Back to Godhead, the magazine of the Hare Krsna movement, is a cultural presentation to respiritualize human society. It aims at achieving the following purposes:
1. To help all people distinguish more clearly between reality and illusion, spirit and matter, the eternal and the temporary.
2. To present Krsna consciousness as taught in Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam.
3. To help every living being remember and serve Sri Krsna, the Personality of Godhead.
4. To offer guidance in the techniques of spiritual life.
5. To expose the faults of materialism.
6. To promote a balanced, natural way of life, informed by spiritual values.
7. To increase spiritual fellowship among all living beings, in relationship with Lord Sri Krsna.
8. To perpetuate and spread the Vedic culture.
9. To celebrate the chanting of the holy names of God through the sankirtana movement of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Toward an Enlightened New World Order
"We've got a real ksatriya for a president! " an American devotee said to me, his face beaming. The Allies were trouncing whatever was left of the Iraqi armies, and George Bush was making it clear the Allies would keep striking till the Iraqis utterly surrendered.
My devotee friend knew, of course, that George Bush could hardly match the valor and nobility of true ksatriyas like King Yudhisthira and King Pariksit. Still, Bush and his allies had waged a splendid war.
Power, skill, drive, heroism—these are attributes of the ksatriya, the noble warrior who leads his forces to victory. A ksatriya at the helm is inspiring. And Mr. Bush has emerged a powerful, inspiring figure.
But the man eats cow flesh.
So what my friend was saying, in effect, was this: "He waged such an excellent war, he could almost be a ksatriya."
Almost. Because ksatriyas are not only heroic and tough; they're also spiritually cultured and enlightened. And that's not the kind of man who feasts on the flesh of his mother.
The true ksatriya respects the cow as his mother and the bull as his father because by Krsna's arrangement the cow, like a mother, gives us milk, and the bull, like a father, feeds us by his work.
So if a true ksatriya were around, George Bush would be on the defensive. A true ksatriya wouldn't tolerate a president eating cow flesh any more than Mr. Bush put up with Saddam Hussein trying, to devour Kuwait.
And more than just morality is in question here. For a ksatriya sees in the cow what Mr. Bush and his allies see in the oil fields of the Middle East—survival.
What survival ultimately calls for, the ksatriya knows, is not petroleum but food. And food for human beings comes most abundantly, by God's mercy, from tilled land and the udder of the cow.
Mr. Bush has spoken of "a new world order," though he hasn't made clear what it might be. We suggest it should have these features:
1. It should draw its prosperity from cultivating the earth and protecting the cow and the bull, not from ravaging the earth's resources and slaughtering its creatures.
2. Its presidents, prime ministers, and kings should be men trained and strong in spiritual understanding and culture.
3. The advisors those leaders rely on should be self-realized souls who see that a world in proper order is a world making progress back to Godhead—and who see how to help that progress come about.
The victory in the Persian Gulf hasn't solved the problem of dependency on oil for an artificial way of life. And it certainly hasn't solved the still more basic problem of forgetfulness of Krsna.
Back to Godhead aims at keeping us mindful of Krsna. And in this issue, starting on page 40, we speak of Krsna's alternative to dependency on oil.
The best model for a new world order has already been given to us by Lord Krsna. We'd be inspired to see a real ksatriya—a stronger, gentler ksatriya—lead the world in putting that order into place.
Congratulations on the Premiere Issue of the new BTG. I liked everything about it—from the mature writing and design all the way down to the stately page numbers at the bottom.
It even smells better!
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Just came back from Vrindavana to find the Premiere Issue of BTG in my mail. Excellent service by all of you. What a surprise! It was like when I found my first copy of BTG on my doorstep over 20 years ago and experienced the nectar.
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It seems to me that Back to Godhead as it is now presented can truly become the "backbone" of our movement as Prabhupada said that it should be.
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This is the first time in years that I've looked forward to reading BTG cover to cover. It seems you were able to incorporate most of the suggestions you received, from women's issues to international events to resources available. It's been a real pleasure distributing these.
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Really enjoyed this "new" BTG. I'm sure Srila Prabhupada is pleased with its mood, art, current topics, and faithfulness to our mission of glorifying and serving the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna.
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I am grateful as a householder that BTG is back to press and its nectar is reaching the devotees. I am especially grateful for the column by Rohininandana Dasa. As a devotee who lives away from the temple, "Bhakti-yoga At Home" will be something I turn to first.
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Instead of thinking how the magazine will be read by others, the new BTG made me consider my own position as Krsna's servant in Krsna's movement. Especially Yadurani Prabhu's article, which dealt more with the position of the spirit soul than that of women, was enlivening.
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I just received the Premiere Issue of Back to Godhead at the federal prison where I have been residing for the past ten months. Words cannot express the transcendental feelings I experienced when I opened the package. I immediately ran back to my cell, offered obeisances to Srila Prabhupada, and with great excitement and trembling hands opened it up and lost myself in spiritual bliss as I devoured every word from cover to cover. It is certainly true that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Keep up the wonderful work and please send an additional copy if you can, as I have a waiting list of readers and I just can't seem to let go of my copy.
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I want an immediate refund of my subscription price. I cannot believe Prabhupada's magazine has gone so low in quality. Where are the color photographs and paintings of Krsna? The magazine has the look (and excitement) of some quarterly business journal. The black and white photographs are not even clear. I didn't read much because it was too disheartening.
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Women In Krsna Consciousness
Since male chauvinism is the desire to feel superior to women, the "Women in the Krsna Consciousness Movement" article made it clear that the label does fit and the problem goes a lot deeper than a few ISKCON men acting chauvinistically. ISKCON, no doubt, will keep the label as long as devotee men see their spiritual advancement as more important than women's and see themselves as superior on the material platform.
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Here are some thoughts on the "women's issue." I liked all the articles presented in that section of BTG! I think as women that the best policy is sad-acara [behavior according to religious principles]. If we act properly, we will also be seen by Krsna, and we don't have to overendeavor to see Krsna. If we try to stick as closely as possible to the qualities of a woman as found in sastra, we won't be losers, but will have everything to gain. Every qualified woman in spiritual life is naturally and gracefully protected by Krsna, and allowed to serve Him in so many ways. The sweet taste of service to Krsna and our relationship with Him have to be the most important part of any "role" in spiritual life, not the fact that we are encaged in a certain type of body.
Karuna Devi Dasi
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Yadurani's comments about accepting responsibility and knowing that Krsna is in control are very inspiring and true. However, what good has it done for women to sit quietly all these years? If we don't speak out, we not only hurt ourselves, but the Society as a whole. ISKCON needs to make much needed changes, and women must continue to speak out. Yes, "we are the architects of our own future," ... with the direction of Krsna in our hearts. We cannot continue to use the fact that "we have to accept our lot" as an excuse not to act—both on the part of ISKCON officials and individuals.
Sanandananda Manjari Dasi
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In the name of women's lib, please don't feel free to put pictures of the ladies with heads uncovered. I would feel very uncomfortable if it was me, and I'm not a "fuddy-duddy"! I have a lot of service, and part of it is dressing properly so I can preach properly. And many people locally have appreciated it and the proper Vedic culture it represents.
Kamra Devi Dasi
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The articles on devotee women were excellent. These women accurately represented the views of women in ISKCON. Now that these issues have been brought to the attention of the GBC, I would like to hear from the GBC and see what they are actually going to do to resolve these important issues concerning women.
Vrndavana-lila Devi Dasi
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The new Back to Godhead has finally arrived, and it was certainly worth the wait—all the articles were excellent! I especially appreciated the offerings by my beloved Godsisters Yamuna Devi (always a source of great inspiration), Visakha Devi Dasi (living proof that women can be as intelligent as men), Jadurani Devi Dasi (her straight-arrow commentary goes right to the heart), and the always-outspoken and astute Sita Devi Dasi.
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I was interested to read the women's articles, as I thought it was only my lack of understanding that led me to feel that ISKCON women are sometimes thought of as second-class devotees. I therefore think it is important for these feelings to be brought for-ward, discussed, and sorted out.
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Bad Press Award
Why a "Bad Press Award"? Must we continue to present ourselves as woe-fully persecuted martyrs? No one can hurt us unless we allow them to, and Krsna gives all protection to His devotees. Why should we give the impression that it might be otherwise?
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The "Bad Press Award" is excellent. You have to get right out there and deal with what people are really saying about us, not live in an ISKCON ivory tower.
Dhananjaya Pandita Dasa
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I do not think that your policy in the newly formulated "Bad Press Award" will contribute to the overall effectiveness of the magazine. It is good to point out sloppy journalism that is misleading and unfavorable to the Krsna consciousness movement, but unless you are willing to print the entire third-rate article, then you will also be criticized for sloppy journalism. The readers of BTG should be able to read the entire article and then BTG's rebuff in order to more clearly ascertain the reasoning behind the critique.
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Statement of Purposes
The "Statement of Purposes," I noticed, is different than that which has been given by Sri Prabhupada. Although I have not found anything objectionable in the new statement, is the intent of the new statement the same as the original statement? If so, why get rid of Prabhupada's words?
OUR REPLY: We used to print Srila Prabhupada's purposes for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Now we print the purposes for Back to Godhead magazine. The purposes are similar, of course, but not exactly the same. For example, BTG has no intention of building temples, one of the purposes Srila Prabhupada set for ISKCON. We feel it is more appropriate to print BTG's purposes.
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I was very much disturbed to see that there was no picture of Srila Prabhupada on the inside cover. I feel it is of the utmost importance that Srila Prabhupada be presented as the founder-acarya as he was in previous BTG's. Every devotee I have spoken to feels the same.
Madana Mohana Mohini Devi Dasi
OUR REPLY: Although we've had Srila Prabhupada's photograph on the inside front cover for quite a while, Srila Prabhupada never instituted this practice. In fact, he once suggested that instead of running his photo we could sometimes print photos of his spiritual master and other previous acaryas.
Srila Prabhupada's is still prominent in BTG. His article appears first in the magazine, along with his name, title, and photograph. And we have the new "Remembering Prabhupada." Most important, the articles are based on Prabhupada's teachings, and therefore the authors often naturally make references to Srila Prabhupada. Also, we feel that Srila Prabhupada would appreciate the Krsna conscious art now appearing on the inside front cover, and we hope readers will find it to be an added attraction to BTG.
We welcome your letters. Send correspondence to The Editors, Back to Godhead, P.O. Box 90946, San Diego, CA 92169-0864, U.S.A.
Despite the honorable intentions of philanthropists,
From The Teachings Of
IN THE NAME OF philanthropy ... people are feeling compassion for suffering humanity throughout the world," (SB 5.8.10) Srila Prabhupada writes. But "no one knows where compassion should be applied. Compassion for the dress of a drowning man is senseless. A man fallen in the ocean of nescience cannot be saved simply by rescuing his outward dress—the gross material body." (Bg. 2.1)
"Without knowing the need of the dormant soul, one cannot be happy simply with emolument of the body and mind. The body and the mind are but superfluous outer coverings of the spirit soul. The spirit soul's needs must be fulfilled." (SB 1.2.8)
"Material compassion, lamentation, and tears are all signs of ignorance of the real self. Compassion for the eternal soul is self-realization. ..." (Bg. 2.1)
"A Vaisnava is para-duhkha-duhkhi; he is always unhappy to see the conditioned souls in an unhappy state of materialism." (SB 6.10.9)
"It should be understood that sages, saintly persons, and devotees are not unconcerned with the people's welfare. ... Actual devotees and saintly persons are always anxious to see how the people can be made happy. ..." (SB 4.14.7)
"Forgetful men do not know the right path of peace and prosperity. However, the sages know it well, and therefore for the good of all men they are always anxious to perform acts which may bring about peace in the world. They are sincere friends to all living entities, and at the risk of great personal inconvenience they are always engaged in the service of the Lord for the good of all people.
"Lord Visnu is just like a great tree, and all others ... are like branches, twigs, and leaves of that tree. By pouring water on the root of the tree, all the parts of the tree are automatically nourished. ... The modern materialistic society is detached from its relation to the Supreme Lord. And all its plans which are being made by atheistic leaders are sure to be baffled at every step. Yet they do not wake up to this." (SB 1.1.4)
"A nondevotee works for his personal sense gratification or for the sense gratification of his family, society, community, or nation, but because all such activities are separate from the Supreme Personality of Godhead, they are considered asat. The word asat means bad or temporary, and sat means permanent and good. Activities performed for the satisfaction of Krsna are permanent and good, but asat activity, although sometimes celebrated as philanthropy, altruism, nationalism, this "ism" or that "ism," will never produce any permanent result and is therefore all bad. Even a little work done in Krsna consciousness is a permanent asset and is all-good because it is done for Krsna, the all-good Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is everyone's friend." (SB 8.9.29)
"One should understand that in the material world, however one may try to make adjustments, he cannot be happy. To cite an example I have given many times, if you take a fish out of water, you can give it a very comfortable velvet bedstead, but still the fish cannot be happy; it will die. Because the fish is an animal of the water, it cannot be happy without water." (TYS, Chapter 3)
"Anyone who misunderstands this perishable body to be the self and who works for it in the name of sociology, politics, philanthropy, altruism, nationalism, or internationalism, under the false plea of the bodily conception of life, is certainly a fool and does not know the implications of reality and unreality." (SB 3.5.11)
The Mission of Life
Lord Krsna taught, "It is the duty of every living being to perform welfare activities for the benefit of others with his life, wealth, intelligence, and words."
Srila Prabhupada comments, "This is the mission of life. One's own body and the bodies of his friends and relatives, as well as one's own riches and everything else one has, should be engaged for the benefit of others. ...
"Of course, in human society there are many institutions to help others, but because philanthropists do not know how to help others, their propensity for philanthropy is ineffectual. They do not know the ultimate goal of life (sreya), which is to please the Supreme Lord. If all philanthropic and humanitarian activities were directed toward achieving the ultimate goal of life—to please the Supreme Personality of Godhead—they would all be perfect." (SB 6.10.10)
"Humanitarian work may be temporarily beneficial for the body, but because a living entity is spirit soul, ultimately one can show him real mercy only by revealing knowledge of his spiritual existence." (SB 4.29.1b)
The true humanitarian, therefore, is one who gives spiritual knowledge.
Such a person must be spiritually qualified as a servant of God.
"Only a person who is fully in Krsna consciousness can be said to be engaged in welfare work for all living entities. When a person is actually in the knowledge that Krsna is the fountainhead of everything, then when he acts in that spirit he acts for everyone." (Bg. 5.25)
"If man does not serve God, how can he know how to serve humanity? If he does not receive information from God about how to serve humanity, what is the value of his humanitarianism? The best way to serve mankind is to preach the message of Bhagavad-gita so that everyone can become a faithful servant of God." (DS p. 251)
"When a person is advanced in spiritual consciousness, or Krsna consciousness, he naturally becomes very sympathetic toward all living entities suffering in the material world. Naturally such an advanced person thinks of the suffering of the people in general. However, if one does not know of the material sufferings of fallen souls and becomes sympathetic because of bodily comforts, ... such sympathy or compassion is the cause of one's downfall. If one is actually sympathetic to fallen, suffering humanity, he should try to elevate people from material consciousness to spiritual consciousness. ... As far as the material body is concerned, we cannot do anything for anyone." (SB 5.8.9)
"There are different kinds of welfare activities in this material world, but the supreme welfare activity is the spreading of Krsna consciousness. Other welfare activities cannot be effective, for the laws of nature and the results of karma cannot be checked. It is by destiny, or the laws of karma, that one must suffer or enjoy. For instance, if one is given a court order, he must accept it, whether it brings suffering or profit. Similarly, everyone is under obligations to karma and its reactions. No one can change this." (SB 8.7.44)
"However, by the grace of Krsna, we may raise a person to spiritual consciousness if we ourselves follow the rules and regulations. If we give up our own spiritual activities and simply become concerned with the bodily comforts of others, we will fall into a dangerous position." (SB 5.8.9)
"Love of humanity means raising people to the point where they can understand the real goal of life. We do not serve humanity by keeping people in darkness. We must enlighten others with knowledge, and ultimate knowledge means understanding God, our relationship with God, and the activities of that relationship. That is real humanitarian work. Mankind must be informed of the nature of the body and the soul and the necessities and goal of the soul." (DS p. 409)
"Because people are without Krsna consciousness ... they are being punished by the laws of material nature.... No one can check this, not even by introducing so many relief funds and humanitarian institutions. Unless the people of the world take to Krsna consciousness, there will be a scarcity of food and much suffering." (SB 4.18.8)
"One should try to raise the consciousness of the conditioned soul to the platform of understanding that Krsna is his actual friend. If one makes friendship with Krsna, one will never be cheated, and he will get all help needed. Arousing this consciousness of the conditioned soul is the greatest service, not posing oneself as a great friend of another living entity.
"The power of friendship is limited; therefore we cannot be of any real benefit to the people in general. The best service to the people in general is to awaken them to Krsna consciousness so that they may know that the supreme enjoyer, the supreme proprietor, and the supreme friend is Krsna. Then this illusory dream of lording it over material nature will vanish." (SB 3.27.4)
"People are lacking knowledge of God, and we are preaching this knowledge. This is the highest humanitarian work: to elevate the ignorant to the platform of knowledge." (Dialectic Spiritualism p. 16) Therefore, "Everyone ... with a materially comfortable condition in this world should join the Krsna consciousness movement to elevate the fallen souls. ... Instead of wasting one's life for temporary bodily comforts, one should always be prepared to give up one's life for better causes. After all, the body will be destroyed. Therefore one should sacrifice it for the glory of distributing religious principles throughout the world." (SB 6.10.8)
Srila Prabhupada started the International Society for Krishna Consciousness on the principle that everyone should work for the highest welfare. While others were opening hospitals to attend to the needs of the temporary body, Srila Prabhupada was opening hospitals for the soul.
"There are medical clinics to cure bodily diseases," he writes, "but there are no such hospitals to cure the material disease of the spirit soul. The centers of the Krsna consciousness movement are the only established hospitals that can cure man of birth, death, old age, and disease." (Cc Adi 10.51)
In the centers for Krsna consciousness and elsewhere, people can solve the problems of life by performing the simple and easy sacrifice recommended for this age: "If people somehow or other assemble together and are induced to chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, all the purposes of yajna [sacrifice] will be fulfilled. The first purpose is that there must be sufficient rain, for without rain there cannot be any produce....
"Therefore, in this age of Kali people all over the world should refrain from the four principles of sinful life—illicit sex, meat-eating, intoxication, and gambling—and in a pure state of existence should perform the simple yajna of chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. Then the earth will certainly produce all the necessities for life, and people will be happy economically, politically, socially, religiously, and culturally. Everything will be in proper order." (SB 9.20.26)
By Satsvarupa Dasa Gosvami
IF I CLAIM "I'm middle-aged," I'm lying. When you turn fifty, you're facing old age.
By now I ought to know what I'm doing. Why continue pretending with the little time I have left? When you start getting older, people begin to respect you for your seniority, so you shouldn't let them down by behaving like a young fool who can't make up his mind whether he wants to be a devotee of Krsna or something else.
Yet still there's confusion. For example, I can't be sure whether I'm a hypochondriac or just sensible. When I attend the temple programs, I can't figure out whether my dislike for the too-fast kirtanas is because of my evolved spiritual taste or because I'm too old to jump and dance. When the young devotees make gung-ho speeches saying everyone should go out and convert the demons, I often see through their hype. But is that my mature vision or loss of nerve? Nowadays I also tend to see the Absolute Truth in various philosophies and religions. Is that a sign that I'm reaching universal realization, or does it mean I'm drifting and becoming unchaste? When I lecture I can't figure out if I'm enthralling people or boring them. Have I gone from stable to stodgy?
