of Lord Caitanya's birth, childhood, and youth. Devotees from several nations took part.
A team of trained oxen now lead the American Padayatra. The oxen, from ISKCON's farm in Alachua, Florida, pull a covered wagon (a small traveling temple) six to ten miles a day. The party, which started from Boston, is scheduled to reach Miami in March.
Padayatra Europe will resume on May 1. Devotees will walk from Glasgow to London. The trip—about one thousand kilometers—will take two and a half months.
Padayatra New Zealand
In January and February, devotees walked two thousand kilometers to visit forty towns and cities on New Zealand's south island. Along with the party, bullocks pulled a wooden-wheeled ox cart bearing forms of Srila Prabhupada and Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Local district and city councils were cooperative and hospitable, and New Zealand's Ministry of Education arranged for the Padayatra to visit schools along the route.
For more information about Padayatra, write to:
Here's a Krsna conscious project you might 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.
Manor Youth Forum (MYF).
Bhaktivedanta Manor, London.
Shamir Tanna, 23, from London, a Nama-Hatta (congregation) member since 1984. Shamir implements his ideas under the guidance of Akhandadhi Dasa (Manor president), Sruti Dhara Dasa, and Sita-Rama Dasa.
To reach the young people, ages 16 to 24, in the temple's congregation and involve them in Krsna consciousness, individually and as a group.
The MYF was set up in September 1989 by a group of young people active in the Manor's congregation. Monthly meetings attract between 150 and 200 for dramas, debates, discussions, prasadam, and kirtanas with electric instruments.
"The challenge," says Shamir Tanna, "is to show young people absorbed in their education, work, and home life that Krsna consciousness is relevant and vital to them."
"Rather than give lectures, we organize debates where people can freely express their opinions on spiritual issues."
The interest spawned from these meetings grows on Sunday evening through study, association with devotees, and practical service. Many of the young people are involved in door-to-door sankirtana. They spread the word of Krsna consciousness at festivals and other youth events.
Last summer, fifty members of the MYF went on a five-day excursion to Radhadesa, the ISKCON community at a renovated castle in Belgium. They took part in the temple pro-gram, had extra classes, and went to the Rathayatra festival in Antwerp. The MYF produces its own quarterly magazine and has set up several weekly programs in colleges its members attend.
Nurturing the spiritual lives of such a large number of young people, all with materialistic pressures and influences on them, calls for serious and increasing commitment from many devotees. It is a difficult program to maintain in the face of other temple needs.
The MYF wants to provide opportunities for young people to take a sabbatical from work or college and gain the benefit of a year's training in the asrama. Last September six members of the MYF took this up.
The MYF would also like to increase the number of Krsna conscious programs at universities and colleges, continue the theater workshops recently started, and sponsor annual excursions. Next year the members plan to travel to New Mayapur, ISKCON's farm community in France.
How You Can Help
l Attend monthly programs at the temple.
For further information, contact:
Shamir Tanna or Sita-Rama Dasa at Bhaktivedanta Manor, Letchmore Heath, Watford, Hertfordshire WD2 8EP, U.K. Phone: (0923) 856269.
Elsewhere: Help set up or take part in similar programs through the Hare Krsna temple nearest you.
Romanians and Czechs dance to the holy names of Krsna.
by Suhotra Swami
December 1989: Jarna, Sweden
SPELLBOUND, I watch the satellite TV news with Kirtiraja Prabhu, ISKCON's Governing Body representative for Eastern Europe. We're sitting in the apartment of Vedavyasa Dasa, a Russian emigre who'd done time in a Soviet psychiatric prison because of his faith in Krsna, before the days of glasnost and perestroika.
Scenes from a new and frightening phase in the changes sweeping Communist Romania flicker on the screen: Running gun battles in the streets of Romania's cities as the dreaded Securitate (secret police) try to thwart army-supported, pro-democracy forces from taking over the government. A grisly display of exhumed victims of the Red terror in Timisoara, their wrists bound with barbed wire. A nightmarish look into the maze of tunnels under central Bucharest where armed thugs loyal to the toppled regime make a last stand. The sightlessly staring face of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, his body riddled with the bullets of an exultant firing squad.