In some ways I think I'm becoming more Krsna conscious. But illusion may come even to an old man. When I was younger, maya used to present one kind of calling card. I thought I was handsome. Now that's no longer possible, because my face is full of lines and my teeth and hair are falling out. But maya has some new calling cards. I think I'm accomplished and better than other people. Young people often seem foolish and superficial to me. And when I think about my own youth, I romanticize the 1960's, when "we were more idealistic than young people today." I don't want to kid myself, but these illusions keep coming even at my age.
The most frightening thing is death. It's coming nearer, but I haven't become much more serious about it.
What does frighten me, though, is that time is passing more quickly than it used to and I'm not living up to my expectations or the ones Srila Prabhupada had for me. I've been given the greatest gift, the association of a pure devotee. From those to whom much has been given, much is expected. But I'm afraid that all I'm doing is routine and mediocre. I'm not accomplishing anything wonderful. If something wonderful is going to come out of me at all, when will it be? The realization that my total life's output is not going to amount to much is a hard thing to accept. I have failed in big ways, but I haven't come to regret it much. And maybe I'm too old now to make major reforms. All I can do is pray to Krsna to please help me become aware of my small place.
Some things are getting better. The essence of Krsna consciousness stands out to me more clearly. I'm getting down to the basics of chanting Hare Krsna and hearing from Bhagavad-gita. I also think I'm advancing in my attraction for Radha and Krsna.
Maybe it's just because my senses are growing older, but I feel less inclined for sex. Recently I've also begun to pray, for the first time in my spiritual life. I reminisce about my personal association with Srila Prabhupada, and I'm writing down my memories and praises of him. So good things are happening, and I sense more of this good fortune ahead. I can hardly wait to appreciate more what it really means to be a follower of Prabhupada and Radha-Krsna, but I understand that the key is humility and service, as always. I just hope it's not too late for me to make it.
What Srila Prabhupada has written about old age is encouraging. He says that if a person is Krsna conscious he can work like a young man even when he's seventy-five or eighty years old. Prabhupada gives the example of Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, who when very old wrote the Caitanya-caritamrta, the most wonderful book about the activities of Lord Caitanya. Srila Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami began their spiritual lives at an old age, after they retired from their occupations and family lives.
The effects of old age don't harass a devotee. Srila Prabhupada writes:
Apparently a devotee may grow old, but he is not subjected to symptoms of defeat experienced by a common man in old age. Consequently, old age does not make a devotee fearful of death, as a common man is fearful of death.... A devotee knows that after death he is going back home, back to Godhead; therefore he has no fear of death. Thus instead of depressing a devotee, advanced age helps him to become fearless and thus happy.—Srimad-Bhagavatam, 4.27.24, Purport
I realize I'm just a newcomer to old age. The challenges of infirmity and debility lie ahead. As Bhaktivinoda Thakura sings, vrddha kala aola saba sukha bhagala: in old age, all kinds of happiness disappear. I hope that when it gets difficult, I will be able to depend on Srila Prabhupada and get through without dishonor. Srila Prabhupada's personal example is a light for the darkness that lies ahead.
Srila Prabhupada, your old age was glorious! Though I can't imitate you, how can I think of retiring when you, my own spiritual master, kept traveling, preaching, and writing even into your eighties? Dear Srila Prabhupada, please give me the strength to serve you.
Let me dedicate my remaining life to serving you with youthful vigor.
Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami is the author of more than two dozen books, including a six-volume biography of Srila Prabhupada.
Cross-Cultural Traces Of Vedic Civilization
By Sadaputa Dasa
THE ANCIENT GREEK WRITER Aratos tells the following story about the constellation Virgo, or the virgin. Virgo, he says, may have belonged to the star race, the forefathers of the ancient stars. In primeval times, in the golden age, she lived among mankind as Justice personified and would exhort people to adhere to the truth. At this time people lived peacefully, without hypocrisy or quarrel. Later, in the age of silver, she hid herself in the mountains, but occasionally she came down to berate people for their evil ways. Finally the age of bronze came. People invented the sword, and "they tasted the meat of cows, the first who did it." At this point Virgo "flew away to the sphere"; that is, she departed for the celestial realm. ** (E. C. Sachau, trans., Alberuni's India (Delhi: S. Chand & Co., 1964), pp. 383-4.)
The Vedic literature of India gives an elaborate description of the universe as a cosmos—a harmonious, ordered system created according to an intelligent plan as a habitation for living beings. The modern view of the universe is so different from the Vedic view that the latter is presently difficult to comprehend. In ancient times, however, cosmologies similar to the Vedic system were widespread among people all over the world. Educated people of today tend to immediately dismiss these systems of thought as mythology, pointing to their diversity and their strange ideas as proof that they are all simply products of the imagination.
If we do this, however, we may be overlooking important information that could shed light on the vast forgotten period that precedes the brief span of recorded human history. There is certainly much evidence of independent storytelling in the traditions of various cultures, but there are also many common themes. Some of these themes are found in highly developed form in the Vedic literature. Their presence in cultures throughout the world is consistent with the idea that in the distant past, Vedic culture exerted worldwide influence.
In this article we will give some examples of Vedic ideas concerning time and human longevity that appear repeatedly in different traditions. First we will examine some of these ideas, and then we will discuss some questions about what they imply and how they should be interpreted.
In the Vedic literature time is regarded as a manifestation of Krsna, the Supreme Being. As such, time is a controlling force that regulates the lives of living beings in accordance with a cosmic plan. This plan involves repeating cycles of creation and destruction of varying durations. The smallest and most important of these repeating cycles consists of four yugas, or ages, called Satya, Treta, Dvapara, and Kali. In these successive ages mankind gradually descends from a high spiritual platform to a degraded state. Then, with the beginning of a new Satya-yuga, the original state of purity is restored, and the cycle begins again.
The story of Virgo illustrates that in the ancient Mediterranean world there was widespread belief in a similar succession of four ages, known there as the ages of gold, silver, bronze, and iron. In this system humanity also starts out in the first age in an advanced state of consciousness and gradually becomes degraded. Here also, the progressive developments in human society are not simply evolving by physical processes, but are superintended by a higher controlling intelligence.
It is noteworthy that Aratos' story specifies the eating of cows as a sinful act that cut mankind off from direct contact with celestial beings. This detail fits in nicely with the ancient Indian traditions of cow protection, but it is unexpected in the context of Greek or European culture.
One explanation for similarities between ideas found in different cultures is that people everywhere have essentially the same psychological makeup, and so they tend to come up independently with similar notions. However, details such as the point about cow-killing suggest that we are dealing here with common traditions rather than independent inventions.
Another example of similarities between cultures can be found among the natives of North America. The Sioux Indians say that their ancestors were visited by a celestial woman who gave them their system of religion. She pointed out to them that there are four ages, and that there is a sacred buffalo that loses one leg during each age. At present we are in the last age, an age of degradation, and the buffalo has one leg. ** (J. E. Brown, ed., The Sacred Pipe (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1971), p. 9.)
This story is a close parallel to the account in the Srimad-Bhagavatam of the encounter between Maharaja Pariksit and the bull of Dharma. There, Dharma is said to lose one leg with each successive yuga, leaving it with one leg in the present Age of Kali.
According to the Vedic system, the lengths of the Satya, Treta, Dvapara, and Kali yugas are 4, 3, 2, and 1 times an interval of 432,000 years. Within these immense periods of time the human life span decreases from 100,000 years in the Satya-yuga to 10,000 years in the Treta-yuga, 1,000 years in the Dvapara-yuga, and finally 100 years in the Kali-yuga.
Of course, this idea is strongly at odds with the modern evolutionary view of the past. In the ancient Mediterranean world, however, it was widely believed that human history had extended over extremely long periods of time. For example, according to old historical records, Porphyry (c. 300 A.D.) said that Callisthenes, a companion of Alexander in the Persian war, dispatched to Aristotle Babylonian records of eclipses and that these records covered 31,000 years. Likewise, Iamblicus (fourth century) said on the authority of the ancient Greek astronomer Hipparchus that the Assyrians had made observations for 270,000 years and had kept records of the return of all seven planets to the same position. ** (D. Neugebauer, History of Ancient Mathematical Astronomy (Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1975), pp. 608-9.) Finally, the Babylonian historian Berosus assigned 432,000 years to the total span of the reigns of the Babylonian kings before the Flood. ** (J. D. North, "Chronology & the Age of the World," in Cosmology, History, & Theology, eds. Wolfgang Yourgrau and A. D. Breck (N.Y.: Plenum Press, 1977), p. 315.)
We do not wish to suggest that these statements are true (or that they are false). The point here is that people in the old Mediterranean civilization evidently had a much different view of the past than the dominant view today. And this view was broadly consistent with Vedic chronology.
Although the Bible is well known for advocating a very short time-span for human history, it is interesting to note that it contains information indicating that people at one time lived for about 1,000 years. In the Old Testament the following ages are listed for people living before the Biblical Flood: Adam, 930; Seth, 912; Enos, 905; Kenan, 910; Mahaleel, 895; Jared, 962; Enoch, 365; Methuselah, 969; Lamech, 777; and Noah, 950. If we exclude Enoch (who was said to have been taken up to heaven in his own body), these persons lived an average of 912 years. ** (D. W. Patten and P. A. Patten, "A Comprehensive Theory on Aging, Gigantism & Longevity," Catastrophism & Ancient History, Vol. 2, Part 1 (Aug. 1979), p. 24.)
After the Flood, however, the following ages were recorded: Shem, 600; Arphachshad, 438; Salah, 433; Eber, 464; Plelg, 239; Reu, 239; Serug, 230; Nahor, 148; Terah, 205; Abraham, 175; Isaac, 180; Job, 210; Jacob, 147; Levi, 137; Kohath, 133; Amaram, 137; Moses, 120; and Joshua, 110. These ages show a gradual decline to about 100 years, similar to what must have happened after the beginning of Kali-yuga, according to the Vedic system.
Here we should mention in passing that the Biblical Flood is traditionally said to have taken place in the second or third millennium B.C., and the traditional date in India for the beginning of Kali-yuga is February 18, 3102 B.C. This very date is cited as the time of the Flood in various Persian, Islamic, and European writings from the sixth to the fourteenth centuries A.D. ** (J. D. North, Ibid., p. 316-7.) How did the middle-eastern Flood come to be associated with the start of Kali-yuga? The only comment we can make is that this story shows how little we really know about the past.
In support of the Biblical story of very long human life-spans in ancient times, the Roman historian Flavius Josephus cited many historical works that were available in his time:
Now when Noah had lived 350 years after the Flood, and all that time happily, he died, having the number of 950 years, but let no one, upon comparing the lives of the ancients with our lives ... make the shortness of our lives at present an argument that neither did they attain so long a duration of life. ...
Unfortunately, practically none of the works referred to by Josephus are still existing, and this again shows how little we know of the past. But in existing Norse sagas it is said that people in ancient times lived for many centuries. In addition, the Norse sagas describe a progression of ages, including an age of peace, an age when different social orders were introduced, an age of increasing violence, and a degraded "knife-age and axe-age with cloven shields." ** (V. Rydberg, Teutonic Mythology, R. B. Anderson, trans. (London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co., 1889), pp. 88, 94.) The latter is followed by a period of annihilation, called Ragnarok, after which the world is restored to goodness.
The Norse Ragnarok involves the destruction of the earth and the abodes of the Norse demigods (called Asgard), and thus it corresponds in Vedic chronology to the annihilation of the three worlds that follows 1,000 yuga cycles, or one day of Brahma. It is said that during Ragnarok the world is destroyed with flames by a being named Surt, who lives beneath the lower world (appropriately called Hel) and was involved in the world's creation. By comparison, the Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.11.30) states that at the end of Brahma's day, "the devastation takes place due to the fire emanating from the mouth of Sankarsana." Sankarsana is a plenary expansion of Krsna who is "seated at the bottom of the universe" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.8.3), beneath the lower planetary systems.
There are many similarities between the Norse and Vedic cosmologies, but there are also great differences. One key difference is that in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, all beings and phenomena within the universe are clearly understood as part of the divine plan of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In contrast, in the Norse mythology God is conspicuously absent, and the origin and purpose of the major players in the cosmic drama are very obscure. Surt, in particular, is a "fire giant" whose origins and motives are unclear even to experts in the Norse literature. ** (Ibid., pp. 448-9.)
One might ask, If Vedic themes appear in different societies, how can one conclude that they derive from an ancient Vedic civilization? Perhaps they were created in many places independently, or perhaps they descend from an unknown culture that is also ancestral to what we call Vedic culture. Thus parallels between the accounts of Surt and Sankarsana may be coincidental, or perhaps the Vedic account derives from a story similar to that of Surt.
Our answer to this question is that available empirical evidence will not be sufficient to prove the hypothesis of descent from an ancient Vedic culture, for all empirical evidence is imperfect and subject to various interpretations. But we can decide whether or not the evidence is consistent with this hypothesis.
If there was an ancient Vedic world civilization, we would expect to find traces of it in many cultures around the world. We do seem to find such traces, and many agree with Vedic accounts in specific details (such as the location of Surt's abode or the sacred buffalo's loss of one leg per world age). Since this civilization began to lose its influence thousands of years ago, at the beginning of Kali-yuga, we would expect many of these traces to be fragmentary and overlain by many later additions, and this we also see. Thus the available evidence seems to be consistent with the hypothesis of a Vedic origin.
Bhakti-yoga at Home
In the Kitchen
By Rohininandana Dasa
MRS. MADHU SHARMA, at home in an Indian village, is about to begin cooking the family meal. Her mother is already squatting on the spotless stone floor, dexterously grinding spices and chopping fresh herbs. Her sister minds the children, giving the other women freedom to concentrate on the cooking. Mrs. Sharma's teenage niece runs in, ready to help, a bunch of fresh vegetables under her arm. The kitchen looks bare except for the sparkling iron pots and the glowing tandooris. ** (A small clay oven.)
The women cook for an extended family of fifteen people. When the cooking is done, Mrs. Sharma makes up a special plate, places it on a small altar, and offers the meal to Radha and Krsna, the household Deities.
While the family eats, the women continue making hot buttered capatis ** (Thin, round, unleavened bread.) at tremendous speed, making sure everyone is amply supplied. After everyone is fully satisfied, the women take their meal. When they're done, they distribute the leftovers to the animals and birds, and the leaf-plates to the family cow. They take the pots to the hand pump and take turns pumping water and washing pots, using earth and ash as a cleansing agent. Finally, they sluice down the entire kitchen, which will remain empty and clean until the next cooking session.
This is a typical scene of a family meal in an Indian village, nearly unchanged for thousands of years. It's easy to appreciate how the peacefulness, simplicity, cleanliness, and devotion surrounding this tradition, with roots in the ancient Vedic culture, foster the family's health and, most important, their spiritual growth.
Should we try to re-arrange our kitchen, and indeed the rest of our house, as a facsimile of Mrs. Sharma's? Should we rip out the cupboards with their packets and tins, throw out the machines and gadgets, and burn all the furniture? Now that we are attempting to be Krsna conscious, should we try to squat on the floor, eat with our hands, and wear robes? And no more local, traditional dishes—now our diet should consist only of rice, dal, sabji, capatis, and halva? ** (Dal: spicy pea or bean soups; sabji: vegetables or vegetable dishes; halva: a sweet made with roasted farina.)
I've been eating and immensely enjoying Lord Krsna's prasadam, Indian style, for twenty years, but mention a childhood staple like baked beans, chips, cornflakes, rhubarb crumble, or cheese sandwiches, and my mouth still begins to water. Will Lord Krsna accept a kacauri ** (A spicy, vegetable-stuffed fried pastry-one of Srila Prabhupada's childhood favorites.) and not rhubarb crumble?
Two considerations come to mind.
The first is that Krsna consciousness is a spiritual culture, replete with its own style of art, cooking, and living. Accepting Krsna's culture is good for our spiritual advancement.
The second consideration is that Krsna consciousness can be added to our present life. It is the "one" in front of the zeros, the finishing touch, as Srila Prabhupada used to say. Applying this principle, Srila Prabhupada encouraged us to offer what is locally available to the Deity in the temple. Similarly, in our homes we may offer the Lord food according to our own taste and custom, as Srila Prabhupada once explained to Allen Ginsberg. ** (Conversations with Srila Prabhupada, Vol. 1, p. 324.)
Of course, the Indian, or, more appropriately, the Vedic tradition does offer a wonderful chance to enter another realm of cooking. After all, the preparations are replicas of those enjoyed by the Lord in the spiritual world. We would do well to explore this realm with the help of accomplished ISKCON cooks such as Yamuna Devi and Adiraja Dasa. ** (See Yamuna Devi's column on p. 14. Adiraja's cookbook is called The Hare Krishna Book of Vegetarian Cooking. It's available through local temple stores.)
In the meantime we must work with what we have. Our kids still have a hard time with those "Indian" preparations we are unskilled at preparing. And we still lay out those forks and knives. ** (The Vedic custom is to eat with one's fingers. Srila Prabhupada specifically avoided using forks and knives when he came to the West, explaining that he had come not to take our customs but to give us the Krsna conscious culture. Whether we should all dispense with such trappings of Western society makes for an interesting discussion.) Yet we want our diet to be solely Krsna prasadam, and we want to be Krsna conscious and to center our home on the Lord.
Let's go back to the kitchen and take another look at that shelf of jars, tins, and packets. Are their contents offered or unoffered? ** (Unoffered food is called bhoga ("enjoyment") because it is meant for Krsna's pleasure. Offered food is called prasadam ("mercy") because after Krsna enjoys it, He mercifully leaves it for our pleasure and purification.) Well ... maybe some are offered, others unoffered. Perhaps we're not sure if the salt is offered or not. We can immediately make a simple change on our shelves and in our refrigerator—keep (clearly marked) separate areas for offered and unoffered items. And to avoid any confusion, keep items like salt, sugar, butter, jam, and so on, in distinct containers, one kind for offered, and another for unoffered.
Because we are trying to prepare dishes solely for Krsna's pleasure and at the same time cater to the needs, tastes, and perhaps whims of a growing family, we may sometimes feel perplexed. How can we think that we are exclusively cooking for Krsna as we rush to get the porridge and toast ready so that John and Susan won't be late for school?
We have to remember, of course, that Lord Krsna has entrusted these children to us to look after. But they belong to Him; they are His devotees (even if they don't yet realize it). So by serving them in the right consciousness, we are serving Krsna. Krsna says (Bhagavad-gita 9.27) that whatever we do should be done for Him. So as we butter the toast we can think, "I'm doing this for Krsna."
Should we offer every piece of toast to Krsna? No, that's not necessary. Devotional service is simple, easy, and practical. Krsna wants to enhance our busy lives, not hamper them. Srila Prabhupada once told a devotee ** (The devotee was Sarvabhavana Dasa.) who was running a restaurant that he should make a nice offering especially for Krsna in the morning, and then whatever would be cooked during the rest of the day would also be prasadam. We may therefore initially offer the basic items of the breakfast to Krsna, and when requested for more by our family, we don't have to keep making further offerings.
Suppose you are asked for something that is not part of the initial offering. Here are a few possible measures you could take:
a. Don't allow anyone to ask for anything not on the table.
b. Keep a basket of offered fruit or a tin of biscuits or other snack food permanently on hand. In the early days of ISKCON Srila Prabhupada kept a jar of gulabjamuns ** (Round sweets made from powdered milk that are deep-fried in ghee and then soaked in sweet water with a touch of rose essence; affectionately known as "ISKCON Bullets.") always available for his puckish spiritual children.
c. Have a place in the kitchen for quick offerings. In our home we offer the main meal of the day on the altar in our temple room. Other meals, snacks, and beverages are offered in front of a small picture of Srila Prabhupada in the kitchen. If, for instance, one of the children suddenly requests a piece of fruit during breakfast, it does not take long to offer it and bring it to the table.
d. Follow the principle of association: If an unoffered item comes in the close vicinity of something offered, it also becomes prasadam. ** (This is another reason we should be careful to avoid placing offered and unoffered items together.) Suppose you have heated some milk, offered it, and served most of it out. Susan wants another cup—more than what remains in the pot. If you open a fresh carton of milk and pour some into the pot, it can now be considered offered. The same principle can apply to sugar, salt, and so on. We must be careful, however, that such expediency does not lead to casualness and laziness, and as far as possible we should make fresh offerings.