We learn that after more than two decades of repression many Romanians find it hard to believe that, in the words of one exiled writer, "Dracula is finally dead."
I'd visited Romania ten years before to see what opportunity there was for spreading Krsna consciousness. I succeeded only in selling some books to an Indian guest instructor at the University of Bucharest who'd written a letter asking for someone from ISKCON to visit him.
Some of his students came to his apartment while I was there, but he quietly advised me not to reveal too much about myself in their presence and not to let our discussions move beyond the subject of "Indian culture." I found these young people goodhearted and surprisingly interested in religious matters. But a palpable paranoia hung in the air over the Romania of that time.
In 1976 my German Godbrother Avinasa Candra Prabhu had been thrown out of the country for making the very first attempt to spread Krsna consciousness there.
Now, as we watch joyous throngs in the streets of Bucharest celebrating the first Christmas without Ceausescu that many Romanians have ever seen, Kirtiraja turns to me with a broad smile and says, "Looks like Krsna just gave you another shot at Romania!"
Krsna Culture on Tour
by Nitya Trpta Devi Dasi
March /April, 1990
TWO OR THREE times a year at the Hare Krsna farm in the Bavarian Forest of Germany, the four devotees who make up the Gauranga Bhajana Band* get ready for a tour. [*The Gauranga Bhajana Band will tour Poland in May for thirteen days.]
Till last year, they'd mainly toured Germany. But lately they've been moving through Eastern Europe.
On the farm, forty kilometers from Czechoslovakia, fifty from Austria, the devotees spend a few days in practice, and then they're ready. They don't pretend to be professional musicians; they're devotees giving philosophical and spiritual ideas through culture.
Some fifteen or twenty devotees travel on the tour, running the sound system, cooking, chanting, dancing, and distributing books.
I recently traveled with the band for seventeen days in Romania and Czechoslovakia.
The program was simple: devotional songs with traditional instruments, then a multi-projector slide show, a philosophical talk, and congregational chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra.
In Cluj, Romania, some young women who had been sitting next to the projection booth deluged me with questions during the intermission. What's tilaka? What about reincarnation? What about everything.
When the program was over, they were nearly in tears at the thought of leaving.
In Iasi, a so-called model city in eastern Romania, near the Soviet border, the young Romanian who had organized our tour told us that people were shocked at our openness in speaking publicly on God consciousness. Only one or two months before, this would have been a punishable offense.
For each of our two programs in Bucharest, the Romanian capital, over three thousand people showed up. During the chanting of Hare Krsna at the end, many literally jumped out of their seats. They flooded the stage with flowers—a tradition for a performance appreciated. The holy name of Krsna had melted their hearts.
In Czechoslovakia, people had a different mood. Many took notes during the lecture. Others followed the tour from city to city.
And it was in Czechoslovakia that we discovered the bliss of asking the audience to move away the chairs and learn the "swami step"—the way Srila Prabhupada taught us to dance.
ISKCON in Eastern Europe
• No activity to report.
• Government extremely restrictive, but policies are gradually changing. Opportunities seem to be opening up.
• One small book available.
• No centers.
• Devotees active under-ground since 1978, in the open since end of 1989. In the past, Bulgarian devotees suffered serious repressions, culminating in the mysterious death of the leading Bulgarian devotee, Radhavallabha Dasa.
• Society now legally registered as an "idealistic society."
• Bhagavad-gita and small books available.
• Centers in Sofia and Plovdiv.
• 20 devotees.
• First devotee foray: 1978. Steady underground activity since 1980.
• Society now legally registered as a yoga society.
• Bhagavad-gita, Krsna Book, Teachings of Lord Caitanya, and several other books available.
• Centers in Prague and Bratislava, plus a farm community in the countryside outside Prague.
• 40 devotees.
• Devotees active since 1976.
• Legally registered as a religious organization.
• Bhagavad-gita and several other books available.
• Center in Budapest.
• 40 devotees.
• Devotees active underground since 1975.
• Legally registered as a religious organization since June 1988.
• All books available.
• Temples in Warsaw and Wroclaw and a farm near Jelenia Gora. Many congregational centers springing up around the country.
• 125 devotees.
• First devotee foray: 1976. Devotees steadily active since 1989.
• Isopanisad translated, soon to be printed.
• No centers yet.
• Devotees active since 1976.
• Legally registered society.
• Srimad-Bhagavatam, several other books, and the first portion of Caitanya-caritamrta available.
• Centers in Belgrade, Sarajevo, Ljubljana, and Pregrada.
• 100 devotees.
NOTHING, says a letter to the Bhaktivedanta Institute.
The letter to the Institute
THE BROCHURE you sent me states,"Our in-house research uses paradigms for consciousness from the Bhagavata tradition of Vedanta." This statement is a source of confusion for me.
It is well known that the Vedas are divided into two sections, the first being the karma-kanda section and the last the jnana-kanda section. The jnana-kanda section is also called Vedanta (or "end of the Veda").
The word "bhagavata" means "one who is devoted to Bhagavata (the Lord)." The material relating to the "Bhagavata tradition" and "bhakti" (devotion) is covered in the karma-kanda section of the Vedas and is not the subject of Vedanta.
Bhakti assumes a dualistic relationship between the devotee and the Lord whereas Vedanta is "advaita," or nondualistic.
Therefore, I am confused by the name of your institute, "Bhaktivedanta," since according to my understanding the words "bhakti" and "Vedanta" refer to separate teachings, with fundamental differences, that employ different methodologies.
My confusion is further augmented by the fact that there was a well-known swami, Swami Prabhupada (who also went by the name A.C. Bhaktivedanta), who founded the Hare Krishna movement. As you no doubt know, the Hare Krishna society is a modern religious movement totally unrelated to traditional Vedanta.
When one studies traditional Vedanta, one learns that there is a clear distinction made between absolute reality (paramarthika) and empirical reality (vyavaharika). In this context, science is the study of empirical reality.
Traditional Vedanta teaches that the fundamental nature of everything (absolute reality) is consciousness (or awareness). Further, empirical reality is dependent on consciousness (absolute reality).
So if one subscribes to the teachings of traditional Vedanta it logically follows that science (the study of dependent reality) is subsumed by consciousness. Another way of saying this is that "science" is the "object" of the "subject" which is consciousness.
I am impressed that you have a highly competent staff, and I am puzzled by the philosophical inconsistencies that appear in the material you sent me.
I would very much appreciate your response to this letter.
The Purpose Of Vedanta
Ravi Gomatam, international secretary of the Bhaktivedanta Institute, responds
THE WORD Bhaktivedanta is not at all incongruous, popular understanding of bhakti and Vedanta notwithstanding.
There are two traditions of Vedanta—the impersonalist and the Vaisnava. Both have existed since time immemorial. Sripada Adi Sankaracarya is the best-known modern acarya (teacher) of the impersonalist school, and Sripada Ramanujacarya, Sripada Madhvacarya, and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu are the best known modern acaryas of the Vaisnava school.
When the impersonalists speak of Vedanta, they generally refer to the Sariraka-Bhasya of Sripada Adi Sankaracarya. But this is not the only bhasya (commentary) on Vedanta-sutra. There are outstanding commentaries by Vaisnava acaryas, such as the Sri Bhasya of Ramanujacarya, Govinda Bhasya of Baladeva Vidyabhusana, and Tatparya Nirnayas of Madhvacarya.
The presence of the Vaisnava commentaries refutes the popular notion that only one tradition studies Vedanta, while the other, called bhakti, has nothing to do with it. Bhakti, supposedly, is for the less intelligent ("people of the heart" is the usual cliche) while impersonalist jnana is for the highly intellectual (and, by implication, more advanced).
But the truth is that every bona fide Vedic tradition is directly based on Vedanta. The two schools, therefore, are not jnana and bhakti, as you mention, but Mayavada (impersonalist) and Vaisnava (personalist).