In many ways we are pioneers on a spiritual frontier, and therefore may feel puzzled occasionally about what is the correct way to do things. This column seeks to focus on different issues, discuss them, offer suggestions, and find solutions. The present discussion, which we will continue in the next issue, may have raised questions, or you may have further ideas or points to add. Please write to me at the address below, and I will be happy to reply. We can work together to reach a synthesis of theory and practice.
Rohininandana Dasa lives in southern England with his wife and their three children.
By Yamuna Devi
Is Your Vaisnava Diet Healthy?
As a food writer and teacher, I am often asked questions about the Vaisnava diet. What are its elements? Does it meet USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) vegetarian guidelines? Are legumes considered proteins or starches? Since, according to the Bhagavad-gita, foods in the mode of goodness are sweet, juicy, and fattening, should they be the basis of a Vaisnava diet, and in what proportion?
In the first twenty years of my Vaisnava life, I answered such questions hesitantly, often with cursory knowledge. Information in the field of Vaisnava health and nutrition, education programs, and suggested dietary guidelines are difficult to come by. This lack of information, along with a keen personal interest in weight control, has led me to research the subject for the last three years.
Elements of a Vaisnava Diet
A Vaisnava diet is essentially lacto-vegetarian, one that includes grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and dairy products. According to the Bhagavad-gita (17.8-10), these foods are in the mode of goodness. They increase life-span, purify the mind, and strengthen the body.
For millennia, Indian temple chefs have used these naturally pure foodstuffs in cooked offerings meant for the pleasure of the Lord in His Deity form. Of course, endless culinary expressions are possible using these ingredients. Srila Prabhupada often said that even regional Indian vegetarian traditions offer hundreds of thousands of varieties.
Vaisnava temple and home chefs consider foods in one of two categories—pakka, or "cooked," and kaccha, or "raw." These are roughly categorized according to the way they're cooked. Cooked foods include all those cooked in fat: shallow-, pan-, or deep-fried. Raw foods include those cooked with little or no fat: steamed, baked, boiled or stewed, braised or stir-fried.
Anyone who has studied cooking in India immediately notices that baking and ovens are almost nonexistent. With the exception of large drum-shaped tandoori ovens, most cooking is done on the stovetop. While breads, savories, cakes, light meal snacks, and pastries are often baked in the West, in India the same dishes are fried. You don't need to be a nutritionist to know that fried foods, although scrumptious, should be eaten sparingly in a healthy diet.
Food Groups And Daily Requirements
Vegetarianism covers a broad range of diets, some good and some bad. Vaisnava vegetarians have long stressed variety from five major groups: starch from breads, cereals, and grain products; vegetables; fruits; protein from legumes, cheese, and alternates; and dairy from milk and its products. Foods in these groups provide the protein, vitamins, minerals, starch, and dietary fiber needed for good health. The sixth group, which includes fats, nuts, and seeds, is necessary for calories, but more important, for an essential fatty acid called linoleic acid. Nutrient and caloric needs vary from person to person depending on age, sex, body size, and activity level. But no matter what the different requirements of household members, you needn't have different plans for each person.
Patterns for Daily Food Choices
In America, nutrition educators are encouraged by the public interest in health and diet that developed in the eighties. Shoppers are reading labels, not only to count calories but, more important, to see the fat, sodium, and cholesterol content of foods. Throughout history, Vaisnava vegetarians have been uniquely aware of food and health. Because the Vedic culture is spiritual, founded on love for God and His creation, there is a natural focus on harmony from the earth to the table. Purity, freshness, and variety are essential elements in food preparation and menu planning.
Remarkably, the USDA's newest recommended dietary guidelines fall in with those long recognized in the Vaisnava tradition. If you are new to this style of cuisine, the suggested servings above, based on 1991 recommendations from the USDA, will be helpful. You will immediately notice the low number of protein servings. According to Eileen Newman, of the Human Nutrition Information Service, the official belief in the need for a high-protein diet is a thing of the past. Today the public is encouraged to include variety in the diet, understand topics such as the importance of fiber, and learn about portion control.
Newman stresses the long practiced Vaisnava standard, "It is important to choose different foods from within each group because they differ in the types and amounts of nutrients they provide."
She further suggests, "Be sure to choose at least the minimum number of servings recommended from each group every day. Many women, older children, and most teenagers and men need more. The top range shown above is about right for an active man or teenage boy."
No specific number is given for daily servings of fat. Fat should be kept at about thirty percent of the total caloric intake. Fat is present in varying degrees in many foods, so you need to consider that when calculating your total daily intake.
Even if you think you don't plan menus, you do when you shop. Food choices are influenced by habit, occasion, nutrition, and likes and dislikes. If you get into the practice of planning meals before shopping, you can increase variety, save time, effort, and money, and help control your intake of fat, sugar, and sodium.
The cooking method you use will greatly affect the health value of your foods. Contrary to popular belief, starchy vegetables such as potatoes, corn, and peas are not high in calories—unless coated in fatty sauces or fried. If you prepare your vegetables based on kaccha techniques of steaming or stir-frying, they will retain a bright color, crisp texture, and light taste. Instead of deep-frying vegetables and panir cheese, try grilling or broiling them. The rich, smoky flavor of grilled panir or tofu, bell peppers, eggplant, or summer squash will lend excellent flavor to dishes that traditionally call for these ingredients to be deep-fried. You can "lighten" any favorite braised or stewed dish by simply cutting the fat content in half.
Although the Sunday Feast dinners served at many ISKCON temples throughout the world are rich and sweet, that does not reflect the sensible standards of weekday meals. Health-aware cooks exploring Indian cuisine have long appreciated light entrees such as dosa pancakes, steamed iddli dumplings, and succulent vegetable-grain kicchari stew.
All of these dishes combine a starch with a protein and, in the process, increase food value substantially. Dishes such as Caribbean-style black beans and rice or Southern "Hoppin' John" with black-eyed peas are other healthy examples of this formula.
Savvy Western temple chefs are now trying to include some type of whole-grain-and-vegetable entree salad in daily menus. Using the vast array of seasonal produce and grains available today, these salads can often be the best fare of the day, as mouthwatering as they are nutritious.
Checklist for Healthy Menus
Write out your menus and answer the following questions:
1. Does a day's menu provide at least the lowest number of servings from each of the major food groups shown on the chart and below:
6 servings of grain products?
2. Do the menus have several servings of whole-grain bread, cereal, or pilaf each day?
3. Do menus for a week include several servings of dark-green leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, lettuce, or green beans?
4. Are the menus practical for you in time, cost, and acceptance?
* * *
Oven French Fries
Even though I had seen recipes for no-oil fries in cookbooks and magazines, until I tried them I wasn't convinced they could be delicious. Instead of surprising the potatoes with hot oil, you expose them to a blast of hot air. This results in a creamy interior and crisp brown crust bathed in the scent of the seasonings used.
In this variation, the potatoes are treated with seasonings similar to Bengal's aloo bhaji. You can use almost any seasoning. Depending on your taste preferences, try a dusting of herb salt, mild paprika, lemon pepper, cayenne powder, or crushed spice seeds. You can also cut the potatoes into country-style wedges, ½-inch julienne, or crinkle cuts. Take this recipe as an inspiration to come up with scores of variations. Serve with a splash of lemon juice, ketchup, or fresh chutney.
russet or Idaho-type baking potatoes (Quantities required: ¼ pound per person as an appetizer; 1/3 pound per person as a snack or side dish; ½ pound per person as the basis of a meal.)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Spray or brush two nonstick baking trays with oil. Slice the peeled or unpeeled potatoes lengthwise or crosswise into rounds ¼-inch thick. Alternatively, cut them into 1/3-inch julienne sticks. Place rounds or sticks in a bowl and sprinkle with turmeric, paprika, salt, and cumin. Toss to mix and place the rounds in a single layer on the prepared trays.
Place the trays in the upper and lower middle of the oven. Bake until the potatoes are a deep golden-brown, 20-25 minutes. Some potatoes will souffle, or puff up, and others will blister. If necessary, rotate the trays to get even browning. Serve piping hot.
Yamuna Devi is the author of Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking. The above recipe is from a forthcoming book, Yamuna's Kitchen, to be published by E. P. Dutton.
by Ravindra Svarupa Dasa
SOMETIME IN THE 1730's, a young Scottish philosopher tried, and failed, to find himself. David Hume reflected upon this experience in his first book, A Treatise of Human Nature (1739). The passage is much quoted and anthologized. I encountered it frequently as an undergraduate philosophy major, for my teachers regarded it as a watershed in Western philosophy. They revered David Hume—progenitor of the hard-nosed, no-nonsense style of empiricism they professed—and they amused their classes by reproducing in a Scottish burr a famous remark by the great philosopher's mother: "Oor Davie's a fine, good-natured crater, but uncommon wake-minded."
Well, sons are sometimes hard on mothers, too. That was why I had the afternoon last fall to take my two grandsons in a search for the self, some 260 years after Davie had looked in vain. This Saturday my harried daughter needed a break, so my wife and I were at her house trying to load Paramesvara (age five), Bhaktivinoda (three and a half), and all their weekend gear into our car. In the midst of a great deal of coming and going, Paramesvara and I found ourselves at one point alone together in the car. We chatted. I was struck once more by how bright this lanky, tow-headed boy was, and I wondered how much of the philosophy of Krsna consciousness he understood. I decided to begin with what Srila Prabhupada called the "first lesson."
Making sure I had his attention, I said, "Paramesvara, do you know you're not your body?"
"I'm not?" he exclaimed in amazement. He looked at me expectantly, awaiting explanation.
"That's right. You're not. You're the soul, the spirit soul."
He knew plenty of Krsna stories, but, it seemed, no philosophy. Was he too young? His astonishment told me he was ready—my statement didn't just go past him or bewilder him. Yet how could I get him to understand the soul? I did not want him simply reciting stock, catechistic responses that had no meaning for him.
Before I could go any further we were interrupted: "Jaga! Jaga! Help me!"
This was Bhaktivinoda, stranded on the sidewalk with a spill of paraphernalia, calling his older brother, whose in-house name is "Jaga" or "Jaga-bear." (I can't tell you why.) After we had packed the trunk and settled back-seat territorial disputes, Jaga went back inside to look for the trip snack-bag, leaving me alone with Bhaktivinoda, or, conveniently, "T-Node." T-Node is a rolly-polly kind of kid with a pale, circular face that's surrounded by a sunburst of curly hair so blonde it's nearly white. A toddler's lisp overlays his low, gravelly voice.
I had him alone: How would someone this young respond? Would he be interested at all?
"T-Node," I asked in a serious voice, "do you know you're not your body?"
"I'm not?" he exclaimed at once, his eyes wide with astonishment. He looked up at me, waiting.
"No, you're not. When Jaga comes back I'll explain it." I began making plans.
My wife agreed to drive, and by the time we made the turnpike I was ready. I had remembered how Srila Prabhupada had taught some schoolchildren and decided to try it.
I twisted around to face the boys in the back seat. "Now I'll show you that you're not your body. First stick your pointing finger out straight, like this. OK? Good. Now just do what I tell you. Ready?"
They were; they were into it.
"Now: point to your nose!" I pointed to my nose, Jaga to his, T-Node to his.
"Now point to your belly!" We all did. I led them through a sequence: elbow, eye, foot, knee, chest ...
(Once they got going I stopped pointing.) I hammed it up a bit and gradually gained speed until I reached the punchline: "Now point to your self!" Consternation. Pointing fingers waved about aimlessly, eyebrows knit together in bafflement. They laughed ... "What? What?" Jaga said, his finger looping around like a bottled-up fly.
"See!" I said. "You can't point to yourself. That's because you are not your body! You're the soul."
T-Node was thunderstruck; he had clearly undergone an intellectual breakthrough. His face was lit up with the wonder of discovery.
"Do it again! Do it again!" T-Node begged. We went through the sequence a few times, and each time it worked to both boys' satisfaction. "I'm not my body," I heard T-Node saying to himself. "I am the soul." It seemed to sound right to him.
But I felt an unease, a mental chill, almost a presence. It was the ghost of David Hume. With suave, measured tones that nicely set off a hint of contempt, I heard the words of the Treatise announcing the position about to be demolished:
"There are some philosophers who imagine we are every moment intimately conscious of what we call our self. ..."
But where, Hume asks, could we get the idea of a self from? All real ideas are based on "impressions"—on sensations, passions, or emotions. We must be able to analyze or dissect ideas down to show ultimately the impressions that produced them. If we cannot, then the so-called idea is meaningless. What impression, Hume asks, is responsible for the idea of a single, simple, enduring, changing self?
If any impression gives rise to the idea of self, that impression must continue invariably the same, through the whole course of our lives; since self is supposed to exist after that manner. But there is no impression constant and invariable. Pain and pleasure, grief and joy, passions and sensations succeed each other, and never all exist at the same time. It cannot therefore be from any of these impressions, or from any other, that the idea of self is derived; and consequently there is no such idea.
Yet don't we need a self to possess or unify all our particular impressions? Well, where is it?
For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe anything but the perception.
A person may attest that he perceives "something simple and continued, which he calls himself," Hume says, "though I am certain there is no such principle in me." Setting such "metaphysicians" aside, Hume affirms that humans "are nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement."
Haunted by Hume, I kept on conversing with the metaphysicians in the back seat while the Pennsylvania croplands poured away behind them. They were learning to discriminate between matter and spirit. I held a rubber ball in my hand and beat it with a fist.
"See? I can hit it over and over again—hard—and it never goes 'Ow!' It never cries. But if I hit you"—they bobbed away from my slow-motion punch—"you'll feel it. You'll cry. That's because there is a soul—you—in your body. But there's no soul in this ball."
"This morning Jaga hit me and made me cry," T-Node said.
"If you hit a cat or dog, it feels it," Jaga quickly put in. "It is also a spirit soul."
"Even ants or spiders," I added.
T-Node looked down guiltily. He's been known to step on ants on purpose.
How could Hume have missed himself? Was he being willfully obtuse? Imagine him conducting an inventory of his mental contents, like an auctioneer appraising the contents of an estate up for sale. He walks through each room, examining each object. Picking it up, setting it down. Looking for something in particular. "Is this myself? Is this? Is this?" After an exhaustive search, he reports—truthfully enough—that he didn't find it.
But who is looking? Who is inspecting this memory, this joy, this love, this fear, this regret, this ambition, this or that train of thought? David, you could not find your self in all that because none of that, taken separately or all together, is your self. The self is not the seen but the seer, not the experience but the experiencer. You are not even David Hume, but rather the experiencer of being David Hume.
Teaching my grandsons had given me a new insight into the Treatise. Like T-Node and Jaga, David Hume had been playing the pointing game. T-Node and Jaga played by pointing to different parts of their bodies, while David played by pointing to different parts of his mind—the subtle body. I could take Davie through it point by point, running through the inventory of mental goods, until: "Point to your self!" And the indexical Human finger wavers, finding no object. "See!" I'd say. "You're not your mind. You're the spirit soul."
For we are no more to be identified with our minds than with our bodies. The mind belongs to the category of the not-self as much as the body does. Both mind and body are material, the former being merely finer or subtler than the latter. Vedic seers know this, but Western philosophers have conflated the spiritual and the mental; "mind" and "soul" are synonymous. David Hume discovered in the Treatise that the mind was not the self, but he drew a false conclusion: there was no self, no soul, at all.
My grandsons were doing better:
"What happens if I attack the soul with ninja swords?"
"Nothing! It can't be cut!"
"What happens if I drop a huge rock on it?"
"It can't be smashed!"
"What happens if I put a blowtorch to it?"
"It can't be burnt!"
"How can I kill the soul?"
"You can't! You can't kill the soul!"
They were good students. They made me wish I had Davie in my class along with them. I thought about that. Since the presence of such a great philosopher might intimidate me, I would want his mother along too. She sounded like a formidable woman, and she seemed to know her son.
Ravindra Svarupa Dasa, ISKCON's Governing Body Commissioner for the U.S. mid-Atlantic region, lives at the Philadelphia temple, where he joined ISKCON in 1971. He holds a Ph.D. in religion from Temple University.
The Company We Keep
By Urmila Devi Dasi
CAN WE MAKE OUR CHILDREN turn out the way we want?
Srila Prabhupada once said, "If you place a child in good association, he will act properly, and if you place him in bad association, he will act improperly. A child has no independence in that sense.... According to Vedic civilization, as soon as a child is four or five years old, he is sent to a gurukula, where he is disciplined."
Anyone who has worked with children knows they are vulnerable to their environment. Yet children also carry from their previous lives a complex burden of good and bad karma and a particular tendency of character. In fact, the mentality of the parents during conception attracts a particular soul—with particular inclinations—to become their child. Because of this, enlightened parents prepare themselves so that they can be in spiritual consciousness during conception. Thus their child will be receptive to the training they will give him. Srila Prabhupada says, "You can mold the children in any way. They are like soft dough." So the mold is essential when considering the shape of the final piece of sculpture. But the quality of the material one puts into the mold is also important.
On the other hand, our children's tendencies from their previous lives and present conceptions can change. Their real personality is spiritual, filled with love for Krsna at every moment. Their natural position is that of eternal knowledge and bliss. Therefore it is entirely reasonable and possible to transcendentally mold anyone, of any previous disposition. After all, the spiritual "mold" is the shape of the real self.
The principle of such molding is quite simple. We need to surround the child with saintly association, eliminating all false and negative concepts. To do so is difficult not because it is unnatural or burdensome, but be-cause modern Western society, saturated with materialism, discourages spiritual growth.
We might feel, though, that we should not "isolate" our child. We might be afraid that our child won't be able to cope with society if raised in a spiritual atmosphere. Yet we teach our children to eat properly by feeding them healthy food; we don't give them a taste for junk food to help them cope with supermarket aisles. Nor do we give them small doses of beer or marijuana to help them conquer the urge for intoxication.
So rather than expose our children to materialism, we should train them to become saintly. Then as masters of their mind and senses, they will be happy in all circumstances. And rather than becoming allured by material life, they will create a spiritual atmosphere around themselves that will attract others.
Vedic education's most important feature is to surround children with teachers and other students who want to know their true self. Such persons live free from lust, greed, and envy and therefore do not eat meat, fish, or eggs, take intoxication, gamble, or have illicit sex. And the true teacher, according to Vedic standards, is one who is absorbed in Krsna, the Absolute Truth. The true teacher does everything for Krsna, doesn't hanker or lament for material things, and is always in a state of spiritual happiness.
Such a teacher, however, need not neglect the material, academic side of education. We require practical knowledge in this world. Yet we should not want to acquire knowledge simply to build up another false material identity that will disappear in the next death and rebirth. Nor should we want academic knowledge for its own sake, which will also be lost when we change bodies. But when academic knowledge and practical skills are learned in the service of the higher self, the benefit is eternal.
Throughout the world, societies train children to be economically and socially productive members of their culture. They may also learn a religious faith, with its doctrine and rituals. But imagine if some children, even a small group, were molded to be above all material designations, all influences of the material atmosphere. These children could lead mankind into an era of righteousness and harmony.
Urmila Devi Dasi became a disciple of Srila Prabhupada in 1973. She has been involved in ISKCON education for the last seven years, primarily as the principal of the Detroit gurukula. She recently moved with her husband and their three children to the ISKCON community in Hillsborough, North Carolina, where she is working to establish a model of spiritual education.
How Should We Educate Our Children
By Navina Krsna Dasa
WE WANT OUR CHILDREN to get an education, so we send them off to school—kindergarten through twelfth grade and then on through college. We want them to acquire all the information they need to become successful adults. We also expect our schools to properly enculturate our children, turning them into upstanding citizens and fine human beings who will inter-act acceptably with other educated adults.
But what is actually happening in the schools today? I was astonished recently to come across a comparison of the top seven disciplinary problems confronting schools in 1940 and those confronting schools today, compiled by the California Federation of Police and the California Department of Education.
Top Disciplinary Problems in 1940
Top Disciplinary Problems Today
1. Drug abuse
Shocking, isn't it? Yet when we understand that the primary purpose of traditional education is to socialize children, it's not so surprising. In school, children learn and practice the value system of the dominant local culture. The top problems in schools today, therefore, undoubtedly reflect the problems of the dominant local culture.
How have things run amuck? According to the Bhagavad-gita, the problem is that people falsely conceive of the body as the self. Because of this misconception, they try their best to manipulate the material energy to get what they consider to be the most out of life. For persons in bodily consciousness, this means sensual and mental pleasures. These may appear dazzling and refined when one comes into the realm of M.A.'s and Ph.D.'s, but they are based on a misconception nonetheless. And, as in a mathematical equation, when the first assumption is wrong, everything that follows will also be wrong.
So what is real education? What is real knowledge? And how do we help our children obtain these things? In Vedic times children were given the skills they needed for their occupation. But most importantly, their teachers instilled in them admirable qualities like truthfulness, piety, and self-control. Having these qualities, people naturally performed their duties, and society was peaceful. The atmosphere was thus suitable for spiritual practices, allowing everyone the opportunity to progress toward the real goal of life—liberation from repeated birth and death in the material world.
This, then, is what is missing today—understanding the goal of human life. The Vedas tell us that the human body is awarded to the living entity only rarely, and that it is a fit boat for crossing over the ocean of nescience. Unless we can deliver our dependents from the cycle of birth and death, the Srimad-Bhagavatam says, we should not become parents. We have to understand what a rare opportunity our children have to get out of this ocean of suffering once and for all. Our real obligation is to help our children achieve liberation. Education that leads them to this end is real education.
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. Write to him c/o BTG.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
God And Country
By Drutakarma Dasa
THE PILGRIMAGE TOWN of Ayodhya, about 345 miles southeast of New Delhi, has become the focus of a conflict that threatens the stability of the Indian secular state.
The present town of Ayodhya is named after the capital of Rama, an incarnation of the Supreme Lord who appeared in India long ago. Rama demonstrated the character and behavior of a perfect king. Familiar to all Indians, the history of Lord Rama is told in the Sanskrit epic Ramayana, which through the centuries has inspired classic works of art, drama, dance, and song.
The exact history of Rama Janmasthana, the birthplace of Lord Rama, is in dispute. According to some accounts, the Islamic emperor Babar built a mosque there in the sixteenth century. A temple dedicated to Lord Rama is said to have previously existed at the same spot.
Following a court decision in 1986, a Deity of Lord Rama was installed in the Babri mosque, which had not been used as a Muslim place of worship for many years. Recently, a number of Hindu organizations and parties have intensified their campaign to build a temple to Lord Rama on the land now occupied by the mosque, inspiring opposition from Muslims and others.
Over the past two years, three successive Indian governments (headed by Rajiv Gandhi, V. P. Singh, and Chandra Shekar) have sought to defuse the crisis, without much success. Indeed, the fall of the last government, that of V. P. Singh, was directly related to the Rama temple dispute. Prime Minister Singh, after defeating Rajiv Gandhi's Congress Party in the 1989 elections, headed an unusual coalition that included his own Janata Dal Party, Communists, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which some have labeled a fundamentalist Hindu party. The BJP supported the Hindu organizations, such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, seeking to erect the Rama temple on the site occupied by the Babri mosque. Late last year, L. K. Advani, head of the BJP, was arrested as he proceeded through northern India in a motorized chariot toward Ayodhya.
In November 1990, government troops and police turned back crowds of protesters who had come from all parts of India to begin construction of the Rama temple. Press reports said twenty-four persons were killed in Ayodhya, and hundreds more died throughout India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh in incidents related to the dispute.
After the arrest of Advani, the Bharatiya Janata Party withdrew from the ruling coalition, precipitating the resignation of Prime Minister Singh. Chandra Shekar, head of a socialist faction of the Janata Dal Party, was chosen as the new prime minister. With only a small minority of seats in parliament, Chandra Shekar had to form a coalition in order to rule. Rajiv Gandhi and the Congress (I) Party pledged support to Chandra Shekar, thus allowing him to head the government.
Under the parliamentary system, the prime minister must command a majority, and as soon as he loses a vote of confidence, he must either form a new government or call national elections.
Some political commentators believe that Rajiv Gandhi agreed to support Chandra Shekar in order to postpone national elections until India has had time to recover from the recent wave of Hindu-Muslim violence.
The Chandra Shekar government would like to see the Indian Supreme Court decide the controversy about the history of the Ayodhya site and work out an acceptable solution regarding the future of the present mosque and the proposed temple.
Meanwhile, the disturbances arising out of the Rama temple dispute have sparked an intense debate about India's future as a secular state. Since its founding in 1949, the Indian government, following Western models, has been avowedly secular. But in practice political leaders have often attempted to win points by playing up to the religious sentiments of the Hindu majority and the influential Muslim minority. And this, some say, violates the principle of secularism.
Some observers have suggested that the only way to achieve social peace and harmony is to craft a national government that is free from any connection with God and religion.
A recent signed editorial in the Times of India criticized government leaders for participating in religious ceremonies. The author complained that when leaders do this they "send the unmistakable message that the public expression of religious belief is not only not frowned upon by the state but is actually encouraged by it."
"A genuinely secular state," said the author, "does not have to be aggressively antagonistic to religion. But it must insist on ... the exclusion of religious observances in the public domain. And while not systematically campaigning against religion, ... it must vigorously propagate the ideology of scientific rationalism."
Scientific rationalism, in the mind of the editorial's author, is an ideology that is fundamentally atheistic and materialistic. This ideology, he says, should be the official doctrine of the secular state.
Persons attracted to such views should carefully consider what is happening in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, where the world's most truly secular governments have collapsed, or are collapsing, and religion is thriving anew.
Of course, it is natural that some might be discouraged when confronted with violence growing out of religious differences. But abandoning religion in favor of pure secularism is not going to help. Stalin was a truly secular person, a great admirer of scientific rationalism, but he killed millions of his countrymen.
Just because there is counterfeit money circulating does not mean that a government should abandon currency. Rather, efforts should be made to identify counterfeit bills and withdraw them. The same is true in matters of religion. Sectarian religious views that promote communal antagonism and violence are antithetical to genuine religion. They should be discouraged by governments.
But beyond this, what position should a government take regarding religion? One possibility, which has been given too little attention, is that a government can involve itself in promoting nonsectarian religious principles.
That such a policy can be beneficial for a state has been suggested by President Gorbachev of the Soviet Union, who said during a visit to Italy in December 1989 that "the moral values which religion generated and embodied for centuries can help in the work of renewal in our country. ... We need spiritual values."
Can religious principles really be nonsectarian? Srila Prabhupada once said, "God is neither Christian nor Hindu nor Muslim." And the individual soul, being part of God, the Supreme Soul, is also neither Christian nor Hindu nor Muslim.
Christian, Hindu, Jew, and Muslim are simply designations of the body, and they can change. A Christian can become a Muslim, and a Hindu can become a Christian. But the soul's eternal loving relation to God can never change.
Many people speak about love of God without knowing who God is or how exactly to love Him. But to truly love God, one must know both His personality and how to please Him directly. That knowledge, hinted at in various scriptures, is fully explained in the Vedic literature.
Properly understood, the Vedic literature is not the sole property of India or Hinduism. The Sanskrit word veda simply means knowledge, and the knowledge of God and the soul in the Vedas can be applied in all times, in all places, by all people. Vedic knowledge unifies rather than divides.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness has been organized to educate people everywhere about the Vedic spiritual values, which transcend the narrow bounds of competing sectarian religions.
According to books of Vedic knowledge such as the Srimad-Bhagavatam, governments should actively assist in the all-important work of promoting genuine spiritual values. In this connection, Srila Prabhupada observed, "The principles of religion, namely austerity, cleanliness, mercy, and truthfulness, ... may be followed by the follower of any faith. There is no need to turn from Hindu to Mohammedan to Christian or some other faith. ... The Bhagavatam religion urges following the principles of religion. The principles of religion are not the dogmas or regulative principles of a certain faith."
If the government does not help promote the nonsectarian principles of religion, then, says the Bhagavatam, "irreligious principles like greed, falsehood, robbery, incivility, treachery, misfortune, cheating, quarrel, and vanity will abound."
Unfortunately, too many people in government, under the influence of "scientific rationalism," have become convinced that there is no God or soul or that communicating knowledge of God and the soul is not the business of government. But despite the claims of scientific rationalism, the soul and God are real, and communicating nonsectarian spiritual values based on knowledge of God and the soul is a proper function of the state.
If people neglect spiritual progress, they will suffer in this life and the next. But if the citizens of any state adopt genuine nonsectarian spiritual values, they become free from the miseries of birth, death, old age, and disease and will eventually achieve the highest good, pure love of God. Any state truly interested in the ultimate welfare of its citizens should welcome this.
And how should governments relate to the existing sectarian religions? In 1973, the Indian ambassador to Sweden discussed this sensitive topic with Srila Prabhupada in Stockholm. The ambassador suggested, "As a government we should not take too strong a policy about any particular religion, even though it is the religion of the majority of the people."
Srila Prabhupada replied, "Secular state means neutral to any kind of religion. But it is the duty of government to see that people are religious. Not that, 'Because government is secular, let the people go to hell.'"
"No, that's true," said the ambassador.
"Yes," continued Srila Prabhupada, "if you are a Muslim, it is my duty as government to see that you are actually acting as a Muslim. If you are a Hindu, it is the government's duty to see that you are acting as a Hindu. If you are a Christian, it is the government's duty to see that you are living up to the Christian standards. You cannot give up religion. Dharmena hinah pasubhih samanah. If people become irreligious in the name of secularism, then they are simply animals. So it is the government's duty to see that the citizens are not becoming animals. He may profess any type of religion. That doesn't matter. But he must be religious. That is the secular state. Not that secular state means the government is callous: 'Let the people become cats and dogs, without religion. The government doesn't care.'"
So what should be done in India? Perhaps it is time for the Indian people to urge their government to re-evaluate its commitment to the Western-style secular state and begin actively promoting India's greatest natural resource—the science of universal spiritual values contained in the timeless Vedic literature. Let the followers of all faiths be measured against the standard of genuinely universal religious principles. If they are truly advancing on the path of love of God and love of all God's creatures, none of them will have anything to fear, from the state or from each other.
Drutakarma Dasa is an associate editor of Back to Godhead, an associate editor of ISKCON World Review, and a science writer for the Bhaktivedanta Institute in San Diego. Portions of this article appeared in ISKCON World Review (December 1990).
The world's economy and ecology are in danger, victims of the modern way of life. The situation demands a return to the natural life, based on cows, bulls, and the land.
LAST JANUARY I visited ISKCON's Saranagati community in British Columbia. Jambavan Dasa, who lives there, had recently participated in the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver.
The organizers of the event, the largest annual fair in western Canada, had invited the community to bring two oxen. During the opening parade, the oxen pulled a covered wagon like those used by the early settlers in North America.
Afterwards, many visitors came to the community's exhibition, especially to see the oxen. The question most often asked was, How do you get them to grow so big?
And Jambavan would tell them the secret to raising big oxen.
"Really?" said one visitor. "That's all there is to it?"
"I can't believe it," said another. "It's too simple."
"You're kidding," said another.
What was Jambavan's secret? It's easy: The oxen grow big because we don't eat them.
I couldn't understand the problem. "What's so strange about a big ox?" I asked. Then Jambavan explained that almost all the bulls in North America are butchered before they are two years old.
I thought about the words of the Vedic sage: "My dear butcher, do not live and do not die. Your life is hell, and your death will be hell."
Modern man could turn his hellish life toward a bright future if he would try to understand and adopt the way of life given in the Vedas. In this issue of Back to Godhead the editors want to focus on one aspect of that way of life: protection of the bull.
The bull is one of the greatest assets of the Vedic varnasrama society. Srimad-Bhagavatam calls him the symbol of religion and the father of mankind because he pulls the plow and works the land, producing grains for sacrifice and nourishment.
And Father Bull's consort, the cow, is the mother of mankind because she supplies milk, the most perfect of all foods. Human beings who mistreat these important animals degrade and eventually destroy human culture.
People in the machine age have forgotten the value of the bull and placed their affection in machines. People depend on and love their cars, their tractors, and their computers, but dependence on machines is artificial and dangerous.
Instead of living simply and using their intelligence for spiritual development, humans have dedicated themselves to a pursuit of technological advancement, the utopian dream of a perfect material world. The machine age has unbridled the greed of the human being with the promise of newer and better machines to make life more comfortable and to help him exploit the material world for more enjoyment.
The machine age takes away the finer qualities of the human being. Everything and everyone in the world becomes an object of exploitation.
Pushed by greed, humans become insensitive and cruel toward each other, toward other living beings, and toward Mother Earth. But the karmic reactions will soon catch up with humanity, and we can expect to see the end of the machine age, thank God.
If enough people understand and begin now to practice simple living and high thinking, humanity can hope to see the revival of a natural lifestyle and higher consciousness.
In the articles that follow, the authors will show that when human beings are satisfied with simple living and high thinking, the bull can do wonderful things for them. Father Bull becomes dear to his human children when he is allowed to play his natural role. To those who engage him properly, he becomes a cherished member of the family and a helpmate on the path of Krsna consciousness.
Ox Power's Economic Imperatives
by Hare Krsna Devi Dasi
"ACCORDING TO VEDIC economics, one is considered to be a rich man by the strength of his store of grains and cows. With only these two things, cows and grain, humanity can solve its eating problem. Human society needs only sufficient grain and sufficient cows to solve its economic problems. All other things but these two are artificial necessities created by man to kill his valuable life at the human level and waste his time on things that are not needed" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.2.29, Purport).
Instead of basing its economy on the cow and the land, as prescribed by Krsna, modern society bases its economy on industry and commerce, that is, on the slavelike labor of the working class and the speculative investment of the mercantile class. The results are wasteful and destructive.
Experts warn that this artificial economic system is not sustainable: "It is only a question of which will collapse first, the global economy or its ecological support system." ** (Christopher Flavin and Alan Durning, State of the World 1988 (Worldwatch Institute), p. 61.) Global problems of hunger, homelessness, unemployment, and international debt highlight the precarious state of the world's economy. Beyond this, the problems in the Middle East are threatening supplies of oil, constantly referred to as the "lifeblood of the economy."
Opponents of international involvement in the Middle East advocate shifting to other energy sources to eliminate dependence on petroleum. But neither side can answer crucial questions now facing an oil-dependent economy. For example, How will farmers be able to produce crops? In the United States, agriculture relies on petroleum more than any other industry. More than 90 percent of its energy comes from petroleum. ** (A. B. Lovins, et al., "Energy and Agriculture" in Wes Jackson, et al. Meeting the Expectation of the Land.)
How will it be possible to maintain road systems without petroleum products and petroleum-fueled equipment? Can a centralized economy survive without good roads and cheap transportation? How will it be economically feasible to ship food to food processors and consumers? The transportation sector relies on petroleum for most of its fuel. ** ("Petroleum Products Supplied by Sector," Annual Energy Review, 1989, Energy Information Administration, U.S. Department of Energy, p. 136.)
In other words, how will it be possible to feed people without petroleum? The agriculture and dairy industries in industrialized countries already face serious problems. The Department of Agriculture of the state of Maine estimates that the average dairy farmer pays more to produce a gallon of milk than he receives for it. ** (Clark Canfield, "Dairy Farmers Face Falling Milk Prices," Portland Press Herald, Nov. 10, 1990, p. 1.)
And the oil crisis threatens to make the farmer's troubles even worse. Hoard's Dairyman, the leading trade publication of the U.S. dairy industry, predicts that due to the crisis in the Persian Gulf, "farmers throughout the U.S. will pay from 25 to 35 percent more to plant crops" in 1991. ** ("Farmers Face Budget Crunch from Gulf Crisis," Hoard's Dairyman, Nov. 1990, p. 929.)
But suppose the Middle East crisis is somehow resolved. Then what? "If the cumulative consumption of oil and gas continues to double every fifteen to twenty years, ... the initial stock will be eighty percent depleted in another thirty to forty years. ** (John Holdren, "Energy in Transition," Scientific American, Sept. 1990.) (6)
There is a solution, but it does not lie in hoping for more oil to prop up an overcentralized, exploitative economic system. It lies in developing a localized village economic system that depends on the labor of the bull to produce, process, and transport foodstuffs—most significantly, grains. ** (cf. Mark Lutz and Romesh Diwan, ed., Essays in Gandhian Economics, (Intermediate Technology Group, 1987).)
Even today, trained oxen provide Third World countries with a high degree of insurance against the impact of the oil crisis because they free these countries from dependence on oil. According to N.S. Ramaswamy of the Indian Institute of Management, "DAP [draft animal power] provides energy for the cultivation of nearly fifty percent of the world's cultivated area as well as for hauling over 25 million carts."
According to Mr. Ramaswamy, replacement of draft animal power by petroleum-based power would require 30 million tractor and tiller units costing between $200 and $300 billion, plus $5 billion annually for petroleum fuel (in 1985 prices). ** (N. S. Ramaswamy, Draught Animal Power-Socioeconomic Factors. J. W. Copeland, ed., Draught Animal Power for Production: Proceedings of an international workshop held at James Cook University, Townsville, Qld, Australia, 10-16 July 1985 (Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research). pp. 20-25.) Thus the productive oxen even in today's economic system are worth hundreds of billions of dollars and provide the means of feeding millions of people without petroleum.
Industrialized countries need to reintroduce ox power in order to feed the people as petroleum becomes scarce. Right now there are millions of young bulls that could be trained to produce grain. The danger is that as increasing petroleum prices force up the price of grains, cows and bulls will be the first targets of massive slaughter because they require the most feed.
Although cow slaughter is always present in modern economics, it increases sharply during times of economic stress. In the United States, cow slaughter increased during the depression of the 1930's, during the 1973 oil crisis, and during the 1988 drought.
What will dairy farmers and ranchers do as escalating petroleum prices make it impossible for them to maintain their herds? We cannot wait to find out. It may be too late.
Somehow the followers of Srila Prabhupada's Krsna consciousness movement must quickly and effectively demonstrate that protecting the cow and the bull is not a waste of petroleum but a miraculous replacement for it.
We should become the leaders in appropriate technology and sustainable agriculture and show that labor-intensive, ox-powered agriculture is not an anachronism but the answer to unemployment and crime.
We must show that simple village life is not torturous boredom but the ideal setting for fulfilling the real purpose of human life: chanting Hare Krsna and serving the Lord in a life rich in spiritual culture. For the sake of fulfilling Srila Prabhupada's desire, we must take up this mission immediately.
Hare Krsna Devi Dasi has been involved in Krsna consciousness since 1978. She moved to Gita Nagari in 1985 and was initiated by Paramananda Dasa in 1986. She now lives in Maine, where she is the research secretary for the Ox Power Alternative Energy Club (OPAEC), which distributes literature on the technical, socio-economic, and spiritual aspects of cow protection and ox power. You can write to her c/o OPAEC, 9B Stetson St., Brunswick, Maine 04011.
WHEN I MILKED THE COWS at Gita Nagari, I had to leave for the barn halfway through the morning class, long before breakfast. After milking, I would clean up the barn. It was wonderful work, more physically demanding than anything I had ever done in my life, but it was great.
I would finish at about 10:30 or 11:00, dirty and exhausted. I'd take off my barn boots on the shoe porch and still have alfalfa leaves all over my socks.