It is therefore untrue that those who perform bhakti are devoid of knowledge. Rather, knowledge at its highest level culminates in devotion. This is confirmed in Bhagavad-gita, which gives the essence of the Upanisads, which in turn form the basis of jnana-kanda. Bahunam janmanam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate: After many births and deaths, the real jnani surrenders to Vasudeva, Lord Sri Krsna (Bg. 7.19).
In the twelfth chapter of Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna asks which path is better, the impersonal or the personal. Lord Krsna answers unambiguously that the personal path is better.
The personalist and impersonalist schools both follow practices of bhakti and of jnana. Indeed, jnana and bhakti are eternal characteristics of the conscious spirit soul. In the material world they are directed to the wrong objects, but in the spiritual world they are present in their pure form.
When we speak of Bhaktivedanta, therefore, we refer to the Vaisnava (personalist) Vedanta tradition. We use the term deliberately, since Vedanta alone has come by usage to refer to the impersonalist school.
The first Bhaktivedanta commentary on Vedanta-sutra was Srimad-Bhagavatam, written by the compiler of Vedanta-sutra himself, Srila Vyasadeva. Later Vaisnava acaryas further elaborated on the meaning of Vedanta by following in Srila Vyasadeva's footsteps.
Beyond Devotion to Demigods
Now, some of your objections are not just a matter of philosophical difference but are factually incorrect. For example, you say, "Bhakti is covered in the karma-kanda section of the Vedas and is not the subject of Vedanta." Nowhere in the scriptures is this substantiated. The karma-kanda section of the Vedas concerns fruitive activities—that is, religious rituals performed for material rewards. These are technically called trai-gunya-visaya veda, or affairs of the three modes of material nature.
But bhakti is transcendental to the three modes and to fruitive mentalities. The beginning and fundamental tenet of bhakti is to serve the Supreme Lord without expectation of material rewards. How then can bhakti be a subject of the karma-kanda section? What you might be confusing it with is the worship of the demigods—Lord Brahma, Lord Siva, Indra, Mother Parvati, Candra, etc.—which is indeed part of the karma-kanda section.
Such worship, however, is not properly called bhakti. It is simply worship within the three modes to obtain material benedictions. Worshipers of demigods are described in the Bhagavad-gita as less intelligent (alpa-medhasam), and the fruits they receive are limited and temporary.
Bhakti is often thought to be a mere sentiment cultivated in relation to any object of worship (ista-devata). According to this idea, it is only a means to come to the higher platform of jnana. Yet the scriptures do not support this definition of bhakti.
Bhakti properly refers only to service to God, not to any demigods. Therefore, bhakti is not an affair of the karma-kanda section.
You say,"Bhakti assumes a dualistic relationship, whereas Vedanta means advaita, or nondualistic." This, however, is not stated anywhere in the Vedic scriptures. Vedanta is simply the study of the Supreme Brahman. That Supreme can be studied by either the monists or the Vaisnavas. Otherwise, how is it that great Vaisnava acaryas have written commentaries on the Vedanta-sutra?
You also assert that bhakti is not the subject of Vedanta. But in Bhagavad-gita the Supreme Lord Himself declares, vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyah: "By all the Vedas [and this naturally includes Vedanta], I am to be known." The same truth is indicated in the beginning of the Vedanta-sutra: athato brahma jijnasa. The very purpose of Vedanta is to inquire into the Supreme Braman. And inquiring into the Supreme Brahman ultimately leads to bhakti, or serving the Supreme Brahman, the Personality of Godhead.
The Hare Krsna movement, you say, is a "modern movement totally unrelated to traditional Vedanta." Here you are wrong on two counts.
First, the Hare Krsna movement is not a modern movement, but is in the Vaisnava tradition. It may be new, and hence modern, to Westerners, but not to us Indians. I was born a Vaisnava, and I know that this is the ancient tradition and culture of India. Not only that, but the modern form of the Hare Krsna movement as it is known in the West was inaugurated by Sri Caitanya five hundred years ago in Bengal. So it can hardly be called modern in the sense of having a recent origin (though it may be called modern for being relevant to contemporary life).