Then I would go into the temple and pay obeisances to the sweet and peaceful Deities of Sri Sri Radha-Damodara. They were always ready to offer Their blessings. Krsna would be leaning on a stick, playing His flute. Sometimes He carried a buffalo horn to call the cows, and sometimes He carried a rope to tie their legs.
I began to understand that these items were not merely decorations. They were things Krsna uses to take care of the cows. Cows need music to be pacified. Sometimes they kick when you milk them, so you have to be prepared. You have to call them in to milk them, and you need a good stick for herding them. By taking care of the cows, I had obtained what was for me an intimate view of the Lord.
But that wasn't all. My Godsister Linda would always save breakfast for me. It was a coarse, cooked cereal made from wheat grown with the help of Krsna's oxen.
Linda would add some warm ksira, a kind of homemade condensed milk offered to the Deities at mangala-arati, the first ceremony of the day. She called it a "ksira float."
My ksira float was always cold by the time I ate it, but it was wonderful. And I enjoyed it even more because it was provided by the very cows I was milking and by our own bulls. Breakfast time was when I most appreciated the cow as my mother and the bull as my father. I felt as if they were reciprocating with me, encouraging me in devotional service.
The combination of seeing the Deities and then taking Their prasadam as wheat cereal coming from Father Bull and ksira from Mother Cow made me feel overwhelmingly thankful and protected, and it made we want to share that feeling with everyone else. That's why I write about ox power. I want everyone to gain this kind of access to Radha and Krsna.
—Hare Krsna Devi Dasi
Living Within The Ecosystem
Compiled by Umapati Swami from articles by Kamra Devi Dasi and Vyapaka Dasa
MANY FARMERS are beginning to wonder whether it makes any sense to farm at all. With the price of inputs—fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides—going up continually and market forces pushing the price of crops lower and lower, year after year, it seems that profit can only be found in government subsidy programs.
But nature has been offering a solution all along, and ox power plays an important part in it.
The solution? Farming within nature's own ecosystems.
An ecosystem is a grouping of plants, animals, and microbes interacting with each other and their environment in such a way that the grouping perpetuates itself.
An ecosystem is by definition self-sufficient. It is a kind of circle turning on energy provided by the sun: each living entity in the system acquires food and produces waste, which becomes food for the next living entity along the ecological feeding trail. In this way the nutrients move through a large, diverse population of mammals, insects, bacteria, plants, and others until they return to their point of origin and start again.
The industrial farmer finds himself dependent on a constant supply of agricultural inputs. His nitrogen fertility, for example, comes at great expense from a distant petrochemical plant that ships its wares across the country by an energy-intensive transport system.
The same nitrogen could be produced effortlessly and economically by bacteria at the roots of a legume. Being a cash cropper, however, the farmer finds it financially difficult to leave any land fallow and planted to a grass legume.
In a cash-cropping operation, a monoculture or very limited rotation is generally the rule. Oxen, however, force the farmer to live within the ecosystem because they demand a more diverse crop rotation, including hay, pasture, and small grains—a production more conservation-oriented than the extended back-to-back annual production of row crops.
Since the different kinds of plants do not share pests, the risk of pest populations building up is reduced because the pests' food source is restricted. The farmer can thus eliminate the use of pesticides and allow the reestablishment of balanced pest predator populations, providing further ecological balance.
As the rotation is established, the mixing of plant cultures, coupled with improved and timely tillage, checks the growth of weeds. The farmer can eliminate herbicides, another costly input.
The design and careful implementation of a well-balanced rotation, combined with the recycling of nutrients around the farm through the application of composted cow and ox manure, can reduce or abolish the import of inorganic fertilizers.
It is estimated that seventy-five percent of the nutrients found in the feed ends up in the animals' waste. Through the use of compost, the farmer can divert stocks of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium from pasture and hay fields onto grain fields, where they are more needed. The increased recycling potential of the farm results in lower costs through self-sufficiency.
When animal waste is returned to the soil, its high nitrogen content makes it a good fertilizer. If it is unreturned—dumped into a water supply, for instance—much of its nitrogen turns into ammonia and nitrates.
The dumping of animal waste into water—a common practice among commercial dairies—can pollute rural wells and even city water supplies with nitrates. Last year the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation found high nitrate levels in the ground water at nine dairies.
An excessive intake of nitrates can be dangerous, causing brain damage and death to infants and health problems in the elderly.
Cow manure is the best of natural fertilizers and stabilizers of soil structure. The Hoosefield experiment in Rothamsted, England, showed that applications of cow manure over a period of twenty years resulted in more soil humus and higher barley yields even fifty years after the applications had been discontinued.
In 1974 Bronner and Janick studied 154 Austrian farms growing sugar beets. On the sixty-five farms that had cows, the humus content of the soil was 20.2 percent higher than on the others, the humic acids were 21 percent higher, and the soil structure was more stable by 13 percent.
The farms with cows needed 53 percent less fertilizer application of nitrogen, 39 percent less of phosphorus, and 32 percent less of potassium.
Cow manure can also be put into tanks to generate methane gas for cooking and heating, and the residue can be used as fertilizer. Yet today's industrial society goes to great lengths to import petroleum-based fuel while running its local supplies of fuel into rivers and water supplies as a pollutant.
Draught Animal News #11, published in 1989 by the Center for Tropical Veterinary Medicine of the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, offers further evidence of the ecological and economic value of ox farming:
The bullock cart is not only the mascot of the Indian rural community, but also its very backbone. Eighty-four million draught animals supply the equivalent of 30kW, providing the energy to cultivate 100 million hectares and for hauling about 30,000 million tonne kms of freight in 15 million carts. These work animals save six million tonnes of petroleum a year, valued at Rs 24,000 million at imported prices.
Transporting goods by ox power also reduces the need for packing materials. Since the produce is transported only short distances, it arrives fresh, and thus does not require fungicides and other preservatives.
Ox-drawn equipment does not compact the soil and reduce aeration and drainage, as does modern heavy equipment. Ox equipment is simple, and does not require heavy industry for manufacture, repair, or replacement parts. And an ox team can be maintained for 1/6 the cost of a team of horses.
Safety on the farm has also suffered. Doyle Conner, the former commissioner of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, noted that in 1989 farming overtook mining as the most dangerous occupation in the United States. The accidental-death rate of 48 per 100,000 farm workers is five times the national average for industries. Farm equipment, toxic gases, chemicals, dust, and noise have made the farm a dangerous place. And since most farmers live on their farms, their family members are exposed to the same risks.
Ox-powered farming eliminates the heavy, dangerous farm machinery. It eliminates chemical pesticides and herbicides, as oxen cooperate with nature's ecosystem and ox-powered farms tend toward smaller plots, which allow this work to be done by hand or with small amounts of organic products. The ox-power farmer is spared the all-day fumes and roar of a diesel engine.
Devotees are not the only ones who know the value of animal power. There are thousands of animal-powered farms in the United States, and these farmers also scoff at the irony of our centralized system based on petroleum and large-scale production. But they, for the most part, raise animals for food and sell their old work horses and oxen at the market.
Only Srila Prabhupada has been able to give the spiritual solution for material problems. He has written:
Our farm projects are an extremely important part of our movement. We must become self-sufficient by growing our own grains and producing our own milk. Then there will be no question of poverty. They should be developed as an ideal society depending on natural products, not industry. Industry has simply created godlessness, because people think that they can manufacture everything that they need. Our Bhagavad-gita philosophy explains that men and animals must have food in order to maintain their bodies. And the production of food is dependent on the rain and the rain of course is dependent on chanting Hare Krishna. Therefore, let everyone chant Hare Krishna, eat nicely, and keep the body fit and healthy. This is ideal life style.—letter to Rupanuga Dasa, December 18, 1974
Kamra Devi Dasi was initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1975 and helped start ISKCON's Gita Nagari farm in Pennsylvania. She now lives at the New Ramana Reti farm in Alachua, Florida. She is the corresponding secretary of the newsletter for the Save the Cow program. Her husband, Brajendranandana Dasa, a disciple of Hridayananda Dasa Goswami, manages the farm's herd of cows and trains and works the oxen. You can write to Kamra and Brajendranandana c/o Save the Cow, Route 2, Box 24, Alachua, FL 32615.
Vyapaka Dasa (Robert Cope) joined ISKCON in Winnipeg and was initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1975. He spent several years on an ISKCON farm in Ontario. In 1987 he completed a two-year course on organic farming and is currently employed as a farm inspector in the organic foods industry.
A Neglected Source of Wealth
A Preliminary Study And Practical Suggestion
by Narasimha Dasa
I SOMETIMES ASK the following question to devotees and other spiritually inclined people. One day Kuvera, the lord of wealth, appears before you, offering a choice of two benedictions: as much gold as you want, any time, any place, and as often as you want, or as much cow manure as you want, any time, any place, and as often as you want. Which would you choose?
I add that Lord Kuvera tells you to put aside considerations of purity, convenience, and religion and choose the benediction that will give the most wealth.
Stop here. Think about it for a minute or two. Answer the question yourself. Some devotees have suggested there is no right or wrong choice. The choice, they say, will simply indicate an individual's own inclination. I believe, however, that one choice is far superior to the other.
Most people I've talked to say they would take the gold and use it for good or transcendental purposes. With unlimited gold they could print billions of spiritual books and build many grand temples. After all, everything can be used in Krsna's service. Right?
Yes, but using so much gold in Krsna's service could be dangerous and difficult. The Srimad-Bhagavatam tells us that Kali, the personification of this degraded age, resides wherever gold is hoarded. We would need to spend all the gold immediately, yet gold circulating in such great amounts would gradually lose monetary value until at last it became as common and inexpensive as iron.
Gold is limited as a form of wealth—as are all currencies.
With unlimited cow manure, however, the entire planet could be made as opulent as heaven in just a few years. Sound fantastic? The Mahabharata says that the dung and urine of the cow are residences of Sri Laksmi Devi, the goddess of fortune.
Cow manure could transform desert soils, such as those in the Middle East and northern India, into fertile, humus-rich soils that would retain moisture and support vegetation even with scarce rainfall.
As the ground-cover vegetation became more lush and trees started growing, moisture retention would increase the natural opulence of the land with beneficial microbes and plants and soil-building insects and animals.
Manure, in fact, makes cow protection highly profitable even if the milk production is low and the bulls are not fully engaged.
Cow protection and bull protection are one and the same, of course, but people usually think the monetary profit is found in milk. Manure can be more profitable, however, because it leads to greater milk and grain production.
ISKCON'S experiments with cow protection in the West have not always produced happy results. Part of the problem has been an overemphasis on milk production. Devotees have usually chosen temperamental, troublesome breeds because of their reputedly high milk production.
When bulls were born, everyone moaned and groaned and wondered what to do with another nonmilker because few devotees had come forward to train bulls and put them to work.
Nor have many of the farm leaders emphasized the necessity of working the bulls, although Srila Prabhupada said, "If you don't make a program to engage them [bulls], you'll make a program to kill them."
What to do, then, with all the bulls?
I suggest we use all extra bulls to prove that Goddess Laksmi does indeed reside in the dung of the cow and bull.
We should first engage bulls and oxen in grazing and in eating silage. Grains should not be fed to mature bulls who are not working hard. It is expensive and unnecessary, and makes them unruly. By Krsna's arrangement, bulls can live on grass and on the husks and stalks of corn, wheat, and rice, all of which are nutritionally valueless to man.
Grazing bulls should be rotated among various pastures, and the pastures should be raked often with chain-drag harrows to spread the manure around evenly and help it mix quickly with the upper soil. Soon the grass will become thick and green, and the same pasture will support more cows and bulls.
In two weeks, twenty-five medium-sized bulls will leave four thousand manure deposits—some six tons fresh, or nine percent of the surface of a fifteen-acre pasture. After two weeks, the bulls should be moved and the pasture harrowed.
In one year these twenty-five bulls will produce 156 tons of fresh manure, enough to fully blanket thirty-five acres. (Statistics are based on research done by the University of Kentucky.)
After two or three years the rich pastures can be plowed and planted with row crops or grains or left as pasture, to become richer and richer almost without limit.
A bull, of course, may be used to pull the chain harrow, a simple, low-energy operation, but the point is that bulls are valuable even if we can't fully engage them immediately. The wealth is the manure itself.
With enough cow and bull manure, plowing and cultivation can be greatly minimized or even eliminated. In Vedic farming, the main purpose of plowing is to loosen the top layers of soils that have been compacted by rain and feet. Soils rich in manure are also rich in humus. They need little or no plowing because they resist compacting and retain a soft, pliable texture suitable for planting.
Smaller farms—family farms of only a few acres—can keep two, three, four, five, or even more bulls in a small barn or in the courtyard of the home and feed them hay, fresh grass, and silage. If there is a sufficient year-around supply of fresh grass, such as in Hawaii and South India, milking cows and bulls doing light work can live on grass alone.
The manure should be raked up, pitched out, or washed out daily, along with the straw bedding, if any, and collected in a pile. If the pile is covered with fine hay or leaves and not allowed to remain very wet, it will decompose quickly without producing foul odors.
The composted manure can then be dried, pulverized, and sifted to produce a fine, light powder that's easy to store and spread.
I have seen gardeners in India restore extremely deficient soils and transform already fertile soils into lush, rich, well-textured supersoils after just two or three years of applying cow manure.
As the world moves away from Krsna's perfect system of global economics based on cow protection, great industrial centers devour huge amounts of resources, filling the air and water with foul and poisonous by-products.
Brainwashed farmers pour chemicals and poisons on the earth, destroying valuable topsoils and creating contaminated drylands and deserts.
Future historians will surely reflect with astonishment on how effectively governments and big corporations tricked nations of farmers into believing that chemical fertilizers and pesticides were a blessing of progressive science.
Srila Prabhupada wanted devotees to create counterparts of Goloka Vrndavana in this world because only practical examples of Krsna consciousness can change the course of our misdirected civilization.
But first, the devotees themselves must realize the benefits of cow protection and understand the practical formula for engaging bulls. The first step is to understand that even their manure is a most valuable resource.
Narasimha Dasa was initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1972. He spent several years in India and wrote a novel entitled The Way of the Vaisnava Sages, published in 1987. He is now practicing self-sufficiency on eight acres on the island of Hawaii. His address is P.O. Box 1041, Pepeeko, Hawaii 96783.
ACCORDING TO THE three modes of material nature and the work associated with them, the four divisions of society are created by Me" (Bhagavad-gita 4.13).
The four divisions of society—brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, and sudra—are part of the social system known as varnasrama, Lord Krsna's own plan for a perfect society.
Every society has an economic base. In today's machine-age society, the base is the unstable, dwindling supply of petroleum. In Lord Krsna's spiritual society, the economic base is the cow, the bull, and the land.
At the head of the four orders are the brahmanas, the saintly teachers, priests, and intellectuals. Their duties are offering sacrifices to satisfy the transcendental senses of Lord Krsna and teaching for the spiritual progress of society in general: "The hunger of the Lord is to accept the fruits of sacrifice. The brahmanas, or intelligent class, must be very expert in performing such sacrifices, and the subordinate class must join in such sacrifices" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.5.37, Purport).
The protection of the cow and bull enables the brahmanas to fulfill both duties. They can educate society, and at the same time they can satisfy the Lord with the rarest and most opulent of sacrifices—not jewels and gold but a daily offering of food to the Deities prepared with milk from protected cows and flour grown and ground by protected bulls.
Why is this a great sacrifice? Because the whole society has to work together to produce it. Lord Krsna is especially pleased when all the citizens, even the animals, are properly engaged in devotional service.
"Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is the prime protector of brahminical culture and the cow," says Srila Prabhupada. "Without knowing and respecting these, one cannot realize the science of God, and without this knowledge, any welfare activities or humanitarian propaganda cannot be successful." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.21.38, Purport).
The brahmanas are the head of the social body, and if the brahminical influence is weak, then the whole society courts disaster, like a man without intelligence.
The status of cow protection in a society is an indicator of the brahminical strength. If the brahminical strength diminishes, the cow and the bull are mistreated. If it increases, cow protection also increases:
At the present moment in this age of Kali, both the bull and the cow are being slaughtered and eaten up as foodstuff by a class of men who do not know the brahminical culture. The bull and the cow can be protected for the good of all human society simply by spreading brahminical culture as the topmost perfection of all cultural affairs. By advancement of such culture, the morale of society is properly maintained, and so peace and prosperity are also attained without extraneous effort. When brahminical culture deteriorates, the cow and bull are mistreated....—Srimad-Bhagavatam, 1.16.18, Purport
The second order of society is the ksatriyas, the kings and administrators. Their duty is to protect all the citizens, including the animals: "O chaste one, the king's good name, duration of life, and good rebirth vanish when all kinds of living beings are terrified by miscreants in his kingdom. It is certainly the prime duty of the king to subdue first the sufferings of those who suffer (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.17.10-11).
Srila Prabhupada adds, "Praja means one who has taken birth in the state, and this includes both men and animals. Any living being who takes birth in a state has the primary right to live under the protection of the king. The jungle animals are also subject to the king, and they also have a right to live. So what to speak of domestic animals like the cows and bulls."
Five thousand years ago, the great king Pariksit drew his sword to punish a low-class man who was beating and torturing a cow and a bull: "You rogue, do you dare beat an innocent cow because Lord Krsna and Arjuna, the carrier of the Gandiva bow, are out of sight? Since you are beating the innocent in a secluded place, you are considered a culprit and deserve to be killed" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.17.6).
Srila Prabhupada comments, "At least up to the time of Maharaja Pariksit, no one could imagine the wretched conditions of the cow and the bull. Maharaja Pariksit, therefore, was astonished to see such a horrible scene. He inquired whether the bull was not a demigod assuming such a wretched condition to indicate the future of the cow and the bull" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.17.8, Purport).
Later, the faultless king Pariksit again emphasized the importance of the cow and bull when he blamed himself for the improper action of a brahmana boy: "I am uncivilized and sinful due to my neglect of brahminical culture, God consciousness, and cow protection. Therefore I wish that my kingdom, strength, and riches burn up immediately by the fire of the brahmana's wrath so that in the future I may not be guided by such inauspicious attitudes" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.19.3).
The third order of society is the vaisyas: "The vaisyas are meant to protect the cows and bulls and utilize them to produce grains and milk" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.17.1, Purport).
"Lord Krsna, as the teacher of human society, personally showed by His acts that the mercantile community, or the vaisyas, should herd cows and bulls and thus give protection to the valuable animals" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.2.29, Purport).
Lord Krsna Himself takes care of cows and bulls, in both the spiritual world and this world. He spent his childhood in the home of a vaisya family, and Srimad-Bhagavatam tells of Krsna's playing with calves and being transported by ox-cart.
By engaging in cow protection, devotees are learning how to live in the spiritual world by following Krsna's example. Whatever devotees are learning here, they can continue eternally—singing to Krsna, bathing Him, dressing Him, feeding Him, and taking care of His cows and bulls.
The fourth order of society is the sudras, whose business is crafts and service to the other classes. If the rest of the society is engaged in working with the cow and bull, the sudras will naturally follow.
Here are the responses to a questionnaire we sent to all ISKCON farms.
New Caitanya Candrodaya Mandir
Address: ISKCON, Almviks Gard, 15300 Jarna, Sweden
Phone: (46) 755-52050 or -52073
Contact: Locana Dasa
Deities: Sri Sri Panca-tattva
Number of devotees and families: 41 adults, 18 children, 13 families
Size: 67 hectares (165 acres)
Distance from nearest city: 60 km from Stockholm
Accommodations: Guest room
Climate: Sub-arctic, below 0 degrees C (32 degrees F) for six months
Growing season: June-August
Land under cultivation: 22 hectares
Crops: Grass (hay), wheat, oats, rye, potatoes, carrots, beetroots, cabbage, fruit trees (apple, pear, plum, cherry), flowers
Herd: 5 milking cows, 6 oxen, 19 young or nonproductive cows
Special projects: 45-hectare forest, large sawmill for community's needs, bakery, gurukula, mustery (fruit juice) under development, hand looms, seeds, ox training
Comments: "Our aim is to give an example of Krsna conscious life and economic self-sufficiency."
Address: R.D. 1, Box 839, Port Royal, Pennsylvania 17082
Phone: (717) 527-4101
Contact: Bhakta Steve
Deities: Sri Sri Radha-Damodara
Number of devotees and families: 21 devotees on the farm, 20 more nearby
Size: 325 acres
Distance from nearest city: 50 miles from Harrisburg
Accommodations: Property near the farm for sale
Climate: Hot summers, cold winters
Growing season: Late April to early October
Land under cultivation: 150 acres cultivated for animal feed and a 5-acre organic garden
Crops: Corn, oats, and a variety of grasses used for hay and pasture. The garden provides a wide variety of vegetables.
Herd: 2 milk cows, 67 other cows, either dry heifers or retired, 1 bull calf, and 61 oxen
Special projects: A small dried-flower business with some basket-making and arranging
Needs: Manager and means of financial support
Comments: "We are working towards Prabhupada's goal of simple living and high thinking based on cow protection and working the oxen. By Krsna's arrangement we are being forced to move away from mechanized ways of farming and learn to depend more on the oxen. We hope to establish some type of self-sufficiency in the future."
ISKCON of Tirilund
Address: Gl. Kirikevej 3, Tirilund, 6650 Broerup, Denmark
Phone: 75-392921 or 75-393761
Contact: Panca Mukha Dasa
Deities: None installed
Number of devotees and families: 1 couple
Size: 31 hectares (77 acres)
Distance from nearest city: midway between Kolding and Erlijeng, 250 km from Copenhagen
Accommodations: Guest room
Growing season: April-October
Land under cultivation: 25 hectares (62 acres)
Crops: Grains, beans, and vegetables
Needs: Money and manpower
Comments: "Small farm with buildings in good shape but no accommodations yet."
Address: Box 99, Ashcroft, B.C. V0K 1A0, Canada
Phone: (604) 378-2358
Contact: Vaisnava Dasa
Deities: Not installed
Number of devotees and families: 7 families as residents, 30 more as shareholders, a few brahmacaris
Size: 1,700 acres
Distance from nearest city: 20 miles from Ashcroft (pop. 3,000), 65 miles from Kamloops (pop. 63,000)
Accommodations: Lifetime 5-acre shareholder leases transferable to children's lifetime. Grants for free land available to qualified brahmanas.
Growing season: 80-120 days, greenhouses required for long-season crops
Land under cultivation: 5 acres hay, 200 acres pasture, 2 acres organic gardens
Crops: Alfalfa hay, pasture, vegetables, and greens
Herd: 2 milking cows, 4 oxen, 1 retired cow
Special projects: Sawmill, backhoe, community water system, homes being built
Needs: Qualified brahmanas and sannyasis to enliven the devotees and develop Deity worship, book distribution, and preaching. Vaisyas for economic base to provide employment for members and sponsor community projects.
Comments: "Very initial stage. Farm is paid off. Facilities are being developed to aid in self-sufficiency programs and Krsna conscious programs for all, especially householders, to live peacefully and execute sanatana-dharma. Some devotees aim to farm without machines; others incorporate machinery but on a small scale. Many members are financially independent."
Address: P.O. Box 687, Murwillumbah 2484, Australia
Phone: (06) 672-1903 or (06) 672-4448
Contact: Temple president
Deities: Radha-Govardhanadhari, Gaura-Nitai, Krsna-Balarama
Number of devotees and families: 54 devotees
Size: 1,000 acres
Distance from nearest city: 12 km from Murwillumbah, 150 km from Brisbane
Accommodations: Guest house—8 families rent from farm
Growing season: 9 months
Land under cultivation: 100 acres
Crops: Vegetables, flowers, oats, cowpeas, wheat
Herd: 28 milking, 1 bull, 12 working oxen, 40 nonworking
Special projects: Large gurukula.
Needs: Qualified brahmanas.
Comments: "Very strongly aiming at self-sufficiency—water, vegetables, grains, milk, butter, honey. We also receive many visitors. Bus tour groups come regularly."
Address: 31492 Anner Rd., Carriere, Mississippi 39426
Phone: (601) 798-8533
Contact: Yogindra Vandana Dasa Adhikari
Deities: Sri Sri Radha-Radhakanta and Gaura-Nitai
Number of devotees and families: 21 families and a few single people
Size: 1,300 acres
Distance from nearest city: 60 miles from New Orleans
Accommodations: Free: small housing for students or austere brahmanas. Lease, rent, or own: trailers and trailer spaces. Own: land for building.
Climate: 55 degrees average winter, 90 degrees average summer; spring and fall are pleasant.
Growing season: March-July, September-January
Land under cultivation: All 1,300 acres are used for timber, pasture, or crops.
Crops: Sugar cane, vegetables, greens, nut and fruit trees or vines
Herd: 10 milkers, 4 bulls, 4 oxen, 10 calves, 125 retired cows and oxen
Special projects: Cow program, Deity program, gurukula, business opportunities
Needs: Good, serious devotees specializing in any varna or asrama who are ready to settle down for some time and offer their love to Their Lordships.
Comments: "We are encouraging any devotee to develop his or her service to the Personality of Godhead, His devotees, and people in general by living in Krsna consciousness. We're hoping a thriving community of Vaisnavas will develop and set an example of mature Krsna consciousness. At present our community is small but growing and desiring association of committed individuals who can support themselves, their families, and other asramas, and who love the association of good, honest, hard-working bhaktas."
Address: Murari Project, Rt. No. 1, Box 146-A, Mulberry, Tennessee 37359
Phone: (615) 759-7331
Contact: Parampara Dasa
Deities: Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai
Number of devotees and families: 4 families, 1 brahmacari
Size: 250 acres
Distance from nearest city: 75 miles from Nashville, Tennessee
Accommodations: 6 two-room cabins available for residents or guests
Climate: Mild, occasional hard winter, 4 distinct seasons
Growing season: March-November
Land under cultivation: 40 acres hay, 2 acres garden
Crops: Hay, vegetables, apples
Herd: 30 retired cows and oxen
Needs: Devotees with their own income who can serve on the farm
Comments: "We are trying to establish varnasrama as Srila Prabhupada envisioned it."
New Ramana Reti
Address: P.O. Box 819, Alachua, Florida 32615
Phone: (904) 462-2017
Contact: Hamsa Rupa Dasa
Number of devotees and families: 10 families on the farm, 50 families in the area
Size: 127 acres, many devotees own land around the farm
Distance from nearest city: 11 miles from Alachua
Accommodations: Brahmacari asrama and guesthouse being built; soon to be 2 rooms for ISKCON Life Members.
Climate: 69¡ average annual temperature, 49 inches of rain yearly, no severe winter, not very hot
Growing season: Year-round with protection
Land under cultivation: 15 acres certified organic, 1-acre garden at temple, householders have their own gardens
Crops: All varieties of vegetables and fruits except tropical
Herd: 1 brahma bull, 5 milking cows, 5 teams of oxen in training (one team is with Padayatra), 4 retired cows, 2 retired oxen
Special projects: Strong ties with Gainesville college preaching and prasadam distribution. Potential for tourists because of nearby interstate highway.
Comments: "We are trying to operate the farm using Planned Unit Development (P.U.D.). We hope to become self-sufficient."
Address: Rt. 6, Box 701, Hillsborough, North Carolina 27278
Phone: (919) 732-8033
Contact: Bir Krishna Dasa Goswami
Deities: Sri Sri Radha-Golokananda
Number of devotees and families:
9 devotees in temple, 40 initiated and congregational devotees in the area
Size: Temple: 16 acres; householder subdivision: 125 acres
Distance from nearest city: 20 miles from Durham, North Carolina
Accommodations: Guest room at temple, land for sale
Growing season: February-November
Land under cultivation: 3 acres
Crops: Vegetables, flowers
Herd: 1 cow, 2 oxen
Special projects: Ox power
Needs: Construction people
From the time of Lord Caitanya to the present day, His pure followers have defended His teachings against philosophical perversions.
By Suhotra Swami
Part One: Caste Gosvamis and Smarta-brahmanas
From time to time a devotee of Krsna is faced with touchy questions about the shadow side of his religion. "Is it true there are gurus in West Bengal who do dope when they chant Hare Krsna?" Or, "What about that place in West Virginia where they mix Krsna, Christ, New Age, and everything else?"
It's best to keep a broad historical perspective when considering this problem. Hybrid versions of Krsna worship, or even downright perversions of it, are nothing new. They all tend to fit a pattern laid down long ago in India by thirteen deviant sects known as apasampradayas.
But before looking at the deviants, one should understand the correct culture of Krsna consciousness. Fashionable or not, there is a definite standard of spiritual life. It is called sampradaya.
The word sampradaya implies "genuine instruction that has been received through guru parampara, or disciplic succession" (guru paramparagatu sad upadesasya, from the Amarakosa Sanskrit dictionary). In the fourth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna declares Himself to be the original source of genuine spiritual instruction and says that a person is connected to His teachings only through disciplic succession.
Genuine spiritual instruction is meant to foster ideal qualities in the human being. Truthfulness, cleanliness, austerity, mercy, humility, and freedom from material desire are called daivi-sampat (transcendental qualities) because they have their origin in Sri Krsna, the transcendental Supreme Person. But fallen souls have no way of associating with Krsna directly. The scriptures therefore say, sarva maha-guna-gana vaisnava-sarire: in this world, all the best qualities are embodied by the Vaisnavas, Krsna's pure devotees. Vaisnava spiritual masters instill these qualities in their disciples through association and instruction. The disciples of a Vaisnava guru thus become qualified to impart daivi-sampat to their own disciples in turn. This is the meaning of disciplic succession.
In Kali-yuga, the present age, there are only four genuine sampradayas wherein saintly Vaisnava association can be found. One of these is the Brahma Sampradaya, established in South India by the great acarya Madhva. This sampradaya was accepted by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu when He received initiation into the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra from His guru, Sri Isvara Puri. Then, in Bengal (Gaudadesa), Lord Caitanya began His movement of sankirtana, the congregational chanting of the holy names of Krsna. Lord Caitanya's sankirtana mission, of which the International Society for Krishna Consciousness is the worldwide exponent, is known as the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Sampradaya.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has identified thirteen apasampradayas that claim to have inherited Lord Caitanya's mission, though they have nothing to do with the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Sampradaya. They are known by the names aula, baula, kartabhaja, neda, daravesa, sani, sahajiya, sakhibheki, smarta, jata-gosani, ativadi, cudadhari, and gauranga-nagari. Because these apasampradayas (apa means "deviated") do not nurture Vaisnava qualities, their missionary activities are condemned as cheating.
As mentioned in Vaisnava Ke, by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, the apasampradayas display only inauspicious qualities. One is anitya-vaibhava, the hankering for material success. Another is kaminira-kama, illicit sexual affairs that are usually passed off as "transcendental." And a third is maya-vada, philosophical speculation that undercuts the personal nature of God as taught by the Vaisnava sampradayas.
What follows is an in-depth look at the deviations of each of the thirteen apasampradayas. In this article's first installment, two of the most important, the jata-gosani and the smarta, are dealt with.
The word jata means "by birth" or "by family." Gosani is a Bengali form of the Sanskrit word gosvami, which means "one who controls his senses." The word jata-gosani is used in a critical sense to refer to those who take the position of gurus only on the basis of heredity, without having the required spiritual qualifications as well. The point here is that it is not enough to claim family connections to associates of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. One must be a pure devotee of the Lord.
The devotees in the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya, follow the original six Gosvamis of Vrndavana. These six devotees, who were all in the renounced order of life, were most illustrious disciples of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. About these Gosvamis Srinivasa Acarya has written:
The six Gosvamis—Sri Rupa, Sri Sanatana, Sri Raghunatha Bhatta, Sri Raghunatha Dasa, Sri Jiva, and Sri Gopala Bhatta—are worshipable because they renounced their aristocratic family life as insignificant and became mendicants to preach and deliver the fallen souls. They are always bathing in the waves of ecstatic love for Krsna.
Thus the six Gosvamis set the ideal example of pure devotional service.
To follow in the footsteps of the six Gosvamis, one must strictly follow the rules and regulations of devotional service, as explained by Srila Rupa Gosvami in his Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (The Nectar of Devotion).
Sometimes, however, persons who neglect these devotional principles claim to be gosvamis simply on the basis of heredity. They have inherited the name Gosvami but not the consciousness of a gosvami.
Without proper devotional training, such jata-gosanis, or caste gosvamis, disregard the regulative principles, neglect the devotional service of the Lord, and use the temple as a place for their own family comforts.
As Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati used to say, such untrained persons use the worshipable form of the Lord as "stones for cracking nuts" (that is, as a means of income for sense enjoyment).
On the other hand, in India there are still families that are learned and devoted by tradition and training. They strictly follow regulative principles, they render excellent service to the Lord, and they foster Krsna conscious devotional service generation after generation.
Those born in such gosvami families have the fortunate opportunity to serve the Lord, and when properly trained they may also become pure devotees. They are then to be accepted as gosvami not only in name but in fact.
The essential consideration, therefore, is pure devotional service. Whether born in a high family or a low family, anyone, from any part of the world, can become a pure devotee of the Lord. As stated by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu:
kiba vipra, kiba nyasi, sudra kene naya
The pure devotee is one who knows the science of Krsna and follows its principles. Such a person can be accepted as a bona fide spiritual master.
What is objectionable, therefore, is the claim that pure devotional service can be performed or spread only by a particular caste or clan. This idea is contrary to Lord Caitanya's teachings.
An example of such a clan is the so-called Nityananda Vamsa, who claim to descend from three grandsons of Lord Caitanya's great associate Lord Nityananda. The members of the Nityananda Vamsa sometimes say that Lord Nityananda's divine essence is carried in their family blood line.
This is mendacious on two counts. First, the ancestors of the Nityananda Vamsa were actually disciples, not sons, of Lord Nityananda's only and childless son, Sri Virabhadra Gosvami. Second, a person is known to be a Vaisnava not by birth from a particular womb but by his character.
Up until the early part of this century, the Nityananda Vamsa held the lower-caste Vaisnavas in a thrall of superstition and wrong teachings.
But beginning in the late 1800's, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura challenged them in his popular Bengali-language books like Jaiva Dharma and Hari Nama Cintamani. He proclaimed that it is not enough to accept a spiritual master merely on the basis of caste. Before taking initiation, the candidate must be sure that the initiator is fully conversant with the scriptures and can lift his disciples out of ignorance. The guru should be of spotless character: if he is addicted to sinful acts, then even those he may have already initiated must reject him.
Bhaktivinoda's books unleashed a wave of reform in Bengal that pushed the jata-gosani into a defensive stance. But the confrontation came to open war when his son, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, took over the Gaudiya mission.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati publicly smashed the arguments placed before him by those who held that devotional service was a monopoly of their own caste. Such ideas, he said, were products of "skin disease."
The basic misunderstanding in materialistic life is that the body is the self. Under illusion, one thinks of oneself as American, British, or Indian, young or old, man or woman, white or black. In fact, however, these are merely bodily designations, labels for the skin. And so too are designations of family and caste. To take birth in a high family may offer one an opportunity to become Krsna conscious. But the birth itself is not an automatic guarantee. Nor does birth in a low family exclude one. Anyone who performs pure devotional service to the Lord, regardless of jati, or birth, becomes a member of the transcendental family of Lord Sri Krsna. This is Lord Caitanya's teaching.
The Padma Purana, a text of Vedic teachings, states that if we always remember Visnu or Krsna (smartavyah satatam visnoh) before performing our duty, we automatically fulfill all scriptural rules and regulations. If we forget Him, we unavoidably transgress the spirit of the scriptures even if we observe them to the letter, because keeping Krsna always in mind is the purpose of all the scriptural codes of behavior.
Not everyone admits that purpose. There are three classes of brahmanas: the dvija, the vipra, and the Vaisnava. The third-class dvija is ritualistically initiated, the second-class vipra is learned in the Vedas, and the first-class Vaisnava knows that the goal of the Vedas is to always remember Krsna and never forget Him. A dvija or vipra who is not a devotee can't know the real sense of the rules and regulations of scripture; like a crooked lawyer, he'll use the law to enrich himself materially. The nondevotee dvija or vipra is what is meant by the term smarta-brahmana.
Smarta-brahmanas totally reverse the instruction of the Padma Purana: rather than always remember Krsna and thus fulfill the rules and regulations, they remember the rules and regulations and always forget Krsna. The acara (behavior) of a strict smarta-brahmana and a strict Vaisnava may externally be almost the same, but the consciousness is completely different.
In its subtlest form, the smarta contamination is a shift of values more than of behavior or even philosophy. Smarta values are called purusarthika, whereas Vaisnava values are paramapurusarthika. The difference between the two is explained by Srila Prabhupada in the Caitanya-caritamrta (Antya 7.24, Purport):
Purusartha ("the goal of life") generally refers to religion, economic development, satisfaction of the senses, and, finally, liberation. However, above these four kinds of purusarthas, love of Godhead stands supreme. It is called paramapurusartha (the supreme goal of life) or purusartha-siromani (the most exalted of all purusarthas).
Smarta-brahmanas think that one must be born in the brahmana caste to be a guru. But according to Lord Caitanya, a person from any family, race, color, or creed can be guru as long as he or she knows the spiritual science of Krsna consciousness.
The smartas also claim the exclusive birthright to worship the salagrama-sila (Lord Visnu's form as a black stone, which may be worshiped only by qualified brahmanas). And they never marry outside of the brahmana caste—this taboo is followed so rigidly that a smarta father would rather give his daughter to the son of a priest of the tantric school (which uses black rituals and offerings of meat and wine) than to a non-brahmana Vaisnava.
The smartas then, are afflicted by upper-caste pride. But although the jata-gosanis who overemphasize birthright may also be afflicted by pride, the two communities differ in their mode of worship. Caste gosvamis are exclusively priests of Krsna temples; ritualistically, at least, they are Vaisnava brahmanas. Caste brahmanas, on the other hand, worship according to the Mayavadi pancopasana conception. Thus they regard Lord Krsna or Visnu to be one of five forms of Brahman. Of the five (Durga, Ganesa, Surya, Siva, and Visnu), Bengali smartas have always preferred goddess Durga because she supplies her devotees with material opulence.
In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries A.D., the importance of the Bengali smarta community was practically nullified by Lord Caitanya's sankirtana movement. Among the great Vaisnava acaryas of that period, Srila Narottama Dasa Thakura stands out as the preacher who most cut down their pride.
The smartas, considering Narottama just a low-born kayastha (the clerical caste in Bengal), became so infuriated at his making disciples from among their ranks that they enlisted the king, Raja Narasimha, and a conquering pandita named Sri Rupa Narayana to lead a crusade to somehow expose Acarya Thakura as a fraud. The king, the pandita, and a large party of caste brahmanas made their way to Kheturi, where Srila Narottama Dasa had his headquarters.
When Sri Ramakrsna Bhattacarya and Sri Ganga Narayana Cakravarti, two Vaisnava brahmanas, came to know of the smarta conspiracy, they disguised themselves as sudras and set up two small shops in the Kumarapura market: one a pan and betel nut shop and the other a store selling clay pots.
As the party arrived at Kumarapura, the smartas sent their disciples to the market to purchase wares for cooking. When the students came to the shops of Ramakrsna and Ganga Narayana, they were dumfounded to find that these merchants spoke perfect Sanskrit and were eager not to do business but to engage in philosophical disputation. Finding themselves outmatched, the distressed students called for their gurus, who arrived on the scene with Raja Narasimha and Rupa Narayana. When the smartas fared no better than their disciples, Rupa Narayana himself was drawn into the debate and was soundly defeated.