Second, and more serious, you say that the Hare Krsna movement is not at all connected to traditional Vedanta. I take it that you mean monistic Vedanta. The Hare Krsna movement has nothing to do with monistic Vedanta but everything to do with traditional Vaisnava Vedanta.
Science and Consciousness
The term Bhaktivedanta in our institute's name refers to the Bhagavata, or Vaisnava, tradition of Vedanta. The Bhaktivedanta Institute is an autonomous institute dedicated to examining the relevance of the Bhagavata concepts of consciousness to modern science.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the Hare Krsna movement, inspired the formation of the Bhaktivedanta Institute. The word Bhaktivedanta in his name is a title awarded him in the 1930's for presenting the Vaisnava tradition of Vedanta authoritatively and clearly.
The institute, though autonomous, draws from the same spiritual tradition as the Krsna consciousness movement, which was also founded by Srila Prabhupada. The institute's programs, however, are specifically in the realm of science and consciousness.
As for your final point concerning the nature of empiric reality and absolute reality—this touches the core of our scientific work. I would like to talk with you more about it once we clear this stage of our discussion.
Srila Prabhupada taught that art, however crudely done,
By Yadurani Devi Dasi
IN NEW YORK CITY, 1967, Srila Prabhupada asked me to do a painting of Narada Muni, a great sage who travels everywhere in the universe and beyond, enlightening all he meets.
"Come into my room," Prabhupada said. "I'll give you an idea how to do it."
Prabhupada handed me a picture he had brought from India. It showed Narada walking through a forest holding wooden clappers in his left hand and a stringed instrument (called a vina) in his right. Prabhupada then handed me a small strip of paper on which he had written the caption narada muni bajaya vina radhika-ramana name, which he translated as "Narada Muni plays his vina and chants Hare Krsna."
I finished the painting in a few days, and although it was crudely done, Prabhupada seemed pleased. He had it hung in the temple for all guests to see, and he asked me to paint similar ones for his other temples.
By 1968 I was in Boston and ready to do the painting a second time. During my student days at City College of New York, before I had ever met Prabhupada, people would line up for several blocks at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art to get a one-minute view of the Mona Lisa. Now I remembered that and thought, "If I can paint in that Renaissance style, people will come from all over to see paintings of Krsna and His devotees like Narada Muni."
So I went to the Boston library and studied Michelangelo and Da Vinci. The result was a painting of a muscle-bound Narada Muni with gaunt cheeks in a California redwood forest. I sent the painting to our Los Angeles branch, and the devotees wrote me letters about how they loved it and how it increased their ecstasy during kirtana.
Then Prabhupada, who had been in India for several months, returned to the United States and visited Los Angeles. He wrote me on April 8, 1968.
"My dear Jadurani,
"Please accept my blessings. I am in due receipt of your letter dated April 2, 1968, and I thank you very much for it. ...
"You are already a great artist. You don't want to become a great artist to satisfy the senses of the public. If your present paintings are not acceptable to the general public, I do not mind; they are fools. You continue trying your best to make your pictures, as far as they can be, nice-looking, but not to satisfy the senses of the rascal public.
"Yesterday I have been in a Unitarian Church, and there I saw two pictures of only logs and bamboos. I was explained by our great artist Govinda dasi that these are modern abstract arts. Anyway, I could see in them nothing but a combination of logs and bamboos. There was nothing to impel my Krishna consciousness. So if you want to be a great artist in that way, I will pray that Krishna may save you.
"Anyway, if the public doesn't buy, we don't mind. Why are you anxious for selling? We shall distribute them to devotees without any price. If our things have no market in the sense gratification society, that does not mean we are going to change our principles. We are meant for satisfying Krishna, not anybody's senses. That should be the principle of our life.
"In this connection I may remark that you have sent one picture of Narada Muni which I understand was copied from some so-called great artist. But Narada Muni's body appears to be very sensuous. He was a first-class brahmacari [celibate young man]. He cannot have such a sensuous body.