The king demanded they introduce themselves. The two shopkeepers humbly submitted that they were low-born and insignificant disciples of Srila Narottama Dasa Thakura Mahasaya. Shamed, Rupa Narayana and the smarta-brahmanas lost interest in proceeding to Kheturi. They returned immediately to their respective homes.
That night, Raja Narasimha had a dream in which an angry Durga Devi threatened him with a chopper used for killing goats. Glaring at him with blazing eyes, the goddess said, "Narasimha! Because you greatly offended Narottama Dasa Thakura, I shall have to cut you to pieces! If you want to save yourself, then you had better immediately go and take shelter at his lotus feet."
His sleep broken, the frightened king quickly bathed and set out for Kheturi. Arriving there at last, he was surprised to meet the pandita Rupa Narayana, who sheepishly explained that he'd had a similar dream. They went to the temple of Sri Gauranga to meet Srila Narottama Dasa Thakura.
Acarya Thakura was absorbed in his devotions, but when a disciple informed him of the arrival of the two guests, he came out to meet them. Simply by seeing his transcendental form, the two offenders became purified and fell down to offer their obeisances at the Thakura's lotus feet. Finally he initiated them with the Radha-Krsna mantra.
Because their leaders had become Vaisnavas, many lesser smartas thought it fashionable to externally adopt Vaisnava customs. This is how the smarta apasampradaya, or Vaisnavism compromised by caste brahmanism, began.
In the late nineteenth century a well-known member of this community claimed to be the incarnation of Rama, Krsna, and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He established a missionary movement that preached the worship of Kali-Krsna, a concocted deity blending the forms of goddess Kali and Sri Krsna.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura soundly defeated the smarta apasampradaya at the town of Valighai Uddharanapura, West Bengal, in September 1911. He presented a work in which he conclusively argued the superiority of Vaisnavas to brahmanas. He read the paper before a gathering of more than ten thousand panditas, and though he was the youngest speaker present, the judges acclaimed Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati the winner of the dispute.
Nowadays, the smarta-brahmana community of Bengal has largely succumbed to secularism and exerts little influence in spiritual affairs.
Suhotra Swami, an American disciple of Srila Prabhupada, has taught Krsna consciousness in Europe since the mid-seventies. He was recently appointed ISKCON's Governing Body Commissioner for Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, and Czechoslovakia.
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.
Reviving the sacred forests of Vrndavana.
Ranchor Dasa, 40, from London. Ranchor joined the Krsna consciousness movement in 1970. He is a writer and a consultant on multi-faith and environmental issues.
Vrndavana, Krsna's holy land and one of the most popular pilgrimage centers in India, is in a serious state of deforestation, environmental neglect, and pollution.
"We aim to stop this decline," Ranchor Dasa says, "and to encourage a sense of ecological responsibility among the local people through education and community action."
Ranchor Dasa will use the Vrndavana project as an opportunity to work internationally with the World Wide Fund for Nature to promote an awareness and understanding of the environmental values contained within the Vedic tradition.
The focus of the project will be the restoration of the pilgrimage path around the town of Vrndavana, regularly walked by large numbers of pilgrims. A tree nursery and information center will be established to raise indigenous trees, flowering shrubs, and religious and medicinal plants for replanting along the path. The local community and pilgrims will help plant and restore the path.
The program will educate local people, pilgrims, and the wider community of devotees about the care of Vrndavana.
The nursery is being established now. In September 1991 design work will begin on the exhibition and information center at the nursery site. Janmastami 1992 (August) will see the official launch of the project: the first trees will be planted along the path; the exhibition and information center will be opened to the public; and books and resources for schools, the local community, and pilgrims will be published.
How You Can Help
Volunteers are needed to work in Vrndavana as organizers, community workers, and researchers.
Anyone with a special knowledge of tree husbandry, forestry, or gardening is particularly welcome.
Help is needed to raise funds from international government agencies, voluntary agencies, and charitable trusts.
Limited funds are available to support the right persons to work in India. For further information contact: Ranchor Prime, 10 Grafton Mews, London W1P 5LF, England; phone: (0)71 380 0749. Or contact: Tosana Krsna Dasa, ISKCON Guest House, Raman Reti, Vrindavana, U.P., India.
The Most Important Holy Place in the Universe
An Indologist works to awaken interest in the glories of Radha-kunda.
Dr. Mohan K. Gautam, a frequent contributor to religious and Indological journals, is the distinguished director of The International Overseas South Asian Research Centre and the chief professor of Indology at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. The following interview took place in his office on November 6, 1990.
Satyaraja Dasa: Dr. Gautam, can you tell me a little about the research you are conducting in Vrndavana?
Dr. Mohan K. Gautam: Yes. In the 1960's I discovered that although Western scholars were familiar with the stories of Radha and Krsna, as revealed in the Vedic literature, they knew very little about Vrndavana, or the Vraja area in general. This is significant, because unless one knows Vraja, the pastimes do not really come to life. If one really wants to understand Krsna and the profound Vaisnava philosophy that surrounds His activities, one will need to understand Vraja.
This begins by coming to terms with an important point: Krsna's activities can be broken up into two major categories. First, you have His youth, with His parents, His friends, and the gopis, and then you have His later activities, when He went to Mathura and Dvaraka and so on. Now, that first period, which takes Krsna up to the age of eight years, is very significant. And scholars have sorely misunderstood this period in Krsna's manifest pastimes.
SD: For example?
MG: For example, His love dalliances with the gopis. Scholars try to attribute some mundane characteristic to these spiritual interactions. No. If you take the story as it is presented in the original texts, Krsna is eight years old—where is the question of prurient interest?
After Krsna's Vraja pastimes, He came back to His birthplace of Mathura; He killed Kamsa; He handed over the entire empire to His granduncle; He left for the kingdom of Dvaraka; and then you get the Mahabharata story—a second part to Krsna's activities—quite removed from Vraja.
So while doing my research in the sixties I found that the Mahabharata aspect of Sri Krsna was fairly well known in much of Europe and even in America, especially after the founding of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. But the early part of Krsna's lila was largely unknown. Radha was almost entirely unknown. An enigma. And since I originally come from the Vraja region, I initially wanted to set this straight. After all, the Vaisnavas are especially fond of Krsna's early lila, especially the Gaudiyas. And the early lila with Radha is particularly significant. So I set out to uncover these things for a Western scholarly audience. Initially I was interested in geographical information about the Vraja area, with special attention to Lord Krsna's early lila. For the last sixteen years or so, I have focused on Radha-kunda, the sacred lake of Srimati Radharani. This is in fact considered the most important holy place of Radha—the most important place in all of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. And it was re-discovered by Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
SD: Do historians of Vraja support that Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu discovered Radha-kunda?
MG: Oh, yes. It is said that he discovered it in 1516. It was a small village. It was later developed by Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami. Kabir, Nanak, Caitanya—they were contemporaries—and the history of that time is well known to researchers. The Muslim invasions, Aurangzeb's destroying the temples—it is all in the history books. But my point is this: The Vraja region, especially Vrndavana, Mathura, even Govardhana, was not particularly well known to scholars, and the most important of these places—Radha-kunda—was least known of all.
SD: This is not without its virtues. Radha-kunda is quite an esoteric place. And if one tries to penetrate her mysteries without the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master, it could be devastating. Even with the help of a bona fide guru, it can be devastating. One must be ready for that level of spiritual revelation. Gosvamis said that if one prematurely tries to enter the understanding of Radha-kunda, one will instead be entering into the understanding of Naraka-kunda.
MG: Hmmm. "The lake of hell."
SD: Yes. It is considered very offensive to go to the holy Radha-kunda and to act as though one were an advanced Vaisnava. Most people try to understand Radha-kunda without even following the basic principles of spiritual life.
Prabhupada spoke out very strongly against this. Chant Krsna's name according to a vow and don't engage in illicit sex, intoxication, gambling, and meat-eating. These are the preliminary qualifications. Then one requires some modicum of genuine advancement and the blessings of the guru. Otherwise, understanding Radha and Krsna is not possible. It is not a cheap thing.
MG: Yes. I know. But a scholarly study can be useful. No, it is invaluable. Urgent. This is the point. The history, the geography. The world actually needs information about this very important—most important—holy place.
SD: I agree. From that perspective, yes, it is of great use, both for scholars and for devotees. It is one of the most important parts of the Gaudiya Vaisnava heritage. And it should be explored in this way. But the cautions cannot be over-emphasized.
MG: Of course. So, as I see it, Radha-kunda can be studied in two ways. First and foremost, of course, is in terms of the books, the philosophy. What have the Vaisnava saints written about it? What does it mean theologically? There is ample literature by Rupa Gosvami and others. This will give us some insight into Radha-kunda. The basis can be found in texts taken from the Varaha Purana, the Brahma-vaivarta Purana, the Padma Purana, and so on.
The basic story, as given in those Puranas, is very interesting. It seems that Krsna, after killing the bull-demon known as Aristasura, had to make some kind of atonement. After all, Aristasura was from the bovine species, and so Radha insisted that since Krsna had indeed killed him, He must bathe in all of the holy rivers to purify Himself from the offense.
So Krsna tried to please Radharani by calling all the holy rivers to that spot. He kicked His right heel into the ground, creating a large indent. Then He summoned all of the world's sacred rivers. In personified form it is said that they identified themselves: Godavari, Kaveri, Brahmaputra, Gandaki, Yamuna—all of them. With all of these waters Sri Krsna filled what came to be known as Syama-kunda. Then He bathed, as Radha had suggested.
But then He started to joke with Her: "Now where is Your lake?" Reacting to His question, She found one of Aristasura's big hoofprints on the western side of Syama-kunda, and there She broke one of Her bangles and started digging. With the help of Her gopi friends, She created Radha-kunda. Still, there was no water—only a big concavity. Soon, all of the holy rivers again appeared and filled Radha-kunda.
The other way to understand Radha-kunda—and this is the way I am pursuing it—is through historical or empirical study. In other words: not only through the scriptures, but through objective, observable research. This is also valuable. That means, as an anthropologist, I would like to see the situation now, by interviewing those who live there now and also by analyzing the physical territory now—the dimensions of the lake, etc. I would like to compare it to the same information that has been preserved by historians, documenting the same information from the past. In other words, how has it changed? In the minds of the residents, in the minds of scholars, in the minds of devotees, and in the objective historical records.
This is the research I started sixteen or seventeen years ago. So I have been continuing this work, on and off, since that time. I studied the maps of the area, from several historical periods, and I went from house to house making a survey of the people's statements. Which of them were Caitanyites? Which were general Krsna devotees? What is their fascination with Radha-kunda? The results are very interesting. And I will soon publish them as two scholarly studies, one directed toward scholars and the other for laymen who have an interest in such things.
SD: Is there a lot of work in this area? Did you get some assistance?
MG: It is growing, yes. You see, in the mid-seventies there was a new wave in the anthropological and sociological world to locate the sacred places in the East, especially in northern India. It was a new interest. Of course, for me, it was an old interest. But I took advantage [laughter]. It really helped my research. There was a move to go through the records and to research. Like the Judaeo-Christian concept of "the Promised Land." A similar thing is there with Vraja. If not with the physical location always, at least conceptually. "I want Krsna's name on my tongue when I die." Or sometimes people say, "I want Radha's name on my tongue as I leave this body." Why? Because it transports them to the Promised Land, Vraja.
SD: Who initially inspired you in this work?
MG: The first person was a professor from Chicago. He did his doctorate on Gaya. He was studying under Dr. Milton Singer, a very famous anthropologist at that time, at the University of Chicago. Of course, there were many others at the time. There were studies of Ayodhya, Benares, so many things ...
But the tradition teaches that Radha-kunda is most important, does it not? Do you know those references?
SD: Yes. It is mentioned by Rupa Gosvami in his Sri Upadesamrta. The ninth text tells us that Mathura—even terrestrial Mathura—is superior to Vaikuntha, the spiritual world. This is because Krsna took His birth in that holy land. Then it says that the forests of Vrndavana are even superior to Mathura—because it is said that in this sacred area Krsna's esoteric rasa-lila pastimes took place. But it goes further. It says that higher still is Govardhana Hill, for it was raised by Krsna's divine hand, and other loving pastimes occurred there as well. Radha-kunda is spiritually superior to even Govardhana, because this lake embodies the Lord's love for Radha and Her love for Him.
MG: Yes. So the scriptures endorse that Radha-kunda is the holiest of places.
SD: But Upadesamrta ends with a warning. Srila Rupa Gosvami says that Radha-kunda is asulabham, or "difficult to attain." What does this mean? Not that it is difficult to find by riksha. Nor will a mystical wand stop us from bathing in her waters. No. It means that we cannot really penetrate her mysteries—her inner meaning—unless we develop pure devotion.
MG: Yes. True enough. But as we agreed earlier, the other information is invaluable and inspirational, for devotees and scholars, and it will get them to take note of this most important of all holy places. The history is enchanting. You can read in Caitanya-caritamrta of Lord Caitanya's discovery of Syama-kunda and Radha-kunda. Then, with his followers, how it developed. Specifically Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami. It is so interesting. How the original two paddy lands, Gauri and Kari, were purchased by Raghunatha Dasa for Jiva Gosvami. There are documents. The story of how twenty-some-odd steps were built on all sides of the lakes. How it was developed, in 1817 or thereabouts, by Lala Babu, a rich landlord from Bengal. This information should not be withheld.
SD: I agree.
MG: So I have been working on two books which will give all of the details, with much of the results of my last seventeen years of research. One book will focus on Radha-kunda from a scholarly point of view, and the other will be more for laymen, so that anyone can understand. In this I am a supporter of ISKCON. The work that Swami Prabhupada has done—making a rich, complex tradition accessible to all sincere souls—is incomprehensible. It is an achievement. We must bow down to that. I see my work as a humble contribution to this same tradition. A humble offering, using my scholarly capabilities. Radha-kunda is a very confidential place, no doubt. But we feel that this information should be given to the world.
Satyaraja Dasa was initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1975. He is the author of six books. This interview is excerpted from Gaudiya Vaisnavism: Ten Distinguished Scholars Discuss the Roots of Krsna Worship, to be published late this year. Write to him c/o FOLK Books, P.O. Box 400716, Brooklyn, NY 11240, U.S.A.
A report on the annual meeting of ISKCON's highest governing body.
For ten days every year, thirty men gather in Mayapur, West Bengal, a village on the Ganges seventy miles north of Calcutta, to guide the course of the Krsna consciousness movement.
This is the GBC, the Governing Body Commission of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
While Srila Prabhupada was physically on earth, he had final authority in guiding the movement. Before he left, he entrusted this authority to the GBC.
Srila Prabhupada first formed the GBC in 1970. He chose twelve disciples to serve on the body, assigned each a geographical "zone" of the world, and referred to these men as his "zonal secretaries." In each zone, he said, his secretary should spread and maintain Krsna consciousness.
Srila Prabhupada didn't like big bureaucracy. Legally and managerially, he said, each ISKCON center should be independent. But the GBC men should set an ideal spiritual example and see that each center followed the Krsna conscious standards he had taught.
How well did the GBC do? So-so. Sometimes they did splendid, sometimes botched it.
When Srila Prabhupada saw a secretary getting too "puffed up," Srila Prabhupada would verbally cut him down. And once when the GBC pulled a move that especially displeased him, he wrote to all his temples that for now the GBC was dissolved.
But soon he put his GBC men back in action, and over the years he "trained them up," as he would say, and placed more weight on their shoulders.
Finally, as he left, he directed that the GBC should be the final managing authority for the whole Krsna consciousness movement. One man might make a mistake, Srila Prabhupada said, but he trusted that together his GBC men would make the right decisions.
The main time and place for making decisions, Srila Prabhupada said, was "once a year at Mayapur." Mayapur is the birthplace of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and there the GBC holds its annual meeting, right before the festival for Lord Caitanya's birth.
Here is a summary of the decisions the GBC made this year.
Officers for the Year
Each year the GBC rotates its officers. This year the chairman is Virabahu Dasa, a native of Argentina. The vice chairman is Bhurijana Dasa, an American serving in India. And the secretary is Jayapataka Swami, born American but granted Indian citizenship several years ago.
Every year the GBC looks at the map, and from time to time the body redraws zones or makes shifts in who will cover each area.
This year the main place for change was Africa. People in Nigeria and nearby countries have shown a great interest in Krsna consciousness, and the GBC wants to be sure they receive proper spiritual guidance. Last year, the GBC expressed its concern that its member serving in west and central Africa was drifting in his duties. So this year the GBC entrusted his GBC duties to another devotee. The GBC also plans to have other senior devotees visit Africa to strengthen the Hare Krsna movement.
Two new members joined the GBC: Suhotra Swami will help guide the Hare Krsna movement in Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, and Czechoslovakia. And Sridhara Swami will oversee ISKCON's programs for life membership.
Service to ISKCON Life Members
Throughout the world, ISKCON has several thousand life members, who have given generously to help maintain and spread the Hare Krsna movement.
In return, they receive various benefits from their local temples, and ISKCON temples throughout the world offer lodging, prasadam, and hospitality to life members and their families when they travel.
Sridhara Swami will now help co-ordinate these programs, to offer better service to ISKCON life members worldwide.
Sridhama Mayapur: Lord Caitanya's City of Pilgrimage
A major focus of energy for the Hare Krsna movement is Sridhama Mayapur, the birthplace of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Poised on the Ganges in the Nadia district of West Bengal, Sridhama Mayapur was virtually neglected twenty years ago, when ISKCON first began working there. Now Mayapur attracts busloads of pilgrims every day from Calcutta (about four hours away) and from around the world.
ISKCON's Mayapur center—the Society's largest—includes a temple, guesthouses, parks, gardens, agricultural fields, and a children's school. Also included: a printing press, handicrafts projects, a cow-protecting dairy, and a charitable center for free distribution of food. Gradually the center is developing into a full-scale Krsna conscious city.
The GBC, therefore, spent two full days going over plans for Mayapur's growth.
At the center of the Mayapur city will be a large temple, combined with a Vedic planetarium. For the last two years, the GBC's main advisor on plans for the temple has been Mr. A. G. Krishna Menon, an architect from New Delhi. This year the GBC chose Mr. Menon to design the structure.
He has quite a task ahead of him. According to the guidelines the GBC has given, the temple should be large enough to hold ten thousand people at a time. And it should be made of brick rather than reinforced concrete (the main stuff of most modern Western structures). Though concrete allows greater freedom of design, it crumbles after about a hundred years; brickwork lasts indefinitely.
Mr. Menon has also advised the GBC on the layout of the Mayapur city itself. Traditional Vedic plans, found in scripture, offer various geometrical patterns for city planning. The patterns assign places to temples, fields, houses, and so on, in a way to foster both social and spiritual harmony. Mr. Menon has suggested ways to put these patterns in place at the Mayapur site.
Memorial for Srila Prabhupada
The main building now in progress in Mayapur is the "puspa samadhi" of Srila Prabhupada. When Srila Prabhupada passed away, flowers adorning his body were brought from Vrndavana to Mayapur, to be enshrined in a memorial.
That memorial, long delayed in construction, has taken the form of a huge museum. Srila Prabhupada's disciple Matsya Avatara Dasa, a professional designer, has taken charge of the details for finishing the building.
But the managers of the Mayapur project told the GBC that more devotees are needed to complete the work on schedule. Art directors are needed to supervise local craftsmen in the detailed artistic work. And apart from work on the samadhi, devotees are needed to oversee construction of other buildings for the Mayapur project. (Interested devotees may get in touch with the project director, Harikesa Swami, at Korsnas Gard, 14792 Grodinge, Sweden.)
Project in Puri
South of Mayapur, in the state of Orissa, ISKCON owns thirty acres of land in the holy city of Jagannatha Puri. The land, donated to ISKCON several years ago, includes five acres on the oceanfront. The other land is nearby.
This year the GBC appointed a committee of seven devotees to see to the use of this land for a new ISKCON center.