"So you will do well not to work from the so-called well-known artists. But you should follow exactly the descriptions of the scriptures. The picture of Narada Muni which you painted in New York in my presence was very nice and good looking, but this picture here doesn't appeal to me. Better not to worry about this sort of technique and style. ..."
Depressed, thinking I had not pleased Prabhupada, I took courage and gathered all my strength to write an explanation and an apology.
I received his reply on April 13 from San Francisco.
"My dear Jadurani,
"Please accept my blessings. I am in due receipt of your letter post-dated April 11, and this is the first time I received your letter finished in three lines. So I can understand that you have been depressed by receiving my last letter.
"The idea is that there is a story that 'I have lost my caste, and still my belly is not filled.' In India it is the custom that the Hindus do not ever take meals in the house of a Mohammedan, Christian, or of anyone other than a Hindu brahmin. But a man was very hungry and accidentally he took his food in the house of a Mohammedan. And when he wanted still more food, the man refused, as the man could not supply.
"So the Hindu man said, 'Sir, I have lost my caste, and still I am hungry!'
"Similarly, if artistic pictures as they are approved by the people in general in this country can be sold quickly, I have no objection to present our pictures in such a way. But I know that pictures in this country are sold not on the merit of the picture but on the reputation of the artists. That system is also current in India. But to come to the point of a reputed artist will require long duration of time. And our time is very short. We have to finish our Krishna consciousness during our lifetime, and we should not waste a single moment for anything else.
"According to Caitanya-caritamrta, a man is famous who is known as a great devotee of Krishna. So if there is no possibility of selling our pictures immediately on presentation, I do not think there is any necessity to improve our artistic craftsmanship. ..."
Srila Prabhupada advised me not to waste a single moment trying to make my paintings commercially profitable. I should simply paint for Krsna. When Krsna is pleased, the whole world benefits.
Yadurani Devi Dasi is working on Krsna conscious picture books and illustrative comics in graphic novel style. She lives at ISKCON's New York City temple.
To Serve Is Natural
More to say about the role of women
By Visnupriya Devi Dasi
Last issue, we published what several devotee women had to say about the role of women in ISKCON. Our staff, of course, saw the issue before it came out, and one staff member had strong feelings about it. So now she joins in the discussion, with a differing point of view.
Although women and men are spiritually equal, we women cannot deny the obvious fact that we have the physical constitution of women. A woman can easily be taken advantage of and corrupted by unscrupulous men, as we now see to be an ever more common experience.
The Vedic scriptures compare a woman to fire and a man to butter. When butter comes near fire, it melts. When men and women mix indiscriminately, good intentions melt, material desires manifest, and Krsna consciousness is forgotten.
So the scriptures say that a woman is to be sheltered—by her father before marriage, by her husband after marriage, and by her son when the husband accepts the renounced order of life.
Why should women be subservient to men? A woman journalist once asked this question of Srila Prabhupada.
"Not should be," Srila Prabhupada answered. "They are. ... You have become voluntarily subservient to your man. That is nature. They [women] are seeking to become subservient by attracting a man: 'Take me as subservient.' That is natural." It is natural for a woman to be a chaste wife and a good cook. It is natural for her to serve her husband lovingly, help him progress in Krsna consciousness, and help him raise Krsna conscious children. In this way she becomes dear to her husband and, by her devotion to scriptural injunctions, dear to Lord Krsna. In this way she achieves the ultimate goal of human life.
But what preaching opportunities does this leave for a woman? After all, ISKCON is a preaching movement, and Lord Krsna says that His best servant is the preacher. Why should women be left out?
Anyone who teaches by example is a preacher, Srila Prabhupada says. In that way, everyone in our movement is a preacher. The temple cook, the pujari, the devotee sweeping the floor—all of them are preaching just by serving Krsna.
As a mother and wife, the Krsna conscious woman has a great responsibility for preaching, and she has to take this seriously so she can give Krsna consciousness to others and help them perfect their lives by leading them to the lotus feet of Lord Sri Krsna.
We women do not have to adopt the artificial ideals of "equal rights" in order to preach. We can preach profoundly by following the examples of great Krsna conscious women like Queen Gandhari, Queen Kunti, and Sita Devi.
"Purity is the force," Srila Prabhupada says. Our potency to preach lies not in an equal-rights movement or a high-profile position but in purity.
What have "equal rights" and "high profiles" brought women anyway? Exploitation, broken families, broken marriages, an animalistic chain of uncaring sexual partners, abortion, children bereft of parental love, and above all, no time for Krsna consciousness.
If we devotee women stay on the bodily platform, hankering for artificial equal rights, then what is the difference between us and materialistic women? Like them, we will simply miss the whole purpose of human life—love of Krsna.
A Krsna conscious woman is a wife to her husband and a mother not only to her children but to all men other than her husband. She helps them in their Krsna consciousness just as she would help her own children. This is the sign of a Vaisnava: living for the welfare of others.
Women in Krsna consciousness should not feel that they are lowering themselves by accepting what is natural. On the contrary, women who live in their true role are highly esteemed by sadhus (saintly persons), by sastra (scripture), and by Lord Krsna Himself. And Krsna conscious women are very much needed in the present age.
If we ignore our natural duties, we simply create a disturbance in society, and nothing else.
"Devotional service to the Lord that ignores the scriptures like the Upanisads, Puranas, and Narada-pancaratra is just a needless disturbance in society" (Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.2.101).
Here is true equality: When women and men follow the scriptures and act in keeping with their natural position, then they will find peace and fulfillment, and by their example they will help others attain the ultimate goal of life.
Visnupriya Devi Dasi comes from a Gujarati Indian family in Fiji. There she was initiated by Tamal Krishna Goswami in 1979 and distributed Srila Prabhupada's books for several years before coming to America. She now lives in San Diego, where she assists her husband in his role as sales manager for Back to Godhead.
Now you can have a Hare Krsna Club at your school!
IF THE PEOPLE IN CHARGE at your school allow other clubs, off the subjects taught in the regular classes, they have to allow your Hare Krsna club too. That's the effect of a 1990 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.
They can't say "No religion" or "No Hare Krsna."
The same standards that apply to the photography club or the hiking club should also apply to your Hare Krsna club.
Does your school have clubs unrelated to the curriculum? Does your school (like most) get a share of federal funds?
Then the same rights the Supreme Court guaranteed to Bridget Mergens are also guaranteed to you.
Bridget Mergens was an Omaha high school student who wished to organize a student Christian club that would meet at school after hours. The purpose of the club was "to permit the students to read and discuss the Bible, to have fellowship, and to pray together."
But Bridget's was a public school receiving federal funds, so the school authorities reasoned that allowing the club would breach the constitutional "wall of separation" between Church and State. So they turned down her request.
Bridget replied that the school's decision deprived her of "equal access" to club activities because of what the club would be about. The school allowed other clubs not related to the curriculum, such as chess and scuba-diving clubs. So Bridget argued that she was entitled to organize a club for Christian activities.
By denying her request, Bridget said, the school was violating her constitutional rights to freedom of speech and association and the free exercise of religion.
Bridget's complaint, initiated in a principal's office, slowly made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
And finally Bridget won.
Federal law, ruled the court, requires that schools grant all students equal access to what the school offers, even when students wish to form a club with a spiritual or religious content.
This rule applies when your school allows clubs that are unrelated to the curriculum. For example, if your school has a chess club and chess is not a part of the school's official courses, the club is unrelated. (A math club or French club, on the other hand, would be related to the regular classes in math or French.)
If your school has even one club unrelated to the curriculum, the court's ruling applies. Your Hare Krsna club should be allowed.
And if other clubs have access to the school newspaper, bulletin boards, public address system, and club fairs, so should your Hare Krsna club.
Your club, of course, like all school clubs, should be organized and led by students themselves. And it should meet, like other clubs, during time not used for regular classes.
So now it's up to you. If you'd like to have a club, just start one. Find out the rules for student clubs at your school and start your own club for Krsna consciousness.