For spreading Krsna consciousness, the GBC reemphasized what Srila Prabhupada had said: the most effective way to spread the Hare Krsna movement is by distributing Krsna conscious books.
By distributing these books, the GBC said, "We can make a revolution in the hearts of the people of this world and save these people from material existence."
As more books go out, more devotees come in to join the movement, and as more devotees come in, again more books go out. So the GBC called on the movement's leaders—and especially its gurus—to inspire more and more people to join the movement and distribute more and more books.
Philosophical Research Group
From time to time, philosophical questions come up on which even leading ISKCON devotees have differing opinions. The GBC has appointed a "Philosophical Research Group" to study such questions.
This year, the GBC has asked the group to offer guidelines on the use of Vedic astrology. Another question for the group to study: May ISKCON devotees serve as gurus in their own gurus' lifetime? The GBC has also asked the group to write a paper, from research already done, about the origin of the soul.
You'll find out more about these and other such questions in upcoming issues of BTG.
History of "Guru Reform"
After Srila Prabhupada's departure, ISKCON went through troubles and reforms over how devotees should serve as gurus. The GBC Body has now asked one of its members, Ravindra Svarupa Dasa, to write a historical and philosophical account of those turbulent and highly instructive events.
Readers of BTG who wish to offer advice, thoughts, documents, recollections, or other input are welcome to write to Ravindra Svarupa Dasa, 41 W. Allens Lane, Philadelphia, PA 19119, USA. (He asks to hear from you by August 1.)
Ravindra Svarupa Dasa is also the editor of ISKCON Journal, which the GBC started last year to clarify major philosophical themes for the members of the Hare Krsna movement.
This year, the GBC loosened up the Journal's editorial mandate to allow for more open-ended discussions. The GBC asked that the Journal appear twice this coming year.
Also to come out this year will be an ISKCON handbook for worship of the Deity.
Overseeing children's schools in the Hare Krsna movement has been the duty of an ISKCON Board of Education. This year the GBC made adjustments to the board, decentralizing it.
So now, under the international Board of Education, six GBC members look after six regional boards for schools in various part of the world. (Two more GBC members see to ISKCON's schools in eastern and western India.)
The international board has drafted rules setting strict limits on punishment, to make sure that children are disciplined wisely, with sensitivity and restraint. It has widely distributed a guidebook, "Preventing Child Abuse in ISKCON." And it is placing at least one parent always on the scene, in each school, to make sure the kids get the care and attention that come from mature parental experience.
The Order of Renunciation
To accept sannyasa, ISKCON devotees must receive permission from the GBC. In recent years the GBC has been tight about this. New candidates must generally undergo several years of waiting.
This year, the GBC approved sannyasa for Mahavisnu Dasa, an elderly devotee from Maharashtra, India, living in London. It also made a new rule: by a four-fifths vote, the GBC could waive all its other rules and allow an especially fit devotee to take sannyasa at once. The GBC then invoked this rule to allow sannyasa for Avinasa Candra Dasa, a leading devotee from Germany.
Getting Things Done
This year the GBC devoted several days to examining the GBC body itself. What are the specific aims it wants to lead ISKCON toward reaching, and how does it help ISKCON reach them?
The aims, it found, were yet to be clearly set forth and defined, and ISKCON's ways of moving toward them were fitful and uncoordinated.
First, therefore, the GBC drafted statements to articulate ISKCON's purposes. Then it made changes in its own workings so that it can do a better job of leading the Society toward them.
The GBC assigned each stated aim to one devotee. During the year, this devotee is to work with each GBC man to monitor and encourage progress in reaching the aim in each part of the world. In this way, the monitors should provide the GBC an account of the state of the movement and its progress in reaching its aims in various locations.
The monitors cluster into six committees. The GBC envisions that these committees will speed through much of the work that till now would get stuck in the gears of the larger GBC body.
For Krsna, managing the entire universe is easy. He can do it all with merely a glance. For Krsna's devotees, managing ISKCON takes a little more work.
At the annual meeting in Mayapur, the GBC drafted the following statements articulating ISKCON's aims. Each aim is assigned to a devotee, who will work within one of six committees designed by the GBC to help ISKCON achieve its goal.
Ksetra Committee One
To provide children with a lifelong devotional foundation and to progressively train them according to their natural propensities in occupational duties of devotional service to Krsna.
2. Self-Sufficient Communities
To reform the economic and social structure of all communities in the world by demonstrating the God-centered culture that depends on the land and the cows.
3. New Devotees
To convince receptive people all over the world to commit themselves to rendering devotional service, as taught by Srila Prabhupada, under the direction of a bona fide spiritual master.
4. Training New Recruits
To teach new devotees, through proper Vaisnava association and instruction, the philosophy and basic devotional practices of Krsna consciousness.
Ksetra Committee Two
1. Deity Worship
To attract all peoples of the world to the personal service of the Lord, to engage them as devotees in that service, and to train them in the principles and techniques of that service.
2. Mayapur and Vrndavana
To develop and maintain, for devotees and society, Mayapur and Vrndavana and other such holy places dedicated to the pastimes of Lord Krsna and His devotees.
3. Spiritual Standards
To establish and maintain in the Hare Krsna movement and its members the high standards of Krsna conscious under-standing and practices taught by Srila Prabhupada.
To manage temples so that all aspects of temple life offer inspiration to all visitors at all times to engage in the devotional service of the Lord.
Ksetra Committee Three
1. ISKCON Constitutional
2. ISKCON Property Affairs
4. Legal Affairs
5. Unity of ISKCON
6. Zonal Affairs
[Statements still to be drafted.]
Ksetra Committee Four
1. Finance and Accounting
To ensure that every ISKCON organization and program meets standards of excellence in handling fiscal matters.
To establish systems and programs of fund-raising throughout the world to provide ISKCON with adequate funds to realize its goals.
3. Management and Administration
To ensure that the leadership of ISKCON is characterized by devotion to guru and Krsna, spiritual purity, compassion, integrity, commitment, consistency, competency, and accountability, and to ensure that the devotees and assets of ISKCON are appropriately engaged, protected, and increased.
4. Life Membership
To engage every member of the Indian community and others interested in Vedic culture, everywhere in the world, in the service of Lord Krsna and the mission of Lord Caitanya in this and all generations to come.
Ksetra Committee Five
1. Book Publication and Distribution
To publish and distribute the books and periodicals of Srila Prabhupada and his followers in all languages and distribute them in ever-increasing numbers and with ever-increasing effectiveness, so that an ever-growing collection of Krsna conscious literature is enshrined in every household in the world.
2. Public Chanting and Festivals
To celebrate the congregational chanting of the holy name of Krsna by regularly organizing public chanting and joyous festivals in every city, town, and village of the world.
3. Speaking the Message of Krsna
To present the philosophy of Krsna consciousness in public media and other public and private forums—educational, religious, social, or political—to awaken in receptive people everywhere an attraction to the philosophy and practices of Krsna consciousness.
To bring the congregational chanting of the holy name to every town and village of the world through organized Padayatra festivals.
Ksetra Committee Six
1. Congregational Programs
To bring to all homes in the world the continuing association of devotees and the regular practice of devotional activities.
2. Cultural Programs
To reveal Vedic culture as the universal and essential culture of all the world's peoples, and to supplant all mundane productions of literature, drama, music, and art with Krsna conscious alternatives.
3. Food for Life
To establish massive free prasadam distribution programs all over the world so that all human beings are adequately fed and nourished with Krsna prasadam and there shall be no hunger anywhere.
4. Public Relations
To win respect for and trust in the Krsna consciousness movement in all nations and among all people of the world.
To establish Krsna prasadam restaurants in every city and town and make them famous all over the world so that millions eat in them every day.
6. Vedic Science
To convince all people of the world of the errors of materialistic science and philosophies and to research, elucidate, and teach God-centered science, based on bona fide Vedic knowledge.
The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
Hare Krishna Food For Life in Denver has started a newsletter entitled Our Newsletter. It reports on Hare Krishna Food For Life around the world, carries classified ads and announcements, and features tasty recipes. For a copy, write to Our Newsletter, P.O. Box 200535, Denver, Colorado 80222.
Denver devotee Rohini Suta Dasa is fully certified by the Colorado Division of Disaster Emergency Services and is a member of the Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Team and COVAD, Colorado Voluntary Organization Active in Disaster. He has equipped a walk-in van with commercial-band radio and an electronic telephone-paging system, making him ready to provide Hare Krishna Food For Life to victims of floods, fires, tornados, toxic spills, industrial explosions, and extreme snow conditions. He also plans to supply Food For Life to relief workers at emergency sites.
The Houston Chronicle ran a major story on the Houston temple in February. Photographs of the temple interior, the Deities, and devotees performing kirtana and preparing prasadam filled three quarters of the front page of the religion section. The article accurately presented the philosophy of Krsna consciousness.
Professor Burke Rochford will be traveling to temples throughout ISKCON this year interviewing devotees for a book he's writing on the role of children's education in the future of the Krsna consciousness movement. In 1985 he published a book entitled Hare Krishna in America.
"While I consider this research significant," Professor Rochford said, "ultimately nothing is more important than the welfare of ISKCON's young people. This will remain in the forefront of my mind throughout my research efforts."
Devotees in Moscow will be starting their own gurukula soon. Sri Rama Dasa of the Board of Education will work with devotees there to design a gurukula system suited to their needs. Bhava Dasa, headmaster of the New Zealand gurukula, will spend a few months in the Soviet Union this summer training teachers.
Kirtiraja Dasa wrote in his annual report to the GBC that the Soviet Union now has about five hundred grand-disciples of Srila Prabhupada and ten thousand serious practitioners of Krsna consiousness. Kirtiraja is the governing body commissioner for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
Moscow devotees are renovating the building they're leasing for use as a temple. It has seven hundred square meters of floor space and is the home of uninstalled Deities of Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai, donated by Radhapada Dasa of Calcutta. Up to seventy-five devotees will live in the building when the renovation is complete.
Ten thousand guests attended the opening of ISKCON's Krsna-Balarama Mandir in Bhubaneswar, Orissa, on January 28. Srila Prabhupada had laid the cornerstone for the temple in 1977. His Excellency Rabi Ray, honorable speaker of the Indian parliament, was chief guest at the opening ceremonies for the four-day festival.
The temple is located in a fast-developing area of Bhubaneswar. Srila Prabhupada had said that it would become one of ISKCON's major centers.
The New Delhi ISKCON center has received permission from city authorities to build a large temple complex on a site near the famous Bahai center. A prominent architect has drawn plans, and the Hinduja Foundation, a charitable trust of one of India's wealthiest families, has pledged major financial support.
Hare Krishna Food For Life has expanded its services to primary health care in Kisimu, Kenya. Besides feeding three hundred children and elderly persons every day, Vidura Dasa, an Irish devotee who runs the program, teaches hygiene and provides basic treatment for such ailments as measles and parasites. The local Indian community provides full financial support for the program.
Devotees danced and chanted at the annual Dinagyang festival in Iloilo in January. "Dinagyang" in the Ilonggo dialect means to dance ecstatically and make loud noises. As the predominantly Catholic population of Iloilo took to the streets to dance in honor of Santo Nino, their patron saint, and ethnic tribes paraded in native costumes, ISKCON devotees chanted and served prasadam in two booths set up in the city plaza.
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).
Round-the-clock chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra now sanctifies the atmosphere at ISKCON's Mayapur project. Devotees chanting in shifts keep the vibration going twenty-four hours a day.
Foundations for New Buildings
If all goes as planned, the foundations for six new buildings should be in place before June, when the monsoon rains begin: a new residence for unmarried students, several new housing complexes for families, a building for book publishing, and a new guesthouse.
More than a thousand devotees from all over Bengal, Assam, and Orissa gathered March 28 and 29 for the annual Nama Ha a Festival, a meeting of village-based ISKCON congregations.
Four Gopis Still to Come
The four more gopi associates of Krsna to be installed in the Mayapur temple are still being carved. They are scheduled to join Sri Sri Radha-Madhava and the four gopis already on the altar sometime after August.
Spiritual Food Distribution
Prasadam is flowing at Mayapur. Pilgrims to ISKCON Mayapur have several ways to get prasadam, food first offered to Lord Krsna.
For five rupees (about thirty cents), pilgrims can sit for a full prasadam lunch. Every week up to seven thousand people, mostly from Indian villages, take advantage of the opportunity.
For somewhat more—fifteen rupees—pilgrims coming to Mayapur in bus tours from Calcutta feast on a lunch of fifteen to twenty items. Pilgrims served: about three thousand a week.
And about a hundred people a day offer twenty-five rupees for Lord Krsna's extra-opulent meal, raja bhoga.
Apart from all this, on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays every pilgrim who passes through the ISKCON Mayapur gate receives a free cupful of the tasty rice-and-bean preparation known as kicchari.
Work on Srila Prabhupada's samadhi, the memorial where his body is buried, is still going slow. The holdup, still, is the carved marble to ornament the structure.
The marble companies are losing the craftsmen who design the carvings, says Kadamba Kanana Dasa, ISKCON's president in Vrndavana. "They're getting old and dying, and the new generation's not into it. So our previous contractors can't supply what we need anymore.
"We're negotiating with new suppliers," he says, "but it's difficult." Meanwhile, for some of the work, devotees are looking into alternatives to carved marble.
New Irrigation System
A new irrigation system will supply water for crops on ISKCON's agricultural land in Vrndavana, thanks to a donation of eighty thousand rupees by Mr. Prakash Soni of Kisumu, Kenya. Mr. Soni will personally take part in arranging for the tanks, electric pumps, and other components to be installed.
Later this year, devotees intend to experiment with pumps driven by bullock power.
Veteran Book Distributor Passes Away
Buddhimanta Dasa, a pioneer in distributing Srila Prabhupada's books, passed away in Vrndavana on February 13. He was thirty-eight years old.
In the 1970's in San Francisco, Buddhimanta had been one of Srila Prabhupada's first disciples to try approaching people to ask a donation and give out a Krsna conscious book. His efforts succeeded, and soon he was distributing large numbers of books every day.
After several years dedicated to this service, Buddhimanta strayed from Krsna consciousness. He seemed to forget about Krsna and become ensnared in maya, Krsna's material energy.
But along with the illusion of enjoyment, maya also gave Buddhimanta a brain tumor. So as Buddhimanta saw his life coming to a close, he returned to Vrndavana to spend the last year of his life. He passed away in Krsna consciousness, surrounded by devotees chanting the holy name of Krsna.
In April the Padayatra left Trivandrum, on the southwest coast of India, and traveled north to Guruvayor, in Kerala, where the worship of the famous Deity of Lord Sri Krsna is said to have been regularized by the saint Sankaracarya.
In June the party will be in the state of Karnataka, in the area of Udupi, headquarters of the thirteenth-century scholar and devotee Madhvacarya, from whom the present-day Hare Krsna movement descends.
From Udupi the Padayatra will travel through the tiny state of Goa, best known as a tourist resort, into the state of Maharashtra. There they will visit Pandharpur, site of the temple of the four-armed Visnu Deity Viththala, worshiped by Tukarama, a Maharashtrian disciple of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
The American Padayatra has reached its goal—Miami, Florida—on a 1,500-mile walk that started in Boston. At least forty newspapers ran stories on the Padayatra along the way. What's next? Perhaps a journey through the American southwest.
On May 1, Padayatra Europe resumes. The theme: "On the Road for Change." Putting on more than a dozen Hare Krsna festivals along the way, the Padayatra party will walk through Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, and Leicester and finally reach London by July 14.
After England: Holland, Belgium, and France. In October the party will halt for the winter in New Mayapur, the Hare Krsna farm in southern France.
Padayatras are planned for Malaysia (December), Australia (January 1), and Fiji (at the end of January).
For more information about Padayatra, write to:
M-119 Greater Kailash 1, New Delhi 100 048, India
Phone: 641-3249 or 641-2058
4969 Mills St., Apt. 10, La Mesa, CA 91941
Phone: (619) 461-2594
Tribhuvanatha Dasa, Bhaktivedanta Manor, Letchmore Heath, Watford, Hertfordshire WD2 8EP, England
Phone: (09) 2385-7244
Disciples recall the pastimes of a pure devotee.
SRILA PRABHUPADA would sometimes sit in his darsana room after breakfast and chat with his servants for a while, usually commenting on the state of the world in the present day. These moments were especially sweet—to be with Prabhupada as he sat, relaxed and casual, and bathe in the warmth of his intimate association.
This morning was particularly memorable. The sun was shining brightly through the tall, narrow windows, casting patches of dazzling light on the clean white sheets on the floor. He sat comfortably in the middle of the floor, his legs crossed, right ankle resting on the left knee. His fingers loosely intertwined, he closed his eyes briefly and enjoyed the warmth of the sun as it danced upon his golden form. Seeing the opportunity, Hamsaduta and I sat on either side of him, just happy to be with him in a quiet moment.
He began to reflect on the unfortunate state of the world's inhabitants. Due to a lack of knowledge about the Supreme Lord, he said, people are suffering. Under the false impression of being independent, they commit all kinds of sinful acts, not knowing and not caring for the results, foolishly thinking they are free to do as they like. But when the volume of sinful life becomes too great, they suffer the consequences in the form of pestilence or war. They think that by politics and meetings they can avoid such things, but that is not possible. They are helpless to prevent them, and therefore they receive their punishment through the threefold miseries of life. At just the right moment, nature brings the demons together and engages them in war.
To illustrate the point, Prabhupada gave an amusing but striking example of how maya works.
"In my young days we had one teacher. Whenever there was any misbehavior between the boys, the teacher would stop them and bring them out to the front of the class. He would make them stand face-to-face and each take hold of the ears of the other and on his order make them pull. So the one, he is pulling, and the other is hurting, so he pulls back even harder, and each one is pulling and crying. But they cannot let go because the teacher is ordering, 'No, you cannot stop. You must go on pulling!' Similarly, maya brings together one Churchill and one Hitler—'Now, rascal, pull!' And neither can stop. And the foolish people glorify them."
Hari Sauri Dasa
* * *
IN EARLY 1968 I FLEW with Srila Prabhupada and a few of his other disciples from Los Angeles to San Francisco. We were taken to what had been the brahmacari asrama, an apartment on Willard St. The brahmacaris had moved to the temple, a few blocks away. Srila Prabhupada and his personal servants would now live in the apartment.
Since I wasn't one of the servants, I was going to stay at the temple, but in the meantime I decided to spend a few more minutes with Srila Prabhupada. It was almost time for the evening program, and Srila Prabhupada told one of his servants to send word that he would not be going to the temple that evening.
Then, while we were all talking with Srila Prabhupada, he changed his mind and decided to go to the evening program, so we all set out for the temple.
In those days, the evening program was kirtana followed by a lecture and then more kirtana. Evening arati had not yet been introduced into ISKCON. When we arrived at the temple, the first kirtana had just ended, and the devotees were bowing their heads to the floor, reciting prayers. None of them expected to see their spiritual master, and none of them saw him come in and sit on the vyasasana. When they looked up, there was Prabhupada.
Suddenly the room was filled with smiles and cries of "Jai!" and "Hari bol!" Prabhupada lectured and then led a sweet, mellow kirtana. The disciples were all on their feet, chanting, swaying, hands in the air or clasped and pressed against their chests. Prabhupada was here.
The next morning, Srila Prabhupada and a few disciples were walking in Golden Gate Park. "Were you chanting last night?" he asked a disciple.
"Oh yes," he answered.
Prabhupada asked another, "Were you chanting?"
"Yes. It was wonderful."
To another, "Were you dancing?"
"I wanted to, but there were so many people, I couldn't move."
Prabhupada turned to another. "Were you chanting?"
"No. I was afraid I would cry."
"When you are with ordinary people, you should not cry," said Prabhupada, "because they will not understand. But when you are with devotees, you can cry because they will know that you are crying for Krsna."