When you do start a club, let us know about it here at BTG. We'll be interested to hear of your suc-cess. And if the people in charge at your school try to turn you down, let us know about that too. Maybe we can help.
The Supreme Court case, by the way, is known as Board of Education v. Mergens, 110 Supreme Court 2356 (1990).
Is the Hare Krsna movement no better than
A letter recently came to us from a subscriber in Libya about the need to protect sanatana-dharma. Here's what he said, with our reply. Because of what must be the delicate position of a Hindu living in a Muslim country, we withhold his name.
KRISHNA (HINDU) philosophy or consciousness was founded in a far distant time when there was no so-called religion other than this. So there was no threat to its existence. Even anti-Krishna people then were not anti-Hinduism.
But now the decline of Hindu dharma, or sanatana-dharma, has been brought about from two sides—Christianity and Islam.
Sanatana-dharma advocates love, tolerance, humility, peacefulness. Such doctrines have been the life-breath of its followers. But these are burnt and buried by hatred, jealousy, fanaticism, and the murderous nature of other faiths.
Who is going to save Krishna philosophy? Sannyasis are not soldiers and do not have bombs and armies.
The Hare Krishna movement is a bird with only one wing—the propagation wing. There is no protective wing, without which its existence is always in danger.
Plans must be devised to keep this ancient wisdom safe. Being wise but witnessing its very destruction would be unbecoming.
How do you plan to protect the Hare Krishna movement?
OUR REPLY: To uphold and protect the principles of sanatana-dharma, or progressive spiritual life, is the duty of ksatriyas (political and military leaders), especially the heads of every nation. This is why the Lord, millions of years ago, spoke Bhagavad-gita to the sun-god, the primeval ksatriya.
Unless sanatana-dharma is protected, a country will never be peaceful or happy. It will soon become a nation of cats and dogs.
Sanatana-dharma, however, is not a sectarian religious principle. It is not that Lord Krsna came to advance the cause of "Hindu dharma," in opposition to "Christian dharma" or "Muslim dharma."
In Bhagavad-gita we never find the word "Hindu," nor do we find it in the Vedas, the Puranas, or other sastras. The term "Hindu" is of recent origin. By an altered pronunciation of "Sindhu," the people of Afghanisthan and neighboring places came to speak of those who dwell by the River Indus (Sindhu) as "Hindus."
So in ancient times there were no "anti-Hindus" because there was no such thing as "Hinduism."
But from Bhagavad-gita (16.6) we understand that there are two kinds of people—daiva asura eva ca, the godly and the ungodly. According to the Visnu Purana, visnu-bhakta smrto daiva asuras tad viparyayah: The devotees of the Lord are the godly, and those who are just the opposite, who are against the Lord, are the ungodly.
The principles of godliness are taught in all religious faiths, but people unfortunately do not follow their own religious principles. Lord Jesus Christ taught, "Thou shalt not kill," yet so many so-called Christians are busy killing—killing animals and killing other human beings. Lord Krsna said, "Give up all other occupations and surrender unto Me." But millions of so-called Hindus have some other idea. They care more about politics, moneymaking, sectarian loyalties, mundane welfare work, or other duties, philosophies, "isms," and so on.
Therefore the great need of today is to spread the cultural values and spiritual philosophy of sanatana-dharma, Krsna consciousness.
Sanatana-dharma is not meant only for people of a particular country or religious background. It is meant for all human beings, or even all living entities. Therefore we can honestly ask godly people from whatever background to take part in the Krsna consciousness movement.
If we take to Krsna consciousness sincerely, live by its principles, and spread them for the benefit of others, Lord Krsna will always help us and protect us.
And the people of the world—people of all religions—should demand that their ksatriyas, their political and military leaders, take to the principles of sanatana-dharma and uphold and protect them, as the Lord desires. Then the ksatriyas can attain the perfection of their duty, and godly people of all religious faiths will be safe and secure.
All sections of society—brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, and sudra—should give up all other so-called dharmas and work together in sanatana-dharma, Krsna consciousness, devotional service to the Lord. To spread this understanding is the purpose of our Krsna consciousness movement.